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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
FEBRUARY 14, 2020
VANCOUVER, BC AT ROGERS ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-The show opened with the standard Smackdown intro video package. Pyro shot from the left hand side of the stage, apparently signaling an issue with the fireworks. Michael Cole welcomed fans to the Rogers Arena over a sweeping wide shot of the venue. He touted that over 14,000 fans were “jam packed” in the sold out arena.
Cole and Graves previewed the night’s major events – including Otis and Mandy’s date, a satellite appearance from Hulk Hogan, and The Miz & John Morrison against Roman Reigns and a mystery partner.
-Alexa Bliss’ music played and she and Nikki Cross came out onto the stage for “A Moment of Bliss.” Bliss and Cross carried cups of coffee. They received a warm welcome from the crowd as Alexa welcomed fans to the show, the first Moment of Bliss of the year. Nikki wished everyone a happy Valentine’s day.
Nikki suggested they talk about celebrity crushes. She implored Alexa to go first. They teased whether or not Bliss should say it out loud. Nikki cut Bliss off, saying it’s Brad Pitt. Alexa sheepishly agreed. She asked about Nikki’s celebrity crush. Nikki said “don’t be naughty,” and changed the subject. They welcomed the number one contender for the Smackdown Women’s title, Carmella.
Carmella moonwalked onto the stage. Bliss congratulated her on on her win. She said her win was surprising, “we haven’t heard much from you lately.” Carmella said she loves surprises, and she plans to become a two time Smackdown Women’s champion. Bliss and Cross brought up Carmella’s friendship with Bayley. Carmella said they were very close until recently. Bliss asked what happened. “Sasha Banks happened,” Carmella replied.
Carmella said it hurts that Bayley no longer acknowledges her or wants to be her friend. Bliss began to say she understood, but she was interrupted by Bayley’s music. The Champion walked onto the stage, saying Carmella is just getting “all the sheep riled up.” Bayley said she’s pitied Carmella since NXT. She said she “saw a little something” in Carmella and she wanted to be a leader and a role model to her. She called Carmella a loser.
Bliss cut Bayley off, trying to defend her own legacy as champion. Bayley interrupted, saying last time they faced each other, Bayley beat her. She called Bliss a “pip squeak.” Carmella stood up and got in Bayley’s face. She said she didn’t want to wait until later in the night, and demanded they have their match now. Carmella’s music played and she headed to the ring. Bayley seemed to oblige, trailing behind her, jawing with fans as she got closer to the ring. Cole said the match would happen after the break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: As is often the case with A Moment of Bliss segments, Bliss and Cross are far more interesting and entertaining than their guests. They exhibit a strong chemistry and natural promo ability, and they’re often stifled by whoever they ultimately welcome to the show. Carmella seemed overly scripted, but I commend creative for trying to establish the rich history between she and Bayley leading into this rushed title match. Bayley continued to flounder on the mic, sounding forced and ill-fitting in her role. If nothing else, the crowd seemed engaged enough to boo Bayley a fair amount. Perhaps her character is working overall, but it has not been working for me at all.)
(1) CARMELLA vs. BAYLEY (c) – Smackdown Women’s title match
Bayley and Carmella locked up in the center of the ring as soon as the show returned from commercial. Carmella dodged a second lock up attempt and grabbed a waist lock. Bayley broke it off, shot Carmella off the ropes and dropped her with a shoulder tackle.
Bayley played to the crowd, allowing Carmella to recover. ‘Mella dropped Bayley and covered her for a quick two count. Carmella applied an arm lock, working over the left arm of the champion. Bayley worked to her feet on multiple occasions, but Carmella maintained pressure. Eventually, Bayley got Carmella tied up the ropes and was able to break the hold.
Bayley talked trash, telling Carmella to “step up.” Carmella slapped Bayley repeatedly. Bayley retaliated with a kick to the midsection and tossed Carmella to the mat by her hair. Bayley tossed Carmella into the corner and delivered a pair of kicks before driving her elbow into Carmella’s upper back and neck. She followed up with a back suplex, climbing to the top rope. Bayley went for a diving cross body, but Carmella ducked, then immediately caught Bayley with a big side kick for a two count.
Carmella connected with the “Mella-Go-Round.” Bayley rolled to the outside to regroup. Carmella dove through the middle rope onto Bayley, then tossed her back in the ring, ascending to the top rope. Carmella connected with a top rope cross body for a near fall. Bayley retreated to the outside again. Carmella followed her. Bayley scooped her up and dumped her face first onto the announcers desk. “Carmella’s hurt,” Corey said as the show went to commercial.
Bayley had Carmella locked in a chin lock when the show returned from break. She continued to apply torque as Carmella tried to break free. She finally did, reaching her knees and catching Bayley with a kick and a clothesline, followed by an attempted inverted atomic drop. Carmella whipped Bayley into the corner, then hit her with a hurricanrana. She tried to continue her momentum with a kick, but Bayley ducked behind the referee to avoid the kick. She was then able to connect with a cheap shot, temporarily thwarting Carmella’s offense.
Carmella charged Bayley, but got caught with a Bayley to Belly for a believable near fall. Bayley pleaded her case with the official, who confirmed a two count. Bayley tried to catch Carmella with a running knee in the corner, but Carmella moved. Bayley gave Carmella a guillotine off the tope rope, then climbed up the turnbuckle. Carmella recovered, catching Bayley with a kick to the face and sitting her down on the top rope. Carmella hit a top rope hurricanrana for a near fall.
Carmella rolled up Bayley three separate times for a two counts. Bayley caught a backslide of her own for a two count. Carmella caught Bayley with a kick to the face. Bayley rolled to the outside. Carmella rolled outside to retrieve her. Bayley launched Carmella into the ring post, then brought her back into the ring.
Back in the ring, Carmella went for a kick, but Bayley ducked it. Carmella instead face planted Bayley and locked on the Code of Silence. Bayley broke free by taking out Carmella at the elbow. Bayley stacked up Carmella and put her feet on the ropes to get a three count.
WINNER: Bayley in 14:00 to retain the Smackdown Women’s title
After the match, Bayley attacked Carmella from behind. She stood over her, foot on Carmella’s stomach, holding up the Women’s title. Naomi’s music played and she rushed to the ring, getting directly in Bayley’s face. Carmella attacked Bayley from behind, knocking down Naomi in the process. Naomi quickly bounced back and caught Bayley with a spinning heel kick. Carmella followed up with a super kick, sending Bayley to the outside. Naomi and Carmella traded a fist bump as Naomi’s music played.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This may have been the best match of Carmella’s career. It wasn’t great, but it was good, and she and Bayley worked well together. Her offense relies a bit too heavily on kicks, but she continues to add some other interesting wrinkles to her offense that make her a more viable opponent in matches like this. I wouldn’t have expected to reasonably enjoy a fourteen minute match between these two, but this was perfectly acceptable for what it was. Naomi’s post match save should lock in her spot as Bayley’s next challenger, whether that be at the next Pay-Per-View or WrestleMania remains to be seen.)
-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves began discussing King Corbin. They threw to clips of Corbin attacking someone in the production truck on last week’s show. Cole said that per WWE management, Corbin has been fined an undisclosed amount of money and was barred from competing on Smackdown this week. They teased Hulk Hogan’s appearance for later on in the night before going to commercial.
-Backstage, a frustrated Bayley was approached by Kayla Braxton, calling Bayley’s win “controversial.” Bayley said she continues to beat everyone, and the next time she’ll defend her title is at Super Showdown. Bayley said she doesn’t care who her opponent is. “Nobody can touch me,” she declared.
-Back at the announcers desk, Cole and Grave brought up Natalya and Lacey Evans’ match at the last iteration of Super Showdown. The turned the page to a clip of Lacey Evans discussing the fan letters she places in her boots before matches. Graves said Renee Young would conduct an interview with Evans on next week’s Smackdown.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Lacey came off far more natural and likable in this backstage clip, filmed for WWE on YouTube, than in any of her scripted promos in front of live audiences. This appeared to be the real Lacey speaking, not the character. Perhaps they should allow her to put more of that into her scripted time to better serve this new babyface persona.)
-Backstage, Otis was shown coming his hair in front of a mirror. He received a text from Mandy. He responded, using a bunch of emojis. Tucker approached. Otis said Mandy is running late, which allows him more time to be nervous. He asked Tucker if it’s crazy to think that Mandy may like him. Tucker said if Mandy is true, she’ll like all that Otis has to offer.
-Back in the arena, Sheamus’ music played. Graves said Sheamus would face Apollo Crews and Shorty G in a handicap match after the break.
Shorty G and Apollow Crews attacked Sheamus as soon as they got to the ring. They beat him into the corner before finally being separated so the bell could ring.
(2) SHEAMUS vs. SHORTY G & APOLLO CREWS – 2-on-1 Handicap match
Sheamus quickly took down Shorty G after recovering. G made a tag into Apollo Crews, who worked over Sheamus’ arm. Crews quickly tagged Shorty G back in. G tried to maintain control, but Sheamus took him down with a big double axe handle to the face. Sheamus hooked G into the ropes and began beating at Shorty G’s chest.
The crowd began getting behind Sheamus. He glared at Apollo Crews as G tried to recover. G delivered a number of forearms, then tried to turn Sheamus over into an ankle lock. Sheamus fought him off, but G was able to tag in Crews. Sheamus tried to body drop Crews over the top rope, but G tagged himself back in as he was floating over the top rope.
Crews and G double teamed Sheamus, knocking him to the outside. Back in the ring, Sheamus caught Shorty G with a Brogue Kick on the apron and then tossed Crews head first into the ring post. He set up, then dropped Crews with a Brogue Kick for a three count.
WINNER: Sheamus in 3:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: The story here is not about the quality of the match, but rather, the fact that the crowd was surprisingly invested in the heel, Sheamus. It’s one thing for Apollo Crews to garner no reaction, but Chad Gable was actually fairly over just a few months ago when he was working against Baron Corbin in the King of the Ring tournament. The crowd seemed genuinely invested in Sheamus, his moveset, and his eventual victory. This will be interesting to note going forward, as previous crowds have more or less sat on their hands during Sheamus segments.)
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton approached Carmella. Carmella said she isn’t asking for a hand out, because she earns her opportunities. She demanded a rematch because of how Bayley beat her tonight. She pleaded to WWE management, and to Fox, to name a time and place for her to face Bayley again.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Carmella was believable here, coming off significantly stronger than she did at the beginning of the night. I like that Braxton got reactions from both Bayley and Carmella, both of whom had believable reactions and strong follow ups to their weaker opening segment promos.)
-Hulk Hogan was shown preparing for his satellite interview. Cole said it would happen after the break.
-After the break, Cole and Graves threw to a video package full of Goldberg highlights, teasing his match with The Fiend at Super Showdown.
-Michael Cole welcomed Hulk Hogan via satellite. He asked Hogan how it feels to be inducted into the Hall of Fame again as part of the N.W.O. Hogan repeatedly called it “strong.” Cole brought up Goldberg, calling him one of Hogan’s great rivals. Hulk said he felt the power of Bill Goldberg during his prime. Hogan said he’d also been the WWE locker room and “felt the power coming from underneath the door.” He told The Fiend to “try to survive” the power of Goldberg.
Hogan was interrupted by a black and white “F.F.F.” Firefly Funhouse logo stylized like N.W.O. The screen cut to Bray Wyatt, playing his Universal title like a guitar onto the Funhouse set. He ripped off his sweater to reveal a new shirt, which showed Mercy the Buzzard eating Ramblin’ Rabbit. It said “Not Cool to Eat Your Friends.”
Bray said he’s been following Hogan’s advice, saying his prayers and eating his vitamins. He said it got him the Universal title. Huskus the Pig popped up and asked Bryan what’s going on. Bray said he’s just talking to his brother Hulk about “muscles and stuff.” Bray offered Huskus a bar of chocolate. “I hope it’s not too sweet,” Bray said, winking at the camera.
Hogan was brought back in a split screen. Hogan said Bray is full of jokes. He wished him luck against Goldberg. Bray said he didn’t need luck, he had a Fiend. Bray said he may have room for another on his wall. He held up a picture of Hulk Hogan. Hogan left the set in a hurry. Bray waved at the camera and said he’d see Goldberg real soon.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Hogan came off entirely contrived and completely clueless about the current product. He rambled, stumbled through his lines, and said “strong” almost as many times as he said “brother.” These appearances from Hogan serve little to no purpose unless they lead to The Fiend wiping him out, which, I suppose, is something I’d welcome if Hogan is cleared for any sort of physicality. If Hogan is being used at this point, I’d prefer it be in the capacity of getting taken out by current talent. Bray’s parodies of Hogan were slightly comical, but like his promo with Goldberg last week, this put the Firefly Funhouse too deep into the pantheon on the scripted show, rather than feeling like its own isolated segment. I continue to feel like there’s little overall direction or plan for Wyatt, but also hope that he comes out of Super Showdown in a stronger position than he went in.)
-After the break, Cole and Graves talked up Simone Johnson joining the WWE Performance Center, touting her as the first potential fourth generation wrestler in WWE.
-Greg Hamilton welcomed Cesaro and Sami Zayn, who were already in the ring. Sami Zayn had a ukulele, mocking Elias. He called himself the “great liberator” and said he, Cesaro, and Shinsuke Nakamura continue to be victims of great injustice. He said he’s going to perform a protest song. He asked for silence.
The crowd pelted Sami with “what” chants and boos. Just as he was about to begin, Elias strummed his guitar and stepped onto the stage. He introduced himself. Elias went through his usual schtick, the crowd happy to oblige in the “Walk With Elias” chant. Sami told Elias to shut his mouth.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” Sami questioned. He said the world is waiting to see his protest concert. Elias said he’s staging a counter protest. Sami had security surrounding the ring, but welcomed Elias in on the grounds of free speech. He said he wanted Elias close to hear his song.
Cesaro began beating his cowbell, completely out of tune with Sami. The crowd began chanting “Oh, walk with Elias.” Sami became incensed. Elias encouraged the audience. Sami told Cesaro to cool it with the cowbell. This ignited the crowd in a loud” we want cowbell” chant. Cesaro threw it aside.
The crowd’s chant continued to throw Sami out of sync. Sami threatened to end the show. The crowd erupted in a “yes” chant. Cesaro tried to attack Sami Zayn, but Elias cut him off. Soon, Cesaro and Zayn overcame Elias, beating him down. Suddenly, Braun Strowman’s music hit. Strowman rushed to the ring, taking out Zayn’s security, then briefly getting his hands on Zayn before being temporarily distracted by another security guard.
Sami Zayn and Cesaro escaped up the ramp. Strowman and Elias tossed the remaining security guard clear over the top rope, onto the downed security on the floor. Strowman and Elias celebrated.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This segment is completely outside the scope of what I’m looking for in my wrestling content. It’s been well documented in my reports that I dislike the Elias character and find him largely overbearing and underwhelming. Meanwhile, I’ve long considered the Zayn stable to be grossly under-utilized, bordering on a modern iteration of the J.O.B. Squad. With that being said, this is an example of a segment that worked, as much as I may have personally disliked it. The crowd was fully engaged from start to finish, absolutely relishing the opportunity to completely derail Sami Zayn and ready, willing and excited to sing and chant along with Elias. They popped big for Braun Strowman’s predictable run in, and all in all, served as the star of the segment. I’m really curious as to how this would have come off with a dead crowd. Thankfully for those involved, and for WWE, Vancouver has been rowdy all night.)
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton approached Naomi. Naomi said she’s tired of Bayley, and asked for a title match, saying she’s the next Smackdown Women’s champion. Naomi walked away.
-Mandy Rose was shown waiting for Otis at a nearby restaurant. Cole and Graves said their date would happen next.
-A promo aired for John Cena’s return to Smackdown in two weeks.
-Michael Cole confirmed that Bayley will defend her Women’s title at Super Showshown. Carmella and Naomi will face each other next week to determine her opponent. Goldberg will also appear live on next week’s show.
Cole turned his attention to Otis and Mandy. He threw to a video package of the pair’s courtship to date.
-Otis walked into a “restaurant” which was clearly just the backstage area curtained off. He was carrying a bouquet of roses in his cut off tuxedo. The camera cut to Mandy Rose. Someone put a hand on her shoulder. Mandy assumed it was Otis, but it was Dolph Ziggler. Otis approached, seeing Ziggler sitting down in his seat, chatting with Mandy. He dropped the roses and walked out, defeated. The show went to commercial.
(LeClair’s Analysis: A whole lot of nothing for weeks of build. I understand wanting to drag it out, but this was touted as a big moment for this angle and to cut it off at the legs before it ever even got going is disappointing, even if, at the end of the day, it’s just a joke. Otis’s earnest portrayal of this character is endearing, even in the worst of situations and I was, for whatever reason, sort of looking forward to where they went with this tonight.)
-Cole talked up press surrounding the announcement that next year’s WrestleMania will emanate from the new SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
-The Miz and John Morrison headed to the ring for the main event. Miz said The Usos aren’t at the show tonight, so they’re having Roman Reigns fight their battles for them. Miz said The Usos have been back for one month, and they’re already missing dates. John Morrison added that he’s been back for a month, and he’s “always here.” Miz agreed. He said they’re the best tag team of the 21st Century.
Roman Reigns’ music cut them off. He stepped onto the stage. “I’ve been with the company for 23 years and I’m here every week too,” Cole said. Reigns headed to the ring. Cole threw to a Progressive Match Flo, covering the Roman Reigns and King Corbin rivalry.
Roman Reigns stood opposite Miz and Morrison, awaiting his partner. Daniel Bryan’s music played. Bryan walked onto the stage and threw the crowd into a “yes” chant. Cole called it an “all star” match up. King Corbin appeared in the crowd, walking down the steps with a ticket. Cole sent the show to commercial.
(3) THE MIZ & JOHN MORRISON vs. ROMAN REIGNS & DANIEL BRYAN
The match was already in progress when the show returned from commercial. John Morrison and Roman Reigns circled the ring. Morrison gave Reigns a pair of shin kicks, then worked over his arm. Reigns broke the hold with a big clothesline. He knocked Morrison down with a headbutt, then hit him with an uppercut in the corner, tagging in Daniel Bryan immediately after.
Reigns tossed Bryan into Morrison. Bryan hit an uppercut of his own, then knocked Miz off the apron. Bryan punched Morrison into the corner. He dove through the middle rope, taking out Miz on the outside. Bryan quickly ascended to the top rope and took down Morrison with a big missile dropkick. He set up for the “yes” kicks, connecting with all five, including the knock down. Bryan covered Morrison for a near fall.
Bryan worked Morrison from corner to corner. He hoisted him onto the top rope and connected with a top rope hurricanrana. Bryan charted for a corner kick, but Morrison moved and spider-legged Bryan to the outside, allowing Miz to toss Bryan into the barricade behind the referee’s back. Roman Reigns came over to patrol. Miz attacked him from behind. Morrison launched himself over the top rope, taking out all three men on the outside. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Out of the break, Morrison tagged himself in off of Miz. He took down Bryan and covered him for a two count. Morrison applied a crossed-arm chin lock, grounding Bryan near the heel corner. Bryan fought to his feet and broke the hold just a chin breaker. Miz tagged in Morrison, cutting off any comeback attempt by Bryan.
Bryan managed to dump Morrison over the top rope to the floor. Bryan tried to climb to the top rope, but Miz cut him off, crotching him on the turnbuckle. Miz joined Bryan and attempted a superplex, but Bryan blocked stand hung up Miz in a tree of woe. John Morrison returned and tagged himself in.
Morrison ran and knocked Reigns off the apron, the slammed Bryan. He followed up with a shining wizard for a near fall. Reigns returned to the apron. Morrison climbed to the top rope. He went for a 450 splash but Bryan rolled out of the way. Both men crawled to their corners. Both made tags.
Roman Reigns exploded into the ring, dropping Miz with a pair of clotheslines, then a leaping third. He knocked Morrison off the apron, cornered Miz and hit his ten corner clotheslines, folded by a big boot. Reigns set up and charged, but Miz ducked the Superman punch, dragging Reigns to his corner and allowing Morrison to tag in.
Morrison caught Reigns with enziguri for a near fall. He stayed on top of Roman. connecting with a big shining wizard for another two count. Morrison set up for Starship Pain. Reigns rolled him up for a two count, but hoisted him into the air for a power bomb. Morrison slid free, but Reigns caught him with a Superman punch.
Reigns charged for a spear, but Morrison caught Reigns with a boot. Morrison tagged in The Miz. Miz hit Reigns with a Skull Crushing Finale. Bryan broke up the pin attempt just before a count of three. Bryan set up for the running knee, but Miz caught him with a kick. Miz began mocking the “yes” chant. The crowd chanted “no.” Reigns charged at Miz and hit him with a Superman punch, then followed up with a spear for the three count.
WINNER: Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan in 17:00
Immediately after the bell, King Corbin rushed the ring and hit Reigns in the back of the neck with his scepter. Corbin rushed out of the arena. Graves said it likely “cost Corbin even more money.” Corbin sat atop his throne and sedan at the tope of the stage as his music played. Corbin stared Reigns down as the show went off the air.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a really good tag team main event, marred a bit by WWE’s insistence on lack of attention to detail. King Corbin was barred from the show, and they got around that with the “ticket buying” trope. Whatever. But to have him then have his sedan and throne ready to go, and have his music cued up, was a little ridiculous. How hard is it to acknowledge the situation you set up earlier in the show? This would have come off far less contrived had Corbin just hit Reigns with his scepter, then left through the crowd the same way he came. If he was ” ticket buying” fan, he should be treated like a fan.
Complaint aside, as previously mentioned, this was a strong tag team main event with good work by all four men. The crowd was super into Reigns and Bryan, especially the latter. John Morrison has been an overall net positive since coming to Smackdown, especially in the ring, and Miz seems to be fitting into this tag role very well.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a bit of an odd show, with omissions of New Day and The Usos, all of whom have been integral parts of the show in the last several weeks. I thought Bryan and Reigns teaming together in the main event worked, and the quality of the match contributed to my overall feeling of the show. The Women’s title match exceeded personal expectations, and I enjoyed the decision to follow up with all three women involved after the segment backstage. On the downside, the show was incredibly angle heavy, and many of them didn’t work all that well. The Zayn/Elias segment ran long, the Otis/Mandy date was little more than a bait and switch, and Hogan’s appearance was largely incoherent. I continue to be disappointed with the way they’ve normalized Bray Wyatt/The Fiend and incorporated him into run-of-the-mill split screen segments, but I continue to hold onto hope that Bray’s creativity will allow him to overcome booking fallacies. Overall, this was an improvement over last week’s show, aided tremendously by a hot crowd in Vancouver that remained wholly engaged and interested in the show from start to finish, whether or not WWE deserved that kind of attention.