WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: Goldberg ain’t done yet

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Welp, that was quite a weekend. There’s so much to talk about I really don’t know where to begin. I suppose the fallout from Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar is worthy of leading this column, but there were so many other OMG moments that I don’t want to spend 800 words talking about one match, so let’s get it out of the way quickly.

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Me: Is this last time we’re going to see you in a WWE ring?

Goldberg: “I’m sure acting like it. At the end of the day, it’s all that I’m concerned about. I take one day as it is.”

That’s what Goldberg told me last Tuesday when I had the opportunity to chat with him before the PPV.

It quickly became clear on Sunday that this would not be his final appearance with the WWE. After he defeated Lesnar in a minute and 24 seconds, many questions arose including: When did this become the planned finish for the match?

The Wrestling Observer guru Dave Meltzer reported after the show that Goldberg had signed a multi-match deal with the company earlier in the week. After Goldberg inked his name to the deal, Vince decided to change the finish of the match because Lesnar was reportedly penciled in to go over.

Vince notoriously hates short main events. He thinks a crowd deserves to have a fulfilling main event, in terms of time, but Goldberg is a different animal. The aura of Goldberg was built around destroying guys in one segment, which is something the WWE whiffed on 13 years ago.

That means if you were expecting a 15-20 minute brawl, sorry, this match wasn’t for you. People were legitimately angry after the abrupt ending, but in hindsight, this was the perfect call by Vince. Goldberg has been the biggest and most organic babyface on the roster in quite some time so why mess with the formula that got him over as a superstar?

Also, Goldberg-Lesnar followed a 53-minute match, 20 of which (rough estimate) were filled by Shane McMahon’s nonsense (we’ll get to his shenanigans later). If there was ever a time to use a flash pin finish, this was it and it worked.

The interest level in the product the next day was similar to the day after the Undertaker’s streak came to an end. In an era where so much of the product feels recycled, Goldberg’s triumph felt unique and most importantly, it felt special.

Maybe it’s because it’s been so long since the biggest babyface on the roster prevailed over the monster heel…

(This has been harped on by Bryan Alvarez a ton, but it’s true, the company just doesn’t understand how to book a babyface. Finn Balor looked like he was on his way to becoming the top babyface on Raw, but who knows if the company would have actually held on and pushed him to the moon.)

…or maybe the smell of nostalgia is warping my brain, but whatever the case it’s awesome that this isn’t the end of Goldberg. Instead of getting a one-off appearance, he’s getting one more run as “The Man.”

Only 462 words. I’m proud of myself.

#DoItYourself

Between NXT Takeover: Toronto, Survivor Series, Raw and Smackdown, there were a total of 25 matches. Some were good, some were just OK and some were meh, but there were a select few that battled for the Match of the Weekend award.

Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (NXT Takeover)

The men’s traditional Survivor Series match (Survivor Series)

The tag team traditional Survivor Series match (Survivor Series)

Baron Corbin vs. Kane (SmackDown)

Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens (Raw)

But the winner of the MOTW award is Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa (#DIY) vs. The Revival in a two out of three falls match for the NXT tag team championship. In fact, it might be the MOTY in all of WWE/NXT.

From bell-to-bell, the psychology of this match was flawless. Every sequence was executed perfectly and at no point did a spot feel out of place. The Revival worked Gargano over for minutes on end before he finally got the hot tag, which allowed Ciampa to do what he does best and run wild on everyone. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder showed off their underrated double team moves, including a wicked Shatter Machine on Gargano and a Hart Attack (!).

The final five minutes of the match were incredible. After Wilder took Gargano’s leg out with a chop block (after Dawson held up the title belt and Gargano kicked it, thus “injuring” his leg), Dawson locked in a knee bar, which is the move Gargano submitted to at Takeover: Brooklyn II. Gargano got to the ropes in order to break the hold.

The Revival then set up to hit Gargano with #DIY’s finishing move, but Wilder missed and superkicked Dawson. #DIY then hit a Shatter Machine on Wilder for an AWESOME near fall, which by my count was the fourth believable near fall of the match.

Gargano then locked Wilder in the Gargano Escape, while Chiampa simultaneously locked in an armbar on Dawson. Dawson and Wilder locked hands so they wouldn’t tap out. Dawson yelled “DON’T TAP” at Wilder as Gargano leaned back. The Revival eventually tapped out and #DIY became the champs.

As I’ve stated before, when a big time match gets the little details right, it’s more likely than not going to be a very good or great match. This match was better than great. The pacing was so smooth that it reminded me of Bayley vs. Sasha Banks from NXT Takeover: Brooklyn I. Each spot transitioned into the next seamlessly and no one got lost.

Now it’s time to get the #TopGuys onto the main roster as quickly as possible.

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Here comes the botches

For some reason, Shane McMahon became the focal point of the men’s traditional Survivor Series match for a good chunk of the 53 minutes. He was worked over in the ring by the Raw team for what seemed like forever and then he started punching back, which was a sight to behold.

Look, I don’t want to spend the next 150-200 words just bashing Shane. From everything I’ve read, he seems like a very approachable and nice person, but he’s not a professional wrestler. If his role was to execute one or two big spots and then get the hell out of there, I wouldn’t have had a problem with him getting some shine in this match, but I must ask, who was clamoring to see Shane get worked over and then make a comeback while potatoeing seemingly everyone along the way.

Shane punched Chris Jericho right in the nose and bloodied him up, but that ish happens in quite a few matches so we’ll let it slide. Shane O’Mac then proceeded to blow a small package spot when he was supposed to grab Jericho after a Lionsault counter.

I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to finish the match after he tagged out because he laid down on the apron for a good 5-10 minutes. It was clear at this point that he was blown up to a point of no return, which meant that his punches were going to look worse than normal.

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The elbow he delivered to Braun Strowman looked good, but at this point, Shane can do that spot in his sleep, which is pretty damn impressive.

The next spot Shane took was just unnecessary. He went for a coast-to-coast dropkick on Roman Reigns. Reigns popped up and caught Shane out of the air for a spear, but not only did the top of Reigns’ head hit Shane right in the chin, Shane’s head snapped back and slammed onto the mat. As the referee counted to three, he noticed Shane’s right arm off of the mat and stopped the count. Either McMahon instinctively kicked out at two or his arms moved up, which will happen when someone suffers a concussion.

I’ve seen people say that it was Roman’s fault, but it’s really no one’s fault. This was a super risky spot and it didn’t help that the person taking the bump was extremely tired. Maybe this will be a wakeup call for Shane and he’ll finally cut back on the daredevil spots.

Was Raw better than SmackDown this week?

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Time to ‘Go Home’

– There were a few future angles set up in the men’s traditional Survivor Series tag match, but some of the booking was questionable. The agents assigned to the match played a dangerous game by eliminating Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho within minutes of each other. They’re lucky the crowd didn’t hijack the match.

– Kudos to the crowds all weekend long in Toronto, especially on Saturday and Sunday. They were understandably tired by the second hour of Raw though.

– So Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton were the survivors for team SmackDown Live and their reward is a number one contender’s match against American Alpha next week?

– SmackDown’s Tag Team Turmoil was a great idea BTW, hopefully that’s a gimmick match we see more often.

– No one was more over this weekend than Tye Dillinger. The crowd would not stop chanting 10.

– Kalisto’s C4 or Spanish Fly off of the apron to The Brian Kendrick was one of the craziest spots I’ve seen in a while.

– As noted above, there were some questionable eliminations on Sunday, but none baffled me more than Sasha Banks. Some people will argue that New Day’s surprise elimination was worse, but you could see the spot coming. Sasha’s elimination was a genuine surprise that came out of nowhere.

– Nia Jax tapping out clean to Becky Lynch’s armbar was also very surprising/questionable.

– I wasn’t planning on watching #205Live because another hour of wrestling per week just seems unrealistic to fit into my schedule, but with Rich Swann getting this push, I’ll be tuning in to see if he beats Kendrick for the title (he should).

– Braun Strowman just about killed AJ Styles and James Ellsworth on Sunday. I think there’s about three guys in the company (Styles, Seth Rollins, TJ Perkins) who could have taken the wild bump into the ropes and walked away ok.

-Also, Styles took the bump off of the ladder on SmackDown perfectly. It looked like it didn’t hurt at all, but it still looked brutal at the same time. He also nailed the foot stuck in the ropes spot to perfection. There are so many moving parts in both spots that a botch could have easily happened, but Styles is a pro’s pro.

– So are the New Day heels now? They totally cheated to win and the crowd responded with audible boos.

-This Cesaro/Sheamus pairing is working out very nicely.

– I know JBL is supposed to be a heel and make fun of Ellsworth’s appearance, but it felt like he (Vince) was trying to hit us over the head with it during the closing shot of SmackDown. We get it, the guy is ugly.

– Goldberg’s shocking win overshadowed the other shocking moment from the weekend. Samoa Joe beat Shinsuke Nakamura! Sure he low blowed him and then hit a uranage on the steel steps, but Joe is a heel. This was a decisive win that stunned the crowd in Toronto.

– Sadly this means we probably won’t see Nakamura or Joe up on the main roster anytime soon.

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