SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE NETWORK REVIEW: TALKING SMACK
AUGUST 7, 2021
REVIEW BY NICK MORGAN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Hosts: Kevin Patrick and Matt Camp with Kayla Braxton as the backstage interviewer
This week’s guests (more interviewees than guests): The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford), Tegan Nox & Shotzi, and Sasha Banks
– Okay, before we start this week, I want to assure everyone that my whiplash from the violent decision changes regarding the cancellation and re-institution of both Talking Smack and Raw Talk over the last few weeks has gotten better. So, while I appreciate your concern, I am fine and with some trepidation am ready to once again report back to you, my faithful readers, what you might be interested in from the dramatically altered (and quite frankly, excruciatingly much worse for their changes, Talking Smack and Raw Talk.
– As I noted before all these gyrations by the WWE surrounding these shows, their new formats with talking heads in a sterile studio supposedly analyzing the shows (Smackdown and Raw), but just spouting inane standard WWE-speak that is worthless to listen to, unless you want to be ineffectually sold on upcoming programming. Really, the only interesting part of these shows in this format are the brief “backstage” interviews/promos with/by the wrestlers (no, I refuse to say, “sports entertainers”) that are the same structure and format as the backstage segments on the main shows. These short videos can provide some insight and move storylines along, so they will be the main focus of these reports, while, unless there is some ground-breaking news created by the in-studio bozos, the in-studio portions will only be mentioned in passing.
– So, now that we have set the framework here and you are hopefully all happy that I did not suffer any severe neck injuries from WWE’s herky-jerky programming decisions, let’s move onto this week’s Talking Smack.
– Patrick and Camp came out firing on all cylinders promoting Summer Slam and then quickly flipped to the Finn Balor angle from Friday’s Smackdown, complete with a full video recap of the show ending angle. Wow, these guys are so vanilla it is almost like Roman Reigns putter the guillotine on Finn and can put the viewer to sleep. Yup, they pumped up the Seth Rollins vs. Edge and Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks matches coming up at Summer Slam. They also took a moment to recap the return of the Street Profits which of course led into the backstage segment with the Profits being interviewed by Kayla Braxton.
– The Profits turned things around on Kayla as Montez grabbed the microphone and “interviewed” Kayla on what she thought of the return of the Street Profits and their victory over the Dirty Dogs (Roode and Ziegler). While Montez pumped up the energy, by doing this they worked at cross purposes, because, of course, Kayla had to sell for the Profits and in so doing, turns her into another promo tool, damaging her credibility as a “reporter”, which WWE spends so much time building her up as. Kayla has done great work over the Pandemic era and while she was hosting the previous incarnation of Talking Smack with Paul Heyman, really seemed to come into her own. Seeing her reduced to just another cog in the WWE promotion wheel, without protecting her, was just sad. This said, the Profits always provide a ton of energy, and I am glad to see Montez Ford back and back in form. Especially as he pumped up Dawkins to mention the four words that the Profits will always live by, and then swerved us by getting Kayla to say, “We Want The Smoke”. NO! The Street Profits need to say that, not Kayla.
– After teasing segments with Shotzi & Nox and Sasha Banks, the in-studio talking heads sent us off to break for a Summer Slam promo featuring Cena and Reigns. Back from break, Patrick and Camp talked again, unfortunately, before focusing on the upcoming Usos vs. Mysterios tag team championship match at Summer Slam. This promotion though, rather than just building up the match, that we have already seen several times, focused on what may be happening between Rey and Dominik. Oooooo! is there something brewing here? Is there some trouble in paradise? Why is WWE doing this? As a viewer you can see this on the show when you watch. Let the audience mull all this over, talk about it, argue about it. But, no, WWE has to put up a huge billboard and basically say, “Hey folks, the Mysterios are going to turn on each other, wont you all be surprised when it happens, oh wait, we just told you, well, watch anyway, because we are WWE.” Real smart, Vince!
– In order to throw to the interview segment, Patrick and Camp reviewed the Tegan Nox vs. Tamina match and the whole tank angle, which was pretty stupid. As expected, we get Kayla interviewing the tag team of Shotzi and Nox. Nox relished her victory of Tamina while also selling that Tamina clocked her hard on the chin. Kayla pointed out that Shotzi and Nox have beaten the tag team champions or some form (in singles matches) three times now and Shotzi and Tegan made a point of commenting and gesturing that they want the tag team titles. They then spent a couple of minutes talking about the Tank and how Kayla is the only one who has ridden on it and perhaps would be allowed to drive it (in a safely cleared and empty area). Ending the interview, Kayla asked if she could get a howl from them, and as seemed to be a trend on tonight’s show they asked Kayla to join them, which, of course, she did.
– Not to be left out, back in the studio, Kevin Patrick howled also. Please never again. Patrick and Camp quickly teased Sasha Banks would be next and we got another generic Summer Slam promo.
– Back from break, we got a video recap of Rollins and Edge from two weeks ago, to promote the Rollins vs. Edge Summer Slam match. After some more blather and video recaps from the show with Banks and Belair, they threw back to Kayla who was standing with Sasha Banks. Sasha was in full heel Sasha mode, dumping on Belair for hurting her with her braid in their match at WrestleMania. Sasha basically repeated much of her in-ring promo, that she is the one who brought all the fame to Belair and that Belair owes her a thank you for all she has done.
– At one point Sasha said that she is “the boss… the standard… the leader… the conversation” and that after SummerSlam Belair will not longer be the “EST of the WWE”. A quick detour here: so, now on Smackdown we have “the conversation (Sasha Banks)” and on Raw we have “the opportunity (Charlotte Flair),” I just thought I’d point that out. Okay, back to the segment. Sasha kept up the line that she would be the Greatest, the Best, and she guessed that she was now the “EST of the WWE.”
– Sasha was great here. No weird laugh, just a normal human, brief chuckle, that fit the moment. Sasha came across focused, ready for a fight, supremely confident, and most importantly, a complete heel. Perfect. Also, thankfully, Kayla was not brought into her shtick and maintained her role as an observer and reporter. Thank you for small favors (see below for what I think about the other two segments and how they dragged Kayla into their shtick).
– After a thankfully brief, though totally unnecessary recap of what we had just seen between Kayla and Sasha, but WWE had to make sure we knew what we are supposed to think, Patrick and Camp said good night and we are out.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A couple of quick notes here: While the show is pretty quick, 21 minutes this week, the in-studio portion is basically just a recap of the show that just aired with short video clips and then Patrick and Camp basically telling us what we are supposed to be taking away from the events of the show. They state the obvious angles that the WWE wants the audience to buy into, even if they are stupid and nonsensical. Vince, who seems to be the main voice being put forward here, seems to be using this show to push his narrative down the viewers throats, leaving no room for discussion or fantasy booking or conjecture, which are all the fun parts of watching wrestling, once the actual athletic components in the ring are done. It is almost as if he misses the power of complete control that he had in the Thunder Dome over even the audience reaction (i.e., pipped in cheers, boos, etc.) and if trying to achieve that with this show which is basically saying to the viewer, “Here is what we are doing and what we want you to think about it.”
A second observation concerns Kayla Braxton, who has really come a long way and, at least in my opinion, has positioned herself as a voice of respect, was badly damaged this week as she was brought over into the wrestlers’ world, taking part in their shtick, rather than being the viewers voice, observing and reporting on the wrestlers. Hopefully, this will not be a permanent trend, but I am worried.
– While in general I think this new format is not good, especially when compared to the talk show format that we all now and liked, I will say, that if a viewer missed the show, if their DVR failed to record the show, they don’t know how to access YouTube to watch clips, and want to find out what happened on that week’s Smackdown (or Raw for Raw Talk), this show and Raw Talk can provide a quick catch-up. All you need to do is be willing to have your mind numbed by the hopelessly inept in-studio hosts.
Well, that is it for now, see you all next week. Until then, take care and stay safe.