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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
OCTOBER 4, 2019
LOS ANGELES, CA AT STAPLES CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-The show opened with a high and wide shot of the Staples Center. Michael Cole welcomed the audience to a new era on Fox. Vince McMahon’s music hit. The crowd erupted. Vince stepped onto the brand new entrance stage with Stephanie McMahon at his side.
“Welcome to history. Welcome to Fox!” Stephanie proclaimed. “Welcome to Friday Night Smackdown!” Vince bellowed. The live shot faded into the show’s all new intro video.
Pyro exploded from the new entrance stage and lasers danced around the base of the entrance. Michael Cole touted the attendance at the Staples Center as the 3D graphic overlay WWE uses for big Pay-Per-Views marked Progressive Insurance as the show’s lead sponsor.
-Becky Lynch’s music hit and she headed to the ring, introduced by Greg Hamilton. At the announcers desk, Michael Cole introduced himself and his partner, Corey Graves.
In the ring, Becky said Smackdown is the show that made her. She thanked the fans for raising her up. Becky said she’d like to repay the fans by kicking some ass. She was interrupted by Baron Corbin’s music.
“King” Corbin walked onto the stage. He said everyone in the arena knows who should really be starting the show off. “Do you really think you’re still the man?” Corbin asked. “Take one more step and we’ll find out,” Becky retorted. Corbin entered the ring. The Rock’s music hit.
The Rock stepped to the front of the stage and soaked in the thunderous reaction. Rock walked to each side of the stage and relished the cheers. He took of his track jacket and threw it over the camera, temporarily blacking out the screen. Rock headed to the ramp and performed his signature poses.
Rock stepped in the ring and exchanged a “secret” handshake with Becky, then offered Corbin a high five but retracted. The crowd exploded into a “Rocky” chant as his music faded out.
“Many, many, many moons ago, The Rock uttered a phrase to some jabroni that changed the world,” Rock said. He said Smackdown has become a word, a show, and an institution. Rock said he’s with the Man, and a “broke ass burger king on crack.” The crowd immediately broke into a “burger king” chant.
“Finally, The Rock has come back….” he allowed for a dramatic, extended pause, “…home.” Corbin interrupted Rock. He told The Rock that WWE is no longer his home. He said he’s the great one now. Corbin called himself the most electrifying king in sports entertainment. He told Rock to know his role and shut his mouth.
Rock asked Becky if he could take over for a second. She obliged. Rock said dressing like a king doesn’t make Corbin a king. He said Corbin looks like a 35 year old virgin at a Comic-Con. He said Becky Lynch is the Man, but she’s not walking around holding a pair of testicles.
“But if I did, they’d be a whole lot bigger than yours,” Becky added. Corbin said his testicles were “perfectly adequate.” He said he’s superior to Becky, The Rock, and everyone in the audience. Baron said LA only has one king, and it’s not LeBron James.
Rock repeated what Corbin said. “Is that what you think?” he asked. Becky jumped in, “it doesn’t matter what you think!” The crowd erupted. Rock said he knows all about Corbin. He talked up Corbin’s accomplishments and conferred with Becky. Becky said he’s a “super tough dude.”
The Rock then said he’d lead the crowd in a chant of what the people think every time they see Baron Corbin 0 “S-T-D.” The crowd chanted. Becky and Rock told him they think that will stick with him for life.
Rock said Corbin looks embarrassed and angry. He said that’s what happens when you insult The Man, the people, and The Rock. Corbin removed his king props. Rock and Becky began firing shots at Corbin. Rock knocked Baron down, then Becky hit a leg drop. Rock followed it up with a People’s Elbow. Corbin wandered to his feet. Becky gave him a kick to the gut, then shoved him into a Rock Bottom.
The Rock delivered his signature “if ya smell…” catchphrase, then stood tall in the ring with Becky as his music played.
-The announcers ran down the night’s card, including Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon, Kofi Kingston vs. Brock Lesnar, and a lumberjack match featuring Roman Reigns and Erick Rowan. Cole announced the previously announced women’s tag match would be next, then sent the show to commercial.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Right out of the gate, this feels fresh. There’s a look and feel that only network television can bring, and Fox Sports, in general, is a renowned broadcast partner that WWE is immediately fitting into, in terms of look, sound and feel. This show is mic’ed different and it’s obvious right out of the gate. The crowd is loud, but also feels very “close” in the mix.
Kicking off the show with Becky Lynch was the right call, being that she’s the company’s top full time star. Corbin was the perfect butt of the joke for Lynch and The Rock, who delivered a brief greatest hits performance that hit all the right notes and got the show started off hot. Good segment.)
-Trish Stratus and Lita were shown sitting at ringside when the show returned from commercial. Becky Lynch’s music still played and she waited for her partner in the ring.
Charlotte Flair’s music hit and she headed to the ring with a big smile. She’s been given some fireworks during her entrance. Sasha Banks and Bayley entered next. Bayley played to the crowd, teasing the Bayley Buddies. She eventually “released” them.
(1) BECKY LYNCH & CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. SASHA BANKS & BAYLEY
Charlotte Flair kicked things off with Bayley. Bayley immediately tried to shove Becky off the apron. Becky caught herself. Charlotte grabbed Bayley and tossed her into the corner. She delivered a pair of shots. Bayley countered a body slam and tagged in Sasha Banks.
Sasha took Charlotte down and hit running double knees. She covered Flair for a two count. Charlotte recovered quickly and hit Sasha with a number of chops. Charlotte gave Sasha a big boot then sent her crashing to the floor outside. Charlotte climbed to the top rope. Bayley ran at her to prevent her from diving, but Becky cut her off. The referee backed Becky away. Bayley recovered and tossed Charlotte to the floor. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Back from the break, Charlotte fought off a waist lock attempt from Bayley. She made a diving tag to Becky Lynch. Lynch quickly backed Bayley into the corner with a flurry of offense. Lynch caught Bayley with the Bexploder, then tried to lock in the Disarmher. Bayley fought free. Becky took Bayley down and hit a leg drop from the middle rope for a two count.
Becky hit a basement dropkick on Bayley then stumbled into the corner. Charlotte tagged herself in. She hit Bayley with Natural Selection. Sasha Banks broke up the pin fall attempt. Becky Lynch returned to the ring and Sasha and Becky exploded with chaotic punches at each other. Bayley cut Becky off.
Flair grabbed Bayley and hit an overhead slam. Becky took down Sasha and hit a missile dropkick on her from the top rope. Charlotte climbed to the top rope and hit a moonsault to the outside, taking out both Bayley and Sasha, who’d momentarily retreated to the outside.
Charlotte tossed Bayley back in the ring and took her down. She locked in the Figure Four, and then bridged into the Figure Eight. Bayley tapped almost immediately.
WINNERS: Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch in 8:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent match. Charlotte seemed motivated to take a few risks on the premiere. All four women worked hard and fast. There’s little else to say here, other than offer a kudos to WWE for making the first match on Fox a women’s bout, and not patting themselves on the back for it too much.)
-Backstage, Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews welcomed New Day to the set. “Subtle, you guys aren’t,” Erin said. She wanted to talk to Kofi about the WWE title match. She said many are calling him the underdog. Kofi said he’s always the underdog, it’s what he does. Kofi said he climbs mountains and overcomes odds. Erin asked if he’d be bringing his “posse” along.
Big E said they’ve been referred to as many things, but most commonly, they’re called “ya boys the New Day!” Woods said that Kofi asked to climb this mountain alone. They did their signature “WWE Champion” hip swivel. Erin joined in.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Erin Andrews’ presence gives the show a big time feel. She’s one of the more recognizable names and faces in all of sports broadcasting. I assume she’ll only be on backstage interview duty for tonight’s premiere, but having there on a semi-regular or even regular basis would raise the stock of this show considerably.)
-Seth Rollins was shown walking down a hallway backstage. Graves said he’d face Shinsuke Nakamura in a champion vs. champion match next.
-Tyson Fury was shown at ringside when the show returned from break. At the announcers desk, Michael Cole and Corey Graves briefly ran down the wrestlers and celebrities shown earlier on the “Blue Carpet” special. They cut to Mick Foley and Kurt Angle sitting at ringside.
-Seth Rollins’ music played, and he entered to a new explosion of pyro. His entrance was interrupted by Firefly Fun House.
Bray stared menacingly at the camera. He said that since Smackdown is being introduced to a new home, he found it important to introduce everyone to his home and all his special friends. He showed each of his puppets one by one. Ramblin’ Rabbit was dressed as Seth Rollins and said he was Seth’s biggest fan. He warned Seth not to get in Hell in a Cell with the Fiend.
Bray said instead of telling Seth what will happen to him at Hell in a Cell, they can show him. A mic dropped from the ceiling. He introduced Ramblin’ Rabbit as Seth Rollins and Mercy the Buzzard as The Fiend. Mercy proceeded to tear Ramblin’ Rabbit apart. Bray was pelted with stuffing. Bray laughed maniacally as he held up pieces of Ramblin’ Rabbit. “History has a horrible way of repeating itself,” Bray said. “We have all hurt for so long, and now it’s your turn. See you in hell!”
(LeClair’s Analysis: I spoke about this extensively on this week’s Wade Keller’s Pro Wrestling Post-Show for Raw. Firefly Fun House has gone from feeling something hugely creative and vastly different from the rest of the product to just another thing that WWE does. Bray’s character, which used to seem conflicted about the Fiend’s destruction and even wary of what he was capable of, now just seems like a doting extension of the primary character. I don’t like this, and I don’t think it works. This gimmick’s inception seemed to be that of a man suffering from split personalities, and I don’t get that sense anymore, and it’s not for the better.)
Seth Rollins stood nervously in the ring as Shinsuke Nakamura’s music hit. Nakamura headed to the ring with Sami Zayn (sans microphone.) Cole said the match would happen after the break.
Hulk Hogan’s music was playing when the show returned from commercial. He was entering the crowd to sit with Ric Flair at ringside. The camera cut back to the ring.
(2) SETH ROLLINS vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
Nakamura immediately flipped Rollins into an arm bar when the bell rang. Rollins quickly broke free and tossed Nakamura to the outside. He hit two consecutive suicide dives onto Shinsuke, then tossed him back into the ring. Sami distracted Rollins long enough for Shinsuke to gain an advantage briefly.
Rollins fought back quickly, catching Nakamura with a kick and a springboard knee. He quickly kicked Nakamura again, then set up for the stomp. The crowd chanted “burn it down” loudly. Nakamura struggled to his knees. The lights cut out, signaling The Fiend.
WINNER: No contest in 2:00
When the lights began flickering, Seth had already left the ring. He stood atop the entrance way. Nakamura looked around in the ring, frightened. Bray appeared from behind Seth and dropped him, quickly applying the Mandible Claw. Seth screamed in pain. The Fiend threw Seth off the stage. The lights cut out and Bray’s laugh played throughout the arena. The show cut to break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: The match seemed to have some genuine interest from the crowd before it was cut short. I suppose it was right to introduce the Fox audience to the Fiend character, and it served as a fair final image heading into their match at Hell in a Cell.)
-The show returned with a brief video package titled “Match Flo by Progressive”, recapping the situation between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon.
Back live in the arena, Kevin Owens was already in the ring, staring up at the briefcase. Shane McMahon’s music played and Shane danced out onto the stage. His music faded out so Greg Hamilton could deliver his signature introduction. Kevin Owens darted out of the ring and met Shane on the ramp, firing shots. Shane stumbled toward the ring. Kevin tossed him in.
(3) KEVIN OWENS vs. SHANE MCMAHON – Ladder Match, loser leaves WWE
The bell rang as the second hour of the show began. Owens threw a shot at Shane and tossed him out of the ring. He retrieved McMahon and tossed him into the ringside steps. Owens propped a ladder between the apron and the ringside barrier.
Owens smashed Shane’s face off the ladder. He grabbed a second ladder and slid it in the ring. Owens set up the ladder and began to climb, but Shane cut him off. Shane gave Owens a Russian leg sweep off the ladder. He tried to climb, but Owens stopped him quickly.
Owens closed the ladder and tried to throw it at Shane, but Shane ducked. The ladder flew over the top rope and almost hit the announcers desk. Owens took Shane down with a clothesline. He retrieved the ladder on the outside. Shane dropkicked it into Owens’ face. Shane hit Owens in the back with the ladder, then cleared the announce table. He laid down on the table and elbowed him repeatedly. Shane hit KO with the table cover multiple times. He slid in the ring and headed to the top rope.
Shane hit the diving elbow through the announcers desk and Kevin Owens. The show immediately went to commercial.
Back live, Owens stood in the ring, using the ring ropes to prop himself up. Shane McMahon laid prone on the bridged ladder on the outside. Owens climbed to the top rope. He dove onto Shane with a frog splash. The ladder buckled in half. Shane screamed in pain. A “this is awesome” chant broke out.
Kevin Owens retrieved another ladder and slid it in the ring. He set it up and climbed. Owens made it halfway up before Shane attacked him with a chair. Shane knocked Owens off the ladder and bashed Owens with the chair repeatedly. He set up Owens in the corner and propped a ladder between the ropes, against Owens’ prone body.
Shane ascended the opposing turnbuckle. Shane got himself set, then connected with Coast to Coast. Owens rolled to the outside. Shane set up the ladder and began to climb. Owens grabbed Shane by the foot. He grabbed Shane and gave him a power bomb onto a ladder propped in the corner. Owens darted up the ladder and pulled down the briefcase.
WINNER: Kevin Owens in 12:00
The crowd erupted when Owens unhooked the ladder. He climbed down and grabbed a microphone. Owens shoved the ladder over. He pulled Shane up by the shirt. “Hey Shane, you’re fired!” Owens screamed. He kicked Shane in the gut and delivered a stunner. Owens threw the briefcase on top of Shane and climbed the turnbuckle in celebration.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Like any Shane match, this required an abnormal amount of suspension of disbelief. With that said, this was just about what you would’ve expected from these two in this situation. Big spots that delivered, especially for a TV match. The right man won, and though Owens has not been fully redeemed, I’m looking forward to seeing him move into something that will allow him to put this entire situation in the past. Hopefully this really is the last we see of Shane for quite a while.)
-Kayla Braxton was shown backstage outside Brock Lesnar’s locker room, awaiting an interview nervously. The show went to commercial.
-Cole and Graves talked over more footage of wrestlers and celebrities on the blue carpet.
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton stood with Paul Heyman. Heyman looked largely unimpressed. He said he doesn’t care what Kofi Kingston or Erin Andrews had to say. He asked to show the “relevant footage.” A clip of Lesnar’s attack on Rey Mysterio from Raw aired.
Heyman said Mysterio was in Brock Lesnar’s way, and now Kofi stands in his way. “You do the math,” Heyman said. He said this isn’t a prediction, but rather, a spoiler. He promised you’d hear Brock Lesnar announced as new WWE Champion.
-Braun Strowman headed to a ring already filled with other wrestlers. Cole said it would be an eight man tag team match.
(4) AJ STYLES & RANDY ORTON & DOLPH ZIGGLER & ROBERT ROODE vs. BRAUN STROWMAN & THE MIZ & HEAVY MACHINERY (Tucker Knight & Otis Dozovic)
Dolph Ziggler began the match with The Miz. Miz quickly darted to his opponent’s corner to knock them off the apron. Ziggler pounced on Miz and quickly hit the Zig Zag on Miz. Miz wandered to his feet quickly. Ziggler went for a super kick, but Miz caught his leg and dropped him with a DDT.
Miz made a tag into Braun Strowman. Strowman cleared the opposing corner, then plowed down Ziggler. Strowman took Ziggler down and went for a cover. Robert Roode broke it up.
This brought The Miz back in the ring. He hit Roode with a Skull Crushing Finale. Orton slid behind him and hit the RKO. Otis stepped in and body checked Orton. Randy slid to the outside. Styles flew off the ropes and hit Otis with the Phenomenal Forearm. Tucker Knight clotheslined Styles over the top and spilled to the floor with him. This left only Strowman and Ziggler in the ring.
Strowman left the ring and shoulder tackled all the heels at ringside. He stood face to face with Tyson Fury in the front row. Strowman threw up his hands. Fury did the same. Ziggler jumped Strowman from behind.Strowman tossed him into the ring post. Ziggler bounced back and Braun tossed him into the ringside barrier, incidentally knocking over Tyson Fury.
Braun tossed Dolph back in the ring then jawed with Fury. Braun got back in the ring and Ziggler caught him with a super kick. Braun shrugged it off and hit the power slam for a three count.
WINNERS: Braun Strowman, The Miz, & Heavy Machinery in 3:00
The babyface raised their arms together in the ring. Tyson Fury hopped the barricade but a large group of security guards stepped in front of him almost instantly. Fury jawed at Strowman in the ring. The show went to commercial.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Nothing to see here, match wise. This was a vehicle to introduce the Fox audience to a bunch of talent, and obviously meant to set up an angle between Braun Strowman and Tyson Fury. I’m curious as to how much crossover there is between the pro wrestling and boxing audience. It didn’t strike me as though the crowd thought this was a particularly big deal.)
-A replay of the confrontation between Strowman and Fury was shown.
-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves turned the page to the 24/7 Championship. They threw to a clip posted earlier on WWE’s YouTube channel, showing R-Truth and Carmella with electronic artist Marshmello and Heavy Machinery. Otis ran into Marshmello, causing him to haphazardly fall on top of Carmella for a three count. Coles said Marshmello later lost the title, but plugged the WWE YouTube channel as the way to see it.
-Cole welcomed Daniel Bryan to the announcers desk as they prepared for the lumberjack match between Roman Reigns and Erick Rowan. Reigns made his way to the ring with a whole slew of pyro during his fist cock and punch. Reigns walked threw the lumberjacks at ringside as Bryan talked up how dangerous Rowan has become.
(5) ROMAN REIGNS vs. ERICK ROWAN – Lumberjack match
Reigns and Rowan locked up to the begin the match. Rowan backed Reigns into the corner and stomped him to the mat. Rowan gave Roman a big boot that drove him to the outside. The lumberjacks returned him to the ring.
Reigns quickly clotheslined Rowan over the top rope. Rowan began fighting the lumberjacks. He cleared his area. Reigns left the ring and charged at him, but Rowan caught him by the throat and threw him into the ringside barrier. Rowan returned to the ring. The heel lumberjacks began attacking Roman. The babyfaces quickly made the save.
Reigns was tossed back into the ring. Rowan hit him with a spin kick for a two count. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Rowan had Reigns on the mat in a vice grip when the show returned from break. Reigns fought slowly to his feet.He hit Rowan with an uppercut, then a back elbow out of the corner. Reigns hit his nine corner clotheslines, and then a tenth out of the corner. Rowan didn’t go down. Roman scooped him up and hit a Samoan drop.
Reigns went for the Superman punch, but Rowan caught him. Roman punched out of Erick’s grip and hit a big boot, followed by a Superman punch. Both Reigns and Rowan dropped to the mat. Luke Harper began walking down the ramp. Bryan left the commentary table to attack him.
Harper tossed Bryan into the ringside barrier. The lumberjacks began to brawl. Roman Reigns flew over the top rope and took them all out. Rowan emerged from the pile and grabbed Ali. He tossed him into Roman Reigns.
Rowan tossed Roman back in the ring and took Reigns down with a body check, He grabbed Reigns for the Iron Claw, but Roman elbowed out of it and hit another Superman punch. Luke Harper immediately dropped Reigns with a big clothesline.
Daniel Bryan returned and caught Harper with the running knee. Rowan grabbed Bryan’s head and went for the Iron Claw, but Reigns hit him with a spear out of nowhere for a three count.
WINNER: Roman Reigns in 9:00
After the match, Bryan extended his hand to Roman Reigns. Reigns stared at it and hesitated. The crowd broke into a loud “yes” chant. Reigns shook his hand.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a fun, chaotic match, albeit pretty run-of-the-mill for the lumberjack stipulation. Reigns and Rowan seem to have some chemistry, and Rowan continues to come off as a legitimate player. The crowd seems genuinely interested in this Bryan and Rowan partnership. The tag match on Sunday could be really entertaining.)
-Cole teased that the WWE title match main event would be next before sending the show to commercial.
-The show returned with the “Pizza Hut Highlight of the Night,” The Rock and Becky Lynch’s beatdown of Baron Corbin.
-In the arena, they displayed a large 3D overlay of the “tale of the tape” for the main event.
-Brock Lesnar headed to the ring with Paul Heyman smiling proudly at his side. Michael Cole ran through Lesnar’s impressive accolades. Kofi Kingston’s music hit and he hopped onto the stage flanked by Big E and Xavier Woods. They stayed atop the ramp as Kofi continued his descent to the ring, tossing pancakes. Greg Hamilton gave a traditional, championship introduction for Kofi Kingston. Paul Heyman cut Hamilton off and delivered Lesnar’s intro.
(6) BROCK LESNAR (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. KOFI KINGSTON – WWE Championship Match
Kingston charged at Lesnar as soon as the bell rang. Lesnar hoisted Kofi onto his shoulders and dropped him with an F5. He hooked the leg for a three count.
WINNER: Brock Lesnar in seconds to become new WWE Champion
The crowd booed heavily as Lesnar walked around the ring smugly. Rey Mysterio’s music hit. He walked onto the stage in a sling, with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez at his side. Corey Graves reminded the audience that Velasquez defeated Lesnar to become UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Cain stepped in the ring. Lesnar looked shocked. Lesnar charged, but Velasquez took Brock down and began firing away. Lesnar could only cover up. Lesnar broke free and rolled under the bottom rope, escaping up the ramp. “Fight me!” Cain yelled from the ring. Lesnar walked back down to ringside as if he were about to get back in the ring. He laughed, then thought better of it.
Lesnar and Velasquez continued to stare each other down. Mysterio’s music played again. He raised Cain’s hand and the show faded out, three minutes early.
(LeClair’s Analysis: YIKES. This is NOT going to sit well with people. Kofi Kingston’s title reign has been reduced to a handful of relatively unimpressive feuds and a record-setting loss to Brock Lesnar. Kofi wasn’t even an afterthought here. He was completely non existent the moment the bell rang and the match ended. I don’t want to provide a hyperbolic, knee-jerk reaction, but I did not like this in the moment and I’m guessing many others won’t either.
Regarding the post-match surprise, this doesn’t exactly make Rey Mysterio look all that great. Mysterio gets absolutely destroyed, his son gets absolutely destroyed, and he goes out and gets another guy to fight his battle for him. As a casual UFC viewer, I’m familiar with Cain Velazquez and his history with Lesnar, but this isn’t an angle or a match that I’m particularly excited to see.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: I need more time to digest the show-closing angle and its implications going forward. Instead, I want to focus primarily on the big picture coming out of the first night on Fox, and I feel largely positive about that. Fox went to great lengths to legitimize pro wrestling to its mainstream audience tonight. This show felt big, and not just because of the talent involved. As I previously touched upon, the look and feel of the show feel refreshed. The show feels like a big time, legitimate Fox Sports production. I’m particularly intrigued by the Fox Sports crew’s involvement, or lack thereof, going forward.
WWE showed their hand a bit today, choosing to push out a lot of talent on this first show. You could see who they want to place emphasis on, brands aside, going forward. The only surprising absence, to me, was Alexa Bliss, though the show was immensely crowded and she was heavily featured in the show’s advertising, so I don’t think that’s a particularly big deal.
A lot of faith was placed in the hands of stars from other combat sports. Cain Velasquez and Tyson Fury are stars of their respective combats, but I question whether or not their names are enough to draw in lapsed wrestling fans. Furthermore, I doubt that fans of their respective sports who aren’t already wrestling fans are going to be willing to give the product a shot, legitimized by Fox or not. This is a gamble, but certainly something that will give us a lot to talk about going forward.
Time will tell whether or not they can keep this vibe. There was a lot of star power on this show, and while I think the aesthetic and the inertia of network television will keep the show feeling big, there will be undoubtedly a huge drop-off in star power going forward. That’s when the real analysis can begin.