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WWE NETWORK REVIEW: TALKING SMACK
AUGUST 22, 2020
REVIEW BY NICK MORGAN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Hosts: Kayla Braxton, The Miz
This week’s guests: Bayley and Sasha Banks, Big E, and Jeff Hardy
Yes, it is back! For me, one of the best WWE promotional talk/interview shows there have been on television in recent times. In its past incarnation, Talking Smack featured Renee Young and a combination of Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon. In its new iteration, Kayla Braxton takes over for Renee, and for tonight, at least, The Miz takes the co-anchor chair. The announcements for Talking Smack’s return, had Xavier Woods in the co-host chair, and we will have to see if The Miz was just a one night replacement and Woods will be in the seat next week, or if there was a change of plans and The Miz has the gig for now. Stay tuned.
The show originates from “The Thunderdome” and was obviously taped shortly after the end of Smackdown on Friday night, dropping on the WWE Network on Saturday morning. Talking Smack is available on the “free” WWE Network, so viewers do not have to be subscribers to watch. Probably a smart move if the goal is promotion of the television product and not driver for network subscribers. But, enough with the build-up, on to the show itself.
Kayla welcomed the viewers to the show and after some banter back and forth with The Miz, she made a big deal about being in The Thunderdome. Miz proceeded to go on a monologue about how great it was to has interaction with fans whether live or digital and how much it means to him as a performer. While they were talking about different elements, a split screen showed what they were talking about from Friday night’s Smackdown. (This happened through out the show with the split screen highlighting whatever the guests and hosts were discussing).
Kayla brought up the beginning of Smackdown and the angle with Retribution surrounding the ring and beating down Braun (interestingly there was no mention of Vince’s appearance). Kayla brought up the fact that Miz was quite late to the party as he ran to the ring, even dropping a rather large “hint-hint” that he did it on purpose (i.e. is Miz just a coward (probably) or is he somehow involved with retribution?). Of course, Miz defended himself with some nonsense about coming in when he did to be sure that there was someone to defend Smackdown at all times. He really didn’t make much sense, but then, of course he is not supposed to, it is The Miz after all.
After this back and forth, Kayla made several “Breaking News!” announcements about the card at Summer Slam: The match between the Fiend and Strohman will now be a “falls count anywhere” match; The Mandy- Sonya match will be a “no DQ” and a “loser leaves WWE”. Miz picked up on this and made a big deal about how he sees Sonya as winning this match and rocketing to the top, to the point of challenging for one of the women’s championships. He went on for a good long while which tells me in the world of WWE, that Mandy is winning.
Kayla introduced Bayley and Sasha, who came in with all their gold and started doing their shtick and singing Miz’s “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho” jingle. Miz joined in for a bit, while Kayla sat there not quite knowing what to do. Sasha heeled it up, calling Miz, “Miz-10 shows”, playing off Bayley and Sasha’s multiple belt gimmick, and then threw shade at Kayla, calling her “Kayla-one show”. The insults then moved to Kayla’s Instagram presence which they denigrated (is there anything they won’t plug on this show?).
As things calmed down a bit, Kayla brought up the Beat The Clock match the previous night where Bayley lost and Sasha won, meaning that Bayley would be the first to face Auska at SummerSlam with Sasha taking Auska on second. Kayla was a bit heavy handed in bringing up whether Bayley and Sasha were having some dissent amongst themselves while Bayley and Sasha vehemently denied that there were any problems between them. Bayley even said “we are always on the same page. We share the same brain…” Bayley ultimately even blamed her “new” boots for her loss.
After Bayley and Sasha bragged about “having all the gold”, Kayla made the point that Auska could come out of SummerSlam with both belts, to which, Bayley and Sasha took great offence and instead started calling Auska, “Auska, no belt”, giggling and laughing all the time. Miz heeled it up a bit, supporting Bayley and Auska, while poor Kayla, ineffectually, tried to promote the baby face side of things. There was some more shouting, giggling, and preening by Bayley and Sasha and they left the stage, having, I think, effectively promoted their matches on SummerSlam, even if it was a bit heavy handed (but that is their thing)
After Bayley and Sasha left, Kayla and Miz started some more small talk when Big E came up behind Miz and put him in a big hug. Big E was doing his funny, weird gag by put both feet up on the desk with his legs spread and I thought, “Oh boy, here we go, the silly Big E.”
I was totally surprised by what ended up happening. After Miz made comments about Big E not being serious, Big E defended himself saying that he will do things his way. This transitioned into somewhat of a tirade about how badly Kofi Kingston was treated. That Kofi was disrespected by being beaten so quickly by Brock Lesner and not getting any opportunities after that, just being sent back to the tag team division.
Big E brought up that Kofi waited 11 years for his championship opportunities, and he has waited seven years. Miz was the WWE defender saying that he had to fight for his opportunities, but Big E continued to make his point that Kofi got a raw deal (no pun intended), and that he, Big E, was going to do things his way, no matter what. Wow, I don’t know if this was what was scripted but it definitely seemed to me that Big E was really making a point how some wrestlers are given the shaft. I have to say I agree with him.
Kayla brought the conversation back to the present (and the promotional effort this show is designed for) by asking Big E about his match with Shamus and what it means. Big E answered by he sees Shamus as a “big, fleshy speed bump”. Big E also brought things back to his original point, by saying that Shamus has gotten a lot more opportunities than he, while he and Kofi have had to wait, Shamus has not had to.
Miz brought up Big E’s joking around, and Big E simply said, that when he is in the ring, he will be serious, but when not in the ring he will be himself. He said he will go down his own path. He has tried the serious, stoic route and nothing happened for him, so now he is just going to be himself.
Miz asked when he thinks he might get that title shot and Big E supposed that something could happen in the next couple of months. He has beaten a ton of top wrestlers and he feels he is on the path. I certainly hope so.
After Big E left, Jeff Hardy entered, and Kayla asked him how it felt to be a five-time Intercontinental champion. Jeff was humble in saying how great it is, especially after everything he has gone through over the past year and he is truly thankful. Kayla questioned Hardy about the match and he said that after the pele kick from A.J. Styles, he was practically out, but he heard in his mind the WWE universe (oh brother, there is a scripted line for you) chanting for him, saying “Hardy…Hardy….Hardy” and that brought him back. Well, Hardy must definitely have had his bell rung if he was hearing a non-existent crowd on LED screen chanting.
Miz made it all about himself, by saying that Miz had made the Intercontinental title as special as it was and that if Hardy didn’t defend it on SummerSlam there was something wrong. Hardy agreed and said that the title means everything to him, but it is not just him but the entire WWE universe and that the title is for all of them. (As SummerSlam has already happened and Hardy and the Intercontinental championship was not included, both Hardy and The Miz must be disappointed.)
With that, Kayla signed off promoting SummerSlam and its tag line “You will never see it coming” and that was it. Show over. Kayla did not say anything about whether The Miz will be back next week or whether Xavier Woods would be in the co-host chair, so I guess we will just have to wait and see.
FINAL THOUGHTS: While Kayla Braxton is no Renee Young, she did do an okay job trying to corral The Miz, Bayley, Sasha, and Big E. She asked the questions she was supposed to and did her best to ignore Miz’s most over-the-top comments. Main complaint with Kayla was that she seemed to be shouting constantly. I don’t know if this is her way of showing excitement or a result of being in an empty big arena rather than backstage in a more intimate set. Whatever the cause, I hope they coach her to bring it down a notch. The Miz was The Miz and you either like his style or you don’t. He was fine here.
The purpose of Talking Smack is to promote Smackdown, the WWE, and this close to a pay-per-view, said pay-per-view. With Bayley and Sasha, I would say mission accomplished, though in this setting their acting could be toned down a little bit, and Jeff Hardy was fine, setting himself up as the Intercontinental champion and for a possible rematch with Styles and whatever comes next. I really wish they would get off the “recovery” angle. We all know, and it is time to move on to a more wrestling-centric attitude for him.
The biggest surprise for me was Big E. Yes, he was his “jokester” self, but he really laid out, what I think is true feelings, about how he and Kofi have been treated by WWE, and I am very surprised they went, or allowed, Big E to go there. Perhaps it is an inkling of that is going to be Big E’s driving force in this single’s run or if he just wanted to go there and they let him. We will have to see.
All in all, and enjoyable, fast 30 minutes or so, and if they can be a bit more subtle at times, I think the show could really deliver. I know that is a big ask for WWE to be subtle, but we can always dream. I am also curious to see what the show looks and feels like when Xavier Woods is the co-host instead of The Miz.
Worth a watch, check it out.