LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 5/8: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Wyatt & Strowman face-off, Jeff Hardy’s return, Mandy vs. Sonya, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



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

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
MAY 8, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened cold on Mandy Rose backstage, preparing for her match against Sonya Deville. Otis approached and asked if he could do anything to help. She gave him a kiss and told him to focus on his Money in the Bank match.

-The camera cut to Sonya Deville warming up, Dolph Ziggler at her side. Ziggler told her to “go easy” on Mandy’s face for him. “No promises,” Sonya said.

-At ringside, Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the show as Mandy Rose’s music hit. She headed to the ring. Corey Graves said he couldn’t think of a better way to open the show. Sonya Deville headed to the ring. Cole and Graves tossed to recap of last week’s attack on Mandy, courtesy of Sonya.

(1) MANDY ROSE vs. SONYA DEVILLE

Mandy Rose pounced on Sonya Deville as soon as the bell rank. Sonya retreated to the corner, but Mandy gave her some stomps before mounting her and pulling at her face and hair. The referee broke them up. Deville returned to her feet, but Rose went back on the attack with a hard right hand. Deville rolled to the outside to compose herself.

Deville hopped onto the apron and caught Rose with a knee to the face. She followed up with a running knee in the ring for a quick two count. Deville began working on Mandy’s injured leg. Rose pulled herself up, but Deville gave her a waist lock take over into a body lock. Deville talked trash, saying this was fun for her.

Deville ripped Mandy’s eyelashes off, then let her go. Mandy rose, only to be kicked back to the mat. Deville continued to talk trash, shoving Rose down again. Sonya got a running start, but Mandy caught her with a big clothesline. She hit a running bicycle knee to Deville, sending her crashing to the outside.

Rose bashed Deville’s head off the announcers desk. She tossed her into the steel steps repeatedly. Rose threw Deville over the announcers desk, Cole and Graves sidestepping her body just in time. Rose tossed Deville back in the ring, then went for a knee. Deville blocked it and rolled up Rose for a quick three count.

WINNER: Sonya Deville in 5:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Both women seemed motivated, but there just wasn’t much to this, especially without a crowd. Lots of silence, lots of Deville awkwardly yelling at Rose while waiting for her to stand up. Both of these women have improved over the last year or so, but they’re still a bit too green to be expected to have a good singles match with each other. The passion is there, and the rivalry is as intense as it can be given the circumstances, but the in-ring work just isn’t up to par. I presume, given the quick roll up finish, that this is just the first in a series of matches between these two. They’ll have another chance to make a better impression.)

-Cole and Graves previewed the upcoming 8-man tag team match before sending the show to commercial.

-After a recap of the win trading in the tag division in recent weeks, New Day headed to the ring for the aforementioned eight man tag team match. Lucha House Party headed to the ring. The Forgotten Sons came down the ramp as Cole and Graves showed clips from their victory over New Day last week. Miz and Morrison entered last as the teams in the ring argued. Cole and Graves announced a four team match for the tag titles at Money in the Bank.

(2) THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E) & LUCHA HOUSE PARTY (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado) vs. THE FORGOTTEN SONS (Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake w/ Jaxson Ryker) & THE MIZ & JOHN MORRISON

Kofi Kingston and The Miz began the match by locking up in the center of the ring. They traded quick chain wrestling and counter holds. Miz backed Kingston into the corner and went for a shot, but Kofi blocked it and threw punches at the heel corner. Everyone spilled into the ring. The babyfaces dumped the heels over the top rope. Big E tossed Kofi Kingston onto the Forgotten Sons on the outside. Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik flew over the top onto Miz and Morrison. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Wesley Blake had Big E cornered when the show returned from break. Big E battled free and applied an abdominal stretch on Blake. Cutler came into the ring to break it up, but Big E thwarted him. E tagged in Kingston, who covered Blake for a two count. Kofi caught Blake with a springboard dropkick off the second turnbuckle, followed up with a splash, then tagged in Big E. Big E hit a splash of his own.

Big E tagged in Lince Dorado, who quickly tagged in Gran Metalik. They hit a standing tower splash for a two count. Metalik tagged Kofi back in. Kofi hit a diving double axe handle. Kingston dove head first into the turnbuckle after Steve Cutler pulled Wesley Blake out of harm’s way. Blake tagged in The Miz.

Miz stomped on Kofi, then hit a running big boot. He tagged in John Morrison. Miz caught Kofi with a clothesline out of the corner. Kofi fell into the waiting arms of Morrison, who hit an Alabama Slam followed by a running corkscrew splash for a two count. Morrison tagged in Steve Cutler. Cutler distracted the referee, allowing Jaxson Ryker to hit Kofi with a cheap shot. Cutler tagged in Blake.

Blake worked over Kofi in the heel’s corner. Miz and Big E talked trash from their respective corners. Kofi fought to his feet and hit a jawbreaker, followed by a kick to Miz on the apron. Blake gave Kofi a knee, knocking him to the outside. He dove onto Kofi. Cole sent the show to another break.

Miz and Morrison delivered a double team slam/kick to Kofi Kingston when the show returned from commercial. Morrison tagged in Wesley Blake, who continued to beat down Kofi. Blake tagged in Cutler. Kofi battled back with a hip toss. He managed to toss both Forgotten Sons from the ring, kick away Miz and attempt a diving tag. The heels managed to pull Lucha House Party and Big E from the apron.

Kofi hit Miz with an SOS, then crawled to a recovering Gran Metalik. Miz tagged in John Morrison. Kofi tagged in Gran Metalik. Metalik hit a springboard hurricanrana, followed by a missile dropkick. He tagged in Lince Dorado. Dorado hit the interfering Forgotten Sons with a double springboard stunner. Dorado tagged in Metalik, who hit Morrison with a rolling sunset flip for a near fall.

Metalik hit a second rope moonsault on Morrison. Dorado followed up with a shooting star. The Forgotten Sons saved the pinball attempt. Big E hit the ring and delivered Cutler into the waiting boot of Kofi Kingston. Miz tossed Big E to the outside. Cutler and Blake hit their double team reverse DDT/stomp to Big E on the outside, then slammed Kofi on top of him.

In the ring, Morrison caught Gran Metalik with a kick, knocking him to the floor. Dorado rolled up Morrison for a two count. Morrison hit a reverse rolling senton, then tried for Starship Pain. Dorado moved. Miz tagged himself in. Miz caught Dorado with Skull Crushing Finale for a three count.

WINNERS: The Miz, John Morrison, & The Forgotten Sons in 19:00

The Miz and Morrison stared down the Forgotten Sons as Cole and Graves teased the tag title match at Money in the Bank.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Phew. The first several minutes of that match felt monotonous. Kofi Kingston got worked over for what felt like forever. The final minutes were fast and furious, with some truly unique offense from Morrison, Dorado, and Metalik. There were a ton of moving parts here, and that created some interest in the latter portion of the match. In general, the once intriguing Smackdown tag division has been plagued by shoddy 50/50 booking and poor storytelling since the shows moved to the Performance Center. While the in-ring action is reliably good, I’d be hard pressed to find a match that has meant much of anything in quite some time.)

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed King Corbin. Corbin wondered who would possibly want to team with Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak after what he’s done to them the last couple of weeks. He ran down a list of his opponents in Sunday’s Money in the Bank ladder match and how he intends to beat them. Corbin said Aleister Black doesn’t want to face him, and Otis is going to get stuck on the ground floor, a loser, just like his girlfriend. He said he could already feel the fresh air atop WWE Headquarters in his lungs.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Corbin sounded uncharacteristically confident here for a backstage interview. He’s long been a decent promo in the ring, but usually falters in the backstage setting, for whatever reason. This was one of his better, more focused and natural sounding attempts.)

-Cole said Jeff Hardy would return next.

-After the break, Renee Young welcomed Jeff Hardy to the ring. Jeff possed on the turnbuckle, then took a microphone and stood next to Renee.

Renee quickly recapped the video series covering his career. She asked what Jeff still has to prove. Hardy said he doesn’t know. He said he’s had a lot of lows, but he’s become a survivor. Sheamus was shown backstage, talking over Hardy. Jeff said he can still hear the fan’s voices, even though they’re not in the arenas. He started his own “Hardy” chant.

Jeff asked fans to stick with him for one more good run. Backstage, Sheamus laughed. In the ring, Jeff said he’s surprised Sheamus hasn’t showed up yet. He called him out. Sheamus’ music played and he walked onto the stage, smirking.

Sheamus said this was the saddest thing he’s ever seen. He said Jeff is “begging his dealers to give him one more sip off the bottle.” Sheamus wondered aloud who still cares about Jeff Hardy. He said fans loved who Jeff Hardy was, but they’ve grown tired of him. “They’re tired of the suspensions, releases, no-shows, and wasted second chances.”

Jeff said Sheamus seems to know a lot about him. Sheamus countered. He said he used to respect Jeff, until he saw how many false comebacks he’s had. Jeff accused Sheamus of the same. Sheamus said everyone knows Jeff Hardy’s next failure is around the corner, except Jeff Hardy.

Sheamus said he came back to snuff out Smackdown’s weakest flames. He said Jeff’s has been burning far too long. He dropped the mic and headed to the ring. Jeff attacked, but Sheamus quickly fought I’m off. Jeff shot to the top rope and hit Whisper in the Wind, followed by a Twist of Fate. Jeff climbed to the top rope and hit Sheamus with a Swanton Bomb.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Jeff’s never been a good promo, but this felt particularly contrived without an audience to get behind him. Sheamus, on the other hand, sounded great. His lines were poignant, his reasoning for wanting to face Jeff seemed logical and generally in tune with the character that’s been presented over the last several weeks. This went about as well as it possibly could have for Sheamus, and it’s a good use for him, especially after the slow start over the last month or so.)

-Cole and Graves teased the face to face confrontation between Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt, coming up next.

-After the break, Braun Strowman headed to the ring. Cole and Graves previewed the Universal title match at Money in the Bank.

Braun Strowman said he debuted in the Wyatt Family, but Bray Wyatt was always threatened by him. He said Bray deserves no credit for creating Braun Strowman. He told Bray to say whatever he has to say to his face. Strowman stared at the entrance. The Firefly Funhouse music played. Bray Wyatt walked onto the stage and waved at Braun as he came to the ring.

Bray climbed the ring steps and said hello to Braun as the second hour of the show began. Bray said it’s a shame it had to come to this, since he just wanted an apology. Braun said he owes Bray nothing. Wyatt said that isn’t true. Strowman said Wyatt will be sorry on Sunday.

Bray said he’s always cared about Braun. “A good creator always knows his creations.” Wyatt said he knows what’s best for Strowman. Strowman told Bray to shut up. Wyatt told Strowman he needs to come home so he can show him how to to be special, like Bray.

“I need to remove that burden around your waist,” Bray said. Bray tried to coax Braun into using his catchphrase. Strowman didn’t fall for it. “At Money in the Bank, this all ends,” Strowman said. Bray laughed. He said their journey is just beginning. Bray offered a “taste of things to come.” He handed Strowman the black sheep mask and urged him to try it on.

Bray’s puppets appeared on the screen and urged Strowman to come home. Bray laughed. Strowman said he is home, and he has the Universal Championship. He promised to keep it. “You’ll be stuck playing with your puppets,” Strowman said. He said bye, waved at Bray, and left the ring. “I tried Braun, I’m sorry.” He stared at Strowman as he left.

(LeClair’s Analysis: For a segment that took place in the ring, this felt like it was heavily edited in post production, and not for any special effects. Strowman sounds incredibly robotic and forced. Bray seemed to have been cut off multiple times. This didn’t  come off well at all. Strowman, to me, has been getting exposed on a weekly basis as a severely sub-par promo and overall unimpressive champion. I’m not sure how you improve upon that impression with this feud at this point.)

-Backstage, Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak approached Otis and asked about Mandy Rose’s condition. They asked if Otis had heard what Corbin said about him. Otis said he hadn’t. “Let’s take a walk,” Bryan said. The show went to commercial.

-Sasha Banks and Bayley headed to the ring following the commercial break. Cole and Graves talked about the contention between them as of late. Lacey Evans headed to the ring as Cole talked up the fact that the Money in the Bank ladder matches will happen simultaneously.  Tamina headed to the ring. Cole and Graves turned their attention to the women’s title match.

(3) SASHA BANKS & BAYLEY vs. TAMINA & LACEY EVANS

Bayley and Sasha Banks argued about who should start the match. They tried to play a game of rock, paper, scissors, but Tamina took them both out. Banks and Bayley left the ring. Sasha tried to run interference for Bayley, but Tamina didn’t fall for it. She tossed Bayley into the corner, then dropped her.

Tamina hit Bayley with a big scoop slam, followed by a splash out of the corner. Bayley fought back and jumped on Tamina’s back. Sasha Banks tagged herself in and gave Tamina a chop block. Banks followed up with a knee to the back of the head before driving Tamina into the corner with shoulder thrusts. Banks tagged Bayley back in.

Bayley stuck her foot in Tamina’s throat. She tagged in Banks, who helped to lift Tamina. Tamina made Banks and Bayley knock heads. She scooped up Banks, but Bayley pulled her down. Sasha and Bayley left the ring and tried to retreat up the ramp. Lacey Evans cut them off. She dropped Banks with an elbow, then stalked Bayley. Tamina pulled Bayley back in the ring by her hair. Bayley hung Tamina up on the rope.

Off the middle rope, Tamina caught Bayley with a hard right hand. Bayley fell to the outside, where Banks consoled her. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Lacey was driving her knee into Sasha’s head when the show returned from break. She hit a springboard elbow over the top rope, then climbed to the top turnbuckle for a moonsault. Bayley distracted her, allowing Banks to hit a basement dropkick. Sasha tagged in Bayley. The duo hit double back elbows. Bayley covered Evans for a two count.

Banks and Bayley traded tags back and forth, isolating Evans in their corner. Graves complained about the length Banks and Bayley were allowed to stay in the ring together. Evans managed to tag in Tamina. Banks tried to leap onto Tamina on the outside, but Tamina caught her and swung her into the barricade. Tamina swatted Bayley away as well, then tossed her into the ring.

Tamina launched Bayley into the corner and hit a running splash. She followed up with a hip check, before pulling her to the mat and climbing to the top rope. Tamina knocked an interfering Sasha off the apron. Bayley grabbed Tamina by the hair, but Tamina shoved her back to the mat. Tamina dove for a splash, but Bayley put her knees up.

Bayley hit Tamina with the Bayley-to-Belly, then climbed to the top rope and hit a flying elbow for a near fall. Tamina returned to her feet and scooped up Bayley. Sasha pulled her down. Lacey Evans returned and gave Sasha the Woman’s Right. Bayley tossed Evans to the outside. Tamina caught Bayley with a Samoan Drop for a three count.

WINNER: Tamina & Lacey Evans in 13:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Not a whole lot to say here, a relatively basic WWE TV tag team match. Banks and Bayley’s in-ring chemistry works well, and Lacey Evans continues to improve her babyface offense. Tamina is at least a bit more serviceable in this role, though I still think making her a spotlighted act in the women’s division is misguided. As usual, the challenger gets the clean pin on the champion headed into the title defense on Sunday.)

-Following the commercial break, Michael Cole and Corey Graves talked up Money in the Bank and broke down the simultaneous men and women’s Money in the Bank ladder matches. They threw to a video packages, narrated by Graves, showing the rooms in headquarters where the matches could spill through.

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed Carmella and Dana Brooke. Dana said no one could believe she beat Naomi to qualify. She said no one knows what to expect, so she has as good a chance as anyone. Kayla asked about the controversy surrounding her win last week. Carmella didn’t want to comment. She said she has an advantage as someone who has won the match before.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This came off poorly. Both women just spouted off every corporate tagline and buzzword associated with Money in the Bank, most annoyingly, “climbing the corporate ladder.” Neither Brooke nor Carmella feel like viable options to win the contract, but I applaud WWE’s efforts in at least giving everyone in the match ample time to talk it up, even if the talking isn’t very good.)

-Back at ringside, King Corbin, Cesaro, and Shinsuke Nakamura headed to the ring for the main event. Cole sent the show to break.

-Another hooded figure cyber video aired. He or she played clips of a number of tag teams/friendships and said anger can be heard before it is seen or felt, teasing the breakup of a duo.

-Cole and Graves teased the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match before Daniel Bryan, Drew Gulak, and Otis came to the ring.

(4) KING CORBIN & CESARO & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. DANIEL BRYAN & DREW GULAK & OTIS

Daniel Bryan began the match with King Corbin. Bryan cragged at Corbin and drove him into the corner. Corbin quickly recovered and tripped Bryan to the mat before trying to turn him into a Boston crab. Bryan rolled through, mounted Corbin and began firing right hands.

Bryan tagged in Drew Gulak. Gulak shoved Corbin into the ropes. Corbin landed a right hand to the throat. Gulak hit Corbin with a running dropkick, sending Corbin reeling to the outside. Corbin took his time to regroup before tagging in Cesaro. Gulak and Cesaro exchanged some quick chain wrestling and holds. Cesaro countered a cross body into an attempted power slam, but Gulak powered through and hit a laying power slam for a two count.

Nakamura kicked Gulak in the back, allowing Cesaro to hit a big uppercut. Cesaro tagged in Shinsuke Nakamura, who stepped on Gulak’s neck. Gulak rolled into a tag to Otis. Otis gave Nakamura a number of clotheslines, then knocked Corbin and Cesaro off the apron. Otis slammed Nakamura, then hit a running body check in the corner.

Otis set up for the caterpillar elbow and connected. Cesaro ran in, but Otis tossed him into the air. Bryan and Gulak entered the ring and tossed Cesaro to the outside. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Out of the break, Corbin had Bryan in a grounded chin lock. Bryan fought free and delivered some quick kicks before knocking Nakamura off the apron. Bryan went low with a basement dropkick to Corbin. He tried to make a tag, but Corbin tagged in Cesaro, who cut Bryan off. Bryan fought Cesaro off long enough to tag in Gulak.

Gulak cornered Cesaro and stomped away at him. He hit an overhead capture suplex. Cesaro recovered quickly and hoisted Gulak onto the top turnbuckle. Gulak fought his way back to the mat and grounded Cesaro for a Crossface, but Cesaro deadlifted him up and dropped him. Cesaro tagged in King Corbin, unbeknownst to Gulak.

Corbin tried to attack Gulak, but Gulak countered. Shinsuke Nakamura ran in and kicked Drew Gulak in the back of the head. Otis jumped in and took down Nakamura. Cesaro tried to attack Otis, but Otis dumped him over the top rope. Corbin tossed Otis to the outside. Gulak rolled up Corbin for a two count.

Gulak hit a flying clothesline on Corbin for another two count. On the outside, Nakamura and Cesaro tossed Otis into the ring post. Back inside, Corbin hit Gulak with a Deep Six for a three count.

WINNERS: King Corbin, Cesaro, & Shinsuke Nakamura in 11:00

Nakamura and Cesaro returned to the ring and held up Drew Gulak. Corbin tired to hit him with the scepter, but Bryan cut him off with a running knee. The action spilled to the outside, with everyone climbing over the barricade. Drew Gulak flew off the barricade and took everyone down. Everyone except King Corbin battled to the back. Corbin grabbed a ladder from ringside and brought it into the ring, climbing the ladder.

Daniel Bryan returned to stop Corbin. He tried to toss him into the ladder, but Corbin countered. He tossed Bryan to the outside and set up the ladder again, climbing for a second time. Otis returned to ringside and attacked Corbin. Otis took the ladder and drove into Corbin’s head, then set it up again for himself.

Otis tried to climb the ladder, but it broke underneath his weight. Corbin attacked Otis and tossed him into the ladder, then the ring post. Daniel Bryan returned and took Corbin down. Bryan climbed the ladder, but Corbin tipped it over, sending Bryan crashing into the ropes. Corbin tossed Bryan over the top rope and onto Otis.

Corbin climbed the ladder and retrieved the Money in the Bank briefcase as Cole and Graves wondered if he’d do it for real at Money in the Bank. The show cut out before Cole signed off.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Hopefully this means Corbin is eliminated as a potential winner. He’s arguably the most heavily pushed act on Smackdown on a week to week basis, deservedly or not. I’ve long worried that, given Vince’s infatuation with him, they’d put the briefcase on him a second time, but there are certainly more logical, interesting, and exciting choices. Unless this was meant to serve as a red herring, WWE’s booking philosophy gives me some hope that we can write him off going into Sunday. 

As far as the actual post-match brawl goes, I understand why WWE likes to have these optics going into the gimmick matches, but it’s a little ridiculous for these three guys to be so hell bent on retrieving the briefcase when it doesn’t count. Come on, you’re already going to get pounded by ladders in a couple days, why do it when there’s nothing on the line?)

FINAL THOGUHTS: Middle of the road show, as Performance Center shows go. In general, I think this format has run its course and I’d much prefer a hiatus over a continuation under this format, but that’s simply not what we’re going to get. At some point, there has to be a discussion among the parties that be about how long this format is sustainable. We know that Smackdown (and Raw, for that matter) is bleeding viewers, and it’s not hard to see why when you take a look at the lack of star power and the tired Performance Center presentation.

I think tonight’s show was an overall net positive for generating interest in the Money in the Bank matches, though I’d certainly not grade their effort anywhere near perfect. I thought the rest of the card lost some momentum tonight, though, namely the Bray Wyatt vs. Braun Strowman match, which was marred by that strangely edited, awkward promo segment. Sheamus had an overall positive night as well.

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