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WWE Weekly Wrap-Up: The SmackDown women’s division appreciation thread

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While Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks continue to run the gauntlet of stipulation matches on Raw, the SmackDown women’s division continues to feel a bit overlooked.

Even though the tables match between Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch didn’t steal the show this past Sunday at the Tables, Ladders and Chair Pay-Per-View, both girls worked hard and set the table (puns!) for a fiery feud that will continue for the next couple of weeks.

The storyline is simple. Becky doesn’t like Alexa and can’t stand the fact that she’s walking around with her title. This isn’t about family legacies and tributes to Eddie Guerrero. It’s professional wrestling 101.

You see, the storylines on SmackDown are simple and easy to follow, especially in the women’s division. Take the bloodfeud between Carmella and Nikki Bella for example. They’ve been paired together for roughly the same amount of time as Charlotte/Sasha and yet, the combination doesn’t feel stale.

stale

The root of Carmella’s issues with Nikki are simple. At first, the “Princess of Staten Island” wanted to make an impact on the main roster by attacking Nikki and then eventually explained that she was sickened by the opportunities that the last of the Bella Twins has received due to her sister and her real-life relationship with John Cena.

Pro wrestling always feels more intense when real-life issues are presented in a way that fits correctly into a storyline. That crutch has been used with Cena more than any other superstar in WWE, but it always works. By bringing up Cena’s name, Carmella instantly felt like an important act on the show.

Now that the two have had their “blowoff” match, the Carmella-Nikki storyline is now morphing into a “Who attacked Nikki at Survivor Series?” mystery that will be resolved soon. Carmella has “insisted” that Natalya attacked Nikki, but Nattie has “denied” these claims. There are four possible outcomes here:

  • Carmella is trying to swerve all of us
  • Natalya really did “attack” Nikki
  • Eva Marie is coming back
  • A returning Mickie James is the culprit

Let’s just peel back for a minute and appreciate that in 2016, the creative team has successfully taken a story that could have easily been done in a month and instead, laid out a road map for a long-term feud that is still evolving.

The key to the feud’s longevity has been Carmella, who has continued to throw down slam dunks on the microphone every week during her heel turn. She’s clearly confident on the microphone, so much so that pockets of the crowd have actually cheered her because she’s too entertaining to ignore.

A similar sentiment is applicable to the new SmackDown women’s champion Alexa Bliss. Between her incredible facial reactions (she has the best in the company, period) and her b****y persona, she was able to quickly establish herself on the main roster. Essentially, Bliss has taken the character she portrayed on NXT and has cranked up the intensity just a bit.

(Sidenote: This feud is in the process of helping Becky Lynch as well. Instead of doing her normal entrance and slapping hands with fans, she was serious on Tuesday. “The Lass Kicker” walked to the ring with a purpose and I suspect that we’ll see a very aggressive side of Lynch in the title rematch. Frankly, Lynch needed some depth. The smiling, joking babyface character can only go so far and it’s time that she showed some aggression.)

Back to the new faces on SD; when Bliss and Carmella shared the ring for a promo at the episode of SmackDown that I attended live last month, the two came off as incredibly entertaining because they are comfortable with the characters they’re portraying on television. They’ve been booked to shine and have delivered.

The same can’t be said for the new women that have debuted on Raw since the draft. The booking of Nia Jax and Bayley has been atrocious.

sp

All of the momentum Bayley had after her debut on the main roster is gone. She doesn’t feel special at all and is now floating around the card without any direction, much like Sami Zayn. Nia Jax wasn’t ready to be called up, but the brand split forced creative’s hand and now Jax has already been overexposed. (Tapping out to Becky’s armbar at Survivor Series did not help.)

The beauty of SmackDown’s women division is that new stars have been created, while the established names have been given a fresh twist. Nikki has looked revitalized as a kick-ass babyface who is tired of Carmella’s nonsense. Naomi now has one of the coolest entrances in the business and Natalya might really be a crazy person. (Editor’s Note: Natalya is legit crazy, even if just for her cats.)

Is this the new SmackDown Six? Only time well tell, but for now, let’s just appreciate the simplicity and execution of the women’s division on Tuesday nights.

Was Raw better than SmackDown this week?

 seinfeld

By my count, that’s three straight entertaining episodes of Raw. You know we’re in for a dud next Monday.

Earl Hebner is yelling at me to “Go Home”

– Who else bought the final false-finish in the Jericho-Reigns match? I really thought Jericho was walking out with the U.S. title.

– I enjoyed all of the Enzo-Lana/Rusev show-long story arc on Monday. Enzo was entertaining in every segment, got a bit of a rub from Ric Flair and showed some character depth when he was trying to leave Lana’s hotel room because he felt uncomfortable.

– Rusev’s beatdown of Enzo was pretty epic. I imagine the little guy was hurting quite a bit because his head slammed back against the wall twice and it looked like a black eye was forming around his right eye when Rusev dragged his lifeless body into the hallway.

– Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens was solid, but what else would you expect?

– Am I the only one who didn’t enjoy the Miz-Dolph Ziggler ladder match on Sunday? Sure the storytelling was good and made logical sense, but the first 10 minutes dragged on for what felt like forever.

– The Big Show’s body looked so different on Monday, it freaked me out.

– The hometown hero (Mark Henry) was actually booked to win and guess what? The crowd popped huge for it. Hopefully this trend continues.

– This Seth Rollins “face” turn just ain’t working.

– If you want to hear something funny that Dean Ambrose said in the ring during the TLC match with AJ Styles, put your headphones in and head to the spot where Styles suplexes Ambrose through the table in the corner.

-For the lazy folks out there you can hear Ambrose say to Styles “You might want to put some shorts on haha.”

– On SmackDown, Styles came off as a legit babyface in the opening segment when he was talking to James Ellsworth. Is a turn coming?

– Once again, AJ Styles is the best performer in the world right now, even when his left butt cheek is exposed.

tina

– I know I kind of buried the Raw women’s division in the opening section of this column, so let me show some love. Charlotte was wonderful in the closing segment on Monday night. She seemed legitimately upset about the mistake she made back in May when she disowned her father and then came off like such an a**hole when she slapped Ric in the face.

– Baron Corbin’s new entrance video is pretty sweet.

– As is the new beginning for the Wyatt Family entrance. When “Burn in My Light” played for three seconds at TLC I legit popped.

– So all of that time went into Heath Slater and Rhyno for them to be fed to the Wyatt Family like they were jobbers. Makes sense. I guess Slater will have to downgrade his trailer now.

– So, T.J. Perkins is a heel now? Certainly feels that way, which makes sense. His character is pretty unlikable.

– Jack Gallagher might just save the cruiserweight division.

The Twitter Machine: @ScottDargis

 

WWE: How Alexa Bliss Found Her Voice

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Before Alexa Bliss defends her Raw Women’s Championship this Sunday at the Tables, Ladders and Chairs Pay-Per-View (this Sunday live at 8 p.m. ET on WWE Network) I had the chance to talk with her about the process of developing the Alexa Bliss character, what it was like to have cameras around her house for “Total Divas” and of course, the world famous Larry-Steve

Me: “So what game did Larry-Steve pick for you to download on the [Nintendo] Switch?”

Alexa: “Mario! The Rabbit Kingdom. I was trying to find a game and all of a sudden Larry-Steve jumped on my lap and just started moving the Switch, so I was like I have to get this on video. He was doing it for a lot longer, but I only caught a couple seconds on video.”

@larry_steve_ helping me figure out which game to download next on my @nintendo #switch

A post shared by Alexa_Bliss (@alexa_bliss_wwe_) on

“Are you a big gamer, or did you see someone else with the Switch and said to yourself “I need one of those”?

“No, I love video games. So my fiancé and I went through this phase recently where we got all of the older gaming systems. We have this box that plays old Sega and Nintendo games. We have the original Playstation, recently just got a Game Boy. We have an Xbox a PS4 Pro and the Super Nintendo that just came out.”

“I got the Switch back in March and it’s a life-saver on my commute”

“Oh it’s the best. It seriously saves my life when it comes to traveling because I get so bored so easily, especially when a plane doesn’t have WiFi … ughhhh I die.”

“When you did an interview with ESPN a few months back you mentioned that you got Larry-Steve because of Total Divas, which made me wonder if getting a pig was something you’ve always wanted to do, or if this was a spur of the moment decision because of the show?”

“I’ve always wanted a pig. I grew up in Ohio, in Grove City, which is a farmy place. A lot of people there have farm animals and I’ve always wanted a pig because they’re super cute and I know they have a risk of getting up to 500 pounds, but whatever.

I actually pitched the storyline for Total Divas of me getting a pig and then my fiancé telling me that I can’t have it and then I’d have to give him back. You know, this whole drama thing.

So I get Larry-Steve and I have him for like two days and then I called Matt and said I’m not giving this pig back. I was like I can’t, he’s too cute and he’s deaf!

I was like he won’t hear the dogs barking at him. He was like what if he gets really big, I was like that’s 500 pounds of love. So I did the whole pouty thing and then he was like it’s your call, you make the decision. The whole I don’t want you to, so you probably shouldn’t, but I’m going to tell you that you can. And I totally took it as OK, I’m going to get him.

They get along so well. Matt loves him. He’s become the baby of the family. He knows it.

He’s like a child. He’s on a schedule. He wakes up every morning at 7. He sleeps in a Pack ‘n Play [crib]. He eats at 7:30. He naps at 2 and if you don’t put him in his crib to nap at 2, he will go lay by his bed. He wakes up, gets more food, will walk around the house, play for an hour to an hour and a half and then he’ll go back to bed.

“He sounds really easy to take care of”

“He’s so easy to take care of. As long as you can get his schedule down, because if not, he gets really grumpy.”

“Grumpy! How do you know that he’s grumpy?”

“Yeah because he’ll go “oink, oink, oink” all of the time and start pushing you. When he gets grumpy you know and then he’ll try to bite your toe, but that’s only if he’s grumpy.”

“Because [spoiler alert] Total Divas is a pseudo-reality, did you find yourself having to adjust to how you acted in front of the camera because you’re so used to playing a specific type of character in front of one?”

“I had a little bit of an adjustment period for sure because I’m so used to when the camera is on, I turn into Alexa Bliss, this mean, attitudy character. So I had to get out of that because our first filming was at TV. So I’m in a work environment and it was just a different camera, so as soon as the camera came on I was thinking ‘wait I can’t be that way, I have to be me.’

There were times where we’re at home making breakfast and there’s cameras there and I feel so weird because you have to open up to the cameras, but still act natural.

It was very different, but I had a lot of fun with it.”

*** Season 7 of Total Divas Premieres Wednesday, November 1 at 9 p.m. ET on E! ***

“You’ve talked about your transition from NXT to the main roster before and how you needed to turn up the persona that you found in NXT, but what helped you find the character’s voice? Was there a light bulb moment where you realized that this is it when you were with Blake and Murphy?

“I watched back our first few NXT matches together when I was managing them and realized that I was just silent. I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t saying anything. I was just looking at them in silence. And I was like hmmm, well that’s nothing.

I remember specifically trying more and more to be mean and I was trying to think of a character that’s relatable and I was like oh my gosh, a mean girl from high school. Everyone knows her. Everyone had one. Some people were her and no matter how mean she was, you still voted for her for homecoming queen.

I was like I want to be that girl because I knew that girl in high school. I knew a few of those girls in high school. I knew that everyone did. So that was my main motivation was to be that girl.

I get my inspiration from movies and a lot of the time I’ll actually people-watch when I’m at the airport. William Regal told us to people-watch because you can get your best motivation from them. I’ll notice little mannerisms that irritate me and I know they will irritate other people.

“How long did it take you to be comfortable in front of the camera as that character? Was it something you had to workshop a lot to get to that point?

“To get it started was a long process, but once it clicked, it was super easy. It’s just another part of me now and it’s been so much fun to play around with.”

“The saying is the best characters in this business are an extension of who the actual person is, but turned up to an 11, so is there any part of your actual personality in the character?”

“Oh god, none of it (laughs).”

“See that’s really interesting because you’re so comfortable playing the character, but it’s not you at all.”

“So I remember watching ‘My Date with Marilyn’ and watching the scene where she’s just super shy and super timid and then she asks somebody ‘do you want me to become her?’ And then she goes into Marilyn [Monroe]-mode and people start swarming her. She becomes this confident, sexy woman and I feel like it’s pretty much the same kind of thing. It’s something that you just switch into.

I’ve always wanted to do acting and wanted to explore that route and I feel like this has been the most fun part of doing what I get to do. Being able to transition into a completely different character.”

“So your match coming up with Mickie James this weekend; in another era this probably would have been a depends on a pole match …”

“(laughs)”

“But it’s just going to be a normal one-on-one match, even though in the build-up for it, you’ve been so aggressive in promos and backstage segments that it could have warranted a stipulation in storyline. Would you prefer a stipulation match, or are you OK with it being a regular match?”

“I’m OK with it being a normal one-on-one [match]. Of course stipulations are always cooler and more fun, but I feel like if we were to do a stipulation match it would have to be something that was driven towards the storyline that we’re doing right now.

I’m talking about her being old, so it should be like a walker match.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

There’s a new playable character in WWE 2K18 and it’s … Colonel Sanders!?

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During the “Hell in a Cell” Pay-Per-View last night, it was announced that Colonel Sanders will be a playable character in the WWE 2K18 video game.

The announcement came during a segment in which the world was introduced to Colonel Angle Sanders who promptly took care of his rival, the Puppers Cluckers Chicken.

If you want to see an extended look of Colonel Sanders in WWE 2K18, you can watch him face off against Puppers Cluckers Chicken on UpUpDownDown this Thursday (October 12th).

WWE 2K18’s launch date is October 17th.