In this episode of Wrestling Night in America, PWTorch columnist Greg Parks breaks down both nights of WrestleMania with callers and emailers. Topics include the quality of the Firefly Funhouse match, the decision to put Charlotte over Rhea Ripley, the potential of wrestlers getting more creative freedom in the current environment, and more.
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KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
FEBRUARY 28, 2020
AIRED LIVE ON FOX
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-The ring announcer introduced Goldberg as the new Universal Champion. Cole said that is right and detailed his win. He said they set a record with over 850,000 likes for the Instagram post on his win. When Goldberg’s music stopped, there were cheers and boos. More boos, it sounded like. He chuckled and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, do not be mistaken, it’s not about who was last, it’s all about who’s next.” He dropped he mic and spit. He paused and looked at the entrance stage. Then Roman Reigns’s music played. Graves wondered if Reigns will be next. Cole noted that Reigns beat King Corbin at Super Showdown. Three fans held out their hands. Roman slapped two and just dropped his arm and walked past the third one, a boy who looked a little disappointed but took it in stride. Reigns entered. His music stopped. More boos. A chant of “You both suck!” could be heard. Oh, Boston. Reigns walked up to Goldberg and said, “I’m next.” Goldberg nodded and twitched. Reigns left as his music played. Cole asked if viewers could imagine that match happening. Graves said it’d shake WWE to its core. Cole wondered what it’d be like if it happened at WrestleMania.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s what you’d do for the visual for two wrestler for whom talking at length isn’t their strong point, but who look the part and have the backstory to make this a big match between stars divided by a whole separate era. I’m not sure if a “You both suck” chant happens in many other cities than Boston, but it did put a damper on it. Reigns can brush it off, but Goldberg hasn’t faced a lot of that in his career – being cast as a babyface but facing push-back from a live crowd. If the larger WWE Universe feels apathetic if not hostile toward that as a “dream match” for WrestleMania, this could be an interesting Road to WrestleMania.)
-Cole plugged John Cena coming up. Then they aired a video package on John Cena’s debut on June 27, 2002. It included Kurt Angle asking him what makes him special, and Cena coining the phrase, “Ruthless aggression.” Then they showed Undertaker telling Cena backstage he did a nice job. [c]
(1) BAYLEY vs. NAOMI
Back from the break, Bayley was in the ring already. Cole said Bayley successfully defended her title in the first Women’s Title match in Saudi Arabia. (Why are we supposed to care at all about “firsts” in a country like Saudi Arabia? Why are we fed this meaningless bought-and-paid-for propaganda now year after year as if the rest of the worldwide audience cares about Saudi Arabia making such “advancements” in their attempt to rehabilitate their well-earned awful reputation?) When the bell rang, Bayley leaned into the ropes and told Naomi to back off. Bayley said she made history last night when she beat Naomi. She said she’s there for just one reason – to introduce a future Grammy Award winner, Sasha Banks. Cole yelled, “It’s Boss Time, in her hometown of Boston!” Sasha came out. Bayley jumped a distracted Naomi from behind.
Cole said Bayley has established herself as a dominant champion. Graves said Sasha being away has helped Bayley show what she is capable of. Naomi came back with a Rear View, but Sasha jumped her to break up the cover. The ref called for the bell. Graves called it unnecessary. Cole said that Sasha wanted to make her mark.
WINNER: Naomi in 1:00 via DQ.
-Lacey Evans ran out to save Naomi from a two-on-one attack. Several referees ran out to separate them. Let me guess… Yep, the ring announcer said the match will be restarted as a tag team match. Graves said the referee, Jessica Carr, was “exercising her authority.” (When did referees suddenly get impromptu match-making authority?)
(2) LACEY EVANS & NAOMI vs. SASHA & BAYLEY
Bayley and Sasha bailed out to ringside in the opening seconds after getting hit with dual weak looking dropkicks. Lacey and Naomi dove onto them at ringside. They cut to a break. [c]
Cole talked about the interview Lacey did last week with Renee Young. He said he was impressed that Lacey owned up to her mistakes and explained her decision to be a role model going forward. Naomi hot-tagged Lacey who threw clotheslines at Bayley and then swept her down to the mat. She kicked Banks off the ring apron as she attempted to interfere. Graves said Lacey has all the tools to be a major player for a long time. Naomi tagged back in and landed a flying bodypress onto Bayley for a near fall, broken up by Sasha. Sasha then gave Naomi a backstabber. As Sasha celebrated, Lacey yanked her out of the ring. They brawled at ringside. Naomi sunset flipped Bayley for the three count.
WINNERS: Evans & Naomi in 8:00.
-New Day were backstage. They shook hands with Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. Then they crossed paths with Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. They had a staredown before heading to the ring for their match.
(Keller’s Analysis: This was fine. They definitely seem to be pivoting to Lacey getting another shot against Bayley, and perhaps splitting off Naomi to feud with Sasha. Or else a four-way.) [c]
-They showed a clip of Cena at WrestleMania 21 on Apr. 3, 2005 when he went one-on-one against JBL and won his first WWE Championship. They are beginning these video segments with Cena’s original theme song. Graves plugged he’d be out later.
(3) ROBERT ROODE (w/Dolph Ziggler) vs. KOFI KINGSTON (w/Big E)
Roode and Ziggler came out first. Then New Day made their entrance. Kofi danced and threw pancakes while Big E gyrated. Graves said Kofi needs to rebound with a win here. He said Kofi needs to worry less about pancakes and more about a “world-travelled veteran like Robert Roode.” (Orlando and Nashville are part of the world, I suppose.) Roode settled into an early side headlock. Kofi fought out of it and leapfrogged Roode twice and then landed a flying back elbow to the chest. Roode rolled to ringside as Big E cheered him on. Ziggler stepped up onto the ring apron and distracted the ref. Roode at ringside laughed at Big E, kicked the stairs to make a noise, and then pretended Big E threw him into the ringside steps. The ref sent Big E to the back. Cole was outraged. [c]
Roode had Kofi in another side headlock after the break. They showed Mandy Rose watching on monitor backstage. Kofi eventually made a comeback. Roode ducked a Trouble in Paradise. Kofi came right back and landed a top rope crossbody block for a near fall. Roode booked an S.O.S. and landed a full nelson slam for a near fall. Roode landed a spinebuster a minute later for a near fall. Roode went for a Glorious DDT, but Kofi blocked it and then hit the S.O.S. Ziggler put Roode’s foot on the bottom rope and alerted the ref, who stopped the count. Kofi complained to Ziggler. Roode then rolled up Kofi for the three count. They cut to the back where Sonya Deville told Mandy, “Your man seems happy.” Cole asked, “Did she just say ‘your man’?”
WINNER: Roode in 13:00.
-They showed Otis backstage looking like he hadn’t slept in two weeks. He said there’s just something not right about Mandy going out with Ziggler. “I can feel it,” he said. “But I just can’t put my finger on it.” Tucker said he loves him, but sometimes the guy doesn’t get the girl, and Dolph does. He suggested he let Mandy go. Tucker said next week they’ll get him the love he deserves – the fans, who would never choose Ziggler over him. Otis said, “Oh yeah!” He said Tucker is right.
-They showed postcard shots of Boston including T.D. Garden. Then they went to the announcers at ringside. Cole and Graves talked again about the return of Cena later. [c]
-Renee Young stood mid-ring for a contract signing for an Intercontinental Title match at Elimination Chamber. She introduced the challenger Shinsuke Nakamura first, accompanied by Sami Zayn and Cesaro. They showed last week’s Symphony of Violence match where Nakamura got cut when he was powerslammed on a grand piano. They showed a picture of the cut and the nine staples it took to close it. Nakamura looked queasy in the ring after the replay. Then Strowman made his entrance. Cole said Strowman is a proud champion. He said he talked with him earlier about the legacy he wants to live up to regarding the IC Title.
Renee asked Nakamura to sign the contract first. Sami paused the proceedings and asked everyone to hold on. He told Strowman to grab a seat “like a gentleman.” Braun picked up the chair and threw it to ringside. Sami said the way they’ve all been mistreated lately is nothing short of a travesty of justice. Sami told Braun not to roll his eyes at him. He told him that Nakamura couldn’t enjoy his birthday last week because he slammed him through a grand piano. Fans cheered.
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Sami said Nakamura is an artist and a poet. Braun told him to shut up. He said everyone is sick and tired of hearing him bitch and moan. He said at the end of the day, he knows he’ll have to fight all three of them clowns, so he doesn’t care what the contract says. He grabbed the pen and signed it. Sami asked the fans if they all heard that. “So what you’re saying is, you’re willing to fight all three of us?” Braun asked if he’s spinning it like that. Sami said he was just quoting him. “You’re not going to go back on your word in front of all of these people, are you?” Sami amended the contract and initialed it. Cesaro did next. Then Nakamura. Sami told Renee to bring the contract to the notary backstage. Renee did. (Shouldn’t a notary be present for the signing?) Sami said he looks forward to beating him at Elimination Chamber. Braun moved the table and asked Sami what makes him think he’ll make it to Elimination Chamber. Cesaro and Nakamura attacked Braun. Sami delivered two Helluva kicks as they held him. Nakamura added a Kinshasa kick. Cesaro and Nakamura then suplexed Braun through the table, with help from a running kick from Sami. Fans booed.
-Cole threw to a video recap of the Goldberg-Reigns segment earlier. Cole said it has become official – it happens five weeks from Sunday at WrestleMania 36. Graves called it a colossal announcement.
-Daniel Bryan made his ring entrance. [c]
-A recap aired of Undertaker showing up at Super Showdown and beating A.J. Styles to win the Tuwaiq Trophy. Cole said Taker beat him without even taking off his hat and jacket.
(4) DANIEL BRYAN vs. CURTIS AXEL
Cole introduced “Drew Axel” (it was Drew Gulak) at the table with them. Graves said, “What did you just call him?” Cole asked Gulak what some of the holes are in Bryan’s style. Gulak said Bryan isn’t where he should be lately. Axel got in some early offense, but Bryan then hit some Yes Kicks. Axel came back with a kick and tossed Bryan to ringside. Gulak yelled for him to get up because it’s dangerous on the floor. Axel threw Bryan into the ringpost. Eventually Axel went for a PerfectPlex, but Bryan countered into a LeBell Lock for the tapout win. Cole said Axel was “game,” but Bryan still came up with the victory.
WINNER: Bryan in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Gulak soft-talked through his entire commentary, which was strange.)
-Another Cena flashback aired with the corny Cena rap, this time the Jan. 29, 2017 match where Cena beat Styles for the WWE Title to become a 16-time champion. Commentary noted that Cena just matched Ric Flair’s record number of title wins.
-Backstage Miz & John Morrison were obnoxiously posing with their Smackdown Tag Team Title belts. [c]
-Cole plugged that Jeff Hardy would join Booker T and Renee on “WWE Backstage” next Tuesday night.
-Miz and Morrison made their ring entrance together. Miz said “Godfather,” “Terminator,” “Rocky,” and “The Marine” all share in common that the originals were great, the sequels were better, just like them. He said New Day can choke on their pancakes. He said they did exactly what they said they said were going to do to New Day, they took their tag titles. He told fans they can chant “You suck” at them, but they don’t hear them. (He tried go get the chant going, but it didn’t start.) They tried to get fans to sing “Miz and Morrison – hey hey – ho ho.” That caught on a little more, actually. Their music played. The ring announcer said their first tag team title defense will be against New Day, Heavy Machinery, Lucha House Party, Ziggler & Roode, and the Usos – an Elimination Chamber match. The Usos then came out and did a slo-mo bit on their way. As they entered the ring, Cole said the Usos would wrestle Miz & Morrison next. [c]
(5) MIZ & JOHN MORRISON vs. JIMMY & JEY USO
Early in the match, there was another little glitch with the picture and then the circle of lights graphic showed up. Cole didn’t really acknowledge it, but seemed to notice it. Cole and Graves talked about the EC match rules. Miz and Morrison isolated Jimmy for a while. Miz yanked Jey off the ring apron just as he was about to get the tag. Morrison then gave Jimmy a springboard roundkick to the head for a two count. They cut to a break. [c]
Right after coming back live, Jey got the hot-tag and worked over Miz. Morrison lifted his knees on a Jey splash and scored a two count. Jimmy, meanwhile, dove through the ropes onto Miz at ringside. Jimmy tagged himself in, but Morrison punched him off the ring apron and then set up Starship Pain, but Jimmy kicked him. Then he set up Morrison for a move off the top turnbuckle. Jey superkicked Miz off the ring apron, but it showed a ton of light and didn’t even come close, but Miz did the spitting to try to make it look like he lost a tooth. The Usos then hit a two move sequence off the top rope – a Samoan Destroyer (Canadian Destroyer off the top rope) and a top rope Uso Splash for the win.
WINNERS: The Usos in 11:00. [c]
-John Cena made his ring entrance. He got a really nice reaction. He said he was going to talk to them, but their talking to him. He said his heart was pounding out of his chest. He said it’s WrestleMania season, and he wants to be part of it. He said his role is different now, but he hears the fans. “You are all passionate about the future of WWE, and I hear you because I am too,” he said. Fans chanted “Cena! Cena!” He smiled. Then he got choked up and said he’s doing what he thinks is the right thing – he thinks he should sit out WrestleMania. “This is not good bye,” he said. “But it is good bye for now, and it’s the right thing to do.”
He said he believes in the future of the company, and he’s betting on the future because a spot on WrestleMania should be earned with hard work throughout the year. He said he understands it makes WrestleMania sour, but this makes tonight special. He said if he’s going to make this announcement, he wanted to do it front of his loved ones and in front of his family and friends in a place he calls home. He said it feels pretty damn good to spend these last moments and hear this noise in Boston, near his hometown. He said he hopes the world is listening to this rowdy crowd tonight. “Cena! Cena!” chanted the crowd. He said it means more than they know and he thanked them.
Cena left to his music. He shook some hands and made his way toward the back. He stood on the stage and saluted the fans. Cole called it “a final salute.” Then, as you might have expected, the lights began to go out. Cena had a look of fear. Then suddenly The Fiend appeared behind him. Fiend pointed at the WrestleMania sign. Cena nodded, tipped the cap of hat, and indicated the match is on.