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 FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN REPORT
MARCH 20, 2020
ORLANDO, FLA. AT THE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole
-The Smackdown opening theme aired. Cole introduced the show as the camera panned the Performance Center. He hyped the contract signing between Roman Reigns and Goldberg, and also that Paige would be on the show confront Bayley.
-Cole stood center-ring. (They didn’t change anything about the set. Still well lit with empty seats staring back at us.) He said he’s sure everyone heard that WrestleMania is too big for one night this year, so it’ll be two nights, and it needs a big name host. He said that will be Rob Gronkowsi. Then they aired a video package on Gronkowski followed by his Tweet confirming he’s hosting WM.
Mojo Rawley joined Cole in the ring. He yanked the mic away from him, began spanking him obnoxiously, and then surely sprayed droplets Cole’s way as Cole tried to keep a reasonable social distance. He then introduced Gronk who danced to the ring in a suit. Cole asked him if it’s been a dream of his to be part of WrestleMania. Gronk said he’s been watching since WWE second grade in Buffalo, N.Y. from the nose bleed seats. He talked about being at past WrestleManias in front of 80,000. He said he is here in front of zero people and he’s still hyped. Mojo said the target is on his back, and he’s there to watch his back for him. (They began observing social spacing 85 percent of the time, but Mojo kept invading people’s space here.) They began chopping each other, then Mojo went after Cole and once again got within droplet projectile range while yelling at Cole, who clearly kept trying to keep a safer distance.
Baron Corbin walked out to his music and told Gronk to get down on his knees. Gronk said they don’t get down on their knees. Corbin said he’s been a party guy and he’s been in the NFL. He said Gronk is used to wearing padding and helmets, but they don’t do that in WWE. He said if he wants to have a good time as host of WrestleMania, he better fall in line like everyone else or else he’ll make sure his party is over. Elias strummed his guitar.
Elias walked out and said for the past few weeks, he’s had a song ready to go that he wants him to listen to. Corbin asked if he listens to his “little song,” will he go away after that. Elias agreed. He sang that he doesn’t think Corbin will survive and he wishes people were there to see it live. Corbin didn’t like Gronk laughing. They got a few inches from each other and trash-talked. Gronk shoved Corbin over a kneeling Mojo. Mojo celebrated and dared Corbin to keep talking trash. Elias then attacked Corbin. Corbin fled to ringside. Gronk then said he loves the idea of a match between Corbin and Elias at WrestleMania. Cole, safely at ringside, said he loved that idea.
-They showed Goldberg’s locker room door.
-They showed Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Cesaro backstage. He said they were headed into tag team action next.
-Daniel Bryan’s ring entrance took place. He was joined by Drew Gulak. Cole said he hopes everyone is doing the Yes chants at home since there’s no one to do it there. [c]
-They showed highlights of last week’s angle with everyone involved in the match.
(1) CESARO & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (w/Sami Zayn) vs. DREW GULAK & DANIEL BRYAN
(They didn’t change anything. Still same setting with the lit up blue chairs everywhere and no one in them.) A couple minutes in, Bryan dove through the ropes and speared Nakamura into the announce desk. Back in the ring, Bryan leaped at Cesaro, but Cesaro caught him and put him into a tilt-a-whirl suplex. He kicked Gulak off the ring apron as Sami stood and yelled support to Cesaro. “A true master of the craft!” he said as they cut to a break. [c]
Back live, the match continued. Sami said he won’t explain to Cole what makes an artist an artist, but their artistry is undeniable. He said he just has an eye for talent. Cole said there are “no WWE fans in attendance because of the dire circumstances in the world, but we’re here to entertain you.” (What if you woke up from a coma at that very moment and the TV was on Fox when Cole said that? Then looked out the window and saw kids partying on a beach across the street.) Bryan blind-tagged in and sunset-flipped Cesaro for a roll-up three count as Gulak blocked Nakamura from breaking up the cover. Sami yelled about how unfair it was.
WINNERS: Gulak & Bryan in 10:00.
-Cole said a recap would air of John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania later. He also hyped Paige would return. They went to Cole on camera who talked about WrestleMania taking place over two nights. He said over the next three Sundays, past WrestleManias will air in its entirety on ESPN starting with WrestleMania 30 this Sunday. [c]
-Backstage, Bryan and Gulak were doing post-match stretching and discussing their win. In walked Sami with Shinsuke and Cesaro. He said they shouldn’t be celebrating that joke of a win. He said they squeaked out the win. He asked when he start listening to the Great Liberator instead of this nobody, Drew. When Sami said he’s untouchable, Bryan said he’s barely IC Champion. He challenged him to a match for the IC Title at WrestleMania. Sami said if Gulak could somehow, someway defeat Nakamura next week, then he’d happily agree to an IC Title match. Bryan said, “You’re on.”
-Back to Cole, he introduced Paige. She appeared on the big screen from Los Angeles. (That’s taking social spacing to the extreme.) Bayley and Sasha Banks marched to the ring. Bayley said, “Welcome to our show!” She told her to finish what she’s saying so the world can move on. Paige mocked Bayley. Bayley mocked Paige’s accent and calling everyone “bay-beh girl.” Paige said they have to know it takes more than greatness to change people’s hearts, it takes courage, and any woman who laced up boots, showed courage that they lack. She called them bullies. Bayley said she’s the most dominant heel in Smackdown history, and nobody past, present, and future can beat her. She asked Paige if she wants to do something about it. “Oh, you can’t. That’s right!” she gleefully said. Paige said her passion has been taken away from her and it breaks her heart every day.
Paige said it’s WrestleMania season, and that means she can’t wait to see who takes her title. She said her good friends at Fox asked her to announce her match at WM. Bayley said she’s had such a good year, she was thinking of skipping WM. Paige announced she’s scheduled to defend against Lacey Evans. Bayley said she already beat her at the Rumble. She said she’ll also defend against Dana Brooke. Bayley laughed and said, “Do you want to add Tamina to that? Does she even work here anymore.” Paige said that she’d add Tamina too. Paige said since Bayley is so dominant, she’s adding Naomi to the match too. Sasha yanked the mic and said, “You bitch, how dare you do this to my friend.” Paige said she’s glad she chimed in finally, because she has one more woman to add – Sasha. Sasha eyed Bayley’s title and suddenly looked intrigued, but maybe with some mixed feelings. Cole said some would say Bayley deserves a six-pack match-up for her title. Bayley stormed off. Sasha looked sympathetic to Bayley’s stress.
-Cole plugged the replay of the WrestleMania 30 match between John Cena and The Fiend coming up next. [c]
-A sponsored replay aired of Fiend pointing at the WrestleMania sign on Smackdown and Cena agreeing to it and then waving his hand in front of his face.
-They aired the Cena-Fiend match next from six years ago. They skipped ring entrance and went right to the bell ringing. Wyatt had Erik Rowan at ringside in his sheep mask and Luke Harper (now Brodie Lee in AEW as of this week). They cut to a break a few minutes into the match. [c]
-The match finished 15 minutes into the second hour.
(Keller’s Analysis: This is a good selection of a match to air in some ways because it fits this WM storyline. On the downside, it wasn’t a great match. Here’s what I wrote about it in my WrestleMania 30 report, which is available to VIP members in our year-by-year back issue section dating back to the late 1980s: “Interesting match. Not great athletically, but effective use of both characters. I wish it had a little more focus on a few crescendos with the actual wrestling, and it seemed too cute by half at times, but as a chapter in this story, it worked well enough. I did feel like the story they were telling in the ring was based on a missing chapter during the build-up. The idea that Cena was being driven to do things that are part of Cena’s unexplored dark side felt like it came out of nowhere compared to the build-up on Raw. **3/4.”)
-They went back to Cole live who said that moment changed Fiend’s entire career. They replayed a snippet of Fiend and Cena from last week on Smackdown.
-Cole hyped the contract signing for Reigns and Goldberg again.
-Miz and John Morrison came out. Cole said “The Dirt Sheet” was coming up next. [c]
-Kayla Braxton interviewed Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss. She asked about the Kabuki Warriors. Nikki yanked the mic from Kayla and ranted about the Warriors briefly. Bliss then calmly took the mic from her and addressed the camera. Bliss challenged Asuka to a match next week on Smackdown.
-The Dirt Sheet: Miz said they should ask the audience who they think they should face for their tag team championships are WrestleMania. Then off-camera, Miz and Morrison were edited into the segment imitating Big E and Kofi Kingston. Morrison was in a giant blow-up unicorn outfit. Miz did a pretty good Big E imitation on the mic. Then they aired Miz and Morrison imitating the Usos. Then they cut to Miz and Morrison dressed up as strips of bacon imitating Heavy Machinery. “Heavy Machinery” argued with “New Day” and they agreed they were stupid. Then back to Miz and Morrison in the ring, they said no one can decide who should face them at WrestleMania for their tag team titles. Morrison said they should probably take the night off. Out walked Heavy Machinery. [c]
(2) MIZ & MORRISON vs. HEAVY MACHINERY
A few minutes in, HM knocked Miz and Morrison to the floor. Tucker then leaped with a flip dive onto them. He let out some yells. Miz and Morrison took over. A few minutes later Dolph Ziggler came out to his music just as Tucker was about to make a tag to Otis. Miz knocked Otis off the ring apron and then kneed Tucker for a two count. Ziggler joined Cole at ringside as they cut to a break. [c]
Cole said he’s glad Ziggler is there. He asked him about stealing Mandy Rose from Otis. Ziggler said he does that on a regular basis. (There was no social spacing between Cole and Ziggler at the announce table.) The mysterious circle graphic briefly interrupted the view of the ring. Otis rallied and beat up both Miz and Morrison. Ziggler laughed that there were no fans to cheer Otis doing the caterpillar. Ziggler stood up and interrupted. He said he knows he’s “smitten by his kitten, Mandy.” He showed pictures of them together. “Look at how happy we are. It’s sad you’ll never know what that’s like. You’re probably a good guy. Good guys finish last or alone.” Otis was on the verge of crying. Ziggler wished him better luck next time. Otis chased down Ziggler and caught him as Ziggler tried to leave over the barricade. Otis picked up a chair, but Morrison and Miz yanked it away from him and attacked him, then threw him back into the ring. Otis clotheslined both of them over the top rope. Otis made a comeback and threw Morrison into the steps and then he threw Miz into the announce table. Morrison leaped off the announce table, but Otis caught him and threw him into the ringpost. Cole said Otis was driven to rage by Ziggler. Otis plowed into Miz and Morrison at ringside, driving them through the barricade. Tucker tried to talk Otis into putting a chair down. Instead, after some deep breaths, he smashed Morrison with the chair anyway and the ref DQ’d him.
WINNERS: Miz & Morrison via DQ in 15:00.
-As Otis continued to throw chairs around in a rage, Ziggler looked on as if he was nervous about what he sparked. [c]
-Cole hyped Bliss vs. Asuka, Nakamura vs. Gulak, and New Day vs. The Usos with the winners facing Miz & Morrison at WrestleMania. Also next week, a new Firefly Funhouse.
-Cole stood mid-ring to introduce the contract signing. Reigns came out to his music first. Then Goldberg. They both tossed the chairs out of the ring over the top rope. Cole asked them to relax. Cole said no one saw this match happening in a million years, but it’s going to happen. He asked Goldberg after he won the Championship at Super Showdown, he asked “Who’s next,” but who did he expect to answer his challenge. Goldberg said he was hoping it’d be Reigns, “but I didn’t think he’d have the balls to come out and face me.”
Cole asked Reigns why he took the challenge. Reigns said he’s been fortunate that all the greatest have chosen him – Cena, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Undertaker – “and they all lost to me, too.” He told “Bill” it won’t be any different with him. Cole showed a Tweet from Reigns mocking Goldberg back in January for busting his head open against a door before his matches. Cole asked why he said it back then. He said, “Why not?” He called Goldberg a “bitch bulldog” and said he’s holding “my title that he never earned.” Then he signed the contract. Goldberg shook with intensity and said, “Listen punk, I’ve been destroying steel doors all across the world for years with that headbutt.” He said he’ll be his next victim at WrestleMania. He signed the contract, then tossed aside the table and got in a staredown with Reigns as the show ended.
(Keller’s Analysis: They kept this simple and intense. The two are big enough names to get away with keeping it this simple. That worked.)