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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
SEPTEMBER 25, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE THUNDERDOME IN AMWAY CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-A memorial graphic for Road Warrior Animal was shown.
-Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the WWE Thunderdome over a sweeping shot of the digital fan-filled LED boards. He noted that we’re 48 hours away from Clash of Champions.
-A.J. Styles stepped onto a stage and ramp way filled with ladders. The ring was adorned with them as well. Cole said they’re about to have a meeting between all three competitors involved in the triple threat ladder match for the Intercontinental title this Sunday. Sami Zayn and Jeff Hardy came to the ring.
Corey Graves was in the ring to moderate the segment. He said all three men had claim to the Intercontinental title, and the ladder match would determine an undisputed champion. He said both Jeff Hardy and Sami Zayn’s titles would be raised tonight in the first ever “championship ascension ceremony.”
Styles asked Hardy if he was happy knowing that this is the last time he’d hold the title he cheated to win in the first place. He turned his attention to Zayn, wondering why he’s even here. A.J. said Sami took the summer off to grow out his neck beard and has no place in this match.
Zayn said this match shouldn’t even be happening. He said Styles won a fraudulent tournament to become a fraudulent champion, and when Jeff Hardy beat Styles for said title, he should’ve immediately denounced it and relinquished its rights to him.
Jeff interjected, saying Sami should be grateful to even be involved in the match. He said Sami has a chance at Clash of Champions to “make his title legit.” He asked for the rung to be lowered so he could strap his title to it and get on with beating Sami Zayn. Both Hardy and Zayn strapped their titles to the rung and watched as they rose above the ring. Styles and Hardy came face to face, but Sami Zayn quickly toppled a ladder onto both of them.
Zayn mounted Styles and fired off a number of punches, screaming “fraud” as he did it. Styles chased him out of the ring. Adam Pearce walked onto the stage and added A.J. Styles to the match, making it a triple threat preview. In the ring, Hardy gave Styles a Twist of Fate. The show hurried to commercial.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Effective segment, with each character playing his role well. I question the decision to essentially give away the match tonight, though. Not only does it cheapen the actual title match on Sunday, it encourages these three to take more risks in a ladder match to ensure they top their performance tonight.)
(1) A.J. STYLES vs. SAMI ZAYN vs. JEFF HARDY
The bell rang as soon as the show returned from break. Jeff Hardy quickly gave A.J. Styles a reverse atomic drop, then tossed Sami Zayn into the turnbuckle. Zayn begged off, then kicked Hardy in the gut. Jeff recovered quickly and hit Zayn with a reverse atomic drop. Zayn rolled to the outside.
A.J. Styles returned to the fold and connected with a backbreaker on Jeff Hardy. He darted across the ring and gave Zayn a baseball slide, keeping him out of the matchup. Styles dumped Hardy over the top rope, then climbed to the outside on the offensive. Styles slammed Hardy’s head off the announcers desk but then got attacked from behind by Zayn. Sami tossed A.J. back in the ring.
Zayn turned Styles inside out with a big clothesline, then covered him for a one count. Hardy tried to return to the ring, but Zayn punched him off the apron. Styles backed Zayn into the corner and drove his knee into Sami’s ribs repeatedly. A.J. followed up with a snapmare out of the corner, transitioning into a seated headlock on Zayn.
Hardy returned to the apron Styles tossed Sami into Jeff’s ribs, knocking him to the floor again. He continued to work on Zayn, then tried to knock Jeff down again. Hardy sidestepped Styles, returned to the ring, and hit a double dropkick on both Styles and Zayn. Hardy gave Sami a big back body drop, then used his back to hit Poetry in Motion on Styles in the corner. Jeff climbed to the top for the Swanton Bomb, but Sami managed to dump him to the outside.
Sami punched Hardy repeatedly on the outside. A.J. Styles flew over the ropes and hit Sami with a Phenomenal Forearm to the outside. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Zayn had Styles set up on the top turnbuckle when the show returned from break. Hardy stepped in to create a tower, but Zayn pushed him away. Styles slide out from Sami’s superplex attempt and tossed him toward Hardy. Hardy leapt to the top rope and hit Styles and Zayn with Whisper in the Wind. All three men struggled to their feet, trading punches. Zayn dropped Hardy with a quick boot, then ate a Pale Kick from Styles.
All three men rose slowly, again. Styles set up for the Phenomenal Forearm. Styles launched, Zayn ducked and Hardy got hit. Zayn tossed Styles from the ring and covered Hardy for a three count.
WINNER: Sami Zayn in 12:00
Styles returned to the ring with a ladder and took out both Zayn and Hardy with it. He glanced up at the Intercontinental title, then rolled to the outside to retrieve a taller ladder. Styles set up the ladder, climbed it, and took down both Intercontinental titles.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Solid match, but I’m glad they didn’t go overboard. Zayn needed a win here to feel like a credible act going into this title match, and though they gave it to him under cliche triple threat circumstances, I’m still glad they did it. I’m looking forward to the ladder match on Sunday. There are far worse ways they could’ve eaten up the first 30 or so minutes of this show.)
-Otis and Tucker were shown backstage, looking over the lawsuit filed by The Miz. Graves wondered if Otis would give up the Money in the Bank contract. Cole said we’d find out next.
-Cole said “no one cares about its fans more than WWE” again, citing that “fact” as a catalyst for the creation of the Thunderdome. He and Graves tossed to a recap of Otis being served with Miz’s lawsuit on last week’s show.
-Kayla Braxton welcomed Otis and Tucker in an area backstage. She asked if Otis had made his decision. Otis said his mom told him there’s three things not to trust – carnival clowns, one percent milk, and lawyers. The Miz and John Morrison walked into frame.
Miz said his lawyers aren’t trying to steal anything, they’re simply trying to give the people the Money in the Bank contract holder they deserve. Miz said when his lawyers are done with Otis, they’ll take every single thing he owns. Miz said if he doubts what they can get done, “just ask your girlfriend Mandy Rose.”
Otis challenged Miz to a match. Tucker asked why only Miz’s name is on the lawsuit. Otis attacked Morrison. Referees and officials ran in quickly to separate the two teams.
-Back at ringside, Cole and Graves tossed to a Progressive Match Flo covering Bayley’s vicious turn on Sasha Banks.
-Bayley walked onto the stage and sat down in the dented chair she used on Banks. “Can you say role model?” she said. Bayley said she has a title match to prepare for, and can’t waste any more time on Sasha Banks’ whining and crying. Bayley turned her attention to Nikki Cross. She said she appreciates her fire and intensity, but takes issue with Cross saying “this time will be different”
“If you saw what I did to my best friend, you better be worried about what I’ll do to you on Sunday,” Bayley smirked. She said she plans to slap that smile off of Cross’ face. She stood up and folded the chair. “You can imagine what’s gonna happen next, right, Sasha?” Bayley stared into the camera and left.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Short, effective promo that calls attention to the ongoing story with Sasha Banks, but focuses primarily on her match with Nikki Cross on Sunday. While I can’t exactly get excited about this match, given the number of times we saw it over the spring and summer, and I do applaud WWE for making an earnest effort to build this one up as different, due to recent circumstances surrounding Bayley and Banks.)
-Lucha House Party were in the ring when the show returned from break. Michael Cole talked up their Smackdown tag team title match at Clash of Champions. Shinsuke Nakamura headed to the ring, flanked by Cesaro.
(2) GRAN METALIK (w/ Kalisto & Lince Dorado) vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (w/ Cesaro)
Shinsuke Nakamura tossed a pair of kicks at Gran Metalik when the bell rang. He quickly cornered Metalik, then backed away at the referee’s warning. Metalik rolled through a clothesline attempt and caught Shinsuke with an arm drag. Nakamura rolled to the outside. Metalik followed him.
Nakamura caught Gran Metalik with a spin kick on the outside, then tossed him into the barricade and back not other apron. Shinsuke charged and caught Metalik with a knee strike to the face. Back in the ring, Nakamura covered Metalik for a two count. Metalik gave Shinsuke a chop to the chest, then a head scissor to the apron. Metalik caught Nakamura with a knee to the face off the apron, then launched himself over the top rope onto Shinsuke.
Metalik tossed Nakamura back in the ring, then hit a springboard rolling senton, covering Nakamura for a two count. Metalik ascended the ropes and went for a moonsault, but Shinsuke rolled away. Metalik landed on his feet. Nakamura hit a running knee to the back of the neck, then an exploder suplex. He followed up with the Kinshasa and covered Metalik for a three count.
WINNER: Shinsuke Nakamura in 4:00
Lince Dorado hopped in the ring and Cesaro followed. They dropped Dorado as Kalisto looked on from the outside. The tag champions left the ring. Lince Dorado shoved Kalisto to the ground in frustration, then helped Gran Metalik to his feet. Kalisto shouted at them as they left the ring. Cole said they better get on the same page.
(LeClair’s Analysis: A clean, singles win for one half of the tag champions is a rare happening, so I’ll take it. Decent match. I’ve enjoyed Nakamura’s work with Lucha House Party, for the most part.)
-Backstage, Jey Uso pounded on on Roman Reigns’ locker room door. Graves said they’re scheduled for an in-ring interview next.
-They aired a montage of tweets from various wrestling legends paying tribute to Road Warrior Animal.
-Michael Cole previewed the Universal Championship match between Roman Reigns and Jey Uso, tossing to a video package setting the stage for the mask and telling the story of “a family affair.”
-Jey Uso headed to the ring. “This man now prepares for the biggest night of his career,” Cole said. He called Jey one of the greatest tag team champions of all time, but remarked that he’s never once had a shot at a singles title in WWE,.
Jey said he’s hyped off the video package. Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman were shown watching Jey from backstage. Jey said he knows Corey Graves is supposed to be interviewing Roman. “Take the night off,” Jey said, “we’re keeping this all in the family. I got some questions.” Cole threw to a clip of Reigns’ staring down Jey after he left the ring last week.
Uso said people have been asking him about “the look” all week. “Let’s ask Roman,” he said. Backstage, Roman and Paul nodded at each other in silence. Jey turned serious. “What is it?”
The camera cut to Paul Heyman backstage. Paul said he believes everyone deserves to hear what Reigns has to say to his cousin, but it’s not going to happen when Jey wants it to happen. He said it will happen when the tribal chief wants it to happen. “I guarantee you that face-to-face discussion will happen tonight.” Paul retreated back to Roman’s locker room.
“I knew something was up,” Jey said. He claimed Roman changed his phone number and has Paul screening his messages. Jey claimed it’s all good and welcomed Roman to the Uso Penitentiary before leaving the ring.
-At the announcers desk, Cole and Graves turned their attention to Matt Riddle and King Corbin. They recapped Riddle’s defeat of Corbin at Payback, then showed the post match attack.
Backstage, Corbin said everyone looks at how a king carries himself. He said while preparing to elevate the main event of Smackdown, he was irked by Matt Riddle’s “bro montage.” He made some bro puns before saying he’d leave Riddle in excruciating agony tonight.
-Matt Riddle headed to the ring to face King Corbin. On an inset promo, Riddle said Corbin has been trying to make his life a living hell. “You can’t keep a good bro down, Riddle said.” He promised to show Corbin the difference between a stallion and a jackass. Cole said the match was coming up next.
(3) MATT RIDDLE vs. KING CORBIN
Matt Riddle jumped King Corbin at the tail end of his entrance. The referee rang the bell and Riddle clotheslined Corbin over the top rope quickly. Riddle gave chase, following Corbin around the ring until he slid back in the ring. Corbin cut Riddle off with a stiff boot then a trio of punches to take control.
Riddle quickly recovered and tried to apply an armbar. Corbin slammed him to get out of it. He kneed Riddle into the corner. Corbin fired a punch, but Riddle blocked it and shot off the ropes. Corbin caught him with a nasty back elbow, dropping Riddle immediately. Riddle crawled to the corner.
Corbin tossed Riddle to the opposing corner and set up for his corner run clothesline. Riddle telegraphed it and tossed Corbin to the outside, then followed him. Riddle tossed Corbin clear over the announcers desk. “Riddle may knock off the king!” Cole screamed as the show went to break.
Riddle had Corbin in an ankle lock when the shot returned from commercial. Corbin quickly broke out of it, but Riddle transitioned into a triangle lock. Corbin struggled for a bit, but was eventually able to lift Riddle and drop him. Corbin covered, but only managed a two count.
Corbin mounted Matt Riddle and struck him repeatedly. He pushed Riddles’ neck against the rope and used it to choke him until the referee broke him off. Corbin drove his elbow into the back of Riddle’s neck. Corbin dropped Riddle repeatedly with stiff right hands. talking trash in between. Corbin went for a third, but Riddle collapsed. Corbin lifted him up, but Riddle caught him with a pump knee strike, then a pair of running elbows in the corner. Riddle followed up with an overhead capture suplex.
Riddle caught Corbin with a running kick square to the jaw. He covered Corbin for a two count, then mounted Corbin’s back. He grabbed a sleeper as Corbin rose to his feet with Riddle on his back. Riddle set up for a German suplex, but Corbin turned him into Deep Six and covered him for a near fall.
Corbin set up for End of Days, but Riddle kicked him away. Matt leapt off the ropes, looking for a springboard kick, but Corbin dropped him with a punch. Corbin set up for End of Days again, but Riddle caught him with a knee to the face. Riddle climbed to the top rope and went for the Floating Bro, but Corbin got the knees up. He connected with End of Days and pinned Matt Riddle for a three count.
WINNER: King Corbin in 11:00
Kayla Braxton approached Matt Riddle in the ring. Riddle said losing sucks, but he plans to prove that he’s a stallion. He said he won’t stop until Smackdown is the bro show.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Yikes. Corbin was beat soundly by Riddle at Payback, got his heat back with a post-match backstage attack, and then spent the last two weeks being completely dominated by Roman Reigns and Jey Uso. He dominated the majority of this match, and beat Riddle cleanly. That, to me, indicates how little they think of Riddle. The post match promo did him no favors. This is just about worse cast scenario for anyone who expected Matt Riddle to be a major player on Smackdown. Meanwhile, I continue to contend that valuable time and resources are being wasted on keeping King Corbin a viable upper mid-card talent.)
-Another vignette for the well-dressed blonde woman aired.
-Alexa Bliss headed to the ring. She talked about Lacey Evans in an inset promo, saying she’s the type of lady to send back her food at a restaurant and ask to speak to the manager. Cole called Bliss one of the most complex characters on Smackdown and said she’d face Evans next.
-Corey Graves teased this week’s Talking Smack, featuring A.J. Styles, Bayley, and Lucha House Party.
-Cole and Graves recapped the setup for this match, showing Bliss’ attack on Evans after Evans named The Fiend.
(4) ALEXA BLISS vs. LACEY EVANS
Alexa Bliss and Lacey Evans locked up. Evans used her power to back Bliss to the corner, but Alexa quickly rolled her into a pin attempt for a two count. Evans rebounded, but got rolled up for a second time for another two count. Evans stood in frustration and whipped Bliss to the corner. She patted her face with a napkin, then tossed it at Bliss.
Evans dragged Bliss from the corner and covered her for a quick two count. She applied a modified chin lock and talked some trash to Bliss. Alexa slowly fought to her feet, but Lacey dropped her by her hair. Bliss tried to fight back with a slap, but Evans dropped her again then shoved her into the corner. Evans hooked Bliss’ arm with her leg and pulled at it, utilizing the referee’s full count. Bliss fought back and dropped Evans to the mat. Suddenly, Bray Wyatt’s laugh filled the Thunderdome. Bliss looked around, worried. The show cut to break.
Evans had Bliss grounded when the show returned from break. Lacey hit a standing moonsault and scored a two count. Cole and Graves said Bliss has been unable to shake the mental effect that The Fiend’s laughter had, leading to Evans controlling the match throughout the break.
Lacey applied another chin lock and continued to talk trash to Bliss. She lifted her by the neck and tossed her to the corner. Bliss tried to fight back, but Evans was a step quicker, draping her on the middle rope and raking her face across it. Graves said Bliss is like a rag doll. Evans gave Bliss a leaping kick, driving her to the floor.
Bliss kicked out of a trio of pinfall attempts from Lacey upon returning to the ring. She sidestepped a charge to the corner and dropped Evans with a clothesline. Bliss paused, shaking her head in confusion. Lacey Evans took advantage, dropping Bliss and heading to the top rope for a moonsault. Bliss rolled out of the way. Suddenly, The Fiend’s screeching blared out and the ring lights turned red. Alexa Bliss’ face contorted, her eyes grew sinister, and she pounced. Bliss dropped Evans and stomped her head repeatedly until the referee called for the bell.
WINNER: Lacey Evans by disqualification in 10:00
Evans rolled to the outside to escape. Bliss followed her and gave her Sister Abigail. She rolled back in the ring and stared straight ahead at the hard cam. “LET ME IN” came over the speakers. The Fiend appeared on the tron, distorted. Bliss smiled. She left the ring and slowly walked up the ramp. Roman Reigns’ music hit.
Roman Reigns walked onto the stage with Paul Heyman. Alexa Bliss walked by them without looking. As Reigns stopped to pose with the Universal title, Bliss turned around and stared at Reigns, and his title, menacingly. The show went to commercial.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Bad match between Evans and Bliss, but great foreshadowing at the end there. Alexa Bliss is one of the better actors the company has, so it’s not a real surprise that she’s sinking her teeth into this maniacal role and having some fun with it. The last few moments of this made up for what came before it.)
-Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman stood in the ring when the show returned from break. Paul began to talk, but was immediately cut off by Jey Uso’s music. Jey headed to the ring as Reigns looked on, unamused.
“You want my side of the story?” Reigns asked as Jey stepped in the ring. He said he’d give Jey the title if he could. “The truth is, you wouldn’t even know what to do with it.” Reigns said Jey doesn’t understand the accountability or responsibility of being on top. “You don’t understand the weight and pressure of being on top.” Reigns said it isn’t Jey’s fault, because he’s a twin and he’s depended on his brother through his whole career.
Reigns said Jey is one half of the greatest tag team of all time, and their family depends on him to be that. He said they’re proud of him. “Our family relies on me to be the tribal chief, that’s who I am in this life,” Reigns said. “It ain’t you, it won’t ever be you, because it’ll always be me.” Reigns tossed the microphone and left the ring.
Jey let it sit for a moment. “What if you’re wrong?” he asked. Jey asked why it can’t be him to provide for the family. He said he’s been battling this his whole life. “You’ve been on top,” Jey said. “You know what they say when they see me? Which one are you?” Jey said they’ll know him after Sunday, because he’ll be the one who beat Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. “That’ll be be me.” Jey tossed the mic, left the ring, and walked up the ramp.
Roman Reigns blindsided Jey with a Superman punch. He grabbed Jey by the hair and told him the family needs him to be champion. “You may take the payday, and you’re gonna take the ass whooping, but you won’t take this title, and you will never take my seat at the head of the table.” Reigns dropped Jey’s head carelessly, stood, and left as the show faded to black.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Wow. What a segment. Roman Reigns and Jey Uso are absolutely knocking this entire story out of the park. Jey officially joined the audience as being “in” on Reigns’ facial expressions and attitude, demanded answers, and received one of the coldest, most calculated promos of Roman Reigns’ career in return. Reigns was perfectly content to walk away after saying his peace, but couldn’t bring himself to let the show close with the notion that Jey Uso could possibly usurp him. Reigns’ anger boiling over was time perfectly, it was effective, and it was a preview of how incredible a viscous heel Roman Reigns can be. This was one of the best moments of WWE TV all year.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Again, it’s hard to be down on a show that features a show-closing promo and angle that strong. I am all in on heel Roman Reigns, as Jey Uso as a challenger for the Universal title, and I cannot wait to see how they handle the match on Sunday. I thought tonight’s final push heading into the triple threat ladder match was strong, and I was sufficiently impressed with Bayley’s brief promo building up her match with Nikki Cross. The real downside to tonight’s show was King Corbin’s clean win over Matt Riddle. I’ve already expanded upon my thoughts in detail during my initial analysis of that match and segment, but I think it’s imperative that WWE aim to protect its new talent with main event upside with rosters that are so thin on characters that haven’t been defined down. We’re dangerously close to Riddle entering that territory already, and that’s a real shame.