LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 7/24: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Sheamus vs. Hardy Bar Fight, Naomi on MizTV, Extreme Rules fallout, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



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

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JULY 24, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with another promo montage, beginning with Jeff Hardy. He said he plans to beat the “holy hell” out of Sheamus. Cut to Sheamus, who claimed Hardy would find himself in a familiar place – struggling to stand in the bar. He promised Jeff a headache via Brogue Kick. JBL chimed in from home, saying he’d save his prediction for later.

Michael Cole and Corey Graves teased the match briefly, then welcomed the audience to the show over a wide shot of the WWE Performance Center.

-Sasha Banks’ music played and she stepped onto the stage, followed by Bayley. Sasha was still carrying the Raw Women’s Championship. Cole and Graves recapped both Banks’ and Bayley’s matches at Extreme Rules.

Sasha defined greatness, according to the dictionary. Bayley said it’s the old division of greatness, but the new definition is just an image of the two of them. Banks said she said they’d get all the gold, and they meant it. “From this point on, the women’s evolution is over,” Sasha proclaimed, “it started with us, and it ends with us.” Bayley said it’s now their era.

Banks sent a message to all the young boys and girls idolizing them at home – if you work hard, one day, your dreams can come true. “But you can never be as great as us,” Bayley added. Nikki Cross’ music cut them off. She and Alexa Bliss walked onto the stage.

Nikki Cross declared their era “over.” Bliss told her it’s not advisable to get physical tonight. Cross revealed she has a cracked rib, but said she wants a rematch for the Smackdown Women’s title. Bayley shrugged her off, saying she won fair and square. Bayley offered Nikki a rematch if she can beat Alexa Bliss. Bayley said the winner can face her for the title next week.

Nikki and Bliss talked it over, but Cross shoved Bliss to the ground. “We have to do this!” she said. Bliss looked confused. The show went to commercial.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Here we go with wrestlers making their own matches again. As much as I enjoy the antics of Sasha and Bayley, this angle with Bliss and Cross is getting old. There’s only so many versions of this story they can tell, and it feels like this is more or less scraping the bottom of that barrel. I also dislike any suggestion of dissent among Bliss and Cross, considering they’ve been such an effective babyface pairing. As an aside, why is it being treated as though neither Banks nor Asuka is Raw Women’s champion? The match had no legal conclusion. Asuka is still Women’s champion, and insinuating anything else is ridiculous. They should be making that far more clearer than they have been to date.)

-Michael Cole and Corey Graves welcomed Sasha Banks and Bayley to the commentary table when the show returned from break.

(1) NIKKI CROSS vs. ALEXA BLISS

Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss locked up as the bell rang, then quickly broke and returned to the center of the ring. Bliss worked Cross’ arm over and then rolled Nikki up for a quick one count. Cross shot to her feet and tried the same roll up on Bliss with identical results.

The two locked up again, wrestling each other through multiple headlock takedowns and leg scissors. Bliss caught Cross with a shoulder takedown, leapfrogged her on the rebound and got caught with a pair of arm drags from Cross. Bliss and Cross traded elbows out of the corner, leading to Cross attempting a tornado DDT from the corner. Bliss blocked it and set up for a DDT of her own, blocked by Cross.

Cross dropped Bliss repeatedly with running clotheslines, then a running bulldog out of the corner for a near fall. Cross went for a swinging neckbreaker but Bliss spun out of it and took Cross down with a basement dropkick. Cross rolled to the outside. Bliss tried to follow, but wound up getting caught up in the ropes. Bliss freed herself and the two turned their attention to Banks and Bayley, screaming at them both from the announcers desk. Cross and Bliss dropped the tag champions as Cole sent the show to commercial.

Out of the break, Bliss kicked Nikki Cross to the outside and hit a baseball slide through the middle rope. Banks and Bayley had rejoined the commentary team. Nikki returned to the ring and walked into a snapmare from Bliss. Bliss worked over the shoulder and injured ribs of Cross, then gave her a kick to the midsection. Bliss hit double knees, which sent Cross rolling to the outside. The two jostled briefly on the outside, then brought it back into the ring.

Bliss hit another rolling double knee, then covered Nikki for a two count. Alexa turned her attention to the shoulder and elbow, driving her boot into Cross’ midsection at the same time. Bliss applied pressure to the ribs with her elbow while mouthing “I’m sorry” to Nikki.

Cross managed to battle back with a jawbreaker and a trio of elbows. She shot Bliss to the corner and bashed her head into the turnbuckle repeatedly. Cross went for the top rope tornado DDT again, but Bliss shoved her away, then hit a sunset bomb with a cover for a near fall.

Alexa climbed to the top rope, but Nikki cut her off and set up for a superplex. Bliss shoved her to the mat and then dropped down. Cross caught Bliss with a diving reverse DDT for a near fall. Cross headed to the top rope and dove, but Bliss rolled away from the cross body. Bliss tried to capitalize, but Cross rolled her up and got a three count.

WINNER: Nikki Cross in 14:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent match that got better as it went along. The early bits of the match felt a little sloppy as the two felt each other out as opponents. Bliss, in particular, seemed a little timid. The action picked up, though, and I thought Bliss’ facials were particularly impressive. She mostly worked as the designated heel in the match, but she showed remorse for working Nikki’s injury over strategically and never cross into the territory of exploiting the injury unfairly. Bliss’ post-match despair makes me worried that their may be some kind of twist coming, and I really hope that isn’t the case. Bliss is a good babyface, and the pairing of she and Nikki is a lot of fun.)

-Cole and Graves teased a new episode of the Firefly Funhouse tonight.

-After the break, Nikki Cross was approached by Alexa Bliss backstage. “You got one over on me,” Bliss said. She handed Nikki a water and said she was happy for her. Bliss said it’s time to focus on beating Bayley. They hugged and Bliss encouraged Cross.

-The Firefly Funhouse title card played, but shorted out to a clip recapping the Swamp match.

“Yowie wowie, that sure was fun!” Bray said, now back in his sweater inside the funhouse, kneeling next to his Wyatt head lantern. Bray heard a voice from the head lantern, but said “your job is done for now,” signifying the end of cult leader Wyatt’s return. Bray laughed and said he can’t let him out again.

Wyatt turned sinister. “It’s his turn now. He has been unleashed.” Clips of The Fiend cut in and out. Bray smiled and waved goodbye as the funhouse theme song played him out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: It took a while to get here, but the inevitable has played out more or less as anticipated. The Fiend is back, and he’s Braun Strowman’s final challenger in the three faces of Wyatt feud. The first two encounters were, in my opinion, absolute duds, so I have little hope for round three. With that being said, The Fiend is Wyatt’s most interesting, and least damaged incarnation, so I suppose it’s…sort of interesting?)

-Back at the announcers desk, Cole and Graves turned their attention to Matt Riddle, saying he’d be in action next. Cole threw to a recap of last week’s Intercontinental title match between A.J. Styles and Matt Riddle. They discussed King Corbin’s post match attack.

-Matt Riddle headed to the ring. Cole said he’d be in action after the break.

(2) MATT RIDDLE vs. TONY NESE

Tony Nese was already in the ring when the show returned from break. The bell immediately rang and Matt Riddle pounced, hitting Nese with multiple gut wrench slams. Riddle hit a pair of Brotons and covered for a near fall.

Tony Nese recovered enough to catch Riddle with a jawbreaker, then a quick springboard moonsault for a two count. Nese tried to ground Riddle, but Riddle quickly outpoured him and scooped him into position for the Bro Derek. Tony Nese slid out of it and retreated to the corner, but Riddle chased him down and hit a big exploder suplex, followed by a stiff chest kick.

Riddle scooped up Nese and hit the Bro Derek for a quick three count.

WINNER: Matt Riddle in 2:00

“I’m kind of new here, so I don’t know how this works, but I’m gonna give it a try,” Riddle said after grabbing a mic. He called out King Corbin. “Come on bro, let’s go.” King Corbin’s music hit and he walked onto the stage. Corbin said Riddle doesn’t have the right to call out a king. He told Riddle to make a formal request, but warned him it would be rejected. “You’re just not ready,” Corbin said. He claimed Riddle has a new car smell, but soon he’ll just be a frat boy looking like he just rolled out of bed. Corbin said Riddle doesn’t belong in his kingdom. Corbin said he’s placing a “king’s ransom” on Riddle.

Riddle said Corbin has it all wrong. “You are the next special guest star on the bro show,” Riddle said. Tony Nese tried to attack Matt Riddle, but Riddle caught him with a kick to the head.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Quick squash match. It’s unfortunate that Tony Nese got beat so quickly, but Riddle needed a decisive, powerful win to rebound from last week’s loss to Styles, and this did the trick. The post match promo confirms what I feared – a seemingly long term feud with King Corbin that sees Riddle having to work through multiple iterations of Corbin’s cronies in order to actually get to Corbin. I appreciate them trying to make it sound different by not specifically aligning anyone with Corbin, but instead calling it a “king’s ransom,” but, we know how this will likely go. Corbin’s programs are all more or less identical, and they all run far too long.)

-Backstage, The Miz and John Morrison argued over hashtags. Morrison suggested incredibly long examples. Miz walked off, saying they have a show to do. Graves said MizTV with Naomi would be next

-Out of the break, Michael Cole teased the bar fight between Jeff Hardy and Sheamus. JBL appeared from home, discussing the tricks of the trade in a bar fight. He predicted Jeff Hardy would “toast his demons goodbye.”

-Back in the ring, The Miz and John Morrison stood awaiting their cue from Greg Hamilton. Miz welcomed everyone to MizTV as the crowd booed him. Morrison said he and Miz employ a room of “trend forecasters” to stay on top of the hottest topics. Morrison introduced his new hashtag, “#MoreMorrison.” Miz eventually cut him off to introduce their guest, Naomi.

Naomi headed to the ring. Graves said the Internet presented her with the equivalent of a participation trophy and suggested she start winning. Miz and Morrison danced wildly to Naomi’s music. Naomi took a seat as Miz mentioned her “heartbreak loss” on last week’s Smackdown. Miz said Naomi trended after losing to Lacey Evans. Naomi said the fans have her back and called them her motivation.

Miz wondered why people weren’t talking about Lacey Evans instead. They asked if losing made Naomi sick, calling back to an earlier joke about Seth Rollins’ puke. Naomi sat in silence, awkwardly. Naomi asked Miz why he feels like he can pass judgment on her and her fans. Miz said he didn’t expect the interview to be so confrontational. Morrison apologized, saying it’s about to get worse. Miz welcomed Lacey Evans.

Lacey Evans headed to the ring. She joked about Noami being a “pity hashtag” and called Naomi washed up. Lacey started applying lipstick. Naomi shoved her, causing it to mark her face. Evans left the ring in a rage as Naomi laughed.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was a horrible segment, capitalizing on a horrible previous two weeks of angles. WWE, ever the opportunists even when it’s an indictment of their own booking, couldn’t resist making an angle out of Naomi trending on Twitter for being booked horribly. Lacey Evans isn’t the bad guy here, the promotion is the bad guy. If that weren’t bad enough, newly cemented heel Lacey Evans failed to explain her new attitude in any way and instead, reverted to her old character without so much as an acknowledgment that she was a proud mother and America loving babyface just a few weeks ago.)

-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves tossed to the Progressive Match Flo, covering the Smackdown Tag Team title match at Extreme Rules.

-Backstage, Big E paced outside the doctor’s room. Kofi Kingston stepped out and informed Big E he’d be out for about six weeks. Big E said he should heal up and then they can take the titles back. Kofi said he’d been talking to Xavier Woods and they want Big E to continue as a singles competitor while they’re out. Big E argued, but Kofi persisted, telling Big E how selfless he’s been throughout the entire career of New Day. Big E finally relented. He and Kofi hugged.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This could wind up being the best thing to happen to Smackdown this year. Big E is an incredible talent who is long overdue for a singles push where he’s taken seriously. I absolutely love this direction, and sincerely hope they give him absolutely every opportunity to succeed.)

-A.J. Styles headed to the ring, Cole and Graves welcomed to the commentary table and said they’d determine Styles’ next opponent after the break.

(3) DREW GULAK vs. GRAN METALIK vs. LINCE DORADO vs. SHORTY G – #1 contender’s match for the Intercontinental title

All four men were already in the ring when the show returned from commercial. The bell rang and A.J. Styles asked if it was “weird” that any of these four could win a title match with one victory (yes.) 

The action spilled to the outside quickly, with Drew Gulak giving Lince Dorado a slam on the floor. Gran Metalik flew over the top rope and took Gulak down. When Metalik returned to the ring, Shorty G rolled him up for a two count. Metalik and Gable traded quick takedowns before Metalik took control with a springboard dropkick and cover, broken up by Drew Gulak.

Lince Dorado caught Drew Gulak with a boot to the face and a hurricanrana, sending him to the outside. Dorado dove through the ropes onto Gulak. In the ring, Shorty G hit Metalik with a dropkick out of the air. Shorty G climbed to the turnbuckle and dove onto Gulak and Dorado on the outside. Cole sent the show to commercial.

After the break, Shorty G hit Gran Metalik with a backdrop then got taken down by Drew Gulak. Gulak and Gable wrestled each other into multiple pinfall attempts and sickouts. Gable tossed Gulak to the outside and Gran Metalik rejoined the fray. Shorty G dropped Metalik, then Gulak returned and the two tried to double team Metalik. Metalik caught both men with a springboard back elbow.

Lince Dorado returned to the ring and took down Gulak and Shorty G. He followed up with a springboard moonsault onto Gulak for a two count. Dorado shot to the top rope and hit Gulak with a diving cross body for another near fall. Dorado followed up with a springboard stunner and a cover, but Gran Metalik broke it up. Metalik and Dorado began arguing. Shorty G returned and took them both down.

Shorty G hit an exploder suplex on Drew Gulak, then an dangerous look backdrop on Metalik for a near fall. G and Gulak locked up and Gulak transitioned into the Gu-Lock. Shorty G used the ropes to flip through it, then grabbed the ankle lock. Shorty G locked it in, but Lince Dorado hit him with a splash from the top rope for a near fall.

Dorado hit a pair of moonsaults from the first and second rope. He set up for a third, but Gulak cut him off. Shorty G dumped Gulak to the outside, then got dropped by Lince Dorado. Gran Metalik hopped in and hit a springboard elbow off the top, covering Shorty G for a three count.

WINNER: Gran Metalik in 12:00

After the match, Styles entered the ring and offered Metalik a handshake. Metalik hesitated, so Styles slapped him. Gran Metalik hit Styles with a leaping tornado DDT, then held up the Intercontinental title as Styles seethed on the outside.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I have to agree with A.J. here, why would winning this match earn any of these guys a title match? As inconvenient as it may to be acknowledge, and whether fair or not, none of these four have won major singles matches recently or with any consistency. There’s a reason WWE opted not to advertise who would be in the match before they went to commercial – they knew they had nothing. As talented as these guys are, none of have been treated well enough to perceive they be a credible threat to A.J. Styles or the Intercontinental title. Ultimately, it hardly mattered who won. I’m sure Metalik and Styles will have a fine match, and this match was good in its own right, but it just felt like a poorly planned time filler.)

-A video package recapping the romance between Otis and Mandy Rose aired. Cole announced that their story would continue next week.

-Corey Graves said the bar fight between Sheamus and Jeff Hardy would be next.

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton congratulated Gran Metalik and welcomed Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura when the show returned from commercial. Shinsuke wondered which was more rewarding – putting Kofi Kingston through the first or second table. Cesaro said he regretted not being able to put Big E through a table too. “Bigger splat,” Nakamura surmised.

Cesaro said he doesn’t believe anything Kofi said about it being Big E’s time. Nakamura said it was he and Cesaro’s time. He promised to make all teams on Smackdown go “splat.”

-Cole and Graves reset at the announcers desk, setting up for the bar fight between Jeff Hardy and Sheamus. Cole threw a video package recapping their story, then said the match would follow the break.

-After the break, Cole and Graves threw to Irish Shannon’s Bar for the main event.

(4) SHEAMUS vs. JEFF HARDY – Bar Fight

Sheamus walked into the bar and sat down. His bartender poured him a drink. Sheamus asked if Jeff had arrived and the bartender said he hadn’t. After a couple moments, Jeff walked in and sat down next to Sheamus. Sheamus offered him a shot. Jeff asked for a cup. The referee asked if they’re ready to begin. Jeff asked him to wait.

Jeff said his brother had to “delete” his WWE career, and tonight, he has to recover his. “I hope you’re ready for anything,” Jeff said. Sheamus said Jeff is weak and pathetic. Jeff asked if Sheamus is still “the bar.” Sheamus said he raises the bar, and he is the bar.

Hardy said he’s connected to everything – “I am this bar.” Sheamus called him a pathetic junkie. He handed his hat to the bartender. Jeff threw his glass of water in Sheamus’ face and punched him repeatedly over a generic rock soundtrack. Jeff slammed Sheamus off the bar top, but Sheamus quickly recovered and slammed Hardy.

Sheamus dragged Jeff across the bar, shattering glasses as he went. Sheamus gave Hardy the Ten Beats of the Bodhran on top of the bar, then tossed him to the ground among the glass and liquor. Sheamus asked for a shot of the “good stuff” from the top shelf. Hardy recovered and pounced on Sheamus.

The two tossed each other into a faux brick wall repeatedly, then off barrels stacked near the bar. Jeff threw mini basketballs at Sheamus from an arcade game nearby. The fought into the hallway, slamming each other into the wals. Sheamus hit Hardy over the back with an empty keg, then tried to choke him with it.

Sheamus slammed Hardy’s leg in the bathroom door, then dragged him inside the men’s room. He stuck his head in a urinal and flushed. Hardy coughed and rolled around on the ground. Sheamus dragged him to the mirror and called him a junkie. Hardy fought back and threw Sheamus into a stall. Sheamus landed on the toilet and flushed it.

Hardy spilled back into the hallway, continuing the gag. Sheamus wandered to his feet in pursuit. Hardy surprised Sheamus with a ladder from a supply closet hitting him repeatedly in the ribs and driving him back out to the main floor. Hardy climbed a table and dove into Sheamus’ arms. Sheamus slammed Hardy into the bricks, then tossed him to the floor. He grabbed a guitar that was propped on a stage and swung it at Hardy’s head. Jeff ducked and the guitar shattered against the wall.

Sheamus Irish whipped Hardy into a drum set and Hardy crashed over it dramatically. The show awkwardly went to commercial.

Sheamus was yelling at Hardy when the show returned from break. Jeff pulled himself from underneath a table next to the toppled drum set. Hardy tossed Sheamus into a bar table and dove on top of him. Hardy hit a Twist of Fate near the bar, then set up the ladder near the barrels next to the bar. He dragged Sheamus’ body in position and gave him a stomp.

Hardy climbed the ladder during an awkward musical transition. The bartender attacked him from behind. Hardy hopped down and power bombed the bartender through a table. Sheamus smashed a barstool over Hardy’s neck and head. Sheamus put his hat over Hardy’s face, then went behind the bar. He poured himself a beer and saluted Jeff.

Sheamus finished his beer He called for a referee. Sheamus pulled his hat from Hardy’s face and revealed that it was now painted, and his eyes were glazed over with contacts. Hardy jolted alive and dropped Sheamus, then climbed the ladder. Jeff hit a Swanton Bomb off the top of the ladder to the concrete floor below, then covered Sheamus for a three count.

WINNER: Jeff Hardy in 16:00

Hardy blinked and his contacts disappeared. The show faded to black as Hardy’s music played.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was on the higher end of WWE’s cinematic matches, until the closing minutes. For some reason, they cannot possibly resist the urge to turn these things into supernatural fodder. There’s nothing supernatural about Jeff Hardy’s character. He’s not Bray Wyatt. This was a blood feud, rooted in reality and meant to be highly personal. Why they’d choose to completely ruin that by going with this ridiculous, childish, horribly stupid finish is beyond comprehension. I can’t even begin to give this a passing grade simply based on the idiocy of that finish alone.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Smackdown is a bad show filled with bad writing doing a great disservice to the incredible talent WWE has at its disposal. Week after week, talent continues to work hard under less-than-ideal conditions, and they’re being actively hurt by horrendous booking and embarrassing writing. This show alone featured a tired feud anchoring the women’s division,  a complete failure in the main event picture, unexplained match-making, undeserved title shots, and a supernatural finish to a cinematic match that came completely out of left field. It’s as though everyone but the wrestlers themselves have completely thrown in the towel.

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