Previously on the Best and Worst of Friday Night Smackdown: Bray Wyatt drank a rabbit puppet to help him defeat John Cena at WrestleMania, Alexa Bliss pinned Asuka clean to make anyone who’s ever seen NXT mad, and Elias got what he deserved.
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Friday Night Smackdown for April 3, 2020.
Worst: “You’ll Take What I Give You And You’ll Like It”
Last Thursday news broke that Roman Reigns was dropping out of his main-event match at WrestleMania 36 due to being extremely immunocompromised during a global pandemic already due to his battles with leukemia and not wanting to put his actual life on the line to have a shitty old man tackle party with Bill Goldberg. That was quickly followed by news that he’d been replaced by Braun Strowman, and we tuned in to Smackdown to see how they’d switch it up. They’d already taped Smackdown, though, so they just … didn’t. The show ended with the match still being advertised despite pretty much everyone knowing it wasn’t going to happen.
In an interview with ESPN MMA a few days later, Triple H made it clear that Roman being removed from WrestleMania was still happening in-universe, and that you had to tune in to the shows to see the, and I’m quoting here, “meaningful” and “unique way” they did it. The quote:
“You can watch our business in multiple different ways. One of them is the storyline aspect of it and to follow the storyline. Another way is the online component of it and the reality of it behind it. Roman has his situation and his reasons for doing the things he’s doing, but I will say from our standpoint and the storyline standpoint, it’s going to play out in a unique manner and we want it to play out that way. I don’t want to give away the ending of the movie before the movie takes place. Everybody just has to watch and see how this unfolds. It will unfold in a unique way and I think it will be meaningful for everybody.
“There will always be critics, it’s our company’s mission to put smiles on peoples faces, and that’s what we’re trying to do in this situation at a time where people really need those smiles. It might not be the perfect product but it is the product and it is what it is right now.”
On this week’s Smackdown, Michael Cole recaps the feud between Elias and King Corbin and then this graphic pops up:
The entire call:
“And as far as the Universal Championship … the iconic Goldberg will now defend his Universal title against the 320 pound Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman!”
And that’s it. No “unique way” to get Strowman into the match. Nothing “meaningful.” How could it even BE unique or meaningful? They didn’t do anything. They didn’t even mention Roman Reigns by name.
Accepting some of the realities of the situation, I know they’re in a tough spot. I’m stuck between being happy there’s still wrestling for me to watch and recap, and being sad and frustrated that they keep doing these shows instead of giving people time off and quarantining them. And yeah, you taped the shows already, so it’d be pretty hard to get people together to tape a new segment, especially with Florida’s Governor ordering a statewide lockdown. But holy shit, this is lazy even for them. If you had to announce it via graphic, couldn’t you have at least had Michael Cole say something about how Roman had to drop out because of health concerns and Goldberg picked the biggest opponent he could find to make a point and send a message to Roman for ducking him, or something? Couldn’t you, I don’t know, have Braun Strowman stand around backstage with some fake blood on his hands and play ambulance sounds in the background? These aren’t crackerjack ideas either, but literally ANYTHING would’ve been a better effort than saying, “the match is this now instead of the main event we’ve been advertising since February,” and not explaining how or why. And if you knew you were going to have to do something this basic, maybe don’t have one of the faces of your company give public interviews about how the thing you’re doing is unique and meaningful?
I can’t decide if it’s contempt for the audience, underestimation of the audience’s ability to accept that sometimes shit happens in real life, or just complete productive atrophy as a company that already didn’t seem to be trying very hard to be creative, consistent, or cohesive keeps marching on and doing shows while the world burns.
The smiles, they’re on our faces.
Speaking Of Not Explaining The Card Changes …
… we’re still heading into WrestleMania saying the triple threat ladder match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship between Miz and Morrison, The Usos, and The New Day is happening as advertised despite reports to the contrary. It’s kind of the inverse of Goldberg vs. Reigns, as they get a segment but no match change graphic.
The segment is … like, I’m not going to say this was a “bad” segment necessarily or anything I can write a furious paragraph about, but it’s a great example of how structurally broken WWE’s ability to tell a story is right now. The Usos and New Day are advertised as guests on Miz TV. The Miz TV graphic is on the screen, but The Usos walk out first saying they “can’t wait” for Miz and Morrison. You know, even though the segment is beginning now and the graphic was up before they walked out. New Day interrupts them and the teams argue, but then Miz and Morrison show up on the stage and pose on ladders. The challengers decide to mosey up the aisle and attack the champs, but then they start attacking each other, which allows the champs to gain the advantage and go back to doing what they were doing before they were attacked. Not only do the good guys look stupid as hell, the bad guys are so unaffected by their existence that they just paused their arbitrary prop posing for no one.
WWE’s insistence that grown-ass men and women should still be “working the crowd” when there’s no crowd is so bizarre to me. One of the benefits of wrestling on the independents is learning how to work in different ways for different rooms, right? WWE’s treating its performers like video game characters that just have to walk out and do the same taunts and say the same things in the same way to set up the same segments to fill up the same shows because that’s how they’re programmed, whether somebody’s holding the controller or not.
Worst: The Show Has Three Matches, And They All End In Outside Interference
Two of them end in disqualifications, and the only reason the third doesn’t is because it’s a triple threat match.
Let’s start with that one, I guess. It’s Naomi vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina, a cruel ask of Naomi, with Tamina going over not only her two opponents but also Bayley and Sasha Banks, because they announced her for the WrestleMania card despite her not being around for ages and are overcompensating trying to make her a threat in a couple of weeks. It’s Tamina, though, and if she can’t get over as a threat in 10 years, I don’t think two weeks of people pretending to be afraid of her is going to do much.
I’m not sure she’s ever looked this bad, either. She looks like she’s in physical pain trying to get up from the mat off normal moves. It’s like me trying to get out of bed in the morning, but for everything. And she’s throwing superkicks everywhere, but none of them get above the arm pit. Don’t believe me? Look at this picture of her kicking Lacey Evans last week, or this one of her kicking Bayley, or this one of her kicking Naomi. I’m not even sure she’s kicking. I think she’s just straightening one of her legs and doing half a side-bend. If you think maybe the photos are just of the aftermath of the kicks and her leg’s on the way down, here’s a still-frame of her kick on Bayley. She managed to throw a superkick and not only miss the face, but miss the entire front half of the human body. But yeah, keep slapping that leg, a boot partially scraping the back of somebody’s t-shirt makes a loud clap sound.
In match two, the long-awaited Dolph Ziggler vs. TUCKER showdown, Dolph gets disqualified for hitting his finisher on the ring steps. I mean, all right. He then picks up the other half of the steps and raises them above his head like he’s going to try to crush Tucky’s skull and murder him, but Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville show up to make him stop. Brother was going to Oberyn Martell the white Angelo Dawkins. But then wait just a minute, king!
The gathering is interrupted by a message from a mysterious HACKER from the 1990s (complete with a screen that helps them jack into the Matrix, apparently) who reveals G-TV style that it was SONYA who sent Otis the “I’m gonna be late” text on Valentine’s Day that caused a malfunction at the romantic junction between Otis and Mandy. Total shocker here. “Big man, no matter what happens in the Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler match at WrestleMania, stick the winner for me.”
Mandy leaves totes betrayed (breaking both quarantine and the recommended social distancing) and Otis shows up to chase Dolph around. It’s worth noting that everyone assumed the “break in transmission” gimmick was for Mustafa Ali, since the hacker’s arc reactor-ass logo is the same one Ali has on his glove, but if it’s Ali, why cover your face and use a voice modulator, especially if you’re also using your recognizable logo? I read a theory that it was Ember Moon since Sonya and Mandy were bullying her before she got hurt, but that’s definitely not Ember Moon’s hand. So … I don’t know. Maybe it’s Otis’ mom, getting revenge for that piece of cake Dolph stepped on?
Otis saying “winky face emoji” out loud while texting is pretty funny, though.
Finally, we get the cursed version of Daniel Bryan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura that in 2013 would’ve been a match of the year between two of the best wrestlers in the world, but is now the latest in a string of half-assed bad decisions at the expense of a whole pack of good wrestlers as the preface to a John Cena promo on a Smackdown in an empty Anytime Fitness. It’s still pretty good as it’s happening, but that dark cloud of “this is going to have a bad finish and be depressing” still lingered over it.
All you really need to know is that three weeks ago Daniel Bryan pinned Cesaro with a roll-up, and then two weeks ago Bryan teamed up with Drew Gulak against Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura and pinned Cesaro with a roll-up. That set up a match where Gulak had to defeat Nakamura to get Bryan a WrestleMania match against Sami Zayn, which Gulak won with a roll-up. This week they change it up by having Bryan defeat Nakamura by disqualification, because I guess a fourth consecutive loss for this team would’ve been a bridge too far. They then team up to attack Gulak and Bryan 3-on-2 to send a message. That message? “See you tomorrow when you easily beat us at WrestleMania.”
John Cena Vs. Lambchop At WrestleMania Confirmed
As a fandom I think we’ve settled into a nice understanding of John Cena’s value as a performer, but sometimes it’s nice to remember why we spent the better part of 15 years wishing somebody would stuff him into a trunk and dump him in the ocean. Here, he says he’s not afraid of Bray Wyatt, because he’s not afraid of someone who, and I quote, “dresses up like the overfed sex child of Wiz Khalifa and the WB Frog.”
Oh boy, I didn’t miss that John Cena. At least there wasn’t a crowd here to start chanting “W-B FROG! W-B FROG!” Also his name was Michigan J. Frog, you philistine.
Wyatt’s puppets then show up to quote The Shining at him, which reveals The Fiend standing on the Cathy Kelley Memorial Juliette Balcony. This very good Halloween costume allows Bray Wyatt Proper to teleport into the ring, whisper a sweet nothing in Cena’s ear, and teleport away. It’s very spoopy.
I still hope the Firefly Funhouse Match includes a portion where they’re cartoons and a portion where they’re hand puppets, and that nobody ever explains it. Triple H says the match will be “different from anything we’ve ever done,” which means it’ll be a regular match in the normal ring. R-Truth better show up, at least.
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Week
Thank God the comments section is working today, because if I’ve learned anything this week, it’s that while on Wednesdays Uproxx is a party, Mondays and Fridays it’s a support group.
Wished they panned down from The Fiend to a chalk outline of Elias
Gulak: “So if you smash their pinata, they’ll be distracted & you can roll him up for the victory”
Bryan: “Their pinata?”
Gulak: “Sorry. Those are my power point notes from all the 205 Live opening matches from 2018”
Yes I saw the hand…but I still want this to be R-Truth behind all this.
”Ha ha! I’m Ron Killings and this is Candid Camera…isn’t that right Betty White!”
Carmella: “I told you truth, I did not agree to this!”
Baron Von Raschke
Playing “Sexy Boy” IMMEDIATELY after Flair’s career comes to an end will never not be funny.
Shawn Michael’s hair is beginning to look like Bill Murray’s by the end of Kingpin
I’d have lost my mind if the Fiend had flown at Cena on the balcony Dr Wily style
I tried to avoid Smackdown and watched Bumblebee instead. Turns out no matter what I do this weekend John Cena is staring back at me.
Maybe taking 7 seconds to clear your throat upon coming out isn’t the best look right now Miz…
Too bad it was literally illegal for officials to come out and break up the post match beatdown on Bryan
Hey guys! Remember when Rowan had a giant fake spider and that was the worst thing in WWE? Remember that? THAT WAS ONLY A MONTH AGO
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. I’m trying, I promise. There’s just not much WWE can do if they won’t shut down for a few weeks, and not much I can write about them putting smiles on my face. 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 when you write about sports and sports just stop.
That said, we’ll see you here Saturday night and Sunday night for our full WrestleMania: In Your House coverage, as well as an open discussion thread and two (count ’em) Best and Worst of WrestleMania 36 columns. Should be something special. See you then.