SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
FEBRUARY 19, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FL IN WWE THUNDERDOME AT TROPICANA FIELD
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-The show opened on a wide shot of the WWE Thunderdome. Michael Cole welcomed the audience to the show by saying they’re on the road to WrestleMania and just two days away from Elimination Chamber.
-“You think you know me…” rang from the speakers and Edge sprang out onto the stage, a sea of pyro launching in sync with his arms. Once in the ring, Edge said it’s great to back on Friday night so close to the Elimination Chamber. He said he has a lot of choices to make. Edge talked about Drew McIntyre defending his title inside the chamber, while Roman Reigns awaits the winner of a separate Chamber match.
Edge called his decision the biggest one of his career. He breathe in the weight of the moment, but was quickly interrupted by Roman Reigns’ music. Roman walked onto the stage, flanked by Paul Heyman and Jey Uso. Reigns held up the Universal title to a chorus of recorded boos. Michael Cole said that Reigns is irked that Edge has not yet chosen to face him.
Reigns made his slow, methodical descent to the ring while Cole and Graves weighed out Edge’s options and potential opponents. Edge stood patiently as Reigns climbed in the ring and held up the title. Paul Heyman handed Roman a microphone. Reigns admonished Edge for stating there were so many potential opponents to choose from. “There’s only one,” he declared. Roman told Edge that he can pick “a” main eventer, or “the” main eventer.
Edge retorted – he said he can’t acknowledge Reigns as the main event WrestleMania. Edge said Roman needs him in order to be the main event. No matter who the champion is, Edge claimed, he makes them the main event. Edge said Reigns is insecure, he’s losing his cool and the cracks are showing. “You’re cracking under the pressure,” Edge said. He said he respects Roman and his family, but he hasn’t even started applying the pressure yet. “Do you want me to show off the cracks in your armor? Is that what you want?” Edge pleaded with Roman for an answer.
Sami Zayn’s music broke the silence. He said it’s one thing to be disrespected by WWE management, but it’s another to be dis-respected by both Edge and Roman Reigns. He called himself the biggest threat to both men. “WWE management didn’t want me in the Elimination Chamber match, and that should worry both of you,” Zayn said. He called himself the champion of the people. Sami called his cameramen into frame to catch him pointing at the WrestleMania sign. “Make no mistake, Sami Zayn is going to Wrestle–” Sami got kicked in the face by Jey Uso. He rolled to the outside.
Roman Reigns handed the Universal title to Paul Heyman and put his hands behind his back. He stepped to Edge and whispered something in his ear. Edge looked on with disdain. Reigns put his hands out and backed away slowly, retrieving the title from Heyman. Reigns and company left the ring quietly. Edge stared on, wiping his forehead and sighing deeply.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Great, multi-layered segment. The story is certainly starting to write itself. Edge seems likely to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal title at WrestleMania, and, given the chemistry the two have displayed on the microphone thus far, it seems like it’s far and away the best choice. Edge’s message to Reigns tonight was excellent – he accused Reigns of being insecure, and pointed to his recent lashings out as proof that he’s starting to feel the pressure of the situation. Edge feels like a grizzled and wise underdog, and that’s an interesting story that WWE doesn’t tell all that often, especially at a high-brow, main event level. I loved the inclusion of Sami Zayn here for comedy’s sake, and Jey Uso easily taking him out of the equation so that Reigns and Edge could continue their work. It ties the segment into the Chamber match on Sunday and reminds the audience that there’s still some pieces to put into place, even if it seems like the results are a foregone conclusion.)
-Big E headed to the ring to join Michael Cole and Corey Graves on commentary. Cole sent the show to break.
-Out of the break, Big E was positioned at ringside in a white coat, eating a TV dinner and soaking his feet in a small foot massager. Shinsuke Nakamura headed to the ring.
-Kayla Braxton interviewed Apollo Crews in gorilla. Crews said that Big E never took the time to get to know him before telling him to go hang out in catering. Crews said his family were Nigerian royalty, and E would have lost his tongue if he’d spoken to them that way. Apollo said after he’s done with Nakamura, he’s coming for Big E and the Intercontinental title.
Cole asked Big E to comment on Crews’ statements. E said he’s stuck in the mud with Crews. He asked how many times he has to beat Apollo to get a new challenger, then put over Shinsuke Nakamura as a guy he’d rather face.
(1) SHINSUKE NAKAMURA vs. APOLLO CREWS
Shinsuke Nakamura and Apollo Crews met in the center of the ring. Nakamura peppered Crews with a number of kicks, then dropped him with a knee to the mid section. He covered Crews for a quick two count. Cole asked E if he’d give Crews a title match if he were to beat Shinsuke tonight. Big E said he wouldn’t, because he’s beaten Crews so many times already.
Crews recovered and knocked Nakamura to the outside. He hit him with a quick baseball slide, sending Shinsuke flying to Big E on his couch. Crews leapt up, getting in Crews’ face. “Keep testing me!” he said as the show went to break.
Apollo connected with a suplex for a quick two count when the show returned from commercial. Nakamura bounced to his feet and caught Crews with a leaping side kick. He followed up with a series of low kicks to the back of the knees. Crews retreated toward the corner. Shinsuke caught him up in the ropes and hit the snap sliding German suplex, covering Crews for a two count.
Nakamura pulled Crews to his feet. Apollo battled back with a big spinebuster. He looked for the military press, but Nakamura slid down the back, took Crews down by the arm and rolled him up for a surprise three count.
WINNER: Shinsuke Nakamura in 6:00
Apollo Crews attacked Shinsuke Nakamura immediately following the bell. He tossed him to the outside, then slammed him into the ringside barrier. Crews approached Big E, then grabbed the steel steps, turning back to Shinsuke. Big E stepped in front of Crews. “Set them down and walk away.” E told Crews to walk away. Apollo dropped the steps. Big E went to help Shinsuke. Crews grabbed the steps and attacked Big E with them from behind. Crews tossed Nakamura over the barrier, then leaned over E. “It ain’t over until I say it’s over,” Crews said. He slapped Big E, then grabbed the steps again. He tossed both the steps and Big E into the ring.
Big E looked up at Crews with contempt, trying to stand. Crews retrieved the stairs, but the ref stood in his way. E rolled out of the ring. crews tossed the steps out of the ring and onto Big E below, just off camera. Medical staff rushed from the back to tend to Big E as Crews looked on, smiling. The show cut to break.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Good stuff. Nakamura and Crews had a fine enough match, though the meat of it happened during the commercial break. The real story here, though, was Crews’ solidified heel turn and the continuing emergence of Big E as a serious contender. Look, the couch and TV dinner and the pedi machine don’t exactly scream “headliner”, but Big E can turn it on and get serious really quickly when the situation calls for it, and that’s what happened here. Crews’ full blown turn was a long time coming, and he’s finding himself in the best position he’s ever been in on the main roster. I’m interested in this story, and very much intrigued by a full blown title match between the two of them.)
-Referees and officials wheeled Big E out of the Thunderdome on a stretcher when the show returned from break. Seth Rollins’ music hit and he walked past the stretcher on his way out of the curtain.
Rollins stopped at the top of the ramp. He said what happened to Big E is a tragedy. “Being betrayed by your friends is a tragedy,” Rollins concluded. He said his friends turned their backs on him last week and he didn’t deserve it. He tossed to a clip recapping his return on last week’s show.
Seth said the betrayal caused him major trauma. He said he, in conjunction with his lawyers, wrote a formal letter to WWE management. He said he spent months planning his return to Smackdown and it was all ruined by a bunch of “losers and cowards.” He said the locker room is afraid because there are millions who have already embraced the vision. “The biggest loser out of all of them is Cesaro,” Rollins claimed. He said Cesaro took his homecoming and made it about him. “He disrespected us, he patronized us, and he stayed behind to look me in my eyes and disrespect me,” Rollins snarled.
Rollins claimed that what happened to Cesaro is not his fault. He said it will happen to anyone who stands in his way. He implored people to embrace the vision, and bid the audience goodnight.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Rollins’ is now taking to use of the royal “we”, apparently. I wasn’t big on the messiah gimmick, and thus far, this feels like a less engaging, watered down version of that. I think Seth Rollins is one of the most consistent and valuable performers on the roster, and he’s a fantastic addition to the Smackdown roster, but I’d like to see a serious refocus and pivot in the coming weeks. The time away should have been used to improve upon this gimmick, not muddy it.)
-Edge approached Kevin Owens backstage. He told KO that appreciates his fight. Owens thanked him and said if anyone could “get him”, it’s Edge. Kevin said the last few months have been hell, and he’s come so close to winning the Universal title. He said all he thinks about is winning the chamber and beating Reigns. Edge said he respects that, and would love to face him at WrestleMania.
-Sonya Deville and Adam Pearce walked alongside the stretcher carrying Big E to an ambulance as the show went to break.
(2) NATALYA & TAMINA vs. THE RIOTT SQUAD (Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan)
Both teams were already in the ring when the show returned from break and the bell rang immediately. Tamina dropped Ruby quickly. Riott stumbled to her feet and fired off a trio of punches. Tamina shrugged them off and shoved Riott to the mat. Ruby tagged in Liv Morgan.
Liv went for a quick sunset flip bomb, but Tamina planted her feet, scooped Liv up and went for a power slam. Liv slid down the back and went for a springboard clothesline, but Tamina punched her mid-air. Tamina tagged in Natalya. Natalya grabbed Liv by the hair. Liv broke free and tagged in Ruby Riott.
Riott whipped Nattie into the corner and caught her with a quick running shoulder. Riott fought free of Nattie’s grasp, fired of a chop and then tagged Liv back in. Liv and Ruby hit a quick double team sweep for a near fall. Billie Kay skipped to the ring wearing a Tamina t-shirt and cat ears. Natalya rolled up Ruby Riott for a two count.
Natalya tagged in Tamina. Tamina dropped Ruby, then knocked Liv off the apron. Tamina hit Ruby with a spin-out power slam and covered Riott for an easy three count.
WINNERS: Natalya & Tamina in 4:00
Billie Kay tried to celebrate with Tamina and Natalya, but Tamina dropped her.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Another complete waste of time. No one gets over here. Nattie and Tamina beat two nobodies. The Riott Squad continues to job out because of Billie Kay. Billie Kay is the focal point of the match despite not actually being in the match. She may be connecting with a very niche part of the audience, but I can’t see this gimmick working long term, and who could it possibly benefit in the long run? It’s just low quality, poorly written drivel in a division that desperately needs fresh writing.)
-King Corbin approached Edge backstage. He said it feels like the two of them are the main event of WrestleMania. He said Smackdown is his kingdom now, and he recommends that Edge “bow down” to him and his expensive suit and time piece. Edge said he has a time piece, too. He read Corbin the time – 8:54pm, from his phone, and told him does emails too. Corbin walked off in disgust.
-Producers set up for Bayley’s talk show, coming up after the break.
-The 90’s style theme for “Ding Dong, Hello!” played as the show returned from break. Bayley busted through the free-standing door in the ring and welcomed the audience to the second edition of Ding Dong, Hello. She welcomed the women’s tag team champions, Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler.
Jax and Baszler argued over who would step through the door first. They eventually settled down as Bayley headed to her seat. Jax said she’s glad Bayley isn’t too made that they took the tag titles off she and Sasha. Bayley said she dropped Sasha and got her own show. She said there’s rumors she may be replacing Ellen soon.
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler ran through a choppily written discussion of who is worse – Sasha Banks or Bianca Belair. They were eventually interrupted by Reginald. He called Sasha Banks a fine wine, and compared Nia to a boxed variety. Jax got in Reginald’s face. Reginald said Banks is the greatest champion in the world, and if she and Belair decide to challenge Nia and Shayna, they’d beat them.
Sasha Banks’ music hit and she headed to the ring. Bayley yelled at Banks for not using the door. Sasha ignored her and told Reginald not to speak for her. She turned her attention to Jax and Baszler. She said she makes the rules, and Belair is sure to choose to face her. “This division revolves around me,” Banks laughed. Bianca Belair’s music hit.
Bianca told Reginald that she is no one’s sidekick. She told Banks that by winning the Royal Rumble, she became the star of the division. “People don’t revolve around me, they get beat by me.” Belair seemed to be ready to announce her decision, but Reginald stepped in. He suggested that he team with Sasha and Bianca to face Jax, Baszler, and Bayley. Jax began berating Reginald as her music played. Cole wondered if the match would happen.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Though I’m altogether against the addition of more talk shows on WWE TV, there is something endearing about Bayley’s set up. The 90’s nostalgia, the tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of how ridiculous it all is, and the clear amount of fun Bayley is obviously having make it one of the more tolerable iterations of these cliche affairs, especially if it’s kept to a rare occurrence. While I can get behind the concept, it still takes good talking to make these things work. This wasn’t good. At all. Jax and Baszler don’t just lack chemistry, they come off as rigid, scripted and completely lacking any and all confidence. Baszler is a shell of her former self. Jax is a borderline comedy act. It doesn’t work. Banks continues to come off forced. Reginald’s obsession with Banks is uninspired and altogether uninteresting. Belair was the lone bright spot here. She continues to shine, improving weekly in relatability and confidence on the microphone.)
(3) BAYLEY & NIA JAX & SHAYNA BASZLER vs. SASHA BANKS & BIANCA BELAIR & REGINALD
Bianca Belair and Shayna Baszler began the match as soon as the show returned from break. Baszler grabbed a headlock, but Belair fought her off and grabbed a quick waist lock. She took Baszler to the mat and held on. Baszler fought her off, but Bianca caught her with a big clothesline, then tagged in Sasha Banks.
Belair lifted Baszler into the air and let Sasha drop her with a kick to the stomach. Reginald tried to get in the ring. Belair and Banks forced him back to the apron. Nia Jax tagged in and attacked Banks from behind. Nia tossed Sasha to the heel corner and tagged in Bayley.
Bayley barked at Sasha and choked her using the bottom rope. Bayley quickly tagged in Shayna. Baszler began to work over Banks’ leg. She tagged in Jax, who gave Banks a big body slam. Jax covered for a two count. Sasha managed to counter Jax out of the corner and catch her with a quick kick. Bayley ran, but Banks dumped her to the outside. She caught Jax with a jawbreaker and tagged in Reginald.
Reginald stepped to Jax, but quickly thought better of it. Jax told him to try her. Reginald locked up with Nia, but Jax shoved him to the mat with ease. Reginald ran at Jax, but Nia dropped him with a shoulder. Reginald attempted a drop toe hold, but Nia didn’t budge. She tossed him into the corner and charged, but Reginald flipped out. Nia still flattened him on the rebound. She went for the leg drop, but Reginald moved. Jax crawled to her corner, trying to tag in Baszler. Banks and Belair ripped Shayna from the apron.
Reginald hurled himself at Nia Jax. Jax caught him in power slam position. Bianca Belair gave Jax a dropkick, causing Reginald to fall into a cover for a three count.
WINNERS: Sasha Banks, Bianca Belair, & Reginald in 5:00
(LeClair’s Analysis: If Reginald is pinning Nia Jax a week after “my hole” went viral, it’s about time they give up on any hope of seriousness for this Jax/Baszler tag team and move on to something new. The most intriguing scenario, at this point, is something I highlighted last week. Get the tag team titles on Banks and Belair as soon as possible and let their partnership and budding rivalry tell a story heading into their women’s title match at WrestleMania.)
-Kayla Braxton welcomed Cesaro to the interview set backstage. She asked about the six man tag match tonight, and the situation brewing with Seth Rollins. Cesaro said he wasn’t trying to patronize Rollins, he was trying to hear him out. Cesaro said he was hoping for Rollins to come back as the leader he knows he can be. “Instead, he came back as the same, smug and condescending S.O.B. he was when he left.” Cesaro said he hasn’t forgotten about Rollins’ attack, but he needs to focus on tonight and Sunday.
Edge approached Cesaro as Kayla stepped away. He told Cesaro he’s been impressed with his grit. Cesaro thanked him, and said he’d see him in the main event WrestleMania. Edge smiled.
-Rey and Dominick Mysterio headed to the ring. Cole said they’d be in action against the Alpha Academy after the break.
Out of the break, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode had joined Cole and Graves on commentary. They were sipping from red Solo cups. Cole asked if they were calling out the Street Profits. Ziggler said they’re in the rear view mirror.
(4) REY MYSTERIO & DOMINICK MYSTERIO vs. OTIS & CHAD GABLE
Dominick Mysterio began the match with Chad Gable. Gable quickly wrestled Dominick to the mat, then into a quick waist lock take down. Dominick broke the hold and caught Gable with a pair of quick arm drags. Both men retreated to their respective corners. Gable tagged in Otis.
Otis gave Dominick a big, quick shoulder tackle. Dominick tagged in Rey Mysterio. Rey hit a quick leaping senton off the ropes, knocking Otis down. He tried for a second one, but Otis caught him in mid air and gave him a power slam. He followed up with a standing splash. Dominick tried to get involved, but Otis gave him a huge double axe handle. Gable cheered on Otis in the ring. The referee rang the bell.
WINNERS: Rey & Dominick Mysterio by DQ in 2:00
Gable dragged Mysterio to the corner and instructed Otis to give him a big splash off the middle rope. Otis and Gable celebrated.
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was odd, and messy. The bell sounded, but no winner was announced. The announcers seemed as unsure as anyone. I took the bell to mean that Chad Gable didn’t exit the ring fast enough after coaching up Otis, leading to the DQ for a “double team.” It was clunky and awkward. I don’t really love the idea of turning Gable and Otis heel, but if it makes the writing team take them even a little bit more seriously, I guess it could work.)
-Daniel Bryan was shown warming up backstage. Edge walked on screen, nearly getting kicked. Edge said that Bryan’s return got his own gears turning. He thanked Bryan for planting the seed. Bryan said he’d love to face Edge for the title at WrestleMania. Edge said some may call it a dream match. “It’d be long overdue,” Bryan said.
-Dominick and Rey Mysterio walked gingerly to the back when the show returned from break. Cole and Graves recapped Otis’ attack.
-Backstage, Daniel Bryan and Cesaro discussed strategy. Kevin Owens walked on screen, wondering if he should be included. Bryan and Cesaro talked about whether or not they’d be stunned by KO during the match. Owens said they wouldn’t have to worry tonight, because he really wants to win. He told them all bets are off on Sunday, though. “Prepare for a stunner, or two, or three!” Owens said.
-Reginald delivered a glass of wine to Carmella in her dressing room. ‘Mella said she saw his match. Reginald tried to explain himself, but Carmella quieted him. She said she knows Reginald will do the right thing. She took a sip of her wine and spit it out, calling it disgusting. She yelled at Reginald to get her a new glass.
-Michael Cole announced that Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks will challenged Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler for the women’s tag titles at Elimination Chamber.
-Sami Zayn, King Corbin, and Jey Uso headed to the ring for the six man tag team main event. Sami quickly poked his head outside the ring to argue with Jey as he got close to ringside.
Edge’s music played and he walked down the ramp, staring down the heels in the ring. Cole said he’d join them on commentary for the main event after the break.
Daniel Bryan headed to the ring following the commercial. Edge talked up Bryan, Cesaro, and Owens as potential opponents as the latter two headed to the ring.
(5) SAMI ZAYN & KING CORBIN & JEY USO vs. DANIEL BRYAN & CESARO & KEVIN OWENS
Daniel Bryan began the match with Jey Uso. Jey immediately backed Bryan into the corner and fired off a series of punches. Bryan shook them off, turned the tables, took Jey down and tagged in Cesaro. Cesaro dropped Jey. Jey retreated to his corner and tagged in King Corbin.
Corbin teased locking up with Cesaro, but wound up tagging in Sami Zayn instead. Cesaro toyed with Zayn briefly, then tagged in Daniel Bryan. Bryan threw his body into Zayn’s mid-section and collapsed awkwardly. Zayn leaped at the opportunity and worked Bryan into the heel corner. Zayn tagged in Corbin.
Corbin got into an argument with Zayn, allowing Bryan to recover, rush to his corner, and tag in Cesaro. Corbin slapped Zayn to tag him in. Cesaro knocked Corbin and Jey to the mat, then went to work on Zayn, hitting him with a series of uppercuts. Zayn rolled to the outside. Jey and Corbin tossed him back in. Cesaro hooked him into the Cesaro swing, then catapulted him into the heel corner. Corbin tagged himself in.Cesaro immediately dropped Corbin and initiated a second swing. Cesaro got him up, but eventually collapsed into the corner as the show went to break.
Cesaro had Corbin caught in a second swing when the show returned from break. He quickly transitioned into a Sharpshooter attempt, but Corbin squirmed out and tagged in Jey Uso. Paul Heyman had joined commentary during the commercial. Uso worked Cesaro into the corner and tagged in Sami Zayn. Sami drove his knee into the back of Cesaro’s neck. The heels traded quick tags, continuing to beat down Cesaro. Edge and Heyman went back and forth on commentary.
Corbin cornered Cesaro and kicked him repeatedly. He tagged in Jey Uso, who continued the onslaught. Edge asked Heyman what would happen if Jey Uso won the Chamber. Paul said they’d already seen it, and no one would complain. In the ring, Jey slammed Cesaro and covered him for a two count. He grabbed a chin lock. Jey broke the hold to throw a cheap shot at Kevin Owens on the apron. He then rushed across the ring to tag in Corbin.
Cesaro caught Corbin with a corkscrew uppercut in desperation. He reached Bryan and made the tag. Corbin tagged in Sami Zayn. Bryan flipped over the top rope, ducked a clothesline from Zayn and caught him with a big clothesline. Bryan psyched himself up, then peppered Zayn with quick kicks in the corner. Bryan lifted Zayn onto the top turnbuckle and hit a top rope ‘rana. Bryan covered, but Jey quickly broke it up. Kevin Owens hit the ring to toss Jey Uso to the outside. He climbed onto the apron and hit a cannonball onto Jey Uso.
Zayn caught Bryan with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Cesaro broke up the pin attempt. Corbin returned to toss Cesaro to the outside. Bryan and Zayn were left alone in the ring. Zayn climbed to the top rope. Bryan rushed up to meet him and hit a huge overhead throw. Bryan immediately applied the Yes Lock. Zayn tapped out quickly.
WINNERS: Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro in 14:00
King Corbin hit Bryan with End of Days following the match. Kevin Owens gave Corbin a Stunner. Sami Zayn gave Owens an exploder suplex. Cesaro gave Zayn a massive uppercut. Jey Uso super kicked Cesaro. Edge hit the ring and gave Jey Uso a spear. Roman Reigns appeared out of nowhere and speared Edge.
Roman Reigns held the Universal title over Edge as the show faded to black. Cole said many questions would be answered this Sunday.
(LeClair’s Analysis: A fun sequence to close out the match, but a surprisingly dull affair overall given the wrestlers involved. Too much “waiting for the hot tag” for this one to really gain any momentum. Truthfully, though, this was hardly about the match. It was all about the aftermath. The rapid finisher sequence is overdone and a bit tired, but I get why they do it in these scenarios. It’s loud, it’s fast, it’s easy to digest, and it gives the illusion chaos heading into a surely chaotic situation on Sunday. Reigns standing tall at the end was a nice touch, and I expect Sunday to look very much the same.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Like many episodes of Smackdown these days, this was really a tale of two shows. I thought the opening segment was excellently executed and layered, with multi-faceted characters exploring several different potential story paths, and doing so with assertive confidence and believability. By extension, the closing segment, while cliche and overdone, works for the set up of the Chamber and builds excitement for a match with clunky build. Additionally, the small segments with Edge and all his potential opponents were great. They showed class, demonstrated the embarrassment of riches WWE has at its disposal, and the huge number of potential dream opponents Edge will have on his list even after the ‘Mania dust has settled. Likewise, I thought the developing story between Big E and a freshly cemented heel Apollo Crews showed promise. In stark contrast, though, the rest of the show was overwrought with poor, counterproductive booking, bad finishes, and weak character work. The women’s division continues to flounder, and the tag division has little to no development or direction. The contrast between the main event scene and the rest of Smackdown is so severe that at times, it feels like you’re watching an entirely different show. Reigns and company continue to knock it out of the park, while the undercard struggles to find its footing, despite consistent effort from most, if not all involved.