The John Report: WWE Smackdown 05/22/20 Review


From the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, this is Smackdown for episode #1083. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
There was a video package paying tribute to the military on this Memorial Day weekend in the US. Memorial Day is Monday, so we’ll probably see the same video on Raw. That’s fine with me because it’s a great video.
The Smackdown introduction video aired.
The announce team Michael Cole and Corey Graves plugged some of the matches coming up this week.

The Dirt Sheet Starring The Miz and John Morrison
The Miz and John Morrison were in the ring in their ring gear and robes, so you know they are going to be in a match. The Miz said he refused to live in a world where Otis is Mr. Money in the Bank and Morrison said more like “Mr. Honey Baked Ham.” The duo continued to trash Otis complaining about people like Braun Strowman enabling Otis. Miz said Strowman got into their business last week and he thought it was stupid that Strowman teamed up with Otis since Otis is Mr. Money in the Bank. Morrison said it’s stupid like Becky Lynch getting pregnant by Seth Rollins and he wouldn’t show his face around there either. Good heelish line. Miz and Morrison ripped on Strowman saying he was replaced in the Wyatt Family by puppets.
There was a “Dirt Sheet Exclusive” segment where they went over some puppets that were nearly selected for the Wyatt Family. There was some farting and burping. I don’t need to recap all of this, but it was parody stuff like “Mandequin Rose” who said that “not everything about Braun is a monster” and that led to Strowman’s entrance.
Braun Strowman walked out with the Universal Championship around his waist with Strowman laughing about the jokes. Strowman yelled in the face of Miz and Morrison followed by some chair tossing out of the ring.
Strowman said that they are kinda funny and their show is not half bad. Morrison said that Strowman was not booked for the show, which made me chuckle a bit. Strowman wanted them to ask about Bray Wyatt and Money in the Bank. Miz asked Braun if he thinks Bray is done with him? Miz said he fought Bray Wyatt, he dealt with the sickness that is Bray and he sent Miz into the lowest point of his life, but luckily Miz had John there to save him. Morrison said that Strowman will never be the man that Miz will be. Morrison said that Strowman got lucky beating Morrison last week while trash-talking Braun. Strowman asked if that is a challenge to a match, Miz didn't seem thrilled about it, but it was too late and Strowman called for a referee.
Analysis: The same formula we see nearly every week happened again with a promo to start the show. Also, most WWE talk show segments lead to a match. There were some good lines by Miz and Morrison during their comedy bit, but some of it was lame too with the puppets farting and burping. It’s childish humor, but I guess that’s what Vinny Mac loves. Setting up a match against Strowman continues the story from last week when Braun won a tag team match against them.

(Commercial)
Braun Strowman vs. The Miz (w/John Morrison)
This is not for Braun’s Universal Title. Strowman was dominant early as he whipped Miz into the turnbuckle two times followed by a shoulder tackle. Miz managed to knock Strowman out of the ring with a knee lift. Morrison hit a jumping kick to Strowman’s face while Miz distracted the referee. Strowman charged at Miz, then Miz moved and Strowman went running into the ring post. Strowman always does bumps where he runs into things. Back in the ring, Miz wit ha double axehandle. Miz tried another one, Strowman caught him, Miz avoided a slam and Miz hit a dropkick to the knee. Miz with a kick to the head. Miz tried a DDT, Strowman grabbed a waistlock and Strowman tossed Miz across the ring followed by a corner splash. Strowman punched Morrison off the apron. Strowman with a suplex into a slam on Miz. Strowman hit a Running Powerslam on Miz for the pinfall win after about four minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Braun Strowman
Analysis: *1/2 A dominant win for Strowman that didn’t make Miz look like a former WWE Champion. They probably could have gone a few minutes longer if Morrison got more cheap shots in, but I think the length of the match is fine.

Post match, Strowman celebrated the win. Morrison did a promo saying that Strowman won a tag team match last week and a singles match this week, but at Backlash they were challenging him for the Universal Title in a Handicap Match. Strowman said “you got it” to accept the challenge.
Analysis: That’s a weird way to set up a title match. Strowman beat these guys easily two weeks ago, then beat Miz easily this week and now those two get a title shot? It’s a poor way to build up the match. I realize it’s just a way to get the title on the Backlash PPV. It’s just not that interesting to me. They’ll probably go back to Strowman vs. The Fiend at the Extreme Rules PPV in July.

The updated Intercontinental Title tournament brackets were shown while mentioning Daniel Bryan and Elias got wins last week.
AJ Styles was back on Smackdown in the “house that AJ Styles built” for this IC Title tourney match even though he’s a Raw guy. It was noted by Cole that Styles was traded to Smackdown for superstars to be named later. It was easy to tell that they dubbed in Cole’s comments after Smackdown was taped because it sounded different in terms of the audio format.
Analysis: There’s the explanation for Styles to Smackdown. You would think one of the top names in the company would be traded for another wrestler or multiple wrestlers, but WWE just says “superstars to be named later” because they will figure it out down the road. They could have easily said it last week, but WWE doesn’t make it easy. It will be interesting to see if WWE remembers the trade and that “superstars to be named later” means that Raw gets new talent. It’s frustrating when WWE moves people without explaining it well. Sometimes WWE forgets these things. I’m fine with Styles back on Smackdown.
(Commercial)

Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance for the IC Title tournament with the announcers talking about his history with Styles.
Intercontinental Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
They battled over a headlock, Styles with a chop to the throat and Nakamura hit the knee. Nakamura ran the ropes and Styles stopped that momentum with a dropkick. Styles charged at Nakamura with Shinsuke hitting a knee to the ribs. Styles suckered in Nakamura leading to Styles sending Nakamura into the turnbuckle. They exchanged forearms, Styles with a step up enziguri and Nakamura kicked Styles into the turnbuckle. Nakamura with a sliding German Suplex while Styles was against the ropes. That led to a break.
(Commercial)
The match returned with Styles hitting some strikes, then a spin kick by Nakamura and Styles with a Pele Kick. Nakamura was back up leading to Nakamura hitting two clotheslines and a slam off the shoulders into the knee for the Ushigoroshi that led to a two count. Nakamura drove Styles back first into the corner, but then Styles came out of the corner with a Calf Crusher submission hold until Nakamura got to the bottom rope to break the hold. Nakamura with a jumping kick to the head, Styles avoided a knee and Styles hit a running forearm for two. Nakamura had Styles on his shoulders leading to a slam into the mat for a two count. Nakamura with a kick to the head followed by a jumping kick off the ropes. Nakamura with a sliding knee that was not his finisher as Styles kicked out by getting his right shoulder up. Nakamura charged, Styles rolled him up and Nakamura slapped on a triangle choke submission. Styles got back into it with a modified Styles Clash where he only had one arm hooked and that got a two count. Great nearfall! That was an amazing counter and since it wasn’t the regular Styles Clash it was only a two count. Styles wanted a Phenomenal Forearm, but Nakamura kicked him, then Styles avoided a charge and hit an up kick. Styles off the ropes with a Phenomenal Forearm on Nakamura for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: ***1/2 This was a great match as you would expect from them. They’re both heels, so maybe if there was a crowd it would have hurt the match, but the match turned out very well in this setting. I know that some of the PPV matches they had a few years ago were a bit disappointing, but I really enjoyed this match. That triangle choke counter into a Styles Clash variation was an innovative spot that looked amazing and also put over Nakamura for kicking out of that. I thought the finish was set up well with Styles avoiding the big strikes from Nakamura and then hitting the Phenomenal Forearm to put Shinsuke away. Styles getting the win was the right call here.

The win by Styles means that he will face Elias in the semifinals of the Intercontinental Title tournament. That should be a win for Styles.
A video aired from last week’s show when Charlotte Flair trash talked Bayley while putting over Sasha Banks and that set up Flair vs. Bayley for this week.
Bayley was backstage with Sasha Banks and Bayley told Banks that she didn’t want her in her corner tonight. Bayley said it’s because people think that Bayley can’t win without Banks. Sasha wondered if it was because of what Charlotte said and Bayley said she wanted to prove she could do it. Banks and Bayley shook hands.
This Monday on Raw: Drew McIntyre is a guest on MVP’s talk show since MVP is aligned with Bobby Lashley now and Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax vs. Natalya will take place for a Raw Women’s Title shot against Asuka. That is probably a win for Jax. I can hear most fans groaning about that already. I'm with you on the groaning. At least Monday's Raw is 11 years of my Raw Deal reviews, so that's something to celebrate...I think.
(Commercial)
Charlotte Flair made her entrance wearing the NXT Women’s Title around her waist. Bayley made her entrance with the Smackdown Women’s Title around her waist and no Sasha Banks by her side. There is no title on the line here as Cole noted that Bayley has been Smackdown Women’s Champion for 224 days.

Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley
Flair sent Bayley into the turnbuckle, then she missed a corner charge and Bayley got a takedown using the hair. Bayley with a trip leading to a pin with her feet on the ropes, the referee saw it and then Flair did the same thing with Bayley getting out of it. Flair with a knee lift to the ribs and Bayley yanked Flair’s legs leading to Flair bumping on the apron. Bayley left the ring leading to Banks hitting a clothesline. Flair whipped Bayley over the barricade as the ref counted Bayley on the floor and Flair grabbed a headset calling for Sasha Banks to show up so Flair can kick both of their asses.
(Commercial)
The show returned with Flair in control with a headlock with Flair telling Bayley she was teaching her how to be a champion. Sasha Banks was shown watching on a TV backstage as Flair remained in control with a chop to the chest. Flair went up top, Bayley pulled the leg, Flair favored the left leg and Flair got a right knee up to the face. Flair missed a kick, Flair to the floor and Bayley kicked Flair into the ring post. Flair avoided a running kick and hit a forearm to the face. Bayley sent Flair into the barricade and the side of the ring. Back in the ring, Bayley got a nearfall, Flair got a rollup and Bayley hit a clothesline for a one count. Bayley with a headlock, Flair with punches, Bayley ran the ropes and Flair caught her with a fallaway slam. Flair with four forearms, Bayley came back with shoulder tackles and Flair managed to come back with a neckbreaker followed by Flair sending Bayley into the middle turnbuckle. Some good bumping there by Bayley. Flair went up top with the moonsault, Bayley moved, Flair on her feet and Flair hit a boot to the face for two. Flair rarely hits that move. Flair stomped on Bayley’s left leg, but Bayley came back with a neckbreaker on the middle rope. Bayley with a running knee on Flair against the turnbuckle. Bayley did a slow climb to the top, she jumped off with the elbow and Flair got the knees up to block. Flair slapped on a Boston Crab submission almost like a Liontamer and Bayley countered into a pin for two. Bayley sent Flair face first into the middle turnbuckle. Bayley went up top again with an elbow drop for two. Bayley chopped Flair repeatedly with Flair telling her to “come on” during that sequence. Flair with a forearm to the face to block a Figure Four attempt. Flair went crazy on Bayley with repeated chops to the chest. Flair rolled up Bayley, then Bayley rolled through and Bayley sat on top grabbing the tights and using the ropes. The referee never saw it as Bayley got the win after 15 minutes. Flair kicked out right after the three count.
Winner by pinfall: Bayley
Analysis: ***1/4 This was a competitive match where neither woman was in control for a long period, but Bayley found a way to win by cheating. It was not the dreaded ROLLUP OF DEATH~! because Bayley sat on top rather than using the arm to do the rollup. The match was lacking in nearfalls and near submissions as possible finishes, so that hurts it a bit. I did like the physicality of both women, especially Charlotte when she unleashed those chops to the chest. It felt like a competitive fight, which is better than just going through the motions in wrestling matches. Since both women are heels, that makes it tough for fans to root for one of them to win. I figured Charlotte would win the match. It's nice to be a bit surprised by a finish.

Post match, Bayley celebrated the win while Flair had a smile on her face as if she admired the cheating finish. Bayley said “Sasha, I love you” into the camera.
The mixed tag team match is up next.
(Commercial)
Bayley and Sasha Banks were backstage with Banks hugging Bayley to congratulate her for the win. Bayley said you didn’t think I could do it, then Banks said nothing and Bayley said she was just kidding. They were happy. It's a very slow build to the split and that's fine with me.
The entrances took place for the mixed tag team match with Sonya Deville up first followed by tag team partner Dolph Ziggler. Mandy Rose entered with some jean style gear including a jacket and jean shorts. The top showed off the goods too. I like the outfit. Then there’s Otis with the Money in the Bank briefcase as the babyface team in this match.
Analysis: That means Otis’s run of main eventing Smackdown ends at three weeks. That’s a good thing.
Otis and Mandy Rose vs. Dolph Ziggler and Sonya Deville
Otis with a spinning slam and a running splash. Graves made some joke about Tucker and it made think "oh yeah, Tucker is still on this show" even though WWE completely ignores him as the tag team partner of Otis. Poor Tucker. Ziggler went to the ropes while Otis did his Chris Farley-like grunts. Deville tagged in against Rose with some choking, but then Mandy came back with a tackle followed by punches. Ziggler went after Otis, who nearly hit a slam, but Ziggler slipped out and Ziggler shoved Otis into the steel steps. Rose checked on Otis on the floor leading to a break.

(Commercial)
The match returned with Deville grabbing a headlock and then hitting a kick to the head while Otis was still on the floor selling a right shoulder injury. Deville sent Rose into the turnbuckle followed by punches. Rose with two forearms and a rollup, but Deville kicked Rose in the ribs to knock her down. Otis was back on the apron urging on Rose while Deville grounded Rose again. Rose with a jawbreaker, but Deville kicked Rose down. Deville with kicks to the left arm, then Deville with some taunting and Rose hit a jumping knee. It was hot tag time with Otis tagging in against Ziggler with Otis hitting a clothesline. Otis with a flapjack, a running splash, Ziggler with a back elbow and Otis drove Ziggler into the turnbuckle followed by a running splash. Deville tagged in, so Rose had to tag in and Rose hit two clotheslines while Otis took out Ziggler on the floor. Rose hit a running knee that sent Deville into the corner and sliding kick by Rose got a two count. Deville blocked a move, Deville with a knee and then Deville hit a running knee to the back of the head for a two count. Otis was busy fighting Ziggler on the floor with Ziggler holding onto him at one point, so Otis wasn’t able to make the save. It went about 10 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Dolph Ziggler and Sonya Deville
Analysis: **3/4 I thought that match was put together very well with the guys on the floor leading to Deville getting another win over Rose. Deville beat Rose in a singles match when she cheated when they had that singles match. This time it was more of a clean win. Otis and Ziggler weren’t in the ring that much because the girls worked most of it since their story is more interesting as the former best friends. It’s another big win for Deville. If they do another singles match at Backlash it will be interesting to see if Rose gets a win or if they keep Deville strong by putting her over again. I think it will probably be a Rose win the next time they have a singles match.

Post match, Otis was checking on Mandy and then Ziggler went into the ring to hit Otis with a superkick. A cheap shot by Ziggler led to Dolph and Sonya celebrating as the winners.
Analysis: I like it when heels act like jerks. I know it's a simple thing, but it's important in wrestling. It’s how they should act.
Jeff Hardy was in the backstage area with his face painted red, orange and white. Jeff said he wanted the WWE Universe to join him on a new journey. Jeff said that Intercontinental Title is near and dear to his heart because it was the first championship he has won on his own. Hardy said if he won it then everything would come full circle and what better way to start the journey then to take down the bully. Jeff said that his path to glory runs right through Sheamus. Hardy posed to end it.
Analysis: Sometimes they do backstage interviews and other times they let the talent speak into the camera like this. I like it better this way even though I think Kayla Braxton on Smackdown and Charly Caruso on Raw are good at what they do. I just think it’s more effective this way sometimes.
(Commercial)

A graphic was shown saying “In Memory of Shad Gaspard 1981-2020” for the late former WWE superstar that died earlier this week when he was swimming in the ocean with his son. The lifeguards saved his son at Shad’s urging, but sadly Shad wasn’t able to survive and his body was found two days later. He died a hero. If you are able to help out Shad’s family, check out the GoFundMe that was set up to support them and donate if you can. Rest in Peace, Shad.

There was a promo from the Forgotten Sons tag team. Steve Cutler said they’ve all had tough times adjusting to life back at home. Cutler said that it is their blood on your hands and what’s only fair is your blood on their hands.

A recap video (sponsored by Progressive) aired summarizing the Strowman story with Miz and Morrison earlier in the night.
It’s official for WWE Backlash: Braun Strowman defending the Universal Title against John Morrison and The Miz.
Analysis: It’s going to be a win for Strowman. I assume The Fiend shows up after that and they do Strowman vs. Fiend at Extreme Rules in July.
The Miz and Morrison were talking backstage with Miz saying he wasn’t ready, so Morrison told him to look at the bright side because they have a shot at the Universal Championship. Renee Young showed up to interview them noting that Strowman beat both of them decisively. They trashed Strowman saying they’ll make Braun’s life a living hell and did their stupid “Miz and Morrison hey hey ho ho” song.
There was a video package about Jeff Hardy’s comeback with Sheamus being sick of all the hype about Jeff’s return. That led to their promos two weeks ago along with a physical exchange that saw Jeff standing tall.
Jeff Hardy made his entrance with some white, red and orange face paint. Jeff entered to the regular Hardys theme song even though he has said in a recent interview that “No More Words” would be back. Nope. It’s not back yet.
(Commercial)

A commercial aired for Backlash on June 14 with “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” phrase to promote the match. I think Edge and Orton will main event that PPV.
Sheamus entered for the main event match. Sheamus has never won the IC Title in his career while Hardy is a 4-time IC Champion.
Intercontinental Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy
Hardy grabbed a side headlock, Sheamus with an armbar and Sheamus worked over Jeff with punches. Sheamus with an uppercut, then some trash talk and Jeff bounced off the ropes with a forearm, but then Sheamus stopped the momentum with a running elbow. Hardy hit a neckbreaker using the top rope for an assist and then a back body drop over the top to the floor. Hardy with a dropkick that sent Sheamus into the announce table. Hardy jumped off the apron, Sheamus caught him and drove Hardy back first into the ring post. Sheamus slammed Hardy onto the announce table although it was not enough to break the table. Sheamus yelled at Cole: “Four weeks of putting that lump of crap over! What about me?” That led to a break. Thanks for yelling at Cole. That’s always welcome.
(Commercial)

Sheamus was in control with repeated knee drops to the head. Sheamus continued the attack with a knee to the ribs, Sheamus went for a clothesline that Jeff avoided and then Sheamus connected with a clothesline. Jeff got some momentum with a back kick, elbow to the head and Hardy went up top with the twisting Whisper in the Wind splash onto Sheamus for the pinfall win. Sheamus came back with the Irish Curse backbreaker three times in a row. Sheamus worked over Hardy with the repeated forearms to the chest while against the ropes. Sheamus smiled while looking at the camera and Sheamus was skipping around while saying he was in the best shape of his life while Graves said it on commentary as well. Hardy got back into it with punches, Sheamus charged, Hardy moved and Sheamus went left shoulder first into the ring post. Hardy with the atomic drop, double leg drop and a basement dropkick for two. Sheamus bailed to the floor, Hardy followed and shoved Sheamus into the ring post. Hardy walked across the top of the barricade like he’s done so many times and hit a clothesline on Sheamus on the floor. Hardy went up top, he jumped off with a Swanton Bomb and Sheamus got knees up to block leading to a two count. Sheamus with a running knee to the face for a two count. That sounded really loud because Sheamus slapped his thigh as he delivered the move. Sheamus wanted the Brogue Kick, Hardy moved, Sheamus picked Hardy up, Hardy got out of that, a sunset flip by Hardy and he managed to hold Sheamus down for the three count with Sheamus kicking out right after the pin. The match went 14 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Jeff Hardy
Analysis: *** It was a competitive match with Hardy finding a way to win in a way that protects Sheamus because Hardy didn’t hit his finisher to win. When a face like Hardy beats a heel like Sheamus in that way, it also could lead to a rematch soon because the heel Sheamus will be mad how he lost. Sheamus controlled most of the match while also acting in a cocky, which is often a sign at the heel bully is going to lose and that’s what happened here. I liked the story of the match with the face Hardy finding a way to escape with the win.

The win means that Hardy will face Daniel Bryan in the Intercontinental Title tournament semifinals. AJ Styles will face Elias in the other match. The two matches will take place next week.
Post match, Hardy went up the ramp while Sheamus was furious in the ring saying he’ll rip his head off. You might ask yourself: If he was so mad then why wouldn’t he just go up the ramp and attack Jeff there? That's because in WWE they love having staredowns to end the show. That’s what we got here. Here's a look at the IC Title tournament brackets.

Analysis: I’m not sure what the outcome of the tournament will be. I think it could be Hardy, Styles or Bryan as the winner. The reason I was leaning towards Hardy the most is because of the redemption story and WWE wanting to push him again by putting the IC Title on him. However, I think the Hardy story with Sheamus will continue, so I wonder if they continue the feud after Hardy has the title or if Sheamus will attack to cost Hardy the match next week. That’s where I think it’s going now with Sheamus attacking Hardy because Sheamus is mad about this loss.
That would lead to Bryan vs. Styles in the finals, which is a matchup between two of the best wrestlers of the last 20 years and they’ve had great matches together. If that’s the finals then I’d probably go with Styles as the winner because I believe Bryan’s second child with Brie Bella is due soon and he’s probably going to be off for a few weeks or months at that point. I think I have talked myself into Styles as the winner of the IC Title now that I know he’s on Smackdown. If Hardy wins the title then he can feud with Sheamus after. I just think Styles is going to win now since he’s never won the IC Title and it makes sense for WWE to want to push him as the IC Champion after they moved him over to Smackdown from Raw. It works for me.
To summarize all of that, Jeff Hardy was my pick before the tournament started. Now that I know Styles is a Smackdown guy, I think he's my pick now.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. AJ Styles
  2. Shinsuke Nakamura
  3. Bayley/Charlotte Flair

Sheamus deserves a mention for yelling at Cole. That is a positive thing to me.

The Scoreboard
7.5 out of 10
Last week: 6.5
2020 Average: 6.13

Final Thoughts
I thought this was a very good show thanks to the entertaining in-ring action all night long. The two IC Title tournament matches were great with Styles over Nakamura as my favorite match and Hardy beating Sheamus was well done too. I liked the mixed tag team match with Deville beating Rose again. The Bayley match with Charlotte had a creative finish for a rare Charlotte loss. It was a bit weird having two heel vs. heel matches. However, I liked most of the match finishes on the show because of the stories they told. It’s okay to end on a rollup or a cheap heel finish as long as it fits the story.
The Strowman stuff with Miz/Morrison wasn’t that interesting. I also think giving a Universal Title shot (at Backlash) to tag team wrestlers that lost to Strowman in back to back weeks is poor storytelling. As I noted in the review, it’s likely just a way to hold off the next Strowman vs. Wyatt match (as The Fiend) until the Extreme Rules PPV in July instead of doing it at Backlash. If you do it at Extreme Rules then there’s more likely to be a stipulation.
Overall, I liked Smackdown quite a bit this week. It was wrestling heavy with four matches getting around ten minutes or more with Bayley vs. Charlotte going the longest. My score this week is the highest I have given a Smackdown episode since the empty arena era (if you want to call it that) started over two months ago.


The next WWE pay-per-view is Backlash on June 14. Here is what is advertised so far:
Edge vs. Randy Orton
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
WWE Universal Championship: Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Miz and John Morrison
Asuka will also defend the Raw Women’s Championship against Nia Jax, Charlotte Flair or Natalya depending on who wins their Raw match.
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John Canton
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