LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 7/31: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Styles vs. Metalik, Bayley vs. Cross, Big E’s singles push, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor



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

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
JULY 21, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened with a montage of rapid fire hype promos from Bayley & Sasha Banks, Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss, Big E, The Miz & John Morrison, Lacey Evans, Naomi, Gran Metalik, and A.J. Styles.

-The Firefly Funhouse title card appeared and Bray Wyatt walked onto screen, sporting goggles. He said he’d been out searching from Braun Strowman. Wyatt said a part of Strowman’s soul will be trapped in the swamp forever. “I never wanted to hurt Braun Strowman, I only wanted to help him, but now he is awake.” The Fiend’s face flashed on the screen. Wyatt said until “he” gets what he wants, no one is safe. “Let me in,” Bray said. He said goodbye and waved at the camera.

-Michael Cole and Corey Graves welcomed the audience to the show over a wide shot of the WWE Performance Center. Cole said Wyatt had “frightening” words.

-A.J. Styles music played and he headed to the ring. Cole said they were kicking off the show with an Intercontinental title match. Corey Graves said Gran Metalik outlasted three other Superstars to earn this opportunity. Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado headed to the ring with new piñata CGI hanging over the ring. Corey Graves sent the show to commercial.

After the break, Greg Hamilton provided traditional championship match introductions.

(1) A.J. STYLES (c) vs. GRAN METALIK (w/ Lince Dorado) – WWE Intercontinental title match

A.J. Styles and Gran Metalik circled the ring and then locked up. Styles backed Metalik into the corner, but the official called for a quick break. Styles obliged. Styles teased another lock up but wound up kicking Metalik in the gut, dropping him to the mat. Styles tossed Gran Metalik to the corner, gave him a quick punch, then gave him a backbreaker out of the corner.

Styles gave Metalik a stalling vertical suplex and covered him for a two count. He scooped up Metalik, drove him to the corner and drove his shoulder into Metalik’s gut  repeatedly. Styles whipped Metalik to the opposing corner and smiled cockily. Styles set up for a Styles Clash, but Gran Metalik quickly scooted away, seeking refuge in the ropes.

Gran Metalik finally turned the tide with a head scissor takeover, sending Styles rolling to the apron. A.J. quickly recovered with a kick to the shin, sending Metalik to the outside. Styles tried to dive over the ropes, but Metalik took him out at the legs, then gave him a hurricanrana off the apron and onto the floor. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Styles cut off Metalik’s top rope offense when the show returned from break. Metalik managed to shove A.J. off the turnbuckle and dive onto him for a two count. Styles retreated to the corner. Gran Metalik tried to give him a monkey flip, but Styles hung onto Metalik’s legs, dropping him. Styles burst out of the corner and went to work on Metalik’s legs, kicking at them and eventually tying them up in the bottom rope.

A.J. dragged Metalik to the center of the ring and drove his knees into the inside of the leg. Styles turned Metalik over into a half crab, but Metalik was able to drag himself to the ropes. A.J. dragged Metalik to his feet by the leg, but Metalik managed to roll him up for a two count. Metalik followed it up with a tornado DDT off of a head scissor transition, scoring a near fall.

Metalik dropped Styles with a missile dropkick from the middle rope for another two count. He tried to continue his offense, but his knee gave out, allowing Styles to fire off a flurry of punches and kicks. A.J. hit a big clothesline and tried to capitalize, but Metalik caught him with an enziguri. Metalik went to the ropes again, but Styles cut him off with a big chop block. Styles applied the Calf Crusher and Metalik tapped quickly.

WINNER: A.J. Styles in 15:00 to retain the Intercontinental title

Lince Dorado entered the ring to check on the leg of Gran Metalik. Styles blindsided him and gave him a Styles Clash. Cole said Styles has put the entire Smackdown locker room on notice.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid, methodical match that told a story. Styles worked Metalik’s leg for the majority of the match and cut off most of his high flying offense, forcing Metalik to work a bit of a different style than he has in Lucha House Party. The results were mostly positive. Styles looks to be re-establishing himself as Smackdown’s workhorse, which is, in my opinion, when he’s consistently done his best work in WWE. The Intercontinental title picture, despite a few bumps in the road, has been the most interesting and consistent thing going on on Smackdown for a while now, save Bayley and Sasha’s antics. I look forward to that continuing.)

-Backstage, King Corbin approached Shorty G. He told Gable that it could be him getting Intercontinental title shots if he “had the right friends.” Corbin tried to act friendly with Gable, but Gable saw it as a ploy to get Corbin to help him take out Matt Riddle. Corbin mentioned the King’s Ransom and told him to think about it.

-Michael Cole threw to a recap of last week’s bar fight main event.

-Jeff Hardy was shown celebrating with Smackdown wrestlers, referees, and agents backstage. Corey Graves said Hardy would discuss what’s next for him after the break.

-Jeff Hardy headed to the ring following the commercial. Hardy soaked in applause from the PC crowd and said he hasn’t felt this good in a long time. Jeff said sobriety is a never ending challenge he’ll have to face, but beating Sheamus in a bar fight was a reminder to him that he’s on the right path.

“I’m an alcoholic, but I’m so much more than that,” Jeff said. He said he’s a father, a loving husband, and a WWE Superstar. He said he’s grateful and that he never wants to let the fans, or his family down again. Hardy was cut off by King Corbin’s music. Corbin said if he has to listen to Jeff anymore, his head will explode.

“You’re the charismatic enigma known for taking things to the extreme,” Corbin said, “now you’re just whining and crying about recovery.” Corbin told Jeff to shut up and deal with it. He said his kingdom is turning into an insane asylum. Hardy said if everyone around you seems to be the problem, maybe you’re the real problem.

Corbin told Jeff that he should want to stay in his good graces, mentioning the King’s Ransom. “You’re more concerned about sitting in a circle, talking about the twelve steps and collecting gold coins.” Drew Gulak appeared and attacked Corbin from behind. Cole said they’d face off next.

(2) KING CORBIN vs. DREW GULAK

The match was already in progress when the show returned from commercial. Drew Gulak wrestled Corbin to the ground by his arm but Corbin out-powered him back to his feet. Gulak stayed on the offensive, catching Corbin’s leg and tossing him to the mat. Gulak continued to manipulate Corbin’s arm before getting caught with a stiff right hand from King Corbin.

Corbin drove his elbow into Gulak’s shoulder and grabbed a hold. Gulak fought out of it slowly, but Corbin still scooped and dropped him then turned him over into a half crab. Corbin tried to punch Gulak, but Gulak caught the arm and rolled into a Labell Lock before transitioning into a crossface. Corbin managed to escape by hooking his leg to the bottom rope.

Gulak dropkicked Corbin into the ropes then hit a missile dropkick off the top rope, covering him for a two count. Gulak shot off the ropes but Corbin hit him with a Deep Six. Matt Riddle’s music played and he walked onto the stage. Drew Gulak rolled Corbin up and nearly beat him, but Corbin kicked out. Corbin hit Gulak with End of Days for a three count.

WINNER: King Corbin in 5:00 (partial)

Matt Riddle hit the ring immediately and attacked King Corbin. Shorty G ran out and gave Matt Riddle a German suplex. G smiled at Corbin, intimated to Corbin that he wanted th random, then left the ring. Corbin smiled. “Money talks,” Cole said.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Well, as anticipated, Corbin is paired with random wrestlers to prolong his feuds. First it was Ziggler and Roode, then it was Miz and Morrison, now it appears to be Shorty G, at least for now. I dislike this pairing, especially for Gable. It doesn’t fit his personality, nor does it really make a whole lot of sense for him to suddenly be concerned with a monetary reward. Gable’s character has never been motivated by money, but rather, by a love of pro wrestling. This feels like another short sighted, half-baked idea. If nothing else, though, we should get a good match or three between Riddle and Gable.) 

-Big E’s voice filled the Performance Center when the show returned from commercial. Cole said it was “indeed a new day” for him tonight. Cole threw to Kofi’s spirited blessing for Big E to go out his own while the rest of New Day are on the shelf. The Miz headed to the ring with John Morrison.

(3) BIG E vs. THE MIZ (w/ John Morrison)

The bell rang as the second hour of the show began. Big E locked up with the Miz and powered him into the corner. Miz swatted Big E away. Big E wrestled The Miz into the adjacent corner, broke the hold, and swiveled his hips at Miz. Miz shot out of the corner and grabbed a waist lock, but Big E quickly tossed him away.

Miz kicked Big E in the gut and dropped him to a knee with punches. Big E leap frogged Miz’s rope run and grabbed an abdominal stretch. Miz broke free, but Big E caught him with a high back elbow for a quick two count. Back to his feet, Miz slapped Big E across the face. Big E tossed Miz violently to the outside, then chased him down and slammed his face off the announcers desk. Big E tossed Miz into the ring post, then traded words with John Morrison.

Miz wandered to his feet and Big E tossed him into the plexiglass barricade, then back into the ring. Miz distracted the referee long enough for Morrison to deliver a swift leaping kick off the steps. Miz followed up with a baseball slide through the middle ropes.

Miz tossed Big E back in the ring, ascended the turnbuckle, and hit a double axe handle, covering Big E for a two count. Miz applied a headlock but Big E quickly fought out of it and tossed Miz to the apron. Big E hit a big clothesline, dropping Miz onto the apron. Big E joined Miz n the apron and went for his diving apron splash, but Miz rolled out of the way. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Big E was grounded in a chin lock when the show returned from commercial. He managed to dump Miz into the corner and connect with a trio of overhead belly-to-belly suplexes. Big E followed up with a running splash. Miz wandered to his feet and tried to escape, but Big E caught him. Miz tried to hit a Skull Crushing Finale, but Big E scooped him up for the Big Ending. Miz managed to rake Big E’s eyes and plant him with a DDT for a near fall. Both men slowly rose to their knees. Miz set up for the “it” kicks.

Big E caught the final kick and scooped him up. Miz slid through E’s grasp and kicked him in the knee, toppling E into the corner. Miz hits pair of running knees and went for a third, but Big E caught him with a Uranagi out of nowhere. Miz rolled to the apron and pulled himself to his feet, then caught Big E with a knee. Miz wandered into the vision of the referee, which allowed John Morrison to leap on the apron and deliver a kick to Big E.

Miz grabbed Big E and hit the Skull Crushing Finale. Big E managed to kick out just in time. Miz locked in a figure four leg lock, but Big E managed to survive. Miz draped Big E on the middle rope and tried to distract the referee again. Charles Robinson caught Morrison just as he was about to kick Big E in the head. Morrison was ejected. As Miz pleaded his case, Big E rolled him up for a two count. Big E grabbed a stretch muffler submission and Miz tapped almost instantly.

WINNER: Big E in 14:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent match, but a little peculiar that they gave Miz quite as much offense as they did, given that this seemed to be a launching point for Big E’s singles career. Miz and Morrison have more or less served as “jobbers to the stars” as of late, with varying degrees of competitiveness. This, like Morrison’s match with Matt Riddle several weeks ago, felt more about filling time than about actually getting anyone over in any discernible way. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more seriousness from Big E out of the gate, but they sold the story well that Big E flipped a switch when Miz slapped him in the face. I’m interested to see where things go for Big E.)

-Backstage, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura celebrated with champagne. They were interrupted by Lucha House Party. Nakamura asked if they liked parties. They broke into a “Lucha” chant. Cesaro reminded Nakamura that this is a party for champions only. They kicked Lucha House Party out.

-Michael Cole teased the women’s title match between Bayley and Nikki Cross later on tonight. Graves said Naomi vs. Lacey Evans would be up next.

-Out of the break, Sheamus discussed his bar fight backstage. He said he felt there was a “greater power” influencing Jeff Hardy – alcohol. He said it was practically a handicap match, and it’s a wonder he survived as long as he did. Sheamus said he’s not making excuses, but Hardy will take himself out eventually “Jeff Hardy is no longer my problem, and that’s bad news for the Smackdown locker room.” Sheamus hung his hat on the camera and walked off screen.

-Lacey Evans headed to the ring and grabbed a microphone. She said she beat Naomi in the ring and at karaoke, but people wanted to feel sorry for her. She promised to make people feel sorry for her tonight. Naomi headed to the ring.

(4) LACEY EVANS vs. NAOMI

Lacey Evans drove Naomi into the corner as soon as the bell rang. Naomi quickly leapt up, put her boots in Evans face to shove her back, and then launched forward for a hurricanrana. Evans caught her in the air and slammed her hard to the mat.

Evans hit Naomi with a hard face plant, then gator rolled her to the apron. She bent Naomi awkwardly across the ring post, then dragged her to the outside and tossed her into the adjacent post. Evans trapped Naomi’s hair in between the two sets of steps and told the referee to count. Naomi freed herself and returned to the ring at a count of six.

Naomi caught Evans with a kick to the back of the head, sending her to the outside. She slid through the ropes and hit an awkward and dangerous looking sunset flip bomb. She tossed Evans back in the ring, but Lacey recovered quickly and slammed her into the turnbuckle. Evans tried tying Naomi’s hair in the ropes, but Naomi broke free and rolled Evans up for a three count.

WINNER: Naomi in 3:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Sloppy, dangerous looking match. The Evans heel turn carries no weight given how it was executed, and the novel outcry of support for Naomi has been righteously co-opted by WWE, rendering its original intent rather moot. I understand that Naomi is a well respected veteran with tenure, but she simply has never been a particularly strong wrestler, save for some of her heavily coordinated athletic spots. This match was sort of a perfect example of that. I’m just not sure what they’re going for here. Naomi is slotted at just about the right spot, and Lacey Evans has failed to really connect as either a babyface or heel, and now they’ve just traded wins in two consecutive bad matches and been embarrassed in an absolutely horrendous karaoke competition.)

-Otis and Mandy Rose were shown walking backstage. Mandy said it’s “been a while” since they had a proper date. She told Otis that she booked them a table at his favorite BBQ spot. Otis ran down a list of things he planned to eat. Mandy agreed to them all. She said she wanted to surprise him with a peach sundae, then listed off all the fixings. She told him to get ready and meet her back there. They took off in separate directions. Sonya Deville lurked in the background.

-Mandy Rose was shown putting on lipstick in a mirror backstage when the show returned from commercial. Sonya Deville attacked her from behind, smearing her lipstick and screaming at her. She tossed Rose to the ground, then dragged her up by her hair. Deville roughed up Rose’s hair, getting the lipstick all through it. Deville grabbed a pair of scirros and cut chunks of Mandy’s hair off.

Deville said she promised to ruin Mandy’s life, then she kicked her in the face and began rummaging through beauty products and grooming supplies. She grabbed an electric razor and turned it on. Deville was cute off by a trio of referees and Adam Pearce. They surrounded her, and she begged off, carrying a clump of Mandy’s hair with her.

-After a quick reset from Cole and Graves, they tossed to Kayla Braxton backstage, standing in front of the scene. Otis and Tucker ran in to check on Mandy. The Miz and John Morrison wandered on screen and made a number of hair puns to Kayla. Tucker finally overheard them and approached. Miz and Morrison threw back to Cole and Graves and ran away.

(LeClair’s Analysis: The lipstick running through Mandy’s hair was a nice visual, but it sort of feels like this angle has been done to death. I am curious to see how Sonya Deville does without Dolph Ziggler to play off of, though. Looks like Heavy Machinery are poised to head into a program with Miz and Morrison, who continue to fulfill their duties as the guys who just lose to everyone and climb up and down the card without rhyme or reason on a weekly basis.)

-Cole and Graves tossed to Progressive’s Match Flo, covering the number one contenders match between Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss on last week’s Smackdown. Nikki Cross headed to the ring for the main event, set for after the break.

Bayley headed to the ring with Sasha Banks after the commercial. Cole touted her 294 day reign as Smackdown Women’s champion. Greg Hamilton provided standard championship match introductions.

(5) NIKKI CROSS (w/ Alexa Bliss) vs. BAYLEY (c, w/ Sasha Banks) – Smackdown Women’s title match

Nikki Cross charged at Bayley as soon as the bell rang, but Bayley side stepped her and reset. Cross charged again, this time connecting with right hands that sent Bayley reeling to the corner. Cross dropped Bayley then hit a quick monkey flip. Bayley slid to the outside to regroup.

Cross jumped outside and retrieved the champion. Bayley took control in the ring and hit Cross with a leg drop for a quick two count. Cross fell to the corner, but recovered quickly, kicked Bayley, and tossed her ribs first into the ring post through the turnbuckle. Cross chased Bayley to the outside, tossed Bayley over the announcers desk, then stood atop it defiantly. Michael Cole sent the show to commercial.

Bayley had Nikki Cross in a chin lock on the mat when the show returned from break. She transitioned into a cover for a two count. Bayley walked Cross to the corner, kicked her, then hit her with a back suplex for another two count. Cross wandered to the opposing corner, Bayley followed her. She went for a quick back elbow, but Cross ducked and Bayley hit the turnbuckle hard. Cross hit Bayley’s ribs with open palm strikes. She followed up with a cross body for a two count.

Nikki set up Bayley and connected with a tornado DDT off the second rope, covering her again. Bayley kicked out at two. Bayley rolled to the apron, but Nikki followed her, hitting a falling reverse DDT onto the edge of the ring. Bayley rolled to the floor, where Sasha came to check on her.

Back in the ring, Cross hit a neckbreaker for a near fall. She came up holding Sasha Banks’ “BOSS” ring. She contemplated using it, but tossed it at Banks instead. Bayley recovered and tossed Nikki to the outside. Bayley climbed the announcers desk and danced like Cross. Cross recovered and dropped her quickly, tossing her into the plexiglass.

Both women returned to the ring. Sasha Banks tried to get involved, but Alexa Bliss ripped her off the apron by the leg. Cross caught Bayley with a cross body from the top rope into a cover, Bayley rolled through it into a two count of her own. Both women traded multiple pin fall attempts. Bayley broke the cycle with her Rose Plant finisher and covered Nikki Cross for a three count.

WINNER: Bayley in 11:00

Bayley rolled from the ring and collected her Women’s title from Sasha Banks. Alexa Bliss consoled Nikki in the ring. She helped Nikki to her feet, but Cross shoved her to the floor. Bliss sat saddened in the ring, then the lights cut out. They returned, bathed in red, with The Fiend standing behind Alexa Bliss. He offered her his hand, then got down on one knee and stared her in the face. The Fiend brought his hand to Alexa’s mouth slowly, then applied the mandible claw. Bliss collapsed. The show cut to black.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Well. That sure was something. Bayley and Nikki had a spirited, competitive match with some fun back and forth near the end. It was nothing special, but it served its purpose. Cross continued to struggle with her inability to “win the big one”, while Bayley and Sasha continued their dominance. The real story here, though, is obviously The Fiend’s return to the PC and his attack on Alexa Bliss. This is sure to draw the ire of Braun Strowman, which could step up the intrigue level in his feud with The Fiend. In general, I find that Braun Strowman has been most likable when paired with Alexa Bliss. They’ve always had on-screen chemistry, and I don’t imagine that’s changed since the last time we saw them together. Putting Bliss in the corner of Strowman with him serving as her brotherly protector should, in theory, make him a more sympathetic character for the final chapter of this feud.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: This felt like a fairly dramatic improvement over the last couple weeks of shows. There is still plenty to be discouraged by – Miz and Morrison’s floundering lack of direction despite ample TV time, a monotonous, cookie-cutter program introduction for King Corbin, more bad television between Naomi and Lacey Evans, and a continued sense of lack of depth and star power. On a positive note, though, A.J. Styles is re-emerging as in-ring focal point and workhorse, Alexa Bliss’ inclusion in the Universal title program should breathe some new life into it, and I’m cautiously optimistic about Big E’s singles run as well. Smackdown is still very much a flawed show in need of some major rehabilitation, but for the first time in several weeks, I do feel like there’s some intrigue over what’s to come next.

2 Comments on LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 7/31: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Styles vs. Metalik, Bayley vs. Cross, Big E’s singles push, more

  1. Nothing feels weird about the physical assault of a man in a mask on a woman in service of some stupid supernatural storyline? were all the babyfaces in the back asleep? That was garbage.

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