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STOUP’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 9, 2021
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. AT TROPICANA FIELD (“WWE THUNDERDOME”)
AIRED ON FOX BROADCAST NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
Ring Announcer: Greg Hamilton
-A recap package of last week’s altercations between Daniel Bryan, Edge, and Roman Reigns opened the program.
-Daniel Bryan made his entrance in casual wear after Michael Cole welcomed viewers to “WrestleMania SmackDown.” Bryan hyped how close WrestleMania is, and how everyone is excited. He specified he’s excited to “smell the human air in Raymond James Stadium” and “hear the roar of the WWE Universe in person.” He played to his fans and said there is be nothing like winning the Universal Championship in front of a live crowd at WrestleMania. He said he’s associated with the word ‘yes’ but he often hears the word ‘no’ in response to such queries as “does Daniel Bryan belong in WWE?” He said if you ask Batista, Randy Orton, Edge, or Roman Reigns, they will say ‘no,’ Bryan doesn’t belong in the main event of WrestleMania. “Yes” chants were piped in as Bryan insisted he ignores negativity and that’s why he says “yes” to questions like “Will Daniel Bryan ever be able to wrestle again?” He said Sunday’s main event is the biggest match of his career, and talked up his opponents as “two of the most dangerous men in WWE.” Bryan went on to enthusiastically declare that Edge and Reigns won’t be wrestling a general manager nor a family man, but a version of himself with fire in his eyes. Finally, he asked if he can win at WrestleMania and started another piped-in “Yes” chant.
(Stoup’s analysis: You can do a lot worse than Daniel Bryan when it comes to go-home promos, and the framing of the “Yes” catchphrase here probably works swell for Bryan’s biggest fans. Bryan did come off a bit in the realm of a glad-handing, Cena-esque, “Welcome to Monday Night Raw”-style tone, though, which does him few favors for those of us not sold on his inclusion in the match.)
-Kayla Braxton interviewed the Street Profits backstage. Montez Ford said it was about time they got another shot at the tag titles before the champions Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler attacked he and Angelo Dawkins. The brawl spilled out to the stage and Dominik Mysterio, Rey Mysterio, Chad Gable, and Otis got involved as Michael Cole wondered aloud whether order could be restored so they could hold the scheduled fatal four-way. [c]
(1) Chad Gable & Otis vs. Dominik Mysterio & Rey Mysterio vs. Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships
-We joined the match in progress. Roode dominated Dominik but Gable tagged himself in to take over. Dominik kicked Gable away to tag his father Rey. Rey sent Gable reeling with a hurricanrana, a back elbow, and a DDT for a pinfall that was interrupted by the champions. The Mysterios flipped Gable over the top rope but Otis caught his partner. The Mysterios then dove one after the other out of the ring onto their opponents. [c]
-Big E’s new Snickers commercial played coming back from break.
-Ford flourished with a handspring backflip and hit a high dropkick on Roode. Roode powered back with elbows to the gut and found a spinebuster. Otis tagged in and clotheslined Ford for a pinfall broken up by Rey. Otis remained on offense and played to the hard cam as Corey Graves said Otis “used to be focused on having a good time, but needs to win now.” Gable switched spots with Otis but was quickly tagged out by Ziggler. Piped-in “we want the smoke” chants tried to rally Ford as Ziggler wore him down but got caught in a famouser attempt and powerbombed. Both men tagged their partners and Dawkins went to work with his patented hot tag on Roode, and then Gable as Gable tried to get involved. Rey tagged himself in and launched Roode with a leg scissors. Ziggler tried to make the save but he and Roode wound up victims to a double 619 from the Mysterios. Otis reentered and dumped Rey out. Ford reentered and flipped over the top rope onto Otis. Dawkins and Gable tagged themselves in, and traded pinning combinations for near falls. Ford tagged in and hit a frog splash as Gable dismounted from a rolling German suplex, but Roode tagged in as Ziggler superkicked Ford out of the way and pinned Gable.
(Stoup’s analysis: Solid chaos that gave both babyface teams moments where it was believable they’d win.)
Winners: Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler in about 14 minutes
-Kayla Braxton interviewed Bianca Belair backstage. Belair said she’s nervous ahead of her WrestleMania match, but her father always told her it’s OK to be nervous because that means you care. Belair hit her “-EST” phrases and said, “When I beat Sasha Banks and become the SmackDown Women’s Champion, that’s going to be the greatest night of my life.”
-Michael Cole and Corey Graves plugged Peacock with a QR code link to the current promotional deal before saying a Fiend/Randy Orton video package would be up next. [c]
-A general WrestleMania commercial played, cycling through graphics of participating wrestlers. Michael Cole said “the WWE Universe is going to be in full force” before pitching to a video on Big E.
-Big E was shown in a barber’s chair, and spoke into the camera about getting his mind right as he got “lined up.” He was then shown in downtown Tampa and outside Raymond James Stadium talking about growing up in the city and going to wrestling practice. He turned his words toward Apollo Crews, and held the Intercontinental Championship to the camera. A graphic promoted that Wale will perform Big E’s entrance theme at WrestleMania.
(Stoup’s analysis: Though this was mostly to frame him as the hometown competitor, Big E’s excellence as a speaker came through as it always does. He struck a serious tone that felt like it was coming from a version of his true self simply turned up to 11 – both relatable and larger-than-life. Very good.)
-The Fiend/Randy Orton video package was shown. Corey Graves said “The WWE Universe may never sleep again.”
-Nia Jax made her entrance with Shayna Baszler and Reginald as Michael Cole tossed to photos of WrestleMania murals in the United Kingdom. Tamina then entered with Natalya as Cole growled a hard sell for the singles match coming after the break. [c]
-A spot for the WWE Shop was played.
(2) Nia Jax vs. Tamina
The wrestlers stared each other down before the bell as Michael Cole called them “powerhouses.” Cole then said, “No one can match up with Nia Jax” before Tamina shoved Jax to the ground. Tamina jawed at Jax then began pounding on her in the corner. Reginald hopped on the apron and was almost yanked into the ring by Tamina before Jax plowed Tamina over. Jax kicked her felled opponent and demanded, “You think I’m scared of you?” Cole talked up the dominance of Baszler and Jax, saying you could ask the women in singles matches at WrestleMania about it. Jax went for a shoulder block in the corner but hit the post as Tamina dodged. Baszler and Natalya tussled on the outside as Tamina hit a Samoan drop on Jax. Tamina crawled to the cover but Baszler broke it up. Natalya ran the heels from the ring and the opponents stared each other down as Baszler, Jax, and Reginald backed up the ramp.
Winner: Tamina by DQ in 2:59
-Kayla Braxton interviewed Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott backstage, about the WrestleMania tag team turmoil match. Riott said they are “laser-focused” and getting rid of their “sidekick” (Billie Kay) helped. Billie Kay and Carmella showed up to talk themselves up, and they were quickly joined by Dana Brooke, Mandy Rose, Lana, and Naomi all saying “what about us” before a brawl broke out. Natalya and Tamina then joined in and beat up the few left standing.
(Stoup’s analysis: Invested though I am in Lana finally getting a championship win over her rival Nia Jax, the “what about me” relay doesn’t make anyone look good – by direct involvement nor by association.)
-A video in the style of a political attack ad played, criticizing Cesaro for not being an example for children. The video said Seth Rollins is someone we can all look up to. Rollins’ voice then said “This video is paid for by friends of Seth Rollins and is in no way associated with Seth Rollins himself.” A graphic was shown for the Cesaro/Rollins WrestleMania match.
(Stoup’s analysis: Rollins is one of the few heels currently active who can get away with this. Amusing but not counteractively so. I’d love to see Cesaro win at Mania, though he may have to rely on the swing vote. Anyone? Anyone?)
-Edge made his entrance, holding a chair. A replay of Bryan drilling Edge’s head into the ringpost last week was shown. [c]
-Seated in a spotlight, Edge recounted going to WrestleMania VI and realizing he wanted to become a wrestler. He said he went on to accomplish everything… everything but ending his career on his terms. He said people who ask “isn’t that enough” don’t understand the mentality it takes to fight back after all he wanted to do had been ripped away from him. He said he didn’t come back for a “greatest hits tour,” but to main event WrestleMania. Sarcastically, he said, “Have you heard, everyone? This could be Daniel Bryan’s last WrestleMania!” He reiterated his frustration that now he doesn’t have to be involved in the match finish to lose. He said instead of a “Clash of the titans between eras” we now have “an indie bookstore clerk troll” sticking his nose in their business. Turning his attention to the champion, he called Reigns “the Samoan Edge” by pointing out how Reigns used to enter through the crowd and he does the spear. Edge complained that there have been no emotional videos about how Sunday will be ten years to the day since he had to announce his retirement because Daniel Bryan gets that attention while Edge has been denied deserved respect. He yelled that people call him a “part-timer” but he’s doing hurricanranas off the top rope, and not getting respect is a slap in the face. He called himself “The Rated ‘R’ Superstar” and “the next Universal Champion,” because he’s “dreamt it” and now he will “manifest it.” Edge brooded as his theme played.
(Stoup’s analysis: In what may have been an overcorrection, Edge is trying to let his anger make him unlikable. Problem is, if that is the goal, his well-articulated frustration is actually relatable and his predicament indeed makes Bryan horning in seem like an unearned interference in Edge’s journey. Still, in a general sense, flipping Edge heel and inserting a third person sure feels like a way to “break glass in case of emergency” and move the title to a ‘legend’ act without pinning Reigns. Fans of Edge rejoice!)
-Adam Pearce was shown speaking about how excited everyone is for WrestleMania to Sonya Deville. Deville observed that some of Pearce’s decisions have been unfair and she thinks the WrestleMania main event should have remained a singles match.
-Sasha Banks was shown merrily chatting it up with Kayla Braxton backstage before a COVID-19 vaccination spot played. [c]
-Banks insisted she doesn’t care what Belair had to say earlier, then threw her head back and laughed like Dick Dastardly. She said everything Belair gives her, she’s going to give right back “Boss-style.” She said she’s the “B-E-S-T” before throwing her head back and laughing again.
(Stoup’s analysis: Banks rattled through this as if on a strict time limit. She continues to come off as completely detached, though seemingly not in any intended kind of way. Belair’s consistent performances justify her confidence, and she is absolutely carrying this feud.)
-A Bobby Lashley/Drew McIntyre video package and a recap of Sami Zayn’s documentary trailer “premiere” played, each followed by graphics for the respective WrestleMania matches.
-Sami Zayn was shown interrupting a sparring session between Logan Paul and Jake Paul. Logan wasn’t expecting Zayn and didn’t seem thrilled to see him. Zayn invited himself to join the sparring session, but in going to get his gear accidentally locked himself out of the facility. He tried to reenter but was told by a security guard the place was closed. Coming out of the video, Zayn stormed commentary and claimed the video only looked bad for him because it wasn’t shown in its entirety. As participants in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal entered, Kevin Owens attacked Zayn and Zayn fled.
-The Big E Snickers ad was shown again after Michael Cole announced the battle royal was up next. [c]
(3) Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
-Back from break, Shinsuke Nakamura was finishing his individual entrance. Baron Corbin then got a televised entrance while WrestleMania Night One match graphics were cycled and Michael Cole reminded us Corbin has won an Andre Battle Royal before. Jey Uso then got a televised entrance as WrestleMania Night Two match graphics were shown. Chaos broke out at the bell as Cole reminded viewers of battle royal rules. T-Bar nearly eliminated Drew Gulak and Mace tried to eliminate Kalisto. Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin worked together to eliminate Tozawa. Michael Cole said Adam Pearce broke the news of this match using “Twitter Spaces.” The former Hurt Business members eliminated Tucker (though Tucker was not named by commentary) then faced off with the rest of the field. As Cole called it, “King Corbin and company” worked together to eliminate Alexander and Benjamin. [c]
-Elias eliminated Erik coming back from break, and Corey Graves pointed out that Elias and Jaxson Ryker were working together. T-Bar and Mace worked together to shove Drew Gulak over the top rope by his neck. They then did the same to Humberto Carillo. Slapjack was then kneed over the top rope by Elias. Mace and T-Bar began duking it out with Elias and Ryker and dumped them both out. Mustafa Ali then flipped Mace over the top rope as Mace was gloating, but T-Bar grabbed him by the neck and went to eliminate him. T-Bar fought off Murphy, and was then hooked by Ali’s legs and dragged over the top to the outside. Kalisto tried to reunite Lucha House Party as a trio but Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik teamed up on him. Cole joked that no one really likes Kalisto anyway. Dorado eliminated Kalisto but then Metalik eliminated Dorado. After a quick exchange, Metalik was flung out by Corbin. [c]
-After the commercial Cole said seven wrestlers remained. Angel Garza and Murphy battled on the apron. Corbin tried to eliminate Ricochet in one corner. Ali worked on Shinsuke Nakamura and Jey Uso in another corner. Corbin changed focus and eliminated Murphy. Nakamura kneed Garza off the apron for an elimination. The remaining five stared each other down and Ali went for Ricochet. Corbin stomped away on Nakamura. Ali and Ricochet worked on each other from the apron, then Ricochet swung Ali out with a head scissors. Uso then superkicked Ricochet out. Corbin and Uso teamed up with punches to Nakamura as Cole questioned whether Corbin could win a second trophy. Uso kicked Corbin and tried to eliminate him. Believing he had, he went for Nakamura who hit Corbin with a knee to eliminate him. Nakamura then got an upper hand on Uso and hit a STO. He went for the kinshasa but was met with a kick, then successfully hit a second kinshasa attempt. He tried to hurl the prone Uso over the top rope, but Uso swirled into a counter for the final elimination. Uso posed like Andre in front of the trophy as Roman Reigns’ entrance theme began. Uso looked upset that Reigns had interrupted his celebration.
Winner: Jey Uso in about 16 minutes.
(Stoup’s analysis: There is just enough prestige remaining on the Andre the Giant Battle Royal name that, even with it being booted to SmackDown, this is a meaningful win for Uso that reinforces how well WWE recognizes he’s doing as a singles act. It will serve as an easy talking point to help him through the further losses he will absorb on behalf of “the head of the table.”)
-Pyro went off on the stage for Reigns, who of course had Paul Heyman at his side. A replay of Daniel Bryan putting Reigns in the “Yes Lock” last week was shown. Uso embraced his cousin in the ring as Reigns held his Universal Championship high and commentary again plugged Peacock. [c]
-“You suck” chants were piped in after the break. Heyman handed a disgruntled-looking Reigns a microphone. Reigns opened by saying he’s annoyed he even has to be there. He said he doesn’t have to sell himself to anyone and reiterated that he doesn’t have to be involved in the match finish to lose his title. He said, however, that he’s going to “show up and win” before adding, “you know the phrase; you bought the shirt!” Reigns said “show up and win” means “WWE is winning,” and that anyone can have one good week like Bryan and Edge have had recently. He insisted that he’s changed the ratings for SmackDown and made the Universal title relevant. He laughed as he said, “that brings me to the dreamers” and began to address Bryan. “You tapped out” chants were piped in. Reigns said, “DB, if you made me tap out then you’d be champion” and said Bryan won’t make him tap out on Sunday. He then addressed Edge and said “this is where the comeback story ends.” He said being in the main event of WrestleMania “with Roman Reigns” is Edge’s dream, but Edge is just “the jumping-off point.” Reigns said if we think what he did this past year was special, we haven’t seen anything yet, and that he even gave Uso the best year of Uso’s career and now Uso has his name on the Andre trophy to prove it. Reigns said that on Sunday when he holds up his championship as a million dollars of pyro goes off, Bryan and Edge will look up at him and see a man who is better than them as they hear the whole world acknowledge him. Michael Cole asked rhetorically, “Will it be a night of ‘dreamers’ for Daniel Bryan and Edge, or will it be a night of nightmares led by Roman Reigns?” One final time, Cole said “WrestleMania is exclusively on Peacock.”
(Stoup’s analysis: And there’s Reigns with the promo of the night, and one of his best yet since his turn – which is a high bar. Reframing the ‘head of the table’ characterization to fit each of Reigns’ feuds has been essential to how greatly this version of Reigns has succeeded, and I believe this feud’s key stumbling block was not continuing that by reframing it around Edge. That said, Reigns absolutely owned the entire Thunderdome with his presence, and with his final words on the matter he just about made up for the shortcomings in this top match’s build.)