SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
KELLER’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT
FEBRUARY 25, 2022
HERSHEY, PA. AT GIANT CENTER
AIRED ON FOX
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-A four minute video package aired on the journeys of Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns as they head to WrestleMania for a “Winner Take All” match.
-Pat McAfee excitedly introduced the show as the camera panned the crowd, which he touted was sold out. He hyped the Lesnar-Reigns contract signing and said it’s the biggest match in WrestleMania history.
-Michael Cole stood mid-ring and introduced Ronda Rousey. She came out smiling, slapping hands. She entered the ring and saluted the fans. They cut to crowd shots of fans who weren’t exactly going bonkers for her. McAfee called her an internationally known ass-kicking machine. He asked her why she chose to return to WWE at the Royal Rumble after being away for three years. She said broke her hand in the main event of WrestleMania in 2019. She rehabbed that, but then broke her other hand. She said then she became pregnant with her daughter. Her face lit up when she mentioned that. She said as soon as she knew her due date, she knew she wanted to come back four months later and win the Rumble “and punch my ticket to my second main event at WrestleMania.” She said her mom was a single parent who raised her while winning world championships in Judo while working to earn her PhD. She said she wanted to set a similar example for her daughter.
Cole talked about her accomplishments in judo and UFC and WWE. She said she wants to now be the first woman in a half a quadrennial to tapout Charlotte Flair. Cole asked her about competing with one hand “tied behind her back” (it was more of a wrist tied loosely to her side). McAfee narrated freeze frames of the match at Elimination Chamber.
Charlotte’s entrance music began. She told Rousey she showed her mercy considering she had one arm tied behind her back. She said it won’t be that way at WrestleMania. She said it’s supposed to be stupendous, and she will put her in the Figure-Eight and make her scream for mercy and tap out. She said she can go home and work on baby no. 2. Sonya Deville snuck into the ring and clipped Rousey from behind. McAfee called her a scumbag. When Rousey turned and snarled at Deville, Charlotte yanked her by her ankle and rammed her leg into the ringpost. McAfee said that’s the same ankle that’s been surgically repaired seven times. Deville asked Rousey why she’s such a failure. Rousey tossed her out of the ring and then struggled to stand. Her music began playing to end the segment.
(Keller’s Analysis: The content of Rousey’s promo was good in terms of giving her a nice mission statement and sense of purpose. Her delivery remains so awkward, I’m not sure she’s be given a main event push if not for her name value and accomplishments outside of WWE, though. Charlotte was solid here, but this wasn’t a big promo ask of her.)
-They showed New Day riding an ATV backstage looking goofy. [c]
-Adam Pearce told Sonya backstage that next week, because of what just happened, she must go one-on-one against Rousey next week. Sonya looked a little nervous.
(1) “LETHAL LOVERS” LOS LOTHARIOS (Humberto Carrillo & Angel Garza) vs. THE NEW DAY (Kofi Kingston & Big E)
On their way to the ring, Los Lotharious picked out a woman in the front row and kissed her cheeks on the “Kiss Cam.” New Day rode the ATV to the ring, which McAfee’s said was Big E’s gift for Kofi. The bell rang 21 minutes into the show. Cole said they each have a win against each other, so this is the rubber match. Cole talked about the videos on black WWE Champions of the modern era – Kingston, Big E, and Bobby Lashley. McAfee complimented the job Byron Saxton did. A minute in, Kingston tagged in and leaped over Big E and landed on Humberto and scored a two count. Humberto avoided a charging Kingston, but when Garza DISTRACTED Kingston on the ring apron, Humberto kicked him to the floor. Garza and Humberto rammed Kingston into the side of the ring as they cut to a break at 2:00. [c]
Big E eventually got the hot-tag and slammed Humberto around the ring, then played to the crowd. He gyrated over Humberto, then landed his running splash. He led a “New… Day Rocks!” chant. He set up a slam, but Garza DISTRACTED Big E on the ring apron. Humberto then surprised Big E with a superkick to the jaw. Garza hot-tagged in and charged, but Big E caught him and gave him a urinage. Then Kofi tagged in and landed the Midnight Hour. Humberto broke up the cover. Kofi and Garza battled in the ring, but Garza knocked Kofi to the floor and then landed a running dive through the ropes. Garza looked over at the ATV. Kofi recovered and dove off the steps at Garza, then threw him into the ring. Big E, meanwhile, gave Humberto an overhead suplex at ringside. Kingston leaped off the top rope, but Garza caught him with a kick and scored a believable near fall. Big E revved up the ATV, which DISTRACTED Garza. Kofi kneed Garza. Then Big E tagged in and they finished Garza with their Midnight Hour. They cut to cheering fans as Cole exclaimed, “Whatta match! Incredible match-up here, tonight.”
WINNERS: New Day in 10:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good TV match. The distractions were a little silly and excessive, as was the ATV gimmickry.)
-They cut backstage to Sam Roberts chatting with the Usos. “What the hell is Sam Roberts doing on Smackdown?” McAfee gasped.
-They cut to a sponsored commercial for a pick-up truck with Rick Boogs and Shinsuke Nakamura driving it around. Nakamura said he likes to kayak. They went kayaking. [c]
-Highlights aired of the Elimination Chamber with “Sacrifice” by The Weeknd playing.
-Backstage, Sheamus and Ridge Holland harassed Big E and Kofi. They laughed at them and sped off. Sheamus was angry.
-Sam Roberts interviewed the Usos. He said tonight there’s a big a contract signing. Jey said it’s not a regular contract signing, it’s for the biggest WrestleMania match of all time. Jimmy said Brock has no idea what he’s in for, just like the smelly Viking Raiders don’t know what’s coming for them. The Raiders attacked the Usos. Roberts fled. The Raiders yelled that they want the tag team title shot.
-They went to Cole and McAfee who talked about how the Raiders were beaten up by the Usos before their match at Elimination Chamber. (He said that so matter-of-factly, as if it wasn’t a big deal.) Then they pivoted to clips of Natalya and Xia Li two weeks ago on Smackdown.
-Megan Morant interviewed Xia Li who said she’s been waiting for this moment her whole life. She said she worked so hard in NXT to eventually compete on Smackdown. She said she’s nervous, but also confident. She said she is the protector.
-Xia Li made her ring entrance. [c]
(2) XIA LI vs. NATALYA
As Natayla made her ring entrance, they cut backstage to Aliya, Drew Gulak, Mansoor, and Shayna Baszler watching the match on a monitor. Cole said Xia is the first Chinese woman to ever compete on Smackdown. Cole said Beth Phoenix trained with Xia and said she’s one of the top strikers she’s ever worked with. Fans chanted “Hershey Chocolate” early in the match. McAfee said, “Pennsylvania saying ‘Xia Li’s Got It!’ and they’re exactly right.” (Ummm.) Natalya applied an early abdominal stretch. Xia took control and scored a two count. Natalya took over and went for a sharpshooter, but Xia kicked out of it. Xia then landed a spinning hook kick to Natalya’s face to win.
WINNER: Xia Li in 3:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: There wasn’t much to that. Xia looked okay, but the match structure just felt like it was highlights of a longer match. The transitions were sudden and lacked credibility or flow.)
-Highlights aired of Sami Zayn winning the IC Title last week.
-Sami made his ring entrance. Cole said he’s been unbearable for the last seven days. [c]
-The ring had a table in it with the IC belt on display and balloons were tied to the ringposts. Sami was wearing a gold jacket, dress pants, and dress shoes and celebrated and sang, “Oh, Happy Day!” He said, “Finally, justice! Justice is served.” He said it’s true what they say about not keeping a good man down. He said “they” tried everything and he was a victim of a massive conspiracy that targeted him and robbed him of his IC Title. He said people are asking him now that he’s been able to become IC Champion again, was there really a conspiracy. He said there indeed was, but now he knows that no matter what they throw at him, he can overcome it all.
Sami said he’ll defend against any and all challengers. As he said it was time to get down to the festivities, Johnny Knoxville’s music played. He ran to the ring and applauded Sami. Sami froze in dismay. Fans chanted “Johnny! Johnny!” Sami told Knoxville “respectfully” to get the hell out of his ring right now. Knoxville said if Sami says he is willing to face anyone, he wants in on it. Sami fretted nervously, then said apparently Knoxville doesn’t learn. He told him he doesn’t belong there. He said he knows he’s trying to get under his skin and get in his head and he’s pretty good at it. He said he sees through him and it’s not going to work.
Knoxville asked if Sami wants to be a fighting champion “or don’t you have enough balls?” Sami shot Knoxville a look as fans chanted “No balls!” Sami dropped the mic. They exchanged some words as fans chanted “Johnny!” loudly. Sami pretended he was leaving, but then jumped Knoxville and punched away at him. Then he delivered a Helluva Kick to Knoxville in the corner. He got in Knoxville’s face and yelled as referees pulled him away and scolded him. He delivered a second Helluva kick. Then he grabbed his IC Title belt and held it in the air in one arm and balloons in the other.
-Cole hyped the Lesnar-Reigns contract signing. [c]
-A clip aired of the Sami-Knoxville angle as Cole commented on it.
-Backstage, Sami told Pearce he overreacted and apologized, but said he didn’t start it. Pearce said sorry isn’t going to cut it because he left him busted up pretty good. (Pearce sounded like a character in a bar scene in a 1950s movie there.) Ricochet walked in and said he knows they’ve got a lot of stuff going on, but he happened to overhear him say he wants to be a fighting champion so he’s stepping up. Sami told him to grab a ticket and get to the back of the line. Pearce said that’s a good idea and they’d have the match next week.
(3) SASHA BANKS vs. SHOTZI BLACKHART
Sasha Banks made her ring entrance. Shotzi was already in the ring after the break. Naomi then made her ring entrance and joined the commentators. McAfee stood and danced with her. Shotzi got in some early offense. Naomi talked about how awesome it was teaming with Rousey. Cole said her match against Charlotte is being called a Match of the Year by some. Sasha beat Shotzi easily with a back stabber and a Bank Statement. Naomi applauded.
WINNER: Sasha in 2:00.
-Naomi entered the ring and stood by Sasha and said everyone is looking at the next WWE Tag Team Champions. Cole gasped and said Carmella & Zelina Vega have to look out for them. They danced and hugged.
-Morant said she wasn’t sure what Naomi meant (huh?) and then introduced Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss. She asked Corbin about facing Drew, the man who almost ended Madcap’s career. McAfee said the first time he saw that, he almost puked. They showed Drew pinning Moss at Elimination Chamber. Back to the interview, Corbin was laughing and told Madcap, “Now that’s using your head!” He said thankfully Moss has the strongest neck of any man he knows. He said tonight Drew has to deal with him. He said it’s a WrestleMania-caliber match happening on Smackdown tonight. He said he’ll get back at Drew for what he did to his friend and he’ll show him who the real warrior is. “And that’s no joke,” he said. Madcap rubbed his neck and seemed less than amused.
-Drew McIntyre made his ring entrance. [c]
-Corbin entered the ring and asked Drew if he’s sure he wants him to embarrass him in Hershey. He said the fans are pathetic. He said nothing would make him happier than Moss getting revenge against Drew. He said Madcap is tough as nails and an inspiration. Corbin asked Madcap to step onto the apron. He told Madcap to show the people how great he really is by taking the match. “You deserve this rematch!” Corbin said. Moss rubbed his sore neck. Corbin told him he’s got it. “It’s only Drew McIntyre. You can take him,” he said. Moss charged into the ring, which distracted Drew. Corbin then attacked McIntyre. Madcap joined in and double-teamed him for a few seconds. Drew recovered in the corner as the ref checked on him. The ref then called for the bell to start the match.
(4) DREW MCINTYRE vs. MADCAP MOSS
Drew landed a quick Glasgow Kiss, and then went for another Alabama Slam, but Moss held onto the ropes and then pulled himself to the floor with Corbin. They cut to an early break. [c]
Back from the break, Moss had Corbin in a chinlock mid-ring. They showed that during the break, Moss threw Corbin into the ringside barricade. A minute later, Drew made a comeback, kipped up, and set up a Claymore Kick. Corbin jumped onto the ring apron to DISTRACT Drew. Madcap then thumbed Drew in the eye and threw him into the ringpost shoulder-first followed by a DDT for a near fall. Moss yelled and ran the ropes, but Drew caught him with a sudden Claymore for the win.
WINNER: McIntyre in 7:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: It’s a bait and switch, in as much as switching from Corbin to Moss is a big downgrade in the eyes of the fans. WWE once against booked the ref to reward heels for a pre-match beating by calling for the bell right afterward, even as Drew was hunched in the corner in clear pain. The match itself was fine, and Drew’s closing kick was impressive.)
-Cole and McAfee commented on a replay of the attack on Rousey earlier in the show.
-Morant interviewed Rousey about facing Sonya next week. Rousey said she’s going to show what happens when authority figures step out of line.
(Keller’s Analysis: Quick and to the point. They’re definitely getting a lot of Rousey in terms of number of appearances. Is it diminishing her “special attraction” status or is it necessary for her to win over fans as someone not getting “special treatment”?)
-Reigns made his ring entrance along with Paul Heyman and the Usos. [c]
-A Raw commercial hyped Damian Priest vs. Finn Balor for the U.S. Title.
-Cole hyped Sami vs. Ricochet for the IC Title and the Usos vs. Raiders for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles next week on Smackdown.
-Pearce stood behind a table mid-ring. There were six security guys also present. Reigns addressed the crowd by saying, “Hershey, Pennsylvania, acknowledge me!” Most fans booed and some cheered. Heyman said they have come to a point in history where there is no way to embellish or exaggerate the enormity of the main event of this year’s WrestleMania. He said what they are facing “is the single biggest match in history.” He said it’s the biggest main event in the history of WrestleMania. He said it’s bigger than Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, bigger than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock, “bigger than the night I conquered Undertaker’s streak.” He said he’ll generously still give Lesnar half-credit for that.
Heyman touted the title unification match and said it’s time to get down to the business at hand. He said security guards are present to protect Lesnar from his impulsiveness and his Tribal Chief, Roman Reigns. “And that, ladies and gentleman, is what they call a cliffhanger.” They abruptly cut to a commercial break. [c]
-Cole hyped that Vince McMahon would be live in studio with McAfee next Thursday at noon ET live on YouTube.
-Lesnar made his ring entrance. He was all smiles, wearing a cowboy hat and jeans and a vest with cowboy boots and a belt buckle. Reigns sat and smiled as Lesnar entered the ring. Lesnar placed his belt on the table and stood opposite of Reigns, again smiling wide. Fans chanted “Suplex City!” Lesnar said, “Mr. Acknowledgment and Mr. Dick, let me introduce myself.” He did Heyman’s routine as Heyman stared at him angrily. He said he has to contain himself a little. “Impulsiveness, yes I am. Very impulsive.” He said if Heyman thinks “these skidmark security guards” are going to stop him from kicking Reigns’s ass and Heyman’s ass, they’ve got another thing coming. Heyman looked petrified. Lesnar said the only thing stopping him is himself. He said he’s going to sign the contract and then kick his ass at WrestleMania and get paid for it. Reigns looked off to the side and snarled.
Lesnar sat and signed the contract. He threw the contract at Reigns. Heyman said he’s had it with Lesnar’s disrespect. He said if he wants to make it personal, he’s going to make it personal. Heyman said it won’t be a unification match because he’s not going to make it to WM as champion. He said he’s going to lose that title next Saturday in Madison Square Garden. Lesnar chuckled. Heyman presented Reigns with a pen. Reigns gave one last look at Lesnar, then signed the contract.
Reigns said the farm boy must be confused because that title he brought to the ring is his title, not Lesnar’s. He said he’s going to smash him at WrestleMania because it’s his show, his ring, his cameraman, his fans, his commentators, and his WrestleMania sign. He dropped to the floor and yelled that he runs the show and everybody works for him, including the security in the ring. Lesnar tipped over the table with force, knocking several security guys down. He attacked the others. He tossed around the chairs and bashed the security guys with the table. He then gave one of them an F5. Reigns, Heyman, and the Usos retreated to the stage as Cole hyped the match one more time.
(Keller’s Analysis: That had a big fight vibe to everything. Whether the match ends up being bigger than all other WM main events remains to be seen, and the metrics to measure it are all messed up these days, but it does feel top level, especially if they stick with the Winner Take All stip and all that entails.)