WWE SmackDown 2020.08.21 Review: Welcome to the #WWEThunderDome

Shows reviewed:
WWE Friday Night SmackDown (2020.08.21 @ Amway Center, Orlando, FL, USA)

Hello, reader, and welcome to the first edition of the Outlaw Wrestling Review. This isn’t my first time writing wrestling reviews, but like everything else I wrote long time ago, they’re terrible and I’m embarrassed by them. In truth, they’re probably not that bad for what they are, but they certainly aren’t up to the standard I want to achieve now. I’ve spent the last decade of my life persuing an unpromising career path with mediocre results while ignoring what I truly wanted: to write about pro wrestling. The Outlaw Wrestling Review is another attempt for me to do that.

SummerSlam weekend seemed like a good time to start this endeavor. I originally intended to start with NXT TakeOver XXX (which, while I expect a good card, isn’t nearly as interesting as the suffix makes it sound), but with WWE ThunderDome debuting on this week’s SmackDown, I knew that was where I had to start.

Overall, I think the ThunderDome idea is a positive change for what has been a very stale and tedious product lately. Instead of Performance Center trainees performing as an audience, now the ringside area is surrounded by massive LED boards with fans watching via video call. It was disconcerting at first, but it started to feel normal as the show went on. As far as I could tell, they piped in crowd noise and let in no noise from the virtual audience members. The piped-in crowd noise bothers me a lot when it’s clearly fake, but it was less obtrusive here than it was when they really drew attention to it in “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” at Backlash. The fans disappeared during entrances as the production used the LED boards for entrance effects.

The show opened with Vince McMahon in the ring, but he was interrupted by The Fiend’s music before he could really say anything. The Fiend menaced the septuagenarian chairman for several uncomfortable seconds before Braun Strowman’s music interrupted. The Universal Champion and his SummerSlam challenger faced off mid-ring, but were soon interrupted (are you noticing a pattern?) by Retribution – or as the announcers called them repeatedly, “the group known as Retribution.”

The Fiend waved at Braun, turned the lights out with his Fiend magic, and then… fucking teleported away. I almost turned the show off right there, but I’m rarely one to not finish what I start. I was thoroughly convinced by the end of this show that pride had once again been my folly.

The masked geeks from The Group Known As Retribution attacked and overwhelmed the Universal Champion by sheer weight of numbers until the whole locker room comes out for a big brawl – men and women alike, both in the SmackDown crew in and The Group Known As Retribution. The masked geeks took a powder. The Miz came out after the brawl was over and acted like he’d been there the whole time. Braun turned on the guys who had just saved him and attacked a couple of them for stomping to the back in a huff. This whole opening segment was a classic WWE “a million things happened at once” segment.

Big E vs. Sheamus
This was a classic WWE match, in that they did good stuff, but the structure of the match made no sense and the finish made even less. Big E shined for a long time, through a break, before Sheamus cut him off with a big knee to the face. Before they could do any heat to speak of, King Corbin hit Matt Riddle with a cheap shot on the floor. All of the lumberjacks got into a brawl, Sheamus got distracted, and Big E schoolboyed him for the pin. Long shine -> cut off -> barely any heat -> heel gets distracted -> babyface wins. It’s such played out, generic, garbage booking and I’m so bored with it.

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro (c) vs. The Lucha House Party (w/ Kalisto)
The Lucha House Party got a title match based on Gran Metalik’s upset win over Shinsuke Nakamura last week, which occurred when Kalisto made his return from a long time on the injured list to distract the tag team champions.

Nakamura and Cesaro attacked the Lucha House Party backstage, so when the match started, they pretty much went straight to the heat. While the champions worked over Gran Metalik, The Miz and John Morrison were annoying in an inset promo. Dorado got the hot tag at about 3:30.

I had just written, “Cesaro is such a phenomenal base for luchadores. He and Metalik could do great things together given the opportunity” when they took the opportunity and went horribly wrong. They tried to pull off what I assume as a flying headscissors suicida, but they did not meet physically in a way that Cesaro could catch him correctly, so the unfortunate luchador landed on the back of his head. They went to the finish shortly after, as Cesaro rolled through on Dorado and caught him with a sunset flip to retain the blue & silver belts.

Kalisto appeared to be chewing out Lince Dorado after the match. They almost came to blows, but Metalik got between them and made peace. Kalisto just returned and they’re already building to a Lucha House Party split that I highly doubt will benefit anyone – though all three are very talented and can deliver when put in a position to deliver. Metalik has a couple of significant wins lately, so I’m choosing to be optimistic and hope that they’ll do something worthwhile with him soon.

In a backstage segment with Interchangeable Interviewer, Mandy Rose said she wanted to make amends with Sonya Deville and not have the hair match at SummerSlam. Later, Interchangeable Interviewer tried to ask Sonya about all of that, but she refused to talk about it. I thought she implied that she would go to the ring to say her peace, but then nothing more was seen of Mandy or Sonya for the rest of this show. I know they’ve both had an absolutely horrifying week and it’s unfortunate that it happened so close to their big match. I don’t know where they’re going with this, and I’m not sure where they should go with it. Given the circumstances, maybe they should just make up. Dana Brooke tried to offer her sympathies to Sonya, but Sonya slapped the ever loving shit out of her, like she put all of her pent-up feelings from the week into that slap.

Edit: Apparently I somehow missed an entire segment that took place later in the show where they changed the match from Hair vs. Hair to Loser Leaves WWE. I don’t know what happened, but it was likely an accident from skipping through commercial breaks on my YouTube TV DVR.

Corey Graves interviewed the Holders of All Women’s Championships, Bayley and Sasha Banks, in-ring. They tried to dismiss the threat Asuka poses to both of their singles championships at SummerSlam, but they bickered over who would wrestle Asuka first. I thought Bayley had volunteered on Raw, but they thought of a thing to do on SmackDown, so they pretended that never happened. The “thing to do on SmackDown” ended up being a Beat the Clock Challenge, where both Sasha and Bayley would face Naomi, win the winner of the challenge facing Asuka second.

Naomi vs. Sasha Banks (w/ Bayley)
They had a WWE 2K exhibition match: they did moves on each other for 3 1/2 minutes, then Sasha won with her hold.

Naomi vs. Bayley (w/ Sasha Banks)
Bayley immediately attacked Naomi as the clock that had counted up during the previous match began to count down. Bayley beat on Naomi until Naomi hit the Rear View out of nowhere and pinned the SmackDown Women’s Champion. They immediately cut to Banks, who looked jubilant that her best friend has to face Asuka first at SummerSlam.

Asuka came out and cut a promo on Bayley and Sasha in Japanese before concluding that at SummerSlam, she would become the Empress of all the Titles, which is a pretty cool title. Asuka attacked and sent both of them running, then danced in the ring surrounded by LED faces.

WWE Intercontinental Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy spent most of the night in the trainer’s office with an injured knee. A replay of the opening angle with The Group Known As Retribution showed that AJ Styles took out Hardy’s knee from behind in the melee in order to gain the edge in their scheduled title match.

Hardy came out in knee brace, limping. Styles attacked the knee at the 45 second mark and worked it over for most of the match. AJ cut off Hardy to get the heat right before the break, and Hardy started his comeback right after. He tried to go to the top rope, but the knee gave out and he busted his ass big time. Styles went for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Hardy caught him with a shot to the middle. Styles went for the Styles Clash, but Hardy kneed him in the face in the knee brace, then hit the Twist of Fate and the Swanton Bomb to win his 5th Intercontinental Championship.

This felt like one of those times they do the exact opposite of what they set up for the sake of failing at storytelling. Jeff had a good out for losing, but instead, he just… won. Now the heel will be chasing him to get it back. So they’re just doing stuff. Whatever.

Backstage, AJ Styles complained about Jeff Hardy’s knee brace to Joseph Park(!) and Interchangeable Interviewer.

As much as I question the booking of the Styles/Hardy match, I wish it had closed the show instead of what actually did.

In the Firefly Fun House, Bray Wyatt talked about how love is bad causes problems. He droned on and on while I answered some text messages. Then, Braun Strowman invaded the Firefly Fun House and kicked Bray’s ass.

Where is the Firefly Fun House? I would have thought that after Seth found it and burned it down, Bray would realize the propriety of using his magic powers to keep the Firefly Fun House in another dimension where it’s safe from vengeful babyfaces. Instead, it’s just in the Amway Center.

Back from break, Braun and Bray brawled backstage. Say that 5 times fast. Braun chokeslams Bray off of a ledge onto a crash pad to his death. The ambulance arrived immediately. EMTs and referees haphazardly lifted the terribly injured man onto the stretcher and loaded him into the ambulance.

The ambulance started to drive away, then stopped and reversed back to where Adam Pearce and all of the other officials were. You could see through the back windows that the ambulance was filling with smoke. Then, the light inside the ambulance turned red. They showed the faces of all of the horrified onlookers, then switched back to a shot of the ambulance, from whence The Fiend had emerged. He stuck his tongue out and cackled as the show ended. The final angle for the Universal Championship match at SummerSlam was some horrible horror movie bullshit.

The ThunderDome may make the show look better, but it didn’t do anything to improve the creative direction of SmackDown.

I hope you liked this review.

Results:

  • Big E def. Sheamus by pin via schoolboy.
  • WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro (c) def. The Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado) (5:33) when Cesaro pinned Dorado via sunset flip.
  • Beat the Clock Challenge: Sasha Banks def. Naomi (3:39) by submission via Bank Statement.
  • Beat the Clock Challenge: Naomi def. Bayley (1:55) by pin via Rear View.
  • WWE Intercontinental Championship: Jeff Hardy def. AJ Styles (c) (11:18) by pin via Swanton Bomb. NEW CHAMPION!