PODCAST RECAP AND REVIEW: The Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast with Wade Keller on wrestling journalism, how to make Nakamura vs. A.J. STyles feel like a dream match, The Fabulous Moolah controversy, what match should main event WrestleMania? (Ep. 177)

Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast

Release Date: March 15, 2018

Guest: Wade Keller

Recap By: Matthew Wilkinson


Newsworthy Items

  • Wade wants to see more about Asuka and Nakamura’s personalities.
  • Sam thinks Cena vs Undertaker should main event WrestleMania 34.  
  • Wade thinks WWE stepped in it by creating the Fabulous Moolah battle royal.  
  • Sam is excited for the new NXT North America Championship.  
  • Sam believes the US Title match will be on the WrestleMania pre-show.
  • Sam was disappointed not to see Ronda Rousey on Raw this week.

Subjects Covered (with timestamps)

00:00-Sponsor Ads
05:30-Wade Keller Interview/Wrestling Journalism Debate
14:00-Nakamura & Asuka
30:00-WrestleMania Depth
42:00-John Cena vs The Undertaker
1:05:20-Fabulous Moolah Controversy
1:10:50-Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar
1:25:00-State Of Wrestling/ Fastlane
1:42:00-The McMahon’s WrestleMania Involvement
1:51:30-NXT North America Championship
1:57:00-Braun Strowman’s WrestleMania Plans
2:02:00-Ronda Rousey’s Raw No-Show

Wade Keller Interview/Wrestling Journalism

Sam Roberts welcomed Wade Keller to the podcast, and mentioned his previous wrestling journalism debate, noting that he did talk to Wade about it in private.

Wade doesn’t define journalism and wrestling just through the lenses of WWE. When he started, he covered 26 promotions for his reporting and has done it for over 30 years. WWE isn’t the be all end all.

The other thing is, he doesn’t define what he is doing on the access to the people he’s covering, whatever the reason is. What defines journalism isn’t getting access, there is also talk radio and they just get to say what they want to say and they don’t have to worry about a player shunning them, then there is a columnist.

That’s not just sports, it’s movies and all that. He’s had great relationships with people in WWE on and off record, then there are times when WWE doesn’t want to cooperate.

This comes down to what a lot of journalism arguments are, you have to define terms for a debate, you were defining it in a certain way, but Wade has a broader definition, Sam’s use of journalism was too particular or narrow.

Nakamura & Asuka

Sam moved the conversation on to why Wade is really on the show, WrestleMania 34. He wanted to know his thoughts on the build and they’re going to break it all down.

Wade hopes it gets better but did note that we have only just got started. In particular with what they have done with Nakamaura and Asuka so far. They are great talents and people who know their history are really excited about this but he hopes they get more creative.

Wade wants to see profile pieces, to see who Asuka is more than someone who struggles with English, though he loved the way Charlotte presented herself.

Then with Nakamura, they say it’s a dream match but we want to know more about him as a human being. Those are the two big matches on SmackDown so Wade hopes that gets better.

Sam said even though we knew A.J. vs Nakamura was coming you couldn’t put the emphasis until Fastlane was out of the way as they had to make us believe that John Cena was going to win that match.

He agrees in terms of explaining why we think they are so special to the mainstream audience, but he does have to say that he thinks in the case of Nakamura we saw subtleties that made him feel different.

It wasn’t heelish but there was more edge, it was almost like this look and the way they interacted when Nakamura was going A.J., ‘I know that you know that I know there was an A.J. before all this stuff.’

Wade said it is so early in the SmackDown process because they wanted a question mark. He wonders if they should bring up their New Japan past a little more and note that Nakamura actually beat A.J. in the match.

Sam thinks it has to be brought up in a certain way, maybe a WWE video package, that story needs to be told from the right messenger.

He doesn’t think Tom Phillips should be talking about it on commentary or A.J. and Nakamura in promos, it shouldn’t be the center of the story.

What makes this match special is that we never thought we would see this, by the way they have competed before and Nakamura won. In the eyes of the mainstream fan, Nakamura doesn’t stand a chance, it just has to be brought in right.

Wade wishes they laid the groundwork for Nakamura on the way, say he was the number one guy in his country, but he didn’t want to retire without proving himself in WWE.

It doesn’t mean they are setting him up to be a heel but you can tell more of a sports story and a human story of somebody who took his time signing with WWE despite having an open offer.

Sam added that even though they left at the same time, A.J. Styles spent the last two years truly becoming a WWE Superstar to the point where you don’t look at him as an outsider but almost as homegrown talent.

Everything about him feels like WWE, it is a WWE Superstar, whereas Nakamura feels like an attraction that was brought in from the outside, this is a guy we found. That adds to the home turf narrative.

WrestleMania Depth

Sam already feels better and more excited about WrestleMania 34 than he has about a lot of the previous WrestleMania’s.

Our expectations normally get super high, let’s remember, WrestleMania 31 was probably the lowest morale in a long time with fans, it ended up being an amazing show, but going in people weren’t excited.

The same could be said for Dallas. Ggoing into 32 we weren’t all that excited for 30 until the Daniel Bryan thing. Last year was a little different, we weren’t overly excited it wasn’t over the top.

Already at the beginning of March the storytelling and the way people feel about matches, Sam feels optimistic.

Wade thinks they have a depth of line up about how many matches that could go on last, seeing Ronda Rousey tapping out Stephanie could be, everyone goes home happy the cameras are snapping.

He’ll make the case that you have to do Reigns and Lesnar, Vince wants him to be the top guy and this is the culmination of years of planning.

You can also say you don’t know how that is going to go, what is Lesnar going to be willing to do if it’s his last match, end on a classic note and give the B show a chance to headline, have A.J. and Nakamura tear the house down.

You could also make the case of Charlotte and Asuka to headline. John Cena and Undertaker could headline too. It’s crazy, when you talk like that it is crazy to say this is a weak WrestleMania, this is a deep line-up.

Sam added that we don’t know what is happening with Shane, if that’s a Shane and Vince tag team, that could go on last. Honestly, he would guess Daniel Bryan will wrestle before Vince to tell the truth.

Because of Vince’s age and because  he doesn’t feel that he wants to put a spotlight on himself, unless it makes sense. The only stuff he has done really made sense and added to Raw 25 and this last episode, last year with the Kevin Owens headbutt added.

Wade’s guess is that Daniel will announce a triple threat match and the announcers will say, “this shows Bryan has a bias, it puts Shane in a bad position,” it plays in the narrative that he has it in for Shane.

Then he will assign himself as the referee. People will question it but then he will call it down the middle, prove you should have trusted Daniel all along, Shane gets the win and he counts it. That is my really played out, but he is not ruling out a tag either.

John Cena vs. The Undertaker

Sam also mentions that John Cena and The Undertaker could headline and that this story really began with his loss to Roman as he has been lost since then.

Wade thinks there has been highs and lows, there is some eye-rolling moments from the fans who know John has a path to WrestleMania.Vince isn’t going to say no.

But from a storyline standpoint, he wishes he had left a little more room to say he wants a match worth his legacy at WrestleMania.

Wade didn’t like Cena implying Undertaker is an egomaniac, it was more desperate to get this match over than needed. He could have said he wants a World Title match, then he shows up and says ‘I came up short and there is a match I hope can happen, I am challenging Undertaker.’

Wade likes that approach better, we don’t need Cena goading him with insults that Cena probably doesn’t feel is true. Part of the journey, they have done a nice job setting it up but pushed a little too far.

Sam thinks he has started working more heel like but still does the good guy stuff but maybe that is where things are going wrong, he didn’t mind the promo. The only thing that felt off was that a minute ago he was having fun with the fans and then he is not.

Sam doesn’t mind the idea that he is desperate for the match and Undertaker is done, and Cena is going to have to personally attack this guy to get him back in the ring. He doesn’t mind Cena getting disrespectful because it doesn’t happen that often.

Wade gets the story, it seems a little undignified for Cena a little unhinged to go after Taker the way that he is and it comes across as not true to his character.

They told the story that he is a part-timer but it doesn’t all ring true. It’s a compliment to them both they had the match right there on a deep line up, he can just say he is disappointed but there is a match that wasn’t crossing his mind, Undertaker let’s do it, let’s steal the show.

If fans think Undertaker walking away and not saying he had retired is a little petty, he hasn’t promised it’s his last match. People would forgive him, Undertaker can get a big pop saying Reigns has run his mouth but he can say ‘I never know if it’s the last time.’

Sam mentioned how they obviously humanised The Undertaker by bringing up Instagram and his injuries. The new theory that we will see a Biker version of the Undertaker.

They made a big deal about him leaving his gear in the ring as they tore down the ring, when he showed up to Raw 25, he was wearing the robe with the hood, he didn’t have any of his stuff back, it is gone.

Wade said that the Kid Rock timing and footage, it kind of makes sense, he could do a live performance, it fits. It could be retiring that character or gear, but he is coming back.

People would rather Undertaker’s last match be the Deadman and would rather see the one they know best, rather than a less famous one.

There is a risk it would be a let-down but with that said, the American Badass has more freedom on the microphone, but, you have to read the last chapter before the middle.

Sam thinks it is somewhere in the middle, he will be remembered as the Deadman, but maybe it’s a character that is closer to Mark that needs to respond to John Cena.

You can find a middle ground, he can still come out in black and not cut his hair, almost like Undertaker at WrestleMania 20. He was still the Deadman but he had leather pants and he was like an old school Undertaker.

Have him come out in Black leather pants and a t-shirt over a singlet, he could ride a bike, but a Deadman version you will find the most success and there is something poetic.

You let Roman Reigns have that last match, but he came back for one more, a little more Mark than Undertaker, John is happy losing this one.

Also, it’s the subtleties, you don’t need the red hair, but the more Sam thinks about it the more he thinks it becomes a necessity that it closes the show.

If you let him walking away close the show, you let him come back for one more as more human, the idea of The Undertaker coming back to teach Cena a lesson but in the middle of the card, it feels like him coming back for one last piece of cake.

Wade notes that with not knowing how Lesnar and Reigns is going to go and Lesnar could be there for just six minutes, or he might go and be a professional and go out with a bang.

Vince might think he wants that to be the closing scene, but from a pure artistic standpoint, Taker vs Cena trumps Charlotte vs Asuka as a statement. It is the logical choice as the hype stands right now.

Sam added that especially because Ronda has no-showed one show she has been a little underwhelming, people would prefer Braun over Angle in that standpoint.

It is a perfect WrestleMania match for the mainstream but not the match people are paying for. It’s like the segment when The Rock came out against Bray Wyatt, that is the Ronda match in the sense we will talk about it after but it is not a main event. People left last year saying they loved wrestling and I think it does that.

Fabulous Moolah Controversy

Sam wanted to know Wade’s thoughts on the Fabulous Moolah controversy. He says he wasn’t shocked by the reaction, which is why he thought WWE picked Mae Young for the tournament.

Wade said this is why you need non-WWE sources to learn your history about WWE, he knows people who work for them and they understand their job is to spin and put the best light possible. But this was pushing too far.

A lot of the women got a backlash, the women who put nice things on Twitter are getting bashed. WWE has got away with championing Ultimate Warrior as a hero, it has flown under the radar for most people and he said some despicable things.

His character might have been a role model, but he certainly was not. WWE thinks they can write the history they want and there are times it is smart to do that. With Moolah they went too far, it is going to backfire.

They have put some of the women in a bad position as they do putting some of the wrestlers in Warrior t-shirts.

This is catching up on them, the women who were in that feature are in an uncomfortable position now, it isn’t their policy to admit they made a mistake but it would be a safer route to go. The video they did was fantastic but it was a complete work of fiction.

Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar

Sam has read the criticism behind how this is being built with some of what Roman is doing being hypocritical because Reigns is Vince’s boy who has got all these opportunities.

But if we take it in the context, he is not wrong. Is a frustration of the fans that Brock doesn’t defend the title, yes, it is. Whilst it might be hypocritical, Roman has come across as this is really  him and he cares.

He really liked going into Gorilla, they never do it on TV, they do it on SmackDown pretty often. The idea we went in and saw Shane sitting with Vince, it allows us to suspend disbelief.

Sam cares more than he did when we knew it was coming at the Royal Rumble, Reigns didn’t win because they didn’t want him booed out of the Rumble. Since the Chamber they have done a great job of making me care about this match.

Wade said they were on a good path, Roman cut maybe the best promo of his career the other week. You have to ask if it is fair to have people not turning up when they are advertised, when fans are paying to watch.

Setting that aside the storyline he really likes. It’s like the battle royal, you do the video and glorify her and ignore the dark side, that’s what he felt for that line about Vince McMahon’s boy.

Wade got so many emails from people who were saying they were onboard and then it popped the bubble, to have him say Vince McMahon’s boy, we all know Roman is Vince’s boy.

It was a step too far and they have some recovery to do, it is a lot harder now because fans feel insulted. The fans were onboard until that.

Sam thinks that thought is interesting, it is recoverable, if you go back to Paul Heyman when he was talking about the Universal Title and how the champion has to be on Raw, it was so hypocritical in the sense that Brock is none of those things.

If you want to talk about the responsibilities, Brock doesn’t meet any of them. It is okay if there is tension between Roman and Vince, one thing they could do is have Vince call Roman out a little bit. Maybe have him turn around and say are you upset that you aren’t my boy.

Wade said you could say ‘I put the money behind you and promotion and people still don’t like you.’ All of a sudden, he feels like a victim, maybe that can work. He will be glued to his TV set to see where they go from here but Vince needs someone he trusts to put stuff through a filter.

Sam said in a big sense, as far as WrestleMania seasons go this is a good one and it’s nice that we aren’t coming from a dead Fall, it wasn’t this year and we are in a very good place heading into WrestleMania and there is no reason, they have all the ingredients to make a memorable show.

State Of Wrestling/Fastlane

The number five story of the week is Fastlane, let’s breakdown what happened on Fastlane. It was a very good show, it did what Sam wanted it to and what he talked about on the Kick Off show.

It paid off storylines and painted the picture for what SmackDown is looking like heading into WrestleMania. We will start from the beginning so the Nakamura/Rusev match, was super effective.

Nakamura, of course, had to win that match in order to take him seriously as a threat to A.J. Styles at WrestleMania but Rusev looked super strong in that match. There were moments where it looked like he could have won, which was important as popular as Rusev is getting, you have to make him look strong and they absolutely did.

The other thing that was well done was the Tag Team Championship match and they covered this a little bit on Talking Smack but it was interesting because Sam was listening to the crowd.

When the Bludgeon Brothers came out at first it was all boos as everyone was psyched about the match, then they interrupted it and we got a non-finish.

But, those finishes are not tolerated in 2018 and at first people were upset but the beatdown was so convincing and the Bludgeon Brothers were so brutal, the whole thing was done so effectively that people weren’t mad.

At the end of that match, at first people were booing and slowly they dissipated because we were seeing this amazing thing.

That means we are getting a triple threat match at WrestleMania, how many are they going to do at WrestleMania? We have the Intercontinental Title, it looks like we will have one for the US Title, can you do three on the same show?

If the Tag Title ends up being a triple threat there will have to be a stipulation, it would be cool if it was a no holds barred match because then New Day could use all three members. It’s exciting when you do tag matches with stipulations, you see them a lot less frequently.

But, it was cool to see the Bludgeon Brothers win over the crowd with the beatdown. Because the boo was not like here come the bad guys it was you are ruining this thing we are invested in but they got everyone reinvested.

Sam is also excited because they are using the Mallets and they looked good on SmackDown when they hit the chairs out of their hands, the Mallets looked good.

The Women’s Title match was good, it was good to see Ruby Riott, but the moment was Asuka coming out. Let’s go to the other match, Sam loves that Carmella is getting wins right now, so often they have the Money in the Bank holder never get wins.

But this could be bad news they could be giving Carmella the wins because they are trying to protect her. Sam personally still believes that Asuka’s first defeat will be at the hands of Carmella. You want to get heat on a bad guy, that’s the way to do it.

The Asuka thing was done excellently on the PPV, it was interesting on SmackDown, Charlotte did a great job on SmackDown. It was a secret, Asuka wasn’t around the building all day, even though a lot of us hoped it would happen, it was really exciting that she made that happen at Fastlane.

All the matches were quite good, Randy Orton really does remind you why he is in the position he is when he goes out there, he is just so good and he keeps getting better in the ring. He makes everything look effortless, even down to the RKO, still, after all these years.

In hindsight, putting the title on him is a good thing as Sam is having trouble getting excited about the US Title scene, after WrestleMania that is going to get kicked into gear.

Honestly, if we are looking at the card and we are talking about a lot of depth, Sam would not be surprised if the US Title match ends on the pre-show.

Historically, you have three matches on the pre-show, last year they were going to put the SmackDown gauntlet on the pre-show and they got backlash so Dean Ambrose’s Intercontinental Title match with Baron Corbin was on the pre-show.

If he had to guess right now he would say the Cruiserweight Championship and the US Title are pre-show. Now, it’s still a pretty big deal, especially as these cards keep getting more and more loaded, but Sam doesn’t know what you put on the pre-show instead.

Let’s get into the main event, the six-pack challenge, this match succeeded in all the ways we talked about on the podcast. We knew exactly how it was going to go, it put Sami vs Owens at WrestleMania, though Sam doesn’t believe the match will stay that way.

McMahon’s WrestleMania Involvement

Story four, is the McMahon’s are back on TV, it is remarkable that all the McMahon’s are going into WrestleMania with problems with people on the roster and are ready to fight, apparently.

Sam thought the segment with Vince was really effective, it went off really well, going into Gorilla and the first 10-minutes of Raw were really great. You have Vince and the fact Shane was next to him made you think it was real.

He suspends Roman Reigns, people were reporting he was suspended indefinitely, they didn’t say that, he is coming back.

They have to get Brock on TV, to do something, but of course Roman will be back and some people think this is an attempt to get people to cheer for Roman and it is, and Sam doesn’t know if that will be effective, but it is making him interested in this match.

You have Vince and his problem, Stephanie and her problem with Ronda Rousey and she really should be on TV every week, it startled him that she wasn’t, the next three Raw’s we have to see her.

It was odd, especially since they made a big deal out of Ronda being on TV for the next four Raw’s and she said she was signing a full-time deal. But, once she is back she will get your interest back, but then to also see Shane and his problem, it like man, these McMahon’s can’t help but get involved.

The question is, we know Stephanie will be wrestling, we don’t know Shane McMahon’s role, but it is clear he will be wrestling. So, questions have come up.

Is it going to be a tag match where it is Vince and Shane against KO and Sami, Sam doesn’t think so for the reasons he said earlier in the show.

Is it going to be Daniel Bryan returning to the ring to tag with Shane, that is a possibility, but Sam is not going to be able to tell you that till we see him on TV.

It’s weird that he is not on TV as he has been so involved and you would think that he would be there but he is not. The other thing that Wade suggested is that maybe it will be a triple threat and Daniel Bryan will be the special referee.

Any of the three work, having Bryan as referee is the least exciting, if you have him as a partner you have another main event match. If you have him as a ref, you just have another match.

Here’s the issue, you can say Bryan isn’t cleared, first of all, if he can’t wrestle Sam doesn’t see how he can referee as they take bumps. If he can’t wrestle you can’t have him this involved in a storyline as it’s not fair to the fans.

We all know he wants to wrestle, he talks about it, when you create tension surrounding him as a character to not have him wrestle will be a disappointment. A compelling story can still be told but it would be more exciting to have him.

A lot can happen but it is getting Sam very interested. You are going to have Shane opposing Sami and KO in one way or another, triple threat makes sense because they have flirted with these friends not getting along all that well. But the fact they worked together against Shane on SmackDown makes me think a tag match.

NXT North American Championship

Let’s go to story number three, the NXT North American Championship. Sam doesn’t normally go to NXT spoilers but WWE put it out so we all know, NXT is announcing a fourth championship. The NXT North American Championship, it’s good.

They might have to start adding matches to the TakeOvers, but for house shows and storylines, having a mid-card title is a good thing and it can act like the Intercontinental Title used to, as a stepping stone.

That way you don’t have to keep signing big names and give them a championship feud straight away. So, at TakeOver we have a sixway ladder match, Killian Dain, vs Lars Sullivan vs Adam Cole vs Velveteen Dream vs Ricochet vs EC3.

Really interesting that Ricochet and EC3 are both using their outside of WWE names, they could have easily changed Ricochet’s and they decided not to and it shows they are doing something different.

Samoa Joe was the first guy who signed and still got to be Joe and didn’t do the performance center, now Sam doesn’t think it hurt anybody else but it is interesting.

Sam loves what Velveteen Dream is doing putting indie guys down on Twitter, guys like Ricochet and putting himself on a pedestal which is good.

Who does he think should win, Sam doesn’t think Adam Cole as he pictures him as NXT Champion and doesn’t need it, not Dain or Sullivan just yet, they’re monsters.

You want to get Velveteen Dream over as a good guy and Ricochet is a natural good guy too, either Dream wins as a heel and Ricochet chases him or EC3 wins and Dream chases him.

How fun would it be to have Dream and EC3, have him chase the title. Then you could crown Velveteen Dream at the next TakeOver, he should be crowned in a one on one match.

Braun Strowman’s WrestleMania Plans

Number two story, Braun Strowman. He takes out the entire WWE Raw Tag division and is left to challenge The Bar.

Now, Sam felt two ways about this, the first thing is that it is interesting and a unique way to use a talent like Strowman. It is fun and a great spot for Braun Strowman as he keeps being this monster, it lets him go to WrestleMania and not take a backseat to anyone, he gets to show how he is a monster.

Is he going to have a tag partner? If he did it would have to be a comedy act like get a Goldust. If you are going to do it you have to commit. When he challenges, it is essential that Braun loses, but you want him to leave Mania as a success so you want him to dominant.

This is why tag teams will never be a main event, one guy took out the entire division. It did make the division look weak and if he goes to beat The Bar, Sam doesn’t see how the tag division recovers.

Is it worth giving up your tag division to make Strowman look unstoppable? Part of him thinks yes. We wish the Good Brothers were amazing, we wish The Revival were amazing. Sam would probably have Braun win it and at another PPV develop a new team.

It would be interesting if he wins and then AOP come in and at Backlash. Braun now has to fight them and can’t beat them. Strowman can survive that beating but it gives a chance for him to look strong, refresh the division.

He feels bad for Sheamus and Cesaro because that is the one team that can probably recover, Sam would love to see them against AOP.

Sam would have a thing where they have an out and you get Strowman over, have AOP beat Strowman and then have The Bar chase them.

He also wouldn’t be surprised if they make Elias his partner, then you have an easy way out as you have The Bar pin Elias.

Ronda Rousey

Let’s go to Ronda Rousey, that is story number one, her no showing on Raw. It was a bummer on the show, it was tough to realize you were watching a review.

Cena had an amazing Undertaker promo, the Reigns segment was great and the Braun segment was controversial but the show was lacking without her. There was no Steph, or Triple H so that is a lot of star power, hopefully she is back for the next three weeks.

Rating 8/10

This was a different episode in the sense it wasn’t really an interview, it felt more like a conversation between two great minds discussing the current build to WrestleMania. It was refreshing to have a different style to the podcast and it was great to hear them go into such detail on the topics they covered, having different opinions and really fleshing out the ‘Mania build stories.

About the Writer

Matthew Wilkinson is from Bradford, England. He’s been a fan since the late 90’s with the Attitude Era and was then heavily invested again through the rise of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. He can be found on Twitter at @MC_Wilkinson1


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