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KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
AUGUST 14, 2020
ORLANDO, FLA. AT PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON FOX NETWORK
-They replayed Retribution’s antics lately.
-They went to the Performance Center and showed the ring and entrance stage, then cut to the commentators. Cole discussed Retribution. “They seem to be hiding behind current events as an excuse for this wanton destruction.” He said WWE has taken precautions. Graves said WWE has hired extra security to guard all entrances so this potentially “earth-shattering” episode of Smackdown can go on without interruption. Cole said Bray Wyatt has been playing games and setting traps to lure Braun Strowman back to Smackdown, and this week Braun will be there. Graves hyped the Triple Brand Battle Royal for a shot at Bayley at Summerslam.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m actually quite fine with Cole saying the group is using current events as an excuse to do what they’re doing. It’s not really taking sides on any real world issue specifically. It seems the most innocuous way to frame something I would’ve voted against doing at all. We’ll see when they finally speak, though, if they can stay largely neutral on the real world issues that sparked uprisings in the streets this summer. They are navigating land mines with a big part of their audience no matter what approach they take when they finally portray them as heels with a certain mission.)
(1) BIG E vs. JOHN MORRISON
Big E introduced himself to “all the people at home.” He gyrated his way to the ring, then shoved his jacket over Graves’s head. In a prerecorded promo, he said some people would have you believe he is new to singles wrestling. “Liars! Heathens! False profits!” he shouted. He said he is a former NXT Champion and IC Champion. He closed a haunted house monster laugh. Morrison then made his way out. They cut to an inset soundbite with Morrison who said Big E’s partners are injury prone, and maybe he could get hurt too and sit at home. He said he could eat all he wants, because he always sounds hungry. He said he’s going to feed him his feet.
(Keller’s Analysis: Morrison is all-in on being a weirdo saying stupid things that mostly 8 year old boys would find funny, and for some reason I’m on board. It’s good that Big E established he has wrestled singles before. It felt like they were trying to pretend that never happened.)
As the bell was about to ring to start the match, the lights flickered and Retribution arrived. A woman entered first. Cole and Graves ran to the back. They attacked Big E and Morrison in the ring. Others stood on the announce desk with baseball bats. The audience booed then. [c]
-Miz apologized for not being faster to make the save. He said Maryse was talking to him on the phone. Miz told Big E that none of this would have happened if he “didn’t send out that Tweet.” Baron Corbin walked in and told Big E, Chad Gable, Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew Gullak, and Lucha House Party that he can lead then because he’s built to keep people safe while others crumble under pressure. Big E said this is their house. He said he may be disrespected, but he is not defeated, so he will go to the ring and beat John Morrison. He went into full preacher mode that now is not the time to run and hide, but rather it’s time to stand and fight. “Are you with me?!” he asked. Sheamus walked in, mock-applauding him. He said he is alone and vulnerable, so if he has any sense at all, he’d be very afraid of him. Big E said if he had any sense at all, he would realize he isn’t alone. LHP, Gable, and Gulak walked past him and shot him looks.
-They cut to the ring where Bayley and Sasha Banks were standing. Bayley told the audience to listen to what they have to say. She hyped the Triple Brand Battle Royal. Sasha said everyone should know better than to interrupt them. She talked about having to defend their respective titles at Summerslam. She said tonight, though, is about Bayley. She said they’re about to find out who the “lucky idiot” will be who gets to face her at Summerslam. Bayley kicked ring announcer Greg Hamilton out of the ring, then they began doing formal ring introductions themselves in a bombastic way.
(2) TRIPLE BRAND BATTLE ROYAL – Winner Gets Smackdown Title shot at Summerslam
The IIconics (Peyton Royce & Billie Kaye) came out first. Bayley said she loves beating them up, so it’d be an honor for either of them to win the match. Bayley said they already showed everyone in NXT they built that place, then she introduced Tegan Nox. She said Nox worships them. Nox nodded and smiled when she came onto the stage. Next Shotzi Blackhart came out. Next out was Lacey Evans. Bayley asked how Summer was doing and laughed obnoxiously. Bayley mini-panicked and said someone gave them a wrong card. Asuka’s music played and she charged out and attacked both Sasha and Bayley. She kicked them out of the ring, ending the special introductions. The rest of the wrestler in the match ran out to the ring as they cut to a break. [c]
The bell rang after the break to officially start the match. Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Tamina, Nikki Cross, Bianca Belair, Naomi, and Shayna Baszler, and Dana Brooke. Riott was the first eliminated by the IIconics. Nox eliminated Kaye. Shotzi eliminated Royce. Royce and Kaye yanked Morgan off the ring apron to eliminate her. They all fought at ringside briefly. They kept cutting to Bayley and Sasha reacting at ringside. Cole said this is the last time Smackdown will be in the Performance Center. He said “rumors are running rampant” they’ll be somewhere else (well, I hope so, if they’re not at the P.C.). He said they’ll be live “and the WWE Universe will be involved.” Tamina eliminated Nikki, super-kicking her off the ring apron to the floor.
Tamina and Belair battled. Belair speared Tamina, then tossed her over the top rope. Lacey eliminated Naomi. Lacey wiped her brow and tossed the tissue onto Naomi. Shotzi eliminated Lacey from behind. Baszler applied the Kirafuda Clutch on Blackhart, then eliminated her. Belair and Nox battled next. Nox ducked a charging Belair, who flew over the top to the floor. Nox rallied against Asuka and Baszler, hitting them with splashes in opposite corners. She face-planted Asuka. Baszler gut-wrenched Nox and lost her balance and almost dropped her on her head. She shoved her over the top rope. Dana Brooke then yanked her to the floor. Graves said Brooke was never eliminated. She bragged to Bayley and Sasha, “I’m still in this.” She entered the ring and handspringed at Baszler, who caught her and put on her clutch. Dana broke free and Asuka landed a hip attack to eliminate Brooke.
It came down to Baszler and Asuka. Cole said Bayley looked dejected knowing she’d have to face one of those two. Bayley tried to yank Asuka off the ring apron to eliminate her. Asuka fought her off. Baszler kneed her. Asuka landed feet-first onto the backs of Bayley and Sasha to stay legal. Baszler applied her clutch, but Asuka yanked her over her shoulder and to the floor to win.
WINNER: Asuka in 9:00 to earn a Smackdown Title match at Summerslam.
(Keller’s Analysis: Hmmm. I didn’t expect that. The intrigue over whether she wins both titles or perhaps just one, and how that’d affect the other, can be a selling point. There wasn’t exactly time to build a whole new challenger. The battle royal itself was fine. Good action, although it all felt a little rushed as is par for TV battle royals.) [c]
-Sasha was consoling Bayley, who wasn’t happy about facing Asuka. Bayley said she wasn’t even on the official list. Bayley said her title wasn’t on the line when she lost to her on Monday, but at Summerslam she’ll actually have something to fight for. Asuka then attacked them. Pat Buck ran out to separate them.
-They went to Cole and Graves, who briefly reacted to that, then threw to a video package on Sonya Deville cutting Mandy Rose’s hair.
-They cut to Mandy with shoulder-length hair. She said people have been saying she’s just another pretty face and “so fake” and “can’t wrestle” and “is just a model who has everything handed to her.” She said that hurts to this day hearing those things. She said she is a Bikini World Champion. She said she had three jobs while going through college while earning that title. She said she had to earn her job in WWE, too. She said Sonya should know how hard she had to work to get there. She thanked Sonya for making her so much more than just a pretty face. She said cutting her hair and trying to make her ugly didn’t destroy her. She challenged Sonya to “hair vs. hair” match. She said if Sonya doesn’t care how she looks, put her money where her mouth is. She promised one way or another, it would get ugly.
(Keller’s Analysis: Even if everyone is sure Sonya is going to lose and get her head shaved, the sliver of a possibility it’s Mandy who loses is a selling point. A new look for Deville can help differentiate her, too, if he goes with shorter hair after losing this match.)
-Sheamus told two security guys those Retribution lads won’t show up on his watch. He dismissed them from their post.
(Keller’s Analysis: Is Sheamus part of Retribution, since he might have just cleared the way for them to actually enter the P.C. because he dismissed them from guarding that area.) [c]
-Nikki Cross was pacing backstage, looking dejected over her battle royal performance, then saw Alexa Bliss. She ran over and excitedly hugged her. She said she’s so happy to see her. She apologized for pushing her down a couple of weeks ago and said she’s her best friend. Bliss said, unconvincingly, she was fine. Nikki pressed the issue. Bliss said she’s fine and tried to blow off Nikki’s concern. Nikki told her to go somewhere safe. Bliss said she needed to go get some answers from Braun and then she walked away.
(Keller’s Analysis: Nikki is still just a blast watch. She was like an new puppy who was left home all day and just ecstatic when her human buddy came home after work. Bliss played this well. Her acting makes this storyline work.)
(3) SHEAMUS vs. CHAD GABLE
Gable got in a good deal of offense including applying an ankle lock a few minutes in. Sheamus powered out. Gable scored a two count with a Jackknife pin attempt. Sheamus powered out and landed an immediate White Noise. Sheamus then landed a Brogue Kick for the win.
WINNER: Sheamus in 4:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Sheamus should be winning a match like this, but it still underlines how underutilized Gable is. I hope he comes out of this deal with King Corbin elevated one way or another.)
-Backstage Joseph Park (Abyss from Impact Wrestling) was sitting at a desk looking at a laptop while cartoonishly discussing something with A.J. Styles backstage. Styles was all worked up. Graves said they’d be introducing the Intercontinental Statistical System next. [c]
-Styles walked to the ring, followed by Joseph Park. (Cole said he’s “very Fred Gwynne-looking; Gwinn played Herman Munster on “The Munster.”) Styles looked to be in a mood as his music faded. He said here’s a lot going on in WWE, and nobody cares about these hooligans trying to destroy things. He said there are more pressing matters, such as who is going to face Styles for his title next. He said it doesn’t really matter, but Daniel Bryan says the IC Champion has to be a “fighting champion.” He said he has been, because he beat Drew Gulak, Matt Riddle, and Gran Metalik. He said he wants to enjoy being the IC Champion. He said he wants to enjoy his reign from home on his Twitch account, but so many people are acting like a bunch of nerds throwing out statistics. “What do you know about statistics?” he said. “Then it dawned on me that when I watch baseball, I see batting average.” He said he’s a handsome stud of a nerd himself, and he actually cares about statistics. The audience chanted “Nerd! Nerd!”
He said he has hired a team to run the Phenomenal Intercontinental Statistic System – “P.I.S.S.!” he said proudly. “It’s a work in progress,” he said, seeming a little frazzled at the acronym. He said you have to earn a shot against him on merit and merit alone. He revealed his name A.J. Styles at the top of a ink board on an easel. He mentioned Joseph Park by name. He then revealed the rest of the board, which was blank. He said that showed no one else has earned the right to face him. He said if someone works really really really hard, some day they can make it on his board. Jeff Hardy interrupted.
Hardy came out to his music and clapped. He entered the ring and said he has a ton of respect for Styles and what he has done in his career. “It has truly been phenomenal,” he said. He said Sheamus robbed him of his opportunity. He said it could’ve been him against Styles in those IC tournament finals. He said that title Styles wears is special to him because it’s the first title he won on his own. He said he was standing on his own two feet back then, just as he is now, after conquering his demons once more. He said he knows his self-worth and what he has accomplished. He said Styles vs. Hardy sounds “mega-cool.” The audience chanted “Mega-cool!” One woman removed her mask to chant, completely defeating the purpose of wearing the mask. (When you yell is when it’s most important to keep it on. Well, also coughing and sneezing, of course.)
Styles said he respects Jeff. He said he’s known him a long time and he’s always been good to him. He said he admires where he’s come from. He said he’s part of the best WWE tag team ever. He said if he’s asking if he wants to face him in this ring for the IC Title, “I say hell no!” He laughed uproariously. He said Hardy hasn’t earned the right to be on his board. He said this isn’t a pity party. Hardy punched Styles. He took a shot at Park with a forearm and then gave a Twist of Fate to Styles. Hardy then wrote his name on the white board with a marker in large print. Park fled as Hardy made little moves toward him.
(Keller’s Analysis: So Abyss makes it to WWE finally, but in the role of a cameo as his alter-ego Joseph Parks. He is so good in this role. Dare I suggest someone set him up with Nikki on a date and film it? As for the skit, it sure seems to be mocking AEW’s ranking system. I think WWE is miscalculating if that’s the case because I actually think wrestling fans don’t find treating the contendership standings as a sport with some statistical foundation as absurd as McMahon and Kevin Dunn do.)
-Graves hyped the Big E vs. Morrison match would happen later after all.
-Backstage Cesaro talked with Shinsuke Nakamura about facing Gran Metlik later. He made fun of Metalik being small. Lucha House Party snuck in behind them and stole their tag team title belts. [c]
-Backstage Styles was in a rage, with Park holding the white board behind him. Kayla Braxton approached Styles and asked if he’s considering defending against Hardy. Styles said Hardy doesn’t respect the IC Title or analyitic. He said if Hardy wants a piece of him, he’s going to get it. He will show Hardy and everyone what happens when you face Styles. He tried to erase Hardy’s name on his board. Styles yelled, “Permanent Marker!?” Park said, “I’m sorry.”
(4) SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (w/Cesaro) vs. GRAN METALIK (w/Lince Dorado)
In a soundbite before the match, Cesaro said LHP are just annoying Spanish flies, adding, “And not the cool move.” He said they squish little pests. Cole said they’ll be in a new location next week live and the WWE Universe will play a huge role. Graves said, “Interactivity, allegedly, will be taken to a whole ‘nother level next week.” A few minutes in, Nakamura was about to hit his Kinsasha kick, but he was interrupted by Kalisto’s music. Cole said he’s been out of action with a shoulder injury, but is now back. Cesaro charged him. Kalisto launched Lince Dorado into him. Back in the ring, Metalik finished a distracted Nakamura with a kick and a top rope flying elbow to the chest.
WINNER: Gran Metalik in 4:00.
-They went to Cole and Graves at ringside. They plugged Summerslam a week from Sunday. The Summerslam slogan is, “You’ll never see it coming.” That’s a reference to the RKO, but perhaps more. Cole then announced Payback takes place a week after Summerslam, also on WWE Network.
(Keller’s Analysis: With the mocking of analytics by Styles, perhaps aimed at AEW, putting Payback on right after Summerslam could be seen as an attempt to saturate the marketplace before AEW’s important All Out PPV.)
-They showed Alexa Bliss being mic’d up for her sit-down interview later. [c]
-Braxton interviewed Matt Riddle. He asked if he could call her “bro.” She said yes. He said he wants to compete, but people keep coming at him from all angles. He said he came to Smackdown to bro-down and throw-down. He said King Corbin is just a royal pain. He said he’s called him out and tried to fight him and even cost him his match last week against Sheamus. He said he’s not sure what he’s supposed to do. In walked Gable. He said he wanted to explain himself. He said he got caught up in this random stuff, and he has a family and the money offered goes a long way, but it doesn’t justify what he did. He said he’s sick about it, so he wanted to apologize face-to-face. Riddle offered a fistbump and said it’s all good. He said if he wants to go with him some day, just let him know. He said he’s down for a fight. Corbin attacked Riddle from behind. “So much for keeping your head on a swivel,” Corin said. He then thanked Gable for the distraction and said he always knew he’d amount to something great. He called him “Chad,” perhaps an attempt to win him over by treating him with respect.
-Graves said Corbin and Gable played Riddle like a puppet.
-An off-camera interviewer asked Bliss how she’s been doing. She said she’s been better. He asked about her history with Braun. She said she got to know the man behind the monster on Mixed Match Challenge. They showed clips of them interacting playfully in the ring and on a car ride. She said he’s compassionate and protective. “We had fun with each other and we became best friends,” she said. Back to the interview, the interviewer asked if she ever imagined a romantic relationship. She paused and said, “Maybe.” She said they cared a lot about each other. He asked if that’s why The Fiend targeted her. She said that’s a question for The Fiend. He asked what it’s like being in The Fiend’s presence. She said, “It’s scary and terrifying and also compelling.” She said once you’ve interacted with him, it’s almost like you can feel his presence. She said for the first time in her life, she understands what it means when people say “moth to a flame.” They aired a clip of Braun telling Fiend on the big screen that he doesn’t care about Alexa, all he cares about is destroying him. He said he’s what nightmares are made of. He asked Bliss how that made her feel. She took a deep breath and looked off to the side, and the segment ended.
(Keller’s Analysis: The line about understanding a”moth to a flame” is one that defines where this stories go from here, I think. Bliss’s acting is really working here, with just enough nuance and stopping short of hamming it up even when the situation could be tempting.) [c]
-Cole announced Styles would face Hardy for the IC Title next week.
-Backstage Sonya said she’s a little surprised Mandy’s her challenge. She said she thought about it “and I think you’re going to look great bald.” She said she may think she has gotten over her insecurities, but did she ever think people say it because it’s actually true. She said she’s going to make sure she knows it’s true because she will destroy her once and for all. She accepted the hair vs. hair challenge. “See you soon, baldy!” she said.
(5) BIG E vs. JOHN MORRISON
Miz joined the announcers on commentary. Big E knocked Morrison down at the start. Miz said Mandy is going to look great bald. Morrison leaped off the top rope, but Big E shoved him mid-air to the floor. Big E clotheslined Morrison when he re-entered the ring. Big E landed a running splash on Morrison on the edge of the ring apron. Morrison backed off as Big E pursued him. Miz encouraged Morrison, but also tripped up Big E with his headset cable. Big E turned to Miz. Morrison clipped Big E from behind. Morrison went down, grabbing his leg.
Morrison went after Big E’s leg in the ring. Cole supplied Miz with a new headset, since his last one stopped working. Otis came to ringside with his MITB briefcase. Miz stood up and claimed he didn’t say anything about Mandy. The lights flickered. Cole yelled for security. They cut to a break. [c]
The Smackdown locker room came out to ringside. Cole said they have reason to believe Retribution are there again. They cut backstage where Retribution were tearing apart the interview set and throwing referees around. They bashed a guy with their bat and a chair, then found someone sitting on a toilet. The Retribution guy closed the door and then wedged a chair against it. They spray-painted the WWE logo on the brick wall. (I hope it’s not permanent paint!)
Back at the ring, Cole said nobody at ringside knows what is going on back there. (He could’ve told them!) Cole went into stupid fake-stuttering mode. Graves said he didn’t even recognize the room they were in. Morrison and Big E continued to battle, but shortly thereafter wrestlers made it to the room where Retribution caused damage. Tucker studied the WWE logo spray painted on the wall, as if trying to decode hieroglyphics. Back in the ring, Big E forced Morrison to tapout with the stretch muffler.
WINNER: Big E in 12:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: The match was just a backdrop for a lot of other stuff going on. I think everyone is ready for a payoff to this Retribution story. What is the deal with the guy sitting on the toilet, anyway? Is this the angle to add slapstick bathroom humor to? I suppose everything is for an audience of one, though, so… score!)
-After the match, Sheamus showed up and nailed Big E with a Brogue Kick at ringside. Braun Strowman showed up with a shaved head. Cole asked if he’d confront The Fiend next. [c]
-Braun stood mid-ring. “They say you’ll never see it coming at Summerslam. Well, Fiend, you know exactly what you’re going to get when it comes to me.” He said he told him when he came out of the swamp, he’d be the most evil son of a bitch anyone on Earth had ever laid eyes on. He told Fiend to come to the ring and face his fears. “I’m going to rip you limb from limb, and I will eviscerate you,” he said. “And before you take your last breath, you will look up at me as I consume your entrails.” Yuck.
Bliss marched to the ring, looking quite serious. She entered the ring and told Braun that, at the risk of making him angrier, she owes it to him to have a conversation. “About what?” he growled. She said this isn’t the Braun she knew, especially when he said last week he doesn’t care about her. She said she doesn’t believe that. “We’ve been friends for years,” she said. Braun said that’s not true, she used him like a pawn, and he doesn’t give a damn about her. “You think I’m some sort of clown you can lead around by my beard, making me sing stupid songs in your stupid car.” Bliss asked what’s going on with him. He just stared down and said everyone who comes in contact with The Fiend changes, including him. “Now get out of my ring!” He said. “I want The Fiend.” He still wouldn’t look at her.
Bliss looked up at him and told him okay, but be careful what he wishes for. She said if she can’t talk sense into him, she will slap sense into him. She yelled for him to look at her while she talks to him. He turned to look at her. She slapped him. He smiled. She slapped him eight more times and yelled “Wake up!” He lifted her over his head. The Fiend lights flickered as Braun walked around with her raised above his head. He threw her into the air, then let go. The lights went out. They came back on a few seconds later and Fiend was in the ring and Bliss was on the mat in pain. Braun then showed up on the big screen laughing maniacally. The Fiend started laughing back at him. Then he let out a loud yell. The Fiend, who had looked down at Bliss, looked back up at Fiend. The show closed with Fiend saying, “Let me in.”
(Keller’s Analysis: I don’t know where everything with Braun, Bray, and Bliss leads, but I’m interested. Braun’s acting is so cartoonish and one-dimensional, and his eyes just don’t convey anything like someone more believable and skilled at acting would. He’s just cardboard, unfortunately, and oafish. If he’s headed toward a heel turn, and being linked with Bray, it would play more to his strengths as a brutish sidekick heavy instead of a lead babyface. But maybe he can come out of this with expanded acting range and a new layer or two to his act, if I’m to be hopeful and optimistic. Bliss’s acting can help this work, though.)