SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
In the days of social distancing, quarantining, and in general, staying home more than usual, I’ve decided to dive more into a service that I’ve had since it launched, the WWE Network. While I’ve always enjoyed the big events and sampled some of the original programming which ranged from great (“Table for 3”) to bad (“Legends House”), I’ve been taking a deeper dive into original offerings. The following is the first of my reviews of that programming so you can steer clear of the bad and make time for the good yourself.
The R-Truth Game Show “The Maverick Empire”
If you have paid any attention to WWE over the last decade, you surely know the name and probably have a strong opinion on him, and as a reader of the Torch, I’m guessing it is not the most positive of opinions, especially considering the last few years with the advent of the 24/7 Championship. Now on the flip side, I work with individuals with disabilities in my day job and R-Truth is a very beloved member of the WWE roster. So polarizing would be a kind way to describe how R-Truth is perceived.
And then there’s the “R-Truth Game Show.” Is it a game show? I suppose. Is it more of a talk show? Yeah, feels more like some stuff that happens on YouTube than a more traditional game show of yesteryear. Before I dive in further, I just want to state how shocked I was that I enjoyed this show as much as I did. Often I find R-Truth’s “comedy” among the worst television on my TV every week. But without a Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn comedy filter, he’s so much better.
The sincerity, regard, very apparent friendship R-Truth has with the guests on the show is so apparent and makes for a far more entertaining watch than it has any right to be. The first guest on the show is Drake Maverick and they play a variety of games over zoom including a game identifying wrestler entrance themes. I had forgotten that at “In Your House: D-Generation X” Sgt. Slaughter used the theme that would be synonymous with Kurt Angle a few years later. Heck, The Patriot also used it earlier in 1997! I didn’t feel too bad as Drake Maverick also forgot this. One highlight for me that brings a lot of energy which can be lacking in a conversation over zoom is R-Truth does a scavenger hunt where the contestant grabs their phone and runs around their house looking for the objects on the list.
Now the second guest is far more interesting as he is someone that WWE largely doesn’t acknowledge these days, Roman Reigns. Roman, just like R-Truth on this show, is so much more palatable when he isn’t being presented through that main roster WWE filter. He’s personable, funny, and so likable. This makes his presentation on the main roster all the more frustrating. The highlight of Roman’s time on the show is a game with Roman identifying WWE Superstar tattoos and the realization that one is in fact his own.
The Day of “Horror Show at Extreme Rules”
This form of content for the Network is always a bit frustrating for me. First of all, at 13 minutes, you’re not getting a whole lot. The show wants to be both a candid glimpse behind the curtain but also be kayfabe, which is impossible. This presentation betrays the title card of being a documentary by stripping away that sort of credibility. (How many shows on the Network talk about the Montreal Screwjob?)
This particular episode follows Sasha Banks before her match with Asuka at Extreme Rules, which is a shame because there is some great, candid material in here that is pulled down by an insistence to bring up her storyline and treat it like a real fight. They provide a variety of great candid comments from her about her time starting in training in NXT, what it’s like to not have fans in attendance, and what she misses about not having crowds at shows. One of the most interesting things that she said she misses is the challenge of getting a crowd back invested into a match after she’s lost them.
And that all comes to a crashing halt when the voice of a producer asks about the shirt Sasha is wearing, the Kabuki Warriors. And with that, a definite switch is flipped in how Sasha is talking and she goes more into Boss Mode and gives what feels to be a not very authentic justification for wearing the shirt. I do wish the same producer would have asked the recently arrived Bayley why she was wearing an El Generico shirt.
The real highlight of this episode to me was Sasha with WWE Costume designer Sarath Ton as they were going over her new gear for the show. Sasha puts over the work and creativity of Sarath and how iconic his work is in her career. I’m always a sucker for showcasing these people that get little to no credit or recognition over the years getting that praise on a wider platform.
What are some of your favorite WWE Network specials? Comment below or on Twitter @pwtorch.