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WWE NETWORK REVIEW: TALKING SMACK
JANUARY 23, 2021
REVIEW BY NICK MORGAN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Hosts: Kayla Braxton and Paul Heyman
This week’s guests: Bayley, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, cameo appearances by Apollo Crews and Kevin Owens
Morgan’s Analysis: I am going to put in a quick thought here regarding Talking Smack and Paul Heyman. If you are a fan of Paul Heyman and miss his verbal promos on the main show, then Talking Smack is a must watch. Not only does he usually do an opening monologue (playing off of Kayla) to advance the Roman Reigns angle, but he is also using the Talking Smack platform to build up the other wrestlers, giving them all a good rub with verbal promo skills and his in-depth knowledge of wrestling psychology.
– As Kayla welcomed us to Talking Smack, co-host Paul Heyman was sitting there drumming his fingers together and Kayla immediately brought up the major angle of the night. Paul’s almost fight with Adam Pearce, the card subject to change angle, Roman’s abuse of Pearce, and the eventual appearance of Kevin Owens. Paul claimed it was the perfect plan. He said they had Pearce right where they wanted him, Paul had pulled all the strings (Owens was gone), Sonya was ready to take over and to quote Paul, “Keven Owens screwed us up.”
Morgan’s Analysis: Something to note here: Is Paul hinting that Sonya is in Roman’s camp? Is it possible that somewhere down the road she “joins the family?” It could be a way to get around the “leave WWE” stipulation she had in her match with Mandy Rose. Roman is the Tribal Chief and in control, right?
– Despite Kayla’s efforts to interject, Paul continued. He spoke directly to Owens saying that the card at the Royal Rumble will not be subject to change and it will be delivered as advertised. He warned Owens that there will only be one man standing at the end of the match and “it will not be you Kevin Owens.” He said hat is not a prediction, that is a spoiler.
– Paul gave a three, two, one countdown to the camera man and threw it to Kayla who thanked Paul (very sarcastically) for the opportunity to talk and introduced the first guest, the star of the new talk show, Ding Dong, Hello, Bayley.
– Paul shook Bayley’s hand as she entered and then in a low, intense voice, leaned into Bayley and told her that he was the Special Counsel to the Reignsing, defending, undisputed heavyweight champion, Roman Reigns and that if she wanted to see him put a beating on Kevin Owens, she should make sure to watch the pay per view and then described the match as “Parental Discretion Advised.” Bayley was impressed and told Kayla to inform her people that that description needed to be in the opening.
– At this point Kayla brought up the obstacle course challenge from the show, noting that it didn’t quite go how Bayley had planned (at this point, Paul interjected that with Kevin Owens around nothing goes as planned on Smackdown). Kayla was able to subdue Paul and continued with Bayley. Kayley said that Bianca Belair outdid Bayley in the challenge, but Bayley retorted that who cares about that, fast forward to the end where she beat down Bianca something fierce. Kayla continued to try and build up Bianca, to which Bayley offered to get her into the Royal Rumble, hinting at what that would mean for poor Kayla. Kayla of course demurred. Bayley went on to tout that she is going to toss everyone out of the ring. Again, Kayla tried to contradict her, but Paul jumped in and after several superlatives tossed to Bayley, he told Kayla that she had “Bayley envy”. Great line, Bayley quickly picked up on it and called out to get that on a shirt (along with Kayla’s face) fast.
– As with all good wrestling promos, Bayley finally addressed Kayla’ touting of Bianca by noting that Bianca did eliminate eight people from last year’s Rumble, but then built herself up by saying that she (Bayley) eliminated Rhea Ripley while Bianca didn’t and finished up by saying “Quality over quantity”. After some small talk, Bayley left while telling Kayla that she would see her in the Royal Rumble and telling people off camera to “put her in the match”.
Morgan’s Analysis: A really good segment, Bayley is really doing great with her heel persona, but they need to kill the Ding Dong, Hello talking segment before it downgrades Bayley into a Miz-type comedy act.
– Next up was Cesaro. Kayla started right out and mentioned his win over Daniel Bryan two weeks ago and his win this week and then noted that he seemed different, more intense. Cesaro said it really wasn’t new, more like a return to how he had been in the past.
Morgan’s Analysis: Okay, WWE why don’t you just put up a sign saying, “WE ARE CHANGING THE WAY WE WANT YOU TO THINK OF CESARO.” I am sorry, we can all see this, so why be so obvious about it.
– Kayla brought up Daniel Bryan quite a bit and Cesaro noted that they have had a rivalry for a long time. Kayla noted that he and Bryan will be in the Royal Rumble together so that this rivalry can and will continue at the Rumble. This segment seemed both a build up for Cesaro and Daniel Bryan and I would not be surprised if there was a major angle in the Rumble between the two of them. When Kayla asked Cesaro who he would like to challenge should he win the Rumble, he said either Reigns or McIntyre, but he would choose Reigns because of what he did to Nakamura. When Kayla turned to Paul for comment, Paul totally sold Cesaro as a worthy opponent for Reigns and that if it was anyone else but Roman Reigns, Cesaro would be the next champion. Not sure if they are telegraphing something here, but they are definitely pushing Cesaro as they are also doing with Nakamura. They need to because they have to feed the beast that is Roman Reigns.
– Our next guest was Sami Zayn. They didn’t play Sami’s music and he made a huge point about it, totally selling this whole disrespect angle. Sami then called in his own documentary team, claiming that he didn’t recognize any of the other camera men.
– Sami spent the next several minutes ranting and raving about the obvious conspiracy to keep him down. Sami brought all his signs down: Stand Against Moral Injustice (SAMI, get it?). At this point Apollo Crews came out (it seemed he was honestly cracking up). Sami’s next sign was directed at Crews. It said, “how do you sleep at night.”
– Sami told Crews that he doesn’t stand for anything, to which Crews told him that he could talk all he wanted to but eventually he would get Sami into the ring. Sami then said that this sounded like a threat and an attempt to intimidate him. Sami said that he was going to leave not because he was scared or worried, but he was concerned about Crews’ threatening manner and the safety of his film crew. And he left.
Morgan’s Analysis: Sami is so good at this type of promo and is just a joy to watch.
– With Sami gone, Paul immediately got in Crews’ face and said “he’s just distracting you, are you going to let yourself be distracted by a prick? Or are you going to keep your focus on the Intercontinental title?” Continuing the angle, they have been doing of Paul trying to coach up Crews and Crews getting advice from Roman. Crews’ response was that he was going to beat Sami’s ass and then go get the Intercontinental title. After a pause, Crews got right in Paul’s face and very menacingly said “because I can!” As Crews left, Paul turned towards the camera with a very evil smile, obviously pleased at how he had gotten Crews worked up.
– As Kayla was signing off, Kevin Owens came on set and sat down. Kevin And Paul stared at each until Kevin leaned over and whispered in Paul’s ear (pretty unintelligible, but it sounded somewhat like, “feel that”, maybe, even my closed captioning couldn’t pick it up.) Kevin then offered his hand which Paul reluctantly shook and Owens left. Paul wiped his hand on his jacket and then used his pocket square to really wipe his hand and we went to black.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The show went 26 minutes tonight and was really good with lots of great Paul Heyman moments. All the guests brought their “A” games and cut good promos and stayed within their character arcs. Sometimes these WWE talk shows can be more personality pieces with the guests breaking character a bit (see Charlotte a couple of weeks ago) and we get a peek at the true person behind the character. At other times it is pure wrestling promo time. This week was the latter and it was a blast.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S TALKING SMACK REPORT: 1/16 WWE TALKING SMACK REPORT: Heyman and Owens talk history, Big E and Crews set title match for next week, and more