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KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 30, 2019
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-Phillips excitedly said they were broadcasting from the Ohio State University. Like last night, referencing the University instead of the city.
-Michael Cole (the Raw announcer on Smackdown for some reason; is the Superstars Shake-up still happening?!?) excitedly introduced Kofi Kingston. Graves said Kofi needs his head on a swivel instead of throwing pancakes. Cole said he is so excited to be there to celebrate what is a remarkable 11 year career. “It wasn’t until this year’s WrestleMania that you had the opportunity to battle for the most coveted prize in Sports Entertainment, the WWE Championship,” he said. They threw to highlights of Kofi winning the Elimination Chamber two months ago and then winning the Gauntlet and then battling Vince McMahon’s unfair decisions.
Back in the ring live, Cole asked Kofi if he believed he’d ever get the title match at WM. Kofi said he’s learned over the past 11 years you are going to have a lot of highs and a lot of lows, but the most important thing is to fight through those lows. “You have to keep pushing and keep fighting through,” he said. (This would have been a good chance for the lead babyface champ to actually speak out against the injustices of the power structure in WWE led by Vince McMahon instead of just accepting it and saying it’s his job to fight through it.) He said with the help of his New Day partners, they proved what is possible. Cole said he’s had the honor of knowing him throughout his career and that moment of victory was magical. He said there are very few wrestlers in WWE history who had a WrestleMania Moment at that level. He said it might be the greatest WrestleMania Moment ever. Kofi seemed especially pleased with that characterization. They went to the pinfall victory and post-match celebration at WrestleMania.
Back live in the ring, fans chanted “You deserve it!” Kofi said other than the birth of his kids and marrying his wife, that was the greatest moment of his life. Cole then threw to a clip of Kevin Owens turning on him last week. Cole asked for his reaction. Kofi said a lot of people say he should have seen it coming. He said they may be right, but New Day believes that people can change. They believed that Kevin Owens legitimately wanted to change, but at the end of the day, KO is going to be KO. Kofi said if he wanted to challenge him for the WWE Title, he would have said yes. “He said as he was stepping on my head, he was doing it to come after my WWE Title. I say let him come.” He challenged him to a match at MITB.
Owens came out to his music. He said the WWE Universe loves a great moment, and his WM Moment was so great. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” he said. “But moments are fleeting.” He said what the fans won’t tell him is that none of them actually believe he is championship material. Boos. He said he can tell Kofi doesn’t believe he’s championship material, either. “I can tell you’re in way over your head and the waters keeps rising and you’re drowning.” Xavier Woods attacked KO from behind, but despite the blindside attack, KO dropped Xavier within three seconds with a superkick. Kofi ran to the stage, so KO fled. Kofi checked on Xavier who was writhing in pain.
(Keller’s Analysis: There was too much shoulder shrugging nonchalance and frivolity from Kofi before he got semi-serious about what Kevin Owens did to him and his partner last week. This wasn’t the week for Kofi to smile about his WrestleMania Moment, it was his week to draw money as a babyface rallying his fans against a heel who crossed a line and took advantage of his trust. He should have been seething mad from the start, dismissing the WrestleMania Moment talk and shifting immediately and sternly to addressing what he plans to do to pay back Owens. Also, when you think about it, how unfair is it to every other contender that Owens moved to the front of the line and got what he wanted as a result of the attack last week? Kofi should have said he wants to get his hands on KO, but not at the expense of a deserving contender getting a title match. Then Cole could have informed Kofi that management did deem KO the no. 1 contender and he will be getting the title match. At least then Kofi wouldn’t seem like he was rewarding KO’s betrayal.)
-They showed Matt and Jeff Hardy talking backstage. Graves said Jeff would make an important announcement about his health later.
-Bayley made her ring entrance. The announcers hyped that she’d face Becky Lynch for the first time ever next. [c]
-Backstage Kofi told Xavier that his back is all screwed up and they had a plan and he said he could take care of it. Xavier said he couldn’t let KO talk to him like that. Kofi said he has to worry about himself and take care of himself. “I got this, bro,” he said. “Trust me.”
-Phillips (rather anticlimactically) announced Bayley would be in the MITB match. They showed a graphic with the Raw foursome and then Bayley added with three shadow figures.
(1) BECKY LYNCH vs. BAYLEY
A full five minutes after she entered the ring, her music stopped and the ring announcer formally introduced Becky. They showed a clip of Becky telling Lacey Evans on Raw last night to come out from the back and stop currying favors. Lacey did and they brawled. Becky threw Bayley out of the ring early, but Bayley snapped Becky’s neck over the middle rope. Becky tackled Bayley, both were slow to get up, and they cut to an early break. [c]
They stayed with the action on split screen during the break with more back-and-forth action. Becky eventually hit Bayley with a dropkick off the top rope for a two count. Bayley surprised Becky with a small package for a near fall a minute later. Then she hit a hard Saito suplex and launched off the top rope with a flying elbow, but Becky lifted her knees and then applied a Disarm Her. Bayley quickly tapped out.
WINNER: Becky in 8:00.
-Immediately as Becky stood from scoring the win, Charlotte attacked her. She threw Bayley into the ringpost next. She strutted in the ring and extended her arms. Graves talked about Becky being the single biggest target in all of WWE. Phillips said at MITB Becky must do the impossible.
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s good to see Bayley separating herself from Sasha Banks, but her character so far seems more or less a body that is taking up space in the Becky Lynch-Charlotte saga. Next week is Bayley’s chance to fire up and give a defining babyface promo reacting to Charlotte’s attack from behind.)
-An Aleister Black vignette aired. He spoke, while wearing black in front of a black backdrop, about fear. He said it’s human nature to fear what one cannot understand. He said his opponents try to figure him out, but by then it’s too late because the referee is already counting 1-2-3 in his favor. He said any hope of conquering that fear is then gone, and they don’t like the abyss that is staring back at them because it unveils a truth about themselves that allows them to fade to black.
(Keller’s Analysis: This is a bit of a reset for Black after being the brooding contrast to the smiling youthful Ricochet on Raw. They can’t afford to mess this up, which means going beyond these dark platitudes and fleshing out his character on a journey in the coming months where fans learn organically more about him, not just based on what he says, but how he reacts to his wins and losses and the challenges he faces to achieve whatever his goals are.)
-Matt & Jeff Hardy made their way to the ring to their entrance theme. Jeff was on a crutch. Phillips said they’d address the future of the Smackdown Tag Team Titles next. [c]
-Kayla Braxton interviewed the Hardys mid-ring. (Phillips said her name, which might be the first time ever, and if not, it’s too infrequent.) Kayla asked what happened. Jeff said it’s easier to show her. Then a video aired on Lars Sullivan attacking various wrestlers including slamming Hardy. Back live fans booed. Hardy said he cannot walk on his own because of Lars and now he needs surgery. “And I’m going to be out for a long time,” he said. Matt choked up as he said it breaks his heart to say it, but as of right now, The Hardy Boyz must give up the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. (Who’s going to shave Hardy before his surgery, and will the Usos film it?) Jeff said he’ll come back better than ever and they will reign supreme and be extreme. Lars’s music then played and he walked out staring straight ahead at the Hardys. Saxton asked, “Why now? Jeff is already hurt.” Graves asked who would stop him. (How about every wrestler in the back?) Lars kneed Matt and threw him out of the ring, then approached Jeff. Matt attacked Lars from behind, but Lars fought back and gave him his one-armed powerslam. Jeff hopped around the ring and held up his crutch. Matt rolled to the floor. R-Truth entered the ring and bashed Lars from behind with a chair. Lars no-sold it and turned around and one-arm powerslammed Truth. Lars then delivered his running sitout powerbomb. His music then played as the announcers talked about Lars destroying all in his path and wondering who will stop him.
(Keller’s Analysis: Lars could be cartoonish and over-the-top, but instead he pulls off his character as well as anyone in that role in a while. It’s a bummer about the Hardys, who seemed poised to be a central focus of Smackdown’s anemic tag team division. The next babyface tag team on the shallow depth chart is Heavy Machinery. They might need to quickly team Chad Gable with someone, such as Apollo Crews or R-Truth, and give them a run. Heck, team Gable with Matt Hardy.)
-Saxton excitedly said Roman Reigns would address the audience tonight. (Wait, he is there and he didn’t run out to stop Lars from destroying Jeff Hardy?) They also plugged a special KO Show with Xavier as his guest. Saxton questioned whether that was a good idea. [c]
-Saxton revealed Smackdown participants in the MITB men’s match: Ali, Finn Balor, and Randy Orton. Graves kept saying “Wow” after each announcement. Phillips noted three of the men in the match have held the MITB contract before. He then plugged Balor & Ali vs. Andrade & Orton later.
(Keller’s Analysis: This was an anticlimactic flat way to announce the participants. What is the explanation for how these four were chosen? My hunch is they didn’t do qualifying matches because it’d require giving away too many match-ups that are fresh from the Superstar Shake-up that they want to save for later, and having to put four male wrestlers on a shallow roster in a situation where they’d have to lose. The losing side of four qualifying matches could have consisted of Chad Gable, Apollo Crews, Shelton Benjamin, and Jinder Mahal, though, which would have seemed reasonable and wouldn’t have sacrificed anyone who Creative felt needed protection. Buddy Murphy could have been win the mix too and lost to, say, Balor or Ali by DQ, so he’d be protected. So they could have pulled this off.)
(2) KAIRI SANE & ASUKA (w/Paige) vs. TWO UNNAMED OPPONENTS
The IIconics joined the announcers on commentary and never stopped yapping obnoxiously. Sane won with an Insane Elbow.
WINNERS: Sane & Asuka.
-Mandy Rose told Sonya Deville that Shane McMahon told them that they are getting an opportunity to be in MITB. Deville was excited. Rose said only one of them can and it’s up to them. Rose said Deville deserves it. Deville said she knows what she’s doing, but it’s okay because she believes that Rose should be in the match. She said she came so close to winning the Smackdown Title and it should be her chance. Rose hugged and said she is the best.
(Keller’s Analysis: Mandy and Sonya were solid here. This was a segment that, as scripted, could have been really awkward, but it rolled pretty smoothly. Rose seemed manipulative and Deville seemed genuine and generous.)
-Phillips plugged the Superman Punch heard around the world would be addressed next. [c]
-Reigns made his ring entrance and Phillips said he’s the biggest acquisition in WWE Shake-up history. The mixed responses are back, but seemingly more muted. He walked to the ring as Phillips said he’s a symbol of hope and strength to millions around the world. Phillips said Reigns vs. Elias takes place at MITB, and Reigns has vowed that Elias will never sing again after that match. Reigns paced around the ring after his music stopped. A “Roman!” chant started mixed with some scattered boos. They found a group of male fans chanting “Roman!” and showed them. He smiled and winked at someone at ringside. “You only get one shot at making a first impression, so I figured in my on my first night on Smackdown Live, I’d do exactly that, so I knocked out Mr. McMahon.” He said that wasn’t the plan, and it didn’t have to be him. “It could have been anybody,” he said. “I just wanted to get the point across that I’m still the Big Dog.” He said Smackdown is his yard now. Shane McMahon’s music interrupted.
Shane stood on the stage and addressed Roman. He asked the ring announcer to give him a proper introduction. He did. Then Shane said he’s out there to remind Roman that the McMahon family own all the land. Reigns said, “No, your daddy owns all the land, and he was in the ring with me, I was on these two feet and he was on his back.” Shane said: “We’re all well aware that you struck a national treasure in Vincent Kennedy McMahon and knocked him to the ground.” He said Reigns was left lying on his face. Reigns said with help from Elias, but can he do it on his own. Shane said he’d like to walk to the ring and slap him around, but he has to hop on a jet and work with a true championship caliber coach at the University of Michigan, “Jim Harborough” (instead of “Jim Harbaugh”) to get him ready to face Miz at Money in the Bank. Shane said guys are lining up in the back to welcome him to Smackdown. He introduced two of them – B-Team’s music played and they danced onto the stage. Shane said they’re eager to make a good first impression, so Reigns will be taking on both of them in a handicapped match. Reigns sarcastically said, “How original.” He asked if he’s going to blindfold him or tie a hand behind his back, too. Shane said that’s quite intuitive. He said of a match of this caliber deserves something extra, such as a special guest enforcer referee. He introduced Elias as that referee. Elias walked out with his guitar and a referee shirt on.
(Keller’s Analysis: There was criticism last week that Roman Reigns punched a 73 year old man out of nowhere. His response? It was random, it could have been anyone, he just wanted to make a good “first impression.” First of all, there’s no “first impression” for a wrestler who has headlined a string of WrestleManias in recent years. Second of all, saying you randomly punched a 73 year old because he happened to be in your path instead of saying you punched him because he asked for it by being his typical asshole self isn’t better. It’s worse.)
(3) ROMAN REIGNS vs. THE B-TEAM
Elias stood at ringside and a regular ref handled the main ref’ing duties. B-Team used sneaky double-team tactics to dominate early. Roman came back with a Samoan Drop and a near fall on Axel. Elias distracted the ref, opening up B-Team to take control again. At ringside, as B-Team distracted the ref, Elias clotheslined Reigns. They cut to a break. [c]
They stayed with the action on split screen with mat work by B-Team. Eventually at ringside Reigns went after Elias at ringside, but after Roman gave a Drive By to Dallas, Elias attacked him. Elias threw him into the ring. Axel hit a Perfect Plex for a near fall, with Elias making a fast two count before the kickout. Elias was dismayed. He told Axel to hold up Reigns. Elias then grabbed his guitar from ringside. Reigns, though, broke free and gave Elias a Superman Punch. Then he speared Axel for the win. Phillips said Reigns “beat the odds!”
WINNER: Reigns in 11:00.
-They showed Balor and Ali shaking hands and talking backstage. [c]
-They replayed the second episode of Firefly Funhouse, again with cutaways to the crowd.
-Ali made his ring entrance. Then Balor made his. A soundbite aired with Orton as he made his ring entrance where he said there is nothing more lethal to a WWE Champion than a MITB briefcase and an RKO. Then Andrade made his entrance with Zelina Vega. She said the best part of the fans’ night is when they get confirmation that the ring will be graced with the presence of Andrade. Andrade said he has no respect for Balor or Ali. He also told Orton that anytime he wants to learn something, just ask. He said he will teach Orton to respect him. Graves questioned that approach.
(4) ANDRADE (w/Zelina Vega) & RANDY ORTON vs. ALI & FINN BALOR
They cut to a break seconds into the match. [c]
Balor took a beating but eventually made a comeback. He and Ali crossed paths in the ring at full speed and each tackled Andrade and Orton, respectively, at ringside. Balor was held off climbing to the top rope by Vega. Andrade then yanked him off the top rope to the floor. Andrade then gave Balor double running knees in the corner for a near fall. Balor blocked Andrade’s hammerlock DDT. He then hit a slingblade. Ali tagged in and landed the 450 for the win.
WINNERS: Ali & Balor in 8:00.
-After the match, Orton gave Balor an RKO out of nowhere. Ali then superkicked Orton on the chin.
-An unnamed woman backstage interviewed Ember Moon and said she’s also in the MITB match. Moon said she’s beyond excited. She said she has many names, but has yet to make a name for herself. She said the MITB match changes careers and lives, and she intends to seize that moment. She said she’ll be known as Miss MITB. In walked Carmella who revealed she is the final entrant. She told Moon the contract will be hers, because she won twice before. She didn’t want Moon to get into details on how she won. Carmella said she held onto the contract for 287 days, and that’s what she did when she cashed in and become champion. She said at MITB, she’ll remind everyone why Mella is Money.
(Keller’s Analysis: So is she back to being an obnoxious heel, or is her character contextual and we’re just supposed to accept that?)
-The announcers reacted to the full MITB women’s line-up.
-Kevin Owens began his ring entrance. [c]
-The KO Show: Owens sat in the ring as his music played. He said the set is gone and it’s just him on a chair sitting next to a stool. He said New Day would have balloons and “all kinds of stupid crap,” but he’s not about that. He said he is the whole show and this is all he needs. He said he’s sure Xavier regrets interrupting earlier when he was trying to make a point. He said Kofi is in way over his head and is “drowning.” He said help is on the way, and he is that help, because at MITB he will relieve him of the burden he’s been carrying around since WrestleMania. He said he is positive that at MITB he will take the WWE Title from him.
He said that’s enough about Kofi, though, because that’s all anyone’s been talking about for months. He said his goal was to have Xavier as his guest because he wants to hear from him. He said if he’s still willing and he’s able, come out and humor him and trust him “let’s just have a chat.” After no response, he said he had a contingency plan. He interviewed an Xavier action figure. He put him on the stool and had a “conversation” with him. He asked if he’s lonely. Then he introduced a Big E figure, with his left leg all bandaged. There was almost no crowd heat here. He kicked over the stool and the dolls fell over and KO called them “useless pieces of trash.” He said he thinks he knows exactly what’s in their hearts and in their minds. Then Kofi walked onto the stage and stared down KO. Then he took off his shirt and ran to the ring and attacked Owens. The crowd seemed pretty disengaged but slowly got into the attack. They chanted “New… Day Sucks!” Kofi tossed KO around the announce desk viciously. Owens raked his eyes and then fled into the crowd. Kofi entered the ring and yelled down at KO as his music played and the show ended.
(Keller’s Analysis: So at the top of the show, Kofi was calm and contemplative about KO’s turn, but two hours later, KO talks to action figures and that fires up Kofi enough to charge out and get revenge for KO’s attack and betrayal last week? This was an intense ending to the show, but it felt arbitrary and unprompted for Kofi to respond like this after the calmness he showed earlier. It almost seemed as if KO forgot a key line or two that would have triggered that response from Kofi, especially when Graves said KO “may have made the biggest mistake he could; he just gave Kofi Kingston something else to fight for.” There were times when KO, with a silent crowd as he did his monologue, felt like he was dying out there but still had to plow through until Kofi came out.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Not a great episode by any means, but it had some solid moments but overall uninspired.