Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review. This is the second week with the WWE ThunderDome setup at the Amway Center in Orlando. The big news coming out of SummerSlam is that “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt beat Braun Strowman to become the Universal Champion. That led to Roman Reigns coming back with Reigns attacking The Fiend and Strowman while letting us know that he wants the Universal Title. Reigns might get that Universal Title as soon as Sunday night because The Fiend is defending against Reigns and Strowman Payback this Sunday in a No Holds Barred Match for the Universal Championship. Before we get to Sunday, we have to get through this week’s Smackdown, which has more anticipation than usual because it is Roman’s first time on WWE TV since early March. Reigns was not injured. Reigns chose to stay home with his wife and five children because he had twin sons born in February, so he didn’t want to risk getting sick. Now that the boys are six months, we assume Roman felt comfortable coming back since WWE is doing full COVID-19 testing before every taping and being in a bigger arena like the Amway Center is more comfortable than the smaller Performance Center. I like Reigns, so I’m glad he’s back.
There was a graphic saying "In Memory of 'Bullet' Bob Armstrong 1939-2020" to start the show. He passed away yesterday and he was a great man with four sons that were wrestlers: Brad (sadly he passed away a few years back), Scott, Steve and Brian (Road Dogg), so he left an incredible legacy in the wrestling business. He will be missed. Rest in peace, Bullet Bob.
The show began with highlights of the SummerSlam main event with “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman and the returning Roman Reigns laying out both guys.
There was a backstage scene with Adam Pearce talking to security to be ready because there’s a lot going on with Retribution on the loose and Vince McMahon was there too.
Adam Pearce walked into Vince’s office and he had a folder that he gave to Pearce. Vince wanted Pearce to get signatures on the contracts for the WWE Universal Championship match at Payback. Pearce was nervous about the assignment, but Vince told him to get it done. Vince gave him some suit or outfit to put on to do it too.
The announce team of Michael Cole and Corey Graves welcomed us to the show with a shot of the WWE ThunderDome full of fans on the screens surrounding the ring. No pyro display during that. The announcers mentioned Adam Pearce’s assignment tonight, so at least they mentioned his name this time.
Let’s Hear from Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy made his entrance as the new Intercontinental Champion that won the title from AJ Styles last week on Smackdown. Highlights were shown of Hardy’s title win while mentioning his injured right now as well. Jeff said it was good to be standing in the WWE ThunderDome tonight after what AJ Styles did to his knee last week. Hardy said that tonight he was ready to defend…and here’s Styles in his street clothes.
Styles told Hardy he’s not a conquering hero. Styles called Hardy a liar and a cheat. Styles said he’s had knee injuries before, but he didn’t whine and cry to a doctor to get an illegal object on my knee. Styles said that’s what Jeff did. Styles said he clearly had Hardy beat when he had him in position for the Styles Clash, but Hardy hit him with the knee brace to the face. Styles said that Hardy knows how to play the system. Styles said that same doctor won’t medically clear Styles to compete tonight.
Hardy said that sucks because he was going to issue an open challenge to anybody for the IC Title except Styles. AJ said that Jeff was taking advantage of the system. When Styles charged, Hardy decked him with a punch and that led to a break.
Analysis: It was a decent promo with Styles coming across as an annoying heel that made an excuse about his title loss. It was true that Hardy used the knee brace to the head of Styles during the match, but it wasn’t an illegal move. It’s just something for the heel Hardy to whine about. If this becomes a longer-term feud, that’s certainly fine with me.
Shinsuke Nakamura was in the ring to face Hardy for this title match. Nakamura is a former IC Champion that is also a Smackdown Tag Team Champion right now with Cesaro. Styles joined commentary for this match.
Intercontinental Championship: Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura took control with an armbar while Graves agreed with everything Styles was saying. Hardy with elbow smashes to the left arm of Nakamura with Cole noting that Hardy was wearing a knee brace on the right knee again. Nakamura grabbed a headlock, then a shoulder tackle and Hardy with a hiptoss followed by an atomic drop. Hardy hit an elbow drop for a two count. Nakamura hit a dropkick to the injured right knee of Hardy with Nakamura hit another running kick to the right knee. Cesaro commented during the match saying he stepped away for one second and Nakamura accepted the IC Title match. Cesaro said that Nakamura is more impulsive than him, so a lot of respect to him and he said good luck to his partner. Nakamura continued to work over the right knee of Hardy. Styles continued to complain about Hardy’s “illegal object on his knee. Hardy got some momentum going as he sent Nakamura into the turnbuckle, Hardy was limping and Nakamura hit him with a knee to the ribs. Nakamura missed with a running knee when Hardy moved, Hardy got out of a suplex attempt and hit a clothesline to the floor. Hardy with two boots to the face on the floor. Hardy tossed Nakamura onto Styles by the announce table as the show went to break.
The match returned with Nakamura charging into a boot to the face while Styles complained about Hardy attacking him by throwing Nakamura into him. Hardy with the usual double leg drop, basement dropkick and splash for a two count. Nakamura with a spinning left-footed kick to the head. Hardy up top and he hit a twisting splash onto a standing Nakamura with Hardy grabbing at his injured right knee. Nakamura came back with a sliding German Suplex followed by a jumping knee strike off the middle ropes for a two count. Nakamura set up in the corner, he charged and Hardy sidestepped going for a Twist of Fate, but Nakamura avoided it. Hardy used a right kick to the leg that almost looked like a low blow and then a Twist of Fate. Hardy went up top and hit the Swanton Bomb on Nakamura for the pinfall win after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Jeff Hardy
Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid match between two veterans that have been through a lot of big matches in their long careers. I wouldn’t call it anything that special or intriguing. I like how Jeff sold the knee injury, but I wish they did a bit more to make it look like Nakamura had a shot to win. It was pretty obvious that Hardy was going to find a way to come back.
When Jeff was on the ramp, Sami Zayn was on the stage with his version of the Intercontinental Title. Sami had a thicker beard than what he had when we last saw him. Sami stood beside Jeff on the stage while each man held their versions of the IC Title and Sami called him a fraud since Sami never lost his title. Sami and Jeff were both looking at Styles on the ramp, so Sami decked Jeff with a Helluva Kick to the face and Sami went to the back.
Analysis: Welcome back Sami! I’m a big fan of his and I have missed him since he decided not to work due to the pandemic. I guess it’s a case similar to Roman Reigns where he probably feels comfortable working now since WWE is doing full Coronavirus testing whereas they weren’t doing that before June. Plus, being in the bigger arena like Amway Center is a positive. Anyway, it looks like a potential three-way feud for the IC Title between three great workers. It would have been nice for Jeff to stay down a bit longer after the kick, but they needed him to get back up to stare down Styles again.
The Firefly Fun House is next with Rambling Rabbit shown wiping the Universal Title.
Sami Zayn was shown backstage with the IC Title with Kayla Braxton asking him what he was doing. Sami said he was righting the wrongs because he is the IC Champion that won the title on March 8th, then he defended the title against Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania and when she asked why he hasn’t been there, he didn’t try to explain. Sami said he’s from Montreal, so he’s a true Intercontinental Champion and said “merci beaucoup” to end it.
Analysis: Heels like Sami don’t have to answer questions about why he was gone for several months. It’s not like he’s going to say he was concerned about health and safety due to the pandemic. Part of the fun of being a heel is avoiding questions and acting like a jerk.
Firefly Fun House
Bray Wyatt was in the Fun House with all of his puppets around him. Wyatt held up the Universal Title saying it’s back with him. Wyatt said that it’s good to see Roman again. The doorbell rang as Adam Pearce walked in with a “United States Postman Pearce” label on his shirt and hat. Pearce said he needed Wyatt to sign the contract for The Fiend because sometimes there’s a connection for them. Wyatt looked around, we saw some Fiend images and Wyatt signed the contract. Wyatt said if he knows “him” like he thinks then he knows he just signed a couple of death warrants. Wyatt laughed while Pearce left. Wyatt said bye to end it.
Analysis: There’s one of three signatures for the Payback match on Sunday. Pearce looked ridiculous as Postman Pearce although I guess it made Vince laugh, so that’s what matters. I figured they would do an in-ring contract signing, but they are going about it in a different way.
There was a Progressive Match Flo video about Matt Riddle’s problems with King Corbin over the last few months.
Matt Riddle made his entrance for the first time in a bigger arena as part of the Smackdown brand. When he joined Smackdown, it was during the pandemic. Riddle pointed out fans that were on the ThunderDome screens. They even gave Riddle some pyro for his “kick off the flip flops” spot. Congrats to Riddle for getting pyro for that.
Riddle did a promo saying that it seems like Corbin is too scared to face him and told Corbin to prove him wrong right now. Riddle said “come on, bro” leading to a break.
There was a commercial for the WWE Untold special about Sasha Banks vs. Bayley at Takeover Brooklyn in 2015. Those are always great. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s on WWE Network now.
Riddle was in the ring saying he wanted Corbin to get out there right now, bro.
King Corbin’s music hit as Corbin entered with his ridiculous crown, robe and scepter. As Riddle stared at Corbin, Shorty G attacked Riddle from behind. Corbin said he accepts the match with Shorty G taking the match.
Matt Riddle vs. Shorty G
Shorty with a leg whip takedown. Riddle avoided a strike, he hit a gutwrench slam and Shorty hit a bridging Tiger Suplex for a two. That’s a cool move. Gable went for a rolling German, but Riddle landed on his feet, hit him with a knee to the face and Riddle hit the Bro Derek for the pinfall win after two minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Matt Riddle
Analysis: * This would have been a great match if they got time, but there’s not that much you can do in two minutes. A short match for poor Shorty.
Post match, Corbin went after Riddle for a cheap attack, they exchanged punches and Riddle managed to send him out of the ring, so Corbin escaped.
There was a clip from Talking Smack when The Miz and Big E had an argument during the show. They showed a clip of Big E earlier in the day saying he didn’t want to be on Miz TV, but he was contractually obligated to be on there. (It didn't end up happening even though it was advertised.) The heels were joined by Sheamus while Big E had Otis and Tucker backing him up.
Later on Smackdown: Big E, Otis and Tucker vs. The Miz, John Morrison and Sheamus.
There was a backstage scene with Big E talking to Otis and Tucker with some meat that was in a lunchbox. Yes, Otis is still Mr. Money in the Bank too. Sasha Banks and Bayley laughed at them with Banks talking about how they handling some meat. Bayley had a line about how some people can only handle being a tag team champion. Banks didn’t like that because she recently lost the Raw Women’s Title and Bayley acted as if nothing was wrong. Anyway, those ladies are up next.
There was a shot of Cesaro and Nakamura in the locker room with their Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Sami Zayn showed up with the Intercontinental Title looking happy about how they were reunited. Nakamura noted that they didn’t hear from him in the last four months. Zayn said sorry, Cesaro said some things changed and they are now the champions. Zayn said that they are fellow artists along with fellow champions. Zayn said he would make himself comfortable right there and Cesaro told Nakamura that they were having a tag team conversation. They wanted Sami to leave, so Sami reluctantly left. Zayn said he actually had to go now that he thinks about it and he left.
Analysis: I really liked that trio when they were together, but now it appears they have all moved on. I think they’re going to give Zayn a gimmick of a guy with no friends because of how annoying he is as a heel. Sami can make anything work.
Braun Strowman entered while Drew Gulak was already in the ring. They showed a recap from SummerSlam with The Fiend beating Braun to win the Universal Title. That led to Roman Reigns showing up to attack Fiend and Strowman after the match.
Braun Strowman vs. Drew Gulak
This will be quick. Strowman with a corner splash, then a splash against the other turnbuckle and a clothesline followed that. Strowman hit a senton splash, which is not common for him, but it looked good. Strowman with hard forearms to the chest. The ThunderDome crowd sounded like they were booing, so that’s likely instructed to them because Strowman is a heel. Strowman with a Chokeslam. Strowman yelled at him: “Is this what you wanted?” Strowman hit a Running Powerslam for the pinfall win after two minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Braun Strowman
Analysis: 1/2* An easy win for Strowman with his usual array of power moves. The Chokeslam looked a lot more impressive than the Running Powerslam did.
Strowman walked up the ramp, Pearce was there with the contract and Strowman signed it.
The Lucha House Party trio were shown talking backstage. Kalisto told Lince Dorado that he learned from his mistakes last week. Kalisto told Dorado to stay back there to show him how it’s done. Kalisto left, then Cesaro and Nakamura knocked down Dorado and Gran Metalik. Cesaro and Nakamura left for Cesaro’s match.
The guests on Talking Smack this week (Saturdays on WWE Network) are Sami Zayn, Big E and Matt Riddle.
There was a shot of the Thunderdome wall with Michael Cole telling us to “feel the thunder” of WWE Thunderdome. That led to some noise, but not a lot.
Nikki Cross was shown backstage with a mug with Tamina there asking how Alexa Bliss is doing. Alexa walked in with a hug for her best friend Nikki. Bliss hugged Tamina too. Cross said that she hadn’t seen Bliss wear her hair like this. Bliss did something different with her hair. Cross said that Alexa’s bliss hair always looks good, but it’s not the best idea because it reminds her of The Fiend. When Cross said that, Bliss stared off in the distance for a moment and said don’t be ridiculous. Bliss wanted Cross to be supportive. Bliss grabbed the cup, said “so much for friendship” and slammed it down.
Analysis: An interesting change for Bliss, but that’s fine with me because she needs the change. The Fiend changes people, even ones with teeny-bopper music and pink highlights in their hair.
The Miz and John Morrison were talking backstage with Sheamus going up to them saying he wanted to know the plan. Morrison spoke about how they had to keep Big E out of the ring, then keep Tucker on the apron and he also said they can’t let Otis tag in either. Sheamus and Miz looked around confused. Sheamus said that they can’t let any of the three guys in the ring? Morrison said yeah. Sheamus was frustrated, told them to follow his plan and left.
Analysis: I guess Morrison’s gimmick is to be a dumbass now. It's not a new thing, but that was really over the top in stupidity.
The Heavy Machinery team of Tucker and Otis entered first with Otis carrying the Money in the Bank briefcase and a smaller briefcase that had some meat in it. Big E was up next as the tag team partner. Big E tossed his jacket at Graves. The advertised Miz TV segment was obviously not happening.
This Monday on Raw: Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins with Rey looking to put an end to this vendetta.
It was backstage to Roman Reigns’ dressing room with Adam Pearce knocking on the door with a contract in hand. Pearce went into the room, Reigns was there and said he had to look at the contract first. They cut away from there.
Analysis: That was Roman's first time on Smackdown since mid-March. They are really delaying this contract signing as much as they can.
The Miz and John Morrison were shown finishing their entrance. Sheamus was up next.
Sheamus, The Miz and John Morrison vs. Big E, Otis and Tucker
Otis was in full control with a corner splash on Morrison. Big E with a running splash, Tucker with a shoulder tackle and Otis knocked down Morrison. Tucker with a cross body block off the middle ropes. Tucker ran the ropes, Sheamus with a knee to the back and the heels took over with Morrison kicking Tucker. Morrison and Miz with a double team gutbuster knees to the ribs of Tucker. Morrison with a hard kick to the ribs of Tucker. Tucker tried to fight out of the heel corner, but Morrison dropkicked him to the floor. Tucker with a dropkick to Sheamus on the floor, then a boot to Miz and Tucker hit a clothesline on Morrison. Sheamus was ringing the bell while the match was going on as a distraction. That led to a break. That was odd.
The heels were still in control of Tucker with Miz hitting a corner clothesline and Morrison hit a superkick. Tucker nearly broke free while the announcers mentioned that Sheamus had yet to tag into the match. Morrison worked over Tucker with forearms along with a chinlock. Miz tagged back in with a kick to the ribs of Tucker with Sheamus looking frustrated. Morrison with a springboard kick on Tucker for a nearfall as Big E and Otis each made the save. Sheamus tagged himself in, the referee Charles Robinson didn’t see it, so he made Sheamus leave. Otis shoved Morrison into Sheamus on the apron with Sheamus yelling at Cole, so Sheamus was knocked to the floor. Sheamus ranted at Miz, so Sheamus left his team, Miz wanted him to stay and Sheamus left angrily to the back. Tucker with a back body drop that led to Big E getting the hot tag on Miz. Big E with two belly to belly suplexes, then the belly to belly slam and the running splash that Big E has done after the hot tag for several years now. You could hear the ThunderDome crowd getting louder as Big E clapped. Miz sent Big E throat first into the top rope, but then Big E hit a uranage slam. Morrison with a double stomp on Big E. Otis with a body slam on Morrison and Otis hit the Caterpillar leading to an elbow drop on Morrison. Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale on Otis. Big E went back in and hit the Big Ending on Miz for the pinfall win after 12 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Big E, Otis and Tucker
Analysis: *** A typical WWE tag team match with the added twist of Sheamus never tagging in for his team and being so mad about it that he walked out on them. It doesn't hurt Miz and Morrison that much because it became a handicap match. Big E getting the win was the right call considering the guys in the match. I wonder if WWE regrets putting Money in the Bank on Otis because he seems like just a random guy at this point. I think Heavy Machinery should go after the Tag Team Titles since Smackdown needs face teams at this point.
There was a backstage shot of Roman Reigns seated in his dressing room. Reigns signed the contract somewhere in here. Reigns said this: "I will be at Payback on Sunday. That is a promise. I will be in the triple threat match, wreck everyone and leave. That is a guarantee. And I will win back my Universal Championship that I never lost in the first place." Then Reigns turns to his left: "That is not just a prediction, that's a spoiler." Now that's a familiar phrase.
The camera panned over to see Paul Heyman sitting beside him. Heyman: "Believe that." Reigns nodded at Heyman. End show.
Analysis: That’s a twist I didn’t see coming. Wow. A really good way to end the show because it gets people more interested in Payback to see if Reigns can win the Universal Title with Paul Heyman as his advocate. Paul Heyman as Roman’s advocate is definitely a surprise. It’s going to lead people to think that Reigns is a heel now and maybe he is, but I think there are shades of grey there too. It’s a very strong way to end the show in terms of going into Payback on Sunday. I feel like Reigns is going to win the title, but it’s hardly a sure thing.
Update: Here's more on the news of Roman Reigns working with Paul Heyman. Reigns is expected to be pushed as Smackdown's top heel with Heyman as his advocate while The Fiend will be more of a face now. The original report comes from PWInsider.
Three Stars of the Show
- Roman Reigns with Paul Heyman just because I was genuinely surprised by it
- Big E
- Jeff Hardy/Shinsuke Nakamura
6.25 out of 10
Last week: 6
2020 Average: 6.30
It was a solid edition of Smackdown and a better effort than last week, but still around the average level. I boosted the final score based on the ending. The big news was in the final moments with Roman Reigns signing the contract for Payback and he had Paul Heyman with him. That was very interesting and it’s a good cliffhanger to see if Reigns will win the Universal Title back with Heyman apparently by his side as his advocate. I think the show long story of whether Reigns, Strowman and The Fiend would sign the contract for Payback wasn’t that interesting, but the final scene was great, so I guess it’s okay. The idea behind it was to keep the three guys apart. In that sense, it worked in terms of building up the anticipation for Payback. I would have liked to hear a meaningful promo from Reigns, but that didn’t happen. If your reaction to the Reigns/Heyman thing is to wonder what's next then that's the right reaction. I love a strong cliffhanger ending and as we noted above, the plan is for Reigns to a be heel now.
The Hardy/Nakamura match was the longest of the night, but it really didn’t stand out that much. The tag team match to end the show pretty basic with Big E continuing his winning ways. That’s certainly fine with me. There were also some strange things like Alexa Bliss acting out (The Fiend changes everyone) and Adam Pearce dressing like a postman to get Bray Wyatt to sign a contract.
There was no sign of the Retribution group on Smackdown this week. They may have had a video game tournament on Twitch or something. I'm just joking obviously. I don't know why Retribution was off SummerSlam, then in the main event of Raw and then off this show. It's tough to try to explain it.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Payback at the Amway Center in Orlando and it takes place this Sunday, August 30. Here’s the lineup so far.
Universal Championship No Holds Barred Match: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Keith Lee vs. Randy Orton
Dominik and Rey Mysterio vs. Seth Rollins and Murphy
Women’s Tag Team Championships: Sasha Banks and Bayley (c) vs. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler
Matt Riddle vs. King Corbin
United States Championship: Apollo Crews (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
I’ll have a live review of WWE Payback exclusively on TJRWrestling on Sunday night. I'm hoping to do it live.