WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: Drinking in the Evolution of Chris Jericho

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If you were one of the few people who tuned into Raw on Monday night instead of Monday Night Football, you witnessed another mediocre edition of the WWE’s flagship show.

The three hours didn’t drag as badly as last week, but at times the show’s cringe-worthy writing made it easy to flip over and watch Antonio Brown twerk his way to another incredible night in fantasy football.

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Now, not every segment was as bad as David Otunga’s commentary though. Some of the show was actually very good. The main event between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens is worth seeking out if you decided to take your eyeballs to a different channel. While you’re searching for that match, you should also find the Highlight Reel segment between Sami Zayn and the subject of my main story this week, Chris Jericho.

Drinking It In

When Jericho returned on the first Raw of 2016, he rehashed his infamous promo with The Rock from his initial WWE debut in 1999, which was the beginning of a theme.

Over the next couple of weeks, Y2J seemingly felt out of place on the roster. Some wondered if he was intentionally playing an old wrestler who was out of touch because week after week Jericho would talk about himself as though he was one of the top guys on the roster, even though he had fallen from that pedestal due to the number of pedestrian runs he had in the last four years.

Remember his lackluster feud with Bray Wyatt?

His tussle with Ziggler for the MITB briefcase?

What about his loss to Fandango at WrestleMania 29?

Or his feud with Ryback? (I totally forgot that this is how Jericho was written off of TV in 2013.)

When Jericho would come back after a hiatus, it would be cool for one week or two and then he would fade away to the mid-card. The guy still worked his ass off, but his shtick felt dated.

After an impressive showing in this year’s Royal Rumble, Jericho tagged and then feuded with the vanilla babyface version of AJ Styles. It was the first time since 2012 that Jericho worked as a heel, but his impact still felt minimal. The Lite-Brite jacket certainly didn’t help, nor did his lack of in-ring chemistry with Styles. Y2J looked a step slow, which is perfectly acceptable for a 26-year veteran of the business, but it’s not acceptable when he’s working in a coveted WrestleMania spot.

After his feud with Styles finally ended, Jericho moved on to a wacky series of matches with Dean Ambrose that culminated with the forgettable Asylum match. Besides Mitch the plant, this feud appeared to help no one, but it was actually the turning point for Jericho. Ambrose “destroyed” the G.O.A.T’s light-up jacket, so Jericho started wearing a ridiculous scarf to the ring. It seemed so stupid at first, but it was actually a sign that Y2J was evolving.

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Not only did Jericho end up getting the scarf over, he has somehow managed to:

Produce a “stupid idiot” chant.

Give Tom Phillips 698126 different names.

Get the word “it” over to a point where the crowd pops heavily for it every week.

Once again become one of the best performers on the roster.

Instead of groaning when his music hits, I now can’t wait for Jericho to come onto my TV every Monday night. His facial expressions were absolutely hilarious this week and his promo with Zayn were the best 5-8 minutes of the entire episode. (Zayn should be commended here as well; he bounced back-and-forth with Jericho perfectly.)

This version of Jericho is essentially a fusion of his two best characters: The longhaired goofball from WCW and the serious heel from his 2008 run. You could see a change begin to take place with Jericho when he started interacting with Kevin Owens. It was in those segments that Jericho found his new voice and slowly started turning it up to an 11.

Jericho also has total control of the live crowd. He understands the little tricks needed to get someone cheered, which can be very difficult to do in 2016. The seed that he’s planting by calling Owens “my best friend” is pure brilliance. When Owens eventually turns on him, he’s going to be a white hot babyface and Owens is going to be a mega heel.

The guy is a wrestling genius. I shouldn’t have doubted him. Now excuse me while I drink the gift of Jericho.

CWC Preview

If you haven’t watched the Cruiserweight Classic, you should stop reading this column and quickly binge all of the episodes on the WWE Network. You know how much the network costs.

This genius creation by HHH is down to the final four. The semifinals, Gran Metalik vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi vs. T.J.Perkins and final match will air during a live two-hour special on the network. If these three matches follow the pattern that the rest of the tournament has set, we’re in store for a tremendous night of professional wrestling.

Metalik vs. Sabre Jr. is a really interesting match. Sabre Jr. is a mat-based wizard, while Metalik works a high-flying luchador style. Ibushi and Perkins could easily put on the best match of the entire tournament.

So who’s going to win the tournament? It’s not going to be Sabre Jr. because he has no intention to sign with WWE. Metalik and Perkins have signed with the company and will appear in the cruiserweight division on Raw.

That leaves Ibushi, who would be a lock to win the tournament if he signed a deal with the WWE, but he’s remained coy about his immediate future. Unlike Sabre Jr. who has flat out said that he won’t be signing, Ibushi has teased that he doesn’t plan on signing, but seemed to purposefully leave the door open.

It doesn’t seem like a good idea to introduce the cruiserweights on Raw without the inaugural CWC champion in the mix, so unless Ibushi signs a deal, or has already signed a deal, either Metalik or Perkins is going to leave Wednesday night with the gigantic trophy.

My pick is Perkins. He is a clean cut kid with a nice backstory and a unique move set that will easily get over in front of bigger crowds.

The live special could very well be the best live in-ring matches we see all year from the WWE.

Which show was better this week?

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This question was answered during the opening promo on Tuesday night.

Time to “Go Home”

– I really enjoyed Backlash. All of the matches were given time to breathe and even Kane vs. Bray Wyatt was enjoyable.

– Congrats to AJ Styles for becoming the first man to ever win the NWA, IWGP and WWE championships.

– Is there any doubt that he’s the best wrestler on the planet right now?

– You could really feel the passion from John Cena and Dean Ambrose in their promos this week.

– I love this new look for the Usos. They feel like a fresh tag team, especially with their new vicious move set.

– WTF is going on with Randy Orton? Does he have a concussion or not? I can’t imagine the company would let him physically perform with a concussion, but Dave Meltzer reported that he didn’t work with Wyatt at Backlash due to lingering concussion symptoms.

– This is the best Nia Jax has looked. I loved her aggression and the hair-swinging spot into the barricade looked wicked. The spear through the dasher wall got a nice reaction from the crowd.

– Best sign from this week “The eater of pinfalls”

– I’m really happy for Becky Lynch. The company booked her like crap for months and she’s finally going to get a chance to shine with the title, which btw looks much better than Raw’s.

– For the love of God, Clash of Champions better be the end of The New Day vs. Gallows and Anderson.

– If Gallows and Anderson don’t win the tag titles at COC, can they please be shipped over to SmackDown in a trade for the Usos?

– I think Jack Swagger’s promo on SmackDown was worse than Titus’ from a few weeks back.

– This is my reaction to The Miz’s current run:

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– If Foley and Rollins are going to have a talk, does that mean Rollins is out of the main event at COC? Maybe the winner of Zayn-Jericho should get the opportunity to face Owens for the title.

– I was shocked at how well the crowd reacted to Dana Brooke slapping Charlotte. The current Raw women’s champion has been playing the dick mentor role to a T, but is anyone really clamoring to see a Dana Brooke face turn? Charlotte can’t exactly carry someone through a match at this point.

– So the foreigner Rusev returns, costs Reigns a chance to wrestle for the championship, beats him up after the match and gets cheered? I think it’s time to turn Reigns heel.

– When will Rhyno turn on Slater?

– Roderick Strong in NXT? SIGN ME UP

– Yes, this graphic really aired during SmackDown:

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What a time to be alive.

Follow me on Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE: Let’s analyze that odd LaVar Ball segment from Raw

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We finally got to see what LaVar Ball’s gigantic personality would look and sound like in a professional wrestling ring and it was … something. The phrase train wreck comes to mind, but I’m not sure that accurately describes what took place at the Staples Center.

You see, professional wrestling isn’t easy. Whether it’s with worked punches or words, you have to be able to bounce off of the other person you’re in the ring with and that’s something Ball proved he could not do despite being in the ring with one of WWE’s best talkers.

Here’s the full segment:

Now there’s a lot to unpack here, but I’m going to do my best.

Let’s start with LaVar’s entrance. He’s being accompanied by his youngest son LaMelo, who will play a much bigger role later on, but for now, let’s just focus on how LaVar “runs” to the ring.

LaVar is immediately booed by a majority of the crowd, but as soon as he mentions the Lakers and Lonzo Ball, the crowd roars with approval.

Lonzo gets his own entrance, as he should, but for some reason he’s rocking a sock-sandle combo that doesn’t translate well to WWE programming.

The Miz is a true pro and proved it after he gave Lonzo the opportunity to speak to the Staples Center crowd for the first time. Ball’s eldest son is a very quiet person, so he was understandably brief, but Miz wasn’t going to let this moment pass. He hyped up Lonzo and the crowd did respond positively.

After the Miz declared that he and LaVar should be business partners (I want a triple Bs and M shirt), the segment began to crumble. When LaVar told Miz that he wasn’t on the same level as himself, the Staples Center immediately began to cheer The Miz as a babyface who fired up and asked LaVar and Lonzo how many championships they’ve won.

After Lonzo said three, Miz delivered the line of the segment:

“Did UCLA win this year?”

Here are LaVar’s next set of lines:

“Now we know what The Miz stands for! Misinterpreted Zone” (Which doesn’t make sense it’s only two words.)

“Or it stands for A Million Zippers!” (That’s even worse!)

When Miz refers to LaVar’s comments about how he would beat Michael Jordan one-on-one, the crowd has had enough of Ball. He got booed louder than Roman Reigns, which is an achievement.

Ball’s retort: “Like I said before, there’s only two dudes better than me and I’m both of them!”

Miz then refers to himself as the Michael Jordan of WWE (……) and then LaVar tells LaMelo to “handle his lightweight.”

Miz responds with another great line: “Oh what you’re going to unleash all of the balls on me?”

When Miz tells LaVar he wants him to backup his mouth, Ball responds with his signature catchphrase “stay in yo lane,” which is just mind-numbing if you know where the phrase originated.

(Yes LaMelo wore a “Stay in yo lane” shirt that LaVar’s brand is selling.)

When the Miz gets “serious” and says “or what LaVar,” Ball responds “or the hunt is on and you’re the prey.” But instead of delivering it in a serious tone, Ball has a huge grin on his face and is about to start cracking up.

I can’t even describe what happened next:

Then Dean Ambrose’s music hits and then the segment somehow managed to get even weirder.

As Ambrose walked out onto the stage, LaMelo suddenly realized he had a live microphone with the opportunity to say whatever he wanted and this happened (NSFW, NSFW):

I would pay 10 dollars to see what Vince McMahon’s reaction was backstage. If you know anything about how strict Vince is with segments, you know that he had to be absolutely fuming and what happened next probably made him break something.

After Ambrose stops smiling because he heard what LaMelo said and begins his promo, Ball CUTS HIM OFF. But what LaVar didn’t realize was, he actually stopped Ambrose right as he was about to talk up Big Baller Brand for giving him a free shirt.

However, because Ambrose does this for a living he was able to get through his promo and the segment quickly ended after that.

We’ve seen LaVar Ball cut promo after promo leading up to and during the 2017 NBA Draft, but when he was placed in world of pro wrestling, we found out that he was out of his league.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE: One-on-One with Daniel Bryan

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Before Daniel Bryan makes his return to SmackDown Live this Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on USA, I had the chance to chat with him about #DadLife, why WWE needs to change how they’re presenting their stars, the independent guys who have the best chance of making it and the one guy he’d love to wrestle in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Hey Daniel, so everyone who I told about this interview wanted me to wish you a happy Father’s Day …

“Oh, well thank you!”

… So let’s start there. Is there one word that you can use to describe how yesterday felt?

“Gosh … I suppose just blessed? I feel like I live a very blessed life right now.”

Has there been anything in the month since your daughter has been born that has caught you off guard, or have you been pretty much prepared for everything that’s come?

“I mean I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for parenthood when your first child comes. I mean, maybe some people can. I had never changed a diaper before our baby was born [laughs]. I’m really learning on the job you know?

I thought I was the world’s most patient man. Brie sometimes gets frustrated with my patience [laughs], but what I’ve realized through having a child is, man I really need to work on my patience. I’d be changing a diaper and I have a real aversion to poop and pee, so I’m slow in doing just about everything. I take it off, I clean her and I’m like OK I’m doing really good. Then she pees and I’m like oh no, now I have to clean her again. Then she starts pooping again and now I have poop all over me. So now I start to get frustrated [laughs].

You have to constantly work on yourself and understand the things that you need to get better at.”

And this is the stage where all they do is poop or pee, just wait until she starts moving around.

“[Laughs] It was really hard for me because every time I would hold her or interact with her, in the first few weeks especially, she was crying. She was either sleeping, which was awesome because I would be holding her and she looked so peaceful and happy, but when she was awake, she looks at me and the only thing she wants from me is to change her diaper, but when I’m changing her diaper, she’s very unhappy. When I’m changing her clothes, she’s very unhappy and the only time she stops being unhappy is when I hand her to Brie and Brie starts feeding her [laughs]. When do I get to do the stuff that makes her happy!?”

Switching gears a bit, now that you’ve been in the role of SmackDown GM for almost a year, how would you assess your performance on-screen?

“Um … I don’t know. I would say a solid B-plus [laughs]. I always feel like there’s things that I can do better. I always strive to be the best that I can in any given role that I’m given. I always think that I can do better on things like Talking Smack and when I’m doing interviews and that sort of thing. How do we best make our fans excited for SmackDown Live? What is the best things that we can do to help the fans relate to the superstars?

We’ve had our hits and our misses, but I’d like to think over the last year that we’ve had more hits than misses.”

It seems like it didn’t take you long to get comfortable in the role. Was it easy to pick it up and run with it?

“Yeah … it’s just a natural extension of wrestling in the WWE. If you would have had me do this when I started with WWE seven years ago, I would have been horrible at it. But during my time with WWE I got more and more talking experience and now all I do is talk, so I’ve been able to get more comfortable with it.”

Scale of 1-10, how much fun is it to let loose on Talking Smack?

“I don’t really view it in a scale of 1-10. Sometimes when I’m talking about things that I know I shouldn’t be talking about [laughs] it raises those parts in your brain that excites you and makes you happy. For example, when I refer to James Ellsworth as “The Big Hog” I don’t think anyone really appreciates that other than me and some of the viewers. It makes me chuckle.

I consider a 10 as the happiest or the most fun that I have. A 10 would be doing something really fun with my wife and daughter. Just yesterday we went to a place to eat and Birdie was cooing and smiling and Brie and I were having a great time. That’s just the best. Talking Smack on its best day can get to like a six or a seven. Once you have this idea of where your true happiness lies, it changes your perspective.”

So as I got ready for this year’s Money in the Bank I went back and watched some of the older shows and the level of talent that is on the entire roster now in comparison to five to seven years ago is pretty astounding, but I feel like the product as a whole in its current state is very stale. What tweaks do you think need to be made in order to give the WWE a spark of excitement?

“I think a change of presentation is absolutely necessary. I think the way that we present our superstars probably needs to change. Years ago, [WWE] went through with this idea of having as much live stuff as possible on the shows, but I think when you watch say UFC for example, some of the things that are the most endearing, that make you care the most about the fighters are these backstage vignettes that show their real personality. You’ll see great fights that people will cheer maybe because they’re great fights, but the fights that have the most impact are the ones with fighters who people actually care about.

I think one of the things that really endeared me to people was that people got to view more aspects of my personality than most because of the different things that I did within WWE. Seeing performers frustrated and being able to show that on TV and being able to show their experiences, their reactions to what’s happening to them on the show and doing backstage vignettes. There was a great one on NXT about Roderick Strong recently about being a new dad and all of that kind of stuff.

Since I’ve been gone, they’ve been doing some really fun stuff with the Fashion Police. Not that there needs to be more of that exact kind of stuff, but it helps people get to know their personalities.

I think one of our failings on SmackDown Live was American Alpha. They’re great and on NXT they did all of these fun little interview segments with the two of them that got to show the people behind American Alpha. (They saw) who Chad Gable is, who Jason Jordan is. I’d like to do more of that kind of stuff.

In combat sports, personalities are what draw. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao was one of the worst boxing matches I’ve ever seen, but millions of people watched it because of the personalities involved.

I think changing that dynamic and highlighting the personalities is something we really need to do. Now, I don’t know how we do it. I think if anybody has a magic answer of what the best way is to present personalities in this modern day of television, they’d make millions of dollars, so I may not have the answer.”

Time for the speed round

Best WWE match you’ve seen this year?

“Oh gosh that’s hard … so I was watching the NXT Takeover from Chicago and I really loved the Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne match. That’s my style of wrestling. Pete Dunne working over the wrists and manipulating finger joints is kind of attention to detail I really enjoy.

It’s hard because we get so many matches all of the time that are awesome. I really liked the AJ Styles-John Cena match from the Royal Rumble. Watching AJ Styles on a weekly basis is a constant pleasure.”

Best non-WWE match you’ve seen this year?

“There was a Minoru Suzuki-Kazuchika Okada match from New Japan (Pro Wrestling) that was my style of wrestling. Forty minutes, lots of submission stuff, it was really cool. I think a lot of modern fans in the United States would have a hard time with it, especially if you’re used to WWE style, but I really enjoyed it.

Even though the matches are totally different I would put it right there in terms of match quality with Will Ospreay-KUSHIDA match from the Best of the Super Juniors final.

“So that was really good. I really enjoy KUSHIDA’s work. He’s one of the guys that I would love to have a chance to wrestle because he does so many awesome technical things.”

Who is the one “indie” guy who has the best chance of becoming a star in WWE?

“It’s hard to define any of these guys as ‘indie’ guys anymore because they all have contracts [laughs].

I have really enjoyed watching Matt Riddle. I think he has a ton of personality and a ton of charisma and he’s got that look that WWE really likes and the has history in UFC. I think if he were to get an opportunity in WWE, he would do really well.

I also think Kenny Omega if he were given an opportunity would absolutely kill it.”

Coolest move you’ve ever seen?

“So I define cool as different than most people [laughs]. My favorite thing in wrestling that I’ve tried to do a million times and can’t do it, is when Jerry Lawler punches somebody in the face. It’s the best! He does it better than just about anybody. He punches dudes right in the nose and I don’t know how he does it without breaking them. It’s magic!

How you view wrestling evolves as you become a bigger fan. When I was in high school, I saw Juventud Guerrera do a 450 splash and I was like that’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen! And then now it’s like watching Jerry Lawler punching someone in the face is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Is there one bump* you wish you could take off of your bump card? 

“There’s not a specific one. I feel like there wasn’t one big bump that caused any of my major problems. My neck problems came from years of wrestling a very hard style and my concussion stuff came from, hey I have a lot of concussions [laughs].

I think the one … actually I will say one. OK, in 2000 I did this ladder match and at this point I’d been wrestling for about six months. There was a 12-foot ladder and I jumped off of the top of the ladder that was in the ring and did a flip dive onto a guy that was on the floor, but I didn’t realize that I needed someone to hold the ladder, so the guy tried to catch me, but I just fell shoulder first onto my right shoulder and I’ve had right shoulder problems off and on since then. I also got a concussion in that match as well, so that match might have been the start of shoulder problems, which would then lead to other issues. If I could take that one away I would.

I honestly did a lot of stuff because for my size you have to do different stuff to get recognized. It’s different for someone like Randy Orton. When you’re tall and you’re good looking and your dad is a former WWE superstar, it’s a lot easier to get in the door. When you’re five-foot eight, don’t have really any natural charisma and you look like a normal guy who works out at the gym, you have to do some things to get noticed.”

*A bump is when a wrestler takes a move or does a big … dive, during a match.

Twitter: @ScottDargis