WWE

Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque’s quest to change WWE as we know it

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Paul Levesque, aka “Triple H”, has evolved from one of the top performers of his generation, to a prominent role behind the scenes as the Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative for WWE. I had the chance to chat with “HHH” about what he specifically looks for when he’s recruiting new talent, why this past year has been so challenging for NXT and how he presents new talent to Vince McMahon. 

(Don’t miss NXT Takeover: Orlando on Saturday, April 1 at 8 p.m. ET Live on WWE Network)

Me: You’ve had an incredible in-ring career; a 14-time world champion. As I look up and down the WrestleMania 33 card I see so many NXT alums and I wonder, what did you learn from your time as a performer that has helped you as an evaluator of talent?

Paul “HHH” Levesque: “Oh man … everything that I’ve learned since I’ve walked through the door. The funny thing for me is that I’ve been in a unique position during my career. I was fascinated early with the behind the scenes and production aspects of the business.

So, shortly after I came to WWE I was in creative conversations with Vince that led to me to being offered to come to production meetings, which I didn’t have to go to. I would get up early on TV days and go to these production meetings that I didn’t need to be a part of. People thought I was crazy, but I wasn’t trying to do anything more than learn. I wanted to learn what they were looking for.

The vision of what the talent thinks they want and what the office thinks they want are sometimes two different things.

I have the unique perspective of having both sides and that allows me to I think look at talent a different way, but to also to be able to say here’s what you need to be able to do. Here’s the way you need to be able to work at it. Here’s the way you need to perceive cameras and how cameras see you. How you put your character out there and how you put your brand out there.

At the end of the day for us, characters are all about charisma. So that’s the thing you’re looking for the most. I see a lot of unbelievable athletes come through the Performance Center; sometimes they have charisma, sometimes they don’t.

I’ve hired a lot [of people] that have charisma, but aren’t necessarily the greatest athletes we saw that week because you just can’t take your eyes off of them.

For example, there’s a guy that I hired in China that everybody on the team who was over there didn’t put this kid on the list and when we went through the list at the end of the day of who we’re going to offer an opportunity to come and train with the WWE I was like, ‘Where’s this kid?’ and everyone was like, ‘You’re kidding, right?’

I was like, ‘No, where is he?’ He was heavy and a Mongolian wrestler, so he’s athletic but he’s heavier and in some ways he’s not anything we would look for, but he worked his butt off. He was always last, but he never quit man. He just went. Some guys would pull up with an injury and they’d go sit out. You could clearly tell that they were just gasping for air and needed to sit for a second. They’d be back ten minutes later.

He gutted through everything and you couldn’t take your eyes off of this guy. He did stuff that was funny, even though he didn’t mean for it to be that way. He was always the center of attention, even when he wasn’t doing anything!

Everyone was against him and I said ‘Is there anybody in this room who didn’t watch this guy the entire day? I’ve heard everyone talk about this guy. Why? He’s the sleeper money in this group.’

So we brought him [to the Performance Center] and there’s not a week goes by that somebody doesn’t send me a clip or a photo of him doing something where there’s 10 or 15 people around him watching. He’s just one of those naturally charismatic people that you can’t put your finger on why.

I look for that more than I look for anything else.

Is he ever going to do a moonsault? Probably not. Is he ever going to be a Shawn Michaels in the ring? I guarantee you he won’t. But, if he loves it, if he works hard and keeps himself straight, he’s probably going to make it and he’s probably going to be good.

That’s the biggest thing to me, the charisma factor.”

You kind of answered my next question, but I’ll ask it anyway. When you’re scouting someone, what do you specifically look for?

“Look, I mean there are other factors as well. I don’t want to make it sound like ‘Oh, look at this guy he has a big personality and forget all of the rest of it.’ Obviously athleticism, the willingness to do this, the desire to work hard, but then there’s leadership qualities that we really look for.

When guys go to a camp, sometimes people watch them and go, ‘You’re just making these people throw-up in garbage can because you’re working them so hard.’ I want to push them to where they’re really outside of their comfort range and then see what they do with it.

It’s really easy to be nice and be the perfect professional when you feel great, but when you’re on the verge of puking in barrel and you’re exhausted and there’s someone barking at you to do more and the guy next to you just fell on you because he’s at the same place you are, do you help pick him up or do you curse at him and go about your own business?

There are differences in how people react to things. I’m looking for leaders. I’m looking for someone that can be a professional. I’m looking for the consummate athlete on all aspects.

It’s not just one thing, but if you ask me the one thing I look for, charisma is king.”

Going back for a second to the guy that you were talking about in China; it seemed as though there was and still is a certain look that a talent needs in order to reach a certain level of success in WWE. Now, obviously there have been exceptions to the rule, but it seems like over the past few years you’ve bucked that trend. How did that transition happen?

“So, I’m a big believer in talent is talent. It comes in all shapes, sizes, looks, feels, everything. I think sometimes there’s been a bad rap of like take this as the thing that’s most successful, so that’s what we’re going to give.

I think that’s happen here in the past. People can say whatever about WWE and look, is there a particular style of athlete [we look for]? Sure, it’s like that in anything.

If you’re shown steak all of the time, it’s no surprise that you’re going to eat steak. So when everybody coming to you with the same look and feel, a certain pattern begins to develop because that’s what being put in front of you and that’s what you have to select from.

My selection process is different. Yes, I understand what Vince likes and what Vince sees in an ideal archetype performer, but I also know him well enough to know that he likes a lot of different archetypes, so I’m not going to give him one; I’m going to give him a little bit of everything.

He’s going to see a Bray Wyatt and go (Vince voice) ‘That’s great!’ He’s going to see a Braun Strowman and go ‘Ah yeah, that’s my wheelhouse right there. I love that.’ He’s going to see Finn Balor and hear the girls going nuts and then see the paint and go ‘Geez look at that, I love that!’ That’s something that I don’t think would have been put in front of him eight years ago.

I sometimes wonder if Bray Wyatt would have been put in front of him 10 years ago. I don’t know that he would of. That doesn’t mean that Vince wouldn’t have loved him back then.

I want there to be so much diversity on every level. I want it to be international diversity. I want there to be something for everybody within WWE so you can gravitate towards characters that you can relate to. That’s still a work in progress.

It’s a work in progress when you look at the Performance Center and you look at the talent there and see that 40 percent of the talent is international now, there’s 17 countries represented. A quarter of the talent there is women. The diversity level is at an all-time high and that’s on purpose. We’ve done that for desired effect.

Is it showing right now on the main roster? Nah, not necessarily because it’s going to take a little bit of time to percolate up, but it’s there.

I want that diversity. When you talk about the women, I want there to be a Sasha Banks; the smaller, run her mouth, cocky, arrogant, little athlete. I want there to be a bigger, dominant athlete like a Charlotte. I want there to be a Nia Jax that brings a whole different danger component. I want there to be a Bayley that is this naïve, fan-friendly, little girl centric character that everybody loves.

Then you still want there to be the Bellas, who are like the Kardashians of the women’s division. You want that variety.

It’s the same with the guys. I want there to be a Cena, I want there to be a Randy Orton. But I also want there to be a Bray Wyatt. I want there to be a Braun Strowman. I want there to be a Finn Balor. I want there to be a Samoa Joe or a Kevin Owens. Big Cass and then a little guy like Enzo that can run his mouth nonstop.

I want that diversity.”

As I looked at the WrestleMania card and noticed all of the former NXT stars, I thought about how much the roster has changed over the last year. There have been so many guys and girls that have gotten the call-up to the main roster, how challenging has it been to deal with such a major transition to NXT?

“So that’s been the most challenging thing for me in the last year. When we had the draft, 16 talents got called up. I started over with the women’s division. Thank God I kept Asuka because she’s been the anchor. My male division was pretty much stripped down. I lost a lot of it.

Behind the scenes, the same thing happened. My executive producer that works with me on the show got called up. I got a new one; he made it two weeks before he got called up.

I lost my edit team that helped me get the feel and the look of the brand because they got called up. I was thrilled for them. They were so good that the office said, ‘Look we’re expanding, we’re going to do 205, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that. We need these people.’

I’m very hands on with the writing of NXT and the team that was writing NXT with me got called up. When we split the brands, we needed a different writing team and they got called up.

So I started over with this whole new team and they needed to get their feet on the ground. It was really a brand new start over point for us. That’s challenging, but that’s also to me part of the strength of NXT. It’ll change, but it’ll be fresh and it’ll be different than it was a year ago. I’m not saying it’s always going to be better, but it’ll be different.

I just got a whole new behind the scenes team and it’s taken me since SummerSlam to get them, but I just got them and I’m really excited about it. I feel like for the first time since the draft, NXT is back in business and we’re going to rock and roll.

I’m looking forward to NXT constantly keeping us on our toes and the demand for more and more on the main roster, the demand for more and more shows, whether that is localized content in the UK, or the cruiserweight division or the women’s tournament that we’ll have coming up sometime this year.

All of those things are exciting opportunities and make NXT an exciting opportunity.”

Can you describe what it feels like to see a talent that has had success in NXT, but struggles to find their footing on the main roster?

“It’s hard for me. It’s hard for them. It’s a difficult situation. I say this to talent all of the time, careers are marathons, they are not sprints.

Even though we say it’s a third brand, it really is and you might never make it out of NXT and you’ll do really well in your career, but if you do get the chance to go to Raw or SmackDown, it’s like starting over. You’re starting over with new management and new everything. The job is the same, but you’re starting over and you have to re-earn your stripes. It’s a slightly different product.

It used to be that way in the territory days. You might be over in one territory and take the gamble to go to another territory and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It can be frustrating for them. They ask a lot of questions and we try to give them as much guidance as we can.

The other thing though that everybody has to remember is that in today’s world if you’re not “The Guy or The Girl” at the very top, the number one draw, you can still be a talent on Raw or SmackDown and working all of the time and be doing very, very well for yourself.

Do you always want more? Yes. Will that come over time? Maybe.

You reinvent yourself, you work hard. You continue to do the things you’re doing.

Back to the career being a marathon and not a sprint; when you’re a few years in, being on Raw or SmackDown and you’ve only been in the business for four years or whatever, it’s not a bad place to be.

If two years down the line you get that ride up to a much higher level, it’s a pretty good run.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE Weekly Recap: Let’s rank the post-WrestleMania surprises

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The first Raw after WrestleMania is a key moment for WWE in setting up future storylines that will fill the time until the build for SummerSlam begins. There have been points in time where the company would keep a WrestleMania feud alive through the next PPV, but more often than not, the first live show after Mania represents a change from the WrestleMania season stories.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that the Raw after WrestleMania became dominated by a crowd of hardcore fans from around the world. The “smarks” cheer for whatever they want. From #BeachBallMania to perfectly timing the “YEAH!” portion of The Revival’s entrance, it’s an environment that every wrestling fan should experience at some point.

This year’s schedule presented WWE with the opportunity to keep fans who traveled for WrestleMania around even longer with the addition of Tuesday’s SmackDown Live tapings. The crowd that attended the SD taping sounded like a beefed up NXT crowd, which was particularly enjoyable when they all chanted “ONE FALL!” in unison before the women’s title match between Naomi and Alexa Bliss.

Thanks to the rowdy nature of this specific crowd, Monday’s Raw and Tuesday’s SmackDown presented an ideal opportunity to bring up a few key talents from NXT and return some familiar faces who have been off of TV for awhile due to injury. If there’s a time to make NXT guys and girls feel like a big deal, this is the week they’re going to come off like the most over talents on the show.

So let’s take a look back at all of the surprises from this past week and rank them from worst to OMFG did that really just happen?

Erick Rowan

The big redheaded stepchild of the Wyatt Family has been out of action since early October after getting surgery on his right rotator cuff. Rowan has been reportedly available to return for a few weeks, but clearly, Vince wanted to wait until after Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton had their WrestleMania match.

On Tuesday, Rowan posted this very creepy video on his Twitter account that apparently was supposed to signify his return:

Rowan returned in the opening segment to help Wyatt beat down Orton, but his place on the totem pole was quickly established when Luke Harper and Orton combined for a superkick-RKO combination after Wyatt used some of his “magical powers” to leave Rowan all by himself in the ring. Not only did Orton “fight” his way out of a sneak attack from Rowan, but the gigantic goof ate a clean pin.

I’d say Rowan is in a slightly better position than Curt Hawkins, which isn’t where you want to be.

Emma

Unlike the debut of Emmalina, we didn’t have to wait four months to get the return of Emma’s character from NXT and her brief run on the main roster before she ruptured a disc in her back during a live event last May.

Sure, the Emma vignettes aired for a few weeks longer than they should have, but with the Superstar Shake-Up coming, Emma could be a valuable piece of the Raw women’s division if Charlotte ends up switching brands, which is currently rumored. The move would make total sense in storyline considering that Bayley pinned Charlotte clean at Mania and then Sasha made her tap out on Raw.

Emma’s actual return was lackluster. She was slotted in a six-woman tag match, which was not a showcase for her. She bailed out of the ring before Nia Jax “beat up” Charlotte, so if you’re a fan of Emma’s, this is probably not how you wanted her to come back, but it’ll have to do for now.

Be patient, the women’s division on Monday is so thin that she will have a chance to shine and her aggressive style did get over once, so why can’t it happen again?

Kurt Angle

The rumor of Angle becoming the general manager of Raw immediately after WrestleMania had been floated around for quite a while, so it was no surprise that Vince introduced Angle as the next G.M. character on the company’s flagship show.

Even though Angle’s segments after his in-ring promo felt very similar to what we’ve had over the past few months with Mick Foley, the novelty of seeing Angle interact with Enzo, Cass, Sami Zayn, and Seth Rollins was enough to keep me entertained. Monday’s three-hour Raw did not drag and these segments with Angle played a big role.

Finn Balor

Am I excited Finn Balor is back on Raw after his shoulder/upper arm was destroyed at SummerSlam after he took a powerbomb from Rollins into the corner of the barricade?

Did it make any sense for Balor to team with the guy who legitimately put him on the shelf for seven months, which included WrestleMania?

I know WWE can think at times that no one cares to remember what happened seven months ago, but there is an easy story to tell here. Why not have Balor team with Rollins and then walk away when Rollins reaches out for a tag? It’s a logical way to continue a story that the crowd will actually invest in because it blurs the line of reality and fiction. The two would eventually have a match and then shake hands after.

The tag-team match between Rollins/Balor vs. Owens/Joe that closed Monday’s show should have been a super-hot tag match between four guys who all established themselves on the independent scene before making their way to WWE via NXT. Instead, it was just an OK match that didn’t have as nearly as much heat as you would think.

The crowd was dying for Balor to return during Brock’s segment, but he’s not going near the Universal title picture anytime soon, it appears. Lesnar isn’t going to be at Payback and when he does defend the title, it will likely be against Braun Strowman and then Roman Reigns.

There are plenty of guys for Balor to work with and if AJ Styles comes over to Raw (heavily rumored), we could have a dream match scenario on our hands.

Tye Dillinger

The crowd was finally able to use the “10!” correctly when Dillinger “answered” Hawkins’ Open Challenge on Tuesday. Because the show felt at times like a big NXT event, the crowd at the Amway Center in Orlando made Dillinger feel like a bigger deal than he will probably end up being on the main roster.

Having said that, he will be in a position to overachieve with his gimmick on SmackDown. If he was on Raw, he would quickly get lost in the shuffle, but with the lack of depth on Tuesday nights and a gimmick that is over to a certain degree (it’s more popular than the Fandango chant IMO) he might end up as a solid mid-card hand for SD.

#FantasyBooking idea: I’d love it if SAnitY followed Dillinger up to the main roster as Eric Young continues to try and recruit him.

The Revival

This was arguably the biggest surprise from the post-WrestleMania shows. I suspected Nakamura would show up on SD as well as Dillinger, but I wasn’t sure which brand the #TopGuys would pop-up on.

When the New Day issued their open challenge on Monday, I wasn’t expecting to see Dash and Dawson show up, but when they did I’ll admit I popped. Scott Dawson has been in developmental for years now (as well as Dillinger), so it’s always great to see someone like that finally get their opportunity to shine on the main roster.

The Revival were given a clean win over Big E/Xavier Woods and then “injured” Kofi Kingston’s knee after the match. It was classic Revival, which is the only way that they’re going to get over with the bigger audience.

Match you didn’t know you wanted until right now: Revival vs. The Hardys

Shinsuke Nakamura

Whoever pitched the idea of having Lee England Jr. perform Nakamura’s entrance live deserves a raise. This was an amazing moment that I will not do justice with words, so if you haven’t seen it (IDK what is wrong with you) or if you’ve already seen it, watch it again and enjoy just how magical this moment was:

As I watched his entrance live I wondered if he would grab the microphone and make a joke to The Miz about being dressed up like John Cena, or if he would simply kick Miz right in the face. Shockingly, neither of these scenarios played out. Instead, Nakamura performed his entrance, soaked in the thunderous “NA-KA-MURA” chants and then left the ring and went to the back.

I was not a fan of how awkward the end of this segment felt as it was happening, but when I went back and watched it a second time (or maybe 10 more times, who’s counting right!?) I thought the segment ended fine. There’s no reason for Nakamura to make Miz look like a jabroni with one strike. He’s right on the cusp of being a main eventer again and Nakamura needs someone to feud with. Don’t underestimate just how entertaining a Miz TV segment with Shinsuke could be.

Time to “Go Home”

So who knows what’s going to happen with the Hardy’s gimmicks, but here’s my idea for the immediate future. What if Matt Hardy became CURED Matt Hardy or something similar to that. My thinking would be that WWE could continue the BROKEN storyline, but create their own character.  

Every now and then, Matt could “relapse” and start a delete chant or use other mannerisms from his BROKEN character.

Jeff Hardy is just going to be Jeff Hardy, don’t expect Brother Nero to make an appearance.

– Something has to be done about the Hardys theme, it just doesn’t sound right with their current look/character.

– Why is Nia Jax making goofy faces at the camera?

– The New Day are also rumored to leave Raw for SmackDown. I’m a big fan of this move because it would hopefully lead to a singles push for Big E.

– Was Tuesday the beginning of Styles’ face turn or was it a one off? I know he gets cheered all of the time like a babyface, but he’s still very much a heel.

– The opening segment on Raw with Roman Reigns vs. the crowd was pretty damn memorable. I can’t think of a person in the last few years outside of Cena who has had that kind of heat during a segment.

– You should go out of your way to listen to the Talk is Jericho podcast with Reigns. He comes off like such a nice dude.

– Even though I briefly mentioned the match earlier, the tag match between Orton/Harper and Wyatt/Rowan was an incredibly lackluster way to end the extended weekend.

– I really enjoyed NXT TakeOver Orlando. Especially Roode vs. Nakamura. The triple threat tag team elimination match between Authors of Pain-DIY-Revival was the best WWE match of the entire weekend.

– I think my favorite match from the marathon that was WrestleMania was Goldberg-Lesnar. It hit all of the right notes and was perfectly mapped out.

– Isn’t it crazy that WrestleMania lasted seven hours and Samoa Joe wasn’t on the show at all?

– During Naomi’s entrance on Tuesday, I thought to myself, damn it would be awesome if the women’s title glowed along with her outfit and then this photo appeared.

– The #RawafterMania really should just be renamed Cesaro appreciation night. Cass got massive boos when he ran wild on Cesaro during a hot tag.

– Those Jordan 8’s Enzo rocked on Monday night are worth around $800-$1200.

– Tom Phillips has done an excellent job filling in for Mauro Ranallo.

– I’d love to see Jim Ross call main events on PPVs. Similar to what he did during his last part-time gig with the company when he called main event matches on NXT.

– I felt so bad for Neville and Mustafa Ali. They busted their ass in the ring on Monday, but the crowd was way more worried about getting themselves over and playing with a beach ball.

– You’d think for being “hardcore” fans that they would, you know, show their appreciation for the product.

The Twitter: @ScottDargis

WrestleMania 33 Live Blog

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WWE’s biggest show of the year is underway from Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Follow along as we go for the “Ultimate thri …

You’re right, we’re going to hear that phrase 50,000 times during the next six hours, so let’s just move along. Get your snacks and adult beverages ready because this is going to be a long night.

Pre-show

5:30 ET: This has already replaced WrestleMania 26 as my favorite set. I can’t even imagine what the pyro budget is tonight.

All right Austin Aries got a very good reaction. Glad to see so many people are in the building 90 minutes before the show.

–  Neville’s kick to the head of Aries was nice.

– Oof, the King of the Cruiserweights landed so hard on the outside.

– OMG how is Aries still moving. He landed right on his head from a German suplex.

– Can we all just be glad that this match was on the pre-show. Both guys have had a chance to shine and the crowd was getting up for the big spots.

– Nice striking sequence from both guys.

– Neville pins Aries after heelish tactics led to the Red Arrow.

– No matter how many times I see it, the Red Arrow is still amazing. Neville did almost crush Aries’ face.

– If the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was in the bigger ring, IDK if I would care about it. Just look at these jabronis.

– SAnitY’s entrance would not have worked in the daylight, but annoying that Killian Dain is just another “guy” in this match.

– Oh snap, Braun Strowman and Big Show eliminated 

– That moment when you realize Luke Harper is in the ring.

– Man, American Alpha once again just looks like a couple of guys. Jason Jordan should have at least had a flurry of suplexes before getting tossed.

– Tian Bing with a nice showing. Much better than Hideo Itami two years ago.

So Mojo is winning right?

– The security guard doesn’t know who Gronk is.

– Noticeable sound issues throughout the pre-show. Weird considering how top notch WWE broadcasts are.

– Jinder Mahal just got GRONK’d.

– Gronkowski really should think about joining WWE after his playing career wraps up.

– Dain stunningly lasted until the final three. Must be viewed as a hot prospect.

Mojo eliminates Jinder Mahal to win the ATMBR. 

– WHY DIDN’T GRONK AND MOJO CELEBRATE LIKE STONE COLD?

Baron Corbin vs. Dean Ambrose for the IC title 

 These guys are working hard, but you can tell the crowd just wants the main show to begin. Much quieter than it was for the cruiserweight match and the battle royal.

This match could have really used some weapons.

Corbin reacting to a two count is just hilarious. THAT WAS THREE!

Crowd is starting to get behind Ambrose.

The rotation counter for the End of Days always looks impressive.

Dean Amrbose beats Baron Corbin to retain the IC title

– Really surprised Corbin looked up at the lights here. It felt like he was set for a run with SmackDown’s mid-card championship.

Main card

7:00 p.m. ET – Yes, the pre-show is FINALLY over. Let’s see what opens the show.

– Mandatory performance of “America the Beautiful,” I wonder what’s going through Vince’s mind right now.

“The Greatest Live Event in Entertainment”

– It’s your WrestleMania hosts the NEW DAY.

– Xavier Woods’ hair is a sight to behold.

– Um … is this Raw or WrestleMania? That was a waste of a segment besides Big E “pull the lever” line. At least throw out some ice cream bars.

– WHAT, AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon is opening the main card!?

– MASSIVE POP for Styles.

– Styles’ gear is fire emoji, fire emoji

– Styles’ new shirt is red and his gear has red in it. He’s definitely going to Raw.

– OMG Otunga just said there’s “no way” Styles is going to tire out Shane McMahon.

– Shane is already pouring sweat btw.

– Will say Shane did OK with the chain wrestling sequence. Crowd appreciated that.

– HOLY CRAP, Styles “launched” Shane with a baseball drop kick to the outside. Shane flew over the announce table.

– Is a thunderstorm coming?

– As expected, Shane is getting in a lot of offense. The crowd hated when he back Styles into the corner and threw his terrible looking punches, but Styles made Shane’s running back elbow look solid.

– For those who care, Shane is wearing the Jordan XXXI Chinese New Year.

– Hey, that submission sequence wasn’t terrible! If you would have told me before the match that they were going to do that, I would’ve done this:

– The Styles Clash sequence was top notch. I was really surprised Shane kicked out.

– REF BUMP, DRINK.

– Styles’ coast-to-coast attempt was blocked by Shane and a trash can. Just a reminder that Styles is one of the best sellers in the company.

– Shane with a beautiful coast-to-coast.

– Man this one is going much longer than I thought it would.

– Shane ate it on the elbow through table spot.

– OMG Shane counters a Phenomenal Forearm into a float over DDT and then MISSED A SHOOTING STAR PRESS.

AJ Styles pins Shane McMahon after hitting a Phenomenal Forearm. This may have lasted a bit too long, but the last five or so minutes were very good.

Chris Jericho (C) vs. Kevin Owens for United States Championship 

– The crowd counting down Jericho’s entrance gave me goosebumps.

– A giant list and a light up vest! If only Y2J had a light up scarf.

– Owens’ cannonball to Jericho on the apron looked cool.

– Anyone else chuckle when K.O. yelled “ASK HIM!” at the ref?

– The Roommate laughed when Owens yelled “You have no friends” at Jericho.

– Every time Owens sets up for the package suplex, I think he’s going to hit the piledriver.

– Nasty bruise just above Owens’ right eye.

– Nice counter sequence from both guys. Always amazes me when someone counters Owens’ swanton bomb with their knees.

– The Go-Home Driver!

– I said this to “Easy” Ed on Friday before I left worked, I was worried that Jericho and Owens’ match would slow down a bit too much and that kind of happened. The crowd sat on their hands a bit during the middle of this one.

– Jericho kicked out of the pop-up powerbomb and Owens put his right index finger on the bottom rope to break up the pinfall after a Codebreaker. The finisher kick out counter is now at four.

– Kevin Owens pins Chris Jericho to become the new United States Champions after an apron powerbomb of death!

Raw women’s title match up next, shocked this is happening already. Once again the match order is highly questionable.

– Fireworks for Bayley. Her entrance looked amazing, especially the giant Bayley Buddies by the ring.

– Sasha Banks is riding down to the ring on the back of a fancy golf cart, better get that queued up for the Undertaker’s entrance.

– The camera shot with Charlotte standing close with the fireworks going off in the background was just incredible. The set makes this event feel so special.

– I think this match is going to go like this. Nia get the heat early and then Charlotte, Bayley and Sasha all team up to eliminate her. Bayley and Sasha team-up to try and eliminate Charlotte, but then Sasha gets eliminated and turns on Bayley. Let’s see what happens …

– Jax dominating early. Step 1 complete.

– Dude, Nia Jax just landed right on the back of her head after a double suplex-boot combo move.

– Nia Jax eliminated after getting hit with a triple team powerbomb. Charlotte, Bayley and Sasha all jumped on top of her for the pin.

– Charlotte hit that corkscrew moonsault to the outside perfectly.

– Sasha Banks eliminated after she gets sent into the exposed middle turnbuckle by Charlotte. Crowd was not happy.

– Why did we have to have the Fatal Four Way gimmick if two of the competitors were going to get eliminated this fast.

– Charlotte ran Bayley’s knee into the exposed turnbuckle and is now working it over. Is she going to run through the division tonight?

– Nice backbody drop from the top rope by Bayley.

– Bayley retains the Raw Women’s Championship after hitting a top-rope elbow on Charlotte

– Well that came out of nowhere … gotta wonder if their time got cut before the show started.

HOF recap from Friday, this means I finally get a bathroom break.

– This pop for Kurt Angle is going to be awesome.

– Where does Angle’s theme rank all time? Gotta be top five right?

Raw Tag Team Championship ladder match between Gallows and Anderson (C) vs. Enzo and Cass vs. Cesaro and Sheamus

– This is Enzo’s best outfit of all time:

– Crowd is thunderous for the SAWFT chant.

– Cesaro is wearing a suit that’s also a kilt. James Bond would never wear that.

– Odds of Sheamus’s giant cut getting opened up during this match is extremely high.

– I just hope Enzo makes it out of this match alive.

– Crowd is not going to be happy when the New Day is the fourth team in the Fatal Four …

– WHAT THE …

– Hey Matt Hardy how does it feel to be back?

– Cesaro is so lucky that he didn’t get seriously hurt when Big Cass potatoed him on the ladder.

– That big boot from Cass to Jeff Hardy looked vicious.

– Cesaro just swung Anderson around like 20 times, while Sheamus delivered the Beats of the Valkyrie to Gallows. Got a standing ovation from the crowd.

– Ah they got the Cass lifting Enzo up the ladder spot out of the way already.

– Enzo is taking a hard fall off of a ladder at some point.

– A Twist of Fate from the top of the ladder to Gallows, a swanton bomb from Jeff Hardy off of a 20-foot ladder through Cesaro and Sheamus who were draped on ladders that were positioned from the ring to the barricade.

Matt Hardy pulls down the titles and the Hardy Boyz become seven-time tag team champions. 

From bell-to-bell this was a very good match. There was never a down moment and the crowd was super hot throughout.

John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse 

– Jerry “The King” Lawler joining the commentary booth. You know what this means? NO OTUNGA!

– Al “Chocolate Thunder” Roker needs to embrace his heel side.

The percentage of the crowd singing John Cena “sucks” was around 75%.

– The Miz is getting thunderous cheers right now. Really didn’t think this would happen.

– Very slow pace to start this one. Miz controlling the action. This match is already going longer than I thought it would.

– No, keep him away from the table.

– Got a bit uneasy when Nikki did the suicide dive. Gotta wonder what kind of shape her neck is in.

– John Cena and Nikki Bella defeat The Miz and Maryse after a simultaneous AA and Rack Attack 2.0. Well that ended in quick fashion. Miz controlled 98% of that match. The worst one of the show so far.

– Is the crowd about to boo Cena’s proposal?

– Is Natalya going to run in and interrupt?

– Cena proposes!

– This is a pretty awesome moment. Feels genuine.

Triple H vs. Seth Rollins 

– This pre-match video package was great when I watched it the first time on Monday, it’s just as good now.

– I love how Stephanie has been incorportaed into Triple H’s entrance over the last two years.

– HHH has to love the fact that he’s not in the final match of the night in this marathon of a show.

– Why isn’t Samoa Joe riding in a side car next to HHH?

– That moment when you thought Seth Rollins was getting a new theme. Very cool entrance though.

– I wonder if Rollins got that torch from Randy Orton’s ceremony.

– Rollins was reportedly battling a rough illness earlier in the week. Hopefully he’s feeling better.

– Going into the show, I thought this would be the Match of the Night, let’s see if these two can deliver.

– We’re less than two minutes in and Rollins has already lost his wristbands. Has the guy ever heard of tape?

– Rollins’ gear getting compared to Goldust. Let’s be real, Goldust never wore anything this awesome.

– The buckle bomb is back. Just know I cringed when HHH hit the corner.

– Gotta think a big spot is coming soon. They’ve been going at a pretty slow pace.

– If you’re wondering if the Hardys are still broken? Here’s your answer:

– Here come the chairs!

– Pulling the table out from under the ring will always get a pop. It will seriously never not get a cheer.

– It’s Falcon Arrow not Falcon’s Arrow. Mike Cole always struggles with that one.

– Rollins has been watching some Johnny Gargano tape.

– Triple H has been watching some CM Punk tape.

– Man the crowd is starting to get a bit tired out. Haven’t reacted to this match very well at all.

– SUPER close near fall after a pedigree. The finisher kick out counter is now at five. Considering the last one happened in the Jericho-Owens match.

– Stephanie just got put through a table. That woke the crowd up.

Seth Rollins pins Triple H after a pedigree. Kinda wish the counter sequence for the pedigree would have happened after Steph went through the table. Crowd was ready to get super hot for the finish. Match stayed at one gear the entire time, so it’s fair to wonder if the knee gimmick didn’t exactly help the match.

Shockingly no Samoa Joe appearance.

– Why couldn’t the Pitbull performance get cut from the show? It’s 10:15 and we still have four matches left. Is this damn show going until Midnight?

Bray Wyatt (C) vs. Randy Orton for the WWE title

– Orton was so damn goofy leading up to this match and this video package can’t change that.

– Wyatt’s entrance looks so wild with this many people holding up cell phones. Must be bone chilling for him to walk down that long ramp and look out into the crowd.

– Woah, the snake on the entrance ramp is a delightful touch.

– ONE FALL.

– Greg Hamilton is seriously underrated.

– It’s now time to wonder if the SmackDown women’s title match got cut from the show. If not, this might go to Midnight.

– Woah, an image of a bunch of maggots was just projected on the ring. That was awesome.

– And now it’s worms.

– Crowd is dead right now, but what else would you expect? This show is a marathon and the crowd is gasping for air like the out of shape person who enters a 5K without training.

– Ah the mandatory punt attempt from Orton at WrestleMania.

– Orton kicks out of Sister Abigail. Finisher kick out counter is at six.

Randy Orton wins the WWE title after an RKO outta nowhere. This was the worst match on the show. The gimmick of Wyatt “changing” the image on the mat was unique and did the job, but the action from bell-to-bell just never clicked and the crowd didn’t even care about the title change.

Goldberg (C) vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship

– I would have to imagine the crowd is going to be hot for this one. If not, maybe the SmackDown women’s title match should get cut.

– The pop for Brock Lesnar was similar to one that you would hear at the third hour of a boring Raw.

– Oh shut up with your numbers to remember Mike Cole.

– Damn, Goldberg is in tremendous shape.

– Crowd didn’t even budge for his pyro.

– Crowd is dead, who you gonna call? Paul Heyman!

– Man, quite a few boos when Jojo introduced Goldberg and now they’re roaring for these Brock suplexes.

– HERE WE GO. SPEAR, SPEAR, SPEAR THROUGH THE BARRICADE

– Lesnar kicked out of the Jackhammer! Finisher kick out counter is at seven.

– This place is going to explode when Lesnar hits the F5.

Brock Lesnar pins Goldberg after hitting an F5 to win the Universal Championship. Lesnar gave Goldberg 10 german suplexes. This match did wake the crowd up quite a bit considering how quiet they were for the entrances. Could not have been booked better.

SmackDown Women’s Championship Six Pack Challenge

– Mickie James channeling Tatanka with her entrance gear.

– Apparently it’s Carmania.

– Naomientrance looks effing crazy on this stage.

– So this match is going to be a quick one. Imagine it’s just going to be a spotfest.

– James Ellsworth just tried to superkick Becky Lynch, who landed an exploder suplex on him.

– A double sharpshooter? I guess that kinda worked.

– She calls that the rear view is apparently still the name of the move.

Naomi makes Alexa Bliss tap out to win the SmackDown women’s championship. This match was exactly what it needed to be considering the time. Everyone got their spots in and no one messed anything up.

Oh no, not another New Day segment …

– Here comes the inflated number for the Citrus Bowl attendance record.

Main event time FINALLY, Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker

– This is an amazing video package, but we seriously might go all the way until Midnight.

– What if the Undertaker gets rolled out to the ring in a casket? That will save us 15 minutes.

– Now this one is No Holds Barred. Good call considering how limited the Undertaker might be.

– So glad to see Jim Ross is back in his environment considering the recent tragedy he endured.

– The crowd isn’t tired enough to hold back from booing Reigns.

– Undertaker coming up through a trap door in the ramp for the win!

– This is amazing:

– Undertaker and Reigns trading huge blows to start. Expecting a slugfest from these two.

– One of my favorite little things the Undertaker does is when he stumbles into the corner with his hands up like he’s ready to fight, but clearly on dream street. That always cracks me up.

– Crowd is so quiet that you can hear Reigns and Undertaker calling spots.

– DAYMN Reigns with a wicked spear that drove Taker through the Spanish announce table.

– No one gives better chair shots than the Undertaker.

– Shouldn’t the Undertaker not be surprised when someone kicks out of the Tombstone at WrestleMania?

– Oof, Reigns tried to counter a Tombstone and it led to a very bad botch. Reigns called an audible and hit Taker with another Superman punch.

– Reigns isn’t afraid to swing that chair either.

– This crowd is going to be too tired to riot after Reigns wins.

– Undertaker has kicked out of two spears and Reigns kicked out of a Tombstone, which means the finisher kick out counter is now at 10.

Roman Reigns pins Undertaker after hitting a huge spear. This felt like a squash. Reigns controlled a good chunk of this match especially the final five minutes or so. Really thought Undertaker would hit another Tombstone.

– Undertaker sits up in the ring after Reigns leaves. Somehow he’s back in his entrance gear.

– If this is really it for the Undertaker, you have to wonder how he feels about that performance and the crowd reaction. There was just nothing left for them to give because IT’S AFTER MIDNIGHT.

– Taker is so close to losing it right now. There’s definitely some tears in that ring.

– THANK YOU TAKER

All right folks, that’s it for me. I hope you enjoyed the show. You can follow me on Twitter @ScottDargis