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WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair on Wrestlemania – “Asuka and I Are Stealing the Show”

April 3, 2018

Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair (WWE)

I spoke with WWE Superstar Charlotte Flair in the days leading up to her Wrestlemania 32 title defense against Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. We discussed her upcoming Triple Threat match, the problems taking championship titles though airport security, and her goals for the Women’s Evolution…

• A cage match
• A submission match
• Main eventing a WWE pay-per-view event
• Mixed tag matches
• Updating a championship

Check…check…check…check…check…not bad for two years.

So, what’s next for WWE’s “Queen”? Oh…just a date with someone who hasn’t been pinned or submitted in over two and a half years at this Sunday’s Wrestlemania…

Gordon Holmes: First and foremost, I noticed you had to duck out of last week’s Mixed-Match Challenge match last week, is everything alright?
Charlotte Flair: Yeah, I’m good. I had dental surgery at the last minute and my mouth was too swollen so they kept me off of TV. But I am A-OK.
Holmes: Excellent. And you’re going to be going toe-to-toe with your Wrestlemania opponent Asuka in the Mixed-Match finals.
Flair: I know! Maybe I’ll end that streak on a Tuesday night. (Laughs)
Holmes: And this will be the first time you two have ever squared off in a ring, correct?
Flair: Yes.

Don’t Miss Wrestlemania – This Sunday, April 8, 2018 at 7p ET on Pay-Per-View

Holmes: I’ve been thinking about this, with the Women’s Evolution, there has been a lot of talk about firsts. The first Women’s Royal Rumble, the first Hell in a Cell. With this being Title vs. Streak…this is almost the first “big fight” feel…which, to me, is very rare.
Flair: Like you said, there have been so many firsts. But for me personally, I’ve had so many big matches. But how have we not crossed paths? So, when Asuka won the Women’s Royal Rumble and I was in the ring with her and Alexa Bliss and then Ronda Rousey came out, I was thinking, “I really want Asuka to pick me. That’s who I want at Wrestlemania.” Just the Empress vs. the Queen. Not to sound corny, but it just feels right. It’s the perfect storm. And she has so much respect worldwide and I have such respect for her and her style. She already has a story, with us not even having this long build, it just works. I have the title, she has the streak. Who’s supposed to beat who? It’s two bulls going head to head.
Holmes: Now when you break the streak, either during the Mixed-Match Challenge or at Wrestlemania, what’s the etiquette? Do you buy her a consolation fruit basket?
Flair: (Laughs) I’ll just shake her hand. Because everybody bows down to the queen.

Holmes: It seems like there are a lot of parallels between yourself and Ronda Rousey. You came in with the pressure of being Ric Flair’s daughter. Her coming in as one of the biggest names in MMA. Have you had a chance to talk to her or give her any advice?
Flair: I haven’t seen her since the Royal Rumble, but Ronda didn’t get where she is in UFC without working hard and dedication. I think the only thing that’s different in our industry is the level of entertainment that you have to put behind it. But, she’s already done movies. So, if she can excel at something like that, I know she can do the same here. Having Kurt Angle as a partner, I’m sure he’s given her loads of advice, being an Olympic athlete and making the transition to WWE. I have no doubt in my mind that she’s been in pressure situations. She probably does better under pressure. I hope I get to see her at Wrestlemania and tell her, “You know who you are.” That’s what my dad always says, “Just know who you are when you walk through that curtain because that’s all that matters.”

Holmes: This has kind of been downplayed, but there are four women’s matches at this year’s Wrestlemania. That has to be exciting.
Flair: It is! The Women’s Evolution is full steam ahead! It just shows how important the women are to the company now. Almost every female is on the card. And Alexa vs. Nia, me and Asuka, the mixed-tag match, the battle royal…every one has its own story. There isn’t a throwaway match.
Holmes: You’re one of the flag-bearers for this movement. Have you started mentoring any of the young talents who have come up to help them get to the next level?
Flair: I feel like I still need to get to the next level! (Laughs) Obviously with the Riott Squad I had the chance to face Ruby Riott at Fastlane. And, you want to make the most of every opportunity. And that was an opportunity. And helping talent understand what I didn’t understand when I first debuted was, what’s most important is; how do you make the audience feel? Whether it’s good or bad, whether you’re a good guy or a bad guy, you have to let them know your character. Worry about the match, but connect with the audience whether it’s bad or good. That’s what you’re here to do.

Holmes: Alright, word association time. Let’s start with Becky Lynch.
Flair: Friend…I would say best friend.
Holmes: Naomi?
Flair: Kind.
Holmes: Ruby Riott?
Flair: Potential.
Holmes: Sasha Banks?
Flair: Boss.
Holmes: Alexa Bliss?
Flair: (Laughs) “Blister” is what I called her in NXT. (Laughs) She was my little Blister.
Holmes: Nia Jax?
Flair: Strong.
Holmes: Ronda Rousey?
Flair: Tough.
Holmes: Bayley?
Flair: Awww…but that’s not a word. Sweet.
Holmes: Let’s finish with Asuka.
Flair: Mysterious.

Holmes: Oh…we didn’t talk about any of the gentlemen and their matches. Real quick, if you could only watch one of the men’s matches, which one would it be?
Flair: AJ and Shinsuke Nakamura. I’ve gotten to know them both really well on Smackdown and AJ is a mentor to me. Shinsuke I love to death and to see their careers come full circle. Knowing what they’re capable of and how good this match is and what it means to both of them…I’m really excited for this match. But, I’m still telling them that Asuka and I are stealing the show.
Holmes: Of course.
Flair: (Laughs)

Don’t Miss Wrestlemania – This Sunday, April 8, 2018 at 7p ET on Pay-Per-View

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WWE Divas Champ Charlotte Talks WrestleMania, Dream Match with Stephanie McMahon

March 31, 2016

WWE Divas Champion Charlotte (WWE)

In the evolution of professional wrestling, certain performers are credited with ushering in new movements. Hulk Hogan brought us “Rock and Wrestling,” “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is considered the father of the “The Attitude Era,” and WWE Divas Champion Charlotte (along with her WrestleMania competition Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch) are at the forefront of “The Divas Revolution.”

This revolution will take an important step forward this Sunday when three of the division’s most talented performers will square off in a Triple Threat match in front of one of the largest crowds in WWE history.

I spoke with the reigning Divas champ in the days leading up to her WrestleMania title defense and asked her about the upcoming match, the Four Horsewomen, and the difficulties of transporting a championship belt through airport security…

Any questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

(A WWE Representative introduces Charlotte as the “WWE Divas Champion”)
Gordon Holmes: Oh man, I wish whenever someone introduced me they had to say I was the champion of something.
Charlotte: (Laughs) It’s not too bad.
Holmes: Although, I understand it’s a hassle to carry the championship through airport security.
Charlotte: I’m not going to lie, sometimes I like showing it off. (Laughs)
Holmes: In that case, I’d wear it all the time.
Charlotte: I just lift it up and I’m like, “Hey, guys!”
Holmes: Just the Divas champion of the world. No big deal.
Charlotte: That’s it. No big deal.

Holmes: You are a member of the Four Horsewomen. Being a Flair, I’d assume you’re the Ric Flair of this group. Who is the Arn Anderson?
Charlotte: Hmm…Becky Lynch is the Arn, although she has the capability to talk like Ric Flair.
Holmes: Who’s the Tully Blanchard?
Charlotte: Oh…hmm…
Holmes: There are no wrong answers here, Charlotte.
Charlotte: (Laughs) I know, but it’s stressful because we all…I don’t know…
Holmes: I was thinking Sasha Banks is kind of flashy.
Charlotte: Yeah, I guess she’s Tully, Becky is Arn, I’m Ric, and you’ve got Bayley.
Holmes: She’s the Barry Windham? She’s the Ole Anderson?
Charlotte: Barry.
Holmes: I had no idea Barry Windham was a hugger.
Charlotte: (Laughs)

Holmes: WrestleMania is right around the corner. Do you have any kind of special entrance or attire planned?
Charlotte: I have special attire, but you’ll just have to wait and see.
Holmes: You can’t give us a hint?
Charlotte: Umm…WrestleMania 24.
Holmes: OK…I remember someone’s retirement happening there. Are you going to break out the rarely-seen figure-twelve leg lock?
Charlotte: I’ll start working on that in my free time.

Holmes: Your unofficial WrestleMania debut was at WrestleMania 30 as one of Triple H’s escorts during his entrance. How does that tiny taste of the main stage compare to going in as part of a featured match?
Charlotte: I was so fresh, I’m still pretty young to the business, but I was two years under contract and I hadn’t even won the NXT Women’s Championship yet. So, just to be a part of Hunter’s entrance and be there representing NXT, it was completely different. I couldn’t envision myself walking out on the ramp as a competitor for WrestleMania. Not even as a champion. And to think that today I can picture myself on that stage as the Divas Champion and defending my title. I can envision that, then I couldn’t.

Holmes: Is this your first time wrestling in a stadium?
Charlotte: Yes.
Holmes: Has your father given you any advice on how that might be different?
Charlotte:  When you wrestle in smaller venues, you can actually make eye contact or see the audience. When it’s that big it’s like a sea of people. It all blends together. And the noise, there’s a delayed response. So, you have to wait a little bit. So, if there’s a big move, say you go to chop someone and they “Woo.” It’s not instant. There’s a ringing effect, the tempo is different. He said it’s a lot different and to not let that intimidate us.

Holmes: This Triple Threat feels like it would be your dream match. You’re defending your title against two of the most talented Divas on the roster. Two women you’re very close with. This one aside, are there any other dream matches you’re looking forward to?
Charlotte: Stephanie McMahon. (Laughs) But yeah, this is my dream match. We started together, we debuted together, we’ve had a lot of firsts together. To think that we weren’t even on the card last year and now we’re going to go out there and steal the show. It’s pretty exciting.
Holmes: The end of the Divas Championship at WrestleMania…you’ve made either Becky Lynch or Sasha Banks tap out to the Figure 8. What goals remain after that?
Charlotte: I really want to main event a pay per view on the main roster. And I want to bring back or update a championship.
Holmes: Does that mean a Divas Tag Team Championship or bringing back the Women’s Title?
Charlotte: You know, whether it’s the Women’s Championship or a Tag Title it means more storylines. It means more opportunity, debuting more girls. It makes our division stronger, with more depth.

Holmes: Roman Reigns will be facing Triple H for the WWE Championship. What are your thoughts on that one?
Charlotte: Huge opportunity for Roman. No one better that Triple H. And I think they’re going to surprise a lot of people. I think it’s going to be a great match.
Holmes: It seems like the relationship between Triple H and the NXT talent is really special. What has your experience been like?
Charlotte: How could it not be? I’m just going to speak for the women in terms of his relationship with us. If it hadn’t been for him believing in us, we wouldn’t have gotten more time, more storylines, more opportunities. And look at where we are today. It’s because we continue to deliver. He saw what an impact and how well we were doing in NXT from the get-go. And, over the last two and a half years he has believed in the NXT women and he’s given us the platform to show the world what we can do.

Holmes:  Any thoughts on Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker?
Charlotte: I’m just glad Shane is back. Nobody knew that Monday that he was coming back. The talent is just as excited as the fans were.
Holmes: It took me a second to recognize his music, but as soon as I figured it out I became giddy. The audience reaction was amazing. What was going on behind the curtain?
Charlotte:  I just thought it was cool. But a lot of the talent were like kids again. They were like, “No way!” I think he’s a great addition and it’s going to add a lot to WrestleMania. And it’s been forever. Nobody expected it. He’s such a wild card. Usually you can expect what’s going to happen, like the big players coming back for Mania. But, it was great. And him with Undertaker is going to be awesome.

Holmes: They’re going to be in Hell in a Cell. We saw in Bayley and Sasha Banks in an Ironman Match in NXT. Are there any specialty matches that you’re hoping to participate in?
Charlotte: A submission match, maybe.
Holmes: That’s hardly fair, your finisher is a submission hold.
Charlotte: Yeah. (Laughs) A cage match would be awesome. Or even to bring back mixed tag.
Holmes: You want a cage match so you can do a moonsault off of the top?
Charlotte: Absolutely.
Holmes: You’re an insane person.
Charlotte: (Laughs) That’s the first thing I was thinking!
Holmes: That seems very dangerous, Charlotte.
Charlotte: Awww…it’ll be OK.

WWE Divas Champion Nikki Bella on the Divas Revolution, Cena’s Broken Nose

August 18, 2015

WWE Divas Champion Nikki Bella (WWE)

WWE SummerSlam is right around the corner and the Divas Revolution is heating up. With the infusion of new talent such as Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks, some would say that the Divas division hasn’t been this competitive since Lita and Trish Stratus main evented “WWE Raw.”

I spoke to Nikki Bella in the days leading up to SummerSlam and asked her about the three-team, nine-woman elimination tag match, her new competition, and the possibility of being the longest-reigning Divas Champion ever.

Gordon Holmes: I have a bone to pick with you.
Nikki Bella: Uh oh.
Holmes: I was on WWE.com searching for some kind of application to join Team Bella and I couldn’t find one.
Bella: You know what? I need to discuss this with Team Bella.
Holmes: I could be a huge asset to Team Bella. I can write press releases. I can do a ton of things. Please take it under consideration.
Bella: I will. I can’t believe I haven’t even thought of that. Because technically, Team Bella should be bigger than any other team…and stronger. It should be an army.
Holmes: Exactly, I’m glad we’re on the same page.
Bella: (Laughs) I love it.

Holmes: Alright, we’ve got this Divas Revolution going on with all of these talented youngsters coming up from NXT. You’ve got Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and the NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks. Now, I feel like you’ve made some big strides over the past few years to become a very talented in-ring performer. However, these Divas from NXT get all this time and they’re in main events, do they have an unfair advantage?
Bella: They’re fortunate. And by the way, thank you for the compliment.
Holmes: Well deserved.
Bella: They’re fortunate because not only do they get to be at this amazing facility at NXT, it’s like being at a division one college. They get TV on an amazing network, and then they have all this time. And let me tell you, over the years I have learned so much and I have grown in the ring. And the one thing I’ve realized is; some of my best performances are because I have time. I have so much time to tell a story that I can bring the people in. I can make them cheer and I can make them boo.  I think that’s been the one unfortunate thing for main roster girls is we have a lot of talented girls on the roster, but you never get to see it. When you get out there and they’re like, “Three minutes.” How do I get the crowd involved in three minutes and do a finish and have you buy it and believe it? You just can’t. And sometimes I’m working with girls that I’ve never even touched in the ring. I’ve known you for two years, but what do you do in the ring? These NXT girls get to practice together every day and that helps you become good. So, I hate to use the words, “unfair advantage, “ I just think they’re very fortunate. But, if that makes the Divas division better, then I am so for it, because I am having a blast with this Divas Revolution. It’s so fun to have the crowd so involved and to work with girls who are really good.

Holmes: If you had to rank the three newbies, what order would you put them in?
Bella: That’s so tough.
Holmes:  I’m not here to go easy on you, Nikki.
Bella: I know! When you look at Sasha, she’s the total package from looks, in-ring work, gear, personality, she’s the NXT Champion. Then you look at Charlotte; maybe she’s my number two because her dad is legendary, she has Flair running through her blood. She looks like her dad. She has his aura. When Charlotte comes out, she’s very much like Ric. She’s fancy in the ring. This is tough for me, because Becky is…I think, one of the best in-ring workers. Out of all of them, Becky…I think out of all three of the underdogs, I think they’d like to push Charlotte and Sasha. Not that she’s been left out, but she’s kind of a third wheel. But, she’s very good in that ring. And she’s one of the sweetest girls you’ll ever meet in your life. When I broke my leg and was coming back, she was the one girl that would bump for me and work really hard with me. In the end, she’ll probably be the one that shines. Because you know the one that’s not making that much noise in the beginning, watch in the end, she’ll be making a ton. I don’t want to rank them!
Holmes: Mwahahaha.
Bella: But I’d go Sasha, Charlotte, Becky. It makes me feel bad saying that because I like them all a lot.

Holmes: This kind of got brushed under the rug; but during the Wrestlemania pre-game show, Lita made a comment about a potential Bellas vs. Besties match at the next Wrestlemania. Would you and Brie be up for taking on Lita and Trish Stratus?
Bella: That would be a dream. I loved it because Lita was rocking a Brie Mode shirt on “Tough Enough” a few episodes ago. I would love for that to happen. If Brie and I took on Lita and Trish, that right there…if you’re a basketball fan, it’d be like getting on the court with Michael Jordan. Or getting on the field with Babe Ruth or Derek Jeter. For us, that would be legendary. I would love it. I hope it happens. I think it’d be an amazing match. So, cross your fingers.

Holmes: All ten are crossed. I have a beautiful fiancée who I love and adore. I’ve never had to sit by and watch as her nose is smashed in on national TV.
Bella: (Laughs)
Holmes: What is that like exactly?
Bella: It’s horrible!
Holmes: (Laughs)
Bella: I was like a mom freaking out when her kid gets hurt. I ran up to Gorilla and was like, “John’s nose is on the side of his face, why is he still wrestling?!” But, you know him. He’s so strong. I was with him in the hospital that night. He had emergency surgery. And, I was with him all week before I left for the wrestling shows. But, I’ve just never known anyone who heals like him. He’s 100%, and it’s crazy. He’s not lying. He’s fully healed. It was just really hard to watch. And then being at work and watching the replays, I was just like, “OK, I’ve had enough!”

Holmes: At SummerSlam you’ll be participating in a three-team, nine-woman elimination tag team match. What can we expect from Team Bella?
Bella: Um…victory.
Holmes:  (Laughs)
Bella: (Laughs) Right? Dominance, aggressiveness. The one thing about Team Bella compared to the other girls is that Brie and I have been here for almost nine years. Alicia Fox has been here for almost ten years. We have years on our side. Not only that, we have years together. The other teams have some new ones, you have some old ones. And, you’re looking at three very aggressive women. Fox is so athletic and so aggressive. And my sister has fire like I’ve never seen. So, I think we’re going to be very dominant in that match.

Holmes: Who do you like in the Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker match?
Bella: It’s so tough, because I will admit, and I know people will say, “No, Nikki!”, but I like Brock Lesnar.
Holmes: No, Nikki!
Bella: I know! He’s an amazing athlete and he broke the streak. But, Taker is legendary. Everything about him is amazing. I do hope Undertaker gets his revenge on Brock, but I’m a big Brock Lesnar fan.

Holmes: You have held the Divas Championship forever. You’re quickly approaching the record held by AJ Lee. What does it mean to you to be so close to eclipsing that record?
Bella: It’s been 262 days, but who’s counting, right?
Holmes: Precisely.
Bella: (Laughs) To me, it would be the feeling of what an Olympic athlete feels like when they win the gold. To set a record that makes you go down in history as the top of the top? It’d truly be an honor. It’d be a dream come true. It’s funny because there are a few things on my vision board that I look at every day and that’s one of them. That one, I put to be the top Diva. I put it on my vision board four years ago.  What can I do to get to that? And I get a lot of hate for it, and a lot of love for it. In that moment I don’t care what anyone thinks. All that hard work pays off, all those years of missing every family event pays off. All the blood, sweat, and tears pays off. I just would be so honored. I try not to think about it too much. I don’t want to get my hopes up and then I drop the title a week before it. But when it happens I’m going to pop a bottle of champagne and just reminisce about the last ten years.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

WWE’s Dolph Ziggler on WrestleMania: “This Could Be the Defining Match in my Career”

March 25, 2015

Dolph Ziggler (WWE)

When the WWE World Championship was dominated by big, bruising brawlers like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Sgt. Slaughter, it was the Intercontinental Championship that often boasted the more exciting, fast-paced matches.

So, who better to help return the Intercontinental Title to its previous show-stealing prowess than the “Show Off” himself, Dolph Ziggler?

I spoke with the former host of “WWE Download” (man, I loved that show) in the days leading up to WrestleMania and asked him about his upcoming ladder match, Sting’s return, and Roman Reigns’ arrival…

Contact Gordon Holmes on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Gordon Holmes: The term “WrestleMania Moment” gets thrown around a lot. This ladder match seems like a golden opportunity to make one of those happen.
Dolph Ziggler: I’m really good at talking about how great I am, but let’s talk about everyone else in that match. It’s jam-packed…I have a reputation for stealing shows when I’m not supposed to. Going above and beyond to make myself stand out. And every single person in this match is a person who gives everything he can possibly give. We have these Superstars, some are up and coming, some have been around a while, they have to find a way to define themselves and have a WrestleMania moment. I don’t think I’ve had a WrestleMania moment. And so this could be it. This could be the defining match in my career that sends me to that upper echelon level, and there are a bunch of other guys that feel that way. That’s what’s so great about it. If this match doesn’t steal the show, then we didn’t do our jobs. We’re going to pull out all the stops.
Holmes: Looking at this list of guys; yourself, Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Wade Barrett, Stardust, R Truth, and Luke Harper…in my notes I just wrote “Guys with a grudge.”
Ziggler: (Laughs)
Holmes: And by that I mean, in the past few years WrestleMania has featured top matches with a lot of part-time performers.
Ziggler: Sometimes other people come in for a couple of weeks and get the giant matches. But if I had a career like that, I wouldn’t want this as much as I do now. I know I have to take it. And that’s what everyone in this match feels like.

Holmes: You mentioned elevating the Intercontinental Championship. When I was a kid, that was the belt that the quicker, more technically sound wrestlers held. Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Curt Hennig…and now it doesn’t seem to have that same prestige. Is this the first step toward returning that title to prominence?
Ziggler: The first step was a couple of months ago when I became champ and defended it not only with the Authority trying to take it off of me, but it almost felt like an old Saturday Night’s Main Event with it constantly being on the line and you thought this was the time I was going to lose it. This Smackdown I was going to lose it, this Raw I was going to lose it. I defended it twenty something times in thirty days or something like that. And I loved it because I knew every day I was making it mean a little more. I’m not going to pretend that it’s been this prestigious title. It’s been on the backburner a lot of the time with other storylines. But when I get an inch, I try to take it a mile. When I say, “I dare someone to try and pry this out of my hands,” I mean it. And now, all the sudden people are talking about the title. And that’s real. People are talking, and that’s the start.

Holmes: Were you a WCW fan back in the day?
Ziggler: Yeah, but I always felt a little disloyal because in my head since I was five I was WWE.  But I was such a wrestling fan that it didn’t matter. And luckily for me I didn’t sleep a lot. So, WCW would rerun right afterward so I could watch Raw, then when it was over I could turn to WCW.
Holmes: Was there ever an instance where a young Dolph Ziggler was running around in white and black face paint?
Ziggler: No, there never was. I wasn’t a face paint guy. I was a Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Billy Gunn…well, I did enjoy watching Ric Flair vs. Sting ten thousand times. That was awesome. And I mean that in the most positive way. I was a big Goldberg fan. I’d watch him beat someone in ninety seconds then flip back to Raw.
Holmes: I was more of a surfer Sting kind of guy.
Ziggler: Oh yeah, I loved 80s Sting. I wasn’t one of the young teens who loved the Crow Sting. But, obviously he’s an icon and I loved Flair so much that I had love for both of those guys.
Holmes: So, the hot pink, Sgt. Pepper’s jacket…the Bart Simpson haircut…
Ziggler: Yeah! (Laughs) Big fan! I didn’t even mind the rat tail.
Holmes: Must’ve been nice to get to be a part of his WWE debut.
Ziggler: It’s unreal. As a fan, it blew my mind that his first-ever appearance helped me win a match. That blew my mind. Period. Survivor Series down three to one, scratching and clawing, Triple H trying every chance he could to knock me out. And then Sting’s first-ever appearance…it was goosebumps down my back as he threw me on top of Seth Rollins. I couldn’t believe it. As bitter and with a chip on my shoulder and grunting every day to get an inch in the WWE, there’s a small part of me that is a huge wrestling fan who lives for moments like that. And it doesn’t matter how that match goes, it’s gonna be great because Sting and Triple H are in it. It doesn’t matter how it goes. The spectacle will be unreal.
Holmes: That had to kill you that for his big appearance you were knocked out.
Ziggler: (Laughs) Yeah, luckily when I woke up he was in the back for about thirty more seconds and I said, “Hey kid, thanks for everything.”

Holmes: Our main event is going to be Roman Reigns taking on Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I was in Philly for the Rumble, and the crowd wasn’t too kind to him.
Ziggler: Roman had a hell of a match with Daniel Bryan, so let’s give this guy a chance. He’s done nothing wrong but take advantage of every position he’s been in. I can’t be down on that for one second. And last year, I was one of the guys cheering for him to get rid of Batista out of the ring. Now they’re booing him because it’s cool to do. He has every possible ounce of respect from me. I want to see if he can prove himself because proving yourself at WrestleMania is one thing, doing it against Brock Lesnar? Nobody has been able to do that for the last two or three years now. My career has been built on being flashy, but I was the all-time winningest wrestler at Kent State. I can be a hard-nosed wrestler if I need to be. But nobody can do what Brock does.
Holmes: Seeing Lesnar in person is something else. It’s like if you were to create a perfect wrestler in a lab, it would be Brock Lesnar.
Ziggler: You can hit him with an object and I don’t know if he’d know it happened. There’s nobody like him. I saw him do that moonsault against Kurt Angle where anyone else’s neck would snap in half. He just kind of shook it off. They’re going to beat the hell out of each other and it’s going to be cool.
Holmes: It’s a shame that ladder match is going to steal the show.
Ziggler: It is absolutely not a shame. It’s exactly how it should be. Certain matches get the build, they get the time, they get the story, they get the creativity, you get everything. And then certain matches go out there with a chip on their shoulder and go, “This is the one we’re all talking about tomorrow.”

WWE’s Dean Ambrose on Hell in a Cell: ‘I’m Looking to Raise the Bar a Little Bit’

October 22, 2014

WWE Superstar Dean Ambrose (WWE)

Vengeance has always been a prominent motivation in sports entertainment. Hulk Hogan spent his career battling turncoats like Paul Orndorff, Andre the Giant, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The Undertaker squared off against his evil half-brother Kane on several occasions. And, Shawn Michaels went toe-to-toe with his former Dudes with Attitude partner Kevin Nash.

So, when Seth Rollins betrayed his Shield brothers, it was only natural for Dean Ambrose to want to get back at him.

The main difference? While Hogan, Taker, and Michaels used legdrops, chokeslams, and superkicks to gain a measure of revenge on their rivals, Ambrose has employed ketchup, mustard, and green slime.

To each his own.

I spoke with WWE’s “Lunatic Fringe” in the days before his Hell in a Cell brawl with Seth Rollins and had a chance to ask him about living up to the Cell’s legacy, his path to WWE stardom, and what it’s like to be cheered after growing up a bad guy…

Any questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes


 

Gordon Holmes: This Sunday you’re entering Hell in a Cell with Seth Rollins. This match has a legacy of amazing, brutal bouts. How are you going to stand out?
Dean Ambrose: Going into anything like this, you want to put your own stamp on it. You want to do something that’s never been done before. I hate a formula. I hate stepping in the footsteps of those that came before me.  And Seth has the same mindset. Even though we’re enemies and opponents, and are going to be trying to rip each other’s heads off in the Cell.
Holmes: You’ve got a straight-up comparison that night as John Cena and Randy Orton are going to be having their own Hell in a Cell match.
Ambrose: The kind of guys that we are and you go back to the competitive chips we have on our shoulder. You go back to the attitude that we came into this company with? We’re going to blow anything they put up out of the water. You know what I mean?
Holmes: I do, looking forward to it.
Ambrose: (Laughs) If you know anything about me, you know that I don’t have any trepidation. I’m not going to walk into there shaking in my boots. It’ll be my first time and Seth Rollins’ first time. I’m not afraid to take a risk. And Seth Rollins isn’t afraid to take a risk. I don’t see anything that Seth Rollins can do to me, or the Authority, or the Cell is anything worse than anything I’ve been through. I’m looking to raise the bar a little bit. And it’s hard because the Cell is a lot higher than it used to be.
Holmes: Yes, this isn’t the Cell Mick Foley was tossed off of.
Ambrose: I don’t think people realize. It’s like 20-foot higher! Well, I don’t know the exact height. It’s significantly higher than the one (Mick) Foley fell off of. I think that was done to prevent anybody from trying to jump off of it again. Now, it’s quite literally impossible to jump off of. It’s hard to do anything new inside that thing now. But fortunately I’ve got a big toolbox of ideas, man. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo even though it’s my first time in the Cell. I’ve got a nice cache of little ditties that I can bust out. I’m determined to do something that nobody has ever seen before in the Hell in a Cell.

Holmes: I was watching this Steve Austin special on the “Monday Night Wars” and I’m seeing some parallels between his rise to the top and your rise. He didn’t seem like the fan favorite type, but people started taking to him. An opportunity was opened for him when Triple H was punished for the Curtain Call and an opportunity has opened for you with Roman Reigns’ injury.
Ambrose: There’s no confusing me and Steve Austin. (Laughs) There will never be another Steve Austin. As far as taking an opportunity like that….the thing I like about Steve Austin is his tenacity, his work ethic, and his…”Screw you, you’re not taking food off of my plate” thing. I’ve starved and lived on the road. And I’m not letting anyone walk all over me. That intensity…a lot of people they get so caught up in the grind here, so it’s hard to bring that 100% intensity every night. Steve Austin, you watch his old stuff, he never took a breath. Working Steve Austin must’ve been exhausting.
Holmes: I believe the saying was, “You have to bring a lunch.”
Ambrose: I love that. We’re a little thin right now and somebody has to step up to the plate. I’ve never tried to be anybody’s hero or favorite. I don’t see myself as that kind of guy. I’m not trying to step into anyone else’s spot. I’m trying to create my own and be irreplaceable. But, that opportunity that launched Steve’s career, it took a while for everything to come together. That’s that work ethic, taking advantage of a tiny opportunity. They want to put me in two matches a night? Three matches a night? A triple-threat tag? Another promo? Another thing? Another backstage? And now a dark match? Now a street fight? I’m going to keep going as fast as I can. That’s what a guy like that would do. I’m never going to have anything handed to me, and if I stop for two seconds, it will go away quickly. And I’m sure there are a lot of people who would like to see it all go away quickly. And honestly, I haven’t done anything yet. I’ve just made a lot of posturing and pretended like I was going to do something. Let’s be real here.
Holmes: But Sunday’s your chance to do something. Do you guys know if you’re the main event?
Ambrose: If…we’re not the main event, then somebody’s making a mistake. They’re going to regret it.

Holmes:  Hell in a Cell tends to be a feud ender. What’s next for you after you finally put Rollins down?
Ambrose: I came to a realization not long ago; I’m very passionate about what I do. This is all I want to do. I obsess over little things and I look ten steps ahead. And if it was up to me things would be planned out long in advance. I’m constantly plotting ahead like that. The reality is the WWE is this crazy world that’s constantly changing. You can’t prepare for tomorrow. The Pay Per View match already changed on us. You’re wrestling John Cena at the Pay Per View. Then I walk in Monday and we’re wrestling tonight. Things change like the wind. You’ve just got to take it one day at a time. And I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.

Holmes: You mentioned that you’re not anybody’s favorite. But if you listen to the audience, it sounds like you’re becoming a lot of people’s favorite. Are you ready for Dean Ambrose: Mr. Popular?
Ambrose: If that happened? Cool, man. It’s cool when people dig what you’re doing. I’m the kind of guy that thrives on negativity. That’s the kind of thing that has fueled me for my entire career. From the basement, to the gutter, to where I am today it’s been like that. The hatred of everyone and everything just spewing out. I’m older now though, I’m a little bit of a grown up. In any case, I never had a vision of being liked by so many people in the WWE Universe…oh…I can’t believe I just said that.
Holmes: (Laughs)
Ambrose: (Laughs) It’s so big and it reaches so many people. You’re meeting people and they bought all your shirts and they say you’ve really made a positive change in their life. And I’m like, “What? I’m just wrestling, man.” But people use you for inspiration to get through sickness or to do whatever. To me, it’s really cool. It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot more, which is a new thing for me to accept any kind of praise. It’s not bad to be so popular. It could go away at any moment.
Holmes: You could get hit by a bus tomorrow.

Holmes: For the first time in a long time, there isn’t a defending WWE Champion who’s appearing at all of the major events. Does Brock Lesnar having the title upset people?
Ambrose: Every show, and we run a lot of them, doesn’t have to have a world championship match on it. Every “Monday Night Raw” shouldn’t have a world championship match. But, the champion not appearing at all? To me, it’s not nearly as big of a thing…I equate it back to the traveling world champions of the 70s or previous eras. You’re not going to see a world title match every week. I honestly think we give away too much stuff. We give away a lot of wrestling on TV and there’s so much time to fill. In a three-hour show, Brock Lesnar could really be used. I’m making up my answers as I go along here.
Holmes: As you’re supposed to.
Ambrose: You’re not going to see him much. He took the belt back to his castle and he locked it up in the attic. You’ve got to go a long way to get a championship match with him.

Holmes: We’re seeing a lot of new faces with the integration of the developmental program NXT. What’s the process like where you go from being a guy signed into company to making the big show as a WWE Superstar?
Ambrose: For me, it was much different than the guys today. I’m not familiar with the NXT process now. I was never on NXT television. I was an FCW guy. A Doctor Tom (Pritchard) era guy. It’s great now, they’ve got the Full Sail TV. NXT is like the most amazing opportunity. We were in this warehouse in Florida. We were locked away like the ugly stepchildren of WWE. It really pissed us off. It gave us this chip on our shoulders. We were like alright, “We can put on a better product than the main roster can. Screw them all.” We were putting on matches in developmental that were on par with anything that was on WWE television. For us, we were down there just sitting, chilling, training, making towns, learning. We were waiting. It can be a frustrating process. Just the wait. But, if you’re smart you take that time to learn, to ask questions. Nobody is perfect and you can always learn something.
Holmes: Who were you learning from?
Ambrose: Joey Mercury is like Yoda to me. He’s a guy who can really pick something apart and give you five ways to make it better in two seconds. He’ll always have good ideas. I always have crazy ideas. I’ll bounce them by Joey first and he’ll instantly call me out on something stupid. He’ll rein me in a little bit.

Holmes: What’s this I’m hearing about Dean Ambrose: Movie Star?
Ambrose: Yeah, they came to me and were like, “WWE Studios, we’ve got an opportunity for you.” And I said, “You want me to be in a movie? Get outta here! Yeah, I’ll do that!” I thought I’d just be a background bit player. I’d get to rest my body and be an extra in a movie. Then I found out I was the lead character. And my exact words to the studio guy was, “You realize I’m completely unqualified for this, right? I don’t know if somebody lied to you or what, but I’ve never acted before. I don’t know how a movie set works. I’ve never been on the set for a freaking Dunkin’ Donuts commercial.” It’s called “Lockdown” and it was a cool learning experience.

Holmes: So, say someone’s on the fence about ordering Hell in a Cell. Talk them into it.
Ambrose: You’re going to see one of the most outrageous spectacles of hatred and intensity when Dean Ambrose and Seth Ambrose finally get at each other. I promise you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before.

WWE Superstar The Miz: “It Is ‘Christmas Bounty’ and It Is Awesome!”

December 10, 2013

"Christmas Bounty" (WWE)

Would it really be Christmas without Clark W. Griswold? Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Ralphie? Those iconic characters have two things in common. First, they’re loved by millions.

And second, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin could totally take ‘em in the squared circle.

I recently had a chance to speak with “The Miz” about his entry into the Yuletide-movie genre “Christmas Bounty,” how his WWE buddies feel about his softer side, and the difficulties making the transition from the ring to the big screen…

Watch “Christmas Bounty” on XFINITY On Demand

Gordon Holmes: Your character is named “Mike” in this movie. Is that some kind of typecasting?
Mike “The Miz” Mizanin: When I saw it as a script and it said, “Mikey Muscles” I said, “You do realize my name is Mike?” And they said, “You look like a Mike.” So I guess that settled it.
Holmes: How on Earth did your parents have the foresight to do that?
The Miz: When I came out of the womb, they were like, “This guy looks like a Mike.” There was no denying it.
Holmes: I think “The Miz” is catchy. Miz TV is a fun segment. But, “Mikey Muscles” has a nice ring to it too. You might want to consider bringing that into the WWE.
The Miz: Mick Foley had like three characters, why can’t I?
Holmes: It just makes smart financial sense. Foley sells three action figures, he sells three t-shirts…
The Miz: A little merchandise never hurt anybody. I’m up for it. (Laughs)

Holmes: You’re a Cleveland guy. Mikey Muscles is all about Jersey pride. Was it tough to make that transition?
The Miz: When I first saw the script I was like, “I’m not going to try a Jersey accent.” But then I thought, “You know what? I’m going to do it.” I had a voice coach, so every time before a shot I’d go and talk to that person. As I was up there in Vancouver I eventually started talking in a Jersey accent the entire time. It just got so catchy. And I love New Jersey. They have like their own little gimmick. You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to respect it.  It was fun to play.

Holmes: What’s the reaction been like from the WWE Superstars and Divas?
The Miz: We’re always about ribbing each other. There’s a whole lot of love. I get a lot of past/present/future references because that was one of Mikey Muscles’ romantic moments. And whenever a guy’s giving his softer, more sensitive side they’re going to make fun of it. Everyone’s been pretty cool about it.
Holmes: You, John Cena, Randy Orton, Kane, and others are all doing movies now. Is there any competition between you guys?
The Miz: WWE is all about competition. Everyone wants to have the most sales, the most trending topics on Twitter, the most media.

Holmes: What are some of your favorite Christmas movies?
The Miz: Dude, luckily WWE Studios and ABC Family got together and we got to see a preview of the “25 Days of Christmas.” I’m a huge fan of that whole event. I was watching it yesterday and I saw my favorite Christmas movie of all time, you’d think it’s “A Christmas Story” because I’m from Cleveland.
Holmes: Right?
The Miz: No, my favorite Christmas movie is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” No one beats Uncle Eddie. It’s the best.
Holmes: Those are both solid choices. But what happens when Mikey Muscles goes toe-to-toe with Ralphie from “The Christmas Story”? We’ll even let Ralphie bring his Red Ryder b-b gun.
The Miz: Listen, you can bring your little b-b gun. The fact is, the bb gun isn’t going to poke your eye out, The Miz is going to poke your eye out with a Skull-Crushing Finale.
Holmes: What about against Clark W. Griswold? We’ll let him bring the Family Truckster.
The Miz: He can bring the dog, the squirrel… You know, the promo that he cut on his boss? That’d better be the promo he cuts on me. He’s going to need it. I’ll put him in a figure four and make him tap, tap, tap.
Holmes: Like when Bing Crosby danced with Danny Kaye. Alright, Buddy the Elf?
The Miz: Who’s that?
Holmes: Buddy the Elf? From “Elf”? He’s got the kind of attire you might see in a wrestling ring.
The Miz: Buddy is such a nice, warm, wonderful character. He tries to bring goodness and positivity to everything. I don’t think he’d actually go up against me, he’d con me into tag teaming so he could win and be the good guy.

Holmes: You got your start in reality TV with “The Real World,” then you became a WWE Superstar, now you’re making movies. These are three very different forms of entertainment with their own intricacies. You’re a bit of a Renaissance Miz. What’ve have been some of the challenges and difficulties as you’ve switched genres?
The Miz: I think the biggest and hardest thing to do is get respect. When you come from a reality show, that’s what you’re supposed to do. Just do reality. Sit your life in front of a camera. That’s it. You have no talent. But, I wanted more. When I went to WWE I was frowned upon by the WWE Universe, the locker room. Nobody wanted me to succeed. I worked hard at it, I dedicated myself, and now eight years later I can say I’ve had a successful run in the WWE. And now moving into movies it’s another transition. “He’s just a WWE Superstar.” I feel like we don’t get the respect we deserve. WWE is theater. We’re in front of a live audience and you have one take to get it right. We have these amazing storylines. It’s very much like movies except we don’t get 100 takes. I think people are going to say, “Oh, it’s just a wrestler.” But, I think we’re going to turn some heads.

Holmes: The Christmas season is underway. There’s a ton of competition as far as entertainment goes. Why should someone plop down and watch “Christmas Bounty”?
The Miz: Whether you are a small child, a mother, a father, a young adult, a hipster…if you like action, if you like drama, if you like comedy…if you like fight scenes, if you like holidays and Christmas…there is only one movie you need to see and that is “Christmas Bounty.” Get in on DVD or Blu-Ray exclusively at Wal-Mart. You can also get it on iTunes. I’m telling you, you will not be disappointed. You will laugh, you will cry. At the end of the day you can sit down with your family, drink your egg nog, have your Christmas tree all lit up. Put on some nice warm socks and watch it on TV. You’ll be laughing and smiling at the end and you’ll have an amazing holiday.
Holmes: And is there any one adjective that can describe “Christmas Bounty”?
The Miz: It is “Christmas Bounty” and it is…Aweeeeeesoooooooome!

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

WWE’s Paul Heyman Predicts Sports Entertainment’s Next Big Thing

August 15, 2013

Paul Heyman (WWE)

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been well over a decade since the original incarnation of ECW closed its doors. So, if your first memory of Paul Heyman is that of the color commentator for Wrestlemania X-Seven, or Brock Lesnar’s agent, or even CM Punk’s best friend, you’re excused.

But for the rest of this interview, it’s important to note that Paul Heyman is on a short list next to Vince McMahon of people who have truly revolutionized the pro wrestling industry.

I spoke to the former “Mad Scientist of Extreme” in the days leading up to “The Best vs. The Beast” match at SummerSlam and got his thoughts on sports entertainment’s next revolution, John Cena’s unique appeal, and the moment he hopes he’s remembered for…

Gordon Holmes (@gordonholmes): If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s probably safe to argue that nobody in the wrestling industry has been more flattered than you over the past few decades.
Paul Heyman (@HeymanHustle): (Laughs)
Holmes: ECW has been imitated and rehashed so often that there’s no way it can be the next big thing for the business. I guess what I’m getting at is; what will be the thing that sparks the next boom period?
Heyman: The next big thing as far as presenting professional wrestling will be star-driven. It will be a personality that changes the game. Whose approach in the ring and in interviews is unlike anyone else that is out there today. And therefore his matches would have to be wrestled in a manner that no one else has been doing, at least for the past few years. And when that personality catches on, the industry will go along with him. That has always been the history of WWE and of professional wrestling. When the (Bruno) Sammartino era was over and they put Bob Backlund in as champion, Bob Backlund needed all of that support from the undercard to carry the load. But when the Hulk Hogan era took off, the entire company was built around Hulk Hogan. When the Steve Austin era took off, he had great support, but Steve Austin’s name and box-office attraction, and merchandise sales alone would have made this a multi-multi-multi million dollar company. And it’s the same today. If a personality catches fire to such a degree that it becomes a one-man cottage industry.
Holmes: I’m trying to think of a really unique personality and I keep coming back to Dean Ambrose. Could he be the guy?
Heyman: I think all three members of The Shield have the opportunity to grab the top spot in WWE and carve an image for the next several years for this company.

Paul Heyman Breaks Down Sunday’s SummerSlam Card

Holmes: John Cena has one of the most interesting dynamics I’ve ever seen in that half of the audience loves him while the other half hates him. Is there any way to course correct to bring everybody on board?
Heyman:
With all due respect, I think you’re missing it. The dynamic of children loving Cena and adult males hating Cena with such a passion is what makes him so fascinating. When there are 40,000 people in MetLife Stadium screaming “Let’s go, Cena” and 40,000 people in the very same stadium at the very same time challenging that half of the crowd saying, “Cena sucks.” That’s 80,000 engaged fans that paid for the privilege of being there. It’s very simple mathematics to me. John Cena drew 80,000 people who wanted to react to him. And to me, that makes him the top guy.
Holmes:
The fans eventually turned on Hulk Hogan.  The fans have turned on The Rock several times. The fans never turned on Steve Austin. So ideally would you rather have someone who is universally loved like a Steve Austin or someone who gets this intense mixed reaction like a John Cena?
Heyman:
Do you prefer a ridiculously hot blonde or a sexy, sultry brunette?
Holmes:
(Laughs)
Heyman:
I’ll take them both. Steve Austin can draw 80,000 people to cheer him on. Brock Lesnar can draw 80,000 people to boo him into the next country. And John Cena can draw 80,000 people who will debate whether he should be cheered or booed. I just care that they pay to see you.
Holmes:
An excellent point.

Holmes: Your friend Brock Lesnar is back in the WWE, you’re having wars of words every night with CM Punk. Is this the happiest time in your career?
Heyman: I’ve been remarkably blessed by the fact that I’ve had many different careers in this industry. I can’t truly compare the difference of being the lead color commentator with Jim Ross with being the owner of the upstart company that breaks every rule, breaks every taboo and spearheads a movement that actually gets it on worldwide Pay Per View with ECW. I can’t compare that with being Brock Lesnar’s advocate, going into SummerSlam in this focal-point match against my former protégé CM Punk. These are different careers to the point that it feels like I’ve lived many different lives. And to compare them would force me to look back on what I used to do and I never look back, I’m always looking into the future. All eyes are on SummerSlam, and my wheels are always spinning to what we’re going to do at Survivor Series, into the Royal Rumble, and ultimately Wrestlemania.

Holmes: You don’t like to look back, but I’m going to ask this anyway. You tweeted a picture of your children outside of the old ECW Arena. And if years from now, if they ask what Dad did for a living and you could only show them one match or one moment, what would it be?
Heyman: I will confess to you that your question has caught me off guard. In all candor, I would hope that just simply based on the decade in the making of “The Best vs. The Beast” that what Brock Lesnar and CM Punk will pull off this Sunday at SummerSlam will be so epic, so compelling, so riveting, and of such premium quality that if one day my children want to show their children, “Here’s what the old man did for a living,” my children will show their children that match.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Watch “WWE: SummerSlam,” Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.

WWE’s Paul Heyman: Punk vs. Lesnar Is ‘Worth the Price of Admission’

August 13, 2013

Paul Heyman (WWE)

I am the best wrester in the world. I’ve been the best ever since day one when I walked into this company. And I’ve been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That’s right, I’m a Paul Heyman guy…you know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar.” CM Punk – June 27, 2011 – Monday Night Raw

This Sunday’s SummerSlam is being billed as “The Best vs. The Beast.” In one corner you have “The Best in the World” CM Punk and in the other you have “The Beast” Brock Lesnar. But it could have easily been called “The Battle of the Paul Heyman Guys.”

However, that isn’t nearly as catchy.

I spoke to the man in the middle of one of the most anticipated matches in SummerSlam history before Monday Night Raw and had a chance to ask him about his boys coming to blows, John Cena’s legacy,  Daniel Bryan’s future, and more…

Gordon Holmes (@gordonholmes): SummerSlam is a few short days away, we’ve got “The Best” vs. “The Beast.” What can we expect from this Sunday’s showdown?
Paul Heyman (@heymanhustle):  On Sunday, you can expect “The Beast” Brock Lesnar to prove that having Paul Heyman in his corner makes him “The Best in the World” over and above CM Punk’s claim to that accolade.
Holmes: But surely there was something you saw in CM Punk that made you want to partner with him.
Heyman: CM Punk and I together were the best in the world. We held the WWE Championship for 434 consecutive days, the longest WWE Title reign of the past 25 years. Think about that. Names like Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, all first-ballot Hall of Famers, and yet none of them could hold the championship as long CM Punk and I together. Obviously I saw in CM Punk a sports entertainer that I could mold into being part of a combination with me as the absolute best act on the planet. But without me? He’s only half the equation and I have “The Beast” Brock Lesnar with me.
Holmes: From a physical standpoint, it doesn’t look so good for Mr. Punk. But, Punk’s been overcoming those kinds of odds his entire career. Does that concern you?
Heyman: It doesn’t concern me, but it’s certainly part of the equation. I didn’t pick CM Punk out of obscurity and turn him into the top box office attraction for WWE because his skills were without merit. He is, in my opinion, the most serious threat to Brock Lesnar’s reign of dominance in WWE today. The only problem for CM Punk is that Brock Lesnar has made a career out of obliterating those threats.

Holmes: Wrestlemania had to have been very special for you. You had Brock in a main event against HHH, you had Punk in a main event against The Undertaker, and it all took place in your backyard at MetLife Stadium. Now that we’ve got two of the “Paul Heyman Guys” going toe-to-toe at SummerSlam, where does this one rank for you?
Heyman: It’s huge. Nothing short of it. And probably even bigger than that adjective. It’s exhilarating for me because you have the most unique, the most gifted athlete in the history of the WWE, or UFC, or college athletics in Brock Lesnar, going against a wrestler who probably has more heart, more determination, and the ability to overcome the odds better than anybody else that I’ve ever come across in my entire career in CM Punk. It’s a fascinating match-up. It won’t be over in 30 seconds. This is going to be an all-night affair. There’s an old expression in the professional wrestling business; “This match will be worth the price of admission.” I humbly suggest that Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk is worth the price of admission alone.
Holmes: Last Monday, an angry Brock Lesnar turns to you and says, “Paul, say something stupid.” How do you keep a straight face?
Heyman: He wanted me to say something stupid! Brock Lesnar is a man who thinks in a far different way than your average beast walking down the street. This is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. Brock made his point, he told the world, “I, Brock Lesnar, am better than CM Punk.” So, what else is there for us to say?

Holmes: The WWE Title match at SummerSlam will be John Cena squaring off against Daniel Bryan. Daniel Bryan seems to have “Paul Heyman Guy” written all over him.
Heyman: I’m not done recruiting Daniel Bryan. I think Daniel Bryan is a fascinating performer who has put on arguably the most consistent string of best matches of the past year. The striking thing about Daniel Bryan is the best is yet to come with him. Daniel Bryan still has more to offer. And having seen footage of him dating back to when he was wrestling in VFW halls and very small arenas and high school gymnasiums, he still has so much more that the WWE Universe hasn’t seen. I’m admittedly, and I will confess to this, a huge fan of Daniel Bryan.
Holmes: Now on the other side of the ring you have John Cena, who I feel is criminally underrated as an in-ring performer. Anyone can have a good match with Shawn Michaels, but Cena’s been delivering the goods with a wide variety of talent for a long time.
Heyman: I think there’s a streak going involving John Cena that both the WWE Universe and the media have failed to pick up on. The glory days of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin lasted two, maybe two-and-a-half years. That was the peak of his run. He came back as General Manager, but day-to-day, going to every city, main eventing every Pay Per View, the focal point of Monday Night Raw…Steve Austin’s peak was two-and-a-half years. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s peak was along the same lines. John Cena has been the focal point of WWE since 2005. For eight and now going on nine years, John Cena has not only main evented all the Pay Per Views, been the major attraction on Raw. John Cena has gone to every city, main events all the live events, and yet he still makes all these media appearances, he’s done more Make-A-Wish Foundation visits than anybody in history…and he’s a tireless workhorse. And he shows up last Monday with his elbow…looking grotesquely…is that a word? His elbow was so messed up and yet he says, “Wrap me up, I’m going out there to perform because the people are counting on me.” There is a work ethic to John Cena that is to behold.
Holmes: So it’s safe to say you’ll have a seat at the curtain for the WWE Title match at SummerSlam.
Heyman: Oh absolutely. How could I not? I have a vested interest in whoever emerges as champion.
Holmes: Alright, hold the phone…is Brock Lesnar painting a target on the victor’s back?
Heyman: I did not reveal to you that it is Brock Lesnar. I only suggested that it is a Paul Heyman Guy that has his eye on the prize.

Holmes: Sunday we’ll see Kane vs. Bray Wyatt in a “Ring of Fire” match. Bray Wyatt seems like another guy you would have had a field day with in the ECW days.
Heyman: I’m very interested in seeing how Bray Wyatt is going to survive the wrath of Kane.
Holmes: What do you think of the way Bray and his buddies have been presented to the WWE Universe?
Heyman: It’s an emotional presentation, and it sets him apart from everyone else which means that Bray Wyatt will stand out. Whether it’s in WWE or UFC or Major League Baseball or the NBA or the NFL or television or movies…any genre that is star-driven has the need for unique personalities. And Bray Wyatt is as unique as they come.

Holmes: Another interesting match is Damien Sandow against Cody Rhodes. Here we’ve got two young guys that seem like they just need a little something extra to help them move up the card.
Heyman: I think Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow need each other to get to that next level. They have a most interesting dynamic with each other and against each other. And here they have the spotlight of a featured match at SummerSlam. Think of the names that have not been announced in a featured match at SummerSlam so far. I don’t know who The Shield is fighting. I don’t know who The Big Show is fighting. I don’t know who Mark Henry is fighting. I don’t know who Rob Van Dam is fighting. I don’t know who Randy Orton is fighting. These are huge, top-line attractions. And yet, I don’t know who these performers are going to be wrestling against. But, I know that it’ll be Damien Sandow vs. Cody Rhodes. They have an extraordinary opportunity here. If they can put on a match that steals the show, they will both move up the ladder together.

Holmes: Speaking of Rob Van Dam, it’s good to see him back with the WWE. He seems very motivated.
Heyman: I think anyone that has watched Rob Van Dam’s matches since he’s been back with WWE can clearly tell that he is motivated and determined to put on the best matches of his career.
Holmes: Without getting into too much detail, it’s been like night and day.
Heyman: I don’t mind getting into detail. I think TNA squandered the opportunity of exploiting the talents of Rob Van Dam. And I don’t think that’s a mistake the WWE is going to repeat.

Check back Thursday for a look at Paul Heyman’s career, his thoughts on the sports entertainment industry, and more.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Watch “WWE: SummerSlam,” Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.

WWE’s Dolph Ziggler on Concussion Costing Him the Title: ‘It Kills Me’

August 12, 2013

Dolph Ziggler (WWE)

Everyone’s always talking about “Wrestlemania Moments.” Dolph Ziggler did something a little bit different; he created one of the few “Night-After-Wrestlemania Moments.” In front of a raucous Monday Night Raw audience he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and took the World Heavyweight Championship from Alberto Del Rio. The crowd reaction was awesome. The moment was unforgettable.

The glory was sadly short-lived.

In an unfortunate twist of fate, Ziggler received a concussion in the days after his victory. His reign was put on hold and then promptly ended once he was able to return. From there he lost both his girlfriend AJ Lee and his muscle Big E. Langston. For someone who has been on the verge of super stardom for quite a while, it had to be deflating.

I spoke with the self-proclaimed “Show Off” at this year’s San Diego Comic Con and had a chance to ask him about his rough couple of months, the upcoming SummerSlam card, and his potential second career as a stand-up comedian…

Gordon Holmes (@gordonholmes): Alright, first thing’s first. What’s AJ’s deal?
Dolph Ziggler (@HEELZiggler): You’re telling me. I thought we were pretty tight, but it turns out that…I don’t know what her deal is. I thought I’d taken someone who was kinda cool, kinda into wrestling, kinda had my back and turns out you can’t take the crazy out of a chick no matter how long she can put it off for. And that’s happened to me many times in the past.
Holmes: That’s rough, because the crazy ones tend to be the most fun.
Ziggler: Exactly, you have to take the good with the bad.

Holmes: You cashed in your Money in the Bank briefcase the night after Wrestlemania and it looked like we were headed into this new era of Ziggler. Now here we are two months later, the title’s gone, AJ’s gone, Team Big-E and Zig-E is no more…
Ziggler: Again with that?
Holmes: Sorry. But to go from the heights of your title win, to so much change that seemed to be spurred by a freak occurrence like your concussion, it’s had to be like a rollercoaster.
Ziggler: It literally has. I’ve never heard a reaction in my entire life for anything like that cash in the Monday night after Wrestlemania. It blew my mind. And watching it back days and weeks later it put chills up my back. What a great crowd and what a perfect night to do it. And very soon after that I got kicked in the brain and taken out for a month and a half. It was actually a very scary time because after a couple of weeks I was starting to wonder if I’d ever come back. Luckily I passed all my tests, the headaches went away, and I came back into the title scene. But, thanks to my old teammates I am now out of the title scene.
Holmes: It seemed like you were being set up for a good long run. Have you come to terms with how quickly that was taken away?
Ziggler: No. I have not come to terms with that. I know the business and I love what I do. I go out there every night to not just steal the show but tell the best possible story I can, whether it’s in two minutes or twenty minutes. Sometimes I put it behind me that I once again had another title with absolutely zero defenses.  But, it kills me. And I know everybody works hard, all the Superstars want to be the best. And to be given these opportunities and to have some scenario play out…it’s part of the reason I don’t sleep at night, but it’s part of the reason that drives me to go out there.

Holmes: Now that you’re a fan favorite, for lack of a better term, will there be any tweaks to your act at all?
Ziggler: Honestly, you’ve got to be yourself, and you just tweak it a little. You change some psychological aspects of your character, but you’re still you. You still go out, you can still be cocky and have everybody cheer you because it’s a gray line these days. It’s reality based. I’m trying to be a version of myself out there. If I totally change and start smiling out there, and doing weird things that I normally wouldn’t do, the fans are going to see right through that.

Holmes: What are your thoughts on Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena at SummerSlam?
Ziggler: I hate Daniel Bryan and I hate John Cena.
Holmes: Equally?
Ziggler: Yes.
Holmes: Wow.
Ziggler: Well, I hate Cena more, but Daniel is just a genuinely nice guy and I hate that so much. But, in different ways as a student of a game and a fan, I see what John Cena brings and I see what Daniel Bryan brings. I’m curious to see if on the microphone if Daniel Bryan can hang with John Cena and if John Cena can roll around with Daniel Bryan. I’m actually really looking forward to the match even though I don’t like either of those guys.
Holmes: Who’s your winner?
Ziggler: Cena always wins, it seems. But in this case it might be such an emotional outcry from the fans that they could turn the tide. I’d like to see Daniel Bryan come out on top.

Holmes: What are your thoughts on CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar?
Ziggler: I’ve got to root for the smaller guy because that’s usually me. And we’ve seen Lesnar kill everybody, so I’ve got to say I want to see Punk beat him.

Holmes: You’re a funny guy. We talked about your old YouTube show, you said you were working on some stand-up material and were trying to do a few open mics. Any luck there?
Ziggler: Yeah, I got on two comedy shows in the last month and a half or so. Luckily enough, they went well. But they also made me focus on being VERY funny. It’s like wrestling, you have a match and whether everyone is applauding or not, you know what you have to do better next time. That’s what makes you better. I had very positive feedback. I love doing it. It was such a thrill going out there and I can’t wait to go back and rewrite and find the spots…it’s like telling a story in a promo or a match, you find the ups and downs, you find where to get them, and then you leave on a high note. You leave them wanting more.
Holmes: How many people were there?
Ziggler: The first one 60 or 70, the second one maybe 30-40.
Holmes: Now what’s scarier, wrestling in front of 80,000 or telling jokes in front of 80?
Ziggler: Depends on your timing. If you’re talking about this Wrestlemania it was the easiest thing, I had a blast. It was so fun feeding off of them. And my first stand-up in front of 70 people…I was shaking before going out there. (Laughs) Once I got out there and Andy Kindler was on the show there and I was midjoke and I saw him laughing and in my head I thought, “He’s laughing at something I just said, this is unreal!” I was very fortunate to have that start and I can’t wait to do more.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Watch “WWE: Summerslam,” Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.

WWE Superstar The Miz Breaks Down SummerSlam’s Big Main Events

August 2, 2013

The Miz (WWE)

For the first time ever, WWE’s SummerSlam will have a host. And that host is…awesooooooome!

I spoke with the Miz at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. While there we discussed Summerslam’s two huge main events, we were interrupted by a WWE Hall of Famer, and we did our best to annoy Dolph Ziggler…

The Miz: (While holding a Miz Rumbler figure that was made especially for San Diego Comic Con) Look at this guy. Only ten thousand made. A limited edition.
Gordon Holmes: Uncanny. Is this your first Comic Con?
The Miz: No, I’ve been to Comic Con quite a bit. My favorite story from Comic Con is I was doing an autograph signing a couple of years ago and Transformers was huge that year. Everyone was dressed as Transformers. And I see this guy and I point him out to a kid and I say, “Oh look! It’s Optimus Prime!” And the kids says, “That’s not Optimus Prime, you idiot! That’s Voltron.” So, I was schooled by a five-year old.

Holmes: Comic Con is known for its extravagant cosplayers. Is there any particular character you’re hoping to see? Perhaps of the female persuasion?
The Miz: Oh man, I always liked Jessica Rabbit. I was a huge Roger Rabbit fan as a kid, and then growing up into a man I realized how lucky Roger Rabbit really was. I think a lot of people like Ariel as well.
Holmes: A bit of a Harley Quinn man myself.
Mick Foley: May I interject?
The Miz: Absolutely.
Foley:  This is Mick Foley, WWE Hall of Famer. Miz, I concur.
The Miz: Thank you!
Foley: After three rides of the Roger Rabbit ride at Disneyland I found that I had a very real crush on Jessica Rabbit. It happens.
The Miz: If only she was real.

Holmes: Speaking of life-like representations, we’re here at the Mattel booth, what’s it like the first time someone hands you an action figure that looks just like you?
The Miz: As a kid I had all the WWE action figures. You name it, I had it. I had a wrestling ring that I would fling them out of. And now that I have these amazing action figures that are so detailed and so great, it’s surreal. I have like 50 action figures, and I have each one of them. I show them off to my friends when they come to my house. Whenever they say something to me and I don’t have a comeback I say, “Do you have an action figure?”

Holmes: SummerSlam is shaping up to be a good one.
The Miz: SummerSlam is the biggest event of the summer. One thing’s for sure is people are going to be talking about the Miz. You’ve got Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship. That’s going to be something to remember.
Holmes: Who do you like in the Cena/Bryan match?
The Miz: I’ve been in the ring with both of them. I have trained Daniel Bryan, basically, to be the superstar he is today. If you watched NXT he was my rookie. I take full credit for all of his success. And John Cena I defeated at Wrestlemania 27 in the main event. One of my most memorable matches. I know that Cena doesn’t quit, he doesn’t tap out. One of Bryan’s main moves is a tap-out move. I’ve never seen Cena tap out of anything. So, I’ve got to lean toward the WWE Champion.
Holmes: That’s interesting as I’ve noticed you’ve made the switch to a tap-out hold in the figure-four leglock.
The Miz: All the superstars want to use that, but I’m the only one that can actually tap people out with it.

Note: At this point in the interview Dolph Ziggler wanders over to where we are speaking.

Holmes: I heard a rumor that Dolph Ziggler was interested in that hold.
The Miz: He wished that he could put on the figure-four leglock as good as I can and as fast as I can. It just so happens that nobody can. It’s just one of those things.
Foley: Miz, can I interject again?
The Miz: Absolutely.
Foley: This is 2013 WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley again, I believe I only tapped twice in my career, but if I could go back in time, I would’ve tapped almost instantly to Miz’s version of the figure-four leglock.
The Miz: Thank you very much, Mick! Not Dolph Ziggler, right? The Miz!
Foley: And without any shame whatsoever. There’s no shame in tapping to Miz’s figure four.
Holmes: Dolph Ziggler’s is like a scalpel. Yours is more like a chainsaw.
The Miz: Exactly! His is like a thumbnail and mine is like an axe.

Note: Having had enough of our antics, Dolph Ziggler stood and walked away.

Holmes: Who are you picking in the CM Punk/Lesnar match?
The Miz: I know how Punk is and Punk finds a way to win no matter how big a person is. He finds a way. He calls himself “The Best in the World.” Granted, every WWE Superstar will say that, but he believes that. Brock has something coming to him, but man, Brock is a beast. I’ve been in the ring with him and this guy has power like I’ve never seen before. He has been defeated before, so there’s a way. I think Punk can find that way.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Watch “WWE: Summerslam,” Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.


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