By Jake Barnett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,127)
Tampa, Florida at Tropicana Field
Aired live on March 26, 2021 on Fox
A Fastlane recap aired that focused on Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, and Edge. The fallout from their match at Fastlane was shown, with Roman Reigns retaining the Universal Championship after the visual tapout to Daniel Bryan.
Daniel Bryan made his way out to the ring for the opening segment. He was carrying a chair and wearing ring gear. Bryan grabbed a microphone and said that everyone saw the truth. Everyone saw the reality, and everyone saw what Roman said had never happened before. Everyone saw Roman tap out. He said Roman never tapped out in his entire career, and that Roman had stated he would die before he tapped out. Bryan said the good news is that Roman Reigns is alive, and that Roman Reigns had tapped out to Daniel Bryan.
He then said that in a perfect world, what that would mean is that he would be standing in the ring as the Universal Champion, and he would be heading to the Main Event at WrestleMania, but none of that happened because Edge hit him across the back with a steel chair. Bryan referenced Edge telling him he wasn’t going about this the right way, and Bryan said he had enough. He was tired of doing things the right way, and standing on the sidelines while people had their dream matches they didn’t earn.
Bryan said he earned his title shot at Fastlane, he earned the main event at WrestleMania, and he got nothing. He said he was willing to earn it again, and his demands were simple. He wanted a rematch with Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship, and he wanted it tonight. Bryan then declared he wasn’t leaving the ring until he got what he wanted.
He sat on a chair and stared silently up the ramp….[c]
My Take: An effective promo from Bryan, who made his case well. I like the idea that he’s tired of waiting and being patient about getting opportunities, as one of the biggest weaknesses of WWE babyfaces is playing by the rules without any benefit to doing so. Particularly when heels are often rewarded and rarely get a comeuppance for doing the opposite.
Bryan remained in the ring. A replay was shown of the previous segment. Bryan refused to move, and sat in silence. Finally, Adam Pearce walked out and told Bryan he can’t give him a rematch. Bryan asked if he had seen Roman tap out, and the truck would replay it. Pearce said the referees decision is final, and his next defense will be against Edge at WrestleMania. Bryan offered to face the winner of Edge vs. Roman at WrestleMania, and Pearce said it would be unreasonable for them to have two Championship matches back to back.
Bryan said there was a double standard at play, since it was fair for him to face Roman immediately after the Elimination Chamber. He then proposed that Edge and Roman Reigns take place on Night 1, and then he would face the winner on Night 2. Edge walked out and slapped the microphone out of Pearce’s hands on the way to the ring.
Edge grabbed a microphone and acted irate. He said Bryan spoke about this being his last WrestleMania, but every match of his could be his last. This was his dream, and Bryan wasn’t going to take it away from him. He spoke about winning the Royal Rumble at Number One, and Bryan had maneuvered his way into a Title Match at WrestleMania and lost. He called Bryan a son of a bitch and said he didn’t deserve the title match at WrestleMania. Bryan then pulled a double leg takedown and landed some punches to Edge. They scrambled back to their feet and Edge hit Bryan with a spear. He then grabbed a chair and hit Bryan across the back. Edge backed up the ramp as Bryan was left in the ring…[c]
My Take: Edge continues down the path towards obsession with his perfect WrestleMania moment, which is a good thing as his babyface act just wasn’t clicking as a returning babyface. Bryan looks sympathetic here due to the outcome of Elimination Chamber and Fastlane.
A replay of the previous segment was shown. Roman Reigns was shown backstage with Paul Heyman and Jey Uso. He sent Paul after Adam Pearce, and sent Jey along to provide force if necessary. Back in the arena, Seth Rollins made his entrance for the first match of the night. A replay was shown of Cesaro swinging Rollins from a few weeks ago. He was followed by Shinsuke Nakamura. We got another replay of Seth Rollins attacking Cesaro during his match with Murphy two weeks ago.
1. Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: Nakamura landed a hip toss, and then sent Rollins into the corner. Nakamura choked him with his foot, and then landed a knee strike. He then pulled Nakamura to the apron, and landed a series of knees…[c]
Rollins landed a slingblade, and covered for a two count. He covered again for good measure, and got two again. Nakamura landed a series of kicks, and then a sliding knee to stagger Rollins. He then charged into Rollins in the corner, and set him up for a sliding German Suplex. After the suplex, he covered for a two count. Rollins regained his composure and landed a Falcon Arrow, which got a near fall.
Nakamura landed a spin kick, and then a Landslide for a close near fall. He then setup for Kinshasa, but Rollins avoided it and landed a forearm shot. Nakamura applied a cross armbar, but Rollins powered out and then landed a Stomp. He then covered for the win.
Seth Rollins defeated Shinsuke Nakamura at 9:41
Rollins continued to assault Nakamura after the bell. This prompted a returning Cesaro to run down and make the save. He landed a suplex on Rollins and set up for the Swing, but Rollins escaped and ran away. Cesaro called Rollins a coward as he refused to return to the ring.
Jey Uso and Adam Pearce walked into Roman Reigns’ locker room. Heyman started to thank Pearce for not making a rematch with Bryan, but Reigns stood up. Reigns told Pearce that he only gets Roman for one night, and one title defense at WrestleMania. Peace said he understands his point, and he’s inclined to agree with it, but there are other things to consider. Pearce said they would have his decision by the end of the night.
In the arena, Big E made his ring entrance. He was followed by his tag partners the Street Profits. Montez Ford slid down the ramp. They will face Alpha Academy and Apollo Crews next…[c]
My Take: A solid match from Nakamura and Rollins, but it was not much different from their Fastlane encounter. Cesaro and Rollins at WrestleMania seems like a lock at this point, and it has high potential to be really fun and creative. Hopefully they can establish a better story hook next week.
Seth Rollins was fired up backstage, and sick of being embarrassed by the “failure” Cesaro. Rollins said if he stepped in his lane again, bad things were going to happen. Rollins then challenged Cesaro to a match at WrestleMania, and said he would never be disrespected, embarrassed, or swung by Cesaro again. On cue, Cesaro appeared and tossed Rollins into a crate, and then swung him around a dozen or so times. Cesaro then said the challenge was accepted.
In the arena, Alpha Academy made their entrance for the next match. Apollo was out last with what looked like a mace polearm instead of his usual spear. I guess it’s an improvement over the prop spear that looked a lot like a shovel.
2. Street Profits and Big E vs. Alpha Academy and Apollo Crews: Big E charged jawed with Apollo at the start, but eventually checked out onto the apron. Dawkins and Otis started the match. Using his speed advantage, Dawkins landed a dropkick and tagged out to Ford. He tried to leap at Otis for a splash, but was caught and power slammed by Otis. Gable tagged in and began to work over the left knee and ankle of Ford.
From the apron, Ford attempted a springboard, but Gable turned it into a Northern Lights Suplex for a two count. That was a cool spot. Apollo Crews tagged in and landed some strikes, and then jawed with Big E. Ford landed an enziguri, and made a hot tag to Big E. Gable then tagged in, and landed a series of suplexes and a splash on Gable. He also knocked Otis off the apron. Big E went for the Big Ending, but he avoided it. Big E planted Gabled with a Uranage, but the match started to break down.
Everyone in the ring now, and Gable landed a big suplex on Angelo Dawkins. Ford dove on Otis and Gable at ringside. Apollo Crews then landed an Olympic Slam on Big E in the ring and got the win.
Alpha Academy and Apollo Crews defeated The Street Profits and Big E at 4:21
After the match, the announce team said Apollo now had momentum going towards Wrestlemania. They then cut in a video package where Sami Zayn assaulted Kevin Owens last week. The KO Show is up next with Sami Zayn as his guest…[c]
My Take: Gable really showed out with some of his suplexes in the tag match. I guess WWE took the path of least resistance to another Big E and Apollo rematch by having the champion take another non-title loss. That’s a big meh from me.
Backstage, Edge approached Adam Pearce and asked him if he was going to reward Daniel Bryan after he lost to Roman Reigns twice. Pearce said his responsibility is to WWE, not Edge or Roman or Bryan. He said he would gather all the facts and make a decision at the end of the night. Edge told him he should make the right decision….or else.
In the ring, Kevin Owens said that the last few weeks he has tried to tell Sami Zayn that he doesn’t believe in his conspiracy theories, but that he still had his back. All that got him was his head kicked off last week, and Sami was the only man who could answer his questions. He demanded Sami come out, and he did after a delay.
Sami said he was sorry for what he did last week. He had no business kicking him that hard, or at all, and that the conspiracy stuff was getting to his psyche. Owens said that wasn’t his question. Sami made an offer to still allow him to be a part of his documentary. Owens laughed, and Sami said next week he had a big red carpet event for the trailer for his documentary that will be released next week.
Zayn then brought up his twitter exchange Logan Paul, and said he was into the documentary. Sami said Logan would help him get the word out, and he would be there next week at the red carpet premiere to help promote his documentary. He said he would help him make this huge and everyone would see, and Kevin could be a part of it too.
Owens told him he didn’t care about his documentary, or Logan Paul, or if he’s sorry about last week. Zayn interrupted him and said he owed him an apology for thinking he’s crazy. Owens shouted him down and said the only reason he allowed him to stand in the ring without beating him to a pulp was so he could answer his question. Owens then challenged him to a match at WrestleMania, and demanded a yes or no answer. Sami tried to say this was all a mistake, but Owens demanded an answer.
Sami eventually said yes, and Owens said now that he had his answer, he would beat him senseless. Owens then jumped Zayn and stomped on him in the corner. Zayn tried to bail to ringside, but Owens landed a lariat on the floor. Back in the ring, Owens landed a stunner and looked over him.
Backstage, Bryan approached Adam Pearce and told him that he knows what the right decision is, all he has to do is make it…
My Take: I was hoping they wouldn’t take the obvious path here, but it appears Bryan is being added to the title match so neither Edge or Roman has to take a loss. If they were worried about that all along, why book the match in the first place?
A video package aired that recapped the Women’s Tag Team Championship match from Fastlane, and the subsequent breakdown of the Banks and Belair team. Backstage, Kayla Braxton interviewed Bianca Belair. She asked about being slapped by Sasha Banks, and she said her Mom taught her to be the bigger person. She then said she would be the better person at WrestleMania. Belair said Sasha calls herself the boss and the standard, but she was just a little bit better. She said she was better enough to make history at WrestleMania. Belair said she had some unfinished business with Natalya, so everyone should send their kids out of the room, because nobody should see what she’s about to do.
Belair made her entrance in the arena, followed by Natalya. She was accompanied by Tamina. Footage was shown from last Friday where Natalya and Tamina took down Belair after Banks bailed on her.
3. Bianca Belair vs. Natalya: Belair landed a shoulder tackle, and Natalya bailed to ringside. Natalya recovered and dropped Belair with suplex. She then hit the ropes, but Belair scrambled to her feet and avoided a splash. Sasha Banks made her ring entrance, which caused Belair to lose focus, and Tamina landed a free shot that sent Belair to the floor. Sasha talked some trash…[c]
Sasha joined on commentary as Natalya had Belair in a surfboard. Belair escaped and landed some forearm strikes. She then went for a powerbomb, but Natalya reversed into a huracarrana. Both women collided in the ring to buy some time for Sasha to go off on commentary. They both struggled to their feet, and Belair landed a spinebuster for a near fall. She then went for a rope assisted moonsault, and Natalya failed to get out of the way in time, so it partially connected.
Natalya recovered and landed a suplex for a two count. Natalya went for a Sharpshooter, but Bianca used her leg strength to push her away. Bianca then rolled to the floor to recover. She then talked some trash to Sasha, and slapped her across the face. In the ring, BelAir landed a KOD for the win.
Bianca Belair defeated Natalya at 9:24
After the match, Banks ran in and landed a backstabber, and stood over Belair to end the segment. Backstage, Edge walked into Roman’s locker room. Jey Uso got in his face, and Roman said he almost respected him for having the balls to come in there. Edge told Roman that Bryan was trying to steal their spotlight, and he had done it before in 2014. He told Roman if he has the kind of stroke he says he does, he should use it. He asked him to think about the fact that Edge can beat Bryan and not him if he’s involved….[c]
My Take: Edge is playing the manipulator in this scenario, which is a much better fit for his strengths as a promo. Belair vs Natayla was enjoyable aside from a few clunky moments. Belair’s promo before the match was one of her better performances on the main roster. I hope we get a promo segment between them before WrestleMania to really cement the story and what’s at stake for both of them.
The announce team went over the WrestleMania card. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens, Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins, and Apollo vs. Big E were all added to the card. Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler were in the ring. Ziggler will go one on one with Rey Mysterio. Rey made his ring entrance with Dominick. A picture in picture promo aired where Rey spoke about becoming a tag team champion with his son, and how it would put him on top of the world.
4. Dolph Ziggler vs. Rey Mysterio: Ziggler jumped out to an early advantage, and used his size advantage to push around Rey in the corner. Rey escaped and landed a flying headscissors, and put Ziggler in position for a 619. Rey hit the ropes, but ate a back elbow from Ziggler. Dolph then picked up Rey for a powerbomb, but Rey reversed and sent him to the floor. On the outside, Ziggler powerbombed Rey over the barricade and into the area with virtual fans. He then superkicked Dominick when he tried to check on Rey…[c]
Ziggler continued in control of the match, and choked Rey on the bottom rope in the corner. He then placed Rey on the top rope, but fortunes reversed as Ziggler got dumped into the ring and Rey landed a seated Senton. Rey followed up with a kick, and covered for a near fall. Ziggler recovered and planted Mysterio, followed by a Fameasser for a close near fall. He then covered for a close near fall. Ziggler went for a superkick, but Rey tripped him into the ropes.
Rey went for a 619, but Roode jumped in the ring to stop it. Dominick confronted Roode, but got tossed out of the ring. Rey sent Roode out to the floor and set up a springboard onto him, but Dolph pulled him into the ring with a Zig Zag for a close near fall. Dolph then set up for another Powerbomb, but Rey sent him into the ropes yet again and landed a 619. He followed up with a Springboard Splash for the win.
Rey Mysterio defeated Dolph Ziggler at 9:17
After the match, Rey celebrated with Dominick, and they headed up the ramp. Adam Pearce passed them on his way to the ring. Roman then made his entrance with Jey Uso and Paul Heyman. Cole and Graves then announced Kane and The Great Khali for the 2021 Hall of Fame class. Reigns circled Pearce after he got in the ring…[c]
My Take: Some fun spots in that Rey vs. Ziggler match, but it felt like yet another excuse to set up a title match with a non-title loss for a champion. It would be nice to see WWE place even a small amount of effort into more detailed storytelling in the mid and undercard.
Edge made his entrance after the break. He was pacing as Daniel Bryan made his entrance. Bryan made his way out after making them wait for a few seconds. Pearce laid out the details, and said it made sense that Edge and Roman didn’t want two title matches in one night, or to defend on two different nights. He also said it makes sense that Daniel Bryan gets another shot, given what had happened at Fastlane. He also acknowledged the double standard at play at Elimination Chamber. Therefore, Roman will only defend the title once, and it will be against both Bryan and Edge in a Triple Threat match.
Bryan attacked Edge and they brawled a bit. Roman took out Bryan with a Superman Punch. Roman went to grab a chair, but Edge landed a spear. He set up a conchairto for both Bryan and Reigns. Jey Uso stopped Edge initially, but ate several chair shots for his trouble. Roman escaped, and Bryan tried to pull himself out of the ring. Edge pulled him back in and placed him on a chair, but WWE officials intervened. Edge landed chair shots to several officials and then sat on the chair in the middle of the ring. Bryan rolled to the floor.
My Take: The Triple Threat will likely result in a better match. It seems like WWE realized that Edge’s work as a babyface wasn’t clicking, and pivoted to a different story for this match. Perhaps WWE decided to stick with Roman as the champion, but didn’t want Edge to take a clean loss, and this was the compromise. It’s hard not to wonder what the reaction to all this would have been from a live audience.