LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 1/10: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Usos vs. Corbin & Ziggler, John Morrison on MizTV, Fiend mind games, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



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

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JANUARY 10, 2019
EVANSVILLE, IN AT FORD CENTER EVANSVILLE
AIRED LIVE ON USA NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-Pyro shot from the rafters after Smackdown’s standard weekly intro package. Michael Cole welcomes the audience to a show over a wide shot of the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana. The Miz’s music hit as Cole exclaimed they were kicking off the night with “must see TV.”

As Miz headed to the ring, Cole and Graves talked over Miz’s recent transformation and threw to a clip from last week’s show, showing Miz’s frustration after losing to Kofi Kingston.

In the ring, Miz looked around at the crowd as they pelted boos at him. He welcomed everyone to MizTV. Miz claimed that people have been telling him that he’s changed. He said he was having a bad day, and he didn’t want to deal with Kofi Kingston’s positivity last week. Miz said he let his emotions get the better of him and apologized to Kofi Kingston.

Miz said he’s going through a lot in the last month. He talked about Bray Wyatt threatening his daughter. Miz said he failed to earn an opportunity to face The Fiend for the Universal title. Miz said the one bright spot this month has been the return of someone who is like family to him. He welcomed the returning John Morrison.

John Morrison’s music played and he headed to the ring. Cole remarked that it had been nearly eight years since he’d been in a WWE ring. Morrison hugged Miz and posed on the turnbuckle. The fans broke into a “welcome back” chant as Morrison sat down in the guest chair. Miz egged them on. Miz called he and Morrison the greatest tag team of the 21st century and briefly ran down Morrison’s accolades. He threw to a “sizzle reel” recapping Morrison’s WWE career.

Back live, Morrison said it was good to be back. He claimed he wasn’t scheduled to return until Royal Rumble, with new music, “pulled to the ring by a bunch of Pomeranians.” He said he had to show up because of everything Miz has been going through. He said he’s disappointed in the crowd for turning their backs on Miz “just because he had a bad day.”

“You don’t get it,” Morrison said. “Miz does what he does for all of you and you don’t appreciate it.” He started running down fans in the front row. Big E’s voice cut him off. New Day’s music played and the duo danced onto the stage. Kofi asked Miz who he’s trying to fool. Big E said they don’t buy Miz’s apology. He said Miz isn’t a great actor. “You couldn’t even get cast as the back end of the Human Centipede!” Big E declared.

Kofi said it would have been respectable if Miz had just stopped at “I had a bad day.” Miz retorted, saying he respects that Kofi held the WWE title for six months, and then lost it in six seconds. He called out Kingston for failing to go back after the title after losing it. Kofi said it’s clear that Miz is changing from “cool” Miz to “obnoxious and annoying” Miz. Kofi said the people are correct in saying “you suck.” The crowd broke into the chant. New Day’s music played. Cole said Kofi would face Miz after the break.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Interesting approach to take with John Morrison right out of the gate. He seemed a bit shaky on the microphone, but that’s never really been his strong suit anyway. New Day’s appearance was to be expected, though I was glad to hear Miz specifically call out Kingston’s failure to attempt to avenge his WWE title loss. It’s good that they’re finally addressing that head on, rather than completely ignoring the obvious elephant in the room on a weekly basis.)

-New Day’s music continued to play when the show returned from commercial. Michael Cole welcomed Big E and John Morrison to the announcers desk.

(1) THE MIZ vs. KOFI KINGSTON

Kofi Kingston and The Miz locked up as soon as the bell rang. Kofi wrestled Miz to the corner and broke the hold, throwing a quick kick to throw Miz off balance. Kofi worked over Miz’s arm as Cole grilled Morrison about his return on commentary. Big E talked up Morrison’s accomplishments.

In the ring, Miz caught Kofi with a knee to the midsection and dropped him with another. Kofi ducked a pair of clotheslines and tried to take Miz down. Miz blocked it. Kofi rolled Miz up for a two count. Off the ropes, Miz caught Kofi with a lifting knee that flipped Kofi to the mat.

Miz gave Kofi a big boot for a two count. He locked on a sleeper hold. Kofi wrestled to his feet. Miz dropped Kofi with a shoulder tackle and looked around at the crowd. Kingston leapfrogged Miz a few times then dropped him with a jumping elbow. Miz rolled to the outside. He quickly returned, but Kofi clotheslined him back to the floor. Kofi followed it up with a suicide dive to the outside.

Both men returned to their feet. Miz shoved Kofi into Big E’s lap. Big E shot to his feet. Morrison left his chair to get involved. The show quickly faded to commercial.

Miz had Kofi in a headlock when the show returned from break. Kofi quickly broke the hold with elbows to the gut and dropped Miz. The referee began to count both men. They returned to their feet just before five. Kofi dropped Miz with a dropkick and followed up with a jumping clothesline. He hit the Boom Drop and set up for Trouble in Paradise.

Miz caught Kofi’s leg and drove both his knees into Kingston’s leg. Kofi recovered quickly, sidestepped Miz and leaped onto and off the top rope with a leaping cross body for a near fall. Miz recovered, knocked Kofi down and began delivering the “it” kicks. Kofi ducked the final kick and went for the SOS. Miz rolled through and attempted the Skull Crushing Finale. Kofi fought off and rolled Miz up for a near fall. He hit the SOS and scored another near fall.

Miz shot Kofi into the corner and began working on his leg. He hit a number of running knees. Kofi countered the last one with a kick of his own. Kofi tried to take Miz down with a diving axe handle, but Miz kicked the leg out. Miz quickly locked in the Figure Four. Kingston rolled toward the ropes and eventually reached them, forcing the break.

Kofi rolled to the outside. Miz retrieved him, then got in an argument with Big E. Morrison jumped Big E from behind, taking him down. Miz rolled Kofi back in the ring and hit the Skull Crushing Finale for a three count.

WINNER:The Miz in 12:00

Miz celebrated with John Morrison. Graves said his confidence is greatly boosted with Morrison at his side.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid match. These two have years of experience working with each other and they always seem to pull off solid bouts. Miz definitely seems rejuvenated with Morrison at his side. Though Miz didn’t do anything overtly heel here, it’s obvious given Morrison’s promo earlier in the night that they’re going to continue to explore and build upon this slow build to Miz having a full change in attitude. These guys should have some excellent matches for the tag team titles in the coming weeks and months.)

-Michael Cole ran down what’s to come on tonight’s show, including Lacey Evans vs. Sasha Banks, and The Usos vs. King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler.

-The Firefly Funhouse theme aired. Bray Wyatt walked onto his set. He told the viewers to come closer. “I love you,” he said, “yowie wowie!” Wyatt said love is special, but not everyone is worthy of it. He called out Daniel Bryan. Wyatt said whatever the opposite of love is, that’s how “he” feels about Bryan.

Wyatt said Bryan is in a heap of trouble at the Royal Rumble. He said he just wanted Bryan to remember. Quick jump clips of Bryan’s time in the Wyatt Family aired. Bray said now, though, “he” just wants to hurt Bryan. He blew kisses at the camera as the segment faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I continue to feel lukewarm about the direction of The Fiend and the Firefly Funhouse segments. This has sort of slipped into the territory of typical WWE storytelling where it doesn’t really feel all that much like Bray is telling a story anymore, but rather, just communicating loose, semi-effective horror skits that carry little value week to week. It feels like Bray has less control over the character than he once did, and that’s not a good thing. Still, disappointments with the character aside, I am looking forward to the match with Bryan.)

-Backstage, Sonya Deville was talking to Mandy Rose in a locker room. She said she’d be in Mandy’s corner rooting her on tonight. Mandy seemed distracted. She said she had to take care of something and that she’d meet up with Sonya in a bit. She pulled out a large white box and smiled.

-In the ring, Greg Hamilton welcomed Elias to the ring. Elias said he wrote a song called “Road to the Rumble” and urged the audience to clap along. Elias ran through his various opponents in the Rumble match and claimed he’d outlast them. He opined about whether or not what was in Erick Rowan’s cage could be worse than a Lashley/Lana sex tape. “Probably not,” he concluded. Elias singled out Brock Lesnar and compared his own merits to the champion, claiming he’d beat him for the title.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I’m sure that there are fans that find value in these Elias segments, but I just don’t understand the purpose of having him serve as the company’s unofficial “preview” guy. It doesn’t really get him over in any way to be peddling the company message, nor are the songs particularly entertaining.)

-Otis was shown backstage. Tucker threw his arm around him and told him to focus. Mandy Rose stepped into frame. She apologized again for letting Ziggler step on Otis’ mom’s fruitcake. She handed him the box. It was a cake that said “I’m sorry.” She said she had a match, and left in a hurry. Otis was speechless.

-Alexa Bliss headed to the ring with Nikki Cross after the break. They cut to a brief inset promo with she and Cross talking about their participation in the Royal Rumble. Mandy Rose headed to the ring with Sonya Deville at her side.

(2) ALEXA BLISS (w/ Nikki Cross) vs. MANDY ROSE (w/ Sonya Deville)

Alexa Bliss and Mandy Rose circled the ring and locked up. Rose used her size and power to back Bliss into the corner. She broke the hold and shoved Bliss’ face into the turnbuckle. Alexa popped back out and locked up with Rose. Mandy quickly broke the hod. The two began shoving each other. Rose talked trash to Alexa.

Bliss slapped Rose in the face and shoved her into the corner, delivering a series of kicks to the midsection. Rose ran out of the corner but Bliss dropped her with a toe hold. Mandy recovered and drove Bliss into the corner. She ran at Alexa, but Bliss countered her and sent Rose to the outside. Bliss hit Rose with a sliding dropkick through the bottom rope. She went outside and sent Mandy back in the ring.

Sonya Deville jumped on the apron. Nikki Cross grabbed at her leg, allowing Bliss to kick Deville to the floor. Mandy Rose dropped Bliss off of the distraction and scored a two count. Mandy hung Alexa up in the ropes and drove her knee into Bliss’ shoulder blades. She wrestled her to the mat and locked on a chin lock.

Bliss battled to her feet. Bliss and Rose hit each other with kicks, then with forearms. Rose hooked Bliss’ arms for a double underhook, but Bliss blocked it and dropped Mandy. She fired up the crowd, hit double knees and then a standing moonsault. Heavy Machinery’s music hit. Otis and Tucker appeared on the stage, Otis carrying the cake Mandy presented him before the match.

In the ring, Bliss was distracted by Heavy Machinery’s arrival. Mandy rolled her up for a surprise three count.

WINNER: Mandy Rose in 3:00

Otis ate the cake with his bare hands on the ramp while Rose and Deville celebrated. Otis danced and licked the cake. Mandy seemed pleased.

(LeClair’s Analysis: These two worked well enough together. Bliss is still taking command of her babyface moveset and Mandy Rose continues to find herself in the ring. She seems to work a little better with women much smaller than her, where she can use her power to show off. Again, WWE relies on the babyface distraction finish, making Bliss look incredibly stupid. She complained to the referee afterward, but that doesn’t make this any better. Rose didn’t do anything inherently wrong, Bliss was just distracted by music. This happens way too frequently.)

-Backstage, Lacey Evans was shown walking down a hallway. Cole said she’d face Sasha Banks after the break.

-Lacey Evans headed to the ring when the show returned from break. Sasha Banks music hit, but she did not come out. Instead, Bayley appeared on the tron. Bayley said Sasha is AWOL, claiming she booked studio time in Los Angeles to finish her rap album. Lacey grabbed a microphone. She said she’s not surprised that Banks didn’t show up. Lacey said she’s ready to fight anytime, anywhere, especially in the heartland of America. The crowd broke into a “USA” chant.

Lacey challenged Bayley to come face her for the title right now. Bayley said Lacey is just pandering to the crowd, but she refuses to listen to her. Lacey dropped the microphone and marched up the ramp to the back. The camera cut backstage. Lacey Evans found Bayley’s dressing room. Bayley attacked her from behind. a Brawl ensued. Bayley ducked a Woman’s Right and escaped. A referee held back Evans from pursuing her.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Another instance of completely failing to deliver an advertised match. Look, this kind of behavior makes sense for the Sasha Banks character and it helps further the storyline, but it also does more harm than good in the long run. Time and time again, WWE has proven that they cannot be trusted to deliver anything they advertise, or even a suitable replacement for what they advertise. As for the content of the segment itself, Lacey continued to struggle on the microphone, with awkward pauses to allow for crowd chants and an even longer break while she waited for a microphone. I’m not sure if she called for it too late, or the stagehand was late bringing it to her, but it left Bayley looking kind of foolish. This is one of the big problems with overly scripted promos. When it goes wrong, it really goes wrong.)

Back at ringside, Cole and Graves talked about Evans ongoing feud with Banks and Bayley, then segued into recapping the rivalry between The Fiend and Daniel Bryan. Cole threw to footage from last week’s tag team main event, where The Fiend appeared and took out Bryan.

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed Daniel Bryan. She recapped what Bray Wyatt said during Firefly Funhouse. Bryan said he remembers everything that’s happened between he and Wyatt, clearly. Bryan said he also remembers outsmarting the Wyatt Family. He said he’s chawed for the better. Bryan said The Fiend will undoubtedly hurt him, but he can’t break him. “He knows that I know that he can be beat and he can be hurt,” Bryan said. “I’m gonna do it for the Universal Championship.”

Suddenly, Ramblin’ Rabbit appeared on the screen behind Bryan. He said he’s a huge fan of Bryan’s and he has a secret to help him defeat the Fiend. Bray Wyatt grabbed Rabbit. “Silly rabbit. Remember kids, snitches get stitches.” Wyatt stared into the camera. “Let me in.” The screen cut to black. Bryan looked off into the distance.

(LeClair’s Analysis: As previously mentioned, I have little faith in creative to follow through on general week to week reliability when it comes to the Bray Wyatt/Firefly Funhouse narrative, but, in a vacuum, I do like the idea that Ramblin’ Rabbit is a fan of Bryan and wants to help him defeat the Fiend. Wyatt cutting him off here was a nice touch.)

-Back in the arena, Braun Strowman headed to the ring. Cole said he’d face Shinsuke Nakamura after the break.

After the break, Braun Strowman’s music continued to play as he awaited his opponent. Shinsuke Nakamura headed to the ring with Sami Zayn and Cesaro. Cole threw to clips from last week’s match between Strowman and Cesaro.

(3) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (w/ Sami Zayn & Cesaro)

Braun Strowman charged at Shinsuke Nakamura as soon as the bell rang. He shoved him into the corner, then tossed him out quickly. Nakamura recovered and kicked away at Strowman’s legs to weaken his base. Strowman countered Nakamura’s flurry with a quick big boot.

Strowman delivered a number of kicks to Strowman’s upper body, keeping him grounded. He brought him to the corner and delivered a strong chop. Strowman whipped Nakamura into the opposing corner, then charged, connecting with a big corner splash. Nakamura slumped to the mat.

Strowman charged again, but Sami Zayn pulled Nakamura from the ring. Braun went outside and scared away Zayn and Cesaro. Zayn slid into the ring, distracting the referee. This allowed Cesaro to shove Strowman into the ring post. Nakamura charged and delivered a kick to Strowman, sending him toppling over into the timekeeper’s area. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Nakamura had Strowman cornered when the show returned from commercial. Strowman fought out of the corner, but Nakamura caught him with a second rope knee strike for a one count. Shinsuke applied a grounded headlock. Strowman battled to his feet and broke the hold with ease. Nakamura caught him with a pair of kicks to bring him to his knees. Strowman caught another knee attempt from Nakamura and flattened him with a clothesline.

Strowman hit a pair of shoulder tackles and another corner splash. Strowman went for a running power slam, but Nakamura slid down his back and caught him with a knee. Nakamura covered Strowman for a two count. Shinsuke hit Strowman with a flurry of knees and strokes to the upper body. Strowman hit a desperation spine buster and looked a little shaken up. He was bleeding a bit from the nose.

Sami Zayn hopped up onto the apron. Cesaro brought a steel chair in the ring. The referee caught him. Strowman dumped Cesaro to the outside. Zayn tossed Nakamura the Intercontinental title. Nakamura swung it wildly at Strowman, but Braun ducked and scooped up Nakamura, dropping him with the running power slam for a three count.

WINNER: Braun Strowman in 9:00

After the match, Strowman grabbed the Intercontinental title and held it up to the crowd. Sami Zayn ripped it from Braun’s hands and quickly escaped with it. Zayn, Nakamura, and Cesaro retreated up the ramp.

(LeClair’s Analysis: While I’m not sure how great of an idea it is to have Strowman be defeating these guys clean week after week, despite a bunch of interference, but alas, that’s what we’ve got. Nevertheless, that’s two weeks in a row now we’ve got some pretty solid matches out of Braun. Nakamura continues to seem more motivated to me, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to move on from him as Intercontinental Champion. By the same token, the IC title seems like the perfect title for Braun to win right now.)

-Sheamus was shown in a darkened room. He talked over clips of his return on last week’s show and said that he’s come back to embrace chaos.

-The show returned to Daniel Bryan in a locker room backstage. He approached a present on a stool and opened the lid. In it was the crushed head of Ramblin’ Rabbit. Bryan put the head back in the box and looked around, disturbed and angry.

-Roman Reigns’ music played and he headed to the ring. Reigns slapped hands with fans as Cole and Graves discussed his promise to win the Royal Rumble. Cole threw to a Progressive “Match Flo” of the Usos return on last week’s show.

Back live, Reigns circled the ring and grabbed a microphone. He said 2019 was a blessed year. He said lately, though, he’s been outnumbered, jumped, and embarrassed by Corbin and his crew. Reigns said he’s had backup throughout his career, but this time he needed the help of his family. Reigns said 2020 is his year. “I’m going on to win the Royal Rumble, “Reigns said. “I’m going on to main event WrestleMania for the fifth time.” He said he’s going to do it with Jimmy and Jey, The Usos.

The Usos music hit and they headed to the ring, looking fresh and excited to be back. They grabbed microphones. They said they’re about to turn Friday Night Smackdown into Friday Night Lockdown. The Usos said that when you disrespect Roman Reigns, you disrespect the whole family. King Corbin’s music cut them off.

Corbin came to the ring atop his throne with Ziggler at his side. Corbin said Reigns is afraid to face him one on one again, and he’s choosing to hide in the Royal Rumble match. He said he’s going to win the Royal Rumble. Reigns suggested they face each other one on one at Royal Rumble before he goes into the Royal Rumble match. “I’d love to whoop your ass twice in one night,” Reigns said. He said he’d beat him twice, then celebrated with his family.

Corbin accepted his challenge, but said after tonight, he’d have no family. “We’re going to take care of the big dog’s two little bitches,” Corbin said triumphantly.

The Usos dove over the top rope and took out Corbin’s security detail. Cole said the match would began after the break.

-Back from the break, Corey Graves confirmed that John Morrison would return to the ring next week to face Big E.

(4) THE USOS (Jimmy & Jey) vs. KING CORBIN & DOLPH ZIGGLER

Jimmy Usos began the match with Dolph Ziggler. They engaged in some quick chain wrestling. Jimmy eventually dropped Ziggler with a shoulder tackle and tagged in Jey Uso. Ziggler retreated to his corner and tagged in King Corbin. He charged at Jey for a clothesline, but Uso ducked and sent Corbin sliding under the bottom rope.

Corbin quickly returned to the ring and dropped Jey for a quick two count. He overpowered him in the corner and tagged in Ziggler. Dolph dropped Jey with a standing dropkick and covered him for two. Ziggler grabbed a headlock, but Jey quickly rolled to his feet. Ziggler dragged him back to the corner and tagged in Corbin.

Corbin continued isolating Jey Uso, taunting Jimmy and the crowd. Jey countered a back drop attempt and tagged in Jimmy Uso. Jimmy caught Corbin with an uppercut, backed Corbin into the corner, and hit him with a number of quick fire punches. Corbin caught a kick attempt, but Jimmy caught him with an enziguri.

The Revival’s music hit and Dash and Dawson rushed to the ring, causing a distraction. Ziggler ripped Jey Uso from the apron and tossed him over the ringside barrier. Roman Reigns’ music hit again. Reigns appeared on the stage and dropped Dash and Dawson with tandem Superman punches. Reigns continued his descent down the ramp, jawing at Corbin, as Cole sent the show to commercial.

Back from the break, Jey Uso was firing shots a Dolph Ziggler. He dropped Dolph and then gave Corbin a super kick on the apron. Ziggler rolled up Jey for a two count. Jey rebounded quick and gave Ziggler a super kick. He claimed to the top and hit a splash. Jey went for the cover, but Corbin slid into the ring and slammed Jey into the ring post. Corbin headed to the outside and retrieved Roman Reigns, who’d been incidentally been taken out moments earlier.

Corbin tossed Jey Uso back in the ring, then turned around and ate a spear from Roman Reigns, causing a disqualification.

WINNERS: King Corbin & Dolph Ziggler in 10:00

Roman Reigns stripped down the announcers desk and set Corbin up for a power bomb. Robert Roode appeared out of nowhere and blindsided Reigns. Roode shoved Reigns into the barricade. Meanwhile, Corbin dropped Jimmy Uso with Deep Dix on the outside. Ziggler hit Jey Uso with a super kick.

Corbin picked up Reigns and Roode screamed in Roman’s face, showing him the damage done to the Usos. Robert Roode gave Reigns a spine buster on the announcers desk. Ziggler dropped a jumping elbow on Reigns, driving him through the table.

Corbin, Ziggler, and Roode celebrated, standing over the wreckage of the table with Reigns buried underneath. Cole said it’s exactly what Reigns did to Roode a month ago. Roode continued to jaw at Reigns as the show faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: The Reigns and Usos promo seemed to work for the crowd. The most important piece of this segment, ultimately, is the relatively positive response to Reigns declaring that he’d win the Royal Rumble. No matter what else went wrong here in this segment, or otherwise tonight, WWE should take some comfort in that reaction and hope they can build on it.

The match itself was simply a vehicle to get to the chaotic disqualification and subsequent return of Robert Roode. Truthfully, this is the best position Roode has been in since coming to the main roster, and it’s an effective role for both he and Ziggler at this stage of their careers. The wellness violation worked out for him within the confines of the story, given the way they chose to write him off TV last month. 

I continue to wish they’d move on from this Reigns/Corbin angle sooner rather than later, but it feels like it’s become a bit of a crutch to ensure positive reactions for Reigns on a week to week basis as we kick into high gear for WrestleMania season.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Aside from the monotony of the Reigns/Corbin angle, the main event segment saved what was otherwise a problematic show riddled with WWE’s booking fallacies, illogical tendencies, and general disarray. This show had all the usual suspects, from babyfaces looking stupid by losing matches due to distraction, to heavy-handed, chaotic finishes, to outright false advertising. Smackdown continues to be the weakest show of WWE’s weekly lineup, though the influx of new talent and rebuilding of Roman Reigns make it a newsworthy show.

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