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WWE Weekly Recap: Let’s Unwrap Some NXT Presents

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The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s now appropriate to sit back, relax, spend some quality time with family/friends while reflecting on the year that was. After all this is the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Who am I trying to fool? This is when we celebrate all of the new material items that are about to become part of our lives, especially the ones that we put on our lists of Jericho!

Some of the presents we receive are indeed items that we requested, but there are always some surprises, which usually end up being better than the objects we had on our greedy lists. Sometimes we don’t get what we want, which may seem like a bummer, but then we figure out that life is OK and it’s time to move on and enjoy the gifts that we did receive.

So how does this scenario relate to the world of WWE? It’s time to think about some NXT presents to inject life into the main roster. If you’ve been following the product during this dead period between Survivor Series and the end of the NFL season, you know how boring some of these shows have been.

Take Roadblock: End of the Line for example. The crowd heat was minimal to mediocre for the entire show because it was full of regurgitated pairings that we’ve seen for weeks now.

(Part of this was also due to the fact that the show was in Pittsburgh, which is notorious for producing lackluster crowds, but I’ll defend Pittsburgh here. There was nothing for them to react to, outside of the finish to the tag team title match.)

The main event combinations, especially on Raw, are equivalent to milk that had a Nov. 30th expiration date. The creative team is just going through the motions until Monday Night Football comes to an end.

After the final MNF game next week, the accelerator will be pressed on the Seth Rollins-HHH feud. Especially now that Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Roman Reigns are locked into the Universal title match at the Royal Rumble (Jericho will be suspended above the ring in a “shark cage”).

Next week’s SmackDown is shaping up to be better than Roadblock, but Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler don’t feel like a threat to AJ’s title, which is why I’m expecting an appearance from a certain deadman after the main event next Tuesday.

Now let’s pretend that it’s Christmas morning and you’ve just walked downstairs to a tree full of presents…

christmas

The gift you had on the top of your list and it turns out to be just as awesome as you expected: Shinsuke Nakamura (RAW)

Before I get into the positives, there is a big negative with Nakaumra that needs to be addressed. He isn’t ready to cut an 8-10 minute promo at the top of the hour, which is one of Vince’s golden rules for top level stars.

If someone is in the ring with him for a talking segment however, he’ll be fine because his facial reactions are good enough to keep the crowd engaged while moving the dialogue along.

Now that the negative is out of the way, let’s enjoy the thought of Nakamura making his grand entrance down to the ring, while 12,000-15,000 fans go nuts and sing along. There is not one person on the main roster that is on the same charisma level as Nakamura. His energy is unique, which makes me a bit worried because Vince may not understand that the King of Strong Style just needs to go out there and do his thing.

He can work a long match without putting his body at risk because most of his moveset is simple punches and kicks. However, I do wonder what will happen when he hits an established star hard in the mouth. If a respected veteran complains about Nakamura’s style, he could be told to adjust it, which would be a buzzkill.

Man, after thinking this one through, I’m now worried that Vince and Co. will Nakamura, but unlike anyone else on the NXT roster, outside of possibly Samoa Joe, he has the tools to become a legit superstar. There’s a reason why he’s on the top of your list.

The gift you didn’t have on your list, but you end up falling in love with it: The Revival (SMACKDOWN)

Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder have been involved in two of the best matches this year (vs. American Alpha at Takeover: Dallas and vs. #DIY at Takeover: Brooklyn) and because of it, they’re now transitioning from being just straight heels into cool heels that get cheered because they’re too entertaining to ignore.

I’ve thought about how The Revival would fit on the main roster because both tag team divisions are in desperate need of new blood and then it hit me, they would be perfect as new members of The Club.

Yes, The Club gimmick has basically been killed, but it could easily be reignited if Dawson and Wilder showed up to help Styles retain his title in a high profile match against either Cena or the Undertaker. A dastardly move like that would instantly give them credibility on the main roster. Their personalities are a perfect match for Styles and the three would work incredibly well together in six-man tag formats.

I can’t stop thinking about how perfect this would be. I must calm myself down now.

bag

The gift you wanted and then a month later realized that it’s not so great: Tye Dillinger (RAW)

Every wrestler who has had to spend time rehabbing or training at the Performance Center has raved about spending time in the ring with Dillinger. It’s great that he’s finally found a gimmick that’s resonated with fans, but there is a visible peak to his character.

He’s not a main eventer. He’s a comedy act that could have a very nice run, but it’s easy to picture him falling into the trap of dead segments that eventually kill his character. If he was on the main roster right now, he would have been in the sensitivity training segment with Enzo this past Monday.

The rumor is that he’ll debut as the 10th entrant into the upcoming Royal Rumble, which is perfect. He’ll get a great reaction and the 10 chants will be even more over than they are now (it’s going to continue if Dillinger debuts or not), but the pop will eventually die down because Vince will get bored of him.

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The gift that you put on the list every year and every year you smile when you get it: Samoa Joe (SMACKDOWN)

Joe seems like another candidate to make his main roster debut in the Royal Rumble match. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in a similar manner to how AJ Styles debuted last year. Get him in early. Give him a shine spot with an established star and then let him stay in the match for 20-30 minutes.

During this past run in NXT, Joe really found his voice on the microphone, which like Styles, appeared to be Joe’s only weak spot. There’s no one else like him on the main roster right now because Kevin Owens’ style isn’t hard hitting anymore. Owens has become more of a finesse guy, while Joe is a brawler who has another gear that he can shift into when he needs to hit a high risk spot.

If you’ve followed Joe’s career, you know that he should be a main event player immediately because he’s capable of putting on a five-star match and talking you into the building. There’s a great story waiting to be told between him and Styles that would make for a great WrestleMania match if Cena and Undertaker wrestle for the title.

There’s also a dream match between Brock Lesnar and Joe that Vince has to give us.

Was Raw better than SmackDown this week?

hell-no

Time to “Go Home”

-Kudos to Natalya for cutting an excellent heel promo on Nikki Bella. You could hear the legitimate jealously in Nattie’s words and the crowd reacted perfectly.

– Bonus kudos to the writing team on SmackDown. Between Nattie’s promo and Miz’s line to Renee about sleeping with Dean Ambrose, this episode felt like a blast from the past.

– So did Braun Strowman just make the leap into the main event? Could we be getting Strowman vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania?

scott

– FINALLY the Styles vs. James Ellsworth feud is over. It ended perfectly and now it looks like Ellsworth is connected to Carmella!?!? Maybe she’s going to hook ol’ James up with Jane Ellsworth.

– So are Sheamus and Cesaro feuding again? I thought they became best friends after their bar date.

– Big E’s line about Charlotte passing Ric Flair’s title reigns in a month was easily the best part of Raw.

– Remember when Enzo and Cass cared about becoming tag team champions?

– I barely member

– So how long until we’re tired of seeing Bayley vs. Charlotte?

– Noam Dar was super creepy in his promo to Alicia Fox. Almost stalkerish.

– Apollo Crews finally looked like he was ready to be on the main roster this week; ditto for Baron Corbin who put on a nice performance against Ziggler.

– This version of Neville is awesome. I was shocked at how good of a promo he cut on Monday night. It felt like a year of frustration was channeled.

-Between Neville, Austin Aries, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Gran Metalik and Roderick Strong (total guess), the cruiserweight division is about to get serious af.

The Twitter Machine: @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.

trampoline

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.

rusev

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