WADE KELLER PODCAST - EARLY PREVIEW OF ROYAL RUMBLE 2020 MEN'S MATCH, PLUS 2019 AND 2010 LOOK-BACK ROUNDTABLES
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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
SEPTEMBER 10, 2019
NEW YORK, NY AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The show opened on a high and wide shot of Madison Square Garden. Before any formal introduction from Tom Phillips, the gong rang out, and the lights cut to black. The crowd cheered loudly with each toll. Greg Hamilton introduced The Undertaker as he made his slow walk to the ring. “There is no presence more chilling than the reaper himself,” Corey Graves said.
The announcers talked up Steve Austin’s appearance on Raw and parlayed his story about Summerslam 1998 into The Undertaker’s appearance tonight. The crowd sustained a spirited “Undertaker” chant.
Undertaker said he wanted to take a moment to take in the “hallowed grounds” of Madison Square Garden. He said he wanted everyone to remember the titans born, the legends who made their name, and the heroes created in the Garden. “It’s rewarding for me to know I took a little piece of each and every one of those souls with me,” Taker said. Undertaker said they’re ushering in a new brand of Superstar.
Sami Zayn’s music interrupted Undertaker. He danced out onto the stage. The crowd sang along to his theme, but he cut them off. Sami said he if knows one thing about New York, it’s that they respect legends. He called Undertaker a legend. Zayn said the most illustrious part of Undertaker’s legacy is his history in Madison Square Garden.
“I have the utmost respect for you, sir,” Zayn said, “however, it probably shouldn’t be you opening Smackdown in Madison Square Garden.” Zayn said it should’ve been him instead. “30 years is a long time, but when is enough enough?” Zayn asked. He told Undertaker that the future is now, and the future is Sami Zayn. Sami assured Undertaker that he wasn’t out there to “take him out.” He said he’s there out of respect.
“I’m asking you to turn around an leave this ring to me,” Zayn pleaded. He promised Undertaker the future is in good hands with him. Undertaker stared quizzically at Zayn. He handed his microphone to Sami and began to leave the ring. Zayn began celebrating. Undertaker turn his head and stepped back in the ring.
Zayn looked shocked. Undertaker grabbed Sami by the throat and delivered a chokeslam. Zayn convulsed on the mat as The Undertaker left the ring slowly.
(LeClair’s Analysis: The Undertaker’s appearances simply don’t mean much anymore, especially when they’re very clearly without purpose. The live crowd got a pop out of seeing Taker chokeslam Zayn, but this segment took up fifteen plus minutes to accomplish absolutely nothing. It’s not egregious, or even particularly bad, it just felt like a waste of time.)
-Shane McMahon was shown backstage, watching Undertaker leave the arena on a monitor. Chad Gable entered the office. Shane complimented Gable on his success in the King of the Ring tournament. He informed Gable of Elias’s broken angle. Gable assumed he’d receive a bye. Shane informed Gable he would be competing. Shane said he hasn’t determined Chad’s opponent yet, but he’ll figure it out soon.
-Back in the arena, The Miz’s music played. He revealed a New York themed t-shirt as he headed to the ring. Phillips said he’d face Andrade after the break.
Andrade and Zelina Vega were already in the ring when the show returned from commercial. Tom Phillips introduced Shinsuke Nakamura, who had joined the announcers at ringside.
(1) THE MIZ vs. ANDRADE (w/ Zelina Vega)
Miz and Andrade locked up and Andrade backed Miz into the corner. They battled out, then exchanged arm locks and drags. Andrade backed Miz into the ropes, then gave him a stiff chop. Andrade laid in the ropes to taunt Miz. Miz charged, but Andrade ducked out then rolled up Miz for a quick one count.
Andrade ran at Miz, but Miz used his legs to catapult Andrade over the top rope to the floor below. Miz went to bounce of the ropes, but Zelina hopped up to distract him. This allowed Andrade to slip back in the ring and run at Miz, who sidestepped. Andrade nearly knocked Zelina off the apron, but caught himself. Miz rolled Andrade up for a two count.
Zelina grabbed at Miz’s hair This allowed Andrade to recover and dropkick Miz in the corner. He stomped away at Miz, then hit the double running knees for a two count. Phillips sent the show to picture-in-picture commercial.
Andrade maintained control on the small screen. He set up Miz for the Three Amigos. Andrade connected with the first two, but Miz blocked the third and countered it with a suplex of his own. Both men returned to their feet. Andrade tossed Miz to the outside then followed him to the floor. Miz and Andrade traded chips on the outside. Andrade tossed Miz into the barricade, then threw him back into the ring.
Andrade slapped on a headlock, but Miz quickly fought out. Andrade tried to give him a back drop, but Miz flipped out of it, caught Andrade with a kick, then hit a DDT. The show returned to full screen as both men returned slowly to their feet.
Miz and Andrade traded shots and chops. Miz caught Andrade with a running knee to the gut, followed by a backbreaker-neckbreaker combo. He covered Andrade, who kicked out at two. Miz began delivering the “it” kicks. He wound up for the final blow, but Andrade ducked it.
Corey began asking Shinsuke Nakamura questions on commentary, but Nakamura answered in Japanese. In the ring, Miz hit a series of jumping knees on Andrade. Andrade tried to retaliate with one of his own, but Miz sidestepped and sent Andrade crashing to the floor. Miz hit a sliding dropkick through the ropes.
Miz hopped outside and tossed Andrade into Shinsuke Nakamura, taking both men down. He retrieved Andrade and tossed him back in the ring. Zelina grabbed at Miz’s leg, distracting him. Andrade recovered and caught Miz with a big boot, followed by his spinning back elbow for a near fall.
Andrade climbed to the top rope and went for a moonsault. Miz rolled out of the way. Andrade landed on his feet and back flipped into Miz’s arms, who collapsed into the turnbuckle. Miz quickly recovered and connected with the Skull Crushing Finale for a three count.
WINNER: The Miz in 10:00
Shinsuke Nakamura attacked Miz as soon as the bell rang. He sized Miz up, then hit him with the Kinshasa. Nakamura paced slowly around the ring as his music played.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match. Andrade had to be the designated fall guy here to get Miz a win before his title match at Clash of Champions. Nakamura’s presence at the commentary table was seemingly forgotten about until about 8 minutes in. I’m not sure if that was done on purpose, or they genuinely did just forget to include him in any capacity. Andrade continues his string of good matches on TV.)
-Apollo Crews and Matt Hardy were shown chatting in a locker room backstage. Shane McMahon approached and asked if they’d seen Chad Gable. Shane made a height joke. Gable approached. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t see you there,” Gable said. He asked if Shane had found his opponent. Shane said he’s right outside the locker room, and he’s someone Elias approves. He stepped off screen, then immediately returned, revealing himself to be the opponent. “You get to take on the best in the world, see ya out there!” Shane said excitedly.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Well, we made it through a week without Shane McMahon. Evidently, they’re making up for it this week. He’s already been involved in two segments, and he’ll be wrestling later in the night. The Gable height jokes continue, and they’re not getting any better.)
-Mandy Rose headed to the ring with Sonya Deville at her side. Phillips said she’d face Nikki Cross after the break.
-Mandy Rose stood in the ring with a microphone when the show returned from break. Tom Phillips teased the women’s tag team title match for Clash of Champions while Graves continued to gush over Mandy Rose.
Mandy said she’d be embarrassed if she walked around in public looking like Nikki Cross. She called herself beautiful and Cross ugly. She put a side by side image of herself next to Nikki Cross on the screen. Rose said handsome men hold doors open for her, and slam them shut on Nikki. Mandy said Nikki looks like an oversized rat that crawls out of the Lincoln tunnel.
Rose trailed off awkwardly, obviously out of script. Alexa Bliss’s music hit, a couple of seconds too late. Bliss stood atop the stage and pointed to the back. Nikki’s music hit. She sprinted to the ring and immediately attacked Mandy Rose. The referee separated the two.
(2) MANDY ROSE (w/ Sonya Deville) vs. NIKKI CROSS (w/ Alexa Bliss)
The referee separated Rose and Cross long enough to ring the bell. Cross immediately pounced.She pounded away at Mandy. Mandy tried to escape through the ropes, but Nikki pulled her back, then jumped on her back. Mandy dumped Cross in the corner to break herself free.
Cross hit the ropes, but Mandy caught her with a fallaway slam, covering her for a two count. Rose backed Cross into the corner and stomped at her midsection. Out of the corner, Mandy hit a snapmare and then cranked at Nikki’s neck. “You will never look like me!” Rose screamed.
Graves argued feverishly in favor of Rose’s declaration of superior beauty while Saxton tried helplessly to get a word of defense for Nikki into the conversation. In the ring, Cross bounced Rose’s head off the turnbuckle repeatedly.She followed up with a clothesline and a running bulldog out of the corner.
Nikki climbed to the top rope. Sonya Deville hopped on the apron to distract her. Alexa Bliss pulled Deville off. Nikki dove, but Mandy ducked. Mandy tried to hit her running knee, but Cross slipped out of the way and rolled up Mandy for a quick three count.
WINNER: Nikki Cross in 3:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: The match was mostly fine, but, like most matches involving Mandy Rose, this came off as over-choreographed. She has not quite figured out her timing, so everything seemed overly scripted. Her gimmick is immensely tired and it doesn’t seem to work with the crowd on virtually any level. We get it. She’s a hot blonde who thinks she’s hotter than everyone else. Yawn.)
Bliss celebrated with Nikki on the outside while Rose regrouped with Sonya in the ring.
-The announcers talked up an upcoming Kofi Kingston segment, as well as a word from Rowan heading into Clash of Champions.
-Backstage, Heavy Machinery were shown dumping an assortment of ingredients into a blender to make a smoothie. Otis took a big sip to get hyped up. Saxton said they’d be in action next.
-A video package for Connor’s Cure aired, then Phillips shared relevant donation info.
-Backstage, Ember Moon approached Bayley while the latter was mulling about her bag in a locker room. Bayley asked if there was a problem. Ember called out Bayley for attacked Becky with a chair after their conversation about elevating the division. She said it must be “Sasha’s influence.”
Bayley said she’s the same person she’s always been. “I did what I did for the division.” Bayley said it’s not just about Sasha, but it’s about the Smackdown women’s title too. Ember questioned her line of thinking. “You’re better than that. This is about you struggling to be relevant as a champion.” Bayley asked Ember what she knows about being champion. Moon argued that she know this isn’t how a champion is supposed to act, then challenged Bayley to a match. Bayley accepted. The camera then lingered way too long on a scornful looking Ember Moon staring off in the direction Bayley just exited.
-Back in the arena, Heavy Machinery headed to the ring for a tag team match. Their opponents were introduced by on screen graphics.
(3) HEAVY MACHINERY (Tucker Knight & Otis Dozovic) vs. JOHNNY SILVER & ALEX KEATON
Alex Keaton began the match with Tucker Knight. Tucker grabbed a waist lock and dropped Keaton to the mat. He tossed him around a couple of times, then hit him with a body slam. Tucker did a handstand over Keaton, then took him down with a hip toss. Keaton tagged in Johnny Silver.
Tucker hit Silver with a hip toss, then gave Keaton a big boot. Keaton retreated to the corner. Tucker tossed Silver into Keaton, who bounced back into a huge clothesline that turned him inside out. Tucker pointed toward Otis and looked to the crowd for encouragement. They came to life slowly, and Tucker tagged in Otis.
Otis dropped Silver with a shoulder tackle, then set up for the caterpillar. He dropped his singlet. “It gets the people going, it’s provocative!” Phillips exclaimed, and I swear he was channeling a Vince McMahon impression. Otis hit the caterpillar, then tagged in Tucker. They hit the compactor for the pin.
WINNERS: Heavy Machinery in 2:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Kudos to WWE for finally announcing the names of the opponents in a squash match. The crowd wasn’t coming up for Tucker the way he wanted when he signaled for the tag, which made for a bit of an awkward moment. These guys were far more over when they were involved in a meaningful storyline rather than just involved in squash matches after being put on the back burner for a few months.)
-Shane McMahon was shown in his office backstage. Kevin Owens walked on screen. Shane told Kevin he’s willing to get rid of the $100,00 he imposed against Kevin Owens. “What’s the catch?” Kevin asked. Shane said there was no catch, but then draped a referee shirt over Owens’ shoulder. He said becoming King of the Ring is very important to him “If you do your job correctly, that fine will be gone. Catch my drift?” Owens shook his head in disgust and walked off camera.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Even if Owens winds up saying “screw it” and taking the fine by failing to comply, he’s been done a great disservice by ever groveling to McMahon in the first place. This babyface character was riding such a high, and he’s lost an unbelievable amount of momentum in the last few weeks by simply acting like the gracious employee bowing to the McMahon’s feet.)
-A video packaged aired recapping the Daniel Bryan/Roman Reigns/Erick Rowan saga to date.
-Erick Rowan headed to the ring. He looked around at the crowd. He said people don’t seem to “get him.” The crowd began pelting him with “what” chants. Rowan said he’s a mastermind, a manipulator, and a schemer. Rowan accused the crowd of only seeing a big brute who victimizes and brutalizes. Roman Reigns’ music cut Rowan off.
Reigns walked to the ring with purpose. He charged at Rowan and hit him with a Superman Punch. Rowan spilled to the outside, but quickly returned to his feet. Reigns left the ring and charged at him, but Rowan took him out with a big boot. Reigns fought to his feet and the two spilled into the crowd, trading blows.
They made their way around the floor section, back to the other barricade. Reigns hopped over and officials tried to hold him back. He broke free and gave Rowan another Superman Punch. Rowan stumbled back, then grabbed a “fan.” He lifted the fan up and powerbombed him over the barricade, onto Roman Reigns and security.
Officials backed Rowan away. He circled the ring then charged at Reigns again, throwing himself wildly. He dragged Reigns up the ramp. Reigns gave him a couple of shots. Rowan took Roman down and began slamming his head into the ramp.
Reigns returned to his feet while officials continued to talk Rowan down. Reigns hit Rowan with a third Superman Punch, then continued to punch him. Rowan fought Reigns off. He grabbed the jib camera and swing it into Reigns’ head, knocking down Roman and officials like bowling pins. Rowan screamed “Sunday!” as the remaining officials and referees finally corralled him to the back.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a decent brawl. The fan spot looked neat on camera, but I question whether it was a wise decision. No one, of course, actually believes that this was a hapless fan sitting at ringside, but regardless. The fact that it happened, and then was quickly glossed over in favor of continuing the brawl, is the wrong message to send. The announcers, while upset, were not nearly as distraught as they should’ve been at the idea of Rowan acting violently toward a fan. This part just didn’t work.)
-Rowan was shown pacing backstage when the show returned for commercial. He repeated “Roman” to himself, over and over.
-At the announcers desk, Phillips, Graves, and Saxton ran down the Clash of Champions card, then welcomed Charlotte Flair to the commentary table.
-Bayley headed to the ring for her match. Ember Moon followed her. Corey Graves talked up Charlotte and teased her match with Bayley at Clash of Champions.
(4) BAYLEY vs. EMBER MOON
Ember Moon dropkicked Bayley as soon as the bell rang. Bayley shot to her feet and the two engaged in a quick athletic exchange before Bayley rolled to the outside. Ember hopped out to join her. Bayley tossed Ember into the barricade. Ember recovered and jumped up onto the barricade, but Bayley kicked her off. Phillips sent the show to picture-in-picture commercial.
On the small screen, Bayley rolled Ember back into the ring and began working on her neck. She applied a headlock, but Ember broke free fairly quickly. Bayley shot Ember into the corner and charged. Ember hopped out of it and caught Bayley with a loose codebreaker.
Both women recovered slowly as the show returned to full screen. They traded chops. Ember caught Bayley with a pair of kicks, then an enziguri. Both women shot off the ropes, and Ember hit Bayley with a cross body for a quick two count.
Ember rolled up Bayley for a two count, then hoisted her into a powerbomb position. Bayley fought out and into a hurricanrana. Bayley tossed Ember to the outside, then went to dive through the bottom rope. Ember caught her with a swift kick, cutting her off.
Ember hopped onto the top rope and went for the Eclipse. She dove, but Bayley moved out of the way. Ember rolled through it. Bayley snatched her quickly and hit the Bayley to Belly for a three count.
WINNER: Bayley in 5:00
Charlotte climbed in the ring and approached Bayley, clapping. She motioned for the title around her waist. Bayley smiled and backed away slowly.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was too quick to be much of anything. Half of the match took place on the small screen. Bayley showed a bit of an aggressive streak at the beginning, but nothing that was really all that heelish. Charlotte added nothing on commentary. Neither of these women are really playing heel or babyface, and it’s making the match harder to get behind. It’s hard to believe that Ember was presented as a legitimate challenger just a couple of months ago.)
-Kevin Owens was shown sitting on some crates backstage, deep in thought. The announcers said he’d have plenty on his mind as the referee of tonight’s King of the Ring semi final match.
-At the announcers desk, Phillips discussed the rivalry between Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton. He threw to clips from last week’s Smackdown, when Orton beat down Kofi again with the help of The Revival.
-Kofi Kingston was shown walking down a hallway filled with wrestling photos from Madison Square Garden. Saxton said he’d relive his own MSG moment after the break.
-New Day’s music played as the show returned from commercial. Hamilton introduced Kofi Kingston as he bounced to the ring, tossing out pancakes from behind his WWE title.
-Kofi said it was great to back in the world’s most famous arena. He said it will always hold a special place in his heart. “It was here that my career changed forever,” Kofi said. Kingston explained that MSG is where he decided to first step up to Randy Orton and “whoop him all over the damn building.”
Kofi said the icing on the cake was putting Randy through a table. “The entire city of New York was chanting my name,” Kofi said. The crowd broke into a loud “Kofi” chant. “I knew that one day I would be back here at Madison Square Garden standing before you all as your WWE Champion. That day has come!” Kingston said triumphantly.
Kofi said some people might be too young to know what happened, or some may have forgotten. He threw to a clip of the moment he drove Orton through a table ten years ago on Raw.
“That’s just a very small taste of what I’m going to do to Randy Orton at Clash of Champions.” Randy Orton interrupted him, yelling “stupid” repeatedly. Randy appeared just to the left of the entrance, near the crowd. Orton said he’s tired of listening to Kofi talk about the only two things he’s done in ten years – put him through a table and win the WWE title.
Orton recounted his accomplishments over the last ten years. He said none of that matters. “What matters is I’m taking that title from you this Sunday,” Orton said. He called out Kofi for his fake Jamaican accent and dreadlocks, and that “phony power of positivity bullshit.” The audio went silent for the last part, though Orton’s lips were visible.
Orton and Kofi stared at each other in silence for several moments, almost as though the mics had been cut. Kofi put down his mic and slowly removed his jacket. He dropped his title in the ring, and left it to approach Orton near the entranceway. Kofi ran at Orton, but Orton caught him in the stomach with a steel chair. He beat Kofi repeatedly out on the floor.
Orton tossed Kofi into the exposed barricade, then dragged him to a table near the lower loge stairwell. Kofi slid off the table and battled back. He grabbed the chair and cracked Orton over the back. He pulled the table away from the stairway.
Orton attacked Kingston again and tossed him onto the table. He grabbed the chair. Orton swung, but Kofi kicked Orton in the gut. The table collapsed under Kofi’s weight. Kingston recovered and fired shots at Orton.
Kingston shoved some lights out of the way and pulled a second table away from the stairway. Kofi lifted Orton onto the table and hit him with the chair again. He climbed the stairway into the lower level, then climbed up on the railing. He hit the diving boom drop just as he did ten years ago.
Kofi climbed back up onto the railing to celebrate as the fans cheered.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good segment. It worked out rather conveniently that they happened to be holding TV at Madison Square Garden heading into a match that actually has relevant history in the building. Recreating the boom drop moment was a great move, it got a good pop for the crowd, and it was a great rewarding call back for those who remember the original moment a decade ago.)
-Kevin Owens was already in the ring, donning a referee shirt when the show returned from commercial. Chad Gable’s music played and he headed to the ring. Shane McMahon followed, carrying his “Best in the World” trophy. Shane approached the throne and carefully placed the crown inside the top of his cup. Greg Hamilton delivered his usual introduction for Shane.
(5) CHAD GABLE vs. SHANE McMAHON – King of the Ring tournament semi-final match, special guest referee Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens rang the bell. Shane McMahon dropped to his knees to be “level” with Gable. Gable shrugged it off. Shane jumped at Gable and gave him a couple of quick jabs to the stomach. Gable took Shane down with a waist lock takeover, then immediately lifted him into a bridging German Suplex. Kevin Owens counted to three very quickly.
Gable left the ring quickly. Owens raised his hand as Shane looked on in shock. Shane left the ring and grabbed a microphone. He said the match is now two out of three falls. Owens threw up his hands.
Gable came back to ringside to talk to Owens. Shane immediately attacked him from behind. He slammed Gable’s head off the announcers desk repeatedly, then tossed him into the timekeeper’s area. Phillips said the second fall would continue after the break.
Gable was struggling on the outside when the show returned from break. Shane was imploring Owens to count him out. Gable was able to make it back into the ring. Shane taunted the crowd while Gable recovered.
Gable caught Shane in a crucifix pin. Owens dropped to the mat and thoroughly checked both of Shane’s shoulders before reluctantly beginning to count. Shane kicked out at one. Gable looked on at Owens, distraught. Shane kicked Gable in the head.
Shane rolled up Gable and Owens tried to execute a fast count, but Gable kicked out at two. Shane continued to kick and punch Gable. Gable fought back with shots of his own. He caught Shane with a rolling kick to the back of the neck, followed by a spinning neck breaker. Gable climbed slowly to the top rope. He dove onto Shane for a moonsault.
Owens counted slowly, allowing Shane to kick out at two. Owens looked disgusted with himself. Shane caught Gable with a guillotine off the top rope. He covered Gable and Owens went for a fast count again, but Gable kicked out. Shane retrieved a chair from ringside.
Owens stood in Shane’s way, telling him not to use the chair. Shane agreed, handing it over. Kevin went to dispose of it while Shane charged at Gable to give him a low blow. Gable caught Shane’s leg and dropped him, turning him over into an ankle lock. Shane screamed in pain. Gable dropped to the mat and locked it in deeper. Shane tapped and the the bell rang.
WINNER: Chad Gable in 10:00
Gable left the ring quickly and did a victory lap as Tom Phillips talked up the finals between Gable and Baron Corbin.
Shane stood to confront Owens. Owens said he did everything he could. Owens tried to leave the ring, but Shane attacked him from behind. He mounted Owens and delivered a flurry of punches. Shane asked for a microphone. “You’re fired,” Shane said. He grabbed at Owens’ face and continued screaming as the show went off the air.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Chad Gable was obviously the right choice to advance. Aside from that, this was a mess. Kevin Owens is not a sympathetic babyface anymore. He did exactly as Shane wanted, to the point where he no longer could. Shane tapped out cleanly and Owens had no choice. There was no indication, other than a look of conflict on his face, that Owens had any intention of not doing Shane’s bidding. In effect, he traded his moral compass for the promise of an alleviation of debt. That’s not the action of an antihero. It’s the action of an emasculated subordinate employee.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Kofi Kingston’s segment with Randy Orton was the lone highlight on an otherwise frustrating show. Kevin Owens character continues to fall further into emasculation, while no logic was applied to the ridiculous Rowan/Reigns/Bryan situation. The Undertaker’s segment was dull and meaningless, and the matches, while perfectly pedestrian, only served to fill time for major angles that weren’t at all satisfying.