“Weekly WWE Soapbox” is a weekly column where I run down my likes and dislikes from the previous week of WWE TV. You will see what I feel was the WWE Match of the Week, who was the WWE Superstar, Tag Team, Diva of the week, and more! This column will work with a Monday – Sunday schedule and be released on Monday afternoons.
Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns at Fast Lane: The WWE did some damage control on this past week’s Monday Night Raw by “tricking” Roman Reigns into putting his #1 contendership on the line at Fast Lane against the winner of Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins. Roman was made to look like a complete doofus while the evil Authority struck again! The idea of someone defending their Royal Rumble victory or their Money in the Bank briefcase is lame and devalues the prestige of the accomplishment. The WWE needs to make sure they are building up both Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns through this story. Yes, it will be difficult to build up both superstars while trying to elevate the Reigns Train over the Yes! Movement, but the WWE had to do something other than have Reigns take on the Big Show for the 17th time this year at Fast Lane.
It would behoove the WWE to shed their current format of having one #1 guy and everyone else is below him. Why not make John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Daniel Bryan the Tanahashi, Okada, and Nakamura of the WWE? If you prefer a WWE reference then the Hogan, Savage, and Warrior? Build the company around three top guys who can be in the main event of any PPV.
Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler at WrestleMania: Who actually wants to see this match? I have zero interest in this match if it takes place as a “Hey! We are two good wrestlers who want to STEAL THE SHOW and put on a good match!” I am sick and tired of Ziggler’s “steal the show” rhetoric. Dolph Ziggler is flat-out an overrated performer. Dolph is a good bumper, sure, but his promos are weak, he has never had a memorable singles match, and he does nothing to position himself as a star. As it stands, with Dolph performing the way he is, he would be better served as a generic jobber. Ziggler should just get some plain long blue tights, cut and dye his hair, and become Nick from Cleveland. Dolph could be the best jobber since Barry Horwitz. Nick from Cleveland would make the WWE Superstars look like a million bucks.
With that all said, if Ziggler costs Bryan his match at Fast Lane and this match is actually built with a good story, then my interest level will increase.
Adam Rose’s Mean Streak: On Smackdown and Superstars the Rosebuds dropped Adam Rose when he attempted the Trust Fall/Crowd Surfing shtick that he does before his matches. Each time Rose proceeded to attack all of the Rosebuds for embarrassing him. This was the most interesting Adam Rose has been since debuting in the WWE. It was vicious and added a much-needed edge to the Adam Rose character. It would be great to see Rose become the angry, ugly, and vicious Russell Brand who just spent the weekend on a heroine/alcohol bender and has to snap back into reality to wrestle so he can afford his next fix.
Total Divas: My wife and I have been binge watching Total Divas over the last couple of weeks. Don’t feel sorry for me, it hasn’t been that bad. My biggest issue with the show is that it isn’t 100% kayfabe or 100% behind the scenes. They try to play both sides and it just comes off as awkward. We all know reality shows are somewhat scripted anyways, but it doesn’t help when Jimmy Uso goes by “John Uso” on the show. His name is actually John, but his last name isn’t Uso. They also act as if winning and losing a match is not a chosen or scripted outcome. It would be really interesting to hear them talk about who was chosen to win a match and why. That is just a small sample of the issue. Speaking of scripted reality, you remember the awful Bella vs. Bella feud last year? When Nikki turned on Brie for seemingly no reason? And the story had all kinds of logic holes in it and came off as two petty sisters who couldn’t get along? During this same time Nikki and Brie were having “legitimate” turmoil on the Total Divas Show. Brie sat down with John Cena at breakfast and convinced him to break up with Nikki because Cena didn’t want to have kids or get married, two things that were Nikki’s dream growing up. The scenes during these episodes of Nikki and Brie fighting over this situation were way more compelling than anything that happened on WWE TV. Was this falling out on Total Divas scripted? Who cares! That makes all the more reason for why this storyline could have been more interesting than what we saw on WWE TV. If the Total Divas “script writers” are doing a better job than the WWE writer’s then we have a bigger problem than we had thought.
NXT Five Progress Report: The “NXT Five” consists of Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, and Hideo Itami. I am unsure of who coined the name of this group, but I dig it, and it is obviously a play-off of the “Smackdown Six” from the Paul Heyman era of SmackDown. Heyman devised a plan to build SmackDown around six key wrestlers (Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Eddie Guerrero, and Chavo Guerrero).
- Sami Zayn: Where did this guy learn to cut promos? Sami Zayn is the best in the world right now when it comes to a complete package of a wrestler. Zayn cuts compelling promos, always has a good match, tells the best in-ring stories, and looks like a star. Zayn spent over a decade on the Independents only cutting promos in broken English/broken Spanish under a mask as El Generico. They were always entertaining and show Zayn had a personality, but they were as intense as his promos now. If you aren’t excited about Zayn vs. Owens then you don’t have a pulse.
- Adrian Neville: Neville is a guy who has benefited from spending a couple of years in WWE developmental. Neville has learned the WWE style, how to tell compelling stories, and how to cut better promos. If you asked me when Neville entered the WWE I would have guessed he would end up in a Justin Gabriel or, at best, in a Kofi Kingston role on the main roster. Neville still isn’t cutting the best promos, but he has developed better as an overall character. His in-ring facial expressions and reactions really improved through the feud with Zayn.
- Kevin Owens: It is apparent that the WWE has big plans for Owens. Owens debuted in NXT two months ago and is already coming off as the most complete wrestler next to Zayn. As long as the WWE continues to let Kevin Owens be himself they will have a big star on their hands. I fully expect Owens and Zayn to have a four star – plus match on Wednesday night.
- Finn Balor: This guy gets it. This guy has WWE Superstar written all over him. Balor understands the presentation aspect of the WWE and puts on some great matches while staying within that WWE style. Balor might stick around NXT for a year+ just to work on those mic skills, but the rest is just superb.
- Hideo Itami: The furthest behind of the NXT Five when it comes to adapting to the WWE style and presentation. Itami looks like a shell of his former “KENTA” self. We have seen shades of “KENTA” come out in his recent matches with Curtis Axel and Finn Balor which looks promising. Itami started a step behind Balor from the get go with the language barrier that came with Itami knowing little English. When it comes to that aspect of Itami’s game, he has learned English very quickly. Japanese and English are such different languages that the rate of progression Itami has made is remarkable and proves that Itami wants to succeed in the WWE. This is a stark contrast to Mistico/Sin Cara and his lack of motivation to learn English despite the transition from Spanish to English being way easier than Japanese to English. I don’t know if that is what has slow Itami’s grasp of the WWE system, but the WWE is obviously invested in him as an international superstar so long as he continues to work at it. Itami has teased the Go 2 Sleep finisher twice now and each time the Full Sail crowd went nuts. It would be a truly great moment if Itami keeps teasing this until finally putting an opponent away with it in a big time match.
Paul Heyman addresses the Brian Williams Controversy: This was an awkward occurrence when this video appeared on the WWE Network. I received a notification on my phone that Heyman would be breaking into the Network’s regular programming to address NBC Nightly News Anchor, Brian Williams. Williams confessed to lying about being aboard a helicopter in Iraq that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Self admittedly I don’t watch the news all that often. I was scrambling to try to find out what Brian Williams had to say that was pro-wrestling (or “sports entertainment) related that the WWE would want Heyman addressing. I was scrambling to find out why the WWE all of a sudden trusted Paul Heyman enough to take on the task of talking about such a hot news topic. Turns out this had nothing to do with wrestling. So why is the WWE even addressing this?
The WWE does things like this to try to stay relevant in the public eye, but this just seemed out-of-place. Now, if this is a sign of things to come it could lead to some good buzz. Why not have Heyman step into the WWE studio for a few hours every week to film a 30 minute show of Heyman running down hot pop culture topics? Heyman is definitely the kind of guy that proactively keeps his finger on the pulse of things going on in the world, he has the gift of gab, and it could lead to some fresh content on a low-budget that could lead to some network subscriptions. These are the things that won’t single handedly lead to some Network subs, but adding original content always helps.
Wrestler of the Week – Finn Balor: Balor had another great showing this week on NXT and continues to look like a star. Balor had a really good match with Hideo Itami on NXT to go onto the final of the NXT Title #1 Contender’s tournament.
Tag Team of the Week – The Brass Ring Club (Cesaro and Tyson Kidd): There have been reports that these two are dead set on making this tag team work so much so, that they have been working out together in NXT to put together some tag team maneuvers. These two seem so committed to this project and more motivated to succeed in the WWE than we have seen from these work horses since their respective debuts. They had another excellent match against the New Day on Main Event. I see big things ahead for the Brass Ring Club.
Diva of the Week – Paige: This was a weak week for the Divas division. Both divas matches on NXT were just okay as were both of Paige’s matches against Alicia Fox on WWE TV this week. Paige continues to stand out on WWE TV despite her being given poor storylines, short matches, and little time to develop her character. Paige wins this week by default. I expect that to change on next week’s Soapbox post-NXT Rival.
Match of the Week – Bryan vs. Rollins on Raw: (honorable mention goes to Balor vs. Itami on NXT) This was an excellent showing from the two best in-ring performers on the WWE’s main roster. Over the last six months Rollins has been putting together quite the resume of great matches with opponents that give you just enough to whet your appetite, but leaves you hungry for more. This is especially apparent with Rollins against John Cena and Daniel Bryan. It would be great to see Rollins in long feuds with a long series of matches against either superstar. Daniel Bryan continues to be Daniel Bryan. Dude never has a bad match.
Quote of the Week: (about Becky Lynch) “…she’s the type of girl that wears the band’s t-shirt to their concert.” – Corey Graves
As a guy who spent every weekend in high school at punk/indie rock shows, I could relate to this comment. What a funny way to showcase the heel, Lynch, by calling her a punk rock poser.
Hidden Gem of the Week – The Miz vs. Roman Reigns on Smackdown: Say what?! Taylor has already jumped on the shark on the second week of the Weekly WWE Soapbox! Listen, the “Hidden Gem of the Week” is reserved for a match, segment, promo etc., that people might have overlooked and it is my job to point you back in the direction of checking it out.
Miz showed a mean streak in this match that we have never seen from him before. Miz was upset because Reigns knocked him out on Miz TV earlier in the night. Miz controlled the majority of this match and walked Reigns through a really good TV match. The Miz was the veteran ring general walking the young up and comer through a match! The Miz has been in the WWE for nearly a decade and is underrated as an in-ring performer, which was highlighted in this match. Roman was Roman, but his performance in this match wasn’t terrible.