LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
MARCH 12, 2019
DAYTON, OHIO AT NUTTER ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The show began with a live crowd shot as Shane McMahon’s music hit. Shane surveyed the crowd and sauntered to the ring slowly as the commentators pondered what must be on Shane’s mine. Tom Phillips threw to a quick recap of Shane McMahon’s betrayal of The Miz this past Sunday at Fastlane.
Shane stood in the ring beside the “Best in the World” cup from Crown Jewel as the Dayton crowd pelted him with boos and “you suck” chants. Ring announcer, Greg Hamilton returned to the ring to re-introduce Shane as the “Best in the World.” Unsatisfied with Hamilton’s enthusiasm, McMahon grabbed Hamilton by the tie and forced him to say it two more times with “more conviction.”
Shane said a lot of people are wondering why he’d beat down his “co-bestie.” He proclaimed to be sick of it. Sick of the fans, sick of the wrestlers, sick of WWE employees. Shane said that all people want is to use him to get ahead in life. He said it’s always been about what he can do for other people. “That all stopped Sunday,” Shane declared. He claimed that that he’s the best in the world, not because of a trophy, but because he was born that way. “From this point forward”, Shane said “I’m going to start doing things for me.” He said the best part of the beatdown he delivered was seeing The Miz reach for his father’s “potato face” as he faded. Shane called for Miz to listen, saying that he had such a good time beating him down, he’s going to do it again on the grandest stage of them all. “It’s gonna be awesome,” Shane stated before dropping the mic and leaving the ring.
LeClair’s Analysis: Not much to this promo, but it was interesting to see Shane McMahon back in a heel role after so many years. The crowd was certainly on board with booing him, which should fare well for The Miz as this program progresses. I’m interested to see The Miz’s eventual retort.
-Phillips and Saxton announced that Vince McMahon would be giving Kofi Kingston a “Wrestlemania opportunity” later tonight, and that Becky Lynch would address her addition to the Raw Women’s Title Match at Wrestlemania. Aleister Black’s music hit and Greg Hamilton introduced the opener, an eight-man tag team match. The show headed to its first commercial break.
Back from commercial, all eight competitors were in the ring and the bell sounded. Black and Nakamura started things off, trading a quick series of moves before Ricochet was tagged in. After another short exchange, Matt Hardy was tagged in. He riled up a small “delete” chant from the crowd as Nakamura tagged in Sheamus. Hardy made a quick tag to his brother, Jeff, who received a strong ovation from the crowd. Hardy traded holds with Sheamus, and then Cesaro before the latter tagged in Rusev. Rusev isolated Jeff in the heel corner and took control. Jeff’s repeated attempts to reach his corner were thwarted by the heels, who made frequent tags in and out, delivering damage to Jeff. Hardy eventually powered through to his own corner, tagging in Ricochet, who took over with a series of athletic counters on Rusev. Ricochet attempted a springboard, but Rusev caught him on the ropes and punched him to the outside. The commentators threw to a picture-in-picture commercial break. On the small screen, the heels began the same isolation strategy on Ricochet, who was still selling his fall to the outside. Ricochet landed a jawbreaker on Sheamus, but was again cut off before being able to make the tag. Back from the break, the heels maintained dominance on Ricochet. Cesaro briefly saved a tag, but Ricochet was able to land a back body drop and get a tag to Matt Hardy. Matt quickly tagged in Jeff and the pair hit Poetry in Motion on Cesaro. At this point, the match broke down. Matt connected with a Side Effect on Cesaro, but was immediately taken out by a Brogue Kick from Sheamus. Sheamus was immediately knocked down by a stiff looking running knee to the face from Aleister Black. Rusev returned and delivered a side head kick to Black, but was immediately taken down by a missile dropkick from Ricochet. Nakamura then hit Ricochet with a side kick, before being taken out by Jeff Hardy with a Twist of Fate. The sequence was finally brought to a halt when Cesaro rolled up Jeff Hardy for a near fall. Jeff hit a Twist of Fate on Cesaro, then headed to the top rope, connecting with a Swanton Bomb. The entire heel team immediately broke up the pin on Cesaro. A brawl between all eight competitors ensued. At this point, The New Day rushed the ring and began cleaning house. They rid the ring of the babyface, then immediately went to work on the heels. After beating down The Bar, Nakamura, and Rusev, Big E and Xavier fed Rusev into a Trouble In Paradise from Kofi.
WINNERS: No Contest
(LeClair’s Analysis: The front half of the match wasn’t particularly engaging, but the small portion that remained after the commercial break was a lot of fun, in a chaotic way. I would’ve expected a much bigger reaction for The New Day here. The initial pop was big, and there was a smattering of “Kofi” chants, but after the beatdown was over and New Day stood in the ring, the crowd seemed far more subdued than I’d have expected. We’ll see what the reaction is like to Vince’s announcement later.)
-Backstage, The Usos were in the dark, smokey annals of the arena. They said they took what was their’s at Fastlane. They ran down each of the teams that competed in the eight man tag team match, wondering who would step up to face them at Wrestlemania. They focused particularly on The Hardy Boys, teasing a potential first-time match-up.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I’m a big proponent of The Usos getting a nice spot in a well-built two-on-two tag team feud, and The Hardys may be a perfect way to achieve that. I’m hoping that’s the direction we see, but Smackdown has an embarrassment of riches in the tag team division and creative may be compelled to load up that match.)
-Back at ringside, Randy Orton’s music hit. Tom Phillips said that something has been burning at Randy Orton for a long time, and he needs to get it off his chest. The show headed to a commercial.
After the break, Orton stood in the ring with a microphone. He he doesn’t understand how this can be the “house that A.J. Styles built” when, in 2002, Styles was wrestling in high school gyms while Orton was on Smackdown. In 2004, he claimed, Styles was shaking hands with all his opponents in bingo halls while Orton was becoming the youngest WWE Champion ever. Orton said that in 2005, A.J. was in Florida getting a tan with Dixie Carter while he was facing The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Orton said that he was on Smackdown, winning and defending championships all the way up to 2016 when Styles finally showed up in WWE. “This isn’t the house that A.J. Styles built,” he dug in, “this is the house that Randy Orton built!” The crowd responded positively. A.J. Styles’s music hit and he headed to the ring.
Orton and Styles engaged in a brief stare off as Styles grabbed a mic. “Wow, Randy, for someone who looks down on the indies, you sure did follow my career pretty closely,” A.J. surmised. A.J. said he was flattered, and that he’s proud to have come from the indies. Styles said certain guys, like Orton, were built for WWE. He said that’s a good thing, because Randy couldn’t have made it in his world. Styles mocked Orton’s turnbuckle pose and called the RKO “a knockoff Diamond Cutter.” Orton retorted, asking A.J. if he and his “indie pals” ever ripped anybody off, before throwing up the “Too Sweet” hand gesture. Styles took exception to Randy’s “indie pals” comment, noting that Orton is surrounded by them backstage. Styles said they earned the right to be WWE, and that they didn’t go to their father to get a job. A.J. recounted the first few years of Orton’s career and claimed he had help from Evolution to ensure that he didn’t fail. Randy said that, by age 24, he’d already accomplished more than anyone in the industry could dream of accomplishing. Orton ran down his lengthy list of accolades, saying no one helped him get to his spot. Styles ran down Orton’s alliances over the years and said that he’d “had a lot of babysitters.” Styles said he got the jump on Orton at Fastlane because he refuses to be the Viper’s next victim. Orton said that Styles doesn’t have a choice because he’s renting a room in his house, and, “rent’s due, bitch.” Orton said Styles can make the check out to the three most destructive letters in sports entertainment, RKO. A.J. pointed to the WrestleMania sign and said, “you want your rent, Randy? Well, come and take it.” Orton stared pensively at Styles before leaving the ring.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I think this is probably the only satisfying direction WWE could take with this angle. Both Styles and Orton seem to have been floundering a bit as of late, but both of them are too big to go to Wrestlemania without a strong match, so this pairing makes a lot of sense logically, and it’s a feud we haven’t seen in any major capacity. Orton stumbled some, but I thought this still was one of his most intriguing promos in a long while. He’s the right guy to deliver the anti-indie message given his public comments over the years, and Styles is the right guy to defend it and smartly point out the flaws in Orton’s argument. It’s hard to get too excited about a Randy Orton match or feud, but this has potential. Important to note, the crowd was strongly behind Orton here. Styles comments generated some positive response, but the Dayton audience seemed to buy into Orton’s proclamations far more than I would’ve expected.)
-At the commentator’s table, Tom Phillips threw to some media snippets and social media praise for Harlem Heat’s upcoming Hall of Fame induction during Wrestlemania weekend.
-Asuka’s music hit and the Smackdown Women’s Champion made her way to the ring for the second match of the night. Corey Graves and Tom Phillips discussed Asuka’s win over Mandy Rose at Fastlane before a commercial break.
Back from the break, the commentators ran down some of the matches on the Wrestlemania card, including The Miz vs. Shane McMahon and Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar. Sonya Deville headed to the ring with Mandy Rose by her side. Byron Saxton remarked that Sonya has been very apologetic for the role she played in Rose’s loss at Fast Lane.
(2) ASUKA vs. SONYA DEVILLE (w/Mandy Rose)
Tom Phillips said that this match was an opportunity at redemption for Sonya Deville, and also a means to earning a Women’s Title match should she beat Asuka. Sonya and Asuka began the match by trading a series of kicks. Asuka quickly took control, but Sonya tried to catch her with a quick roll up. After both women returned to their feet, Sonya hit a spear on Asuka for a quick two count. She used this momentum to continue her offense, but Asuka shrugged most of it off. Asuka quickly regained control, dropping Deville to the mat and connecting with a swift running knee strike. Asuka unintentionally struck Mandy Rose at ringside while Rose was helping Deville back into the ring. Mandy rose to her knees with Deville still on the apron. She pulled the apron out from underneath Sonya, causing her to slip. This allowed Asuka to connect with a head kick and roll her into the Asuka Lock for a quick tap out victory.
Corey Graves blamed the slip on Sonya continuing to defend Mandy Rose. Rose talked down to a distraught Sonya before leaving on her own.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This wasn’t about Asuka, but rather, furthering the angle between Sonya and Mandy. It’s a shame, because the same can obviously be said for the title match at Fastlane. Asuka has taken a real backseat and the title, and entire Smackdown Women’s Division, feels like an complete afterthought. Nothing impressive about the match itself.)
-The camera cut to Peyton Royce and Billie Kay backstage, remarking on Mandy and Sonya’s problems. They called out Sasha Banks and Bayley, saying that they still haven’t showed up on Smackdown. They said if Sasha and Bayley are looking for their next title defense, then their future is on Smackdown, and it will be iconic. The struck a comedic superhero pose.
LeClair’s Analysis: I wasn’t a big proponent of the Women’s tag team belts due to a lack of depth, and it’s already proving to be a problem. Peyton and Billie are one of the true female duos in the company, so this match-up makes sense.
-Becky Lynch walked onto the ramp with her crutch. She started at it contemplatively, then tossed it off to the side, limping without it to the ring. Phillips said that we would hear from Lynch after the break.
Back from commercial, Phillips threw to a recap of Becky’s match with Charlotte at Fastlane, leading to her being added back into the title match at Wrestlemania. In the ring, Becky said it felt good to walk down the ramp on her own two feet again. She said everyone got brave when she experienced a series of misfortunes (injury, suspension, arrest.) Becky said she’s the one who picked Ronda, and that Charlotte was shoehorned into the match. Lynch reminded the crowd that she had to earn her match not once, but twice. First, by winning the Royal Rumble, and then again by “playing Ronda Rousey like a fiddle.”
“Do you know how hard it is to play mind games with a woman who has no brain?” Becky jokingly asked the crowd. She thanked Ronda, saying she’ll repay her by taking her title and ripping her arm off at Wrestlemania. Becky said she doesn’t care who she has to beat, because she’s going to reclaim everything that “they” tried to take from her to give to someone else. Charlotte’s music hit. “Speaking of someone else,” Becky introduced Charlotte. Charlotte said her resume speaks for itself. She said it’s one thing to be hot for six months, but it’s another to be hot for four years.
Charlotte said she was chosen to get the job done. She claimed that the fans support Becky Lynch because they fall sorry for her. Charlotte said that, no matter how hard Becky tries to spin it, she got a hand out. “I’m going to have to make you and Ms. Rousey relevant again when you bow down to the queen”, Charlotte smirked at Becky. “Ms. WrestleMania,” she said. Becky called Charlotte a “plastic faced dope” and said that Charlotte held the division hostage for four years and did nothing with it. “Then I came along, and six months later we’re the main event of Wrestlemania,” Becky declared. Becky said that we don’t need the queen, we need the man. She dropped the mic and the two women stared each other down.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This angle has lost a ton of steam in recent weeks, and that seems to have led to Becky losing some of her heat. The crowd was excited to see her, but not approaching the fever pitch she’s enjoyed from many audiences in recent months. Granted, the Dayton audience wasn’t particularly excitable to this point in the show, but the storytelling hasn’t done Becky any favors either. The meat of the promo from both women was just fine, but it’s not much of anything we haven’t heard either of them say before.)
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton stood outside Vince McMahon’s office when Daniel Bryan and Erick Rowan walked out. Kayla asked Bryan and Rowan what he was doing in Mr. McMahon’s office. Bryan said he was having a private discussion. When pressed, Bryan said that, as the planet’s champion and the victim of an unannounced triple threat match at Fast Lane, he thought it was his right to weigh in on Mr. McMahon’s upcoming announcement regarding Kofi Kingston. Kayla asked Bryan what Vince’s reaction was, and Daniel announced that he put Bryan and Rowan in a tag match later in the show against Kevin Owens and Mustafa Ali.
-Phillips and Graves discussed the previous match announcement as Rey Mysterio headed to the ring. Tom teased a tag team match coming up after the break.
Returning from the break, a recap of Samoa Joe’s title win on last week’s Smackdown aired. Samoa Joe headed to the ring, with the other competitors already at ringside.
(3) REY MYSTERIO & R-TRUTH (w/Carmella) vs. SAMOA JOE & ANDRADE (w/Zelina Vega)
Truth and Andrade began the match. Truth took control early and got the crowd to participate in a “what’s up?” After a double team spot with Mysterio, Rey downed Andrade for a 619 but Joe tagged himself in and cut Mysterio off at the pass. At this point, the clearly befuddled commentary crew threw to a picture-in-picture commercial break about twenty seconds early. They seemed truly out of sorts. Once the small screen engaged, Joe took it to a downed Mysterio, slowly working him over before tagging Andrade in and allowing him to do the same. Andrade tagged Joe back in, and Joe put Mysterio in a crossfire as the show came back to full from the break. Joe and Andrade traded tags again as Truth tried to rile up the crowd, and Mysterio, from the apron. Andrade attempted a triple suplex on Rey, but on the third, Mysterio countered out and began crawling to his corner. Zelina Vega attempted to prevent Mysterio from reaching Truth, but Carmella quickly took her out of the fray, allowing Mysterio to make the tag. Truth began running through John Cena’s moveset. He got Andrade up for an Attitude Adjustment, but Joe tagged himself in. Joe hit a stiff kick to the head of Truth, but got caught immediately with a missile dropkick from Mysterio. Rey got both Joe and Andrade in position for a double 619 and connected. Mysterio followed it up with a frog splash on Andrade, but Joe broke it up with a senton. Joe went for a uranage, but Mysterio countered into a roll up for the win.
WINNERS: Rey Mysterio & Truth.
Samoa Joe immediately grabbed R-Truth and hit him with a uranage, then did the same to Andrade. Joe was seething. Tom Phillips said the intensity continues to build on the road the Wrestlemania.
LeClair’s Analysis: Fine little tag team match, though I dislike the constant trend of clean wins over champions, especially on Joe, who is really just reestablishing himself. I’m not sure if they’re headed to a one-on-one encounter at Wrestlemania (that seems to be rare for undercard matches these days), but Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio could be excellent.
-At the announce desk, Tom Phillips introduced a video recap of last night’s Moment of Bliss segment, where Alexa Bliss revealed herself as the host of Wrestlemania 35.
-Kevin Owens music hit and he headed to the ring. Tom Phillips remarked that Owens must be in a terrible mood after Fastlane. Phillips teased the tag team match coming up after the break.
After the commercial break, Mustafa Ali headed to the ring. Corey Graves said that Ali wowed the crowd with his performance at Fastlane. Daniel Bryan and Rowan headed to the ring, and Tom Phillips recounted how Mustafa Ali lost his title opportunity at Elimination Chamber, leading to his involvement in the WWE Title match this past Sunday.
(4) KEVIN OWENS & MUSTAFA ALI vs. DANIEL BRYAN & ROWAN
Owens and Bryan started the match off, and KO quickly got aggressive, taking control over the champion. Bryan retreated to his corner and tagged in his heavy, Rowan. Rowan used his size and power to dominate Owens in the early going. Owens broke free of Rowan’s grasp and made the tag into Mustafa Ali, who began using his quickness to disarm Rowan. Rowan quickly regained control with a cross body and then tagged in Daniel Bryan. Bryan continued Rowan’s methodical pace. After an attempted comeback by Ali, Bryan hit a nice snap suplex and Phillips threw to a commercial break.
Back from commercial, Rowan had Mustafa Ali hung up on his shoulder. He rammed him into the turnbuckle and tagged Bryan back in. Bryan locked in the Lebelle Lock, but Ali made it to the ropes to break the hold. Bryan continued his beatdown, but Ali eventually hit Bryan with a dropkick and tried to reach KO in his corner. Bryan cut him off at first, but Ali countered Bryan’s backdrop attempt into a backstabber for a pin attempt broken up by Rowan. This brought Owens in the ring. The two battled briefly before spilling to the outside. In the ring, Ali rolled up Bryan for a two count. Rowan tagged in, unbeknownst to Mustafa Ali. Rowan quickly hit Ali with his Iron Claw finisher for the win.
WINNERS: Bryan & Rowan
(LeClair’s Analysis: It seems like it’s a trend tonight, but there wasn’t much to this match. The action picked up nicely after the break and Mustafa Ali’s hope spots against Bryan were decent, but this felt like basic time filling fodder.)
-As Bryan and Rowan left the ringside area, “No Chance in Hell” hit the PA and Vince McMahon headed to the ring, crossing paths with the champion on his way. Phillips sent the show to commercial.
Back live, and in the ring, Vince McMahon told the audience that he was there to give the audience what they want. He said he was there to give Kofi Kingston what he wants – an opportunity to compete for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania. Vince pointed to the tron, introducing a recap of the events involving Kofi from this past Sunday. After the package, Vince said that people heard what they wanted to hear at Fastlane. He said he gave Kofi an opportunity Sunday, and he failed. Vince said everything he does is a teachable moment. Before he could continue to explain, The New Day’s music hit. Corey Graves said it may not be a wise decision to interrupt the chairman. Big E spoke first. He said they weren’t in the mood to be taught anything. He said they show up for every appearance, make every signing, and fly half way around the world on a moment’s notice.
Xavier told Vince that they never threaten to leave or quit when they don’t get what they want, and they still get treated like garbage. Big E brought up that Kofi has been with WWE for eleven years, grinding, and that he deserves more. “He doesn’t deserve a damn thing,” Vince growled. McMahon launched into a tirade, saying The New Day doesn’t deserve anything – not even to breathe in or out. He said he, himself, doesn’t deserve anything, and he created Smackdown, and Raw, and “basically created heaven and Earth.” Big E said this was bigger than an opinion, the New Day, and even Vince’s ego. Vince said there is nothing bigger than his ego. Xavier Woods pointed out that Kofi rightfully earned his opportunity by pinning the champion. Big E said the fans demand that Kofi be given an opportunity to compete for the WWE Championship. The crowd broke into a “Kofi” chant.
Vince said he’s known Kofi for a long time, and that he’s a good judge of talent. He said that if Kofi deserved a title match, he’d have gotten it a long time ago. He talked up Kofi’s accolades, and called him a great representation of the WWE product. McMahon told Kofi that someday, he’d be part of the WWE Hall of Fame, but not by himself. Instead, he’d be inducted as part of The New Day. Vince said Kofi isn’t Championship material. He said it was Daniel Bryan who said it best earlier in the locker room. Bryan told him that “Kofi is awesome, but he’s a B+ player.” Xavier and Big E began to get heated, but Kofi calmed them down. He stood face to face with McMahon. He told Vince he isn’t looking for a handout, but that he has a lifelong dream and it’s nearly all of it has come true. He gets to provide for his family and travel the world performing for audiences. Kofi said that he never complains about getting passed over for opportunity, despite busting his ass for eleven years.
Kofi told Vince he’s never been trick-or-treating with his kids, because he’s always been in WWE. He said he missed his child’s first visit from the Tooth Fairy because he was competing at an event, and he’s never complained once about it. Kofi said he isn’t going to start complaining now, but he needs Vince to tell him what he needs to do to earn a title shot so that he can do it. “These people believe in me,” Kofi said. Randy Orton’s music hit. Vince said all Kofi has to do is beat Randy Orton. Samoa Joe’s music hit. “And that man,” Vince exclaimed. The Bar’s music hit. “And these men,” added the chairman. Rowan’s music hit. “And this last one, too,” Vince added. He said there’d be a gauntlet match next week on Smackdown and, if Kofi prevails, he’ll get his title opportunity at Wrestlemania. Rowan, The Bar, and Rowan rushed the ring and New Day fended them off. “Kofi Kingston got screwed again!” Byron shouted as the show went off the air.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I lost track of how many times “opportunity” was said during this segment, and thus, in my reporting. The New Day was good here. Too often, their promos have meandered into slapstick territory and these last few weeks of pushing for one of their own has really brought a different element of all their personalities for the better. Vince wasn’t at his best, but he very rarely is these days. I thought Kofi’s speech was impassioned and impactful, albeit a little cliche at times. This angle, though still flawed, is quickly becoming the most intriguing story on Smackdown, and possibly on the Wrestlemania card as a whole. I’m looking forward to a stellar Kofi performance next week.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Nothing in the way of compelling wrestling tonight, but I thought the Styles/Orton promo, and the show’s closing segments were strong takeaways from another angle heavy show. I’m intrigued to see Kofi run the gauntlet next week, and to see what kind of response The Miz has in store for Shane McMahon.