We are back yet again at the kinder, gentler Performance Center. Adjustments have been made camera wise and we no longer focus on empty eats but rather on the makeshift Titantron. Tons of close-ups too. After a week of splendid isolation, we are ready for a good time. As we know, the biggest shows of the year, before the smallest crowds of the year are eight and nine days away respectively. The show slated for tonight will go a long way into crystallizing the final card for Mania. The featured match of the evening involved The Usos against The New Day.
— WWE (@WWE) March 28, 2020
That being noted, there have been so many developments this week affecting Mania, I strongly suspect that tonight’s show which was pre-taped might have to have been heavily edited if not redone on the fly. With Roman Reigns bowing out of appearing for health reasons yesterday, it goes without saying that this issue SHOULD be a focal point of the show tonight. The fact that it was not, definitely a miscue.
The Monster Among Men now appears to be the main eventer for the Universal Championship facing Goldberg.
A big step down from Roman Reigns especially when you think of how the E has struggled with how to use him over the last little while. Strowman not even booked initially to appear. Shake my head are the three words that sum up this potential Gong Show. How this was not even mentioned en passant goes miles over my head.
Getting back to what we know from seven nights ago, a match was set up between Drew Gulak and Shinsuke Nakamura. As a condition to this encounter, if Gulak were to emerge victorious then Daniel Bryan would get to face Sami Zayn at Mania for the Iner Continental championship.
The outcome of this contest is as predictable as traffic jams at rush hour. That of course when we will gladly enter the post-COVID-19 phase. The Intercontinental belt is an integral feature of any Wrestlemania. A YES! moment or two would sweeten our spirits like a bite of cotton candy.
Slated for tonight will be a number 1 contenders match for the Smackdown tag team championship between the New Day who are seven-time champions and the Usos who have held the belt on no fewer than 6 occasions. The winners, of course, to challenge the Miz and Morrison next weekend. The Usos and the New Day have had a friendly rivalry up to now.
With so much at stake, one wonders if the heat won’t be turned up a notch or two.
We all look forward to another visit to the Firefly Funhouse. Ramblin Rabbit will perhaps roll out the red carpet. Just because we are socially distant it doesn’t mean that our friendship will ever end. If Wyatt-Fiend can pull off a promo like that of two weeks ago, we will all be in for a treat.
As a general trend on all programming, we find that since the move to Orlando, the quality of promos has increased exponentially, acting such an integral part of the craft. When done very well, it adds tremendously to our enjoyment.
Alexa Bliss has been calling out the Kabuki Warriors for months. Nikki Cross and the blissful one would like nothing more than a tag team title shot. This week, Alexa Bliss will finally get a one on one confrontation against Asuka. We fully expect this to lead to a WM clash for the Woman s tag team title. Some Bliss will be on your list, said with a shout out to Hall & Oates.
The proceedings start though with Bayley and Sasha Banks discussing the now 5 pack challenge for the title.
Dana Brooke has been scratched from the event with no explanation given. The self-proclaimed role models let it be known that the reason for the grossly unfair 5 pack challenge was Paige being jealous of the symbiotic friends.
Seconds later, the three remaining challengers entered the ring to express their intentions. Lacey pointed out that WM will be a nightmare for both Bayley and Sasha. We felt the glow of Naomi who vowed to shine on the biggest stage of all. Lastly, we saw Tamina who must have been on the witness protection program.
Tamina put her cards on the table by saying actions speak louder than words. She took no time to take out Naomi and Lacey. Sasha and Bayley ran for Dodge as it were.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Drew Gulak
The first of the three matches was our next item of business. As a carryover from last week, Shinsuke Nakamura went one on one with Drew Gulak. At stake, an Intercontinental title shot for Daniel Bryan vs. Sami Zayn in the event of a Gulak victory.
As we are accustomed to, Shinsuke never travels alone, he is accompanied by Zayn who will grace us on color commentary while Cesaro will provide moral support and perhaps a helping forearm or two if needed.
Nakamura would dominate early only to see Gulak bounce back fairly quickly. With both men outside the ring, Gulak is the recipient of a few strong style kicks and a face-first suplex like move on the ring apron.
Back in the ring, a two count on Gulak following a flying knee to the face. Things looked dire when Gulak was set up for a Kinshasa kick but Nakamura missed his target, got hung up in the ropes allowing Gulak to apply a neat roll-up for the 1, 2, 3.
Winner: Drew Gulak
As predictable an outcome as possible setting the table for a Wrestlemania showdown that should see Daniel Bryan celebrate another WM celebratory moment.
Elias high on a platform has his guitar and will regale us with one of his compositions. The tune in question mocked King Corbin and resorted to bathroom humor. Could have done without toilet paper jokes, just saying.
The good King suffers no fools. Upon hearing Elias and his degrading tune, Corbin climbed to the top of the platform, confronted Elias and threw him towards the ground. Not exactly a Jeff Hardy like a spot but played up well enough to shed a little drama on their WrestleMania confrontation. The operative word here is, little.
— WWE (@WWE) March 28, 2020
Alexa Bliss vs. Asuka
As promised, tonight we would see the Empress of Tomorrow in action taking on Alexa Bliss. Nikki Cross comes out for commentary and is boisterously bordering on cacophonic. Overcompensating for the absent crowd is not always the best of ideas.
Bliss got off to a fast start hitting a wave of forearms and a dropkick. A turning point would occur outside the ring when Bliss was tossed into those unforgiving ring steps. After a commercial break, Asuka maintained her control but Alexa Bliss would have the final word. Bliss would drive Asuka shoulder first into the apron, clothesline her, land a fury of fists and then use a faceplant DDT to procure the win.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Nice sequence to end the match but the outcome failed to lead up to a possible WM matchup of Bliss and Cross against the Kabuki Warriors for tag team supremacy.
We then saw the Usos pumped backstage as they prepared to confront the New Day with a title match at WM vs the Miz and Morrison on the line.
The next segment, which took about one-quarter of the allotted airtime really left me perturbed. It was 24 hrs ago that we all learned that Roman Reigns would skip WM in order to avoid any unnecessary health risks owing to the fact that his immune system has been compromised by his undergoing two rounds of treatments to vanquish leukemia.
That being said, the 2016 WM match between Reigns and Triple H was shown in its entirety. We all know that SD was taped several days in advance but we are dealing with a multibillion-dollar corporation with all the means possible to edit and if need be produce shows on the fly.
No mention of the change in the card while it was common knowledge no later than this morning borders on the irresponsible.
Back to life, back to suspend reality. Mandy Rose and Dolph Ziggler are backstage. We are informed that Ziggler will face Otis at Mania. Mandy lets her paramour know that she does not expect to be treated as a prize to the victor.
Also backstage, the New Day who announces that they are ready to lay some tough love on The Usos.
Let us prance off now to the Firefly Funhouse where Bray Wyatt is concocting a beverage to help him for his forthcoming encounter with John Cena. Who really needs, hustle, loyalty, and respect when you can rely on disappointment, self-loathing, hot sauce and a heaping helping of rage and resentment.
— WWE (@WWE) March 28, 2020
Hop, hop, hop, here comes Ramblin Rabbit with a nice crisp carrot to help the Bray see John Cena. Wyatt decides to add Ramblin Rabbit into his blender and add the poor mammal into the concoction. So much for his Easter.
John Cena is challenged to a Firefly Funhouse encounter. Wyatt tastes his not so smoothie and states that while it is delicious, it has one nasty side effect, yes, he then morphed into the Fiend. Next week, John Cena will provide his answer to this intriguing challenge to a Firefly Funhouse Match.
The Usos vs. The New Day
We are now ready for the third and final match of the show, the Usos vs The New Day. One point that somewhat irked me, the Uso twins were never distinguished one from the other, they even dressed exactly alike. Was it Jimmy, was it Jey, we will never know.
The Miz and Morrison present for color commentary as well. Early on, lots of back and forth action but with the New Day ahead on points. Big E used his power game to his advantage and Kingston hit a nice springboard dropkick.
The twins got back in the contest by double-teaming Big E. Incontrol but nor enough to put him away. When the Usos attempted a double suicide drive, Kofi Kingston was not only able to thwart the Usos but hit a topé of his own. When Big E. hit a spear through the second rope, bodies were strewn around everywhere. That includes, of course, Morrison and the Miz who also took part in this melee.
The official having lost control had no choice but to declare this a no-contest between The Usos and the New Day. The champions meanwhile regained their strength and beat the starch out of the two teams.
Winner: No Contest
Then, a special announcement from Michael Cole, at WM, The Miz and Morrison would not have to confront either of the two teams. However, they would have to face BOTH The New Day and The Usos and in a ladder match. The champions were beside themselves as Smackdown left the airwaves.
Read @MichaelCole's lips, @mikethemiz & @TheRealMorrison… Your titles will be ON THE LINE in a Triple Threat Ladder Match at #WrestleMania!#SmackDown @WWEUsos @TrueKofi @WWEBigE pic.twitter.com/xRoLEelhGD
— WWE (@WWE) March 28, 2020
This show fell short of my expectations. The amount of time given to build up Roman Reigns with no attempt or effort to edit the episode or provide some kind of disclaimer had me asking a lot of questions. The matches themselves were well performed but at times, and quite a few at that, the over-emphasis on color commentary took away from the in-ring action. This could have been an excellent opportunity to focus more on the moves and techniques employed in the ring. A nice opportunity kicked to the curb, sadly.
When you are hyping the biggest event of the calendar year and make it into a two-night affair, anything short of a first-rate lead-in show can only reduce our already compromised expectations for next weekend. The Performance Center is only fifteen minutes away from Raymond James stadium. Our troubling times coupled with a few gaps and shortcomings make the distance seem like light-years away.