SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Shawn Michaels on Dakota Kai: “She is such a workhorse”
Raquel González defended her NXT title last week, defeating Mercedes Martinez in a hard-hitting, physical match. The performance was particularly important for González, who is establishing herself in her first reign as champion, and a versatile, well-rounded, and believable opponent in Martinez was a perfect choice.
González stood out over the past year as the muscle for Dakota Kai, and the two have combined to make a tremendous duo. There are certainly connections to be made with the pairing of Shawn Michaels and Diesel, who had incredible chemistry when they were partnered together in 1993. Nash’s nickname as Diesel was Big Daddy Cool, so, fittingly, González is known as Big Mami Cool.
Much to Kai’s dismay, González sought out Martinez after last week’s match, extending her respect for such a hard-fought encounter. In the background, Kai expressed a look of contempt. That backstage handshake showed the first real sign of dissension between Kai and González, which was bound to occur, just as Michaels and Diesel split at Survivor Series in 1994. Diesel also went on to win the world title before Michaels, just like González accomplished the feat before Kai.
Another similarity Kai shares with Michaels is her willingness to bump and sell for her opponents, which was one of the many areas where Michaels shined. Michaels, who was featured on Sunday on A&E Biography, has worked extensively with Kai at the WWE Performance Center, and he shared his enthusiasm for her work in the ring.
“We have an incredibly talented roster, especially our women, but look at Dakota,” Michaels says. “She’s a special one. Let’s use the WarGames match [from December] as an example. Look at the a---kicking she took, bouncing around and getting back. That’s an art, and she’s mastering it.”
One of the greatest of all time, Michaels elevated the standard of excellence in professional wrestling. He thrived as a tag team wrestler and in the middle of the card before dazzling in the main event as both a babyface and heel. Though widely known for his matches throughout the years at WrestleMania, Michaels’s complete body of work has served as a massive influence for the current generation of wrestlers.
“What you see Dakota doing, I always pictured myself in that role because I wanted to Ping-Pong around the ring for my opponent,” Michaels says. “That’s one of the reasons I became who I became in the business, so watching Dakota, I am so impressed.”
This week on NXT, Kai and González agreed to move on from Martinez. In their quest to reclaim the NXT tag titles, Kai teams González next Tuesday against Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart. The possibility certainly exists, like it did decades ago with Michaels and Diesel, that González will take an accidental superkick to the face from Kai.
“I don’t want to say she feels under the radar, but I don’t know if everyone gets or appreciates everything Dakota Kai does and everything she brings to the table,” says Michaels. “She is such a workhorse. She’s really helped propel Raquel, and I keep going back to that WarGames match. She is unbelievable, and doesn’t think twice about the sacrifice that is involved and necessary. She works to the hilt, which is hard not to like and appreciate.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- AEW is undergoing significant programming changes, which include a new home on TBS beginning in January, and a new show—Rampage—which will begin airing mid-August at 10 p.m. ET on Friday nights on TNT.
- Paul Heyman shared an emotional, heartfelt tribute for the great New Jack, who died unexpectedly last weekend.
- The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported that The Miz suffered a torn ACL in his match at Backlash.
- On the subject of zombies appearing at Backlash, it’s a much easier sell if Dave Bautista is brought on to do a quick interview highlighting his new Army of the Dead film.
- One of the most underused talents in all of wrestling, Miro punished Darby Allin last week en route to the TNT title. There is no ceiling for Miro, and I am very excited to see how his title reign takes shape.
- Last week’s promo by Cody Rhodes works so much better for a villainous character. Is this the start of a heel turn?
- Impact Wrestling had a successful Under Siege special on Saturday night. Josh Alexander–El Phantasmo particularly stood out—though it is worth asking, why was Black Taurus the opponent for Brian Myers? So many others could have been used in that spot if you wanted to book a win for Myers. Moose won the main event, which gives him an upcoming title shot against Kenny Omega.
- Bronson Reed looked like a star in his cage match victory last night against Johnny Gargano. Congratulations to the new NXT North American champion.
- This week’s episode of Dark Side of the Ring looks at WCW’s Collision in Korea show, a two-day event that took place in North Korea in 1995 and saw over 150,000 people attend each day.
- “The Genius” Lanny Poffo, who is the younger brother of the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, shared his disappointment with the A&E special on Randy.
- Triple H shared a fond memory from working the final pro wrestling show at the famed Boston Garden.
- Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp broke the report that the working plan for Thea Trinidad, who is better known as Zelina Vega, is to return to WWE.
- Jon Moxley made a surprise appearance at this weekend’s GCW show, where he brawled with Nick Gage.
Kofi Kingston on Big E in the Money in the Bank match: “He would be a great fit”
WWE’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view will run later than expected this year, as Michael Cole announced on Sunday that Hell in a Cell has been moved to Sunday, June 20.
Though it won’t take place until later in the year, the addition of a new Money in the Bank briefcase winner—who is awarded a contract for a future title shot—will be a welcome addition to weekly programming.
Last year’s match was extremely creative, taking place at WWE’s Connecticut headquarters. The men’s and women’s matches started in the lobby and ended on the roof, and there were plenty of creative spots, including A.J. Styles and Daniel Bryan brawling in Vince McMahon’s office. Asuka won the women’s ladder match last year, which she quickly learned was a championship win as Becky Lynch announced she was pregnant and relinquished the Raw title. Otis was a surprise winner last year for the men, but his story never made any progress. He dropped the contract to The Miz in October, who ultimately cashed in against Drew McIntyre.
When done correctly, the Money in the Bank briefcase serves as an opportunity to elevate a wrestler into the main event. That is exactly where WWE stands with one of its most exciting, powerful and charismatic stars—one who would bring an entirely new energy to the main event—in Big E.
Big E has starred as a singles performer and in a team as part of the New Day, which in terms of longevity, creativity and title wins, is the most successful tag team in WWE history. Since he is part of the SmackDown roster, a Money in the Bank win for Big E means he would challenge Roman Reigns for the universal championship, which would be a must-see program.
Former WWE champion Kofi Kingston, who has been a New Day teammate of Big E for the past seven years, touched on the excitement E would add to Money in the Bank.
“E would be a great fit because he would bring a lot of things to the table you hadn’t seen before,” Kingston says. “There aren’t a lot of people that move like Big E that are built like him in a Money in the Bank match.
“What I love about Money in the Bank is the fact that you have so many people in the ring together that are different in size, stature and style. People forget this about Big E—he’s kind of a freak. Yes, he’s got all these muscles and he’s a strong guy, but he does so much more. He’s athletic, and he’s dangerously quick. There was a time in the locker room when [Xavier] Woods was joshing Big E a little bit, and E lunged over toward Woods and just yoked him up. It was all in a playful way, but I’d never seen somebody that big move that fast.”
Kingston is one of WWE’s most valued and seasoned veterans, and one of his primary responsibilities is highlighting the talent that can thrive for WWE. A world title run for Big E is long overdue, and he would bring value to the title, as well as be the rare babyface that the crowd is behind, an incredibly difficult task in modern-day wrestling.
“One of my goals when I initially joined New Day, when Woods and E approached me about being in this group, I wanted to do something new—and I wanted to help Woods and E rise and do whatever I could do to help them achieve a level of stardom in this industry that they hadn’t before,” Kingston says. “So yes, E would be amazing in Money in the Bank.”
Tweet of the Week
Jon Moxley had a fantastic match last week on Dynamite against Yuji Nagata, which they celebrated with a cold one.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.