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KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 9, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON FOX BROADCAST NETWORK
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
Ring Announcers: Greg Hamilton
-A video package aired on Daniel Bryan beating Jey Uso last week in a street fight.
-Cole welcomed viewers WrestleMania Weekend.
-Bryan made his ring entrance, leading the ThunderDome audience in a “Yes!” chant. Cole said seven years ago Bryan won the WWE Championship in a triple threat match. He asked if he has “one more miracle” in him. Bryan smiled as his music faded. “We are so close,” he said. “We are so close to the biggest event of the year – WrestleMania!” He said he’s excited and everybody’s excited. He said he’s excited to see the set, smell the pyro smoke, and feel the human air in Raymond James Stadium. He said what he’s excited about most is to finally hear the roar of the WWE Universe in person. He said: “Don’t get me wrong, I love the ThunderDome. This is incredible. Who knew this could be a thing? Look at this. This is amazing.” He said, however, there is nothing like wrestling in front of a live audience. His volume increased as he said there is nothing like winning the WWE Title at WrestleMania. He said that’s what he can’t wait for.
He said there will be 25,000 people chanting “Yes!” in unison, and there’s nothing like it. He said he is often associated with the word “yes.” He said his career has often revolved around being told “no.” He said people said “no” to if he was big enough or belonged in WWE or if he was a superstar or if he was best for business or if he could be the Face of WWE or if he deserved to be in the main event of WrestleMania. He said if you ask Batista or Randy Orton or Edge or Roman Reigns, they will tell you “no.” He said if you ask him, he’d say: “Damn right I do.” He said every time he was told no, his parents and mentors told him to persevere and look for the truth inside him. He said that’s where he found “yes.” A “Yes!” chant started.
He said every time life told him no, he said yes. He said every time doctors said no to him wrestling again, he said yes. He said when people asked if he’d be champion again, people said no but he said yes. He said when people asked if he could tap out Roman Reigns, Reigns said no but he said yes. He said as far as him headlining WrestleMania one more time, at first Adam Pearce said no, but now he says yes.
He said Sunday night is by far the biggest match of his career. He said on one side he has Edge who is furious because he thought he stole a spotlight that was all his. He said Reigns is enraged because he made him tap out for the first time in his career, and if he taps him out again, he’ll lose his status as Tribal Chief and Head of the Table. He said enraged people are dangerous. He said they’re not going to face G.M. Daniel Bryan or Family Man Daniel Bryan. He said they’re going to get the best damn Daniel Bryan they’ve ever seen, the same one who tapped out Reigns, the same one who will kick in Edge’s head in despite his neck. “This is the Daniel Bryan with fire in his eyes and fire in his heart, and he is willing to do anything!” he said. “Which leads me to one last question: Can Daniel Bryan walk out of the main event of WrestleMania as Universal Champion.” A “Yes!” chant started. He then joined in with “Yes! Yes! Yes!…”
(Keller’s Analysis: That should be saved and watched by every aspiring wrestler who aims to sell tickets as a top babyface act some day. He drew from history and delivered an inspiring message sincerely and believably.)
-Cole asked if Bryan can turn in a Tom Brady-like performance. Graves said better be perfect.
-Kayla Braxton tried to interview The Street Profits. They were lost in a “Yes!” chant. Montez Ford predicted victory. Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode attacked them. They brawled onto the stage as Cole said they were expecting a Fatal Four-way for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Otis & Chad Gable and the Mysterios joined in. Cole wondered if they could get things under control. [c]
(1) DOLPH ZIGGLER & ROBERT ROODE vs. DOMINIC & REY MYSTERIO vs. THE STREET PROFITS (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins) vs. THE ALPHA ACADEMY (Otis & Chad Gable) – WWE Smackdown Tag Team Title match
A few minutes in, Rey dove onto Otis and Gable through the ropes. Then Dominic springboarded onto Gable. [c]
Back from the break, Ford was in control against Roode. As Otis took over against Ford, Graves said Gable has had an incredible positive effect on Otis’s career. Cole agreed he’s more intense. Graves said Otis isn’t preoccupied with fans and fun, and instead is focused on winning. Gable tagged in and scored a near fall after a Northern Lights suplex. Ford ate a Ziggler dropkick. Cole called it the best dropkick in the business. Graves said he doesn’t disagree, but Ford might disagree.
Ford countered a Fameasser and turned it into a powerbomb. Dawkins and Roode both got hot-tags. Dawkins took care of Roode and also fended off an interfering Gable. Rey tagged himself in and took Roode down with a senton. He then tagged in Dominic. They set up a double 619 against both Roode and Ziggler. Dominic landed a frog splash on Roode , after which Otis broke up the cover with a running splash. Rey dove at Otis, but Otis caught Rey and threw him out of the ring. Ford landed a running flip splash onto Otis on the floor.
Dawkins and Gable tagged themselves in. They each scored two counts on a sunset flip and reversal. Ford blind-tagged himself in and landed a frog splash on Gable. Ziggler superkicked Ford out of the ring. Roode tagged himself in and covered Gable for the win.
WINNERS: Roode & Ziggler in 14:00 to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Titles.
(Keller’s Analysis: The babyface near falls were undercut by Graves declaring the match over leading into the referee’s count, which gives away to any regular viewer that a kickout is going to happen. Nice action throughout.)
-Kayla interviewed Bianca Belair, who said she has butterflies. She said she’s nervous, but her dad told her it’s okay to be nervous because it says you care. She said he raised her not to be scared of anything, though. She said she wants to win so badly and has been working so hard. Kayla said Sasha has been here before and people say she is determined to win and that makes her dangerous. Belair said she’s the EST of WWE with all the tools to win, so that makes her dangerous. She said when she beats Banks and becomes champion, that’s going to be the greatest match of her life.
(Keller’s Analysis: More really good mic work from Belair. She’s a star.)
-They went to the announcers at ringside. They hyped a 50 percent off deal for Peacock Premium to gain exclusive access to streaming WrestleMania. Cole said after the break, they’d review the Randy Orton-Fiend saga. [c]
-Graves plugged that limited combo and singles tickets are still available for WrestleMania.
-Cole threw to a video package on Big E going back to his roots earlier in the week. They showed him at a barber shop in Tampa, Fla. As he was getting his hair clipped, Big E said Apollo Crews is making a big deal out of going back to his roots, but he never left his roots. He said Tampa is his home and this is where he goes when he needs to get his mind right. He pointed out places he trained for wrestling practices where he learned discipline and how to handle the grind to become State Champion. He said 17 years ago he played his high school all-star game at Raymond James Stadium. He said he owns a piece of the soil and he will walk in and out of that stadium as the Intercontinental Champion. He said for Crews, that is the stadium where his IC Title dreams come to die.
(Keller’s Analysis: Make that two strong babyface champion promos. That was the best presentation of Big E yet. He was true to himself without being too quirky or self-indulgent, which sometimes can come across as a defense mechanism for letting people see the real person. This was grounded and real, but also riled up and energetic.)
-Cole plugged Wale’s live performance of Big E’s “Feel the Power.”
-A video package aired on Orton-Fiend/Alexa Bliss.
-Ring entrances took place for the next match. [c]
(2) TAMINA (w/Natalya) vs. NIA JAX (w/Shayna Baszler)
Jax overpowered Tamina early and yelled that she is dominant. They locked up again, and Tamina shoved Jax down. Jax looked shocked. Jax stood and pie-faced Tamina. Tamina slapped Jax and shoved her into the corner. Reginald stood on the ring apron. Tamina yanked on him. Baszler held his feet and they engaged in a tug-o-war. That opened up Jax to kick Tamina and take over. Tamina avoided a charging Jax, who went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Baszler stood on the ring apron to distract Tamina as she stood on the second rope. Natalya ran up to Baszler. Baszler shoved Natalya into the ringpost. Tamina superkicked Jax and then gave her a Samoan Drop. Baszler broke up the cover. The ref DQ’d Jax. The announcers said they’re probably favorites now going into WrestleMania.
WINNER: Tamina via DQ in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was better than probably anyone expected.)
-Kayla interviewed Liv Morgan & Ruby Riott. Carmella & Billie Kaye interrupted. Riott said she and Liv are “laser-focused” on their match at WrestleMania. Kayla asked what gives them the edge. Riott said besides getting rid of their sidekick, they’ve learned from their losses and they’re more in sync than ever. Carmella said that’s so cute, but if she wanted a lesson on friendship, she’d watch an After School Special (talk about a 1980s reference). In walked Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose, then Naomi & Lana. “Are we really doing this again?” asked Ruby. They all indeed began brawling. Tamina & Natalya joined in. They stood over the fallen bodies and smiled, then walked away.
-A video aired on Cesaro that was framed like a political ad. “Think you know Cesaro? Think again.” The narrator said he has been in WWE for ten years, but he has never had a singles match at WrestleMania and has “obviously never won the Universal Championship.” She asked, “Is this the kind of example we want for our children?” Then it shifted to touting Seth Rollins with a shift in the tone of music, celebrating his iconic moments in WrestleMania history. “Seth Rollins knows what it’s like to take charge, lead, and win. He’s a man all of us can look up to and aspire to be.” Seth then said embrace the vision. Seth’s voice then said this ad was paid for by friends of Seth Rollins and has nothing to do with Seth Rollins himself.
(Keller’s Analysis: That was fun and well done.)
-Graves plugged Cesaro vs. Seth at night one of WrestleMania.
-Edge made his way to the ring. He was in white high-tops and a white jacket with black pants and t-shirt. [c]
-Back from the break, Edge sat mid-ring and talked about attending WrestleMania 6 headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior. He said from then on he knew what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He said when he dreams things, he has to manifest them. He said that’s common sense, but common sense isn’t all that common. He said he went on to become a Superstar who has accomplished everything. He said some people ask if that’s not enough. He said that very question shows the lack of understanding of the mentality it takes to see the heights he has seen and to fight back for his career for nine years. He said he didn’t walk away from it, he had it ripped away from him. He said he didn’t try to forge another career, this is all he wanted to do. He broke down a little as he said he fought back and ripped his career right back out of fate’s hands.
He said he didn’t come back for a greatest hits tour as a shell of his former self. He said he came back to headline WrestleMania. He said he won’t apologize for that. He said Bryan comes out there and says this could be his last WrestleMania. He asked Bryan what this could be for him. He said he weaseled himself into the match. He listed all of Bryan’s ideas for how to be part of WrestleMania. He said now Bryan could pin Reigns and he wouldn’t be part of it. He said instead of “a one-on-one match, a clash of titans from two eras, now we have some indy bookstore clerk troll sticking his nose in our business.”
Edge said Reigns walks around like people owe him for creating this. He said he doesn’t owe Reigns anything, but Reigns owes him. He said Reigns came to WWE as part of a three-man group and made his entrance through the crowd and used a spear as a finisher. “Well, who set that template for you?” he said. “You’re Samoan Edge.” He chuckled. He said he’s good and he always has been. He said he sees what he has become. He said he came back to swing for the fences, and Reigns is his green monster. He said they had their match ripped away from them, and the fans had it ripped away from them. He said the lemmings chant “Yes” like they used to chant “What?”
He said this match happens ten years to the day that he was forced to retire. He said there are no touching video packages about that with a piano music as the bed. “No, nothing,” he said. If it was Bryan, that narrative would be driven into the ground. He asked why he has to remind everyone of this. He said since his return, he hasn’t received the respect he deserves. He said he had to fight back from a torn tricep to win the Rumble, so he shouldn’t have to jump through hoops. He said he is coming back from a triple fusion in his neck, and no athlete has ever done that. He yelled that nobody knows the pain that he has gone through to get this back. He said he isn’t a part-timer who is phoning it in. He said he it is a slap in the face to him and his work ethic. He was fuming and yelling.
He said it’s time to take back and demand the respect he deserves. He said he is the Rated-R Superstar. He said you can call it fate or God’s will, but he is the next Universal Champion. “Because I’ve dreamt it, now I will manifest it,” he said. He stared down and seemed to enter a trance-like state. His music played.
(Keller’s Analysis: Another stellar promo leading into WrestleMania. I’m not sure Edge could have delivered that without the real life reception he’s received from “the office/Vince McMahon” and online fans regarding his work at the Rumble and the weeks that followed.)
-Backstage Pearce told Sonya Deville this WrestleMania is awesome and no one could have imagined Edge, Bryan, and Reigns in the main event. Sonya said it should have been Reigns vs. Edge in a singles match. She turned and walked away.
-They showed Sasha chatting with Kayla backstage. Cole said she’d speak next. [c]
-Kayla interviewed Sasha. She said she wants Bianca to give her her all, and she’s going to give it right back Boss-style. She said when she makes her tap out, she’ll realize her place is beneath her. She said she’s better, and the best, which makes her the B-E-S-T.” She did her laugh and flung her hair and smiled.
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s easy to know who to foot for in this match, and 19 out of 20 times, that’s the best scenario for a big pro wrestling title match.)
-A video package aired on the Bobby Lashley defense against Drew McIntyre.
-A sponsored clip aired of Sami Zayn’s premiere of his documentary trailer last week.
-Sami walked up to a boxing ring where Logan Paul was training with his brother Jake. Sami said the trailer is huge and getting so much attention, and he thanked Logan for his help. Sami suggested they all spar together. Sami hit some heavy bags on his way out. He got his gear and knocked on a door to get back into the gym. The security guy said they were closed and slammed the door on Sami. “Closed? I was just in there!” Sami said.
-Cole chuckled at ringside. Sami barged in and complained that they showed that. He said it was media bias to show selective images. He said Logan yelled at the security guy and they had breakfast after that. He desperately said everything is fine between them. He went on and on as the Andre the Giant Battle Royal competitors made their way to the ring. Kevin Owens attacked Sami. They brawled at ringside. KO slammed Sami into the announce table. Sami avoided a Stunner and fled the scene. KO yelled at Sami that he can run now, but he’ll see him at WrestleMania. [c]
-As King Corbin made his ring entrance, Graves hyped that Hulk Hogan and Titus O’Neal would be hosting. They hyped the rest of WrestleMania 37’s night one line-up. Then as Jey Uso made his ring entrance, the announcers hyped WrestleMania 37’s night two line-up.
(3) ANDRE THE GIANT “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…” BATTLE ROYAL
Entrants: Kalisto, Gran Metalik, Humberto Carillo, Tucker, Elias, Corbin, Jey Uso, Shelton Benjamin, Cedric Alexander, Viking Raider Erik, Murphy, Drew Gulak, Jaxson Ryker, Mace, Slapjack, Mustafa Ali, Lince Dorado, Hector Garza, Shinsuke Nakamura.
Tozawa was the first eliminated. Tucker was tossed out second. The field eliminated Shelton and Cedric. They cut to a break. [c]
Gulak was eliminated after the break. T-Bar and Mace tossed Carillo out of the ring. Slapjack was tossed out next. Elias and Ryker squared off against Mace and T-Bar. Ryker and Elias were eliminated. Ali eliminated Mace. Ali eliminated T-Bar next. Dorado eliminated Kalisto with a high kick. Metalik then eliminated Dorado. Corbin then tossed Metalik out. [c]
Corbin eliminated Murphy. Nakamura eliminated Garza. It came down to Uso, Corbin, Ricochet, Nakamura, and Ali. Ricochet and Ali battled on the ring apron, and Ricochet eliminated Ali. Uso superkicked Ricochet to the floor. Corbin and Uso double-teamed Nakamura. Uso then surprised Corbin with a superkick and tossed him over the top rope. Corbin held on. Nakamura gave him a running knee to knock him to the floor. It came down to Uso and Nakamura. Nakamura landed a tornado kick to drop him. He gave Uso a sloppy STO. He then signaled for the Kinshasa, but Uso superkicked him instead. Nakamura came right back with the Kinshasa. Uso, though, countered Nakamura and overhead tossed him to the floor to win.
WINNER: Uso in 14:00.
-As Uso celebrated, Reigns and Paul Heyman walked out. Uso’s emotions shifted to concern for how Reigns would receive his moment in the spotlight. Reigns hugged Uso when he entered the ring.
-The announcers plugged WrestleMania on Peacock once again. [c]
-A “You suck!” rang out. Reigns said, “I’m annoyed I even have to be here. I’m not a politician. I’m not running president. I don’t have to sell myself to you. I got more things to worry about.” He said he’s in a match that he can lose even if he’s not pinned. He said since he’s there, he might as well state the obvious. He said on Sunday night, he’s going to show up and win. He said it might arrogant, but to him it’s his humble beginning. “Show day is the easy day,” he said. “Because every single day of the week, when you prep at a 12, the 10 comes easy.” He said show up and win means when Roman Reigns shows up, WWE is winning. He said he could be like Edge and Bryan and have one good week. He said Bryan had one big win, Edge was a badass for one week. He said since Summerslam, he’s been doing it week after week for 30 weeks in a row. “The numbers don’t lie,” he said. “Who do you think changed the ratings for this show? Me! Who do you think made this title relevant, the one everybody wants? Me!”
He laughed as he said it’s time to talk about the dreamers. He said Bryan is tired of hearing no and wants someone to say yes, and now he’s telling everyone he made him tapout. A “You tapped out” chant rang out. Reigns shook his head in disgust. He told “DB” he is hanging on by a thread. He said if he made him tap out, he’d be champion, but he’ll never be a champion because he can’t make him tap out. He shifted to Edge and said what he said was garbage. He said he took it from him and he took it from everyone else. He said this is where the comeback story ends. He said the dream ends for Edge being in the ring with him at WrestleMania, and that’s where his begins.
He said if what they think he did this year was special, wait until he sees what comes next. He said dreamers are selfish because it’s all about them. He said he’s the man with a golden hand, and everything he touches has success. He asked Heyman if that was right, and before he could finish his sentence, Heyman said, “Yes sir! You saved mine.” He asked Jey who gave him the best year of his career. He said is he going to crush Edge’s dreams. He said as his counsel says, this isn’t a prediction, it’s a spoiler. He said he’s going to wreck everybody and smash them and pin them and the referee is going to count 1-2-3. He said they’ll look up and see a man greater than him holding the belt up as a million dollars in pyro blasts. “And then you’re going to hear the whole world acknowledge me,” he said.
Cole asked if it will be the year of dreamers in Edge and Bryan or an evening of nightmares brought by the Head of the Table, Roman Reigns.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Say what you will about various aspects of WWE, but this was a stellar final push for the WrestleMania main event. Bryan, Edge, and Reigns shined on the mic. The supporting matches also had really good segments to build the undercard, especially Belair, Sasha, Seth, Sami, KO, and Big E in creative presentations