For the last 16 months wrestling fans have known about WWE’s move to Fox on Friday night’s. The move was a lucrative one for World Wrestling Entertainment, which they could not turn down. Fox paid over $1 billion dollars to air WWE’s second oldest weekly episodic program.. The network has been putting on the full court press promoting their latest acquisition. And, it looks like all their work paid off as the premiere edition of Friday Night Smackdown garnered almost 4 million viewers.
Fox and WWE put together a greatly presented open with fresh graphics and new music. A new larger than life set draped in blue lighting, the show’s main color scheme, gave the show a facelift. And, let’s not forget about PYRO!! Yes, pyro has returned to WWE after a long absence. This Los Angeles crowd was hot to start the show.
After an official welcome from WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and his daughter Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, let the show begin. The first superstar to appear — the hottest women’s WWE superstar of the past year, RAW women’s champion, Becky Lynch. A few minutes later, King Baron Corbin comes down to spoil the party. Corbin is a heat seeking missile as the best bad guy in WWE. FINALLY, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson makes his way down to the ring. The crowd even started an S-T-D chant, in response to Lynch calling Corbin, a Super Tough Dude. The 15 minute segment ended with Lynch and The Rock beating down Corbin.
Friday Night Smackdown rolled on with the first match Charlotte Flair and Lynch team up to face Sasha Banks and Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley. The group is considered the top women in wrestling, and are nicknamed the Four Horsewomen. The match ended less than 10 minutes in as Bayley tapped to Flair’s Figure Eight. After a few backstage interviews and highlights from the blue carpet ceremony earlier in the night, match number two got under way.
This bout pitted Universal Champion Seth Rollins versus Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. Bray Wyatt then, interrupts Rollins with an episode of Firefly Fun House. The Funhouse segment is a twisted version of Pee Wee’s Playhouse for comparison. Wyatt and Rollins are facing off during Sunday’s Hell in a Cell Pay Per View. The match gets underway with both Rollins and Nakamura trading offense. After a few minutes, the lights power down, darkening the Staples Center. Rollins is choked out by Wyatt’s alter ego ‘The Fiend’ at the top of the ramp as strobe lights flicker and horror music pumps in the arena
Match of the Night
Match number three would pit Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon take on Kevin Owens in a ladder match. The loser of the match will have to leave WWE. The feud has been brewing for months as Owens has taken exception to McMahon taking TV time away from active competitors. Then, Owens is fined $100,000. Owens then countered with a $25-million lawsuit. Friday’s match will settle the score.
Each competitor put up a hell of a fight. McMahon jumped off the top rope and put Owens through the announce table on the floor. Owens would come back a few minutes later putting McMahon through a ladder propped outside the ring. Several more minutes later McMahon would place a ladder on Owens in the corner and hitting a drop kick from corner to corner. The move took the wind out of McMahon as a couple of minutes later Owens hit some more offense and climbed the ladder to grab his contract winning the match.
Former WWE superstars Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan were seen in the crowd. Even EDM DJ Marshmello was crowned 24/7 Champion in a backstage segment. An eight man tag match even prompted British boxer Tyson Fury to get up out of his seat. Fury had a war of words with WWE big man Braun Strowman. A clash between big men is being teased, as the 6-9 Fury stood up to the 6-8, 385 lb. Strowman. Also, Roman Reigns beat Erick Rowan in a lumberjack match.
Friday Night Smackdown Main Event
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston would battle The Beast Brock Lesnar. Kingston, the 11 year veteran, has had one hell of a year. The Boston native earned an opportunity to fight for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 35. With the 65-thousand plus behind him at Metlife Stadium won his only WWE title match in his career back in April. The crowd is waiting and the bell sounds to start the match. Kingston then runs at Lesnar, and The Beast picks him up into an F-5 slam for the 3 count.
Rey Mysterio’s music hits. Lesnar beat down Mysterio and his son Dominik on the last episode of Monday Night Raw. However, Mysterio came with a friend – former MMA champion Cain Velazquez. The former UFC fighter beat Lesnar at UFC 121 in 2010. Velazquez made his way into the ring and took down the new WWE Champion with ease and even connecting on a few body shots. Lesnar quickly fled the ring, made his way up the ramp, and had a stare down with Velazquez from ringside to end the show.
Graphics were fresh and the set looked awesome. Fox’s overall presentation made it feel like a sporting event. The addition of pyro is a huge element to putting on an awesome show. Friday Night Smackdown was a good introduction to the masses. Somewhat disappointed by the lack of in ring wrestling. However, I completely understand the approach WWE went with on this premier show. Several different characters were highlighted in order to get ‘new eyeballs’ invested.
The way Kingston lost his title, irked me. A 10 second match. Come one!! I haven’t been this mad about a title change since The Rock beat CM Punk in 2013 to end Punk’s 434 day title reign, for instance. But, I have a feeling WWE will try to ‘put over’ Roman Reigns as the top guy and take down Lesnar. The 3.87 million viewers is a very strong showing for FOX. Like I always say… It’s a marathon not a sprint. And, let’s look at the rating 6 months down the road before we cast judgement.