SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
John Cena on Twitter: “It’s Almost Like My Journal”
John Cena is no longer a weekly presence on WWE programming, but he is a constant force on social media. Instead of appearances on Raw every Monday, he is now a source of advice and inspiration on Twitter.
“It’s almost like my journal,” Cena told Sports Illustrated. “That’s who I am as a human. I generate these from self-reflection and self-exploration. I never try to be too judgy or too pushy, I just try to put out thoughts to the world.”
Naturally, Cena is asked constantly if the tweets are directed at anyone in particular.
“I have a bunch of posts backlogged and one that I’ll post soon is, ‘If you think these posts are about you, you’re right,’” said Cena. “If they can resonate with you, then they’re about you.”
Cena has built a Twitter following of 11.9 million accounts, and he believes the key to developing a social media presence is authenticity.
“It’s the same thing that garnered me a lot of success in the WWE, which was remaining authentic,” said Cena. “When I changed into a hip hop persona, hip hop was part of my life, a part of my culture. So I just dove in in a way that was authentic to me. I was a Vanilla Ice exaggerated wannabe, essentially what I was in middle school, and I went back to that personality with all the bravado and swagger, and then eventually, over a decade and a half, became the character you see on Raw and SmackDown.
“Very much like in WWE when I openly switched and stopped rapping, choosing to be more aware of the young people in the crowd. That was the spawn of the character I became, which was, ‘Work hard, never give up, show respect.’ That’s who I am.”
The notion that people are ecstatic when Cena follows them on Twitter put a proud smile on his face.
“I know that social media is most times a difficult, argumentative, and negative place, Twitter especially, because of the ability to hide behind the text,” said Cena. “So what can I do? Send out good stuff, be honest with everybody, and then follow people that relate to the good stuff.
“If I follow someone who is a ‘negative’ person on Twitter—their profile reads sarcastic, skeptic—and they like my tweets? They’re not who they say they are, or they have a chance to change. If the experiment fails, so be it, but it’s just me trying to use my presence to tip the balance.”
The Fiend’s Magic Touch Will Be on Display at TLC
A fascinating component to Bray Wyatt’s run as “The Fiend” is his ability to alter his opponents, even after their storyline concludes.
Plenty of attention to detail went into “The Fiend,” even his “Yowie wowie!” catchphrase. A Yowie is an ancient Australia spirit, one that collects souls in the dark.
There are even Yowie hunts, led by cryptozoologists (people who study mythical creatures) and those trips are clouded by darkness, alleged sightings and a never-ending search. The Yowie allegedly leaves behind no footprints, which is another detail WWE’s creative team accurately portrays when Wyatt as “The Fiend” stalks opponents in the dark.
Wyatt returned this past summer to exact revenge upon Finn Balor. More than just destroying Balor in the ring at SummerSlam, Wyatt also made a lasting impact on his personality, as Balor shifted from a babyface to a heel upon his arrival to NXT.
Seth Rollins was next.
Rollins had served as WWE’s top babyface, twice defeating Brock Lesnar for the Universal title. But the feud with Wyatt ended with Rollins bitter and eager to turn against the Raw roster, as evidenced by the tease to his recent heel turn. Wyatt’s most recent work was with Daniel Bryan, who he has helped transform back into the leader of the “Yes!” movement.
Whether this is a planned part of the storyline or just a serendipitous gift that has fallen into WWE’s lap, it is another of compelling element to “The Fiend.”
Wyatt’s touch even altered the Universal title, changing it from the color red to blue. Wyatt now has an entirely new belt adorned with his visage, which is the title on the line at this Sunday’s Tables, Ladders, and Chairs pay per view against The Miz.
Miz has sputtered since his storyline with Shane McMahon. It still feels out of place for him to work as a babyface, and this Sunday’s match against Wyatt, with Daniel Bryan remaining a part of the story, could be a way to have Miz return to a more familiar role as a heel by turning on Bryan.
Trevor Murdoch Preparing for Friday’s NWA Pay-Per-View
The NWA’s “Into The Fire” pay-per-view takes place this Saturday, and the card is filled with exciting matches. Headlined by world heavyweight champion Nick Aldis defending his title in a best two-out-of-three falls match against James Storm, the card also includes Trevor Murdoch, who is enjoying the beginning of a career resurgence in the NWA.
“The NWA has brought back that old school sensibility to pro wrestling,” said Murdoch, who is 39-year-old William Mueller. “There are no lights, no smoke. You go out there and it’s all based on your ability in the ring and how you interact on camera. If you’re good, people will tell you. If you’re not, they’ll tell you, too. I like going into that pressure-cooker. The NWA has a certain class and history to it, especially with the connection to Harley Race, and I want to be part of that.”
Murdoch is a product of Harley Race’s Wrestling Academy, making the most of the lessons he learned from the legendary Race over the past 20 years.
“I know the standard Race set for his students, and now I’m a representation of him with him not being around any longer,” said Murdoch. “It’s my responsibility to remind people what he brought to the business and what he did for the business. I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to make sure I represent Harley the right way. When tough guys talk about the toughest in wrestling, they talk about Harley. I definitely want to make sure I represent him and his legacy to the best of my ability.”
Murdoch wrestles the masked Question Mark this Saturday. Although the NWA under Billy Corgan has held pay-per-views, Into The Fire is different. The NWA’s 70 Anniversary show was built on nostalgia, and the Crockett Cup was co-run with Ring of Honor, but Into The Fire is a standalone event centered around current storylines and stars from the weekly NWA Powerrr show.
“It’s going to be a hot night and I’m just glad to be part of it, so I’m going to do my best to beat the s--- out of the Question Mark,” said Murdoch. “It’s going to be a hard-hitting match, so I’ll just focus on keeping my work blinders on and beat him up. I’m excited about my match, and I’m excited to see what else is on the card, including the women, Eli Drake, James Storm, and a tag match with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.”
Most wrestling fans cannot think of Murdoch without also thinking about his former tag partner Lance Cade.
Murdoch and Cade were three-time world tag team champions in WWE from 2005 to 2008. Tragically, Cade died in 2010 of a drug overdose at the age of only 29. Murdoch carries Cade in his heart everywhere he goes.
“Lance comes to every match with me,” said Murdoch. “When I’m in the ring, I can sometimes hear his voice yelling at me from the side. He was so talented, a 290-pound dude that wrestled like a cruiserweight. But the memories go beyond wrestling matches, it’s also what we created with our families. I miss him so much. He’s another angel that is watching over me when I step into the ring.”
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
- Raw had multiple good moments, including the Kabuki Warriors-Becky Lynch handicap match (and that incredible Kairi Sane flying elbow onto Lynch), a fun sprint between the Viking Raiders and Street Profits, a great look at Aleister Black, and built toward a highly anticipated main event between AJ Styles and Rey Mysterio—but nothing was better than the payoff to the Seth Rollins heel turn.
- WWE announced over the weekend that it had released Luke Harper, Sin Cara and The Ascension. Harper would be a perfect addition to AEW, adding buzz to Dynamite on his debut as well as providing depth to the roster. (All four men are bound by 90-day non-compete clauses.)
- Eddie Colón, better known as Primo, and Robert Roode were each suspended 30 days by WWE for a violation of the company’s talent wellness policy—a story Sports Illustrated will continue to follow.
Batista and the New World Order will be entering WWE’s Hall of Fame during WrestleMania weekend in 2020, but it is somewhat surprising that Eric Bischoff is not part of the NWO contingent being inducted.
- Who else is enjoying the Samoa Joe era on Raw?
- As the two prepare for a showdown at Wrestle Kingdom, Chris Jericho’s latest message to Hiroshi Tanahashi aired this past Sunday during New Japan’s show in Hiroshima.
- Jon Moxley also made his return to New Japan on Sunday, challenging IWGP U.S. champ Lance Archer to a Texas Death Match at Wrestle Kingdom.
- Juice Robinson and David Finlay won New Japan’s World Tag League tournament in the main event of Sunday’s show, and per Robinson to Sports Illustrated, celebrated with a combination of beer and wine: “We held off on alcohol for all of World Tag League, so tonight we chose to partake, celebratory style.”
- On the subject of tag teams, The Revival posted a photo with a “young Tony Schiavone.”
- WALTER’s car was broken into before his EVOLVE 142 match this past Saturday, forcing him to wrestle barefoot after his boots—along with his passport and U.K. title belt—were stolen.
HBO comedian Dan Soder works wrestling into his comedy
Dan Soder’s “Son of a Gary” comedy special debuted Saturday on HBO, and the comedian is also a passionate pro wrestling fan.
The 36-year-old Soder is thrilled to share his special with fellow wrestling fans, especially considering his comedy is designed to be just like a wrestler’s work in the ring: a chance to get away from the everyday.
“People don’t realize that wrestling is such a great escape,” said Soder. “It’s kind of like reality TV, except reality TV is more damaging to watch. There is also a nostalgic kick built-in, which makes me like it even more.
“I associate it with renting old Survivor Series tapes from Blockbuster. TBS and Blockbuster were how I found out about WCW. It was like finding out your dad had another family.”
Writing his own material in comedy has provided Soder with an entirely new appreciation for the writers of weekly wrestling television.
“Raw does three hours, SmackDown does two, I can’t imagine writing for it,” said Soder. “That is insane.”
With all of his traveling, Soder prefers to watch the once-a-week standalone shows.
“I mostly watch AEW and NXT,” said Soder. “It’s so much fun to watch the competition. AEW, with the TNT contract, it’s really cool to see that. Now I have a lot of wrestling to watch, so what a great problem to have.”
The comedy special is not Soder’s first, but the chance to have the spotlight on HBO is his biggest platform yet in comedy.
“You get lucky to have the chance to do a special, so I honed it to get it right,” said Soder. “My Comedy Central special, which I really liked, was something where I felt I could have tightened a bit. I didn’t want that feeling with the HBO special.
“There is also a wrestling joke in the special. If you watch, you’ll see it.”
Soder is one of comedy’s emerging stars, and a successful run on HBO offers the chance to catapult his standing. But, casting aside big dreams and aspirations, he just wants viewers to enjoy the special.
“I’m hoping people dig it,” said Soder. “I’m hoping people laugh and like the jokes. I had a lot of fun making this, I put a lot of time into it, and I hope people like it.”
Conrad Thompson Previews “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard”
Conrad Thompson drops two new podcasts over the next two days, looking at Armageddon from 2004 on “Grilling JR” and then Armageddon 1999 this Friday on “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard.”
JBL closed out Armageddon ’04 in the main event, successfully defending the WWE title in a fatal four-way match against Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, and The Undertaker. But a lot of what was happening off-screen was even more scintillating than what occurred on-camera.
“‘04 is an interesting time in the company, especially since Paul Heyman is removed from the SmackDown writing team,” said Thompson. “That happened, allegedly, because he couldn’t get along with Stephanie McMahon. We’ll examine that with Jim Ross, and the company launches ‘WWE 24/7,’ which of course is a precursor to the Network. Vince was also making more money than ever thanks to the stock market, and there is a lot of meat on the bone in this episode.”
Armageddon ‘99, which will be discussed on the Prichard show, closed with Triple H defeating Vince McMahon in a no-holds-barred match.
“The concept was, if Triple H won, he’d become the number one contender, but if Vince won, then Triple H and Stephanie had to have an annulment,” said Thompson. “There’s lots of other silly s--- to cover, too, like Big Show and the Bossman, the Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection against the New Age Outlaws and a pretty famous evening gown pool match with Miss Kitty, B.B., Ivory, and Jacqueline.”
Chris Jericho, whom the company had high hopes for, also defeated Chyna for the Intercontinental title.
“If Jericho had had that match in WCW against Miss Jackie for the TV title, like Disco Inferno, people would have thought it was quite the demotion,” said Thompson. “Somehow, in the WWE, it wasn’t viewed that way. How much of that was presentation? And how much of that were the players themselves?
“Steve Austin was out here, so it’s a very interesting time for the company. The show felt like a miss to me, and I’m looking forward to hearing Bruce’s take, which we know will be filtered through the McMahon lens.”
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