SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 30, 2019
COLUMBUS, OH AT SCHOTTENSTEIN CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Todd Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The show opened with a medium shot of fans on the hard camera side of the ring and cut to Michael Cole in the ring. Cole welcomed the “new WWE Champion,” Kofi Kingston. The announcers talked about Kevin Owens’ betrayal over Kofi’s entrance.
Michael Cole said he was excited to be on Smackdown to “celebrate a remarkable eleven year career.” Michael said Kofi’s journey contained several seemingly unsurmountable odds. He threw to highlights of Kofi’s performances in the Elimination Chamber, and gauntlet match on Smackdown. Cole asked Kofi if he thought he’d ever earn a one on one title match at Wrestlemania. Kofi said, like everyone else, he experienced a lot of highs and lows but he pushed through. He said he was so proud to do it alongside Big E and Xavier Woods.
“We are the guys that proved the impossible is possible,” Kofi said. Cole said the moment at WrestleMania was magical. He said it may have been the greatest WrestleMania moment ever. Cole threw to clips of Kofi’s title win. Back live in the ring, the crowd chanted “you deserve it” at Kingston. Kingston said that winning the title was one of the greatest moments of his life. Cole said that being WWE Champion means becoming a huge target. He said that Kevin Owens was the first to take aim at him, and threw to clips from last week’s Smackdown.
Kofi looked distressed watching the footage back. Kofi took blame for last week, saying a lot of people said he should’ve seen this coming and they were probably right. Kofi said he and Xavier belief Kevin Owens wanted to change, and the New Day always gives the benefit of the doubt. Kofi said if Owens wanted a title shot, all he had to do is ask. “As he was stepping on my head, he said he was coming for the WWE title. I say let him come.” Kofi got riled up. He suggested they face each other at Money in the Bank. Kevin Owens’ music interrupted him.
Owens stepped out onto the stage slowly. “Challenge accepted, Kofi,” Owens said. KO said Kofi gave the fans a great moment at WrestleMania. “The thing about moments, Kofi, is that they end.” Owens said the crowd doesn’t want to admit it, but no one actually believes that Kofi is Championship material Owens said Kofi doesn’t even believe he’s Championship material. Xavier Woods jumped Owens from behind. Owens quickly overcame Woods and kicked him in the jaw. Kingston rushed up the ramp, but Owens retreated to the back.
The camera hung steady on Kingston as he tended to Xavier Woods. Kofi helped Woods to his feet and the two walked gingerly to the back.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I’m not sure why they need Michael Cole to handle these segments. Furthermore, I’m starting to get a little concerned that constantly bringing up Kofi’s moment in such a way is beginning to get a little patronizing. Kingston has been asked the same questions ad nauseum post-WrestleMania and it’s gotten a bit tiring. Hopefully this transition into a real feud with Owens will get them out of this loop. Owens’ promo was brief, but effective. I’m looking forward to this match quite a bit.)
-The announcers teased tonight’s events, including a follow up on Roman Reigns, and a follow up regarding Jeff Hardy’s health and the status of the Tag Team Championships.
-Bayley’s music hit and she trotted to the ring after unleashing the Bayley Buddies. Saxton said he missed seeing them. Todd Phillips teased that the first-time-ever match-up between Bayley and Becky Lynch would be coming up after the break.
-The show returned backstage with Xavier Woods icing his shoulder in the training room with Kofi Kingston by his side. Kofi asked Xavier what he was thinking going out there with a bad back. Woods said he can’t just sit around and listen to Owens talk about Kofi. Kingston told Woods not to worry, he can handle it.
-In the ring, Bayley stared up at the Money in the Bank briefcase hanging above the ring. The announcers confirmed Bayley as Smackdown’s first entrant in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. Greg Hamilton gave Becky Lynch an extended introduction, calling her the winner of the “history making main event at WrestleMania.” Lynch headed to the ring and the announcers threw to footage from Becky’s confrontation with Lacey Evans on last night’s Raw.
(1) BAYLEY vs. BECKY LYNCH
The bell rang and Lynch immediately hip tossed Bayley Bayley quickly hopped up and got in the champion’s face. The two locked up and traded an series of counters. Becky threw Bayley to the outside, but Bayley hung Lynch up on the middle rope. The two entered another stare down and Phillips threw to a picture-in-picture commercial. On the small screen, the two locked up again and began trading holds. After a couple of minutes, Bayley caught Lynch with a knee to the mid section. Lynch attempted a kick, but Bayley stopped herself in the ropes. Lynch sold her previously injured knee. Bayley charged, and Becky caught her in a backslide pin for a two count. The two continued to trade shots for the rest of the break.
Back in full screen, Phillips said Lynch tweaked her knee during the break. Bayley sent Becky Irish whipped Becky into the corner and the two battle back and forth. Bayley hit a knee to the side of the face for a two count. Bayley stuck Becky in between the ropes and hit a number of shots to the head. Lynch broke free, and shoved Bayley away. She climbed to the top and hit a dropkick for a two count
The two talked trash at one another while trading blows. Becky broke the stalemate with the Bexploder suplex. Bayley returned to her feet, charged at Lynch, and each woman connected with a clothesline. The referee began a double count. Both women stood at seven, and Bayley immediately hooked Becky with a small package for another two count. Bayley duplexed Lynch then headed to the top rope. She went for a diving elbow, but Lynch got her knees up. She immediately turned Bayley over into the Disarm-her, causing Bayley to tape out quickly.
WINNER: Becky Lynch in 9:00
Just as Becky returned to her feet, Charlotte attacked her with a big boot out of nowhere. She threw Lynch out of the ring, then picked up Bayley and tossed her out as well. Lynch wiped her hands, yelling, “it’s so easy” at the crowd before leaving to her music.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid match, but that’s two clean losses for Bayley in a row now that she’s come to Smackdown. I wouldn’t condone her beating Lynch here, but rather, avoiding this match all together at this point in time. Hopefully she can still overcome the losses as they start to pile up.)
-Backstage, Aleister Black sat in a darkened room. He said fear is a powerful and paralyzing fool, and it’s in man’s nature to fear what they don’t understand. Black said by the time his opponents figure him out, the referee has already counted to three in Black’s favor. “What happens is, they take one look into my eyes and they don’t like the abyss that stares back at them,” Black said. Aleister said it reveals a truth to them, a truth that allows them to fade to black.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I liked this quite a bit. It was brief, but Aleister came off as supremely confident and dangerous. Like I said last week, I struggle to find faith that Vince McMahon will be able to competently book a more complex character like Black, but this promo, at least, is encouraging.)
-Back in the arena, the Hardy Boyz made their way to the ring in street clothes. Jeff was walking on a single crutch, appearing to be in a significant amount of pain. Phillips said the Hardys would address their status after the break.
-The camera cut back to the ring after a wide shot of the crowd as the Hardys’ music faded out. Kayla Braxton stood next to Matt and Jeff. She confirmed that Jeff was injured, but asked him to shed light on the extent of the damage. Jeff said it would be easier to show, and a promo video for Lars Sullivan aired. Jeff said because of Sullivan, he’s unable to walk on his own. He said his injury requires surgery, and he’ll be out of action for “a long time.” Matt said he and Jeff would be relinquishing the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. He handed them to a referee at ringside. Jeff said it breaks his heart that he’s the reason the Hardys never got to defend the titles.
Lars Sullivan’s music hit, cutting off Jeff. Sullivan sauntered to the ring. Jeff retreated to the corner of the ring and Matt stood toe to toe with Lars. Lars threw him out of the ring with ease and turned his attention to Jeff. Matt returned and attacked Lars, but Sullivan handled him with ease and finished him off with a Freak Accident. Jeff stood on one leg to face Lars with his crutch. R-Truth slid into the ring and hit Sullivan in the back with a steel chair. Sullivan quickly dispatched of the chair and hit Truth with a Freak Accident as well. He followed it up with a running sit out powerbomb. “Stay down!” Sullivan yelled at truth.
(LeClair’s Analysis: A better week for Lars, who gets the benefit of taking out some beloved figures. It’s too bad the Hardys are unable to have a run with the tag titles, especially with the refreshed rosters.)
-The announcers again teased the fall out of Roman Reigns’ actions, as well as a KO Show with Xavier Woods, and the announcement of the competitors in the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match.
-Out of the break and a promo video for Ohio State University (the site of Smackdown), the camera focused on the announcers desk. Corey Graves recapped Raw’s competitors in the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match. Byron Saxton then confirmed Smackdown’s representatives – Ali, Finn Balor, Andrade, and Randy Orton. Todd Phillips announced Smackdown’s four competitors would face off in a tag team match later tonight.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This certainly isn’t the strongest field of competitors we’ve seen in a Money in the Bank match. Smackdown’s offerings are certainly a little more conducive to the chaotic style and pace, but I’d wager one of Raw’s entrants has a better chance of walking away with the contract. Orton, like Corbin and Strowman, seems like an odd choice all together.)
-Kairi Sane and Asuka headed down the ramp with Paige to face two women already waiting in the ring. Their music is now spliced together with jarring cuts. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay joined the commentary crew.
(2) ASUKA & KAIRI SANE (w/ Paige) vs. ??? & ??? (UNAMED OPPONENTS)
Sane and Asuka’s opponents were not announced. Kairi attempted to lock up with the first woman, but she patted Sane on the head. This led to a stiff kick and tag into Asuka. The duo hit a number of kicks followed by a face buster from Asuka. Asuka kicked her opponent in the head, and the woman fell into her partner and tagged her in. Graves called her “Poison Ivy’s less famous cousin.” Asuka hit a falling reverse DDT on her. Kairi climbed to the top rope and delivered the Insane Elbow for the easy victory.
WINNERS: Kairi Sane & Asuka in 2:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was chaotic. Between Peyton Royce and Billie Kay’s energy, and WWE’s total failure to announce the names of Asuka and and Sane’s opponents, this was a little hard to watch and even harder to cover in writing. With that said, I like the continuation of giving Asuka and Kairi strong, decisive wins on the way to an inevitable showdown with the Iiconics.)
Royce and Kay yelled at Asuka and Kairi from their seat at the announcer’s desk. Backstage, Sonya Deville stood watching Asuka and Sane celebrate. The camera panned to show Mandy Rose. Rose told Sonya that she spoke to Shane and he informed her that they were going to have an opportunity to compete in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. Rose said the catch was, only one of them would be in the match. She said it should be Deville. Sonya disagreed and said it should be Mandy. Mandy agreed, and the duo hugged.
-Phillips said Roman Reigns would be in the building after the break.
-Hour two began with Roman Reigns heading to the ring as Todd Phillips declared him “the greatest acquisition in Smackdown history.” Clips of Reigns’ introduction to Smackdown and subsequent attack on Vince McMahon were shown, followed by last week’s segment involving Shane McMahon and Elias. The announcers teased Roman’s match with Elias at Money in the Bank.
-Reigns circled the ring in full gear and soaked in some “Roman” chants. He smirked and winked at someone in the crowd. Reigns said you only get one shot at making a first impression, and that’s why he took out Vince McMahon on his first night on Smackdown. “It didn’t need to be him, I just wanted to get the point across that I’m still the big dog,” Reigns said. Roman said Smackdown is his yard now. Shane McMahon’s music hit and Shane danced out onto the stage.
Shane asked for a “short and low key” introduction from Greg Hamilton. Hamilton delivered. Shane said Roman knows as well as everyone in the building that Shane is the best in the world. “I’m just here to remind you that the McMahon family owns all the land,” Shane said. Roman said Vince owns the land, not the family. He said last time Vince was in the ring, he was lying on his back. Shane reminded Roman that last week, it was him who was left laying. Roman challenged Shane to take him out on his own. Shane said he didn’t have time, because he needed to jump on a private jet to go meet with “Coach Harborough” (it’s Harbaugh) to work with a Championship caliber organization in order to get in shape for his match with The Miz. Shane said there’s a line of Superstars waiting to face Reigns on Smackdown. He introduced the B-Team. Axel and Dallas flanked Shane on the ramp. Shane announced Reigns would face them both in a handicap match.
“How original,” Reigns said. He wondered if Shane was going to blindfold him, or tie his hand behind his back. Shane said the match did deserve something special – a special guest enforcer. He introduced Elias. Elias walked out in a striped tank top. Phillips said the match would happen next. The show cut to break with Shane still talking.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Reigns’ is back to robotic lines and shortened promos with extremely limited content. At this point, as much as i want to be interested in the guy, there’s nothing about this angle with Shane or Elias that is even remotely appealing to me. It’s hard to imagine a less intriguing opening angle for Reigns’ run on Smackdown. Meanwhile, no one is taking the B-Team seriously as any type of threat to Reigns, handicap match or not.)
(3) ROMAN REIGNS vs. THE B-TEAM (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel) – Handicap Match
The bell rang as the show returned from commercial. Axel started the match off against Roman. The two locked up. Curtis tried to drag Reigns into his corner, but Roman shoved him off. Axel tagged in Bo Dallas. Bo took Roman down with a headlock takeover. He worked held Reigns in the headlock. Reigns powered out, sent Dallas off the ropes, and took him down with a hard chop Dallas tagged Axel back in and the two double teamed Reigns long enough to gain control. Elias shouted insults at Reigns from ringside. Axel and Dallas exchanged a number of tags, clocking Roman repeatedly in the corner and delivering knees and shoulders to the mid-section. Reigns fought out with a big boot on Axel, then a Samoan Drop on Dallas. He covered Bo for a two count.
Elias hopped up on the apron and distracted the official. This allowed Axel and Dallas to double team Reigns and take control, sending Roman to the outside. The referee chastised the B-Team for double teaming Roman, which allowed Elias to hit Reigns with a clothesline. Phillips sent the show to a picture-in-picture commercial.
On the small screen, Axel and Dallas returned Reigns to the ring. The beat down Roman methodically and Dallas applied a rear chin lock on a seated Reigns until the show came back from break. Elias continued jawing at Roman from ringside. Bo applied additional torque and yelled at Roman to give up. Reigns fought valiantly to his feet and clotheslined Dallas to the mat. Dallas tagged in Axel. Reigns sidestepped a charging Axel and sent him flying into the ring post. Dallas tried to get involved, but Roman took him down. Reigns hit a double Samoan Drop on Axel and Dallas for a two count.
Reigns stared down Elias, who continued to yell from ringside. Reigns gave Dallas a Superman Punch. Axel rolled Roman up for a two count. Reigns rolled onto his feet and hit Axel with a Superman Punch. He covered Curtis, but Elias pulled the referee out of the ring. Reigns gave chase to Elias. Elias skirted behind Bo Dallas, who was recovering on the apron. Reigns hit Dallas with a Drive-By. Elias immediately threw Roman into the ringside barrier, then into the ring post. He threw Reigns back in the ring. Curtis Axel hit the Perfect-Plex on Reigns. Elias made the count, but Reigns kicked out at two.
Elias retrieved his guitar from ringside. He slid in the ring and Reigns gave him a Superman Punch. Axel tried to roll up Roman, but Reigns rolled through and gave him another Superman Punch. He followed it up with a spear. The referee returned to the ring and counted the three.
WINNER: Roman Reigns in 11:00
Reigns rubbed the referee’s head and celebrated as the highlights from the match were shown. He climbed the turnbuckle and nodded in approval to the crowd as the announcers teased the Kevin Owens Show later tonight.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Roman faired far better in his match than he did the preceding segment. This was surprisingly entertaining, given the set-up and the participants. It doesn’t change my mind about the overall appeal of the angle with Elias, but this was a perfectly acceptable way to fill some TV time, even if it required a ton of shenanigans to keep the B-Team “in it” for 11 minutes. One thing to note – Dallas held Roman in a a chin lock for nearly two minutes after the commercial break. It made me wonder if someone forgot to to clue him in that they’d come out of commercial.)
-Backstage, Finn Balor was shown smoothing his leather jacket. Ali walked into frame and shook hands with Balor. Phillips teased the tag team match between Balor and Ali and Orton and Andrade still to come.
-Bray Wyatt’s second Firefly Funhouse vignette replayed, featuring the new character, “Rambling Rabbit,” and the word of the week, “sociopath.”
-Back live, Ali was already in the ring as his music faded out. His partner, Finn Balor, headed to the ring next. Balor and Ali shook hands. Randy Orton headed to the ring next. An inlet promo aired. In it, Orton said he’d win the Money in the Bank contract for the second time, and everyone would see that there’s nothing more lethal to a WWE Champion than the combination of the contract and an RKO. Andrade headed to the ring with Zelina Vega on the microphone. Vega said Andrade “gracing the ring with his presence” is the best part of the night. Andrade took the mic and told Ali and Finn that he had no respect for them. He told Randy Orton to tag him in whenever he wanted to learn something.
(4) FINN BALOR & ALI vs. RANDY ORTON & ANDRADE (w/ Zelina Vega)
Randy Orton and Ali started the match as the announcers discussed the specifics of the Money in the Bank ladder match. Randy Orton quickly dispersed of Ali to the outside, and the match went to commercial break.
Back from commercial, Orton was methodically dominating Ali. He sent Ali off the ropes and tossed him into the air, but Ali countered with a dropkick. Orton crawled to his corner and tagged in Andrade. Ali just made it to his corner and tagged in Finn Balor. Balor cleaned house, clotheslining Andrade, knocking Orton off the apron, and then connecting with the standing double foot stomp. Andrade returned to his feet and the two shared a series of kicks. Finn knocked Andrade to the outside. Ali returned to the ring he and Finn criss-crossed in the ring, diving to the outside and taking out Andrade and Orton on opposing sides. Andrade and Finn recovered quickly and returned to the ring. Zelina provided a distraction long enough for Andrade to take Balor down and hit the double running knees in the corner. Andrade pinned the Intercontinental Champion for a two count.
Andrade set Finn up for the hammerlock DDT, but Finn broke free and fell into his own corner. Ali made a blind tag. Balor connected with a Sling Blade on Andrade. Ali climbed to the top rope and hit the 450 splash for the pinfall victory.
WINNERS: Finn Balor & Ali in 7:00
Orton immediately hit the ring and have Finn an RKO. Ali hit a super kick on Orton, who fell to the outside of the ring. Ali celebrated alone with his music, pointing up at the Money in the Bank briefcase hanging above the ring
(LeClair’s Analysis: Quick match with a couple of fun spots that made it worthwhile. The criss-cross dives from Finn and Ali looked great on camera and got a nice pop from the crowd. I like the decision to give Ali a pin fall victory here, but I dislike Andrade taking another loss. In all likelihood, though, these four are going to trade wins back and forth until Money in the Bank.)
-Backstage, Sarah Schreiber introduced the final two competitors in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. First. Ember Moon. Ember said she was excited to be in the match. She said the match changes careers, and she wants to seize that moment. She said she’d be known as Ms. Money in the Bank. Carmella wandered into the shot, laughing. Carmella said she won the Money in the Bank ladder match twice. “We don’t need to talk about how I won,” she said. Carmella said she’s going to remind everyone why “‘Mella is money.”
-The announcers showed the full slate of participants in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match – Alexa Bliss, Natalya, Naomi, Dana Brooke, Carmella, Ember Moon, Mandy Rose, and Bayley.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here, but at first glance, this does not seem like a field of talent primed to put on a great ladder match. With Becky pulling double duty against top challengers, Sasha Banks in limbo, and several women being relegated to the tag division, the lack of singles depth in the women’s division is becoming a bit of a concern.)
-Kevin Owens headed to the ring for the KO Show. He walked contemplatively to the ring The announcers recapped the events of the opening segment. Owens stood in the ring awaiting Woods as the show went to commercial.
-Back from break, Owens sat in his chair in the center of the ring. The announcers teased his WWE title match against Kofi Kingston at Money in the Bank.
“Welcome to the Kevin Owens show,” Owens said slowly. Owens said he got rid of the signs and the desk and the pageantry because it seems like something New Day would do. “I am the show, and this is all I need,” Owens said. Owens said he was trying to make a point earlier before Xavier Woods attacked him. Owens said Kofi Kingston is in over his head and he needs help. “I am that help,” Owens said. Kevin said he’s going to relieve Kofi of the burden he’s been carrying, because he’s positive he’s going to take the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank. Owens said we know all about Kofi Kingston, but he wants to know about Xavier Woods. He invited him to come to the ring if he’s up to it. Woods did not immediately respond.
“I figured this might happen, so I came with a plan B,” Owens said. He pulled an Xavier Woods action figure from his pocket. He said it’s just one of the many pieces of crap merchandise New Day has been schilling for years. He said Xavier looked lonely. He pulled a Big E action figure from his other pocket, with a comically large cast over his leg. He set them next to each other on the guest’s chair.
Kofi Kingston stepped out onto the ramp without any music. He took his shirt off and rushed the ring. He and Owens immediately went at it with a flurry of punches. Kingston took Owens down. Owens retreated to the outside. Kofi followed him and the battle continued. Kingston threw Owens over the announcers desk and threw a chair on him. Owens raked Kofi’s eyes and escaped through the crowd.
Kofi returned to the ring and climbed to the top rope, yelling at Owens as he continued to retreat deeper into the audience. “Is this what you wanted, Kevin?” Kofi yelled as the show faded to black.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good segment. Owens was, as always, immensely effect as a heel. He wiped away every bit of goodwill he’d earned with the audience in the best way possible. Kingston, on the other hand, showed fire, intensity, and a seriousness we haven’t seen from him yet. This is exactly the kind of shift I hoped we’d see in his character following his WWE title win, and opposite of Kevin Owens is the perfect time to explore it. This was a departure even from what we saw earlier in the night with Michael Cole. More of this, please.)
FINAL THOUGHTS:The closing segment and Roman’s match stood out most to me on a show that felt largely by-the-numbers. That isn’t always a bad thing. Though I don’t think either Money in the Bank ladder match is shaping up to be a show stealer, the card as a whole is shaping up relatively nicely and Smackdown is doing an admirable job with its contributions thus far.