Tag Archives: Documentary

WWE 24 – WrestleMania: Silicon Valley

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by Frank Lucci

WWE 24 is a great concept for original programming on the WWE Network, but so far only a few episodes have been produced. Immediately following the Royal Rumble however, the WWE released a new episode following several superstars in the immediate lead up to WrestleMania 31.

How does it stack up to previous entries that chronicled WrestleMania 30 and NXT Takeover: Brooklyn? Spaceman Frank has the answers.

Authors note: Don’ t know why they subtitled this Silicon Valley. Is Santa Clara copyrighted? Why not just call it WWE 24: WrestleMania 31?

Sting is first, and as he arrives at his hotel there are dozens of fans waiting for him. Good guy Sting signs autographs and takes photos. Sting runs into Ricky Steamboat and they share some dad humor. Sting looks like a CEO of a tech conglomerate that always shows up to the office late because his morning workout went long.

We then see various WWE personnel doing press for a wide variety of outlets until we settle on Roman Reigns. Reigns talks about how he feels it is fate to headline WrestleMania in his favorite football teams (49’ers) stadium. One of the many production members Jason Robinson talks about the several week setup for the WrestleMania set. This is a huge production which is cool to see. In addition, we see how having a WrestleMania in the daylight affected the design of the stage.

Cue the Axxess montage. Several wrestlers are interviewed, but the highlight is Zack Ryder confronting a fan for buying Seth Rollins merch instead of his. The Ultimate Warrior statue is unveiled as we see the late legend’s ex-wife and daughters tear up.

Don’t blink because here comes the Hall of Fame montage. Although nothing too exciting initially as it is all footage from the ceremony with small bits of candid backstage talk. The highlight again being Ultimate Warrior’s and Connor the Crusher’s family being honored with a hard shift in emotion from the previous fun and excitement vibe from before.

We get to the big day and (shocker) everyone is nervous, particularly Seth Rollins (working his first singles match at ‘Mania) and Paige (wrestling in front of her mom). Cool guy Reigns drops an F bomb before we cut to the crew trying to get everything together hours before the event. My biggest question is how they got the tank for Rusev into the stadium, where the biggest disappointment of the show is that it ignores this completely. Good guy Sting continues to be super grateful to be there and Paige refers to Kid Ink and Travis Barker as “superstars” (right….).

Paige tries to knock out an interview only for Scott Hall, X-Pac, Kevin Nash (wearing a gold helmet of all things) and Shawn Michaels to drive into the shot on a golf cart.

Can we get a show featuring these guys just causing shenanigans?

We spend a long time seeing how the Triple H/Terminator entrance came together. This tidbit is fairly cool, but I thought his entrance was just OK when I saw it live (It ain’t no tank!).  Several NXT guys are interviewed being super stoked that they get to wear masks and stand in the middle of the fog during the entrance.

Showtime! Paige continues to be nervous as we see the participants of the opening ladder match warming up (I guess pre-show match people didn’t warrant being shown). Luke Harper is briefly seen before they actually go into the match (Another missed opportunity: seeing how Stardust’s ridiculous outfit and bedazzled ladder came into being). We then get more focus on Paige being nervous, so much so you forget that three other women are in her match.

Next are some quick highlights of Rollins vs. Orton before we see Sting preparing for his WWE debut. Easily the highlight of the show, Sting is getting pumped for his match while trying to come to grips with the scale of it all. Vince McMahon gives him a hug and some words of encouragement as good guy Sting is just happy for the opportunity to be there. This is great stuff and really makes you fall in love with Sting as a person and not just a character. It’s also nice to see Stephanie McMahon yell “Get ’em, Sting” as the NXT guys cheer him on before his entrance to get him psyched ( The poor guy probably needed that based on his blank expression as the ‘Mania crowd is easily his biggest audience in a long time if not ever).  Triple H enters and the match goes well. Wrestlers watch backstage looking like excited kids, especially John Cena with a big grin on his face (cue Hulk Hogan alert!).

Montage of random moments from the show are then dragged down by having to hear the lackluster live performance of the WrestleMania 31 theme song. We skip over  Cena and Rusev’s US Championship match (why all the tank hate, guys?) and The Rock’s segment to get to Paige’s match. Paige is so nervous that she has to be told by the cameraman to keep moving down the ramp (dawwwww). Afterward the match she has a touching moment with her mom as A Day to Remember guitarist and boyfriend Kevin Skaff just stands there awkwardly.

Undertaker is here.

This is followed by some quick footage of him backstage with Brock Lesnar exchanging words of advice. It’s funny to see ‘Taker being human before he gets in the zone. Footage of his match with Wyatt plays as Rollins talks about how Reigns is “like, such a cool dude” (really sick of WWE getting Reign’s much more talented friends to try and convince us of how great he is).

Reigns is awkwardly trying to get pumped up for his entrance in front of a bunch of fans as Lesnar looks like he is ready to murder someone. More montage of in-ring action where the best part is seeing Reign’s laugh followed by a fan yelling “Stop laughing Roman, it’s not funny.” Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase and we get a cool shot of him sprinting out from backstage. Rollins wins and he is understandably blown away. Cue the montage of people hugging Rollins even though he looks pretty gross (how much do wrestlers spend on dry cleaning?) followed by the ending montage and we are out.

Overall, this is a decent way to kill 40 minutes. Sting steals the show as the dude is just so humble and comes off really well. While not as good as the Takeover: Brooklyn show, WrestleMania 31: Silicon Valley still shows some pretty candid moments behind the scenes. There are a little too many montages of footage we’ve seen before but this is the WWE and we know how much they like recapping things.

WWE Breaking Ground: Episode 2

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by Frank Lucci

After introducing the audience to the main players at the performance center in Orlando, Fla., we get an episode showing what it’s like to be at the bottom rung of NXT along with Dana Brooke working out and getting her eyelashes done. Oh and someone gets fired (drama!).

First is a quick recap of episode one and the title sequence is followed by the coaches discussing Devin Taylor’s progress. The general consensus is that she’s too fragile and has been overtaken by the other women. Coach Sara Amato makes a great face that screams “ehhhhhhhh” (I wish I could find a screenshot to do it justice). VP of talent development Canyon Ceman meets with Taylor and immediately drops the hammer on her. She seems to handle it well (all things considered) and Canyon does the usual corporate small talk that happens when people are let go (i.e: hold your head up high even though you failed). Ceman comes off as the suit that he is but WWE is a massive corporation after all. Taylor then has a final talking head where she says the WWE and her had different views of where she was in terms of development and says she did whatever they asked her to do well. Although she was an OK backstage personality, it would have been unlikely we’d see her as a wrestler and WWE has too many interviewers/announcers as it is.

After the depressing firing segment we get open tryouts. There are some familiar faces from Tough Enough (like Patrick Clark, even though they showed him for a second on the first episode. Get it together editing crew!). Tryouts start with squats which some people can’t even do right – which probably means you shouldn’t be trying out for the WWE or anything athletic for that matter. There are lots of random drills and such as Bloom admonishes the group for not counting together (to be honest, this is a lot like high school football practice). One random girl is forced to quit due to scoliosis, which WWE should have known about already. Basic bumping is next and Bloom makes fun of a chubby prospect doing the drills (way to call the kettle black there A-Train).

We then get our first real segment focused on an NXT superstar and it’s Dana Brooke. Basically, this is a long workout montage as Brooke refers to herself in the third person in her talking head interview (Really Dana??). She calls herself a “killer Barbie” and a dominatrix in the ring (because that’s not weird at all). All kidding aside, the best thing about this segment that she works out like a fucking machine and it’s easy to see why the NXT brass have faith in her. Her dedication is something to behold.

Bailey alert! Amato puts over Bailey (who she calls Pammy, dawwww) as one of her most dedicated students. Bailey talks about how she was super nervous when she first got to NXT and thought she made a mistake, but now she’s NXT Women’s champ. A short but well done segment.

ZZ from Tough Enough’s first day is shown as he arrives to the performance center with parents in tow. A quick recap of his Tough Enough days lead into Bloom reminding ZZ that he has to start training like an athlete. His dad, Diego Loupe (great name) deserves special mention for being super charismatic and it’s easy to see where ZZ got his charm. Of course, Tough Enough winner Josh sandbags ZZ’s arrival and points out his lack of work ethic (a constant theme of Tough Enough).

Back to the tryouts and Bloom puts the prospects through basic in-ring drills and a montage of his various gimmicks play to show his past “success” in WWE, followed by more yelling at newbies. Meanwhile, ZZ has trouble in the gym (which isn’t surprising), considering he is “outside strong” as he puts it and doesn’t do normal gym training. Good guys Mojo Rawley and Robbie Brookside give ZZ pep talks while reinforcing that he needs to show dedication every day in order to succeed.

Next we see that the performance center has a cheesy orientation video for new signees. Blown away to see cliche’ corporate culture in the WWE, The class is filled with Tough Enough people (along with my girl Asuka!). Bloom and Brookside give pep talks and Tyler Breeze, Bailey and Sami Zayn also give the new people a taste of what’s to come. It’s funny to see how the tryout people are run down and put to the test while this group watch a video and get inspirational speeches.

Day two of tryouts is more of the same. Bloom makes fun of a guy he calls “cream cheese” (again, Tensai has no right to make fun of overweight dudes) before Bloom and William Regal flip out when the prospects continually hop after making other mistakes during rolling drills (while their point is understood, it is a hard instinct to unlearn). Regal is also terrifying when mad, which is why he makes a great coach. He also uses the phrase “intellectually malnourished,”  thus proving he is, in fact, super British.

Back to Dana Brooke, this time going out for a manicure/ treat yo-self session. She brings up the point that Divas are expected to look good and they must put in lots of work to maintain that image (damn you unrealistic standards of beauty!). Brooke also confesses that she worries about what she looks like on camera and is always trying to look good in case management is paying attention. She uses the phrase “on fleck” (which is not a phrase I thought real life humans used outside of the internet). New theory: Dana Brooke is a Cylon.

Day three of the tryouts is camera work, and the hopefuls try to show off their personalities to the coaches along with Ceman. While some prospects show up in ring gear and have characters mapped out, others are pretty clueless. One guys stutters through a promo in a t-shirt and jeans (seriously dude?? Put in some effort!). Another prospect gives a decent promo before Ceman chews him out for lying about always wanting to be in the WWE and not training for wrestling before the tryout (BURNNNNNN! CEMAN’S COLD BLOODED, YO!). Cheesecake blows his interview until he does the worm (hey, it worked for Scotty 2 Hotty). One prospect bares her soul during her promo about her journey here and blows everyone out of the water. She, along with Cheesecake and a few others get the OK from the coaches, but Cold Blooded Ceman reveals that the prospects still need to pass a background check and get approval from Triple H before being signed.

ZZ is shown goofing around during drills, which rubs Brookside and some rookies the wrong way. While it’s immature of him, it’s easy to forget ZZ is only 19 and this is his first experience with this level of professionalism (unless alligator wrestling is a much more formal job then it appears to be).

The last part of the episode is Brooke struggling to take a swinging throw from Nia Jax while other girls take it well. She really wants to sandbag while in the air instead of commiting. Coach Amato says that if she can’t get better in the ring she will be let go like Taylor (DAMN!). She’ll be just fine.

Overall, the second episode flows better than the first due to having to deal with less exposition. Taylor being let go was a downer way to start the episode, but seeing what an NXT tryout is like is pretty cool. Unfortunately, episode two doesn’t sell Dana Brooke very well with some of her segments dragging a bit. ZZ is charming as usual, and if you liked Tough Enough this is a good extension of that type of show. However, more NXT superstars appearing in the future would be appreciated.