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KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JULY 17, 2020
ORLANDO, FLA. AT PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON FOX NETWORK
Announcer: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-After the WWE Smackdown opening theme, they went to a pre-taped interview with A.J. Styles vowing to win. Then Matt Riddle asked what A.J. stands for and suggested “American Jackass.” He said he will become “The Bro that Runs the Show.” Then Daniel Bryan predicted Riddle will win. He selfie-filmed from probably his home. Alexa Bliss said regarding her mystery guest, “I don’t bliss and tell.” Miz asked John Morrison if he’s scared to fight Braun Strowman. He then talked about Jean-Claude Van Damme’s yacht. He said he fought him on it a few years ago, “and I wiped the deck with him, too.” Miz re-stated his question. Morrison said, “Afraid? Frickin’ terrified.” Braun then said he hopes Bray Wyatt watches waht he does to Morrison later. He let out a monster laugh. Then Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro said they will become tag champs on Sunday. Cesaro says if he beats Big E, he gets to choose Sunday’s stip. Then New Day reacted. Big E said they will win and choose the stip. “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, my fist is his Lois Lane.” Big E then introduced himself from backstage, explaining the terrible acoustics compared to the other promos.
(Keller’s Analysis: Thumbs up to this “stage setting” series of soundbites for the major matches on the show. It reminds me of the ECW “Pulp Fiction” montages a bit, and even more so the openings to WWF Saturday Night’s Main Events in the mid-1980s.)
(1) BIG E (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. CESARO (w/Shinsuke Nakamura
Big E and Kofi threw their jacket aggressively at Graves at ringside. The screen called Cesaro “The Swiss Cyborg” on the Tale of the Tale graphic as he walked to the ring. Cole explained that the winner decides whether their title match at Extreme Rules will be a cage match or a tables match. Cole asked Graves which stip favors which team. Graves said a cage match favors Cesaro & Nakamura because it would keep Xavier Woods from showing up and interfering. Cesaro side-stepped a charging Big E early, sending Big E into the ringpost. He threw Big E into the ringpost, then back into the ring where he settled into a head vice. Big E made a comeback with some overhead suplexes. Big E threw Cesaro head-first into the ringpost, then bashed him across his chest with a forearm. After splashing Cesaro on the edge of the ring, they cut to a break. [c]
Cesaro eventually countered a Big E stretch muffler with a Cesaro Swing. He then locked on a sharpshooter. Big E powered out, but then Cesaro applied an STF. As Kofi cheered on Big E, Nakamura charged and nocked Kofi down. Nakajura then got in Big E’s face. Big E set up a Big Ending, but Cesaro grabbed the ropes. Big E’s legs almost hit the ref. She ducked. Nakamura snuck in a kick on Big E, then Cesaro landed the Neutralizer for the win.
(Keller’s Analysis: The idea of choosing between two stips that don’t really favor one team or the other isn’t that big of a deal. Cole, though, reacted as if it was one of the bigger match finishes ever, way out of proportion. Hard-selling a outcome doesn’t really help his credibility. It’s okay to just sell it as a 5 out of 10 and let it be what it is, while keeping your credibility.)
-After the match, Cesaro and Nakamura stomped on Big E, then went under the ring to grab a table. Kofi flip dove onto them and landed on the table. He kicked Cesaro and Nakamura while they were down, then pulled out a table. He put Cesaro on it. Big E recovered and was about to toss Kofi off the top rope onto Cesaro, but Nakamura pulled Cesaro to safety.
-Kayla Braxton interviewed King Corbin. He said Riddle is ambitious, but he’s in the honeymoon phase. He said he’s playing with fire and is going to get burned. He said everyone will realize the Bro is nothing but a little boy when Styles is done with him.
-Cole plugged Styles-Riddle and noted that Riddle upset Styles in his debut Smackdown match. [c]
-Cesaro and Nakamura talked about the stip they get to pick. Cesaro said imagining New Day gyrating against the cage makes him uncomfortable, as opposed to crashing them through tables, so they were choosing a tables match.
-Moment of Bliss: Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross sat mid-ring. They noted it’s the five year anniversary of the WWE Women’s Evolution. Bliss predicted the Los Angeles Lakers would win the NBA Championship. Bliss made some picks for PPV winners. Nikki said she’s going to make the Horror Show a living nightmare for Bayley. She got really hyped up. Bliss said she loves her enthusiasm, but she needs her to dial it down a little. She broke the news to Nikki that she’s not her mystery guest tonight. Nikki apologized bashfully. Out came Sasha Banks and Bayley. Bayley said Nikki should get used to feeling disappointed because on Sunday, she’ll be a failure. Sasha said she’ll end up back in the shadows of Alexa Bliss after “Horror Show at Extreme Rules.”
Bayley talked about this being the fifth anniversary of the Women’s Evolution. They said they should get credit for being the architects of the division. Bayley yelled at the cameraman to get out of her way so she could use the steps. Nikki hilariously came to his defense and snapped at Bayley, “Don’t talk to him like that!” After some more boasting by Bayley and Sasha, Bliss stood up and revealed that her mystery guest is Asuka. She made her entrance and sauntered toward the ring in her usual over-the-top manner. Sasha and Bayley attacked Cross and Bliss. Asuka ran to the ring and helped Bliss and Nikki clear the ring. Bliss challenged the to a match. [c]
-They showed Matt Riddle warming up backstage with Drew Gulak.
-They went to another selfie video of Bryan outdoors. He said he’s happy to see that despite his “vehemenent” objections, Styles has been forced to become a fighting champion. He said Styles’ title reign could be short if he doesn’t embrace being a fighting champion. Bryan said he is biased in favor of Riddle because he has a special coaching session.
(Keller’s Analysis: Ve-hem-en-ent-ly? This is another week where they’re finding a creative way to involve Bryan without him traveling to the Orlando area.)
(2) NIKKI CROSS & ASUKA vs. BAYLEY & SASHA BANKS
Bayley took a cheap shot at Nikki on the ring apron before the bell. Nikki’s reaction was priceless. She demanded a tag in and went after Bayley aggressively. The heels soon took over on Nikki. Cole noted that Asuka and Nikki had a Last Woman Standing match in NXT. Nikki tagged in Asuka a few minutes after the break. Asuka knocked both Sasha and Bayley down. Banks head-scissored Asuka to the floor, but Asuka caught a sliding Sasha between the ring apron and ring. Nikki tagged in and went after Sasha at ringside with forearms. She pounded her chest, then trapped Bayley between the apron and ring. Asuka caught Bayley with a sliding knee. Nikki leaped of the ring onto Sasha with a crossbody. Then they danced on top of the announce table. [c]
Cole asked Graves if Asuka or Bayley is the better woman’s champion in WWE today. (It’s strange how arbitrary it is when NXT is included and excluded from consideration in discussions like this on WWE TV.) The heels took over and Sasha settled into a chinlock on Asuka. Asuka made a comeback and rolled up Bayley for a two count. Then she gave Bayley a lift-and-drop kneelift to the forehead. She crawled over and tagged in Nikki just as Sasha also tagged in. Nikki rallied. Sasha avoided a diving Nikki off the ropes and scored a two count. Asuka kicked Sasha at ringside. Nikki set up Bayley for a tornado DDT, but Bayley blocked it and put her feet on the middle rope to get a leverage three count. Cole asked how telling it is that Bayley felt she needed to use the ropes for leverage to get the win.
WINNERS: Bayley & Sasha in 15:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good tag match.)
-Backstage Miz told Morrison in every good horror film the good guy comes ahead and slays the monster and becomes a legend. Morrison said a good horror movie hero also has a best friend who steps up to fight the monster in case the hero isn’t ready. Miz said he’s not much of a horror guy so he has no idea what he’s talking about, but he has his back. Cole said it could be a human car wreck that would rival a NASCAR pileup next.
-A commercial aired for Raw advertising Randy Orton vs. The Big Show in an unsanctioned match. [c]
-Firefly Funhouse: The Firefly Funhouse music got all distorted, then Bray was shown singing “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” as he stared into a swamp. He talked about his history with Braun, saying he was a lost sheep looking for a home when he first found him. He said he created a monster, but then he left. He said now darkness comes to light and the devil comes to dance and all the horrors of the world feel right at home. He said it’s an evil place because once you enter, you can never truly leave. He said he knows the truth about Braun. He said the monster he created is just scratching, waiting to come home. He said he can see it still lives within him. He said he isn’t capable of handling on his own the gifts he has bestowed upon him. He said he must destroy the monster that he has become. “You know where to find me, Braun,” he said. “Come home. Run.” He blew out the lantern.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good video. I’m not sure how much it messes with the Firefly Funhouse reboot of the Bray Wyatt character and The Fiend alter-ego. Does it derail it or is it an integral chapter in keeping The Fiend fresh? I’m curious what they do with the swamp setting on Sunday’s show.)
(3) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. JOHN MORRISON
Miz and Morrison made their ring entrance. Braun stood on the stage and said there comes a time in a man’s life to grow up and face his fears. He speed-talked and said he is going to do that on Sunday and slap the devil himself in the face. “That’s the only way I know to end this,” he said. He said the last thing he wants is for him to turn into The Fiend, “because The Fiend is everything evil that I have ever done in my life, every bad thought I’ve had, every miscalculation I’ve made.” He rambled nearly incoherently and closed with, “I have to end him before he ends me!” Cole said he’s never seen Braun so worked up.
(Keller’s Analysis: He was amped up. Jeesh.)
The bell rang, and Morrison went at Braun but Braun shoved him hard into the corner. He splashed him in the corner, then short-arm clotheslined. Graves commented on this new level of intensity. He said it’s like he’s unraveling. Cole said Braun might unravel Bray in the swamp. He chokeslammed Morrison, then gave a maniacal look at the hard camera as he was frothing into his beard. He lifted Morrison into bearhug from his Wyatt Family days, then a running powerslam for the win.
WINNER: Braun in 2:00.
-Braun leaned over the top rope and said, “Bray Wyatt, I hope you were watching. I’m coming home.” Cole said Strowman is looking to exorcise the demons of his life at the Horror Show on Sunday. Miz called for help from the back. Braun’s music stopped playing. Medics came to the ring to help Morrison stand. Miz helped him out of the ring as he winced in pain. As they walked to the back, Lacey Evans made her way to the ring. Cole said she faces Naomi next.
(Keller’s Analysis: Braun should have slowed down in his promo for better effectiveness and clarity, but overall showing him this intense does build anticipation for Sunday. I’m curious if it’s a straight-up win for Braun or if there’s a big angle reuniting them.) [c]
-They replayed clips of the karaoke contest from last week’s show.
(4) LACEY EVANS vs. NAOMI
Graves took Lacey’s side in the karoke contest controversy. Cole said some say Lacey is still trying to find herself in WWE. Graves said it’s tough to get along with everyone when your star shines brighter than everyone else. A couple minutes in, Lacey tied a knot in Naomi’s hair in the middle rope. After Naomi broke free, Lacey landed the Woman’s Right. Graves told Cole if anyone else did it, Cole would have called it genius because that’s what it was.
WINNER: Lacey in 3:00.
-Braxton interviewed Jeff Hardy. She asked him about Sheamus encouraging him to drink again. She asked why he agreed to play Sheamus’s game and risk sobriety. Hardy said fighting a bully like Sheamus is like battling addiction – you can’t wish it away or run from it. He said he has to accept it and fight every day until it quiets down. He said when it’s all over, the risk is worth it because he wants to see Sheamus’s reaction after the fight and “regret what he sees.” When asked for his prediction for the Styles-Riddle match, Hardy talked about how it’s a bitter sweet topic because Sheamus framed him for drunk driving, he lost his place in the tournament. He took a boot to the side of his head from off-camera. Sheamus sat down next to Hardy and said he can’t run from it or hide from it or wish it away. “Don’t worry, fella, I’m here to help cleanse you of your demons.” He said he’d see him on Smackdown next week.
-A commercial aired for Undertaker telling stories after Backlash on WWE Network on Sunday. [c]
-Backstage Kayla approached an elated Sasha and Bayley. Bayley said she has the most momentum. She said it’s mass times velocity, and with belts over her shoulders, she has more more mass than Nikki. She said she literally has more momentum than Nikki. She said Sasha will decimate Sasha and become “Two Belts Banks.” She said it’s fate. Sasha said it’s their destiny to win all the championship gold. Bayley said she’ll hate to see Nikki cry herself into depression after her first one-on-one title match. They laughed at Nikki’s expense. “She should go back to being a chimney sweep,” Bayley said.
-Elsewhere a disappointed Nikki told Bliss she should have won last week and this week. She wondered if she will blow it again on Sunday. Nikki said she left her friends and family in Scotland who are watching her lose every week. She said her confidence is shaken and is worried. Bliss told he she will defeat Bayley. Nikki said the only Horror Show will be if she doesn’t win on Sunday. In the background, Sasha and Bayley were taking. Nikki charged and attacked them from behind. Bliss and Sasha separated them. Bayley yelled for Bliss to put a freakin’ leash on Nikki.
-Styles talked about Riddle beating him because of the element of surprise last time. He said this is still the House that A.J. Styles built. Riddle then said last time was no fluke. [c]
-A video feature aired on the July 13, 2015 episode of Raw when the Diva’s Revolution started and eventually became the Women’s Evolution. They showed tweets from people acknowledging the anniversary.
(5) A.J. STYLES vs. MATT RIDDLE – Intercontinental Title match
They did formal ring introductions for the main event. Riddle gave Stles a gut wrench and a leaping knee to the face, knocking him to the floor a minute in. Styles bashed the table with his forearms in frustration. Riddle dropped to the floor and mocked Styles. Riddle kicked Styles in the face as he charged at him. They cut to an early break. [c]
Back in the ring, Riddle had Styles grounded. Styles took control for a while. Riddle made a comeback and landed a Bro To Sleep and a running knee for a two count. Styles kicked out. They cut to another break. [c]
Styles landed a clothesline after the break. Riddle came back with a Final Flash knee and then a top rope Floating Bro attempt, but Styles stepped out of the way. Riddle crashed hard. Stles then threw Riddle into the ropes and landed a brainbuster suplex for a two count. Styles set up a Phenomenal Forearm, but Riddle caught him. Styles kneed out of it. Riddle stood and pelted tyles. Styles fired back with a flurry of strikes. Styles applied a mid-ring Calf Crusher. Graves there’s no escaping it. Riddle countered and applied a Bro-mission. Styles leveraged Riddle’s shoulders down in a struggle and got the three count.
WINNER: Styles in 18:00 to retain the Intercontinental Title.
-As Styles celebrated, Riddle gathered his emotions, kneeling in the corner. He stood up and walked over to Styles. Styles’s music stopped. Styles offered a handshake. Riddle shook his hand. Corbin attacked Riddle from behind and pounded away at him on the mat. The audience booed. Styles stayed out of it. Cole said he’s trying to beat respect into him. Riddle gave Riddle an End of Days. The show faded s Corbin stood on the stage looking at Riddle struggling to stand.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m totally fine with Styles getting the win here like that. Had Riddle won, that’d have been fine, because it wouldn’t be a bad idea for WWE to try to create a big star without a slow build. Moving Riddle to a feud he can win over Corbin is a good step for him, too.)