LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 1/3: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Reigns & Bryan vs. Corbin & Ziggler, The Miz’s future, multiple returns, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 3, 2020
MEMPHIS, TN AT FEDEXFORUM
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with a recap of last week’s triple threat match to determine the number one contender for the Universal title, setting up tonight’s tag team main event.

-Daniel Bryan was shown backstage, taping his wrists. The Miz stepped onto screen. He said he needs to avenge what The Fiend did to his family. “I’m gonna take away everything he cares about,” Miz said. He said Bryan earned the right to face Fiend by beating him last week. He asked Bryan to beat The Fiend for him, and for everyone, while he figures out what’s next.

-The show’s opening video package played. Pyro shot from the stage and the camera switched to a wide shot of the FedExForum  as Michael Cole welcomed everyone to the first Smackdown of the new year. He and Corey Graves previewed the tag team main event, featuring Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan against King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler.

-“We kick off the new year with Boss time!” Cole said as Sasha Banks’ music played. She and Bayley headed to the ring for a three way women’s tag team match. Cole and Graves said the match has implications in both the Smackdown Women’s title picture, as well as the women’s tag team division.

Sasha and Bayley grabbed microphones. Bayley said we all made it to 2020, but she suspects the fans will fill to fulfill their new year’s resolutions. She said they lack the guts to make positive changes in their lives. Bayley said she and Sasha took hard looks at themselves in 2019 and made necessary changes. “She’s the standard, I’m the role model,” Bayley said. Lacey Evans’ music cut Bayley off.

Lacey Evans and Dana Brooke walked onto the stage. Lacey said she sets a positive example and builds a better life for her daughter by being in WWE. She said Sasha and Bayley try to use a seven year old to get to her, and it worked. She promised the bad guys can be stopped. Alexa Bliss’ music played.

Bliss said she and Cross can see the personal issues between the other women. She wondered whether or not she and Nikki belong in the match. Cross said they do, because they want to get back to the tag team titles. Bliss said they’d start 2020 with a win. Cole said the show would start after the break.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Quick promos here that felt largely unnecessary, though I felt like the tone of Bayley’s brief mic time was a pretty marked improvement over her other recent promos. She seemed to have a certain confidence and edge that she lacked previously. Lacey continued to seem a bit clunky.)

(1) BAYLEY & SASHA BANKS vs. LACEY EVANS & DANA BROOKE vs. ALEXA BLISS & NIKKI CROSS

The bell rang as soon as the show returned from break. Lacey Evans and Sasha Banks began as the legal women. Sasha quickly tagged her team out by tagging Nikki Cross. Cole explained that only two women are legal at a time, and you can tag anyone. Evans tagged in Dana Brooke, who Cole called “much improved.”

Nikki pushed Dana into the corner and fired up. She tagged in Bliss. Bliss gave Brooke an headlock takeover. Brooke wrestled Alexa back to her feet. Brooke caught Bliss with a kick to the stomach. Bliss shot off the ropes and rolled through Brooke into a jackknife cover for a two count.

Bayley grabbed Brooke’s feet so that Sasha could tag herself in. Bliss slapped Sasha twice, then connected with a dropkick. Sasha tagged in Bayley. Bayley shot Bliss into the corner and connected with a knee to the face. She hung up Bliss in the ropes. Sasha got in a cheap shot while Bayley distracted the referee. Sasha and Bayley traded tags back and forth, cutting off Alexa Bliss.

Bliss battled back, but Sasha prevented her from making a tag by knocking Dana Brooke off the apron. Bayley rushed into the ring, but Bliss side stepped her and she ran into Dana Brooke on the apron. Banks took down Lacey Evans. Bliss was left alone in the ring while the rest of the women gathered on the floor. Nikki Cross dove on them all. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Sasha Banks hit a meteor on Nikki Cross as the show returned from commercial. Banks covered her, but Dana Brooke broke up the pin attempt. Dana hit Banks with a snap suplex, then hit one on Bayley. All the women entered the ring, the referee did little to stop it. Sasha and Bayley managed a double team attack on Dana Brooke for a near fall.

Banks tagged in Bayley. Bayley trashed talked Dana while stomping away at her. Bayley made another tag to Sasha and the duo continued to work over Dana Brooke. Bayley knocked Lacey Evans off the apron, allowing Brooke a moment to recover and attack Bayley. Bayley quickly recovered and took Brooke down, immediately tagging in Banks and maintaining control. Dana fought back, hitting a snap suplex on Sasha.

Brooke crawled to Lacey Evans. Banks tagged in Bayley and cut her off. Brooke hit Bayley with an enziguri and tagged in Lacey. Lacey dropped Bayley and hit a standing moonsault. She hit her with a snapmare then pulled out a cloth to wipe her sweat. She set Bayley up near the ropes. Evans went for the step up top rope moonsault, but Banks pulled Bayley out of the ring.Bayley slid back in and caught Evans with the Bayley to Belly. Bliss and Cross returned to break up the pin attempt.

Nikki Cross hit Dana Brooke with a neck breaker. Banks and Bayley double teamed Cross with a spinning backbreaker. Dana Brooke pulled Bayley out of the ring. Sasha rolled up Evans for a two count. Dana Brooke tagged herself in. Lacey Evans hit Sasha with a Woman’s Right. Dana Brooke connected with a senton on Sasha for a three count.

WINNERS: Lacey Evans & Dana Brooke in 13:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Parts of this were decent, but there was a lot of clunky spots throughout. Glad to see Dana Brooke continue to get some solid exposure, even if she is rough around the edges. Lacey Evans continues to need to work on her babyface persona, as I don’t think the handkerchief gimmick is really a babyface thing to do. Bliss and Cross didn’t really seem to belong in this match, but they made their limited in ring time interesting.)

-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves recapped the strange friendship developing between Otis and Mandy Rose, and threw to the clip of Dolph Ziggler stomping on Otis’ fruitcake while making a pass at Mandy.

-Backstage, Otis was shown doing reps with a keg barrel. Mandy Rose approached him and said hello. She wished him a happy new year and asked if his mom made anything special for the holiday. Otis told her to ask Dolph. Mandy asked if he’d seen the footage. Otis said he hadn’t, but his mother did. Mandy apologized. Tucker stepped on screen and told Otis to focus on their match.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I continue to be entertained by this. It’s giving Mandy’s character some dimension, and Otis has been doing a great job with his facial expressions and general delivery. On the surface, this had the problem of being shot in WWE’s “side by side” promo style, but for once, it actually worked, because it made Otis seem like he was too embarrassed and/or upset to look Mandy in the eye.)

-The Miz was shown walking down a backstage hallway. He stumbled upon New Day with a large platter of pancakes, spelling out “2020.” They asked him what he did to celebrate. Miz said he wasn’t in the mood. Big E said he watched the “balls” drop. Kofi wondered what he was watching. Kofi talked up Miz’s accomplishments over the last decade, trying to cheer him up. Miz wasn’t having it. He said The Miz violated the sanctity of his family and his home. He knocked New Day’s platter of pancakes to the floor. Big E got in Miz’s face. Kofi held him back. Kofi surmised that Miz was asking for a match, and he accepted. “Happy New Year,” Miz said.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Interesting segment. One could argue that Kofi Kingston should be as disheartened as Miz, but I guess that’s neither here nor there. I’m curious to see what direction they’re taking Miz in here. Also interesting to note that Big E set himself up to casually drop a racial slur, but not so subtlety slipped into the word “neighbor” when referring to Kofi Kingston.)

-Greg Hamilton introduced Elias, who was in the ring with his microphone. He sang a song about his hopes for 2020, including seeing Sami Zayn get punched in the jaw, a change for the Revival, Shane McMahon on Raw (if he returns), and a shot at Dolph Ziggler’s comedy act. He concluded by singing that everyone will walk with him at Royal Rumble.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I’d like to echo the sentiments of Todd Martin on this week’s episode of The Fix on PWTorch.com, who essentially said that WWE doesn’t need another act who’s sole purpose is to peddle the WWE narrative. I’ve never found Elias to be particularly entertaining, but this incarnation is especially dreadful. Curious, in particular, to see him bash Shane McMahon, someone he worked extensively with last time he was heavily featured on television. It’s not as though we were ever given a reason for Elias to suddenly feel so differently about him, other than he mocks heels now.)

-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves talked about The Revival’s recent plight. Backstage, The Revival were discussing the injuries they suffered during the Miracle on 34th Street Fight two weeks ago. Dawson said they work too hard to be made into clowns. Shorty G walked into frame. He said they shouldn’t let what anyone says bother them.

Shorty G said he stopped worrying what everyone else said, embraced who he is, and it’s the best decision he’s ever made. The Revival feigned agreement, then made fun of Shorty G. Shorty G debuted his new motto, “rise over size.” Shorty G challenged Dash Wilder to a one on one match. Wilder accepted.

Shorty G headed to the ring for the match. Cole touted G’s new motto and sent the show to break.

(2) SHORTY G vs. DASH WILDER (w/ Scott Dawson)

Dash Wilder was in the ring when the show returned from break. Scott Dawson hopped on commentary. The bell rang and Shorty G quickly took Dash Wilder down. He followed up quickly with a Northern Lights bridging suplex for a quick two count. Wilder hoisted G onto the top rope and hit him with a backdrop from the top rope for a near fall.

Wilder slapped a seated chin lock on Gable. Gable broke free and countered out of a back suplex, then hit Wilder with an overhead belly to belly suplex. Both men spilled to the outside. G tossed Wilder back in the ring and climbed to the top rope. He hit a cross body. Wilder rolled through it and held onto G’s tights for a two count.

Shorty G took down Wilder and locked in the ankle lock, but Wilder reached the ropes quickly. Wilder hoisted G into the electric chair position and bounced G off the top rope. Wilder tried to take G down, but Shorty G countered into the ankle lock. Wilder tapped immediately.

WINNER: Shorty G in 3:00

Scott Dawson rushed the ring and gave Shorty G a chop block from behind. Wilder joined in on the attack. The Revival hit G with the Shatter Machine. The lights cut out, and Sheamus’ music played.

Sheamus appeared in a flood of light on stage and marched to the ring. The Revival looked on. They lifted Shorty G, then darted from the ring as soon as Sheamus stepped inside. Sheamus spun around and dropped Shorty G with a Brogue Kick. Sheamus looked around as his music played.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Quick match that was good for what it was. Not surprising that they’d give Wilder the quick loss, given the track The Revival have been on as of late. It’s a little surprising that they chose this moment to bring Sheamus in and show up The Revival’s post-match attack. Sheamus looked good, sporting his old look and seeming to be in excellent shape. He had a full head of hair, a full beard, and his old trunks.)

-Big E’s voice filled the arena when the show returned from commercial. He and Kofi Kingston headed to the ring, Kofi tossing out pancakes to the crowd. Cole and Graves discussed Miz, calling him an “emotional powder keg.” The Miz came to the ring, doing his typical poses, despite his emotional state.

(3) KOFI KINGSTON (w/ Big E) vs. THE MIZ

The bell rang just before the second hour began. Miz and Kofi Kingston locked up. They traded quick chain wrestling holds. Kofi caught Miz in a quick cover for a two count. Kofi applied a standing headlock. Miz shot Kofi off the ropes. Kofi dropped him with a tackle. Kofi hit Miz with a monkey toss. Miz seemed annoyed.

Miz slapped Kofi and rolled him up for a one count. He gave Kofi a shoulder tackle. Kofi leapfrogged a takedown attempt and dropped Miz with an elbow. The pair traded attempted rope dives, both catching themselves as their opponent moved out of the way.

Back in the ring, Miz kicked Kofi in the gut and took control. He drove his elbow into Kofi’s shoulder repeatedly. Kofi fought free and missed Trouble in Paradise. Miz tossed him into the corner and began hitting the “it” kicks. He hit a pair of high running knees in the corner. Kofi countered the third and climbed to the top rope, hitting a jumping clothesline. He followed up with the Boom Drop.

Kofi set up for Trouble in Paradise. Miz ducked and went for a neck breaker. Kofi countered out and went for the SOS. Miz rolled through and set up for Skull Crushing Finale. Kofi rolled Miz up for a surprise three count.

WINNER: Kofi Kingston in 4:00

Miz sat up in shock. Kofi celebrated. Miz attacked Kofi from behind. Big E rushed into the ring and The Miz escaped. Cole called Miz “an absolute emotional wreck.” The crowd chanted “you suck” at Miz. Miz lashed out of them, screaming that he’d given the crowd everything.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a fun match while it lasted. These two have always had pretty decent chemistry. Miz’s apparent heel turn is coming at the right time, as it feels like his character has kind of hit a brick wall as of late. He needs something new. This new twist on his heel personal should give him plenty to work with going forward, though it’ll be interesting to see if and how they incorporate him into The Fiend’s world again.)

-Backstage, Cathy Kelly welcomed Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns to the interview set. She asked Bryan about the challenge of facing The Fiend. Bryan said people break when they face The Fiend. He said he’s the only one who hasn’t. He said he’d prove it by winning the Universal title. Roman asked if that meant he’d be walking into WrestleMania as Universal champion. Bryan confirmed. Roman said he’s entering the Royal Rumble and winning it. He told Bryan to be ready. Bryan said he’s ready any place, any time. He told Reigns to be ready for their tag match later. Reigns agreed. They went their separate ways.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt way too over scripted and over produced. Both Bryan and Reigns are capable of better mic work, especially the former.)

-Heavy Machinery headed to the ring. Cole said Otis would be in action after the break.

-After the break, they aired a quick recap of The Miz losing his match and then attacking Kofi Kingston. They cut to Cathy Kelly backstage, standing outside The Miz’s locker room. She knocked. John Morrison stepped out. Morrison said Miz has nothing left to say. He stepped back in the room and shut the door.

(LeClair’s Analysis: An even more interesting development. Morrison and Miz were a great tag team and this would be a great role for both of them to slide at into at this stage of their respective careers.)

-Back in the ring, Otis awaited his opponent, Drew Gulak. Gulak came to the ring with a microphone. He said he was an expert on matters of the heart. He said Otis had no chance at dating Mandy Rose. He said Mandy wants a man with a physique and a mind, like Dolph Ziggler, or himself. “You look like you’re leaking butter,” Gulak said of Otis. He introduced a Powerpoint presentation. Otis was fuming. He grabbed Gulak and hoisted him into the ring.

(4) OTIS DOZOVIC (w/ Tucker Knight) vs. DREW GULAK

Otis immediately tossed Gulak into the corner. Gulak tried to fight back with punches, but Otis wasn’t phased. He tossed Gulak over his head. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville were shown watching the match backstage, talking animatedly. Otis gave Gulak a press slam in the ring.

The camera cut backstage again, Dolph Ziggler was now talking to Mandy. Mandy told him to apologize. In the ring, Gulak slapped Otis repeatedly. Otis ripped his shirt off and gave Gulak a pair of big bodyslams. He splashed Gulak out of the corner and set up for the caterpillar.

Otis completed the caterpillar and dropped a big elbow. He climbed to the top rope and crushed Drew Gulak with a leaping splash for a quick three count.

WINNER: Otis Dozovic in 3:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was as much about showing Mandy Rose watching the match as it was about the match itself. Otis continues to get over with his unique offense and likable personality. Heavy Machinery is one of the most consistently entertaining acts on Friday nights.)

-Braun Strowman was shown walking down a hallway backstage. Cole said he’d face Cesaro after the break.

-After the break, Braun Strowman headed to the ring, slapping hands with fans at ringside and displaying an overall jovial demeanor. Cesaro came to the ring with Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn.

(5) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. CESARO (w/ Sami Zayn & Shinsuke Nakamura)

Cesaro circled Braun Strowman as the bell rang. They locked up, and Strowman outpoured Cesaro into the corner. Cesaro turned the tables and backed Strowman into the opposing corner. Strowman pushed out. Cesaro tried to deliver a shoulder tackle, but Braun didn’t budge.

Cesaro hit Strowman with lefts and rights and another shoulder tackle, but Strowman remained undeterred. He gave Cesaro a big takeover, then a huge clothesline in the corner. Cesaro slid to the outside, lured Strowman in and hung him up on the ropes. Strowman quickly recovered and shoved Cesaro off the apron, sending him flying into the barricade. Sami Zayn tried to distract Strowman, but Braun quickly dispatched of him. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Cesaro had Strowman grounded in a sleeper hold when the show returned from break. Strowman quickly fought to his feet and dumped Cesaro in the corner. Cesaro fought back and hung Strowman up in the ropes. Sami Zayn distracted the referee so Nakamura could give Strowman a kick to the head. Cesaro covered Strowman for a two count.

Strowman again fought Cesaro off, but Cesaro locked in another sleeper. Strowman broke the hold with a side slam. Braun took Cesaro down with a pair of shoulder tackles, then a corner clothesline. Nakamura hopped onto the apron, but Strowman gave him a punch to the face.

Cesaro pounced on Strowman with an uppercut. Strowman quickly shoved Cesaro away, sending him flying under the bottom rope to the floor. Strowman headed to the outside to run down Cesaro and Nakamura. Sami Zayn hid under the ring. Strowman tossed Cesaro back in the ring and went for the running power slam. Zayn ran in the ring. Braun dropped Cesaro and chased Zayn away.

Cesaro went for the Neutralizer, but Strowman blocked it, scooped up Cesaro, and hit the running power slam for a three count.

WINNER: Braun Strowman in 8:00

Shinsuke Nakamura slid in the ring and dropped Strowman immediately with a Kinshasa. Zayn, Nakamura, and Cesaro retreated as Strowman struggled to return to his feet.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid match. Honestly, this is one of the few times I would have preferred a non finish, given the three-on-one odds for Cesaro. Even still, the post match quick strike Kinshasa was a nice touch. This feud could be interesting going forward, though it feels like it’s being set up for Strowman to just win the Intercontinental title with relative ease.)

-Roman Reigns headed to the ring for the main event. Cole and Graves discussed Roman’s win over Dolph Ziggler on Fox’s New Years Eve special. They teased the main event before sending the show to commercial.

After the break, Corey Graves announced Lacey Evans will face Sasha Banks on next week’s Smackdown.

Daniel Bryan headed to the ring to join his partner, Roman Reigns. Dolph Ziggler and King Corbin followed.

(6) ROMAN REIGNS & DANIEL BRYAN vs. KING CORBIN & DOLPH ZIGGLER

Roman Reigns began the match with King Corbin. Corbin charged at Reigns as soon as the bell rang and ambushed him, tossing him into the corner and stomping away. Reigns recovered quickly and fired back with punches, quickly sending Corbin fleeing to the outside. Reigns caught him with a Drive by.

Ziggler distracted Reigns long enough for Corbin to recover, take Reigns down, and tag Dolph. Reigns caught Ziggler with a big boot to quickly thwart his offense. Reigns tagged in Daniel Bryan. Bryan tossed Ziggler over the top rope to the floor. He started a “yes” chant. Bray Wyatt’s laugh filled the arena and the lights flickered. Bryan looked around. The show faded to commercial.

Roman Reigns has King Corbin in the corner when the show returned from break. He pummeled him with ten clotheslines, then followed up with a big clothesline. Reigns played to the crowd. He set up for the Superman punch. Ziggler cut him off on the apron. Reigns knocked him off.

Corbin caught Reigns with a Deep Six for a near fall. He rolled Reigns to the outside, then tossed him shoulder first into the ring steps. Corbin bounced Reigns’ head off the announcers desk then slid him back in the ring, immediately tagging in Ziggler. Dolph trash talked Roman, blocking him from reaching Daniel Bryan.

Reigns hit Ziggler with a trio of punches, but Ziggler bounced back and connected with a neck breaker, tagging in King Corbin. Corbin continued to cut Reigns off from Bryan. Cole called Corbin a future World Champion. Corbin tossed Reigns into the ring post. He tried to give Reigns a knee, but Roman countered into a Superman punch. Both men were down in the ring. Corbin made a tag to Ziggler. Reigns reached Bryan.

Bryan fired away at Ziggler. He flipped off the top rope and dropped Ziggler with a running clothesline. Bryan hit the running dropkick out of the corner, then began his signature corner kicks. He hoisted Ziggler onto the top rope and hit a hurricanrana. Ziggler rose to his knees. Bryan began the “yes” kicks. Ziggler blocked the final one and rolled up Bryan. Bryan transitioned into the Labell Lock. Corbin broke up the submission attempt.

Reigns returned and dropped Corbin with a Spear. Ziggler immediately caught Reigns with a super kick. He went for the Zig Zag on Bryan, but Bryan shook him off. He shot off the ropes and hit Ziggler with the running knee. The lights cut out and The Fiend’s electrical noises filled the speakers.

The lights returned under the eerie red glow. The Fiend was standing outside the ring. Bryan dove through the ropes onto The Fiend. The Fiend quickly recovered and locked the mandible claw in on Bryan, shoving him through the barricade at the timekeeper’s area. The lights cut out on a close up of The Fiend’s face.

When the lights returned, Bryan was down in the timekeeper’s area, The Fiend was gone, and Dolph Ziggler and King Corbin attacked Roman Reigns from behind. They tossed Reigns back in the ring and handcuffed Reigns. Ziggler retrieved dog food from underneath the ring. They chained Reigns to the ropes. Corbin prepared to dump the dog food on Reigns. The Usos’ music hit.

Jimmy and Jey rushed the ring, dropping Dolph Ziggler with tandem super kicks. They tossed Corbin to the outside, then hit double dives onto both Corbin and Ziggler. The Usos returned to the ring to help Roman as the show went off the air.

WINNERS: No contest in 13:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: I cut the time at the point that The Fiend put Bryan in the mandible claw, presuming it to be a disqualification at that point. The bell never rang, and Graves said the match was still “active” even after the lights turned back on. I dislike the way they don’t even bother announcing a disqualification or a no-finish, they just presume no one cares and the match didn’t matter enough to warrant an explanation. 

In any case, the match itself was a run-of-the-mill TV tag match. Bryan’s brief offense on The Fiend was good to see, and I like that his character shows no fear of Wyatt and is willing to throw himself at The Fiend at every opportunity. The Usos returning was a nice, welcomed surprise, and I’ve always wondered what it might be like to pair them with Reigns on a semi-regular basis rather than just acknowledging their connection and occasionally teaming them when the situation called for it. That could wind up being what they’re doing here, but time will tell. I’m just glad we didn’t get another dog food bath.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: This felt like an improvement over the last couple of weeks, with three intriguing returns (The Usos, Sheamus, and John Morrison) and some solid development for Reigns’ WrestleMania path, Bryan’s continuing program with The Fiend, and The Miz’s turn. Additionally, we got more out of Otis and Mandy, and a match between Lacey Evans and Sasha Banks set up for next week’s show. Smackdown is still a step behind Raw in terms of quality, and there are still elements of the show I’d elect to change, but I’m pleased to be writing about a show that wasn’t dominated by multiple King Corbin segments.

 

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