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WWE: Let’s reshuffle WrestleMania 33’s main events

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Please don’t yell at me for this simmering take that I’m about to share regarding Super WrestleMania Sunshine.

None of the 13* matches that have been either announced or heavily rumored, feel special.

(There’s an asterisk in the sentence above because Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles hasn’t been officially announced by WWE yet and the way Shane’s final sentence was worded on Tuesday left the door open for him to appoint a representative to face Styles in Orlando. If we get Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles, it will be special.)

After looking at the card again, the best in-ring match on paper is Neville vs. Austin Aries, but who knows if they’ll get the time to put on a 15-minute exhibition. There are 13 matches on the card after all, so someone’s time is getting cut.

The amount of upper-midcard/main event level talent that WWE has at their disposal is actually pretty good when you line it up: Brock Lesnar, Bill Goldberg, HHH, Undertaker, Randy Orton, John Cena, AJ Styles, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins.

So what’s the problem?

It’s pretty simple really, the combinations just don’t feel right at all.

It’s like when you scroll through Facebook for no reason and notice that two seemingly incompatible people that you went to high school with are now dating. For a moment you stop, look at the photo or status update and wonder, how did we get here?

WrestleMania is a little more than two weeks away. I don’t want to say that it looks like just another PPV because creative has really tried to incorporate deeper storytelling in the key matches, but it also doesn’t feel like we’re about to witness the company’s biggest show of the year.

On some level, the creative team and Vince have succeeded because I find myself invested in quite a few of the matches that I knew were coming, including John Cena/Nikki Bella vs. The Miz/Maryse.

But look at that list of 12 names again. There’s potential for a really interesting WrestleMania card if you just mix the combinations up a bit. So, let’s fantasy book using the names above and see where it takes us.

WWE Universal Championship match: Kevin Owens (C) vs. Chris Jericho

This one just makes sense right? Why not reward the longest active storyline on Raw with a world championship match. Owens has really hit his stride since the heel turn on Jericho and the feud has legitimate main event level heat. It’s amazing to me that at this point in his career Jericho is a WHITE HOT babyface. Just goes to show how excellent both performers were over the last eight months.

WWE Championship match: Bray Wyatt (C) vs. Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles

I need a transition here, think you can help Lance Storm?

Survivor Series was the last time I needed to see Shane McMahon risk his well-being in a professional wrestling ring. He’s lucky he didn’t get seriously injured on this spot:

If you’re reading this column, you know that AJ is going to drag an acceptable match out of Shane, especially at WrestleMania. Styles is, right now, at this moment, the best in-ring performer in the company. He’s going to bust his ass in order to tell a story while protecting Vince’s child as much as he can, but Shane is a showman and is going to sacrifice his well-being for the thrill of performing in front of 50,000+ people and millions more on television.

So not only would this triple threat match protect Shane, it would be a damn good match and actually makes sense in the storyline.

(I thought about making this a Fatal-Four Way match with Luke Harper, but it’s just too much of a stretch to put Harper in a WWE title match at the biggest show of the year.

Goldberg vs. Undertaker

The Undertaker doesn’t appear to be in WrestleMania shape right now. He reportedly needs hip surgery, so wouldn’t a quick match against Goldberg be the perfect solution?

Have Goldberg hit the spear and Jackhammer on Taker in the first two minutes, only for the Undertaker to kick out and then go on to beat Goldberg within five minutes. Not only would the crowd go bonkers, but it would save the Undertaker from having to perform a long, taxing match.

There’s only so many first-time-ever matches left with long-time veterans like Goldberg and The Undertaker. This would actually be an attraction, unlike Lesnar vs. Goldberg III.

After the short match, Undertaker can go get his hip worked on and then put Roman Reigns over next year.

Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman

Even though we’re probably going to get this match at some point during Lesnar’s inevitable title reign, it would make sense to give Strowman a reward for how much he’s improved since the brand split.

This match would be like Godzilla vs. King Kong. Two giants knocking over buildings in their path. I mean, remember when Strowman didn’t go down for Lesnar’s clothesline in the 2016 Royal Rumble and then Brock flattened him with a legit clothesline.

Just imagine the build we could have had; the two could have brawled in the ring after Stephanie and Mick Foley ordered them not to touch before Mania. Referees, fake security guards, and random guys in the back would try to separate them only to fall victim to a bunch of F-5s or crazy Strowman chokeslams.

Strowman has proved he can chain-wrestle with a bigger opponent, now he just has to prove that he can brawl with Lesnar. 

Lesnar can put on a really good match with supersize opponents and Strowman’s performance in the Raw main event against the Big Show and his Fast Lane match against Reigns proved that he’s ready for a WrestleMania moment that doesn’t involve the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

HHH vs. Seth Rollins

I have no issue with the build for Triple H and Rollins. If you want to nitpick Hunter’s promos for sounding a bit too much like a babyface, I’m not going to argue with you, but his Monday beatdown on Seth came off really well.

The biggest question here is: Where does Samoa Joe fit into the equation? With Finn Balor ready to return, it’s fair to wonder if Balor will cut off Joe if he tries to interfere in the match. Personally, I’d love to see Balor connect with Joe and Owens to form an NXT stable with HHH as the figurehead.

Now here’s a dilemma. There are only two names left on the list. John Cena and Roman Reigns. It would be pointless for the two to square off at Mania without something on the line. So, what if we did:

John Cena vs. Roman Reigns (winner gets his brand the first pick in the 2017 WWE Draft)

This match can easily be repeated for the title at a future WrestleMania, so it’s OK to burn an encounter between the two, especially with how positively the crowd has been responding to Cena lately.

Either guy could conceivably walk away with the victory, which makes the match even more intriguing.

If you just skimmed the last section, here’s a comparison of the top matches at WrestleMania 33 and my proposed card for the event:

                    WrestleMania 33        Alternate universe WrestleMania 33
Lesnar vs. Goldberg (C) for Universal title Jericho vs. Owens (C) for Universal title
Orton vs. Wyatt (C) for WWE title Orton vs. Styles vs. Wyatt (C) for WWE title
Undertaker vs. Reigns Undertaker vs. Goldberg
Cena and Nikki vs. Miz and Maryse Cena vs. Reigns for first draft pick
Owens vs. Jericho (C) for U.S. title Lesnar vs. Strowman
HHH vs. Rollins HHH vs. Rollins
Styles vs. Shane One less bout opens time for other matches

I’m going to watch WrestleMania 33 live just like all of you are going to. It’s going to feel like WWE’s Super Bowl, which is what it’s supposed to be, but it’s hard to get excited as I have in previous years when it’s so easy to put together a superior card.

March Madness tribute video

Let’s “Go Home”

– If Miz can hold a conversation in French, the Miz and Maryse should do an episode of Miz TV where they only speak in French with English subtitles. This would be an easy way to get heat.

– Thought Maryse did a nice job closing her promo, even if the segment went on too long.

– So Nia Jax got DQ’d for beating up Bayley too badly? Hate that finish.

– Shawn Michaels is in WrestleMania shape.

– In storyline, Gallows and Anderson are morons. How could they not see the triple threat stipulation coming if they attacked both teams?

– I love that even the heels were questioning Styles after he beatdown Shane.

– Did Styles say “I’ll kill you” before throwing McMahon through the car window?

– Ambrose should have been one of the police officers escorting Styles out after Bryan fired him.

– I thought Dana Brooke was acceptable in the ring against Sasha Banks.

– “When the time is right, screw him!” Ugh, that’s what creative came up with for Orton’s big promo after burning Wyatt’s house?

– I LOVED Bray’s promo. He felt unhinged.

– The segment order of SmackDown was awfully strange. AJ should have attacked Shane as he was leaving and then Bryan could have rushed over and fired Styles on the spot to close the show.

– Was American Alpha vs. The Usos advertised once on television before the final segment or did I just totally miss it?

– Woof … ZERO pop for American Alpha

– Austin Aries gets a borderline jobber entrance for his Raw debut? Sad!

– Are we supposed to insinuate that Corbin has a forklift fetish? He was way too happy standing next to it before Dasha interrupted.

– From one Rutgers alumnus to another, congrats Eric LeGrand.

– The cruiserweights are starting to hit their stride. I really enjoyed the Tony Nese/The Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins/Akira Tozawa match on Monday. The pacing of the cruiserweight matches is picking up just a bit.

– Does anyone else really like the Usos hoodies? I could see those being a potential merch mover if the WWE logo is kept off of them.

– It was so refreshing to hear a two-man booth on SmackDown. I like Mauro, but Tom Phillips really could slide into that role without skipping a beat.

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