WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: The Reality of the Disposable Era

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Remember when Batista defeated Mr. Kennedy for the World Heavyweight Championship in 2007?

Nope.

Or the time John Cena defeated Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship at The Great American Bash?

Doesn’t ring a bell.

What about the classic seven-on-seven elimination tag match between The Nexus and Team WWE at SummerSlam in 2010?

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Don’t be ashamed, there’s plenty of people who don’t remember those matches.

Quite a few of them attended SmackDown last Tuesday when The Miz stunningly brought out what’s left of the Spirit Squad to confront Dolph Ziggler about his “disappointing” career. Kenny and Mikey did their usual shtick and while it was a fine performance, the crowd had no idea who these two male cheerleaders were.

This is an accurate depiction of what the crowd sounded like when their music hit:

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Ten years ago, the Spirit Squad was involved in a long feud with D-Generation X. They were linked in storyline to Vince and Shane McMahon, which is very important in the world of WWE. In other words, this was an act that was pushed up to a main event program with four of the most important guys on the roster at that point.

So when The Miz reintroduced the Spirit Squad last week, you would think the crowd would respond with a nostalgia pop that everyone gets when they make their return to WWE television.

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Even the pockets of hardcore fans that always make noise at WWE shows were silent as Kenny and Mikey made their way down to the ring.

The lack of reaction for the SS got me thinking, is this an isolated incident, or would a good chunk of the talent from 2006-11 receive a similar reaction if they returned to WWE?

Sidenote: WWE’s unofficial eras are as follows:

  • 1982–1993: The Golden Age
  • 1993–1996: New Generation Era
  • 1996–2001: The Attitude Era
  • 2001–2002: The Invasion
  • 2002–2008: Ruthless Aggression Era
  • 2007–2013: The PG Era
  • 2013 – 2016: The Reality Era

(Thanks for the layout Wikipedia. Note, I made some changes/updates to the list.)

If Montel Vontavious Porter’s music hit or if the guitar screeched for John Morrison’s entrance, would anyone in the crowd care? What about Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, (he was a star a bit earlier than 2006, but it feels like he belongs in this group) or Bobby Lashley?

When you think about the period of time WWE romanticizes (Monday Night War/Attitude era ’96-’01) there’s a strong case to be made that most of the product from the last decade is Disposable.

Here’s a good example: Lately WWE has been running commercials for WWE Network featuring packages of highlights focused on Ric Flair, DX and John Cena. The Flair ad is marketed towards fans of 80s-early 90s wrestling. The ad featuring D-Generation X is for fans of WWE’s most important era, while the John Cena ad is for all of the little kids who just can’t get enough of him.

Even though Cena is technically a member of the Disposable Era, he’s Generation Z’s Hulk Hogan. Making a WWE Network commercial around the idea of going back and reliving Cena’s biggest moments is a great idea.

The problem here is, the only other main eventers who are still on the roster from this time period are Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, The Miz (he headlined WrestleMania 27, so I have to include him here) and Brock Lesnar, who works like five days a year.

The rest of the guys in prominent roles during that time period are either in the mid-card, wrestling for other companies or working for CollegeGarageSale.com.

There’s little reason for anyone to go back and watch a random Pay-Per-View event from 2008 on the Network, so most of the guys and gals who filled out the roster during this time period are going to be forgotten.

By my count, there are only four guys who could return from this period and receive a sustained main event reaction, CM Punk (highly unlikely that he’ll return), Rey Mysterio (ain’t happening) and The Hardys (this is a fascinating case because would they be BROKEN or just “The Hardy Boyz?”).

(I thought about including Cody Rhodes, but I don’t know how long the crowd would stay with him. I didn’t think Batista was worth mentioning because most of the crowd would chant “Bluetista”.)

#FlashbackTweet incoming:

Back when rumors were flying around for the draft, there was a push to bring back talent from the D.E. Here are the names that have decided to return to WWE: Jinder Mahal (hasn’t made an appearance on Raw in weeks), Curt Hawkins (let’s face the facts, this gimmick is going nowhere) Shelton Benjamin, and now the Spirit Squad.

Instead of bringing back guys from an era that has no significant meaning in WWE history, it’s time to raid NXT in order to give the roster another shot in the arm (especially on SmackDown) because more acts like the Spirit Squad will inject the audience with a dose of anesthesia.

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Why is no one following the buzzards?

Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton was the final match at No Mercy last Sunday and the crowd sounded exactly like they did during the Spirit Squad entrance on SmackDown. This felt like a main event at the end of a bad three-hour edition Raw.

The low level of crowd heat was rivaled by the tag match between Kane-Orton vs. Wyatt-Luke Harper on Tuesday night. When Kane received the first hot tag of the match, you could have heard a fart in the crowd. Orton did all he could to get the crowd into his hot tag, but not even crickets cared about the finish of the match.

So what’s wrong with Wyatt? I think it’s likely a combination of his placement on the card (he’s never “won” a major feud, I’m looking at you Mr. Hustle, loyalty and respect), and his promos (at first they felt groundbreaking, but over time, they’ve devolved into nonsense; when Wyatt speaks, he should be pushing the envelope instead of rambling for four minutes).

Wyatt is a solid worker in the ring, but that doesn’t matter if the crowd doesn’t care about the story that’s being told on the microphone. He isn’t talking anyone into the building for a match. Instead, he’s talking them to boredom.

(The cat GIF from earlier applies here as well)

The wacky backstage segments between Wyatt and Orton certainly didn’t help the build for their match at No Mercy, but the creative team is in a tough spot when they have to write something for Wyatt. His character is supposed to be a cult leader with a splash of supernatural abilities, but in this day and age, a crowd just isn’t going to respond to it the way a crowd in the 80s or 90s would have.

The character isn’t dead by any means, just look at the reaction his entrance gets every week, but there is some serious rehab that needs to be done if he’s ever going to crack the upper mid-card barrier that he’s been stuck underneath for years.

Was Raw better than SmackDown this week?

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Time to “Go Home”

– James Ellsworth did the one thing you’re not supposed to do when taking the Styles Clash (tuck your chin). Luckily for Ellsworth, Styles recognized that Ellsworth was out of position and adjusted on the fly by landing on his feet.

– AJ usually lands on his knees, but moments like the clip below must have made Styles realize that he needs to look down before landing on his knees.

– Anyone else cringe when Shane talked down to Styles? Felt like a Stephanie segment.

– I thought the crowd reaction to Ellsworth “pinning” Styles was really weak. The finish to the match felt sloppy and disconnected because the crowd couldn’t properly heat up for the three count.

– I know I say this every week, but Jericho really is on fire right now. His smile when Stephanie told him that he would be inserted into the title match at Hell in a Cell if he beat Rollins was hilarious. Crossing her off of the “List of Jericho” was also a nice touch.

– So Dolph Ziggler wears a Hype Bros. shirt during his opening promo, but Heath Slater and Rhyno come out to make the save when Miz and the Spirit Squad start beating him up. #Logic

– I thought Miz’s promo to Ziggler was fantastic and made Ziggler look like such a geek.

– “He killed Kenny!” – Mauro after Ziggler superkicked Kenny.

– Paul Heyman is a master at his craft. Instead of just talking up Brock for five minutes, he made Goldberg’s return feel incredibly important and got a very loud Goldberg chant going.

– Kudos to the New Day and Cesaro/Sheamus for making a botch by Kofi feel like it was a planned spot.

– Braun Strowman should probably bench the running dropkick.

– The wrestlers participating in the Cruiserweight Classic had to legitimately weigh in at or under 205 pounds. There’s no chance in hell Sin Cara is under 205 pounds with the way he’s been hitting catering.

– Kudos to creative to thinking they could use Sasha Banks to help Roman Reigns get a positive reaction. It didn’t work in the opening segment or their awkward backstage interaction, but his leaping spear on Rusev while Sasha submitted Charlotte got a very good reaction.

– The Survivor Series challenge issued by Shane and Daniel Bryan felt so scripted. These two need to be in front of a live crowd for segments like this.

– Rollins vs. Jericho was an excellent TV match.

– I have no idea what to make of Sanity’s theme music.

– Please Vince, PLEASE let this happen:

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