SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
MAY 14, 2019
LONDON, ENGLAND AT 02 ARENA
AIRED ON TAPE DELAY ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Todd Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The show opened with a sweeping crane shot of the O2 in London as Todd Phillips welcome the audience to the show. Roman Reigns music hit and he stepped out onto the stage, soaking in the scene. A strong reaction of mostly cheers with some scattered boos filled the arena. Clips from Roman’s tag team match last night on Raw were shown.
Reigns said he has unfinished business that he planned to take care of tonight on Smackdown. He welcome The Miz back to Smackdown, courtesy of the wild card rule. Miz headed to the ring. He thanked Roman for the invitation to Smackdown and said it was good to be back in London. Miz said that in five days, he’d get his retribution on Shane McMahon, because what Shane has done is unforgivable and unforgettable. Shane McMahon’s music hit.
Shane danced onto the stage, flanked by Elias. “Just because Roman Reigns invited you here, doesn’t make you the wild card, Miz,” Shane said. Shane used his “executive privilege” to band Miz from Smackdown.
Elias took the microphone and said Roman can make any joke about him that he wants, but at Money in the Bank, Elias is going to show Reigns why Vince McMahon dubbed him the biggest draft acquisition in Smackdown history. He said he’d show Roman why WWE stands for “Walk with Elias.”
Shane said that he expected it would be tough to get Roman and Miz to leave, so he’ll have to make them leave. He and Elias started walking toward the ring, and Shane welcomed Daniel Bryan and Rowan to join them. The four men surrounded the ring.
Miz and Reigns stood back to back and awaited the attack. Shane gave the orders and the four entered the ring and began beating down Roman and Miz. The Usos music hit, and Jimmy and Hey rushed the ring, diving through the middle rope onto everyone on the outside. Rowan quickly leveled the Usos with a giant clothesline.
The heels briefly regained control, but Roman Reigns led the charge and helped clear the ring of the heels. Reigns, Miz, and the Usos stood tall as Reigns’ music played and the heels retreated up the ramp.
(LeClair’s Analysis: At this point, I think they’d be better off just ending the brand split. This ridiculous wild card rule isn’t shocking or surprising, its just a booking crutch and a lame attempt to drum interest in a product that is in disarray. Reigns and The Usos already feel overexposed, and it’s ridiculous seeing Jimmy and Jey play serious roles on Smackdown while clowning around with The Revival on Raw.)
-Byron Saxton teased Kofi Kingston as a guest on the KO Show later tonight.
-Back at ringside, Randy Orton headed to the ring for action. Phillips teased a Fatal 4 Way involving Smackdown’s Money in the Bank match competitors coming up after the break.
-The show returned with Daniel Bryan, Rowan, and Elias standing with Shane McMahon in the backstage area. Daniel Bryan said he and Rowan don’t care about the wild card rule. Elias says no one puts their hands on the greatest draft pick in Smackdown history. Shane announced that he would team with Bryan, Rowan, and Elias to take on Reigns and The Usos tonight. According to Shane, if Miz comes anywhere near the ring, he’ll lose his steel cage match against Shane at Money in the Bank.
-In the ring, Randy Orton stood next to a ladder. He said on Sunday, he’d climb the ladder and become Mr. Money in the Bank for the second time. He said “RKO” will be the three most dangerous letters for the WWE Champion.
Andrade entered with Zelina Vega. Vega said people are sensitive to spoilers nowadays. “Andrade and I don’t care about spoilers,” Zelina said. She claimed Andrade was going to spoil Money in the Bank right now. Andrade said he was going to win Money in the Bank.
Ali entered next. The announcers showed footage of his confrontation with Randy Orton on last week’s Smackdown. Finn Balor entered last as the announcers ran down the list of competitors in the Money in the Bank ladder match. The show went to picture-in-picture commercial.
(1) RANDY ORTON vs. FINN BALOR vs. ALI vs. ANDRADE (w/ Zelina Vega) – Fatal 4 Way match
The match began on the small screen during the commercial break. Chaos quickly ensued, with the action spilling to the outside. Balor paired off with Andrade while Ali dove onto Randy Orton on the outside. Eventually, Balor and Ali wound up in the ring alone and squared off. The two traded a couple of holds before Andrade and Orton returned to the action.
All four men spilled outside and Orton backdropped Andrade on top of the announcer’s desk (it didn’t break.) He bounded Ali’s head off the ringside steps and threw him into the ring. Back to full screen, Orton began stomping on Ali’s limbs.
Finn Balor returned to the apron and Orton tried to give him the hangman’s DDT. Ali rolled up Orton from behind for a two count Orton quickly returned to his feet and hit Ali with a snap powerslam. The crowd began an “RKO” chant. Ali fought back with a big dropkick and an elbow out of the corner. Ali headed to the middle rope. Orton saw it coming and hopped up for an RKO, but Ali caught himself and hit a DDT on Orton. He covered Randy, but Andrade broke up the attempt.
Ali and Andrade went at it briefly. Andrade gained the upper hand and tossed Ali to the outside. Balor returned to the ring and took Andrade down, following up with a standing double foot stomp. Orton came after Balor, but Finn caught him with the falling back elbow. Balor headed to the top rope, but Andrade knocked him off. Finn crumpled into the corner. Andrade hit his signature running double knees for a two count.
Zelina Vega instructed Andrade to pull a ladder out from underneath the ring. He heeded her advice. The announcers reminded the audience that everything is legal in Fatal 4 Way matches. Andrade hit Orton with the ladder, then Ali super kicked it back into Andrade’s face. Andrade rolled to the outside with the ladder. Ali dove over the top rope, but Andrade hit him with the ladder in the air. Ali crumbled to a heap on the floor and the show went to commercial.
Back from commercial, Andrade Irish whipped Finn Balor into a prone ladder in the corner. He ran at Finn, but the Intercontinental Champion shot out of the corner and hit Andrade with the sling blade. Balor dropkicked Andrade into the ladder. Ali returned and hit Finn with a face buster. He climbed to the top rope and attempted a 450 splash on Finn Balor. Balor rolled out of the way, and Ali completed his rotation, landing on his feet. Orton was waiting and dropped Ali with an RKO.
Andrade quickly took out Orton with a springboard dropkick. He followed it up by attempting the Hammerlock DDT on Balor. Finn rolled Andrade into a small package for a near fall. He clotheslined Andrade over the top to the floor. Finn dove over the top rope onto Ali and Orton. Andrade immediately grabbed Finn and threw him into the ringside steps, then back into the ring. He set Finn up, and executed the Hammerlock DDT for the victory.
WINNER: Andrade in 13:00
After the match, Ricochet ran to the ring and leaped onto the ladder to meet Andrade, who had climbed up to the briefcase. He knocked Andrade off the ladder, grabbed the briefcase, and left with it.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Fun match. Glad to see Andrade pick up a big win here, though not necessarily at the expense of Finn. Like I mentioned last week, I’m not particularly fond of the overt 50/50 booking utilized even more than usual when Money in the Bank season roles around, but it’s not something likely to change any time soon. Not a bad moment for Ricochet, either, despite the inherent complaints about the wild card rule.)
-A selfie promo from Carmella aired. She said the odds are in her favor at Money in the Bank, since she’s already won the match twice. She said it’s time for a three-peat.
-The announcers went over the competitors in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. Then, Todd Phillips teased a look back at the story of Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.
-The camera cut to an extreme close up of the WWE Championship and pulled back to reveal it propped on Kofi Kingston’s lap. Xavier Woods walked into Kofi’s dressing room. Kofi asked Woods to hang back during the KO Show because he still isn’t one hundred percent. Woods reluctantly agreed. Kofi said he’s going to turn the KO Show into the Kofi Kingston show. The shot faded to commercial.
-Charlotte Flair headed to the ring as Todd Phillips threw to clips from the Women’s Title contract signings on last night’s Raw.
Charlotte said Money in the Bank will be the culmination of her rivalry with Becky Lynch, and that it will end with her becoming Smackdown Women’s Champion. She awkwardly pointed to the tron, and a video package highlighting the pair’s storied history, friendship and rivalry aired, beginning in NXT in 2014. Interspersed were brief interview clips with both Lynch and Flair discussing their various accomplishments.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Strong video. I’m not going to cover it beat for beat, but, like most comprehensive WWE video packages, it’s worth taking a look at. Weird that they brought Charlotte to the ring just to introduce the video, though.)
-The announcers quickly hyped both of Becky Lynch’s title matches at Money in the Bank.
-Backstage, Lacey Evans stood in front of a vanity mirror. She called out, “hello?” to no one in particular. She turned to the camera. She said people are too busy watching reruns of the Becky/Charlotte feud, and not paying attention to the match Becky is going to lose. She said after Money in the Bank, Becky will have a new nickname – “Becky Black Eye.” Lacy said she’d have a new nickname too, Raw Women’s Champion.
-The camera cut back to a wide shot of the crowd as Shane McMahon’s music hit. Shane danced to the ring as Greg Hamilton delivered his signature ring introduction. Phillips said it was Shane’s first match on Smackdown, and in London, in many years. The show went to commercial.
-Aleister Black sat in front of a black canvas background, doused in white spotlights. Black spoke about the struggle between ambition, and who one pursues their goals. Aleister said, for the opponents who attempt to get into his head, “you will not like the place the you try to venture into.” The camera zoomed in and the spotlights faded out. Black delivered his closing line, “fade to black.”
-Back in the arena, The Usos headed to the ring, followed by Roman Reigns. Shane, Bryan, Rowan, and Elias looked on from inside the ring.
(2) SHANE McMAHON & ELIAS & DANIEL BRYAN & ROWAN vs. ROMAN REIGNS & THE USOS (Jimmy & Jey) – 4-on-3 Handicap match
Hour two began just as the bell rang. The two teams stood at opposite corners and discussed who would begin. The heels settled on Daniel Bryan, the babyfaces on Jimmy Uso. Bryan crawled around the ring on all fours before grabbing Jimmy in a waist lock. The two traded holds. Bryan shoulder tackled Jimmy. Jimmy chopped Bryan twice. Bryan fell into Jimmy’s corner and Jey tagged himself in.
Jey gave Bryan a snapmare into a cover. Bryan kicked out immediately. Daniel tagged in Elias. Elias Irish whipped Jey and set him over the top to the apron. Jey delivered a quick jumping kick to Elias. He dove off the top rope, but Elias ducked. Jey landed on his feet but appeared to tweak his leg. Elias tagged in Shane and Shane went to work on the injured leg of Jey Uso.
Shane tagged in Elias and Elias continued the assault, mocking Jimmy and Roman in the process. Bryan got the tag and hung Jey’s leg in the middle rope, utilizing the referee’s count all the way to four. Bryan set Jey up for a backdrop off the top rope. Jey elbowed Bryan to the mat. Elias tried to get involved, but Jey kicked him away. Bryan shoved Jey off the top to the outside. Jey bounced off the ringside barrier and the show went to commercial.
Rowan was dominating Jey when the show returned from commercial. He gave Jey a big splash, then dragged him to his corner and tagged in Elias. Elias tried to cover Jey a number of times, but Jey powered out. Elias tagged in Shane. Shane got too complacent, allowing Jey to recover enough to connect with an enziguri. Jey slowly crawled, then dove to his corner, making the hot tag to Roman Reigns.
Shane got the tag into Bryan as Reigns entered the ring. Reigns clobbered Bryan and knocked Elias off the apron. He cocked his fist and readied a Superman punch for Bryan. Roman senses Elias on the apron behind him, so he broke his stride and hit his with an uppercut. Reigns charged Bryan for the punch, but Bryan kicked him in the midsection. Bryan tagged in Rowan, who was immediately tagged out by Elias.
Elias hit a flurry of punches on Reigns, followed by a jumping knee to the face. He covered Roman for a two count. Elias tagged Rowan back into the match. After a brief exchange, Rowan elbowed Reigns to the mat. The show went to picture-in-picture commercial.
On the small screen, Rowan tagged Daniel Bryan. Bryan began delivering his signature Yes kicks to Reigns. He covered Reigns after the final blow, but Roman kicked out. Bryan tossed Roman outside the ring. Rowan took over, repeatedly throwing Roman into the ringside barrier. Bryan tagged in Elias, and Rowan threw Roman back in the ring.
Back from the break, Reigns mounted his comeback. He hit Elias with a Samoan Drop. Reigns made the tag to Jimmy Uso while Elias reached Daniel Bryan. Jimmy tried to super kick Bryan, but Daniel put on the breaks and caught himself in the ropes. The match broke open at this point. Jimmy hit quick, successive super kicks on Shane, Elias, and Rowan. He stumbled into his corner and tagged in Jey. Jimmy and Jey hit super kicks in tandem on Rowan. Rowan spilled to the outside.
Bryan came flying off the top rope and the Usos hit him with tandem super kicks. Jey covered Daniel, but Shane broke up the pin attempt. Elias hit Jey with the Drift Away. Jimmy hit Elias with a super kick. Bryan hit Jimmy with the running knee. Reigns broke up the cover at the last second. Rowan clotheslined Reigns to the outside. Rowan met him out there, charging around the ring. Reigns leaped off the steps and connected with a Superman Punch on Rowan.
Elias slammed Reigns into the ringside steps. In the ring, Shane McMahon set up for coast to coast on a downed Jey in the opposing corner. He connected for the three count.
WINNERS: Shane McMahon & Elias & Daniel Bryan & Rowan in 18:00
The Miz’s music hit and he rushed to the ring with a steel chair. He cracked Elias over the back, then hit Rowan in the stomach. The Usos hit Bryan with dual super kicks. Roman Reigns speared Rowan. Shane McMahon ran up the ramp, staring nervously at The Miz. Greg Hamilton announced Shane as “winner of the match, and best in the world.”
(LeClair’s Analysis: The first 10-12 minutes of this match were incredibly slow, but the final portion was quite entertaining. Like last week, the highlights came any time one of the Usos was paired off with Daniel Bryan. I guess it’s not the worst idea to have Shane pick ups a win every now and again if he’s competing semi-regularly, but it’s never something I’m outright hoping to see. This match was clearly designed to fill a lot of time, and it accomplished that goal while maintaining a respectable amount of excitement in the latter stages.)
-Bray Wyatt’s Firefly Fun House aired. Corey Graves teased it being a “new” edition earlier in the night, but it was the same vignette that aired last night on Raw. Bryan debuted what appears to be his new ring gear, complete with a rather menacing mask.
-“I don’t think I enjoyed that very much,” said Saxton, following the Bray vignette. Asuka and Kairi Sane headed to the ring, accompanied by Paige. The announcers teased their match against Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, coming up after the break.
-A selfie promo from Ember Moon aired. She said she’s wild, unpredictable, and without fear. She said on Sunday, she’ll risk it all to win it all, because “it’s my responsibility to manifest my own greatness.” Ember said every time she closes her eyes, she sees herself becoming Miss Money in the Bank.
-A selfie promo from Bayley followed. Bayley said the Money in the Bank ladder match is an opportunity for her to step out of the shadows and show that she’s more than just a hugger, and that she’s not the weak link. She said she’ll be the winner.
(LeClair’s Analysis: People. Don’t. Talk. Like. This. Ember’s promo was far more egregious than Bayley’s, but if you’re going to do “natural”, “in the moment”, hot take selfie promos, let the wrestlers craft their own dialogue. Sheesh.)
-At the announcers desk, Todd Phillips ran down major highlights of the Money in the Bank card. He also announced that The Usos vs. Daniel Bryan & Rowan would take place on the kickoff show (the tag titles don’t appear to be on the line.)
-In the ring, Asuka and Kairi Sane stood patiently with Paige. Phillips introduced Billie Kay and Peyton Royce as guest commentators. Paige, on microphone, said it was good to be home. She introduced the “fiercest addition to the women’s tag team division” and announced Asuka and Kairi Sane as “The Kabuki Warriors.” This generated no reaction from the crowd. She said they were future WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions.
Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose entered as The Iiconics took offense to Paige’s declaration. Mandy told Paige to take it down a notch, because “it’s not as if you’re naming the royal baby.” Mandy and Sonya joked about the baby’s name. Mandy said names matter, and at Money in the Bank, they’ll be calling her Miss Money in the Bank. Rose said she and Sonya intend to challenge for the tag titles after she wins the contract. They said the Kabuki Warriors are not the future, and the future is not Iiconic. Peyton and Billie hammed up their facial expressions at the commentary table.
(3) ASUKA & KAIRI SANE (w/ Paige) vs. MANDY ROSE & SONYA DEVILLE
Asuka and Deville started the match off, trading some quick chain holds and takedowns. Asuka took control with a big hip check on Deville. She tagged in Kairi Sane and the duo began a double team sequence, ending in a facebuster/knee strike combo.
Deville rolled to the outside. Sane climbed out onto the apron and delivered a diving forearm on Mandy Rose. Sane placed Deville on the apron and Asuka hip-checked her back to the floor. Phillips threw to commercial break.
Back from commercial, Kairi Sane hit a cross body on Mandy Rose for a two count. She went for the sliding elbow into the corner, but Deville pulled Mandy out of the way. Mandy hit Kiss the Rose on Kairi for a near fall. Rose tagged in Deville. Sonya and Mandy isolated Kairi in their corner, trading tags and beating down Sane.
Sane mustered enough energy to kick Mandy and crawl to her corner. Rose tried to stop her, but Kairi broke free and tagged in Asuka. Asuka dropkicked Mandy Rose hard. She followed up with a knee to the face, then a release German suplex. She kicked Mandy in the face, then rolled her into the Asuka Lock. Sonya immediately broke the hold, then knocked Kairi off the apron.
Mandy crawled to her corner and tagged Sonya Deville. Deville kicked Asuka in the side repeatedly. Asuka caught the final kick and began with a series of her own. Sonya blocked the last one and hit Asuka with a spine buster. Mandy Rose begged Sonya to tag her in. Deville obliged, and Mandy went for the cover. Asuka rolled her over into a cross pin attempt and scored a three count, much to Sonya’s chagrin.
WINNERS: Asuka & Kairi Sane in 9:00
The camera fixated on Mandy Rose, who was shocked by the pin. Sonya was visibly frustrated, but mouthed “it’s fine” as Asuka and Kairi Sane left the ring, celebrating.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent match. Deville and Rose are improving, and they seem to work nicely with Asuka and Sane. Though I stress weekly that I’d rather see Asuka and Kairi as singles competitors, they certainly work well as a tag team and could prove to be branding anchors for a division that already seems to have fallen out of favor.)
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton shifted nervously, awaiting Lars Sullivan. The camera cut to a video package hyping Sullivan’s destruction to date.
Sullivan stood towering over Kayla. She looked up at him fearfully. She stumbled over her words, trying to ask Sullivan a question. She gave up, thanked Sullivan, and left.
-In another backstage area, Kevin Owens stood in front of a steel fence. He said we are moments away from a special edition of the Kevin Owens Show. He said he wants to ask Kofi Kingston whether or not he can stand on his own. He said he already knows the answer, and everyone else will too after Money in the Bank. He talked about which of Kofi’s limbs he may to choose to break on Sunday, but was interrupted by New Day’s music.
Kofi Kingston headed to the ring with a plate full of pancakes, cutting Owens’ backstage diatribe short. The announcers said Kingston wanted to one-up Owens and beat him out to his own show. Phillips threw to commercial break.
-In the ring, Kofi sat in a leather desk chair with his feet up on Owens’ chair’s arm rest. He said he received an invitation, and “here I am.” Kofi said at Money in the Bank, Owens will get his chance at him, and the WWE title. “What about tonight, Kevin?” Kofi pondered. He said he was on the Kevin Owens Show as a guest, and he wanted to introduce its host. Kofi pointed to the entranceway, but Owens didn’t appear. “We might rename the show to ‘The Kofi Show’,” Kingston teased.
Owens appeared on the tron, still backstage. “It’s lonely at the top, isn’t it?” Owens asked. He said for the first time, Kofi is on his own. He asked Kofi if he realized what happens when his dream ends. Kevin said Kofi is only WWE Champion because of New Day. Owens said on Sunday, Kofi is facing the most dangerous man in WWE. “Here is proof,” Owens said.
A KO-narrated video package aired, recounting the biggest moments of Owens’ career. It ended with footage of Owens giving Xavier Woods a power bomb on the ringside apron, and holding the WWE Title in the face of a prone Kofi Kingston.
Back in the arena, Kingston said he was tired of hearing Owens talk. He threw the chairs out of the ring, and disposed of the plate of pancakes. He told Owens to come out and face him. Owens’ music hit and he walked down the ramp, stopping feet from the ring. He turned around and began to leave. Owens reconsidered, turned back toward the ring, marched again, then decided against it. Kingston left the ring and met Owens on the ramp way.
The two traded punches. Suddenly, Sami Zayn blindsided Kofi from behind. Owens set up Kofi for an apron power bomb, but Xavier Wood rushed to ringside. Owens threw Woods into the ring post. Kofi fought valiantly against Zayn and Owens, but was overcome. KO threw him into the ring steps, then into the ring. Owens dumped Kofi in the corner. He held his face and told Kofi he wasn’t alone (referring to Sami.) Owens backed up and tried to deliver a cannonball, but Kofi moved out of the way.
Zayn immediately pounced on Kingston. Zayn tried to deliver the Heluva Kick, but Kingston ducked, causing Zayn hook himself on the ropes. Sami stumbled into Trouble in Paradise. “The champ may be on his own, but he’s the last man standing tonight,” Graves said. Owens retreated up the ramp as he and Kofi stared each other down and the show came to a close.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt like one of the weaker segments between these two. It wasn’t bad, but it felt like they were treading water heading into Sunday. I dislike Sami Zayn’s involvement here. Sami and Kevin have been so tied to one another (both as rivals and partners) for essentially the entirety of their WWE careers. I was excited to see them have some breathing space on separate brands, but now that’s been tossed out the window.)
FINAL THOUGHTS:By and large, this was a maintenance show on a go-home week. WWE has benefited from a long build to Money in the Bank, which is a considerable improvement over the usual post-WrestleMania Pay-Per-View that usually feels like a disjointed mess in the wake of the Superstar Shakeup. I’m used to sort of dreading these international tapings, but some above average wrestling made this a passable show despite all the flaws in the product.