3/2 WWE Smackdown in Minneapolis: Keller’s detailed report on tepid effort and flat reactions most of night for three-plus hour show headlined by Asuka-Charlotte

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

Asuka (art credit Joel Teach © PWTorch)


MARCH 2, 2019

If you attend a live event, please send results with details on the matches, crowd reactions, and attendance to pwtorch@pwtorch.com. Thanks!

The upper deck was completely blocked off from fans, but the floor and the entire lower bowl of the 19,000 seat venue was only roughly 100 seats short of entirely packed with the exception of the sections to the direct side and back of the entrance stage. So probably 8,500-9,500 total.

(1) The Usos beat The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus) and Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura.

-Jeff Hardy came out for a match. Samoa Joe attacked him. Ring announcer Greg Hamilton said unfortunately, Hardy couldn’t wrestle, but he hoped he’d be healthy by Tuesday’s episode of Smackdown. The crowd didn’t really react with much emotion.

(2) Mandy Rose pinned Naomi with her foot on the middle rope for extra leverage. Mandy’s ring entrance is about as risqué as WWE gets, but walked up to a certain line without crossing it, getting nowhere near what, say, The Beautiful People did in TNA.

Miz TV: Miz came out and got a reaction like he was one of the bigger stars, but it wasn’t babyface or heel – just a reaction. He talked about Rick Rude, who is from the neighboring suburb of Robinsdale. He did something he should never do again, which was imitate Rick Rude’s hip swivel and gyrations. He said the world is made of A-listers like him and up-and-comers, and he introduced Andrade and Zelina Vega. Zelina did all the talking and said Andrade is there to take out the old guard like Miz and Rey Mysterio who have overstayed their welcome. Miz took exception. Vega said Miz isn’t a star because all his movies go straight to DVD. (It feels dated now to refer to “DVDs” as a main distribution model, especially considering Samsung just announced last month they’re not even going to make DVDs players anymore.) That led to a match.

(3) The Miz pinned Andrade (w/Zelina Vega) with a roll-up. Zelina interfered and distracted Miz several times, so the referee eventually kicked her out. That woke up a crowd that hadn’t been all that enthusiastic, and for good reason as the wrestlers were largely going through the motions all night. Within seconds, as Andrade protested, Miz rolled him up for the win.

(4) Jeff Hardy pinned Samoa Joe. As the ring announcer was about to make a generic announcement, Hardy’s music played. The crowd didn’t pop big, but were pleased to see Hardy come out. Then Joe came out. In the end, Jeff hit a Twist of Fate and a splash. Hardy isn’t doing Swantons at house shows, which is probably wise, but boy was that a flat finish. Afterward, he began taking off various articles attached his body such as armbands and wristbands and tossing them to the crowd. Then he spent a long time shaking hands and hugging fans at ringside and on his way to the back. Then he stood on the stage and saluted the fans. It was a nice extra gesture.

(5) Daniel Bryan (w/Erick Rowan) beat Mustafa Ali. After Ali came out to very little reaction, it seemed fans were anticipating either Kofi Kingston or A.J. Styles to join the match, but it turned out to be one-on-one. Bryan did some mic work. Although his entrance video has the recycling symbol and his belt is wood and hemp, he didn’t say anything on the mic to garner heel heat for advocating for cutting back on waste, meat & dairy, or consumption. Instead, he got the best bet for heel heat any heel generally has at house shows – ripping on the local sports team, in this case the Minnesota Vikings. The crowd immediately began doing the “SKOL!” chant and arm gestures. Ali may or may not have known what that was all about, but he joined in. It was some of the most crowd heat of the night, which isn’t necessarily good considering it’s pretty cheap and easy and not really reflective of character development or fan investment in the match. Ali tried as hard as anyone all night. Bryan was in house show mode – well, everyone was, but with him it’s more noticeable. Rowan interfered often, and at one point ran into the ring right in front of the referee and hit Ali, but the ref just looked bewildered and didn’t DQ Bryan. He just sort of stood there and gestured and the match continued. That interference helped Bryan get the win shortly thereafter.


(6) Carmella & Nikki Cross beat The IIconics when Carmella scored the pin. At first The IIconics said they were going to wrestle Carmella two-on-one, but then Nikki came out. There were several dance breaks which amused the crowd. A pretty sloppy match, but more activity and a better pace than most other matches.

(7) A.J. Styles pinned Randy Orton. This was listless and slow, as was most of the entire event, but more pronounced because it was a Styles match. Styles got a polite response, and Orton got the reaction he gets – a legacy star reaction that acknowledges his long-term body of work and history of big matches, but no emotional investment beyond that. After Orton hit a DDT off the middle rope, there was a bit of a pop for Styles kicking out. It was the first time in a while the crowd seemed invested in a near fall. Orton methodically set up a superplex – it felt like 30 seconds or so – but Styles slipped under him to escape. Later, Styles teased a Phenomenal Forearm just as Orton teased an RKO, so they both stopped in their tracks. It was a cool moment, one of the more memorable of the night. Styles then actually hit the Phenomenal Forearm seconds later for the clean win.

-Fans began leaving, sensing the show was done. WWE was really late in letting them know the main event was yet to come. Perhaps that’s a compliment to the stature of Styles and Orton that fans thought it was probably the end, but mostly it was a statement about the fans being ready to leave as it was past 10 p.m. (the show started at 7;30) and perhaps apathy toward Asuka vs. Charlotte. Finally Hamilton said it was time for the main event and people settled into their seats.

(8) Asuka pinned Charlotte. Asuka didn’t get a “main event champion babyface pop” at all. She has barely been featured on TV and has been given almost nothing to get any momentum coming off of her Smackdown Women’s Title win. It’s almost as if her title doesn’t exist as Smackdown’s top women wrestlers are going after Ronda Rousey’s Raw Women’s Title entire. A couple attempts at a “Becky! Becky!” chant didn’t even get a second person to participate, much less an arena full of fans. This had the feel of a mid-card match start to finish, as they went through the motions methodically as the show went past the three hour mark. There just wasn’t the excitement or star power to justify the matches as long as they were or the show going past two-and-a-half hours, much less three. A listless crowd watched an overly long main event play out with kicks from Asuka and mat holds from Charlotte, but as was the case the entire night, almost no bumps or rapid-fire action or a sense of “fighting hard to win.” It was just a sports entertainment performance set to 75 percent playback speed. In the end, Charlotte went for a top rope moonsault, but Asuka raised her knees and then quickly applied the Asuka lock for the tapout. It was a flat finish. Instead of a pop and a celebration, there were mild cheers and then fans quickly leaving before Asuka had a chance to even stand and celebrate.

FINAL THOUGHTS:If you were 9 years old and didn’t know any different, this was a chance to see some TV stars in person. Those who gave off the most star power were Miz and Bryan, followed by Styles and Hardy, but it felt void of that match that people paid to see or the star that they were anticipating seeing all night. It was just three hours of a tepid effort by wrestlers who seemed content to avoid injury and amuse a crowd with simulated half-hearted activity that never even felt like “simulated fighting.” There was very little sense of violence or intensity or risk-taking, which is fine if the characters are really over where fans have a strong rooting interest in one party winning or losing, but that wasn’t there either.

I don’t even blame wrestlers for working such a safe soft style at house shows in this era, but this felt like a confluence of factors that just made this entire three hour experience listless to anyone but the most innocent and inexperienced of eyes. I wouldn’t say anyone was “lazy” to an unprofessional level, but no one gave off a sense other than Mustafa Ali that this was anything other than clocking in to work to go through the motions, some more polished than others. I can’t imagine anyone left more of a WWE fan than they started other than those who got a souvenir or handshake from Jeff Hardy. I don’t think people were angry leaving, by any means, but they didn’t seem excited or even satisfied. It just had the vibe of people leaving Target after a slightly productive shopping experience…

There was a varied mix of merchandise – lots of people with belts, for instance – but less merchandise being worn by fans than I remember at a WWE show. There wasn’t a single wrestler who jumped out as having more merchandise worn than anyone else. It was a mix of current and former stars, but a low percentage overall…

I did an informal poll of fans standing in line at concession stands during intermission and, among several dozen fans I surveyed, slightly less than half but more than a third had heard of Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. I asked largely guys standing in lines for beer, not families with kids, so the percentage is surely lower among all fans, but even among those who looked like they’d be aware of AEW, it was around 35-45 percent. I suppose that’s probably in line with what I’d have expected. I couldn’t predict before asking just looking at someone whether they’d say yes or no…

If you attend a live event, please send results with details on the matches, crowd reactions, and attendance to pwtorch@pwtorch.com. Thanks!

3 Comments on 3/2 WWE Smackdown in Minneapolis: Keller’s detailed report on tepid effort and flat reactions most of night for three-plus hour show headlined by Asuka-Charlotte

  1. What happened is the result of a bad creative management, you can not blame the wrestling here, what Asuka is the first time I see it make a person disappear occupying the championship, but it turns out, that the game does not turn on, Asuka vs Mandy does not turn on, even so I think Asuka must retain, because otherwise, there would be a predictable match in WM 35, because statistically almost nobody loses in their first defense and having a predictable match in WM 35 is bad for business and the other Aj Stiles vs. Randy Orton on the paper looks good, but I do not know if their styles complement each other well in the ring.

  2. I fully believe not just house shows but Raw and Smackdown too that WWE has really gone down. I much rather watch New Japan, NXT, and even ROH as the matches seem to have meaning. I can’t wait to see if BTE actually can make Vince improve the product.

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