WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: The Ballad of Braun Strowman

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Throughout last Monday’s edition of Raw, the commentary team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton promoted Braun Strowman vs. Big Show as the main event of the show. The first time Cole mentioned it I thought to myself, this seems like an odd choice.

Who would want to watch Strowman and Show go one-on-one in the final segment?

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As I watched the surprisingly solid match late on last Monday night/Tuesday morning, it made me realize just how much Braun Strowman has progressed over the last 18 months.

It wasn’t that long ago that he was lumbering around the ring like a big toddler who was learning to walk for the first time. He’d awkwardly flail his arms around while waiting for his opponent to hit him and his offense was just a series of long rest holds.

Despite his incredible size, Strowman showed absolutely zero signs of being the athlete that he has become since the brand split.

The pacing of his matches was and still remains an issue. It’s not nearly as bad as it used to be because his offense has expanded. In his initial matches, Strowman chucked Dean Ambrose and Reigns around the ring like they were cruiserweights, but the crowd just sat on their hands bored AF.

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The live audience isn’t going to react to power spots if they’re immediately killed by constant rest holds.

Do not click off of the page if you get bored by the match I’m about to put below. Just politely scroll down and continue on your way.

Flash forward to just over a month before Super WrestleMania Sunshine and the “monster among men” has blossomed into a legitimate main event talent.

His move set has greatly expanded, which has given him the ability to ditch some of the rest holds that once slowed the pace of his matches. His selling is still not great by any means, but it’s gotten worlds better since the match I posted above that you totally didn’t finish watching.

His promo skills are perfectly acceptable (I thought he did a good job of running down Foley this past Monday) and something about him screaming at full blast while putting his arms into the air after destroying someone just doesn’t seem to get old.

He runs at full speed into the barricade and ring posts too much for my liking, but you know a talent has something when you have someone who is six-feet, eight inches tall and weighs 378 pounds and can do this:

At Fast Lane, Strowman is scheduled to face John Cena 2.0 Reigns in the second highest match on the card. It’s a chance for Braun to prove that he’s ready for the even bigger push that may come after WrestleMania.

It’s also a chance for Vince to actually make a new main event player, which we all know WWE needs right now considering how thin the roster is being spread across both brands.

There is a genuine fear by many fans that Reigns will “overcome the odds” and pin Strowman clean in the middle of the ring in order to heat him up for his rumored WrestleMania match against the Undertaker.

Throughout this current feud, Strowman has gotten the best of Reigns at every turn, which if you follow the traditional WWE formula means that Roman will most likely win at the PPV.

If Braun loses to Roman clean in the middle, it will immediately put him on a level underneath the full-time main event talent, which would be a shame considering how well Strowman’scharacter has been booked since the draft.

While SmackDown has been developing Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, the entire women’s division, Luke Harper, AJ Styles, American Alpha, Heath Slater and Rhyno, the Fashion Police and a totally new version of the Usos, Raw has struggled to develop new male stars.

Kevin Owens slid into Finn Balor’s spot as the Undisputed Champion and that’s about it. Seth Rollins’ face turn hasn’t worked. Big Cass and Enzo are as popular now as they were when they debuted. Roman is still getting a chorus of boos on a weekly basis. Rusev is being wasted. Insert Sami Zayn geek joke here.

Even if he is playing a new character, Chris Jericho is an established star under the WWE umbrella, so he doesn’t apply here. It’s the same reason that I left The Miz out of the SmackDown paragraph.

BO DALLAS HAD JOBBER MATCHES

The New Day is talking about making ice cream machines. Gallows and Anderson are wearing bogus Bullet Club knockoff shirts because that’s exactly what they are right now. The Shining Stars are being wasted. You could possibly talk me into Cesaro and Sheamus, but you know that they would both be in such a better spot if they were on SmackDown.

Besides Owens, Strowman has been the only male talent on Raw who has been given a designed push to get over. It’s been said before, but Vince does know how to book a big guy and Strowman is an athletic giant. There’s a reason McMahon requested that he work on his skills in developmental without appearing on NXT.

Vince’s vision is now coming to life, but he’s about to hit a potential barricade on the road to WrestleMania.

Reigns is already an established star. He may not receive the type of crowd reaction that Vince and Co. would like (MEEKMAHAN is still determined to push him as his next big babyface), but this point cannot be disputed: Reigns is one of the biggest names on the current roster.

The Roman Empire (ew) could be beaten clean in the middle of the ring by Strowman and wouldn’t lose a bit of momentum heading into his match against the “Deadman,” but with how defiant Reigns has been in storyline about getting this match, it doesn’t seem like he’s going to be eating a pinfall on Sunday.

This is an opportunity to go against the grain and give Strowman a star-making win, but the timing just isn’t right.

The best case scenario for Braun is a double count-out after a huge spot on the outside that “takes out” both men. It gets both guys out of the match without a legitimate finish.

Will Vince pull the trigger?

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Photo of the week (Thanks to Redditor KrispinDallas2)

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That’s a teenage Kevin Owens wearing a Y2J shirt.

Time to “Go Home”

Raw was so bad this past week, so my apologies for all of the negativity that’s about to follow:

– Even though Nia Jax continued to look terrible in the ring, the blown spot between her, Bayley, and Sasha was not Jax’s fault. Sasha forgot that Bayley tagged her into the ring and then proceeded to botch a spot where she and Bayley were supposed to hit the ropes at the same time.

– Dana Brooke had one job and totally blew it. No wonder Charlotte didn’t want to team with her.

– The Oscar joke that the New Day attempted was just embarrassingly bad.

– One day I’ll care about the cruiserweight division, but at this rate, I’m not sure that day will ever come.

– Big Cass and Luke Gallows is a match I never want to see again.

– Enzo is turning heel … right?

– The Seth Rollins segment before HHH came out was worse than the New Day’s Oscar joke. I lost count at how many times Rollins called Graves “dude” and this is coming from someone who says dude multiple times on a daily basis.

– Here’s something I enjoyed from Raw: Kevin Owens and Bill Goldberg’s opening segment. It was a nice, quick 10-minute promo to open the show, but Goldberg posing to Owens’ music at the end of the segment was just awkward.

– Samoa Joe vs. Cesaro was WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY too short. After the multitude of short wrestling segments on Monday, I thought for sure those guys were going to go for at least 15 minutes and put on a clinic.

OK, now onto the good stuff:

– AJ Styles vs. Luke Harper was very good. Harper once again got the chance to shine, even though he got pinned twice by Styles.

– I’m expecting Shane McMahon to “find” a different angle from the battle royal that shows Styles’ feet hitting the ground before Harper’s, which will springboard us into a Shane vs. AJ feud …

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– Cena and The Miz talked for 20 minutes and I didn’t want them to stop. Both cut excellent promos and I was legitimately shocked when Cena told Miz that he “stole Chris Jericho’s character” after debuting with the company 10 years ago.

– Even Maryse did a good job!

– I underestimated how much I like seeing Cena and Nikki Bella on screen together.

– I don’t understand why some people think Cena seems checked out heading into this Mania program against the Miz. He was “on” during this past week’s SmackDown and has been channeling the word life version of his character for weeks now.

– Becky Lynch and Mickie James worked a very, very good two-out-of-three falls match, but with Lynch picking up the victory and Natalya challenging Bliss backstage after the match, I have no idea who is going to wrestle for the SmackDown women’s title at WrestleMania.

– I was not a fan of Randy Orton’s closing promo. I loved how it was shot, but it felt like Orton was talking forever and most of the dialogue made me hover over the fast-forward button for a solid five minutes.

– Is Wyatt or Orton the babyface heading into their Mania program? It was really easy to sympathize with Wyatt as Orton burned down his compound.

The 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