LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
MARCH 19, 2019
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA AT BANKERS LIFE FIELDHOUSE
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Todd Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The show opened on a crane shot of the Wrestlemania sign as Todd Phillips opened the show with an obligatory note about being on the “Road to WrestleMania.” Phillips and Graves ran down the night’s major events, including Kofi Kingston’s gauntlet match and a KO Show featuring Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.
-The Miz’s music hit Greg Hamilton introduced him to a respectful reaction. Miz walked to the ring, looking very serious, as Byron Saxton noted that The Miz will be facing Shane McMahon at WrestleMania. The Miz immediately threw to a video package recapping Shane McMahon’s promo on last week’s Smackdown. Back live, Miz said he’s been laser focused on the road to WrestleMania for the last ten years. Miz said, aside from his wife and daughter, he’s sacrificed every relationship he’s ever had in his life for the wrestling business, because it means so much to him. He said his friendship with Shane meant everything, too. “I wanted my dad to be proud of me,” Miz said. He fought back tears as he recalled celebrating with his father in the ring. The Miz said people warned him about teaming with Shane, telling him “he’s a little different behind the scenes.” The Miz recounted Shane’s actions at Fastlane. “You are a conniving, vile, disgusting human being. You are rotten to the core, just like your father,” Miz said to a smattering of applause. “You weren’t born the best in the world, you were born a McMahon and that means you’re the worst.” Miz said the McMahon’s may own WWE, but they don’t own him, and they don’t own Kofi Kingston. Miz said he wasn’t born rich, he was born destined to flip burgers. He said he people told him he was average and wouldn’t amount to anything. “I found my way through the real world,” he threw in cleverly, “and I became the most must-see WWE superstar of all time.” Miz said, boo him or cheer him, no one can deny his work ethic. He said his father didn’t give him love, he had to earn it. Miz said the fans didn’t give him respect, he had to earn that too. Miz said he thinks, in this moment, he’d finally earned it. The crowd cheered in approval. A small “Miz” chant broke out, replaced quickly by “you deserved it.” “You’re damn right I do,” Miz said. Miz said Shane earned one thing all by himself – “an ass whipping from me at WrestleMania.” Miz threw down the mic and left the ring.
-At the announcer’s table, Phillips, Graves, and Saxton quickly recapped The Miz’s key points and teased the match-up against Shane.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Fairly cookie-cutter promo, but effective nonetheless. I think the crowd’s dampened reactions may have hurt Miz’s momentum and message a little bit here, so it’s a shame it wasn’t in front of a more captive audience. Still, this is an interesting new direction for The Miz character and he certainly has earned a good solid run as a babyface. Hopefully the match with Shane delivers.)
-Sasha Banks’ music played and Graves gave Saxton permission to “steal Cole’s line.” “It’s BOSS TIME!” Saxton enthusiastically shouted, (Cue eye rolls.) Bayley headed to the ring and Phillips threw to commercial break.
Back from the break, The Iconics’ music played and Billie and Peyton entered with microphones. “Peyton, look who it is!” Billie screeched, mocking Sasha and Bayley’s “late” arrival to Smackdown. Peyton said that the duo looked small and weird in their ring. She made a joke about Sasha and Bayley’s parents paying a bribe to get them into an Ivy League school. She said they went back to NXT to feel important, and got chased off of their own show by Nia, Tamina, Natalya, and Beth Phoenix. So, they finally showed up on Smackdown to face the best female tag team in the world. “They saved the best for last, and the last is going to be…Iconic!” the pair shouted in tandem before heading into the ring.
(1) THE IICONICS (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) vs. SASHA BANKS & BAYLEY
Peyton and Bayley started the match off, trading quick holds and takedowns. Peyton knocked Bayley down and then shoved Sasha off the apron. Bayley quickly regained control and made the tag into Sasha. The pair executed a double team move on Peyton, who quickly rolled to her corner and tagged in Billie Kay. Sasha took down Billie and mocked the Iconics’ pose. Bayley tagged back in, and, after scoring a near fall on Billie, Lacey Evans’ music hit. She sauntered to the ring as the action continued in the ring, primarily distracting the babyfaces. Peyton made a blind tag back into the ring while Bayley was distracted and took control. Phillips threw to a picture-in-picture commercial. On the small screen, Royce held Bayley in a grounded headlock. Billie and Peyton executed frequent tags, isolating Bayley in their corner. Peyton pushed Bayley out the ring and began jawing at Sasha, who kept her distance so as not to get disqualified. Back in the ring, Royce tagged Kay back in and Billie applied an arm lock on a weakened Bayley. Back to full screen, Peyton Royce had Bayley hung up in the ropes. She continued dolling out punishment to the champ. Bayley was able to regain her composure briefly with a hair toss, enough to tag in Sasha Banks. Coming in off of the hot tag, Sasha cleaned house and hit the double knee from the middle rope onto Peyton Royce. With Peyton down near the ropes, Sasha looked to maintain control but Billie grabbed her leg from the outside. This brought Bayley back into the fold. She rounded the corner to take out Kay on the outside, but Billie had her scouted and connected with a big boot. This distracted Sasha long enough for Peyton to throw her to the mat and roll her up. She folded Sasha in half, and Billie held down Banks’ arm out of the referee’s vision as he counted to three. The Iconics quickly left the ring and celebrated on the ramp as the camera cut to Sasha Banks’, shocked in the ring.
WINNERS: The Iiconics in 8:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Not a particularly strong match. Bayley and Sasha’s double team spot in the early looking looked a little weak and something appeared to have gone wrong leading into the finish. Neither things were particularly egregious, but there wasn’t much else for the match to hang its hat on. The Iconics’ promo before the bout fell a little flat, and the college admissions joke didn’t really work here. I’m not sure if this was a way to get Billie and Peyton involved in the title match at WrestleMania, or if it was just a seat-of-the-pants booking call.)
-Quick fade to backstage, where Kayla Braxton asked what the Iconics’ win may mean for the future of the Women’s Tag Team Titles. She then welcomed her guest, Rey Mysterio. Kayla said that she’s heard Rey wants to announce his plans for Wrestlemania. Rey first introduced his son, Dominic, who is “all grown up now.” (He is, in fact, several inches taller than Mysterio.) Rey said Dominic has been traveling with him, and he needed him here for this announcement. Mysterio said that, since he pinned Samoa Joe last week, he’ll be facing him for the U.S. Championship at WrestleMania. Kayla asked Dominic how he felt knowing his father would be facing perhaps the “most vicious and sadistic superstar in WWE.” Dominic said Joe is just a bully, and his father will do what he does best at WrestleMania – take care of bullies, and win Championships.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Why is this the way so many matches on the WrestleMania card are being announced this year? Wrestler A says “I’m facing wrestler B” without any real insight as to who made the match and why. Joe/Rey was the logical direction to take here, so it’s a bit nit-picky, but I prefer a little bit more ceremony to the way matches are announced, especially for a show of this caliber. Dominic seemed out of place, but I presume this is a way to get him screen time before he inevitably gets harassed by Joe at WrestleMania.)
-Back at ringside, Kevin Owen’s music hit. Phillips quickly talked up the just-announced Rey/Joe match, and then teased the KO Show, coming up after the break.
Back from commercial, the announcers teased some of the WrestleMania matches, including Samoa Joe/Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle/Baron Corbin, Brock Lesnar/Seth Rollins, and The Miz/Shane McMahon.
In the ring, Kevin Owens sat at a desk wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a suit overcoat, and a red slip-on tie that he joked was choking him a little. Owens said it’s usually KO-Mania, but this year, it’s all about Kofi Kingston and Kofi-Mania. He said he’d be watching the gauntlet match very closely. He then segued into the Raw Women’s Title match, and welcomed Becky Lynch to his set. Becky entered to a great ovation from the Indianapolis crowd. She limped to the ring as the announcers teased the WrestleMania triple threat match. “Hey, they like you!” said KO, before welcoming Charlotte Flair. Charlotte, sharply dressed as always, headed to the ring as Becky impatiently stared her down from her seat at the table in the ring. The crowd broke into a hearty “Becky” chant. Owens referred to his cue cards to run down the list of things Ronda Rousey has said about Becky Lynch. After concluding with Ronda’s brazen attack last night on Raw, he moved onto Charlotte’s comments about Becky, and finally, Becky’s comments about Charlotte. “I guess the point I’m trying to make here,” KO surmised, “is that you guys have talked a lot. I think I speak for myself, and the WWE Universe when I say nobody really wants to see you guys talk anymore.” Owens said that this is the Kevin Owens Show, and the motto is “Fight Owens Fight”, but tonight, it’s “Fight Becky Fight” and “Fight Charlotte Fight.” “What do ya say, ladies?” Lynch and Flair stood and got in each other’s faces. “I would beat the holy hell out of Becky,” Charlotte said. Owens comically asked Becky to refrain from answering until he had time to step out of the ring. “Okay, Becky, your response,” Owens said. Becky swung at Charlotte and the two spilled over the desk. Becky topped Charlotte and sent her to the outside. At ringside, the two tried to shove each other into the barriers while referees and security rushed the area and tried to separate the rivals. Becky began fighting off security. “Ronda Rousey won’t be the only one getting fines,” said Phillips. Officials finally got Charlotte to step back, and Lynch hopped into the ring as the segment faded out.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt like more of an excuse to get Kevin Owens on the show rather than advance anything meaningful between Becky and Charlotte. Owens was funny, and that saved an otherwise listless segment. He’s right – we don’t really need to hear Becky and Charlotte talk anymore, and it’s hard to really advance this angle without Ronda.)
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton noted that things continued to get out of control in the Raw Women’s Title picture. She then welcomed her guest, A.J. Styles. Kayla reminded Styles that last week, he said Randy Orton was built for WWE. She asked A.J. what makes him think he has what it takes to beat Orton. Styles said Orton has advantages and that he isn’t just good, he’s great. A.J. said Orton is a first round draft pick and he’s a walk on. “Look at me now”, Styles said defiantly. Styles recalled what Orton said about Smackdown being the house Orton built. He said that WrestleMania may be home field advantage for Randy. Styles said he’s not heading to WrestleMania to build, he’s heading to WrestleMania to tear the house down. “Oh, and good luck to my friend Kofi Kingston tonight,” Styles said before walking off camera.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent promo from A.J. He seemed to lose the thread a little bit with the Orton advantage talk, and some of the lines were a little too clever, but this was effective enough to expand upon the layer added to this match during last week’s back-and-forth segment.)
-Back in front of the audience, Daniel Bryan’s music hit and the champion headed to the ring with Rowan at his side. Phillips said we’d hear from Bryan next.
Returning from commercial, Bryan stood in the ring to a smattering of boos. “Injustice,” Bryan said. “Kofi Kingston being in this gauntlet match is an injustice because Kofi Kingston does not deserve the opportunity.” Bryan said he knows what it’s like to have the deck stacked against him, and the have the authority hold him down. Bryan said, despite what’s been sold to the audience, that isn’t what has happened to Kingston. Bryan reminded the audience that Kofi was handpicked to replace Mustafa Ali in the Elimination Chamber. “He was hand-picked out of the tag team division and just given an opportunity that he never earned.” Bryan said Kofi fought valiantly in the gauntlet match before Elimination Chamber, and in the Elimination Chamber match itself. But, on both occasions, he lost. “Unlike me, Kofi Kingston is nothing more than a B+ player,” Daniel said. Bryan said “B+ is good enough for people like you.” He then realized the phrase “B+ is good enough” was catchy, and suggested that New Day use it for their next line of merchandise. “Crap that people don’t need to buy,” Bryan called it. Bryan said that, no matter how much the crowd chants for Kofi, (invoking a “Kofi” chant) it won’t change the fact that Kofi has lost in every opportunity he’s been given. At this point, Bryan was interrupted by Big E’s boisterous New Day introduction. Big E and Xavier shared a group hug with Kofi at the top of the ramp, and sent him alone to the ring. With that, Greg Hamilton introduced the gauntlet match. The Bar’s music hit and Sheamus and Cesaro headed to the ring. Phillips said Kofi would start the gauntlet against one member of The Bar after the break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Fun promo from Bryan. He knows how to hit the right notes when it comes to riling up the audience in favor of Kofi. He’s been selling this match with Kingston effectively for weeks without it even being official.)
(2a) KOFI KINGSTON vs. SHEAMUS – Gauntlet Match
Back from the break, the bell immediately rang, signifying the beginning of Kofi’s long journey. He and Sheamus traded some one-upmanship as the crowd broke into a small “you look stupid” chant directed at Sheamus. Sheamus took Kofi down and applied a headlock. Kofi fought out of it and put the Celtic Warrior in an arm lock. The two continued to trade holds and counters. Kofi ducked Sheamus out of the corner and took him down with an arm drag, applying another arm lock into a quick cover and an even quicker kick out. The announcers debated Kofi’s merits and qualifications for receiving a title match at WrestleMania. Sheamus spilled over the top rope and Kofi threw himself over the top rope to knock the big man down. Cesaro looked on cautiously at ringside. Sheamus beat Kofi back in the ring and hit him with a knee on the apron, turning Kofi into the Ten Beats of the Bodhran. He continued his punishment, and caused a distraction long enough for Cesaro to throw an uppercut at Kingston, who was downed on the middle rope. Sheamus earned a near fall after this exchange. Sheamus applied a headlock which Kofi fought out of, only to be quickly knocked down again. Phillips quickly threw to a commercial break. “Kofi Kingston is trying to do the impossible,” said Todd Phillips as the show returned from the break. Kofi began to regain momentum on Sheamus, hitting a Boom Drop and calling for a Trouble in Paradise. Sheamus countered and attempted a Cloverleaf, which Kofi fought off. After a cross body from Kofi for a near fall, Sheamus regained control with an Irish Curse Backbreaker. He then turned Kingston over into the Cloverleaf. The crowd willed Kofi on, and Kingston rolled through the hold into a pinball attempt. Sheamus kicked out just in time. The camera cut to the backstage area, where The Usos were standing with a large plate of pancakes, watching the match with Big E and Xavier Woods. Back in the ring, Sheamus sized up Kofi for the Brogue Kick, Kofi impressively ducked at the last possible moment and hit the Trouble in Paradise for the three count.
ELIMINATED: Sheamus in 13:00
(2b) KOFI KINGSTON vs. CESARO – Gauntlet Match continued
Kofi retreated to the corner and Cesaro launched himself at Kingston with a big running uppercut. Cesaro immediately fell into a cover and got a two count. Cesaro began punishing Kingston in the corner, delivering multiple uppercuts and shots. Cesaro threw Kofi down and transitioned into a manipulative leg lock. Kofi broke free, but Cesaro stayed with him, continuing his assault. On the apron, Kingston fought valiantly to regain control. He went for a cross body, but Cesaro caught him and landed a swinging backbreaker. Phillips sent the show to a picture-in-picture commercial. On the small screen, Cesaro bent Kofi backwards over his knee. Kofi fought out, but Cesaro maintained control. Kingston began to battle back just as the show returned to full screen. He hit a quick running cross body, but Cesaro kicked out easily. They cut to a shot of the backstage area, where The Hardy Boys had joined The Usos and Big E and Xavier. In the ring, Cesaro locked in the same Cloverleaf that Sheamus used on Kingston earlier. Kingston battled to the ropes, but Cesaro dragged him back to the center. The crowd began to come alive, trying to will Kingston to break free. Kofi turned himself over and climbed up the body of Cesaro, who used Kofi’s momentum to lift him over into an impressive capture suplex. After giving up on a deep single leg Boston Crab, Cesaro positioned Kingston for a Neutralizer. Kofi countered into the S.O.S. and scored a three count on Cesaro.
ELIMINATED: Cesaro in 8:00
(2c) KOFI KINGSTON vs. ROWAN – Gauntlet Match continued
Graves remarked that though Kofi had beat two superstars, he still had three more to go. Rowan entered the ring and Kofi recovered and tied his shoe. The referee held Rowan off until he was ready. Rowan immediately took down Kofi and overpowered him in the corner. He sent Kofi to the outside and violently threw his body at him after a running head start. Rowan slammed Kingston in the barricade and grabbed a steel chair from the timekeeper’s area. He slammed the chair over Kofi’s back, causing a disqualification.
ELIMINATED: Rowan in 1:00
Unsatisfied with his carnage, Rowan picked up Kofi and rag dolled him in a bear hug before slamming him into the ring post. Phillips reminded the viewers that Big E and Xavier are banned from ringside and thus, can’t come to Kingston’s aid. Rowan removed the cover from the announcer’s desk and drove Kingston threw it with his Iron Claw finisher.
“This is a terrible way for Kofi’s dream to end,” Corey Graves stated as Samoa Joe’s music hit and he headed to the ring before a commercial break.
(2d) KOFI KINGSTON vs. SAMOA JOE – Gauntlet Match continued
Back from the break, Samoa Joe vs Kofi Kingston was already in progress. Joe dominated Kingston, delivering multiple shots to a downed Kingston in the corner. Joe belabored his attack, which allowed Kingston to show some fire. Joe cut him off, drove his shoulder into Kofi in the corner, and followed it up with a side head kick. Phillips announced that Kingston had now been in the match for 33 minutes and counting. Joe hit a vicious inside-out lariat coming off the ropes for a near fall. He slowed down the pace with a headlock. The camera cut to the backstage area to show that many of the brand’s babyfaces had joined the aforementioned tag teams in cheering on Kofi. Back in the ring, Joe hit a uranage on Kofi out of the corner. After another rest hold, Kofi battled back into contention briefly. He landed on his feet coming out of an attempting backdrop, then tried to rush Joe in the corner, who countered and set him up for the Musclebuster. Kofi slid out of it and into a weighted pin attempted, scoring a surprise victory over Joe.
ELIMINATED: Samoa Joe in 9:00
“One man to go!” Phillips exclaimed, as Joe stared on, exasperated. As Kofi attempted to recover, Joe pounced, applying the Coquina Clutch and leaving Kingston down and out. Backstage, the babyfaces began their own “Kofi” chant. In the ring, the camera focused on a downed Kofi Kingston, receiving attention from attendants at ringside, as Randy Orton’s music hit. Orton sauntered to the ring before the commercial break.
(2e) KOFI KINGSTON vs. RANDY ORTON – Gauntlet Match continued
Returning from commercial, the match was already in progress. Orton jawed with fans at ringside, “stupid”, he muttered, a nice call back to their infamous moment years ago. Kofi countered Orton’ momentum and sent him into the ringside barrier. His advantage was short lived, as Orton regained control back in the ring. Orton worked over Kofi in the corner and then stomped his mid-section on the mat. Saxton informed the audience that Kingston was almost counted out during the commercial break, but that Orton brought him back in the ring. Randy applied a headlock as the crowd began to come alive for Kofi again. Kofi battled free and knocked down Orton twice with a series of shots. He attempted a third take down with a dropkick, but Orton swatted him away. Orton slowly lifted Kofi to his feet, bringing him to the corner. He mounted Kofi and delivered a number of shots, then tried to Irish whip him into the opposing corner. Kofi turned it around with an Irish whip of his, but Orton quickly pushed out, attempting an RKO. Kofi pushed him off and hit Trouble in Paradise, but was took weak to immediately make the cover. He crawled over to Orton slowly, and Randy rolled out of the ring. The show faded to another commercial break. Back from the break, Orton had Kofi sitting on the top rope. He climbed to the second himself, setting Kofi up for a superplex. Kofi battled free, sending Orton reeling. Kofi connected with a top rope cross body for a near fall. Back on his feet, Orton grabbed Kofi and threw him through the ropes and hit his signature hanging DDT. He pounded the mat, signaling an RKO. Kingston pulled himself to his feet and steadied his legs using the ropes. He walked into Orton’s attempted RKO, but he blocked it and rolled Orton up. Kofi held Orton’s hands down and scored a three count. The announcers erupted surprise and the audience flew to their feet. Big E and Xavier Woods rushed to the ring to celebrate with Kofi.
WINNER: Kofi Kingston in 14:00
Phillips said that the total time of the match-up was 55:00 just as Vince McMahon’s music hit. Vince congratulated Kofi, calling his victory miraculous. “You’re going to WrestleMania!” Vince declared, “as long as you can defeat this one last opponent.” The crowd booed loudly. Big E and Xavier Woods protested, and Vince told them they’d need to leave ringside or Kofi would be forced to forfeit. “Good luck,” Vince said, as Daniel Bryan’s music hit.
(3) KOFI KINGSTON vs. DANIEL BRYAN
Kofi retreated to the corner and Bryan attacked him with a series of kicks. Kofi tried to battle back, but a knee to the stomach dropped him to the mat. “Anyone but Kofi, that’s what this is,” remarked Saxton. Byron brought Kofi to the top rope and hit an impressive belly to back superplex. He covered Kofi for a two count, then transitioned into the Lebelle Lock. Kofi fought through the pain and reached the bottom rope with his foot. Kofi got to his knees, and Bryan began hitting him with the (formally) Yes kicks. Kofi caught the last one, and turned it into the S.O.S. for a very near fall. “That was the Hail Mary, guys,” said Graves. With Kofi in the corner, Bryan a series of running strikes. Kofi countered the last one into a roll up, but Bryan kicked out and immediately started stomping Kingston’s head. Bryan headed to the corner and mockingly performed his own “Yes!” taunt, sizing Kingston up. He hit Kofi with the running knee and covered Kofi for the three count.
WINNER: Daniel Bryan in 4:00
Big E and Xavier ran into the ring to check on Kofi. “Kofi Kingston should be going to WrestleMania,” yelled Saxton. “But he is not,” said Phillips as the show faded out.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Another good showcase match for Kingston, though not quite as strong as the first gauntlet or his performance in the Chamber. The timing of the finish to the Orton match gave away that something was awry, though I definitely expected Kingston to overcome Bryan as well. Ultimately, this must still lead to Kofi getting his WrestleMania match against Bryan, but they’re cutting it too close for my liking at this point. With only two Smackdowns remaining before the show, there’s still no WWE Title match. Even if the direction is obvious, you can only pull the rug out from under the audience so many times before it starts to get a little old.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: The show was built around the gauntlet match, and it mostly delivered. With that being said, it’s disappointing to be going into next week’s show still without a title match made official. The first hour of the show was largely forgettable, although there was nothing particularly bad about any of it.