WWE NETWORK REVIEW: Early thoughts on Talking Smack’s return, plus Bret-Owen feud chronicled in “Too Damn Selfish” special

By Sam McCoy, PWTorch contributor

Bret Hart (photo credit Mike Lano © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

Talking Smack

One of the highlights of the 2016 brand extension was the introduction of Talking Smack a great post-show for the blue brand. This was a great show which gave an opportunity for talent that didn’t get the chance to do promos to show their personalities in a different format. So when WWE announced they were going to restart the show in 2020, I was very curious considering that original host Renee Young was on her way out of the company.

This new version of Talking Smack is hosted by Kayla Braxton and, over the first three episodes, she has improved every episode in seeming comfortable in this role. Xavier Woods was originally advertised as the co-host, but due to WWE not informing Woods of the role, he didn’t become co-host until the third episode. Not surprisingly, Woods is great in the role and knows how to get the most personality out of the guests. The Miz was the co-host for the first two episodes, and the show is entirely dependent on whether or not the Miz is trying to be the center of attention. When he steps back and lets the other talent takeover, the show is much better.

In terms of how the talent is utilizing this format, the first two weeks was very much centered on Big E. Big E is great on this, but it does create this weird tone with the show where it is supposed to be both a “candid look behind the curtain” and “wrestlers in character.” Alexa Bliss was pretty much in full-on kayfabe mode, which worked against the show having a consistent vibe and identity. We’ll stay tuned.

DETAILED REVIEWS OF TALKING SMACK


WWE Timeline

“Too Damn Selfish”

The sibling rivalry feud between Bret and Owen Hart is the focus of the second episode of WWE Timeline and this is ideally a better choice of topic for this show. Getting a “Reader’s Digest” version of classic feuds is a great idea and this is far more successful than the first episode. I watched this as I did my cardio and this was a great way to pass the 45 minutes or so of this episode.

The episode starts with some brief history of both Bret and Owen’s careers in the WWF before they jump into the Survivor Series match which saw The Hart Family against Shawn Michaels and his knights. Owen was the sole Hart eliminated and this caused friction between Owen and Bret. Some great interviews are shown from what I think is WWF Mania in one case, something that I haven’t seen since it aired. It would be nice if in the corners WWE Timeline acknowledged where the footage originated.

I had forgotten that the storyline was that Bret and Owen had made up over the holidays that led to them tagging at the 1994 Royal Rumble against the Quebecers. After the Harts lost and Owen kicked Bret’s leg, the end of the Royal Rumble is shown with Bret and his tie with Lex Luger. The build-up to Mania is detailed before a pretty long look at the fantastic match that Owen and Bret had a WrestleMania, one of the all-time great opening matches. Bret capturing the title later in the main event is highlighted including the post-match celebration that features Owen just staring from the entryway as Bret was celebrating. The story of Owen and Bret at Wrestlemania X is to one of the all-time great one-show stories to me.

Owen capturing the 1994 King of the Ring is featured to show the parallels between Owen winning and Bret winning the year before. And all of this is leading towards the Summerslam 1994 cage match. A fantastic interview with Owen in the cage under blue light, just a great and different presentation. They skim over the cage match pretty quickly, which is wonderful as that match is about three times longer than it has any right to be.

The final chapter of this episode of Timeline is showing Owen’s backing of Bob Backlund against Bret. Owen’s manipulation of his parents into throwing in the towel is portrayed as the end of the Owen-Bret story, which from a narrative standpoint I would have gone forward a few years to when Bret and Owen hug and reform the Hart Foundation to show how this feud ended. This was not the direction they went with. Instead, they ended this look at a great feud more abruptly.


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