WWE Announcer Jimmy Smith has revealed the backstage reaction to Sasha Banks & Naomi walking out during Monday’s edition of Raw.
Confirmed by an official WWE statement, Banks & Naomi left the arena during the live broadcast. A report later revealed that Vince McMahon was only made aware of this just as the show went on the air.
Speaking on his Unlocking The Cage podcast, Jimmy Smith, who was on commentary at the time, stated that none of this is a work, noting:
“We, on-air, had no idea that the main event that I called at the beginning, I’m standing in front of the cage saying — It was a six-woman tag team match including Naomi and Sasha Banks. I announced it as the main event, we showed the graphics, all this stuff.
“We sit down at the desk and a few minutes later it’s, ‘Scratch that, that’s not happening, it’s Asuka versus Becky Lynch.’ Okay, I want to tell everybody here, and I mean this, when you listen to this show, which is Unlocking The Cage, I don’t kayfabe here. You’ve noticed that. If there is an angle that I can’t talk about, I just won’t talk about it. I’ll never tell you something is real that is part of an angle or a gimmick or a work. I won’t do that on this show. This show is not about that. It’s about the workings of pro wrestling. Sometimes we do cover pro wrestling, but I don’t kayfabe here.
“This is not a work. This really actually happened. From everything — I wasn’t there, I was calling the show — I’ve been told, everything the WWE is saying happened. Now obviously there are many sides to a story. I don’t know why Naomi and Sasha Banks walked out. I’ve heard rumors, but I’m not gonna repeat them just because it’s innuendo. I don’t know. But my point is, a lot of people when this was first released on Instagram, half the comments were, ‘Ah, this is a work.’ It’s not. This legitimately happened.
“It seems as though this is a ‘We’re not letting somebody change the narrative here.’ That they wanted to get their version of events out very, very quickly, to show that ‘Hey, there’s no spin here. This is what happened. You might get a different competing story, but before somebody else spun it in a different way.’ From my perspective what happened was, we get on the air and we announced the main event.
“We sit back down and just a few minutes into the show, ‘Hey, big change. It’s Asuka versus Becky Lynch.’ Our whole show format, they all had six-woman tag in there, all of them. As we went through the show, they change those to Becky Lynch versus Asuka.
“You don’t do that last minute, folks. You don’t voluntarily change something huge in the main event. All your graphics have to change. All your segments have to change. All your timing changes. Everything changes. You don’t do that, ‘Oh, because we felt like it.’ That does not happen.”
WWE referenced the walk-out several times during the live broadcast through announcer Corey Graves. Explaining the multiple mentions, Smith said:
“So as we’re dealing with all these changes… Corey graves mentioned them leaving the building multiple times during the show. ‘Sasha Banks and Naomi summarily and unprofessionally walked out.’ Graves said that over and over and over. I thought at the time, remember, I don’t know what’s going on until the show’s over.
“I thought he was just doing heel stuff. Basically. I thought Corey was just burying them because that’s what he does to babyfaces, right? No, no, no, they knew something was wrong, and it was once again getting that story out. Why they left? I don’t know.
“I’m telling you from a broadcast perspective, we had no idea this was going to happen. Once it did happen. It created a lot of problems that I thought our producers dealt with extremely well, but it created a lot of problems,” he said.
Recalling learning more about the situation over the course of the night, Smith said:
“I didn’t know about this statement that the WWE had sent out until I was backstage. I assumed as an athlete, that something physical happened during a warmup. That they were getting ready for the match and Naomi pulled her hamstring… That’s what I thought it was. I had no idea that them walking out, which is what we said on air really happened. I didn’t know that until after the match was over. Not until the whole frickin show was over.
“I can’t tell you why. I can’t tell you the thought process. I can tell you what we know from that statement, which is they were upset for some reason and walked out. I can tell you the WWE was completely unprepared for it. I can tell you the broadcast team, myself included, were completely unprepared for it.
“Becky Lynch and Asuka, I thought, had a great match to fill in that main event spot. They deserve a lot of credit for that… These two ladies are unbelievable professionals. So they really filled in well. All I can tell you from my point is this is 100% genuine. You may doubt it, but it’s 100% genuine.
So where does that leave them? It’s hard when something like this becomes so public… I don’t know Vince McMahon personally. I’m in meetings with him every week, but I don’t know the man personally. I know what you know, which is, ‘Get the events that we promised the fans then we will deal with anything else no matter how difficult, no matter how dramatic the problem is… Get the main event that we promised out there for the people.’
“That didn’t happen last night. So when you look at it that way, how do Sasha Banks and Naomi come back from this? I don’t know because this is not — If this were inside baseball, If the WWE had never released a statement about this, I would not be talking about it right now. Wouldn’t be a public issue. You know, like, that’s behind the scenes. I generally don’t talk about behind-the-scenes stuff. I don’t give away angles, any of that. This is now incredibly public in an almost unprecedented way.”
We will continue to provide updates on the situation as they become available.
Transcription via Fightful.
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