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LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
DECEMBER 4, 2020
ORLANDO, FL AT WWE PERFORMANCE CENTER IN AMWAY CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-The show opened with a wide shot of the entrance stage. The entire Smackdown locker room stood below a memorial graphic. The camera cut to Michael Cole and Corey Graves, standing at the announcers desk at ringside. Cole said they lost a beloved member of the WWE family this week. He asked the audience to join them in a traditional ten bell salute in honor of Pat Patterson.
A “thank you Pat” chant filled the Thunderdome. The camera swept across the screens in the arena, then back to the wrestlers on stage before fading out on the memorial graphic. The traditional Smackdown intro video followed.
-Michael Cole provided a standard introduction to the show over a sweeping wide shot of the Thunderdome. He introduced Kayla Braxton, already in the ring.
-Kayla Braxton introduced the “most dominant Superstar of his era,” listing off a plethora of accolades and finally welcoming Roman Reigns.
Roman Reigns walked to the ring, flanked by Paul Heyman and Jey Uso. Heyman looked around confidently. Jey seemed sullen and bit dejected at first, but picked his head up as the group reached ringside. Cole and Graves teased the tag team match scheduled for later tonight. Graves remarked that Jey Uso is on his way to becoming a “bad, bad man” like his cousin.
Roman complimented Kayla for her introduction, but said she missed one. Paul stepped in to deliver his “reign(s)ing, defending…” line. Kayla apologized, then quickly moved to asked Reigns and Jey about the events of last week’s show. A video package covering last week’s segments aired.
Back live, Kayla asked if Roman fears Kevin Owens. Reigns shook his head in disgust. He paused. He said this is likely going to be the most important thing Kayla ever does in her career, and she came out and blew it by asking stupid questions. “Michael Cole could’ve done this, but we gave you a chance,” Reigns said.
Kayla was unshaken. She asked Roman if he’s using Jey Uso as a pawn by manipulating him. Reigns said those are stupid words for stupid people. “I am the protector,” Reigns added. He said Jey is one half of the one of the best tag teams of the generation, but implored Kayla to look at what he’s done over the last few months. Roman said Paul went to bat for Kayla, but she’s blown it again. He stepped away from the microphone and told Paul to handle “this amateur.”
Heyman referenced ratings. He said they’re up because of “main event Jey Uso.” Heyman claimed that Roman is a motivator and an inspiration to his cousin and to others. Kevin Owens’ music cut Paul off.
Kevin said that, since it’s been established that they don’t fear each other, there’s no reason to wait until later tonight. He offered to settle it right now. Roman asked for the microphone. Paul tried to hand it over, but Jey took it from him. “We run this show, you know we accept.”
“I wasn’t talking to the bus boy,” Owens retorted. He turned to Reigns, “I was talking to the head of the table.” Owens suggested, if not now, why not TLC? He said they should add some tables, ladders, and chairs, and put the title on the line. Roman took the microphone from Jey. Owens again offered to settle it now.
Reigns laughed. “You being on the island of relevancy is the best thing that’s ever happened to you,” Reigns said. He said he trained his cousin well, and they don’t back down from a challenge. Reigns told Owens he’s lucky, because the old him would beat Kevin down now. “What do I look like, a savage? I’m a gentleman. There’s a lady in the ring. Grow up.” Reigns tossed the mic and left the ring.
Reigns’ music played, but Owen asked them to shut it off. He said he’d grow up when Roman grew some balls. “Right now, it’s clear to everyone that you’re just a bitch.” Reigns grew angry, but restrained himself from turning around. He continued his walk up the ramp.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good segment. I liked the idea of presenting it as though it was Paul Heyman who went to bat for Kayla Braxton to get the in-ring interview rather than Michael Cole, only to have Reigns undermine her credibility. Kayla, to her credit, refused to back down from Reigns. Kevin Owens, the moral compass of Smackdown, played the likable foil to Reigns and company, while Heyman and Jey Uso acted as excellent compliments to the Reigns character. Heyman’s role, though drastically different from the one he inhabited during his tenure with Brock Lesnar, is effective and poignant. He’s the dirty work, clean up guy, and it works.)
-Michael Cole teased a six man tag team match in honor of Pat Patterson, featuring the current Intercontinental champion and five other former champions. Corey Graves talked up a sit down interview with Carmella to discuss her rivalry with Sasha Banks.
-Bayley headed to the ring. Graves said she’d face Natalya after the break.
-Out of the break, Jey Uso was heated, talking to Roman and Paul. He said Owens overstepped and apologized for “stepping out of line.” Roman put a hand on Jey’s shoulder. He said there’s consequences for everything he does. Paul looked on at Reigns, concern on his face. Reigns told Jey he loved him and left.
-Cole and Graves confirmed that Roman Reigns will face Kevin Owens in a TLC match at TLC for the Universal Championship.
-Natalya headed to the ring. Cole threw to a recap of the run in between Bayley and Natalya on last week’s show. He then welcomed Bianca Belair to the commentary table.
(1) BAYLEY vs. NATALYA
Natalya grabbed a headlock and took Bayley down. Bayley freed herself with her legs and the two locked up after returning to their feet. Bayley hung Nattie up in the ropes and then turned her attention to Bianca Belair. Belair said Bayley is always focused on her.
Bayley gave Natalya a dropkick on the outside. She slid in the ring to break the count, then got in Bianca’s face at the table. Natalya recovered and tossed Bayley into the ring steps. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Bayley hit a side back body drop for a two count when the show returned from commercial. Natalya fought to her feet and tried to take Bayley down for a Sharpshooter, but Bayley caught her with a knee to the face. Bayley tripped Natalya into the turnbuckle. Natalya fought out of the corner, took Bayley down and applied the Sharpshooter for a quick tap out win.
WINNER: Natalya in 6:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Hard to say anything at all about match quality. Over 4 minutes of the 6 minute runtime were spent in commercial. Certainly a surprising result, given where Bayley was just weeks ago. I’m not sure what purpose this ultimately serves, given that Bianca Belair didn’t cause any sort of distraction. You can make the case that Bayley was too focused on Belair, but that was only the story in the opening minute or so of the match. Bayley seemed focused on Nattie after that, especially following the commercial break. Strange booking.)
-Cole teased a tribute to Pat Patterson coming up after the break.
-The show returned with a video montage compiling tweets from wrestlers discussing the passing of Pat Patterson. The camera then focused on the original Intercontinental title, positioned at ringside. Cole and Graves tossed to the same tribute package that aired on Wednesday night’s NXT.
-Daniel Bryan headed to the ring, smile on his face. Corey Graves said Pat had an affinity for Bryan. Rey Mysterio followed. Big E hit the ring next, with new music, and the return of his bowl of chalk for dip his hands in. Cole sent the show to commercial.
-Out of the break, Dolph Ziggler, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the current Intercontinental Champion, Sami Zayn, headed to the ring.
(2) DANIEL BRYAN & REY MYSTERIO & BIG E vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER & SHINSUKE NAKAMURA & SAMI ZAYN – Six Man Tag Team Match
Shinsuke Nakamura began the match with Rey Mysterio. Rey grabbed a waist lock, but Nakamura elbowed out of it. Rey caught Shinsuke with a headscissor takeover. Rey tagged in Big E. Ziggler sized him, grabbing a quick waist lock. Big E easily powered out of it, deadlifting Ziggler and dropping him to the mat. He tagged in Daniel Bryan.
Bryan climbed to the top rope and hit Dolph with a double axe handle. He worked over Ziggler’s arm, then gave him a pair of quick uppercuts. Ziggler shot Bryan off the ropes, but Bryan countered with a shoulder tackle. Sami grabbed Bryan’s leg, allowing Ziggler to attack him from behind.
Ziggler tossed Bryan toward the turnbuckle, but Bryan flipped over him, then dove onto Sami Zayn on the outside. Bryan returned to the apron and knocked Nakamura to the floor. Bryan climbed to the top rope, but Ziggler dropkicked him down to the floor. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Bryan and Ziggler traded punches when the show returned from break. They ran the ropes opposite of each other multiple times then collided in the center. Both men crawled to their respective corners. Bryan tagged in Big E, Ziggler tagged in Nakamura. Big E gave Nakamura a pair of belly to belly suplexes, then a big running splash. Nakamura recovered and hit a quick spin kick. He whipped Big E into the corner and charged, but E caught him with a Uranagi. Big E covered, but Ziggler broke up the count.
Big E set up for the Big Ending, but Nakamura slid down his back and tagged in Sami Zayn. Zayn sent Big E into the ring post. Rey Mysterio tagged himself in. Mysterio set up for a bulldog, but Zayn countered into the Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall. Zayn tagged in Ziggler. Mysterio tagged Bryan.
Bryan hit a big running kick into the corner, then followed with a barrage of Yes kicks. He hoisted Dolph to the top turnbuckle and hit a top rope hurricanrana, but Ziggler rolled through it into a pin for a near fall. Both men shot to their feet. Bryan secured a backslide, but Ziggler kicked out. Bryan set up for the Yes Kickson a grounded Ziggler. Dolph ducked the final one and hit the Famouser. He covered, but Big E broke it up.
Nakamura hit the ring and kicked Big E. Mysterio leaped off the top rope and downed Nakamura with a senton. Sami Zayn tossed Mysterio to the outside, then tagged himself in. Ziggler went for a super kick, but Bryan ducked and caught him with a running knee. Sami Zayn rolled Bryan up, but Bryan rolled into the Yes Lock. Sami dragged himself to the ropes and eventually draped his foot across the bottom one.
Sami recoverd enough to hit Bryan with a brain buster. He covered, but Bryan rolled through into a small package for a surprise three count.
WINNERS: Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio, and Big E in 11:00
The trio of babyfaces huddled at ringside and agreed to return to the ring. Nakamura and Sami Zayn charged, but Ziggler hung back, hoping to avoid conflict. The babyfaces tossed Zayn and Nakamura to the outside with ease, leaving Ziggler to fend for himself. He dropped to his knees, pleading for mercy.
Ziggler tried to throw a cheap shot at Bryan, but Bryan hit him with an atomic drop. Ziggler fell into the ropes, setting Rey up to hit a 619. Big E finished things off with the Big Ending, before pointing to the sky in honor of Pat Patterson.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good match. I get the point here was really just to honor Patterson by having the current and former Intercontinental champions wrestle, but it’s nice to see them giving to consideration to the multiple challengers Zayn has on tap too, primarily Bryan and Big E.)
-Kayla Braxton stood backstage with Kevin Owens. She asked what about Roman draws his ire. Kevin said he used to respect Roman, even looked up to him. Owens said Reigns was always “one of the boys,” never even wanting his own locker room despite being one of the top guys in the company. Kevin said he’s not like that anymore.
Owens said he’s been a real bad guy before, but he’s tried to do his best to make amends with fans, colleagues, and crew. KO said Reigns has become a jackass. He said he’d like to call him something else starting with an “a”, but didn’t want to offend his friends at Fox. He mouthed the crowd chant of the word instead.
Otis wandered onto screen, humming along. He said he knows Kevin’s history with partners, but he’s not worried because Kevin seems like a “blue collar brawler”, like him. Otis said Roman and Jey don’t respect guys like them, and he plans to bulldoze right through them.
(LeClair’s Analysis: I’ve said this a lot, but it’s worth mentioning again how good Owens is as this moral compass role. He’s always quick to point out his past transgressions, while explaining why he now takes such umbrage when his opponents do the same kinds of things, or worse. Owens, like Daniel Bryan, is a great, honest promo and a truly likable guy that could be a lot more than he currently is.)
-Corey Graves teased a sit down interview with both Carmella and Sasha Banks, up next.
-Progressive’s Match Flo covered the ongoing story between Sasha Banks and Carmella
-Michael Cole welcomed Sasha Banks and Carmella, appearing on screen side by side via split screen.
Cole tried to begin with Carmella, but Sasha cut him off, saying Carmella has been able to run her mouth for weeks. She said Carmella is the “chick that keeps attacking her from behind every week because she isn’t a woman enough to do it face to face.” Cole said Carmella claimed she used to be like Banks, having the admiration of the fans.
Banks said Carmella wishes she could be like her. Carmella shrugged her off, calling Banks a “Nicki Minaj wannabe.” Carmella brought up winning not one, but two Money in the Bank matches. Banks said she needed help to win both. She said she’s out of her league, and always will be. Carmella said Banks is jealous of her. Banks snarled.
Carmella said all Sasha ever wanted to do is be a WWE Superstar, while she “on a whim, waltzed into the Performance Center” and became a WWE Superstar virtually overnight. Carmella said she became better than Banks in half the time. She called herself the hot chick who is going to take Sasha’s title.
Banks said it’s embarrassing that Carmella thinks she even belongs in the ring with her. She offered Carmella a match for the title at TLC. “I promise, you ain’t never been in the ring with a badder bitch than me.” Carmella laughed, then turned her screen off.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Oh boy. This was bad. Really, really, really bad. You know that strung out, valley-girl-esque, prototypical, bubbly “dumb blonde” voice that women use in bad comedy movies? That’s how Sasha sounded. I don’t know why she went with that inflection, I don’t know why she tried to out Carmella Carmella, but this was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen out of her. It was cringe-inducing. Carmella wasn’t much better. Just awful.)
-Murphy headed to the ring with Rey, Dominick, and Aaliyah Mysterio at his side. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Out of the break, Murphy gave a fist bump to Aaliyah and Dominick. Cole tossed to a recap of the Corbin vs. Murphy match from last week’s show.
King Corbin headed to the ring, flanked by two men in suits, wearing hoods.
(3) MURPHY (w/ Rey, Dominick, & Aaliyah Mysterio) vs. KING CORBIN
King Corbin quickly backed Murphy into the corner and drove his shoulder into his midsection. Murphy tried to burst out, but Corbin drove him back and then tossed him clear across the ring. He talked trash toward the Mysterio family. Corbin launched Murphy again, but then ate a kick when he tried to pull him to his feet.
Murphy caught Corbin with a quick jawbreaker, then headed to the top rope. Corbin grabbed Murphy by the throat, but Murphy kicked him in the chest. Murphy went for a sunset flip, but Corbin grabbed him by the neck and pulled him to his feet. Corbin tossed Murphy off the ropes but Murphy bounced back with a sloppy looking hurricanrana. Murphy tossed Corbin to the outside, then stared down Corbin’s two henchmen. Corbin recovered and threw Murphy into the timekeeper’s area. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Corbin continued to beat down Murphy when the show returned from break. Corey Graves confirmed that the two men accompanying Corbin are actually Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake, formally of the Forgotten Sons. Blake and Cutler got in the Mysterio’s faces on the outside.
Murphy struggled to rise to his knees. Corbin cut him down with a big right hand. He continued to talk trash. Murphy kicked out Corbin’s knee and grabbed a chinlock. Corbin backed Murphy into the corner to break the hold, but Murphy climbed on his back. Corbin backed into the corner again to break the hold. Murphy caught Corbin with a missile dropkick off the middle rope. The two traded forearms to the jaw. Murphy hit a series of kicks, but Corbin shrugged them off. Corbin tried to run his sliding clothesline, but Murphy caught him with trigger knee. Corbin rolled to the outside.
Cutler and Blake attacked Rey and Dominick on the outside. Meanwhile, Murphy dropped Corbin with a quick kick. Cutler and Blake slid in the ring with Murphy giving chase. Murphy ran into the arms of Corbin, who hit the End of Days for a three count.
WINNER: King Corbin in 10:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: Bad match, bad 50/50 booking. Corbin matches are typically all the same, but they’re certainly more tolerable when the run under ten minutes. This is two weeks in a row now that Corbin’s offense vastly outweighs Murphy’s and interference is the basis for virtually everything that happens. It’s just lazy, uninspired booking that does no one favors. Murphy gets beat down and looks bad. Corbin was cheated so badly last week that he almost became sympathetic. This week, he “evens the odds”, so to speak, and wins, all the while still mostly dominating the match. What does that say about Murphy? What is the benefit to putting this much stock into Corbin? On a positive note, I’m glad the Forgotten Sons gimmick was scrapped, and that Ryker has (at least for now) been removed from TV. It was a bad gimmick with a bad message, especially in this climate.)
-Backstage, the Street Profits talked up the main event tag team match. Robert Roode eventually interrupted them. He said they can’t stop running their mouths about other people’s business, but are ignoring that Roode and Ziggler beat them last week. Cesaro wandered on screen, arguing on behalf of he and Shinsuke Nakamura. All four men erupted into yelling as the segment faded out without resolution.
(LeClair’s Analysis: The Street Profits are better off not appearing at all than they are be relegated back to backstage recap. Segments like this are part of the reason why it took them so long to get going on the main roster. They’re champions now, coming off the “biggest win of their career” at Survivor Series, and yet they were beaten cleanly by Ziggler and Roode next week, and completely unconcerned with their tag titles, or potential challengers the following week.)
-Otis and Kevin Owens headed to the ring for the tag team main event. Cole sent the show to commercial.
Owens and Otis paced the ring when the show returned from break. Cole and Graves remarked on how focused the appeared. Jey Uso’s music played and he paced onto the stage, looking back and waiting for his cousin. After a few moments, he began walking to the ring alone, occasionally looking back toward the stage for Roman.
Cole and Graves wondered aloud whether the “consequences” for Jey’s actions earlier in the night may be a handicap match. Jey entered the ring alone.
(4) KEVIN OWENS & OTIS vs. JEY USO & ROMAN REIGNS
The bell rang without hesitation, despite the absence of Roman Reigns. Otis attacked Jey Uso and clubbed him into the corner before tossing him clear across the ring. Jey fought back with a pair of quick strike elbows, but Otis dropped him with a big clothesline.
Uso sidestepped an Otis charge into the corner. Otis tagged in Kevin Owens. Owens went to work on Jey in the corner. Jey managed to counter an Irish whip attempt and connect with a Samoan Drop on Owens. Suddenly, Roman Reigns’ music hit. He headed to the ring slowly. “Roman Reigns operates on Roman Reigns time alone,” Corey said.
Jey looked on as Roman headed to the apron. Owens caught him with a step up enziguri. Reigns entered the ring and gave Otis a Superman punch. He dropped to the floor, slammed Otis into the announcers desk and then tossed him into the ring post, barrier, and finally, the steel steps. Reigns ripped the steps apart and hit Otis with them repeatedly.
Owens attacked Reigns from behind, trying to make the save. Jey Uso flew into view and took down Owens. The show went to commercial.
Reigns hit Owens with a leaping clothesline when the show returned from commercial. He dragged KO to the corner by the arm and tagged in his cousin. Reigns tossed Owens toward Jey, and Jey hit a forceful uppercut. Jey talked trash to Owens and beat him into the corner. Uso charged at Owens, but KO rolled out of the way. Owens hit a running cannonball. Reigns looked on in frustration.
Owens chopped Jey, kicked him in the chest and then hit a big clothesline. He followed up with a running senton. Jey fought back with an uppercut, but Owens shrugged it off and hit a DDT for a near fall. Reigns barked orders toward Jey from the apron. Owens tried to lure Reigns in the ring, to no avail.
Jey charged at Owens, but got caught with a Samoan Drop. Graves called it a slap in the face to Jey, but more importantly, to Roman Reigns. “Get in the ring!” Owens screamed at Reigns. Roman did, allowing Jey to recovered and super kick Owens. He climbed to the top rope for the splash, but Reigns stopped him. “Get down and tag out, this is my show,” Reigns said. Jey obeyed. He stepped down and picked Owens up. Owens fought back, knocking Jey down and throwing Reigns off the apron.
Owens hit Jey with the Stunner and went for the cover, but Reigns hit the ring and grabbed the Guillotine. The referee rang the bell.
WINNERS: Kevin Owens & Otis by disqualification in 10:00
Reigns eventually let go of the hold. Owens laid motionless in the ring while Jey Uso retrieved two steel chairs from ringside. He handed one to Reigns, and they circled Owens. They took turns beating Owens with the chairs, mercilessly. “Make him understand!” Reigns barked at Jey.
Jey put a chair on Owens’ chest, climbed to the top rope, and hit a splash onto the chair. Reigns looked disgusted. He cracked the chair over Jey’s back, then hit him several more times. Reigns draped the title over Owens’ chest and grabbed his head. He said Owens is trying to split his family up. He said Owens is trying to make him out to be a monster in front of the whole world.
“I’m gonna take your manhood, I’m gonna take your livelihood, and I’m gonna take everything that you love. You and your family are going to fear me. You have my attention now.” Reigns stood over the bodies of Owens and Jey and held up the Universal title as the show went off the air.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Man, oh man. What a segment. My expectations for heel Roman Reigns were unbelievably high, and I’m still consistently blown away by these performances. Reigns was masterful. His relentlessness, ruthless nature is infectious and effective. The way he commands the ring, and the people around him, is incredible. The match was fine, and served its purpose well. I liked the dichotomy here – Jey fears that he’s going to have to go into the match alone, only to quickly have the tables turned when Reigns comes to the ring and “rescues” him, taking out Otis and turning it into a handicap match in their favor. Jey, ever aiming to please, just cannot get it right and managed to fail Roman again. There’s layers to this storytelling, and nuance to the behavior of both Roman and Jey, and it’s effective, engrossing, and something I genuinely look forward to seeing develop and each every week.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Last week, on the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post Show, I said that even when the rest of the show falls short, Roman Reigns’ segments are enough to hold it all together. Tonight was a perfect representation of that. The opening and closing segment, involving Reigns, Uso, and Kevin Owens, were, as usual, well booked and expertly executed. They have the mark of an angle that has the keen attention of all the appropriate parties. It’s all hands on deck. The rest of the show, however, was a bit of a mess. From the awful Banks/Carmella segment, to another damaging match between Corbin and Murphy, and a throwaway between Natalya and Bayley, this was an abnormally rough affair for everyone not involved in the main event scene. The Pat Patterson tributes were touching and classy, and the video packages, in particular, were top notch. I enjoyed the simplicity of the tribute six man tag and their commitment to weaving in some story into what was otherwise an exhibition match. A mixed bag, as usual, but the bad aspects of tonight’s show were particularly egregious.