WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: The Reality of the Disposable Era

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Remember when Batista defeated Mr. Kennedy for the World Heavyweight Championship in 2007?

Nope.

Or the time John Cena defeated Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship at The Great American Bash?

Doesn’t ring a bell.

What about the classic seven-on-seven elimination tag match between The Nexus and Team WWE at SummerSlam in 2010?

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Don’t be ashamed, there’s plenty of people who don’t remember those matches.

Quite a few of them attended SmackDown last Tuesday when The Miz stunningly brought out what’s left of the Spirit Squad to confront Dolph Ziggler about his “disappointing” career. Kenny and Mikey did their usual shtick and while it was a fine performance, the crowd had no idea who these two male cheerleaders were.

This is an accurate depiction of what the crowd sounded like when their music hit:

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Ten years ago, the Spirit Squad was involved in a long feud with D-Generation X. They were linked in storyline to Vince and Shane McMahon, which is very important in the world of WWE. In other words, this was an act that was pushed up to a main event program with four of the most important guys on the roster at that point.

So when The Miz reintroduced the Spirit Squad last week, you would think the crowd would respond with a nostalgia pop that everyone gets when they make their return to WWE television.

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Even the pockets of hardcore fans that always make noise at WWE shows were silent as Kenny and Mikey made their way down to the ring.

The lack of reaction for the SS got me thinking, is this an isolated incident, or would a good chunk of the talent from 2006-11 receive a similar reaction if they returned to WWE?

Sidenote: WWE’s unofficial eras are as follows:

  • 1982–1993: The Golden Age
  • 1993–1996: New Generation Era
  • 1996–2001: The Attitude Era
  • 2001–2002: The Invasion
  • 2002–2008: Ruthless Aggression Era
  • 2007–2013: The PG Era
  • 2013 – 2016: The Reality Era

(Thanks for the layout Wikipedia. Note, I made some changes/updates to the list.)

If Montel Vontavious Porter’s music hit or if the guitar screeched for John Morrison’s entrance, would anyone in the crowd care? What about Carlito, Shelton Benjamin, (he was a star a bit earlier than 2006, but it feels like he belongs in this group) or Bobby Lashley?

When you think about the period of time WWE romanticizes (Monday Night War/Attitude era ’96-’01) there’s a strong case to be made that most of the product from the last decade is Disposable.

Here’s a good example: Lately WWE has been running commercials for WWE Network featuring packages of highlights focused on Ric Flair, DX and John Cena. The Flair ad is marketed towards fans of 80s-early 90s wrestling. The ad featuring D-Generation X is for fans of WWE’s most important era, while the John Cena ad is for all of the little kids who just can’t get enough of him.

Even though Cena is technically a member of the Disposable Era, he’s Generation Z’s Hulk Hogan. Making a WWE Network commercial around the idea of going back and reliving Cena’s biggest moments is a great idea.

The problem here is, the only other main eventers who are still on the roster from this time period are Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, The Miz (he headlined WrestleMania 27, so I have to include him here) and Brock Lesnar, who works like five days a year.

The rest of the guys in prominent roles during that time period are either in the mid-card, wrestling for other companies or working for CollegeGarageSale.com.

There’s little reason for anyone to go back and watch a random Pay-Per-View event from 2008 on the Network, so most of the guys and gals who filled out the roster during this time period are going to be forgotten.

By my count, there are only four guys who could return from this period and receive a sustained main event reaction, CM Punk (highly unlikely that he’ll return), Rey Mysterio (ain’t happening) and The Hardys (this is a fascinating case because would they be BROKEN or just “The Hardy Boyz?”).

(I thought about including Cody Rhodes, but I don’t know how long the crowd would stay with him. I didn’t think Batista was worth mentioning because most of the crowd would chant “Bluetista”.)

#FlashbackTweet incoming:

Back when rumors were flying around for the draft, there was a push to bring back talent from the D.E. Here are the names that have decided to return to WWE: Jinder Mahal (hasn’t made an appearance on Raw in weeks), Curt Hawkins (let’s face the facts, this gimmick is going nowhere) Shelton Benjamin, and now the Spirit Squad.

Instead of bringing back guys from an era that has no significant meaning in WWE history, it’s time to raid NXT in order to give the roster another shot in the arm (especially on SmackDown) because more acts like the Spirit Squad will inject the audience with a dose of anesthesia.

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Why is no one following the buzzards?

Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton was the final match at No Mercy last Sunday and the crowd sounded exactly like they did during the Spirit Squad entrance on SmackDown. This felt like a main event at the end of a bad three-hour edition Raw.

The low level of crowd heat was rivaled by the tag match between Kane-Orton vs. Wyatt-Luke Harper on Tuesday night. When Kane received the first hot tag of the match, you could have heard a fart in the crowd. Orton did all he could to get the crowd into his hot tag, but not even crickets cared about the finish of the match.

So what’s wrong with Wyatt? I think it’s likely a combination of his placement on the card (he’s never “won” a major feud, I’m looking at you Mr. Hustle, loyalty and respect), and his promos (at first they felt groundbreaking, but over time, they’ve devolved into nonsense; when Wyatt speaks, he should be pushing the envelope instead of rambling for four minutes).

Wyatt is a solid worker in the ring, but that doesn’t matter if the crowd doesn’t care about the story that’s being told on the microphone. He isn’t talking anyone into the building for a match. Instead, he’s talking them to boredom.

(The cat GIF from earlier applies here as well)

The wacky backstage segments between Wyatt and Orton certainly didn’t help the build for their match at No Mercy, but the creative team is in a tough spot when they have to write something for Wyatt. His character is supposed to be a cult leader with a splash of supernatural abilities, but in this day and age, a crowd just isn’t going to respond to it the way a crowd in the 80s or 90s would have.

The character isn’t dead by any means, just look at the reaction his entrance gets every week, but there is some serious rehab that needs to be done if he’s ever going to crack the upper mid-card barrier that he’s been stuck underneath for years.

Was Raw better than SmackDown this week?

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Time to “Go Home”

– James Ellsworth did the one thing you’re not supposed to do when taking the Styles Clash (tuck your chin). Luckily for Ellsworth, Styles recognized that Ellsworth was out of position and adjusted on the fly by landing on his feet.

– AJ usually lands on his knees, but moments like the clip below must have made Styles realize that he needs to look down before landing on his knees.

– Anyone else cringe when Shane talked down to Styles? Felt like a Stephanie segment.

– I thought the crowd reaction to Ellsworth “pinning” Styles was really weak. The finish to the match felt sloppy and disconnected because the crowd couldn’t properly heat up for the three count.

– I know I say this every week, but Jericho really is on fire right now. His smile when Stephanie told him that he would be inserted into the title match at Hell in a Cell if he beat Rollins was hilarious. Crossing her off of the “List of Jericho” was also a nice touch.

– So Dolph Ziggler wears a Hype Bros. shirt during his opening promo, but Heath Slater and Rhyno come out to make the save when Miz and the Spirit Squad start beating him up. #Logic

– I thought Miz’s promo to Ziggler was fantastic and made Ziggler look like such a geek.

– “He killed Kenny!” – Mauro after Ziggler superkicked Kenny.

– Paul Heyman is a master at his craft. Instead of just talking up Brock for five minutes, he made Goldberg’s return feel incredibly important and got a very loud Goldberg chant going.

– Kudos to the New Day and Cesaro/Sheamus for making a botch by Kofi feel like it was a planned spot.

– Braun Strowman should probably bench the running dropkick.

– The wrestlers participating in the Cruiserweight Classic had to legitimately weigh in at or under 205 pounds. There’s no chance in hell Sin Cara is under 205 pounds with the way he’s been hitting catering.

– Kudos to creative to thinking they could use Sasha Banks to help Roman Reigns get a positive reaction. It didn’t work in the opening segment or their awkward backstage interaction, but his leaping spear on Rusev while Sasha submitted Charlotte got a very good reaction.

– The Survivor Series challenge issued by Shane and Daniel Bryan felt so scripted. These two need to be in front of a live crowd for segments like this.

– Rollins vs. Jericho was an excellent TV match.

– I have no idea what to make of Sanity’s theme music.

– Please Vince, PLEASE let this happen:

Follow me on Twitter: @ScottDargis

Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs leads Republican Primary for mayor of Knox County by 17 votes

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MY GAWD IS THAT THE FUTURE MAYOR OF KNOX COUNTY, TENNESSEE?

After 100 percent of the precincts reported their data, Glenn Jacobs, known to wrestling fans as “The Big Red Machine” Kane, is leading the Republican nomination for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee by just 17 votes.

The race isn’t over just yet though. According to the ABC affiliate in Knoxville, there are still provisional ballots that need to be factored in, so an official winner won’t be announced until next week.

Jacobs has worked under the umbrella of World Wrestling Entertainment since 1995. After announcing his candidacy last April, he’s been seen very sporadically on television. The last time he worked a match on TV was the main event of the March 26th edition of Raw against John Cena.

Adam Cole: I want to have the biggest personality in the room and not just on the microphone

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Before Adam Cole heads to the Smoothie King Center for NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, this Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on WWE Network, I chatted with him about how much he’s learned during his time in NXT, what makes the NXT crowds special and what it was like to meet Shawn Michaels. 

About a year ago you said that if you made the jump to WWE that you would want to start off in NXT as opposed to going right to the main roster, flash forward to now and you’re an established star in NXT. Is this part of your journey everything you thought it would be?

“Yeah for sure. When I come into a situation, especially like this one in NXT, my goal is to get to perform in front of these fans, to get to wrestle with these guys, who are in my opinion, some of the best wrestlers in the entire world. I felt like I could fit really well in this environment and I think I have. To get the chance to do what I’ve done here so far has been a total blast and so much fun.

But at the same time it’s exceeded my expectations in many ways. I’ve gotten to do things in NXT, and even WWE, that I didn’t imagine I would get the chance to do. Very happy with the journey so far.”

In what ways have you grown as a performer since coming to WWE?

“There’s just such a better understanding of who I am actually as a performer. You fall kind of into … I don’t want to say a routine because you’re always trying to improve and get better, but when you wrestle for certain organizations time-and-time again, you kind of fall into this routine of performing a certain way and having matches a certain way. Also, after a while you’ve wrestled everyone over-and-over again.

Getting to come here and getting to wrestle a bunch of new talent, some guys I’ve met before and some guys that I’ve never met before. It puts you in a situation where you learn to adapt and change, whether it be character wise, things that you do in the ring. It just gives you new challenges.

I’m teaming a lot more with Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, so that throws me into a different situation as far as learning to wrestle as part of a team as opposed to working solo most of the time.

Also the fans, I’ve noticed in each and every promotion, even though there are a lot of similarities in many different ways, NXT is a totally different animal.

Overall, adapting has been the biggest growing point for me.”

Interesting, in what ways are the NXT crowds different from the other promotions you’ve worked for.

“The NXT fans to me are in love and so infatuated with the characters. So to me when you see a guy like Velveteen Dream or No Way Jose and the way that they’re so invested in them as performers, not even necessarily with what they’re doing between the ropes, but in their entrances.

I feel the connection with the audience is just so much greater than anything I’ve felt before. It’s pretty incredible, especially when you’re at TakeOver events.”

When I watch the backstage segments with you, Kyle, and Bobby, they come off like old school nWo style promos. Obviously the music playing in the background, which sounds like a new age nWo theme, and the camera angles help, but it’s the natural chemistry you guys have on camera because it seems like you’re just having fun and being yourselves on camera. I would imagine it has to be awesome to just bounce off of each other while filming those.

“Oh man yeah, it’s so much fun. I think that’s exactly why it comes off that way. Me, Bobby, and Kyle are as close as it gets. That’s not just a performance. I’ve known Kyle O’Reilly since 2009 and I was in his wedding. I’ve known Bobby Fish for years and years, we used to travel together all of the time. We talk every single day.

So when we’re there and we’re talking in front of the camera, that’s just us having a good time and I think that’s a big reason why the group works so well. It’s very natural because it’s very real. So I think in turn how we project ourselves comes off as fun because we are genuinely having a great time together.”

Speaking of coming off natural, you come off so natural on the microphone. I talked with Ronda [Rousey] this week about where she’s at in terms of speed while talking in front of the live audience and then I asked Roman [Reigns] about it and he talked about how he was able to process the idea of taking his time to make sure he stopped rushing through his material.

Is the speaking part of the business something that you were able to gravitate towards and get comfortable with quickly?

“I think so. There is a constant growth process. I think that’s why I love this job so much. There’s no such thing as completely perfecting every area of it, you’re always trying to get better at it.

For me, I picked up the promo aspect of pro wrestling much faster than the actual wrestling part of it. I was always fairly athletic and I could do things even from the beginning of my career, when I was 18 and 19 years old. I was always the guy who could always string words together and found what I was saying to be actually believable however I was trying to come across, whether that be somewhat likeable or somewhat of a jerk.

I don’t know why that is, but I remember as a kid just being so fascinated by guys who were good talkers. Even in movies. I used to love the way James Bond villains would act and how cool they came across and how awful they seemed, but what they were saying was so believable.

I’ve always been fascinated by guys, especially bad guys, who were able to talk a certain way, tell stories with their words and just paint this beautiful picture for that you just completely rode along with. I’ve focused a fair amount of time on making sure that promos were something I really focused on.”

Your in-ring style is very interesting to me. You’re a smaller guy, but you work a style that is similar to a lot of bigger guys and it’s because of this slower pace that the spots actually mean something, especially when you build up to the climax of a match. Is that a pace that you’ve always had, or was there a certain point where you were like, OK I need to slow down now and figure out what works for me?

“That was something I developed over time. When I first started, I was definitely a guy that was doing every move under the sun and I was going a million miles an hour and just trying to wow the fans as much as I could. I thought that was the way to get them invested in me. Don’t get me wrong, that style is very impressive, but I on purpose work a certain style. It’s very important for me to do that.

It’s obvious that I’m not the biggest guy in the world, but I want to have the biggest personality in the room and part of that personality isn’t just on the microphone. That’s the way I have to project myself in the ring as well.

All of my favorites in this business really took their time. They made everything they did mean something. Every movement they made had a purpose and that’s the type of performer I’m most comfortable being and that’s the type of performer I want to be too.”

There are so many performers doing unbelievable things we’ve never seen before on what feels like a weekly basis now, but after 20, 30 minutes go by and the match ends, I’ve seen so many big spots that it just feels like a blur, where as your matches build up to a few big spots that are easy to remember.

For instance, I watched your match with AJ [Styles] in Ring of Honor recently and you guys worked such a slower pace, but it built up to a huge finishing spot that is going to stick with the viewer. When I come across a match like that one it just feels so different in comparison to a lot of the matches we’re seeing nowadays.

“Sure, sure. You bring up AJ and he’s the king of that. AJ is a guy that can do anything under the sun. He’s one of the most athletically gifted guys there is, but AJ is able to place his stuff and put it in situations where he has the fans completely in the palm of his hand.

He knows he can do anything, but he knows that the biggest reaction he’s going to get from the audience is working a certain style and taking them on this ride by building a story within the match.

Doing a million things is very impressive, but if you forget 90 percent of it, it’s kind of a shame.”

How many times has someone come up to you at the Performance Center and said you look like Shawn Michaels?

“(Laughs) More times than I can count. Whether that be at the Performance Center, whether that be fans. I think I get at least five or six tweets a week about how I look like Shawn Michaels. To me it’s just a giant compliment.”

Has he said that to you?

“Yeah! When we first met he said, ‘A lot of people tell me that you and I look alike and now that I met ya I see what they mean.”

Who is somebody in NXT that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with yet that you’re looking forward to getting in the ring with?

“I’ll tell you what, I would love the chance to have any sort of a program with Velveteen Dream. I think that guy has so much potential. He’s so good now. His understanding of the industry for his age is unbelievable. His natural talent is the same. I watch him, I’m captivated by what he does, so to get the chance to be in there with him in some capacity would be great.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis