LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 10/9: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Draft Night One, Bayley vs. Sasha, Owens vs. Fiend, Big E vs. Sheamus, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor


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

LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
OCTOBER 9, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE THUNDERDOME IN AMWAY CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

-Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the Thunderdome over a sweeping shot of the Amway Center. He said the landscape of WWE is set to change with night one of the WWE Draft. At ringside, he mentioned that Fox and USA network executives have been hard at work with WWE management to determine strategies.

Corey Graves narrated a screen showing over twenty wrestlers eligible to be drafted tonight. Cole confirmed that titles will follow title holders to their new brand should they be drafted.

-Stephanie McMahon came to the stage to kick off the draft. She announced that Monday Night Raw’s first overall pick is its current champion, Drew McIntyre. Smackdown selected the current Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. Cole and Graves said the titles will stay put.

Stephanie announced Asuka as Raw’s second pick. Smackdown selected Seth Rollins, making him the first brand switch of this year’s draft. With the final pick of the first round, Raw retained The Hurt Business in its entirety.

ROUND 1 RECAP:
RAW: Drew McIntyre, Asuka, The Hurt Business
SMACKDOWN: Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins

(LeClair’s Analysis: Nothing terribly surprising here, though I suppose it’s interesting to see The Hurt Business taken so early. I like the idea of keeping the champions on their respective brands. I’m also a big fan of moving Seth Rollins over to Smackdown. There doesn’t really seem to be any logical conclusion to the Rey Mysterio storyline, short of Dominic getting a win over Seth eventually and I just don’t think that should happen. Removing Seth from the equation, and giving him a bunch of new opponents on a brand he’s never worked on seems like a strong solution all around.)

-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed Smackdown’s newest roster member, Seth Rollins. She asked him about the transition. Seth said he’s ecstatic to have new paths to carve and a new trail to blaze. He remarked that he’s spent his entire career on Raw. “I’m just sad I won’t be there to watch the Mysterio family implode.” He said the “greater good” is moving to Friday nights.

-Greg Hamilton announced the opening contest as being falls count anywhere. Big E’s voice filled the arena and he headed to the ring. Michael Cole wondered if it might be his final night on Smackdown. “He’s in the draft pool tonight!” He and Graves discussed the merits of Big E becoming a main event singles competitor. Graves said he’d like to see Big E traded to Raw.

Sheamus headed to the ring. Cole tossed to a clip of Sheamus’ attack on Big E in the parking lot last month.

(1) BIG E vs. SHEAMUS – Falls Count Anywhere match

Sheamus dropped Big E with a quick shoulder tackle, then a rolling senton. He covered him for a one count. Big E retreated to the corner. Sheamus charged at him, but Big E caught him and dropped him with a Uranagi. Sheamus rolled to the apron. Big E speared him through the ropes and to the floor. Big E covered Sheamus outside the ring for a two count.

Big E looked under the ring for weapons, retrieving some large Booty-Os. He pulled out a kendo stick, but was attacked by Sheamus before he could use it. Sheamus sat Big E on the apron and fired off blows. he tied up E’s arms and stuck the kendo stick in his face. Sheamus t’ed up and hit Big E in the chest repeatedly. Big E finally collapsed to the floor. Sheamus covered him for a near fall.

Sheamus climbed under the ring to find a weapon. Big E grabbed a roll of duct tape and wrapped it tightly around Sheamus’ ankles. Big E grabbed the kendo stick and began cracking it into Sheamus’ ribs and back. Sheamus fell over the ringside barrier and the show went to commercial.

Big E chased Sheamus to the backstage area with the kendo stick when the show returned from commercial. Sheamus’ back was covered in marks. He managed to cut off Big E’s offense and slammed him onto some crates, then dragged him to a poorly staged table covered in pancake ingredients. He covered Big E in flour and smashed eggs on his face. Sheamus tossed Big E into more crates and dragged him down a hallway, tossing him through a doorway into offices and locker rooms.

Sheamus grabbed a computer monitor, but Big E cut him off with a broom to the head and neck. Sheamus retreated down the hallway as Big E continued to take shots with the broom. He retrieved a trashcan and bent it over Sheamus’ back repeatedly. E drove Sheamus through a set of doors into the parking garage. Sheamus crawled toward parked cars to find reprieve.

Big E approached, but Sheamus surprised him with a tire iron. He tossed Big E onto the hood of the car and set up for White Noise, driving Big E through the windshield. Sheamus covered Big E for a near fall. Sheamus was beside himself. He collapsed against the brick wall in frustration. Sheamus regrouped, slammed Big E repeatedly with a car door and then tossed him into a trunk. Sheamus tried to slam the trunk door down on Big E’s arm, but E blocked it and fought out of the trunk.

Sheamus charged for a Brogue Kick, but Big E moved. Sheamus kicked the trunk right off the car. Big E scooped Sheamus and gave him a power bomb onto the hood of another car. Big E set up Sheamus on top of the hood, then leapt off the car  through a table with the Big Ending. Big E covered Sheamus for a three count.

WINNER: Big E in 14:00

(LeClair’s Analysis: Good enough, hard hitting match to bring this feud to a conclusion. I disliked the pancake ingredient spot, but the rest of it worked. The finish with the cars was a nice callback to how they got to this match in the first place. Hopefully Big E is on his way to bigger things.)

-Jeu Uso headed to the ring. Cole and Graves talked about his opportunity at Hell in a Cell. Cole said he’d confront his cousin after the break. “Here comes Roman,” Graves added

-Kayla Braxton approached Big E backstage. A security guard walked on screen, covering his face. He removed his hat, revealing himself to be Kofi Kingston. Xavier Woods joined in. They said they’re back, but they’re missing their WWE Tag Team championships. They participated in their “New Day Rocks” chant together as Big E sold his wounds from the match with Sheamus

(LeClair’s Analysis: Big E was clearly trying to sell the effects of the match, but it also seemed like they were trying to tell the story that he’s committed to his singles run and not completely on board with just rejoining New Day in the tag division as they’d like to think. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.)

-Back in the ring, Jey Uso’s music continued to play. He addressed Roman Reigns directly, asking what the stipulation would be at Hell in a Cell. He looked to the stage. “You’re not gonna come out, I get it.” Jey said he’ll face the consequences, he never runs from them. He launched into his catch phrase, but was cut off by Paul Heyman on the big screen.

Paul told Jey to stop embarrassing himself and his family by trying to dictate the time the champion chooses to be appear. “That’s at the time and convenience of the champ.” Paul said Roman applauds Jey’s ambition, and the ambition of anyone else who wants to step up and challenge him. “Here’s what happens, though,” Paul added. A clip aired of Reigns dismantling Jey Uso at Clash of Champions.

The camera on Paul pulled out to reveal Roman Reigns sitting at a desk next to Paul. Roman said Jey’s dad told him to “believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see.” Reigns paused. “But what you just saw, you can believe that.” Roman said he tried to help Jey and make his life better. All he had to, Reigns said, was acknowledge him.

“For the first time, inside Hell in a Cell, there will be an ‘I Quit’ match.” Reigns shook his head. “It didn’t have to be like this,”  he said. “I just wanted to help you.” Reigns told Jey he loves him. He said after Jey says “I quit”, there will be consequences. Back in the ring Jey looked down at the ground, breathed a deep sigh, and nodded.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Another great segment. Pulling back the camera after the quick video package to reveal Reigns seated next to Paul was a nice touch. Reigns was slouched, looking despondent over Jey’s persistence. His demeanor sold the weight of the match, and the moment, perfectly. The “I Quit” stipulation is an interesting touch, and will again lead to Reigns’ brutalizing Jey and furthering this ruthless character.)

-Backstage, Stephanie McMahon chatted with Adam Pearce. Cole said the second round of the draft would be next.

-Stephanie McMahon was back at the podium. She announced that New Day would face Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro for the tag team titles.

She pivoted to the second round of the draft. Raw selected A.J. Styles. Smackdown selected Sasha Banks. Raw selected Naomi. Smackdown selected Bianca Belair. With the final pick of the second round, Raw selected Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax.

ROUND 2 RECAP:
RAW: A.J. Styles, Naomi, Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
SMACKDOWN: Sasha Banks, Bianca Belair

(LeClair’s Analysis: Interesting to see Styles move to Raw, having just come over after WrestleMania. It makes sense, though. He’d worked the majority of mid-card talent on Smackdown, and with Reigns at the top, it’s hard to see him getting much of a shot in the main event there anytime soon. Styles could make a great challenger for Drew McIntyre. Bianca Belair’s move to Smackdown is the most exciting pick of round two. She’s been seriously underutilized on Raw, so hopefully a fresh look on Fridays will make her a staple of the women’s division.)

-A.J. Styles weighed in from home. He said he should be offended that he wasn’t the first pick on Smackdown. He said he’s actually relieved, because a person of his caliber shouldn’t be surrounded by cheaters like Sami Zayn and Jeff Hardy. He said his future looks phenomenal.

-The Miz and John Morrison were already in the ring following Styles’ promo from home. Jeff Hardy headed to the ring. Cole said Hardy is set to team up with Matt Riddle, then showed a series of tweets between Riddle and Hardy setting up this makeshift partnership.

(2) THE MIZ & JOHN MORRISON vs. JEFF HARDY & MATT RIDDLE

John Morrison charged at Matt Riddle to begin the match. Riddle caught him and hit a quick capture suplex, then tagged in Jeff Hardy. Riddle knelt down for Jeff to hit Poetry in Motion. Morrison rolled to the outside. Hardy returned the favor by kneeling for Riddle to leap onto his back and fly over the top onto Morrison on the floor. The show went to commercial.

The Miz and John Morrison double teamed Jeff Hardy when the show returned from break. Morrison hit a standing shooting star press and covered Hardy for a two count. He worked over Hardy’s neck as Miz cheered him on from the apron Hardy broke the hold, but he and Morrison hit simultaneous clotheslines, sending both men crawling to their respective corners.

Matt Riddle an The Miz were tagged in. Riddle gave Morrison a T-Bone suplex, then a forearm and identical suplex to Miz. He followed up with the Broton, then a bridging German suplex. Morrison broke up the pin attempt. Jeff Hardy hit the ring and gave Morrison a Twist of Fate. Riddle connected with the BroDerek on Miz and covered him for a three count.

WINNERS: Jeff Hardy and Matt Riddle in 6:00

-Hardy and Riddle celebrated, but were quickly cut off by the returning Lars Sullivan. Sullivan ran through both Riddle and Hardy with ease. He gave both of them massive clotheslines, then tossed Hardy from the ring. He slammed Matt Riddle, then grabbed The Miz. Morrison tried to save hi, but Sullivan pulled him away. Sullivan pummeled Miz, then gave him a Freak Accident. Sullivan stared maniacally into the camera as Cole called him “The Freak” for the tenth time in the segment.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Lots of negatives here. Matt Riddle deserves more than being stuck in random tag team matches. The Miz and John Morrison should be legitimate competitors in the tag division, not fodder for any random combination in a given week. Lars Sullivan’s original push went very poorly, and not just because of his own struggles. This type of one-note character doesn’t connect with audiences anymore. I don’t see the upside here, especially given the personal character concerns.) 

-Stephanie McMahon was at the podium when the show returned from break. She announced that Lars Sullivan would be in Monday’s draft pool. Raw selected Ricochet to remain on Raw. Smackdown selected Jey Uso. Raw followed up with Mandy Rose, while Smackdown selected Rey and Dominik Mysterio.  Raw’s final pick was The Miz and John Morrison.

ROUND 3 RECAP:
RAW: Ricochet, Mandy Rose, The Miz & John Morrison
SMACKDOWN: Jey Uso, Rey & Dominik Mysterio

(LeClair’s Analysis: Oh boy. Just when I thought the Seth Rollins/Mysterio story was over, here we go again. This is worst case scenario for everyone involved. I was so looking forward to something new, especially for Seth. Again, I’m not sure how they get out of this with them all on the same brand, but I don’t want to see anymore of it. On the plus side, Miz and Morrison departing for Raw seems like an all around positive. They’ve run their course on Fridays and can have some fun tag feuds on Raw.)

-Backstage, Rey and Dominik Mysterio celebrated being drafted to Smackdown. Rey said he was worried they’d be separated. He said Seth claimed to be through with the past, but the past isn’t through with him.

-Sasha Banks headed to the ring. “It’s Boss Time!” Cole screamed. He mentioned today would’ve been Eddie Guerrero’s 53rd birthday. Bayley followed. Greg Hamilton provided traditional championship introductions. Sasha got in Bayley’s face as her name was announced. The referee moved to separate them.

Banks attacked Bayley before her entrance was even finished.

(3) SASHA BANKS vs. BAYLEY (c) – Smackdown Women’s Title Match

The referee separated the women and then rang the bell. Sasha pounced, dropping Bayley in the corner and driving her boot into Bayley’s neck. Bayley rolled out of the ring just before the count of five. Bayley yelled at Sasha, then left walking up the ramp. Sasha retrieved her.

Banks rolled Bayley in the ring and locked in the Bank Statement. Bayley rolled it into a roll up for a two count. Sasha transitioned into one of her own for a two. Bayley cut off Banks with a big clothesline. Banks grabbed at her injured neck. Bayley set up Banks in an Electric Chair. Sasha rolled through it, got Bayley on the mat, and locked in the Bank Statement again. Bayley flailed and hooked her leg in the ropes.

Bayley rolled to the outside again. She caught Banks with a punch, then quickly hit Banks in the stomach with a steel chair.

WINNER: Sasha Banks in 2:00 by disqualification, Bayley retains title

Bayley came back into the ring with the steel chair to attack Banks again. Sasha kicked her away, then dropped Bayley face first into the chair. Banks hit Bayley over the back repeatedly with the same chair Bayley used on her. She clamped Bayley’s neck in the chair and climbed to the middle rope. Bayley managed to roll away before Banks could deliver the blow.

(LeClair’s Analysis: One of the few instances where I’m comfortable with a quick, non-finish. This match never should’ve been scheduled for tonight in the first place. This still doesn’t address the litany of problems with this angle since the turn, but it does at least put off the real big rivalry match a little longer, hopefully on a far bigger stage.)

-The Progressive Match Flo recapped Alexa Bliss’ appearance on the KO Show last week, leading to tonight’s match between Owesn and The Fiend.

-Kevin Owens was shown taping up his wrists backstage. Alexa Bliss walked up to him and said “let me in.” The show faded to commercial.

-Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro were already in the ring when the show returned from break. Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods entered. “They’re back!” Cole exclaimed. He tossed to a clip from Extreme Rules, where Nakamura and Cesaro power bombed Kofi through a table to win the tag titles and put Kofi on the shelf.

(4) SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & CESARO (c) vs. THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) – Smackdown Tag Team title match

Cesaro began the match with Xavier Woods. He backed Woods into the corner, but Xavier quickly fought out with a flurry of punches. Cesaro cut him off with an uppercut, then a big clothesline. Cesaro toyed with Woods, pushing him in the face with his boot. Woods shot to his feet, ducked a clothesline and dropped Cesaro with a back elbow. He tagged in Kofi Kingston, who leapt onto Cesaro from the top rope.

Kofi covered Cesaro, but Nakamura quickly broke up the pin attempt. Cole sent the show to commercial.

Cesaro had Kofi cornered when the show returned from break. He fired off quick body blows to Kingston’s sternum. Kofi battled out long enough to make a tag to Woods. Cesaro tagged in Nakamura. Woods hit Cesaro with the Honor Roll, then caught Nakamura with a quick kick and a leaping DDT. Woods covered for a near fall.

Woods leapt at Nakamura in the corner, but Shinsuke dodged it and tagged in Cesaro. Cesaro deadlifted Woods, Nakamura delivered a kick to the back of the neck and Cesaro finished the combo off with a gut wrench suplex. Woods crawled and tagged in Kofi Kingston. Kofi dragged Cesaro to the apron and connected with a a tornado DDT after catapulting his own body off the rope.

Cesaro and Kingston returned to the ring. Cesaro hit Kofi with a flying uppercut and covered him for a near fall. He tagged in Nakamura, then set Kingston up for the Swing. Meanwhile, Woods held onto Nakamura’s leg to prevent him from hitting the Kinshasa. Kofi broke Cesaro’s hold and hit Trouble in Paradise. He tagged in Woods. Kofi hit Nakamura with Trouble in Paradise. Woods flew across the ring and hit a big elbow drop, covering Nakamura for a three count.

WINNER: New Day in 9:00, new Smackdown Tag Team champions

Big E rushed to the ring to celebrate with Kofi and Xavier.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Really good, fast-paced match. It felt a little underwhelming to have Xavier Woods return to action seemingly out of nowhere and immediately earn a tag team title match, but kudos to WWE for reminding people of the tables match at Extreme Rules, giving credence to this match happening right away. I was slightly perplexed at the decision to put the titles on New Day, but that was clearly cleared up during the next segment.)

-Cole tossed back to Stephanie McMahon for the final round of night one of the draft. Raw selected Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. Woods pleaded with Stephanie to “say E’s name.” Stephanie announced Big E as Smackdown’s pick. Raw followed up with Dana Brooke, while Smackdown took Otis. Raw’s final selection was Angel Garza.

ROUND 4 RECAP:
RAW: Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods, Dana Brooke, Angel Garza
SMACKDOWN: Big E, Otis

(LeClair’s Analysis: Well, I guess there really was some foreshadowing earlier tonight. Great job by Xavier Woods selling the moment, pleading with Stephanie to say Big E’s name. Still, though, the logic is sort of flawed here. I dislike how Raw can draft an entire stable like The Hurt Business, but couldn’t later take New Day in its entirety. I don’t understand why Smackdown would draft Otis, but not his partner, Tucker. If Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax are considered a team, then surely Heavy Machinery is, too. The rules of the draft are too often muddied to create a story and create the exact narrative they’re trying to tell. Just be consistent.)

-Michael Cole announced that the draft will continue on Talking Smack, available tomorrow on WWE Network.

-Backstage, Otis and Tucker discussed Otis’ being drafted to Smackdown. Both men were wearing suits, Otis’ was sleeveless. Tucker said he hopes that Miz and Morrison moving to Raw means they’ll be dropping their ridiculous lawsuit. A woman walked in and served Otis with papers again. Tucker informed Otis they were delaying the trial. Otis was upset.

-After a recap of the Smackdown women’s title match earlier in the night, Sasha Banks spoke directly to the camera backstage. She challenged Bayley to a Hell in a Cell match. “I am going to break you,” Sasha said. “You used to be my best friend and I used to love you so very much…I’m going to take the one thing you love the most.” Banks promised to win the Smackdown Women’s title.

-The Firefly Funhouse title card aired, then the lights cut out in the Thunderdome. The Fiend’s music played and the camera zoomed in on Bray Wyatt’s severed head lantern. The Fiend sauntered to the ring, bathed in red light. Cole said he’s one of the most malevolent competitors in WWE history, and that this will be his first ever match on Smackdown.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I feel it pertinent to add, while I think The Fiend character has largely gone completely off the rails, the entrance is still one of the absolute coolest things this company has in its pocket. I love that we don’t see it all that often, but every time we do, it feels special, even if The Fiend himself doesn’t.)

-After the break, Michael Cole and Corey Graves showed a graphic with the pictures of “over thirty” Superstars eligible to be drafted on Monday’s Raw. They also confirmed that Roman Reigns will defend the Universal title on next week’s season premiere of Smackdown against Braun Strowman, and announced New Day’s “farewell to Smackdown” match next week, a six man tag against Sheamus, Cesaro, and Shinsuke Nakamura.

-Back in the ring, The Fiend awaited his opponent. Kevin Owens’ music hit and he marched to the ring.

(5) THE FIEND vs. KEVIN OWENS

Kevin Owens charged at The Fiend when the bell rang, clotheslining him into the corner and then quickly hitting the cannonball. The Fiend stood up, no-selling the moves. The Fiend quickly dropped Owens with a running cross body. Owens rolled to the outside, but The Fiend rushed to meet him and cut him down with a big clothesline.

Fiend tossed Owens back in the ring at the referee’s count of seven. Owens retreated to the corner. He fired a shot, but Fiend shook it off and hung upside down, scaring Owens across the ring. KO regrouped and charged, but The Fiend slammed him to the mat, punched him in the back of the head, then slowly dragged him to his feet.

Owens fought back with a big clothesline. The Fiend stood up almost immediately. Owens fired off elbows, but The Fiend shrugged them off. Owens pushed The Fiend to the outside, but quickly got caught with a Uranagi onto the announcers desk.  Fiend followed up with a Sister Abigail right into the corner of the table. Owens collapsed to the floor as The Fiend laughed. Cole sent toe show to commercial.

The Fiend stomped Owens when the show returned. He slammed Owens with another Uranagi then mimed then quickly twisted Owens head, simulating a neck snap. He pulled Owens to his feet and set up for Sister Abigail, but Owens punched out of it and gave The Fiend a super kick. The Fiend didn’t budge. Owens hit a second kick. Nothing. KO hit a third kick, which sent the Fiend reeling into the corner. Owens hit two running cannonballs, finally causing The Fiend to fall to the outside. Fiend quickly stood and climbed onto the apron. Owens kicked him right off to the floor.

Owens climbed to the apron and gave The Fiend a big splash to the outside. He returned to the ring and let the referee count. The Fiend stood again. Owens rushed to the outside and gave The Fiend a pop-up power bomb onto the announcers desk, which failed to break. He quickly grabbed The Fiend by the shirt and gave him a second one, this time sending the table crashing. Owens returned to the ring and The Fiend rose almost immediately, returning to the ring.

The Fiend grabbed the mandible claw. Kevin Owens hit the stunner with the claw still applied. The Fiend fought to his feet and hit Owens with the Uranagi, claw still applied. The referee counted Owens shoulders down for three.

WINNER: The Fiend in 10:00

The lights cut out. When they returned, The Fiend was atop the entrance stage, staring directly at Alexa Bliss. They both turned to look at Kevin Owens, choking in the ring, then back at each other. The show cut to black.

-The Smackdown theme music cut in as Michael Cole ran down next week’s show, only to abruptly be cut off by local affiliates.

(LeClair’s Analysis: It’s really hard to take The Fiend seriously as this unstoppable, supernatural monster after seeing him handled on multiple occasions by Braun Strowman, and then completely emasculated by Roman Reigns. I get that he now has to be rehabilitated somehow, but it’s a shame that has to come at the hands of Kevin Owens, who is in need of some wins himself. I continue to be intrigued, at least, by the partnership with Alexa Bliss. Initially, I was a opposed to the union, but I think they’ve done a better job handling the nuance of it in recent weeks. If The Fiend does indeed move to Raw as rumored, I presume Bliss will follow.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Some good and bad to come out of tonight’s portion of the draft. Most of the picks make storyline sense, but I dislike the “rules” or lack thereof. Like I mentioned previously, there appears to be no consistency in how teams or stables are managed, leading to awkward splits, like New Day’s and Heavy Machinery’s. I just wish they better, or more forthright with stuff like this. It makes everyone look bad. The show was again anchored by a good segment for Roman Reigns and Jey Uso, as well as a solid tag team title match and what felt like a fitting conclusion to the rivalry between Big E and Sheamus. I’m glad the women’s title match ended with a quick non-finish, but, again, I’d prefer to have avoided booking it now altogether. Overall, a mixed bag, as most Smackdowns are. I’m looking forward to night two of the draft, and getting a better for feel for the future of both shows once the full rundown has been revealed.

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