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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
OCTOBER 16, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE THUNDERDOME IN AMWAY CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-The show opened with a refreshed intro featuring many of the new roster members, then gave way to a large pyro display and sweeping shot of the roof of the Thunderdome. Michael Cole called Smackdown the “hottest live show in all of entertainment.”
-At ringside, Cole introduced Corey Graves and said the landscape has changed following the draft. The camera cut to the stage, where the entire locker room stood at attention. In the ring, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon awaited their cue.
-Stephanie welcomed the audience to the season premiere of Smackdown. Triple H said it means all new action, excitement and drama. He claimed there was something for everyone, and talked up the main event for the Universal title. Stephanie teased New Day’s farewell match against Sheamus, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Cesaro. On the stage, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston held a split-legged Big E as he shook his lower body at everyone.
They continued to run down the card, including Jeff Hardy vs. Lars Sullivan. Stephanie said Daniel Bryan would make his first appearance. They introduced Kevin Owens and Aleister Black. Triple H mentioned Sami Zayn. Stephanie called upon Otis. Triple H introduced The Street Profits and mentioned they’d be defending their titles for the first time tonight.
Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode attacked the Street Profits from behind. A brawl ensued featuring the entire locker room. Kevin Owens wiped out Cesaro, Nakamura, and Aleister Black with a cannonball to the outside. Montez Ford flew over the top rope onto Ziggler and Roode.
Lars Sullivan’s music hit and he walked to the ring. He quickly flattened the Street Profits, then Kalisto. Sami Zayn ran away. Apollo Crews and Shorty G attacked Sullivan, but Lars made short work of both of them. Jeff Hardy hit the ring, attacked Sullivan from behind and tossing him out of the ring. Cole said they’d face off in the opening match next.
(LeClair’s Analysis: What an absolutely terrible way to start the new “season.” Wrestlers congregating on top of the stage like good obedient employees is one of the WWE’s worst power moves as it is, but to do it when a lot of these guys are supposed to be receiving fresh starts on a new brand makes it that much worse. If things weren’t bad enough, nearly everyone involved was then made to look like chumps against Lars Sullivan, who I’d argue is being push far too hard, far too quickly. Rough start.)
(1) LARS SULLIVAN vs. JEFF HARDY
Jeff Hardy attacked Lars Sullivan as soon as the bell rang. Sullivan shrugged off Hardy’s offense and dropped him with a shoulder tackle. Hardy sold an injury to his bad knee. Sullivan pulled Hardy to all fours and clubbed away at his head and neck area. Sullivan tossed Hardy from a backdrop position and covered him for a two count.
Sullivan climbed to the top rope and dove, but Hardy rolled out of the way. Sullivan sold the impact as Hardy fired off a series of right hands to the head. Hardy caught Sullivan with a sit-out jawbreaker and tried to whip Sullivan off the ropes, but Lars easily blocked it. Hardy hit Sullivan with the inverted atomic drop, but Sullivan still didn’t go down.
Hardy caught Lars with an elbow out of the corner, leapt to the top rope and finally knocked Sullivan off his feet with Whisper in the Wind. Hardy covered Sullivan for a one count. He quickly set up for the Twist of Fate, but Sullivan shoved him to the outside. Sullivan rolled to the outside. Hardy charged and leapt off the steel steps, but Lars caught him and dropped him on the edge of the ring.
Sullivan returned to the ring with Hardy. Jeff surprised Lars with a Twist of Fate and shot to the top rope, but Sullivan stood before Hardy even gained position. Sullivan grabbed Hardy from the ropes and connected with the Freak Accident for a three count.
WINNER: Lars Sullivan in 5:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Sullivan has some impressive offense, but it’s hard to overlook the controversy surrounding the man playing the character. “The Freak” is not a gimmick, and it’s not going to get Sullivan over. He’s not impressive enough, size wise, to stand out. He’s going to need something else if this character is to have any staying power long term.)
-Big E’s voice filled the speakers and New Day headed to the ring, all smiles. Big E seemed especially invigorated, gyrating, tossing his coat, running to the ring and doing snow angels on the mat. Cole said they’d be in action together for the final time after the break.
-A hype video for Bianca Belair aired. Out of the break, Graves said she’d be Smackdown Women’s champion within a year.
-New Day continued to dance in the ring. Big E said after six years, they found the one thing stronger than the power of positivity – the WWE Draft. Xavier Woods recapped that he and Kofi would be going to Raw, while Big E would stay on Smackdown. Kofi said they’ve been thinking about this all week and have had a plethora of emotions.
Kingston said social media reminded him of all their special moments. Woods recounted winning two triple threat tag matches in one night. Kofi mentioned the Hell in a Cell match with the Usos. Big E talked about Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.
Woods got emotional. He said Kofi and Big E trusted him, a guy who wasn’t doing anything, to run with an idea. He said he wouldn’t have even been here anymore if not for him. Kofi said he was at a point in his career where he didn’t know if he wanted to do this anymore. Kofi said Woods and E approached him with an idea to make special moments, and he’s so glad that happened. “I met two of the best friends that I’ve ever had in my life, I fully consider your two to be my brothers.”
Woods said they’re on Smackdown tonight to get it done one last time. They launched into their “New Day rocks” chant and traded hugs as their music played again.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was great. All three guys spoke from the heart. You can tell there was enough trust in them to hit their time but say what they wanted to say about working together for the past six years. It’s not often a stable is allowed to go their separate ways without a dramatic turn, but I’m glad that’s been avoided with New Day. I just can’t buy that these guys would ever turn on each other.)
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton approached Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, and Sheamus in gorilla position. She asked what it meant to face them in their farewell match. Cesaro said they’d take great pleasure in ruining their final moments together. Sheamus and Nakamura agreed.
Sheamus’ music hit and he headed to the stage, followed by Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura. Cole mentioned Cesaro and Sheamus’ history as “The Bar.” He said New Day haven’t competed as a trio in a year before sending the show to break.
(2) THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E & Xavier Woods) vs. CESARO & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & SHEAMUS
Xavier Woods opened the match with Shinsuke Nakamura. Woods worked over Nakamura’s arm. Shinsuke fought free with a knee and backed Woods into the corner. Woods leapfrogged Shinsuke, took him down with an arm drag and locked in an arm lock. Nakamura broke free, but Woods tagged in Kofi Kingston.
Kingston dropped Nakamura with double knees to the face and covered him for a two count. Shinsuke missed a roundhouse kick, but caught him on the back end. Shinsuke tagged in Cesaro. The two hit a tandem hip toss. Kofi tagged in Big E, who took down Cesaro. Woods immediately tagged himself it and scooped Big E into an electric chair, tossing him on top of Cesaro. Woods covered him for a two count.
Cesaro battled to his feet and took down Woods with an uppercut. He tagged in Sheamus and the duo locked arms and hit a double clothesline. They locked arms for a fun Bar callback. Sheamus scooped up Woods, but Xavier slid down the back and hit a rolling elbow. He caught Sheamus with a running knee, then tagged in Big E. Big E scooped Woods and power bombed him onto Sheamus. Kofi tagged himself in and hit a splash off the top rope, covering Sheamus for a near fall.
Kingston kicked Sheamus then hit the ropes, but Nakamura pulled down the top rope, dumping Kingston to the outside. Nakamura, Cesaro, and Sheamus triple teamed Kingston at ringside while be admonished by the referee. Cesaro shot him back into the ring and tagged in Nakamura. Shinsuke drove his boot into Kofi’s face, then tagged in Sheamus. Sheamus kicked away at Kingston, then tagged in Cesaro. Kofi tried to fight out of the corner, but Cesaro dropped him with a body slam.
Cesaro tagged in Sheamus, who delivered a big boot to Kingston’s gut. Sheamus tagged in Nakamura, who planted a kick into Kofi’s ribs. The heel trio continued to make quick tags. Cesaro sat Kingston on the ropes and Sheamus ripped him to the floor by the hair. The show went to commercial.
Sheamus set Kingston up for White Noise when the show returned from break. Kofi rolled it into a crucifix pin for a two count. Kingston managed to tag in Big E, while Sheamus tagged Cesaro. Big E hit an overhead suplex, followed by a belly-to-belly. He flattened Cesaro with a big splash, scooped Cesaro for the Big Ending. Cesaro rolled down the back and hit an impressive gut wrench suplex, followed by a running uppercut in the corner.
Cesaro hit another uppercut, but was cut off by Xavier Woods. Woods pushed Cesaro into Big E, who hit the Uranagi in tandem with a backstabber from Woods. Xavier tagged in. Cesaro hit him with an uppercut and tagged in Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura hit the sliding under-rope snap German suplex, then covered him for a two count.
Nakamura and Woods traded right hands. Xavier tripped him into the ropes and hit a slide through the ropes, tagging Kingston on his way through. Kofi tossed Nakamura from the ring and dove over the top rope onto him. Sheamus knocked Big E off the apron. Kofi returned to the ring and kicked Sheamus. He climbed to the top rope and dove, but Nakamura caught him with a kick to the chest.
Nakamura tagged in Cesaro, who set up the swing into a swift kick from Shinsuke. Cesaro tagged in Sheamus, who hit Kofi with White Noise. Sheamus covered, but Big E quickly broke it up. Nakamura tried to attack Big E but got caught with the Big Ending. Nakamura kicked Big E in the face. Xavier Woods dropkicked Nakamura. New Day exchanged quick tags. Big E grabbed Sheamus, Xavier Woods came off the top rope to hit Midnight Hour. Big E covered Sheamus for a three count.
WINNERS: The New Day in 15:00
New Day hugged in the center of the ring after the match. Big E told them how proud he is to have done this with his brothers. They raised each other’s arms as Cole called them one of the greatest teams in WWE history.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good, chaotic match. It was fun to see New Day back together again in full, especially knowing this would be the last time for, presumably, a long time. All six of these guys are supremely talented, so even when working a pretty by-the-numbers TV tag match. they’re able to pull out an above average affair. I really, truly hope that big things are ahead for Big E.)
-Backstage, Kayla Braxton welcomed Otis. She asked what he plans to do about The Miz. Sami Zayn quickly interjected, reminding Otis that he lost his buddy Tucker and his girlfriend Mandy Rose to Raw. He said Otis would probably lose his lawsuit to The Miz. “It’s fine, there are winners and there are Otis’.” Otis shoved Zayn to the ground and walked away.
-Daniel Bryan’s music hit and he skipped to the ring, leading the virtual audience in a “yes” chant. Graves wondered if this was the first time the yes movement has been virtual. “I believe so,” Cole replied. He said Bryan would address the Thunderdome for the first time next.
-Daniel Bryan continued his “yes” chant out of the break. Brie Bella was shown as part of the Thunderdome audience. Bryan said though he watched it from home, but seeing the fan’s faces in person makes him really love the Thunderdome. He said hi to Brie and his daughter on the screen. Bryan talked about the tag team and Universal title matches. “On top of that, I got to meet the new mix that’s gonna be on Smackdown for the next year.”
Bryan said he’s excited to have Bianca Belair, The Riott Squad, Kevin Owens, Aleister Black and Apollo Crews on Smackdown. “I can’t wait to get in the ring with these men.” Bryan was cut off by Seth Rollins’ music. Bryan smiled as Rollins stepped onto the stage.
“It is so good to see you, it’s been so long,” Seth exclaimed. He said he’s thrilled that Bryan’s wife let him come to work. He said baby brain must have gotten to him, because he forgot to mention the most important name in the draft. “That’s me,” Seth smiled. Rollins asked Bryan what side of history he’d like to be on. “When it comes to the greater good, either you’re with me or you’re against me.”
Seth said a man of Bryan’s intellect should be smart enough to stand beside him and mold the future of the industry. Bryan said he’s all for changing the future for the better, and making Smackdown as good as it can be, Seth’s vision seems a little short sighted and self indulgent. “Quite frankly, it just seems a little bit dumb.” He and Seth began to playfully argue. Rollins quickly grew tired and kicked Bryan in the gut. Bryan rebounded quickly, taking Rollins down and then delivering a flurry of Yes kicks. Rollins slid under the ropes before the final one connected.
Rey Mysterio’s music hit. He and Dominick walked down the ramp, cornering Rollins between them and Bryan. Rollins slid back in the ring and tried to convince Bryan to work with him against them. Bryan left Rollins alone in the ring. Murphy’s music hit, he rushed to the ring and stood beside Rollins after some deliberation. He then quickly spun to drop Rollins. Seth managed to escape. Murphy offered a hand to Rey and Dominick, but both men refused.
(LeClair’s Analysis; I absolutely love the idea of a Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins feud. I absolutely detest the idea of Daniel Bryan becoming another proxy for the Mysterio family in their never-ending feud with Seth Rollins. Hopefully the final chapter of that rivalry is right around the corner, and we can get to something far fresher.)
-Jay Glazer of Fox Sports talked up Smackdown’s newest acquisitions and continued to tease the main event between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman.
-The Street Profits headed to the ring for their tag team title defense. In an inset promo, Ford and Dawkins said to raise the red cups high in celebration of Smackdown’s season premiere. They talked about getting a robe like Robert Roode’s, then delivered their catch phrase. Cole and Graves said the match would be next.
-Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode were already in the ring when the show returned from break.
(3) THE STREET PROFITS (c, Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER & ROBERT ROODE – Smackdown Tag Team title match
Dolph Ziggler and Angelo Dawkins began the match by trading quick headlocks. Dawkins quickly dropped Ziggler with a shoulder tackle, then again with a dropkick. Ziggler then sidestepped a corner leap, allowing him to rush to his corner and tag in Robert Roode. Roode slammed Dawkins and covered him for a two count, then knocked Montez Ford off the apron.
Roode tagged in Ziggler and tossed him over his head into a lead drop. Montez Ford hit the ring to break up the count, then he attacked Roode as a measure of revenge. The referee called for the bell.
WINNERS: No contest in 1:00, Street Profits retain
Roode gave Angelo Dawkins a spine buster straight into a ZigZag from Dolph Ziggler. Montez Ford flew off the top rope and took down Roode and Ziggler with a huge cross body. The Street Profits retrieved their tag titles as Cole and Graves mentioned Ric Flair being on one of the Thunderdome screens for the third time in the segment.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Yikes. First night for both of these teams on Smackdown and the announcers were more interested in talking up Ric Flair on the LED boards than they were discussing a tag title match. Evidently, this rivalry is going to continue. I’m sure they’ll have some solid matches, but it’s hard to get excited about anything in the tag division given the way they treated the titles, and the most recent champions.)
-Progressive’s Match Flo recapped the announcement of Sasha Banks vs. Bayley in Hell in a Cell.
-Sasha Banks headed to the ring. A pop-up graphic noted that next week’s Smackdown will air on FS1. Michael Cole said Banks and Bayley would sign the contract to make their Hell in a Cell match official after the break.
Bayley was heading to the ring with her dented steel chair when the show returned from break. Adam Pearce stood in the ring to officiate the signing. He offered Sasha the chance to sign first. Banks stared down Bayley while she signed. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time,” Banks said.
Bayley said she’s looking forward to being done with Sasha so she can continue her historic reign, “which I did all by myself.” Banks told Bayley to say it again, this time to her face. Bayley called Sasha vindictive and claimed she’s been waiting to turn on her, but she beat Sasha to the punch. Sasha said if she wanted to turn on Bayley, she’d have done it years ago.
“When you got left behind at NXT, who was the first person to call you? Who brought you here to be their partner? Me.” Banks mentioned their tag team title run, and helping Bayley win her first Raw Women’s title. She said she helped Bayley every single time. “You turned your back on me and tried to end my career, and now I’m going to end you.”
“My name is Sasha Banks and my name is bigger than your title,” Banks delivered the line with contempt. She said taking the title would be icing on the cake. Bayley slammed the table and left the ring without signing the contract. Sasha called her a coward.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Sasha had a great line at the end there. This was the best segment between these two since the turn, though that isn’t exactly saying a lot. There’s still time to salvage this, but unfortunately, it doesn’t even feel half as big as it should. They’ve got one more week to ramp this up, and then hopefully deliver in spades during the match itself.)
-Braun Strowman was shown backstage warming up. Cole said the Universal title match would be next.
-A video package with well wishes from Ken Jeong, Joel McHale, and George Kittle aired.
-Braun Strowman headed to the ring. Cole wondered what would happen if Strowman won the Universal title tonight. Graves said he’d take the title to Raw, and Smackdown would be “up the creek.” Corey added that this Braun Strowman is more determined than the version that won the title at WrestleMania.
Roman Reigns’ music played and he sauntered onto the stage after a brief delay, flanked by Paul Heyman. Reigns held up the Universal title confidently, the swung it over his shoulder. Once Reigns entered the ring, Greg Hamilton provided the standard championship ring introductions. Jey Uso was shown watching backstage in gorilla. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Out of the break, Cole tossed to a pre-recorded clip of Rob Stone from Big Noon Saturday talking to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Back in the Thunderdome, Stone and Mark Henry were shown on the LED boards looking on.
(4) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. ROMAN REIGNS (c, w/ Paul Heyman) – WWE Universal title match
Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman locked up. Reigns managed to dump Strowman to the outside, then drop him with a Superman punch as soon as Strowman returned to the apron. Reigns slid to the outside and hit the Drive-by, tossing Strowman back in the ring and covering him for a one count.
Jey Uso was shown watching from backstage. In the ring, Roman Reigns cornered Braun Strowman and tried to whip him to the opposing corner. Strowman blocked it, but Reigns caught him with a big boot. Reigns covered for another one count. Reigns dumped Strowman over the top rope second time. He hit him with a headbutt, sending Strowman reeling into the barricade. Reigns slammed Strowman’s head off the steel steps, then returned to the ring to break the count.
Roman rejoined Braun outside the ring and slammed his head into the announcers desk. Reigns went for a leaping Superman punch off the steps, but Strowman caught him and tossed him clear over the announcers desk. Strowman charged at Reigns and tackled him over the barricade. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Strowman gave Reigns a hip toss out of the corner when the show returned from break. He dragged Reigns to his feet and dropped him with a clubbing blow to the chest. Strowman charged at Reigns, but Roman moved, sending Braun crashing into the ring post. Roman charged for a Superman punch, but Braun cut him off with a knee to the midsection. He dropped Reigns with a side slam, then grabbed Roman by the throat and delivered a big deadlift choke slam. Strowman covered, but Reigns kicked out at two, giving Strowman a low blow in the process.
Reigns hit a quick spear and covered Strowman for a near fall. Reigns looked at the referee in frustration. He backed into the corner and set up for a repeat. Strowman struggled to his feet. Reigns charged, but Strowman scooped him up. Roman slid through it and then applied a leaping guillotine. Strowman drove Reigns into the corner to break the hold, but Roman held on. Strowman collapsed to his knees, and then to the mat. Strowman tapped out.
WINNER: Roman Reigns in 11:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: More intriguing than it really had any right to be. This match didn’t make all that much sense from the get go, given that Strowman is now on Raw and had seemed to move on in an attempt to rebuild him as a character. I understand wanting a big hook for the season premiere, but I don’t think Strowman’s stock is particularly high. Oh well. Strowman was hardly protected here, nor does he really have any reason to be.)
Jey Uso’s music hit and he walked onto the stage. Jey paced around. Strowman struggled to his feet as Reigns looked on in disgust. Roman told Jey to watch. He gave Strowman a spear. Jey walked to the ring. Roman told him he’s got to feed the family. “At Hell in a Cell, this is you,” Roman said. He beat Strowman mercilessly with a steel chair. “If I can do this to him, imagine what I can do to you.” Jey looked on in anger. Reigns grabbed the chair and brutalized Strowman again. “Do you understand? Reigns screamed at Jey. He dared Uso to come in the ring. Jey obliged.
Reigns said he loves Jey and would never hurt him. “You’re forcing my hand. You’re embarrassing us.” He said it makes no sense that Jey is trying to pretend he’s on the same level as Being.s He asked Jey to acknowledge him. Jey stood silent. Reigns offered Jey a free shot with the steel chair. He turned his back. Jey picked it up, but couldn’t follow through.
Reigns turned around and Jey sucker punched him. He gave Reigns a super kick, then slammed the chair into Reigns’ back repeatedly. Adam Pearce and referees rushed in the ring to break it up. Jey tried to fight out of their grasp. Reigns recovered and gave Jey a big Superman punch. “That was your last chance.” Reigns looked tortured. His music played and he left the ring, seeming to be nearly driven to tears. The show faded out.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Excellent, as usual. Reigns is knocking this character out of the park every week. Jey Uso is as sympathetic as they come. This is the best thing WWE has going for them, by a long shot.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Outside of an excellent closing segment between Reigns and Jey Uso, and the exciting proposition of a Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins feud, this show felt largely like an underwhelming misstep for the new members of the roster. Talent in need of a fresh start were marched onto the stage for an introduction from Triple H and Stephanie, only to be overshadowed completely by Lars Sullivan. The tag title match took a backseat to the appearance of Ric Flair on the LED boards. The Seth Rollins/Rey Mysterio/Dominick/Murphy saga continued. While I’m cautiously optimistic about the fresh match-ups coming down the pipeline, I continue to be frustrated by the lack of creative consistency and general direction of the show outside of the Universal title picture with Roman Reigns.