LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 4/24: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Triple H career celebration, Women’s Tag Title match, Banks vs. Evans, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 24, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with a brief video package hyping Triple H’s 25th anniversary celebration, then gave way to the standard Smackdown intro video.

Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the show and called it a “historic” night. Corey Graves agreed, previewing Triple H’s appearance to celebrate his 25th anniversary. Cole previewed the Money in the Bank qualifier between Sasha Banks and Lacey Evans. Graves talked up the women’s tag team title match.

-Big E’s voice filled the Performance Center as the CGI rainbow filled the screen. Big E and Kofi Kingston danced onto the stage with the Smackdown tag team titles around their wastes. They got in Cole and Graves’ faces, Big E screaming “eight time” repeatedly. Cole threw to clips of the triple threat match for the tag titles on last week’s show.

Kofi and Big E began to celebrate becoming eight time tag team champions. Kofi said Big E overcame the odds to win the titles for them. He told people tp put their hands together. Big E reminded him that there’s “not a soul” there. Big E said it feels good to have “their girls” wrapped around their waste. He began to tell a story, but Kofi cut him off, “we don’t need to get into those details,” he said.

Kingston said they’ve put themselves in the same conversation as some of the company’s greatest tag teams of all time. Big E said they have more titles than Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady. Kofi sulked. Big E told him he’s just playing. Lucha House Party’s music cut them off.

Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado said it’s “lucha lit” that New Day became eight time champions, but they want to become the first team to challenge New Day for the tag team titles. They were cut off by The Miz and John Morrison, who blew past Lucha House Party on the ramp and walked into the ring.

Miz claimed their win was illegitimate because they won the titles in a singles triple threat match. Morrison ran down their “travesty” of tag team title defenses. He called New Day’s win cheap. Miz said he thinks someone must be pulling strings for New Day. Miz said New Day makes the titles look like jokes, and they want their titles back.

Lucha House Party joined the other teams in the ring, cutting of Miz in Spanish. After a brief back and forth with Miz asking everyone what they said, the Forgotten Sons interrupted and headed to the ring. “Can we help you? Miz asked, laughing. Steve Cutler introduced the Forgotten Sons, and said they served their country.

Cutler said they plan to run the tag team division. Miz demanded respect. Ryker cut Miz off and said he’s a real life marine, while Miz played one in a movie. Wesley Blake told Miz to shut up. He said they can strike any time and no one would see it coming. The Forgotten Sons immediately attacked New Day, Miz & Morrison, and Lucha House Party.

Miz & Morrison quickly left the ring. The Forgotten Sons beat down Kofi and Big E while the former champions watched from the apron. Cutler and Blake dropped Big E and then Jaxson Ryker gave Kofi a power bomb onto Big E.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent opening segment. I still disagree with moving the titles back to New Day this quickly. It feels redundant and overdone, especially given that it doesn’t appear Miz and Morrison are going anywhere or taking any sort of break. The Forgotten Sons came off well here, and I think I’d wager that they’re already more effective on the main roster in two short weeks than they ever were on NXT. I still don’t have particularly strong feelings about them being a long term success, but I do think they fit the main roster aesthetic far better than NXT.)

-Out of the break, a video clip of Triple H’s debut in 1995 aired.

-Backstage, Miz & Morrison were fuming backstage. Renee Young approached. She asked what they planned to do about the Forgotten Sons. Miz & Morrison put the blame on Lucha House Party, and said they wanted a match with them tonight.

-Drew Gulak headed to the ring with Daniel Bryan at his side for a Money in the Bank qualifier. Cole and Graves talked up the Money in the Bank ladder matches, which will take place on top of WWE headquarters in Stamford. King Corbin headed to the ring. Cole threw to the “Miller highlight of the night,” showing Corbin’s attack on Elias last week.

(1) DREW GULAK (w/ Daniel Bryan) vs. KING CORBIN – Money in the Bank qualifier

Drew Gulak and King Corbin locked up in the center of the ring. Corbin overpowered Gulak quickly and tossed him to the outside. Corbin talked trash to Gulak while Bryan gave Gulak some quick advice. Back in the ring, they locked up again. Gulak wrestled Corbin to the mat and then into a side headlock. Corbin broke free and shoved Gulak into the ropes.

Corbin gave Gulak a series of punches and elbows to the back of the neck Corbin and Gulak fought to the outside. Gulak gave Corbin a dropkick over the announcers desk. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Corbin backed Gulak into the corner when the show returned from commercial. Gulak shot out, but Corbin caught him with a big clothesline for a two count. Corbin continued to pound away at Gulak, who countered with a roll up for a two count. Corbin quickly recovered and gave Gulak a spinning slam for another two count.

Corbin drove Gulak into the corner and began kicking at his leg and midsection. Gulak returned to his feet and battled out. Corbin pushed him away and went for a clothesline, but Gulak caught him with a dropkick. Corbin returned and tried for a choke slam, but Gulak countered into a roll up for a two count. He hit Corbin with a cross body for another quick two count. Corbin rolled to the outside.

Corbin avoided a baseball slide. Gulak caught him with a dragon screw into the ring steps. Corbin struggled back into the ring. Gulak caught him with a cross body off the top rope for a near fall. Suddenly, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro appeared behind the barrier. They dragged Bryan over and tossed him into the LED board.

Back at ringside, Corbin slammed Gulak into the ring post then tossed him in the ring, hitting End of Days for a three count.

WINNER: King Corbin in 9:00

After the match, Cesaro and Nakamura held up Drew Gulak so King Corbin could strike him down with his scepter.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Kind of felt like a foregone conclusion that Corbin won this, given that Bryan had already qualified and it doesn’t really seem like the time to pit them against each other. Corbin is a fine “big man” to have in the match, and should be able to sell well for some of the high flyers and heavy hitters. I’m fine with a role like this for Corbin, providing it doesn’t translate into a win.)

-Cole and Graves discussed Rob Gronkowski’s return to football and how he’s vowed not to let it interfere with his 24/7 championship reign. They said part three of Jeff Hardy’s store would be up after the break.

-Out of the break, Sheamus headed to the ring. His opponent, Daniel Vidot, was already in the ring.

(2) SHEAMUS vs. DANIEL VIDOT

Daniel Vidot came at Sheamus quickly with a pair of shots, but Sheamus quickly overpowered him and set him up in the corner. He drove his fist and elbow into Vidot repeatedly, then beat him to the ground. Sheamus began slamming his forearm into Vidot’s chest repeatedly.

Vidot slowly stood up. Sheamus hit him with the Brogue Kick for a three count.

WINNER: Sheamus in 1:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Sheamus continues to look impressive, but I’m not totally sure how much longer they can go with this angle before people get tired of seeing these squashes. At least, at this point, they’re making it relatively clear that he’s destined for a program with Jeff Hardy.)

-Michael Cole threw to part three of the Jeff Hardy story, covering his return to WWE in 2017. Afterward, Corey Graves plugged the final installment for next week’s show.

-The Miz & John Morrison headed to the ring for their match with Lucha House Party. Cole sent the show to commercial.

-After the break, Sheamus returned to ringside to cut off Cole, who had begun talking about Jeff Hardy again.

-Lucha House Party headed to the ring as Cole and Graves composed themselves.

(3) THE MIZ & JOHN MORRISON vs. LUCHA HOUSE PARTY (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado)

The Miz began the match with Lince Dorado. Miz backed Dorado into the corner. Dorado fought out with kick low kicks and hard chops. Dorado leaped at Miz, but Miz dropped him with a kick to the stomach. Miz tagged in Morrison, who flew over the top rope with a diving elbow. He covered Dorado for a quick two count.

Morrison hit quick knee strikes to keep Dorado on the mat. Dorado caught Morrison with a quick arm drag, then tagged in Gran Metalik. Metalik flew off Dorado’s shoulders for a two count. Metalik made a quick tag back into Lince. Morrison dropped him and hit him with a running low kick before tagging Miz back in.

Miz & Morrison hit a double gut buster. Miz mocked Dorado and delivered a pair of hands before driving his knee into Lince’s chest. He tagged Morrison back in. Morrison hit a standing shooting star press for a two count. After returning to his feet, Dorado hit a springboard stunner on Morrison, who fell backwards into Miz, making a tag. Dorado tagged in Metalik.

Gran Metalik went after Miz, but got caught with a kick. Metalik rebounded and hit a bulldog, then attempted a top rope moonsault. Miz got his feet up, taking control. Miz set up for a Skull Crushing Finale, but Metalik rolled through it into a cover for a surprise three count.

WINNER: Lucha House Party in 5:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Not much to this one. Lucha House Party’s offense is impressive, but Miz and Morrison dominated the majority of the match until the surprise roll up win. I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish with Miz and Morrison here, but after losing the titles so quickly and now being quickly defeated by Lucha House Party, it feels like they may be teasing a breakup before too long. I’d be pleased to be wrong here, as I think it’s the best spot for both guys right now.)

-Back from the break, Sasha Banks headed to the ring with Bayley. Sasha carried a picture of Lacey Evans’ daughter on a popsicle stick. Lacey Evans headed to the ring, with a new CGI image as part of her entrance.

(4) SAHSA BANKS (w/ Bayley) vs. LACEY EVANS – Money in the Bank qualifier

Bayley hopped on the apron when the bell rang. Lacey quickly knocked her off, which allowed Sasha to briefly take control. Lacey quickly recovered, tossing Sasha to the outside. Lacey left the ring to attack Bayley. Sasha recovered and threw Evans into the steel steps.

Back in the ring, Banks quickly dropped Evans and kicked her into the ropes. Banks tossed Evans into the corner and worked over the arm. Evans fought out of the corner with a kick and a hard running clothesline. She followed up with a running knee. Sasha retreated to the corner.

Evans rushed at Banks, but Sasha moved, causing Evans to run into the ring post. Banks climbed the turnbuckle and caught Lacey with a meteora for a two count. Sasha tried for a headlock, but Evans tripped her into the turnbuckle. Evans slammed Sasha’s head repeatedly off the ring post. Evans lifted Banks to the top rope. Banks blocked a superplex and trapped Lacey’s hand in the turnbuckle, then hit a power bomb out of the corner.

Banks applied the Bank Statement, but Evans fought out of it quickly. Sasha tried attacking Lacey’s hand, but Lacey caught her with a Woman’s Right out of nowhere. Evans covered, but Bayley put Sasha’s foot on the bottom rope to break the count. The referee tried to get Bayley out of the ring. Sasha rolled up Evans but had no referee to count. Once he finally caught notice of the pin, Lacey kicked out at one.

Banks yelled at Bayley to stay out of it. Evans caught her with another Woman’s Right for a three count.

WINNER: Lacey Evans in 5:00

After the match, Tamina surprised Bayley with a super kick at the top of the ramp. Sasha Banks stared at her, then tended to Bayley, despite their argument.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Both women worked hard in this one. Evans’ Woman’s Right looks great, and Sasha sold both of them well. While I do think Banks is a much more interesting participant in Money in the Bank, she is known for taking incredibly unnecessary risks. Keeping her out of the match serves the purpose of keeping her safe, as well as furthering along the tease of a breakup between she and Bayley.)

-Cole and Graves teased the women’s tag title match, and the history of Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt, set to air next.

-Back from the break, Cole and Graves talked up the Universal title match between Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt, then tossed to a video package recapping their history in depth.

-At the announcers desk, Cole threw to Progressive’s Match Flo, covering the Mandy & Otis vs. Ziggler & Deville story. Graves announced Otis would face Dolph Ziggler and Mandy Rose would face Carmella in Money in the Bank qualifying matches next week.

-Backstage, Carmella approached Dana Brooke. Carmella said she was inspired by Dana Brooke qualifying for Money in the Bank and now she has a chance herself. They said they need to get the job done against Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross.

-Back from the break, Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross headed to the ring for their tag team title defense. Cole and Graves continued to talk up an appearance from Triple H later in the show. Carmella and Dana Brooke headed to the ring.

(5) ALEXA BLISS & NIKKI CROSS (c) vs. CARMELLA & DANA BROOKE – Women’s tag team title match

Dana Brooke dropped Nikki Cross with a big dropkick as soon as the bell rang. On the outside, Carmella took down Alexa Bliss. Dana Brooke rushed to the outside and took down a recovering Nikki Cross. Cole exclaimed that Brooke and Carmella are hot out of the gates before sending the show to commercial.

Carmella gave Alexa Bliss a clothesline when the show returned from commercial. She backed her into the corner and completed her signature moonwalk before dropping Bliss again with a kick for a quick two count, broken up Nikki Cross. On the outside, Brooke hit Cross with a handspring back elbow.

Alexa Bliss took down Dana Brooke with a sliding dropkick to the outside. Carmella rolled Bliss up for a two count. Carmella positioned Bliss atop the turnbuckle and hit the handstand hurricanrana. Nikki Cross tagged herself in mid-move. After a quick exchange, Bliss tagged back in. Carmella hit Nikki with a kick, but Nikki recovered quickly and lifted Carmella up. Bliss ran in and hit a DDT, simulating a modified 3D. Bliss covered Carmella for a three count.

WINNERS: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross in 6:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: This one seemed like it could be interesting at the start, with Brooke and Cross going at each other quickly, seemingly looking to work hard. It barely had a chance to get off the ground before the commercial break, though, and post-break, it ended to quickly to be engaging. I get wanting to give Bliss and Cross a definitive win, and Brooke and Carmella aren’t an established team, so I’m fine with this. It just seemed a bit underwhelming for a match that was given two weeks of build. I was about to commend WWE for having Michael Cole talk up a storied history between Dana Brooke and Carmella that made them more than just a “thrown together” team, but they never really got to it because of how little of the match was shown on TV.)

-Out of the break, Cole and Graves teased Daniel Bryan vs. King Corbin for next weeks show, plus the previously announced Money in the Bank qualifiers.

-Triple H’s music played and he headed to the ring. He barely began speaking before being interrupted by Shawn Michaels, who strutted to the ring. Michaels said there was no way Triple H could have his celebration without him. He called Triple H one of the greatest performers of all time.

Triple H threw an arm around him. Michaels said “easy, social distancing, buddy.” Michaels said he sent out “hundreds” of invitations to Triple H’s friends and loved ones for tonight’s show. He said “we’re all here for you.” The camera pulled back to show the empty area. “At least Cole and Graves showed up,” Triple H joked. “I think they’re required to be here, Michaels added.

Michaels brought up his 25th anniversary and asked Triple H for his favorite moment. Triple H said there were so many. Michaels said you can’t pick one, because there never was one. Triple H said heads would roll at the office. Michaels talked about their history in DX, and how everything they touched turned to gold. Triple H agreed. They tossed to a “great moments in DX history” video package.

HBK talked about Triple H’s success post-DX. He said he thinks of himself as “Mr. WrestleMania,” but it pales in comparison to what Triple H has done. He threw to a video highlighting all of Triple H’s losses at WrestleMania, set to comedic music and voiced over by Michael Cole.

“You weren’t that good,” Michaels concluded. Triple H asked how many losses Shawn had. “This isn’t about me,” Michaels replied. Triple H went on to thank the athletes he shared the ring with over the years. He said without them, his career would be nothing. Michaels said things took a turn when Triple H met Stephanie “No Fun.” Triple H’s phone rang. It was Stephanie, calling over FaceTime.

Michaels mocked Stephanie. She told Triple H she can see everything he’s doing. Triple H hung up on her. Michaels pretended he didn’t hear her insults. Michaels began to talk about Evolution. Triple H’s phone rang again. This time it was Ric Flair on FaceTime. He gave Hunter his best wishes. “Don’t let Shawn super kick you at the end of the segment.” Flair hung up. The phone immediately rang again. Triple H picked it up. The show abruptly cut to commercial.

Hunter was on the phone with Brian James when the show came back from commercial. James asked if he was live on TV. Triple H said yes and hung up. Michaels said they have to hurry up because the show is almost over. Hunter said he cleared it with Fox, they can go as late as they want. Vince McMahon’s music hit and he walked onto the stage. Michaels said he’d let Hunter and Vince have a moment.

Vince said under normal circumstances, he’d give Hunter a big bear hug. He said if they had an arena full of people, they’d be standing up screaming. He said only the front row of family members would be cheering. The rest of the crowd would be cheering “boring.” He started talking about Gooker and The Undertaker. He started talking about the Katie Vick angle. “I have no idea why you stooped to those depths.” He called it boring and in poor taste.

Vince brought up Bayley’s “this is your life” segment, but said it wasn’t her fault. He told Hunter he loved him, and Shawn too. He said he and Shawn’s performance tonight was awful. He said he was ashamed of them. He strutted to the back. Hunter asked if they were being thrown out. The lights started shutting off. Crickets played over the speakers. “Story of your career, buddy,” Shawn said in total darkness. End show.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was an absolute train wreck. Triple H and Shawn Michaels were thrown out there with nothing to say, nothing to do, and seemingly no plan to get through this dreadful twenty minutes of television. The “impromptu” phone calls were phony, cringe-inducing and over the top “cute.” Vince’s words seemed completely off the cuff, and not in a good way. He was right to call out the segment for being a disaster, but his contribution certainly added to the mess. Both Michaels and Vince made tone deaf comments about social distancing in the midst of WWE continuing to run shows that demand close contact. This was all three of these guys at their worst. Hunter looked uncomfortable, Shawn seemed unmotivated, and Vince seemed scatterbrained and distracted. I don’t know what this segment would have been in front of an audience, or if they’d even be doing Triple H celebration, but when they announced this last week, I couldn’t have ever imagined it would be this bad.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: The first hour and forty minutes of this show was watchable enough. As far as Performance Center shows go, I’d have graded this no better or no worse than about the median. The wrestling was fine, the Money in the Bank hype was decent. The final segment, though, sends this show into disastrous territory. It almost felt like they set out to make an awful segment. In that respect, they succeeded with flying colors. I presume we’ll be talking about this debacle for a while, for better or for worse. Last week, WWE said that Triple H’s 25th anniversary celebration would extend “throughout the week” and begin with tonight’s Smackdown. Hopefully they scrap that.

 

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