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.


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

It’s His Time: Jeff Jarrett will be inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame Class of 2018

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The phrase never say never is one that is used quite often in the world of professional wrestling. It’s a saying that is mostly used to drum up interest in a person’s potential return to a company or an unlikely dream match that sends the Internet into a tizzy.

But in this instance, the phrase couldn’t be more appropriate because Jeff Jarrett is the newest member of WWE’s Hall of Fame.

That’s right, J-E-double-F J-A-double-R-E-double-T is going into the H-O-F.

“I would have never dreamed that in 2018 I’d be going into the Hall of Fame,” Jarrett said to NBC Sports last week, “but as I’ve sat back and looked I said, ‘Welp, I guess there are some things that are just meant to be.’”

Considering how Jarrett’s tenure with the WWE ended in 2001, there are quite a few people who never thought the door would be open for Double-J to return.

When WWE purchased WCW back in 2001, Vince McMahon infamously fired Jarrett live on television. This wasn’t just a standard segment in which Vince “fired” someone, this was a legit termination:

For someone who grew up and then went on to succeed in the wrestling business, Jarrett understood Vince’s line of thinking, “Vince does a lot of things well,” Jarrett said. “And he knows how to produce great TV. To me that night was just good TV.”

Even though the wrestling landscape in the United States seemed dry after WWE purchased WCW and ECW folded, Jarrett wasn’t worried about his future after being fired live on television.

“It’s a business and I knew that I was going to be getting paid on my Turner contract for about another eight or nine months, so I didn’t even think to address it that night,” Jarrett said.

Just over a year later after his firing, Jarrett and his father, Jerry, launched a new pro wrestling promotion: Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. A promotion that would launch the careers of future WWE/NXT superstars including: AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Eric Young, and Bobby Roode.

But what if Jarrett wasn’t fired in 2001? What if he stayed in what was arguably the biggest transition period in the history of WWE?

“I’ve never been a guy to look in the rearview mirror and talk about what ifs, I’ve always been a guy who looks forward,” Jarrett said.

“I think from an in-ring perspective, I was just hitting my prime years in the early 2000s. I would have loved to work with the guys in WWE during that time period, but it wasn’t meant to be. I took my career in another direction and I’m glad I did so, but the Hall of Fame is another opportunity for things to come full circle.”

And boy, are things going to come full circle.

As of now, AJ Styles is set to defend his WWE championship against Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania. Styles was one of the first pieces of fresh talent that Jarrett gave a major opportunity to in the early days of TNA. Without Jarrett’s vision, who knows if the “Phenomenal One” would have blossomed into the standout performer he is today.

For Jarrett, the idea of going into the Hall of Fame on the same weekend that Styles defends the WWE title at the company’s biggest show of the year is poetic justice.

“I don’t believe in coincidences, only convergences and AJ headlining and me going in to the Hall of Fame is perfect,” Jarrett said. “He’s been a friend since the early days of our relationship and it’s been great to watch him progress as a performer. I can’t say enough about the guy.”

Not only will this be a special moment for all of the superstars on the WWE roster who were given an opportunity to learn and grow on television thanks to Jarrett, it will truly be a special moment for his family.

Professional wrestling has been a three generation business for the Jarrett family. Decades before Jeff and his father launched TNA, Jerry Jarrett founded the Continental Wrestling Association in 1977, which eventually merged with World Class Championship Wrestling to become the United States Wrestling Association.

Jeff’s grandmother got into the business in the 1940s and quickly worked her way up. Working in her promotion at the concession stand helped Jarrett realize just how viable the wrestling business could be as a form of income.

When Jarrett is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he’s going to make sure that it’s a memorable time for everyone in his family who has helped him achieve this career milestone.

“It’s a humbling honor and I will be accepting it on behalf of just not myself, but my wife Karen, who has had to go through ups and downs. My dad, my stepmom, my uncle, who just passed away. My grandfather, my grandmother on the other side of my family,” Jarrett said.

“It’s a three generation business, so I’m accepting it for everyone in my family because it is a family business. That is something that is so humbling to me. I’m the one who got picked, but it’s really an award for the entire Jarrett family.”

Jarrett stayed mum about his future plans, who reached out to him from WWE about going into the HOF, and wouldn’t reveal who will induct him into the Hall of Fame, even though he already has an idea of who it will be. However, he didn’t stay quiet when asked why this is the right time for him to join the collection of wrestling’s biggest names.

“Quite frankly I’ve thought about that. Who am I? Why am I going in now? They asked and I had to do a head-scratcher because it was literally a shock,” he said. “There are less than 200 wrestlers in the Hall of Fame and you think about the thousands of guys that have laced up the boots and I’m going to be one of those 200. It just doesn’t seem right in my brain.”

While it may not seem right in Double-J’s brain, the convergence of important dates in Jarrett’s life will come to a head when he walks up to the microphone for his speech in New Orleans.

“When I first heard about it I looked at my calendar and saw that the date of the ceremony is April 6, 2018 and April 6 of 1986 was the day that I had my very first match. So 32 years to the day is sort of surreal.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis



Shawn Michaels Q&A: Legendary Raw match with John Cena, the nWo, working with WWE’s future stars

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WWE will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Raw with a unique show on Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on USA. The show will emanate from both the Manhattan Center and the Barclays Center.

I had the chance to chat with Shawn Michaels about some of the memorable matches and moments he had on Raw throughout his career, his role in developing the next wave of WWE talent and one moment when he knew he was going to venture off script during a promo. 

I’m sitting here watching the match you had with Max Moon on the first episode of Raw and I’m wondering how it must feel to know that you’re going to walk back into the Manhattan Center and participate on the 25th anniversary edition of the show.  

“Well I gotta tell you, I hope that’s where I get to go. No one has made any decisions yet as far as I know. As much as I love the Barclays Center, I would rather get to go back to the Manhattan Center.

I don’t know that at the time I was mature enough to appreciate how unbelievably cool and awesome that building was.

It’s sort of like a rock band. They start out in those places and then you want to get to play in stadiums. As phenomenal as it is to be in front of 80 or 90,000 people in a stadium, it’s really hard to beat going back to those intimate places, filling them up, and feeling that electricity, that passion, that excitement in that environment.

For me if I were to get to pick, that’s where I would want to go back to, especially on that night.”

I imagine you had a similar feeling when you appeared in San Antonio as a special guest referee in an NXT show

“Yeah! The old Aztec is a great environment as well. It’s one of the things that NXT does that I really enjoy. They play a lot of similar venues to that. It was a great deal of fun. That is one of the many things about helping out with NXT and the folks down at the [Performance Center].”

So last night as I was prepping for this interview I went on a YouTube deep dive into some of your memorable matches and moments on Raw. The first one I want to ask about is your hour-long match with John Cena in London. I’m curious to know how that came together because it’s so rare to have a WWE match that pushes the hour long mark, especially one that’s on free television.

“So that turned out at the very end of our European tour that year. We had already been on the road there for over a week.

I found out what we were doing when I got to the building and was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’

When you hear that the match is going an hour, it seems like a long time, but when you’re working with someone like John so much … I’ve had the opportunity to go back and watch that match and it just flows right by. That’s obviously a testament to John and heck I’ll even pat myself on the back a little for that one (laughs).

It’s amazing how trying to do that hour-long match didn’t seem like such a big mountain to climb. It really helps when you have a history with someone. John and I were coming off of the WrestleMania [23] match and because of that, we had a decent amount of story points to work around, so it was easy.

It obviously doesn’t hurt when you’re in a phenomenal environment as well. Let’s face it, the folks in the U.K. are pretty easy to wrestle in front of. They are a very passionate group.

I gotta say that’s one of my favorite matches.”

Another one of my favorites was the match you had with Shelton Benjamin in the Gold Rush tournament. You guys made unexpected magic in the ring that night. Had you worked with him before that match, or was it something that just organically came together as you were talking it out in the ring?

“I don’t think Shelton and I worked together before that and we barely worked together after that. It was just something that came together. Shelton is a phenomenal athlete. There isn’t anything that he can’t do and he also makes everything look flawless.

One of the strengths that I bring to the table is that I can work to other people’s strengths. If you have a lot of them, that makes it easier for me (laughs).

It’s one of those situations where you have someone who can do anything under the sun and you’re not too shabby yourself and then it becomes just a matter of putting things together that makes sense.

It certainly helps when you’re building to a certain point in the match and the timing comes off perfectly and that’s exactly how that match ended.

I know there are a fair amount of times that I’ve tried to capture that lightning in a bottle again and I don’t think it’s ever turned out as well as that did.”

Agreed. The only spot like that I can think of that came close was the superkick on Rey Mysterio, but it just didn’t have the punctuation because that was during a Survivor Series match, so it was just an elimination, which is much different than the finish of a high-energy match.

“Yes and that’s the thing. You know it is just special and when somebody asks to do it again you go, ‘Uhhhhhh we can try it ….’ I certainly knew that when it happened that it’s something you don’t mess with. You shouldn’t try to go back and do it again.”

I stumbled across the promo you cut at the beginning of Raw in Montreal in the summer of 2005. You were working with [Hulk] Hogan at that point, but obviously the only thing the crowd cared about was Bret Hart. It had to be an unbelievable feeling to know that you had everyone in the building eating out of the palm of your hand.

“That was one of the few times after I came back in 2002, where I went out there and there was absolutely no way that I was one, going to hit any of my time cues and two, that I was going to stay anywhere remotely close to the script.

That was a situation where everyone who knows anything about this line of work felt the same way as the crowd, so no one was going to be angry about it because the moment was perfect.”

Another little random moment in time is when you returned in 2002 as a member of the nWo. The group’s run was cut short due to Kevin Nash’s injury, but do you know how the storyline was supposed to play out? It seemed like we were going to get to a point where the group consisted of you, Nash, Hunter and X-Pac.

“That is a phenomenal question and I honestly don’t know where it was supposed to go because I had just gotten back to WWE. The extent of it, that I knew, was that Kevin was supposed to work with Hunter at the next Pay-Per-View.

(Writer’s note: Triple H appeared on the next PPV, Vengeance, in a segment backstage where, in storyline, SmackDown commissioner Stephanie McMahon and Raw commissioner Eric Bischoff tried to convince Triple H to sign with their brand, but Shawn Michaels persuaded Triple H to sign with Raw and then Hunter turned on him the next night when they appeared as D-Generation X.)

I know that we had turned on Booker and then we turned on [Big] Show, but I honestly don’t know where it was going because I was just finding my footing and didn’t know enough to be asking someone, ‘Where is this going?’

I had no intention of wrestling at that point and then of course so many things changed after Kevin went down. I need to hunt someone down and find the answer.”

In an interview you talked about fading into the background, but now here you are working at the Performance Center and helping out with NXT. What was it about being down there that made you want to get involved?

“It’s honestly the environment at the PC. Matt Bloom, Sara Amato, Terry Taylor, Robbie [Brookside], Norman [Smiley], Steve [Corino]. There are just so many great people who are there to do one thing.

Everyone is pulling the rope in the same direction. Absolutely nobody is trying to prove anything to anyone. Nobody is looking to do anything but help these young men and women have an opportunity to go out there and do what we had a chance to do.

It doesn’t work if all of those men and women you work with are all pains in the backside, but they’re not. If there was something that stuck in my craw I’d tell ya, but that’s what drew me to it.

For me, it was a situation where I looked at it and said, ‘Oh my goodness, all of the stuff that I absolutely love about this business is here and all of the stuff that I don’t care for and that I don’t feel like doing again are also here.’ It was just an absolutely perfect situation. It’s infectious and you feed off of the desire and the passion.

And then of course the direction and the vision of the people who are running that place. I’m not even talking about Hunter. He’s my buddy, obviously, and I can hang around him no matter what, but it’s what Matt and Sara and everyone else brings to that place.

It’s just a fun thing to be a part of and it’s fun be a part of the wrestling business.”

I have to imagine it’s great for someone like you who has so much experience in the business to help people when they’re struggling to find the answer with something and you can call back on an experience that will help them understand how to solve the issue.

“For sure and also getting them to think in ways that they might not know, or even more importantly, letting them know that what they were thinking about was right.

It also helps them because I was a risk-taker during my career. I’m certainly less structured than almost everybody else there (laughs). There’s a little bit of a rebellious gunslinger in me and that’s something that might be a part of some of them and I think those are the people who can be put with me and we can see where it goes.

I think they understand that if I say it’s too much, then it’s probably too much because let’s face it, there isn’t much that I think is too much.”

So what talent has stood out to you down there?

I love my guys. That’s [Johnny] Gargano, Roddy (Roderick Strong), Velveteen Dream, Adam Cole, Drew McIntyre, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe, [Tommaso] Ciampa, Authors of Pain, they’re doing great.

But as I’m learning now, there’s so much talent worldwide that I think the wrestling business is in great shape for the future.

What makes NXT standout to me in this clustered landscape of professional wrestling is the way it blends old school storyline building blocks, but with a new school twist in terms of in-ring style.

“I 100 percent agree with ya. It’s all of the sort of stuff that you like about the old school wrestling, but it’s done in today’s style. I think it’s a perfect dose of both.

Again one of the things that really helps down at the PC is, I’m not the bitter old timer (laughs). I encourage the change, I encourage the evolution, but it’s important for them to hear when they need to slow down. I tell them, you won’t slow down as much as they probably want you to, but neither did I. It’s all a learning curve.

I think it’s important for them to know that people said the same things to me when I was that age.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis