LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
MAY 7, 2019
LOUISVILLE, KY AT KFC YUM CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Todd Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The show began with a wide shot of the KFC Yum Center and A.J. Styles’ music hit. The announcers briefly ran down the new “Wild Card Rule”, established by Vince McMahon last night on Raw. In short, it allows a “limited number” of wrestlers to cross brands on a weekly basis.
“How I’ve missed you, Smackdown Live,” Styles said. A.J. said the rule allows him to “crash” a rival brand’s show, and he wanted to be the first to do it. Sami Zayn’s music hit. He said he’d rather be anywhere else on his day off than to be surrounded by a bunch of “Kentucky hillbillies.” He said he needed to be there to call A.J. out for his toxic ego. Styles said he’s glad Zayn made it out of the dumpster Braun threw him in. “The least you could’ve done is take a shower,” Styles said. A small “take a shower” chant broke out. New Day’s music hit.
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods danced onto the stage. Kofi said he was hurt that he wasn’t invited to this party. He mocked Styles for his “house that A.J. Styles built” catchphrase and told Styles, “you don’t live here anymore.” Kofi asked what Styles was doing on Smackdown. “Didn’t I see you on Raw last night? I figured I’d return the favor,” Styles retorted.
Kofi asked Styles what he wants to do about it. Zayn interrupted, wondering whether or not Kingston was about to offer Styles a WWE title match. “I love you,” Sami said, “so I’m going to tell you the truth.” Zayn said that the audience doesn’t actually love him, and that he’s trying to please them to his own detriment. Zayn said he’s the one who deserves a WWE title match tonight. Kofi stopped Sami to ask “what is that smell?” This prompted more “take a shower” chants. “You smell like my tenth grade sock drawer,” said Woods.
Kingston said he considers himself a fighting champion, and wants to continue to prove that his winning the title at WrestleMania wasn’t a fluke. He offered a match to either Styles or Zayn.
(LeClair’s Analysis: In a vacuum, this segment was innocuous enough. It speaks to a much larger issue, though, in that the show kicked off with a promo between two Raw wrestlers. My disdain for this band-aid solution is likely to manifest throughout the night. In short, this kind of decision making not only detracts and distracts from logical story-telling, but it also overexposes top talent in a way that makes them less likely to draw money, running counter to the entire point of this charade in the first place.)
-The announcers teased tonight’s major segments, including the crowning of new tag team champions, and a women’s tag match pitting Ember Moon & Carmella against Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose.
-A selfie promo from Kevin Owens aired. He said the reason he didn’t kick off Smackdown tonight was because it’s his birthday and he “didn’t want to deal with this crap” tonight. Owens said he’d take care of Kofi Kingston at Money in the Bank.
-Ali headed to the ring for his match against Andrade, coming up after the break.
-Back from commercial, Todd Phillips announced Kofi Kingston would defend his WWE Championship against both A.J. Styles and Sami Zayn in a triple threat match later tonight.
-With Ali in the ring, a promo vignette for Ali aired. He talked about finding “the light” and seizing it, comparing it to the Money in the Bank briefcase.
Andrade and Zelina Vega headed to the ring. Vega made a lame connection between the Kentucky Derby and Money in the Bank. She said, unlike the Kentucky Derby, there’s only one thoroughbred in the Money in the Bank ladder match. Andrade said he’d win the ladder match. The fans chanted “what?” at him. Andrade said Ali would become envious of his success.
(1) ANDRADE (w/ Zelina Vega) vs. ALI
The two competitors locked up. Andrade pushed Ali into the corner. Ali shoved him off and gave him a super kick. The action spilled outside. Ali wound up on top of the barricade. Vega distracted him long enough for Andrade to sweep the leg and send him spilling into the timekeeper’s area. Phillips sent the match to a picture-in-picture commercial.
On the small screen, Andrade taunted the crowd as Vega cheered him on. He retrieved Ali and threw him into the barrier, then slid in the ring to break the count. He headed back outside and gave Ali a couple of chops before rolling him back in the ring. He locked in a modified chin lock. Ali fought out of it, but Ali maintained control. Ali battled back again, attempting a suplex. Andrade countered and threw Ali into the turnbuckle. He dropped an elbow on Ali, who was face down on the mat.
Returning to full screen, Andrade hit a body slam on Ali. He climbed to the top rope, but Ali ran up to meet him and connected with a Spanish Fly from the top turnbuckle. An “Ali” chant broke out. Randy Orton appeared in the ring and attacked Ali from behind, leading the referee to call for the bell.
WINNER: Ali in 5:00 by disqualification
Orton immediately grabbed Andrade and tried to give him the hangman’s DDT. Zelina held onto Andrade’s leg to stop it. Andrade kicked Orton in the head, then Ali caught him on the rebound. Orton tried to RKO Ali, but Ali pushed him off and hit Randy with a flurry of punches. Ali bounced off the ropes, Orton tossed him into the air and hit the RKO. Andrade came flying off the top rope at Orton, and Randy hit the RKO on him as well. Randy stared up at the briefcase as his music played.
(LeClair’s Analysis: What we got of this one was decent, if you watched through the commercial break. I realize non finishes are going to be a staple of Money in the Bank build, but I get a little tired of Orton just causing non-finishes and hitting the RKO. The crowd never seems disappointed, though, so I guess it just isn’t for me.)
-The announcers threw to footage from last night’s match between Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre, culminating in interference from Shane McMahon and Elias. The camera cut to a still shot of the ring from the perspective of where the Raw commentary table usually sits. This led to Phillips introducing a Roman Reigns vignette.
-The Reigns vignette was a full career retrospective, highlighting some of Roman’s major moments and accomplishments, followed by his cancer diagnosis and subsequent remission announcement and return. Back in the arena, the camera panned around the audience, who seemed to receive the vignette well.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish here. We’ve seen this footage of Reigns countless times, arranged numerous ways to varying degrees of success. I can’t knock this too hard, since the live crowd seemed to respond positively to it, but I have to wonder what the average viewer is thinking at home. If this was shown in place of Reigns appearing on the live show tonight, then I’ll remit my criticism.)
-“Here Comes the Money” played over the PA and Shane McMahon walked to the ring to a very muted reaction. Todd Phillips said Shane was on Smackdown to address the fate of the Smackdown Tag Team titles. The show went to commercial.
-Back live, Shane stood in the ring with a microphone. He said he was on Smackdown to address the tag titles, but needed to digress for a second. He called Miz a coward for attacking him from behind with a steel chair in the parking lot on Raw. “I find his actions deplorable,” Shane said before correcting himself, “I’m sorry, I forgot I was in Kentucky. I find his actions disgusting.” Interesting jab. Shane said said ultimately, Miz’s attack wouldn’t matter, and that he’d beat Miz at Money in the Bank.
Shane turned his attention to the tag team titles. He wondered aloud who might be worthy of being Smackdown Tag Team champions. He said it was staring at him all along, and the answer was simple. “Allow me to introduce you to the worthy tag team,” Shane said. Daniel Bryan’s music hit and he and Rowan headed to the ring. Saxton expressed dismay while Corey Graves applauded the (presumed) decision. Bryan and Rowan shook Shane’s hand. The Usos music hit.
The Usos said “whoa” about twenty times. Shane asked why The Usos were on Smackdown. The Usos said Roman Reigns left them an open invitation, and Shane’s “brilliant daddy” created the “Usos Wild Rule.” They slid in the ring and said, last time they checked, a team had to earn the tag titles. They ran down a list of former champions. They asked Shane to let them compete for the tag titles. Shane agreed to the match. He said he was going to enjoy watching Bryan and Rowan “kick the Usos butts all the way back to Raw.” He called for a referee and the show went to commercial.
-After the break, a selfie promo from Finn Balor aired. Finn was in his hometown of Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland. He said though he was home visiting family, he was thinking about the Money in the Bank ladder match. He said he was going to win the contract, cash it in, win the title, and become “Finn 2 Belts.” “I like the sound of that,” Finn said.
(2) THE USOS (Jimmy & Jey) vs. DANIEL BRYAN & ROWAN – WWE Smackdown Tag Team Title Match
“We know we’re going to see new champions crowned tonight,” Phillips exclaimed as the bell rang. Graves wondered what would happen to the titles if The Usos win, being that they’re Raw wrestlers. Jimmy and Jey employed the use of frequent tags to dominate Daniel Bryan in the early going. Bryan retreated to his corner to ask for a reprieve. He tagged in Rowan. Jimmy quickly went on the offensive against Rowan, but Rowan used his size to drop Jimmy. He hit a big splash for a two count. Rowan sent Jimmy into his corner and tagged in Bryan.
Rowan whipped Bryan toward Jimmy and Bryan hit his patented side body corner check. Rowan tagged back in. He began driving his knee into the back of Jimmy. Rowan knocked Jey off the apron. Jimmy began to fight back, but had no one to tag. Jimmy bounced off the ropes and Rowan hit him but a big cross body. Phillips sent the show to commercial.
The show returned with Daniel Bryan and Jey Uso legal in the ring. Bryan began his sequence of Yes kicks. Jey ducked the final blow and tagged in Jimmy, unbeknownst to Bryan. The Usos hit double super kicks on Bryan and Jimmy covered him for a near fall. Jimmy climbed to the top rope for a splash, but Bryan got his knees up. He turned Jimmy over into the Labell Lock. Jimmy struggled for a moment, but rolled Bryan into a pinning combination. Bryan kicked out. Both men return to their feet quickly and Jimmy hit Bryan with a super kick. The second hour officially began with the two laying dormant in the ring.
Bryan rolled to his corner first, tagging in Rowan. Jimmy reached Jey just in time. Rowan charged at Jey, who hit a step kick from the apron. He climbed to the top turnbuckle and dived onto Rowan, but Rowan caught him in position for a fallaway slam. He hoisted Jey up into suplex position, and Jey slid down Rowan’s back. He hit a kick to the midsection. Jey bounced of the ropes, and Jimmy blind tagged in. Rowan grabbed Jey for the Iron Claw slam. Jimmy caught him with a super kick. Jey followed with one of his own. Then the duo hit super kicks in tandem.
Jey dove onto Bryan on the outside while Jimmy headed to the top turnbuckle. He hit a splash on Rowan for a believable near fall. Both men writhed in pain. Jey returned to his corner and Jimmy tagged him in. The two headed to opposite corners for a double splash. Bryan knocked Jimmy off his post. Jey hopped off the turnbuckle and charged at Bryan, who stood on the apron. Jey super kicked Bryan to the floor. Rowan charged at Jey, but Jey ducked and sent Rowan flying to the outside.
Both Usos recovered in the ring. They ran the ropes and dove through the middle to take out Rowan, but the big man caught them. He shoved Jimmy away, right into the flying knee from Bryan. Rowan tossed Jey into the ringside barrier, then back into the ring. Jey recovered. He super kicked Rowan, then turned around and super kicked Bryan, who had returned to the apron. Jey went for another kick on Rowan, but Rowan caught the leg. He grabbed Jey by the face and hit the Iron Claw for the pin.
WINNERS: Daniel Bryan & Rowan in 12:00 to become new WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champions
Shane McMahon returned to the ring with the Smackdown Tag Team titles. He handed them off to Bryan and Rowan, who celebrated their victory.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Very good match. Again, I’m hesitant to endorse this segment as a whole because of the ridiculous premise of the “Wild Card Rule”, but, viewing it in a vacuum, The Usos are exceptionally entertaining and, standing opposite of Bryan, it would’ve been hard for this match to disappoint and it certainly didn’t. The finish felt like a bit of a foregone conclusion, given that this wild card idea seems so half baked and arbitrary that it doesn’t feel like the intent is to move the titles around. Still, that didn’t detract from some good wrestling.)
-Bray’s third Firefly Fun House vignette aired, featuring the death of Rambling Rabbit at the hands of Mercy the Buzzard.
-Back from commercial, Shane McMahon was (again) in the ring, this time with the Money in the Bank briefcases on tables flanking him. “Pipe it down, please” said Shane to no discernible crowd noise. Shane said he has a very important job, unlike the audience, and he’d appreciate if they’d allow him to do it. He delivered the usual talking points about winning the Money in the Bank ladder match. The Miz rushed the ring and attacked Shane from behind. Shane tried to escape, but Miz slammed him into the ringside barricade and chased him up the ramp. Shane dragged himself away from Miz, pleading for mercy. Miz did not relent.
Suddenly, The B Team burst onto the stage and attacked The Miz. They briefly held the advantage, but Miz quickly overpowered them both and took them out. Shane McMahon returned with a steel chair and cracked Miz in the back from behind. He hit him a second, then a third time. Shane dropped the chair at Miz’s side and stared down at him. Corey said that Miz may have started it tonight, but Shane would finish it at Money in the Bank.
-The camera cut to Daniel Bryan and Rowan walking backstage with the Smackdown Tag titles. Bryan told Rowan they needed to fix the belts. They ran into Otis and Tucker, Heavy Machinery. Otis congratulated the new champions. The teams engaged in a brief stare down before Bryan and Rowan walked off.
-Ember Moon headed to the ring for women’s tag team action. Phillips threw to picture in picture commercial, where Carmella and Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville made their respective entrances.
(3) EMBER MOON & CARMELLA vs. SONYA DEVILLE & MANDY ROSE
The show returned to full screen just as the bell rang. Sonya and Carmella, freshly blonde, started things out. Deville hit a quick spear on Carmella for a two count, then tagged in Mandy Rose. Mandy taunted Carmella, slapping her face and head repeatedly. Carmella quickly dropped her, then tagged in Ember Moon. Moon knocked Sonya off the apron then delivered a flurry of kicks to Rose. Ember hit a quick fallaway slam.
Mandy retreated to the corner, where Moon crushed her with a running back elbow. Rose stepped out of the corner and Moon hit a cross body with a cover. Deville quickly broke up the pin. Carmella hopped in the ring and super kicked Deville. Mandy Rose rook Carmella out with a bicycle kick. Moon charged and hit Rose with a running enziguri. Mandy quickly rolled to the outside. Moon looked to the crowd then darted to the ropes and dove through on the opposite side, trying to tag out both opponents. Mandy Rose moved, but Moon still connected with Sonya. Mandy hit a bicycle knee on Moon and tossed her back in the ring. She set Moon up and connected with her Bed of Roses finisher for the pin fall victory.
WINNERS: Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose in 3:00
The camera quickly cut to the entrance way as Paige’s music played. She walked out onto the stage flanked by Asuka and Kairi Sane. Paige congratulated Sonya and Mandy, saying she used to represent them when they “meant something.” Paige said she traded up with Asuka and Kairi Sane, and that they were going to start tearing up the tag team division – starting with Deville and Rose next week.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Not much to this one, though the action was entertaining when Moon was on offense. As a general rule of thumb, I dislike the heavy-handed 50/50 booking leading into Money in the Bank ladder matches and this isn’t an exception. Asuka and Kairi Sane continue to be an intriguing team, though I still think they’re best suited as singles stars. Next week’s booking should be interesting, given that both teams are on separate, upward trajectories.)
-The camera cut backstage where Kayla Braxton stood in front of the interview set. She welcomed Matt Hardy. She recounted the Hardys plight at the hands of Lars Sullivan. Matt told Kayla that Jeff had successful surgery and will be back better than ever. R-Truth wandered on screen. Hardy asked Truth, “what’s up?” Truth said he forget. Matt correctly guessed it was about Lars Sullivan. Truth said he didn’t want to remember. He told Matt that Sullivan is vicious, and unlike anyone he’s ever faced. “You get caught, you get got,” Truth said.
Matt turned back to Kayla as the camera pulled out to reveal Lars Sullivan standing behind R-Truth. Kayla quickly took off. Hardy turned around and squared up to Lars. Sullivan head butted Truth, then threw Hardy through the bathroom door adjacent to the set. Truth drove his body into Sullivan’s mid section and Lars didn’t budge. Sullivan hoisted Truth up and power bombed him through a nearby table. The camera focused on Lars huffing angrily as the show faded to commercial.
-Todd Phillips congratulated the company on winning top honor at the Shorty Awards for social media presence.
-The the aforementioned plug faded into a backstage promo for Aleister Black. He said stoic against a black backdrop in front of the camera. Sparse lighting filled the room this time. Black said he arrogantly sits before us as wrath and salvation. He apologized to his opponents for his “over compensatory need to prevail at your expense.” He called them the embodiment of the sins of which he speaks. He then asked for forgiveness of his own sins and said he’d seek absolution for them in the form of victory.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Getting a little too wordy here. I like a profound soliloquy from time to time, but Black is too fresh and too vulnerable to be presented in this fashion without being given a chance to go out in the ring and do what he does best. This is not the way this character got over in NXT, and it won’t be the way it gets over on the main roster.)
-Back in the arena, A.J. Styles headed to the ring for the triple threat main event. The announcers teased Styles’ match with Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank. Sami Zayn’s entrance followed. He danced to the ring obnoxiously, per usual. WWE Champion Kofi Kingston entered last, carrying a huge plate of pancakes with Xavier Woods at his side. In the ring, Kofi tossed pancakes to the crowd as the show went to commercial.
-Back from break, Greg Hamilton gave each of the three competitors their formal ring introduction. Kingston held up the title proudly before handing it over to the referee. The crowd broke into a small “Kofi” chant.
(4) KOFI KINGSTON (w/ Xavier Woods) vs. A.J. STYLES vs. SAMI ZAYN – Triple Threat match for the WWE Title
All three men jockeyed for position. Zayn ran his mouth at both his opponents. Styles teased an alliance with Kofi, but kicked him in the chest. A rush of action sent Zayn spilling to the outside quickly. Kofi took down AJ then hit a springboard body splash for a two count. Zayn returned to the ring and attacked Kofi, then quickly retreated.
Styles hit a backbreaker on Kofi. Zayn rushed him, but Styles fought him off. A.J. chopped Sami in the corner. Kofi rolled up A.J. from behind, but A.J. kicked out at two. Kofi backed himself into the corner. Styles charged at him, but Kingston hit him with a boot to the face. Kingston hopped to the top rope. He flew off the top with a frog splash onto a standing, bent A.J. Styles, who crumpled awkwardly under the weight. Kingston covered him for a near fall.
Sami Zayn quickly attacked Kingston from behind. He hit a number of punches and bounced around the ring in a boxer’s stance. Meanwhile, Styles stood up in the corner. Sami whipped Kofi into Styles. He charged both men, but Kofi blasted out with a clothesline. Zayn quickly recovered and Styles shot out of the corner with a clothesline as well. Zayn rolled back to the outside.
Styles and Kingston traded a handful of punches. Kofi took A.J. down and hit the Boom Drop. He set up for Trouble in Paradise. Sami Zayn tripped up Kofi from behind, then dumped Styles on the apron. Phillips sent the show to commercial.
Back live, Zayn had the champion down in the ring. Kofi fought slowly to his feet. He hopped onto Zayn;s shoulders, but Sami countered with a sit out power bomb pinning combination for a two count. Styles returned to the ring, but was quickly overcome by a flourishing Zayn. Sami raked Styles’s eyes to maintain control. Zayn continued his dominance, setting up and successfully executing a top rope superplex on Kofi Kingston for a two count.
All three men struggled to get to their feet. Zayn hoisted Styles to the top rope and tried to superplex him as well. Styles slipped through his grasp. He set Sami up for his own top rope maneuver. A.J. connected with a hurricanrana off the top rope, then quickly followed it up with Ushigoroshi on Kingston. He met Sami with an elbow out of the corner and then set him up for a reverse DDT. Kingston returned to the fold, and Styles grabbed him too. Kofi countered, hitting the SOS on Styles, who took Zayn down with him in a reverse DDT. All three men laid flat on the mat. The crowd began a “New Day Rocks” chant at the encouragement of Xavier Woods.
Kingston and Styles traded punches. Styles hit Kofi with the Pele Kick, then set up for the Phenomenal Forearm. Kofi caught him coming off the top rope, and hit Trouble in Paradise, sending Styles crashing to the outside.
Kevin Owens ran to the ring and attacked Xavier Woods from behind at ringside. He threw Woods repeatedly into the screen attached to the ring apron, and then into the steel steps. Kingston was distracted. Sami Zayn grabbed him and hit the Blue Thunder Bomb. Kofi kicked out at the last moment for a near fall. Owens left ringside as this occurred. Zayn hit a second Blue Thunder Bomb, but Kingston kicked out again.
Sami pulled Kofi to his feet and hit a third Blue Thunder Bomb, this time adding leverage to the pin. Kingston kicked out a third time. Zayn became visibly frustrated. He watched as Kingston dragged himself to the corner, setting up for the Helluva Kick. Zayn charged, but Kofi exploded out at him with Trouble in Paradise. He covered Zayn for the three count.
WINNER: Kofi Kingston in 18:00 to retain the WWE Title
Kofi quickly rolled to the outside to tend to Xavier Woods, who was still suffering the effects of Kevin Owens’ attack. Kayla Braxton approached Kofi on the outside and asked him if Kevin Owens was in his head. “Kevin Owens is not in my head,” Kofi said. He said there would be hell to pay at Money in the Bank as the show faded to black.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Another very good match, general principle of the whole thing aside. Owens’ brief interference was impactful and logical and didn’t detract from the match. Zayn, despite being the vocal representation for Vince McMahon’s not-so-private disdain for the audience, is still a pleasure to watch in the ring. Again, the outcome here felt largely inherent due to the ongoing angle with Owens and the aforementioned arbitrary nature of this whole wild card rule. Nevertheless, strong WWE title defenses aren’t necessarily a bad thing, even if the route to them is pretty senseless.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m of two minds about this show. In a vacuum, most of the action was above average for weekly television, none of the promos were overly dull (though Shane had a little too much screen time), and the general construction of the show led to a pretty enjoyable two hours of wrestling. Becky Lynch and Charlotte, though conspicuous by their absence, will likely benefit from a week off. Despite missing a lot of talent (for no specifically outlined reasons), the show moved along at a nice pace. In full context, though, the wild card rule is, as I mentioned earlier, wildly counterproductive. Good wrestling is good wrestling, but I can get that virtually anywhere at virtually any time. This hotshot booking completely defies the logical narrative WWE has constructed over the better part of the last three years and its frustrating to watch these shows continue to devolve on a week to week basis.