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WWE NETWORK REVIEW: TALKING SMACK
JANUARY 16, 2021
REVIEW BY NICK MORGAN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Hosts: Kayla Braxton and Paul Heyman
This week’s guests: Big E & Apollo Crews (not together as a team but as foes), Natalya and Tamina, and Kevin Owens.
– As Kayla welcomed us to Talking Smack and touted the upcoming Royal Rumble event in two weeks, she noted that the Rumble had a new participant, Jey Uso. Kayla was her normal, very effusive self, while Paul Heyman sat pretty much stone faced. When Kayla asked him several questions, his only response was to comment on Kayla’s exuberance.
– Kayla attempted to elicit a rant out of Paul by asking him about the ending angle of Smackdown, which revealed that Kevin Owens and not Adam Pearce would be facing Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. Paul did not take the bait and said that anything he has to say he will say to the “face of Kevin Owens.” This simple statement took Paul about a minute to say because it was proceeded by several classic Paul Heyman facial expressions and gestures – all of which were intended to (and succeeded at) getting you to lean forward expecting a flood of words as only Paul can use them.
– Kayla gave up and moved onto the introductions of Apollo Crews and Big E while announcing an Intercontinental Championship match for next week. Kayla noted that during the show there was definitely conflict between them and it made her feel uncomfortable. When asked about it, Big E said that he didn’t have bad feeling for Crews, he said “it’s just competition.” Big E then went on to recount when he and Crews first met each other over ten years ago and really complimented him on his talent. Big E said that the championship means everything to him and while Crews is cool and a worthy competitor, Crews will not take the title from him.
– Crews countered that he also looked up to Big E, but that he came close to beating him a week ago. H said he is coming for Big E and the championship. They spent the next couple of minutes basically going back and forth saying the same thing in several different ways and ended up with a handshake. At this, Paul went nuts and said this was not the way to go and that they weren’t really friends. He brought up all the New Day merchandise money and asked if he ever offered any to his “good friend” Apollo. All the while Paul was ranting, Crews had a very thoughtful expression on his face and was obviously turning this over and turning things from a love fest to something darker. Paul said, “the sportsman stuff is for losers” and that hate is a better emotion to be a winner in the ring. Big E brushed it off, but Crews said, “He’s got a point”, dropped the mic and walked off the set.
Morgan’s Analysis: While totally predictable, this was good. Paul was the perfect one to deliver this message and stay in the ear of Crews, which gives Crews a reason to turn heel, rather than it just happening.
– After they left and before Kayla could introduce the next guest, Paul continued to heel on Big E by yelling at him for leaving his mic and disrespecting the entire crew (they actually showed a masked tech kneeling, theoretically out of camera shot to take the mic). I have to believe this was unscripted Paul and it was magnificent. One more Paul quote: “Why do they call it Talking Smack if they don’t allow or want people to talk smack?” Kayla was having a tough time keeping it together.
– Alright, onto the next guests, Natalya and Tamina. Natalya kept talking and talking and basically acted like a princess touting hers and Tamina’s blood lines. Kayla dropped a bomb on them when she asked how it felt for Tamina to have been in WWE for so long and never held a title.
Tamina came back at her, but Natalya quickly took over the conversation and turned it all around to talk about how she is the BOAT and that because Tamina is now associated with her, things will get better. Kayla pressed them on what might happen in the Royal Rumble when it is every woman for herself and both Natalya and Tamina seemed offended by the question. From there, Natalya continued on with the we are the greatest and the best verbiage.
Morgan’s Analysis: I’m not sure what this segment was supposed to do for Tamina. She came off a bit like Natalya’s lackey and barely got a word in edgewise. Even when she did, her voice was low and hard to hear. Also, her facial expressions were all over the place from frowning, to smirking, to quizzical which made it unclear as to whether or not she really was with Natalya or whether she was going to pound her face at some point.
– In an effort to save the segment, Heyman called Natalya the “YACHT”, “You are Crazy, Hot, & Terrorizing”. Scripted or not, a great line.
– Things moved on from there as Kevin Owens made his way out. As he took his seat, Paul just looked sideways at him. Heymans started off by saying “you outsmarted us” and gave Kevin credit for getting one over on them. He said that not many people had done that. Paul said Kevin made a great move with everything in plain sight.
– Then, Paul turned serious and said, “now comes the consequences – a last man standing match versus Roman Reigns.” Bottom line, Paul said he couldn’t control Roman’s rage. He said he couldn’t control his civility and that Roman was going to explode when he gets in the ring.
Morgan’s Analysis: Quick note on Kevin here, he did a great job facing Paul and taking it all in, not with a smile per se, but a look of confidence that was very effective.
– Paul then gave a very intense quiet voiced promo. He said that Roman was going to hurt Kevin and that he was going to send him out of the Royal Rumble in an ambulance. Paul mentioned that when he was exec. Dir. of Raw, he pulled Kevin out of a lot of situations and helped him out. Heyman said he really likes and appreciates Owens. Paul then ended this very intense speech by saying that Kevin “will not be able to stand up anymore.” At this point Kevin started laughing and then talking about the “card subject to change.” As a kid, Owens said he always hated when he would go to an event and the match he wanted to see would be changed.
Morgan’s Analysis: I understand what they were trying to do here, but I didn’t like it. I really think the laughter broke the mood which was intense.
– Kevin then started to rev things up and turned things around on Paul saying that in fact Kevin bailed Paul out of situations when things on Raw were not going well and that Paul would always turn to Kevin to bring the fire. Kevin said that he was a Paul Heyman guy and that while Paul was never directly associated with him, Kevin would always be grateful to him. Owens said that Paul ultimately was never there for him when it really mattered, like when he wanted a match with the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. Kevin brought the promo home by saying that at Royal Rumble this is a Last Man Standing match and that he doesn’t want to be the hero he just wants to be WWE Universal Champion. He then started to tell Paul to call Roman and give him a message. Owens stopped and said, no I am not going to make you the messenger, I will deliver my own message to Roman, next week on Smackdown.
– Paul and Kevin stared at each other a bit, then Kevin chuckled, clapped Paul on the shoulder and left the set. Paul put his face in his hands and Kayla looked troubled. They went off the air without another word.
Morgan’s Analysis: This was great wrestling promo work and is a credit to both men (and quite frankly to Kayla as well for knowing to let these two masters go at it). However (I bet you saw that coming), having so much of Kevin’s focus on Paul felt a bit off. I can see that by focusing on Paul here, it saves Roman for down the road, but Kevin will be fighting Roman not Paul. It’s not a major thing, nor enough for me not to have really enjoyed it, but I would have liked a little bit more attention from Kevin on the man he will be facing. I know that will be coming next week on the main show, but it would have been really cool to have a bit of it here inside this intimate and rather intense setting. I remember the sit down between Roman and Drew and the promo between Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston on AEW. No punches thrown during those, but really intense and impactful material.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The show went 27 minutes tonight and except for the middle three to four minute segment with Natalya and Tamina, it was really good and I urge you to watch it.
One thing I would caution WWE about is that if they are going to do this much character and angle development on this show, they either have to repeat some of it on Smackdown, or at a minimum, show clips from Talking Smack. There is some great stuff here and they could lose some of the threads and make things appear disjointed on the main show if they don’t tie this stuff in. A quick note on Big E and Crews. Their stuff was good and if they can keep Paul involved to shepherd things along, I think this feud could really go somewhere for a couple of months and at the end, leave Big E as a better champion and Apollo Crews as a credible and dastardly heel.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S TALKING SMACK REPORT: 1/9 WWE TALKING SMACK REPORT: Deville speaks on her return, Roode & Ziggler celebrate their title win, Heyman gives Crews advice, and more