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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
NOVEMBER 29, 2019
BIRMINGHAM, AL AT LEGACY ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-After Smackdown’s traditional opening, “Happy Thanksgiving” adorned the show’s logo on the tron. Michael Cole and Corey Graves welcomed the audience to the show and teased the Firefly Fun House, featuring a brand new character.
-Roman Reigns’ music played and he walked to the ring. Cole called him the leader of Team Smackdown, and the sole survivor. Cole and Graves argued about the merits of Reigns being considered the leader of the Smackdown locker room over King Corbin.
Reigns paced the ring with a microphone. He said he’s knows it’s a day late, but in his house, leftovers in the fridge means it’s still Thanksgiving. He wished the audience a happy one. Reigns said to him, Thanksgiving means three things, family, health, and happiness. He said he only had family last year. He said it was a blessing to have all three again, and called the fans “new family.”
Roman transitioned to Survivor Series. “Team Smackdown whooped some ass,” Reigns said. The crowd broke into an “NXT” chant. Reigns said “it’s all WWE, they’re badass too.” Roman said he needed to thank the members of his team, except for King Corbin. He called Corbin a “dummy” and asked him to come out and apologize for his actions.
King Corbin’s music played and he stepped onto the stage. Corbin said Reigns has lost his mind. “It was my fearless leadership that won it for Team Smackdown.” Corbin said Reigns’ ego couldn’t handle the fact that he was going to win and be sole survivor. “But you didn’t,” Reigns replied.
Roman told Corbin he could try to get the job done tonight in Birmingham, Alabama. Corbin called Reigns an egomaniac. Corbin said he drank the finest wine, at the juiciest turkey and had servants waiting on him hand and foot during Thanksgiving. He said Reigns probably had store bought turkey that his wife burned.
Corbin said he’s thankful he doesn’t have to eat like the rest of these people. He said the food is worse than the football. “I’m a king,” Corbin declared. He passed off the match against Roman to Robert Roode. He said Roman would be wheeled out of the arena on a stretcher.
Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler headed to the ring. Cole said he’d face Roman Reigns after the break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I thought Roman’s promo, though prototypical and generically babyface, was effective. Roman has been on a strong track as of late and this crowd was certainly willing to buy into him. His off the cuff remark about Raw, Smackdown, and NXT “all being WWE” sounded a little ridiculous coming off a Pay-Per-View literally built around the idea that they are three separate brands with different identities. King Corbin, on the other hand, was grating. The king gimmick isn’t good, it’s never been good, and it’s never going to be good. His promos have been deduced to nothing more than senseless king stereotypes and jokes that seemingly every King of the Ring winner has used since this became the go-to gimmick.)
(1) ROMAN REIGNS vs. ROBERT ROODE (w/ Dolph Ziggler & King Corbin)
The bell rang as soon as the show returned from break. Roode and Reigns locked up. Roode applied a side headlock. Roode took Reigns down and celebrated. Reigns shrugged him off. Roode grabbed a headlock again and talked some trash. Reigns turned it into a headlock of his own. Roode shot Roman off the ropes, but Roman took hi down with a shoulder tackle.
Robert Roode left the ring to regroup with Ziggler and Corbin. Cole and Graves continued to argue about Reigns and Corbin. Back in the ring, Roode cornered Reigns and stomped away at his chest. Roman fought to his feet and sent Roode into the opposing corner. He delivered a series of rights. Roode tried to fight him off, but Reigns gave him an uppercut that shot him over the top and to the floor.
Roman left the ring and charged, taking down Roode with a drive-by. Corbin got in Reigns’ face. Reigns tossed Roode back in the ring. Roode distracted the referee, allowing Ziggler to grab at Roman’s leg. Reigns kicked him away, but Roode attacked, sending Reigns crashing to the floor. Roode bounced Roman’s head off the announcers desk, then threw him into the ringside barrier. Roode returned to the ring and asked the referee to count. The show went to commercial.
Reigns hit Roode with a pair of bit clotheslines out of the corner when the show returned from break. Roode retreated to the corner and Reigns hit his ten short arm clotheslines. Roode stagger out and Roman dropped him with a big boot. He set up for the Superman punch. Ziggler hopped the apron to distract Roman. Roode rolled Reigns up for a near fall.
Roode hit a blockbuster of the second rope for another near fall. Roode pounded the mat in frustration. Roode attempted the Glorious DDT, but Reigns hoisted him up into the air and dropped him with the sit-out power bomb for a near fall of his own. Reigns set up for the Superman punch again, but Ziggler pulled Roode out of the ring.
Reigns rolled to the outside and hit Ziggler with a Superman punch. Roode tossed Roman into the steel steps, then back into the ring. Roode climbed to the top rope and dove, but Reigns caught him with a Superman punch for another near fall. Reigns set up for the spear. He charged, but Roode scooped him up and hit a spine buster. Reigns kicked out at two and a half.
King Corbin tossed his scepter to Roode. Corbin distracted the referee while Roode sized Reigns up. Roman shot up and hit Roode with a Superman punch. He turned around and blasted Corbin with one as well. Roode went to hit Reigns with the scepter, but Roman ducked, shot off the ropes, and connected with a spear for the three count.
WINNER: Roman Reigns in 13:00
Dolph Ziggler jumped Reigns from behind after the bell rang. He went for a super kick, but Reigns dropped him with a Samoan drop. Corbin tried to attack Reigns, but Roman tossed him into the ring post. Robert Roode hit Reigns in the back with the scepter. He went to the outside and retrieved a steel chair. He set up the chair and put Reigns’ face on the seat. Roode swung the scepter, but Roman moved and hit Roode with a Superman punch.
Robert Roode retreated to the outside. Reigns followed him and speared him through the timekeeper’s barricade, then threw a pair of office chairs on top of him. Reigns dropped Dolph Ziggler with the steel steps. He pushed the announcers desk toward Roode’s body, then flipped it over onto Roode, burying him underneath.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Don’t get me wrong, Reigns going over clean is undoubtedly the right move here, but Corbin, Ziggler and Roode are being defined as weaklings, having been relatively easily dispatched by one man despite their incessant interference and attempts at cheating. Given that I few Reigns as being several notches about all three in terms of pecking order, this is, generally speaking, fine by me. The problem is that Corbin is being continuously presented as Reigns’ contemporary. If they want this feud to have any heat at all, there has to be a bit more effort put into making these guys seem credible and remotely capable of handling themselves. With that being said, good match, and one of Roode’s better singles bouts in a while. Roman seemed motivated, completely in touch, and, most importantly, over.)
-An on-screen graphic teased that Firefly Funhouse would be up next.
-The show returned from break with a close up of the flipped announcers desk. Cole and Graves reset, noting that it wound up being Roode, not Reigns, who was carted out of the arena. They pivoted to a recap of the match between The Fiend and Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series.
-A new episode of Firefly Fun House aired. Bray waved at the camera and said hello. He said he hoped everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving, and that he has a lot to be thankful for. He held up the Universal title. “Sharing is caring,” Bray said. He said if he has one, it’s only fair that “he” has one too.
A spliced clip showed The Fiend holding a monstrous belt with his own face on it. Bray said he loves his new toy and that he had a blast playing with Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series. He asked if the fireflies wanted to see he and Daniel “play again.” They cheered.
Bray said if Bryan wants to play again, he can make his wish come true. “All he has to do is let me in.” Bray waved and said goodbye.
(LeClair’s Analysis: We are supposed to be getting a new character tonight, are we not? I presume this is not the last we’ve seen of Firefly Funhouse this evening.)
-Ali’s music played. He has earned his first name back, once again going by Mustafa Ali. Cole said he’d be in action after the break.
-The show returned to a darkened hallway, glowing red. A very recognizable silhouette filled the screen – Sheamus. His music played over in the background. He said the current state of Smackdown is pathetic. “All I see are a bunch of misfits and cowards.” He listed off a Fiend, a king, and a Shorty G. He said no one with a backbone, and no one like him. His face came into clear view. He said it’s time for the Celtic Warrior to return. “Smackdown will be mine,” he said.
-Back in the arena, Drew Gulak had joined Mustafa Ali in the ring.
(2) MUSTAFA ALI vs. DREW GULAK
Ali and Gulak locked up in the center of the ring. The two traded quick holds and athletic exchanges. Ali dropped Gulak with a quick dropkick for a two count. Gulak popped to his feet and wrestled Ali into the corner. Mustafa tried to climb the ropes, but Gulak grabbed him and dropped him with a single arm power bomb for a two count.
Gulak went for a backdrop, but Ali floated over into a cross body. Gulak kicked out quickly. Gulak took Ali down and applied a single leg crab. Ali crawled slowly toward the ropes. Gulak broke the hold and rolled him over. Ali rolled onto his feet and kicked Gulak to the mat for another two count.
Ali flew off the middle rope and connected with a tornado DDT. Gulak rolled into position as Ali ascended the turnbuckle. He hit the 450 splash for a three count.
WINNER: Mustafa Ali in 4:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good showcase win for Mustafa Ali, who has apparently earned his first name back, much to my delight. Gulak’s style was very conducive to Ali’s quickness and pace and this match was short, to the point, and exactly the kind of statement win to start building Ali. Drew Gulak is little more than a stepping stone to Ali, and that was properly conveyed with a short, mildly competitive bout that saw Ali win convincingly.)
-Bayley and Sasha Banks were shown walking backstage. Cole said they were poised to address the entire women’s division after the break.
-Out of the break, Daniel Bryan was shown pacing around the interview set backstage. Cole and Graves contemplated whether or not Bryan would consider stepping in the ring with the Fiend again. Back at the announcers desk, Michael Cole threw to the Progressive “Match Flo” recapping the two women’s matches at Survivor Series.
-Sasha Banks’ music played an she stepped onto the stage. Bayley entered to her own music after. Both women looked annoyed. Sasha and Bayley both retrieved microphones. Sasha said she and Bayley didn’t come to make a “ra-ra” speech. Sasha said she didn’t choose her team, and if she had, they’d have won with her eyes closed.
Bayley told Sasha not to sugarcoat it. The fans chanted “you tapped out.” Bayley said Smackdown didn’t lose because NXT is better, and she didn’t lose because Shayna Baszler is better. She said the entire Smackdown locker room let them down. “The truth hurts,” Sasha said.
Banks said everyone else on her team was a weak link. She ran down each of them, calling Nikki a fluke and Carmella messy and broke. Bayley called out Lacey Evans for spending too much time sipping sweet tea instead of mastering her craft in the ring. Sasha said the whole division makes her sick.
Lacey Evans’ music cut them off. She strutted to the ring. “Honey, don’t test my patience.” She said she prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for 36 people, and was in no mood to take lip from two “classless things” that don’t have enough class to sit at the kiddie table. Lacey made a couple more “classy lady” jokes. She said it’s time that Smackdown gets a real woman to be the locker room leader. The crowd broke into a “Lacey Evans” chant. Lacey said it needs to be someone who wouldn’t tap out under pressure. She mockingly tapped on Bayley’s title.
Sasha stepped up to Lacey. Lacey dropped her with the Woman’s Right. Evans turned around and left the ring, leaving Bayley to tend to Sasha. Cole and Graves called it a major statement for Lacey Evans.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This all felt a little heavy handed to me. I know a lot of people really like Sasha’s promo work, but I’ve become less a fan of it over the years and I didn’t think this came off particularly well. The whole segment very much felt like three woman reciting very carefully scripted and rehearsed lines with “too cute” puns. This is especially true of Lacey Evans. I was immediately skeptical of the apparent babyface turn, but the crowd seemed eager to get behind her, so I’ll wait to judge.)
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton approached Daniel Bryan at the interview set. She asked if Bryan had a response for Bray Wyatt. Before he could speak, the Firefly Fun House title screen cut him off.
The camera was zoomed in on copious amounts of plates littered with remnants of a Thanksgiving feast. Huskus could be heard wailing in the background. The camera pulled back to show him as he burped loudly. Bray Wyatt approached and asked what’s wrong. Huskus said he ate to much and the only thing that would make him feel better is if Daniel Bryan plays with them again.
Bray said he wanted to tell Huskus a secret. He said everything he knows about the story of the first Thanksgiving is a lie. The first Thanksgiving, Bray said, was really a battle between the Muscle Men and Reptilians. He said Huskus is free to stuff his face all he wants. Bray made a “phat” joke and threw to Ramblin’ Rabbit, who is now a DJ of sorts.
Bray and Huskus sang and rapped the “Muscle Man Dance.” This was mostly Huskus rambling some barely intelligible rhymes before Bray came in and started spouting about Reptilians with super imposed images behind him on a green screen. Illuminati triangles, the devil, goat horns, and various subliminal “let me in” messages flashed on and off the screen. It ended with a close ups Bray saying “let me in.”
Back to Bryan, Kayla looked to him for comment. Bryan stared away from Kayla and said nothing. The show went to break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I get what they’re going for here, I suppose. This subversive, confusing, oddly eerie style of vignette is popular in the horror genre and can be incredibly effective when handled with care and subtlety. This is not that.)
-Sonya Deville was in the ring with Mandy Rose at her side when the show returned from commercial. Michael Cole said she had a lot to prove. Nikki Cross headed to the ring next.
Mandy Rose grabbed a microphone just as the referee was about to ring the bell. She said she doesn’t like to make fun of the way people look, then proceeded to say Nikki Cross looks like a cold plate of Thanksgiving leftovers. She left the ring.
(3) SONYA DEVILLE (w/ Mandy Rose) vs. NIKKI CROSS
Nikki Cross stormed at Sonya Deville when the bell rang. Deville dropped her with an elbow, then followed it up with a sliding knee for a two count. Deville grabbed a seated chin lock. Nikki battled free with a jawbreaker.
Cross shoved Deville into the corner and hit a running bulldog. She climbed to the top rope. Mandy Rose jumped on the apron and grabbed at her leg. Deville ripped Deville off the top rope. She scooped up Cross, but Nikki rolled her up into an inside cradle for a quick three count.
WINNER: Nikki Cross in 2:00
Rose and Deville attacked Cross immediately after the bell rang. Alexa Bliss’ music hit and she rushed to the ring to a big pop. Bliss took Rose and Deville out then played up to the crowd. She and Nikki hit a double DDT on Rose, then gave each other a big hug.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This seems to be the way most Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose singles matches go. It seems as though maybe they aren’t trusted to go very long on their own, as they’re often quick, clean losses meant to put someone else over or move a story along, as was the case tonight. Great to see Alexa Bliss back, hopefully as fully established, true babyface.)
-Backstage, Daniel Bryan was approached by The Miz. He said he was concerned about Bryan. He told him to look at what happens after people face The Fiend. He cited Finn Balor and Seth Rollins, saying the both changed for the worse. Miz said he understands the offer is tempting, but, is it worth it? Miz said the Smackdown locker room can’t afford to lose him. Bryan gave him a death stare. Miz retreated.
-Michael Cole teased The New Day’s tag team title open challenge, coming up after the break.
-Dana Brooke was shown backstage on her phone. Drake Maverick approached and asked Dana if she knew what his favorite Christmas tradition was. She said no. He held up a branch of mistletoe and leaned in for a kiss. Dana shut him down. “Aren’t you married?” He said it was complicated.
Elias strummed his guitar and walked into frame. Dana seemed interested, asking where’d he’d been. She said he looked great. Elias played a new song. Dana danced along, awkwardly. Drake Maverick walked away.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I thought maybe they were going somewhere with Dana after putting her in the Survivor Series tag match. Turns out, it was just this, and this was bad. Really bad. Elias is not a character I found myself clamoring to see back after time away, at all.)
-Back in the arena, New Day’s voice filled the speakers and New Day headed to the ring. Cole wondered who would accept their open challenge for the tag team titles. Big E said New Day had a great Thanksgiving. He said they filled up on all the fixings. Big E said it’s Black Friday, and they debuted on Black Friday. Kofi said tonight is about business as they prepare to defend their tag team titles.
The openly pondered who might accept their challenge. Shinsuke Nakamura’s music hit. He, Cesaro, and Sami Zayn walked out. “Shut your mouth, “Sami said. He said it makes him sick to hear New Day celebrate Thanksgiving and the deals of Black Friday. He accused New Day of peddling rampant consumerism. “Shame on you,” Sami said, pointing first at New Day, then at the audience.
Zayn said it’s time for the tag team titles to be held by men smart enough to see through the nonsense. He led Nakamura and Cesaro to the ring. Cole said it should be a classic. The show went to break.
(4) THE NEW DAY (c, Kofi Kingston & Big E) vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & CESARO (w/ Sami Zayn) – Smackdown Tag Team Title match
Kofi Kingston and Cesaro began the match. They locked up center ring. Kofi shot Cesaro off the ropes. Cesaro gave him a shoulder tackle. The reversed the sequence. Kofi hit Cesaro with a spinning elbow. Cesaro grabbed a headlock and tagged in Shinsuke Nakamura.
Nakamura delivered knees and strikes to Kingston. Kofi fought back with a dropkick for a quick two count. Kofi climbed to the middle rope. Sami Zayn distracted him. Nakamura swept his legs out from under him, causing Kofi to bounce the back of his head off the turnbuckle and slump to the mat. Nakamura made a tag. Cesaro scooped up Kofi and dropped him with a gut wrench for a two count.
Cesaro and Nakamura tagged in and out, working Kingston over and keeping him isolated. Nakamura distracted the referee, allowing Zayn to rip Kofi off the apron. Cesaro then tossed Kingston over the announcers desk. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Back from the break, Kofi and Cesaro bother crawled to their respective corners. Both reached their partner. Big E hit a pair of belly to belly suplexes off the hot tag, then gyrated over a prone Nakamura. E went for a splash, but Nakamura moved and caught Big E with a pair of devastating knees.
Big E retreated to the corner. Nakamura charged, but Big E cut him off. He scooped up Nakamura, who rolled down the bag and tagged out. Nakamura kicked Big E to the mat. Cesaro flew off the top with a diving headbutt for a two count.
Cesaro set up for the Neutralizer. Big E backdropped out of it. Cesaro tried to attack Kofi on the apron, but Kingston flipped him over the ropes and to the floor. Nakamura charged toward the corner. Kofi caught him with a kick. Kingston tagged himself in. Big E scooped up Nakamura into a power bomb position. Kofi flew off the top rope with a double stomp into a cover, but Cesaro broke up the pin.
Kofi sent Cesaro to the outside. Big E launched Kingston over the top rope to the floor, but Cesaro caught him in mid-air with an uppercut. He he Big E with one from the apron. Cesaro rolled Kingston back in the ring. Nakamura set up for the Kinshasa. Kofi rolled through it into a school boy for a two count.
Nakamura caught Kofi with a kick then went for a cover. Big E broke it up. Cesaro tossed Big E into the ring post. Cesaro tagged in. He blasted Kingston with uppercuts. Kofi countered the final one and went for Trouble in Paradise. Cesaro caught him and hung him up on the top rope. Sami Zayn tried to hit Kingston with the plate of pancakes, but the referee saw him and cut him off. The referee tossed Zayn from ringside.
Cesaro tried to protest while Kofi recovered. Kingston hit Cesaro with Trouble in Paradise for a three count.
WINNERS: The New Day in 11:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Not quite the match it could’ve or should’ve been. It was fine for what it was, but I thought with the show being more or less anchored around this segment, we’d see a bit of a longer match where the champion’s titles seemed more in peril.)
-Cole and Graves threw to recap of the Reigns vs. Roode match and post-match angle from earlier in the night.
-Daniel Bryan was shown walking down a hallway. Cole said we’d hear from him next.
-After the break, Daniel Bryan headed to the ring as Cole and Graves contemplated what he’d say. Bryan recapped Bray’s challenge. He said he’d been given a lot of unsolicited advice, particularly from The Miz.
Bryan said Miz may be right, and maybe he needed to be changed. Bryan said he was nervous at Survivor Series, because The Fiend had potential to change him. Bryan said he felt changed during the match. He said it wasn’t because of the Fiend, it because of the fans. “It was your passion, your energy, your voice, that made me realize I needed to be the person I should’ve been the whole time,” Bryan said. The crowd broke into a “yes” chant.
Bryan said he’d said many times that the “yes” movement is dead. He said maybe the fans brought it back to life. Bryan asked the fans if she should accept. The broke into a thunderous “yes” chant. He joined in with the crowd. The Firefly Fun House title sequence cut them off.
“Yowie Wowie!” Bray exclaimed. He said The Miz is right. Bray told Bryan he will change. He said The Fiend will remove Bryan’s mask and show everyone his true form. “You helped me change, Daniel.” He said Bryan helped build the Firefly Fun House.
Bray said he almost forgot that he promised a new face tonight. He said he’s a man of his word. The electric noise filled the arena. The lights turned red. The Fiend broke through from underneath the ring and grabbed Bryan y the leg. He dragged him to the mat and locked in the mandible claw, dragging him toward the hole.
The Fiend pulled Bryan underneath the ring and shook profusely. He came up with a handful of hair. The Fiend laughed. He left the hair in the ring and disappeared, then came back up with more and more and more. The show faded out over The Fiend’s laughter.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Net positive for me with Bryan returning to a full on babyface character, but I question the false advertising of the introduction of a “new” Firefly Fun House character. It’s fine to full one of these things every so often, but WWE does it with frustrating regularity.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: A bit of a mixed bag. I really liked the direction the show was headed in the first half hour, despite some minor gripes about the positioning of King Corbin and his crew relative to their perceived place on the totem pole. As the show wore on, some inconsistencies and old bad habits started to poke through, and the wrestling didn’t come off as strongly as I may have expected heading into the night, based on what was previously announced. In general, though, it’s great to have moved on from brand warfare and to be getting back into some more traditional angles.