UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier is set to be the special guest referee for Saturday’s Fight Pit bout between Seth Rollins and Matt Riddle at WWE Extreme Rules. Cormier appeared in a pre-taped video during this week’s RAW to build to the match, interrupting a promo segment between Rollins and Riddle in the ring.
RAW commentator Jimmy Smith, who knows Cormier, spoke about the appearance on the latest episode of MMA On SiriusXM, and commented on why Cormier received such a weak reaction from the crowd in St. Paul.
“Number one, “For all of you who don’t know who I am” is a bad start. Number two, when he said, ‘I’m Daniel Cormier,’ did you hear anything [from the crowd]? If that had been The Rock, number one, I would have popped like crazy. ‘I’m The Rock.’ Pop like crazy again. When he went, ‘I’m Daniel Cormier,’ I kind of turned around and crickets,” Smith said. “Am I alone in this? When he first popped on the screen I expected something. The crowd just really didn’t react. Right here, when he goes, ‘I’m Daniel Cormier,’ and this crowd shot, by the way, we’re seeing it on YouTube, look at this crowd, they really didn’t react very much. Remember, I’m in the bubble of MMA and I’m in the bubble of professional wrestling. I’m in kind of two bubbles so I don’t know how often the two bubbles intersect. That was a great indication of WWE fans, at least the ones that were there, really didn’t seem to react much.”
Smith added that while Cormier is a likeable person, he’s not the type of star who has the same crossover appeal that someone like WWE Hall of Famer Mike Tyson did during the Attitude Era.
“Here’s the issue to me, and let’s speak about it in pro wrestling terms, he was the face. He was the good guy. He was the foil to Jon Jones’ bad guy and he’s generally kind of a likable guy, but he wasn’t one of the over-the-top personalities,” Smith said. “DC was a good personality but not over-the-top as far as combat sports go, number one. Number two, the idea that your average and the expression that I always use is ‘the guy at 7/11.’ DC, is he a guy who the guy at 7/11 knows when DC fights every time? Not necessarily. It’s a weird kind of mix. He’s popular, but is he crossover popular? I don’t know, and that’s what it takes. Let’s face it, he doesn’t bring anything as far as referee credentials. But the whole point of this is over-the-top eyeballs. Mike Tyson being a guest referee is just a stunt to get eyeballs. So the idea that you’re a nice guy or you’re popular in MMA means something, but this isn’t about real authentic credentials so it is about the pop, and he didn’t get that.”
Smith also commented on Cormier possibly doing more with WWE in the future, and the long-rumored potential match with Brock Lesnar.
“He does have the intrigue. We’ll see if his personality can meld with what the WWE is trying to do, that’s number one,” Smith said. “Number two is, the WWE behind-the-scenes is more CM Punk than Brock Lesnar. Does this guy look like he can fight? That’s what the WWE is about. Roman Reigns can’t fight but he looks like he can fight. He’s a big muscular dude. DC does not. Even in the MMA world, the joke was ‘dad bod DC,’ but the dude can fight. Visually you put him next to Brock Lesnar and it’ll look like a man and a kid, and the WWE is all about that visual scale of this giant versus that giant. Even in MMA where skills are super important and having a six-pack doesn’t really mean much, he didn’t have that. That’s a real detriment in the WWE. Can WWE fans buy Brock versus DC? In MMA, DC beats Brock. I think he beats him handily. But in the WWE where he’s this big monster-looking guy, that visual doesn’t work. So it’s funny, what plays in MMA may not play in the WWE for a completely different reason because visually it just doesn’t line up.”
Smith later clarified that he wasn’t suggesting WWE doesn’t have a role for Cormier, but he believes there is an overestimation of the crossover between pro wrestling and MMA fans.
“I’m not saying they don’t have a role for him. It’s not impossible,” Smith said. “Another thing that kind of gives an indication of where this might go, is I remember working for Bellator and Bellator used to follow TNA Wrestling on Spike. Our lead in was TNA all the time. What they did was intro, like try and back up Bellator’s fights. To where, like, you watch TNA, TNA’s credits rolled, and you were right into Bellator. They always lost. They used to get 1.2 million in viewership and then they’d come to Bellator and it’d be like 600,000. You’d lose about half. We need to let them know, we need to run commercials during TNA … Look, they’re wrestling fans. Just not everybody watches the shit. People act like all those 1.2 million, if they just knew Bellator was coming they’d stick around. They know, guys! They just don’t care. I think there’s an overestimation of the crossover between WWE and UFC. There just is.”
Smith suggested that how Cormier handles the improvisational nature of pro wrestling this Saturday could tell us a lot about his future in the business.
“What people don’t know, is the referee is basically a producer in real-time,” Smith said. “The referee has an IFB in their ear and the producers in Gorilla are saying, ‘Okay, three minutes until this. Two minutes until that. Alright, here’s the spot coming up.’ When the referee’s going 1-2-, he’s leaning forward and going, ‘Three minutes until commercial so do what you got to do.’ They are communicating stuff to the wrestlers in the ring. DC is not going to do any of that. He just doesn’t know how. I’m not knocking the guy, he’s just not a producer, and that’s not what he does. … DC’s not going to do the producing stuff. Fortunately, it’s Seth Rollins and Matt Riddle, they could have a gold star match in a parking lot by themselves. So you’re not going to need that. The interesting thing is who gets under his skin and when he snaps, you know, we all know the deal here. How DC handles all that stuff, the improvisational nature of being in pro wrestling, how he handles that will tell us about the future. If he’s a great ref and really does spots well, whatever it is, that tells us a ton about where we’re going to go in the future.”
Below is the full segment from Monday’s go-home RAW:
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(H/T to Fightful for the quotes)