WWE SMACKDOWN PRIMER 6/26: A Tribute to the Undertaker, Previously Announced Items Removed from WWE.com Preview



JUNE 26, 2020

Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves

Top 10 Moments from Last Week

News and Items Advertised by WWE

It has not been the best of weeks for WWE and for the wrestling business. The #SpeakingOut movement has been mostly at the forefront, with NXT UK wrestlers being called out for sexual misconduct, 205Live wrestler Jack Gallagher getting released for the same, Smackdown’s Matt Riddle being accused, and much more across the industry in the U.S. and the U.K. The topic has been well covered here at PWTorch.

If you’re not caught up I direct you to Wade Keller’s flagship show this week with Rich Fann, as well as PWTorch VIP exclusive shows Radican Worldwide (with host Sean Radican, Rich Fann, and Will Cooling who covers the UK scene for the Torch) and the recent Bruce Mitchell Audio Show where he had Jacqui Pratt as his coost. They just posted another show. Wade and Rich’s show is free on the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast feed. I implore you to go VIP to hear Sean’s and Bruce’s shows as well as all other VIP content (Wade Keller Hotline, The Fix with Todd Martin where they covered #SpeakingOut on a special episode this week, Post-PPV Roundtables, On the Canvas with Zack Heydorn, NXT Eight Years Back with Kelly Wells and Tom Stoup, Alan4L ProWres Paradise, and more). All the free shows (Wade Keller Podcasts and post-shows, PWTorch Dailycasts) would be ad-free for your listening convenience as a VIP member.

There has been a surge in Covid-19 cases in several states across the country with Florida being one of them. Renee Young, Adam Pearce, and Kayla Braxton have become the latest to test positive. Kayla had it back in March, so this could still be remnants of the virus. Renee and Adam both spoke on Twitter. Kayla also tweeted but has since deleted her account:

Man. What a few days. My show gets cancelled and I get Covid. Wear your masks and wash your hands. Stay safe, everyone ❤️

— Renee Young (@ReneeYoungWWE) June 25, 2020

Covid was NOT on my birthday list. pic.twitter.com/PbGol7w30H

— Adam Pearce (@ScrapDaddyAP) June 25, 2020

Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that several other WWE personnel have tested positive for the virus as well:

EXCLUSIVE: @WrestlingSheet has learned multiple people in WWE who have been at the Performance Center tested positive for COVID-19 this week, including in-ring talent. https://t.co/eoHrEc7yjn

— Ryan Satin (@ryansatin) June 24, 2020

We continue to head towards Extreme Rules which takes place July 19. On Raw we found out that Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode completed the trade that sent A.J. Styles to Smackdown. In addition, Sasha Banks of Smackdown challenged Asuka for the Raw Women’s Championship. Sasha, of Smackdown, currently holds the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship with Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley.

WWE had a preview up until yesterday that has since been changed. It featured these items, which were advertised in a commercial as well:

A.J. Styles and Drew Gulak set for Intercontinental Championship clash.
How will Braun Strowman respond to Bray Wyatt’s chilling re-emergence?
Sheamus to raise a glass to Jeff Hardy

They have since changed it to “A Special Tribute to the Undertaker” as a result of his announcing his retirement in the final episode of “The Last Ride” five-episode series that aired on the WWE Network. The other items have been removed from the preview. What I will do here is discuss the tribute, but I will leave the previously advertised items on this week’s primer as WWE is saying “join Smackdown in honoring The Undertaker and much more in another action-packed Friday night.” I don’t know if the “much more” means they’ll still have the other stuff on the show. They’re supposed to film two weeks of Smackdown and Raw over the next few days, but who knows what’s going to happen with all the COVID-positive tests coming out.

Tribute to the Undertaker

The Undertaker announced his retirement on the final episode of “The Last Ride” five-episode series that aired on the WWE Network.

The man who the late great Gorilla Monsoon dubbed as “The Phenom” made his chilling debut at Survivor Series 1990 as WWE Hall of Famer “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s mystery partner. To show how much greatness was involved in that match, their partners were fellow HOFers Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and the Honky Tonk Man. Their opponents were the Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, and “The Birdman” Koko B. Ware. All those wrestlers are in the hall. He soon went on to defeat Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship, but had it taken away because of Ric Flair’s interference.

He wouldn’t taste gold until defeating Psycho Sid for the top prize at WrestleMania 13. He very quietly began what was known as “The Streak” which began by defeating Hall of Famer “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka at WrestleMania 7. That lasted until WrestleMania 30 when he shockingly lost to Brock Lesnar. The people he defeated at ‘Mania includes Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Diesel, Kane, Big Boss Man, Triple H (three times), Edge, Batista, CM Punk, and Shawn Michaels whom he famously “retired” at WrestleMania 26. His second WrestleMania loss came to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33, a match he’s admitted he regrets. It was supposed to be a passing of the torch as the ring was always “his yard” and it was to be Roman’s. We all remember the “this is my yard now” promo the night after that ‘Mania.

Undertaker won multiple championships in WWE, but his character and storylines always took precedence. He had a long-standing feud and partnership with his on-screen brother Kane. One of his greatest feuds was with Mankind (Mick Foley) and who could forget their Hell in a Cell match in 1998 where ‘Taker threw Mankind off the top of the cage and onto the announce table. He later had feuds with Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, JBL, and Randy Orton. He had WrestleMania matches with Flair and Orton. I could go on and on.

Tonight, they will re-air the Boneyard Match against A.J. Styles from WrestleMania as part of the tribute. Here’s a tweet from A.J. paying respect to the Undertaker:

Still floored by the experience and reaction to the #BoneyardMatch at #WrestleMania.
If it was the last time @undertaker laced up his boots, I’m honored it was against me. #TheLastRide https://t.co/qzofoKEn2Q

— AJStyles.Org (@AJStylesOrg) June 21, 2020

Frank’s Analysis: I’m fairly good with words, but I find it a little hard to come up with something appropriate here. I don’t know my wrestling fandom without the Undertaker. I’ll never forget watching that Survivor Series where he debuted in my uncle’s basement, and the two of us looking at each other and saying, “where did they find this guy?” I was a part-time viewer of WCW at the time, but I didn’t retain much, so I didn’t know he was “Mean” Mark Callous. That said, I couldn’t have imagined him becoming the beloved figure he became through the years. I remember when he turned babyface against Jake Roberts in 1992. It was weird, but it felt right! Anyway, while I don’t know my fandom without the Undertaker, it is time. His matches have not been good as of late. You don’t want to see a great performer especially one of your favorites at such a low level. There comes a time when enough is enough. He’s left a legacy like no other. The one match we’ll never see is him vs. Sting. Is the discussion of “what could have been” better than them having the match?

Previously Advertised Items

Intercontinental Championship: A.J. Styles (champ) vs. Drew Gulak

Last week, A.J. Styles had a “championship presentation” one week after defeating Daniel Bryan in an epic final match of the Intercontinental Championship tournament. He requested that Bryan, standing at ring side with most of the Smackdown roster, put the title on him. Bryan obliged and congratulated him by saying he was the better man. He also recommended he defend the title against Drew Gulak, who had defeated him two weeks prior. A.J. said he would do things his way, not offer handouts, and only defend against the number one contender. The next one to “run their mouth” would deal with the consequences. Out came Matt Riddle, making his Smackdown debut.

It looked like Riddle would challenge for the title but A.J. squashed that by saying “no shirt, no shoes, no title match.” He of course was referring to Riddle wrestling barefoot. That said, Riddle said he heard A.J. was the “face that runs the place,” but he’ll be the “bro that runs the show.” (That was kinda cool). They went on to have about a 13-minute match, won by Riddle when he hit his signature Bro-Derek slam for the win.

A.J. will have to re-focus on Gulak tonight, as his Intercontinental Championship is on the line. Here’s Gulak talking in one of his tweets:

Will lightning strike twice for Drew Gulak when he faces @AJStylesOrg for the #ICTitle on #SmackDown? 🪁 pic.twitter.com/GVfRSyEXfL

— Drew Gulak (@DrewGulak) June 25, 2020

Frank’s Analysis: Styles vs. Riddle is a hell of a way for Riddle to make his debut, but I just wish they built towards that match. Depending on what happens with Riddle with the sexual allegations, I could see Riddle unseating him for the IC title down the line. Having beaten him in a non-title match would certainly help him stake his claim. It does bother me that ANOTHER mid-card champion loses a non-title match. I’m not against that happening now and then, but they do it so much. Also, A.J. deciding the title isn’t on the line is stupid. It’s not that I want to see an on-screen authority figure, but it looks like nobody oversees Raw or Smackdown. Somebody must make decisions and the path to earning a title match should be more defined. That said, Gulak getting a title match makes sense since he beat A.J. three weeks ago.

Universal Champion Braun Strowman Responds to Bray Wyatt

Last week, Bray Wyatt returned to WWE TV with the Firefly Funhouse. We hadn’t seen Bray since losing his match to Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship at Money in the Bank. As Bray was talking, Braun’s music played, and he came to the ring. He said the story between them was over, and there would be no more games. Next thing we know, Bray reverted to his Wyatt Family leader character of 2013-2018. He said to move forward he had to go back to where it all began and destroy Braun whom he claims he made. Braun was a member of the Wyatt Family briefly from 2015-2016 before the second iteration of the roster split. Bray went to Smackdown while Braun went to Raw.

Tonight, we’ll see the follow-up and how Braun responds to seeing his former “leader” re-emerge. Here’s Bray in a tweet. I swear I think former Wyatt Family member Erick Rowan is in the photo:

Daddy’s back#LetTheSinBegin
Always….#DownWithTheMachine pic.twitter.com/DF1U9jdKEE

— Bray Wyatt (@WWEBrayWyatt) June 20, 2020

Frank’s Analysis: I may be in the minority, but I don’t mind seeing “cult leader” Bray come back. It may be a way to delay the Fiend from coming back, which would logically take place at SummerSlam. So are Firefly Funhouse host, Cult Leader, and the Fiend the three faces of Bray Wyatt just like Cactus Jack, Dude Love, and Mankind were the three faces of Mick Foley?

Sheamus Toasts Jeff Hardy

Last week, Jeff Hardy gave a passionate interview with Renee Young. He talked about the struggles in his life, and how it feels like he’s been trying to turn things around his whole life. He talked about catching himself before he falls completely out of control, and how Sheamus is the latest obstacle in his life he must overcome. For all intents and purposes, he called him a bully, which fits with how Sheamus has acted towards Jeff as of late. It’s not the biggest obstacle in his life, but he will overcome him. Sheamus defeated Jeff at Backlash.

Later in the show, Sheamus was interviewed for a response. He said he wish he crushed Jeff’s voice box so he wouldn’t have to hear the “garbage coming out of his mouth.” He said if Jeff can’t lift himself up, he would do it for him the way a “proper Irishman can.” He said he would toast the one-and-only Jeff Hardy next week (tonight).

Frank’s Analysis: On one hand I like they’re putting something to this feud which ultimately makes me want to see matches between them. On the other I still don’t like exploiting Jeff’s demons as they bring alcohol into the feud. We don’t know how Jeff’s issues with drugs and alcohol have affected his family life. I get this is entertainment, but some things just cross the line for me.

Other Match Results and News Items from Last Week:

Shorty G defeated Mojo Rawley. By the way did they ever explain how Mojo moved to Smackdown? He was drafted to Raw in October and competed on the show.

Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville aired more dirty laundry on Miz TV.

Smackdown Tag Team Champions New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) defeated Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado) in a non-title match. Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro attacked New Day after the match. They had defeated them a week earlier in a non-title match. Cesaro went to the commentary table and said they were tired of being overlooked.
Sasha Banks defeated Nikki Cross. Sasha and Bayley were on guest commentary for the New Day vs. Lucha House Party match. Nikki attacked them from behind. Bayley once again volunteered Sasha for a match.

Final Thoughts

My focus is on the Undertaker tonight. There’s so much negativity going on in wrestling right now that tonight, I just want to think about something positive. There’ll never be another like “the Dead Man.” While it’s time, I’m still going to miss seeing him regularly. He is without question, the greatest gimmick character of all time in WWE.

Follow Frank on Twitter @FrankPeteani. Questions and discussion are welcome. Thank you for reading!