LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 23, 2019
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA AT PINNACLE BANK ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Commentators: Todd Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The show opened with a crane shot of the TV side of the audience as Todd Phillips welcomed everyone to the show. Shane McMahon’s music played as he made his way to the ring. Graves heaped praise on the so-called “best in the world.”
The crowd pelted Shane with boos. Shane said he doesn’t have a lot of time and he’s not in the best of moods. He requested that Greg Hamilton introduce him properly, and gave him only one chance to get it right. “That was magnificent” said Corey Graves, as Hamilton finished. Shane said he was on Smackdown to talk about Roman Reigns, and what he did to Vince last week. He threw to footage of last week’s Smackdown, when Roman attacked Vince.
“I know that was horrific to watch,” Shane said. He questioned what kind of man hits another man’s father. He said hitting Vince was the equivalent of disgracing the American flag or defacing Mount Rushmore. Shane promised there would be repercussions. He considered fining Roman, or suspending him. He contemplated firing Reigns. Shane said instead, he intended to settle it with Roman “right here, right now, in this ring.” Shane called Roman to the ring, and said it was an order, not a request.
Reigns’ music hit to a muted and mixed reaction from the audience. Saxton and Graves debated Roman’s actions as he slowly walked to the ring. Reigns and McMahon stared each other down from opposite ends of the ring. A brief “Roman” chant broke out. Reigns looked at the mic in his hand, then threw it to the side. Shane looked surprised, but did the same. The two looked ready to square off, but Elias ran to the ring and distracted Reigns. Reigns knocked Elias off the apron, which allowed Shane to attack. Roman briefly took control, but Elias joined the fray again and the two double-teamed Reigns. Shane and Elias smothered Roman and delivered repeated strikes and knees to the ribs. Elias hit the Drift Away. He and Shane left Reigns down in the center of the ring as Elias’ music played them out.
-The announcers ran down matches scheduled for tonight’s show, including Finn Balor vs. Andrade after the break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was not a good segment. Shane’s hypocrisy about hitting another man’s father was clever, but that’s about the only positive here. Reigns’ reaction was flat, the crowd seemed disinterested in seeing he and Shane fight, and the energy died the moment Elias came to the ring. A Reigns/Elias/McMahon feud is not the way to give Roman a fresh start.)
-Back from commercial, the announcers recapped what happened in the opening segment. Backstage, Elias and Shane were shown discussing their attack. Shane told Elias that he did a great job and the two said there were more lessons to come for Roman Reigns.
-At the announcers desk, Todd Phillips discussed Big E’s injury and Kevin Owens being added to the New Day as a honorary member. Clips involving New Day and KO from last week’s Smackdown were shown.
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed WWE Champion, Kofi Kingston. Kofi said tonight, he’s having his first singles match since winning the WWE Championship. He said the magic he felt at WrestleMania is still present, and growing. Xavier Woods came into frame and the two celebrated. Kofi and Xavier welcomed Kevin Owens into the mix. Owens said he knows Kofi will win later tonight, because…”New Day Rocks.” The trio broke into claps and chants.
-Finn Balor’s music hit and the Intercontinental Champion made his way to the ring. Saxton said it’s a new chapter for Finn now that he’s on Smackdown. Todd Phillips threw to footage from last week’s Raw, when Adrade defeated Finn Balor.
Backstage, Andrade and Zelina Vega were in gorilla. Zelina said Finn tried to run from Andrade during the Superstar Shakeup, but there’s no running from Andrade. Andrade said he wants the Intercontinental Title, and to destroy Finn Balor. Andrade’s music hit and the camera cut back to the arena as Andrade and Zelina Vega headed to the ring. Phillips dismissed Andrade’s move back to Smackdown by saying “the Superstar Shakeup continues.”
(1) FINN BALOR vs. ANDRADE (w/ Zelina Vega)
Finn and Andrade locked up and Balor backed Andrade into the corner. He fired shots at the gut of Andrade. Andrade dropped to the mat. Zelina Vega grabbed Andrade to prevent Balor from dragging him to the center of the ring. Andrade quickly recovered, throwing Finn to the outside and diving through the ropes onto him. Phillips sent the show to a picture-in-picture commercial.
On the small screen, Andrade quickly threw Balor back into the ring. He kicked him to the mat. Finn returned to his feet and the two traded punches. Andrade knocked Finn down with a high knee and played to the crowd before slapping on an arm lock. Eventually, Andrade lifted Balor into a power bomb position. Balor rolled over into a sunset flip pin. Andrade kicked out at two, then immediately threw Balor into the corner. He slapped on another armlock.
Back full-screen, Balor began fighting out of the armlock. He lifted Finn for another power bomb attempt but Finn transitioned into a DDT. Balor hit a standing double foot stomp then headed to the top rope. Andrade got to his feet and crotched Finn on the top rope. Andrade climbed to the top and hit a hurricanrana, but Balor rolled through into a pinball. Andrade kicked out. Andrade retreated to the outside and Finn flew over the top rope, taking him out.
Back in the ring, Andrade downed Finn in the corner and connected with the running double knees. Andrade set Finn up for the Hannerlock DDT, but Finn countered with a falling back elbow. Zelina Vega climbed up onto the top turnbuckle and dove at Finn, but Finn ducked. Andrade caught her and put her down safely, but got caught with a missile dropkick from Finn. Balor sprung quickly to the top rope and hit the Coup De Grace for the victory.
WINNER: Finn Balor in 7:00
Zelina was distraught as Finn celebrated. Phillips said Balor had settled the score with Andrade.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid TV match. The explanation for moving Andrade back to Smackdown was unsatisfactory, and this was just another example of WWE’s blatant 50/50 booking. So much so, in fact, that Phillips basically said as much. In general, I think Andrade is a better fit for the blue brand, so I’m not upset with ultimate result, I just wish WWE cared even a little bit about detail.)
-Backstage, Elias sat on the back of a car in the loading area, strumming his guitar. He challenged Roman Reigns to a match at Money in the Bank in song form. Shane hopped up onto the car beside him and told him the song was great, but that they needed to get going. He and Elias got into the car and it drove out of the building.
-Kairi Sane’s music hit over a wide shot of the crowd. Kairi came to the stage with Asuka and Paige flanking her. Phillips said Sane would be in action against Peyton Royce after the break.
Back from commercial, Kairi Sane stood in the ring alongside Asuka and Paige. Todd Phillips said Paige’s former Absolution partners, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, confronted her earlier today. He threw to a clip.
In the clip shot earlier today, Mandy Rose told Paige that she must have realized Mandy and Sonya were way out of league. Sonya said her announcement was an embarrassment to Paige. Mandy said that when Kairi and Asuka fail, it will be too late for Paige to come crawling back to reform Absolution.
Live in the arena, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay headed to the ring with microphones. They made an admittedly bad Avengers joke (comparing Paige to Nick Fury) and called Asuka and Kairi “Super Lame-Os.” Peyton called Kairi “Carrie” and Billie said the only reason Kairi hit the Insane Elbow on Peyton last week was because Royce wasn’t warmed up and was dehydrated. Royce said she drank a whole gallon of water tonight. “Really, a whole gallon?” questioned Billie. Billie and Peyton hit their catchphrase and pranced to the ring.
(2) PEYTON ROYCE (w/ Billie Kay) vs. KAIRI SANE (w/ Asuka & Paige)
Peyton and Kairi traded lock ups and Peyton knocked Kairi into the corner. She stuck her boot in Sane’s face. Royce backed off at the referee’s four count. She tried to kick Sane, but Sane caught her with a dragon screw. She hit a running neck breaker and followed it up with a spear. Kairi stomped around the ring animatedly and hit her running, sliding elbow on a downed Peyton in the corner. Kairi climbed to the top rope and looked around at the crowed. She briefly saluted, then hit the Insane Elbow for the quick pin fall victory.
WINNER: Kairi Sane in 2:00
Billie Kay collected her partner and Corey Graves contemplated whether Peyton Royce may have “over hydrated.” Sane and Asuka posed on opposing corners and Paige stood between her cohorts. Mandy Rose’s music hit and she and Sonya walked onto the stage, clapping condescendingly. The two teams stared at each other from opposite ends of the ramp.
(LeClair’s Analysis: In general, I’m a fan of a lot of what the Iiconics do on the microphone, but when they miss, they tend to miss hard. Tonight was one of those nights. I’m all for giving Kairi decisive wins, but if Royce and Kay are going to be Women’s Tag Team Champions for any length of time, they need to given more than this. The Women’s Tag Titles have not been off to an impressive start by any means. At this point, it feels like they may be wise to move the titles to a more serious act like Sane and Asuka as quickly as possible. )
-Jinder Mahal’s music hit, interrupting the stare down. He and the Singh Brothers walked out. Rose and Deville stepped aside for them. The announcers teased a match between Mahal and Chad Gable after the break.
-Aleister Black was shown seated against a black backdrop, sitting directly in front of the camera. Black said “you know who I am, but do you know what I am?” Black said, in these waining seconds, he can’t even begin to explain the complexities of his “tragic” character. “Like all good things, give it time, and I’m sure the world you grew up in will have me condemned.”
(LeClair’s Analysis: Ultimately, I’m glad they’re choosing to separate Black and Ricochet. I’m not going to make any snap judgments, but I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention that a character like Black’s is worrisome to me under the tutelage of Vince McMahon. I’m simply going to hope for the best here.)
-In the ring, Mahal awaited his opponent. Chad Gable headed to the ring, jawing at Jinder. Lars Sullivan clotheslined Gable from behind. He picked up Chad and slammed him into the ring post. Sullivan slid into the ring and stared at Jinder. Mahal scurried out of the ring and left the Singh Brothers to be attacked by Lars. Sullivan hit the Freak Accident on Samir, and a running sit out power bomb on Sunil.
R-Truth’s music hit and Truth, in street clothes, rushed the ring. He repeatedly punched Lars, who no sold the attack. Truth went for a side kick, but Lars caught him, scooped him up, and dropped him to the mat. Sullivan picked up Truth and hit him with the running sit out power bomb. Sullivan stared at his hands and laughed.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This entire segment was met with near silence from the audience. They were completely disinterested in Mahal, Gable, and Sullivan. A small “R-Truth” chant broke out when he rushed the ring, but was very quickly snuffed out by Sullivan’s onslaught. The crowd has been tepid all night, so this isn’t a total condemnation, but it’s hard for a guy like Lars to truly get over when he’s spending his time beating up people the audience has been taught not to care about.)
-Phillips teased a face-to-face confrontation between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair coming up after the commercial break.
-A brief recap of the opening segment aired coming out of the break. The camera cut backstage toe the locker room, where Kayla Braxton approached Roman Reigns. Kayla asked Roman if he planned to accept Elias’ challenge. Reigns said that at Money in the Bank, he plans to break Elias’ jaw so he can never sing to him again.
(LeClair’s Analysis: There is absolutely no sense that even the slightest tweak is being made to the way Roman conducts himself or handles his character. Lincoln appears to be a favorable crowd to WWE, and even they showed minimal interest in Reigns tonight. The goodwill he accrued upon his return seems to be quickly dwindling, and the change the scenery doesn’t appear to be a catalyst to change.)
-Charlotte Flair made her way to the ring. “All hail the queen,” remarked Corey Graves. He went on to content that Charlotte didn’t lose at WrestleMania, because Becky pinned Ronda Rousey. He said “the throne awaits the queen.”
Charlotte recapped the WrestleMania main event as hour two began. Charlotte said Becky won the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Titles by pinning Ronda Rousey. She said Ronda lost the Smackdown Women’s Title, not her. Charlotte said she wants Becky to come out and explain her claim to the Smackdown Women’s Title. “She did not beat me,” Charlotte stated.
Becky Lynch strutted to the ring, wearing the Smackdown title around her waist and holding the Raw title above her head. “You said it was a ‘winner takes all’ match, Charlotte, did you not understand what that meant?” Becky asked. Becky said she was too busy beating Ronda Rousey, the woman Charlotte couldn’t defeat. Becky said she wanted to pin Ronda Rousey to prove she could do it. She said she’s already beaten Charlotte Flair more times than she can count. Charlotte said she’s in Becky’s head. Flair said every time Lacey Evans knocks Becky out, all Becky can see is Charlotte Flair. She said it’s all over Becky’s Twitter, and in all of her promos. A quiet, but comical “Charlotte No Belts” chant could be heard in the background.
“You’re in my head?” Becky pondered. She said Charlotte’s been on her “worst winning streak” (huh?) ever. Charlotte said she thinks Becky is scared because her days are numbered. Flair said Lynch has everything to lose, and she has nothing to lose. “After you face Lacey Evans, I’m next in line,” Charlotte declared. Becky asked how that could be the case. “Because I said so,” said Charlotte. Becky Lynch said she wants Charlotte to clear the way for people like Bayley and Mickie James – new challengers. “You’re the web that management won’t untangle me from,” yelled Becky. Lynch said Flair can start from the bottom and work her way back to the top, and when she gets there, “I’ll still be Becky 2 Belts.”
“I’ve done it eight times, and I’ll do it nine,” said Charlotte. Bayley’s music hit and she headed to the ring. Bayley said the Superstar Shakeup is supposed to be about fresh starts, but this is just a rerun. Bayley said Becky may have lost count of how many times she’s beaten Charlotte, but she’s never beaten her. Charlotte put her hand on Bayley’s shoulder and told her to get in the back of the line because “this is still my show.” Bayley shoved her away. She told Charlotte to earn a title shot by facing her right now. Charlotte began to retort, but Bayley knocked the mic out of her hand. The show cut to a quick and awkward commercial break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was not the strongest work from anyone involved. Charlotte’s general claim is rather weak and unfounded – the rules of the triple threat are clear and that’s an inherent disadvantage a champion has going in. Becky stumbled with some lines and Charlotte wasn’t really able to recover for either of them. Bayley, while showing some new attitude, still came off overly scripted and forced. I just think all three of these women are capable of significantly better.)
(3) CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. BAYLEY
The bell rang as soon as the show returned from commercial. Phillips said the match was made during the break “per the McMahon family”, and that the winner would earn a future title match against Becky. Bayley applied a headlock on Charlotte to get things going. Charlotte tried to body slam her, but Bayley countered out and fired off some punches. The two spilled to the outside. Bayley hit a “grazing shot”, according toe Phillips, as she tried to dropkick Charlotte through the bottom rope. Back in the ring, Charlotte tripped Bayley onto the middle rope and followed it up with a neck breaker.
Charlotte repeatedly stomped Bayley in the chest and taunted the crowd. She jawed with the referee after being forced to break a hold in the ropes. Flair slapped Bayley in the face repeatedly, then dropped her to the mat with a forearm. Bayley countered Charlotte out of the corner into a rollup for a two count. She hit a crossbody for another near fall. Bayley hit a pair of shoulder tackles in the corner, then a running elbow. Flair returned the favor with one of her own, then dropped Bayley’s shin on the bottom rope and stomped away at her leg. Phillips sent the show to a picture-in-picture commercial.
During the break, Charlotte continued to work on Bayley’s leg. Back full screen, Charlotte attempted the Figure Four, but Bayley shoved her away. Charlotte continued to attack Bayley’s leg. Bayley bought herself some time with a stiff knee to Charlotte’s head. The broke into a small “let’s go Bayley chant” as she mounted a comeback. Bayley struggled to her feet after clotheslining Charlotte. Charlotte attempted a big boot, but Bayley ducked it. Bayley tried to backdrop Charlotte, but Flair countered out and hit the big boot for a two count. Charlotte shook her head in frustration. She dragged Bayley to the corner as the crowd started up with the “Charlotte No Belts” chant again. Flair climbed to the top rope and went for a moonsault, landing awkwardly on her feet as Bayley rolled out of the way.. Bayley hit Charlotte immediately with a belly to back suplex.
After a brief struggle, Bayley followed up her flurry with a sunset flip turnbuckle bomb for a near fall. She climbed to the top rope, but Charlotte sent her crashing to the mat. Bayley surprised Charlotte with a small package, but Charlotte kicked out again. Flair immediately returned to her feet and connected with a spear for the victory.
WINNER: Charlotte Flair in 10:00
-Backstage, Becky Lynch stared at the monitor as Charlotte celebrated her win. Kayla Braxton approached. She asked why Becky agreed to accept a challenger with a match against Lacey Evans already scheduled. Becky said being a double champion means pulling double duty, and she intends to beat both Evans and Charlotte handily. Braxton asked if she was underestimating her competition. “No. I’m just betting on myself.” Becky said she’d face both women at Money in the Bank, and still leave the show “Becky 2 Belts.”
-Kofi Kingston was shown warming up with Xavier Woods and Kevin Owens as the announcers contemplated Becky’s declaration. Saxton said Kofi’s match with Shinsuke would be next.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This match again? Don’t get me wrong, Bayley and Charlotte had a solid match, but it’s hard to tout the shakeup being about providing fresh matchups when the company immediately goes back to one of the most overplayed rivalries of the last couple of years. The crowd seemed deflated by the finish, and I can’t say I blame them. Becky’s follow up promo was a better representation of her ability on the mic, and her willingness to defend both titles in the same night is a nice fighting babyface touch.)
-Bray Wyatt’s “Firefly Funhouse” vignette aired. Live shots of the crowd viewing the video on the tron were interspersed throughout.
-At the announcers desk, Phillips, Graves, and Saxton looked perplexed over the Wyatt vignette. Phillips shook it off and switched gears to give a brief rundown of the Money in the Bank card.
-In gorilla, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston prepped Kevin Owens to deliver the New Day intro. He did so dutifully, and the trio headed to the ring. KO was on pancake duty tonight. Shinsuke Nakamura headed to the ring with Rusev and Lana trailing him. Todd Phillip threw to a commercial break.
(4) KOFI KINGSTON (w/ Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston) vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (w/ Rusev & Lana)
The referee called for the bell as soon as the show returned from commercial. Woods and KO were mixed for commentary and seated adjacent to the announcers desk at their own orange table, covered in platters of pancakes. Rusev stood ringside in a full suit with Lana at his side. Nakamura and Kingston traded headlocks in the early moments. After a series of counters and ducks from both men, Kingston connected with a dropkick that sent Shinsuke to the outside. Nakamura slowly returned to the ring and the two locked up again. Kofi took Nakamura down and hit a nice looking springboard splash for a two count.
Kofi locked in an arm lock and the announcers threw to the “New Day commentary table”, where Owens and Woods discussed the merits of Kofi’s strategy. Kofi hit a crossbody off the top on Nakamura for a near fall. He dropkicked Shinsuke to the outside and then tried to dive through the middle rope, but Nakamura caught him with a kick. Shinsuke followed up with a diving knee to the back of the neck on the apron. Phillips threw to a commercial break.
Back from the break, Nakamura had the champion in a headlock. Owens and Woods said he’d been fighting through the whole break, and said they weren’t worried. The main announce crew talked about Shinsuke’s accolades and the advantage he mounted during the break. Nakamura continued his assault. Shinsuke tried to throw Kofi into the steps on the outside, but Kingston hopped over them. Nakamura maintained control, though, taking down Kofi and bringing him back inside.
Nakamura continued to deliver body kicks to the champion. Kofi eventually recovered and copied Nakamura’s “come on” taunt. He followed up with a series of chops and a big dropkick Nakamura battled back, hanging up Kofi in the corner. Shinsuke hit the sliding snap German suplex and retreated to the corner, begging Kofi to stand. He charged at a dazed Kingston, but Kofi caught him with a double standing stomp to the chest.
Kingston went for Trouble in Paradise, but Nakamura ducked. Kofi hit the SOS, but Rusev immediately attacked Kingston as the referee went for the count The official called for the bell.
WINNER: Kofi Kingston in 13:00 by disqualification
Xavier Woods and Kevin Owens rushed to Kofi’s aid and cleared the ring. Owens catapulted Woods over the top rope and onto Rusev. Nakamura quickly hit Woods with the Kinshasa. In the ring, Owens helped Kofi to his feet. Nakamura ran at Owens, but Kofi pushed him out of the way and connected with Trouble in Paradise on Nakamura. Owens immediately super kicked Kofi. He ripped off his New Day shirt to reveal a KO Show cutoff underneath. Owens began furiously punching and stomping the WWE Champion. He threw Kofi to the outside.
Owens looked possessed. He threw Kingston into the ringside barrier. “Kevin Owens played the New Day” said Graves. KO threw Kofi into the ring post. He grabbed the WWE title and threw Kofi back in the ring. Owens stepped on Kofi’s head while holding the title up. Owens lifted Kofi up by the face. “You think this is yours?” Kevin yelled, “I hope your kids had a good time, cause I’m coming for this.” Kingston rallied with shots to the head, but Owens quickly cut him off. He angrily stomped Kingston into the corner. KO threw Kofi outside again and set him up for a power bomb on the apron. Xavier Woods reappeared and flew over the top, temporarily taking down Kevin and thwarting his attempt.
Owens quickly recovered and took Woods down, then power bombed him on the apron. Owens backed up the ramp slowly as officials and trainers rushed to the aid of Xavier Woods. Owens stared menacingly at the carnage as the show faded to black.
(LeClair’s Analysis: The match was decent, but largely forgotten about by the time we got to the show closing angle. The clock more or less told the story here. The finish came too early for there not to be some kind of set up. I was very much in the camp of wanting to see Kevin Owens continue down the babyface path, because I think he could be mightily effective. With that said, this was a good segment that garnered big reactions for everyone involved. That’s important to note, given that the crowd was rather subdued most of the night.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: The show closing angle, though bittersweet in a way, made up for what I found to be some pretty lackluster development and story-telling earlier in the night. Owens/Kingston instantly becomes the most interesting thing on the show going forward, especially given the direction they’re headed in with Roman’s first program.