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SMACKDOWN SPOILERS 3/21: Caldwell's in-person report from Smackdown TV taping (w/Overall Thoughts)

Mar 21, 2014 - 9:13:09 AM
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WWE Smackdown TV taping report
March 18, 2014
Houston, Tex. at Toyota Center
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor


The arena filled up to close to a sell-out by the start of the taping. It helped that WWE removed a portion of the floor seating behind the announce position to set up the Smackdown pre-show panel location.

Of note, WWE was still selling C.M. Punk t-shirts at the merchandise truck parked outside the arena entrance.

Smackdown SPOILERS 3/21

Tonight: Shield vs. Real Americans vs. 3MB vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel in a four-way #1 contender match to the Tag Titles. Plus John Cena vs. Luke Harper.

Kane started things off addressing Daniel Bryan's beating at the end of Raw. The crowd tried to start "Yes!" chants, but Kane ignored, did not fan the flames, and threw to yet another full-length video review of Hunter giving it to Bryan on Raw, which pretty much took the wind out of the sails of any "Yes!" business for the rest of the night. Back live, Kane talked like Chris Jericho about Bryan having it coming to him. He angrily said this was long overdue, then yelled at the audience for causing this to happen.

Kane then produced a letter from Triple H on WWE Letterhead. Pause for a "You Sold Out" chant. The letter was about needing to show respect for authority. No interruption and Kane left the ring.

Fandango's music then played. His dance-through curtain was hanging above the ring entrance, but WWE opted not to use it for Fandango and Summer Rae tonight. Budget cuts? Time restraints? Los Matadores then came out for the opening match.

(1) Fernando (w/Diego and El Torito) beat Fandango (w/Summer Rae) at 4:56. The bullfighter and dancer had a crowd-engaging dance battle in the opening minute. Then, then mini bull noticed Summer was wearing red and chased her around the ring to laughs. This allowed Fernando to roll up a distracted Fandango for the win. Accomplished the goal - light comedy fare aimed at kids and families.

(2) Dolph Ziggler beat Damien Sandow at 5:50. There were a lot of little things happening in the crowd to take away the audience's attention. Ziggler won clean, then posed in the ring.

On the video screen, Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper delivered a message to John Cena for tonight.

Teams were then introduced for the four-team tag match. The Shield came through the crowd to a "hey, look, wrestlers are coming through the crowd" pop. They didn't babyface up their entrance and stuck to their routine. 3MB, then Ryback & Axel, then Real Americans were introduced as the other three teams. This will really signal Shield as babyfaces against three heel teams.

(3) The Shield (Seth Rollins & U.S. champion Dean Ambrose w/Roman Reigns) vs. Real Americans vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel vs. 3MB (Jinder Mahal & Drew McIntyre) was apparently thrown out at 10:50 in a #1 contender match to the Tag Titles. No official decision was announced, so it could have been Shield via DQ. Shield now has a stereo suicide dive babyface move. This brought all of the heels over to confront Shield, setting up a Reigns-Cesaro confrontation to save for another day. Ambrose was then isolated by the heel teams, which was an odd sight. Included was the return of "Goldberg" chants aimed at Ryback. Ambrose crawling across the ring for a hot tag was also very strange. Rollins showed off some crowd-pleasing moves, then the crowd popped for Reigns delivering a spear on the outside. Suddenly, Kane ran down and attacked Reigns. Chaos then broke out in the ring, so ref Charles Robinson called for the bell.

Post-match, the brawl continued. Reigns and Kane moved to the stage, where the New Age Outlaws emerged and helped Kane take down Reigns. Meanwhile, the heel teams in the tag match beat down Rollins and Ambrose. Kane and the Outlaws then beat down the entire group and stood tall over The Shield in the ring. Big boos for this. Good heat. Shield as faces is still weird, but Kane and the Outlaws played their part well. Kane vs. Reigns at WM? Will Shield help Bryan win at WM? Interesting questions coming out of this. Shield eventually recovered and got strong crowd cheers as they regrouped and vowed to fight back. The individual focus went to Reigns, then the ringside crowd chanted "Shield, Shield" as they headed to the back.

Miz TV was up next as the comedown segment. Fans started heading to the concessions and restroom at this point.

Moments Ago: Kane and Outlaws took out The Shield.

Miz was standing by in the ring. He noted it's been a while, then announced he is in the Andre battle royal. Some boos. Miz then welcomed out his guest, the favorite to win, Big Show. Miz and Show shared a ShowMiz moment, then Show humbly accepted the audience's adulation.

Miz jabbed Show about losing over and over again at WM, then welcomed out a bunch of fellow competitors who will give Show a run - Titus, Kofi, Del Rio, Big E., Cody, Goldust, Henry, and Sheamus, who wanted to fight. Miz calmed them all down and tried to get everyone organized for an impromptu (read: awkward) battle royal. Final Four were Sheamus, Show, Kofi, and Titus. It came down to Show and Sheamus, which popped the crowd. Miz tried to "eliminate" Show, but Show "eliminated" both Sheamus and Miz to "win" the Inaugural Impromptu 30-Man Andre the Giant Memorial Over The Top Rope Miz TV Black Carpet Unofficiated Unsanctioned Battle Royal.

(4) Alberto Del Rio beat IC Champion Big E. at 3:08 in a non-title match. The crowd was pretty delirious at this point and didn't invest in the match or Big E. before he lost. Big E. oddly continues to drift into obscurity.

Backstage: Santino was blushing about Emma while getting his face worked on at the make-up chair. Emma eavesdropped and blushed at Santino's glowing review of her appearance. Emma then snuck up behind Santino, scaring him out of his chair for a comedy bit.

Next up was a Total Divas vs. non-Total Divas tag match posturing as focus on the Divas division by involving Divas champion A.J. Lee, along with Tamina, on commentary.

Before the match, WWE re-announced Mr. T for the Hall of Fame.

(5) Bella Twins beat Natalya & Summer Rae at 3:00. As soon as the bell sounded, a "C-M Punk" chant randomly broke out. The crowd was getting restless at this point. So Nikki tried to get the crowd into the match. Brie then picked up the win for her team.

Main Event replay: Undertaker vowed to slay Brock Lesnar. And he will be on Raw this Monday to deliver the message. Lesnar is also advertised.

Backstage: Heel teams from the tag match were assembled to hear their award for helping out with Shield earlier. Ryback & Axel got Tag Title shots, Real Americans got Tag Title shots, and 3MB got entered in the Andre battle royal. The Outlaws then hugged with Kane as The Authority's new enforcers.

On-stage: Lana told Houston that there is a problem because the reign of the super athlete Rusev is near. Rusev posed on his Olympic podium, then spoke in his native language.

After a pause, John Cena's music played and the kids went nuts for their hero. Kids in their Cena gesr were climbing all over their seats trying to stand up and get a good look at Cena. Suddenly, happy fun time ended when the Wyatts interrupted. "Houston, we're here," Bray declared. The Eminem video then played to hype Cena vs. Bray at Mania as the Wyatts came to the ring.

(6) John Cena beat Luke Harper at 5:28. The crowd was buzzing once the bell sounded. Almost immediately the ritualistic "Let's Go Cena / Cena Sucks" chants started. Cena delivered an early Shuffle, but Erick Rowan walked around the ring, distracting Cena and allowing Harper to take control. But Cena came back with an AA out of nowhere for the pin before Bray could run out of his rocking chair to break it up. Abbreviated, somewhat rushed match. Cena then high-tailed it to the stage to stand tall as the Wyatts sat angrily in the ring. This appeared to be the end of Smackdown.

Kids on a school night started heading for the exits, then Cena took the mic and said the Wyatts's theme reminds him of another someone. Rest In Peace. The bell tolled and Taker's music played. This time, Taker came through the entrance for the full effect. He was dressed to wrestle to get in a warm-up action before Mania. Cena looked toward Taker, who led them into the ring. But, Bray bailed, so Cena and Taker hit the AA and Chokeslam to clear the henchmen. Taker's music played and he circled the ring with Cena. Cena then nodded to Taker and gave the ring to Taker in his hometown for a final pose.

Overall, Taker looks much more menacing and ready for Mania than when he returned. Taker then made his way to the top of the ramp and posed to close the TV taping. Taker hobbled the last remaining feet before disappearing to the back.

No Daniel Bryan tonight selling the Raw injury angle. Kane effectively cut off any notion of a D-Bryan "Yes!" take-over in the opening segment.

Lilian Garcia announced a return date of July 28 for Raw TV. Pre-sale is HOUSTON.

- Overall: Decent taping. The crowd seemed to go home happy, which is good for live attendance, but this didn't feel like a Smackdown in the middle of WrestleMania Season. Part of it is with WWE's roster thinned out, so many wrestlers were used on both the Main Event and Smackdown episodes that it felt like re-run season.

- Best Match of the Taping: Rhodes Bros. vs. Real Americans (Main Event).

- Strangest Occurrence: Dean Ambrose playing face in peril before hot-tagging Seth Rollins.

***

Follow companion tweets in-person at the Smackdown taping @JCTorch tonight.


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