SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE SMACKDOWN PRIMER
APRIL 24, 2020
ORLANDO, FLA. 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
Top 10 Moments from Last Week
Items Advertised by WWE
- Friday Night Smackdown to celebrate 25 Years of Triple H in WWE
- Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross defend their titles against Carmella and Dana Brooke
- See a special look at Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt’s history
- Lacey Evans squares off with Sasha Banks for a spot in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match
- Drew Gulak meets King Corbin in a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
The 25th Anniversary Celebration of Triple H
If you indulged in WCW in 1994 as I did, you remember Triple H as Jean-Paul Levesque (take out the Jean and you have his actual name). He arrived in WWE in 1995 as Hunter Hearst Helmsley as a rich “blue blood,” and feuded with Henry O. Godwinn and Mankind (Mick Foley) early on. In his first WrestleMania in 1996, he was the opponent of the Ultimate Warrior who at the time was making his WWE return. Behind the scenes he was part of “The Clique” which featured Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash (Diesel), Scott Hall (Razor Ramon), and Sean Waltman (1-2-3 Kid, Syxx, X-Pac depending on your taste). He was infamously punished for the “Curtain Call” incident in MSG, which saw all members of the clique embracing following a steel cage match between Shawn Michaels and Diesel. This was just before Nash and Hall left for WCW. Here is the famous incident:
Eventually he dropped the blue blood persona and started teaming with Shawn Michaels to form the WWE Hall of Fame faction D-Generation X. They ran together until Michaels’ first retirement in 1998, where Triple H would pair with X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn & Road Dogg) to keep the faction going. During these years he feuded with Ken Shamrock and most notably the Rock over the Intercontinental Championship. The feud with the Rock would carry over into 1999-2000, where he took on a more serious persona and had multiple runs with the WWF Heavyweight Championship. He was instrumental in the storyline where Rikishi ran over “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He feuded with Austin before eventually joining him and worked with Undertaker, Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho amongst others.
In 2002 he was gifted the World Heavyweight Championship by Raw GM Eric Bischoff and would have multiple runs over the next few years, feuding with Shawn Michaels and Goldberg. He would eventually join the stable Evolution with Ric Flair, Batista, and Randy Orton. The faction famously turned on Orton upon his winning of the World title, which Triple H took back but would lose to Batista at WrestleMania in 2005. One year later, he unsuccessfully challenged John Cena for the WWE Championship, and would later reform the original DX with long-time friend and rival Shawn Michaels. They would have different runs together and even took the World Tag Team Championship at one point. If you are keeping score at home, they made one of their famous returns at SummerSlam 2009 against Legacy. That group happened to include a game you may heard of in Cody Rhodes.
While his role in management grew, Triple H moved to more of a part time wrestling role as the 2010s rolled in, having back to back WrestleMania matches with the Undertaker in 2011 and 2012. The following year he defeated Brock Lesnar. Later in 2013, he and his wife Stephanie McMahon formed the Authority, and created headaches for Daniel Bryan enroute to him winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30 over Triple H’s former Evolution mates Batista and Randy Orton. The following year saw him defeat Sting in his only ‘Mania appearance. Triple H was not done adding gold to his resume, as he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble in 2016 before dropping it to Roman Reigns. He paired with his wife to take on Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey in Ronda’s in-ring WWE debut at WrestleMania 34. He defeated Batista in what appears to be the last match for both men at last year’s WrestleMania.
I can’t complete my Triple H writeup without talking about his being in charge on NXT, which has become WWE’s “third brand” from being a reality-TV show in 2010 where rookies paired with “pros” for a chance at WWE contracts. At the time, it replaced the rebooted ECW which had been on the air since 2006. In 2012, the brand replaced Florida Championship Wrestling as WWE’s “developmental brand” and would crown its first champion in Seth Rollins. NXT has gone on to bigger and better things having Takeover events tethered to WWE’s “big four” PPVs mostly and moved to the USA Network on Wednesday nights opposite AEW’s Dynamite on TNT. Under the guise of Triple H, NXT has been renowned by many including myself for sensible booking and making stars including Rollins and the rest of his Shield partners (Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose), Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Finn Balor, Bayley, and others.
Tonight, we celebrate 25 years of Triple H. They put up a video with the top 25 moments of his career:
Frank’s Analysis: I’m probably leaving some history out and I apologize if I’m missing any key points. Like it or not, he has a rich history in WWE that will be talked about for years to come. I personally have a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I feel like he suffocated the product after Rock and “Stone Cold” left around 2002-2003. Even though he eventually put John Cena and Batista over, I do not feel like he did right by Booker T especially after defeating him the way he did at WrestleMania 19. His running of NXT has changed my opinion towards the positive and looking back he did a lot of jobs in big spots for people (Cena, Batista, Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins). All those wrestlers are considered tops in the company.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (champs) vs. Carmella & Dana Brooke
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross are amid enjoying their second run as WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions after defeating the Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) at WrestleMania and subsequently retaining the titles against them the following week at Smackdown. They could not rest easy as on the same night, Alexa & Nikki were confronted by Carmella & Dana Brooke, who issued a challenge to them for the title which Nikki so excitedly accepted. Alexa recommended decaf to Nikki. It is a long story.
Dana is coming off defeating former Smackdown Women’s Champion Naomi last week to qualify for the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. Carmella has been quiet as of late, although she did recently challenge Bayley unsuccessfully for the Smackdown title. They are applying the “challenge the champs to a title match and you get it regardless of whether or not you’ve won matches together to actually earn a championship match” clause. Carmella and Dana challenge Alexa & Nikki tonight for the women’s tag titles.
Frank’s Analysis: This is just to pass the time. I don’t give Carmella & Dana much of a chance to win the titles. I would guess they want to make Dana look like a threat considering she is in Money in the Bank. Alexa & Nikki should have a decent run with the titles since, if anything, they are entertaining together.
The History of Universal Champion Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt
At Money in the Bank, Braun Strowman defends the Universal Championship against former champion Bray Wyatt. It’s not clear if Bray will wrestle under his Firefly Funhouse persona or “The Fiend,” but all indications are it will be the former.
Braun came up to the main roster in 2015 and joined Bray in the Wyatt Family, which at time included former WWE talent Luke Harper and Erick Rowan:
Braun would be part of the family until the roster split in 2016, where he became exclusive to Raw while Bray was on Smackdown. Fast forward to this year, Bray as “The Fiend” dropped the Universal Championship to Goldberg who subsequently dropped it to Braun at WrestleMania. Two weeks ago, Bray appeared on screen from the Firefly Funhouse and talked to Braun who had just defeated Shinsuke Nakamura. He discussed their history and said that Braun turned his back on their family. He said he brought him into this world and will take him out. Last week, while being a guest of Alexa Bliss on A Moment of Bliss, Braun was given a gift which turned out to be the black sheep mask he wore as a member of the Wyatt Family.
Tonight, they’ll look at the history of Braun and Bray.
Frank’s Analysis: I never thought they’d want to bring up the Wyatt Family, but I’m glad they are doing that here. It rewards you for paying attention. I must admit the Firefly Funhouse side of Bray has me intrigued, and I’m in on where this goes between the two of them.
Money in the Bank Qualifying Matches
Tonight, we continue with qualifiers for both the men’s and women’s Money in the Bank ladder matches. Thus far for the men we have Rey Mysterio, Aleister Black, and Apollo Crews from Raw. Daniel Bryan is in from Smackdown after defeating Cesaro last week. For the women we have Asuka, Nia Jax, and Shayna Baszler are checked in from Raw. Dana Brooke qualified by defeating Naomi last week. Before I talk about tonight’s matches, here’s Dana after her win:
Men’s: Drew Gulak vs. King Corbin
There is not a history of which to speak between these two, as it will be their first one-on-one on WWE TV. Drew Gulak come to Smackdown in the draft this past October along with King Corbin, who had won the 2019 King of the Ring Tournament while being a member of Raw. Gulak did not do anything of note until losing to Daniel Bryan at Elimination Chamber. Bryan then sought his advice and the two have been paired ever since. Corbin lost to Elias at WrestleMania after a long feud with Roman Reigns which included segments and matches that I really wish not to talk about now! Corbin attacked Elias last week. WWE.com shows him suffering “multiple injuries.” Here was Daniel Bryan after qualifying last week:
Women’s: Lacey Evans vs. Sasha Banks
There is more of a history here as Lacey Evans and Sasha have faced each other numerous times on Smackdown both in singles and tag team matches. In one memorable moment, Lacey’s daughter was at ringside and got into it with Sasha in a match involving Dana Brooke and Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley which lead to Lacey vs. Sasha:
Frank’s Analysis: I feel like they want Corbin in the match so I’ll go with him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gulak won. Regarding Sasha and Lacey, I’m going to go with Sasha as I feel like she’s a candidate to win. I can see them building tension between Sasha and Bayley over time with Sasha holding the briefcase
Other Match Results and News Items from Last Week:
Tamina defeated Sasha Banks to earn a shot at Bayley for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Here’s Tamina:
- Sheamus defeated Denzel Dejournette.
- They showed another Jeff Hardy video, talking about his “fall.”
- Sonya Deville brawled with Mandy Rose after they “cleared the air.” Sonya was tired of being in Mandy’s shadow, coming out to her music, and said she was an actual fighter and not some “centerfold bitch.”
- Dolph Ziggler got involved as did Otis.
- Big E defeated Miz and Jey Uso to win the Smackdown Tag Team Championship for New Day (he and Kofi Kingston). They begin their eighth run as tag team champions. Here’s Big E after the match:
These empty arena shows continue to be tough to take, but having qualifying matches make things a little better. I’m always into matches that have consequences. I’m interested in the Braun-Bray storyline because there could be many tentacles to it with Bray having the Firefly Funhouse & Fiend personas. Overall, I look forward to tonight’s show.
Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPeteani. Questions and discussion are welcome. Thank you for reading!