WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: Let’s talk about Kevin Owens’ title reign

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Before Braun “Adam from Tinder” Strowman and Roman Reigns “interrupted” The Kevin Owens Show on this Monday’s edition of Raw, Bill Goldberg and the Universal Champion stood toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring.

On the surface, this should have been a huge moment. Here’s Goldberg, one of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era, arguing with a world champion from Earth’s biggest wrestling promotion.

In the bubble of WWE, this is the first time we’ve seen Goldberg since he announced his intentions of entering the Royal Rumble. That was the night after he defeated Brock Lesnar in less than 90 seconds and, to boot, it’s the first time he’s interacted with Kevin Owens on television.

So why did the climax of their interaction feel anticlimactic?

Was it because Owens didn’t get a chance to deliver an actual promo about Goldberg?

Should the tone of the segment have been different?

Or is this a product of Owens’ lackluster title reign?  

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Now don’t get me wrong, Owens has elevated himself and the Universal title during the four-plus months he’s held the red strap. The first time his music hits on Monday nights, he gets a good reaction, which is a sign of how captivating a character is, but it is really hard to sit here and say that Owens’ time with Raw’s main championship has been anything but mediocre.

He’s been given numerous opportunities to connect with the audience due to the amount of time that must be filled every week on Raw and he’s taken full advantage of it, but if you watched Owens’ dominate NXT, you know that his run with the Universal Championship is just a fraction of what could have been.

I mean seriously, when was the last time he won a match clean? Without doing any research, the last time I remember him pinning someone without the help of Y2J was back in early December when he beat Sami Zayn on Raw and that felt like an anomaly.

Sure, heel champions are supposed to cheat to win, that’s part playing the bad guy role, but even bad guys still need credibility in order for the crowd to perceive them at a certain level.

K.O. is still entertaining week in and week out, but he’s been tasked with acting as the cowardly heel, as opposed to the bad ass who ran his mouth while beating the crap out of guys at Full Sail.

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Owens is incredibly entertaining when he gets screen time, so the crowd is going to respond accordingly, but sit back for a moment and imagine how the crowd would have responded if the NXT version of Kevin Owens stood in the ring with Goldberg and told him that he was ready to fight. The crowd in Tampa would have actually had a pulse.

Instead, when Owens got in Goldberg’s face, the crowd didn’t quite know how to react. This was a side of Owens that we haven’t seen since his feud with John Cena. He turned the intensity up, but it felt flat because it was too much of a contrast to the character the WWE audience is used to seeing every week.

Owens has “attempted” to run away from every moment of adversity since he won the title, so it was actually out of character for him to stand up to Goldberg. It would have made more sense for him to bolt from the ring and stand on the ramp while cutting a promo on ol’ Bill.

I don’t want to put all of the blame on Owens here. This was Goldberg’s weakest appearance since his return to the company back in November. His “you’re first” line to Jericho was so cringe (Hi, Filthy Tom!) that I turned the volume down on my TV. People want to see Goldberg spear people as opposed to yelling the word spear at the top of his lungs like a relic from the past.

FANATSY BOOKING ALERT: Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Jericho to cut Goldberg off before he got a word out; have Y2J tease putting Goldberg on the list, SPEAR, and then Owens flees to the outside before he can be attacked by the maniac? Owens could then cut a promo about how he’s going to beat Goldberg if he wins the rumble and then Roman’s music hits. He stares at Owens on his way to the ring and then Strowman barrels his way down to the ring for the double spear spot.  

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Owens is set to face Reigns at the Rumble and it sure seems like we’re going to see a title change, which would be a shame because the blow-off between Owens and Jericho should be for the title at WrestleMania, but based off of the company’s booking pattern, Reigns vs. Strowman for the title seems much more likely.

HHH-Rollins, Goldberg-Lesnar and Undertaker’s match will be the three “main events,” which means if Strowman wrestles for the title, it doesn’t have to be a 20-30 minute marathon. He can be hidden in a 10-15 minute brawl.

If Owens walks out of San Antonio with the title and goes on to successfully defend it at the company’s biggest show of the year, he might be able to use it as a springboard to reinvigorate his title reign, but only if his character becomes a bit more serious.  

Holy Schnikes moment of the week

Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada had one of the best professional wrestling matches ever. That is not a hyperbole. The two sacrificed their bodies for 46 minutes of entertainment including this ridiculous spot:

Time to “Go Home”

– Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler had an excellent match this week on SmackDown. That’s two straight solid performances for Corbin, who is being pushed right into the main event picture.

– Also, heel turn for Ziggler!

– I totally thought the Eddie Guerrero cheating spot into the codebreaker was going to be the finish of Jericho vs. Reigns. A very solid story was told in this match.

– Was anyone else surprised that Renee Young didn’t come out and eliminate Maryse from the main event on SmackDown? Booking 101 says she should have come out, slapped Maryse, chased her off to the back, which would have distracted the Miz and thus, cost him the Intercontinental Championship.

– This didn’t feel like the right time to take the IC title off of Miz. If it ultimately means that he’s getting bumped up to the main event for a program in February, then it’s fine.

– What the hell was going on with Charlotte on commentary? She seemed lost and never found a rhythm with Mike Cole, Graves and Coach II.

– Can every Braun Strowman match be a Falls Count Anywhere match?

– Jack Gallagher is my spirit animal.

– I could get down with Titus O’Neil joining the New Day. He was pretty damn entertaining on Monday.

– John Cena cut one of his better promos in recent memory on Tuesday. When he goes on a passionate rant, there are few in the business who can reach this level:

– Remember when Undertaker was going to appear on SmackDown more? Yeah, me either.

– So Aliyah made her main roster debut before Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura? Makes sense.

– That’s a joke everyone, random NXT talents have popped up for one off appearances on SmackDown since the draft, but it’s still hilarious to think about.

– If you haven’t watched the Okada-Omega match from Wrestle Kingdom 11. Stop what you’re doing, set 50 minutes aside and go watch it.

– Seriously, watch it.

The Twitter Machine: @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