Everything you need to know from an action-packed week in wrestling.
SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday (well, except for today) and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling. This edition includes WWE’s Enzo and Cass discussing the Hardys and their desire for a run as WWE tag team champions; The Top 10 moments during The Kliq Q&A; and Five Questions with Pete Gas.
Enzo Amore and Cass battled at WrestleMania 33 in a ladder match for the Raw tag team titles. The charismatic pair was unsuccessful in its bid to become champions, yet the two 30 year-olds have quickly ingratiated themselves as one of WWE’s most popular acts. They are now the spokesmen for the new WWE-themed SAWFT bar from Snickers, and connected with SI.com to discuss WrestleMania, the Hardys, Tom Brady, the New York Yankees, and the evolution of their characters.
Enzo Amore and Big Cass have their eyes set directly on the Hardy Boyz.
“Just the sound of that has me excited,” said Cass. “We were going through adolescence when the New Age Outlaws were a big deal, and then, of course, the TLC matches and three-way ladder matches with the Dudleys, Edge and Christian, and the Hardys. The tag team championships are a very big deal to us, and we’d love to have that match.”
Amore and Cass lost their chance at becoming the number one contender with a loss to Cesaro and Sheamus on Raw. Permitting they are not moved to SmackDown during next week’s “Superstar Shake-Up”, the pair admitted that they would be grateful to work a program with the Hardys.
“Me and Big Cass debuted against the Dudleys,” said Amore. “I don’t think Edge and Christian are ever coming back, but those three tag teams set the standard for tag team champions, especially with ladders involved at a WrestleMania. The chance to get in the ring with them is an opportunity to earn their respect, as well as respect from the fans and our peers.”
While Amore and Cass took their WrestleMania 33 defeat to heart, the result has not changed their ultimate destination as WWE tag team champs.
“Cuppa ladders, cuppa ladders, but we know who we are and where we’re going,” said Amore. “And we’re going straight to the top.”
The pair is also the company’s official spokesman for the new WWE-themed Snickers SAWFT bar. Amore was asked to play name association and connect WWE talent to their candy equivalent.
“John Cena is an Almond Joy,” said Enzo. “The Miz is Laffy Taffy, but I don’t know about AJ Styles. What kind of candy do soccer moms eat?”
Amore and Cass debated over which piece of candy would best represent former tag champs Gallows and Anderson. Cass thought that Sour Patch Kids was an appropriate fit, but Amore disagreed.
“Gallows and Anderson are lollipops,” said Amore. “That one is easy.”
When asked which candy bar best fit the personality of Vince McMahon, there was no debate, and none of their choices were crispitty, crunchicitty, or peanut-buttery.
“Vince McMahon?” asked Amore. “He’s a Snickers, he’s the best. In the months to come, when you find yourself hungry in the coming months, get yourself a Sawft Bar, alright? How you doin’?”
Cass explained that people’s personalities often change when they are hungry, yet he offered a solution to the conundrum.
“You’re not you when you’re hungry,” said Cass. “Sometimes, when you’re hungry, you’re S-A-W-F-T sawft. Believe me, there is nothing worse in the world than being soft, so how do you remedy that? Grab a Snickers and satisfy your hungry.”
Amore and Cass both admitted that they had hoped for a chance to wrestle the New Day at WrestleMania 33.
“We were disappointed that the New Day wasn’t included in the match,” said Cass. “They had the longest title reign ever, and we wanted to be the guys that took the Raw tag team titles away from them. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that opportunity, but Cesaro and Sheamus did.
“We wished that the New Day would have been in the WrestleMania match. We would have liked to beat the New Day and all three of those teams, and we’d like to have a title reign longer than the New Day.”
New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski interjected himself in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania, and Amore was quick to note that he has the solution for stopping Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.
“Put a New York Giant on the field,” said Amore. “Is that not the right answer? Because that is the right answer.”
Amore is from New Jersey while Cass grew up in Queens, New York, and both are Yankees fans.
“I love the Yankees, but I don’t hate on the Mets,” said Amore. “I don’t have a bone of hatred for the Mets or the Jets.”
Cass noted that he is not overflowing with optimism for the upcoming baseball season.
“I hope the Yankees come out on top of the AL East, but I’m not extremely hopeful,” admitted Cass. “I’d say it’s going to be a tough year in the AL East, and I’m not going to make a prediction, but I am looking forward to the season.”
The Yankees were buoyed for years by team captain Derek Jeter and the notoriously disliked Alex Rodriguez. Both Amore and Cass recoiled when asked who of the pair the A-Rod is and who is Jeter.
“You can’t do that to us,” objected Amore, before quickly adding, “but I’m Jeter. I wore his number in college.”
The pair were also asked how they planned to evolve as characters in wrestling, as many popular acts before them have trapped themselves or grown overly reliant on past material.
“Our goal is staying fresh,” said Cass. “Keep changing, keep evolving. You have to keep your eyes on pop culture and keep your eyes on the fans.”
Amore playfully snapped at the question.
“Give me a break,” joked Amore. “You want to talk about change? I change in and out of clothes every Monday with a different pair of shoes. As far as staying fresh and staying new is concerned, it’s about staying up with the times. More than that, me and Big Cass, combined, have probably written thousands and thousands of pages of promo material that the world has never heard yet.
“We’re never going to run out of material or be short on something to say, Cass is never going to be short on height, and we’re going to dominate the next ten years of WWE.”
Kurt Angle’s return to Raw was the most emotional moment of the year in WWE. All the new additions—Shinsuke Nakamura, The Revival, Tye Dillinger, and the return of Finn Balor—were meaningful, yet none, with the Hardys a close second, had the impact of Angle.
Angle was announced by Vince McMahon as the new GM of Raw, yet he is only two years removed from the WWE having little to no interest in his return.
“I haven’t spoke openly about this,” Angle told Sports Illustrated in 2015, “but I opened up my options and was going to decide between TNA and WWE. I wasn’t going to leave TNA unless WWE was offering a fair deal.”
WWE was not interested in Angle, and even canceled the in-person meeting.
“I never went to see them,” Angle explained. “They didn’t even sit me down and talk to me.”
From a wrestling standpoint, WWE was simply not interested. As sobering as that information was for Angle to digest, the former Olympic gold medalist responded in the typical fashion: he went back to work to prove he was still an elite wrestler and character.
Angle never grew bitter, never knocked WWE for passing on him—a genuine superstar—and he instead found ways to enhance his legacy. He made the right choice by distancing himself from the chaos of TNA Impact Wrestling, worked select independent shows around the United States, and also rejuvenated his connection with fans in the United Kingdom through his WhatCulture Pro Wrestling shows. Angle’s most recent work with Alberto Del Rio and Cody Rhodes were WrestleMania-caliber matches.
Wrestling is often criticized as “fake”. There is nothing fake about Angle, who has experienced every sort of tragedy and heartache since leaving WWE in 2006—a divorce, addiction, the loss of loved ones, and rejection from the company to which he so desperately wanted to return—but that smile on Angle’s face during his intro on Raw was extremely real.
WWE has created more questions than answers with Vince McMahon’s announcement that there will be a “Superstar Shake-Up” next Monday on Raw.
Will there be a draft? Or will the talent be randomly assigned to new homes?
The talent balance has shifted, and significantly so, in favor of Raw. The return of Finn Balor, new additions in the Hardys and The Revival, and a new GM in Kurt Angle have tipped the power scale in Raw’s favor. Yet the power structure will rebalance itself on Monday.
More details to follow.
In other news…
• Matt Hardy correctly predicted this past Friday on SI.com that “the best ladder match of the weekend will be the one with the Hardys.” The Hardys put together a sublime ladder match with the Young Bucks on Saturday night for Ring of Honor in Lakeland, Fla., then traveled to Orlando on Sunday for WrestleMania 33 to reclaim the WWE tag team titles for the first time since 2007. WWE seemingly has its cameras cut away each time the Hardys start a “Delete!” chant, and although it was odd to hear Matt Hardy not speak in his “Broken” character on Raw Talk, the creative options for the Hardys in WWE far outweigh what they would have experienced in Impact Wrestling.
• Imagine if Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage had a WrestleMania rematch at WrestleMania 2000? Or if Bret Hart and Steve Austin had a WrestleMania sequel atWrestleMania XXVI? The 13-year gap marked the amount of time between ‘Mania matches for Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg, who worked against one another at WrestleMania XX and again at WrestleMania 33. Lesnar and Goldberg somehow exceeded expectations, despite the fact the match lasted only 285 seconds.
• Roman Reigns buried The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33, and then responded succinctly to the boos and vulgarities from the crowd on Raw by simply stating, “This is my yard now.” Reigns is now in need of a fresh opponent—someone like Baron Corbin would be a good fit, or even AJ Styles, though it would be interesting to see how audiences worldwide would respond to a Reigns storyline with John Cena.
• Dean Ambrose had a world title reign—and this was before the brand split—as the lone WWE champion, in the same calendar year that he had a match on the pre-show at WrestleMania 33. Ambrose is also in desperate need of change, and a move to Raw would allow him the opportunity to work with Samoa Joe and Finn Balor.
• The Smackdown women need to have less of a gimmick to their matches to be taken seriously at WrestleMania. The men would never be booked in a 6-man title match at a WrestleMania, yet that was somehow the case for the women. Naomi defeated Alexa Bliss in a one-on-one encounter on Smackdown, which would have been a far better use of their allotted time at WrestleMania 33.
• WrestleMania 33 was a seven-hour spectacle, though many of the matches lacked the psychological fundamentals for WWE Hall of Famer Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat:
“Part of my success was rooted in psychology,” said Steamboat. “That was the old-school teaching. Whenever two guys got together, you asked, ‘What body part would you like to work?’ In my case, it was the arm. Most guys wanted to feed me for that arm drag. We always believed in storytelling, so if I had the arm, the heel would get away for a moment—or heel his way away—and then I would get back to it. We were trying to paint a picture that I was getting back to the body part that I was spending time on. Once you established a body part, then the story is you are continually trying to get back to it. I see a lot of that not being used today. Some guys do things in matches just to fill in the blanks, just to do, what we call, ‘stuff’. You need storytelling in the match.”
• The talented Dave Lagana is currently working on his newest project, “Galloway – End of Independents”, which documents newest NXT-signee Drew Galloway’s seventy-two hour rollercoaster weekend in Orlando including Evolve, WWN Supershow, WhatCulture Pro Wrestling, and the moment he drove off to return to WWE. “This raw and unfiltered look will give a deeper dive into the passion Drew has for his craft, his fans and his family,” said former WWE writer Lagana, who noted that the full documentary is coming soon.
• NXT champion Bobby Roode, who will forever be the man to claim he sent Shinsuke Nakamura packing from NXT, is looking forward to working a program with the artist formerly known as “The King of the Indies” Chris Hero, who is Kassius Ohno in NXT:
“Kassius has made quite a name for himself after he left NXT the first time around, and he opened some eyes and got a spot back here in the company,” said Roode. “Whenever there is a guy at the level of Kassius Ohno walking through the doors, everybody starts licking their chops and wants an opportunity to get in the ring with him. There is always a competitive spirit, and everybody wants to be that top guy and, ultimately, make it to the main roster.”
• Why does WWE insist of giving supernatural powers to Bray Wyatt? The “Eater of Worlds” is supposed to be a feared cult leader, not someone who can make the ring light up in different colors. Wyatt’s first reign as WWE champion was as disappointing as it was short.
• In the business section of the Week in Wrestling: WWE and Topps launched a partnership that has delivered Topps SLAM 2017 , which is an app that features 5,000 different trading cards and interactive video cards; The New Day dressed as Final Fantasy XIV characters in their WrestleMania 33 entrance as part of a partnership between WWE and Square Enix, makers of the popular Final Fantasy video game franchise; and John Cena is adding to his brand by working with Crocs:
“They’re launching a fantastic campaign called ‘Come As You Are,’ and it’s centered around a person’s ability to deal with adversity and still remain true to oneself,” said Cena. “I really don’t pat myself on the back too often, but man, I’ve made a living doing that. So I was really happy to be chosen to be a part of it. I think that the messaging of what they’re trying to say and what I do on a daily basis is exactly identical.”
Exclusive Lucha Underground clip
Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson
“Given everything that happened at WrestleMania, we really wanted to celebrate The Undertaker’s career,” said Thompson. “We want to go back to near the beginning. You have his debut and his first WrestleMania available in his archives, but then Bruce left and wasn’t back until late ’92. We thought, ‘Let’s give everybody two complete years of the life of The Undertaker, and that’s what we are going to do for both 1993 and ‘94.”
Thompson is particularly looking forward to engaging Prichard on the subject of ‘The Underfaker’, who was played by Brian Lee.
“The SummerSlam match was Undertaker vs. Underfaker, and we’ll talk about that and the hilarious bits they did with the cast of the ‘Naked Gun’ films. There will be a lot of fun, old-school, Undertaker stories. We got to see the end this past Sunday, so I think going back to where it began will hit the spot this Friday.”
This edition of “The Weekly Top Ten” is provided by Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Sean Waltman, who, collectively, are known as The Kliq.
The Kliq held a question and answer session hosted by WrestleCon on Saturday before the NXT show, and the crowd at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando enjoyed a no-holds-barred session, hosted by Maria Menounos, with wrestling’s most notorious clique. Paul “Triple H” Levesque is also a member of the group, but he was not part of the Q&A.
Here are the top-ten moments from “One Night with The Kliq”:
10.) The actual origin of The Kliq was detailed by Scott Hall: “The Kliq was born in Kansas City, and nothing happens in Missouri. It was brutal. There was TV every week, and that’s when I first crossed paths with Shawn Michaels in 1985. Now I’m a big, jacked-up, muscle-head, and I didn’t know anything, but the business was changing. The business was going with guys who looked a certain way, and me and Kevin [Nash] can say amen to that, because that’s how we got paid all the time. Here comes Shawn Michaels, and we were going from Kansas City to Des Moines.
“Shawn had been doing jobs, putting guys over that he’s been doing the match to—he’s reminding them, ‘OK, now hit me with your finish; face the hard camera; look like a big star!’ He was doing that stuff then. When I got in the car with him, he broke it down for me, ‘Hey, you big muscle head, I’ll keep it real simple—you make the other guy look good, then you get a little heat on; then you do the finish the office gives you and then you get back in the car, and let’s go.’ So thank you, Shawn, for 1985 when we first met.”
9.) Michaels then returned home to wrestle in Texas, and he was genuinely surprised to receive a postcard from Kansas City. The postcard, of course, was from Scott Hall: “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and that was the one and only postcard I’ve ever gotten from another professional wrestler in my entire life.”
8.) Michaels also noted that he did not know Kevin Nash, even when he was advocating for Nash to join the WWE, and Hall jumped in at the chance to needle Michaels about the sales pitch that could have been used to help Nash jump from WCW to WWE: “You’re with Shawn,” said Hall. “Come help him with his baggage, and he has a lot of baggage.”
7.) “Nash was the first guy, like a big brother, I could tell anything to,” said Michaels. “We could be real-life with each other, and honestly talk. We all did that with one another [in The Kliq], and we stuck together like glue after that.”
6.) Kevin Nash revealed that The Kliq was his dose of reality in a business that was not always centered around reality: “It’s amazing that, in a world of complete fakeness, four real friendships came together.”
5.) Hall then broke up the party: “Plus, everyone else hated us,” said Hall. “Well, everyone was scared of Kev. Pac [Waltman] was a sweetheart, so everybody liked him. But everybody hated me and Shawn.”
4.) Each member of The Kliq was asked who he keeps in closest touch with now, and Michaels answered first: “It’s a toss-up between Kevin and Hunter,” said Michaels. “We text on a fairly regular basis.”
3.) Kevin Nash shared that he is currently closest with Hall and Waltman: “I feel like I’ve been on the road with Scott and Sean for my entire life. We never took a pause. When we left Shawn and went to Turner, we went back here and to TNA. We’re like the mercenaries.”
2.) Sean Waltman stated that he remains closest with Scott Hall: “It has to be Scott. A lot of that has to do with my career. Everyone else gets a squash match and vignettes when they come in, but I got to beat Scott. Not only that, but he took me under his wing. I love the guy.”
1.) Scott Hall revealed that he is closest out of the group with Nash and Waltman: “For me, it’s Kev and Pac. Kev’s been the big brother that I’ve never had, and Pac is like a little brother to me. Shawn has turned his life around so much that I was almost embarrassed to call him. He is doing so well, and I wasn’t doing that good. But The Kliq was born with Shawn and I.”
Pete Gas is best known for his time alongside Rodney and Joey Abs in the Mean Street Posse. He is a childhood friend of Shane McMahon, and he enjoyed a run with the WWE from 1999-2001 during the peak of the “Attitude Era”. Gas detailed his career in his new book, Looking at the Lights, and connected with SI.com to discuss his memories of the business.
SI.com: You share some incredible stories in Looking at the Lights. Just for clarity’s sake, what, exactly, is your infamous “puke story”?
Gas: When I first started in the business, I was 285 pounds. I was built like the offensive lineman I had been in college, but I wanted to drop weight and make myself more marketable. I was dieting pretty hard, and there was one night where I cheated on my diet. It was after a Monday Night Raw in Cleveland, Ohio, and Rodney and I went into a Denny’s. If I were eating healthy, Rodney would eat healthy, but if I were eating badly, Rodney would eat badly, too. We were eating badly that night, and I was feeling guilty about eating so much. I told Rodney, ‘I’m going outside to puke it out.’ You didn’t need to twist Rodney’s arm, and he said he’d puke too, and so did Joey Abs. We go out to the parking lot, and I thought it would be a good idea to puke on the hood of the car and see whose pile of puke lasted the longest on the hood. So we all puked on the hood of the car. As we were laughing about it, out walked Matt and Jeff Hardy, Christian and Edge, Prince Albert, Val Venus, and Test.
Jeff Hardy asked us what we were doing, so we told him. Jeff then sticks his finger in Joey Abs’ pile of throw-up and tasted it. That caused a chain reaction of dry-heaving, and Christian ran into the bushes and started throwing up himself just because the whole thought and sight of it was absolutely horrible.
Then we got in the car, and we started driving and had a contest to see whose pile of throw-up could last the longest. We got about a mile when the throw-up splashed all over the windshield. It was on the roof, it was all over the car, and we were all laughing until we got pulled over.
I said to the officer, ‘You’re not going to believe this. We wrestle for the WWF and we are bad guys. We are hated so bad that the fans in Cleveland actually puked on our car.’ The officer showed mercy and let us go, but the joke was on us. We couldn’t show up in Columbus, Ohio to the arena with a throw-up car, so we had to go to a car wash. By then, the throw-up was frozen to the car and we were the ones who had to wash it off.
SI.com: You grew up as a close friend of Shane McMahon. Can you describe the level of competition between Vince and Shane?
Gas: Competition is just in their nature and the chemicals that make them up. They always want to be the best, and that goes for anyone in the McMahon family. They love each other very much and they’ll do anything for each other, but when it comes to competitiveness, that’s who they are.
SI.com: How do you assess your own career?
Gas: Looking back, it’s surreal. I wrote the book because I was constantly asked about my wrestling stories. I thought the story should be told because it is unique. Vince took two guys, Rodney and me, and put us with the best in the business. It’s an honor to wrestle in WWE, and to this day I still get fan mail. It blows me away because it shows we did our job.
Vince literally took two guys with no experience and no training and put us in the ring with the best in the business. If Vince saw nothing in us, he wouldn’t have kept us around just because we were Shane’s buddies. We were able to get a reaction from the crowd, and that’s why we were able to stick around – and gain respect in the locker room. The wrestling locker room is all about respect, and if you don’t have it, you’re a dead man.
SI.com: Speaking of the locker room, stories circulate that “Wrestlers’ Court” was in existence during your time in WWE. What exactly is Wrestlers’ Court? And were you ever involved?
Gas: Wrestlers’ Court existed, and this was the one and only time I was at Wrestlers’ Court.
Undertaker was out with an injury, so Triple H was the judge because he was the next in seniority. The Godfather, who was also my dominos partner backstage, played the role of the bailiff. The Acolytes were suing Teddy Long for the charge of ‘being a cheap motherf----’. The charges included Teddy starting to dig his own pockets to pay a toll after all four tires already passed the toll booth, and Teddy was also charged with acquiring Viagra from his doctor and selling it to the guys instead of giving it out. There were a lot of charges. Hunter hears the charges and says, ‘Teddy, you’re pretty much f-----. Is there anything you’d like to say for yourself?’
Teddy replies, ‘Your honor, I would like to call up a character witness.’ The place gets quiet, and he says, ‘Mae Young, please come up.’
Mae Young, God bless her, actually comes up to the defense table, and she says, ‘I don’t understand all you wrestlers with your big dicks needing this Niagara.’ I thought the roof was going to come off the place with laughter. I was standing next to Kurt Angle and we were holding each other up, tears coming out of our eyes crying, and it was one of the funniest things we’d ever seen.
So Triple H sees blood in the water and he has to run with it. He said, ‘Sometimes, Mae, sometimes Niagara is needed to give the extra enhancement, that Niagara.’ He keeps saying Niagara and it’s making everyone pop even louder.
The end result was Teddy Long was found guilty on all charges. He had to, not only pay all the tolls that month, but he also had to provide the Acolytes with a case of beer and a bucket of chicken after TV on Tuesday nights. That was his punishment, and it was easily one of the funniest moments of my career.
SI.com: You have always been grateful for the support from fans, and you mentioned their support was part of the reason you wrote Looking at the Lights. Why did you decide to write this book?
Gas: Being grateful, that’s the way I was brought up. As soon as I got released, I went straight to Shane’s office. I extended my hand and said, ‘Thank you for the best three years of my life. I could never repay you for this.’ We had a great run. My glass is always half-full when it comes to WWE and the wrestling business. I’m always willing to talk about the business, and that’s why people are going to like the book. I’m really excited about the feedback so far, it covers the best three years of my life, and I’m still reaping the benefits now.