WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: Why John Cena needs to be protected

Leave a comment

Just when it looked like we were headed for another week of ho-hum WWE programming, a bit of history was made on Tuesday night when Dean Ambrose pinned John Cena clean in the middle of the ring.

It marked the first time in 11 years that John Cena had been defeated on SmackDown. The last time Cena looked up at the bright lights for a three count was the night the Doctor of Thuganomics dropped the U.S. title to Orlando Jordan.

Some will read the paragraph above and think: “Well he rarely appeared on SmackDown after he was drafted to Raw in 2005.” So for those people, here’s another stat to sip on; It was the first time in seven years that he was pinned clean on television (HHH did the honors on the Sept. 19th 2009 edition of Raw).

At first, Ambrose’s win over Cena seemed like no big deal to me. With the triple threat coming up at No Mercy between Styles-Cena-Ambrose, it makes sense for creative to make Deano feel like he’s at the same level with Cena by beating him.

But then I continued the thought and realized that the shock value of Cena eating a clean pin wasn’t nearly the same as it usually is. I wondered why that was and then it hit me, AJ Styles just beat Cena at SummerSlam without any nefarious means.

In less than a month, the WWE’s most protected superstar of the last decade has been pinned clean twice. I’m sure there are many “Cena sucks” people out there who are thrilled with the result on Tuesday night, but here’s the problem with booking Cena like this:

If John Cena becomes a part-timer that puts guys over more frequently than he has in the past, the WWE will lose one of their two chips that can be played to boost guys to a superstar level. The other chip is this crazy guy:

giphy

Cena’s status as the face of the WWE brand won’t take a hit if he gets continues to lose at this rate, because the company doesn’t value wins and losses, which means the fans shouldn’t care when a fresh face on the rise beats him clean in the middle of the ring.

It’s a gigantic flaw in logic that I’ll explore at a later date because I don’t want to get too sidetracked.

A triumph over Cena without outside help should signal the elevation of a character from the upper mid-card to the main event. In the case of Ambrose this past Tuesday, it might help him gain some of the momentum he lost during his title run, but I get the sense that the crowd started to turn on Ambrose due to the quality of his in-ring performances. They severely dipped after he won the title in June.

Back to Cena. As frustrating as it is for people who are sick of #SuperCena’s reign as the face of the company, he’s vital to boosting this “new era” of talent. The only way that’s going to happen is if the aura of beating John Cena still exists when it’s time to bump Baron Corbin up to the top of the card, or when guys like Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura and Bobby Roode make their way up to the main roster from NXT,

Cena will be away from WWE from mid-October until mid-December (he’s filming the second season of American Grit), which means he ain’t winning the title at No Mercy, but it also means the SmackDown main event scene is going to be a combination of Styles, Ambrose, Orton, Wyatt (hahaha just kidding, dude is destined to cut aimless promos on the upper mid-card forever).

Orton-Styles for the WWE world title at Survivor Series should be a fine match, but after that, SmackDown’s matches for SS don’t exactly look appealing. Baron Corbin vs. Ambrose? Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC title? American Alpha vs. Slyno? Ambrose vs. Wyatt (ugh, again). Jack Swagger vs. a microphone? Curt Hawkins vs. a fact checker?

SmackDown has been much better (this is a drastic understatement) than Raw lately due to the superior writing, but it’s only a matter of time before the lack of depth dominates the conversation about WWE’s Tuesday night show.

The only way for this problem to be remedied is good writing, strong booking and protecting John Cena, so he can help everyone else on the roster.

The WWE is such a warped world man.

giphy-1

Cruising for a problem

The cruiserweight division made its debut on Monday night and well, it was lackluster to say the least. I didn’t have a problem with Mick Foley’s introductions, even if he did hop on a struggle bus during his rendition of a Mark Twain quote.

The match itself between Gran Metalik, Brian Kendrick, Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander was very good, even though it did feel like a choreographed spot fest at times. The action was stiff and different than the other matches we saw on Monday night.

Last positive note here: I liked the effort to change the graphics and colors on the stage to make the division feel like it was separate from the rest of the show. Going forward the cruiserweights shouldn’t interact with anyone else on the show, unless they’re in the same weight class.

OK, now let’s get the negative stuff out of the way.

Where the hell was T.J. Perkins? Why didn’t creative have TJP come out after Kendrick won the match? He didn’t even have to cut a promo! Just have a good ol’ fashion stare down.

Why did this segment air in the middle of the third hour? The enthusiasm of the live crowd usually dies somewhere between the end of the second hour and the beginning of the third hour (can be earlier depending on how bad the show is), so why not open the show with the Fatal Four Way? The crowd would have been so much more into the match and it would have made the division feel more important.

But nooooo, we had to have another talking segment between Roman Reigns, Stephanie, Foley and Kevin Owens.

giphy-2

Where were the handshakes and cool individual profile pieces? Two aspects of the Cruiserweight Classic that made the show feel drastically different were the handshakes prior to the match and the profile style video packages. Instead of showing in-ring highlights, run the damn video packages again so people can actually get a little backstory on these guys.

I know it’s a Fatal Four Way, but you can still do the handshake bit. Maybe Kendrick doesn’t want to shake anyone’s hand, which makes him an instant heel. There are potential programs that could have been set up with this device.

There’s plenty of tweaking that needs to be done to the presentation of the division, so I won’t totally bury it, but man this was really disappointing considering how great the CWC was.

Was Raw finally better than SmackDown?

giphy-3

Time to “Go Home”

– The SmackDown tag team division has been ripped by quite a few people, but the pathetic tag division on Raw was exposed big time on Monday night. The New Day, Gallows and Anderson, The Shining Stars and Enzo & Cass were all in the ring for a segment and it hit me that this is the entire tag division on Raw.

– Can Raw please trade Gallows and Anderson to SmackDown for the Usos. If you think about it, the Usos heel turn could have easily been done on Raw. Just replace American Alpha with Enzo and Cass.

– Gallows and Anderson would be such a better fit on SmackDown. #TheClub4Life

– Same goes for the women’s division. Give me SmackDown’s six over the six women on Raw. Which seems ridiculous considering Bayley-Sasha-Charlotte are all on Raw, but not so ridiculous when you consider how (profanity deleted) terrible the writing has been on WWE’s flagship show.

– Cage matches are supposed to keep interference out, but I wish Rusev and Rollins would have interrupted the main event on Monday, but hey, wins and losses don’t matter, so why should I care that the Universal champion lost?

– Stephanie’s performance in the backstage segment with Rollins was porn star level bad.

– Remind me again why Apollo Crews was brought up from NXT.

– Orton vs. Rowan literally put me to sleep.

– So the WWE is considering a “shooters” style stable for SmackDown. Ziggler, Swagger and Shelton Benjamin would be in the group. I’ll believe it when I see it.

– I hope The Miz holds onto the IC title for the rest of the year, guy is on a roll right now.

– Will Stephanie turn on Foley before Owens turns on Jericho?

– WHAT DID RIKISHI TELL DAVID OTUNGA?

– THAT HE’S AWFUL ON COMMENTARY?

Follow me on Twitter: @ScottDargis

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

Leave a comment

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

WWE
Leave a comment

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