LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 6/26: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of “Tribute to the Undertaker”, Strowman addresses Bray Wyatt, women’s #1 contender’s match, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



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

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JUNE 26, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with a commemorative video package for The Undertaker.

-The screen faded to a close up of the screen in the Performance Center with a small group of Smackdown wrestlers chanting “Thank You Taker.”

Michael Cole and Corey Graves talked about taking a look back at The Undertaker’s career through the eyes of various wrestlers. They then threw to a video package showing The Undertaker’s debut at Survivor Series 1990.

-Corey Graves teased The Undertaker’s final match from WrestleMania against A.J. Styles, to be shown in its entirety after the break.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I suppose it’s lucky that the final episode of The Last Ride aired this past Sunday. Otherwise, WWE might have struggled trying to put together a show tonight without acknowledging the giant elephant in the room. It seems incredible irresponsible to have even recorded anything at all, given the current circumstances.)

-Out of the break, previously recorded clips aired showing John Cena and Roman Reigns talking about the legacy of The Undertaker.

-The Undertaker vs. A.J. Styles boneyard match from WrestleMania 36 aired in full.

-After the second mid-match commercial break, Cole and Graves reset the stage from ringside. They threw to more pre-recorded clips of wrestlers talking about The Undertaker’s career, including Kane and Ric Flair, before returning to the match with A.J. Styles.

-After the conclusion of the match, King Corbin stood in the ring clapping. He said The Undertaker is an old bag of bones, a shell of what he used to be. Corbin said Taker spent most of his time “kissing the ass of a certain family.” He recalled The Undertaker being the founding member of the “kiss my ass club.”

Corbin said The Undertaker was coddled and protected by “the owners” for thirty years. He accused Taker of stealing money from the company for twenty years. Corbin said Taker is selfish for holding people like him down. He egged the PC crowd into starting another “Thank You Taker” chant. Corbin looked in the camera and said “you suck.”

Jeff Hardy attacked Corbin from behind and got the upper hand. His music played and the show went to commercial quickly.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Corbin was clearly sent out there to fill time, but it felt a little odd for him to go that hard at The Undertaker, knowing that there’s no match coming. Jeff Hardy doesn’t really serve as an applicable surrogate, but, I guess that’s a byproduct of writing a show on no notice in the midst of an internal crisis. Side note, the PC crowd seemed a little bit more spaced out than usual, but I still only saw a couple of people wearing masks.)

-Stone Cold and Kurt Angle talked about The Undertaker’s legacy in pre-recorded studio interviews.

-Sarah Schreiber approached Jeff Hardy backstage. Hardy said if he could choose the Mount Rushmore of WWE, it would The Undertaker four times over. He said he got his degree from “Deadman University” and promised to get revenge on Corbin on behalf of The Undertaker later tonight.

-At ringside, Cole and Graves confirmed that Jeff Hardy will face King Corbin in the main event. Sasha Banks and Bayley joined Cole and Graves at the announcers desk for guest commentary. Cole announced the winner of the upcoming match would face Bayley for the Smackdown Women’s title at Extreme Rules (now subtitled “Horror Show.”)

(1) ALEXA BLISS vs. NIKKI CROSS vs. DANA BROOKE vs. LACEY EVANS

Dana Brooke attacked Nikki Cross and Lacey Evans attacked Alexa Bliss as the match began. Bliss and Cross quickly took control, hitting Evans and Brooke with tandem corner slaps. Evans and Brooke rolled to the outside. Cross immediately rolled Bliss up for a two count. Bliss looked upset, but Cross told her she loved her.

Bliss and Cross traded quick holds. Cross sent Bliss off the ropes and Lacey Evans tripped her up and dragged her to the outside, tossing Bliss face first into the barricade. In the ring, Dana Brooke took down Nikki Cross and hit a handspring splash for a two count, broken up by Lacey Evans.

Evans and Brooke double teamed Nikki Cross. Bliss returned to the ring, but got tossed into Nikki in the corner. Brooke charged for handspring back elbows, but Evans cut her off and dropped her. Evans and Brooke began trading blows. Brooke caught Evans with a handspring back elbow off the ropes, then hit a weak body slam before climbing to the top rope. Dana connected with a senton bomb from the top and covered Evans, but Nikki Cross broke up the pinfall attempt.

Brooke recovered and gave Cross a bodyslam. Alexa Bliss returned and dropped Brooke by the hair, then climbed to the top rope. Bliss went for Twisted Bliss, but Dana got her knees up. Nikki Cross ran in and kicked Brooke to the outside. Lacey Evans returned and kicked both Bliss and Cross.

Evans tripped Cross, then hit a leaping springboard elbow. Dana Brooke returned and went for another handspring elbow, but Evans caught her with a Woman’s Right. Nikki Cross snuck back in and rolled up Evans for a three count.

WINNER: Nikki Cross in 6:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Fast action that was sloppy at times. Not much to say otherwise. It’s hard to get particularly excited about Nikki Cross being in a title match, given that she just lost cleanly to Sasha Banks without much fanfare just a week or so ago. Ultimately, it didn’t matter much who won this one. Any of the four challengers seem like a bit of a placeholder as the story between Bayley and Sasha continues to develop.)

-Cole teased an eight man tag team match, coming up after the break. Four Smackdown teams (New Day, Lucha House Party, Miz & Morrison, and Cesaro & Nakamura) were shown arguing backstage.

-Triple H talked about The Undertaker’s career in another pre-recorded interview following the commercial break.

-The New Day headed to the ring for an eight man tag team match. Lucha House Party followed. Cole and Graves threw to a clip of Cesaro and Nakamura’s attack on New Day from last week’s show before the aforementioned duo headed to the ring. The Miz & John Morrison headed out last.

(2) THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E) & LUCHA HOUSE PARTY (Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik) vs. CESARO & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & THE MIZ & JOHN MORRISON

Big E began the match with The Miz, who tried to escape from ring and attack from behind. Big E thwarted the attempt and dropped Miz, then set him up on the apron before hitting a big splash. He rolled Miz fully into the ring and covered him for a two count. Big E tagged in Lince Dorado.

The Miz tagged in Cesaro. Dorado used his speed against Cesaro, but eventually got snatched out of the air. He managed to roll Cesaro up for a two count, then catch him with a head scissor takeover on the rebound. Dorado tagged in Gran Metalik, who hit a big splash for another two count.

Cesaro caught Metalik with an uppercut and tagged in Shinsuke Nakamura. Metalik caught Shinsuke with a boot out of the corner, then a bulldog. He tagged in Kofi Kingston. Nakamura ducked a kick and tagged in John Morrison. Kofi leapt off the middle rope with a dropkick and covered Morrison for a two count. Morrison recovered and tagged in Cesaro, who hit an uppercut and made a quick tag into Nakamura, who followed up with a kick. Big E tried to protest the double team attacks to no avail. Cole sent the show to commercial.

The Miz and John Morrison took down Kofi Kingston when the show returned from commercial. The Miz worked on Kingston’s neck to cut him off from tagged in Big E. Kofi fought free and caught Miz with a tornado DDT off the middle rope. Kingston tried to reach Big E, but Miz tagged in Nakamura first. Cesaro shot to the outside and pulled Big E off the ropes. In the ring, Nakamura gave Kingston a lifting face buster. He charged for a Kinshasa, but Kingston caught him with double knees to the face.

Kingston tagged in Gran Metalik. Nakamura tagged in John Morrison. Metalik flipped through a clothesline attempted and caught Morrison with a springboard hurricanrana. The Miz and Cesaro tried to interfere, both both ate dropkicks from Metalik. Metalik followed up with a sunset bomb on Morrison for a near fall.

Gran Metalik tagged in Lince Dorado. They hit tandem moonsaults, but Cesaro broke up a pin attempt. All eight men entered the ring and a brawl ensued. New Day, Nakamura and Cesaro fought all the way up the ramp and out of the ringside area.

Lince Dorado tagged in Gran Metalik then caught Miz with a springboard stunner. He climbed to the top, the leapt onto Morrison on the outside. Gran Metalik walked the ropes, hit Miz with a diving elbow and scored a three count.

WINNERS: The New Day & Lucha House Party in 11:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Chaotic, fun match, but more or less prototypical eight man tag match, especially with these teams. Feels like we’ve seen this, or some variation of it, dozens of times. I thought they’d want to build on the momentum they gave Cesaro & Nakamura last week, but instead, they made them a non-factor in the finish. This is the biggest problem with the Smackdown tag division – a ton of talent but absolutely no direction, consistency, or attention to detail. Teams trade the titles back and forth inconspicuously, contenders are determined at random with no real build, and momentum is built and ignored on a regular basis. It’s a mess.)

-Backstage, Sarah Schreiber asked King Corbin about his match with Jeff Hardy. Corbin said he planned to give Hardy a lesson in respect, and suggested he follow in The Undertaker’s footsteps by hanging it up. He laughed and mimicked Taker’s “rest in peace” catchphrase.

-Braun Strowman was shown walking slowly backstage. Corey Graves said we’d find out what’s on Strowman’s mind next.

-Out of the break, Progressive’s Match Flo covered the return of cult leader Bray Wyatt from last week’s Smackdown.

-Braun Strowman headed to the ring. He said he wanted to talk about when he first met Bray Wyatt. Strowman said it’s the first time he felt fear in the pit of his stomach, “the type of fear that makes a grown man tremble.” Braun said, one night, at Wyatt’s swamp, he saw a water moccasin slither out of the water toward Wyatt’s lantern. Strowman said he wanted to kill it, but Bray said no and called it his friend. Strowman said Wyatt got to his knees and let the snake bite him, over and over.

“That’s when I knew I was in the presence of evil.” Strowman said all he did was laugh. He called Bray Wyatt the devil himself. Strowman said he was enamored by Wyatt, and that’s why he started doing the devil’s work. “I loved every second of it,” Strowman said in a deep, menacing voice.

Strowman said he’s done everything he can to lock that side of him away. “It calls for me,” he said. Strowman asked Wyatt to go back to the swamp. Strowman said he plans to drag Wyatt into the swamp and let the alligators finish him. He asked again, “do you want to back to the place that created you? Let’s go home.”

Strowman was interrupted by disjointed Wyatt Family clips. The screen cut back to Strowman, but Wyatt’s Fiend laugh filled the Performance Center. Strowman laughed the same way. The show cut to commercial.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I applaud the attempt to bring some context to this return of the cult leader, and Strowman did what he could with the content, but this felt a little too much like community theater to me. It’s a criticism that often arose of Wyatt’s cult leader character, and, in my opinion, justifiably so. Strowman is not a strong promo, and entrusting him to tell a story like this could have backfired, but it worked well enough. It does, however, seem to confirm that this will be an “off site” cinematic match, which may be for the best.)

-An Undertaker retrospective video aired with clips of interviews with Batista and Mick Foley.

-Jeff Hardy headed to the ring for the main event. Cole and Graves teased Sheamus’ “toast to Jeff Hardy,” originally scheduled for tonight’s show, now taking place next week. King Corbin headed to the ring. Cole and Graves tossed to a quick recap of how this match was set up earlier in the night.

(3) JEFF HARDY vs. KING CORBIN

King Corbin dropped Jeff Hardy as soon as the bell rang, then circled him, stomped at him, and talked some trash. Hardy battled to his feet, but Corbin toppled him with a hard shoulder tackle. Corbin lifted Jeff and elbowed him in the kidneys. Hardy crumbled to the mat and crawled toward the ropes.

Corbin draped Jeff over the middle rope and choked him. Hardy battled free and clotheslined Corbin to the outside. Hardy slid through the ropes, but Corbin side stepped him and tossed him into the announcers desk. The two traded blows on the outside. Hardy tossed Corbin over the announcers desk, then leapt onto him with a double axe handle off the apron.

Hardy tossed Corbin into the ring and stomped him. He tossed Corbin around from corner to corner. Hardy climbed to the top rope and went for Whisper in the Wind, but Corbin rolled out of the way and quickly tossed Jeff into the ring post. Hardy fell to the outside. Corbin dropped to a knee, mimicking The Undertaker. The show went to commercial.

Following the commercial, the Smackdown babyfaces had come to ringside to cheer on Jeff Hardy (most notably, Matt Riddle.) Corbin continued to beat down Jeff Hardy. Hardy had a brief flurry of offense, but Corbin quickly took back over with a clothesline. Hardy fell to the outside. Corbin followed, talking trash to Braun Strowman, then slamming Hardy’s face against the plexiglass at ringside.

Corbin tossed Hardy into the ring, then jawed at Lucha House Party. He returned to the ring and covered Hardy for a two count. Hardy fought back with a pair of jawbreakers. Jeff fired off punches, then hit Corbin with an atomic drop followed by a split legged leg drop. Hardy covered Corbin for a two count.

Hardy set up for the Twist of Fate, but Corbin fought him off. Corbin went for a back drop, but Hardy rolled through it. Corbin caught him with a Deep Six for a near fall. Both men rolled to the outside. Hardy sidestepped Corbin and sent him crashing into the ring steps before tossing him back in the ring. Hardy climbed to the top rope and hit Corbin with a Swanton Bomb for a three count.

WINNER: Jeff Hardy in 13:00

After the match, King Corbin quickly attacked Jeff Hardy. New Day slipped in the ring. Corbin clotheslined Kofi Kingston, but Big E caught Corbin with a Big Ending. Braun Strowman entered the ring and gave Corbin a running power slam. Matt Riddle was invited into the ring.

Riddle hit Corbin with the Floating Bro. Corbin rolled to the outside. Jeff Hardy took a knee in celebration of The Undertaker. The babyfaces celebrated  as the show faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This went about thirteen minutes, but somehow felt longer. This match was entirely meaningless, and surrounding the ring with the locker room felt so incredibly tone deaf given the circumstances this show was taped under. King Corbin’s issue with The Undertaker felt contrived, Jeff Hardy felt like an unqualified surrogate. Matt Riddle’s appearance felt misguided. I realize it would’ve been incredibly challenging to remove him from last week’s show in the wake of allegations against him, but he could’ve easily been left out of this segment. This was bad, all the way around.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: As I mentioned previously, WWE was lucky to have The Undertaker fodder to fall back on tonight. This show felt rushed, poorly written, and all together in poor taste given recent developments. Despite now allowing crowd members to wear mask, very few opted to do so. Despite a clear discouragement of large gatherings, WWE opted to surround the ringside area with a good portion of the available locker room. Even after being caught red handed, they continued to engage in unnecessary risky behavior beyond what is required to produce a television show. Furthermore, they couldn’t even be bothered to create a kayfabe reason to blowing up their own show at the last minute, instead pretending they simply announced nothing coming into tonight’s episode. Tonight is a poor reflection on this company, and an indication that they continue to not take this pandemic seriously enough.

 

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