By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,144)
Live from Cleveland, Ohio at Rocket Mortgage Arena (portions from Miami, Florida at Rolling Loud Festival)
Aired July 23, 2021 on Fox
[Hour One] Michael Cole plugged the show’s sponsor and was joined by Pat McAfee on commentary… John Cena made his entrance to a big ovation. Cena told the crowd that they were amped up. He said he understands because it’s been one hell of a week.
Cena said the big surprise at Money in the Bank was a lot of fun and he had to crash Raw. He said he did a little fan Q&A and answered important questions such as how he escaped the alternate universe of the Firefly Funhouse.
Cena said he came back to challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship. He said the fans were excited because they all know that they were a few heartbeats away from seeing him and Reigns go face to face. Cena said he couldn’t think of a better place to do it than in Cleveland.
Cena said there was big sports news out of Cleveland (the Indians being renamed the Guardians), which led to boos Cena said he went to the city’s government offices and had his middle name changed to Guardians because someone needs to protect the small amount of respect that WWE has left.
Powell’s POV: Well, it would an upgrade from Felix. Kidding.
Cena said Smackdown with Roman Reigns as its champion absolutely sucks. He said that’s just his opinion and there are hundreds of Reigns fans out there. Fans booed. Cena said they deserve to stand up and be heard. Cena said no more ThunderDome or LED, they are live and in your face and there is noise on each side of the arena.
Cena said SummerSlam isn’t just for the WWE Championship, it’s a sign for everyone to stand up for what they believe in. Cena asked the fans who they believe in and asked them whose team they are on.
A “Cena” chant broke out. Cena asked the fans if they are on Team Jorts or Team Cargo Pants. He asked if they were on Team Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect, or a team that fans always reject. “Are you on Team Cena or are you on Team Roman Reigns?” Cena asked.
“Speaking of Roman Reigns, where is here?” Cena asked. He added that Roman knows he can’t see him and will realize after SummerSlam that the champ is here. Cena called for Reigns to come out. “Let’s make history, right here and right now,” he said. Reigns didn’t come out. “Um, please come out, Roman Reigns?” he asked.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Paul Heyman said as he walked onto the stage. “Ladies, gentlemen, things that live in Cleveland… John Cena, you have it all wrong.” Heyman said Reigns can’t hear Cena because he’s simply not worth him listening to.
Heyman gave Cena his word that Cena would get an answer to his challenge when and only when Reigns decides to come out and show him that the Tribal Chief is here. Heyman mocked Cena’s song and comically marched to the back. Cena’s actual music played…
Powell’s POV: I thought they might be gearing up for Reigns to check in from the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. I’m surprised that Cena brought up the new name of Cleveland’s MLB team. It’s certainly timely with that announcement being made today, but I thought WWE might just avoid having anyone mention it because it’s polarizing. Putting that aside, it was a good promo from Cena in front of a much hotter crowd than he played to on Monday night.
Cole and McAfee set up footage of Finn Balor’s return and attack on Sami Zayn last week. Balor made his entrance. Cole hyped Balor vs. Zayn for after the break… [C] Sami Zayn made his entrance coming out of the break…
1. Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn. Balor sent Zayn to ringside, then ran the ropes and performed a flip dive onto him a couple minutes in. [C] Zayn performed a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall. Balor came back and performed a standing double stomp, then dropkicked Zayn in the corner twice. Balor went up top and hit the Coup de Grace and scored the pin.
Finn Balor beat Sami Zayn in 8:45.
Powell’s POV: An entertaining match with the right guy going over in his Smackdown return match.
Baron Corbin was interviewed by Kayla Braxton, who asked him how much money he made from his funding website. Corbin said he lost money and had his identity stolen. He said he had to ride the bus and said it smells like curdled cheese and gym socks. “What’s happened to me?” Corbin asked…
Powell’s POV: Down on his luck Corbin is growing on me. I’d really like to see him play a straight forward heel without any silly gimmicks, but I am admittedly curious to see where this one goes.
Big E made his entrance while footage aired of his Money in the Bank ladder match win. Cole hyped that Big E was up next… [C] Shots aired of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrating their NBA Championship win with a custom WWE Championship belt…
Big E stood in the ring and played to the Cleveland crowd. A “you deserve it” chant broke out. Apollo Crews came out with Commander Azeez and interrupted Big E’s promo. Crews boasted about beating Big E to win the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania.
Crews was interrupted by the entrance music for Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode (not the shitty Ziggler song). Ziggler started to speak, but he was interrupted by Rick Boogs playing his guitar and then playing Shinsuke Nakamura onto the stage. Cesaro’s music interrupted Ziggler. Cesaro said he wants the title and added that it was Swing Time in Cleveland.
A brawl broke out inside the ring. Cesaro joined the babyfaces. Azeez grabbed Cesaro and Nakamura by the throats, but they broke free and Big E clotheslined Azeez over the top rope to the floor. Cesaro gave Crews the Swing and released it quickly. Crews rolled to the floor…
Powell’s POV: The segment felt rushed and it was disappointing that we didn’t get to hear more from Big E coming off that MITB win.
Cole and McAfee set up a match from the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami, Florida. Wale walked onto the stage and hyped up the festival crowd. He led them in chanting “we want the smoke.”
“The Street Profits” Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins made their entrance and joined Wale on the stage. Cole said Dawkins would face Chad Gable after the break… [C] Cole touted Smackdown being part of the festival at Miami Gardens…
2. Angelo Dawkins (w/Montez Ford) vs. Chad Gable (w/Otis). The ring was set up on the festival stage. Gable targeted the injured left shoulder of Dawkins. Gable went for a top rope moonsault and landed on his feet when Dawkins rolled out of the way. Dawkins eventually punched Gable and covered him for a two count. Gable came back with a backslide for a near fall. Dawkins got up and hit the Sky High slam and scored the pin.
Angelo Dawkins defeated Chad Gable in 4:00.
After the match, Bianca Belair made her entrance while the Profits were still inside the ring. Cole hyped the Smackdown Women’s Championship match as coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: WWE should really stop showing the disinterested festival crowd if they are going to use canned heat that makes it seem like the crowd is cheering madly. Is the Cleveland crowd watching on the big screen or did they get the six-man tag match that the Big E segment seemed to set up? If they aren’t going with the dark match, they might be setting some sort of record for simultaneously upsetting two different live crowds in two different cities.
Cole hyped Reigns answering Cena’s challenge later in the show… Carmella made her entrance…
3. Bianca Belair vs. Carmella for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Belair did a handspring and then stood on the ropes while slapping her backside.
[Hour Two] Carmella clotheslined Belair over the top rope, then performed a head-scissors takedown. Belair eventually came back with a standing moonsault for a near fall. Belair eventually hit the KOD and scored the clean pin.
Bianca Belair defeated Carmella in 5:35 to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
After the match, Belair walked the ego ramp and played to the largely disinterested crowd while fireworks shot off behind the stage…
Powell’s POV: I assume that’s the end of WWE at Rolling Loud for tonight and perhaps forever. On the bright side, I didn’t see any festival fans throwing anything at the ring.
Backstage in Cleveland, Shotzi and Nox were having issues with the missile launcher on their tank. Kevin Owens asked if they tried to use a hammer. Owens walked away and was approached by Baron Corbin, who apologized while saying he didn’t mean to insult the way that he dresses and looks. Owens said Corbin has had that bad habit for eight years. He said no one feels bad for him. Corbin asked Owens if he would forgive him.
Owens noticed that Corbin was wearing a stained shirt and asked him if it was the same one from last week. Owens took some cash out of his pocket and gave it to Corbin, then told him not to be a jerk to people. Nox and Tegan shot a toy missile out of their tank and hit Corbin right in his Little Corbin. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode arrived and took the money that Owens gave Corbin. Owens ran them off with a chair and asked Corbin if he was okay…
Edge made his entrance. Clips aired of his loss to Roman Reigns at MITB due to Seth Rollins… A Summer of Cena tour ad aired… [C]
Edge stood in the ring and delivered a promo. He said he should be the WWE Universal Champion, but Seth Rollins is the reason he is not. Edge said he thought he had his bases covered by having Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio watching his back due to the interference of Jimmy and Jey Uso.
Edge said his issues with Rollins go back to when they first met in 2014. Edge said Rollins opened Pandora’s Box. He said he learned from the most evil men in the history of the industry. He said he was in The Brood and The Ministry of Darkness. “You have no idea the depths that I will sink to to get the job done,” Edge said. “But you’re going to find out.”
Seth Rollins made his entrance and spoke from the stage. He mocked “Grandpa Edge” for talking about the man that he used to be. Edge told him to shut up because he was embarrassing himself. Edge said he wouldn’t put a hand on him and told him to join him in the ring.
Rollins said he knew Edge wouldn’t put a hand on him because Edge knows what he’s capable of doing to him. Rollins said he was going to talk about how much he despises the city and people like Edge and John Cena who come back and take away opportunities from people like him who have earned those opportunities.
Once in the ring, Rollins said he was thrilled that “Grandpa Edge” was in the ring and told the fans to give it up for him. Rollins said Edge has been a scumbag to him and nothing would make him happier than to crush his dreams and put an end to his comeback story.
Rollins said that when people talk about Edge, they will talk about him being the man who ended him. Rollins said he was going to end Edge seven years ago when he brought The Authority back, but he hesitated. A “you suck” chant broke out. Rollins said that when he gets the opportunity again, he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
“Bang!” Rollins yelled. Edge didn’t flinch. Edge asked Rollins if he remembered what he said about not putting his hands on him. “I’m a liar,” Edge said before attacking Rollins, who fought back and put Edge down. Edge got up and caught Rollins with a DDT. Edge went for a spear, but Rollins rolled out of the ring…
Cole hyped Toni Storm vs. Zelina Vega for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: A good segment. Rollins is trying hard to make his current persona work and he got some heat from this eager crowd. Personally, I find the Larry the Lounge Lizard look to be a turnoff and not in a heel heat way, but rather in that he comes off as beneath than main event because of it. Don’t get me wrong, Rollins has more than proven that he’s a main event player over the years, it’s just that this gimmick feels underwhelming coming from him.
4. Toni Storm vs. Zelina Vega. Vega’s entrance was not televised. Vega went on the offensive until Storm blasted her with a headbutt. Storm performed a German suplex into a bridge for a two count. Storm set up for her finisher, but Vega escaped it and performed a sunset bomb for a two count. There was a spot where both women took turns with go behinds. Vega pulled on Storm’s belt and it came off. Storm performed what was called a Storm One for the win…
Toni Storm beat Zelina Vega in 2:35.
Footage aired of Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso defeating Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio to win the Smackdown Tag Titles on the MITB Kickoff Show. The Usos made their entrance while Cole hyped Jimmy vs. Dom as coming up next… [C]
Powell’s POV: The crowd was flat during the match. Those who know Storm from NXT lately saw her as a heel, and those who don’t probably haven’t heard her talk and have no idea what she’s about. Meanwhile, I feel bad for Vega, who has yet to win a match since she returned to WWE.
Rey and Dominik Mysterio made their entrance while Cole hyped the WWE 2K22 video game…
5. Jimmy Uso (w/Jey Uso) vs. Dominik Mysterio (w/Rey Mysterio). An “U-So” chant broke out briefly while Jimmy was on the offensive. Dom came back and set up for a 619, but Jey pulled his brother to ringside. Rey took out Jey and then Dom dove from the ropes onto Jimmy. [C]
Dom did an Eddie Guerrero shimmy and then pointed to the sky before attempting Three Amigos. Dom suplexed Jimmy once, but Jimmy cut it off with an enzuigiri. Dom tripped Jimmy and then hit him with a 619. Dom went up top. Jey tried to cut him off, but Rey pulled him down.
Dom leapt into a superkick (that missed) by Jimmy, who covered Dom for a near fall. There was a clunky spot and then Jimmy sat on Dom and got the pin while Jey laid on the apron and used his legs to give his brother added leverage.
Jimmy Uso defeated Dominik Mysterio in 7:45.
Powell’s POV: Did you think this was going to be the night that WWE would punish Jimmy through their booking by having him lose clean to Dominik? Don’t hold your breath waiting for such a punishment. It hasn’t happened yet and therefore I doubt it’s going to happen.
After the match, Roman Reigns’ entrance music played while the Usos stood on the stage. There were plenty of cheers for Reigns despite how heavily any mention of his name was booed by the same crowd earlier. Reigns and Paul Heyman stood in between the Usos and then Reigns, Jimmy, and Jey raised their title belts together…
An ad for Raw questioned how Bobby Lashley would respond to Goldberg, and how the women of Raw would respond to Nikki ASH winning the Raw Women’s Championship. The ad also hyped AJ Styles and Omos vs. The Viking Raiders for the Raw Tag Titles… [C]
Heyman presented Reigns with the microphone. “Cleveland, acknowledge me,” Reigns said. “You there sitting at home, acknowledge me.” Reigns said everyone else is acknowledging him, including John Cena. Reigns said Cena acknowledged him at Money in the Bank, at Raw, and earlier in this show.
Reigns said Hollywood fooled him. He said they put a whole new paint job on John and he thought we’d get something different, but instead Cena came out and performed a nostalgia act with the same music, entrance, outfit, promo, and insults.
“It’s the same thing over and over and over,” Reigns said. “It’s like missionary position every single night. And the Tribal Chief, the Head of the Table, we’re not interested in that. No. No. No. We don’t get motivated by that. We don’t get inspired by that.” Hilarious.
Reigns said Cena was right when he said that he couldn’t see him. He said Cena would not see him in the main event at SummerSlam. “Because my answer to your challenge is no,” Reigns said. Heyman held up the WWE Universal Championship belt.
Finn Balor made his entrance. Reigns said that Heyman told him that Balor was there to do what Cena does by acknowledging him. Balor said that he was not there to do that. He said that if Reigns wasn’t interested in Cena’s challenge, then maybe Reigns would be interested in his challenge. The fans chanted “yes” and then chanted that Roman was scared. “Challenge accepted,” Reigns said to close the show…
Powell’s POV: Reigns hit back at Cena in a big way. That was fun. The company tried so hard to protect Reigns as a babyface that they limited his promo time and it always felt heavily scripted and forced. So this is actually the first time I remember Roman really going after someone in this manner. It brought back good memories of Cena’s verbal duels with The Rock heading into their first WrestleMania match. The Balor challenge at the end was surprising. I just hope they’re not going to have Reigns plow through Balor before SummerSlam because it’s not like they have a lot of interesting post SummerSlam challengers for Reigns. Let me know what you thought of the show by grading it below. I will return shortly with my weekly same night audio review of Smackdown for Dot Net Members. Have a great weekend.