By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown on Fox
Aired live on February 28, 2020 from Boston, Massachusetts at TD Garden
The show began with Goldberg announced as the new Universal Champion to a mixed response. He made his way to the ring with the Universal Championship slung over his shoulder, and soaked in the reaction before taking a microphone in hand. The boo birds started after the music died down. Golderg told the crowd not to be mistaken. It’s not about who was last….it’s all about who’s next. He stared up the ramp, and Roman Reigns music hit. Goldberg, now sweating profusely, gave a primal shout as Roman Reigns walked out onto the ramp.
Roman stared daggers at Goldberg, who stood his ground in the ring. Reigns slapped some hands at ringside and made his way into the ring. Both men shared a stare down. Roman was mostly cheered in contrast to Goldberg, which I imagine was the point of the title change in the first place. Reigns grabbed a microphone and paced around the ring. He got in close to Goldberg before telling him that he was next. They went back to stare down mode before Roman walked away. Roman mouthed that this was his yard, and Goldberg said he can’t wait.
The announce team plugged John Cena’s return to Boston, and to the show that made him famous. We got a brief video that showcased Cena’s debut challenge to Kurt Angle…[c]
My Take: I think WWE got the reaction they wanted with the title change. The crowd was cheering Reigns and mixed towards Goldberg. Had they gone with Roman vs. The Fiend, it probably would have been the opposite. I’m in agreement with those who said they squandered what they had with Bray Wyatt, but they did that as soon as they halted his character development by giving him the Universal Championship.
Bayley was in the ring, and Naomi followed with her entrance. I guess we’re running this one back from Super Showdown.
1. Naomi vs. Bayley: Naomi rushed in, but Bayley bent through the ropes and asked for a microphone. She said this was ridiculous and she shouldn’t have to be here in front of you idiots. She said she was here for one reason only, and that was to introduce a future multi-platinum artist. Bayley then introduced Sasha Banks, who she claimed was better than Beyonce and Cardi B.
Sasha made her entrance, and Bayley used the distraction to take a cheap shot at Naomi. It didn’t last, as Naomi landed a kick and a drop kick. She then landed the Rear View, but Sasha interfered to break up the fall and end the match in DQ.
Naomi defeated Bayley by DQ at 2:44.
After the match, a short beat down occurred before Lacey Evans ran down to make the save. There was a brawl that broke out….and Smackdown Ref Jessica Carr ordered the match restarted as a tag match…
2. Naomi and Lacey Evans vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley: Naomi and Lacey cleared the heels from the ring and jumped on them on the floor…[c]
My Take: Referees can throw together matches now on the fly? They could have easily avoided the strangeness by having her pretend she was getting fed information over the headset.
Sasha slammed Naomi face first into the mat and made a tag to Bayley. They then hit a double team slam and Bayley covered for a two count. She then talked trash and choked Naomi on the ropes. Sasha then took a cheap shot as Bayley tied up the referee. Sasha tagged in and then tossed Naomi into the corner. She followed up with double knees and covered for another two count.
Naomi landed a wheel kick and attempted to tag out, but Sasha was able to cut her off. We then saw a corner beat down from Sasha, and a tag out to Bayley. They landed a double back elbow, and Bayley made a lazy cover for a two count. Sasha tagged back in and knocked Lacey from the apron. Naomi was able to land a jawbreaker, and Lacey climbed back onto the apron for the hot tag. She and Bayley both entered the match. Lacey kicked Sasha from the apron and landed a corner handstand into a splash. Naomi tagged in and hit a springboard crossbody, but Sasha broke it up.
Sasha landed a backstabber on Naomi, but was then pulled to the outside by Evans. They brawled on the floor, and Naomi gave Lacey an assist with a soccer kick from the apron that staggered both Sasha and Bayley. She then landed a springboard sunset flip and got the pin on Bayley.
Lavey Evans and Naomi defeated Sasha Banks and Bayley at 9:48.
Backstage, New Day were shows interacting with Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots. They then walked up to Roode and Ziggler backstage and had a staredown…[c]
My Take: A well worked tag match in the sense that there weren’t many obvious execution problems, but it also wasn’t particularly exciting. Sasha making a big return only to end up falling short in the match is so emblematic of her WWE career that I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.
Footage was shown of John Cena as he captured his first WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21. Bobby Roode made his entrance with Dolph Ziggler. He was then followed by New Day.
3. Kofi Kingston vs. Robert Roode: Kofi got a big chant to start the match, but Roode shut it down with a shoulder block and and a chinlock. Kofi responded with a shoulder block of his own and an arm twist. Roode backed him into the corner and threw some punches and chops. We then got a monkey flip out of the corner, but Kofi landed on his feet and landed a dropkick. The action spilled outside, and Roode pulled a fast one on the ref by pretending that Big E tossed him into the ring steps. As a result, Big E was ejected…[c]
The match moved along at a slow pace while Roode was on offense. Kofi broke it up with a dropkick, but Roode took over again after an assist from Ziggler. Roode landed a vertical suplex and climbed to the second rope. He mocked Kofi by clapping for the New Day chant, and then missed a knee drop after Kofi got out of the way.
Kofi rolled to the apron and landed a springboard clothesline. He then landed a dropkick and a second clothesline. Kofi then landed a Boom Drop and played to the crowd. He lined up a Trouble in Paradise, but Roode ducked. Kofi rebounded with a top rope cross body, but only got a two count. Kofi then went for the SOS, but Roode countered with a Full Nelson Slam for a two count.
Kofi went up top, but Roode got out of the way of his flying nothing. Roode then caught Kofi for a Spinebuster for a close near fall. Roode looked to put Kofi away with a Glorious DDT, but Kofi reversed into an SOS. Ziggler offered another assist by putting Roode’s foot on the ropes. Roode then rolled up Kofi as he protested to the ref for the win.
Robert Roode defeated Kofi Kingston at 12:54
After the match, Sonya and Mandy were shown backstage watching a monitor. Sonya said her man looked happy. Elsewhere, Tucker advised Otis to let Mandy go. He said sometimes in life, a guy like Dolph Ziggler gets the girl. He told Otis that next week they would go out and get some love from the WWE Universe, who wouldn’t reject him like Mandy did.. Otis said he thinks he’s right.
Renee Young was in the ring for a contract signing coming up next…[c]
My Take: Another competent, but rather slow paced match. I’m assuming this is the beginning of a jumble of teams coming together for title matches at Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania.
We got another Cena highlight, this time Rock vs. Cena from Wrestlemania 29. Renee Young then ran down the contract signing for the Intercontinental Championship Match for Elimination Chamber. First out was Shinsuke Nakamura, followed by Braun Strowman. Footage was shown of Nakamura getting staples to close the gash on his skull after getting power slammed on a piano.
Renee offered the contact to Nakamura, but Sami Zayn asked Strowman to sit down first so they could conduct business like men. Strowman threw the chair out of the ring. Zayn said the way they’ve been treated lately is appalling. He said Shinsuke couldn’t celebrate his birthday because he got slammed through a grand piano. Strowman to him to quit bitching and moaning, because people were tired of it. Strowman signed the contract, and said he knew he would have to fight all three of them anyways.
Sami seized on that and had all three of them sign the contract. He asked Renee to take it to the notary backstage. Zayn then announced the match at Elimination Chamber would be a 3 on 1 handicap match. Zayn told him he was going down at the Chamber. Strowman grabbed the table and moved it out of the way. Strowman then said they wouldn’t make it to the Elimination Chamber, and punched Cesaro and Nakamura.
Sami landed two Helluva Kicks after Strowman was busy with Nakamura and Cesaro. Nakamura then followed up with Kinshasa. Cesaro and Nakamura then suplexed Strowman through the table with an added kick from Zayn on the way down. The three heels then celebrated and left the ring. Strowman got to his feet, but was rattled. The announce team then threw to a video recap of the opening segment.
After the video, Daniel Bryan made his entrance in the arena to a strong reaction…[c]
My Take: They could add eleven more people to that Intercontinental Championship Match, I won’t believe Strowman is losing.
We saw some Super Showdown footage that focused on AJ Styles and The Undertaker.
4. Daniel Bryan vs. Curtis Axel: Drew Gulak was on commentary, but Cole called him Drew Axel. Graves said Gulak noticed some holes in Daniel Bryan’s game last week. Axel landed a perfect neck snap, followed by some clubbing blows in the corner. Axel mocked Daniel Bryan, and Gulak shouted at him to get back on Bryan. The tides turned and Bryan landed some kicks in the corner. Axel recovered and tossed Bryan to ringside. Gulak jawed at Bryan and gave Axel some pointers.
Axel landed a kick in the ring, but Bryan fired up and landed a running clothesline. Bryan landed some yes kicks, but avoided the last one and rolled up Bryan for a two count. Axel then reversed out of a Yes Lock attempt and turned it into a near fall. After a few more roll up attempts, Axel went for a Perfect Plex. Bryan avoided it and placed him in the Yes Lock for the submission victory.
Daniel Bryan defeated Curtis Axel at 5:33
After the match, Bryan looked at Gulak and smiled. We then got another Cena video that showed him capturing his 16th WWE Championship. Backstage, Miz and Morrison were shown modeling for photos with their Smackdown Tag Team Championships…[c]
My Take: They are clearly just keeping Daniel Bryan busy, but I think they are doing a solid job of showcasing Gulak as a student on the game as he tries to find talent that he can coach to take down Bryan. I think it’s fair to say that Bryan and Gulak could have one hell of a wrestling match, and it would look and feel much differently than what WWE fans are accustomed to. It’s a fun little feud even if it isn’t being tasked with carrying the show. Bryan remains mega over as a babyface despite not being on top of the card.
Miz and Morrison made their entrance after being announced as the New Tag Team Champions. Footage was shown of their big win at Super Showdown. Miz heeled on the crowd and asked why they didn’t get “You Deserve It” chants. Miz called out The Godfather, Rocky, and The Marine, and said what they have in common is that the sequels were better than the originals. Miz said the did exactly what they said and became the new Smackdown Tag Team Champions.
They said they didn’t hear any of the boos, and started a terrible chant for themselves. Morrison called for Miz’s entrance music and said it was a celebration. A referee scrambled past the ring in the background and went to speak to the ring announcer. Greg Hamilton then announced their first title defense would be against New Day, Heavy Machinery, Lucha House Party, Roode and Ziggler, and The Usos in an Elimination Chamber Match.
The Usos then made their entrance…[c]
My Take: You can tell the Super Showdown event really messed up the timing of the booking for Elimination Chamber. The funniest moment of the night was Greg Hamilton announcing Lucha House Party and the crowd losing all will to live.
5. The Usos vs. Miz and Morrison: The Usos controlled the early going, but Miz managed to gain control on Jey Uso with a DDT after a distraction from Morrison. A series of lights cut into the show clearly hyping a surprise, but the announcers didn’t acknowledge it. Morrison and Miz made quick tags and isolated Jey in the heel half of the ring. Miz landed a soccer kick and started up the stupid “hey hey ho ho” Miz and Morrison chant. It went nowhere. The announce team mocked Morrison’s movie Boone the Bounty Hunter.
Jey Uso nearly made a tag after an Enziguri, but Miz pulled Jimmy off the apron. Morrison landed a springboard kick for a two count…[c]
Miz and Morrison continued to control Jey Uso. Morrison landed a springboard splash for a near fall. Jimmy Uso tagged in and took down Morrison with a kick, and then tagged back out so he could splash Miz at ringside. Jey and Morrison tangled in the ring, and Jimmy made a blind tag behind Morrison’s back. Morrison tried to setup for Starship Pain, but Jimmy kicked him in the face and landed a Canadian Destroyer off the second rope. Jey then flew out of the corner for a splash for the win.
The Usos defeated Miz and Morrison at 9:50.
John Cena is up next…[c]
My Take: A cool new finisher for The Usos reminiscent of Power and Glory’s old PowerPlex from 80’s WWF, except modernized for 2020. I dig it. The Tag Division feels like nobody really matters.
John Cena’s music hit, and he made his entrance to a big ovation as you would expect, without any of the boo birds from earlier. Cena was fired up and asked the crowd to let the world hear them. Cena said it was crazy and insane. He then calmed down and said it was WrestleMania season, and he had to answer the question of what he was doing at WrestleMania. He said he knew his role had changed, but he wanted to say that he is and will always be a WWE Superstar.
He reiterated the question of what he was doing at WrestleMania, and he said he was doing something different. Cena said he knew how hard WWE Superstars work to get a glimpse of a WrestleMania Moment, and he mentioned the WWE Universe and it’s passion. He said he listens to the fans, and he knows they are always thinking about the future of the WWE Universe after every show.
Cena said he could have requested anything he wanted for WrestleMania, and it would have happened, but he was going to do the right thing. He said WrestleMania should go on without John Cena. He said it was not goodbye, but it is goodbye for now. He said he believed in the future of the WWE just like the fans, and WrestleMania spots are earned and not demanded, so it would go on without John Cena.
He then said he wasn’t sure the next time he would be back, and he wanted to say thank you in front of his friends and family in a place he called home. He choked up a bit as he fired up the crowd. The crowd chanted for him, and he said that meant the world to him. He then went to ringside and greeted some children. As Cena walked to the stage, the Fiend’s sound effects hit and the lights dimmed. When they came back up, he stood behind Cena.
The Fiend pointed to the WrestleMania sign, and the crowd cheered and did some yes chants. Cena nodded to accept. Cena then motioned to The Fiend that he can’t see him, and the lights in the arena went dark to close the show.
My Take: Cena had the crowd in the palm of his hand, but the segment was incoherent to say the least. Cena barely finished explaining that he was taking a principled stand against taking a spot from more deserving stars at WrestleMania before he accepted The Fiend’s challenge. Maybe Cena had no ability to make any appearances in the next several weeks, but I felt like they could have used the time to try and have The Fiend drag out an answer from Cena. On top of that, Cena showed no fear of The Fiend, and he made no effort to attack Cena when he had a perfect opportunity to do so. It was a memorable segment for several reasons, but a weird one if you try to make any sense of it.