SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE SMACKDOWN PRIMER
APRIL 17, 2020
ORLANDO, FL. AT THE WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRS ON FOX NETWORK, 8:00 p.m. EDT
BY FRANK PETEANI (@FrankPeteani), PWTORCH SPECIALIST
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
Remembering Howard Finkel
If you’ve been a WWE fan since the 1980s, there are a few voices that are cemented in your mind. The late “Mean” Gene Okerlund, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan (despite what you may think of him), Gorilla Monsoon, and others come to mind. One voice you must add to that list is long-time ring announcer and WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel, who has unfortunately left us as of yesterday at the young age of 69.
Howard joined WWE, which was named WWWF at the time under Vince McMahon’s father, in 1977 as a ring announcer. He was famous for introductions like “at this time, allow me to introduce to you …,” “this bout is scheduled for one fall, with a twenty minute time limit…,” and most famously “the winner of this bout, and NEWWWW” when announcing a new champion. He set the standard for ring announcers and is regarded as the greatest of all time in that department. He announced full-time, for the most part until 2000. He then announced on more of a part time basis for the next twenty years. He would do WrestleMania events for the most part and later would just announce the Hall of Fame class. In 2011, he was used as a special announcer to introduce CM Punk as he was challenging Alberto Del Rio for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden (MSG). Howard and that building were synonymous and went together like peanut butter and jelly for lack of a better analogy. His health had not been good in recent times.
Several wrestlers and promoters tweeted their remorse for this terrible loss. I’ll just leave a small sample of former WWE talent showing their love, which is incredibly touching and shows you how much Howard (known as “The Fink”) meant to people:
I’m gonna dearly miss my friend @howardfinkel. Passionate Mets & wrestling fan. An incredible soul. He’s the soundtrack to so many of our childhoods. Nobody has ever done it better. Rest In Peace Fink.
— Brian Myers (@TheCurtHawkins) April 16, 2020
Saddened about the passing of my friend & colleague, Howard "The Fink" Finkel. Fink was my main contact when I first starting getting myself & Jeff booked as extras in the mid 90s. Howard always took great care of us & had a soft spot in his heart The Hardy Boyz. #RIPFink pic.twitter.com/dNPTscanuR
— #BROKEN Matt Hardy (@MATTHARDYBRAND) April 16, 2020
I must admit, it brings a smile to my face learning Howard was a devout Mets fan as I was. That pales in comparison to the big picture, but I never knew that about him, and it’s cool to learn that now. That said, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Howard’s family and loved ones. Thank you for being a significant part of my late childhood and early adulthood. You made it better and your voice will always be heard.
Perspective on Numerous Releases
As we learned yesterday, WWE released a large portion of their talent roster and several producers. In case you missed it, here’s Wade Keller’s article from yesterday that lists the talent and producers who were given their walking papers:
Historically, WWE has released talent around this time especially when get closer to them announcing their earnings. You might say a lot of that talent was lower on the card, they weren’t being used, and they’ll benefit by going somewhere else. Most of the time, that’s true. This is different, as we continue to navigate this terrible coronavirus pandemic. They may be able to explain the numbers and justify it, but how do you explain bringing in Rob Gronkowski for WrestleMania, as well as bringing back Goldberg and the Undertaker. I’m sure that costed a pretty penny. They just went to Saudi Arabia, contributed $18 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Florida where they were deemed an essential business, and oh by the way declared bankruptcy for the XFL which wasn’t…I’m sorry IS attached to WWE. I’m sorry, but you’re not going to sell me on anything other than they didn’t want to go through their cash reserves to pay the people they let go.
The wrestling business can be tough. Nobody is guaranteed a job for life. This is a different time, and I’m sure people on Wall Street have a human bone in their body and would understand that WWE is showing a humanitarian side keeping their employees during this terrible time knowing they’ll need them once this pandemic passes. Where are these people going to go? New Japan isn’t running shows for now. Ring of Honor cancelled all their events through (May I think). AEW has about a month of content recorded and I can’t see them bringing talent in right now. These are peoples’ livelihoods! Well Vince, if the shareholders are happy that’s what matters, right? That’s the responsibility of a publicly traded company. Give me a break. Even my company and other airlines, where you’re more of a number than anything else, offered partially paid and unpaid leaves of absences while this is going on and the passenger loads are little to nil. WWE couldn’t work out something like that so these people could at least have piece of mind knowing there’d be employment on the other side of this crap? I get releasing a few lower card talents like EC3 (who oddly barely got on TV), No Way Jose, and Heath Slater. Even at that, this is these peoples’ income, but as I said this is the wrestling business. This is an absolute massacre. This is also the same company that hoarded talent so they wouldn’t sign elsewhere. Alright, I’m done. I can rant on and on.
Top 10 Moments from Last Week
Arena and Items Advertised by WWE
WWE and its essential business remain in their Performance Center in Orlando, FL. and will have no audience. Here’s what’s advertised for the show, which they announced on last week’s edition of Smackdown:
- Unique Triple Threat match will see Smackdown Tag Team Titles on the line
- Sasha Banks and Tamina to clash in a match with championship implications
- Daniel Bryan to face Cesaro in Men’s Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
- Sonya Deville out to clear the air with Mandy Rose
- Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match spot on the line when Naomi meets Dana Brooke
- Smackdown Tag Team Championship: Miz (champion representing his team with John Morrison) vs. Big E (New Day) and Jey Uso
At WrestleMania, John Morrison retained the Smackdown Tag Team Championship for his team with the Miz as he defeated Kofi Kingston of New Day and Jimmy Uso of the Usos in a triple threat ladder match. Last week on Smackdown, Miz and Morrison ran another edition of the Dirt Sheet. They talked about retaining the titles and Mi being the first to retain from his couch.
As they were leaving the ring New Day (both Big E and Kofi Kingston) came out. Big E said the wrestlers who did not participate in the ladder match ought to do so to get a crack at the titles. Kofi then informed the champs that the match was on for next week (tonight) involving Big E, Jey Uso, and the Miz. That match takes place tonight, although it’s just a straight-up triple threat match and doesn’t involve a ladder.
Frank’s Analysis: It’s a logical step in the story, involving the wrestlers that didn’t take part in the ladder match. I don’t see a title change as I think they’ll want to run a little longer with Miz and Morrison as champs. It’s not a slam dunk though, as we’ve seen title changes that we didn’t expect to have happen. I’m not betting my house on any result here.
Tamina vs. Sasha Banks: If Tamina Wins She Challenges Bayley for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Bayley retained the Smackdown Women’s Championship over Sasha Banks, Lacey Evans, Naomi, and Tamina in a fatal five-way elimination match. Tamina was pinned in the match when all four other women piled on top of her after Naomi landed a moonsault.
Last week Bayley and her good friend Sasha came out to tout her victory when Tamina interrupted. She reminded them that it took everyone to beat her at WrestleMania and wanted a one-on-one championship match with Bayley. Sasha claimed there was a pecking order, but Bayley was willing to accommodate Tamina if she could beat Sasha one-on-one. Sasha appeared uneasy at Bayley volunteering her, and Tamina said “your bestie just screwed you” as she was leaving the ring. Tonight, Tamina goes one-on-one with Sasha and if she wins, she will earn a championship match against Bayley at an event to be determined (Money in the Bank?). Here’s WWE’s tweet of the segment last week:
— WWE (@WWE) April 13, 2020
Frank’s Analysis: It’s nice to see them try to get something out of Tamina, and I hope they do. The more options on the roster the better, and I always felt she had the look of a menacing badass. There’s a void of that on this roster. It’s just we’ve there before plenty of times with her. I’m not getting my hopes up until I see her have a substantial run on the roster without getting hurt (which isn’t her fault) or just not getting pushed for whatever reason.
Money in the Bank Qualifying Matches
The Money in the Bank ladder matches started taking shape this past Monday when Asuka, Shayna Baszler, and Nia Jax qualified for the women’s matches as a result of their victories over Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Kairi Sane respectively. Tonight, the women’s match will take further shape and we’ll begin setting up the men’s match as well. Money in the Bank for now is set to take place on May 9 with a location to be determined. The original location of the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD. cancelled the event as a result of the stay-at-home order for Maryland until May 30.
Men’s: Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro
Daniel Bryan has been involved with Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn, Cesaro, and Shinsuke Nakamura one way or another for the better part of the last few months. At WrestleMania, Bryan unsuccessfully challenged for the IC title he last won back at the same event in 2015. Just before this year’s WrestleMania, Bryan defeated Nakamura via DQ when Cesaro got involved. Back in March, Bryan and Cesaro had a one-on-one which saw Bryan come out on top. Here’s that match in case you forgot about it:
Tonight, Bryan and Cesaro square off for the right to be in the Money in the Bank ladder match this year. The match will take further shape this coming Monday night, and yes yours truly will be sure to preview that!
Women’s: Naomi vs. Dana Brooke
Naomi and Dana Brooke will face each other for the right to qualify for the women’s match. Naomi has had a few shots at the Smackdown Women’s Championship recently. She had a one-on-one match with Bayley at Super Showdown in Saudi Arabia and was involved in the fatal five-way elimination match I spoke of earlier at WrestleMania. Last week on Smackdown, Dana and Carmella challenged WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (Bliss Cross Applesauce) to a title match which Nikki gladly accepted on behalf of her and Alexa. Alexa recommended decaf. (Pssst Alexa … decaf is a scam as there’s still caffeine in decaf.)
Frank’s Analysis: Logic would dictate that Bryan wins over Cesaro, right? I don’t know why, but I feel like that’s not a slam dunk and Cesaro has a shot. I’m not crazy enough to pick that publicly and I’ll stay with the safe pick of Bryan. As far as Naomi and Dana, it’s a crap shoot. Naomi has had a lot of chances recently, but she’s still a safer pick over Dana.
Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose to Clear the Air
Last week on Smackdown, the latest chapter in the Otis-Mandy Rose-Sonya Deville-Dolph Ziggler story unfolded when Ziggler defeated Tucker, Otis’s partner in Heavy Machinery. Things are still up in the air between Mandy and Sonya, apparently former best friends now. As we recall it was revealed before WrestleMania that Sonya and Ziggler corroborated to ruin Otis’s date with Mandy on Valentine’s Day by sending a text from Mandy’s phone to Otis, saying she was running late. This allowed Ziggler to show up at the restaurant to join Mandy. Otis showed up later but dropped the flower he had in disbelief.
Tonight, Sonya and Mandy attempt to “clear the air.” Mandy was on Maria Menounos’s show (which I didn’t know existed) and Sonya cranked called Mandy. Here it is if you care:
Frank’s Analysis: I’m interested to see where this story goes but I don’t care enough to put thought into it to be honest. I’m in more a sit back and see what develops and evaluate from there. I haven’t hated it, but it’s just a goofy love story. It’s fine, and I’m glad Otis prevailed in the end.
Other Match Results and News Items from Last Week:
- New Universal Champion Braun Strowman defeated Shinsuke Nakamura in a non-title match. He came out to start the show and talk about winning the title but got interrupted by Nakamura whom he defeated for the Intercontinental Championship not too long ago. Strowman couldn’t enjoy his victory for too long, as Bray Wyatt appeared from the Firefly Funhouse. He talked about his history with Braun in the Wyatt Family several years ago, and how he wants the Universal Championship back.
- Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross retained the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship over the Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane).
- Elias sang another song, this time to the audience at home.
- The Forgotten Sons (Wesley Blake & Steven Cutler with Jaxson Ryker) made their Smackdown debut and defeated Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado). Here’s Forgotten Sons in a WWE exclusive:
Sheamus won a squash match.
They announced that in two weeks (so next week), the 25th anniversary of Triple H begins. Behold the King…the King of Kings…time to play the game…and all that. Yay.
I’m kind of in a sour mood writing this given the releases and furloughs. I really don’t feel like saying “I’m looking for to …” or “I’m interested in … “ Given everything that’s going on in the world, and especially that it may be difficult for these people to find jobs right away, I find it appalling that a well-off company like WWE couldn’t figure out a way to hold on to at least some of the talent. I mean they made Drake Maverick pee in his pants at Survivor Series in 2018, and the poor guy did whatever they asked of him through the years and he knocked it out of the freaking park. This is how they treat him?
Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPeteani. Questions and discussion are welcome. Thank you for reading!