When a poker game breaks out during an episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw or Friday Night SmackDown, it’s almost always a lock for everything to end in a brawl, due to the scripted nature of the show. The kind of confrontation that is thankfully rarer these days at the poker table, unless of course you decide to insult someone’s mother at Hustler Casino.
The conflicts that arose in the room where the JBL Poker Invitational Tournament was taking place were all settled out in the ring in matches, but the action that did happen in the WWE’s poker game hit considerably closer to home than a fist fight.
One of the first points of conflict on the night involved Dominik Mysterio, the son of legendary wrestler Rey Mysterio and a rising WWE superstar in his own right, tried to palm chips from another player. When Akira Tozawa realized what happened, they immediately set off for the ring to settle things in a match. It was a decidedly different outcome than what happened back in October… also at Hustler Casino.
The other instance of cheating on Monday had Baron Corbin – a previously down on his luck character who won his way to riches by gambling in Las Vegas – show off four of a kind, followed shortly by several cards falling out of his sleeve as he scooped the pot.
This was far from WWE’s first entry into the world of poker. John Bradshaw Layfield himself spent years with his tag team partner Ron Simmons (aka Farooq) as the Acolyte Protection Agency running weekly on-screen card games backstage that were infamous for a free-standing door that had to be respected.
Like previous TV show poker games, clichés such as the game being Five Card Draw, and hazy formats and betting were a part of the equation. The game’s big winner, a mute character who teases serial killer tendencies named Dexter Lumis, dropped an axe in a pot to make a point.
But if you tuned in expecting to see High Stakes Poker, you should probably get your head checked. On a night where there needed to be an engine driving the on-screen stories forward, some of the poker was a little realer than most could’ve expected.