We're halfway through the first WWE SmackDown of the ThunderDome era and I have to say… I'm not 100% impressed. All the screens are distracting. The arena is way too busy and all the LEDs can cause moire effects on the TV. As for the virtual crowd, well, the crowd noise is there… but I'm not sure it's actually enhancing the show. It's basically at a constant volume. You can hear a difference between cheers and boos, but it doesn't get any louder or quieter, so there's effectively no "pops." At least with the trainee crowd, it felt like they were actually reacting to the match.
WWE Smackdown Report for August 21, 2020 Part 2
Ah well. It's the first night. When we left off part one, Naomi had challenged Sasha Banks and Bayley to both fight her tonight in a beat the clock challenge. I'm not sure about the logic where Naomi basically accepts she's gonna lose to both of them with the only question being how long, but whatever. She's fighting Sasha first.
Naomi vs. Sasha Banks
- Naomi gets off to a good start in the ring.
- She tosses Sasha out of the ring and jumps on her, then tosses her back in.
- As Naomi climbs back in, Sasha pulls her so she's laying over the middle ropes in the corner and then hits the double knees off the top rope.
- Sasha works a rest hold on Naomi.
- Naomi makes a comeback.
- But she soon finds herself in a Banks Statement and taps out at 3 minutes and 39 seconds.
The match was kinda awkward. These two were not quite in sync, though the LED circus going on around them probably doesn't help. Bayley attacks Naomi right after the first match and her match begins.
Naomi vs. Bayley
- Bayley has the upper hand from the start and maintains it through most of the match.
- Michael Cole explains that whoever beats the clock tonight will go on last at SummerSlam.
- With about a minute and forty-five seconds left, Naomi pins Bayley.
Bayley is pissed. Sasha is happy. This could, I suppose, be the start of their breakup. Asuka's music plays and she comes out to the stage with a microphone. She laughs at them and shouts in Japanese. She says at SummerSlam, she'll be the Empress of Every Title because no one is ready for Asuka.
Sasha charges Asuka and gets kicked in the face. Asuka runs in the ring and kicks and stomps Bayley until Bayley runs away. Bayley runs right past Sasha on the ramp. Definitely friction here. She does go back to help her after a minute.
In the trainer's room, Jeff Hardy is on his feet and planning to compete tonight. We see a teaser for Firefly Funhouse tonight. Then Kayla Braxton talks to Sonya Deville backstage. Sonya has nothing to say to Kayla. Everything she's got to say she'll say to the entire world. Dana Brooke runs up and tells Sonya she's sorry about everything she went through this week. Sonya says it's nothing she can't handle and slaps Brooke in the face. Then Smackdown goes to commercials.
So just to be clear here… WWE is making reference to the stalker who broke into Sonya's house and tried to kidnap her, in story-line, while maintaining Sonya and Mandy Rose's feud for SummerSlam. But IRL, Mandy was at Sonya's house when this happened. Don't try to wrap your mind around it. Just smile and look at the pretty LED lights.
Sonya Deville comes out with a mic and tells the crew to cut her music at the top of the stage. She responds to Mandy's plea from earlier. She says Mandy is second-guessing her challenge. She wants to know what Mandy wants. Mandy is gonna face her one way or the other at SummerSlam. But since Mandy isn't bothered by the fact Sonya cut her hair and Sonya doesn't care whether she's bald, she suggests they raise the stakes at SummerSlam. She wants a no disqualification, loser leaves town match. Because hair or no hair, Sonya is sick of looking at her face. She tells Mandy to wipe her tears and bring her A-game. She calls her a bitch, tosses the mic, and leaves.
Michael Cole and Corey Graves talk up SummerSlam and play us a recap of the recent drama between The Fiend, Braun Strowman, and Alexa Bliss. Afterward, Nikki Cross cuts a somber promo. Nikki says Alexa seemed a little "off" when they spoke earlier this week. She talks and acts like Alexa, but the Alexa that Nikki knows is warm, caring, and funny. She says this person is "not Alexa Bliss" and it scares her. Nikki has the feeling something terrible is about to happen.
We see another promo for Firefly Funhouse tonight. Is that the main event? I guess so because AJ Styles is coming to the ring now. Daniel Bryan cuts a promo from his house talking shit about AJ Styles. He calls AJ a coward and hopes Jeff Hardy wins tonight. Smackdown goes to commercials.
After the break, Cole and Graves show us a bunch of tweets about the Thunderdome. Graves pretends he loves Thunderdome. Cole shills for Progressive Insurance. Jeff Hardy limps to the ring, selling a knee injury. Cole plays a clip of Styles attacking him earlier in the night to cause it. Hardy has a knee brace underneath his JNCO jeans.
AJ Styles vs. Jeff Hardy – WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
- These two are fighting over a hubcap for some reason.
- Oh wait, that's the Intercontinental Championship. Remember when that belt looked good?
- Styles goes after Hardy's knee early on.
- Hardy makes a brief comeback and dumps Styles over the rope.
- I almost heard a pop on that move.
- Smackdown goes to commercials.
- Hardy is in control of the match after the break.
- He hits his "vintage" moveset.
- Styles returns fire with a Pele kick and both men roll around on the ground for a bit.
- Styles goes for the Phenomenal Forearm but Hardy avoids it.
- Styles locks in the Calf Crusher, but Hardy gets to the ropes.
- Styles goes for the Styles Clash, but Hardy hits him in the face with his knee brace.
- Hardy crawls slowly to the top rope.
- He hits the Swanton Bomb!
- Hardy wins! Holy crap!
So based on the announcers bringing it up, there's probably gonna be an issue with the knee brace. Perhaps a rematch at SummerSlam that will be announced either in the next ten minutes or on Twitter later. Good match though. Short, but with good psychology. And Hardy actually won. A title change! It's rare that something actually happens on Raw or Smackdown, or even at PPVs for that matter.
Kayla Braxton interviews Hardy in the ring. She asks what it means to once again be Intercontinental Champion. Hardy says if you told him this would happen a year ago, he'd think you were crazy. He was in a dark place then. But life is always gonna be a challenge. He's here tonight with hope that things will get better for everybody struggling like HArdy struggled. Weirdly, as he's still talking, they cut him off with his music. What is this, the Oscars? We see a teaser for Firefly Funhouse and Smackdown goes to commercials.
AJ Styles yells at Joseph Park backstage. Kayla tries to interview him and Hardy complains about the knee brace and points to a cut on his chin. He yells more at Joseph Park. Corey Graves shills for World of Tanks and then Michael Cole talks about the return of Talking Smack tomorrow morning on the WWE Network. Now it's time for the Firefly Funhouse.
Smackdown Main Event – Firefly Funhouse
Bray Wyatt talks about Thunderdome and then tells his Fireflies he loves them. But love can be a terrible thing that can have negative consequences. He gets a call on his hand and stops to listen. He talks about Braun Strowman and Alexa. He introduces Firefly Theater.
Huskis Pig and Rambling Rabbit perform a dramatization of the segment between Alexa and Strowman from last week. But instead, they start to make out. Bray is pissed. He says that's not how it happened. He tells them to leave.
Bray says love can only lead to pain and suffering so the best thing is to be more like The Fiend, a being built on rage and fueled by anger. He can't wait to get his hands on Braun. Braun appears in the Funhouse and beats the crap out of Bray. He says he's not finished with him and drags him away. Smackdown goes to commercials.
Michael Cole tells us there's a massive brawl happening backstage. Corey Graves says Braun somehow infiltrated the parallel universe of the FIrefly Funhouse. But I guess there's a portal from it to backstage because Brawn and Bray are brawling in the hallways. There is no crowd noise during this part.
Braun is about to chokeslam Wyatt off of a loading dock. The announcers and the cameras try to make it seem much higher than it really was. They're suggesting Wyatt was tossed onto the concrete, but we didn't see the fall, so presumably, there was a pad there.
An ambulance backs in and Bray is put onto a stretcher. The medics lift him onto it with their hands, which is definitely not how medical professionals would lift somebody up into a stretcher, but Smackdown seems to be short on time tonight, judging by how they cut off Jeff Hardy's post-match promo earlier.
They show a replay of Braun tossing Bray off the loading dock, and just like with the Bar Fight a few weeks ago, you can clearly see him land on padding at least three feet off the ground.
The ambulance pulls away but the garage door is now shut and won't open. The ambulance begins backing up as WWE officials shout at it. The lights inside the ambulance turn red. The Fiend emerges from the ambulance, which is now filled with dry ice. The fiend laughs at the camera and Smackdown ends.
So there's a lot of things that weren't perfect with Thunderdome. It's very distracting, for one thing. The LEDs are hard for TVs to handle and causes moire effects. And WWE isn't used to producing a live show at this scale after all those weeks of taping at the Performance Center, so there were a few slip-ups with timing and the like.
But the biggest flaw is the sound. There is crowd noise now, and it may or may not be sweetened (but can't be sweetened as well as if it were taped in any case), but it seems to be uniform in volume the entire time. I don't know if that's an effect of the microphones on people's devices or of the way WWE is mixing the audio and, presumably, compressing 1000 fan audio feeds into one, but the end result is that instead of the ebb and flow of a live crowd, it's mostly just white noise that changes in tone from happy to sad based on what's going on in the ring.
It did seem like the crowd noise improved a little from the start of the show to the end, so maybe it's just a work in progress and they'll figure it out. It did seem like even a few seconds later, the crowd noise would sound better during a replay.
As for the show itself… it felt almost like an afterthought. I guess WWE was so busy this week getting the Thunderdome ready they didn't have much time to write the show. But despite all of that, a great promo from Sonya Deville has got me excited for her match with Mandy at SummerSlam. Sasha and Bayley are also always excellent. The Strowman/Wyatte stuff was basically spinning wheels. The story didn't really advance from where it was last week. It seems like there are a few matches they're building to that haven't been announced yet, like a Hardy/Styles rematch and something between Lucha House Party and Cesaro/Nakamura.
Then you have Retribution, who brawled with the locker room at the start of the show… and lost. It's never a good idea to have your debuting stable get their ass kicked in their first interaction with their opponents. It's a momentum-killer. Retribution has already looked weak because it feels like a bunch of teenagers causing mischief. I half expect to see them playing mailbox baseball or trash can bowling on an upcoming episode. So on top of that, you show that they're not capable of standing face to face and what's the point even?