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Mitchell’s WWE Backstage Report! (2/25/20)

The Bellas and Daniel Bryan go Backstage!



WWE Backstage 2020

You can look, but you can’t touch!

WWE Backstage welcomes two 2020 Hall of Fame inductees, Nikki & Brie Bella! What will the Bella Twins have to say about the great news?


Renee Young introduces the panel!

Booker T is always here for your “champagne wishes, caviar dreams,” and some custom Jordans. “These ain’t no Vans!” What’s wrong with Vans? They shut the company down because no one buys them anymore. Renee defends Vans on behalf of her custom David Bowie Vans. Well that’s David Bowie. But moving on, we have Mark Henry again, and Captain Charisma is back! Christian the Backstage Buddha, that is. Make that his lower third.

But just days from WWE Super Showdown, things reached a boiling point as the Road to WrestleMania rolls on. And once again, Backstage has…

Just the Highlights!

From SmackDown: The Symphony of Destruction sequel was even more destructive than the first! The Bella Twins were announced for the 2020 Hall of Fame class! Naomi beats Carmella to be part of a historic match for WWE Super Showdown! And Goldberg didn’t play The Fiend’s games and gave him a SPEAR! But will things go as smoothly in Saudi Arabia?

From Raw: The Beast, BRRROCK! LESNARRR! Was back on the air and Paul Heyman gave one last ultimatum to Ricochet and Drew McIntyre, that Lesnar would make “minced meat” out of both of them. A brawl broke loose as the Raw Women’s Championship Contender’s Elimination Chamber contract was signed! Seth Rollins was able to #BurnItDown and stomp it out on Montez Ford! And disciples come from all walks of life, and that includes referees! The Viper benefits from the Monday Night Messiah’s message having reached the “heart” of one young such official, and it pissed Kevin Owens off! Kevin made the referee pay, but when will Rollins have to face the consequences?

The panel discusses this week in WWE.

Raw masterfully mixed two big stories together, and Kevin got stuck in the middle. Is Christian glad to see a fellow Canadian stick up for Edge? He is, because this will help enhance both stories. Kevin’s motivations were logical and great, and it is also relatable. Randy Orton “on cruise control” is still better than 99% of the roster. But then a motivated Orton is even greater. Renee looks forward to Beth Phoenix showing up on Raw next week. Henry adds that the Canadian connection was great, too. Booker says that’s what you’re supposed to do. And he also likes Kevin and Orton in their roles.

All wrestlers get to a point where they go, “Why couldn’t I have figured this out 10 years ago?!” And there is where Orton is now. Orton cutting a promo is like having coffee in the morning with hazelnut creamer, “it’s tasting real good.” Orton is painting the best picture, is Shakespearean on the mic, everyone can learn from this. Christian notes Orton is in full control.

Renee wants to talk what’s up with the “Winnipeg Screw Job” and the crooked ref. Henry says it’s a bit disappointing, but it does work as a layer to the Rollins story. Kevin’s character figured out “there was a snake in the grass,” even before Rollins did. Booker notes that it really does keep the memory of the Montreal Screw Job alive, because it’s all Canadian! Christian says Canada is Screw Job Country.

Moving to SmackDown’s side of things, Naomi is once again a contender for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Bayley did her best to change that but WWE Super Showdown sets up Bayley VS Naomi. For one, it is great to see a women’s title match in Riyadh, and Henry says Naomi getting the spotlight is great. Naomi is doing everything she can to bring prominence back to the Women’s Division. Naomi’s match with Bayley showed that she belongs, and Henry is sure Naomi will be in the title scene to stay. Booker notes that it’s Black History Month, “all the brothers on the card should win the titles.” But Naomi is definitely worthy. Her time off did wonders for her. Booker knows she’ll be a great champion, she just needs time to get there, to up her game. He says she’ll win.

Christian says Naomi is one of his favorites, her time is coming again, but maybe not at Super Showdown. We’re so close to WrestleMania, let Bayley carry that title in, and then let the title change happen there. Booker wants buzz! The buzz faded from Bayley, so put it on Naomi! Henry says the fans are all behind Naomi, but Christian says that could build even higher towards Mania. Henry doesn’t understand why it always has to be about Mania. Make it right now! Christian argues slow burn but Henry says Naomi’s on fire now.


WWE Backstage spots a tweet from TSN Sports.

“Drake’s got something to say,” with the hush emoji. He’s Drake Two Belts with his WWE World Championship and throwback Hulkamania world championship belt replicas! Will the Toronto Raptors retain their own NBA championship this season?


WWE Backstage look back on the Bella Twins’ journey.

It was 2008 when both Bellas debuted, as they pulled off some classic Twin Magic when one Bella went under the ring, and two came back out! Nikki and Brie would each be WWE Diva’s Champion in their careers, with Nikki setting the record for longest reign at 301 days in her second reign. Nikki would also main event the WWE’s first-ever all women’s PPV, Evolution, in 2018 against Ronda Rousey. And of course, the Bellas led the charge in reality TV with Total Divas, and then their own spin-off in Total Bellas. Both shows got mainstream exposure onto WWE and women’s wrestling, and allowed the Bellas to blaze a trail into other ventures, such as fashion, wine and podcasts. And with WrestleMania season reaching the peak, the Bellas add one more achievement to the inspiring list: Hall of Fame inductions!

The Bellas are Backstage!

Nikki and Brie already sit with Renee and are both proud of their baby bumps. How did it feel to get the call about going into the HOF? So many things. The day they got the call, Brie thought Nikki did or said something to get them in trouble. Even Nikki had to think back just in case. But they called Vince McMahon back and were shocked to hear the news! And then they were overwhelmed with gratitude. Having worked hard for so long, and then for the man who gave them their opportunities to call personally and be so nice, it is still surreal. Even seeing that video package, it’s still hard to believe they did all that.

Renee asks that with everything they did inside the ring and outside the ring, what moments stand out? Brie says the Divas Search in 2006, where they were actually rejected at first, is crazy to think about. Footage plays for everyone to reminisce on, and the Bellas can’t believe they were so young and used to dress like that. Being denied there but working hard to get another chance was a major part of their lives.

Nikki says that using “Twin Magic” and then having Total Divas help show they’re still individuals, which then translated to the ring, “Fearless Nikki” and “Brie Mode” and their reigns and big matches, so many moments make the list. The Bella VS Bella feud was hard, Renee even felt that one. Nikki promised Brie at the time that a lot of the emotions might be aimed towards Brie, but it was about a lot of other things, too.

Renee notes how the Bellas were even part of Florida Championship Wrestling, FCW, and then ended up being a big part of the Women’s (R)Evolution in WWE. The locker room changed a lot. When the Bellas started and it was still the Diva’s Era, the women were always fighting for more time, but it was selfish fighting. Each woman wanted time for themselves. But as time went on, it was about the women all fighting for “the match,” to bring everyone up together. The women all realized that it was a fight as a group. NXT call-ups came in with the same vision, and it all made them a strong “force” to be reckoned with.

Renee brings it back to when Charlotte Flair and Paige were last on WWE Backstage. They had their own comments about how the Bellas were already great wrestlers during the Diva’s Era. But when they were against women that wanted to wrestle, that helped the Bellas elevate even more. Charlotte praised Nikki growing as a wrestler, and she got to have a great match with Ronda Rousey. It is women working together to help the entire Division. The Bellas appreciate all that. And for their perspective, “It makes you better. Mentally, physically, because you’re working with women that are so athletic.”

It’s like the Super Bowl, teams working to become THE champion, and you’re playing the other great team of the league. It’s the best versus the best, and that is what we all got. Nikki got to face some of the best women in wrestling today, and she raised her game to match and created magic. It is magical when you work together, and both parties make each other better. Renee notes the preparation for her match with Ronda. How hard was that for Nikki? Nikki knew it was Ronda Rousey, an icon in women’s fight sports. Fearless Nikki wasn’t enough, she had to be more aggressive. They only trained for 20 minutes but Nikki literally felt the difference in Ronda’s strength compared to others. Nikki went in feeling she had to be Goliath for Ronda’s David to conquer.

Brie adds that growing up in soccer, teamwork makes magic. The Bella Twins worked as a great duo, the give and take. And again relating to the locker room mentality changing to be about the matches, not the individual stars, it is as Paige said about the entire division coming together. Renee says the Bellas were such great locker room leaders, they all miss Nikki and Brie.

But with all the accomplishments, like Total Divas, Total Bellas, Bella Radici wine, little Birdie and the new babies on the way, they have created a Bella Empire! What’s next? They have their podcast and YouTube channels, and they have another wine line coming down the pipeline. Brie and Nikki having retired from the ring, they have all these entrepreneurial ventures now, and with a purpose. Renee commends them on busting their butts, and knows the Bellas will stick around to discuss even more.


WWE Backstage presents another edition of: Wrestling with Your Feelings, with Rachel Bonnetta!

The Street Profits are set for a Super Showdown, but they’re hesitant to go in. Once you knock on the door, you- Rachel can hear them through the door! Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins go inside and take a seat. There are no alcoholic beverages allowed, she’ll have to take it away. Ford makes a move and Rachel says he needs to not lash out like that. She allows his drink one time, if he leaves it with her administrator, Susanne. Susanne’s a nice lady, she makes great banana bread.

Rachel wants to discuss Ford calling himself, “King Tez.” Why is he so full of himself? Is this therapy or a roast? The WWE Roast of Montez Ford. How does Dawkins deal with this? Dawkins won’t let her burn Montez. Rachel wants them to have a session a week for the next year. The next year!? Yes, and they will work on “this” every week. Ford blames Dawkins’ emotions but Dawkins blames Ford’s energy. Do not bring that cup into her office again. Unless he’s willing to share. Rachel wants a sip? Well they’ve got all year now. Laters! Susanne! Where the banana bread at, fam?

The panel discusses.

When is Booker T stopping in for therapy? Not until Rachel changes that sweater, she’s been wearing that since the first one. Renee says Rachel is professional, it’ll be fine. But the Super Showdown is coming, so let’s talk how to…

Pay It Off!

The panel previously discussed the Street Profits needing to get down ‘n’ dirty. How should they walk away from Super Showdown? Booker says Rollins & Murphy have been performing at a very, very high level, while the Street Profits are still coming up. The Profits will be tag team champions one day, just not Thursday. They still need time to grow, be ready for that title scene pressure. Drew McIntyre will tell them all about that. Christian agrees that the Profits are entertaining on the mic, almost like Edge and Christian. The connection with the audience in that way is good, but there also needs to be the connection with the audience in the ring, and that takes time to figure out. Those singles matches were really good, but the Profits will have their time.

Henry says that Christian and Booker were legitimate tag team wrestlers in their time, and that is where the Profits are. They are the tag team, while Rollins and Murphy came together as individuals. That isn’t a tag team in Henry’s eyes. Christian notes that it’s because they’re the top faction on Raw right now, and only just won the titles. Rollins is the established star for sure, giving validation to this reign. The Profits haven’t had the time to be there yet. Christian as a tag team guy, he and Edge still didn’t win titles right away, it took some time. Booker concurs. Renee says the match will be great either way, but now moves the conversation to SmackDown’s “unstoppable force” and “immovable object.” Renee of course means Goldberg and The Fiend having an encounter to close the show!

Goldberg didn’t flinch when The Fiend appeared, and SPEARED him down instead! Henry starts off by saying that as great as it would be for Goldberg to be Universal Champion again, The Fiend still has too much steam and value right now. The Fiend will go forward, even with Goldberg going at him. Christian says again that he’s a fan of Bray Wyatt as a generational talent. Goldbeg is iconic, so The Fiend beating him will do so much more to enhance The Fiend. Booker says The Fiend won this title at the last Saudi Arabia show while Goldberg had a different kind of moment at that same show. But now, for both of them to collide in the return trip, “it’s going down.” There is a moment to be had, but in whose favor?

Renee brings things to Ricochet challenging for the WWE World Championship against Brock Lesnar, and last night he proved he can beat a big man. Ricochet took on Luke Gallows and hit a HUGE Shooting Star to do it! But how does this go then? Booker says Ricochet looks GOODT and a rocket will be strapped on him, someday. Super Showdown is going to be Ricochet going down in flames against Brock Lesnar. But how bad is Lesnar going to make it for him? Lesnar will put Ricochet through pain! Henry says Ricochet is going to Suplex City, and there’s nothing anyone can do it. Christian knows Lensar is one of the best, and has had some of his best matches with smaller guys. Ricochet ups his stock just by having this match, but nope, it’s not going Ricochet’s way.


The WWE wishes a Happy Birthday to Ric Flair!

The Rolex wearing, kiss-stealing, wheeling dealing, jet flying son-of-a-gun, “the greatest of them all” turns 71! And to celebrate, Flair went to watch Pelicans VS Lakers, and cut a very complimentary promo for LeBron James as “the greatest athlete in the world today!” WOO~!

The Bellas join Henry and Renee, as they all know the Nature Boy very well. Henry starts with his best PG Flair story. Henry’s first time meeting Flair was after a show, and they’re at the hotel and he sees Flair in full Ric Flair mode. Flair is stylin’, profilin’, buying drinks, #Naitchin’. And then Henry walks over and Flair climbs up on the bar to dance and throw off his jacket and asking some lady to get up and dance with him. She does, and Henry was just in awe. And that’s how Sexual Chocolate was born.

Brie has many great memories, but her favorite was just before she retired. Flair invited her and others out to dinner, and he could tell she was conflicted. Brie knew women’s wrestling was getting to a great place but she wanted to start a family with husband Daniel Bryan. Flair told her that the greatest match in life is being a parent. Brie understood, and those words stick with her to this day. Nikki’s memory will stay PG, too, and it was her and Charlotte for the Diva’s Championship. The fatherly advice Flair gave Nikki was so touching, because he cried proud tears for them both. Renee says her first interview with him in Virginia, “Virginia’s for lovers!” The fans went nuts! Just feeling that Ric Flair energy is next level. Another happy birthday to Ric Flair, and wishes for many more!


WWE congratulates Tyson Fury on his big win!

February 22nd, Fury VS Wilder, HHH was there backstage with Fury as Fury was pumping himself up for the fight. As posted by BT Sport WWE’s Twitter channel, Fury jokes that if he has to, he’ll Choke Slam Deontay Wilder down. The Gypsy King had his throne, The Bronze Bomber had his crown, but in the end, the WBC Heavyweight Champion would be the undefeated Fury! The Rock was there to congratulate Fury and the family in person.

Booker T sits with Christian. If Fury were to come back, how would they book him? Fury VS Baron Corbin for the one true king of fight sports. Booker notes Corbin is just as tall, just as strong, and was a Golden Gloves winner in boxing once, so that would be a great match-up. Christian likes that pick, but wants Fury VS Booker for choosing Wilder. But seriously, it should be Fury and Strowman together again, with Elias on the side, against a faction like Rollins, Murphy & AOP, and then when the King, the Monster and the Drifter win, they can sing a cover of American Pie. Booker admits choosing wrong, and congratulates Fury on becoming the new WBC Heavyweight Champion.


It’s the WWE Backstage Main Event!

Ron Simmons, The Rock, Booker T, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston. Just some of the names in a lineage of Black world champions in WWE. Black History Month is almost over, so Henry and Booker discuss their own journeys in this business. “Book, here we are.” Two men who made it to this level. They loved the journey, but there were others, like Ernie Ladd, who told Henry that he did great, and the company was doing great things with African American talent. Just don’t mess it up for everyone after him. Booker says Henry the Olympic caliber athlete had that going for him, but Booker was “just a kid from South Park.” Booker was sneaking to the other side of town, acting like a wrestler.

Booker remembers Ox Baker telling him, “Kid, can I talk to you?” He saw Booker’s talent, but told him there’d be a lot of obstacles. Booker didn’t need to be told those obstacles, and Baker told him to find ways over, under and around those obstacles. “But with your talent, I think you can do it.” Ox set Booker straight, as did Tiger Conway. “You gotta know how to be a champion in the ring, as well as out of the ring, all the time.” Henry also remembers meeting Conway. You are to make it known to the promoter that you’re going to be on time all the time, that you are reliable. Because when the promoter knows that, they’ll put you in the segments and moments that matter, the moments that make you better.

Henry says he was fortunate enough to be in the Nation of Domination. He had Ron Simmons and The Godfather, these veterans, who taught Henry, D’Lo Brown and The Rock things. Because of those teachings and blessings, those three rose up to be their own individual star stronger than before NOD. Booker notes having his brother, Stevie Ray, watching his back. Winning the world championship was never a thought in Booker’s mind, even as Stevie was telling Booker he was “prolific.” Booker wasn’t even sure what that word meant, but Stevie kept talking him up. Someone else told Booker that he’d be a future world champion, and Booker still didn’t think about it. Booker just wanted to be the best guy in the locker room, to be the best role model for young Black kids watching wrestling. And in the end, that led him to the world championship.

Henry knows that blessings and support systems are great. He’s done his best to be a support system in the WWE Performance Center and NXT. WWE Backstage puts up a great picture of all the young and developing African American talent, both in and out of the ring, at NXT currently. Keith Lee, The Street Profits, Bianca Belair, Mia Yim, even “Wrestle & Flow” Josiah Williams, have all come and gone through the developmental system. Such a system wasn’t even a thing during the days Booker T and Mark Henry were coming up. In fact, there was only a handful of Black wrestlers in WWE or WCW at the time, for maybe eight total. Now, the future looks bright, with Bianca leading the way.

Booker wants Henry to pat himself on the back for that. They surely inspired this generation to do it, and that is thanks to exposure. Exposure on screen, exposure backstage with the ability to go talk and share and mentor. If you’re willing to work hard, come in early and go home late, be reliable, Henry will vouch for you. Booker says that your word is your rep. If you can’t live up to that, you can’t be here. Booker’s Reality of Wrestling gives half a chance to so many, because once you get your foot in the door, it’s on you to carry it the rest of the way. That is all Booker wanted when he started, to show how good he could possibly be.

Henry says they could go on and on all night, the past grooming them for the future. But they thank Fox, WWE and WWE Backstage for this opportunity.


WWE Backstage has a Bella Flashback!

It was June 17, 2019 when Nikki and Brie showed off their soccer skills and their wrestling moves to Fox Soccer Tonight.

But now, in the present, Nikki and Brie team up with Henry and Christian, respectively, for a super showdown of their own. It is the diaper change challenge! Henry and Christian will work to change the baby doll’s diaper, clothe it, and chugging a bottle. AKA this is an audition for babysitting duties. Christian promises to make this “Brie-zee for sheezee.” Henry says that was lame, which is why Christian’s not in the Hall of Fame. But on your marks, get set, GO! Diaper stage is pretty neck and neck. Christian gets a lead into the dressing, but Henry catches up fast. Christian gets ahead with the shirt but Henry is still hot on his heels. Be gentler, it’s a baby!

Christian already makes it to chugging! Chug, chug, chug! And breathe. Henry just gets to the bottle stage, and takes off the bottle top!? Is that allowed?! Well Christian does it, too, so it’s even. Henry chugs fastest! The World’s Strongest Babysitter wins! Henry “feeds” the baby, and the moms-to-be each get a gift basket. WWE Backstage shirts and Ric Flair dolls, among other things. Congratulations to the Bella Twins on both the HOF induction and the babies on the way!



My Thoughts:

A really fun episode again this week. I think WWE Backstage has really found its stride, as well as the sweet spot of how much to talk about kayfabe and how much to do shoot. Clearly the Bellas were just as surprised to be chosen for the 2020 class as we fans were, but after Charlotte Flair and Paige made it known that the Bellas were as much a part of the squash that sparked #GiveDivasAChance and the WWE Women’s (R)Evolution, I would hope some fans are lightening up on them. And all the stories of Ric Flair and of the journeys Henry and Booker took were great segments, too. If anything, that is the real charm of Backstage: the real stories and memories we fans get to hear on television, from the real people that lived them.

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Mitchell’s Raw Talk Resport! (4/5/21)




WWE Raw Talk

It’s a WrestleMania Week edition of Raw Talk!

Before everything that happens at WrestleMania, Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman and the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions sit down for some Raw Talk!


Kevin Patrick welcomes us back to the show!

He and Xavier Woods are excited to be discussing the last Monday Night Raw before WrestleMania, and Woods starts with good news: he got another win over the PHENOMENAL AJ Styles! And now, all that’s left is for Woods and Kofi Kingston to defeat Styles & Omos at WrestleMania to retain the W, W, E, World, Tag, Team, CHAMPIONSHIPS~! Kevin says he’s making it sound too easy. Well no fight is ever easy, but if you don’t go with confidence, you’re bound to lose. A life lesson right there.

Kevin asks if Woods saw Bad Bunny and Damian Priest in the ring. That was wild. Footage replays and Woods says that he’s gotten two “sneaky pins” on Styles in a month. Woods is certain that is how and why he and Kofi will win. Then they got into the “crowd” of the ThunderDome screens to feel that energy. We’ll get that again this year, since fans are back. Kevin asks if he and Kofi are being a bit too certain accepting the match, but Woods says no one does tag team better than them as the eleven time tag team champions! They accepted because who haven’t they beat? The New Day beats you, you break up or get drafted elsewhere. So Woods & Kofi were chomping at the bit for fresh competition. Omos & Styles better have registered so we can have this match. And Woods likes to show that you don’t need to have everything to be a great sports entertainer.

Woods says if you’re not nervous before you compete in the ring, especially on a stage like WrestleMania, and especially now that fans are back, then you’re not trying. Of course there are butterflies, but the New Day have been here before. Omos hasn’t. Then what is having fans back going to be like? Clearly Woods is buzzing. He can’t wait. Wrestling is built upon the energy of the fans. You pace your breathing off the breathing of the crowd, the energy flows through everyone and you become one in a philosophical way. It was weird to not have fans. The ThunderDome is great, the closest thing to having fans. But having fans there, that will be the sweetest feeling.

Kevin brings it back to Bad Bunny. Woods talks with such great amount of respect. The respect of Bunny, Priest, Miz and Morrison, it’s nasty. A $3.6 MILLION Bugatti got defaced! WHAT?! Woods can’t believe it! That’s so bad. For Woods, if he had a $3.6 MILLION anything, and you mess it up, you’re done! Woods would end you. But Bunny says he has respect, so now he is going to knock someone’s teeth out. And as a tag match, Priest is there with Bunny, this could go either way. The Archer of Infamy long-shotting Miz & Morrison to Bunny’s music is going to be awesome.

And then, all we saw with Lashley and McIntyre tonight, talk about whetting the appetite for Saturday. Those two standing tall, Lashley’s challenge to take out McIntyre didn’t go well. Kevin called MVP out a bit on it but MVP said it wasn’t cowardly, it was business. Corbin tried to cash in but no go. Woods says that’s how it is with McIntyre, he overcomes insurmountable odds. But Lashley, this new immovable force, but now he has to put up or shut up. No Hurt Business, no one put a dent in McIntyre, this is final boss stuff. Can McIntyre overcome a man as dominant as Lashley?

We’ve seen this power from Lashley, but not on this level. Lashley is in a different zone as champion, and will be in that zone at Mania. Woods can’t be sure McIntyre can handle it. But Lashley is just spot on! Well we can ask McIntyre as one of tonight’s guests! The Scottish Warrior, the Monster Among Men and the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, all after a quick break!


BRAAAUN~ Strowman joins Raw Talk!

The Monster Among Men is here, Kevin says he disposed of Elias and Ryker, and the steel cage awaits. This has played out just as Braun has wanted, right? Absolutely. Shane’s thrown speedbumps at Braun, even back in November. Shane was the reason Braun got suspended for headbutting Adam Pearce, and then has dangled false opportunities over his head. Shane is just a bully. Braun’s dealt with that, he talked about that earlier. When Braun locks the cage and is in there with Shane, it’s not just Braun he’s in there with. Shane’s in there with the millions upon millions who get verbally abused for no reason. Braun didn’t deserve anything Shane’s done.

Maybe it’s because Braun’s a hard worker and deep down, Shane knows he’s lived a “posh” life and has a chip on his shoulder. Maybe Shane’s hollow inside. IT could be why he’s targeted Braun over this stuff. But Braun will do as he said, slam Shane down in the middle of the ring, and not just for his satisfaction but for everyone out there that knows you can overcome your limitations. It’s okay to be different. Braun’s been different his whole life, wanting to be normal, until he realized he never will be normal and shouldn’t have to be. He embraced what he was given, and after that, well we’ve seen what he’s done. “When you believe in yourself, other people believe in you, as well.”

Millions of fans support Braun and live, breathe and feel with Braun. The pain, the heartache. Braun is doing this for them, the ones told they’re not good enough. Braun will show the world that you can overcome the bullies and the fears in your life, and wake up that they’re on this Earth for a reason. This world wants you here, so leave your footprint on it. Woods says he noticed this transformation. He saw Braun when he debuted, he’s fought for different things over his career. So now, he’s fighting for people and their hardships, that is a different Braun.

Woods remembers destruction for the sake of destruction Braun, or for a title. But now Braun is focused on fighting for a group of people. Does Braun feel that change? How important is this to him? Is this new motivation the secret? Braun says it is. It is the outreach from his fans around the world, as well as his friends and family who have seen what he’s gone through. Braun is so big he’s breaking his chair. But Braun “isn’t supposed to be here.” In 2015, Braun ruptured discs, those cut his nerves, and he couldn’t fee his left leg. He needed emergency surgery, but the amazing medical staff here in the WWE, better than any other group anywhere, they got him to the NUMBER ONE neurosurgeon.

An hour after the surgery, Braun got up and he was walking around just fine. There was a 45% chance it wasn’t going to work, and he still only has about 80% usage of his left leg, but knowing what he’s gone through, knowing that his family has had similar situations. His aunt is a paraplegic but got the high school team to their first state championships, and these last 35 years, in a wheelchair, has taught students to be that much better. Braun’s own mother was almost killed in a car accident. Braun’s seen hard times people go through just to live their lives, and that is what has made Braun the man he is today. Braun’s own mind made him think he wasn’t going to amount to anything, but he had those pillars to lean on.

When his family could’ve given up in the harsher times they’re going through, he had to keep going. He got into the best shape in his entire life, and is inspiring more people to change their eating habits, get in shape. Braun has so many messages from people’s personal transformations. All of you give him the energy to go out there and break his body, miss moments in life, from weddings to funerals to birthdays, for YOU! If he can do it, anyone can do it!

Kevin wants to talk tactics real quick. This is still a steel cage, and Shane is brave and experience. Why a steel cage? For weeks and weeks, Braun’s tried to #GetTheseHands on Shane, but he was always out of reach. Braun is sick of chasing him down, so now the door closes and there’s nowhere to run or hide. Shane is stuck inside one of the most devastating structures in the WWE, and with the Monster Among Men. Woods is pumped up! “Two men enters! One man SURVIVES!!” Woods wants Braun to tear Shane up! Kevin wishes Braun luck, and Braun hopes Shane sleeps well because he’ll see him soon. Kevin isn’t sure he’ll sleep well, but that steel cage match happens this Saturday.


Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler & Reginald join Raw Talk!

The WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions and Nia’s “boo” are here, and Kevin is sure they’re all buzzing for WrestleMania. Nia says they are, because they handled Asuka & Rhea Ripley. Well, with a little help from the self-destruction of that team. Well, debatable, because they were probably going to win anyway. Nia is offended by “the new guy” Patrick. DO you know how long they’ve been champions? Probably the longest reigning Women’s Tag Team Champions ever, across all brands! Respect to New Day, of course. But respect from Kevin, please!

Woods brings up that there will be a Tag Team Turmoil, with a lot of teams in it, but the champs are fully confident they’ll rip the heads off of whoever. Is there a certain pair they’d rather face over the others? Or is it all equal? Well what does Shayna do best? She breaks people and brings their limbs home. Everyone in that Turmoil has the same limbs that work the same way. As far as Shayna’s concerned, it doesn’t matter. Nia is on the same page. There is a team that they have their eyes on from SmackDown. Natty & Tamina might’ve jumped Shayna while Nia wasn’t looking, but- Shayna says Nia was actually- No, shush.

Natty & Tamina have looked strong and fierce, when no one’s looking, but Tamina is also blood. Nia will not forget that Tamina is fierce, just like Natty, and is one of the veterans. Isn’t she like the #BOAT? Shayna doesn’t pay attention so she has no idea. Well out of all those teams… The Riott Squad? The longest partnered team there, and they gave Nia & Shayna good matches. Naomi & Lana? How many times will they keep getting up? Team TikTok right there, that’s all they do now. Triple T, TTT. Kevin doesn’t know what TikTok is. That might be a good thing, but shush, Patrick. And then Mandy & Dana. All teams have their little slice of whatever it is, but in the end, Nia & Shayna will walk in and walk out champs. Maybe flip out, a la Reggie. He’s not Nia’s tag partner, Shayna is!

Woods asks if Reggie will be there. Shayna doesn’t want to talk about him. He has nothing to do with this. Does he at least have wine picked out? Nia is intrigued. Just for Nia, yes. Oh, in French, even. Woods only knows omelette du fromage. Kevin asks Shayna in a singles capacity, Rhea walks in and just asks Asuka for a match for the title. What about Shayna? Yeah, Shayna’s been asking that, too! Everyone saw that Shayna can just easily kick Asuka’s teeth out. She feels disrespected? Absolutely! But to be fair, if it had been Shayna who stepped up to Asuka, Asuka would NOT have accepted because she knows what’ll happen. Rhea’s the unknown here, it’s fine. It’s the safer bet for Asuka. Shayna put Asuka out for how long? A bit. But Asuka beat Shayna back. Shayna says that doesn’t count.

Nia says that whenever THE Shayna Baszler is ready to go for the Raw Women’s Championship, she’ll go right to the source and challenge them, whoever it is, and then beat them. Shayna hopes Kevin has better questions than this. Woods asks one. When these two first became a team, it was like butting heads. Now there’s this chemistry. Why do they think this has happened? Are they getting used to each other? Or are they agreeing that no one can stop them in the tag division? What is this friendship built on?

Nia agrees they did clash before, but they’re similar that they know how dangerous they can be, and that they want gold. Once they realized that being together benefitted them more than being against each other, that brought them together as a team. And then Reggie is helping. Shayna says Reginald has nothing to do it. But it was quid pro quo. They may not like each other, but they decided to get the titles, and they have, so it worked out. Do they like each other then? They get along. Reggie confirms. They’ll surely get along on Sunday, right? Nia still wasn’t there when Shayna got jumped.

Ugh, get over it! They’re gonna walk in as champs, walk out as champs, and that’s the end of this because Kevin has crap questions! Nia storms off, Reggie follows, and Shayna says Kevin needs to work on his questions. Woods wishes them good luck at Mania as one tag team champ to another. And after the break, the Scottish Warrior will be here!


Drew McIntyre joins Raw Talk!

Kevin and Woods are excited to have McIntyre here, and Woods wants to say first, he isn’t sure if he’s ever seen McIntyre with a shirt on. What is this? It looks great! McIntyre says it does feel odd to be fully clothed. But he enjoys this shirt so much, thanks WWE Shop, and he models it. It is a soccer, or rather football, jersey style shirt, with “McIntyre 321” on the back. Y’know, football? As in you hit the ball with your feet. Not “egg chase” or whatever America does. Well what about Rugby?

Kevin is pleased to see McIntyre in good spirits after Raw. Corbin stepped up, tried to take up Lashley on his offer by taking McIntyre out, but McIntyre took care of him. The path is clear and McIntyre can win back the world title. Starting with Corbin, McIntyre says if he’s checking his jaw, that’s because an elbow from Corbin really messed up the inside of his mouth. Maybe people have forgotten, but not too long ago, McIntyre, Corbin and Lashley were rolling together and took out all sorts, like Braun. McIntyre knows Corbin well, and he’s not the kind to be messed with. You can make jokes, and there are a lot, but Corbin is big, bad and does whatever it takes. That was a physical match this close to Mania. McIntyre had to be on his game, and the Claymore always wins.

Woods adds to that by saying one of the biggest matches in McIntyre’s career, he again goes into Mania to fight for that title. Last year was Brock Lesnar, that must’ve felt incredible to climb that mountain. Now he has another mountain to climb in Lashley, a man who had three extra people at his disposal to help him in this endeavor but got rid of two because he’s that bad. Tried to get the rest of the locker room to get McIntyre but that didn’t work, either. McIntyre is at the final boss, and Woods asks if he has what it takes to win. McIntyre thinks, and says, “Yes, 100%.” Mania last year, that was the ultimate test in Brock Lesnar, “an absolute animal.” McIntyre took that opportunity to show he could beat absolutely anyone and be the top star. That was validation.

This entire year, main-eventing PPV after PPV, big matches, WWE Championship matches from Extreme Rules to Hell in a Cell, growing his confidence. McIntyre kept his eye on everything else. While McIntyre did all that, Lashley was doing the same, rising up. Lashley thought he was being clever, going under the radar, but McIntyre knew it was only a matter of time. Lashley attacked after the Elimination Chamber match, set Miz up to take the title from McIntyre, all so Lashley could take the title from Miz. McIntyre knew the logic behind that, Lashley knows he’s badass but can take Miz. Work smarter, not harder.

Lashley could get hurt facing McIntyre, so he let someone else try to take him out for him. If someone had taken McIntyre out, at least get him to 20% and injured, then Lashley could take McIntyre down that much faster and get paid the same. Didn’t work out, and now McIntyre is going into Mania at 100% against a 100% Lashley. This is a throwback match as two “elite heavyweights” go around, not just holding onto each other but throwing down and moving around. This will be entertaining and physical as hell. But it’ll be the same as tonight, BOOM! Claymore to the face, McIntyre again WWE Champion.

Kevin wants to pretend no one is watching and asks if McIntyre has any potential advantages. McIntyre says that has to be a joke, everyone’s watching Raw Talk! True. But talking about laying into each other, what does McIntyre see in Lashley that he’ll go after? MVP is in Lashley’ sear. Every time McIntyre taunts Lashley, MVP is there to keep Lashley calm. Lashley is a fighter, a warrior, has the experience. Last week, McIntyre dared Lashley to go after him, offered a free shot, and Lashley wanted to. There are few people, if any, with the combination Lashley has except for McIntyre. And this isn’t new, this isn’t the first-time-ever. They’ve fought before, they’ve paralleled each other, in and out of the company in other big matches.

But now, in this time, they’re both firing on all cylinders, they’ve both reached the top, and they’re both in the main event for the WWE Championship. It’ll be one hell of a match, but again, McIntyre got his moment last year and it wasn’t what he expected with no fans around. But 25 thousand will sound like 400 thousand at Raymond James. Woods asks about those travels, fighting in and out of the WWE and now he’s here. What does it mean for McIntyre to go through that journey and see someone across the way with that parallel? And then to meet that person on the Grandest Stage of Them All, for the greatest prize of them all, what does that feel like? “It’s indescribable.”

McIntyre’s talked a lot about Lashley and everything else, the cheap tactics and all that. But McIntyre’s seen that journey, has supported Lashley for a long time, and just wishes Lashley didn’t take the route he take to the finish line, but nonetheless, this is really cool. Two guys who have put in the work, inside and out of the ring, seeing each other in the gym, working on the mic, they know who they are now, it’s cool. To see where Lashley is, to know where McIntyre is, it’s time to show the world that they are the top of the game. Kevin is ready to see this on Saturday! Save your money on Godzilla VS King Kong, you’re getting that right here at WrestleMania!

Kevin thanks McIntyre for his time, Woods wishes him luck, and McIntyre hopes to see everyone at Mania! And with that, Raw Talk ends and hopes to see you on the episode after Mania!

My Thoughts:

A very good episode, a bit longer than normal because this is the WrestleMania go-home edition of Raw Talk, so it clocked in at 34 minutes. Braun had good passion but he also got a bit fumbly like he did on tonight’s Raw. I do like that the banner he is waving going into Mania is about persevering through hard times, especially physically. Braun continues to be this rare breed that Vince should be all in for making anything and everything to get fans onboard, but Vince just keeps missing the mark every time. But this promo here should be all the more reason Braun wins over Shane at Mania.

Nia & Shayna had good stuff, and I do like that they’re both reluctant to admit they’ve got good chemistry and banter and all this other stuff that’s very “buddy movie,” where at first they clash but they learn to respect the other and work together. Who knows if they stop being that with WrestleMania, but I do like that Nia praised Natty & Tamina for stepping up. Maybe we get Nia & Shayna VS Natty & Tamina, maybe we get the Riott Squad again, but I feel like one of the SmackDown teams really need to get these titles to freshen things up.

McIntyre also had a great segment, naturally, and it was great for him to reference continuity where yes, he, Corbin and Lashley were these three giants who for whatever reason were teaming together over and over. That never went anywhere, but it shows the familiarity of McIntyre with both those guys and why he respects them enough not to take them lightly. McIntyre VS Lashley is perhaps an example of a lot of great story they could’ve been using, but Vince just again missed the mark because he doesn’t get it or thinks fans won’t get it or something. This could’ve been a build that fit the history and the hype but has so far not. The match will still deliver, though, I’m sure of that.

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News From Cook’s Corner 4.5.21: After War, Before Mania

NJPW has a shaken things up, and Mania week is about to kick off! Cook sets us up for the biggest week in professional wrestling!



Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’m Steve Cook, and I hope you all had a Happy Easter. Or just a Happy Weekend if you’re not into bunnies, eggs or Jesus. We don’t judge here at the Corner.

It’s been a very exciting weekend. Baseball is back! My Reds actually won two games and put up a bunch of runs against the St. Louis baseball team in the opening series. It’s always exciting when the Reds manage to take that series because it’s just an honor that St. Louis allows Cincinnati to play against them so often. Just incredible for the Reds to share the field with one of the greatest teams in the history of Western civilization, the franchise that sets all the rules & standards for how the game should be played.

Don’t believe me? Just ask them!

College basketball also had itself a weekend with with the Gonzaga & UCLA men putting on a show Saturday night, while the Arizona women sent UConn packing the night before. They had an exciting championship game with Stanford too. I don’t know when the West Coast became the epicenter of college basketball, but I’m here for it. We can do with more of them & less of these southern & eastern teams we’re usually subjected to this time of year. Variety is the spice of life, am I right?

So there’s a lot of good stuff going on these days. Since this is a wrestling news column, I should probably also mention that this is the biggest week of WWE’s year. Got a little thing called WrestleMania coming up on Saturday & Sunday. NXT TakeOver on Wednesday & Thursday. Hall of Fame airing on Tuesday. Raw, SmackDown on usual days, and various media appearances from your favorite WWE Superstars.

We might get to that. Lots of news to talk about first…

Wednesday Night War Ends, Both Sides Win/Lose

NXT’s big move was finally made official last week. After this week’s episode featuring the first night of TakeOver, NXT will be airing on Tuesday nights on USA going forward. This is great news for wrestling fans that like having something to watch on cable/satellite television every single night, as Impact Wrestling’s move to Thursday ensures that there will be weekly wrestling shows every weeknight. It’s also great news for Internet wrestling reviewers, who no longer have to pick one show to review live.

Honestly, it’s only bad news for people that love to tweet about the ratings every Thursday. Not sure what those people are going to do with their time now, but I’m sure they’ll find something. They always do!

As for AEW & WWE’s NXT brand? Well, this whole thing has resulted in good & bad news for both sides.

Good News For AEW!

Dynamite dominated NXT in the ratings for most of the time period. The past 52 weeks saw NXT beat AEW four times in overall viewership, and zero times in the 18-49 demo the people love to talk about. Hard to argue with that type of success against your main sports entertainment competitor.

TNT is happy. They extended Dynamite pretty early in their relationship with AEW, and have given Cody & Brandi Rhodes’ reality show the greenlight. Cody also got a slot on the Go Big Show on TBS. Shaquille O’Neal & Snoop Dogg appeared to help cross-promote other Warner Media properties.

Bad News For AEW!

AEW had 1.4 million viewers for their first episode of Dynamite. A good chunk of that audience never came back, at least not for a live airing of the show. While they were drawing more viewers than NXT was, they weren’t growing their audience.

Recent numbers haven’t been great. The episode featuring Shaq did a pretty big number, but things have been trending downward since. The Revolution show-closing fiasco seems to have had a negative effect on AEW business, though it’s far too soon to tell whether that will be a long-term hindrance.

Good News For NXT!

NXT even being on USA in the first place was a good sign for WWE’s relationship with the network, and that’s only grown during this time period. Peacock’s on board with WWE Network now, NXT is factored into USA’s plans no matter what night it is, and things are good.

There’s a very good chance that NXT will win the ratings war this week. TakeOver always generates interest, and the AEW card didn’t look like its strongest of all time. NXT could go out on a good note!

I also think they’ll gain more from being on a separate night than AEW will being by itself on Wednesday night. AEW fans are diehard, but more of them seem willing to flip over to NXT during commercials or other times. People watching NXT are going to stick with NXT.

Bad News For NXT!

Now, this is going to be a bad week for me to say this since the brand always delivers on TakeOver events. But overall, NXT’s quality has gone down since the move to two hour weekly shows. More does not always equal better, and I think more NXT has served to make it less special. Which you wouldn’t have thought considering how many people are under contract and chilling at the Performance Center. Theoretically, more time would mean that more people would get a chance to shine. This hasn’t necessarily been the case.

The “cool factor” that NXT once had seems to be largely gone. There was a time period where people told me that they didn’t even consider NXT part of WWE. Even though it was, it didn’t bother these people. Nobody’s saying anything like that now. They all know NXT is part of the WWE machine, for better or worse.

And this is just idle speculation on my part, but it sure seems like the Wednesday Night War didn’t help Paul Levesque’s influence within the company. The recent upheaval at Talent Relations tells me that Vince McMahon wants other people making hiring decisions than who’s been making them. NXT isn’t producing stars at the rate that WWE wants them, and we can blame whoever we want for that, but at the end of the day the blame’s going to go a certain direction that won’t be the top.

Competition supposedly creates better content. I think at this point, the best thing that can happen is for AEW & NXT to be on separate nights. This way, they can focus on themselves and trying to make a better show instead of trying to pop a rating to beat the other guy.

Peacock Is Jericho

WrestleMania hasn’t been the most talked about upcoming WWE Network/Peacock show in recent days. Nor has it been TakeOver or the Hall of Fame show. It’s what will be streaming after Night 2 of WrestleMania ends, the newest Broken Skull Sessions show. Steve Austin’s interviews are usually pretty fun, but this one seems especially newsworthy since it involves somebody not currently employed by WWE…Chris Jericho.

Some say it’s a shot by WWE at AEW, wanting us to know that they don’t see them as competition. I don’t know how much that plays into it, but I can tell you why WWE, Peacock, Vince McMahon & anybody else with a say is ok with Steve Austin having Chris Jericho, a former WWE Superstar currently under contract with AEW, on his show.

They think people will watch.

It’s that simple, folks. WWE, AEW & any other wrestling company worth its salt bases the lion’s share of their programming ideas off the idea of drawing viewers. Not doing “alpha moves” or trying to bury people or whatever excuse we try to come up with in attempts to create drama. It’s about getting people to watch the programming. Getting Chris Jericho to do the Austin show? That’s interesting. People will tune in for that. That’s why WWE was cool with the idea.

Whether you love AEW & hate WWE, or hate AEW & love WWE, or you love both or hate both, we should all be able to agree on basic facts. Even if Dynamite draws more eyeballs on TV sets than NXT, or any other WWE show one of these days maybe if they get hot, AEW would still not really be “competition” for WWE as a business. We’re talking about a company that’s been around a little over two years that could have gone out of business during this pandemic if TNT didn’t extend their contract.

Say what you want about what WWE puts on television. I’m as critical of it as anybody. Say what you want about their business ethics. I’ve been critical of that too. What you can’t deny is the fact that WWE is a tremendously successful business that excels at making money off of what they own. Could they do better? Sure. Can somebody else match their creative efforts? Depends on who you ask! Is anybody going to overtake them as America’s biggest wrestling company anytime soon? Not unless we see another scenario like the early to mid 1990s, where WWE makes it possible by falling into a period of scandal and complete mainstream irrelevance. (Frankly, it’s tough to think of anything that could cause that, considering some of the business decisions they’ve made over the past few years that haven’t even really drawn a second glance.) Even then, somebody would really have to catch fire to get on WWE’s level.

Can AEW? We don’t know, and there’s a pretty good chance we’ll never know.

Andrade Speaks!

A lot of you are super excited about Andrade leaving WWE because it will surely lead to spectacular matches wherever he goes. You all tell me that he’s one of the best workers in the world and can have great matches with anybody. That’s cool, but that’s not the reason I was excited he left.

The real reason to be excited he left WWE? He’s going to talk!

The fact of the matter is that most of today’s American wrestling stars are reticent to say anything of great interest that isn’t blowing smoke up somebody’s backside, whether it’s their employer, their fellow wrestlers, or themselves. Sure, there are notable exceptions, but if media talks to most of these people, they’re getting gaga intended to be as non-controversial as possible. I can’t single wrestlers out for this, it’s prevalent in every form of sport or entertainment. Saying something interesting can make people mad, and most athletes/entertainers would prefer to avoid the backlash that typically ensues.

Those who have followed lucha libre over the years know that luchadores are far less shy. They don’t worry as much about “burning bridges”, probably because Mexican promotions will work with them as long as they draw some money. Wrestlers are still a part of what draws fans there, whereas in the US it’s more about the brand. Andrade has watched the luchadores that came before him. They have no problem with sharing their truth, and he has no problem sharing his.

So it wasn’t surprising that some breaking news came out of an interview Andrade did with Hugo Savinovich. Apparently, the reason Charlotte Flair was recently taken off of TV was due to a medical test that led WWE medical to believe that she was pregnant. Turns out that she wasn’t. However, she tested positive for the coronavirus soon after, which led to her continuing to be off of TV. Charlotte’s “camp” released a statement clarifying the whole matter, making sure to take the rough edges off.

Because that’s what American wrestling stars do. They have camps to take care of these things.

I, for one, can’t wait for more Andrade interviews, as they’re one of the few hopes we have of people saying something interesting.

Let’s talk about this AEW house show thing.

As we all know, there are quite the number of wrestling shows going on in the Tampa area this weekend. Which is another matter in itself, as we’ve got wrestlers on social media whining & moaning about people not buying tickets to their shows, which are taking place in the middle of a pandemic. The lack of awareness that some of these people have is somewhat mind-bottling, as the kids say. Anyway, there are a variety of wrestling shows taking place in the Tampa area this weekend, hoping to take advantage of a large number of wrestling fans being in town.

Then we have All Elite Wrestling, who are running shows in Jacksonville at their usual venue. Kind of out of nowhere, they decided they were going to run their first ever house show this Friday. Running these types of shows isn’t a terrible idea for AEW, especially when they have so many people on their roster. Gotta keep them busy somehow, right?

Of course, the fact it’s on WrestleMania Weekend has people talking. People remember back when Cody Rhodes told people that AEW would never try to compete with WWE on WrestleMania Weekend. To be fair, Cody’s said a number of things in interviews while talking about AEW’s future plans that ended up being fals later on. As the old saying goes, plans change.

I’m not as worked up about this as a lot of people are. Maybe people aren’t aware of this, but the fastest trip from Tampa to Jacksonville takes about three hours. It’s right around two hundred miles via I-75. How many people in town for WrestleMania already are going to make a three hour drive to Jacksonville & another three hour drive back to Tampa? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Then again, I hate driving pretty much anywhere at this point in my life. So maybe I’m the wrong person to pontificate on this topic.

New Japan Championship Change

Some big news came out of NJPW’s Sakura Genesis show that took place over the weekend. Will Ospreay, who had won the New Japan Cup to earn a shot at Kota Ibushi’s IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, defeated Ibushi to win that title. He is the first British wrestler to hold New Japan’s top heavyweight championship.

It’s the second straight year that New Japan has seen a popular wrestler win the top championship at Wrestle Kingdom, only to have a much shorter reign than people expected, losing to a heel wrestler. Ospreay is very talented at what he does, if you’re into matches with lots of flipping, flopping & flying. He’s got a new faction behind him, and speaking English will help if NJPW plans on continuing their international expansion, which I assume they are.

As for Ibushi, it seems like he’s already been shunted behind Shingo Takagi & Kazuchika Okada in championship contention. So I can only assume he’s counting the days when he can get back together with Kenny Omega. Michael Nakazawa’s days might be numbered.

Thanks for reading! We’ve got a big week of content coming up here at The Chairshot, including my gambling picks for Night One & Night Two of WrestleMania! Not to mention all the great show coverage, podcasts & everything else we’ll have cooked up for you. Stay tuned, and until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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