By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Friday Night Smackdown (Episode 1,144)
Live from Minneapolis, Minnesota at Target Center
Aired July 30, 2021 on Fox
[Hour One] John Cena made his entrance after Michael Cole plugged the show’s sponsor. Cole was joined on commentary by Pat McAfee. “The 16-time world champion, the greatest of all-time is here,” Cole said. A video package recapped last week’s developments involving Cena Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman, and Finn Balor.
Cena welcomed the Twin Cities crowd to the show and asked what the hell is going on tonight. He said Reigns is going to sign a contract to face Balor at SummerSlam. He said it’s further proof that Reigns absolutely sucks and is just a scared little kid.
Cena said he has no issues with rejection, but he took issue with Reigns rejecting him because he didn’t change his look. He comedically compared it to Steve Austin and The Rock coming back with campy gimmicks. He said it’s not who those guys are and they wouldn’t beg fans to acknowledge them.
“Roman Reigns has to change every two years because you people stop caring about him,” Cena said. “And you don’t believe in him because Roman Reigns doesn’t believe in himself. Roman Reigns is nothing but a lazy stooge named Joe who coasts by on every gimmick in the system and is nothing more than a blood-sucking product of the machine who is so, so afraid to fail.
“Roman, I would have embarrassed your ass at SummerSlam and you know it. You didn’t reject me because of how I look. You’re afraid to fight me because of how I’ll make you look.” Cena dropped the mic and was cheered.
Baron Corbin came out with the same shirt on the last two weeks and said he and Cena had to talk. The fans taunted Corbin with “you suck” chants. Cena acted like he didn’t know who Corbin was at first, then told him that he looks horrible. Corbin said they’ve never been close, but he’s desperate and his life is falling apart.
Corbin ran through his list of problems and added the injury he suffered to a very sensitive part of his body. He said he’s no longer able to perform and his wife left and took their children with her. Corbin asked Cena if he can help him. Cena asked the crowd if they should help Corbin.
Cena took cash out of his pocket and gave it to Corbin while saying that’s all he had on him. “That’s it?” Corbin asked while pointing out that Cena is a Hollywood star. Corbin asked Cena to put him in “Suicide Squad.” Cena snuck in a plug for the movie opening next week. Corbin asked to be his stunt double. When Cena didn’t accept, Corbin labeled him a Hollywood sellout.
Cena said he would give Corbin something he truly needs. “An Attitude Adjustment,” Cena said before hitting Corbin with his move of the same name. Cena picked up the cash that he had given Corbin and put it in his pocket before leaving the ring…
Powell’s POV: A fun opening segment. Cena continues to hit hard at Reigns, who wasn’t bashful about returning the favor last week. It seems like the same formula that Cena and The Rock used while building up their matches. The Corbin bit was fun with both guys playing their parts well and the crowd having a good time with it. By the way, we have the spoilers from the pre-show dark matches featuring NXT talent available via the main page.
A sponsored ad recapped Jimmy Uso beating Dominik Mysterio with help from Jey Uso on last week’s show…
Backstage, Dominik Mysterio told Rey Mysterio that he would keep his eye on Jey during the Jimmy vs. Rey match. Rey told Dom that he makes some rookie mistakes and needs to step his game up if he wants to regain the Smackdown Tag Titles. Rey told Dom to watch what he does out there while adding that he still knows a trick or two. Rey and Dom hugged…
Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso made their entrance heading into a break… [C] McAfee hyped the contract signing between Reigns and Balor for later in the show… Rey and Dom made their entrance…
1. Rey Mysterio (w/Dominik Mysterio) vs. Jimmy Uso (w/Jey Uso). Rey knocked Jimmy off the apron. Rey went for a head-first slid under the ropes. Jimmy avoided it, but Rey did a somersault and then walked into a superkick. [C]
Rey went for a 619, but Jey pulled Jimmy to ringside. Rey performed a dive onto Jimmy and Jey, then pointed at a smiling Dom. Back inside the ring, Rey set up for another 619. Jey climbed onto the apron and took a clunky 619. Rey tried to hit the move on Jey, but Jey caught him. Jey went for a Samoan Drop, but Rey countered into a pin. Dom climbed on the apron pressed his feet into Rey’s back to give him leverage as he scored the pin…
Rey Mysterio beat Jimmy Uso in 7:50.
Powell’s POV: A case of turnabout being fair play, as this was the same finish the Usos used to win the two previous matches over the Mysterios.
Smackdown Women’s Champion Bianca Belair was introduced by ring announcer Greg Hamilton. Cole noted that Belair has been champion for 111 days. Cole said Belair would address what she hopes to do over the next 100 days as women’s champion… [C]
Cole hyped the Reigns and Balor contract signing for later in the show…
Kayla Braxton interviewed Belair inside the ring and noted that she had surpassed 100 days as champion. Braxton said Belair has been champion for 110 days (I could have sworn that Cole said 111 days, but perhaps I misheard him). Belair spoke about defending her title at Rolling Loud, winning an ESPY, main eventing WrestleMania, and being back in front of fans. Belair said she didn’t know how she would top it.
Carmella interrupted Belair and mockingly congratulated her for reaching 100 days. She said that if she wanted to boost her legacy, she should give one more title shot to her since she held the title for 130 days. Carmella entered the ring and said Belair knows she deserves it and then started making excuses about why she lost last week.
Zelina Vega made her entrance and told Carmella to slow her roll. Vega said Carmella is too pretty to be a three-time loser. Vega entered the ring and told Belair that she thinks the fans want to see Belair face a rising star like her. Vega told Belair to accept her challenge. Belair accepted Vega’s challenge and then Carmella attacked her from behind. Carmella and Vega teamed up on Belair.
Sasha Banks ran out and fought off Carmella and Vega and then hugged Belair. Sasha raised Belair’s hand and they hugged again while the broadcast team noted that this was Sasha’s first appearance since she lost to Belair at WrestleMania. Belair and Banks danced inside the ring together…
Powell’s POV: It’s good to see Sasha back and it was an interesting twist that she saved Belair. I assume Banks is setting up Belair, but I guess we’ll see what happens. I’m just happy we didn’t get Belair vs. Carmella for the third week in a row. And while I like Vega, it would have been comical if she had been given a title shot despite the fact that she has yet to win a match since she returned to WWE earlier this month.
Highlights aired of Reginald beating Akira Tozawa to win the WWE 24/7 Championship on Raw two weeks ago. Cole said Reginald would defend the title, but said the question was who he would face during Smackdown… [C]
Cole hyped the SummerSlam guest ring announcer contest that WWE is holding on TikTok…
Reginald was interviewed by Braxton in the backstage area. He told her to call him Reggie, but a graphic still listed him as Reginald. He said he doesn’t know who his opponent it, but he’s just happy that it will be taking place inside the ring because he’s constantly looking over his shoulder. He said that whoever challenges him should expect the unexpected…
Reginald made his entrance to a flat reaction. The fans cheered when he did his big jump into the ring, then got quiet again. Chad Gable and Otis made their entrance. “It’s not me, it’s him,” Otis said. Otis knocked Reggie down…
2. Reggie vs. Chad Gable (w/Otis) for the WWE 24/7 Championship. Reginald did his usual acrobatics to avoid Gable, who eventually caught him and slammed him face first onto the mat. Gable performed a suplex into a bridge for a near fall. Reggie came back, but Otis attacked him for the DQ.
Reggie beat Chad Gable by DQ in 1:40 to retain the WWE 24/7 Championship.
Powell’s POV: Gable and Otis are locals, so they got some cheers. Reggie’s acrobatics are really impressive and all, but there’s still no indication that he’s catching on with fans as a personality.
Backstage, Sonya Deville told Adam Pearce that all parties had been informed and the main event of the show would be Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks vs. Carmella and Zelina Vega… An ad for Raw focused on Nikki Ash vs. Charlotte Flair in a No Holds Barred non-title match, and a Goldberg appearance… [C]
Pearce and Deville stood in the ring with the contract table and chairs. Pearce acknowledged that things often get physical during WWE contract signings. He said they were there to make sure the contract was signed.
[Hour Two] Finn Balor made his entrance. The Roman Reigns CGI monster was shown and then Reigns and Paul Heyman made their entrance. A graphic noted that Reigns’ title reign was up to 333 days. Reigns looked at the chair and then Heyman moved it to the head of the table for him. Reigns smiled and slowly took his seat while the fans booed.
Pearce told both men to look at the contract and sign it. A “Cena” chant broke out. Heyman passed the mic to Reigns, who said, “We’ve already seen Mr. Missionary tonight.” Reigns asked Balor if he caught Cena’s opening promo. Reigns said Cena accused him of ducking Cena by taking the match with Balor, meaning Cena thinks he’s better than Balor.
Reigns told Balor that if he signed the contract, he would smash him and send him right back to NXT. Reigns heard a small “Roman sucks” chant and looked in the area where it was coming from and then it grew. Reigns signed the contract.
Balor said Reigns thinks highly of himself and perhaps justifiably so. Balor said it would be his privilege to return to NXT as the Universal Champion. Suddenly, Baron Corbin attacked Balor from behind before he could sign the contract. Corbin took Balor to ringside and tossed him over the broadcast table. Corbin returned to the ring and wanted to sign the contract.
John Cena ran out and quickly cleared Corbin from the ring. Cena picked up the contract and looked to the crowd before signing his last name in big letters and then scribbled his first name over the top of it. Reigns sat remained in his chair and looked unhappy while Heyman put his own hand over his mouth…
Cole hyped the women’s tag match for later in the show… [C]
Powell’s POV: Wait, so right before a star athlete is about to sign a big money contract, you just need to show up and somehow sign your name instead and then you’ll get whatever is listed for the player? I guess that would explain how Minnesota Wild center Victor Rask got paid so much when he signed his last deal. In other words, this was ridiculous.
Backstage, Heyman asked Pearce and Deville what they are going to do about SummerSlam. Heyman pointed out that Balor’s name is on the contract that Cena signed. Heyman said it’s not binding. Pearce said he sees Reigns’ signature and Cena’s signature, and that is good enough for him. Deville said Reigns would defend the Universal Championship against Cena at SummerSlam…
Powell’s POV: As if having the heel point out the absurdity of this contract signing storyline somehow makes it okay. I hate having to turn our brains off, especially when it comes to such a high profile match build.
3. Big E, Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura (w/Rick Boogs) vs. Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode, Apollo Crews (w/Commander Azeez). The heel entrances were not televised. Crews dumped Big E to ringside. The referee was distracted while Roode and Ziggler performed a spinebuster and Zigzag combo move. [C]
Cesaro performed The Swing on Ziggler and then put him in the Sharpshooter. Roode pulled Ziggler to the ropes to break it. Later, Crews was going up top when Boogs distracted him by playing his guitar. Azeez threw Boogs to the ground. Cesaro took out Azeez with an uppercut, but Ziggler superkicked Cesaro. Crews went for the top rope move, but Nakamura moved. Nakamura hit a Kinshasa seconds later and scored the pin…
Big E, Cesaro, Shinsuke Nakamura beat Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode, Apollo Crews in 6:25.
Powell’s POV: This match was actually built up on Smackdown last week. In fact, these guys worked a six-man tag match in front of the Cleveland fans while the Rolling Loud portions of the show were shown on Smackdown from Miami. It was a clever way to occupy the Cleveland fans rather than upset them by asking them to watch two matches on the big screen.
A recap of the Edge and Seth Rollins drama was shown… Edge made his entrance to what sounded like the pop of the night… [C]
Seth Rollins was standing in the ring coming out of the break. Footage aired from during the break of Rollins attacking Edge while he was making his entrance. Rollins took a television camera and struck Edge with it. They showed a producer and a referee tending to Edge.
Back live, Rollins said Edge has repeatedly took from him and he had enough. Rollins barked at the production crew to roll the footage. A video package aired on Rollins taking issue with Edge getting the Universal Title shot at Money in the Bank, followed by Rollins costing Edge that match.
In the ring, Rollins said he is proud of what he did. He said it was a hard thing to do, but it was the right thing to do. Rollins said he is the rightful heir to the Universal Championship. “If I can’t be the Universal Champion, then neither can Edge,” Rollins said before leaving the ring…
Cole hyped the women’s tag team match as the main event… [C]
Powell’s POV: Rollins got really good heat for the attack on Edge. Given Edge’s popularity, the trick for Rollins will be if he can maintain that heat once he moves on from Edge and works with other opponents.
Cole recapped the contract signing angle and then hyped Reigns vs. Cena for the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam… McAfee announced Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin for next week’s Smackdown…
4. Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks vs. Zelina Vega and Carmella. The heels were already in the ring while the babyface duo received televised entrances. Early in the match, Banks had Belair press her over her head at ringside and toss her onto both opponents. [C]
Banks performed a top rope frogsplash on Vega and had her pinned, but Carmella broke it up. Later, Banks hit the Backstabber on Carmella and then locked her in the Bank Statement and got the submission win.
Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks beat Zelina Vega and Carmella in 8:40.
After the match, Belair and Banks celebrated together. Banks dropped Belair with the Backstabber. Banks picked up the title belt for a moment, then dropped it and threw punches at Belair. Banks ended up putting Belair in the Bank Statement. She released the hold and was booed. Banks reapplied the hold again while the referee pleaded with her to release it. Banks laughed and jawed at Belair while she maintained the hold as the show went off the air…
Powell’s POV: In a perfect world, they would have had more time to establish a storyline friendship between Banks and Belair before Banks turned. But they didn’t have that luxury, as they clearly want their rematch to take place at SummerSlam. The live crowd seemed to bite on the idea of Banks being sincere, as they were cheering very loudly for her and Belair during and after the match.
Overall, this was an entertaining edition of Smackdown on the road to SummerSlam. Yes, I despise the mindless way they got to Reigns vs. Cena, but I am still looking forward to the match. They put some good heat on Rollins heading into his match with Edge, and Banks also got good heat for turning on Belair. I will have more to say about this show in my weekly same night audio review. Let me now what you thought of the show by grading it below. Have a great weekend.