By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown on Fox
Aired live on March 20, 2020 from Orlando, Florida at the WWE Performance Center
[Hour One] The AC/DC opening kicked off the show… Michael Cole stated that WrestleMania is two weeks from tomorrow. Cole hyped Goldberg and Roman Reigns for the contract signing, John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt from WrestleMania 30, and Paige returning.
Cole stood in the ring and said WrestleMania is too big for just one night. He said with WrestleMania being so big, they need a big host. “How about Rob Gronkowski?” Cole asked. The Monday Night Football theme song played over a Gronkowski video package.
Cole was joined in the ring by Mojo Rawley. Cole was about to introduce Gronkowski, but Rawley took the mic, slapped his ass, and told him that he has to get hyped. A fired up Rawley introduced “for the first time ever, Rob Gronkowski.”
Gronk danced his way onto the stage and then danced more at ringside, on the ring steps, and then on the apron before finally getting into the ring. Cole asked Gronk if it’s been a dream of his to be at WrestleMania. Gronk said he’s been watching since he was a kid in the nosebleed seats. He also said he’s been to FCW Arena to support Rawley when there were only five people in the stands, and to WrestleMania with 80,000 people in the stands.
Gronk said he’s not in WWE with no people in the stands. Rawley said there’s always a target on your back in WWE, so he was there to watch his friend’s back. Gronk asked to see Rawley’s front, then chopped his chest while spazzing out.
King Corbin made his entrance and entered the ring. He called for Gronk to get on his knees and bow down to the king. Gronk said they were good and they don’t get on their knees. Corbin said WWE isn’t for Gronk because he’s just a party guy. Corbin noted that he’s also been in the NFL. He said they don’t wear all the pads that the NFL players do in WWE. He told Gronk to fall in line like everyone else or he’ll make sure his party is over.
Elias strummed his guitar and then walked down the ramp with his guitar. Corbin asked if Elias is following him. Elias said he’s had a song ready for Corbin for multiple weeks. Corbin asked if Elias would go away if he agreed to listen to his song. Elias sang about Corbin and Gronk briefly until Corbin cut him off.
Corbin got in Gronk’s face and jawed at him. “I know you know something about getting hurt,” Corbin said. Rawley got down on all fours behind Corbin, then Gronkowski pushed Corbin over. Corbin got up and started walking toward Gronk, but Elias cut him off and threw him out of the ring. Gronk said he doesn’t have the power to make matches as the WrestleMania host, but he is advocating the idea of an Elias vs. Corbin match at WrestleMania. Cole said he hopes WWE officials take that match under consideration…
A shot aired of Sami Zayn firing up Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro for a tag match. Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak made their entrance and they both did the Yes bit once they got to the ring… [C]
Powell’s POV: Elias vs. Corbin? Maybe a one night WrestleMania isn’t such a bad idea after all. Anyway, Gronk is an acquired taste. His party boy schtick worked during the NFL offseason because he was so damn good during the season, but I suspect that a lot of pro wrestling fans who didn’t follow his NFL career are finding him to be pretty obnoxious tonight with the dancing and over the top antics. He’s a fun personality. I’m just not sure how it will translate to WWE.
A sponsored segment recapped Bryan and Gulak being confronted by Zayn, Nakamura, and Cesaro last week, which led to Bryan beating Cesaro in a singles match…
1. Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro. Sami Zayn sat in on commentary with Cole. Cesaro caught Bryan leaping off the top rope and gave him a backbreaker, then booted Gulak off the apron. [C] Cesaro tagged Gulak with a popup uppercut. Gulak fought back and Bryan tagged in unbeknownst to Cesaro. Bryan performed a sunset flip from the middle rope and pinned Cesaro while Gulak made sure Nakamura couldn’t enter the ring…
Daniel Bryan and Drew Gulak beat Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro in 10:45.
Cole hyped the Cena vs. Wyatt match from WrestleMania 30, and Paige’s return… Cole hyped the WrestleMania 30 replay for ESPN on Sunday night at 6CT/7ET…
Powell’s POV: The match was fine and it’s nice to see Gulak getting some creative attention. It is a shame that WWE wasn’t inspired to make any changes after Wednesday’s AEW Dynamite. They still have the hard camera pointed at empty seats and they still don’t have anyone at ringside. WWE shouldn’t be too proud to learn from the competition if it makes their own product better during these strange times.
Backstage, Gulak instructed Bryan to breathe deep and stretch deep in the weight room of the WWE Performance Center. Zayn, Nakamura, and Cesaro entered the room. Zayn asked Bryan when he would start listening to the Intercontinental Champion and stop listening to a nobody. Bryan held Gulak back, then challenged Zayn to put the title on the line against him at WrestleMania. Zayn said he would do it if Gulak can somehow find a way to beat Nakamura in a match on next week’s show. Bryan accepted the challenge…
Powell’s POV: I’m surprised they’re not going with Zayn defending against Braun Strowman at WrestleMania, but I like the idea of Zayn vs. Nakamura a lot more. I don’t really see a big need for a Bryan and Gulak tag team, so I still wonder if the plan is to have Gulak turn on Bryan to set up a feud, perhaps even at WrestleMania.
Cole stood in the ring and interviewed Paige, who appeared on the the big screen via Skype from Los Angeles. Paige delivered her “I’m back” line again. Bayley and Sasha Banks interrupted and headed to the ring. Bayley told Paige to get along with what she had to say so that the rest of the world could forget about her.
Paige spoke about how it takes courage to lace up the boots. She called Bayley and Banks bullies and said they lack courage. Bayley told Paige to do something about it, then mocked her over not being able to do it. Paige said it’s true that her in-ring career is over. Paige said she spoke to her friends at Fox so that she could announce Bayley’s title match. Bayley acted like she wasn’t planning to wrestle at WrestleMania.
Paige announced Lacey Evans as Bayley’s challenger. Bayley mocked it. Paige added Dana Brooke. Bayley mocked that, so Paige added Tamina. Bayley grumbled more, then Paige added Naomi. Banks asked how Paige could do that to her friend. Paige then informed Banks that she would the final challenger. Bayley and Banks were speechless, then Bayley left the ring and Banks smirked while remaining in the ring…
Cole clarified that it will be a six pack challenge for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania, then hyped the Cena vs. Wyatt match for WrestleMania 30 as coming up… [C]
Powell’s POV: The segment was a bit rough because of Paige being on Skype. I have no idea what Brooke and Tamina’s characters have done to earn title shots, but I like the addition of Banks to the match. Banks did a really nice job of telling a story with her facial expressions by sneaking a quick peek at the title before looking up at Bayley when Paige first announced the match.
Cole spoke as footage from the WWE Performance Center was shown. Cole set up a recap of the John Cena and Bray Wyatt agreeing to meet in a WrestleMania match three weeks ago on Smackdown…
The John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt match from WrestleMania 30 was shown. They didn’t include the entrances and instead started just before the opening bell. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan were in Wyatt’s corner. [C]
As the match continued, a crawler at the bottom of the screen hyped the Goldberg and Roman Reigns contract signing as still to come.
[Hour Two] The match continued into another break. [C] An ad for Raw hyped the Edge and Randy Orton feud, and noted that Brock Lesnar will appear. In a shocking twist, John Cena still defeated Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 30…
Cole stood in the ring and spoke of how Wyatt has stated that his loss to Cena at WrestleMania 30 led to the creation of The Fiend. Cole set up footage of the Cena and Wyatt segment from last week… Cole hyped the Goldberg and Reigns contract signing for later in the show…
The Miz and John Morrison made their entrance. Two chairs were set up in the ring. Cole said the duo would bring back “the controversial Dirt Sheet” after the break… [C]
While WWE PC clips were shown, Cole said he hoped that viewers could escape from what’s going on in the world with a little entertainment from WWE. Cole transitioned a recap of Sasha Banks and Bayley beating Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross with help from Asuka…
Kayla Braxton interviewed Bliss and Cross on the backstage interview set and noted that they want to challenge The Kabuki Warriors for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles. Cross started ranting and was cut off by Bliss, who said she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants. Bliss invited Asuka to face her on Smackdown and told her this time she can come through the front door…
The Howard Finkel voiced introduction for The Dirt Sheet played. Morrison said he taught himself how to whip and nae nae. They did their “hey-hey, ho-ho” bit and then noted that they don’t have any challengers for WrestleMania since they beat everyone in the Elimination Chamber. Miz asked “the audience” who they should face at WrestleMania.
Miz and Morrison were shown doing a New Day spoof. Morrison said he didn’t think New Day was going to be there. Miz said they must have snuck in. Footage aired of Miz and Morrison doing Usos and Heavy Machinery spoofs, which included the pair wearing bacon costumes for the Otis and Tucker spoof. In the ring, Miz and Morrison agreed that they should probably take the night off for WrestleMania (they probably will take one of the two nights off).
Heavy Machinery made their entrance. Cole said that if Heavy Machinery can beat Miz and Morrison (in a non-title match) then they could be headed for a Smackdown Tag Title shot at WrestleMania… [C]
2. The Miz and John Morrison vs. “Heavy Machinery” Otis and Tucker. The match was joined in progress coming out of the break. Cole referenced Otis’s amateur wrestling background and brought back Tucker’s last name of Knight for a moment. Dolph Ziggler’s cringe inducing entrance music played and distracted Tucker, which led to Miz getting a near fall. Ziggler walked to ringside and joined Cole on commentary as they cut to break. [C]
The static sound played and a partial image appeared on the screen for moment while Otis worked over Miz and Morrison. Otis started to perform the Caterpillar, but he stopped when Ziggler stood up and spoke to him. Ziggler said he wanted Otis to see photos. Ziggler had Instagram photos of him with Mandy Rose appear on the big screen on the stage.
Otis left the ring and went after Ziggler, who hopped the barricade. Otis caught Ziggler and flung him back to ringside. Otis picked up a chair, but Miz and Morrison took it from him. They all went back to the ring, but Otis clotheslined the tag champions back to ringside. Otis ran Morrison into the steps and then slammed Miz’s head into the broadcast table and the ring spot.
Morrison leapt from the broadcast table at Otis, who caught him and slammed him back first into the ring post. Otis looked at the Ziggler and Rose photo on the big screen, then charged at Miz and Morrison and drove them through the ringside barricade. Otis picked up a chair. Tucker tried to talk him down, but Otis snapped and worked over Miz and Morrison with a chair. The bell rang and Cole said it was a disqualification.
The Miz and John Morrison defeated Heavy Machinery by DQ in a non-title match in 14:45.
Ring announcer Greg Hamilton actually announced the DQ finish. Ziggler was shown looking terrified. Tucker consoled an emotional Otis. Cole hyped the contract signing for after a break… [C]
Powell’s POV: So we’re seemingly no closer to a tag title match for WrestleMania. Even putting aside the health risks, would they really put a bunch of teams in the contenders position in a big multi-team match after just having a the tag title Elimination Chamber match? Have world health officials considered blasting the coronavirus with Ziggler’s entrance music in hopes of destroying it?
Cole hyped past WrestleMania events airing on ESPN the next three Sundays starting with WrestleMania 30 this Sunday night…
For next week’s Smackdown, Cole hyped Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss, Drew Gulak vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Daniel Bryan gets an Intercontinental Title shot at WrestleMania if Gulak wins), New Day vs. The Usos for a Smackdown Tag Title shot at WrestleMania, and the Firefly Funhouse…
Powell’s POV: Hey, we have our answer for the Smackdown Tag Title match at WrestleMania. I wonder if they will go with one team or if they are going to set up a Triple Threat. I guess we’ll find out next week.
Cole stood in the ring and introduced Roman Reigns for the contract signing for the WWE Universal Championship match at WrestleMania. Reigns still looked around the building as he normally would. Goldberg received some small pyro, but he simply walked to the ring with the title belt and did not have his usual security walk entrance.
Goldberg placed his title belt on the table that was set up in the ring, then he and Reigns both tossed their chairs aside. Cole recalled Goldberg asking “who’s next” before Reigns took him up on the challenge. Cole asked who Goldberg thought was going to accept. Goldberg said he hoped it would be Reigns, but he didn’t know if he had the balls.
Reigns spoke about the various legends he’s defeated and said Goldberg wouldn’t be any different. Cole brought up a tweet that Reigns wrote back in January that included a jab at Goldberg headbutting locker room doors. Cole asked him why he took that jab. Reigns asked why not. He looked at Goldberg and called him a “little bitch Bulldog” and said he was holding “my title that he never earned.” Reigns signed the contract.
Goldberg glared at Reigns. “Listen, punk, I’ve been destroying steel doors all across the world for years with that headbutt. And come WrestleMania, you’re going to be the next victim.” Goldberg signed the contract and handed it to Cole. Goldberg tipped the table over and then went face to face with Reigns to close the show…
Powell’s POV: Roman has to know that there are plenty of us out there who just don’t care about the Georgia vs. Georgia Tech rivalry. The live crowd was missed. The tossing of the chairs and the table made them both look like a couple of meatheads without the live crowd there to add some atmosphere. That said, they also came off as intense during the staredown, so at least the show closed on a positive note.
Overall, Smackdown was disappointing in that WWE didn’t make any significant changes from last week. AEW Dynamite blew away what WWE has done in the empty Performance Center on Raw and both editions of Smackdown. There were lessons that WWE could have taken from that show, but they just stayed the course and the show suffered as a result. I will have more to say in my weekly audio review for Dot Net Members. Stay safe and have a good weekend. I recommend Bert Kreischer’s new Netflix comedy special “Hey Big Boy” to fill some of your time at home.