The Spotlight On The Week Ahead For WWE 2/8-2/14

Happy Monday everyone!  With the football season officially behind us and baseball season still a few months away, it’s time to shift our focus entirely on a whole different season, wrestlemania season of course!  With a little under 8 weeks away until the biggest Wrestlemania of all time, things are guaranteed to be kicked into high gear before too long.  With that said, let’s take a look at what lies in the week ahead for WWE.

Raw Comes To Yes Country-  WWE Monday Night Raw will emanate live from Seattle, Washington tonight.  As many of you know by now Daniel Bryan released a tweet earlier today confirming that due to medical issues he is going to be coming to Raw tonight in Seattle to announce his retirement from wrestling.  While it’s to see that Bryan is being forced to stop wrestling, something that he loves to do, it is in a way nice that he is being afforded to opportunity to speak in Seattle, just a short drive away from Bryan’s hometown of Aberdeen.  It was on an episode of Raw back in December of 2013 where the fans in Seattle, during a segment designed to showcase the importance of a title unification match between Randy Orton & John Cena, chanted Bryan’s name relentlessly.  This was something that Bryan credited with the birth of the yes movement on his DVD that was released just last year.  For those of you thinking that this is just storyline, ESPN’s Jonathan Coachman has since confirmed that this is not at all storyline and that Bryan would be appearing on Sportscenter tomorrow night to discuss his retirement further.  It should be an emotional Raw to say the least.
Time For Us To Ride Along Once Again- Following Monday Night Raw, the second episode of Ride Along will take place on the WWE Network.  This week’s episode will follow along both King Barrett & Sheamus as well as the trio of Renee Young, Summer Rae and R Truth.  I was able to check out the first episode featuring the New Day and Miz/Ziggler and thought it was actually a lot of fun.  The show doesn’t last more than 20 and is an easy watch.  It’s gives you that “fly on the wall” atmosphere as you watch the superstars on their traveling adventures.
A Beast Of A Smackdown-  Don’t forget about Smackdown.  WWE’s Thursday night program has really picked up some steam in recent weeks since coming over to the USA Network.  Smackdown has definitely been getting more of a focus recently and new lead play by play man Mauro Ranallo has been a welcome addition to the booth.  This week’s Smackdown should be no different as Brock Lesnar makes his first appearance on Smackdown since, I believe, the end of his first run in WWE back in 2004.  On top of that the rematch between Chris Jericho and AJ Styles, which has really been building over the next few weeks, is advertised for Smackdown.
Fourth Quarter Earnings Call- On top of all of this, there will be a fourth quarter earning call on Thursday morning with Vince McMahon and George Barrios.  I’m not sure that I will be able to sit in on the live call, which i did for quarter three, but I will have coverage on Thursday regardless. This particular call will cover the fourth quarter on 2015, basically from October thru December.  These calls are always interesting because it is usually a forum for McMahon to talk about a variety of upcoming business ventures for WWE, as well as the current state of the business.  This is also the chance for everyone to get updated on the current number of subscribers to the WWE network and plans for the network moving forward.
Closing Thoughts-
Obviously with the news breaking of Daniel Bryan officially announcing his retirement from WWE, this has shook the entire week for WWE and taken a much deserved focus.  I have a number of personal stories from either watching Daniel Bryan as a fan or the number of times I got to meet Bryan over the years that I will share when I feel the time is right.
Aside from all of that, this week WWE will released their annual DVD/ Blu Ray compilation focusing on the Best Matches and Moments from Raw and Smackdown tomorrow.  That blu Ray is always fun but obviously loses a little steam with all episodes of Raw and Smackdown now being up on the network.  Total Divas also continues tomorrow night and this season has actually been a lot of fun.  If you’re a fan of Daniel Bryan, you can follow along a lot of what he’s been going through by watching Total Divas.  If you do check that out let me know what you think.  Also as stated above, Daniel Bryan will be on Sportscenter tomorrow night with the coach.  It promises to be one hell of a week in WWE and we’ve got you covered from start to finish so keep it locked in to thedailyspotligh

The Spotlight On WWE Tough Enough Episode 8

 Last night the final five of WWE Tough Enough were revealed when Giorgia Priscina (GiGi) was sent home by receiving the lowest amount of votes from the WWE Universe. From the beginning, I would say that Gigi had to be considered one of the favorites to win the show. Gigi won many of the different physical competitions and also showed a good amount of personality and character development. That said, she also began showing signs, over the past few weeks, of being overly arrogant. As seen in past weeks with Patrick and Gabi, it’s obvious that the WWE Universe is turned off by arrogance. In the end, the Universe gets the final say here and they chose to save Sara and Tanner over Gigi. I believe that Gigi was someone who really wanted this and if she works hard can make it to WWE someday as it was obvious that the judges and trainers liked her. With that out of the way, let’s get into some of the highlights from the show.


Highlights

1) Y2J Baybay!!!!!- Chris Jericho is one of the biggest stars in the history of WWE and so when I heard he was going to be the host of this season’s Tough Enough, I felt he was a natural fit. Honestly, I feel he’s done well in his role but I felt that he could offer so much more to the show. Well, that really happened this episode as Chris Jericho was awesome last night.  Right from the start of the show when Jericho greeted the contestants with pizza and alcohol as a reward for making it this far Jericho was just on fire. I loved when Jericho challenged the contestants to a drinking contest and drank the 20 something year old contestants under the table only to then show up looking chipper to wake up the hungover Tanner the next morning.  From here, Jericho was great in actually getting in the ring with the contestants to show them how to put together a match. Chris has one of the best minds in the business and I feel that if he wasn’t so busy with his in ring career, his podcast, Fozzy and all of his other endeavors, he’d make one helluva trainer. I was glad to see Jericho prominently featured and I hope it continues the rest of the series, he’s such a valuable asset.
 2) Big Match John Is Back-  From a WWE perspective, the biggest news to come out of Tough Enough is that John Cena returned to WWE television for the first time since his injury.  Cena , honestly looked pretty good as he delivered a passionate speech to the Tough Enough contestants. He actually made a great point in saying how we’re able to see each contestant from the beginning of their careers all the way through. Then the big news was revealed when John Cena confirmed that he will be back for Summerslam. The title vs. title match between Seth Rollins and John Cena is a go! I was surprised how many people across the internet were actually questioning whether or not Cena would be able to return.  Let’s not forget that this is the guy who made it back from a broken collar bone in a few months back in 2008 so that he’d make it back for the road to Wrestlemania.  John Cena is truly as tough as they come.

3) And Then There Were Two-With GiGi being voted off of the show tonight, this now means that the finals of Tough Enough for the females is down to Sara Lee and Amanda. One of those two women are going to win the $250,000 contract to be the next WWE diva. I expect that this means that one of the 3 male contestants, ZZ, Joshua or Tanner will be going home next week to set up the finale. While it hasn’t been 100% confirmed that the final vote will be determined by the fans, I would assume it would be since every other vote has been. If that is the case, I think that Sara Lee will win that fan vote in a landslide. Sara has been the one female contestant to realize that in order to do well in this competition you really need to be likable to the fans, Amanda hasn’t done that at all.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I again enjoyed this week’s Tough Enough. I’ve felt that the show has really picked up steam over the past few weeks (It may honestly have to do with the addition of the Miz as a judge). Next week will be really interesting as it will likely be one of the male contestants going home and I feel each one of the remaining three contestants have their strengths. The wildcard in everything is that Daniel Bryan still has a save, he looked so tempted to use it tonight but he has been able to keep it until the end. It’ll be interesting to see if that save will dictate the result next week.

Well that’s going to do it for me for now but I’ll have a spotlight up later today on this week’s newsworthy Total Divas. Until then, who’s your picks for the final five contestants left on Tough Enough?

All Photos Courtesy of WWE and The USA Network

The Spotlight On WWE Live from Japan on July 4th

  On last night’s episode of NXT on the WWE Network, a major announcement was made by William Regal that on July 4th the NXT title will be defended at Sumo Hall live from Tokyo, Japan.  More interesting, this live event will stream live on the WWE Network.  It was made clear today that not only will the NXT world title match be on the network but rather the entire show will air live on the Network.  Furthermore, the rest of the card was revealed today and on top of Owens vs. Balor, the rest of the card is as follows: John Cena & Dolph Ziggler vs. Kane & Wade Barrett, Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston, Neville vs. Chris Jericho, The New Day vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro, Nikki Bella vs. Paige vs. Naomi, and the Lucha Dragons vs. Los Matadores.  I think airing this live event on the network is a great idea, let’s get into some highlights about why I’m so excited about it.

Highlights  More Original Live Content On The Network- I said it from the day the Network launched, it is such a great idea to put the live events on the Network.  For those who don’t know, WWE doesn’t only tape Raw on Mondays and Smackdown on Tuesdays, but they usually have non-televised live events each week from Friday- Sunday, sometimes on Thursdays.  Now while I don’t think it’s necessary to put every single live event on the network, airing some of the live events on the Network provide the paying customer with even more wrestling.  It also makes those paying for the network, feel like they’re getting to see live programming that they normally wouldn’t be able to if they weren’t subscribed to the network.  I hope to see more of these non televised live events live on the network particularly some of the bigger shows like the Superbowl afternoon show, Hulk Hogan Appreciation Night and the annual fan appreciation night. I don’t think WWE even has to make changes to the live event structure, save for adding commentators.  I don’t think they need to restructure television to promote these shows either.  I think a few mentions of the show either on commentary or through commercials should be fine.  It can literally be something like Michael Cole saying  “And the WWE will be returning to the TD Bank Garden live in Boston, Massachusetts on the final stop on the road to Wrestlemania and you’ll get to see Roman Reigns and John Cena team up to take on Seth Rollins and Triple H and you’ll be able to watch the show live on the WWE Network!” I mean at least I’m Sold! 

 Live Events Just Became That Much More Important- Airing live events on the network also make the actual live events seem like a bigger deal, at least in my opinion.  One of the reasons I’ve always preferred to go to TV Tapings over a live event is because of the idea that anything could happen.  With the exception of very few instances, titles don’t change hands for example but with these shows now being on the network, it feels like anything can happen once again.  It’s also good to have one or two matches on the show that mean something, like Owens vs. Balor for the title, for example, or maybe do a number one contender match with the winner getting a shot on Raw the following week.  This would make me as a fan, feel like I need to go down to this live event. 

 This show is stacked- Let’s not kid ourselves, this Sumo Hall show is also going to be a show worth going out of your way to watch.  First you have Kevin Owens defending the NXT Title against the number one contender, Finn Balor. With Owens now being a member of the main roster, I wouldn’t be too surprised at all if we see a title change here.  On top of this you’re getting the first non-pay per view match featuring Brock Lesnar since his return, in a unique setting no less taking on Kofi Kingston.  Then you also have a rare appearance by Chris Jericho who hasn’t been seen on WWE TV in about 9 months.  Jericho is also taking on Neville in something of a dream match that the Japanese fans are going to love. 

 Something Completely Different- One thing I’m really looking forward to about this show is that it’s going to be taking place live from Japan.  WWE puts on shows all over the world and up until this point I’m not sure they’ve ever aired a live showing of a Japanese live event in the US.  I hope this is only the start of seeing some of the live events from other countries.  I’m really interested to see the differences in the setup, the differences in the crowd and the differences in the performances of the talent.  I also love that this show is going to air live at 630AM on the network.  I will definitely be up, coffee cup in my hand ready to kick off my 4th of July with a WWE live event and that is pretty cool.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, this is more live content on the WWE Network which is always a good thing.  I think we’re getting to a point where we can expect a Steve Austin Podcast, WWE Traditional Pay Per View, WWE Live Special (Elimination Chamber, King of the ring, etc), WWE 24 Documentary, and a variety of other specials on the Network each month and that is a great thing. It’s nice to see that WWE continues to make the Network the top priority and that’s one of the reasons I continue to be a subscriber, from day one.  That’s going to do it here but let me know your thoughts on the special and what other types of specials you’d like to see on the WWE Network in the future.

The Spotlight On WWE Tough Enough 2015 

A few months ago it was confirmed that WWE would be bringing back it’s always popular reality series Tough Enough to the USA Network for the first time in five years.  Up until this point all we really knew about the series would be that it would be returning and that members of the WWE Universe have already been sending in their audition videos to WWE with the hopes of getting that call to join the show.  From there, questions came up about the show throughout the wrestling community.  Would Stone Cold Steve Austin be returning as host? Would the winner be getting a guaranteed contract?  How would the live voting be factored into the show that was discussed during the WWE’s quarterly conference calls?  Well here are some highlights from the official Tough Enough Press Release that will hopefully answer some of those questions. 

Highlights

1)      Tough Enough will debut live on the USA Network on Tuesday night, 8PM EST and will be broadcast from the WWE Performance Center as well as Full Sail University (Where NXT is taped)

2)     Chris Jericho will be the brand new host of Tough Enough this season and will be joined by an expert panel including Daniel Bryan, Paige and “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan. 

3)     The trainers on this season of Tough Enough will be “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn, Lita and, the only returning trainer, Booker T.

4)     Tough enough contestants will be competing to become the next WWE Superstar or Diva by  winning a one-year $250,000 contract with WWE.

5)     Fans will be encouraged to send in their votes and feedback by downloading an official Tough Enough app (to be launched on May 25th, 2015) and by interacting on Twitter @WWEToughEnough

Closing Thoughts

            I’m pretty excited for the return of Tough Enough as by the time it debuts there will be five straight nights of original WWE programming on television.  On Sundays will be Total Divas, Mondays will be Raw, Tuesdays will be Tough Enough, Wednesdays will be WWE NXT, and Thursdays would be Smackdown.  I know some fans are worried about whether they will have the final say or not but remember that fans never had a final say, or any real say, in who was eliminated or who should stay.  In all honesty, I’d like to think that the collective minds of Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, Paige & Hulk Hogan could make a more well informed choice for who should be a WWE Superstar than any fan.  I also like the fact that this will get Chris Jericho and Hulk Hogan (Not to mention Lita and Billy Gunn) back on WWE TV regularly and also give Daniel Bryan a chance to be on WWE television if in fact his inkury is worse than originally thought.  The only thing I question would be the $250,000 contract.  I feel like it’s a bit unfair to the guys who have been at NXT for years and aren’t making close to that (I assume the winner would report to NXT and not be put immediately on the main roster but could be wrong) but I understand that it’s a reality show and the prize money is part of the competition aspect.  Regardless, I’m glad that Tough Enough is back and hope that it becomes an annual tradition.   If you are interested in checking out the entire press release you can do so below. 


 HULK HOGAN®, CHRIS JERICHO®, PAIGE™ AND DANIEL BRYAN® HEADLINE NEW SEASON OF WWE TOUGH ENOUGH® ON USA NETWORK LAUNCHING JUNE 23

 Series Features Live Voting with Immediate Results

NEW YORK and STAMFORD, CONN – May 7, 2015 – USA Network and WWE announced today that WWE Superstar Chris Jericho will be the host of the highly-anticipated series, WWE TOUGH ENOUGH, and will be joined by a panel of experts comprised of WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan®, WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan® and WWE Diva Paige™. The high-octane reality series premieres LIVE Tuesday, June 23 at 8pm ET/5pm PT on USA Network and around the world.*

This season of WWE TOUGH ENOUGH will combine the can’t-miss excitement of live television with reality-show drama, as WWE hopefuls vie for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the next WWE Superstar or Diva.  Unlike anything on television today, the lightning-fast hour of entertainment and competition will include live results every week, giving fans worldwide the power to decide who stays and who goes the very same night. Each week, one cast member will be eliminated until one man and one woman are considered “Tough Enough,” with each earning a one-year, $250,000 WWE contract.

Throughout the competition, the contestants will be trained by WWE Legends Booker T™, Billy Gunn™ and Lita™. Contestants will also come face-to-face with WWE icons including WWE Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Vince McMahon; Executive Vice President, Talent, Live Events & Creative, Paul “Triple H®” Levesque; Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon; and WWE Superstar John Cena®, among others.

“These athletes, each with varying skill sets, will be put through a grueling boot camp that will test their physical, mental and emotional limits in a way that the series hasn’t done before,” said Jessica Sebastian, Vice President of Unscripted Series, USA Network.  “Each week, their training and experience culminates in a spectacular live event where they will be put in front of their WWE heroes and an audience of fans.  In this reimagined version of WWE TOUGH ENOUGH only the best will survive.”

“This season of WWE TOUGH ENOUGH will be the most innovative, unique and engaging series on television,” said Kevin Dunn, WWE Executive Producer. “A live global telecast, real-time voting with immediate results, and unprecedented use of digital and social media during and between telecasts will all lead to a groundbreaking viewing experience.”

To date, entrants from 113 countries have submitted videos, which have been viewed more than two million times on YouTube. To view play lists of entrants’ videos or to submit a new audition video, go to WWEToughEnough.com. For a compilation of entrants’ video submissions, click here.

On Monday, May 25, the WWE TOUGH ENOUGH App will be available for free download, giving fans even more opportunity to engage with this cutting-edge reality competition series. Through the App, viewers will receive access to exclusive content, learn more about the contestants, take part in social conversation between live telecasts and vote in real time. Fans around the world can also vote live each week for who stays and who goes via text (U.S. only), on Twitter @WWEToughEnough as well as on the WWE App, WWEToughEnough.com and USANetwork.com.

WWE TOUGH ENOUGH will emanate live from both the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., home to WWE’s developmental division NXT, and the innovative professional production studios at Full Sail University located in Winter Park, Fla.  This launch will mark the inaugural use of the University’s latest high-caliber, on-campus production facility. In 2012, WWE and Full Sail announced an innovative partnership, which created a student scholarship fund, and also allows students of the university’s entertainment-focused degree programs, including Film, Show Production, Digital Arts and Design, Internet Marketing and Entertainment Business, to gain real-world experience alongside WWE’s professional production staff during WWE NXT tapings.

WWE TOUGH ENOUGH is produced by WWE, USA Network and Left Hook Media. Matt Odgers and Scott Teti are Executive Producers for Left Hook Media. Jessica Sebastian is Vice President of Unscripted Series for USA Network. Kevin Dunn is Executive Producer for WWE.

Be sure to join in the conversation at @WWEToughEnough @WWE @USANetwork and engage with your favorite WWE Tough Enough personalities @IAMJericho @ReneeYoungWWE @HulkHogan @WWEDanielBryan @RealPaigeWWE@BookerT5x @AmyDumas @BillyGunnWWE.

The Spotlight On Wrestling Podcasts- 4/13 to 4/17 

I’ve been listening to wrestling podcasts now for quite some time.  If you’re going to get into where it all started it was probably back in 2003 when I was in Orlando, Florida visiting my grandfather. My grandfather  had fallen ill and unfortunately passed away while we were in town visiting him for about a month.  During this period of time, I noticed a show on Orlando’s 740 the team called Between The Ropes which was a local weekly radio show dedicated to professional wrestling.  I immediately jumped on my computer and saw that BTR had a website and had a list of all of their past episodes.  I was instantly hooked! This was way before the days of podcasts and BTR was a great show. Hosts Fritz, Dickerman & Vito ( and sometimes D’Lo Brown) got me through a tough time. The show was a two hour long program that broke all the news of wrestling & mma. During the second hour they were usually an interview featuring WWE superstars, independent wrestlers or members of the wrestling media. BTR introduced me to a whole new side of the wrestling industry, it was no longer just about Raw & Smackdown, rather there was a whole community out there.   Of course, this probably doesn’t fully count as a podcast because it was a radio show but I do still enjoy much of BTR host, Brian Fritz’s stuff.  If we’re going strictly podcating, I’d say it started in 2010 when I first started listening to Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling.  I was seeing a girl who lived in Woodbridge, New Jersey and so I would travel from Queens, NY two to three times per week and spent four-six hours in the car each time. With Cabana always being one of my favorite wrestlers,  I instantly became hooked to his podcast because it really gave an inside perspective to the world of independent wrestling and the conversations were always so fun.  Over the past two years wrestling podcasts have exploded.  I never would have thought we’d hear from Chris Jericho & Stone Cold Steve Austin as podcast hosts each week. Wrestling podcasts continue to grow at such a clip it’s both exciting and intimidating.  With this column I’m going to point out three podcasts from last week that you should go out of your way to listen to and, if applicable, a podcast or two that you could skip this week. My goal here is not only to focus on the more known wrestling podcasts but also to maybe find a podcast or two for you that you may not know about. So, without any further ado, let’s get into three highlights from last week.

Highlights:
1)  In The Pit With Piper with Ronda Rousey- 4/13/2015-  Show of hands who knew Rowdy Roddy Piper had a podcast every week?  It’s ok if you didn’t as for whatever reason Roddy’s podcast hasn’t caught on as much as the other ones have, at least not right away.  Truth be told, Roddy’s podcast has really started to get better and this past week’s podcast was my favorite thus far.  Ronda Rousey is absolute pleasure to listen to and you can tell the mutual admiration that both Rowdy ones have for one another.  What I found interesting was that Piper actually gave the Rowdy moniker to Rousey.  The conversation also touches on Ronda’s future with the WWE which should provide some optimism to wrestling fans around the world.  A fun listen all around and you can find Roddy’s podcast every Monday at podcastone.com
2) The Ross Report with Shawn Michaels- 4/14/2015-  I know that Shawn has really made the podcast rounds lately as he promotes his new book and it gets to a point of how much you can listen to one guy but I really like his appearance on The Ross Report.  Ross was really in his element asking Shawn questions you don’t hear during every interview.  In particular, Ross gets into shawn’s in ring return while training talents prior to his return to the WWE as well as what plans would have been had Shawn stuck around post Wrestlemania 14.  Fun listen and the Ross Report can be found Tuesday evenings on podcastone.com
3) The Human Podcast Machine with Todd Grisham- 4/14/2015– If there’s one podcast I’m really enjoying, it’s The Human Podcast Machine with Taz.  Taz has such a knack for this podcasting world and makes for a great host.  His shows are always pretty light hearted and good for a laugh.  His episode with former WWE play by play man, and current ESPN anchor, Todd Grisham is actually one of his best.  Grisham may have come across on camera as a little bland but he’s actually got a great personality and hearing the two catch up was a pleasure to listen to.
Lowlights:
1) Talk Is Jericho with Team Tiger Awesome- 4/15/2015-  I usually love Chris’ show and I’m sure his interview with William Regal is great but Team Tiger Awesome didn’t do much for me.  If you’re thinking it’s because they aren’t wrestlers, that isn’t the case as I’ve enjoyed countless episodes of TIJ with his non wrestling guests, this one just seemed a little too much self promotion.  Jericho is the king of self promotion and does it so well that I got his book and new Fozzy record based on what I heard on TIJ!  That said I would have preferred this interview be a sub interview to go along with a bigger interview guest as I didn’t think over 90 minutes on Jericho’s new Comdedy Central gig was necessary.
That’s going to do it for this week, I’ll be back next Monday with my picks from this past week.  Until then, go out there and listen to some podcasts!