KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 4, 2017
ORLANDO, FLA. AT AMWAY CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, JBL, David Otunga
-The show opened with a highlight package on WrestleMania beginning with shots of the stadium and marching largely chronologically through the Smackdown matches including a clip of John Cena proposing to Nikki Bella and closing with a shot of Randy Orton holding up the WWE Title belt.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m glad to see the WWE Title win by Orton get top billing in that video, rather than something regarding Cena and Nikki. It’s a small thing, but the video should have ended with the emphasis on the outcome of the championship match.)
-Phillips introduced the show. JBL said it’s going to be bizarro world. Otunga said Naomi will defend her newly won title against Alexa Bliss. JBL said Dean Ambrose will face Baron Corbin in a street fight. Phillips said Miz and Maryse are going to call out Cena and Nikki. Phillips said this is the first time Smackdown is part of WrestleMania weekend in terms of the venue. JBL said fans are going to be very vocal and “express their freedom of speech.” He said they’re going to be loud and boo some who they might cheer and cheer some who they might boo. “It’s all about passion,” he said.
(Keller’s Analysis: That so sounds like Vince McMahon. It’s a preemptive strike trying to frame certain crowd reactions that are against the grain of what Vince is hoping for.)
-Randy Orton walked out with the WWE Title belt. He entered the ring and as soon as his music stopped, there were actually more boos than cheers. He egged them on a little. He extended his arms and spun around and played into it. He asked if anyone remembers when he said if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and when the timing is right, screw ’em. He said he left an important part out. He said if you fight them at WrestleMania, you better be sure you beat their ass. Orton said Bray says he has power over him, but at WrestleMania, he proved that he is his master and he will never, ever forget his name.
Bray appeared on the big screen and said, “You’re the master of nothing, Randy.” He said the era of Wyatt has only just begun and he is coming to reclaim what is rightfully his. He said he has his rematch coming, but first he has something very special planned for him. He said he wants to fight in a different kind of match, one that will push his body and mind. He said he will be twisted mentally and physically further than he ever has before. “I am going to change the way you view the entire world,” he said. “They’re going to hear you scream, Randy. They’re going to watch you cry. Watch your soul devour itself. And at the end of the night, one of us will be sentenced to eternal damnation.” He said he calls it a House of Horrors match. Spooky haunted house music played. Orton said he doesn’t know what that is, but he accepts his challenge. He invited him to the ring right now so he can whip his ass one more time. The lights went dark.
The lights came up and there was Bray, standing behind Randy. He punched away at him. Randy punched back. Orton landed a snap powerslam. Erick Rowan yanked Randy out of the ring and threw him into the ringside steps, and then the ringside barrier. Luke Harper ran out and plowed past Rowan. When he entered the ring, he blocked a Sister Abigail and gave Bray a big boot to the face. Bray rolled out. Harper and Orton stood their ground in the ring while the heel duo retreated. JBL wanted to know what kind of match Orton agreed to, sight unseen.
(Keller’s Analysis: Bray’s promo this week is a good example of something that hurts his character. Nothing he said he’s going to do to Orton is actually anything he’s going to do. He never really does. It’s like Scott Hall told me in an interview – wrestlers should never say “I’m going to kill you” because that immediately takes people out of believing. People know in pro wrestling nobody’s going to kill anyone. Keep the big talk within the realm of what you can actually do. So Bray can talk about messing with Randy’s head and making him wonder which way is up and who to trust without saying he’s going to watch him devour his soul and sentence him to eternal damnation.)
-Renee Young interviewed The Miz and Maryse backstage. She asked for their reaction to Cena proposing to Nikki. Miz said only Cena turns a proposal into a WrestleMania Moment. “It’s good marketing!” he said. Maryse said Nikki should be thanking them because they backed Cena into a corner so badly, he had to propose. Miz said, “Yes, to save face.” Miz said they’re calling out Cena and Nikki and it will be the last time anyone sees Cena and Nikki on Smackdown in a very long time.
-Phillips plugged the Women’s Match was up next. [c]
-More WrestleMania highlight video packages aired.
-Phillips announced that Rowan & Wyatt vs. Orton & Harper takes place in the main event tonight.
(1) NAOMI vs. ALEXA BLISS – Smackdown Women’s Title match
As Naomi came out, Phillips touted five consecutive sellouts in Orlando. The crowd chanted “One fall!” during formal ring introductions for the title match. Naomi followed Bliss to the floor and kicked her in the chest. They cut to an early break. [c]
They showed Bliss going after Naomi’s knee after the break. She had her in a leglock of sorts mid-ring after the break. Otunga said this is her second match back and they don’t know if she can really go full speed yet. She held it for a while, and reapplied it when Naomi broke free. Otunga continued to come to Naomi’s defense against JBL’s barrage of criticism. Naomi came back by using her good leg to kick Bliss. Otunga said Naomi is one of the best athletes on the roster, but that’s dependent on having use both legs. When Naomi climbed the ropes, Bliss got up and yanked her legs out from under her. She covered Naomi and not-at-all-subtly pulled on the middle rope. Naomi yanked her away and rolled her into a submission hold for the tapout win. They showed a guy dancing in the crowd in celebration who might never hear the end of it from his friends. Be careful what you do at WWE TV events because you might be on camera. Naomi continued to sell the sore knee afterward, dancing on one leg and smiling and wincing.
WINNER: Naomi in 10:00 to retain the WWE Smackdown Women’s Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: I think any world title match – women’s or men’s division – should get more hype and more time than this. This was a throwaway match that clocked in at just ten minutes. It diminishes the value and the upside of the title when it’s just thrown on TV with no notice or any sense of gravitas. Maybe they rushed it because Bliss is going to be shifted to Raw, though.)
-Phillips hyped the Ambrose vs. Corbin street fight later. [c]
-Superstars Fact: Camerlla was a professional dancer with the Los Angeles Lakers, New England Patriots, and Rihanna.
-Curt Hawkins said before the match that all he keeps hearing about is this “Superstar Shake-up.” He said it makes him sick because people should just be talking about him. He issued an open challenge to everybody in the locker room. He gave them until the count of ten. Out walked Tye Dillinger.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m happy for Tye. I hope he exceeds my fears for how he gets over with Vince McMahon. I worry that beyond the “10! 10!” schtick, he’ll lose momentum. He is at risk of being on a Fandango or Brodus Clay path once the initial fun of chanting or signing or dancing to the gimmick loses its novelty.)
(2) CURT HAWKINS vs. “PERFECT 10” TYE DILLINGER
The crowd chanted “10!” after every Tye move. Otunga said he’s infectious. He finished Hawkins with his Tye Breaker finisher. JBL said he hopes they don’t lose Tye in the shake-up that happens next week since they just got him. So now JBL is a babyface commentator who loves the fun chants Tye is getting? He’s just indiscriminately all over the map with no core to what makes him like or dislike anyone.
WINNER: Dillinger in 2:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: This is good use of Hawkins. It helps that the crowd is chanting “10” with enthusiasm in terms of Tye getting over with the larger Smackdown audience, but there’s no foundation set for the majority of viewers not watching NXT regularly. They feel like they’re walking into the middle of a funny conversation when the punchline doesn’t make sense without the story leading up to it. That’s a continuing issue with the WWE-NXT dynamic that needs to be addressed.)
-The announcers hyped the Miz & Maryse segment. [c]
-Another WrestleMania highlight package aired.
-Dasha Fuentes asked Mojo Rawley what it was like to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal in front of his best friend Rob Gronkowski. Mojo said he was there for Rob’s Super Bowl win, so it was great to have Rob there when he won at WrestleMania. She asked how they celebrated. Mojo said they were thinking of Andre and how he partied and drank and the women loved him. He said he is just getting started. He said the ball has been raised and it’s time to throw some weight on it. He asked her if she can feel that. “Not really,” she said while smiling. Mojo said that’s okay because he and Andre can feel it.
(Keller’s Analysis: Glad to see Mojo’s win being given some attention on Smackdown, and not just having it seem like he won the battle royal just for an ESPN SportsCenter moment.)
-They went to the announcers at ringside. They threw to a clip – courtesy of WWE.com (what scoop!) – of Vince McMahon on Monday Night Raw last night announcing the “Superstars Shake-up.” They said the Shake-up happens on both Raw and Smackdown next week involving Daniel Bryan, Shane McMahon, and Kurt Angle.
-They showed Miz and Maryse backstage heading toward the stage. [c]
-WWE Fact: WrestleMania was the most social event in WWE history and the most of all of broadcast and cable TV with over 5 million interactions.
-Miz and Maryse walked out Cena’s music. They were dressed as Cena and Nikki. Miz said there is a rule that you aren’t allowed to say “Cena sucks!” The crowd chanted “Cena sucks!” Miz, in Cena’s persona, then said he wanted to get romantic. He put his hand awkwardly on the side of her head and said he loves her. Miz said that he now had the moment he needed, to come across as a more relatable human being. He said the diamond, just like their love, isn’t real. Fake Nikki said they only love themselves anyway. “Cena” said effective immediately, they are leaving WWE and going to Hollywood. He said they’re going to be gone a very, very long time. He waved his hand in front of his face and said, “You won’t be able to see us. Good bye!” He started a “No More Cena!” chant. The crowd went along with it briefly.
A violinist played. The lights went out. And then out came Shinsuke Nakamura. Miz and Maryse hadn’t left the ring yet. The crowd sang along as Shinsuke danced onto the stage, doing his thing. They cut to people in the crowd – usually adult men – singing along at the top of their lungs and gyrating their arms along to the rhythm of the song. The music stopped and Shinsuke looked into the hard camera. A very loud “Nakamura!” chant started. The music then started again. JBL said he’s one of the most exciting wrestlers he’s seen “in I don’t know how long.” Phillips said he’s a two-time NXT Champion and the King of Strong Style.
[Note: Nakamura is scheduled to wrestle the dark main event against Dolph Ziggler, after Smackdown goes off the air.]
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s smart of WWE to debut new talent like this in front of post-WrestleMania crowds. It really gets new acts off to a good start. Coming across as a star if half the battle, and these “After Mania” shows instantly convey to the larger mainstream audience made up a lot of people who never saw Tye or Nakamura before that they are stars.)
-JBL plugged the main event tag match. Phillips said the Street Fight was up next. [c]
(3) DEAN AMBROSE vs. BARON CORBIN – Street Fight
JBL called Shinsuke’s entrance “one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.” Corbin stomped away at Ambrose at the start. When Corbin grabbed a chair at ringside, Ambrose slide kicked it into him and then dove through the ropes and shoved Corbin over the announce table. He went after him aggressively. He stood on the announce desk and leaped with a forearm at Corbin. Ambrose knocked him “into the WWE Universe.” Because the ring isn’t part of the WWE Universe, apparently. He leaped off the ringside barrier with an elbow and then pounded his chest. [c]
Corbin charged into Ambrose and tackled him into a table in the corner. Corbin smiled as he picked up a strap and then began whipping Ambrose with it. Ambrose side-stepped a charging Corbin and threw him head-first into a chair wedged in the corner. They exchanged elbows mid-ring. Ambrose got the better of him and knocked Corbin to the floor, then dove at him with a flying elbow. Corbin then leaped off the top rope with a flying elbow, driving Corbin through a table at ringside. The crowd chanted “This is awesome!” Then Ambrose climbed to the top rope. Corbin threw a chair at him. Ambrose fell off the top rope and crotched the top rope. Corbin then hit End of Days and scored the pin.
WINNER: Corbin in 11:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good for a relatively short TV street fight with a commercial in the middle.) [c]
-Shane McMahon danced to the ring. Otunga said Shane exceeded everyone’s expectations at WrestleMania. Shane talked about his dad’s announcement. Shane said anyone on Smackdown should want to stay because it’s the land of opportunity. Styles came out and said he wants to stay because Smackdown is the house that he built. Styles said he’s not going to let anyone come over and take that from him. He said that’s not why he came out there, though. He said after WrestleMania, he believes he owes him something. He offered a handshake. Shane shook his hand. Styles teased leaving the ring and hitting Shane, but Shane put his hands up. Styles laughed. Shane laughed. JBL: “Warriors respect warriors.” Styles left to his music.
(Keller’s Analysis: So was that a babyface turn for Styles? Or more just a way to give Shane McMahon validation that he could hang in a “credible, competitive” match against the best in the biz at this moment? Or both?)
-Austin Aries promoted 205 Live.
(4) RANDY ORTON & LUKE HARPER vs. ERICK ROWAN & BRAY WYATT
As Orton entered the ring, JBL said only three people have held “that championship” more than Orton – John Cena, Ric Flair, and Triple H. Orton eyed Bray and Rowan the whole time once he got in the ring and did some trash-talking. JBL said Orton is still in his prime “and that’s scary.” He said if you build a Superstar from the ground up, you get Orton. He didn’t say “sports entertainer.” Rowan took early control by blocking an RKO and landing a reverse hook kick to Orton’s face. Orton rolled to the floor. They cut to a very early break. [c]
Bray was beating up Orton after the break. Orton hot-tagged Harper, who slingshot flip dove over the top rope onto Bray, then dove through the ropes and nocked Rowan into the announce desk. Bray gave Rowan a running clothesline.
(Keller’s Analysis: I don’t know if it helps Harper’s character, even as a babyface, doing A.J. Styles types of moves. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I’d like to see him build on an in-ring style that matches his character more instead of just going for highspot pops.)
The heels beat down on Harper for a few minutes until he hot-tagged Orton. Orton snap-powerslammed Rowan, then went for a second rope DDT. Bray hit him from behind. Orton fought back and gave Bray a second rope DDT. He played to the crowd, then turned to signal for the RKO. The lights went dark. When they came back on, Bray was up the ramp. Rowan attacked Orton from behind, but Harper intervened with a super kick. Orton then hit an RKO for the win. No surprise Rowan took the fall.
WINNER: Orton & Harper in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good basic formulaic tag match. This came across largely as a show aimed at filling time with existing rivalries headed into the Superstar Shakeup next week. However, Bray talking about a special stip match with Orton suggests he’s staying on Smackdown, though, or else this would have been more of a blow-off to their feud.)