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WWE Weekly Recap: Let’s Unwrap Some NXT Presents

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The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s now appropriate to sit back, relax, spend some quality time with family/friends while reflecting on the year that was. After all this is the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Who am I trying to fool? This is when we celebrate all of the new material items that are about to become part of our lives, especially the ones that we put on our lists of Jericho!

Some of the presents we receive are indeed items that we requested, but there are always some surprises, which usually end up being better than the objects we had on our greedy lists. Sometimes we don’t get what we want, which may seem like a bummer, but then we figure out that life is OK and it’s time to move on and enjoy the gifts that we did receive.

So how does this scenario relate to the world of WWE? It’s time to think about some NXT presents to inject life into the main roster. If you’ve been following the product during this dead period between Survivor Series and the end of the NFL season, you know how boring some of these shows have been.

Take Roadblock: End of the Line for example. The crowd heat was minimal to mediocre for the entire show because it was full of regurgitated pairings that we’ve seen for weeks now.

(Part of this was also due to the fact that the show was in Pittsburgh, which is notorious for producing lackluster crowds, but I’ll defend Pittsburgh here. There was nothing for them to react to, outside of the finish to the tag team title match.)

The main event combinations, especially on Raw, are equivalent to milk that had a Nov. 30th expiration date. The creative team is just going through the motions until Monday Night Football comes to an end.

After the final MNF game next week, the accelerator will be pressed on the Seth Rollins-HHH feud. Especially now that Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, and Roman Reigns are locked into the Universal title match at the Royal Rumble (Jericho will be suspended above the ring in a “shark cage”).

Next week’s SmackDown is shaping up to be better than Roadblock, but Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler don’t feel like a threat to AJ’s title, which is why I’m expecting an appearance from a certain deadman after the main event next Tuesday.

Now let’s pretend that it’s Christmas morning and you’ve just walked downstairs to a tree full of presents…

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The gift you had on the top of your list and it turns out to be just as awesome as you expected: Shinsuke Nakamura (RAW)

Before I get into the positives, there is a big negative with Nakaumra that needs to be addressed. He isn’t ready to cut an 8-10 minute promo at the top of the hour, which is one of Vince’s golden rules for top level stars.

If someone is in the ring with him for a talking segment however, he’ll be fine because his facial reactions are good enough to keep the crowd engaged while moving the dialogue along.

Now that the negative is out of the way, let’s enjoy the thought of Nakamura making his grand entrance down to the ring, while 12,000-15,000 fans go nuts and sing along. There is not one person on the main roster that is on the same charisma level as Nakamura. His energy is unique, which makes me a bit worried because Vince may not understand that the King of Strong Style just needs to go out there and do his thing.

He can work a long match without putting his body at risk because most of his moveset is simple punches and kicks. However, I do wonder what will happen when he hits an established star hard in the mouth. If a respected veteran complains about Nakamura’s style, he could be told to adjust it, which would be a buzzkill.

Man, after thinking this one through, I’m now worried that Vince and Co. will Nakamura, but unlike anyone else on the NXT roster, outside of possibly Samoa Joe, he has the tools to become a legit superstar. There’s a reason why he’s on the top of your list.

The gift you didn’t have on your list, but you end up falling in love with it: The Revival (SMACKDOWN)

Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder have been involved in two of the best matches this year (vs. American Alpha at Takeover: Dallas and vs. #DIY at Takeover: Brooklyn) and because of it, they’re now transitioning from being just straight heels into cool heels that get cheered because they’re too entertaining to ignore.

I’ve thought about how The Revival would fit on the main roster because both tag team divisions are in desperate need of new blood and then it hit me, they would be perfect as new members of The Club.

Yes, The Club gimmick has basically been killed, but it could easily be reignited if Dawson and Wilder showed up to help Styles retain his title in a high profile match against either Cena or the Undertaker. A dastardly move like that would instantly give them credibility on the main roster. Their personalities are a perfect match for Styles and the three would work incredibly well together in six-man tag formats.

I can’t stop thinking about how perfect this would be. I must calm myself down now.

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The gift you wanted and then a month later realized that it’s not so great: Tye Dillinger (RAW)

Every wrestler who has had to spend time rehabbing or training at the Performance Center has raved about spending time in the ring with Dillinger. It’s great that he’s finally found a gimmick that’s resonated with fans, but there is a visible peak to his character.

He’s not a main eventer. He’s a comedy act that could have a very nice run, but it’s easy to picture him falling into the trap of dead segments that eventually kill his character. If he was on the main roster right now, he would have been in the sensitivity training segment with Enzo this past Monday.

The rumor is that he’ll debut as the 10th entrant into the upcoming Royal Rumble, which is perfect. He’ll get a great reaction and the 10 chants will be even more over than they are now (it’s going to continue if Dillinger debuts or not), but the pop will eventually die down because Vince will get bored of him.

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The gift that you put on the list every year and every year you smile when you get it: Samoa Joe (SMACKDOWN)

Joe seems like another candidate to make his main roster debut in the Royal Rumble match. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in a similar manner to how AJ Styles debuted last year. Get him in early. Give him a shine spot with an established star and then let him stay in the match for 20-30 minutes.

During this past run in NXT, Joe really found his voice on the microphone, which like Styles, appeared to be Joe’s only weak spot. There’s no one else like him on the main roster right now because Kevin Owens’ style isn’t hard hitting anymore. Owens has become more of a finesse guy, while Joe is a brawler who has another gear that he can shift into when he needs to hit a high risk spot.

If you’ve followed Joe’s career, you know that he should be a main event player immediately because he’s capable of putting on a five-star match and talking you into the building. There’s a great story waiting to be told between him and Styles that would make for a great WrestleMania match if Cena and Undertaker wrestle for the title.

There’s also a dream match between Brock Lesnar and Joe that Vince has to give us.

Was Raw better than SmackDown this week?

hell-no

Time to “Go Home”

-Kudos to Natalya for cutting an excellent heel promo on Nikki Bella. You could hear the legitimate jealously in Nattie’s words and the crowd reacted perfectly.

– Bonus kudos to the writing team on SmackDown. Between Nattie’s promo and Miz’s line to Renee about sleeping with Dean Ambrose, this episode felt like a blast from the past.

– So did Braun Strowman just make the leap into the main event? Could we be getting Strowman vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania?

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– FINALLY the Styles vs. James Ellsworth feud is over. It ended perfectly and now it looks like Ellsworth is connected to Carmella!?!? Maybe she’s going to hook ol’ James up with Jane Ellsworth.

– So are Sheamus and Cesaro feuding again? I thought they became best friends after their bar date.

– Big E’s line about Charlotte passing Ric Flair’s title reigns in a month was easily the best part of Raw.

– Remember when Enzo and Cass cared about becoming tag team champions?

– I barely member

– So how long until we’re tired of seeing Bayley vs. Charlotte?

– Noam Dar was super creepy in his promo to Alicia Fox. Almost stalkerish.

– Apollo Crews finally looked like he was ready to be on the main roster this week; ditto for Baron Corbin who put on a nice performance against Ziggler.

– This version of Neville is awesome. I was shocked at how good of a promo he cut on Monday night. It felt like a year of frustration was channeled.

-Between Neville, Austin Aries, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Gran Metalik and Roderick Strong (total guess), the cruiserweight division is about to get serious af.

The Twitter Machine: @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