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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

Kurt Angle to be inducted into WWE Hall of Fame

ORANGE, CA - MAY 08:  Wrestler Kurt Angle arrives at the Lions Gate Premiere of "See No Evil" at the Century Stadium Promenade 25 on May 8, 2006 in Orange, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
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Oh it’s true, it’s true.

WWE announced today that Kurt Angle will be going into their Hall of Fame on March 31st at the Amway Center in Orlando as part of WrestleMania week.

The 1996 Olympic gold medalist is a five-time WWE world champion and regarded as one of the best in-ring talents to ever grace the squared circle. Angle last appeared in a WWE ring way back in August of 2006.

In a press release, WWE’s Executive Vice President Paul “HHH” Levesque said, “Kurt Angle’s accomplishments both in the Olympics and WWE were extraordinary. He was one of the most gifted athletes to ever enter the ring, and we are honored to welcome him into the WWE Hall of Fame.”

WrestleMania 33 will be held Sunday, April 2nd from the Orlando Citrus Bowl live on WWE Network.

WWE Weekly Recap: 2017 Royal Rumble Odds

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For the first time in many years, the favorite to win the Royal Rumble isn’t obvious. In fact, this feels like one of the more unpredictable Rumble matches in WWE history.

Five guys who would be considered a favorite to win the match (Seth Rollins, The Undertaker, Braun Strowman, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar) are rumored to have their WrestleMania programs locked in and none are scheduled to be for either of the company’s main championships.

Instead of being a device that’s used to give an established star a main event spot at Mania, the Rumble might actually be used as a launching pad for a future world champion.

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With that in mind, here’s how I would rank the field:

Baron Corbin 6/1 (+600)

The odds may surprise you, but Corbin has been booked very strong ever since his better-than-expected chairs match with Kalisto at the TLC Pay-Per-View. He was given a lot of offense in the triple threat match for the WWE title on the “Wild Card Finals” episode of SmackDown and “controlled” 80 percent of his match against John Cena this past Tuesday.

Corbin is ascending into the world title picture and it’s totally logical to picture “The Lone Wolf” ending the first PPV of WrestleMania season by pointing at the giant WM sign.

With Goldberg-Lesnar, Undertaker-Strowman, and HHH-Rollins penciled in for Mania, Corbin vs. Styles, Cena or both, is a perfectly fine match (with entrances) to fill 20-25 minutes of the show. Corbin has shown enough in the ring lately for me to buy that he’s ready for a high level match.

Finn Balor 8/1 (+800)

If either Owens or Reigns walk out of the Universal Championship match in San Antonio with the red strap, Balor has a built-in story with either guy.

Balor beat Reigns clean in the middle of the ring during his first night on Raw and after the match Roman said he would love another crack at Balor.

Owens was handed the championship by Triple H, but HHH also has a connection with Balor that could easily be worked up with one or two backstage interactions if creative wanted to go that route.

If not, Balor and Owens could hearken back to their feud in NXT, which produced a set of extremely good matches in the Summer of 2015. Their NXT title match at “Beast in the East” was one of my favorites that year and 30 percent of that was thanks to the streamers that were thrown at the end of Balor’s entrance.

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No matter who Balor works with, he’s going to put on a great performance and if WWE wants to have a NJPW style match at Mania, the Demon King would be the perfect person to insert into it.

Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura 9/1 (+900)

A debuting superstar has never won the Royal Rumble, but if there was ever a time to do it, this is it.

Joe is the more likely option out of the two, considering that he just dropped the NXT title to Nakamura and failed to beat him in the rematch, but if Nakamura loses the title to Bobby Roode at Takeover: San Antonio (unlikely, but you never know), he instantly becomes a favorite.

If either guy won, it would make sense for them to face Styles for the world title at the company’s biggest show of the year. Joe is one of Styles’ best friends in the business. They’ve made magic in the ring together and understand how to put on a clinic in front of a massive crowd.

Nakamura wrestled Styles in the second to last match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, which is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania. It was predictably awesome and if you haven’t seen it yet, set aside a half hour and watch it:

Chris Jericho 10/1 (+1000)

As much as I want to see Team Chris and Kevin face off for the Universal title in Orlando. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. If Owens does somehow hold onto the title at the Alamodome, Jericho would instantly become one of the three favorites to win the Rumble.

Owens and Jericho are the hottest act on the company’s flagship show. Roman Reigns may get a bigger reaction in some cities, but he’s still not ready to be a main event promo, which is exactly what Y2KO have been since September, which is why I’m still holding out hope that this match will be for the title.

If Chris and Kevin are going to feud with each other, someone is going to have to turn and it makes sense for K.O. to beat the crap out of Y2J.

Imagine the verbal jabs between a heel Owens and a sympathetic babyface version Jericho who keeps the same character tone, but plays into the cheers.

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Now imagine Reigns cutting a 5-10 minute promo about defending the title.

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Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt 12/1 (+1200)

It’s easy to see a scenario in which Orton and Wyatt square off at Mania, but what if creative actually has long-term plans for the group?

If Wyatt or Orton were to win the Rumble and wrestle for the world title at WrestleMania, it could set up a title program between the two for the May-July period.

The Miz 14/1 (+1400)

Even though he’s currently in a feud with Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title, Miz has been one of the best acts on SmackDown since the draft and deserves a main event run.

He and AJ teased a feud during a Miz TV segment a few weeks back, but I think the pair should be saved for a SmackDown exclusive PPV later on in the year.

Miz will eventually climb up the card, but sadly, he’s going to be left out of a high profile match at WrestleMania.

John Cena, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens 17/1 (+1700)

I’m expecting the losers of both title matches to enter the Rumble later on in the night. If I had to rank the four in terms of most likely winners I’d go: Styles, Cena, Reigns, Owens. It would be an interesting swerve to the Cena-Styles storyline if Cena won the title from AJ earlier in the night and then Styles responded by winning the rumble.

Owens is likely locked for a Mania match with Jericho and it would be a major letdown if Reigns won the most unpredictable Rumble in years.

Sami Zayn 25/1 (+2500)

If the Owens-Zayn storyline had any heat left, Zayn would be a logical choice. It would be a genuinely shocking moment and Zayn could use a boost after doing the job for Strowman.

With Owens likely taking on Jericho at Mania and Zayn’s current placement on the card, I don’t expect the taxi driver to make any real impact in the Rumble.

Rusev 25/1 (+2500)

The Bulgarian George Clooney deserves a featured spot in WrestleMania season because he’s one of the most entertaining full-time performers on the roster, but there are only so many spots to go around.

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Big Cass 25/1 (+2500)

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Big Cass ends up as one of the “Final Four” participants in the Rumble match. Either that or he’s going to have a spot midway through where he runs through a couple dudes before going out quickly.

Any member of The New Day 28/1 (+2800)

Big E is the only legitimate option here. This would be an ideal moment to begin the inevitable breakup between the three, but it needs to be a slow burn.

Dean Ambrose 40/1 (+4000)

He’s headed for another multi-man match for the IC title at WrestleMania.

Seth Rollins 50/1 (+5000)

Rollins is obviously penciled in to face Triple H in Orlando, so there’s no need for him to be near the title picture until after Mania.

Braun Strowman 50/1 (+5000)

He’s most likely facing The Undertaker. While it may seem like Strowman isn’t ready for the level of a match, if the company is serious about pushing him, he needs to be in this spot.

The split rosters have created a need for new stars, which means a clean win for Strowman over the Undertaker could be in the cards.

The Undertaker 50/1 (+5000)

As noted above, Taker most likely has a date with Adam from Tinder at Mania.

Yes, I know I used that line last week, but why not bring it back for round two?

Goldberg and Brock Lesnar 50/1 (+5000)

I’d love to see Brock and Goldberg “draw” the first two numbers and beat the hell out of guys until Braun Strowman eventually comes out.

Kane 70/1 (+7000)

Kane has shockingly been protected since the draft, so don’t be surprised if he has a strong showing in the Rumble. Who knows, maybe he makes it all of the way to the “Final Four.”

Shelton Benjamin 75/1 (+7500)

Benjamin was scheduled to return to the SmackDown brand after the draft, but needed surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He had a six-month recovery time frame and the Rumble falls perfectly in line with his rehab, so don’t be surprised if “ain’t no stoppin me now” blares over the speakers in San Antonio.

American Alpha 75/1 (+7500)

Enjoy the SmackDown tag team titles. Jordan has a chance to win this in a few years.

Apollo Crews 100/1 (+10000)

He should still be in NXT.

Any cruiserweight 100/1 (+10000)

Nope.

Dolph Ziggler 100/1 (+10000)

The guy’s gimmick is that he loses, so there’s no way he’s going to win.

James Ellsworth 1000/1 (+100000)

Any man with two fists has a chance to be eliminated.

Holy Schnikes moment of the week:

Take it away Becky Lynch.

If you don’t know what see you next Tuesday means, Google it.

Time to “Go Home”

– Stephanie was harder to listen to than Otunga this week. Was it necessary for her to talk down to Sasha and Bayley like that? As a fan, how am I supposed to cheer either of the babyfaces if they don’t have a snarky retort ready to counter Steph’s heelish lines.

– So Nia Jax pins Bayley essentially clean in the middle of the ring just two weeks before Bayley faces Charlotte for the women’s title. Makes sense.

– Has anyone else noticed that Karl Anderson’s pants say #BC on them? I find it a bit strange that no one backstage has said anything to him about this.

– Everything about Neville’s heel turn is great, including the variety of moves he’s displaying in the ring. This week he worked a mat wrestling/submission style that resulted in him using the Rings of Saturn to get the victory over Lince Dorado.

– I like the fire Rich Swann showed when he attacked Neville after the match.

– I thought Natalya and Nikki Bella had an excellent brawl on SmackDown. Nattie caught Nikki with a kick right to the face.

So Seth Rollins is supposedly getting new music after all. Once I heard this version by Downstrait, I got bummed out every time I heard Rollins’ actual music:

– Please WWE, no more Big Cass vs. Jinder Mahal matches.

– I like that Ziggler’s heel turn accelerated this week. The worst thing for his character would have been to come out this week and apologize for his actions. Instead, he beat the crap out of Kalisto after their match and then waffled Apollo Crews with a chair when AC came out to help his “friend” Kalisto.

– This was American Alpha’s best showing since their call-up to the main roster. Gable used his hot tag effectively and Jordan had a very nice amateur wrestling sequence with Bray to begin the match.

– I LOVED Cena’s backstage promo this week. It felt a bit like a Doctor of Thuganomics promo, just all grown up.

The Twitter Machine: @ScottDargis