SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST (ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)… PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents the Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast with guest cohost PWTorch VIP analyst Todd Martin. Todd and Wade discuss Howard Finkel and what he represented as a great ring announcer but also how Vince McMahon treated him and what that says about McMahon. Todd then gives his strong view on WWE’s decision to release so many wrestlers yesterday during a pandemic just days before the next investor’s conference call. And much more.
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KELLER’S WWE FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN REPORT
APRIL 17, 2020
LIVE FROM ORLANDO, FLA. AT THE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED ON FOX NETWORK
Announcer: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
Tonight after WWE Friday Night Smackdown, join me live with guest cohost Cameron Hawkins from the PWTorch East Coast Cast to break down the show with live callers and emails.
•STREAM LIVE HERE ABOUT 5 MINUTES AFTER SMACKDOWN
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•IF YOU DON’T LISTEN LIVE, SEARCH “WADE KELLER” ON YOUR PODCAST APP TO SUBSCRIBE AND THEN DOWNLOAD OR STREAM THE FULL SHOW AN HOUR OR SO AFTER RAW
-The screen showed Howard Finkel and said “1950-2020.”
-The WWE brand stamp aired followed by the Smackdown opening theme.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m surprised they haven’t update it from most prominently featuring Kofi Kingston at the very start. He was WWE Universal Champion when the series moved to Fox. Shouldn’t it be Braun Strowman most prominently featured now at the start? The order of appearance is Kofi, Sasha Banks, Braun, Lacey Evan, Carmella, Cesaro, Ali, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bray Wyatt, Miz, Roman Reigns (still there!), Elias, Bayley, Undertaker, Mandy Rose, Baron Corbin, New Day’s Xavier Woods & Big E, Alexa Bliss, Daniel Bryan, Elias, Braun again, Kofi, four legends rotating – Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Triple H, Undertaker – and finally Reigns again.)
-Cole introduced the show as emanating live from Orlando, Fla. at the Performance Center. He said it’s high stakes tonight as Miz defends the Smackdown Tag Team Titles alone against Big E and Jey Uso. Graves hyped Bryan vs. Cesaro in a Money in the Bank qualifier and Dana Brooke vs. Naomi in the MITB qualifier. Graves said it’ll be “the most unique men’s and women’s Money in the Bank ladder matches ever.” (Wonder what that means? Seems to indicate it’ll augmented rules this year in the empty venue – or perhaps it’ll be outdoors in a jungle or something.)
-Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross made their way to the ring for “A Moment of Bliss” wearing their WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. Nikki excitedly toasted Bliss’s coffee mug. Bliss said they have a big guest tonight, her friend and new Universal Champion Braun Strowman. Braun’s music roared and he made his way out, smiling and patting the Universal Title belt as he made his way to the ring. Braun sat down in the ring. Bliss congratulated him for beating Goldberg. Braun congratulated them for beating the Kabuki Warriors twice. He said they deserved those belts. They all tapped mugs together. Bliss said Bray has multiple personalities and, instead of seeking help, he wallows in it. She said he’s cunning, brutal, and psychotic. She threw to a clip of Bray saying mean things about Braun.
Braun watched as Bray said Braun needs to learn about selling, and he has something that he wants back, the Universal Title belt. Bray then took on a sinister tone and said since he brought him into this world, he’ll have to take him out.
Braun said nobody knows Bray like he does, and he was a member of his family, but he’s trying to forget that. He said Bray didn’t create him and he doesn’t owe him an apology. He said he knows Bray and how he thinks and works. “He is a manipulator and likes to get inside their heads and make them doubt themselves and even doubt reality as a whole,” he said. “I’m not playing those games.” He said if Bray wants to challenge him, that’s fine, but if he comes for him, he’s going to “get these hands.”
As Bliss began to ask a question, Braun noticed a gift behind them. Braun went over and picked it up. Bliss awkwardly said she didn’t get him a gift. Bliss turned and asked Nikki if she knew about the gift. Braun opened the box and he looked disturbed. He pulled out the old sheep mask and he seemed mezmerized and started shaking as he examined it. Bliss and Nikki scarred out of the ring quietly. Then Fiend laughter filled the room and Braun looked around nervously, on edge.
(Keller’s Analysis: This was solid. I wanted to see Braun show he was proud to be champion and coveted the title, since as a late replacement for Roman Reigns he didn’t have that chance going into the match. I like that they’re embracing the history between Bray and Braun.) [c]
-They went to Cole and Graves on camera who reacted to the sheep mask. Cole said Braun was once known as Black Sheep of the Wyatt Family. They shifted to hyping the Money in the Bank PPV. Cole confirmed Braun will defend against Bray in a Universal Title rematch.
(1) SASHA BANKS (w/Bayley) vs. TAMINA – Tamina Gets Title Shot If She Wins
Sasha gave Tamina a small “Legit Boss” t-shirt and shoved it into her chest. Tamina complained it was a small and she wears extra large. (Otherwise would she want a Banks t-shirt?). She yanked Sasha down by her hair. Sasha went for a sunset flip, but Tamina blocked it. Sasha victory rolled Tamina for a soft two count. Cole noted that Sasha asked on Twitter what she gets if she wins. Bayley said she gets respect back from the fans and maybe they’d finally shut up. Bayley said the fans are “all stupid idiots and the rudest people.”
The match continued with Tamina in control in the corner of the ring, with the ref warning her to back away. Banks landed a Meteora for a two count seconds later. Sasha applied a sleeper, but Tamina powered Sasha hard into the corner to break free. Tamina charged in another corner, but Sasha moved. Sasha kneed Tamina in the head. Tamina caught Sasha flying at her with a quick one-armed slam. Graves said you won’t win style points for that one, but it was effective. Bayley distracted Tamian at ringside, giving Sasha a chance to shove her into the ringpost. Sasha then shoved Tamina into the steps. Bayley said she as going to check on Tamina. She took off her own shoe, but then Lacey Evans charged out and tackled Bayley. Tamina recovered and superkicked Sasha as she charged at her at ringside. Tamina threw Sasha back into the ring and landed a superkick mid-ring for the 1-2-3. Graves said that has to be considered an upset since nobody gave her a chance other than herself. Cole said Lacey changed the complexion of the match-up.
WINNER: Tamina in 8:00 to earn a shot against Bayley.
-After the match, Lacey celebrated with Tamina in the ring. She patted her forehead with a napkin and weed it to an invisible crowd.
-Cole and Graves hyped the Bryan vs. Cesaro match.
-They cut to Jey Uso who hyped up his match later for the tag titles. [c]
-Backstage Charlie Caruso approached Lacey Evans. Lacey said Sasha got a little taste of her own medicine tonight. She said wherever Sasha goes, she goes, after what she did to her and her family. She mentioned she’s an ex-Marine who won’t stop until the mission is complete. She held up her fist which had Sasha written on it with a line crossing out her name. Cole said she has a Woman’s Right headed her direction.
(2) SHEAMUS vs. DENZEL DEJOURNETTE
Graves said he feels bad for Dejournette, but Dejournette scored an early one count with a schoolboy. Sheamus elbowed him over and over and then dropped some knees. Graves said the ref might want to stop this one. Graves said Dejournette wasn’t even protecting himself. Cole said Sheamus is in a mood. He then hit a Brogue Kick for the win.
WINNER: Sheamus in 1:00.
-Afterward, sheamus bashed the announce table and yelled at Cole for changing topics to Jeff Hardy again. He asked him what his major malfunction is. “What about the Celtic Warrior,” he said. He walked up to Cole and said he will not be disrespected. He leaned in about foot or so away from his face and stared him down.
-A video package aired on Jeff Hardy, titled “Chapter Two: The Fall.” They showed footage from the “24” special on WWE Network. It included soundbites by Big Show and Edge talking about Hardy being in great pain. Jeff said he felt like he was losing himself. They showed big spots he did off of high plays. Jeff said he was abusing pain medication. He called it a huge problem, saying he got pilled up. They showed him high in a home video. Christian said drug addicts lie when they say they are okay. Hardy said he was getting pills illegally because that’s the only way he could get enough. He said he got busted. He said police raided his house and arrested him. He said he was arrested in 2009 for drugs and for drinking and driving in 2018. Big Show said he told Hardy he needs to get his shit straight. Samoa Joe said it was a clear sign he needed help, so he got it. Jeff said he messed up big time and he knew he had a problem. He said jail was a living hell. “I’ve got a lot of making up to do, and I will,” he said.
-Graves said the Jeff Hardy Story doesn’t end there, and next week is “Chapter Three: The Redemption.”
-Carmella walked up to Dana Brooke, who was using stretch bands to warm up. Carmella complained that Brooke was focused on a singles match this week instead of their tag title match next week. Brooke said she can do both. Carmella sounded skeptical. Brooke said, “Trust me, I got this.” Carmella said sarcastically, “Whatever you say, good luck.”
(Keller’s Analysis: Without R-Truth around, Carmella’s back to her old unlikable self, apparently.)
-Naomi made her ring entrance. [c]
-A video hyped he Triple H 25th Anniversary Celebration beginning next week.
(Keller’s Analysis: Has anyone ever done this before in pro wrestling? Basically thrown their own 25th Anniversary Party?)
-Graves finally explained how the new Money in the Bank ladder match will take place. The match begins at WWE Corporate HQs with the match beginning on the ground floor, and the briefcases will be hanging up on the roof of the corporate tower. “This is going to be madness, Cole,” he said.
(Keller’s Analysis: That means it’ll be pre-taped, and it also means there will be plenty of post-edits, although I doubt it’ll take as many cinematic liberties as Undertaker vs. A.J. Styles or John Cena vs. The Fiend.)
(3) NAOMI vs. DANA BROOKE – Money in the Bank Qualifier
As Dana walked around ringside flexing her biceps, Graves said Dana is talented and has a great work ethic, but her win-loss record hasn’t been great. Brooke knocked Naomi over the top rope to ringside early in the match when Naomi went for a leg scissors. Naomi came back with a two count after a series of moves including a springboard running roundkick to the head. Cole called Brooke resilient, which is a kiss of death. Brooke caught Naomi and landed a sitout powerbomb for a two count. Brooke went for a moonsault, but Naomi lifted her knees. Brooke ducked a rear view and rolled up Brooke for a two count. Naomi came back with another Rear View attempt, and it landed, but Brooke kicked out before. Naomi looked surprised. Brooke avoided a Naomi moonsault and then rolled her up for an upset three count. Brooke yelled, “I did it!” She went up to Cole and hugged him. (Social spacing, people! Unnecessary close interactions are just not even slightly okay right now, and it’s just stunning that’s not a strict edict right now.)
WINNER: Brooke in 4:00 to advance to the MITB match.
-Cole threw to a video package on Otis finally “getting the girl.” Graves looked disgusted.
-After the video package, they hyped Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville clearing the air next. Graves said their friendship might be another casualty of this torrid romance with Otis and Mandy. [c]
-Sonya Deville walked out. Cole said he couldn’t believe how selfish she has been in recent months. Graves said he doesn’t know the whole story and he’s only seen tidbits. He said she is an amazing “wingman” who should be celebrated, not judged. he stood in the ring and said she’s been trying to get ahold of Mandy for two weeks, but she isn’t answering her calls or texts. She asked for a public explanation. She tearfully said she wanted the chance to make things right. Sonya said she’s never had anyone like her in her life before. Her voice cracked more as she talked about their friendship, saying she went to her sister’s wedding with her. She begged her to come out so she can tell her face-to-face what she’s wanted to all along.
Mandy came out to her music. “Sonya, I don’t really have anything to say to you after what you and Otis did to me.” Sonya said if she doesn’t give her a chance to explain herself, it’s like all they’ve been through as best friends in recent years means nothing to them. Sonya tried to keep it together as she told Mandy she’s the most – “the selfish human being I’ve ever met in my entire life.” Mandy asked what she’s talking about and what that has to do with her and Otis. Sonya said when Mandy got interested in Otis, it made her realize she was ready to kick her to the curb in a moment. “Fire and Desire was never about us,” she said. She said she came out to her entrance music and Mandy got all the magazine covers. She said she almost just gagged, “although you’ve probably been doing a lot of that lately being you’ve been with Otis, right?” She said if she had just gone along with her little plan, they wouldn’t be there right now. Sonya said the saddest part is Dolph actually cares about her. “Look at Dolph, look at Otis,” she said. She admitted she helped Dolph strike up a relationship with Otis in exchange for him helping them as a team perhaps win the tag team titles. She said Mandy ruined everything. Sonya said she’s so relieved that it’s all on the table now because all she wants to do now is see her hurt. Sonya told Mandy she might be pretty, but she’s just a dime-a-d0zen bottled-blond who looks like she was created in a lab. She asked if she has any idea what it’s like to have worked so hard the last five years, wasted trying to be second-best to eye candy with no talent. “You have no talent!” she said. “Listen carefully, Barbie Doll.” She said she knows her like a sister, teammate, and partner. She said she’s now focused on one thing – ruining her life. She said then everybody will realize who the star of Fire & Desire was. “An actual fighter, not some centerfold bitch.” Mandy said she’s so glad she slapped her at WrestleMania.
Ziggler walked out to his music and begged them to calm down. He told Mandy they went about this the wrong way. He said Valentine’s Day was special and she can’t deny there was something between them. “You can’t fake that, what we know about each other,” he said. He said he’ll make it up to her. He looked her in the eye and asked her to look him in the eye and tell him that she doesn’t feel anything for him. He put his hand through her hair. She shoved his arm away. Sonya punched Mandy. Dolph asked why she did that. Sonya stoped on her. Otis ran out for the save. Dolph attacked Ziggler. Sonya leaped onto Otis’s back. Mandy yanked Sonya off of Otis. Sonya scurried to the floor into Ziggler’s arms. They retreated as Otis’s music played. Ziggler soon charged right back into the ring and went after Otis, but Otis splashed him in the corner and landed his Caterpillar elbow drop. Ziggler and Sonya retreated again as Mandy and Otis stood their ground together in the ring.
(Keller’s Analysis: A story with so much time invested in it deserved a big segment with Sonya explaining herself, or revealing why she acted why she did. Mandy, in the end, was a stand up person here.)
-They went to Cole and Graves who said early 24 years ago he joined WWE and he knew nothing about “sports entertainment,” but he rode with Howard Finkel for four months who taught him a lot. He said they lost Howard this past week at age 69. Graves said everyone has a story about The Fink and everyone misses him. Cole said tonight they celebrate his life.
-A video package aired on Finkel.
CATCH UP… LECLAIR’S WWE SMACKDOWN REPORT 4/10: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of WrestleMania fallout, Strowman’s next challenger, Women’s tag title rematch, more