Previously on the Best and Worst of Friday Night Smackdown: WWE gave us a look at what Smackdown might look like post-apocalypse. There are no fans, tons of Michael Cole goofs, and old match replays. You’re like Viggo Mortensen in The Road, and your son is WWF Prime Time Wrestling!
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Friday Night Smackdown for March 20, 2020.
Worst: Gronk If You’re Horny
Have you ever been to a wrestling show at a bar or a festival or whatever and seen a drunk guy climb in the ring and pretend to be a wrestler? That’s what Rob Gronkowski looked like on Smackdown. Just a drunk, entitled dipshit who thinks his Hulk Hogan and Macho Man impressions are funny climbing into the ring after the show to make his awful friends laugh.
In the extremely unlikely event that you missed it, Mojo Rawley and Michael Cole played a game of slap-ass to introduce the post-humping host of In Our House: WrestleMania. Gronk, who once fought Jinder Mahal during a pre-show battle royal, continues his streak of only interacting with the very worst WWE Superstars by running afoul of King Corbin. Corbin helpfully explains that the NFL and WWE are different, because here they don’t wear knee pads. I mean, I guess he doesn’t. “This isn’t the NFL, Gronk, we wear black jeggings and king costumes here!” And because we might as well go all-in on the terribleness, pandering-ass babyface Elias shows up to sing a song for no one and get booked into a Gym WrestleMania match by a football guy. Oh, and they give Corbin the David Flair Driver ’99.
I know it’s easy to feel like the world’s biggest and most popular wrestling promotion is in their “end of an empire” stage and are just vacantly repeating all of WCW’s mistakes — focusing on greedy old part-timers in favor of people who actually work there, signing people they don’t need to huge contracts just so they won’t work someplace else, depressing fans into begrudging compliance, and so on — but this is a recent NFL star showing up to wrestle because he loves the show and knows somebody. It’s completely different, and nothing like Steve McMichael, Reggie White, or Kevin Greene. Lawrence Taylor main-evented a WrestleMania once, remember? I don’t think we need to worry until they start giving pay-per-view main events to basketball guys.
I don’t know what you’re implying.
This Week In Eerily Silent Wrestling Matches
More Like The Workers’ Collective, Am I Right
You know, with the world the way it is and everything feeling like it’s falling into chaos, it’s nice to know that Smackdown will never change. Before COVID-19, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, and Shinsuke Nakamura were helpless jobbers for some reason and lost every week. Now that we’re doing no-fans shows in an empty Performance Center ahead of pre-taped WrestleMania that’s “too big for one night,” Sami Zayn, Cesaro, and Shinsuke Nakamura are helpless jobbers (for some reason) who lose every week. Last week, Daniel Bryan pinned Cesaro with a roll-up. This week, Daniel Bryan pins Cesaro with a slightly different roll-up. He also breaks the rules, but since he’s a guy we like, it’s fine. It’s the complainer who is wrong. You could drop a nuclear bomb on Smackdown and they’d still have a cockroach get attacked by two other cockroaches and saved by a fourth to set up a blockbuster cockroach tag team main event.
In slightly more positive news, Complainy the Complainer confronts Daniel Bryan backstage and ends up loosely booking himself into an Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania, assuming Drew Gulak can defeat Shinsuke Nakamura on next week’s show. An empty coat rack could accidentally tip over and pin Nakamura to the ground at this point, so just go ahead and book it, it’s fine. Tom Brady just relocated to Florida, maybe he can set it up?
Otis Goes HAM
The second of two matches is Heavy Machinery challenging The Miz and John Morrison for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship. Not sure why you’d even want to win a championship at this point, as holding title belts lowers all your stats to 1, but it is what it is. This is less about the match and more about continuing to push the rivalry between Ron Perlman Beast-looking ass Dolph Ziggler and the Cowardly Lion’s enormous baby son Otis. Ziggler sits in on commentary and tries to distract Otis with Instagram photos of him hanging out with Mandy Rose, but this inadvertently fills Otis with unrequited romantic fury. Everyone gets attacked, Miz and Morrison get beaten down with a steel chair for the disqualification, and then Otis sobs in the loving arms of Tom Cullen Tucky.
One of the weirdest things about pro wrestling is that it can take a concept like, “awkward guy flips out and tries to kill everyone because he can’t get the girlfriend he wants and saw some pics on social media that made him sad,” and turn it into something I’m disappointed an arena full of fans weren’t around to watch and cheer.
Also On This Episode
Before the tag title match, Miz and Morrison host another live, “do whatever you want, we’re under quarantine and only like 12 people are here” episode of The Dirt Sheet. It’s great, mostly because of statuesque-as-fuck adult husband John Morrison being willing to dress up like a slice of bacon or an inflatable unicorn for a gag. That guy’s willingness to be fearless and just put himself out there is Inspirational Poster quality. Next week’s show should just be Miz and Morrison playing everyone on the Smackdown roster and wrestling each other for two hours. Do it, you cowards.
One thing I can compliment this week’s episode on is how much it manages to get done despite barely being a show. It advanced the Otis and Dolph Ziggler beef while writing Heavy Machinery out of a tag title match at WrestleMania and clearing the Usos and New Day to have a number one contender match on next week’s show, set up a Gulak vs. Nakamura match for next week to then set up an Intercontinental Championship match for WrestleMania, and announced a Smackdown Women’s Championship match for Mania.
Paige Skypes in (“Paige not here!”) and gets her conference call interrupted by Sasha Banks and Bayley, but gets back at them by announcing that TAMINA is getting a Smackdown Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. Also Dana Brooke. And Lacey Evans again! We’re just giving a title match to anybody willing to show up. It’s ultimately a “six pack challenge” where the assumed plot will be Banks and Bayley teaming up to eliminate everyone else only for Banks to Lion King the shit out of Bayley again and win the Women’s Championship. Or maybe the Tamina Era will begin, who knows? Things are weird.
Continuing the “wow, Smackdown actually did a lot” compliment, Alexa Bliss challenges Asuka to a match for next week. When was the last time Smackdown set up three matches for the following episode? Honestly, if they could just borrow some concepts from AEW’s empty arena show to get some life and energy going in the PC, these shows could be fresh and utilitarian.
Roman Reigns and Goldberg looked at each other for a minute, and it sucked. But I’m happy Goldberg managed to know when his segment was starting and got all the way to the ring without a full police escort. Full disclosure, I’d rather sit through two hours of Michael Cole trying out Fortnite dances in the middle of the ring in an empty training facility than watch five minutes of Bill Goldberg doing anything in 20 goddamn 20.
Finally, we got to see John Cena sending Bray Wyatt into a shame spiral at WrestleMania 30 in full. From that column way back in 2014:
There’s a reason my predictions are always, “Attitude Adjustment, STF, Cena wins.” Cena always wins. He wins in spite of story or character development or future builds or reason or logic. It’s what he does. He’s the guy who wins. His character is 100% The Guy Who Wins. It’s why so many people in the WWE Universe adore him, and why they always tend to be the crowd’s biggest trogs … because people who do not want to put a lot of effort into their fandom go for whoever’s winning.
Of course, I run the risk now of being the “if Cena wins we complain online” t-shirt’s punchline, but don’t take it as complaining. I’ve long ago stopped complaining about Cena wins. They’re like the wind. They’re going to happen. I’m not happy about it, but to say I didn’t fully expect the Bray Wyatt story to end with Bray Wyatt being fireman-carried from a small height and incapacitated/proven wrong forever would be a lie. If you expect the John Cena Status Quo to be maintained, you can only get so disappointed when he maintains it.
So yeah. John Cena’s invulnerable. When Bray was talking about beating something that doesn’t know how to feel, he wasn’t talking about himself, he was talking about John. The guy was getting all bent out of shape about having to compromise his morals via a chair shot. Remember when Cena dumped an entire stage design of chairs on Wade Barrett? Remember the several times when he’s committed vehicular manslaughter to win matches? The guy’s finisher used to be him hitting you in the face with a chain. He’s got no morality. He just wins.
I appreciate the story they were trying to tell, but Cena really didn’t have a reason to get so upset. He got up on the Wyatts on Monday, right? Proved to them that he was never going to fall for their manipulations and he was never gonna give up. Then they collar-and-elbow and suddenly he’s back to square one? You can’t really sell the story without allowing your characters to exist within its universe and be affected by it. They have to react to the story and change and move and grow. Cena doesn’t do that. This is one of the reasons we “complain online.”
But what’s the point? See you at Extreme Rules, where Cena wins again. Or he doesn’t, and it doesn’t matter.
At Extreme Rules 2014, Wyatt — a murderous supernatural killer who wanted to use his swampbilly cult to drag his opponents into eternal darkness — defeated Cena by escaping a steel cage. Threatening! Cena then defeated him at Payback, and again at Money in the Bank to do his normal “lose one, win three” feud formula. I’m sure he’ll really put Wyatt over this year, in front of nobody, six years after it would’ve accomplished something.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
If he really signs, Gronkowski will be the first white member of the roster to get a “he loves to have fun!” from Cole on commentary.
Sasha out here dressed like a stripper and Bayley dressed like me going to the strip club
Miz should totally break in and show the Cena proposal to Nikki Bella highlight to see what would happen.
The rest of this episode can just be Firefly Funhouse, right? Like when Parks and Rec did The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show episode. . . or when GLOW did that episode that was just an episode of GLOW? Or when 30 Rock was an episode of Queen of Jordan? Or when Kimmy Schmidt did the DJ Slizzard episode? Or when the Tick did the episode that parodied Cops? or when .. . Guys, I might watch too much TV. . .
The Real Birdman
“Who did you expect would take your challenge Goldberg?”
“Well they announced a Elimination Chamber match for number one contender, so I assumed one of the six….”
Can Gulak and D-Bry please save Shorty G. I’m sure he can at least grow a wispy teenage mustache
Gulak is celebrating a win in an empty arena, it probably reminds him of his Cruiserweight title reign.
King of Smark Style
Oh no somebody stop Paige before she names Nia Jax in this match
Would love to see MJF, Spears, and Tony heckling and making some bets on this match.
I only watch Wrestlemania for the commercials anyway
That’s it for this week’s Best and Worst of Smackdown. As always, thanks for getting through this with us and checking out the column, especially during this pandemic. We appreciate you, as well as your comments in our comments section below, and your social media shares. It’s hard to stay employed and paid in new media without the world being on the brink of collapse, you know?
See you next week, when Stephen Gostkowski shows up and does the running man before he and Apollo Crews randomly humiliate The Revival!