WWF @ Tampa, FL – August 12th, 2017
Live from the Amalie Arena, it’s a Smackdown Live (Almost) Exclusive Live Event. Start time was 7:30 p.m., but things started a little earlier, so we missed the “welcome to blah blah” and national anthem stuff. Thankfully, we arrived to our seats as the entrances for the first match were taking place. Decent sized crowd, although there were huge sections in the upper areas that were completely empty. Also, the crowd reactions for the night were lukewarm at best, except for the tippy-top guys. The show ended almost at 10:30, which seems unusual to me. The last few house shows I went to went at 2 hours 20 minutes or so, including intermission.
– WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day © vs. The Usos vs. Breezango vs. The Hype Bros – Big E. and Kofi are representing the New Day today, and it’s first fall wins the match. I was somewhat surprised to see the Usos receive such a positive reaction, and at least from my section, seemed more popular than the New Day, who did show up with their ice-cream cart. Fandango got things started by wildly gyrating his hips. Big E blind tagged and replaced Kofi underneath and returned the favor, freaking him out, and leading to a dance routine that also extended to the involvement of Mojo Rawley and an Uso. Kofi ended up playing the face-in-peril role, but there wasn’t a whole lot going on worth noting. Ryder and Breeze probably tied for doing the least work in the match, while it was mostly a showcase for the Usos. We got the big finish where everyone started trading spots, or the “we all fall down” sequence, ending with the New Day hitting an Uso with the Midnight Hour to retain at the 14:00 mark. This was OK for silly entertainment, but the wrestling was lacking.
– Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis (w/ Maria Kanellis) – Maria must have different wardrobe approval for live shows compared to T.V (looking very cheeky). Mike and Maria ran down the local fans, saying Tampa didn’t understand or deserve love. Zayn got a decent reaction coming out, but there wasn’t too much heat to the match. Zayn controlled the early moments, but Maria stepped in the way of a highspot, allowing her husband to take control. Basic match, with Mike doing a variety of strikes and rest-holds, nothing that really stood out. Sami ended up making the comeback, and quickly finished with the exploder suplex into the turnbuckle and the Helluva Kick at 9:00. No better nor worse than their match at Battleground.
– Post-match, Maria complained that her husband deserved better treatment and demanded another opponent.
– Luke Harper vs. Mike Kanellis (w/ Maria Kanellis) – Bell rang and Harper instantly hit the discus lariat for the three count, maybe 5-seconds into the “match.” I half-expected them to do the same thing with another opponent, but we were spared that level of shamelessly beating on a heel.
– Chad Gable, Tye Dillinger, and Sin Cara vs. Erick Rowan, Epico, and Aiden English – What a random assortment of talent for the match. Primo is out with an injury, leaving Epico on the Island of Misfit Jobbers. Decent crowd response to Gable and Dillinger coming out, but mostly flat during the match, save for the final 30-second sequence. Sin Cara came out to the Lucha Dragons music, because that makes sense, right? English (and his awesome Starry Night tights) got the best reaction with his singing intro. VERY dull, basic formula match. Rowan got to play monster, giving all three opponents trouble. Crowd couldn’t bother to muster a decent “ten” chant. Dillinger played face-in-peril for a good while. Gable got the hot tag and the babyfaces ran wild, including Sin Cara hitting Epico and Rowan with a suicide dive. Gable finished English with the rolling german suplex into a bridge at 11:00. Worst match of the night thanks to the ho-hum work and dead crowd.
– Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin – Nakamura got the first “Superstar” response of the night, but had trouble getting crowd interest during the match, although it wasn’t nearly as bad as anyone else on the show to this point. If you’ve seen Battleground and their rematch on the following episode of SD Live, this match fell somewhere in the middle. Corbin didn’t do much early, with plenty of stalling and controlling with resting, but got to work in his signature spots like his run-around-the-post clothesline and Deep Six, and got a good laugh out of everyone mocking Good Vibrations. Not that this should come as a surprise, but Nakamura did mostly strikes. Corbin went for End of Days, but Nakamura rolled through and finished shortly after with the Kinshasa at 12:00.
– WWE Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar © (w/ Paul Heyman) vs. Samoa Joe – I was honestly surprised to see this match advertised, considering Brock’s limited non-TV schedule. They got the big match introductions, with Heyman doing the work to introducer his client. Hard hitting match for what it was. They traded power blows until Joe trapped Brock in an extended Coquina Clutch. Brock ended up fighting free and rallied with three German Suplexes and the F-5 to retain at the 5:00 mark. I didn’t expect it to be longer, and was happy with what was delivered. Post-match, Joe acknowledged the cheers as he left and gestured putting the belt around his waist… foreshadowing SummerSlam, perhaps?!
– Intermission –
– Naomi, Becky Lynch, and Liv Morgan vs. Natalya, Tamina, Lana, and Carmella (w/ James Ellsworth) – 4-on-3 Handicap Match, and yes, I’m surprised to see Liv Morgan and not Charlotte Flair. In a pre-match promo, Ellsworth gloated about being back from suspension, and demanded respect for the 1st-ever Miss Money in the Bank. Only good crowd reactions coming out were for Naomi, Becky, and Lana. Tamina got probably the least response I’d ever seen for anyone. I just don’t know how she’s hung around as long as she has. Natalya earned the honor for doing the least amount of work, only coming in for the last minute or so. Tamina got to play the role of Rowan, tossing her opponents around. Becky worked the majority of the match and predictably played the face-in-peril. Naomi got the hot tag and I must say her jumping in place kicks look worse live than on television. We get another “we all fall down sequence” ending with Naomi putting Natalya away with She Calls it the Rear View at 11:00. Only slightly better than the men’s Six-Man Tag.
– WWE United States Championship Match: A.J. Styles © vs. Kevin Owens – I don’t think we’ve seen enough of these two working together recently. Styles got a superstar reaction coming out, and the crowd mostly stuck with him throughout the match. It bothered me a little that he worked most of the match in his shirt, before Owens ripped it off (and in cool heel mode, teases giving it away before casually dropping it at ringside). Owens literally stalled for the first 3:00, and some of the crowd appreciated his efforts in not doing anything physical. He did a good job trolling the crowd and even ripped off Jericho’s arrogant muscle pose cover. Started off slow, but picked up nicely to be considered a good television match. They did some decent near falls. Owens kept going for the Pop-Up Powerbomb, but Styles would counter it every time. Styles eventually finished, knocking Owens off the top rope with the Pele Kick, and hitting him with the Phenomenal Forearm at 14:00. Probably the best match on the show, although you could argue the Main Event coming up was acceptable for what it was.
– WWE Championship; Last Man Standing Match: Jinder Mahal (w/ The Singh Brothers) vs. Randy Orton – This was called the Main Event, even with BROCK LESNAR on the card. I was surprised to see Mahal get a decent heel reaction, so I guess it’s working to a degree. Orton got the best reaction besides Brock Lesnar. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this, but it turned out to be a decent brawl. They did a lot of weapon shots, using the steps, a kendo stick, and a steel chair quite frequently. Mahal suffered a decent cut across his back early in the match. They didn’t do too much of the slow counting, but the match definitely was padded in length because of some counts. Mahal had the Singhs put a table in the ring, and attempted a Super-Plex, but Orton fought out of the corner and slammed Mahal through the table instead. During the fiasco, one Singh brother distracted the referee and helped Mahal up, while the other hit Orton’s knee with a chair. Mahal got to his feet, Orton couldn’t, and Mahal retained at 19:00. Post-match, RKO’s to one Singh and Mahal to send fans home happy. An absolutely LAME finish to what was a surprisingly decent match.
Final Thoughts: As much as I like tag team matches, I felt there was too much effort to put people on the show, meaning most of the matches consisted of talented workers doing or having very little time to work their craft. Seeing Brock Lesnar live was a cool, unexpected booking decision (we ordered tickets not knowing Brock would be there), and it’s always fun seeing personal favorites like Styles, Nakamura, Owens, and New Day, but at the end of the day, it felt like the quality of wrestling was below expectations. Mixed feelings, but overall, an enjoyable experience.