4/23 WWE Friday Night Smackdown results: Powell’s review of Apollo Crews defending the Intercontinental Championship, Cesaro and Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins and Jey Uso, the build to WrestleMania Backlash

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,131)
Live from Tampa, Florida at Yuengling Center
Aired April 23, 2021 on Fox

[Hour One] Smackdown opened with a recap of the Roman Reigns, Cesaro, Jey Uso, and Seth Rollins related segments from last week’s show… Michael Cole and Pat McAfee were on commentary, and Greg Hamilton was the ring announcer…

Cesaro stood in the ring for a promo, but he was immediately interrupted by Seth Rollins, who mockingly called him the man of the hour. Rollins said he came out to congratulate Cesaro on finally fulfilling his potential. Rollins said the reason he did was because he shared a ring with him at WrestleMania.

Rollins said he gave Cesaro the performance of his life and brought him to the promised land. Rollins took issue with Cesaro wanting to move on from him, adding that nothing is over until he says it’s over. Rollins blamed Mother Nature and God for creating a rain delay that threw him off his game at WrestleMania.

Cesaro challenged Rollins to face him on the spot. Rollins teased doing so, then stopped at the bottom of the ramp when Jey Uso made his entrance. Uso said Cesaro can’t beat him or Roman Reigns. Uso said Cesaro didn’t get the message last week, but he would show him tonight. Rollins told Uso that they should work together. They came up with a plan to approach Cesaro from opposite sides of the ring.

Daniel Bryan made his entrance and joined Cesaro inside the ring. Bryan stopped the heels from leaving and accused them of not coming out for the reasons they claimed. Bryan said Rollins was upset over Cesaro beating him at WrestleMania, and Uso probably came out because Reigns told him to.

Bryan said he came out to make sure that Cesaro finally gets what he deserves. Bryan said he has an infinite amount of respect for Cesaro. He said Cesaro has worked harder than everyone, including himself, Rollins, Uso, and Reigns. Bryan said Reigns is only where he’s at because of family connections, while Cesaro hasn’t received a single break.

Bryan asked Rollins and Uso if they were going to fight him and Cesaro now that he made derogatory comments. He assumed that Reigns wouldn’t fight either because he doesn’t actually like to fight. Bryan assumed that the three of them would try to attack him and Cesaro. He said there’s nobody he’d rather fight beside and said whoever was going to come out could come out.

WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman made their entrance. Reigns pointed to his stack and pin t-shirt and said Bryan was the guy on the bottom. He called Bryan and Cesaro losers.

Reigns said Bryan and Cesaro are top tier, main event losers who are legit to others, but not to the Tribal Chief. He said Cesaro is a casino loser with bad luck, whereas Bryan is a stupid loser who talks smack while surrounded by people who want to whoop his ass. Reigns headed to the back while Uso walked to the bottom of the ramp. Rollins stood on the ramp acting surprised that Reigns headed to the back… [C]

Powell’s POV: An enjoyable opening segment with plenty of star power. They sure are going to great lengths to limit Cesaro’s mic time. It’s fine for now, but I hope they will sit him down or do pre-tapes and get a money promo out of him when the time is right. Rollins’ reaction to Reigns heading backstage rather than joining him and Uso in the fight was interesting.

1. Cesaro and Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins and Jey Uso. The teams were fighting coming out of the break. Referee Charles Robinson eventually started the match. The heels were in offensive control heading into a break. [C]

Cesaro hit a popup uppercut on Uso and had him pinned, but Rollins broke it up. Bryan tossed Rollins to ringside and performed a suicide dive. Uso sent Cesaro to ringside and ran the ropes for a move, but Cesaro hit him with an uppercut from the floor. Cesaro went to the ropes and leapt off, but Uso caught him with a superkick. [C]

Rollins got upset and walked out on Uso, saying he didn’t need this. Cesaro superplexed Uso, then tagged in Bryan, who dropped Uso with a running knee and pinned him…

Cesaro and Daniel Bryan defeated Seth Rollins and Jey Uso in 19:10.

Powell’s POV: A well worked match, but I can’t say that I understand the logic of having Bryan and Cesaro win only because Rollins walked out or having Bryan pick up the win rather than Cesaro.

After the match, Bryan took the mic and mocked Reigns while asking if someone was coming to get them. Uso tried to attack, but Cesaro took him down and gave him the Swing while Bryan sat on the top rope. Cesaro waited for Uso to get up and then dropped him with an uppercut.

Bryan told Cesaro that he didn’t know if he was going to come out to accept his challenge because he might be afraid. Cesaro said they were still waiting. They did a bit questioning whether Reigns was really a family man. Bryan suggested that Cesaro swing Uso again. Cesaro obliged while Bryan continued to taunt Reigns over the mic.

Bryan assumed the reason that Reigns wouldn’t come out is because he’s afraid and knows that Cesaro would beat him to win the title in a singles match. Bryan did the “yes” bit and Cesaro joined in…

Powell’s POV: Well, that made it a little better. I guess they had to get Rollins away from ringside in order to have Uso out there by himself, but I remain surprised that Cesaro didn’t get the pin for his team. It will be interesting to see if there’s any fallout for the Rollins character with Reigns and Uso given that he abandoned Uso.

Backstage, Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville were talking when Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez entered the room. Crews demanded silence. Deville left the room. Crews complained about having to defend the Intercontinental Championship. Pearce said Big E would get a rematch against Crews or his challenger Kevin Owens…

Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, and Reginald made their entrance. Cole hyped Jax vs. Tamina… [C]

Kayla Braxton caught up with Jey Uso backstage. He barked that he didn’t give a damn about Rollins or Cesaro. He said enough of the disrespect for the head of the table…

2. Nia Jax (w/Shayna Baszler, Reginald) vs. Tamina (w/Natalya). Tamina’s entrance was not televised. Late in the match, Reginald climbed onto the apron and hopped off when Tamina charged him. Tamina kicked Baszler from behind. Baszler got up and walked toward Reginald, who fell over the ring steps. In the ring, Tamina hit a distracted Jax with a superkick and then rolled her up and pinned her…

Tamina beat Nia Jax in 2:35.

Powell’s POV: It should mean something to beat one the monster heel tag team champions. Unfortunately, they lose most of their singles matches, so this did nothing for Tamina.

Backstage, Braxton interviewed Kevin Owens on the backstage ring set. Owens said it had been a year since his last shot at the Intercontinental Championship. He said he was surprised and delighted. Owens said he would gladly be the person to knock Crews off his royal perch.

Big E laughed and then entered the picture. Big E said Owens knows that it should be his match and his title. Owens said Big E should be getting a rematch, but tonight he’s getting his opportunity. Owens said it was coming up next and he was going to go win the title. He said he would have fun and then it would be his title. Owens laughed, E laughed, and then they stopped and had a moment of tension…

Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman vs. Mace and T-Bar, and Bobby Lashley’s return were advertised for Monday’s Raw… [C]

Powell’s POV: Can anyone explain why they didn’t advertise Crews vs. Owens in advance? I figured Crews would be facing a scrub when he was advertised as defending the title, yet no opponent was listed. That said, I enjoyed the unexpected tension between Owens and Big E characters.

Daniel Bryan approached Adam Pearce backstage and asked if he was going to make the Reigns vs. Cesaro match. Pearce said he would try. Bryan told him to do more than try…

3. Apollo Crews (w/Commander Azeez) vs. Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship. Both men received televised entrances just before the top of the hour.

[Hour Two] Owens applied a side headlock. Crews rolled him into a pin to break it, but Owens then reapplied the hold. A short time later, Owens set up for a dive onto Crews at ringside, but Azeez blocked his path. Crews tripped Owens and then went on the offensive.

Crews sent Owens to ringside and went for a moonsault off the apron. Owens avoided the move and then superkicked Crews. Owens rolled Crews back inside the ring and performed a swanton for a near fall. Sami Zayn walked onto the stage and mockingly applauded Owens. [C]

Zayn was on commentary coming out of the break. Owens avoided a top rope move attempt by Crews and then superkicked him, which led to a two count. Crews came back by dropping Owens on the top rope. Crews clotheslined Owens and covered him for a two count.

Later, Owens put Crews down with a Popup Powerbomb for a near fall. Crews apparently rolled to ringside, as Owens was shown going to the ropes, but he dropped to the apron and then splashed Crews. Owens rolled Crews back inside the ring, but he was distracted by Azeez climbing onto the apron. Crews rolled up Owens and pinned him.

Apollo Crews beat Kevin Owens in 13:40 to retain the Intercontinental Championship.

After the match, Owens gave Crews a Stunner. Azeez did a big windup either punched or spiked Owens with his thumb. Once Crews and Azeez were out of the ring, Zayn entered and danced over the fallen Owens…

Powell’s POV: The distraction finish would have been fine if it wasn’t so overused in WWE. Meanwhile, Zayn continues to be a riot. He’s right there with Johnny Gargano on the list of heels whose segments I look forward to most.

Backstage, Braxton asked Heyman if Reigns would accept Cesaro’s challenge. Heyman said that Reigns would answer the challenge directly later in the show… [C] The vaccination PSA aired…

New Smackdown broadcast team member Megan Morant stood outside the men’s locker room. Crews emerged and gloated about his win over Owens. Big E showed up and attacked Crews while Morant bailed like a seasoned veteran. Several referees showed up and ushered Big E away. Commander Azeez showed up and checked on Crews…

McAfee asked what the hell Azeez was doing by allowing that to happen to Crews. Cole set up a video package…

Aleister Black wore glasses while sitting in a room filled with candles. He said most people aren’t honest with you. He said he would open a vein because he wants you to know the truth. He read from a book labeled “Tales of the Dark Father.” He said the first chapter was The Dragon. They switched to animation while Black read about being taught to become the dragon rather than how to defeat it.

Black told viewers that they are losers and he is nothing like them. He said viewers reveal the true rotten nature of man with their lies and deceit and they transform their children into being bigger monsters than they are. He said they should be scorched from the earth to make room for more fertile things…

Powell’s POV: Is he talking about me?!? If so, I can’t really disagree with anything he said.

Braxton interviewed Smackdown Tag Champions Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler and asked who was next in line for a tag title shot. The Street Profits showed up and tried to claim they had next. The teams bickered and then Bayley showed up and the teams split.

Bayley spoke about challenging Bianca Belair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania Backlash. She said she graciously allowed Belair to work with her, but she never received a thank you. Bayley said she would take back the title and her spot at the top of the division. Montez Ford returned with his phone in hand. Belair was on the line told him that she would be right there… [C]

Bayley, Sami Zayn, and Cesaro were announced as the guests for Saturday’s Talking Smack…

Backstage on the ring set, Belair told Bayley to say whatever she was saying to her face. Bayley said she wanted to congratulate her for making history at WrestleMania and said it would be an honor to be her first challenger. Bayley continued to lay it on thick and left Belair surprised. Bayley returned to the picture and then laughed at Belair for believing what she said…

Powell’s POV: It won’t create any long term issues, but why make the Smackdown Women’s Champion look like a gullible moron?

4. Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio vs. “Alpha Academy” Chad Gable and Otis. Cole speculated that the winning team could earn a tag title shot “somewhere down the road.” Otis had Dom down and was setting up for a Vader Bomb, but Rey pulled Dom to ringside. Otis followed and clotheslined them both. Gable took out Rey while Otis rolled Dom back inside the ring. [C]

Dominik was isolated by the heels and he eventually made a hot tag to Rey, who performed a Destroyer on Gable for a near fall. McAfee said it’s the best he’s ever seen Rey. Moments later, Rey knocked Otis off the apron. Dom dove onto Otis, who caught him. Dom slipped away and sent Otis into the broadcast table. In the ring, Rey performed a 619 and a frogsplash on Gable and then pinned him.

Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio beat “Alpha Academy” Chad Gable and Otis in 10:30.

After the match, Cesaro and Bryan made their entrance and acknowledged the Mysterios on the ramp while heading to the ring… [C]

Powell’s POV: McAfee seems to have real soft spot for Destroyer/Code Red style moves. He freaked out last week when he saw a sunset bomb, and now he said Rey has never looked better right after he performed a Destroyer. It’s a good thing that Pat is in WWE, because his head might explode called a Rey Fenix and Penta El Zero Miedo match.

Cole announced Apollo Crews vs. Big E for the Intercontinental Championship for next week’s Smackdown…

Cesaro and Bryan stood in the ring. Cesaro called for Reigns while saying everyone was awaiting his answer. Cesaro said that Reigns could either come out and give his answer or they could go backstage and get an answer.

Roman Reigns’ entrance music played and he walked out with Heyman and Uso. The trio entered the ring. Reigns got in Cesaro’s face and took issue with Cesaro challenging him. Reigns said Cesaro hasn’t earned it and his answer is no.

Reigns looked at Bryan and said the challenge goes to Bryan. Reigns said he’s never liked Bryan and never will, but he’s going to give him one more opportunity. Cesaro told Bryan that he has to take the title shot.

Reigns told Bryan that when he loses, he never wants to see him again. He said that he wants Bryan to disappear and never show his face on Smackdown again. Bryan stepped forward and said, “I accept.” Reigns held up the title belt and told Bryan that he would never have it because it would always be his.

Cole said that it could be the biggest main event in Smackdown history with Bryan having a chance to win the title, but if he loses then he’s banned from Smackdown forever. Cole and McAfee hyped Reigns vs. Bryan and stressed that Bryan’s career is on the line…

Powell’s POV: A wild development. It’s crazy that WWE barely advertised anything for this episode, yet they have loaded up next week’s show with that huge main event and the Intercontinental Title rematch from WrestleMania. I am already looking forward to next week’s Smackdown.

Overall, tonight’s Smackdown was entertaining from start to finish. It’s nice that WWE has one main roster show that doesn’t have any trouble filling its allotted time and doesn’t insult viewers with hocus pocus nonsense. I will have more to say about the show in my weekly same night audio review. Let me know what you thought of Smackdown by grading it in our post show poll below.

Join me for live coverage of Impact Wrestling Rebellion on Sunday night.

WWE Friday Night Smackdown Poll: Grade the April 23 edition

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Readers Comments (2)

  1. In answer to your rhetorical question regarding Belair, in VKMs mind all heels are delusional cowards, and all faces have the IQ of pudding. No exceptions.

    • I agree, and it’s mind boggling that it’s gotten to this point. Every major boom period for his business has been built around dangerous heels who get a ton of heat only to be outsmarted and beaten by the babyface in the end, yet he seems diametrically opposed to going with that formula ever again.

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