LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 16, 2019
MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA AT BELL CENTRE
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Todd Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The show opened with a video package recapping night one of the Superstar Shakeup, detailing Raw’s acquisitions from Smackdown, NXT, and 205 Live and including media pull quotes from various sporting websites.
-“Tonight, the Superstar Shakeup continues!” exclaimed Todd Phillips, under a live shot of the crowd at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Kevin Owens’ music hit, and he walked to the ring, sporting a loose tie over a t-shirt and sports coat. Owens received a a strong reaction from his hometown crowd. The ring was adorned with props for the KO Show.
Kevin welcomed the audience to the Kevin Owens show in French. I believe he said that tonight’s show was his WrestleMania. Owens said that there a still a number of surprises on the way in the Superstar Shakeup, including Mr. McMahon’s announcement of “the biggest acquisition in the history of Smackdown.” Owens said the biggest superstar in the history of Smackdown is already on the show, and it’s him. The crowd broke into a loud “Kevin Owens” chant. KO said while he appreciated the reaction, he was going to move on quickly, because his guest deserved utmost respect. He introduced Kofi Kingston.
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston made his way to the ring with Xavier Woods and a large plate of pancakes. Byron Saxton mentioned that Big E’s absence was due to injury. The crowd welcomed Kofi with a strong “Kofi” chant and Owens welcomed Kofi and Xavier to the Kevin Owens Show, and to Montreal. Owens said what Kofi did at WrestleMania is something no one will ever forget. Owens congratulated Kofi and gave him a standing ovation. The crowd follows suit. Kofi said he did something special at WrestleMania and that he’s honored to have done with with his friends, his family, and the fans.
Kevin brought up the fact that Big E isn’t in Montreal (“unfortunately, not because he’s still stuck in the split position,” KO said.) Xavier Woods lamented that the shakeup took away “80% of the Up Up Down Down roster.” Owens said it was also unfortunate that he forgot his notes in the locker room, but he did remember that Kofi and Xavier were scheduled to face Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura later tonight. Owens said, in Big E’s absence, New Day was in need of some additional backup. He offered his services as “Big K”, then quickly changed his mind. “Big O sounds much better”, he said.
Kofi asked Kevin if he was willing to wear a crop top. Xavier said Owens needed to test cereal, toss pancakes, and play in video game tournaments. “I’ll work on it!” said Owens. Woods added that the New Day employs a lot of hip swaying and wondered if KO could participate, fresh out of surgery recovery. Owens swayed his hips to the crowds delight. Kofi asked the crowd if they wanted to see Kevin Owens become an honorary member of New Day. They cheered wildly. Owens put on a New Day crop top on over his t-shirt and tie, and then dropped to a knee to be given a unicorn headband. Owens danced with Kofi and Xavier as the camera cut to Rusev and Nakamura watching backstage.
Cesaro approached Rusev and Nakamura and offered to team with them against New Day and Owens. Rusev scoffed at the TV screen. “New Day and big ogre,” he said, before responding to Cesaro’s proposal with, “why not?”
(LeClair’s Analysis: Normally, I wouldn’t be so into Kevin Owens hamming it up this way, but the crowd in Montreal wants to love the guy, and teaming him with New Day in a comical way certainly allows them to do just that. While I don’t want this to become a regular thing, I’d really like for Owens to continue to explore his babyface character and I’m really hoping this doesn’t lead to him turning on Kofi and Xavier.)
-Back in the ring, New Day’s music was cut off by Finn Balor’s theme. The Intercontinental Champion, Finn Balor appeared on stage, signaling his official move to Smackdown. Todd Phillips said Balor would be in action on his new brand after the break.
Back from the break, Balor stood in the ring smiling. Byron Saxton confirmed that both Kevin Owens and Cesaro have been added to the scheduled tag match later tonight, making it a six-man tag. Ali headed to the ring to face Finn Balor.
(1) FINN BALOR vs. ALI
Balor and Ali locked up, sharing a series of counters and reversals. Ali hit a dropkick on Finn and put him in a grounded headlock. Finn rolled him over into a pinning combination, but Ali quickly kicked out. Finn hit a body slam and followed it up with a running elbow drop. He put Ali in an arm lock. Ali tried to battle out, but Finn dropped him back to the mat and added torque to the hold. Ali successfully broke free on his second attempt, but Finn caught him with a knee to the mid-section. Ali hit a hurricanrana on Finn. Balor fell to the outside. Ali then dove through the middle rope onto Balor on the outside as the match went to a picture-in-picture commercial.
During the break, Ali brought Finn back in the ring and put him in an armlock of his own. He eventually let Finn him and hit him with a series of chops. Finn battled back after countering a sunset flip into a dropkick. Balor applied an abdominal stretch on Ali through the remainder of the break.
Back full screen, Balor delivered a trio of vicious chops to Ali. Ali blocked the fourth one and regained control. He delivered chops of his own. Balor caught Ali off guard with a sling blade out of the corner. He charged at Ali again, but Ali hit him with a super kick for a near fall. Back on his feet, Finn backed Ali into a corner. Ali pushed him off and attempted a satellite DDT, but Finn fought him off. Finn took Ali down and hit a standing double foot stomp. He climbed to the top rope, but Ali quickly recovered and dropkicked him, crouching him on the top rope. Ali climbed to the top rope and delivered a hurricanrana for a very near fall.
Ali dragged himself back to the top rope, favoring his knee. He went for a 450, but Balor moved. Ali landed on his feet. Finn delivered a missile dropkick into the turnbuckle, dropping Ali to the mat. Balor climbed to the top rope and hit the Coup De Grace for the victory.
WINNER: Finn Balor in 10:00
After the match, Finn offered his hand to Ali. Ali shook it, and Finn nodded at him in a sign of respect.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match. Of all the talent on Raw I was hoping to see make the move to Smackdown, Finn Balor was near the very top. Additional moves notwithstanding, there’s a lot of great matchups for him on the blue brand and I’m very excited to see where this leads. Hopefully he’ll have a bit more room to breathe on Tuesday nights as well.)
-Backstage, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods approached Kevin Owens and asked if he was ready for his New Day initiation. They told him he needed to eat a colossal plate of pancakes faster than Big E (5 minutes, 37 seconds.) Owens reluctantly agreed to do it. New Day started the timer and Owens complained that the pancakes were too dry.
-At ringside, R-Truth and Carmella rapped as the show headed to break. Todd Phillips teased that Carmella would be facing Charlotte Flair.
-The laughing puppet in a box vignette aired.
-Kevin Owens was shown shoveling the last pancake in his mouth as Woods and Kingston cheered him on. They chanted “one of us!” after officially declaring he’d beat Big E’s time. Owens’ feigned throwing up, but gave a thumbs up at the last moment.
-Charlotte Flair made her way to the ring after Truth and Carmella were briefly shown dancing in the ring. The announcers discussed their previous feud.
(2) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. CARMELLA (w/ R-Truth)
Charlotte feigned a lock-up and kicked Carmella in the gut. The crowd cheered her, but she quickly yelled “I hate Canada!” Carmella hit two swift kicks on Flair for a near fall. Carmella “woo’ed”, mocking Charlotte. On the outside, Charlotte drove Carmella into the ringside barricade. Carmella recovered and climbed the barrier, hitting a crossbody on Charlotte. She threw Flair back in the ring and covered her for a two-count. Back on her feet, Charlotte began delivering chops to Carmella’s chest. Carmella countered a body drop attempt and pushed Flair into the turnbuckle. She followed up with a bronco buster. Charlotte quickly recovered, knocked Carmella onto the apron, and delivered a big boot to send her crashing to the floor. Phillips sent the show to commercial.
The show returned from break with Charlotte kipping up and doing the Flair strut. She slapped Carmella repeatedly. Carmella kicked Charlotte in the face twice, then tried to throw her to apron, but Flair reversed. Charlotte caught Carmella’s leg and hit a dragon screw onto the middle rope, sending Carmella to the floor. Carmella grabbed her knee in pain. Charlotte threw Carmella into the barricade. She climbed to the barricade for a moonsault, but Carmella knocked her off. Carmella super kicked Charlotte, but collapsed on her bad knee.
Carmella threw Charlotte back in the ring and struggled up onto the apron. Charlotte seized this opportunity and chop blocked Carmella on the bad leg. She quickly pulled her in the ring and locked in the Figure Four, breaching into the Figure Eight for a quick tap out.
WINNER: Charlotte Flair on 8:00
Charlotte made referee Charles Robinson sit on the middle rope for her. She gave the thumbs down to the Montreal crowd as she left.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent TV match, but I’m a little surprised they gave Carmella as much as they did. Granted, Charlotte was presented as the dominating force, but Carmella got plenty of offense in a match that went several minutes. I assume this is WWE wanting to lend credibility to the Women’s Battle Royal at WrestleMania, and ultimately, Charlotte did get the clean victory. This was a bit of a resit for her following the loss to Becky Lynch.)
Lars Sullivan made his way to the ring, staring down R-Truth, who had entered the ring to tend to Carmella. Truth stood face to face with Lars and told him to leave. Sullivan grabbed him by the throat. Truth delivered a number of punches, but Sullivan no-sold them. Truth flew at Sullivan, and Lars dropped him with a standing headbutt. Sullivan caught Truth again and hit the Freak Accident. He stared down Carmella as she helped out of the ring by the referee. Sullivan grabbed Truth and hit a running sit out power bomb on him.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I could’ve sworn Lars Sullivan was confirmed to be a member of the Raw roster last night. Why is he showing up on Smackdown? Confusion aside, these beatdowns aren’t a bad way to establish his credibility and threatening persona.)
-Todd Phillips teased that Becky Lynch would make her own announcement regarding the Superstar Shakeup after the break.
-“The Champ Champ has returned to her home brand!” said Todd Phillips, coming out of the break. Becky Lynch headed to the ring to a strong reaction from the crowd. Todd Phillips threw to a recap of the triple threat match at WrestleMania.
Becky stood in the ring to begin hour two, soaking in the “Becky” chants. Becky said she beat the so called “baddest woman on the planet” to become Raw and Smackdown Women’s Champion. “I just needed to say it again because it sounds nice,” cracked Lynch. The crowd broke into a “Becky 2 Belts” chant. “Das me!” she exclaimed. Becky said the Superstar Shakeup has reminded her of what her job is. She said first, she needs to run through Lacey Evans. Then, she’s going to “break new ground, win new battles, and slap new heads.” Becky said she doesn’t care who goes where and who winds up in front of her. Becky said her titles are passports to pick fights wherever she wants, just because she can. She was cut off by Ember Moon’s music.
“You’d better get used to seeing me,” said Ember as she walked down the ramp toward the ring. “Ember Moon, what a talent,” Becky said. She advised Ember “not to interrupt the Man again.” Ember said she was there to make a name for herself by stepping up to the woman who beat Ronda Rousey. Bayley’s music hit and she ran onto the stage with a big smile.
Bayley said she, too, had joined Smackdown. The crowd surprisingly booed. “What do you want, a hug or something?” Becky asked. Bayley got in the ring. She said she got all her hugs out on Raw. Bayley said a lot has changed since she and Becky last saw each other. She discussed her run as Women’s Tag Team Champion with Sasha Banks. The crowd booed loudly. Bayley said now that she’s on Smackdown as a singles competitor, she has her eyes on two other titles. The Iiconics music hit.
The Women’s Tag Team Champions posed atop the ramp. “Did someone say two belts? Billie Kay asked as she and Peyton headed to the ring. Billie said it must have been before Ember and Bayley came out, because they have zero belts. The duo laughed uproariously and the crowd applauded. The Iiconics said that their titles are better than Becky’s. Paige’s music played.
Paige stepped onto the stage, receiving a warm welcome. Paige said she came to Smackdown to introduce the two women she’ll be representing on Smackdown. Mandy Rose’s music hit. “OH MY GOD!” Corey Graves obnoxiously exclaimed.
Mandy and Sonya Deville headed to the ring, believing they were Paige’s announcement. Sonya said everyone’s been waiting for the reunion of Absolution. Paige said they’d have to continue to wait, because she’s introducing two revolutionary women. First, she said, is Asuka. Then, she introduced her new partner, NXT’s Kairi Sane. Paige sent Asuka and Sane to the ring and a brawl ensued.
Becky Lynch comically shrugged her shoulders and left the ring as all the women attacked each other. The babyfaces cleared the ring and the show quickly went to break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Wow. Chaotic segment with lots to unpack. Becky’s connection with the crowd continues to be one of the highlights of any show she’s on. Even if the content of her promo isn’t newsworthy, her demeanor and delivery are always on-point. I loved her line about the titles being her passports to pick fights wherever she wants.
Ember Moon has been completely lost on Raw, so a move to Smackdown seems like an obvious, and smart choice. I’m very interested to see if she can get her footing underneath her.
Bayley was also in desperate need of a change of scenery. I was shocked to hear the crowd so vocally negative toward her. Is this residual heat from her connection to Sasha? It was hard to tell. Perhaps I missed some news earlier today, but I wasn’t quite sure why the crowd was so down on her. She seemed genuinely rattled.
Paige’s announcement was half of what I expected. I don’t mind the teaming of Sane and Asuka, but I still think Asuka is far better served as a badass title contender rather than a player in the tag team division. Becky still hasn’t beat Asuka, and that’s a perfect story to tell. Now it appears we won’t get it.)
(3) BAYLEY & EMBER MOON & ASUKA & KAIRI SANE vs. THE IICONICS (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) & MANDY ROSE & SONYA DEVILLE
The show returned from break with the previously unannounced match already in progress. Ember Moon tagged Bayley in and the crowd booed. The heels quickly isolated Bayley in their corner. Sonya Deville tagged in and locked up with Bayley. Bayley got her over to the babyface corner and tagged in Asuka. Deville tagged in Mandy Rose. Asuka went for a kick, but Rose cowered to her knees in fear. Asuka hit her with a hip attack instead, then tagged in Kairi Sane.
Sane and Asuka hit a number of kicks on Rose. Sonya entered the ring and was thrown outside by Bayley. Bayley ran and dove through the bottom rope onto Mandy and Sonya on the outside. The Iiconics went to check on their partners. Ember Moon climbed to the top of the ring post and dove onto all four heels. Phillips sent the match to a picture-in-picture commercial.
During the break, Kairi Sane battled with Peyton Royce. After hitting a nice looking headscissor takedown, she tagged in Bayley. Royce quickly overtook Bayley and the heels began isolating her. This continued back from the commercial break.
Mandy Rose worked Bayley over with a headlock and then tagged Peyton Royce back in. Bayley hung Peyton up on the ropes and made a hot tag to Asuka. Asuka knocked Kay and Deville off the apron with a hip attack, then kicked Peyton Royce in the head. She hit a release German suplex. After a sliding kick to the head, Asuka pinned Peyton for a near fall broken up by Mandy Rose. Ember Moon entered the ring and took out Mandy. Sonya Deville speared Ember Moon. Bayley hit the Bayley to Belly on Deville. Billie Kay hit a falling boot on Bayley. Kairi Sane knocked out Kay with a spinning back fist. Peyton Royce slapped Sane in the face, then ate a back fist from Asuka. Asuka hit a falling reverse DDT on Peyton Royce as Kairi Sane climbed to the top rope. Asuka tagged Sane. Sane hit the Insane Elbow to a huge reaction and a three count.
WINNERS: Bayley & Ember Moon & Asuka & Kairi Sane in 10:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Slow to start, but this one picked up in the latter minutes. Good showcase for Kairi Sane, who received a boost from a Montreal crowd who was clearly familiar with her work in NXT. They rose to their feet in anticipation as soon as she started climbing to the top for the Insane Elbow. More raucous boos for Bayley throughout the match.)
-At the announcers desk, Phillips, Graves, and Saxton reminded the viewers of Mr. McMahon’s upcoming announcement and recapped Smackdown’s acquisitions thus far. Lars Sullivan has officially moved to Smackdown (after being confirmed to Raw last night), in addition to Finn Balor, Bayley, Kairi Sane, and Ember Moon. Phillips remarked on Sullivan’s destruction to date and threw to clips of him beating down Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, R-Truth, and The Hardy Boyz.
-In a pre-recorded selfie promo, The Hardys said they were still feeling the effects of the Lars Sullivan beat down. They said, despite that, they made people remember the greatness of the Hardy Boyz last week by winning the Smackdown Tag Team titles. They called themselves the greatest tag team in all of space and time.
-A crane shot from the audience fixated on the tron, where Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston prepped Kevin Owens to handle New Day’s introduction. “More from the loins,” Woods said. Owens did an admirable job with the intro, to be fair. The trio headed to the ring, Owens sporting his normal shorts and a cutoff New Day shirt. The crowd bought in fully. Todd Phillips teased that the six man tag was coming up after the break.
-The show returned on a close up shot of Buddy Murphy’s face against a purple backdrop. He introduced himself and said he’d spent the last six months destroying and dominating the 205 Live roster. “You may not know me now, but you will.” Murphy said the best kept secret is coming to Smackdown.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This seemed like a relatively easy prediction following Alexander’s call-up on Raw. I haven’t made much time for 205 Live, but everything I’ve seen from Murphy indicates that it was only a matter of time before he made a main roster move. Overall, I think Cedric and Buddy were the clear-cut choices to move over, and WWE got it right.)
(4) THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) & KEVIN OWENS vs. CESARO & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & RUSEV (w/ Lana)
The heels were already in the ring when the camera returned to the live crowd. No mention of Sheamus’ absence. Xavier Woods danced and sang along excitedly to Nakamura’s music as it faded out. He and Rusev started the match. The crowd broke into a loud “Rusev Day” chant, but it faded quickly. Xavier hit a big chop on Rusev. The two locked up. Rusev cornered Woods and delivered a number of shoulder thrusts. Rusev sent him to the other corner, and Woods burst out with the Honor Roll. Woods tagged in Kofi Kingston.
Kofi tangled with Rusev briefly, but Rusev tagged in Nakamura. Kofi dropped Shinsuke with a high knee for a two count and sent Nakamura to the corner. Woods tagged himself in, delivered stomps, and tagged Kofi back in. The crowd chanted for Kevin Owens. Kofi tagged KO and he delivered mud hole stomps as well. Woods irish whipped Owens into a cannonball in the corner on Nakamura. Owens bowed to the audience. Nakamura and Woods battled. Nakamura took control and tagged in Cesaro. Cesaro dumped Woods over the top rope. Rusev and Nakamura drove Woods into the barricade as the show went to commercial.
Back from commercial, the heels had isolated Xavier Woods. Woods fought valiantly in the corner, but was overcome. Rusev propped Xavier on the middle rope and choked him. Lana slapped him in the face behind the referee’s back. Rusev tagged in Shinsuke, who continued to beat down Woods. Nakamura set Xavier up on the top turnbuckle. He attempted a superplex, but Woods punched him off. He connected with a missile dropkick on Nakamura and crawled to his corner, reaching Kofi Kingston.
Coming in off of the hot tag, Kingston took down all three heels. He hit the Boom Drop on Cesaro and sized him up for Trouble in Paradise. Rusev stopped him, but Kofi knocked him off the apron. Kingston went to the top rope for a diving cross body on Cesaro. Cesaro caught him in mid-air. Kofi slid down Cesaro’s back. Kingston hit the SOS for a near fall. Cesaro returned to his feet, tripped up Kofi and ran the Cesaro Swing into a Sharpshooter. Owens hopped in the ring and super kicked Cesaro. Nakamura entered and kicked Owens. Woods hit a jumping DDT on Nakamura. Rusev threw Woods to the outside. Rusev returned to his corner just in time for Cesaro to make the tag to him.
Rusev went for a backdrop on Kofi, but the champion flipped out of it and made a diving tag to a recovered Kevin Owens. Owens attacked Rusev with forearms and tossed him to the outside. Kofi bounced off the ropes and Owens catapulted him up and over to the outside, taking out Cesaro, Nakamura, and Rusev.Rusev quickly recovered and returned to the ring. He tried to kick Xavier, but Woods spun him around and Kofi hit Trouble in Paradise. KO followed up with a stunner for the three count.
WINNERS: The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) & Kevin Owens in 12:00
Owens celebrated with Kofi and Xavier as the camera cut to Vince McMahon watching the show on a monitor backstage. The announcers teased Mr. McMahon’s announcement coming up after the break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent match. Sheamus was conspicuous by his absence, and the announcers made no mention of him at all. Normally, I wouldn’t find this strange, but they were quick to point out Big E’s injury on multiple occasions as his reason for not being there. Again, I’m not sure if I missed some news at some point during the day. I’m glad they played Owens as a straight babyface here.)
-The doll house vignette aired when the show returned from commercial.
-Back in front of the audience, “No Chance in Hell” hit and Vince McMahon strutted to the ring. The crowd gave him a respectful applause and sang his theme song.
When Vince began speaking, the reaction changed to boos. “You screwed Bret” chants broke out. Vince said he seldom puts a stamp of approval on a Superstar, but he’s about to do just that. McMahon said this man is the future of Smackdown and of the entire WWE. He said the man is tough, talented and exudes charisma. Vince asked for a drumroll. He introduced Elias. The crowd booed, and the announcers conveyed a tone of, “that’s it?”
Elias walked to the ring, guitar in hand. He said Vince McMahon knows what WWE stands for. Elias said he has questioned many of Vince’s decisions, but everything Vince said proves that he has his finger on the pulse of what the audience wants. The crowd booed very loudly. Elias said he’s happy to be on Smackdown, but not happy to be in Montreal. Elias said he understands that the crowd is upset that A.J. Styles isn’t on the show anymore, but with him gone, Smackdown can become “the temple of Elias.” Elias ran through his usual schtick and began playing his guitar. Roman Reigns’ music hit.
“This is game changing!” yelled Byron. Reigns stepped into the ring and delivered a big uppercut to Elias. He stared Vince down. Roman delivered a Superman Punch to Elias. Vince got in Roman’s face and told him to go to the back. Reigns dropped Vince with a Superman Punch. McMahon crumbled into Elias’ arms. Reigns grabbed a mic.
“I don’t care what he says, Smackdown Live is my yard now.” Roman dropped the mic and posed for the audience, who returned a mixed reaction. The announcers showed clips of what just happened. Back live, Reigns was walking up the ramp. He turned to look at the ring, then rushed back in and speared Elias. He posed again, still receiving a mixed/muted reaction.
As the show closed, Phillips called Reigns the greatest acquisition in WWE history, and the future of the company.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Out of the gate, I think Elias is a bad fit for Smackdown. As the designated work-rate show, Elias’ gimmick doesn’t blend particularly well. Clearly, though, that’s the B-story here. Roman Reigns move to Smackdown was often predicted, but I think many, myself included, were in the mindset of “believe it when we see it.” I think Vince thought this was a clever way to make Roman seem like anything but the chosen one, but it clearly failed. He attached all of the superlatives he means for Roman to Elias, which could have worked for some, but Todd Phillips had to heavy-handedly deliver the true message as the show went off the air. They’re treading thin water with Roman’s reactions, and it’s going to be incredibly interesting to see how this plays out going forward.)
Finn Balor (RAW)
Lars Sullivan (RAW)
Ember Moon (RAW)
Kairi Sane (NXT)
Roman Reigns (RAW)
FINAL THOUGHTS:Eventful, newsworthy show. I thought tonight’s effort was superior to Raw’s in many ways. Smackdown received some great talent with potential for a lot of fresh matchups. I think Finn Balor is the most exciting, but Roman Reigns is certainly the most interesting. U.S. Champion Samoa Joe was absent from the show. One has to wonder if he’ll be moving to Raw in a supplemental shakeup to offset the loss of Finn Balor and the Intercontinental Title. Still no Daniel Bryan following WrestleMania, either. I also expected Heavy Machinery to be added to Smackdown after they failed to appear on Raw, but that decision may be saved for supplemental moves as well.