In this week’s recap of WWE Talking Smack, Daniel Bryan nudges the envelope, while Baron Corbin and Alexa Bliss give much-needed depth to their characters.
As usual, the WWE Talking Smack aftershow provided an excellent coda to this week’s SmackDown Live by continuing to do what it does best. That is: give Daniel Bryan space to play and let misunderstood wrestlers explain themselves. This week, that meant lots of balls talk and some time with Baron Corbin and Alexa Bliss.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the Sept. 13 edition of Talking Smack, broken down into the two guest segments and Renee Young’s banter with the Beard.
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The Lone Wolf Finally Explained
After a vicious ambushing of Apollo Crews earlier in the night, Baron Corbin arrived to the desk in no real mood to talk. Still, from what we did get out of him, the Lone Wolf finally provided some much-needed depth and explanation to his character and why he acts the way he does.
Why so lonely, Lone Wolf? Well, turns out Corbin tried team sports and doesn’t like the fact that other people can let him down. When a guy actually played for an NFL team before his wrestling career, this is a cool storyline to exploit. We found out Corbin spent a childhood as a three-time Golden Gloves winner and jiu-jitsu champ. His loner motivations have never been explained thoroughly to the WWE main-roster audience, until now. He’s just a guy who grew up beating people up by himself. Makes sense to keep that going as an adult.
When asked who his biggest obstacle to success was, Corbin didn’t go kayfabe and pick another wrestler. He said the people who make his matches are his biggest obstacle. That. Is. Gold. It’s cliche by this point, but no less true: pro wrestling is at its best when blurring the lines between real and fake. And Corbin knows, just like everyone else, that his fate rests entirely in how he’s booked. He can either go the way of monster heel champ or get added to the NXT discard pile where Tyler Breeze, the Ascension, and others await. Saying that to his general manager’s face made for brilliant execution.
Corbin also pointed out that, for all the talk of “new opportunities” on SmackDown, there haven’t really been that many for the younger guys. And he’s right. The women are an exception. But on the men’s side, the main storylines continue to be dominated by Dean Ambrose, John Cena, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler and the Miz. A.J. Styles is certainly an exception, but he’s nearly 40 years old and already arrived in WWE tailor-made. Corbin, Crews, American Alpha and this next generation really haven’t gotten the exposure they were promised yet.
Alexa Bliss stopped by as the show’s second guest and, like Corbin before her, used Daniel Bryan as a way to beef up her heel personality. When talking about her diminutive stature, Bryan threw in a supportive, “Hey, I was small too.” To which Bliss quickly shot back with “Daniel, I am nothing like you.” Without being able to put people over in the ring, Bryan is doing a fantastic job of serving as a heel lightning rod to get wrestlers heat in this aftershow.
Line of the night, from Bliss: “I like your shirt Renee. It’s so, like, disco pirate.”
While explaining that she’s been driven her entire life by things like cheerleading competitions, Bliss was cut off by Bryan, who said she must’ve had a “pageant mom” and that this would explain a lot. He would later randomly ask her how her vertical leap compared to Naomi’s. Both comments seemed to catch Bliss off guard. It makes you wonder how much Bryan intentionally throws in these complete nonsequiturs to make the younger wrestlers better at improvising on the mic.
More blurring of reality: Renee asking if Alexa felt left behind by the Four Horsewomen movement, when she was also in NXT that entire time. Surely, Bliss and many others felt at least a little resentment seeing Charlotte, Becky, Sasha, and Bayley hotshotted before them.
Balls, Balls, Balls
Using his first pitch duties before a Philadelphia Phillies game as a springboard, Bryan launched into a bit about how he wasn’t allowed to say “balls” on the show last week. John Cena and Randy Orton, though, could say balls on SmackDown this week and get away with it. Which led Bryan to say the word seven times in the next 20 seconds. That legitimate anti-establishment winking is what maintains Bryan’s outsider darling character and makes him such a valuable on-screen presence.
Interesting that Bryan explicitly pointed out the crowd turning on Dean Ambrose at Backlash when talking about his John Cena ambush. We’ve seen Ambrose turn on fellow faces before – even his Shield brother Roman Reigns. But Bryan pointing out the crowd reaction leads you to believe a full-blown heel turn is on deck for the Lunatic Fringe.
Running bits like Shane McMahon’s open invitation and continued callbacks to the Miz meltdown are nice touches. They offer narrative throughlines that reward dedicated viewers who tune in every week.