LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 6/12: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Styles vs. Bryan tournament final, Sheamus-Hardy contract signing, Backlash hype, more


JUNE 12, 2020

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with a video package recapping the ongoing rivalry between Sheamus and Jeff Hardy.

-Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the show with Backlash “looming around the corner.” He threw to Renee Young, standing in the ring for the advertised contact signing.

-Renee Young said WWE officials have requested that Sheamus and Jeff Hardy meet to sign a contract. She welcomed Sheamus to the ring. He came to the ring with three security guards and a doctor. The guards help set up a makeshift privacy tent. Renee welcomed Jeff Hardy.

Renee asked Sheamus what the set up was for. Sheamus said it’s for privacy and discretion. “I wouldn’t want to offend the lady,” he said. Jeff told Renee not to worry about it, he doesn’t care. Sheamus reiterated that he had nothing to do with the car accident involving Jeff’s car. He said he had his lawyers convince management that, before signing the contract, Jeff Hardy would have to take a urine test.

Sheamus said if Jeff fails, he’s in a whole heap of trouble. Jeff said he’s an alcoholic, and he’s regularly talked about how much he’s let his family, friends, and fans down. Hardy promised to be a beacon of light for the people who struggle with the same issues as him. He agreed to go along with Sheamus’ test.

“That’s great!” Sheamus exclaimed. He told Jeff that he paid for a doctor to administer a rapid test with instant results. Jeff stepped into the privacy tent. Sheamus stood in front of it and provided a “public service announcement,” telling kids not to take drugs. Sheamus told Jeff to hurry up.

The doctor emerged with a large canister of dark yellow fluid. Sheamus said he must have had a great time at happy hour. Hardy said it’s better to be pissed off than pissed on, and threw the urine sample on Sheamus. Sheamus gagged uncontrollably. Jeff left the ring. Sheamus continued to wheeze uncomfortably. The show went to commercial.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Jeff Hardy needs to drink more water. In all seriousness, this came off poorly. The urine sample was comically large, and comically yellow. If you can get past that, there’s still the matter of whether or not they should be putting this angle on television at all, an argument I’ve already shared my stance on over the last few weeks. Sheamus has been an effective, annoying heel, and Jeff Hardy has seemed sufficiently empathetic and cool headed. If nothing else, I’m interested in the rematch on Sunday.)

-Backstage, Sheamus was shown gargling angrily. The doctor walked in and informed him that Jeff’s results came back negative. Sheamus threw a fit and told the doctor to get out.

-At ringside, Michael Cole and Corey Graves set the stage for the evening, headlined by the finals in the Intercontinental title tournament between Daniel Bryan and A.J. Styles.

-Big E’s voice filled the Performance Center and New Day headed to the ring. They both took a knee in the ring, lowered their head, and raised a fist to the sky. Cesaro headed to the ring with Shinsuke Nakamura.

(1) THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E) vs. CESARO & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA

Kofi Kingston and Cesaro began the match with a lockup. Kofi quickly wrestled Cesaro to the mat, hit a splash and covered for a one count. On the rebound, Cesaro caught Kofi and hit him with a tilt-a-whirl side slam. He tagged in Shinsuke Nakamura.

Shinsuke ran at Kofi, who caught him with a double stomp to the chest for a two count. Kofi clotheslined Nakamura to the outside, then tagged in Big E. E launched Kingston over the top rope onto Nakamura. Cesaro dropped Kofi quickly. Big E headed to the outside and clotheslined Cesaro, then tossed Nakamura inside the ring. Cesaro caught Big E with an uppercut, leaving both members of New Day down on the outside. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Cesaro had Big E grounded when the show returned from commercial. Big E fought to his feet, but Cesaro worked him to the corner and tagged in Nakamura. Nakamura covered Big E for  quick two count, then tagged Cesaro back in. Big E recovered and caught Cesaro with a belly to belly suplex.

Big E and Cesaro tagged in their partners. Kofi hit Shinsuke with a trio of leaping clotheslines, then followed up with the Boom Drop. He set up for Trouble in Paradise, but Nakamura cut him off. Cesaro tagged in Shinsuke. Kofi hit Shinsuke with the SOS, but Cesaro broke up the cover. Big E clotheslined Cesaro to the outside.

Shinsuke set Kofi up on the top rope. Kofi fought him off, then went for a leaping cross body. Nakamura got his knees up and rolled Kofi into a cover for a quick three count.

WINNERS: Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura in 7:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Hard to comment on the quality of the match, considering over half of it was spent in commercial. All four men seemed a little distracted, with multiple clunky looking spots. In general, I dislike how frequently the tag team champions are booked to lose, and lose cleanly. This isn’t exclusive to New Day, it’s been a problem with whoever has held the Smackdown tag titles for quite some time now.)

-Backstage, Tucker and Otis prepared for their six man tag match. Otis was wearing a blindfold. Tucker was giving him foods to smell. Mandy Rose walked on screen and gave him a kiss. Otis seemed confused. “I appreciate the motivation Tucky, but…” Mandy removed the blindfold. She wished him luck and told him she’d see him after the match. Tucker told Otis that the opportunity may present itself to cash in on Strowman tonight.

Suddenly, they were interrupted by a crash nearby. Sheamus and Jeff Hardy were brawling through furniture and hardware. Security rushed in to separate them as the show faded to break.

-Cole and Graves talked up the Intercontinental title tournament. They threw to a video package, narrated by Graves, discussing the heritage and history of the Intercontinental title.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a good video and all, but this is nothing more than lip service if they don’t actual place some real value on the title. There’s been multiple attempts and promises to reestablish the prestige of the title over the years, but all have wound up being abandoned mere weeks into rehabilitation. Both Bryan and Styles are excellent choices to lead the way into a true new era for the Intercontinental title, but I’ll believe it when I see it.)

-A.J. Styles headed to the ring as Michael Cole recited some stats about previous Intercontinental title holders. They showed the belt sitting at ringside. Daniel Bryan entered, the Performance Center crowd joining him in a “yes” chant. Greg Hamilton provided a traditional championship introduction.

(2) A.J. STYLES vs. DANIEL BRYAN – Intercontinental title tournament finals

A.J. Styles and Daniel Bryan locked up as the bell rang. They traded quick arm holds, trading leverage back and forth. Bryan broke Styles’ grip with a slap and a dropkick. They circled the ring and felt out a test of strength. Styles kicked Bryan in the gut and set him up for a suplex, but Bryan blocked it.

Styles caught Bryan in the throat, then charged. Bryan sidestepped him, sending Styles crashing to the floor. Bryan dove through the middle rope, wiping out A.J. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Daniel Bryan had A.J. Styles on the mat when the show returned from commercial. He drove his knee in A.J.’s back and then stepped on his arm into a cover for a one count. Styles wrestled his way to his feet, leapfrogged Bryan, then caught him with a high dropkick to the jaw.

Styles shook out his arm and gave Bryan a pair of punches to the head. He fired off a chop, but Bryan retaliated with an uppercut into a snapmare. Styles quickly rolled through it and hyperextended Bryan’s arm, then slammed him into the mat. Styles continued to work over Bryan’s arm as he pulled him to his feet.

Styles shot Bryan off the ropes, but Bryan caught him with a rolling knee to the gut. He set up a surfboard, but Styles blocked it. Bryan applied a toe hold and repeatedly applied torque. He locked legs and rolled Styles over for a unique pin, only netting a one count.

Styles recovered in the corner. Bryan delivered kicks to the gut. Styles wound up leaping over Bryan into a sunset flip pin for a two count. Bryan countered it. The two traded pinball attempts multiple times. Both men finally broke and shot off the ropes concurrently, running into each other with tandem cross bodies. With both Bryan and Styles down in the center of the ring, Cole sent the match to a second commercial break.

Styles and Bryan continued to jockey for position when the show returned. Bryan managed to take Styles down and get in position for the Yes Lock, but Styles blocked it and tossed Bryan to the outside. Styles went out to meet him. Bryan tossed Styles into the ring post, shoulder first. Bryan continued to work over Styles’ arm by stomping on it on the apron. Bryan tossed A.J. back in the ring and continued the arm manipulation.

Bryan stomped on Styles’ bent elbow, then cranked the arm backwards. He rolled Styles into a double underhook cover, but Styles kicked out quickly and rolled to the apron. Bryan dragged him back in, whipped him to the corner and charged. Styles moved, sending Bryan crashing into the turnbuckle.

Styles bought time by stomping at Bryan in the corner. He ripped Bryan’s leg over the apron, then locked in a toe hold to work over the knee. Styles dragged Bryan’s leg in the ropes and tied him up, then stomped away relentlessly at the knee and thigh. The referee forced Styles away after initiating a count.

Bryan caught Styles with an enziguri to keep Styles at bay. Both men wandered to their feet. Styles headed to the apron and leapt up for the forearm, but Bryan shoved him to the mat. Styles retreated to the corner. Bryan initiated the Yes Kicks. He hoisted Styles to the top rope, then hit a frankensteiner.

Styles rose to his knees. Bryan missed a yes kick. Styles shot to his feet and turned Bryan inside out with a big clothesline. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Bryan and Styles traded punches and chops out of the commercial break. Styles broke the chain with a shin kick. Bryan stumbled back toward the rope, but then dumped A.J. to the outside. Bryan set up a dive, but Styles caught him with a kick from the apron. Bryan blocked a Phenomenal Forearm, then rolled Styles into an armbar. Styles managed to roll through it into a Calf Crusher. Bryan rolled over back into the armbar. Styles scooped Bryan off his feet, but dropped him. Bryan caught Styles with a kick to the face for a cover and a near fall.

Bryan pulled Styles to his feet and continued to torque the arm. He set up A.J. on the top rope. Styles elbowed Bryan off. Bryan recovered and ran back. Styles elbowed him away a second time. Bryan pounced a third time, pounding at Styles’ back Bryan hit a back suplex off the top rope. Cole sent the show to another commercial.

Bryan kicked Styles into the corner after the fourth commercial break. He charged and tried to flip over the turnbuckle, but his knee buckled. Styles lifted Bryan onto his shoulders, but Bryan elbowed Styles viciously to break out of it. Styles caught Bryan with a Pale kick, then a brain buster. He covered Bryan for a near fall.

Styles set up for the Styles Clash. Bryan tried him into a jackknife cover for a two count. Styles went for another kick, but Bryan caught it and rolled into an ankle lock. Styles fought to his feet, but Bryan transitioned into a bridging German suplex. Bryan kept the waist lock. Styles countered into one of his own, then hit Bryan with a German suplex. Styles carried Bryan to his feet, still in his own waist lock. Bryan countered and hit another German suplex. He elbowed Styles in the neck, then transitioned into the Yes Lock.

Styles dragged himself enough to get a foot on the bottom rope. Bryan grabbed Styles’ arms and began stomping at his chest, neck, and head. He set up in the corner and called for Styles to stand. The crowd joined him in a “yes” chant. Styles blocked Bryan’s knee and hit him with a Styles Clash. A.J. couldn’t make the cover.

Styles used the ropes to drag himself to his feet on the apron. He hit Bryan with the Phenomenal Forearm for a three count.

WINNER: A.J. Styles in 39:00, new Intercontinental champion

(LeClair’s Analysis: Great match marred by four commercial breaks. I realize it was a long match and there are sponsors to satisfy, but it’s absolutely impossible for a match not to lose momentum when it’s interrupted four times. There was definitely an internal directive to refer to his match as a guaranteed classic, and it certainly didn’t go that far, but it was very good, and very unique. Styles and Bryan are supremely talented and it appears as though they went out there with a specific gameplan in mind meant to challenge themselves, and each other, and they succeeded. I highly recommend going out of your way to watch this, if for no other reason than it being a significant departure from WWE’s usual TV match format. As for the booking, I thought either scenario could present intriguing matchups going forward. Styles can be a great champion. I just hope that they continue to pay the title as much attention as they have during this tournament.)

Renee Young stepped in the ring to interview A.J. Styles. She asked what the win meant to him. Styles said he’s the best WWE Champion the WWE Universe has ever seen. “I am phenomenal,” Styles said. Cole called the match classic.

-Cole and Graves tossed to a video package recapping The Miz and John Morrison’s pranks on Braun Strowman from last week’s Smackdown.

-Backstage, Braun Strowman said there’s “a lot going on tonight” and there’s still a six-man tag match to come. Strowman said he can fix his car, but Miz and Morrison won’t be able to fix themselves after he’s finished with them. He turned to Tucker and Otis. He said he likes Otis, but, if he has to, he has no problem obliterating some heavy machinery.

-Back at ringside, the ring was being prepared for a “celebration of sorts,” declared Michale Cole. The show went to commercial.

-Out of the break, Sasha Banks and Bayley headed to the ring for their tag team championship victory celebration. They stopped at the announcers desk to give Cole a pair of glasses. They set up to take a picture with him, only the rip the glasses away. Cole and Graves teased the triple threat women’s tag team match for their newly won tag titles at Backlash.

The crowd booed Bayley as she began to speak. She told them they’re lucky to be invited. Bayley said it’s lonely at the top, but she’s not lonely because she’s got her best friend, Sasha Banks, with her. She and Sasha held up the tag team titles.

“We told you so, ” Sasha said. She claimed she and Bayley are the role models who promised to win the titles back when they wanted to, and they did. She said she and Bayley are unstoppable. Bayley said she wrote a poem about how she feels. She was interrupted by Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross.

Bliss said she’s fine with them celebrating their win, but reciting poetry is where they draw the line. Nikki said she and Alexa love a good party. The two teams began to argue. The Iiconics appeared on the screen and said they’ve had enough of the tacky celebration.

Billie Kay and Peyton Royce mentioned that they’ve beat Bliss and Cross recently, and took the titles from Banks and Bayley. A brawl ensued between the two teams in the ring. Kay and Royce laughed on the screen. Banks and Bayley escaped the ring. “We’ll see you on Sunday, stupid idiots!” Bayley screamed.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was harmless enough. Banks and Bayley are hitting the right notes as the overbearing team, despite it being clear that a split is still in the works. Bliss and Cross are effective babyfaces, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the Iiconics back in the fold. I’d expect Bayley and Sasha to retain while continuing to tease dissent, though, with the way they play hot potato with all the tag titles, nothing would surprise me.)

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed The Miz and John Morrison. They said everyone has been talking about Kayla since she got slimed last week. They cued up a new music video they prepared. It was quickly cut off by Braun Strowman’s music.

-Back at ringside, Braun Strowman headed to the ring for the main event. Cole talked up the two on one handicap match for the Universal title at Backlash. Heavy Machinery headed to the ring. Cole teased that Otis may cash in his Money in the Bank contract as he sent the show to commercial.

-A hype video for Matt Riddle aired, announcing that he’ll debut next week.

-Dolph Ziggler headed to the ring, followed by The Miz and John Morrison.


Otis began the match with Dolph Ziggler. Dolph quickly launched himself to the outside and tagged in The Miz. Otis pulled Miz into the ring and gave him a body slam. He tagged in Tucker. They hit double headbutts on Miz.

Miz rolled to the corner and tagged in John Morrison. Morrison hit Tucker with an enziguri, then landed on his feet off of a backdrop attempt from Tucker. Tucker flattened him anyway and covered him for a two count. Morrison ran to his corner and tagged in Ziggler.

Heavy Machinery whipped Strowman into Ziggler in the corner, then gave him a massive bear claw to the chest. Strowman tagged Tucker back in. Tucker scooped up Ziggler for a delayed vertical suplex. King Corbin appeared on the big screen and approached Mandy Rose. Otis immediately ran backstage.

Corbin asked Mandy if it was her idea for Otis to steal his crown. Mandy said they were just having a little fun. Corbin said Mandy must be fantasizing about being with him. Otis flew onto the screen and toppled Corbin. Officials and agents stepped in. The show went to commercial.

Miz gave Tucker a big boot when the show returned from commercial. He tagged in Ziggler, who made a quick cover for a two count. Cole reset the scene, reminding everyone that Otis has not returned from the back following his confrontation with King Corbin.

Ziggler grounded Tucker with a headlock. Tucker powered his way to his feet, but Ziggler pushed him into the corner and tagged in John Morrison. Morrison peppered Tucker with kicks, then covered him for a two count. Morrison tagged in Miz just as Tucker tossed Morrison to the outside. Tucker tossed Miz as well, but Ziggler tagged himself in.

On the outside, Miz and Morrison attacked Braun Strowman on the apron. Morrison kicked him off his feet, then Miz hit a DDT on the floor. Otis headed back to ringside with Mandy Rose at his side.

In the ring, Tucker dropped Ziggler with a kick then tagged in Otis. Otis rubbed his belly and fired up, then tossed Ziggler over the top rope to the outside. Strowman ran the freight train around the ring, plowing through Miz, tossing Morrison into the plexiglass, before tossing Ziggler back in the ring. Otis landed the caterpillar elbow on Ziggler for a three count.

WINNERS: Braun Strowman & Heavy Machinery in 10:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: It was good to see Tucker back. Heavy Machinery has great chemistry, and I find Otis to be overall more entertaining when Tucker is around. With that said, Otis’ feud with Corbin is cold, like most angles involving Corbin. Miz and Morrison are quickly approaching comedy act territory, and their feud with Strowman has no real heat. It was laughable listening to Cole and Graves try to sell them as viable opponents against Strowman, even in a handicap scenario. The match was about as standard a WWE TV tag could get. Very little to see here.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a show anchored and carried by one match, A.J. Styles vs. Daniel Bryan. Even that had issues in its own right, with four commercial breaks disrupting the flow and capping its excitement. Smackdown continues to struggle greatly in terms of roster depth, and their portion of Sunday’s card leaves plenty to be desired. Backlash, as a whole, is one of the weaker Pay-Per-View cards WWE has put together in quite some time. I left tonight’s show feeling more interested by what’s to come for A.J Styles’ Intercontinental title run, and Daniel Bryan’s next program than anything they set up or built to for Sunday. That’s not a great sign.



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