LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 9/18: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Sasha Banks’ return, Reigns & Uso vs. Sheamus & Corbin, Styles vs. Zayn, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


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

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
SEPTEMBER 18, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE THUNDERDOME IN AMWAY CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-The show opened cold on a wide shot of the Thunderdome. Michael Cole welcomed the audience, saying Clash of Champions is only a week away.

-The Miz and John Morrison were already seated in the ring for The Dirt Sheet. Miz said they planned to reveal the truth behind “WWE’s biggest stories.” He claimed to have the answers on why Bayley turned her back on Sasha Banks, what’s going on with the Reigns and Uso family, and finally, Mandy Rose’s move to Raw.

Miz said people are accusing he and Morrison of being vindictive and helping to get Mandy traded. “I’m not using my considerable power and influence to get petty revenge on Otis.” Miz said he’s trying to help Otis, relieving him of some of the pressure that comes along with being the Money in the Bank contract holder.

“I made it easier for him,” Miz claimed, “by sending his girlfriend away so that he can concentrate on cashing in his contract.” Miz said he removed the one obstacle that was in the way of Otis climbing to the top of WWE. “I know he’s heartbroken, but he’ll get over it.” Miz said Mandy already has. Morrison agreed. mentioning Dolph Ziggler. Heavy Machinery’s music hit and Otis stormed to the ring, carrying his briefcase and lunchbox.

Otis immediately swept Miz to the mat and attacked. Morrison tried to get involved, but Otis dropped him with a quick punch. Otis tossed both Miz and Morrison from the ring and tossed the Dirt Sheet set chairs beyond the barrier. Tucker appeared at ringside and tossed Miz back in the ring. Otis gave him a bodyslam, then executed the Caterpillar and elbow drop at the encouragement of Tucker. He followed up with a big splash from the middle rope.

Otis ripped Miz’s suit off, revealing his white briefs. Morrison tried to help cover him up with his coat. Cole and Graves laughed at Miz’s misfortune.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I’m a big fan of Miz and John Morrison, but I have been completely disinterested in their characters leaning more and more into comedic territory on a weekly basis. I think both are better as ruthless, arrogant heels, not wholly out of touch laughing stocks. This was a good moment for Otis, but I’m not sure pulling Mandy away from him really helps his character. This was a rough opening.)

-Michael Cole and Corey Graves teased the Samoan Street Fight main event between Roman Reigns & Jey Uso and Sheamus & King Corbin.

-After the break, Kayla Braxton approached a distraught Miz and Morrison backstage. Miz took out his phone and spoke to someone. “Did you see it? Was it enough?” Miz asked. He smiled. Morrison seemed to understand. They walked off happily.

-Lucha House Party headed to the ring. Cole said this was a big opportunity for Gran Metalik. An inset promo showed Kalisto and Lince Dorado talking up Metalik backstage. Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura headed to the ring. Cole announced that they two teams would square off in a tag team title match at Clash of Champions.

(1) GRAN METALIK (w/ Kalisto & Lince Dorado) vs. CESARO (w/ Shinsuke Nakamura)

Gran Metalik rolled Cesaro up as soon as the bell rang, securing only a two count. Metalik climbed to the top rope, but Kalisto and Lince Dorado shouted out conflicting advice. Metalik jumped into the waiting arms of Cesaro, who shot him to the corner and drove his knee into Metalik’s stomach repeatedly.

Cesaro and Metalik battled out of the corner. Metalik caught Cesaro with a headscissor and then shot him off the ropes. Cesaro cut him off with a big clothesline, covering him for a two count. Cesaro grabbed an arm and cranked at Metalik’s neck. Metalik broke free and caught Cesaro with a kick, but was again distracted by Kalisto and Lince Dorado, who continued to argue. The referee kicked them both from ringside. Metalik recomposed himself and dove over the top onto Cesaro on the outside. The show went to commercial abruptly.

Gran Metalik flipped over a backdrop attempt as the show returned from break. Cole remarked that it’s the 1100th episode of Smackdown. Cesaro managed to take Metalik down and apply a headlock, but Metalik easily fought free. Cesaro sent him to the corner and hoisted him onto the top turnbuckle. Cesaro set up for a superplex, but Metalik fought him off and hit a leaping hurricanrana. Metalik covered Cesaro for a two count.

Metalik went to the top for a moonsault, but Cesaro got his feet up. He quickly shot Metalik into the corner and hit a big running uppercut. Metalik stumbled out of the corner and into the Neutralizer from Cesaro, leading to a three count.

WINNER: Cesaro in 8:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Decent match, or at least what we saw of it. The story here appears to be the disintegrating relationship with Lucha House Party. With that in mind, I’d hope this leads to a simple retain for Cesaro and Nakamura, but with WWE’s booking of the tag team division, you never know. This was nothing more than a way to get the champions their win back after last week.)

-Kayla Braxton welcomed Jey Uso to the interview set backstage. She tossed to a recap of last week’s tag team main event. Kayla asked Jey if Roman’s late arrival impacts his confidence tonight. Jey said Paul Heyman told him it was simple miscommunication and said he’s not worried. He said Sheamus and Corbin are about to get locked down.

-Back in the Thunderdome, production members were setting up the set for Moment of Bliss. Cole and Graves said we’d hear from Bliss and Cross next.

-After Progressive’s Match Flo covering Matt Riddle, a vignette called “Know Your Bro” aired, showing Matt Riddle saying “bro” using different inflections to represent different emotions.

-Greg Hamilton introduced Alexa Bliss, who welcomed everyone to the first Moment of Bliss inside the Thunderdome. She introduced Nikki Cross. Cole and Graves talked over a recap of Cross winning the number one contender’s four way match.

Alexa Bliss congratulated Nikki Cross on her win. She said she has to ask the tough questions, leading her to question Nikki’s strategy going into Clash of Champions. Bliss reminded Cross that she hasn’t beaten Bayley since last year. Cross said she gets it. She said it’s different because there’s no Sasha Banks. “Every single time I faced Bayley, I felt like I had to have eyes on the back of my head.”

Cross said she’s focused on giving Bayley the beating she deserves. She said she saw what Bayley did to her best friend, and she can still feel the steel chair too. She addressed Bayley directly, telling her she will become the new Smackdown Women’s champion. “Does that answer your question?” she asked Bliss. Bliss said it did.

Nikki asked Alexa what’s going on with her. She brought up Bliss hitting her with Sister Abigail. Bliss said she doesn’t know how to explain it because she doesn’t understand it. She was interrupted by Lacey Evans.

Evans called Bliss and Cross a “couple of nasties” and said it must be an episode of Dr. Phil. She laughed at Bliss, then told Cross she should be on her knees thanking Bliss for turning Evans “off her game.” Evans said all the speeches in the world won’t prepare Nikki for getting back in the ring with Bayley. “You’re too nice, you’re too nice, and you’re too weak.” Evans laughed at Cross. Cross stole her handkerchief. She blew her nose into it, then kicked Evans in the face. The show went to commercial.

(2) NIKKI CROSS vs. LACEY EVANS

The bell rang as soon as the show returned from break. Alexa Bliss had joined Michael Cole and Corey Graves on commentary. Lacey Evans immediately left the ring and used hand sanitizer at the steps. Cross came after her, but Evans slammed her off the announcers desk and tossed her back in the ring.

Cross quickly battled back and dropped Evans with a short arm clothesline, rolling her up for a two count. Evans grabbed Cross’ arm and drove her knees into it. She tossed Cross into the corner and tangled her arm and shoulder in the rope, forcing the referee to begin a count. Evans broke at three, then slapped Cross in the face. Bliss said something about Evans “really bugs her.”

Evans covered Cross for a two count after the handstand bronco buster in the corner. She continued her offense, kicked Cross to the mat and applying a cross arm headlock. Nikki fought back to her feet and she and Evans traded blows. Evans managed to take Cross down by the arm again and attempted to transition into an arm bar. Cross blocked it, but Evans repeatedly kicked Cross in the side of the face. Cross battled to her feet and broke the hold, but Evans dropped her with a quick clothesline.

Lacey Evans slammed Cross’ head into the mat and continued to work over the arm. She hit a standing moonsault and covered Cross for a two count. Lacey grabbed the bottle of hand sanitizer from the steps and tried to squirt it into Nikki’s mouth. Nikki blocked it, so Evans squired it on her face and in her eyes. Nikki seemed unbothered. She rose to her feet, whipped Evans into the corner and hit her with a monkey flip. Cross stomped on Evans’ hand, then hit a tornado DDT off the middle rope. Nikki held on, rolled through and hit the neckbreaker, covering Evans for a three count.

WINNER: Nikki Cross in 8:00

Lacey Evans rolled out of the ring and began screaming at Alexa Bliss. She mentioned The Fiend, which seemed to put Bliss in a trance. Bliss went glassy eyed, stared off into the distance, and stood up. She grabbed Evans and planted her with Sister Abigail.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Lacey Evans absolutely dominated this match from start to finish. It’s a bad look for the woman about to challenge for the Smackdown women’s title in a week, especially when said woman has lost to the champion what seems like a dozen or so times already. The bad booking of this division continues.)

-Sasha Banks was shown sitting in a backstage area, sporting a neck brace and being mic’ed up. Cole said she’d join them next.

-The show returned to the announcers desk, where Cole talked up the Universal title match between Roman Reigns and Jey Uso at Clash of Champions. He tossed to a video package covering their family, narrated by Paul Heyman.

-Following the package, Michael Cole welcomed Sasha Banks, who joined them live from the Performance Center. Cole tossed to a video package recapping Bayley’s attack on Sasha.

Michael Cole asked Sasha Banks the extent of her injuries. “I’m still here, ain’t I?” Banks replied. Cole said that Bayley blamed her for the attack and recounted the things Bayley said about being used by Banks. Sasha said she heard every word Bayley said and can’t help but be filled with emotion as she sits at the Performance Center, a place she feels like they built together.

Banks said she and Bayley used to walk the halls and talk about their accomplishments, their hopes, and dreams. She said they showed the world that they were serious about taking over the whole company together. Sasha said they accomplished everything together. She began to break down. Sasha said she knows Bayley is watching. She said Bayley is nothing without her. She repeated herself, holding back tears. Banks said she plans to take the one thing Bayley loves from her.

Bayley ambushed Banks out of nowhere and attacked her with the dented steel chair. She placed it over Sasha’s neck again, but producers and trainers ran in to hold Bayley back. The show went to commercial as Banks choked in pain.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Mostly effective segment. I wanted a little bit more from Banks here, and thought this was really a chance to step up her sincerity. It felt a little performance-y, but it was still good overall. Bayley’s attack almost seemed a little too calculated, but I understand wanting to further the depravity of her character and build more sympathy for Sasha. This match is going to be big.)

-A.J. Styles made his way to the ring. Cole talked about the situation brewing between Styles, Jeff Hardy, and Sami Zayn. Sami Zayn headed to the ring, carrying his Intercontinental title. Zayn told Greg Hamilton to announce him as champion. Styles attacked Zayn from behind.

(3) A.J. STYLES vs. SAMI ZAYN

A.J. Styles tossed Sami Zayn into the ring and the referee rang the bell. Styles dropped Zayn and covered him for a quick two count. A.J. set Sami up for the Styles Clash, but Sami fought free and escaped to the outside. Styles quickly retrieved him, tossed him back inside, him him with a backbreaker, and covered him for a two count.

Zayn battled to his feet and caught Styles with a pair of kicks before dropping him with a DDT, covering him for a two count of his own. Zayn ran Styles’ head into the turnbuckle, then went for a Heluva Kick, but Styles ducked. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Sami hoisted A.J. onto the top rope when the show returned from break with a wide drone shot. Styles managed to slip under Zayn and drop Sami face first into the turnbuckle. Styles set up on the apron and went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but Styles ducked it and grabbed Styles for a suplex. Styles blocked it and turned into a neckbreaker, covering Sami for a two count.

Styles lifted Zayn, but got caught with a jawbreaker. Styles stumbled backward then met Sami with a punch. The two traded punches. Zayn broke the stalemate with a boot, but Styles returned with a Pale kick. Styles set up for a suplex but Zayn rolled down his back and connected with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall.

Styles returned to his feet and tripped Zayn, rolling through and looking for a Calf Crusher. Zayn rolled out of it and dumped Styles in the corner, setting up for the Heluva Kick. Zayn charged, but A.J. moved. Zayn rolled Styles up but grabbed the tights in the referee’s line of sight. Zayn argued with the official, allowing Styles to recover and roll up Zayn, using the tights as well. The referee failed to notice and counted the three.

WINNER: A.J. Styles in 11:00

Zayn took Styles down and pleaded his case to the referee, then to Greg Hamilton. Jeff Hardy’s music hit. He rushed to the ring and attacked Sami Zayn. Hardy retrieved a table from underneath the ring, and then grabbed a ladder. He drove the ladder into Styles’ ribs. Zayn tried to kick it into Hardy, but Jeff sidestepped it and took Zayn down. He followed up with a Twist of Fate.

Hardy set up the ladder in the middle of the ring and climbed it. Zayn retreated to the outside, saving himself. Jeff asked for a microphone. Hardy said he’s sick of the Intercontinental title situation, and being called a cheat and a fraud. Hardy challenged both Styles and Zayn to to a triple threat ladder match for the Intercontinental title at Clash of Champions.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid match between Styles and Zayn. The heel vs. heel dynamic is hard to pull off, but both managed to be dislikable enough in their strategy to maintain integrity in their characters. I’m usually not a huge fan of surprise roll up finishes, simply because of the rate at which WWE uses them, but this one worked. Ultimately, both men tried to cheat and Styles managed to do it a little better. Hardy’s post-match interference made sense, and the plan became clear as soon as he pulled out the ladder. This match could be great, but I hope they work it safely.)

-In a locker room backstage, Otis and Tucker were shown talking. A man walked in, serving Otis notice of a lawsuit. Otis was confused as the show went to break.

-The show returned to Tucker and Otis, discussing the lawsuit. Tucker revealed that it came from Miz and Morrison, claiming Money in the Bank negligence and ordering Otis to to forfeit the contract within a week. “We’re in trouble,” Otis said. Tucker corrected him, saying it’s only Otis in trouble.

-Sheamus was shown talking to a security guard backstage with King Corbin at his side. Sheamus thanked the guard for helping him set up Big E. The security guard told Sheamus his car was being towed. Sheamus ran to the parking lot. A man stood with his back turned to Sheamus. He turned around slowly, revealing himself to be Big E. Sheamus escaped, but Big E managed to get his hands on the corrupt security guard.

Big E set up the guard on top of a car. He gave him a belly to belly suplex through the windshield. He grabbed the security guard and tossed him in the trunk of the car then slammed it shut. Adam Pearce intervened, telling Big E he needed to leave. E obliged, screaming at Sheamus as he left.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Big E came off like a killer here, and that’s great to see. All along, I’ve been curious as to whether or not a singles run would bring a more serious character for him. At first, it seemed like it was the same old Big E, but this was the kind of aggression that I think instantly makes E seem like a credible main eventer. Hopefully big things are in the works for him soon.)

-Back in the Thunderdome, Cole and Graves teased the street fight main event, coming up after the break.

-Another vignette for the new mystery woman aired.

-Cole and Graves teased a new episode of Talking Smack, featuring Lacey Evans, Jeff Hardy, and Heavy Machinery.

-Roman Reigns entered the Thunderdome, flanked by Paul Heyman. Once in the ring, Heyman retrieved a microphone and handed it to Reigns. Roman said he came out first because he wanted no confusion. He said you can call this place whatever you want, but it’s his yard, his island, and his WWE. “If you want it, come take it from me,” Reigns proclaimed. He tossed the mic. Jey Uso headed out. The show went to break.

Sheamus and King Corbin were already outside the ring when the show returned from break.

(4) SHEAMUS & KING CORBIN vs. JEY USO & ROMAN REIGNS – Samoan Street Fight

Roman Reigns dropped Sheamus with a clothesline as soon as the bell rang. He rolled out of the ring. Jey punched King Corbin and Reigns clotheslined him over the top rope. Jey Uso flew over the top, taking down Corbin. Reigns headed outside and began trading punches with Sheamus. He dumped Sheamus over the barricade. Sheamus stood and immediately ate a kick from Jey.

King Corbin returned and gave Uso a Deep Six. He tossed Reigns in the ring and retrieved a chair. Reigns gave Corbin a stiff kick, grabbed the chair and began slamming it across Corbin’s back. Reigns left the ring and retrieved a table from underneath. Sheamus appeared and caught Reigns with a knee to the jaw.

Corbin recovered and joined Sheamus on the outside. The two began pounding away on Reigns. Roman struggled to his feet but was quickly tossed over the announcers desk by Sheamus and Corbin. They returned to the ring to cut off Jey Uso, tossing him to the mat and kicking him into the corner.

The heel duo set up a table. Uso hit Sheamus with an enziguri and then tried to leap onto both he and Corbin from the top rope, but they cut him off, scooped him up and gave him a double power bomb through the table. Sheamus covered Jey for a near fall.

Corbin left the ring to retrieve more weapons, but Roman Reigns tossed a chair at his head, wiping him out. Sheamus quickly met Reigns on the outside, setting him up for White Noise on the announcers desk. Reigns slid down his back and gave Sheamus a low blow, following it up with a Samoan Drop on the table., but failing to break it.

Reigns dropped Corbin, then speared Sheamus through the barricade. Corbin attacked Reigns from behind, slamming his head into the steel steps. Jey Uso kicked Corbin, then hit him in the head with the Universal title. Corbin stumbled backward into a spear from Reigns, then Jey hit a splash from the top rope, covering Sheamus for a three count.

WINNERS: Roman Reigns & Jey Uso in 7:00

Jey celebrated the win as Roman looked on, seeming uneasy. Jey scooped up the Universal title, stared at it and then teased holding it up before tossing it to Roman. Reigns cracked a smile and gave Jey a hug. Reigns continued to smile, almost appearing to laugh. Heyman joined Reigns in the ring as Jey left the ring. Paul looked to Reigns with concern. Reigns returned the look as the show faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Not much to say about the match, but the finish and the post-match nuance between Reigns, Jey, and Paul Heyman was absolutely excellent. Jey is completely convinced that his cousin has his best interest in mind and is along for the ride, while Reigns continues to plant seeds of doubt for the audience to pick up on.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s hard to give this show an outright thumbs down because I think they’re doing something really great with Roman Reigns and Jey Uso, and I’m completely invested in a WWE angle for what feels like the first time in a long time. There are other positives too, like Big E’s aggressive return, and the set up of an intriguing Intercontinental title match for Clash of Champions. With that being said, I was a little let down by Sasha’s interview tonight, though I did think it was solid. I’m also continuously perplexed by the lack of direction in the women’s division outside of Bayley and Sasha, and the crapshoot booking in the tag team division. Finally, I’m growing increasingly disinterested in Miz and Morrison’s shenanigans and their feud with Heavy Machinery. There’s enough good stuff going on right now to overlook some of the negatives, but Smackdown is very much still a show in repair and transition.

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