WWE

WWE Weekly Recap: The (Bad) Guy Roman Reigns

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For the first time in what seems like forever, Raw went off of the air with the crowd chanting “YES, YES, YES” for Roman Reigns.

Now, Roman wasn’t standing in the ring by himself, which helped me realize that I wasn’t in a parallel universe where the crowd universally loves him. Instead, he was standing next to Seth Rollins, who came out to “save” Roman from Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens.

We haven’t seen Rollins and Reigns interact with each other like this in over two years (Seth turned heel in June 2014). Wrestling fans love the return of nostalgia acts, so when Rollins cleared the ring and looked over at Reigns the crowd got that warm and fuzzy feeling because memories of The Shield came rushing back.

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WWE has struggled mightily to get Reigns over as a face since his singles run started in the second half of 2014, mainly due to the similarities his character had to #SuperCena. Once it became apparent that Roman was going to take the torch from John Cena and repave the road Cena created, the crowd revolted because they didn’t want to see another guy who kicks out of five finishers, while spewing off terrible lines of dialogue that even he isn’t buying.

The easiest solution would be for the company to turn Roman heel and let him eventually get to a point where he’s becomes so cool that the crowd cheers for him, but Vince is determined not to let the crowd dictate his product.

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This is perfectly fine because it is his company after all and if he has a plan for the guy who he has anointed as his next big star, he has to follow through with it. Here’s the problem though, the plan hasn’t worked.

We’re two years removed from when Roman was viewed by the fans as the ass-kicker in one of the most protected groups in WWE history. Now he’s getting booed while the evil foreigner is beating down on him.

It the time for an audible to be called in order to get Reigns to the level that Vince wants him at and we might have seen the first sign of a hot route being called on Monday night.

Think about it. Even though Seth’s babyface character has a lot of holes (he’s playing pretty much the same exact character that he was as a heel), the crowd is taking to him as a face because he’s so damn good in the ring and he was “screwed” by HHH. They will cheer for Roman if he “joins” back up with Rollins, which presents creative with an interesting opportunity to turn Roman.

If they let Reigns and Rollins stay connected for a bit after Survivor Series, it’ll open up the opportunity for Roman to lay Seth out. There would be a logical explanation for Reigns’ attack; he couldn’t trust Seth due to Rollins’ prior actions. It’ll be the continuation of the feud we saw earlier in the year, just with the roles reversed, which would be a nice twist to keep things fresh as we head into the new year.

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SmackDown LIVE

I shot over to the Prudential Center on Tuesday for the SmackDown Live taping and as always it was a fun time. Even The Roommate enjoyed some of the action, including the comedy stylings of Dean Ambrose and James Ellis(worth).

What was surprising to me when I talked about the show afterwards with a buddy was the level of crowd noise. He thought the crowd was just OK, but I thought they were hot for most of the show, which makes me wonder if the crowd noise isn’t being mixed properly.

The boos were loud for Carmella during her promo and it wasn’t “go away” heat by any means. The crowd was also SUPER hot for Rhyno during a tag team match during the Main Event taping.

Outside of Ellisworth being chased by security during the main event, AJ Styles got the best reaction on the show. There were a ton of the baby blue “they don’t want none” shirts being worn by people of all ages. A group of small children in my section were rocking them and then I passed by a couple dads in their mid-40s also wearing the shirt.

Sidenote: I got the chance to sit down with Mr. Styles for 20 minutes to talk about a variety of topics. So be sure to keep an eye out for that column (or two) in the coming weeks.

Now that’s a cheap plug Mick.

Was Raw better than SmackDown this week?

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Time to “Go Home”

Dude, what the hell was with the Bayley-Nia Jax segment. Not only did the match suck, but it did nothing to help Bayley’s momentum.

– Rich Swann is starting to get over. Just wait until he comes out in Brooklyn or Chicago and the crowd sings along to his theme.

– The battle royal for the spot on the Raw Survivor Series team was whatever, but I liked the final spot between Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn.

– Did Goldberg look blown up after hitting the Jackhammer, or was it just me?

– Remember when America Alpha had heat?

– Alexa Bliss and Carmella did a wonderful job with their promo time on Tuesday.

– How long can this Randy Orton-Wyatts feud realistically last? I mean no one is buying that Orton is actually with them, which makes me wonder if it’ll get dragged out way longer than it should.

– I hope the Spirit Squad gets signed to a full-time deal.

– Once again The Miz proved why he’s one of the best talkers on the roster.

– Charlotte is quickly climbing up the ranks of the top promos in the company. Calling the fans peasants will get major heat moving forward.

– So who is Natalya taking out to join the SmackDown Live women’s Survivor Series team?

– Sami Zayn is totally answering Dolph Ziggler’s challenge at SS right?

– The TJ Perkins-Brian Kendrick feud needs to come to an end. It’s not helping either guy and it damn sure isn’t helping the cruiserweight division.

– My favorite moment of the week. Drink it in maaaaaaaaaaaaaan:

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