Backstage hears Flight of the Valkyries!
After reliving the great moments from WrestleMania 31, both Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins will join the panel in discussing their many great WWE memories!
Renee Young welcomes us Backstage!
The world has only gotten more difficult and intense these days, but it is a time of growth and understanding, as well. As such, it means so much to the WWE that you are tuning in tonight. With that said, Renee, Booker T, Christian and CM Punk assemble once again. Christian boats about his $7 at-home haircut while Punk says he doesn’t have time for that. Renee suggests letting the Mrs. do one for him but he refuses. AJ Lee did it once, and let’s just say it wasn’t the best. But after watching FoxSports 1’s special feature of WrestleMania 31, does the panel agree that it had the BEST ending to a Mania EVER?
Booker says it was GOODT. Seth Rollins cashing his Mr. Money in the Bank contract on Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, for the WWE World Championship, in the main event, that is a moment where careers change. It was truly a great moment, that is for sure. As for Punk, that moment broke into the Top 10 but it is not the greatest moment. WrestleMania 10, for instance, was better. Renee doesn’t understand, the WWE can’t just label something as the greatest ever when it isn’t? #Sarcasm. But Punk doesn’t like the hyperbole, saying this is the worst thing ever or this is the greatest thing ever. That disrespects moments like Bret Hart beating Yokozuna in WM10, after losing to his brother Owen Hart. Then the story told, Hart taking on someone the size of Yokozuna and winning, that is how you end WrestleMania.
Booker agrees, it is hard to be a GOAT, hard to put yourself on a pedestal. WWE already claims Backlash will have “the greatest wrestling match ever” with Randy Orton and Edge, but that’s yet to be seen. Booker apologizes for cutting Christian off, but Christian says it’s fine because he needed time to google “hyperbole.” Christian’s favorite ending is WrestleMania 30 with Daniel Bryan’s incredible double header. He beats Triple H to then make the main event a triple threat, and then he wins that to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. For Christian, it symbolized the triumph of Bryan organically “getting over” with the fans. It wasn’t in the plans but it became the plan because the fans said Bryan was their guy that they wanted in that spot. Bryan made people fans, and the fans made Bryan champion. Renee agrees, that’s a great moment.
But Booker says Christian is lying! Christian says the right things to appease viewers. Booker knows Christian has been watching wrestling for a long time, and yet that’s the best one? Christian defends that it’s about what it symbolized. Booker concedes that, but Renee asks what Booker’s issues are with WM30. Booker doesn’t have issues, it’s just that with so many Mania moments, Christian’s seen many of them, there have to be others. Christian says it’s subjective. The answer could change in a year. But right now, Christian goes with everything WM30’s ending symbolized. Christian had a similar path as Bryan, and wonders if he’d wrestled a few years later, would Christian have gotten that same kind of movement behind him. Seeing Bryan break through and get the moment he deserved, that was huge. Well Daniel Bryan will join the show in a moment, but we’re just getting started!
In the WWE, we always have an interesting mix of high level athletic competition and high drama soap operas. This week had the best of both worlds, but for now, here’s…
Just the Highlights!
On Raw: The Irresistible Force costs The Empress against the Queen with her undeniable mockery. Will Nia Jax suffer some backlash at Backlash? Meanwhile, Gronk got got and R-Truth has his baby back! Will the WWE 24/7, 48-7, 7/11, I-95 South, Tampa Bay, European Television Champion move on now that he sacked Tom Brady? Rey Mysterio and his son Dominik had a message for Seth Rollins: Damn him! They will never forgive Rollins, and it will be eye for an eye.
On SmackDown: Jeff Hardy was framed and Elias was the victim! Both men were automatically OUT of the WWE Intercontinental Championship tournament, and AJ Styles takes a free ride to the finals! However, Daniel Bryan refused to be so selfish, and a battle royal was held! Sheamus would win, only for The Charismatic Enigma to shockingly return! Bryan wins, Hardy goes after the Celtic Warrior, but what does this all mean?
The panel discusses.
Using some real life situations in Hardy’s story is rather shocking, but Hardy is fully behind doing this. Do they think the WWE pulled it off? Punk speaking from experience, having worked extensively with Hardy in a similar story, Hardy was not in a great spot in his life then. We all know his past and his problems. Punk’s thing about this is that sobriety is fragile. Discussing when and if they should do such a story with Hardy and how Hardy is okay with it, giving the green light, thumbs up, what have you, it is now the responsibility of the writers, promoters, etc. to get in front of some things and say, “No, we’re not doing this with Jeff again. We don’t need him to be in this position.” Cleaning your life up is something to be proud of, and we can champion that in different ways. This is not one of those ways to Punk. You don’t put someone in front of a moving car.
Christian feels very similar to Punk, but also thinks that if Hardy is okay with this, or even dead set on it, that’s another thing. This was clearly done as more of a set-up, so the heat is going to go on someone else, but maybe this isn’t the best way for that. Booker says that watching it, he felt a certain way about it. It rips at you, and you have to understand the era Booker is from. He saw a lot of guys who had their own problems with substance abuse. Many were friends and many aren’t here anymore. So seeing this, he wasn’t sure. But again, Hardy has been reformed for quite some time, but has gone through his share of anguish, too. So hopefully things turn out right in the end.
But Punk knows Booker feels this doesn’t work. Booker was in WCW, and Scott Hall’s dark days being put out there. Booker agrees, it never really works out for anyone. To see Hardy make a triumphant return, he needs to be put in a certain light, and this isn’t something to play with.
Moving to Raw, a certain story has become a family affair. Mysterio vows he will never forgive Rollins for what he put the family through. And Dominik vows to seek retribution on behalf of his father. Dominik has been part of his father’s story for many years now, and perhaps we’re about to see him step up even further. Where does everyone feel this story should go now, assuming Dominik steps in the ring with Rollins? Christian says he has deja vu, with Dominik stepping in when Mysterio wanted to retire the first time, and with Brock Lesnar, so maybe there’s a thread here. At the same time, it is a wait-and-see game. Is Dominik going to finally wrestle on his own? The thing is, Mysterio is one of the very best ever, so it’d be a challenge for Dominik to live up to that. Maybe Rollins starts to influence Dominik in some way.
Renee agrees, that’s a lot of pressure for Dominik to step out of Rey’s shadow. Similarly, Charlotte Flair having to step out of Ric’s shadow. Of course, Charlotte is a great athlete, but we’ll see with Dominik. Has he trained with Booker? No, he hasn’t come down to this “small” operation known as Reality of Wrestling just yet. But Booker hopes Dominik will come down, get some training before making a run. Dominik still has that baby fat and is wet behind the ears. But of course Mysterio is preparing to pass the torch, it’s why Booker wants to help out. Let’s get him in the gym, get some real meat on the bones. But Booker likes how Dominik is joining in, he’ll be off and running as soon as he hits the ground.
As for Punk, he thinks this is a good use of a real-life situation. A real-life father and son duo is a good dynamic. Dominik was stiff with the delivery but he’ll come out of his shell. There’s nothing more despicable than a bad guy getting involved with a family’s business. For example, saying happy birthday to Mysterio’s daughter a few years ago. That’s still one of those things people stop Punk on the street about. So Dominik getting involved, maybe he turns into a disciple of Rollins, that’d be an intriguing twist and Punk would watch. And when Rollins was on Backstage, he said he was scouting for yet another addition to the stable. Maybe Dominik ends up the chosen one?
Daniel Bryan goes Backstage!
The Goat reunites with the Best in the World, and Renee! But not on Tout? Darn. It sure feels like it, though. This is Bryan’s first use of Zoom! So far so good. And looking at the WWE Intercontinental Championship Tournament, what a great finals match! How excited is Bryan to be having another match with AJ Styles given all the classics in the past? Bryan says his career feels so surreal. He has met so many great people, Punk included, and then 20 years later, he meets them again. They were these young, hungry wrestlers, and now they’re old, grizzled wrestlers. But for Bryan and Styles, it is still a competitive inspirational thing wanting to be at the highest levels possible, and that’s a lot of fun.
Renee brings up Bryan’s sordid past with AJ Lee, given their onscreen romance. Of course, AJ Lee has since become Mrs. CM Punk, but let’s take a trip down memory lane all the way. Specifically, we start with Monday Night Raw, 7/23/2012, the wedding of AJ Lee and Daniel Bryan. But AJ Lee wasn’t saying yes to Bryan. She said yes… to CM PUNK! Punk, who was WWE Spinner Belt Champion at the time, didn’t want to rub it in, but Bryan did just get stood up at the altar. What a great suit Bryan was in, by the way. But any fun stories from those times? Punk just remembers that night and how ridiculous it was that April (AJ Lee) had to wear that wedding dress for a long time, what with rehearsals and all. She looked amazing, but also the dress was so opposite to who she was as a person, Punk couldn’t help but take a picture with her in the hall. It was all so silly and weird and then that episode blossomed into them actually getting married.
But working with Bryan and April, and KANE of all people, too, was so wild. Bryan also doesn’t remember specifics, but he remembers that he and Punk were in a program for the title. Yet, they also weren’t the main event. Bryan doesn’t get rubbed the wrong way very often, but that was one of them. The main event story was John Cena and Bryan’s now father-in-law, John Laurinitis. It is so weird to look back to that. But Bryan and Punk did three title matches for PPV’s, yet none were the main event. And then Kane joins in, and wow. Bryan and Punk decided to go out and show “them.” At the time, they didn’t really know Kane but Bryan and Kane became friends. Kane is intimidating because he’s a veteran, and because he’s smart AND gigantic! He’ll sit there with glasses on and a leg up, reading something very intellectual, and yet with Bryan being quirky like he is, it all worked out!
Overall, it was a really fun time, especially at house shows. It would either be Bryan VS Punk in filler title matches, or Punk, Bryan and Glenn Jacobs (Kane) in Triple Threats. Because again, this was after WrestleMania where Bryan lost the Big Gold Belt in under 18 seconds, and so the crowd was starting to get behind him. It only lasts for so long, so Bryan had to get involved in something to get momentum, or he’d fall off the cliff. So being in programs with Punk, AJ Lee and Kane helped a lot. The whole thing was neat, bizarre and cool. Bryan remembers talking recently about first meeting Punk, and Punk had just fractured his skull in a 16-man, one night tournament in the middle of the Northeast somewhere. Punk remembers it being Garfield, New Jersey. You don’t forget where you fracture your skull.
So from there, Bryan is doing one thing, Punk has to leave because of that injury, and that was 2002. So it’s just so neat and surreal that the story goes that far back. Punk had become a legit top guy in WWE and Bryan was on his way there. Renee wants to continue down memory lane, they’ve known each other for so long and crossing paths in the indies, did they think they’d have the WWE careers they had? If you asked the Punk and Bryan back then, they wouldn’t have cared, and not in a negative way. Punk always looked at Bryan the way Bryan currently looks at NJPW’s Zack Sabre Jr. Punk remembers not being conceited about how good he thought he was. Promoters fly you places so you can meet others.
Punk remembers hearing about “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and “Spanky” Brian Kendrick from the Northwest, and then Lo-Ki and Homicide from New York. Punk was a “Midwest guy,” and then they all mingle together. There became this nucleus of guys that wanted to be wrestlers, did it, and then realized they could make a living out of it, and then doing that. They would go to Japan, to Europe, to Puerto Rico, and support themselves as bachelor wrestlers. But then you challenge yourself, looking to what’s next. “What’s beyond ROH? What’s beyond all this other stuff?” The WWE was always there, of course, and both Punk and Bryan always knew they were good enough, but there was just a lot of different hurdles.
When you’re on TV for the WWE, being successful means something very different than the independents. There’s politics, moving parts, promos, travel, being the best even on your worst day and no excuses. Back then, that Punk and Bryan would’ve said yes to being this good in the WWE, but also knowing that if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. They’re pretty stoked with where they are and what they’re doing. It is more than art for wrestlers like them. Bryan agrees, but admits that he actively didn’t want to go to the WWE because of the DIY aesthetic on the indies. Controlling your schedule, your style, your projects, it was all great. Bryan remembers when Punk signed, he thought, “Man, if they give him a shot, he’s gonna blow them away.” But Bryan didn’t think about that for himself, because the WWE gets really promo and interview heavy.
At that point, Bryan wasn’t good in promos. He was bad, even. He could do a sports promo, talking about what he’d do, but when it came to being entertaining, that’s not what he would do. His interest is the love of wrestling, and he didn’t want to be “famous,” he just wanted enough for himself. But when Bryan started getting hurt and thought, “Okay, either I’m gonna have to sign with the WWE, or I can save up enough money to be taken care of for the rest of my life, or I’m gonna need to start looking at another path.” Bryan considered going back to college. 2009 was make or break for Bryan. He spent all year training in MMA, because he had a small interest to get into that, but also went for the WWE. If none of that works out, he’d go to college and have a normal life. But turns out things ended up how it did, but Bryan saw Punk how he carried himself, carried himself as a star, Bryan knew it’d be awesome.
Bryan still has a weird time right now because there’s no fans, but even with fans, he has a hard time walking to the ring. From when he is on stage to when he is in the ring, it’s weird. What do you do with yourself? The Yes was how he got away with that energy. And yet, it’s even more awkward without fans because he has to still do it. That is awkward, but then if he doesn’t do it, what does he do with his hands?! The problems you cook up in your own head. But that’s all the time we have for Backstage, so make sure to catch the FULL interview on the @WWEonFox YouTube this Wednesday!
Seth Rollins relives his most historic night yet!
Few moments in WWE History are as iconic as The Architect swinging the WWE World Championship overhead to end WrestleMania 31. The wildest part is that he lost to Randy Orton in a match near the start of the show. Rollins speaks on how that felt way too far away from the main event. It was nerve wracking just waiting all the rest of the night for the moment. “It’s one of those things that you plan, but it almost seems too special, too good to be true.” Rollins couldn’t think about anything else but executing that plan. Firstly, he didn’t want to trip that 50 yard dash. He told himself to hurry to get in that ring. The element of surprise in a hotly contested title match made things even more special. The time crunch on the show, he didn’t want the moment to be missed because it went off the air.
Lesnar almost stopped the moment, but Roman SPEARS Lesnar down, only for Rollins to CURB STOMP Roman! And it was all just so surreal. A moment you dream about your entire life, yet Rollins didn’t expect it to happen this way even in his wildest dreams. But holding that title overhead, that was the dream since he was 4 years old.
The panel discusses the importance of the Money in the Bank Cash-In.
While the Royal Rumble was the way for someone to punch their ticket to a world title match in the main event of WrestleMania for decades, has becoming Mr./Ms. MITB surpassed that as the best way to reach that next level? Christian thinks so. For him being in the original MITB match ever, it was a really cool concept. Then realizing, after Edge used his to cash-in on John Cena, this really can propel someone’s career to another level. For Christian, the WWE Intercontinental Championship was proof of being the guy next in line. But then it lost its luster, and the MITB briefcase moved into that spot.
Punk, being a two-time Mr. MITB and a two-time successful one at that, what are some moments that stick out? Punk always thanks Edge for the opportunity, because he was the Heel making fun of Jim Ross in Oklahoma. Batista came out to defend JR and beat up Edge, and then Punk got to be the ultimate opportunist and swoop in. What Punk loves about MITB, you can put different people in different situations. Everyone loved seeing Punk give Edge the GTS and win. But then, the second cash-in on Jeff Hardy, Punk was the villain. When you have two fan favorites, it was still hard for fans to turn, but the seeds were planted. The MITB briefcase helps superstars find that kind of thing in them.
The panel discusses Matt Riddle.
Though the Original Bro had a short but memorable run in MMA before coming to the WWE via NXT, and is now the newest addition to SmackDown on Fox. What does everyone think of the NXT Fight Pit? Should it become a regular tradition? Punk liked it but also hated it. Shocking, right? If you hear “Fight Pit,” Punk doesn’t think a pro-wrestling cage match. In MMA, you fight in a cage, and Punk gets that. He didn’t need the platform on the top, but the WWE will many times do something differently just to be different. Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher could’ve instead just taken the ropes off the ring and still have a worked shoot fight. Not everyone’s cup of tea because it is a very hard style to work. Punk liked a lot of elements, but it is difficult to do some things in sports entertainment. He appreciates Riddle giving Thatcher that rub as they part ways and are on different brands now. Punk likes the match-up potential for Riddle on SmackDown.
Christian says that after talking MITB, Christian does like something new and fresh. The Fight Pit was that, but as they’ve said for other things, this match type needs to be treated as something special. They had the right two to give us the first match of its kind because Riddle and Thatcher are well-versed in submissions and grapples and even no ropes. It has to be the right competitors to get in the Fight Pit. Booker watched it, agrees with Punk a bit, it blurs the lines of the sport. But even before that, Booker has four words for Riddle: “A pair of boots.” Riddle is going to get his feet hurt out there. But that’s Booker not being all for the MMA world coming into the pro-wrestling world, unless done right. Of course, there will be holds and maneuvers that wrestling can and has been using for years, but to change the name of the game into something that it’s not, Booker doesn’t think we’re there yet.
Riddle has more to prove to Booker, but he is on SmackDown. Booker wants to see Riddle go from having good matches to having great matches, like those of Punk, Christian and Booker himself. Riddle needs ring psychology, a game plan, all that. To be continued, if you will. Renee agrees with all of that, and is very excited about that.
WWE Backstage addresses the national turmoil.
There is obviously a lot of tension and unrest that has led to protests and more, and the WWE Universe was not silent about it. Mark Henry was in Austin, Texas this Sunday, marching in solidarity with protesters. Henry joins the panel now to speak to this. Renee lets the wrestlers start this off, and Henry shares his emotions. Henry isn’t into complaining, he is into solutions. Hopefully what comes out of this, the regular person can walk up to the police and ask them, “Can I help you?” and the officer says, “Yes. Please record this for me, help me if you can.” No more of this, “Get out of here! Turn that camera off!” Henry’s family went down, protested peacefully, and had signs and even shirts, #ALLLivesMatter. Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, a melting pot of people who just want things to be right. Henry was proud and happy.
Punk knows people talk about having a conversation about this. Punk as a White guy, he can’t pretend to understand how Black people feel or tell them how to react. This country has a problem, that much is clear. Punk wants to tell other White people that they need to listen to Black brothers and sisters and understand where they’re coming from. It is hard to walk in someone else’s shoes. There’s almost two Americas today. The differences in how one person gets pulled over compared to another, one only getting a ticket, the other getting murdered. Punk just wants White people to talk less and listen more. The paradox here is that the only way to fight intolerance is with intolerance. If you are White, you are more than likely privileged, but you should use that privilege to support others. We need that now, because we live in the time where hatred is stoked at the highest levels. Punk doesn’t like what he sees, and does what he can to stop it, and hopes he’s using his voice for good.
Fascism, racism, they cannot win. If you struggle with finding a way to help, the easiest one is to combat intolerance with intolerance. How Punk relates that to himself, even though this isn’t about him, the first tattoo he saw in his life was a number on his grandfather’s arm. His grandfather rode horseback towards Nazi Panzer tanks! Now it’s 2020 and the President says things that amount to Nazis being fine people. You can’t walk that back, you can’t say that he meant something different. White people, use your voice, help your Black brothers and sisters, and protect those who this country was not built for. “They” might say it was, but everyone has a different experience.
Booker’s reaction is that seeing something and feeling something are two different things. You can see someone die and feel bad. But then if that person was family, you feel it much stronger. The tragedy of George Floyd has sparked so many people around the nation, and all due to leadership. One cop with three others around, simply following. We as humans must stand up and not just be followers. We need those who will stand up and say something when they see something. Booker has been in this position before. He has been in positions where he was the 1% in the room. Don’t think things haven’t been said around him, and that he was compelled to say something, because if he didn’t, he’d be the one in the wrong. Booker says to everyone watching, if you see something, say something. Don’t be a follower, be a leader.
Renee thanks everyone for sharing their opinions and experiences, and knows it is important to use their voices and their platforms for this. A bit thank you to Fox and FS1, especially, for allowing this time. But stick around, there’s still more to come.
Flashback to Raw, 6/9/2003!
A week shy of 17 years ago, Christian did a pop, lock and drop it into a Spinarooni, right in front of Booker T, Jerry Lawler, and the world. Seeing this moment again, Booker says, “That sucked.” Renee goes on record saying she’d wear that snakeskin top, that is amazing. But Christian has some news! Christian will be on Raw this Monday, because no one knows Edge as well as he does. Christian is going to check in with Edge on a special edition of The Peep Show, to send things off to Backlash and what could be the Greatest Wrestling Match EVER. Everyone looks forward to that. Renee thanks the WWE Universe for tuning in, and hopes everyone will be safe out there.
A surprisingly yet perhaps not so surprisingly powerful episode tonight. We got to have our fun with reliving WM31, hearing just a bit of how Seth Rollins felt that night five years ago and how MITB truly has moved up to become a very powerful part of pro-wrestling. Hearing even just this much of Punk and Bryan talking about those early days is great, and that full interview is going to be amazing. Then, because the real world circumstances cannot be ignored, it was very meaningful for Mark Henry, CM Punk and Booker T to speak. I being half White, half Filipino, I still to this day have no way of really understanding where the world puts me. I’ve been told by non-Asians that Filipino doesn’t count as Asian, and yet I’ve had Asians say I’m too “White washed” as if my White half reflects badly on the other half.
All I’ve ever done is try to see things on a human level, and the human level thinking is that so much of this is horrifying and infuriating. Race continues to be an issue, and I swear it’s been the conversation ever since I was a child growing up in the ’90s, but it still hasn’t sunk in and I can’t figure out why. It drives me to be ashamed of even being human in the first place.