When we wake up each day, our first thought after, wow, that cup of coffee is going to be some kind of delicious is….my word. One would NOT believe this crazy dream we just had. Perhaps two seconds later, we realize this is no dream but a very uncomfortable reality. Trying, unprecedented and anxious times as an exalted friend said to us a short time ago. As we all know by now, Wrestlemania will be shown in 23 hours. Over two evenings and was pre-taped in an empty performance center. This was with the exception of a pair of contests shot on location. Do we wonder what will come from John Cena and Bray Wyatt confrontation at this point?
There are no grandiose entrances, no flyovers, and very little WOW in perspective. We anticipate the 2020 WrestleMania in the same way we would look forward to a road trip of 7 in a 2001 Windstar leaking oil and with a couple who have just had an ugly break up. To have those great expectations should be saved for Charles Dickens. Fans are encouraged to just close your eyes and think of Tampa. Just how bad is this expedition going to be is the question on all of our minds. This edition of Smackdown can perhaps make us accentuate the positive. It may also be a harbinger of some good emotionally involving distraction. Will the Cena and Wyatt matchup live up to the hype?
Hitting rock bottom can be a relief because there is nowhere to go but up.
Where we have had issues with the WWE and the road to WrestleMania to date is the company being less than forthright on a number of significant changes to the card. When one sees that at the tail end of Raw last Monday that they were STILL hyping Goldberg vs Roman Reigns, we were far from impressed. We admire the show that must go on mentality but give the people what they EXPECT. One must cringe at the thought of somebody having spent money they don’t have to see Roman Reigns perform and be offered Braun Stroman in his place.
What will tonight offer as a step or two in the right direction? We can hope for the best.
We do know that Sweet 16-time champion John Cena will be on hand and will answer The Fiend as to whether or not he will accept the Firefly Funhouse match challenge. Like the Holiday Inn slogan, the best surprise is no surprise.
The Miz and Morrison will try to shake and stir things up when they host Miz TV and make their guests and WM opponents The Usos and The New Day feel warm and welcome.
The Usos are the first ones out and shower us with their usual bravado. Hot on their trail, the New Day who declare that while the circumstances may be exceptional, they are ready to climb to the top of the ladders and make that championship ascension.
The Miz and Morrison finally do appear referring to themselves as turtleneck tough guys. They also tell their opponents that when the going gets tough they cease being buddy-buddy and then fall apart at the seams. A brawl ensues, a superkick by one of the Usos misfires and lays out Kofi Kingston, confusion and chaos ensue.
Before you know it, the champions have climbed to the top of the ladders and are brandishing their championship gold. The message for their foes, united we stand, divided YOU fall. We are then informed that later on, we will be seeing the WrestleMania 24 classic between Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels. Right now though, before the emotion, we head to the ring to feel and see the glow of Naomi.
Naomi vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina
On tap, a triple threat match between Naomi, Lacey Evans as well as the imposing Tamina. Bayley and Sasha join Michael Cole on commentary. While Tamina is double-teamed at the outset she bounces back swiftly and clotheslines her opposition out of the ring. Naomi is the first back and is dominated yet manages to hang on. Lacey re-enters the fray and is more than holding her own. All are in her favor until Naomi catches a second wind and nails, Lacey, with a superkick.
On commentary, nice work by Michael Cole stirring the pot between Sasha and Bayley while not transforming the match into mere background imagery. Sasha excuses herself momentarily to use the restroom but throws Lacey Evans into the ring post instead.
When Naomi has Tamina in a very compromising position, Bayley provides distraction which allows Tamina to superkick Naomi, pick up the victory and head into Mania with a nice momentum boost.
Bayley, forever the role model enters the ring to congratulate Tamina but in turn, is greeted by a superkick. Sasha also tries to get on Tamina s good side only to suffer a Samoan drop. Tamina suffering no fools, cat-like quick and no ring rust concerns. Nice addition to the 5 pack challenge.
WrestleMania 24 Flashback: Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels
We then traveled back to 2012 for the legendary Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair matchup of WrestleMania 24. The pomp and pageantry were stupendous as was the match itself. We are used to crowdless studio wrestling but when you revisit a live show in optimal circumstances, you realize what you are missing.
So much has been said about this match. Flair was 59 at the time but looked as crisp as a dark green celery stalk. While the match went on for a good bit of time, it was evenly paced, cardio wise Flair never lost a step. Adding to the enjoyment of it all, Jim Ross at the top of his game. Zero to goosebumps in three seconds.
Right before Michaels hit his bittersweet chin music to send Flair into retirement we clearly saw him say, I’m sorry, I love you. Perfect drama and passing of the torch. Exemplary humility and sincerity by Shawn, the total opposite of his attitude in Montreal 11 years earlier.
Next up, we are promised an update on the condition of Elias after the dastardly actions of King Corbin of one week ago.
We are FINALLY officially informed that Braun Strowman will be challenging Goldberg for the Universal championship over the weekend. After all, who needs build-up, explanation or context. The better late than never adage suffers exceptions.
— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2020
Heavy Machinery is backstage and Tucker will be opposing Dolph Ziggler as a prelude to the Otis vs Ziggler WM lock up. Otis then receives a text message and is jubilant as we head to break.
The Ziggler vs Otis match has had the best storytelling for Mania up to now and has probably elicited the most emotional involvement of any of the matches on the card. Soppy yet touching, easy to relate to and get involved in.
Tucker Knight vs. Dolph Ziggler
Tucker uses his power to quickly seize the advantage here but Ziggler surely is not in his first rodeo. Ziggler in fact counters with an elbow drop, a dropkick and scores two counts of two. After a brief comeback, Tucker is the victim of a DDT. Dolph Ziggler is cruising at this point.
Tucker would not go down easily. He got right back in the thick of things by driving Ziggler into the announce table, into a barricade and why not, for good measure the ring steps. A side slam inside the ring resulted in a count of two as Ziggler was able to put his foot on the ropes at the very last split second.
Back outside the ring, Ziggler raked Tucker with a thumb to the eyes and delivered a zig-zag on the steel steps. This leading to an immediate DQ and a surfeit of entertainment. Just as Ziggler was about to hit Tucker with the ring steps, Sonya DeVille, Mandy and Otis would simultaneously appear.
Winner via disqualification: Tucker Knight
We were then interrupted by a strange signal and we saw a dark hooded figure with a deep and frightening voice saying…. the truth will be heard. We then see Mandy Rose with Sonya way back on February 14th, Sonya deletes a message while Mandy had stepped away momentarily. Dolph Ziggler then appears and we see him colluding with Ms.DeVille to sabotage the Mandy-Otis encounter and transform it into a Mandy-Ziggler soirée. This leads to a rift between Fire and Desire while Otis scurries after Dolph.
Hilarious segment seemingly making fun of the Wednesday night competition making fun out of Vince McMahon via the Exalted One. This made the Ziggler-Otis match that much more compelling. Five shining stars.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Daniel Bryan
The third and final match of the show pitted Shinsuke Nakamura vs Daniel Bryan setting the stage for Bryan vs Zayn on the WM card. A very edgy Sami Zayn providing the color commentary, Sami definitely could have benefitted from a Snickers bar.
The opening moments of this match featured first-rate technical wrestling, strong even exchanges playing very hard on Mr. Zayn s emotions. Daniel Bryan strikes a missile dropkick but is unsuccessful in his attempted hurrincanrana. Nakamura in cruise control as we go to break. Zayn and Cesaro have a nice exchange of hi 5 s.
The time out did Bryan a world of good. He is firm control and picks up even more steam after a foiled Kinshasa kick which is turned into a half cross. While Nakamura did make it to the ropes for a break, seconds later he found himself in the Yes! lock which prompted Cesaro to interfere and hence the match being thrown out.
Drew Gulak came into square things up and put Cesaro into a dragon sleeper. The Swiss Cyborg disposes of Gulak but then is hit by a plunging Bryan. Cesaro catches Bryan and bounces him off the announce table. This leads to a three on one beatdown and Bryan is left battered and deflated. The Yes! movement left hoping for a WrestleMania miracle.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2020
The go-home segment saw John Cena step up to the dish to answer the challenge laid out by Bray Wyatt for the Firefly Funhouse match. Cena speaks about the decision to hold WrestleMania and hold empty arena shows. He stated that while at the outset, uncertainty prevailed. As time went on and while on a steep learning curve, we get through it. John Cena then stated that the Fiend, Bray Wyatt feeds off uncertainty because it leads to fear which leads to panic which leads to collapse.
John Cena vows that he squash Bray Wyatt and put an end to what he started six years ago.
The lights dim and we see our friends from the Firefly Funhouse.
— WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2020
The first being Ramblin Rabbit who is the 21st-century version of the Roadrunner =indestructible. Then, the camera focuses on the Fiend, Bray Wyatt who is on the same platform was tossed from a short week ago from Cena. At the very last moment, Bray Wyatt in the ring facing Cena begging … Let me in. We leave the air. Will will stand tall between John Cena and Bray Wyatt?
Nice, well-timed and produced go-home show that did wonders to erase the disappointing effort of last week. If as much bold creative energy goes into the shows to be aired tomorrow and Sunday, we could be in for a surprising and entertaining WrestleMania, one that will be remembered for all the right reasons. As for this happy camper, we are beginning to see the light.