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WWE Weekly Recap: The Welcomed Return of Selling + Backlash Preview

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The first brand specific Pay-Per-View since the draft will take place this Sunday, but before I preview the glorified episode of SmackDown that’s entitled Backlash, let’s dive into a recent trend that’s been taking the WWE by storm.

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The concept of selling an injury seemed non-existent in WWE’s world of professional wrestling. Let’s travel back to April, when Rusev beat the crap out of Kalisto on the final set of TV tapings before their U.S. title match at Extreme Rules.

Instead of selling the “rib injury” he suffered at the hands of Mr. Lana, Kalisto did his lucha entrance thing and acted as though he was 100 percent. It wasn’t until midway through the match when Kalisto finally sold an injury that played into the finish.

As a fan, Kalisto’s entrance infuriated me. Why should I care about the buildup for any match when I know the participants are going to act like they’re in perfect condition? Also, Kalisto sold a back injury during the match instead of a rib injury.

According to Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer, Vince wanted to make sure that everyone who paid for a ticket would see everyone at “full health,” which meant that Kalisto had to do his entrance so the 15 kids in the crowd who cared about him would get excited.

It’s a ridiculous line of thinking considering WWE is supposed to be in the storytelling business, but this is Vince McMahon we’re talking about.

Well I don’t know what has gotten into the company over the past couple of weeks, but we’ve seen a total 180 in terms of injuries being sold before, during, and after matches. Perhaps the recent string of legit injuries made the creative team push the line between reality and fantasy.

Likely considering the amount of “shoot” style promos we’ve seen recently.

Or maybe someone bought Vince a subscription to New Japan World. Unlikely, but it really makes me want a YouTube series of Mr.McMahon watching matches like this:

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Whatever the case, the in-ring product now has a much more realistic feel. Raw’s main event between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn used an “injury” that was sustained by Zayn as the climax. As Zayn tried to run across the ring to deliver his Helluva Kick finisher, his ankle “gave out” and it left him vulnerable for a superkick-powerbomb combination finish.

This wasn’t the first time Zayn has shown his world-class selling ability recently. Two weeks ago he worked most of his match against Seth Rollins on a “bum” ankle after “injuring” it during a springboard spot. He modified his move set and made every step that he took on the ankle look painful.

(Zayn should probably watch out, because Dolph Ziggler was once known as the king of selling.)

Hell, Cesaro and Sheamus are using an injury angle to drive the main story in their best out of seven series. In the second match between the two, Sheamus back body dropped Cesaro into the new ring post.

The Uppercut Man sold the injury like a million bucks and then came out on Monday with Kinesio-tape all over his lower back. Sheamus “targeted” the injured area and then laid Ceasro out with a Brogue Kick to take a 3-0 lead.

The best example of this new philosophy, IMO, comes to us from the world of NXT-CWC. Johnny Gargano’s knee was “ravaged” in his loss to The Revival at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II and then three days later he faced T.J. Perkins in the second round of the Cruiserweight Classic.

Gargano’s injury from Takeover played into the finish as Perkins forced Gargano to tapout due to a kneebar (this was a tremendous match). Here’s the real beauty to this scenario, the CWC match between Perkins and Gargano was taped weeks before the Takeover special, so the writers came up with this idea well in advance and executed it to perfection.

On SmackDown this week the Usos turned heel after their 45 second loss to American Alpha in the tag team tournament. They beat down Gable and Jordan after the match and targeted Gable’s leg. The crowd responded nicely and it set up a grudge match for the titles at No Mercy.

Pro wrestling 101 everybody.

We’ll see how long this new attitude towards selling lasts because ish like this changes after Vince sneezes the wrong way.

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Backlash Preview

Intercontinental Championship match: The Miz (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler

So in a month Dolph Ziggler goes from wrestling Dean Ambrose for the WWE World title at SummerSlam to defending Daniel Bryan’s honor against The Miz. A dirty win by Miz makes the most sense for everyone involved. There’s no reason to take the IC title off of Miz at this point and another loss for Ziggler will push him towards a potential heel turn.

The Usos vs. Hype Bros (Winner faces Heath Slater/Rhyno, or Slyno, in the SmackDown Tag Team Tournament finals)

I was a big fan of the Usos heel turn on Tuesday night. The beat down on American Alpha looked great and you could feel the passion in their promo with Renee. The Hype Bros have proven that they belong on the main roster, but they shouldn’t go over here.

The Usos vs. Slater/Rhyno

Note: If Heath Slater and Rhyno win the titles, Slater will “become” a member of the SmackDown roster.

Time for me to give credit where credit is due, the booking of Heath Slater has been wonderful. The crowd has taken to The One Man Band and has made him feel like a star, which has rubbed off on Rhyno. Seriously, go back and listen to the reaction Rhyno got this week when he set up for the Gore.

Having said all of that, Slater and Rhyno should not win the titles. The Usos heel turn was pushed as the biggest storyline on Tuesday night and in order to accelerate their new attitude, they should steal a victory over one of the biggest fan favorites in the company right now. Plus, there’s a future match against Alpha down the road that will have a little extra punch.

Six Pack Challenge to crown the first SmackDown Women’s Champion

I seriously have no idea who to pick in this match. Becky Lynch appears to be the favorite, which is exactly why she won’t win it. Carmella and Nikki should spin off into their own program after the match. Perhaps Carmella gets eliminated and then costs Bella Twin 1…

That leaves Naomi, Alexa Bliss (or like on Tuesday Alexa Miss) and Natalya. I like Alexa, but she isn’t quite ready to be the face of the SD women’s division. Naomi’s entrance and new move set is impressive, but she can’t feel the glow when a microphone is in her hands.

By process of elimination, Natalya is the only person left. She hasn’t been lighting the world on fire by during this heel run, but is still capable of putting on good matches with greener talent. If this new women’s title is going to get over, it has to happen in the ring.

With just six matches announced for the card, I’m expecting this to get a ton of time.

Kane will destroy some random local talent or jobber

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt

The promos leading up to this match have ranged from very good (Orton last week, Bray this week) to wtf (Orton this week), but I’m expecting the physicality to be off of the charts. Wyatt has some of the best looking offense in the company and we all know how smooth Mr. RKO is.

Bray could really use a win here, maybe Luke Harper returns to lend him a hand? Whatever the case, the finish shouldn’t be clean, because this feud should carry over to No Mercy in October. Thinking Wyatt wins here.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship match: Dean Ambrose (C) vs. AJ Styles

Ambrose has been on a cold streak lately with his in-ring performances. Idk if he’s trying to be extra cautious to avoid an injury because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his spot by missing time, or if he’s just burned out and going through the motions, but it’s hard to remember the last time Ambrose looked impressive in a singles match that didn’t have Rollins in it.

That pattern should change on Sunday against Styles, who is the best performer in the world at this current moment in time. Styles should walk out of Richmond, Virginia as the only man to ever win the IWGP, NWA, and WWE world title, but we could be in for a screwy finish that leads to a stipulation match between the two for the title at No Mercy.

In Ambrose’s promo this week, he dropped a line about taking his opponents to places they’ve never been before, which makes me wonder if we’ll get another Asylum match.

Which show was better this week?

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SD Live wasn’t even that good this week and it was still easily better than the bizzaro Raw from Monday. Everything on the show that didn’t involve Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, or Seth Rollins was atrocious.

Time to “Go Home”

– People are going to be upset with me about this, but it’s time to break up The New Day. Their segments have been way more miss than hit lately and there’s nowhere for the act to go from here.

– Which segment was worse? Sasha’s announcement or the Old Day?

– It’s closer than you think.

– Seth Rollins is going to be a white-hot babyface. His up-tempo style is easy for the crowd to get behind and his offense is just so crisp. I’m a bit surprised he’s going to continue using the pedigree. It would be awesome if he put his own spin on the move a la The Angel’s Wings.

– It’s a shame this isn’t Rollins’ new theme because it’s so damn good.

– It was not exactly the best seven days for Big Cass. Guy went from the Universal title picture to a loss at the hands of The Shining Stars.

– Am I the only one who prefers the SmackDown set over Raw’s?

– I can’t believe Bo Dallas had the best squash match on Monday.

– Can anyone explain to me why Sin Cara needed to be protected via countout finish against Braun Strowman?

– Remember when Vince wanted Strowman to be the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania opponent?

– I don’t want to totally crap on the guy because his look could take him far in the industry, but he needs to be able to sell much, much better at this point. I’m still laughing at the head scissors spot from Monday.

– So Bayley beats Charlotte, but Sasha gets the title match at Clash of Champions? Makes sense.

– I LOVED the quick finish to the Alpha-Usos match. Surprise finishes like that will keep the crowd on their toes. It’s so easy to just sit back and not care about a good chunk of matches due to the amount of near falls.

– David Otunga needs to drink some of Dean Ambrose’s coffee, maybe then he’d actually be worth listening to.

– This Darren Young-Titus O’Neil feud is never going to end is it?

– The cruiserweight division can’t get to Raw quick enough. If you’re not watching the CWC for some reason, please change that and watch it right now. It’s easily my favorite show every week.

– Ambrose’s promo in the final segment of SD was amaaaaazzzzzinggg.

– Almost as ammmaaaaazzzinnngggg as Kevin Owens’ new shirt.

Follow me on Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE: How Alexa Bliss Found Her Voice

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Before Alexa Bliss defends her Raw Women’s Championship at the Tables, Ladders and Chairs Pay-Per-View (this Sunday live at 8 p.m. ET on WWE Network) I had the chance to talk with her about the process of developing the Alexa Bliss character, what it was like to have cameras around her house for “Total Divas” and of course, the world famous Larry-Steve

Me: “So what game did Larry-Steve pick for you to download on the [Nintendo] Switch?”

Alexa: “Mario! The Rabbit Kingdom. I was trying to find a game and all of a sudden Larry-Steve jumped on my lap and just started moving the Switch, so I was like I have to get this on video. He was doing it for a lot longer, but I only caught a couple seconds on video.”

@larry_steve_ helping me figure out which game to download next on my @nintendo #switch

A post shared by Alexa_Bliss (@alexa_bliss_wwe_) on

“Are you a big gamer, or did you see someone else with the Switch and said to yourself “I need one of those”?

“No, I love video games. So my fiancé and I went through this phase recently where we got all of the older gaming systems. We have this box that plays old Sega and Nintendo games. We have the original Playstation, recently just got a Game Boy. We have an Xbox a PS4 Pro and the Super Nintendo that just came out.”

“I got the Switch back in March and it’s a life-saver on my commute”

“Oh it’s the best. It seriously saves my life when it comes to traveling because I get so bored so easily, especially when a plane doesn’t have WiFi … ughhhh I die.”

“When you did an interview with ESPN a few months back you mentioned that you got Larry-Steve because of Total Divas, which made me wonder if getting a pig was something you’ve always wanted to do, or if this was a spur of the moment decision because of the show?”

“I’ve always wanted a pig. I grew up in Ohio, in Grove City, which is a farmy place. A lot of people there have farm animals and I’ve always wanted a pig because they’re super cute and I know they have a risk of getting up to 500 pounds, but whatever.

I actually pitched the storyline for Total Divas of me getting a pig and then my fiancé telling me that I can’t have it and then I’d have to give him back. You know, this whole drama thing.

So I get Larry-Steve and I have him for like two days and then I called Matt and said I’m not giving this pig back. I was like I can’t, he’s too cute and he’s deaf!

I was like he won’t hear the dogs barking at him. He was like what if he gets really big, I was like that’s 500 pounds of love. So I did the whole pouty thing and then he was like it’s your call, you make the decision. The whole I don’t want you to, so you probably shouldn’t, but I’m going to tell you that you can. And I totally took it as OK, I’m going to get him.

They get along so well. Matt loves him. He’s become the baby of the family. He knows it.

He’s like a child. He’s on a schedule. He wakes up every morning at 7. He sleeps in a Pack ‘n Play [crib]. He eats at 7:30. He naps at 2 and if you don’t put him in his crib to nap at 2, he will go lay by his bed. He wakes up, gets more food, will walk around the house, play for an hour to an hour and a half and then he’ll go back to bed.

“He sounds really easy to take care of”

“He’s so easy to take care of. As long as you can get his schedule down, because if not, he gets really grumpy.”

“Grumpy! How do you know that he’s grumpy?”

“Yeah because he’ll go “oink, oink, oink” all of the time and start pushing you. When he gets grumpy you know and then he’ll try to bite your toe, but that’s only if he’s grumpy.”

“Because [spoiler alert] Total Divas is a pseudo-reality, did you find yourself having to adjust to how you acted in front of the camera because you’re so used to playing a specific type of character in front of one?”

“I had a little bit of an adjustment period for sure because I’m so used to when the camera is on, I turn into Alexa Bliss, this mean, attitudy character. So I had to get out of that because our first filming was at TV. So I’m in a work environment and it was just a different camera, so as soon as the camera came on I was thinking ‘wait I can’t be that way, I have to be me.’

There were times where we’re at home making breakfast and there’s cameras there and I feel so weird because you have to open up to the cameras, but still act natural.

It was very different, but I had a lot of fun with it.”

*** Season 7 of Total Divas Premieres Wednesday, November 1 at 9 p.m. ET on E! ***

“You’ve talked about your transition from NXT to the main roster before and how you needed to turn up the persona that you found in NXT, but what helped you find the character’s voice? Was there a light bulb moment where you realized that this is it when you were with Blake and Murphy?

“I watched back our first few NXT matches together when I was managing them and realized that I was just silent. I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t saying anything. I was just looking at them in silence. And I was like hmmm, well that’s nothing.

I remember specifically trying more and more to be mean and I was trying to think of a character that’s relatable and I was like oh my gosh, a mean girl from high school. Everyone knows her. Everyone had one. Some people were her and no matter how mean she was, you still voted for her for homecoming queen.

I was like I want to be that girl because I knew that girl in high school. I knew a few of those girls in high school. I knew that everyone did. So that was my main motivation was to be that girl.

I get my inspiration from movies and a lot of the time I’ll actually people-watch when I’m at the airport. William Regal told us to people-watch because you can get your best motivation from them. I’ll notice little mannerisms that irritate me and I know they will irritate other people.

“How long did it take you to be comfortable in front of the camera as that character? Was it something you had to workshop a lot to get to that point?

“To get it started was a long process, but once it clicked, it was super easy. It’s just another part of me now and it’s been so much fun to play around with.”

“The saying is the best characters in this business are an extension of who the actual person is, but turned up to an 11, so is there any part of your actual personality in the character?”

“Oh god, none of it (laughs).”

“See that’s really interesting because you’re so comfortable playing the character, but it’s not you at all.”

“So I remember watching ‘My Date with Marilyn’ and watching the scene where she’s just super shy and super timid and then she asks somebody ‘do you want me to become her?’ And then she goes into Marilyn [Monroe]-mode and people start swarming her. She becomes this confident, sexy woman and I feel like it’s pretty much the same kind of thing. It’s something that you just switch into.

I’ve always wanted to do acting and wanted to explore that route and I feel like this has been the most fun part of doing what I get to do. Being able to transition into a completely different character.”

“So your match coming up with Mickie James this weekend; in another era this probably would have been a depends on a pole match …”

“(laughs)”

“But it’s just going to be a normal one-on-one match, even though in the build-up for it, you’ve been so aggressive in promos and backstage segments that it could have warranted a stipulation in storyline. Would you prefer a stipulation match, or are you OK with it being a regular match?”

“I’m OK with it being a normal one-on-one [match]. Of course stipulations are always cooler and more fun, but I feel like if we were to do a stipulation match it would have to be something that was driven towards the storyline that we’re doing right now.

I’m talking about her being old, so it should be like a walker match.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

There’s a new playable character in WWE 2K18 and it’s … Colonel Sanders!?

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During the “Hell in a Cell” Pay-Per-View last night, it was announced that Colonel Sanders will be a playable character in the WWE 2K18 video game.

The announcement came during a segment in which the world was introduced to Colonel Angle Sanders who promptly took care of his rival, the Puppers Cluckers Chicken.

If you want to see an extended look of Colonel Sanders in WWE 2K18, you can watch him face off against Puppers Cluckers Chicken on UpUpDownDown this Thursday (October 12th).

WWE 2K18’s launch date is October 17th.