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Behind the Barricades: The Great Debate of 2020, Raw Underground, and a new faction wreaks havoc on WWE

This week on Behind the Barricades, the ups and downs of pro wrestling are exposed, as WWE makes a callback to a former storyline. Chris Jericho and Orange Cassidy square off in the Great Debate of 2020. A former NFL star draws the ire of everyone at NXT. Referees forget how to do their jobs (again). And Shane McMahon introduces a new concept on Raw. Here we go!

The Good:

The Only Debate That Matters in 2020

Going into the debate on AEW, Chris Jericho had announced a mystery moderator, who turns out to be none other than Eric Bischoff! How great is it to see Easy E back on TNT TV after 20 years?

We knew that this would have to be a breakout for Cassidy. Setting him up in a debate format to argue with Jericho, when OC isn’t known for his eloquence, it’s obvious that Cassidy is going to come out of his shell and berate the Demo God. And that’s just what happens. After Bischoff asks a question about global warming, Cassidy gives a long diatribe about how to curb rising sea levels, leaving Jericho and Bischoff in shock.

The moment of the segment comes when Bischoff asks why this match matters to each man. Cassidy takes the opportunity to tell Jericho to just shut up. OC knows that Jericho is just trying to embarass him, but he doesn’t care. Cassidy does care about the match, because it’s the biggest match of his life; but it may also be the biggest match of Jericho’s life. Cassidy tells Jericho to imagine what would happen if he beat him. OC takes off his glasses and tells Chris to look into the eyes of the man that will embarrass him and beat him.

GREAT stuff here from both men. I can’t give this segment enough love, because it’s moments like this that make pro wrestling so fun. You have a character like Orange Cassidy, who’s demeanor and mannerisms give you the impression that he just doesn’t care. But when he opens up and goes on the verbal assault on Jericho, you listen, because you know it’s not his style. This is the definition of talent getting themselves over, not getting over because of management or writers.

Samoa Joe defends Tom Phillips

You have to feel for Samoa Joe. Ever since his debut on the “main roster”, he’s been riddled with injuries and bad storylines. Albeit, the story with Joe and AJ Styles was fantastic, but outside of that, it’s been a major letdown. Recently, Joe has been on commentary on Raw, which he excels at. Joe is one of the best talkers in the business, and I thoroughly enjoy hearing him on the broadcast. But we still have that urge in the back of our minds that Joe needs to go back to what he does best: dominating in the ring. We might be getting our wish…

Seth Rollins is none too happy with the comments that Tom Phillips made last week when Dominick Mysterio attacked the Savior of WWE. Rollins confronts Phillips at the announce desk, saying that Tom is doing a poor job at commentary, by not being unbiased and calling everything down the middle. Rollins says it’s time to find a new voice for Monday Night Raw, and directs Murphy to take Phillips.

Samoa Joe stands up and says that’s not going to happen. Joe tells Rollins to get back in the ring and make the point they came to make, or he’ll slap Rollins in the lips. He takes off his headset as Rollins and Murphy get back in the ring, waiting on Joe to come in.

Dominick shows up with a kendo stick, cleaning house and laying shots to Rollins and Murphy. Joe’s back on commentary, cheering on the young Mysterio. Rollins and Murphy escape, and Rollins accepts Dominick’s challenge for Summerslam.

I must say, I was on the edge of my seat for this whole segment. The tease of Samoa Joe getting back in the ring is fantastic. While he didn’t get involved physically here, the foundation is set for Samoa Joe to make a triumphant return to competition.

The Kick Is Up…And It’s GOOD!

Pat McAfee has finally found his next calling. After spending years in the NFL as one of the most high-profile punters in the game, McAfee transitioned to podcasting. His shows are entertaining, and the man can talk trash with the best of them. Recently, McAfee had Adam Cole on his show, and that led to a heated altercation after McAfee couldn’t keep his mouth shut about Cole’s size and tactics. Prior to this week’s NXT, Cole and McAfee met up backstage and talked it out, and things seemed to be OK. Boy, were we wrong…

McAfee is invited to do guest commentary during the NXT Tag Team Championship match between Imperium and Undisputed Era. Pat’s brash dialogue even goes so far as to cause Beth Phoenix to remove herself from commentary. McAfee’s comments catch the ear of Adam Cole, who is at ringside. Cole goes to the desk to confront McAfee, who says he’s only having fun and talking some trash. Cole becomes irate, and throws a water bottle at McAfee. Security has to separate the two, walking McAfee out of the building. Pat comes back to insult Cole one last time, then proceeds to punt kick Cole right in the chest!

Tremendous story here with the outsider coming in and going after one of the top guys in NXT. The history between Cole and McAfee is great, as they’ve been at each other ever since McAfee signed on as a guest commentator for NXT Takeover pre-shows. These guys act like they genuinely despise one another, and it’s going to make for an interesting rivalry that will culminate at NXT Takeover 30.

The Bad

Incompetent Referees, or incompetent booking?

Not once, but TWICE this week on WWE programming, we see a match end after outside interference. The kicker is, that outside interference doesn’t involve anyone that’s actually in the match. On Raw, the Sasha Banks/Shayna Baszler match is called off because Asuka attacks Bayley at ringside. Same thing happens on Smackdown during the Miz & Morrison/Heavy Machinery contest, when Mandy Rose attacks Sonya DeVille. How does that make sense? We’ve seen for YEARS when a talent is at ringside, supporting a wrestler in the match, only to be attacked by someone else not involved in the match. It’s baffling, and bad storytelling.

Retribution Comes…

I had a hard time deciding which category to put this one in. On one hand, the anarchist debut of the group now known as Retribution can potentially turn into something great, which was what happened with the debut of Nexus ten years ago. Running roughshod over anyone who stands in their way, not answering to any authority figure, sheer pandemonium. It’s intriguing.

The bad side is the way they debuted. Throwing molotovs at a power generator on Raw? Lame. Even the way they showed up on Smackdown, by just running to the ring with weapons while no one was there, was poorly done. At least make it more believeable by having them attack someone mid-match. No, instead they go after the “audience” members and then proceed to vandalize the ringside area. Could have been much more impactful if they had taken someone out.

What the *BLEEP*?!?

First Rule About Fight Club…

OK, so this isn’t exactly “Fight Club”. Instead, it’s Raw Underground, a new segment introduced by Shane McMahon. Essentially, it’s a bunch of guys in a dimly-lit warehouse, set up around a wrestling ring minus the ring ropes. It’s supposed to be a “real” fight, with guys using MMA-style kicks, strikes, and takedowns, but it comes off as cheesy and poorly written.

Strippers, violence, no rules. It’s all targeted to the demographic that WWE has been losing for so long. But it’s so poorly done. If WWE wants to regain some of their lost audience, this is NOT how you do it.

This Week’s News

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson buys the XFL! Two WWE Legends reportedly sign extensions! Live wrestling coming back soon?

-Dwayne Johnson, along with his partner Dany Garcia and Red Bird Capital, have purchased the XFL, after Vince McMahon shuttered the newly rebranded football league. This is what Johnson had to say on Twitter:

-Montel Vontavious Porter revealed on Instagram that he has signed a multi-year extension with the WWE, keeping the MVP with the WWE for the next few years. Rey Mysterio is expected to sign an extension any day now. Mysterio has been working with WWE on a handshake deal, and is currently out of action after “losing an eye” to Seth Rollins at Extreme Rules. The contract for Mysterio is expected to be longer than the previous 18-month deal he signed, but significantly less than the 5-year deals that WWE has been getting everyone to sign.

-Reports from PWInsider are saying that WWE is in talks with the USA Network and FOX to bring back live broadcasts of Raw and Smackdown. The reports state that the go-home episode of Smackdown prior to SummerSlam, and the Raw fallout episode after SummerSlam, will be when live broadcasts begin again. Only thing missing now are the fans…and man, do we need the fans back! –Josh L.

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