Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review. It’s the first edition of Smackdown from Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida (more like St. Petersburg, FL). The Trop will be WWE’s home for Raw/Smackdown/PPVs going into late March when MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays will need the stadium. After that, WWE will have to figure out something else and perhaps they will be able to travel a bit since there are COVID-19 vaccines coming very soon in North America. I hope you and your families are doing well. A few more weeks to end this awful year, then we hopefully have some optimism heading into 2021. As for the wrestling world, it never stops. It just keeps going and going. The next PPV is WWE TLC on December 20.
From the WWE ThunderDome at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida, this is Smackdown for episode #1112. 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. Let’s get to it.
The show began with a shot of the ThunderDome screen above the ring with Cole noting that they were emanating for the very first time from Tropicana Field. The setup looks the same as it did in the Amway Center even though Tropicana Field is a bigger facility.
Sasha Banks made her entrance as the Smackdown Women’s Champion for a contract signing. The announce team of Michael Cole and Corey Graves plugged the TLC PPV nine days away.
TLC Contract Signing Between Sasha Banks and Carmella
Sasha Banks sat in the ring with Adam Pearce moderating the segment. Banks held up the folder to reveal there was no contract. Carmella appeared on the screen in the backstage area saying she was doing this on her terms. Carmella said she signed the contract and made some guy take the contract to Banks in the ring.
They exchanged some trash talking words with Carmella saying she didn’t care about the fans. Banks fired back saying she’ll destroy Carmella. That led to Carmella saying that as soon as Banks signed the contract, her days as Smackdown Women’s Champion is over. Banks stamped the contract for her signature. Banks said we don’t have to wait and said that they can do the title match tonight. Carmella agreed to it. Banks beat up Carmella’s friend (a wrestler from WWE Performance Center named Akeem Young) that brought out the contract and gave him the backstabber double knees to the back. Banks tossed the table onto him. Sasha’s music played to end it.
Analysis: There was a lot of quick back and forth trash talk there. It got pretty annoying quickly. Anyway, doing the title match later on the show instead of waiting until TLC is a bit of a surprise although maybe it’s just a case of WWE wanting to put on a Banks match since she hasn’t wrestled that much lately and she is one of the bigger stars of the show. Carmella’s promos are her strength and she did well as the cocky heel in this scenario.
The announce team of Cole and Graves were on screen talking about the title match later.
Kayla Braxton was standing in the Gorilla Position behind the curtain for an interview with Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins aka The Street Profits. Kayla referenced that Dolph Ziggler and Robert said that Street Profits were too funny to make money. Ford said that tonight he faces a former World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler and Dawkins wondered what would happen if he slapped Robert because he thinks it would be funny. They did their “we want the smoke” line to end it.
Montez Ford entered with Angelo Dawkins (with blue solo cups since they're on the blue brand now) for this singles match after a break.
Dolph Ziggler walked out with his buddy Robert Roode. Ziggler had some jokes while saying that Street Profits called him a poor man’s HBK, but that’s poor because he’s filthy rich. Ziggler kept on talking trash while making some jokes and even making a joke about his own standup comedy career. Roode said that when these two aces get their opportunity at those Smackdown Tag Team Championships, their title reign will go up in smoke. Ford said he liked that line.
Analysis: This storyline and build has had a similar feel to what's happening on Raw with their tag team titles as well. The creative team really isn't creative enough.
Montez Ford (w/Angelo Dawkins) vs. Dolph Ziggler (w/Robert Roode)
Ziggler hit a dropkick for a two count followed by an armbar of sorts with Ziggler following up with a neckbreaker. Ziggler went for a dropkick, Ford caught him and hit a slingshot into the turnbuckle. Ford with a dropkick followed by a blockbuster neckbreaker. Roode slid into the ring, so Dawkins went into the ring too and Roode left. Ford and Dawkins grabbed a solo cup as more blue solo cups filled the ring. That led to a break to clear the ring.
Ziggler was in control with a headlock while the ring was cleared of the blue solo cups. Ziggler with the repeated elbow drops on Ford for a two count, which led to another chinlock from Ziggler on the mat. Ford fought back with punches to the ribs, but there was Ziggler with another neckbreaker for two as Ziggler went back to the chinlock with a body scissors again. Ford with two clotheslines, then he jumped over Ziggler and Ford hit a leaping clothesline. Ziggler avoided an enziguri kick, Ford slipped out of a belly to back suplex and Ford hit a back suplex of his own along with a standing moonsault. Ford caught Ziggler to block a Fameasser attempt, Ziggler got a sunset flip for two and Ford blocked a Zig Zag leading to Ford hitting an enziguri kick. Roode attacked Dawkins on the floor by whipping him into the steel steps. Ziggler tripped up Ford on the top rope and Ziggler hit Ford with a superkick for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Dolph Ziggler
Analysis: *** A good match between two great athletes with a predictable distraction for the finish. I thought Ford sold well and did a nice job on his comeback, but I figured this would be a Ziggler win with Roode playing a factor. They know how to set up the big spots well. I liked the story of the match even though it was predictable just because we know how WWE likes to book these types of things.
Ziggler and Roode, who referred to themselves as Aces in their promos, celebrated the win while the announcers wondered if this means they’ll get a tag team title match. (We found out later that the title match will be next week.)
Analysis: This is the same booking they did on Raw this week and last week when Cedric Alexander pinned Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods in singles matches. It’s really lame to see WWE book these feuds in the same way in the same week. Ziggler and Roode also won non-title a few weeks ago.
Sami Zayn was backstage complaining to a WWE merchandise guy about why he doesn’t have a shirt. There were also Apollo Crews, Kalisto and Tamina standing by. Big E walked up to him wearing his new Big E shirt. Apollo Crews was standing nearby with an “I AM SAMI ZAYN” shirt that was hand-drawn on a white t-shirt. Zayn couldn’t rip the shirt up and said that his hand was hurt. Big E has his match with Zayn after the break.
Sami Zayn was in the ring with the Intercontinental Title on his shoulder as he ranted about not having any merchandise. Sami said he wanted the people that support him to be able to get merchandise to show him respect. Zayn mentioned last week it was the Pat Patterson tribute match…and he was cut off.
Big E made his entrance with his new theme song while also having some chalk on the stage that you might see for weightlifting competitions. Big E’s new theme song is a Wale song. I like the song. Zayn clarified to the announcers that this is a non-title match.
Sami Zayn vs. Big E
Zayn did some stalling to start in the first minute. Zayn bounced off the ropes with a kick to the chest. This time when Zayn bounced off the ropes, Big E decked him with a running elbow smash. Big E set up Zayn on the apron with forearms to the chest and Big E hit a running splash on the apron Zayn bumped to the floor leading to the break.
Zayn was in control (the heel is usually in control when the match returns from a break) by choking Big E across the middle ropes. Zayn hit a knee lift to the nose for a two count. Zayn sent Big E into the top rope, then to the middle rope and Zayn jumped off with an elbow smash to the face. Zayn mocked Big E’s hip-swiveling. Big E popped back up with the three belly to belly suplexes, then some hip-swiveling and a running splash. That is Big E’s hot tag offense that he can also use in a singles match like this. Zayn left the ring, but when he went back in, Big E stopped him with a clothesline. Zayn with a rollup for two. Zayn jumped off the top with a cross body block, Big E caught him, he rolled through and Zayn did an eye rake. Zayn charged with Big E hitting a uranage slam. Zayn was favoring his right hand that had a bandage on it so referee Charles Robinson checked on him. Zayn did a hard slap to the face, so Big E was angry and Zayn tried to run away. Zayn ran under the ring, Big E chased him under the ring and referee Charles Robinson was counting them. Zayn popped up on the other side of the ring, he stomped on Big E and Zayn got back in the ring at 9 while Big E was out at 10, so Zayn won by countout. It went about 10 minutes.
Winner by countout: Sami Zayn
Analysis: **1/2 It was just an average match that was all about getting heat on Zayn for finding a cheap way to win the match. The crawl under the ring to escape was about as cowardly as it gets, yet it fits for Zayn as a cowardly heel champion while Big E is a powerful challenger that wants to get revenge for that. It’s a slow build to a bigger match. At least Zayn didn’t get pinned like most champions in this company in non-title matches.
Zayn left with a smirk on his face while Big E was angry in the ring. I assume there will be a rematch here.
Bayley did a promo in the backstage area talking about how she was rooting for Carmella against Sasha Banks. Bayley mentioned Bianca Belair, who happened to walk up behind her (amazing how that works, huh?). Belair trashed Bayley for not looking cute, saying her hair looked dusty and then Belair had receipts about her accomplishments like beating Natalya, lasting longest for her team at Survivor Series and so on. Bayley was sick of it, so she left. Belair had actual receipts.
Roman Reigns, the Universal Champion, was shown walking backstage with Paul Heyman and they are up next.
Carmella was standing backstage on the interview set with Kayla Braxton there to ask questions. Carmella laughed about having to face Banks, she said that she has wanted this match for a long time, then said that she’ll look sexy as she becomes the Smackdown Women’s Champion. Carmella told her buddy Tommy to have some champagne at ringside for her title match.
A video package aired about what happened on Smackdown last week when Roman Reigns destroyed Kevin Owens and even his own cousin Jey Uso as well. Reigns beat up Jey because he told him there were consequences for Jey speaking up earlier in the show.
Roman Reigns was shown watching that replay on a TV backstage with Jey Uso walking up to him. Reigns said that he’s good, he’s great and he asked Jey if he’s good with Jey saying that he’s good. The music of Kevin Owens hit in the arena. Jey asked if he can go get Owens and Reigns said it was okay.
Let’s Hear from Kevin Owens
A fired up Kevin Owens brought a table, ladder and two chairs into the ring since he’s facing Roman Reigns in a TLC match at TLC in nine days. Owens said he needs Roman to listen to him carefully. Owens said that even after Reigns attacked him last week, even knowing that Reigns is better than he’s ever been, Owens said: “I do not fear you.” Owens said he can relate to Roman fighting for his family. Owens added that as good as Roman is and regardless of what he says, Roman’s family is using his family to fight his battles. Owens said that TLC is the most important match of his career and he knows that the Roman Reigns that we see today can probably beat anybody in WWE. Owens said he knows he’ll need all the help he can get to beat him while noting that he fights for his family too, but his family is not a part of this industry. Owens said his family can’t physically help him beat Reigns, but he has a few friends that can help him.
Owens introduced his “friends” saying that chairs will help him pay back Reigns for all of the chair shots that Reigns did to him last week. Owens said that chairs will make sure that Reigns have a hard time sitting at the head of the table. Owens said that table is hard and tough to break, but once you do she’s so welcoming. Owens said that table is looking forward to receiving Reigns at TLC. Owens said that ladder is unforgiving, unpredictable and the ladder will help him hurt Reigns. Owens said that ladder will help Owens get where he belongs because at TLC he’ll give everything he has to become Universal Champion again.
Owens was standing near the top of the ladder when Jey showed up with a chair to knock Owens down. Jey beat on Owens with the chair including an attack with the top of the chair to KO’s left knee. Jey set up Owens on the table, but Owens came back with three chair shots to Jey. Owens whipped Jey into the ladder and Owens hit a Popup Powerbomb through the table. Owens was favoring the left leg.
Roman Reigns made his entrance with Paul Heyman by his side while Owens was standing tall in the ring. Reigns handed the Universal Title to Heyman, who suggested that they do this another time because Owens was calling the shots here, but Reigns is the guy that calls the shots around here. Heyman reminded Reigns that Roman does things on his own time. Reigns stared at Owens in the ring, KO wanted Reigns to come fight him, but Roman left.
Owens left the ring with a chair to go after Reigns while selling the left leg injury.
Analysis: I liked the promo from Owens as he made it clear that he’s not going to back down to Reigns and poor Jey Uso got beat up again. I like how Heyman was telling Reigns that he shouldn’t go after him because Roman is the guy that dictates things in WWE, which is true, so it fits Roman’s character for him to walk away in that situation. I think Reigns and Owens will have a great match at TLC. I don’t expect a title change.
Kevin Owens was backstage looking for Roman Reigns, he couldn’t find him and Kayla Braxton tried to interview Owens. That led to KO saying that Reigns said some things about KO’s family that Owens didn’t like. Reigns showed up with a chair to the back of Owens in a cheap attack. Reigns whipped Owens into some cage fencing that was backstage. Reigns whipped into some trash bin or something like that. Reigns beat on Owens with punches. Reigns spoke into the camera talking to KO’s family saying that he puts the food on their table, but if they don’t talk to Kevin, he’ll be the guy that takes the food off the table. Reigns kicked Owens to keep him down. Reigns to the camera: “Have a good night.” Owens stayed down on the floor.
Analysis: A cheap attack by the heel champion Reigns is what you would expect in that situation. It was a vicious attack with Owens getting thrown into objects and getting beat up thoroughly. I liked the part with Reigns talking into the camera to the family of Owens to tell them that he’s the one that feeds them. This was well done. This feud is the best thing on Smackdown right now.
Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan made their entrance for a tag team match. They were interrupted by Billie Kay on Talking Smack last week, so that set up a tag team match with Kay and a partner. Billie Kay, who is not used on Smackdown in matches very much, made her entrance. Kay had her headshot with her. Natalya entered as the partner of Kay with Natalya not interested in the headshot from Kay. Cole thanked the Tampa Bay Rays for welcoming WWE in their home.
Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan vs. Billie Kay and Natalya
Morgan with a running dropkick on Kay followed by a corner splash. Riott with a shoulder tackle on Kay for a two count. There was a distraction by Natalya on Morgan, which led to Kay hitting a boot to the face of Morgan. Natalya tagged in with punches on Morgan and Kay was back in with some stomping. Natalya with a slap to the face of Morgan leading to a chinlock. Natalya with an atomic drop off the ropes, Kay tagged in and Morgan kicked Kay into the ropes with Kay’s hand hitting Natalya in the face or at least that was the idea. Morgan with a double knee attack to the face and Riott hit the Riott Kick on Kay for the pinfall win after about three minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan
Analysis: *1/2 A quick match to put over the functional tag team over the dysfunctional duo of Kay and Natalya. The spot where Kay accidentally hit Natalya in the face could have been done better. Riott and Morgan winning is fine with me although I don’t think WWE realizes the Women’s Tag Team Titles can be on Smackdown, so I have my doubts about this leading to anything.
Post match, Natalya complained to Kay about how Kay hit her in the face. Natalya left Kay while Riott and Morgan celebrating in the ring.
Analysis: WWE chose to break up The IIconics several months ago for what purpose? I know they might see something in Peyton Royce in singles, but she is not being used much on Raw. The lack of long term planning sucks. The team should have stayed together for another year at least, if not more.
There was a video package from Instagram with Chad Gable training his buddy Otis. Gable put a blindfold on Otis and then hit him with objects to work on the blind side. Several hours later, Otis caught a ball thrown to him with Gable saying that Otis was an alpha.
Otis and Gable were interviewed backstage by Kayla Braxton. Gable said that life has knocked Otis down time and time again, but he has grit and tenacity. Gable said that with his Alpha training with his Olympic background, he’s going to train Otis. That led to Otis excitedly talking about their team. Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura showed up to laugh at them with Cesaro wondering if Chad made the Olympics for building toys in Santa’s workshop (a short joke). Nakamura did some Otis grunting to mock him, so the heels left and Gable told Otis to not get rattled and breathe. That tag team match is next.
Analysis: I like Otis and Gable together. They need more teams on Smackdown while Otis wasn’t really doing much as a singles wrestler. Plus, it gets Gable on TV in a regular role, so I like to see that.
There was a video from Access Hollywood host Mario Lopez (AC Slater to me) saying that his family believes that Sasha Banks will beat Carmella in the main event.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro were in the ring for this match. Otis and Chad Gable made their entrance to the new Otis theme song.
Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Otis and Chad Gable
Cesaro shoved Gable down, so Otis tagged in and he shoved Cesaro down. Gable with a waist lock takedown into a suplex, but Cesaro kicked out of a pin attempt. Otis was back in with a waist lock takedown of his own. When Gable tagged back in, Cesaro hit him with a forearm to the face. Nakamura tagged in with kicks to the body of Gable and he went for a suplex, but Gable avoided it and hit a rolling Liger kick to the head. Otis tagged in against Cesaro with a shoulder tackle, a lifting slam and a spinning clothesline. Otis with a corner splash on Cesaro with Gable insisting on a tag while Otis was about to go for his Caterpillar move. Gable jumped off the top right into a Swing by Cesaro on Gable for about 15 swings or so although I wasn’t counting them. Nakamura was back in with the Kinshasa knee to the face with Otis standing on the apron doing nothing instead of trying to break up the pin. The match went about four minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura
Analysis: *1/2 A loss for the new team of Otis/Gable because this is likely a storyline where it’s going to take a while for them to figure it out. They could also split up with Gable going in the heel role, but I think they can have some longevity as a babyface team first. Anyway, Cesaro and Nakamura worked well as usual as former SD Tag Team Champions. The swing spot into the Kinshasa finisher works really well. I don’t like that Otis just stood there watching the pin. Have Cesaro pull him off the apron or something because it made Otis look bad by not having him try to make the save at all.
Sasha Banks was shown with her SD Women’s Title with her title match coming up next.
This week on Smackdown’s Talking Smack show on WWE Network (on Saturday morning) the guests are the Street Profits and Big E. The hosts are Kayla Braxton and Paul Heyman.
Chad Gable was backstage talking to Otis. Gable said he didn’t want Otis to tag him in because Otis had the match won. Gable said that he was teaching him what to do by showing him what not to do. Gable asked if he got it, Otis said no and Gable gave him some water to rehydrate.
Analysis: It seems like they are building to Gable being more of a heel with Otis although as I said I hope they can get a run as a face team.
A replay was shown of King Corbin beating Murphy last week thanks to help from Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler.
King Corbin was backstage with Blake and Cutler while Alyse Ashton showed up for an interview. Corbin said that he’s bringing back old school attitude with the Knights of the Lone Wolf. They had shirts that had “Knights” written on them although I couldn’t see the whole shirt since they were wearing jackets. Corbin said that these two have pledged their loyalty to this king. Corbin talked trash about Rey Mysterio, Murphy and Dominik since they have had issues for a few weeks.
Analysis: What was evident during the promo is that Corbin is a lot taller than the guys in the group. I think putting a couple of tag team wrestlers with Corbin is a good fit because it freshens up Corbin’s act a bit while adding a quality team in Blake/Cutler to the tag team division. There will probably a six-man tag team match soon.
Carmella made her entrance in her red leather gear with a silhouette as well. Graves was excited to see his girlfriend back in action while saying he has "seen the gates of heaven, Mella be thy name." There was some champagne and other items at ringside for Carmella’s celebration.
Sasha Banks made her entrance with the Smackdown Women’s Championship. They went to break before the match began.
It was announced that next week’s Smackdown on Fox Sports 1 will have The Street Profits defending the SD Tag Team Titles against Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. Also, Bayley will face Bianca Belair.
Analysis: The reason it’s on Fox Sports 1 is because the Pac 12 Championship (that’s college football) is airing on Fox next Friday night. That will mean Smackdown’s audience will be a lot smaller since fewer people will watch on FS1.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks vs. Carmella
Carmella was aggressive early on sending Banks into her foot against the ropes and Carmella hit a hard slap to the face. Carmella with a headscissors that sent Banks into the ropes followed by a dropkick. Banks went for a backstabber, Carmella drove her into the turnbuckle and hit some back elbows. They battled on the apron with Carmella sending Banks into the ring apron with Banks bumping to the floor. Carmella dominated the first few minutes as they went to break.
The match continued with the women battling by the turnbuckle, Carmella sent Banks into the turnbuckle and then Carmella sent Banks shoulder first into the ring post. Carmella sent Banks into the barricade and then back in the ring for two. Carmella talked trash saying she was better than Banks followed by some punches for a two count. Carmella slapped on a chinlock as you could tell Carmella was talking to her. Banks came back with elbow smashes followed by the double knees into the corner two times for a two count. Carmella with a back elbow to the face as they went towards another turnbuckle. Carmella with a headscissors against the ropes and then Carmella jumped off the top with a cross body block for two. Banks with a jackknife cover for two, but Carmella slapped on the Code of Silence finisher with the legs around the head. Banks broke out of that leading to the Bank Statement submission and the Carmella assistant threw a champagne bottle in the ring. The referee got rid of the bottle. The assistant (or sommelier is the term they kept saying) pulled Banks out of the ring. Banks went after Carmella and punched/kicked her repeatedly with referee Charles Robinson calling for the DQ because Banks wouldn’t stop after he counted up to five. The match went 11 minutes.
Winner by disqualification: Carmella (Sasha Banks remains the champion)
Analysis: **3/4 The match was just about average to me with a lot of Carmella offense. The assistant/sommelier getting involved made it a questionable finish because you could say Carmella deserved to be DQ’d for that, but his interference was pretty minor, I guess. Anyway, that DQ loss for Banks should mean that the feud will continue.
Post match, Banks slapped on the Bank Statement on the assistant, so Carmella got in a cheap shot superkick. Carmella kicked Banks repeatedly and sent her out of the ring. Carmella threw an ice bucket onto Banks. Carmella got a wine bottle and she smashed it onto the lower back of Banks. Cole screamed: “Are you crazy!?!” Carmella drank some champagne and sprayed it all over Banks as well. Carmella trash-talked Banks saying that she is out of her league. After all of that, Greg Hamilton announced Carmella as the winner while Banks was still the Smackdown Women’s Champion.
There was a replay of Carmella smashing the champagne bottle on Sasha’s back. Nobody checked on Banks for several minutes as Carmella did more trash talk. The show ended there.
Analysis: It was a way to get some major heat on Carmella. This rivalry just doesn’t interest me that much especially compared to how good Banks/Bayley was. Carmella’s overconfident bad girl character is more annoying than she is impressive to me and I have a hard time caring about her matches as well as the post match attack. It just didn’t feel like a main event match or angle to me. Maybe it did feel like a major match to you, but it just didn’t feel like a big deal. Anyway, I assume they will still have their scheduled match at TLC as well.
Three Stars of the Show
- Kevin Owens
- Dolph Ziggler/Montez Ford
- Sasha Banks/Carmella
5.75 out of 10
Last week: 7
2020 Average: 6.51
I’ll keep this shorter than usual to just say this felt like an average show. There wasn’t a standout match or anything that was particularly great although I liked the Kevin Owens/Roman Reigns/Jey Uso stuff as usual. Sami Zayn got out of the Big E match in a very cheap way to keep that story going. The Sasha Banks/Carmella promo, match and cheap attack dragged on as we got another non-finish with Banks getting DQ’d and then Carmella smashing a champagne bottle on Sasha’s back to make it feel more personal. They built to some matches next week, so that was productive. There wasn't anything that bad to make me hate the show. It just wasn't that interesting overall.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Tables, Ladders and Chairs on Sunday, December 20. Here’s what we know so far.
WWE Universal Championship Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Kevin Owens
WWE Championship Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. AJ Styles
"The Fiend" Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
Smackdown Women's Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella
Raw Tag Team Championships: The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) (c) vs. The Hurt Business (Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander)
Women’s Tag Team Championships: Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Asuka and Lana