LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 6/5: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Women’s Tag Title match, Styles-Bryan face-to-face, Jeff Hardy update, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



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

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JUNE 5, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with a sweeping shot of the Performance Center crowd as Michael Cole and Corey Graves welcomed the audience to the show. They ran down the card, including a women’s tag team title defense, a face-to-face between A.J. Styles and Daniel Bryan, and a segment featuring John Morrison, The Miz, and Braun Strowman.

-Backstage, Jeff Hardy talked with personnel. Cole and Graves said we’d hear Jeff’s side of the story tonight, then tossed to a video package recap of last week’s angle involving the car accident and Elias injury.

-After the video recap, Jeff Hardy headed to the ring. Greg Hamilton introduced him. Cole called last week “one of the strangest events he’d ever witnessed.” He announced Elias suffered a torn pectoral muscle and a rib injury, which could cause him to miss up to two months.

In the ring, Jeff Hardy thanked WWE management and Fox for giving him a chance “get something off his chest.” Hardy said the entire show was thrown into chaos last week, and Elias was seriously injured, though it could’ve been worse. He offered to paint a “different picture” of the night’s events.

Jeff said when he pulled up to the Performance Center and got his bags, he was hit from behind with “what felt like an anvil.” He said he woke up, barely conscious, smelling like alcohol. He said he started questioning his sobriety and his career. He wondered how he’d be able to explain this to his wife and daughters. “How many more times could I beg for forgiveness?”

Jeff got choked up. He said he knew he didn’t slip. Jeff said he passed all the police’s sobriety tests, and witnesses confirmed that a person with red hair and a red beard left Jeff’s car and fled the scene. Hardy said we all know who fits that description.   “The anger I felt that night could only be expressed through action,” Jeff said.

Sheamus’ music cut him off. He told Jeff not to point fingers. “You’re blaming other people for your problems,” Sheamus said. He called people who continue to support Jeff “enablers” and told Jeff to be a man and admit to what he did. Sheamus said Jeff won’t, because he’s not a man, just a junkie.

Sheamus walked out, but then came back. He told Jeff not to worry about disappointing his wife and daughters again. “They’re used to it,’ Sheamus said with a smile. Hardy jumped out of the ring and rushed toward Sheamus. Sheamus caught him with a Brogue Kick, then tossed him repeatedly into the plexiglass barriers attached to the barricades.

The Performance Center crowd pelted Sheamus with a “you suck” chant while Cole pondered whether or not Hardy’s accusations were true.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt like a mostly appropriate follow up to last week’s controversial segment. Jeff Hardy spoke with conviction and clarity, and he sounded genuine and unscripted, which is something he’s struggled with in the past, especially in recent interviews. He was definitely aided by the crowd’s involvement.  Hardy seemed to make clear what happened, and I disliked Michael Cole calling into question. It should be clear to everyone, especially the announcers, that Sheamus is the obvious culprit, but yet they’re still still treating it as a “he said, he said” scenario. In any case, I thought both men’s performance was strong and this felt altogether less controversial than last week, while still driving the point home.) 

-Otis and Mandy Rose were walking backstage when they happened upon King Corbin’s robe and crown. Otis tried on the crown. Mandy said it looked great on him. “Now you’re ready,” she said. Corbin happened upon the scene and yelled about someone stealing his crown. He grabbed a backstage attendant, who told Corbin he saw Otis wearing it. Cole said they’d face each other next.

-After the break, Otis headed to the ring with Mandy Rose. Cole threw to a recap of last week’s dream sequence between the two. King Corbin headed to the ring, lamenting the loss of his crown.

(1) OTIS (w/ Mandy Rose) vs. KING CORBIN

King Corbin attacked as soon as the bell rang, but Otis fought him off quickly. He clotheslined Corbin over the top rope, but Corbin rushed back in the ring. Otis outsmarted him again and clothesline him over the opposing top rope. This time, Otis met him on the outside.

Corbin tackled Otis into the LED screen on the apron, then tossed him face first into the ring post before throwing him back in the ring. Otis ran at Corbin, but Corbin caught him with a spinebuster for a two count. Otis fought his way to his feet but Corbin powered him into the corner with body shots.

Corbin dropped Otis out of the corner for another two count. He climbed on Otis’ back, but Otis dumped Corbin off in the corner. King Corbin and Otis traded kicks. Otis eventually shrugged Corbin off and powered up with a series of clotheslines and tackles. He gave Corbin a pair of overhead deadlift throws, then splashed him in the corner. Otis set up for the Caterpillar, but Corbin rolled to the outside. He grabbed his crown from ringside, then hit Otis in the throat with it.

Corbin grabbed a steel chair and hit Otis in the gut with it, causing a disqualification.

WINNER: Otis by disqualification in 4:00

Corbin continued his attack after the match, but Otis fought him off and celebrated with Mandy Rose.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Not a great match, but there wasn’t a whole lot to judge, either. It seems like they’re setting up for this to be an ongoing angle, which I don’t think is particularly exciting, though I struggle to think of a better role for either guy right now. Otis seems to be in a bit of a holding pattern until they decide what to do with his contract, and Corbin is essentially a necessary stepping stone for any babyface climbing up the ranks on Smackdown.)

-Backstage, The Miz and John Morrison were shown in an unmarked, white van. They said they’d make Braun Strowman’s life miserable tonight. Braun was shown backing into a spot in the parking lot. He grabbed his gear and headed inside. Corey Graves wondered aloud what Miz and Morrison may be doing.

-Miz and Morrison were shown in the van again after the break. Miz said everyone knows what it’s like to deal with annoying coworkers. They made fun of their coworkers, and the fans, for assuming Strowman would destroy them at Backlash. Miz said Strowman showed up to work without a care in the world. “That’s about to change,” Morrison added.

Miz said their action is strategic. “By the time we get to Backlash, Braun Strowman’s life will be a living hell.” Security camera footage of Strowman was shown backstage. Strowman poured a bottle of water, but it exploded all over him. Strowman stormed off in anger. Miz and Morrison laughed from their van.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This angle has been poorly conceived from the start, and it appears these segments tonight aren’t going to add anything. I’d have major questions about Braun Strowman’s ability to function as a lead babyface if all the booking were working in his favor. Unfortunately for him, it most certainly hasn’t. This isn’t helping.)

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed Shorty G. Mojo Rawley interrupted. He said there are more important things to discuss, like his boy Gronk getting robbed of the 24/7 title. He said Shorty G’s interview just got cut short, then laughed at his own joke. Shorty G brushed him off, but was attacked by Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura. Mojo joined in. Kofi Kingston and Big E stepped in to chase them off.

-Back at ringside, Lacey Evans headed to the ring. Sonya Deville attacked her from behind and threw her into the steel steps. Cole said they’d face each other after the break.

(2) LACEY EVANS vs. SONYA DEVILLE

The bell rang as soon as the show returned from commercial. Lacey Evans and Sonya Deville locked up. Evans took Deville down with a deep arm drag. Cole and Graves replayed Deville’s pre-match attack.

Sonya Deville gave Lacey Evans a waist lock takeover. Evans quickly fought back and worked over Deville’s arm in the corner. Evans charged at Deville, but Sonya caught her with a big boot out of the corner. She cornered Lacey and fired off some kicks to the midsection. Once on the mat, Deville stood on Evans’ hair.

Deville tossed Evans to the apron, but Lacey caught her with a kick. She leapt over the top and into a roll up, but she and Deville rolled onto the referee. He retreated to the corner, clutching his knee. The official called for help, telling Evans and Deville to stay back. The show went to commercial.

Deville and Evans traded blows when the show returned from the break, a new official now handling the match. Cole and Graves showed Deville taking advantage of the situation during the break. Deville got Evans out onto the apron and dropped her onto her knee on the outside, a nasty looking fall for Evans.

Evans continued to beat on Lacey on the outside before sending her back in the ring for a quick one count. Deville sent Lacey off the ropes, but Lacey caught her with a big running clothesline, leaving both women on the mat. Both women slowly stood. Evans hit Deville with a pair of clotheslines, then a kick to the back of the neck, dropping her.

Evans caught Sonya with a running knee, then climbed to the middle rope for a leaping moonsault. She covered Deville for a near fall. Deville recovered, kicked Lacey to her knees and then hit a big running knee to the face for a near fall of her own. Suddenly, Mandy Rose appeared on the screen, calling out Deville. She called Sonya a failure. Lacey Evans spun Deville around and hit the Women’s Right for a three count.

WINNER: Lacey Evans in 13:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Hard fought, harder hitting match. Lacey and Sonya showed last week that they may be able to do something interesting if given more time, and they proved it tonight. It wasn’t perfect, and both of these characters still have a ways to go, but this was a stepping stone for two women growing more confident in their roles and their characters. I could’ve done without the interference from Mandy Rose, especially since last week’s match ended in a no-contest, but it appears as though they wanted to return to the angle with Mandy before too long. The referee injury was strange. For a moment, it looked to be a scripted part of the match, but with no mention of it coming out of the break, and with it playing not part at all in the finish, I’m inclined to believe it was legitimate.)

-A promo video for Matt Riddle aired.

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed Braun Strowman. Strowman said they’ve already messed with his protein shake tonight, and called them annoying bugs. He launched into his catchphrase. Suddenly, green slime fell from the ceiling all over Kayla. Strowman apologized, saying it was clearly intended for him and not Kayla.

In the van, Miz and Morrison argued about the placement of the bucket of slime. Braxton called Miz and Morrison bastards and stormed off. Miz and Morrison slapped hands, considering it a success, despite placing the bucket on the wrong side.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Given that this wasn’t at the Smackdown interview set, and rather, a random location backstage, how did Miz and Morrison know that Kayla would interview Braun Strowman there? Furthermore, how did they know which side each were suppose to be standing on? Come on.)

-In the ring, Renee Young stood with the Intercontinental title and welcomed Daniel Bryan and A.J. Styles. They headed to the ring as the second hour of the show began.

Styles interrupted Renee out of the gate. He said Bryan is going to call him a coward for taking a bye to the finals. A.J. said that if Jeff Hardy hadn’t gotten involved, it’d be Sheamus, not Bryan, standing in the ring now. Renee asked Bryan if he thought A.J. was a coward.

“Yes?” Bryan said reluctantly. He said he has his ways, and Styles has his own. Styles reiterated that taking the bye was the smart move. He said when he looks in the mirror, he sees the greatest champion WWE has ever seen. Styles called Bryan noble, but stupid. Bryan laughed. He said A.J. is trying to get under his skin, but he’s failing.

Bryan said they’ve known each other long enough to know they have entirely different world views, and entirely different views on what it means to be Intercontinental champion. Bryan suggested that as champion, Styles would only defend the title against a select, worthy few. Bryan said his vision would see him defending the title every week against decorated Superstars and up-and-comers.

“When I think of being the best, it’s not who I am right now, it’s who I can be,” Bryan said. Bryan said he wants people to be excited to tune into Smackdown every week to see if their favorite Superstar could challenge for a title and beat him. Styles said it sounds like Bryan just wants handouts. “I don’t believe in handouts, I believe in opportunity,” Styles said. He questioned Bryan making Drew Gulak his coach. He went a step further, questioning how Gulak got a contract, period.

Styles offered to reach across the aisle and “do something unexpected.” He said he’d face Drew Gulak tonight. Bryan smiled. Drew Gulak headed to the ring. He stepped in the ring and immediately tackled A.J. Styles. Styles retreated to the outside. The show went to commercial.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Daring to go here this week. This was clearly a political conversation thinly veiled as a wrestling philosophy conversation. Bryan was passionate and effective as always, and Styles played the part of the heel well. Both tonight’s match with Gulak, and next week’s Intercontinental title match, could be great.)

(3) A.J. STYLES vs. DREW GULAK (w/ Daniel Bryan)

A.J. Styles attacked Drew Gulak right out of the block when the show returned from commercial. He cornered Gulak, then walked him to the center. Gulak caught Styles with a jawbreaker, then outwrestled Styles to the mat into an arm and chin lock. A.J. dragged himself to the ropes to break the hold.

Gulak transitioned quickly into a crossface, but Styles against reached the ropes. Styles returned to his feet and fought Gulak into the corner. He gave Gulak a snapmare, then a kick to the spine. Styles composed himself, then dropped Gulak over his knee for a quick two count.

Gulak caught Styles with a boot out of the corner, then charged, but A.J. caught him with a big clothesline. Styles slowed down the pace with a chin lock. Gulak fought to his feet after a moment and fired off a series of right hands. Styles countered with a number of chops.

Gulak caught Styles with a clothesline, a back elbow, and a basement dropkick, followed by a releasing suplex. Gulak followed up with a kneeling driver for a near fall. Gulak lifted Styles into an electric chair, but Styles raked his eyes and slid down the back before catching him with an enziguri. Styles followed up with a reverse DDT.

A.J. dragged Gulak to his feet and set up for the Styles Clash, but Gulak rolled through into a cover for a surprise three count.

WINNER: Drew Gulak in 5:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match, though it would’ve been even better had they been given a bit more time. Gives me high hopes for next week’s match with Daniel Bryan, though. Gulak getting a big win right before a title match for Styles is a curious call, and I wonder if they’re planning to do anything with Gulak to capitalize on this. Next week’s title match feels wide open, as both men could logically win based on tonight’s happenings.)

-The Miz and John Morrison approached Braun Strowman’s car in the parking lot. Miz spotted a “fly” on the window and smashed it with a golf club. Morrison took a baseball bat to the windshield repeatedly. He and Miz hugged joyously. The headed back to the van as the show went to commercial.

-The New Day headed to the ring following the break, Shorty G accompanying them to their music. Cole and Graves talked about the confrontation involving everyone in the match earlier in the night. Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, and Mojo Rawley headed to the ring.

(4) THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E) & SHORTY G vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & CESARO & MOJO RAWLEY

Shorty G began the match with Cesaro. Cesaro quickly deadlifted G, who rolled through int a cover for a one count. Shorty G took Cesaro down again with a head scissor, but Cesaro quickly overpowered him. The two engaged in some quick chain wrestling before Shorty G tagged in Big E.

Cesaro caught Big E with an uppercut, then tagged in Mojo Rawley. He hit Big E with a big running cross body, then tagged in Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura mimicked Big E’s hip thrust before firing off chops and kicks at Big E. Big E caught Nakamura and gave him an overhead belly to belly, then tagged in Kofi Kingston.

Kofi hit a leaping clothesline onto Nakamura with an aside from Big E as a stepping stone. Kofi made a quick tag into Shorty G, who quickly tagged Kofi back in to hit a big splash off the top rope for a near fall. Cesaro pulled Nakamura to the outside. Kofi Kingston flew over the top rope to take out Cesaro. Kofi sold a knee injury and slowly stood up as Nakamura returned to the ring. Mojo came charging from around the corner and ran through Kofi, preventing him from returning to the ring. The show went to commercial.

Cesaro cut off Kofi Kingston from making a tag when the show returned from commercial. He tagged in Mojo Rawley, who continued to isolate Kofi. Mojo charged at Kofi, but Kingston sidestepped him, sending Mojo flying to the outside. Rawley quickly returned and knocked Big E off the apron. Kofi was able to reach Shorty G.

Shorty G knocked Shinsuke Nakamura off the apron and fired off uppercuts to Mojo. Cesaro rushed the ring and got caught with an overhead toss from Gable. Shorty G hit Mojo with a rolling neckbreaker, then a moonsault from the top rope for a two count.

Mojo set up for the Hyper Drive, but Shorty G rolled through and locked in the ankle lock. Nakamura hit the ring and kicked Shorty Gi n the face. Big E grabbed Nakamura. Meanwhile, Cesaro hit Shorty G with a big uppercut. Kofi attacked Shinsuke on the outside. In the ring, Mojo Rawley hit the Hyperdrive on Shorty G for a near fall.

Shorty G got a tag into Big E, then dove onto Cesaro and Nakamura on the outside. In the ring, Big E and Kofi hit the Midnight Hour on Mojo for a three count.

WINNERS: The New Day & Shorty G in 11:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid match. Shorty G is supremely talented and continues to show it every time he gets TV time. It’s too bad he’s saddled with that ridiculous name and terrible gimmick that they’re sure to exploit with every single heel. It does no one any favors. Interesting choice to suddenly decide to use Mojo again, but his limited in ring time tonight seemed to indicate improvement since we saw him last.)

-Outside, Braun Strowman discovered his crushed windshield. He went on a search for Miz and Morrison. In the van, Miz and Morrison realized neither of them had the keys. A security guard gave away Miz and Morrison’s location. Strowman approached the van, but they’d locked it up. Strowman looked into the camera and said Miz and Morrison are dead men. Braun shook the van, then eventually lifted it and tipped it onto its side, tossing Miz and Morrison around inside.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I could be wrong, but I don’t get the sense that people all that much for these Strowman stunts anymore. I realize it’s been a while since they’ve done one, but they were utilizing them so frequently in the early days that it seems like it completely lost its shock value and I don’t feel like its recovered. Again, this feud feelings entirely misguided and like a way to buy time until they re-introduce The Fiend.)

-Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross headed to the ring for the main event after the break. Cole wondered whether or not they’d be able to focus on this title defense, given the issues they’re having on Raw with The Iiconics. Sasha Banks and Bayley headed to the ring.

(5) ALEXA BLISS & NIKKI CROSS (c) vs. SASHA BANKS & BAYLEY – WWE Women’s Tag Team title match

Nikki Cross lunged at Bayley as soon as the bell rang. She quickly climbed onto Bayley’s back and fell into the corner. Alexa Bliss tagged herself in, took Bayley down. then hit double knees to the midsection of Bayley. Bliss tagged Cross back in. Cross immediately went back to work on Bayley’s neck and head.

Cross shot Bayley into the corner and tagged Bliss. Bliss slapped Bayley in the face, hooked her for a suplex, but got a knee from Bayley. Bayley scooped up Alexa and carried her to the corner, tagging in Sasha Banks. Banks slammed Bliss into the corner and stuck her boot in Alexa’s throat, then tagged in Bayley. Bayley gave Bliss a return slap to the face.

Bliss quickly rolled Bayley up for a two count. She then tagged in Cross, who hit a running bulldog out of the corner for another two count. Bayley rolled to the outside. Nikki Cross hit her with a dropkick through the middle rope, then she tackled Sasha into the ring post. Cross tossed Bayley back in the ring, but Banks distracted her. Bayley caught Cross with a knee to the back of the head, sending Cross tumbling to the floor. Bayley tagged in Banks, who hit a meteora onto Cross on the outside. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Banks tagged in Bayley when the show returned. The duo hit a double side slam on Cross. Bayley implored Cross to reach for Bliss, then continued to cut her off. She tagged in Bliss, who hit running double knees onto Cross in the corner. She covered Nikki for a two count. Bliss rolled Nikki into a backslide for another two. Banks tagged in Bayley.

Cross fought Bayley out of a headlock, but Bayley drove her into the corner and drove her shoulder into Cross repeatedly. Bayley set up Cross on the apron, but Nikki shoved her away and crawled toward Bliss. She kicked Bayley away and made the tag. Bliss dropped Bayley with a number of clotheslines, then a hard slap and right hand.

Bliss took Bayley down with a leaping dropkick, then a pair of double knees to the stomach. Alexa climbed to the top rope, but Sasha grabbed her leg. Bliss kicked Sasha away, but the distraction allowed Bayley to cut Bliss off and hit a Bayley to Belly off the top rope.

Bayley quickly tagged in Sasha, who caught Bliss with a running knee for a near fall. Alexa struggled to her feet, but was able to launch Banks into the turnbuckle. On the outside, Nikki Cross hit Bayley with a tornado DDT. Alexa Bliss hit Banks with a sunset bomb for a near fall.

Bliss tagged in Cross. Cross hit Banks with a cross body off the top rope for a two count. Cross set Bliss up on the ropes for a neckbreaker, but Banks countered, tagged in Bayley, and hit the Backstabber. Banks locked in the Bank Statement, but Bayley tossed Sasha off, worried about the referee’s count. Cross quickly powered out and dropped Bayley with a neckbreaker. Sasha broke up the pin attempt, then tagged herself in.

Banks rolled Cross into the Bank Statement, this time legal. Bayley pulled Bliss to the outside. Cross rolled Banks into a cover, but Sasha rolled through into a cover of her own and caught Cross for a three count.

WINNERS: Sasha Banks & Bayley in 14:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match. The final exchange was, as Cole said, awkward. I didn’t quite understand the announcers harping on the dissension between Bayley and Sasha at the end of the match. Cole was adamant that Banks may have won the tag titles with Cross locked in the Bank Statement, but she wasn’t the legal woman. Bayley’s move was actually in the team’s best interest, despite Cole protesting otherwise. In any case, all four women worked hard. I feel bad that Bliss and Cross never really got a chance to shine with the titles, but I don’t think they necessarily need them to be a focal point on Smackdown either. Banks and Bayley can be the focal point of the tag division while continuing to tease their dissension and ultimately, break up. It seems like they’re going to drag this out long term, despite feeling like we’ve been in and out of this breakup angle for years.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: A solid night from a wrestling perspective. Smackdown’s creative direction continues to perplex me, but in the ring, things have improved with the addition of the Performance Center crowd. Despite the angle being on again-off again for years, the Sasha Banks/Bayley break up story has been intriguing in recent weeks and the additions of the tag titles should add some flare. Bryan and Styles provides an excellent hook for next week’s show, and Jeff Hardy and Sheamus moved into safer waters this week (and will hopefully stay there.) The weakest element of the show was the “comedic” attacks from The Miz and John Morrison, coupled with Braun Strowman’s continued exposure as a weak, one dimensional character and champion. In general, I think we’ve seen an improvement in Smackdown’s commitment to giving fans something to tune in for each week. At the same time, they’ve filled to billed really any interest at all in Backlash.

 

 

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