KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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WWE SMACKDOWN ON-SITE REPORT
SEPTEMBER 10, 2019
NEW YORK, N.Y. AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
FRANK PETEANI (@FrankPeteani), PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Every week I have the joy of delivering the Raw and Smackdown primers for PWTorch.com. Today, my writing comes from a different place as my wife and I had the pleasure of attending Smackdown this past week. Full disclosure, we hemmed and hawed about going. Realizing it could be the last time we could see the Undertaker live, we made the decision to give it a go. Having attended an MSG house show in 1992 where I saw the Undertaker take on Ric Flair and having been to the 9/11 Raw show in 2006, I thought I would share the experience of going to a show in what the late Gorilla Monsoon would call the “Mecca” of professional wrestling.
Dark Match: Ali vs. Buddy Murphy
As a result of NYC traffic and well just getting out the door a little later than we had hoped, we didn’t get to see the whole match. We could tell there was a nice reaction for Ali, and a little less but still positive for Buddy Murphy. Initially I was a bit surprised this was a dark match, but given how they’ve been booked lately especially Ali, I realized it wasn’t much of a shock. You want to get people in their seats and not miss the start of the show, and a match such as this will do it. Nonetheless, the match went about ten minutes give or take and had a lot of near falls. In the end, Ali hit his 450 splash and scored the pin. Following the match, Ali offered his hand to Murphy in sportsmanship which he eventually accepted. Murphy then raised Ali’s hand and left the ring. Ali celebrated his win.
Frank’s Analysis: It was a real solid match, at least what we saw. I’m curious where they are going with Murphy, given he had the great match with Roman Reigns and beat Daniel Bryan. Perhaps an Ali/Murphy tag team is in the works? We could see one of them go to Raw or even NXT if that’s not considered a demotion now that they’re going to USA? We’ll see what happens.
Show Start & Undertaker Appearance
As is customary they played the WWE signature video on the video screens, and after a brief pause the Undertaker’s bell tolled. The crowd popped as was expected. Eventually as his music played, he came out on the ramp and the crowd popped even louder. As he was making his way up on the ramp and standing by the ring post, we heard an “Undertaker” chant for about half a minute. When his music stopped, another loud pop ensued and then he cut his promo. As I mentioned to Jake Barnett on the Smackdown post show with Wade Keller, the crowd was into what he was saying but not necessarily “hanging on every word.” It was more homage to a legend and when a legend speaks, you listen.
Sami Zayn’s music eventually hit as we know. Initially there wasn’t much of a reaction but then boos ensued as he started talking. It felt like heel heat overall, and a desire from the crowd for Undertaker to give him a choke slam. As Undertaker was leaving there were some boos, but I think people were smart enough to know he wasn’t going to walk away just because Sami says so. The crowd popped when Sami got dropped, and I sense the crowd was satisfied with the segment.
Frank’s Analysis: This is how you treat a legend, pure and simple. I’m sick and tired of them coming back and taking beatings. They should be celebrated, as Undertaker was last night. This doesn’t hurt Sami. He’ll be fine. He’s supposed to talk trash and take a beating and not learn his lesson. For a second I thought Shinsuke Nakamura was going to attack ‘Taker. That could eventually happen setting up a program between those two. I saw on Twitter people looking for Bray Wyatt to attack him, as I suggested in the primer. I’m glad that didn’t happen.
Miz vs. Andrade
The ring eventually went dark which cued Sami to get up and walk away. He did so lean over, selling the choke slam to the live crowd. Miz’s music hit for his match. They didn’t put up what he was doing on the screen unless we missed it. The ring went dark and then Shinsuke Nakamura’s played. There was an initial singing along to his theme, but then it stopped. Andrade’s music hit and they eventually had their match. It was hard to tell when they went to break but reading Wade’s report, I see it was about a minute into the match which makes sense. After Zelina initially tried to get involved, things slowed down.
The match picked up as it went on and the crowd was overall into it. They were getting genuinely frustrated with Zelina trying to interfere which told us she was doing her job as a heel manager. We did keep looking over at Nakamura as did some of the crowd because we all knew something was going to happen, especially after Andrade got thrown into him. The crowd popped for Miz hitting his finisher and winning the match. They “ooooh-ed” for Nakamura’s interference and hitting the Kinshasa.
Frank’s Analysis: It was straight-forward and pretty much adding a layer to the Miz-Nakamura Intercontinental Championship match this coming Sunday. They got from point A to point B in what they wanted to do. I still don’t like seeing Andrade job so much, but the length of the match helped.
Shane McMahon tells Chad Gable his opponent
We then got the segment where Shane McMahon revealed to Chad Gable that Elias was injured, and he would be taking his place in their King of the Ring Smackdown final match later in the evening. No one in the building was surprised, and people around me were saying jokingly “Hey Chad you’re gonna face the Best in the World” Shane, just like he replaced Miz in the World Cup tournament last year.” If you didn’t see that coming a mile away, you’re not paying attention. Miz made his way to the back as the ring got dark. I guess that’s their cue to stop selling the injury! (It’s all good)
Mandy Rose’s music played, and she made her way out with Sonya Deville. They stood in the dark ring. They were conversing, just killing time until they came back from break.
Mandy Rose Promo and Match Against Nikki Cross
There wasn’t much of a reaction for Mandy’s promo. You maybe got a little bit of an “ooooh” when they put the picture of Mandy and Nikki on the Titan Tron, but that’s about it. Alexa Bliss got a decent reaction and Nikki got one that was little better. As far as the match it was what it was, and the crowd cheered mildly when Nikki one. At one point people around me were saying “so where are the IIconics?”
Frank’s Analysis: I wonder if the crowd doesn’t know how to feel about Alexa. I think people genuinely like Nikki and get a kick out of her act. The partnership has grown on me at least and I’m sure they’re concerned about Alexa’s concussion issues, seemingly having Nikki do a lot of their dirty work. We’ll see where this goes. It’s still not clear if they’re a heel or a babyface team, but they are de facto faces in this feud.
The next few things we saw were Heavy Machinery making a smoothie, a Connor’s Cure segment, and the Ember Moon & Bayley Promo talking about their match later. There wasn’t much of a reaction for any of those expect for maybe some polite applause for the Connor’s Cure bit. I got the sense with Bayley here and during the match that people don’t know how to take Bayley. This is the strangest heel turn I’ve seen, if in fact it is a heel turn. A gentleman behind me, who seemed pretty astute on the product, felt it may not be a heel turn. We shall see as I believe something more is planned and they’re in a holding pattern. It’s different from what we’ve seen in year’s past with heel turns and that’s fine.
Heavy Machinery Squash Match
They did not announce the names of the jobbers, but I got a kick out of reading Wade’s report and seeing one of them was Alex Keaton, Michael J. Fox’s Family Ties character. Now, if they wanted to pay tribute to Fox for whatever reason, wouldn’t his Spin City character of Michael Flaherty have made more sense? That show took place in New York City. Family Ties took place in Columbus, Ohio. Details people!
Anyway, my dumb humor aside, the crowd was into this match. They got a kick out of Otis rubbing his large girth and popped for the Caterpillar and Compactor, their finisher of course. I’m glad Wade asked me about this on the post show, as a little squash match like this gives the crowd a chance to pop for wrestlers’ moves and inflections. It also gives you a break from having to invest in a longer match as we had to with Ali vs. Murphy and Miz vs. Andrade in the beginning.
We then got the segment where Kevin Owens was told by Shane McMahon, he would waive the $100,000 fine if he would be the referee in his match against Chad Gable later. The crowd just knew, as did my wife and I, that we were in for nonsense. I have to admit, I started to check out mentally here because I knew they were going to pull something that the crowd would hate. At this point (I could be mistaken if it was exactly here, but it definitely happened) there was some weird sing-along going on the crowd. I don’t remember the song, nor did I care. I didn’t pay attention.
Roman Reigns & Erick Rowan Brawl
They actually showed highlights of what happened between Reigns and Rowan several times in the run-up to this segment, which suggested this would be a focal point of the show. Rowan came out to his new music and was greeted with boos by the crowd. As his promo unfolded and Reigns’ music hit, the crowd popped. Now initially after he hit the Superman Punch, we got the 50/50 reaction. I was curious about this considering we were in N.Y. and usually they greeted John Cena with boos through, and thus I expected the same for Reigns. As the brawl ensued, the crowd got more behind Reigns and people were amused by the “fan” getting involved. As they made their way to the stage, a “Roman Roman” chant began and happened a couple of times. I told Wade and Jake that at least in my opinion, Reigns ended up being the most over for the night even if it was initially the Undertaker. Now you may counter-argue that it may not be true, and the crowd was more into the segment that Roman himself, but multiple chants suggested otherwise to me.
Frank’s Analysis: I guess we’re past the crowd hating Reigns for now, but we’ll see what happens if he’s moved back to the title picture. He’s come across better and I think the N.Y. crowd appreciated that. Also, a bunch of people around me were saying in regard to Rowan that “they’re building up another big guy.” While this story has been a mess and poorly told, I do like how Rowan has come across. If he’s a better star coming out of this that’s a positive, but we’ll see. I wouldn’t go to the betting window on this.
Charlotte Flair’s music hit shortly thereafter, and she came out, which I assume was not on TV. She did get a pop, which I attribute to her being a Flair and being in N.Y. The crowd also loves to “Woooo,” so there is that.
Bayley vs. Ember Moon
There was no energy for this match whatsoever. There may have nominal boos for Bayley, but it didn’t stick out. There was no pop for Moon. Her character is non-existent, and nobody cared. As I mentioned earlier and to Jake on the post show, I don’t think people know how to take Bayley. After the match there was more of a reaction for Charlotte as she raised her arms to Bayley as they get ready for their match this coming Sunday
At this point, forgive me if I’m wrong, there was an advertisement for the XFL team N.Y. Guardians. This happened for sure; I just don’t remember if it was here or after the Reigns-Rowan brawl. At any rate, there was no reaction.
Kofi Kingston & Randy Orton Brawl
It seems brawls were the order of the day. The crowd popped big time for Kofi, and you could hear a “Kofi Kofi” chant. He was clearly over as was Undertaker and Reigns. It was honestly a close one, two, and three between those men. At any rate, one thing I found interesting that I’m not sure people know already is that on the Titan Tron, they show “six-time champions” on both of the lower screens under where they show New Day. Unless I missed it, one of them didn’t say “WWE Champion.” It’s a small detail, but I would think they’d want to honor all the titles currently in the New Day stable. At any rate, the crowd appreciated what Kofi had to say including showing the table spot from ten years ago in MSG. At one point the main Tron went out, which I thought meant Randy was going to appear, but I guess they were having technical difficulties. When Randy interrupted with his “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” bit, the crowd booed. They did however “oooh” when Randy talked about having the Jamaican accent, the dreadlocks, and the power of positivity bullshit. I think him saying “bullshit” is what drew the oooohs. They began their brawl and there wasn’t much of a reaction when Randy did the “stupid stupid stupid” thing again bashing Kofi with a chair. That bit is overplayed. The crowd did like Kofi doing the table spot again, although they were amused by the pre-cut table breaking. That didn’t seem to bother anyone though as we all know these things are pre-cut, otherwise these guys would get killed going through tables.
Frank’s Analysis: Heel or babyface, Randy usually gets a positive reaction but that seemed to not be the case here. People around me were commenting on how boring he is, but at least this feud has gotten something out of him. We’ll see what happens Sunday. This feud has Hell in a Cell in October written all over it.
Here I believe they announced the dark match which would be “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. The B-Team (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel). Well somebody has to be a victim of Wyatt.
King of the Ring Smackdown Final: Chad Gable vs. Shane McMahon with Kevin Owens as Special Guest Referee
Kevin Owens’s music played to not much of a reaction. I don’t think people knew how to take him given how he’s been booked since his return. Chad Gable’s music played to about the same, and then Shane’s music interrupted which didn’t appear to sit well with Gable. Anyway, the crowd popped for the quick count Owens did, but quickly turned when Shane announced it would be two-out-of-three falls match, which prompted the “asshole” chant. There was a verbal confrontation between Owens and Shane which did not make television. Following that, Owens had Greg Hamilton announce it would be a two-out-of-three. When the action resumed the chants started including “AEW,” “CM Punk,” “You suck!” “This is boring,” “You can’t wrestle,” and “Bullsh*t.” It wasn’t because Shane was getting heel heat. Fans were frustrated with the situation. Owens refused to count the chants got louder and the boos ensued. The crowd was clearly frustrated with Shane and confused as to why Owens was slow counting. If the verbal confrontation was at least on the microphone, and Shane threatened Owens to “do the right thing,” people may have understood what was going on. That didn’t happen, so there was confusion and frustration. There may have even been a “bullshit” chant. People were checked out.
The crowd was happy when Gable tapped out and chanted “you tapped out” as everyone heard on TV. I sensed the crowd wasn’t fully into Gable as they knew something was coming, and of course they were right. Nearly 50-year old Shane attacked 30-something Owens and then fired him. There were “ooohs” from the crowd but not to the effect of shock because people are smart enough to know this is part of another garbage story. 205Live then started to unfold, and we left. Before we left, I did hear Kushida’s name announced for a match, so I went to check it out quick before we headed to the car.
Frank’s Analysis: Look, it’s not about the crumby story they told at least to me. This is about heel Shane McMahon abusing his authority and everyone in the building including my wife and I being downright sick and f*cking tired of it. Sometimes I wish Austin-McMahon and Eric Bischoff in WCW never happened because they think this story is the foundation of a wrestling show. Enough is enough already. People checked out when Shane made the announcement and it made no friggin’ difference how Owens was framed and how the story was told. I’m not going to say any more about this because it’s not worth it.
It was nice to go to Madison Square Garden, but it didn’t have the feel of “being at The Garden” as a New Yorker might say. With Raw and Smackdown looking the same every week it’s hard for a show to feel unique. There were a couple of interesting observations as I saw one banner with Raw and a picture of Steve Austin and a Smackdown banner with Undertaker. In another banner with multiple Smackdown wrestlers, Undertaker was in the middle. You could tell on whom WWE is focused. The shirt selection was not all that great, but they did have one with Bruno Sammartino which was appropriate for MSG. The crowd was more mild-mannered with families and children scattered about. There were numerous “yerrr yerrr” chants at various times which I think I get as a native NYer, but I’m not 100% sure.
I’ll close this report with something I thought was incredibly cute. I was wearing a Kofi Kingston shirt while my wife was wearing one with Seth Rollins. A little boy, sitting with I assume his father in front of us, told me Kofi was his favorite wrestler and Rollins was his dad’s favorite. Every time they showed the graphic of Kofi appearing later, he turned around to me so excited, that I couldn’t help high fiving him. When Kofi appeared, the boy danced like New Day and was so excited when Randy went through the table. Later on, what I thought was even cuter, was when Gable first pinned Shane. The boy turned around to me and said, “Chad Gable beat the best in the world!” To see this little boy, who couldn’t have been more than five or six, believe what he saw was real and be so happy made me realize just how much I fell in love with wrestling when I was younger. WWE has its writing issues and this show was no exception, but this little boy made my whole night. I hope he has the same experience when he’s an adult.