The Spotlight On Sam Roberts Live From Caroline’s On Broadway

 This evening I attended a live recording of the Sam Roberts Show (yes with my eyes dilated so if you saw the guy at the event with sunglasses, that was yours truly).  The show was taped for tomorrow’s Sam Roberts Show on Sirius XM and so if you don’t want the show to be spoiled (though I won’t really go into too much detail) stop reading now.

The event itself was a lot of fun and lasted over two hours.  The show for the most part was focused on wrestling almost entirely with guests including Paul Heyman, Corey Graves and Katie Linendoll.  I’ve been a fan of Sam’s for a few years now, subscribing to his videos on YouTube and enjoying all of his interviews that he kicked off with his trademark “What’s The Haps?”.  I’ve touched on his wrestling podcast a couple of the times on the Spotlight On Wrestling Podcasts section of the site in the past and have continued to enjoy those as well.  This particular live show, however, was not the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast as much as it was a taping of Sam’s daily radio show on the Opie station of Sirius XM Radio.  Let’s get right into some of the highlights from the taping.

Highlights- 

Mike Cannon-  Comedian Mike Cannon came out for a standup routine to get the crowd warmed up and really got the crowd going.  He was hilarious and did such a great job that Sam invited Mike back up on stage to do his open with him.  The two continued to talk about Deez Nuts, which Sam has really been at the forefront of even before Deez Nuts became such a big overnight sensation.  They also discussed this insane Josh Duggar-Ashley Madison story with Cannon joking that most of the wrestling fans in attendance were probably wondering if Ashley Madison was a new NXT Diva.  Good stuff all around.


Katie Linendoll- Really good to see Today show correspondent, Katie Linendoll on hand for Sam’s live show.  She has been a great addition to Sam’s wrestling podcast and seems to be a true fan of the wrestling business with a good amount of knowledge.  You can tell that Katie was really excited for Summerslam weekend and i think she also did a great job in asking questions to Paul Heyman.

Corey Graves-  For those who don’t know, Graves and Roberts have developed quite the friendship over time and Graves has made multiple appearances on Roberts’ podcast.  What I like about Graves’ appearances is that they’re always a little different and it seems that Sam is able to get a little more in depth with each interview.  For an example, they explained that while Corey can’t wait for NXT in Brooklyn this weekend, part of him really misses being in the ring and he would have loved being in the ring on the show.  He explained that it’s a little weird for him to be in NXT right now because he was one of the members of that old guard for NXT with guys like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt.  He explained that the time period for someone who first enters NXT to the time that they get to the main roster has really changed since he was competing in NXT. He explained that it used to be that you would come into NXT and then if you were good you would go through the system rather quickly and up to the main WWE roster and if you weren’t good you would get cut quickly.  Nowadays, however, with the invention of the performance center, guys are able to stay down in NXT for a long period of time provided that there is consistent improvement during that span.

Paul Heyman- The main event of the evening was Paul Heyman who came across fantastic on this show.  Paul started off by singing another rendition of “Glory Glory Brock Lesnar” which got everyone singing along.  He then asked one of the fans in the middle of Caroline’s to join him on stage so he can take her seat and proclaimed that he was sitting exactly where he belonged, in the Cesaro Section (a bunch of fans in the middle two tables had brought the Cesaro Section posters into Caroline’s and were holding them up throughout the show) which got a huge reaction.  When Sam asked Paul if there was another star that he wanted to align himself with if and when Brock Lesnar retires, he said all of NXT.  He equated it to if he would ever take over the Yankees back in 2010 the first two things he would have done would be to trade A-Rod and Derek Jeter for about five or six 21-24 year old players who could be the future of the team, which is what he would like to do with some of the NXT talents.

 

At this point Paul went on to mention that if he could draft one guy from NXT it would actually be Corey Graves.  He said that Corey is the best color commentator in all of wrestling because he succeeds in, not only getting one guy over, but in getting the entire NXT Roster over.  He said that Corey Graves is like WWE’s Joe Rogan but is so good that it’s only a matter of time before everyone starts saying that Joe Rogan is UFC’s Corey Graves.  From here Paul was asked about his plans in 1993 to try and take on Howard Stern by becoming a morning radio host.  Paul confirmed that their was in fact plans for him to become the morning guy for Hot 97 but people wondered how you could put a jewish guy on a hip hop radio station.  Of course, years later, Peter Rosenberg is now the morning host for Hot 97.

 

From here Sam wondered what happened when the Undertaker went to a UFC show years ago and if that was part of some plan.  Paul explained that their was no plan but that Brock Lesnar was really pissed because he felt that when he was finished with wrestling, he never had any interest in going back and wasn’t showing up at WWE events and sitting front row.  Whereas, here’s the Undertaker showing up sitting front row at a UFC fight, Brock felt that he had no right to do that. Paul also joked that Brock lost that fight due to diverticulitis which was a spell cast on him by the Undertaker.  When Paul was asked if he believes that he’s the greatest talker in the history of the business, he explained that you’ve never seen Paul Heyman hit a dropkick off the top rope because he knew he would never be able to do that better than anyone else, however, there was nothing that was holding him back from being the best talker in the business and so that is where he focused his energy.  He also added that one of the advantages he has is that he’s one of the few guys who is able to write all of his own promos.  The interview then ended with Paul handing out “Paul Heyman Guy” and “Paul Heyman Girl” shirts to members in the audience.

Q & A-  One of the things that i really enjoyed about this show was that Sam then opened up the room for questions for both Corey Graves and Paul Heyman.  This was great as both of them didn’t shy away from any of the questions that were asked of them, in particular Paul Heyman.  When Paul was asked about what he would do in ECW when different wrestlers would leave and if he ever considered a guy like Sakuraba, he explained that he was always looking for ways to do something different with ECW.  He mentioned how he was able to turn the Sandman from a beach bum to beer swelling hardcore legend and he was able to get the most out of guys like The Public Enemy.  He continued how when technical wrestlers like Benoit, Guerrero, and Malenko left ECW, he knew there was no way to replace them so he looked for something different by bringing in some of the high flyers like Tajiri and Super Crazy.  He added that at one point there was a big idea he had to bring in Frank Shamrock.  When Paul was asked about the success throughout his career, he attributed it to his ability to reinvent himself.  He explained that when he used to work for the NWA and he would walk down the streets of New York City people would ask him where his big phone was, then during the ECW days, people would chant ECW at him and now people chant “BBBBBRRRROOOOOOCCCCKKKKKKKK LLLLEEEEESSSSSNNNNAAAAAAARRRR” at him.

Probably the most interesting thing to come out of this show was when a fan asked Paul why it didn’t work out with Cesaro since he was such a fan of his work.  Paul explained that period of time as a catch-22 for Cesaro as he said that the original plan post Wrestlemania 30 was for both Brock and Paul to take time off.  However, once Brock broke the streak, WWE felt that Paul needed to remain on television so that he can continue to remind fans about Brock breaking the streak.  Thus, he chose to work with Cesaro so that he can stay on television and, on every single show, say that he was ” The one behind the one in 21-1…” and so on.  He explained that the problem was that this relegated Cesaro to a background player and in doing so, the hope of transferring some of Brock’s heat onto Cesaro didn’t really work out.  He added, however, that because Vince was so invested in what Paul was doing (with every intention of building to the inevitable rematch), this gave Vince the opportunity to notice Cesaro, who he claimed Vince had never really noticed as much of anything, prior to this program.  He also attributes these promos that he cut as the vehicle that lead to the rematch at Summerslam because it made Brock’s victory over The Undertaker a bigger deal than if Paul had been taken off television for an extended period of time and the streak being broken was never mentioned for months. He ended by saying that to him this rematch really is the match too big for Wrestlemania because they needed a main event focus and would get lost in the shuffle as a part of the big Wrestlemania card.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, there was so much more to this show and you should go out of your way to listen to the Sam Roberts Show tomorrow when it airs Sirius XM Radio on Opie 103 at 12PM EST.  It is a great way to get excited for Summerslam and NXT Takeover being that both Paul Heyman and Corey Graves are such big parts of those shows respectively.  In the end, this was one of the most enjoyable live radio shows/podcasts that I’ve attended. A great job by all of those involved.

That’s going to do it for me but tomorrow will begin our dailyspotlight rankings of all of the Summerslams in history and I’ll be back Saturday with coverage of the Live NXT Panel.  Until then thanks for reading and have a good night.

The Spotlight On E:60- WWE: Behind The Curtain

I had mentioned this special in the daily sports update on Tuesday and got to check it out with my girlfriend last night.  I always like to watch different documentaries about WWE with my girlfriend because she enjoys them and she also offers a different perspective on the documentary as a casual fan of the product.  I went out of my way to avoid any spoilers on the documentary so that I went into the documentary with an open mind, not knowing what to expect.  In the end, I found the documentary very enjoyable and an interesting look on how the developmental process works once a talent arrives at NXT.  The piece included interviews with Triple H, Vince McMahon. Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock along with NXT talents and their loved ones.  Let’s get into some of the more interesting highlights of the film.
Highlights

1) Ray Leppan–  At some point during the story of Ray Leppan, my girlfriend turned to me and said “I feel awful that I ever hated his character.”  For those of you who don’t know Ray Leppan currently competes as Adam Rose for WWE.  His story is the real highlight, in my eyes, of the piece as it gets into so much of the back story on the man behind the character and the struggle that someone can go through down in NXT if they can’t create a connection with their character.  Ray spent three years down in NXT working as the character Leo Kruger after moving to Florida from his native South Africa after getting the opportunity.  The documentary shows how many of the management level people doubted Ray and felt that he was struggling in creating a believable character.  All the while we get to learn about the real life struggle that Ray goes through with his newborn son who was born with a stomach ailment that doesn’t allow him to eat food and he needs to be fed through a peg.  Ray’s son was only given a life expectancy of two years.  Once you get that connection Ray’s family and the struggles that he goes through to get onto the main WWE roster to support his family, you root for Ray to make it for the rest of the film.  It breaks your heart to see the 35-year old Ray being told by Triple H that he has to reinvent himself.  The piece then does a great job in showing how (over the two years in which the piece was filmed) Ray is able to create the Adam Rose character and find success in making it up to the roster.  I really hope WWE tells this story on Raw because it can do a lot for the Adam Rose character.  I mean who wouldn’t want to root for a guy like that?

2) Behind The Curtain– The backbone of this piece, other than the profile pieces, is the access that is granted to ESPN to film production meetings and other backstage segments.  It was really cool to see how a production meeting is run and the different personalities involved like Michael Hayes, Terry Taylor and Michael Cole.  From there the backstage segments showing Paul Levesque (Triple H) addressing the NXT roster are really well done and give you an insight into the world of the NXT superstar.  These superstars are working all day everyday on every aspect of their character that you can think of (from promo class, to in-ring action, the character development to weight training it all happens for these superstars at the performance center) and it is made obvious that they are competing for a spot that is anything but guaranteed.  I thought it was also cool to see the cameras follow Xavier Woods around all day the day of his debut from arriving to the Nassau Colisseum to his post match critique with Triple H.

3) Matthew Polinsky– Corey Graves was touched on a bit here on the spotlight of the first episode of Culture Shock which he hosts and you get a great look as his tough journey.  Being a lifelong fan who’s mother used to make him birthday cakes with his favorite wrestler on the cake and who then grew up wanting to be a pro wrestler only to be sidelined due to a back injury, Polinsky’s story really hit home with me.  Polinsky is first presented as a can’t miss prospect and the only talent who receives support of all of management involved in the production meeting. Triple H literally refers to Polinsky as “a priority” while hall of famer Dusty Rhodes calls him “A moviestar”.  Then Polinsky ends up medically disqualified due to a number of concussions.  This is heartbreaking for the lifelong fan and his family that he has to support.  I remember when I first heard the Polinsky was going to be doing commentary thinking, wow that was really cool for WWE to allow him to explore other opportunities when wrestling didn’t work out.  This piece gives you insight into the decision and makes you feel that much better for Polinsky watching it all unfold.

Closing Thoughts 

Rather than lowlights here, I’m going to instead list some closing thoughts because again I really enjoyed the documentary.  It made sense from an advertising perspective for ESPN to feature and promote interviews with, arguably, the three biggest stars in WWE history, Hulk Hogan, The Rock & Stone Cold Steve Austin.  That said, their appearances were  pretty breif and didn’t add too much in the way of discussing the topic at hand.  I would have instead preferred to hear from three current stars like a John Cena, or a Roman Reigns or a Seth Rollins, who have both passed through the NXT system.  I also thought Bill Demott, former head trainer at the WWE Performance Center, came across really well.  I know a lot has been said about Demott, and I won’t get into what’s true or untrue because I don’t really know, but it’s clear that in this piece he seems to be genuinely invested in the careers of the NXT Superstars. 

A final thought would be that in both watching the E:60 special and the Roman Reigns 24 special on the WWE network the night before, both of which have been covered here and that I’ve enjoyed, that there is a market for these type of human profile pieces.  Both pieces featured the superstars in their everyday life.  The superstars were shown as regular people with real struggles, the same struggles that we all go through on an everyday basis.  I found that the superstars featured came across as not only likable, but also relatable.  After the 24 special, I want to see Roman Reigns main event Wrestlemania again and win the world title in the process.  Likewise, I want to see Corey Graves, Xavier Woods and, especially, Adam Rose all succeed in their respective careers because now I know them a bit more as people and want to see them do well for their families.  I hope that these “behind the curtain” type specials continue into the future as it’s been a really fun week to be a WWE fan, and I didn’t even get into Raw!

An extra here if you’ve watched the special & wanted a little more, ESPN has realized two extra features on their website dedicated to Tyle Breeze & Colin Cassady, they’re worth checking out. 

The Spotlight On The WWE Network- Culture Shock

This past week WWE launched its latest original programming for the WWE Network entitled Culture Shock. The idea behind the show is the Corey Graves will be visiting a variety of different landmarks unrelated to WWE that fans may be interested in. I for one was interested in checking it out and here are some highlights & lowlights from the premier episode. 

Highlights

1) Corey Graves- Im really glad that WWE has decided to allow Corey Graves to try his hand at different gigs within the company now that his injuries have ended his in ring career. Corey Graves has a unique charisma that is a breath of fresh air to the commentary team. That isn’t an indictmeNt on the rest of the commentary team but more of praise for Graves. He isn’t like your everyday commentator in that he has tatooes and he has a cool factor to him. He’s the perfect host for this show because he’s someone that fans would look at and think “If Corey thinks this place is cool than the place is probably pretty cool!” 

2) The Concept- I really enjoy this concept as I think it’s interesting. Being someone who really likes going to WWE events in different cities because I’m able to then turn that event into a mini vacation with my girlfriend, I also found this useful. I’ve constantly found myself wondering “well WWE is in Dallas for Wrestlemania 32, what other non wrestling related places can I take my girlfriend that she’d be interested in?” 

3. Marvel Headquarters- I live in Queens, New York and I had no idea that the Marvel Comics headquarters was in New York City! This is a fun look as to how the comics are made and how busy different times of the year can be for the people at Marvel. 

Lowlights

1) 9 minutes?!?!- when the show started, Corey Graves says “I’m Corey Graves, this is Culture Shock, let’s have a little fun!” Well I was just starting to have a little fun when the show abruptly ended out of nowhere! I hope this was just a sneak peak and that future episodes will at least be a full half hour. If there’s not enough content in the place Corey visited then string a few together in one place. Maybe add a place Corey ate or have him review a movie, the point is that 9 minutes is too short, if it’s that short, they oughta put Culture Shock in the Quick Hits section of the network.

2) The Places don’t have to be so random- Maybe it’s just me but I think it would be cool to have Corey visit places that WWE is either heading to the next week or places that WWE was just at. If you watch Raw & WWE is live from San Franisco then it would be cool to have Corey walking along the Golden Gate Bridge, for example. WWE hasn’t been in New York in at least a month so it almost seems out of place to have Graves review a New York landmark. 

3) More than WWE- It was great to see a Hurricane shout out as he’s related to both WWE & superheroes. That said, if the focus of this show is to be about the place that Corey is visiting, there should be a lot more he can talk about other than WWE. He didn’t even get into any of the Marvel films and the Avengers 2 is coming out next week. 

Regardless, I suggest checking out Culture Shock and I have hope for this show moving forward. Next week on the spotlight on the WWE Network we’ll take a look at the “True Giants” documentary in the Beyond The Ring section of the Network.