By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,124)
Tampa, Florida at Tropicana Field
Aired live on March 5, 2021 on Fox
[Hour One] The show opened with a video package that focused on Roman Reigns and Edge, and his choice for WrestleMania. The show then moved to the arena, where Corey Graves made introductions. Michael Cole was in the ring for an interview, and he brought Daniel Bryan out to the ring. Cole explained the cage match against Jey Uso for later, and said if Bryan wins, he would get a title match against Roman Reigns at Fastlane. Cole then mentioned the original match was Byran and Edge vs. Roman and Jey Uso, and asked why Bryan became suddenly focused on the Universal Title, and would forego that tag match for Fastlane.
Bryan said Cole was assuming that anyone asked him about that match. He said everyone assumed that he was a guy that got along to go along, and would just show up and work hard. Bryan said that wasn’t going to be him anymore, because he wasn’t going to let other people dictate his fate anymore. He said Edge and Reigns have their little dream match planned, but that wasn’t going to happen if he had his way. Bryan then excused Cole from the ring, and threw to a video package that recapped his performance at the Elimination Chamber and subsequent title match with Roman Reigns.
Bryan said he had lost and gotten beaten up a lot in his career. He said you might think it’s not a big deal what happened at Elimination Chamber, but as he watched Edge spear Roman and point at the WrestleMania sign, he had never felt like more of a failure. Bryan spoke about WWE doing personality testing years ago, and how he had the lowest ambition score in the company, and questioned how he was successful. Bryan responded that he loved wrestling, and he never felt like he was working in the last 21 years.
Bryan said he had decided a year ago to become a full time Dad and let other talent take the opportunities, but at Elimination Chamber, he realized he had been a failure to himself by being passive about being put on the back burner. Bryan then said he realized when he looked at the WrestleMania sign that he wanted nothing more than to be in that main event. He gave evidence that he loved wrestling more than Edge and Reigns, because he had more matches in the last 3 weeks than they had in the last 3 months.
Bryan then spoke about how he would no longer allow himself to be placed on the back burner, and beating Jey Uso tonight and Roman Reigns at Fastlane was his only opportunity to get back to the main event at WrestleMania. He then exclaimed that this might be last chance, and Reigns made his entrance…[c]
My Take: Bryan showed good fire, but has a few verbal miscues where he got a thought ahead of himself during the promo. I think this would have come across a lot better in front of a live audience, but that said it was a fairly mediocre promo from Bryan. I don’t think it’s plausible to expect him to defeat Roman Reigns at Fastlane, but the underdog story of Bryan finding his ambition and desiring one last WrestleMania Main Event could be decent if they add more wrinkles to this story.
Roman said he was looking at the same guy, but he didn’t sound like the same guy. He said the way he was talking was confusing him, and it’s especially confusing for the audience. Roman said he was ambitious now, and driven, but he’s the underdog, the lottery winner. He said Bryan waits on the opportunity, and once in a while it works out. But the select few, like Roman, are ambitious. Roman claimed that Bryan doesn’t love wrestling, he needs it because it’s all he has. Love isn’t based off of needs, it’s based off of service. Roman claimed that love is based off of what we do for others, and everyone else in the company needs him, including Bryan.
Roman said once Jey whoops his ass and he realizes how much he needs him, he will acknowledge him. Bryan started to respond, and Jey grabbed the microphone and told him that this was the closest he would get to the Universal Championship. He said the cage wasn’t keeping Roman out, it was keeping him in, and that he would get him later tonight. Jey tossed the mic and circled around Roman before attacking Bryan again, but this time Bryan was ready and sent Jey out to the floor.
The show then cut to a video package that showed Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin coming up short against the Street Profits last week. The Profits then made their entrance for the first match. They will have another match with Zayn and Corbin next…[c]
My Take: Roman did a nice job of circling the wagons on that promo. Bryan took a bit too long to get to his point, but Roman cut right to it and dug his claws into Bryan’s motivations. Hopefully Bryan will get a chance to fire back with some better material next week.
Sami Zayn made his entrance with a microphone. He said last week was a fluke victory for them, but tonight they would prove it was just that. Corbin walked out and told him to stop, because they aren’t tag partners or teammates. Corbin insisted he didn’t like Sami, and that he was a singles competitor, he asked the Street Profits if they were interested in a singles match. Ford accepted the match, and apparently Dawkins will take on Zayn next. Zayn thought this was a conspiracy, and complained he wasn’t prepared for a singles match.
1. Montez Ford (w/Angelo Dawkins) vs. Baron Corbin (w/Sami Zayn): Corbin jumped out to an early advantage with a spinebuster. He then followed up with punches, and tossed Ford hard into the turnbuckle. Corbin landed a side slam, but Ford clawed back into the match with some kicks and a DDT. He then leapt into a Standing Moonsault for a near fall. Ford climbed to the top rope, but Sami’s crew distracted him. Corbin managed to land End of Days and pick up the win.
King Corbin defeated Montez Ford at 2:26
After the match, Sami asked Corbin to have his back for the next match. Zayn climbed on the apron, but Dawkins knocked him to the floor into Corbin. Corbin then stormed off and told him he was on his own…[c]
My Take: I’m pretty apathetic about this whole segment. Just felt like a bunch of time filling without anything at stake.
2. Sami Zayn vs. Angelo Dawkins (w/Montez Ford): The match was joined in progress. Dawkins knocked down Zayn with a shoulder block, and then landed a standing dropkick for a two count. The action spilled outside, where Zayn took control by tossing Dawkins into the barricade and the ring apron. He brought things back into the ring and covered for two. Zayn then landed some strikes and choked Dawkins using the second rope. He then landed a running lariat, and made several covers that all resulted in two counts.
Dawkins landed some lariats of his own, and a corkscrew elbow to take over on offense. He then landed a corner splash, and a bulldog for a near fall. Dawkins then landed his “Silencer” neckbreaker for a close near fall. Zayn hung Dawkins on the top rope, but was unable to pick him up for a Blue Thunder Bomb. He then improvised and landed a suplex into the corner. Ford distracted Zayn by monopolizing his camera crew, and Dawkins rolled him up for the win.
Angelo Dawkins defeated Sami Zayn at 4:30
After the match, Zayn assaulted one of his own camera crews, and demanded to know who he was, and whether he worked for the company. Zayn claimed he did not know who he was. Elsewhere backstage, Carmella fired Reggie for becoming obsessed with Sasha Banks. He tried to claim he had done everything for her, but she wasn’t having it. Dominik Mysterio made his entrance in the arena with Rey. He will take on Chad Gable next…[c]
My Take: Sami is on a conspiracy downward spiral, unable to handle his own failures. I wish I could be optimistic it was headed somewhere interesting. Reggie was fired, but we’ll see if he finds a way to stick around.
A video package was shown that said Big E will return next week. Chad Gable made his entrance with Otis, while a video package of Otis taking on a new aggressiveness over the past few weeks.
3. Chad Gable (w/Otis) vs Dominik Mysterio (w/Rey Mysterio): Gable took over on offense early on, and focused on Dominik’s left knee and calf. Dominik caught Gable with a kick to create some space, and then landed a top rope headscissors, and then a flying body scissors that sent him into the corner. Gable fired back with a Tiger Suplex with a bridge for a two count. Gable went for a moonsault, and missed. After some back and forth, Dominik pulled Gable into a La Magistral pin for the win.
Dominik Mysterio defeated Chad Gabe at 3:27
After the match, Otis jumped on the apron. Rey kicked him off, and then drove him into the announce table with a seated senton before he took off and ran away. Otis and Gable were furious. We then saw a video package that recapped the segment between Cesaro and Seth Rollins from last week. Rollins was interviewed backstage by Kayla Braxton.
Rollins was upset about the length of the swing from last week, and said Cesaro did that to him because he was afraid of embracing his vision. He said Cesaro wanted to embarrass him, and that he’d never forget that. Buddy Murphy walked up to Seth, and said that he felt like he could assist him with the Cesaro situation. Rollins told him to get out of his sight, and sent him away. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax made their entrance in the arena, with Baszler set for a singles match with Bianca Bel Air. Footage was shown of Bianca knocking Asuka’s teeth out a few weeks ago on Raw…[c]
My Take: WWE is really getting mileage out of poor Asuka’s injury. That was an ugly spot. This hasn’t been a bad show so far, but it’s wild to be this close to WrestleMania and have so many wrestlers seemingly unconcerned with it.
Bianca Belair made her entrance for the next match. Bianca and Sasha vs. Nia and Shayna was announced for Fastlane.
[Hour Two] Sasha Banks made her entrance. Reggie then followed Sasha to the ring.
4. Bianca Belair (w/Sasha Banks, Reginald) vs. Shayna Baszler (w/Nia Jax): Both women traded holds early, until Bianca knocked Shayna down with a shoulder block. She then went for a dropkick, but Shayna held onto her foot. Bianca escaped and rolled up Shayna for a one count. Shayna twisted up Bianca’s wrist, but she escaped. Bianca tied up Shayna in the corner, but Shayna quickly broke free and landed a kick to the chest. She then followed up with a kick to the ribs, and went back to joint manipulation of her left arm.
Shayna went for a knee in the corner, but Bianca avoided it. She then picked up Shayna for a bodyslam, followed by a snap suplex. Bianca taunted Shayna and landed a back body drop. She then picked her up with a double chicken wing, but Shayna somersaulted forward and sent Bianca out of the ring. She shoved Reginald out of the way and near Nia Jax.
Reggie scrambled away from Nia, and Nia charged at him, leading to a collision with Sasha Banks. Shayna went for a Kirafuda Clutch in the ring, but Bianca used her power to reverse into the KOD for the win.
Bianca Belair defeated Shayna Baszler at 4:23
After the match, Bianca told Sasha to do what she needed to do. Sasha then slapped Reggie across the face and told him to respect her wishes to stay out of her business. Reggie looked sad and dejected as she walked away. Jey Uso was shown backstage, and he sat next to Roman. He told Jey that if he wins tonight, then the Universal Title is safe until WrestleMania. He told him if he loses, he embarasses himself and their family. Jey said he’s got this. The Cage match graphic was shown for the main event…[c]
My Take: It just wasn’t Reggie’s night. If I had to guess, he’ll factor into the finish at Fastlane anyways.
Cesaro made his ring entrance. Murphy was already in the ring. Seth Rollins made his entrance to join on commentary.
5. Murphy vs. Cesaro: The match started with Cesaro in control after a waist lock takedown. He then landed a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a near fall. Murphy sent Cesaro through the ropes, and then landed a somersault dive onto him on the floor. Murphy landed a top rope meteora, and covered for a two count. Cesaro shoved him away into the corner, and then caught him with an uppercut as Murphy jumped at him for a flying nothing from the second rope.
Cesaro landed a series of running uppercuts, followed by a big boot. Rollins complained about being embarrassed by the giant swing last week. Coincidentally, Cesaro swung Murphy around immediately afterward. Cesaro then applied the Sharpshooter, and Murphy tapped. Michael Cole called it a few seconds before it happened, awkwardly.
Cesaro defeated Murphy by Submission at 4:12
After the match, Reggie was shown backstage. He knocked on Sasha’s locker, and had the door slammed in his face. He then ran into Nia and Shayna, and told him he reeked of failure. Nia then took a liking to him, and said he’s kinda cute…[c]
My Take: I’m shocked Reggie found a landing spot.
Apollo Crews made his entrance, accompanied by two men in camouflage military uniforms. He carried a very dull looking prop spear that was way too obvious on the 8K camera. Apollo, now adopting a Nigerian accent full time, said this is the real him. He claimed the men with him were from the Elite Guard, who had protected his family wealth for generations. Apollo then said he was bullied in school, even though all he ever wanted as a child was to be accepted for who he was.
He said he was always asked insulting questions about his heritage, and it reminded him of how his ancestors used to hunt people who insulted them for generations. Apollo said Big E humbled and insulted him, and he noticed he was coming back next week. He claimed he was not the man he once knew, and that he was demanding a rematch for his Intercontinental Championship. He claimed he would defeat him utterly, and leave him haunted by his new dominance. Apollo then stood in front of his guards and then smiled.
Backstage, Tamina and Natalya were shown backstage, and complained to Adam Pearce about not being the Women’s Tag Team Title match at Fastlane. Pearce told them that was the match that was made, and walked away. Sonya said she would have made a better decision.
Elsewhere, Jey Uso was interviewed by Kayla. He was quickly blindsided by Daniel Bryan, who left him laying in pain in the backstage area…[c]
My Take: Apollo suddenly adopting a Nigerian accent aside, his promo was connecting with something real. I had a Nigerian classmate growing up in a very white suburb, and heard people ask him some very hurtful and stereotypical questions that were downright racist. The jury is out on whether Apollo can make this character work as is in the long term, but it’s the most motivated he’s been since being on the main roster.
Bayley hosted a backstage version of Ding Dong Hello, and she was rehearsing a new segment where she read “Sweet Tweets” that complimented her. The final tweet she refused to read because it said something negative. She was upset and headed back through the door, and didn’t re-emerge. We then got a video package that recapped the previous week’s match between Bryan and Jey Uso.
Corey Graves stood inside the ring and went over the cage rules. A cameraman shot Corey Graves from a wide angle lens to give the impression that it was 100 feet off the ground. Daniel Bryan made his entrance first, followed by Jey Uso. Roman Reigns made his way out to observe the match. Paul Heyman wheeled a chair over for him…[c]
My Take: Bayley’s “Sweet Tweets” is going to generate a lot of twitter traffic.
6. Daniel Bryan vs. Jey Uso (w/Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman): Jey tossed Bryan into the cage early and often. He then pressed Bryan’s face against the cage so Roman could walk up and stare him down. Roman told him “more”. Jey then drove Bryan into the cage head first. Jey called for the door, and Bryan scrambled to grab him by the leg. Jey landed a right hand, and then started a climb. Bryan intercepted him, but in the process got dropped onto the top rope.
Bryan recovered with some strikes, and began to work on the left arm of Jey Uso. He sent Uso down with a missile dropkick, and then a soccer kick to the left arm. Bryan tried to climb out in the corner, but got set up in a tree of woe instead. Uso stomped on his knee, and tried to climb out himself. Bryan pulled himself up and they battled near the top of the cage. Bryan landed a headbutt, but Jey Uso pulled him into a Samoan Drop from the top turnbuckle…[c]
Bryan and Jey were back on top of the cage and battled back in. Bryan landed some kicks to Jey’s chest while he balanced on the top rope. Jey landed a kick and then a splash, but only got a near fall. Jey tried to crawl out through the door, but Bryan grabbed an ankle. Jey landed an enziguri, but it didn’t connect well. Bryan landed a kick of his own, and Jey fired back with a Superkick.
Bryan attempted a rollup, but Uso kicked out. They traded elbows and strikes on the ground, and Uso got the better of it. Jey then catapulted Bryan off the cage, and caught his breath. Jey got back to his feet and began climbing the cage. Bryan gave chase and they both were on the top in the corner. Bryan managed to slip over the top of the cage, but Jey pulled him back in. Bryan slammed Jey’s arm into the cage, and pulled him into the ring with a butterfly suplex. Bryan applied the Yes Lock after a roll through. Jey reached the ropes, but because of the lack of rope breaks, he was forced to tap out.
Daniel Bryan defeated Jey Uso in a cage match by submission at 13:36 to earn a WWE Universal Championship match at WWE Fastlane
After the match, Bryan celebrated while on top of the cage. Reigns looked on displeased.
My Take: A fine match to close the show. They protected Jey Uso a bit with the rope break, but Bryan gets his match at Fastlane, and that’s a win for everybody. Bryan vs. Roman should be a real treat, as Bryan is still an artisan in the ring, and Roman is doing the best work of his career. Maybe Edge plays a factor in that finish, and we get Bryan vs. Edge down the road anyways? That’s a win-win in my book.