LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 4/17: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Tag Team title match, Banks vs. Tamina, Rose & Deville clear the air, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


APRIL 17, 2020

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with a placard memorializing the late Howard Finkel.

-Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the live show following the standard Smackdown opening. He and Corey Graves previewed the triple threat match for the tag team titles, as well as Money in the Bank qualifying matches between Daniel Bryan and Cesaro and Naomi and Dana Brooke.

-Alexa Bliss’ music played and she and Nikki Cross headed to the ring for A Moment of Bliss to kick off the show. Bliss welcomed the audience to the show and welcomed their guest, the Universal Champion, Braun Strowman.

Bliss congratulated Strowman on becoming Universal Champion. Braun congratulated Bliss and Cross on defeating Asuka and Kairi Sane twice. Bliss turned the focus toward Strowman’s next challenge. She said Bray Wyatt is cunning and psychotic. She threw to a clip of last week’s confrontation between Wyatt and Strowman.

Bliss asked Strowman for his response to Bray’s comments. Strowman said no one knows Bray like he does. “Bray Wyatt didn’t create me and I definitely don’t owe him anything.” Strowman said Bray is a manipulator that likes to get inside people’s heads. He said he’s not playing those games. “If you come for me, the only thing you’re gonna get are these hands.” Bliss seemed shaken. Strowman spotted a wrapped present in the corner of the ring. He asked if it was for him.

Bliss said she didn’t send the gift. Braun opened it up and pulled out a black sheep’s mask. Bliss and Cross slowly stood up and left the ring. Strowman stared at the mask. Wyatt’s laugh filled the speakers. Strowman looked around nervously. Suddenly, a still image of Strowman wearing the black sheep’s mask appeared on screen. The show cut to commercial.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Bliss and Cross continue to carry these segments to the best of their ability, but they’re rarely given much to work with. Braun Strowman came off forced and scripted, but it’s hard to find much direction or purpose with no crowd to feed from. I’m intrigued by the direction they’re taking with Braun’s past connection to Bray and the Wyatt Family, but I don’t expect much from this match, or from this feud, as a whole.)

-Out of the break, Cole and Graves teased that Strowman will face Bray Wyatt (note: not The Fiend) for the Universal title at Money in the Bank.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Not jumping into The Fiend right away, providing that is the idea here, is a nice way to give Strowman a win before bringing The Fiend into play for perhaps a bigger challenge down the road. It’s also a feasible, and logical way to draw out what otherwise feels like it should be a one match feud.)

-Sasha Banks headed to the ring. Bayley joined Cole and Graves at the announcers desk. Tamina headed down the ramp next. Cole showed footage of now this match came together.

(1) SASHA BANKS vs. TAMINA – If Tamina wins, she challenges Bayley for the Smackdown Women’s title

Sasha Banks begged off Tamina when the bell rang. She handed Tamina a Sasha Banks t-shirt. Tamina complained about the size. She shoved Banks to the mat and tossed the shirt at Bayley. Banks quickly went for a roll up, but Tamina powered out and dropped her to the mat.

Tamina shot Sasha into the corner and hoisted her onto her shoulders. Banks held onto the ropes to block the offense. Tamina dumped Sasha to the outside. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Out of the break, Tamina had Banks cornered, delivering shoulder thrusts. Sasha fought free, knocked Tamina to her knees, and then flew off the top with double knees to the chest for a two count. Sasha followed up with a number of kicks and trash talk. She hit a basement dropkick and covered for only a one count.

Banks applied a chin lock and worked Tamina down the mat. On commentary, Bayley said it would be an honor to face her best friend for the title. Tamina returned to a vertical base and dumped Banks in the corner. Banks rolled to the outside. Tamina went to retrieve her. Bayley tossed the t-shirt at Tamina and started talking trash. Sasha tossed Tamina into the ring post and then the steel steps.

Lacey Evans’ music hit, and she rushed to ringside, taking down Bayley. Tamina returned to her feet and caught Banks with a super kick, then tossed her back in the ring. Tamina followed it up with a second super kick in the ring and covered her for a three count.

WINNER: Tamina in 9:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Not a great match. Sloppy at most points, slow in others. Tamina has never been a good worker, and this showed now signs of improvement. I don’t quite understand the idea of building a main title program around her at this stage of her career, but the Smackdown Women’s division has been out of sorts for quite some time. It seems clear that the goal is to bring Lacey Evans back up into the title picture, but their last feud proved uneventful and she doesn’t seem to have improved all that much either. The division is in some serious need of new blood.)

-Backstage, Jey Uso cut a quick promo about the triple threat match for the tag team titles. Cole teased the match before heading to commercial.

-After the break, Charly Caruso approached Lacey Evans. She said Sasha Banks has been a thorn in her side. Evans said she’s been more than just a thorn. She said wherever Banks goes now, she goes. Lacey said she doesn’t plan to stop until the mission is complete, just like a U.S. Marine.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Short and sweet. This tends to be how Evans’ promos work best, and this was a solid one.)

-Sheamus headed to the ring. His opponent was already in the ring.


Graves said he feels bad for Sheamus’ opponent as the bell rang. Sheamus gave Denzel a quick kick to the midsection. Denzel caught Sheamus with a quick roll up, but Sheamus fought out quickly. He began pummeling DeJournette with hard elbows to the head and neck.

Sheamus drove hard knees into Denzel’s face. He followed up with a quick Brogue Kick for a three count.

WINNER: Sheamus in 1:00

Michael Cole turned his attention to Jeff Hardy. Sheamus quickly interrupted him, upset at Cole’s lack of attention to his dominance. He asked Cole, “what about the Celtic Warrior?”  He got in Cole’s face and said he will not be disrespected.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Nothing to it. They’re clearly trying to sell Sheamus’ brutality, as this is the second week in a row he’s clobbered his opponent mercilessly with hard elbows and knees. I would’ve thought Sheamus would be a strong candidate for Money in the Bank, but it appears as though he’ll be headed for a program with Jeff Hardy.)

-Another retrospective video package for Jeff Hardy aired. This one touched on Hardy’s drug and alcohol issues.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a great package, like WWE typically produces. WWE has never really acknowledged Jeff’s struggles in this much detail on TV before, so they must be relatively confident that Jeff is on the straight and narrow, hopefully for good.)

-Backstage, Carmella approached Dana Brooke, frustrated that she took a Money in the Bank qualifying match instead of focusing on their tag title match. Dana said she could handle both. Carmella seemed unsure.

-Naomi headed to the ring. Cole said their first Money in the Bank qualifying match would be coming up after the break.

-Out of the break, Cole and Graves confirmed that this year’s Money in the Bank ladder matches will emanate from WWE corporate headquarters. The matches will begin on the ground floor, and the contracts will be suspended from the roof.

(LeClair’s Analysis: You’ve got to be kidding. Listen, I applaud WWE for wanting to get creative and try new things, but this has walk-and-brawl disaster written all over it. We’ve already seen a bunch of these weirdly cinematic matches in this era with very mixed results, but this does not seem like a particularly intriguing idea, especially to do twice in one night. I’d much prefer they stick to the traditional format.)

(3) NAOMI vs. DANA BROOKE – Money in the Bank Qualifier

Naomi rolled up Brooke for a quick one count. She followed up with another, but Brooke quickly powered out. The two traded a series of roll ups resulting in one counts. Naomi hit Brooke with a dropkick and covered her for another one count. Dana Brooke recovered and tossed Naomi to the outside.

Brooke caught Naomi with a baseball slide through the bottom rope. She scooped up Naomi and tossed her back in the ring, covering her for a two count. Brooke applied a leg lock around Naomi’s midsection. Naomi broke free with elbows to the head. She rolled up Brooke for a two count.

Both women returned to their feet. Naomi delivered a trio of elbows, then a trio of quick kicks for a near fall. Naomi shot off the ropes, but Brooke caught her with a pop up sit out power bomb for a near fall of her own. Both women struggled to their feet. Brooke hit Naomi with a handspring back elbow, then went for a handspring splash on the mat. Naomi got her knees up and went for the Rear View. Dana blocked it. Naomi attempted again, connecting this time for a two count.

Naomi went for the split-legged moonsault, but Dana rolled out of the way and rolled up Naomi for a surprise three count.

WINNER: Dana Brooke in 4:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Some good athleticism in this one. Nothing special, match wise, but both women tried hard and it generated a couple of decent looking spots. I’m an advocate of giving Dana Brooke a shot, especially in a match like Money in the Bank, so I’m pleasantly surprised by this result.)

-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves discussed participants in the Money in the Bank ladder matches and how they’ll have to “climb the corporate ladder.” Cole turned his focus to Otis and tossed to the Progressive Match Flo, covering the Otis and Mandy romance angle. Graves said Sonya Deville would attempt to clear the air with Mandy Rose after the break.

-Sonya Deville headed to the ring after the break, kicking of the second hour. She said Mandy hasn’t been answering her calls or texts, so she didn’t know what else to do. She pleaded with Mandy to come to the ring. She said she’s never had someone like Mandy in her life before. “It’s always been Mandy and Sonya,’ she said, choking up.

Deville continued pleading. Mandy Rose’s music eventually played and she walked to the ring. Mandy said she has nothing to say to Sonya. Deville pleaded again. She struggled to find the words, then turned cold. “You’re the most selfish human being I’ve ever met in my entire life.” Deville said Rose was ready to kick her to the curb at any moment.

She said she always came out to Mandy’s entrance music, shelled out her magazines, and had her face blurred out in their videos. She said Mandy couldn’t keep her focus on their team. She compared Dolph to Otis and admitted she helped Dolph in exchange for him helping them as a team. “You ruined it,” Sonya said.

Mandy tried to make sense of Sonya’s admission. “All I want to see is you hurt,” Deville said. She said Mandy is a dime a dozen who looks like she was created in a lab. She called Rose eye candy with no talent. Deville said she will use every ounce of her being to ruin Mandy’s life. She called Mandy a “centerfold bitch” and tossed down the mic.

Dolph Ziggler’s music hit. He rushed to the ring. He said he went about all of this the wrong way. He pleaded with Mandy, saying he made a huge mistake but claiming he and Mandy share a real connection. He asked Mandy to tell him she has no feelings for him. Mandy stared Ziggler down. Sonya elbowed Mandy in the face. Ziggler asked Sonya why she’d attack her. Otis’ music hit. Otis rushed to the ring. Sonya jumped on his back. Mandy pulled her off.

Ziggler quickly retrieved Sonya Deville and hurried up the ramp. Otis helped Mandy Rose to her feet. Ziggler tried to attack Otis again. Otis thwarted the attack, dropped Ziggler and hit the Caterpillar.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I expected Mandy Rose to come off a bit more like a babyface in her responses to Deville. She didn’t deny or refute anything Sonya said as if to play them as equals, but rather, just acted as though Deville was talking gibberish. I don’t think it worked particularly well. Deville delivered her lines well, and maybe oversold the moment a little bit, but that’s to be expected in an angle like this. Ziggler once again played solid fodder to Mandy and Otis.)

-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves talked about Howard Finkel, who passed away earlier this week. They threw to a well produced memorial package.

-The show returned to a close up of The Miz backstage. He complained about having to defend the tag team titles in a triple threat match after John Morrison already did at WrestleMania. Cole and Graves teased the match again, then threw to a video package hyping The Forgotten Sons.

-Cesaro headed to the ring with Shinsuke Nakamura at his side. He climbed a ladder set up next to the stage. Daniel Bryan headed to the ring with Drew Gulak.

(4) CESARO (w/ Shinsuke Nakamura) vs. DANIEL BRYAN (w/ Drew Gulak) – Money in the Bank Qualifier

Daniel Bryan and Cesaro locked up quickly then headed to opposite ropes. Cesaro quickly tackled Bryan. Bryan popped up and tossed Cesaro to the outside, then dove onto him through the middle rope.

The match was then interrupted by the hooded figure involved in the Otis/Mandy Rose angle. The hooded figure said we’ve heard all the lies, then asked when we’d get to hear the truth. The figure said “some keep their friends close, but their enemies closer.” Quick, jagged clips of Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross, The Usos, The New Day, and The Miz & John Morrison played, hinting at dissent among one or more teams. The show cut to break.

Out of the break, Bryan and Cesaro were trading low kicks and uppercuts in the middle of the ring. Bryan dropped Cesaro and stomped on his arm, then continued working it over. Cesaro tried to fight free, but Bryan caught him with a hip toss and transitioned quickly into an arm bar.

Cesaro lifted Bryan into the air and dropped him in a modified power bomb. He gave Bryan a scoop slam and shook out his arm. Cesaro gave Bryan a stiff kick to the back, then followed up with another scoop slam for a two count. Bryan rolled to the apron. Cesaro grabbed at him, but Bryan trapped Cesaro’s arm and hyperextended it. He flew from the top rope for a cross body, but Cesaro caught him and slammed him onto his knee.

Cesaro turned Bryan into a Sharpshooter. Bryan dragged himself to the ropes and broke the hold. Bryan rolled to the outside. Cesaro followed up him and hit a running uppercut against the barricade. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Out of the break, both men were linked in conflicting backslide attempts. Bryan took Cesaro over into an arm bar, but Cesaro scooped him out of it. Bryan picked Cesaro’s ankle, but Cesaro kicked free. Bryan began hitting the “yes” kicks, he connected with the final wind up, then covered Cesaro for a two count. Bryan followed up with elbows to the collarbone of Cesaro. Cesaro fought to his feet, scooped up Bryan and gave him a modified GTS for a two count. Cesaro transitioned the cover into a Crossface. Bryan rolled through it and locked in the Yes Lock. Cesaro rolled into a cover. Bryan rolled into one of his own. Both men returned to their feet.

Cesaro caught Bryan with a running clothesline. He hit a series of uppercuts, backing Bryan into the corner and selling his arm. Bryan fought out and wrestled Cesaro the mat, transitioning quickly into the Yes Lock again. Shinsuke Nakamura slid in the ring, but Drew Gulak pulled him to the outside. Cesaro tapped out.

WINNER: Daniel Bryan in 14:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Strong match. It’s a shame they couldn’t have had a similar bout in front of a live audience, because it would’ve been aided tremendously by crowd participation. Still, these are two master class wrestlers who can have a good match under virtually any circumstance and this was no exception. Bryan and Cesaro continue to be among the MVPs of this era of WWE TV.)

-Backstage, Big E cut the final hype promo for the main event. He said he rolled out of the New Day triple bunk beds this morning and told Kofi and Xavier to watch him do work. Cole and Graves said the match was up next.

-Elias was shown walking backstage, apparently preparing for a “special musical performance.” He was blindsided by King Corbin, who tossed him into various pieces of equipment in the same area the final portion of the Randy Orton vs. Edge match took place. He slammed Elias’ hand on some equipment cases and dragged him off camera, saying “we’re gonna have some fun.” The show went to commercial.

-King Corbin continued beating on Elias from a different backstage area when the show returned from break. He told Elias he was going to make an example out of him. He hit Elias in the head with his scepter, then told him he’d make an example out of him. “You will bow down to your king,” Corbin said before smashing Elias against the crate again. He finished by smashing Elias’ guitar of his back.

-At the announcers desk, Graves said no one gets the last laugh over King Corbin. Cole teased a match between King Corbin and Drew Gulak in a Money in the Bank qualifier on next week’s show. He also announced Sasha Banks vs. Lacey Evans in another qualifier. Graves talked up the Women’s tag team title match between Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross and Dana Brooke and Carmella. They also teased an “in-depth” look at the history between Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt.

-Big E’s voice filled the Performance Center and he headed to the ring. Cole said it was main event time. Cole threw to a recap of the triple threat ladder match for the tag titles from WrestleMania. Jey Uso headed to the ring, followed by The Miz, who carried both Tag Team titles.

(3) BIG E vs. JEY USO vs. THE MIZ (c) – Triple Threat match for the Smackdown Tag Team titles

The Miz flew at Big E as soon as the bell rang. Big E dropped him with an overhead belly to belly suplex. The action quickly spilled outside. Big E tossed Miz into the barricade, then stripped the announcers desk of its top. He removed the lights and monitors as he joked around with Cole and Graves.

Jey Uso caught Big E with a quick super kick. Miz and Jey Uso worked together to put Big E through the announcers table with a double team suplex. Cole sent the show to commercial.

After the break, Jey Uso hit The Miz with a Samoan Drop and then tossed him to the outside. He followed up with a dive through the opposite side of the ring onto Big E. He rushed back in and hit the same dive on The Miz. The Miz rolled into the ring, but got caught with a cross body from the top rope courtesy of Uso.

Miz and Big E were both laid out in opposite corners. Jey hit running knees to Miz, but got caught with a Uranage from Big E. Miz recovered and attacked Big E. He set up for a Skull Crushing Finale, but got caught with a super kick from Jey Uso for a two count. Miz rolled up Jey for a two count of his own.

Miz set up a Figure Four, but Jey shoved Miz off and shot to his feet. Miz caught Jey with a Skull Crushing Finale for a near fall. Miz immediately applied the Figure Four in the center of the ring. Big E broke the hold by scooping The Miz up and dropping him with the Big Ending for a quick three count.

WINNER: Big E in 8:00

Cole immediately threw to a clip of Kofi Kingston celebrating Big E’s win from home. Cole talked up this being New Day’s 8th title reign, then threw to Xavier Woods’ celebration. The show went off the air with Big E kissing the tag titles.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Hard to see the point of this. The match itself was disappointing, though the finish was creative and effective. I’m not at all a proponent of switching the tag team titles in a match that doesn’t involve tag teams. It’s why I agreed with Morrison retaining at WrestleMania and why I thought Miz should have retained tonight to get out of this ridiculous scenario. The Smackdown tag titles are thrown around far too frequently to mean anything to anyone, as evidenced by New Day’s eight reigns in a relatively short period of time.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a rough show outside of the Bryan vs. Cesaro match. I tried very hard to keep my personal thoughts regarding the status of these events even occurring from tainting any feeling I have on the product itself, and largely avoided mentioning it until now. Wrestling doesn’t exist in a vacuum, though, and I don’t think it would be fair to completely ignore the stench that these shows carries. This is becoming a mainstream story, and, coupled with WWE’s cutbacks this week, it was extremely hard to go into this show in a neutral position. Again, no fault to the workers, who continue to show effort and energy, but wrestling simply isn’t effective in this setting, especially with such a negative weight hanging in the air around the company this week.




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