SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Becky Lynch: “I appreciate the platform I’ve been given, and I want to make it bigger and I want to make it better”
Less than two months removed from headlining WrestleMania 35, Becky Lynch is already consumed with the idea of next year’s event in Tampa.
“I want to headline WrestleMania without Ronda Rousey,” said Lynch. “That drives me. I’ve main-evented WrestleMania, now I know what it feels like. For me, anything less than a WrestleMania main event is going to feel like a failure. So I’ve been thinking a lot about who my next opponent will be at WrestleMania 36.”
Anti-WWE sentiment is prevalent these days, especially after the rejuvenated Jon Moxley’s surprise appearance in All Elite Wrestling, but Lynch maintains that there’s no better place for wrestlers to ply their trade.
“I love this business,” said Lynch. “I get to go out there every night, do what I love, and get paid for it. That is something that I don’t take for granted. I know what it’s like to have been without it.
“WWE is the pinnacle of wrestling, the thing we all grew up watching and loving. I’ve been able to come into this company, break down barriers, and change the way the business is done. I want to continue to do that, and I want to continue to do it in WWE.”
Lynch spoke with Sports Illustrated this past Saturday following the “Price of Gold” panel at the Greenwich International Film Festival, an event hosted by this reporter. The panel, which included former Major League Baseball star Mark Teixeira and 1998 USA Women’s Hockey gold medalist Sue Merz, explored the sacrifice needed to reach the pinnacle of your field.
“I’m thrilled to be part of the Greenwich International Film Festival,” said Lynch. “Film is one of the most important mediums we have, and its foundation is storytelling. That’s the oldest trade in the world, and that’s what we do in WWE. We tell stories. It’s so important for me to be involved in different platforms and getting the word out about WWE.”
Lynch’s rise to stardom, within the past year alone, is a remarkable story. But she was also forced out of the business for nearly three years after giving a German suplex when an opponent landed on her head, causing headaches, vision issues, and what was feared to be damage to her vestibulocochlear nerve. Yet she refused to let go of her wrestling dreams, endured the pain, and eventually came back—despite the warnings of others—for more.
“I’m fueled by coffee and spite,” said Lynch. “Spite is that thing people don’t think you can do. It’s other people putting limitations on you, or even putting limitations on yourself—but you need to overcome that by saying, ‘I’m going to do that in spite of what you say’ or ‘I’m going to do that in spite of what I thought because I know that I can.’
“I know there will be a whole class of women coming up chomping at the bit for my spot. I showed them what was possible, so they’re all going to want it. But I’m not ready to give it up yet. I’m just starting my prime.”
There will be no women on the card at this Friday’s Super ShowDown in Saudi Arabia, but Lynch wants to headline shows for the WWE as often as possible—beginning with Stomping Ground later this month. In order to accomplish that goal, she knows it is necessary to build the talent around her.
“We also have to set the table for the ones who are next,” explained Lynch. “Look at the night after WrestleMania. I had to build someone who has very little experience and who the audience doesn’t know in Lacey Evans. So I have to show people why they want me to kick Lacey’s ass, and hopefully I’m doing a good enough job. But you’re always trying to get yourself and everyone else on that level, so the moments mean even more.”
Even though it is becoming more and more en vogue for some in the business to critique the WWE, Lynch shared that there is nowhere else in the world she would rather be.
“I want to make sure this is the coolest thing on TV,” said Lynch. “I want to make sure people tune in and care about what we do in the ring. I appreciate the platform I’ve been given. I want to make it bigger and I want to make it better.”
Roman Reigns grateful for the work of Jimmy’s Seafood owner John Minadakis
Whenever WWE travels to Japan, it is inevitable that the talent will find themselves at Ribera Steakhouse in Tokyo. Dating as far back as the 1970s, wrestlers have worn their Ribera jackets with pride.
The tradition is no different when WWE arrives for a show in Maryland. After an exasperating stretch of traveling, with only a few fleeting moments in the ring to show off their craft, visions of crab cakes, sushi, and steak dance in the heads of hungry wrestlers looking for a meal at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Baltimore. And just like Ribera, some of the WWE talent has even been spotted on television while wearing the Jimmy’s t-shirts.
But the connection runs deeper than seafood.
Jimmy’s is owned by John Minadakis, a community leader in Maryland who is passionate about giving back. Minadakis was hit hard when Roman Reigns was diagnosed for a second time with leukemia, so he created the Jimmy’s Seafood Bowling Classic and raised over $12,000 for the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation last fall. Jimmy’s Seafood also held its annual golf tournament last week, which raised $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Minadakis’ charitable endeavors have caught the attention of Roman Reigns.
“Nobody’s heart is bigger than John’s,” said Reigns. “The amount of work he does throughout the Baltimore community is incredible. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to team up and take on a pretty cool project and give back as much as possible.”
Minadakis also hosted last weekend’s “Jimmy’s Famous Seafood Slamboree” to raise money for “The Bruiser” RJ Meyer, a Maryland wrestler just diagnosed with leukemia, and is working with Maryland’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to make a contribution from the proceeds of his upcoming kickball event at Loyola University in June.
“It’s just amazing,” said Reigns. “There is no doubt John comes from a giving bloodline.”
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
• Do you do the Muscle Man dance?
• The two Jon Moxley podcasts—on “Talk is Jericho” and “The Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast”—are must-listen. Jericho and Keller each have their own unique style as an interviewer, and both delivered genuinely compelling conversation with Moxley.
• Creative Humor is one of those accounts that restores my faith in the internet.
• Jon Moxley made a strong impression in his first post-WWE match, winning the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship against the talented Juice Robinson at NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors finale. His AEW colleague Chris Jericho is challenging Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP heavyweight title at the Dominion show on Sunday.
• It can’t be possible that I’m the only fan of the Blue Bloods… these videos, resurrected by Monsoon Classic Twitter page, brought back some fond memories of William Regal recruiting Bobby Eaton to the blue side.
• WWE’s video where R-Truth loses—and then regains—his 24/7 title on a golf course against Jinder Mahal has been viewed more than five million times in three days. There is so much potential with this title, if WWE stays creative with it.
Super ShowDown in Saudi Arabia set for this Friday
WWE returns to Saudi Arabia this Friday for Super ShowDown, another controversial show in Jeddah.
The Undertaker and Goldberg will be wrestling each other for the first time ever, there is a Triple H-Randy Orton match, and both world titles are on the line (Kofi Kingston defends the WWE title against Dolph Ziggler, while Baron Corbin challenges Seth Rollins for the Universal title) in addition to a 50-man battle royal. Brock Lesnar promises he will be looming, so, on paper, the show is overflowing with talent.
But despite the tagline that the Showdown will be “as good or better than WrestleMania,” that claim is not going to come true. WrestleMania is special, and its history runs far beyond a tagline. The Saudi show will be entertaining, but the majority of the storylines for the show are one-offs and it is more of a packed house show than a WrestleMania-caliber event.
(As an aside: if you are bothered by the fact WWE is running a show without women, EVE women’s wrestling will be live-streaming content throughout the entire ShowDown card that builds toward its Wrestle Queendom 2 show in London on Sunday, June 30.)
As for a prediction for the Super Showdown’s first meeting between Goldberg and The Undertaker, my gut feeling is that Goldberg will get the same treatment Sting received against Triple H at WrestleMania 31. Sting fought valiantly but lost, which is the same manner in which WWE defeated World Championship Wrestling.
My pick: ’Taker with the Tombstone for the win.
Triple H gives an inside look at Damian Priest
Following NXT TakeOver XXV on Saturday in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Paul “Triple H” Levesque spoke with the media on a conference call.
Levesque also gave a few extra minutes after the call ended for those who covered the show in-person, and one of his topics was the introductory vignette of Damian Priest, formerly known in Ring of Honor as Punishment Martinez, that played during the show.
“That’s a dude with a lot of aura and a lot of mystique,” said Levesque. “He has this charisma about him—talk about an x-factor when he walks about the room.”
Priest is 6'6" and extremely athletic for a big man. He had a short run as ROH Television champion, but Levesque is confident that the 37-year-old’s best years are ahead of him.
“I always felt he was under-utilized,” said Levesque. “[He is] a guy that just has a presence, and I’m excited to build that presence and to showcase it to the world. What he does with it, we’ll see. But I’m very excited about it.”
Conrad Thompson previews this week’s “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard”
Conrad Thompson returns this Friday with Bruce Prichard for a new edition of “Something to Wrestle”, looking at the career of AJ Styles.
Styles, who just turned 42 on Sunday, is on a short list of the most elite talent in the world. Yet WWE never seemed particularly interested until Styles had an incredibly successful run in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2014 and 2015.
“We’ve covered AJ on our show on the WWE Network, so we’re revisiting and replaying that this Friday,” said Thompson. “We’ve also got a whole upcoming lineup that is pretty substantial, and that includes the June ’97 Monday Night Raw where Mankind is doing his interview series with Jim Ross, then attacks him at the end. That’s the first we learn of Dude Love and the evolution of that character, as he transitioned from a major heel in 1996, working against perennial babyfaces in The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, and they changed directions in 1997. We see the heart on his chest, and we dig deep into the Dude Love character. We’ll also cover King of the Ring ’96, which is the Bulldog against Shawn, as well as King of the Ring ’99 that had Austin versus The McMahons for control of the WWF.”
Later this summer, Thompson will also watch the famed Hulk Hogan-Goldberg match on Nitro from July 6, 1998.
“I’m really curious to see what Bruce’s thoughts were on that match,” said Thompson. “He thinks through a different prism, especially when it comes to a hallmark WCW event.”
Thompson announced at Starrcast II that his newest podcast will be cohosted by Arn Anderson.
“That will start later this year,” said Thompson. “I’ve been busier than a one-armed paper hanger with all the Starrcast work we’re doing, but we hope to have a firm date by the end of July to announce when you can expect the first episode. If I were a betting man, I would think the first episode would drop before Starrcast III in August.”
Tweet of the Week
Rest in Peace, Mr. Lyle Williams.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.