The John Report: WWE Smackdown 07/16/21 Review (Fans Are Back!)

Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review. The fans are back! It’s finally here. No more WWE ThunderDome with the screens and the fake noise. It was fine while it was the best option, but now it’s back to having live crowds at shows again. This Sunday is also the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. The card is full at this point, so it’s about building up to those matches. The Money in the Bank lineup is at the bottom of this post, we'll have an in-depth preview up on Saturday and then I'll review Money in the Bank on TJRWrestling live on Sunday night.
From the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, this is Smackdown for episode #1143. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage, insightful columns from our team along with reviews about wrestling’s past (including my reviews of every WWE PPV ever listed in order) and present. Let’s get to it.
The opening video package was a video that Vince McMahon and WWE social media accounts shared over the past week. It was about how for the past year and a half, fans have been missing from WWE shows (meaning Raw, Smackdown, PPVs, no live events, etc.) and now they are back. The video is excellent.
There was a shot of the Toyota Center in Houston as the Smackdown “Are You Ready?” theme song played. Some fans had masks on, but most of them didn’t have masks on. Michael Cole said they had 14,496 fans in the building. It was Cole and Pat McAfee on commentary as usual.
The show began with the music of WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon. The fans sang along with the “No Chance in Hell” song. Vince said: “Where the hell have you been?” Vince left. That was it.
Analysis: Classic Vince. I'm surprised it wasn't Stephanie McMahon and Triple H in that spot. Vince will turn 76 years old next month.

The music of Roman Reigns was next and the Universal Champion made his entrance with Special Counsel Paul Heyman. Reigns received a HUGE reaction from the crowd that mostly booed, but it was a mix of cheers too. The new stage was a huge screen and a staging area. It looks very impressive. Reigns will defend the Universal Championship against Edge at the Money in the Bank PPV on Sunday. Reigns did his slow walk to the ring while looking out into the crowd during his entrance. The Usos made their way down to ringside to join Reigns for this six-man tag team match. There was a pyro display as Reigns held up the Universal Title in the ring.
Rey Mysterio made his entrance with his son Dominik for tag team action. They are the Smackdown Tag Team Champions defending their titles against The Usos at Money in the Bank on the Kickoff show. This is Dominik’s first match in front of the fans. He wasn’t on the WrestleMania card, so it’s his first time in front of the fans.
Edge got a HUGE pop for his entrance and he had a huge smile on his face because you know he loved it as much as anybody. That was so great to hear. The two teams stood on opposite sides of the ring as the show went to break.
Analysis: This match certainly could have main evented, but putting it on first is smart too. The crowd is red hot, so you know the reactions are going to be good. The fans popped big for the Mysterios, but then Edge’s entrance was extremely loud and it’s so nice to hear that kind of excitement in a building again. It feels normal, my friends. It feels right.

Roman Reigns, Jimmy & Jey Uso (w/Paul Heyman) vs. Edge, Rey & Dominik Mysterio
Edge wanted Reigns, but Jey knocked down Edge from behind. Edge came back with a flatliner on Jey. Dominik in quickly and then Rey jumped on Jey with a double axehandle. Jimmy tagged in with Rey hitting an armdrag. Edge with an armbar, Rey tagged in and Edge held Rey as Rey hit a seated senton on Jimmy for two. Dominik with a double springboard moonsault for two and then an armdrag into an armbar. Jey made a blind tag with a jumping kick to the back of Dominik and Jimmy hit an uppercut. Jey with a corner splash on Dominik and Reigns tagged in for the first time as Reigns pulled Dominik out of the ring. Reigns with a snap suplex for a two count and tossed Dominik out of the ring again. Reigns sent Dominik’s head off the announce table. Reigns gave Dominik a Powerbomb on the announce table while the referee was looking at Edge. I don’t know if that would have been a DQ if the referee saw it, but I doubt it. Anyway, the table didn’t break. That led to a commercial.
The match returned with Dominik fighting back and Edge got the tag against Jey while Reigns dropped to the floor. Edge with a kick to Jey, then a baseball slide dropkick to Jimmy and a clothesline to Reigns. Rey tagged back in, Jey kicked Edge and Rey hit a senton off the top on Jey. Rey hit an impressive tornado DDT for a two count as Jimmy made the save. Dominik sent Jimmy out of the ring using his legs to send him to the floor. Dominik dove onto Jimmy on the floor. Reigns tossed Dominik into the ring post. Rey with a hurricanrana into the ropes, but Reigns blocked a 619 attempt. Reigns sent Mysterio into the apron. Reigns was on the floor, so Edge took him out with a Spear on the floor! Rey got a rollup on Jey for two. Jey kicked Rey into the ropes, Jimmy punched Rey and Jey got the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! with tights for the pinfall win. It went about 13 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Roman Reigns, Jimmy & Jey Uso
Analysis: ***1/2 This was a very good tag team match between five veterans with a lot of experience in these kinds of matches and the young man Dominik fit in well too. While I complain about the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! sometimes when it happens too often, I understand doing it in this spot to show that it was a cheap win by the heels. I thought the spot with Edge hitting Reigns with a Spear on the floor was awesome and set them up for a hot finish. These guys all worked well together.
Post match, The Usos attacked Rey and Dominik, so Edge made the save with a steel chair. Edge delivered chair shots to both Usos in the ribs and in the back. Reigns was back in the ring with a Superman Punch to Edge.
Reigns picked up the steel chair as the fans chanted “you suck” at Reigns. That led to Roman picking up the chair looking for a steel bar that Edge has used in the past, but Edge got back up and hit a Spear on Reigns. Edge grabbed the steel bar that was part of the chair and locked in the Glasgow Grip (that’s what Edge calls it) and put the bar on Roman’s mouth with the fans cheering. Reigns tapped out. Edge picked up the Universal Title and held it up in the air much to the delight of the crowd.

Analysis: This was a very good post match segment. Reigns is likely winning at Money in the Bank, so it makes sense to have Edge get the upper hand again. I actually thought The Usos might save Reigns at the end there to prevent that much of an attack against Reigns, but it worked fine in the end. The crowd loved it and once again it is so nice hearing them reacting to this stuff.
Later on Smackdown: Seth Rollins vs. King Nakamura vs. Big E vs. Kevin Owens.

Edge was shown walking backstage with Rey and Dominik Mysterio. Kayla Braxton interviewed Edge, who talked about how big his match is on Sunday. Edge said that he had to beat Roman at his own game as a manipulative son of a bitch and he'll do it this Sunday. Seth Rollins showed up in a ridiculous suit and he was laughing at Edge. Rollins said he’ll be Edge’s biggest fan because he hopes that Edge beats Roman Reigns to become Universal Champion. Rollins said he’s going to do his job, he’s going to climb the ladder and grab the contract and finish what he started seven years ago when he almost stepped on Edge’s neck. Rollins laughed at Edge and wished him good luck.
Analysis: There’s the tease for their SummerSlam match again. It won’t be a title match, but it should be awesome.
Sami Zayn showed up with a microphone to complain about how all of the distractions are there to make you forget that for the last year there has been a conspiracy against Sami Zayn. Sami said that you have seen him be victimized and persecuted. Sami wanted the crowd to chant “justice for Sami” and he didn’t get much support. Zayn complained about the fans while saying that he needs justice. Sami said if there was any justice in the world he would be in the Money in the Bank ladder match and if there was any justice in the world he would be handed the contract on a silver platter. And here comes Finn Balor!
Finn Balor got a huge ovation as he made his return to Smackdown after a very successful run in NXT. Pat McAfee was marking out for it on commentary. The crowd loved it. Balor had on a leather jacket along with blue shorts and boots since he’s on the blue brand. Zayn said “welcome back” to Balor and Balor did an elbow drop to the chest. Balor with a dropkick that sent Zayn into the turnbuckle. Balor went up top and hit the Coup de Grace double foot stomp to the chest. Zayn was out of the ring selling the attack while Balor celebrated in the ring. The fans loved it.
Analysis: It’s good to see Finn Balor back. I expected him to return to Smackdown or Raw after his last NXT loss, so it was just a matter of what show. Balor's run in NXT was awesome and he got better for doing it. I think Smackdown will benefit from Balor as an upper-midcard babyface that can possibly be a contender for the Universal Title in the fall season. As for Zayn, when he started doing that promo I assumed Balor was coming back in that spot because it is the right spot to have a babyface out there to try to shut up Zayn, so Balor was the right guy.

There was a Progressive Match Flo showing Shotzi & Nox beating Natalya & Tamina on Smackdown last week.
Shotzi & Tegan Nox made their entrance on Shotzi’s tank. They got a decent reaction. They were introduced as “Shotzi & Nox” again. They face Natalya & Tamina again.
There was a video about Intercontinental Champion Apollo Crews. There wasn’t much to it other than Cole saying he’ll return soon. Creative has had nothing for him for the IC Title.

The announce team of Michael Cole and Pat McAfee were joined by Liv Morgan and Zelina Vega on commentary for this match. Tamina and Natalya made their entrance as the Women’s Tag Team Champions.
Tamina & Natalya vs. Shotzi & Tegan Nox
This is not a title match even though Shotzi & Nox won clean last week. Tamina with a body slam on Shotzi and a running splash against the turnbuckle. Natalya tagged in, Shotzi got a rollup for two and then Shotzi hit a kick to the head. Shotzi welcomed us to the ballpit leading to a double leg drop for two. Natalya charged into an elbow from Shotzi, Tamina distracted Shotzi and Natalya sent Shotzi into the turnbuckle. Natalya worked over Shotzi with punches, Shotzi with a boot and Shotzi kicked Natalya away to break free. Nox with an uppercut, a dropkick and she sent Natalya to the turnbuckle. Nox with a cannonball on Natalya and the shiniest wizard knee. Tamina broke up a pin attempt. Vega and Morgan got into a fight on the floor. Natalya went for the Sharpshooter as Morgan hit Vega with a clothesline on the floor. Natalya was distracted and Nox got an inside cradle for the pinfall win. Tamina was too slow to make the save. This went about four minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Shotzi & Tegan Nox
Analysis: *3/4 It was similar to last week in terms of match time although a different finish due to distractions on the floor. It’s typical WWE booking to have challengers beat champions non-title to set up a title match and obviously WWE felt like they had to go with that strategy two weeks in a row to build up the challengers. I get why they want to build up Shotzi & Nox due to the lack of teams on Smackdown (or Raw), but I think it hurts the champions Natalya & Tamina losing two non-title matches in a row. Anyway, it should set up a title match in the near future.
Post match, Natalya and Tamina knocked down Vega and Morgan on the floor. Morgan sent Tamina into the steel steps. Morgan hit a double knee attack on Natalya, who rolled to the floor so Morgan could point at the Money in the Bank briefcases. The fans cheered because they liked that.

Analysis: I think a Money in the Bank win for Liv Morgan would make a lot of fans happy. It would be cool if that happens.
Bianca Belair was shown backstage wearing the Smackdown Women’s Title around her waist. Bobby Roode & Dolph Ziggler said something to her, but Bianca kept walking because her match is up next.

They showed some Twitter comments from some WWE luminaries commenting on the fans being back. They showed tweets from names like The Rock, John Cena and William Shatner among others. Pat called Rock a future President of the United States. I'm sure a lot of people hope that happens! Good luck.
Carmella made her entrance for this title match. Bianca Belair got a really nice ovation as the Smackdown Women’s Champion that is easy to root for. They showed clips from the ESPY Awards when Belair and Sasha Banks won for Best WWE Moment for their WrestleMania match. Banks and Belair (with husband Montez Ford) went to the awards. Banks hasn't been on WWE TV in over three months since WrestleMania with no explanation given, but she was shown at the awards. They stood in the ring for Greg Hamilton’s introductions including Carmella “the most beautiful woman in all of WWE” because that’s what they do for her now. Once again, there was another strong ovation for Belair.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair vs. Carmella
Belair shoved Carmella, then Carmella with a shot to the face and they did a chase around the ring. Back in the ring, Belair hit a shoulder tackle. Belair with charged, Carmella did some choking and hit elbows to the head. Carmella with a bronco buster on Belair against the turnbuckle. Belair with a shoulder tackle to the ribs. Belair with a forearm to the jaw, but then Carmella grabbed the arm and drove Belair shoulder first into the ring post. Carmella tossed Belair into the barricade and into the ring for two. Carmella tossed Belair into the barricade two more times.

The match returned with Belair making her comeback as she sent Carmella into two turnbuckles followed by a body slam. Belair did a handspring into a splash for a two count with Pat crediting Belair for re-adjusting after Carmella moved. Belair was seated on the top rope, Belair kicked Carmella down and they teased a suplex spot, but Carmella fought out of it. Carmella hit a Frankensteiner (hurricanrana) off the top for a two count. Belair lifted up Carmella, who countered it and they each got a two count. Carmella sent Belair face first into the middle turnbuckle. Carmella applied a Guillotine headlock submission, but Belair powered out of it by getting back to her feet and Belair turned it into a vertical suplex. Impressive power by Belair there! That was awesome for a two count. Carmella grabbed the hair, Belair broke free and Belair tried to whip Carmella on the floor. Carmella came back with a superkick and then into the ring for a two count. Carmella grabbed the hair of Belair, stomped on it and tried to use it, but Belair got out of that and hit Carmella in the ribs with her hair. Belair hit the Kiss of Death slam for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Bianca Belair
Analysis: *** This was a good match. I thought it was better than some of their previous matches. Nobody watching this likely thought that Carmella would win, but at least she had a few nearfalls and a near submission where she looked like she had a chance to win. Bianca Belair continues to impress with her athleticism and power. She keeps getting better and is fun to watch. Plus, as I have said in the past, Belair is very likable with the way she carries herself, so I think she’ll continue to do well as a face.

There was a backstage promo from Chad Gable & Otis. Gable was talking about how everybody is afraid of Otis, how Otis is going to beat Cesaro and Cesaro walked up to them. Gable said that Cesaro has earned Otis’ full attention, so Otis punched Cesaro and tossed him into some box that was there. Cesaro was down.
A video aired about Toni Storm coming to Smackdown next Friday.
Otis made his entrance with Chad Gable by his side. They showed highlights of Otis destroying Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins of The Street Profits in recent weeks. Cesaro was up next as the opponent. Good reaction for Cesaro, who has received a solid push as a babyface this year. Cesaro was holding his ribs to sell the attack by Otis before the match.
Cesaro vs. Otis (w/Chad Gable)
Otis hit Cesaro with multiple forearms to the chest. Cesaro with uppercuts, Gable with a distraction and Otis with a gutshot followed by a front powerslam. Cesaro avoided Otis and Otis went into the ring post. Cesaro sent Otis to the floor. Gable into the ring and he hit a German Suplex on Cesaro for the DQ two minutes into the match.
Winner by disqualification: Cesaro
Analysis: * A quick match leading to the heels getting the cheap attack rather than caring about the win.

Post match, Cesaro did a popup uppercut to Gable. Cesaro applied the Cesaro Swing to Gable, but Otis was back in with a running body attack. Otis splashed Cesaro against the turnbuckle. Otis hit a Vader Bomb splash on Cesaro “for the academy.” Gable and Otis celebrated while the fans booed them.
Analysis: Otis continues to look dominant. Poor Cesaro without an ally helping him in that spot.
There was a replay of Edge’s interaction with Roman Reigns earlier in the night.
Paul Heyman was interviewed by Kayla Braxton outside of the private dressing room of Roman Reigns. Heyman said that Edge will have the sins beaten out of him by the defending Universal Champion Roman Reigns. Heyman said that what he just offered is not a prediction…and here’s Big E. That led to Big E doing the “New Day” intro while calling himself the man that will win the Money in the Bank contract and feel the power. Big E said there was something serious too. Big E said that Edge has a hold of Roman Reigns and he laughed at Heyman. Big E told Heyman they should be worried while laughing down a hallway.
Analysis: I like putting Big E in that spot because Big E is a favorite to win at Money in the Bank and that’s a nice way to tease a possible Big E/Reigns match down the road.
Baron Corbin made his entrance in a white dress shirt that wasn’t buttoned up, his hair was grown out and he had a disheveled beard. Corbin has a special request up next.

Let’s Hear from “Sad” Baron Corbin
The sad man Baron Corbin was in the ring as a video package aired about Corbin losing the king’s crown. Since then, Corbin said he lost his crown, investments, he’s missed payments on his house, the bank has threatened to foreclose his house and he’s had his car being towed during a match on Smackdown.
Corbin said that it’s no secret that these last few weeks have been the most difficult time of his life. Corbin said he lost his crown, his car, his investments and his savings. Corbin claimed the bank was looking to foreclose his house as fans chanted “WHAT” at him. Corbin said that his two-year-old daughter has to eat out of a can now. Corbin said that if this continues he might have to move in with his wife’s parents. Corbin said that there is good news because you can help him out of these dark financial times. Corbin said he started “CorbinFund” and it was a CorbinFundMe and had a targeted goal of $100,000. The fans booed him. Corbin wanted us to go to and donate because every little bit helps. Corbin said don’t tell him that Texas is as cheap as everybody else around the world. Corbin got on his knees begging us to please help. Here comes Kevin Owens with the interruption.
Analysis: Poor Baron Corbin. I’m not sure where the storyline is going, but at least Corbin has a different kind of story because for a long time, Corbin has had nothing in terms of storyline. If you’re wondering, there is a Corbin Fund graphic on the site. Yes Baron, but I did check. That’s journalism, my friends.
Kevin Owens made his entrance and was clearly excited about being in front of the fans again.
Owens got into the ring with Corbin, who said he wants to believe that Kevin is out there for the right reasons to help Corbin. Baron said that if Kevin helps him and a few other stars help him then these other people will fall in line. Corbin said that he knows Kevin has money. Corbin said don’t take this the wrong way, but we know Owens doesn’t spend money on his wardrobe. Owens kicked Corbin in the gut and hit a Stunner on him. The fans loved that.
Analysis: Well played. Make the fans happy after sitting through a heel promo like that.
Big E made his entrance and got a pretty good pop from the crowd. That Fatal 4-Way match is next.

It was time for the entrance that a lot of us wanted to see with the fans. Rick Boogs was on the stage with the electric guitar and he was fired up as he introduced King Shinsuke Nakamura. As usual, McAfee was very excited about it. The fans hummed along to the Nakamura song. The babyface Nakamura song is a lot cooler with the fans there to chant along with it. Big E was dancing in the ring and McAfee was dancing on the commentary table.
Seth Rollins was the last man introduced for the Fatal 4-Way main event. There were ladders all around the ring since these four guys are in the Money in the Bank Contract Ladder Match.
Kevin Owens vs. Big E vs. King Nakamura (w/Rick Boogs) vs. Seth Rollins
There were about ten minutes left in the show as the match began. Rollins left saying he was going to see them Sunday, so Big E hit a shoulder tackle on Rollins to the floor. Owens hit a somersault dive over the top onto Big E on the floor. Nakamura with a jumping knee on Owens and that led to a break.

A commercial for next week’s Smackdown said that the show will be in Cleveland and from the Rolling Loud music festival in Miami. No matches announced yet.
Back to the match, Big E hit Owens with a clothesline. Big E tossed Nakamura out of the ring. Big E and Nakamura worked together with a double superplex on Owens off the middle rope. Rollins jumped off the top with a Frog Splash, but the guys moved out of the way. Rollins and Nakamura exchanged knees, Nakamura with a running knee to the ribs and Nakamura hit a spin kick to the head. Nakamura with an overhead suplex on Owens, who landed on his stomach. Big E back in with a Big Ending on Nakamura for two as Rollins made the save. Rollins sent Big E out of the ring. Rollins brought a ladder into the ring and hit Nakamura with it to knock him off the apron. Rollins cleared off the announce table. Rollins set up Nakamura on the table. Rollins climbed up a ladder, but Owens grabbed Rollins and sent Rollins into the ladder. Owens climbed up a ladder, he jumped off the top and hit an elbow drop on Nakamura to put them both through the table! Ouch. Back in the ring, Big E with a clothesline. Rollins avoided the Big Ending and Rollins hit The Stomp on the ladder that was in the ring for the pinfall win after about ten minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Seth Rollins
Analysis: ***1/4 This was a pretty good match with a lot of action. It would have been nice to see them get more time, but that’s what happens sometimes. They worked hard, they had good chemistry and it was a nice tease of the chaos that we’re going to see in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
After the match, Seth Rollins set up a ladder under the two Money in the Bank briefcases. Rollins grabbed the green Money in the Bank briefcase. Cole thanked the fans for watching and the fans in Houston while plugging Money in the Bank on Sunday. Rollins posed with the Money in the Bank briefcase. That was the end of the show.
Analysis: It’s a potential preview of what’s to come. I don’t expect Rollins to win Money in the Bank, but it’s all about building momentum and making people think he has a chance to win. I’d like to see Big E or Riddle win if it was up to me. I’ll settle on a prediction when we post the preview on Saturday on TJRWrestling. I really don’t think there are any bad choices anyway. It should be a great Men’s Money in the Bank match.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Edge
  2. Seth Rollins
  3. Roman Reigns

The Scoreboard
7.5 out of 10
Last week: 7.5
2021 Average: 7.07

Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed the show. The energy from the fans in Houston helped a lot especially in the first half of the show that was carried by that six-man tag team match. Edge was terrific all night, Roman Reigns loved getting booed by those fans and they all did a nice job of making us care even more about Money in the Bank. It was also wonderful to see Finn Balor back as the guy that was sent out there to shut up Sami Zayn. That should be a good rivalry.
The second hour started with Bianca Belair beating Carmella easily with Belair looking impressive again. I liked the main event with Seth Rollins winning a Fatal 4-Way to gain momentum going into Money in the Bank.
Some of the things in the second hour dragged a bit, but overall I enjoyed Smackdown as usual. It was so refreshing to hear the crowd, to feel that energy and I’m sure the wrestlers loved it even more than we did. It’s fun to watch a “normal” WWE Smackdown show again. I am looking forward to Money in the Bank on Sunday night.

The next WWE pay-per-view on Peacock/WWE Network is Money in the Bank this Sunday, July 18. Here’s the lineup.

WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Edge
WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Kofi Kingston
Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Ricochet vs. John Morrison vs. Riddle vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Big E vs. Kevin Owens vs. King Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Seth Rollins
Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Asuka vs. Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Nikki ASH (Cross) vs. Liv Morgan vs. Zelina Vega vs. Natalya vs. Tamina
Raw Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Raw Tag Team Championships: AJ Styles & Omos (c) vs. Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar)
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: Rey & Dominik Mysterio (c) vs. The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) - KICKOFF SHOW
Money in the Bank takes place on Sunday, July 18, streaming at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT exclusively on Peacock in the United States and WWE Network everywhere else.

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John Canton
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