In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
(Search "wade keller" to subscribe in podcast app or CLICK HERE to subscribe in Apple Podcasts.)
KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
NOVEMBER 21, 2017
HOUSTON, TEX. AT TOYOTA CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves
-A video package aired on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn attacking Shane McMahon and potentially costing Smackdown the main event at Survivor Series.
-Shane McMahon made his way to the ring. Byron said Smackdown was well on its way to winning when KO and Sami ruined it. Graves said more factored into Team Smackdown’s loss. Shane addressed the crowd like a politician giving a concession speech. He said hi to Houston and then said how close they came to winning on Sunday. He said his sister and her husband will spin this other ways, he believed that Smackdown Live proved that we, even in defeat, will no longer be considered anything but thee show in WWE. Scattered cheers. He said he is proud of the entire Smackdown roster. He said they brought it – except for two individuals. Some boos. He asked them to come out to the ring.
As KO and Sami walked out, Bryon lamented their actions on Sunday and called it selfish. Graves, astutely, pointed out that nowhere in their contracts does it say they have to be team players. Byron said their selfish actions hurt others. Owens asked if they’re going to get the death-defying Superman Shane McMahon or the drunk with power Commissioner Shane McMahon. He said he feels for him because it’s got to be hard coming out there almost every week starting Smackdown with yet another excuse for failing. Sami asked if it’s harder for Shane to come up with new excuses for why he failed, or is it harder to man up and apologize when you were wrong. Owens said they made a fatal mistake leaving them off of Survivor Series. Owens said had Shane put them on Team Smackdown, they would have defeated Team Raw. He said that was Shane’s fatal mistake. He said they alone could have defeated Team Raw, even Triple H. He said either of them could beat Brock Lesnar, even.
Shane said he’s the commissioner tonight, and he asked Owens for the first time in his life to shut his mouth. He said neither of them have respect for anyone in WWE. Sami agreed. He said they don’t respect him. Sami said that goes double. Shane said they don’t respect the fans, either. Sami said that went triple. Shane said he was going to deliver two words for them. Owens interrupted and said they are the leaders of the locker room and everyone wants to emulate their success. Sami said he’d be a damn fool to do anything to two future WWE Hall of Famers. He said there isn’t one person who doesn’t think they are the absolute top two Superstars in WWE. Shane said before he says those two words, which he will take great pride in, he asked if they realize how delusional they are to think that. He said the entire Smackdown locker room hates their guts and has no respect for them. He said they are the most self-absorbed, crazy, megalomaniacs who have ever stepped foot inside a WWE ring, period.
Shane called KO and Sami to come closer. He said, “You’re…” He was then interrupted by Daniel Bryan. Shane wasn’t, technically, required to stop there. Bryan told Shane he has every right to fire those two. He said before he does that, though, he told him to put his personal feelings aside. KO and Sami said Bryan is the voice of reason. Bryan told Sami to shut up. Bryan said he had a better temporary solution than firing them. He said everybody in the back hates their guts. He said he personally had to send Randy Orton home because he said he wouldn’t be held responsible for what he’d do to them if he saw them. Bryan said The New Day are furious that they left them high and dry when Raw ransacked Smackdown last week. Bryan said tonight they get a chance to prove they can beat anybody on any night when they face The New Day.
Sami said that is totally bogus and unfair because there’s three of them. Bryan told Sami to shut up. “I wasn’t finished,” he said. Bryan said everybody hates their guts and wants to get their hands on them, and they might get that chance because the entire locker room will be surrounding the ring during that match.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’d like to have heard from Shane once Bryan essentially went over his head and booked a match that overrode Shane’s apparent plans to fire them. Shane just stood there and listened, but never endorsed Bryan’s plan or even nodded or smiled. He was void of any indication, just standing there and staring down Owens and Sami after Bryan left the ring.)
-The announcers hyped Natalya challenging Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Title with her rematch. Also, A.J. Styles would respond to Jinder Mahal’s challenge. Grave described Styles’s performance against Lesnar two nights ago as “title worthy.” They showed the participants for the next match backstage. [c]
(1) JEY USO (w/Jimmy Uso) vs. SHELTON BENJAMIN (w/Chad Gable)
Graves talked up the ruthless aggression that Gable has shown lately. Phillips said the Usos are focused on proving they rule the tag division that they’ve owned for a while. Shelton gave Jey a running knee to drive him to the floor. They cut to a break. [c]
Shelton dominated during the break (USA Network showed the action on the split-screen during the commercial break). Jey made a comeback and played to the crowd. He overshot on a “hip attack” against Shelton in the corner. Shelton rolled to the floor. Gable stood on the ring apron to block Jey from doing a running dive onto Shelton through the ropes. Jimmy yanked Gable off the ring apron and then tried to throw him, but Gable reversed Jimmy into the barricade. Shelton schoolboyed a distracted Jey for a two count. Jey superkicked Shelton suddenly and scored a believable two count. When Jey climbed to the top rope, Gable approach him, so Jey kicked him and then leaped off the top rope. Shelton moved, then hit Pay Dirt for the win.
WINNER: Shelton in 8:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I know WWE’s unofficial stance is that “turns” are passé, but I think they’d be getting a much more invested audience if they made it more clear why one team deserves their cheers and the other doesn’t. The Usos worked like babyfaces and Shelton & Gable wrestled like heels, but fans aren’t entirely on board.)
-Owens and Sami approached Baron Corbin about joining them in the main event. Corbin asked what’s in it for them. They said it’s about the principle of the matter. Corbin said he can’t stand either of them and he suggested they find somebody more weak minded, then left. Sami pointed toward someone else off camera. They approached Bobby Roode. Sami asked Roode if he wants to be a somebody or just be one of Shane’s punks. Owens said he can stand out from the lumberjacks and be different. “Like us,” said Sami. Roode yelled, “Are you guys out of your minds?” Roode said they ruined it for Smackdown on Sunday so he owes them receipt.
(Keller’s Analysis: Why does Roode always YELL! Almost nobody else just yells all the time anymore on promos, but he still does and it doesn’t work, especially if you’re a babyface.)
-They showed The Bludgeon Brothers. Phillips said they would debut next. [c]
-They showed Naomi getting her make-up applied backstage. She said it felt good to see Charlotte beat Alexa Bliss on Sunday even though she wasn’t happy that Team Smackdown lost earlier. In walked Ruby Riot. Naomi didn’t look happy to see her. She introduced Liv Morgan and Sara Logan. They then triple-attacked Naomi. Becky Lynch tried to make the save, but she was beat down, too.
(Keller’s Analysis: So the closest thing to a Paige look-alike in WWE showed up with two other women – a blond and brunette – to attack a prominent babyface? Gee, someone Xeroxed the Raw creative page and made minor adjustments, huh? Seriously, they thought it was a good idea to repeat the same idea two nights in a row for debuting new women and factions?)
-The announcers reacted to the new women from NXT arriving. Phillips said, “This could get dangerous really quickly.” Byron looked like his dog just got run over by a car.
-Shane approached Bryan and said he’s made quite a few moves. He said he didn’t know he brought some NXT women to Smackdown. He said Bryan’s plan for Owens and Sami was genius. He said he’s cooled off and he likes his approach because he can fire KO and Sami anytime. He said Bryan’s plan gives everyone a chance to beat them up first before, he assumed, Bryan fires them. He said he is going back to the hotel and kick his feet up and watch what happens. He grabbed his backpack and wished Bryan a good night.
-They Hype Bros. made their ring entrance. [c]
(2) THE HYPE BROS. (Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder) vs. THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan)
The Bludgeon Brothers walked out in the dark first with their logo flashing in the background. Then the lights came on and showed them coming out in elaborate outfits carrying sledgehammers. Harper took off his sheep mask. Phillips said, “Where they go, annihilation follows.” Byron said the tag division better be on high alert. Rowan knocked Rider off the ring apron. Harper threw him into the ringside steps. Graves said Harper and Rowan are more sadistic than before and aren’t the same guys. Harper slapped Rowan and then shoved him into Mojo. They gave him a big boot to the face. They continued to double-team Mojo as the ref yelled at them. They gave him a double lift-and-drop that didn’t look all that vicious. Graves called it “a hellacious double powerbomb.”
WINNERS: Bludgeon Brothers in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: They have a good look and demeanor, and they were aggressive from the start, so largely a good reset for them. That finisher didn’t look great, and the extended time they were both in the ring without anything but a verbal scolding by the ref didn’t seem right.)
-Dasha Fuentes interviewed Natalya backstage and asked about the landscape of the women’s division changing. Natalya said the only change that maters is the title change later tonight when she defeats Charlotte. Natalya said she will give Charlotte credit for beating her last week, which she said was nearly impossible to do. He said they all thought it was disgusting when her “hot mess” father Ric Flair came out to congratulate her “blubbering all over the place.” Natalya said her cat Two Paws could be Alexa Bliss, so that’s hardly a big deal. She said she’s going to knock Charlotte off her perch, thus giving her father something to really cry about. She said she will regain her title and be champion forever.
(Keller’s Analysis: Natalya’s delivery is so unnaturally deliberate and over-the-top that it’s actually working as a heat-generating heel tactic, I think. There’s no way anyone’s cheering that personality.) [c]
-A slide show aired recapping A.J. Styles vs. Brock Lesnar.
-A promo aired from Paul Heyman about Lesnar beating Styles. He said Styles is everything that Ric Flair, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels were to their generation, but he’s updated it. He said if you’re not a Styles fan, you shouldn’t even be watching WWE. He said Styles continues to earn everyone’s respect every night he performs. Applause from the fans. Heyman said he didn’t just perform on Sunday, he fought and took it to the Beast like very few ever have.
(Keller’s Analysis: All true, but a little patronizing. “You might have lost, but you looked great doing it and you are so great.” But Heyman knows that helps him stay over with his fanbase by gushing about Styles like that, too. It’s certainly better than the corporate yes-man spinster he came across as in that “Bring It To The Table” episode earlier this year.)
(This report continues after this note about our limited-time special offer.)
FIRST-TIME EVER – TRY PWTORCH VIP FOR FREE FOR 10 DAYS
Activate your 10 day free PWTorch VIP membership (this offer expires soon, so act now) and immediately enjoy these features;
•Last night’s PWTorch VIP Post-PPV Roundtable Podcast, our most popular feature, with Wade Keller, Bruce Mitchell, and Travis Bryant breaking the down the event. Post-PPV podcasts becomes available about an hour or so after the PPV ends… Also, Wade Keller’s VIP Hotline answering VIP member questions about Survivor Series last night.
•Todd Martin’s “The Fix” podcast with host Keller (an early-week edition) reviewing both Survivor Series and Takeover WarGames.
•VIP-Exclusive NXT Takeover Coverage: Yesterday’s Bruce Mitchell Audio Show with host Keller discussing Saturday night’s event for 48 minutes… Saturday night’s Post-Takeover Roundtable Podcast w/Keller & NXT reporters Justin James & Kelly Wells breaking down the entire event for over an hour… Keller’s VIP Hotline after Takeover from Saturday night answering VIP member questions about Takeover and breaking the news on Drew McIntyre’s injury and whether it affected the finish of last night’s match… Keller’s VIP-exclusive written report on NXT Takeover with his star ratings…
•Bruce Mitchell & Brit Whitmire’s “Lookback Podcast” at Starrcade 1987. No two people know Starrcade in the 1980s better than Bruce & Brit, and for nearly 2.5 hours break down every aspect of that historical event with context and behind the scenes news and in-ring content analysis. This joins their previous in-depth Starrcade reviews.
•Ad-free podcasts and ad-free PWTorch VIP website on mobile and desktop.
The benefits keep coming with new VIP Exclusive Podcasts from Keller and the PWTorch staff every single day, plus the largest single library of authoritative, independent, hard-hitting coverage chronicling the wrestling industry dating back to the late 1980s with retro radio shows from the 1990s and podcasts from the last 12-plus year and over 1,500 back issues.
Sign-up is mobile friendly and takes just a minute or two.
Not convinced? Here’s what Conrad Thompson of “Something to Wrestle” and “What Happened When” said this about his VIP membership on his latest podcast with Bruce Prichard:
“If you haven’t ever checked that site out before, you should. My favorite thing on the entire site is the old archived issues of the Torch [Newsletter]. Wade Keller’s ‘Torch Talk’ interviews are just incredible. I was reminded of that when I was researching this particular show. Wade had an interview with Sean Waltman where Waltman talked about the “Plane Ride From Hell” with more detail than I’ve ever seen anywhere else… I want to be clear, I’m not being paid to endorse this in anyway. I’ve paid for a subscription for 20 years. I don’t get a discount, I don’t get paid for plugging this. I’m mentioning it because I know we have a lot of smart wrestling fans who dig learning about this old stuff… If you don’t like it, cancel it, who cares. But if you love this stuff as much as I do, you’re going to be into it and keep this for a long time. I’m a legit 20 year subscriber. I’m not selling you… Go flip through the Torch Talks and tell me it wasn’t worth it.”
-Live in the ring, Styles said he hit Lesnar with every trick he has in the book, but Lesnar is every bit the Beast he says he is. He said phone calls, texts, and tweets congratulated him because he held his own one-on-one with The Beast. He said some people said he was the real life Rocky. He said even Heyman respected his efforts. He said this is WWE, though, and you don’t get trophies for second place. (Actually, some would say the world title on Smackdown has long represented that.) Styles said after the fight, he wasn’t the one limping to the back. He said in the sequel Rocky wins, so anytime Lesnar wants to do this again, he’s game.
Styles said enough about Lesnar and Survivor Series, this is Smackdown and the house that A.J. Styles built. He said he’s a little salty because someone said he was going to take his title away from him on Smackdown Live. He took off his shirt and put his belt center-ring. He told Jinder to come take it from him. Jinder appeared on the big screen and said he watched Lesnar slam him into the mat over and over. He said he thought Styles almost had it, but he came up short. He said Styles took advantage of him in the middle of a European tour when he was busy preparing for The Beast. He said if he wrestled Lesnar at Survivor Series, he’d be standing there being hailed as the Beastmaster. Styles said, “Beastmaster? Do you know how stupid you sound?” Fans laughed.
Styles said Jinder looks well-rested because he didn’t do anything at Survivor Series. Jinder said he’ll get his rematch on his schedule. He said he brought prestige to the belt and cited the population of India again. He said he chooses what he wants. He called Styles a disgrace. He said they’d clash in a place more deserving than Texas. He said he’d invoke his rematch clause at the appropriately named PPV, Clash of Champions. He gave his sinister laugh. Then the Singh Brothers attacked Styles in the ring from behind. Styles fought back quickly. Styles gave one of them a Styles Clash as Jinder pretended he was watching but he was actually staring into a camera. Then he made that cartoonish snarl face and pointed at Styles and said he’d see him at the Clash.
-Backstage Sami said there has to be someone who would help them. They heard singing. They opened a locker room door and Aiden English was singing to Rusev. They walked in and said they don’t buy into all that Thanksgiving crap because they’re proud Canadians, so they’d rather celebrate Rusev Day. KO said they get him and he gets them. He said Shane and Bryan can’t constantly overlook their strongest assets and expect to win. He noted that Rusev’s chance to win a match and be added to Team Smackdown was cancelled and John Cena was put in the match without having to lift a finger. Sami said he thinks New Day are jealous about Rusev Day. Sami told Aiden that they said he’s a terrible singer. Owens said he wants them to keep that in mind during the lumberjack match later.
-The announcers hyped Charlotte vs. Natalya in a title match next. [c]
-The Usos pitched merchandise and the WWE Shop sale.
(Keller’s Analysis: I know there’s a big storyline going on with with the New Day vs. KO & Sami match later, but for the Women’s Title to mean the most it can, this would have been an opportunity to position it as the main event. It gets defined down when it’s before the main event, and the main event isn’t a title match of any time.)
(3) CHARLOTTE vs. NATALYA – WWE Smackdown Women’s Title match
Natalya was aggressive from the start. They cut to an early break. [c]
Natalya beat up Charlotte at ringside and stayed in control throughout the break. Natalya applied a sharpshooter mid-ring at 6:00. Charlotte cried out in pain and finally reached the bottom rope to force a break. Charlotte caught Natalya with a backbreaker and rammed her face-first into the top turnbuckle. Charlotte set up a moonsault, but Natalya lifted her knees. It didn’t look great, as Charlotte basically landed on the mat before hitting the knees. Natalya went for a discus punch, but Charlotte speared her instead. When Natalya rolled to the floor, Riot & Morgan & Logan ran through the crowd and attacked Natalya. The crowd chanted “NXT!” They beat up Natalya.
WINNER: Apparent no contest in 7:00.
-They looked in the ring and saw Charlotte, then smiled and slithered around the ring apron to surround her. Then they swarmed Charlotte and beat her down. Graves said this was an effective way to get the WWE Universe to learn their names.
(Keller’s Analysis: I know it’s the fifth anniversary of The Shield showing up, but these two angles introducing new women’s factions on back to back nights is too much. It diminished both that it happened twice. Also, yet another non-finish to a match where it’s not even addressed. With that finish, I no think it’d have been a good idea to end the show that way, but even better don’t do that finish.) [c]
-They replayed the attack on Charlotte. Graves said there will be a lot of talk about these women going forward.
-Fuentes asked for Bryan’s reaction to what just happened. He coyly said it’s an interested situation, but no comment. Sami and KO walked up to Bryan and said they’re going to get torn up and ripped apart because everyone is jealous of them. Sami said firing them after the match will be the biggest mistake he’s ever made. Bryan said, “Well, good luck guys,” and he didn’t really show his hand.
-Lumberjacks began to walk to the ring. Graves said this is essentially a human cage match. They included Tye Dillinger, Corbin, The Ascension, The Usos, Shinsuke Nakamura, Chad Gable, Shelton Benjamin, Roode, Sin Cara, Mike Kanellis, The Colons, Aiden English, Rusev, and Breezango. The New Day ring entrance then took place. [c]
-The announcers hyped Styles vs. Singh Brothers in a handicapped match for next week. Also, the latest Breezango Fashion Files titled “Do you want to play a game?” Byron was excited.
(4) THE NEW DAY vs. KEVIN OWENS & SAMI ZAYN – Lumberjack Match
When Kofi landed at ringside, the lumberjacks stepped back and gave him space. The Ascension even fist-bumped him. When Sami went to ringside, at Tye’s invite, they swarmed him. Owens half-heartedly tried to help Sami. They threw Sami back into the ring. Sami tried to escape up the ramp. The lumberjacks chased him down and carried him back to the ring. [c]
Byron and Graves bickered over Graves’s defending of KO and Sami throughout the match. He said he’s paid to be objective. Kofi hit Sami with a top rope crossbody for a two count deep into the match. All four ended up down seconds later. Kofi backdropped Sami over the top rope onto the lumberjacks below. Corbin mistakenly punched Roode. A brawl broke out among the lumberjacks. They brawled into the ring and then to ringside. Xavier cleared Kanellis. Owens knocked Woods out of the ring. Kofi hit Owens with a forearm. Sami then rolled up Kofi for the win.
WINNERS: Owens & Sami in 13:00.
-Afterward Rusev attacked Big E as Big E approached KO. Kofi then leaped onto Rusev and English. Sami tried to escape, but Woods caught him. New Day had Sami surrounded in the ring. He tried to talk himself out of a beating, but it didn’t work. Kofi hit him with a Trouble in Paradise. As New Day celebrated in the ring, they cut backstage. Owens asked Bryan if he’s going to fire them. Bryan asked if he’s not worried about his partner. Owens dropped to his knees and begged him not fire them. Bryan said he doesn’t have to beg because he was never going to fire them. He said he does recognize their talent, which is why he wants him there next week one-on-one against Randy Orton. Owens didn’t like it at first, but then thanked Bryan.
(Keller’s Analysis: Okay then. That was a flat finish. I’m not sure if Bryan just wasn’t given enough direction to know how to act throughout the show, or if he is being coy as part of a larger story arc that will reveal itself in coming weeks. He seemed oddly neutral or even approving of the action of the three women whom Shane congratulated him for hiring – and don’t get me started on Shane not caring at all that the women Bryan hired without consulting him first essentially ransacked Naomi and Becky Lynch. So I’m learning toward this being something that won’t ultimately make sense and is just the writing team being exhausted and buying themselves a week and making some sloppy decisions along the way, but I’m hopeful that this show was full of seeds being planted for a sensible rivalry between Shane and Bryan that takes shape to fill out the time between now and the Royal Rumble with some sort of worthy payoff.)