The John Report: WWE Smackdown 07/23/21 Review

Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review. This is a follow-up episode to the Money in the Bank pay-per-view from this past Sunday. There were some big things that happened at Money in the Bank (a great show, by the way) that will affect Smackdown going forward including Big E winning the coveted Money in the Bank contract during an outstanding ladder match. Some people are calling that WWE’s Match of the Year so far and Big E was the guy that left with the contract that will give him a championship match any time within one year. Big E was my pick to win, I’m sure a lot of others picked him too and I think he was absolutely the right choice. I truly hope that Money in the Bank launches Big E to that main event level.
In addition to that, Roman Reigns beat Edge to retain the Universal Title although Reigns got an unwanted assist from Seth Rollins. After the match, Edge went after Rollins and we know that’s going to lead to a SummerSlam match. Reigns wanted people to acknowledge him after his big win, but that’s when John Cena made his surprising return to a HUGE ovation from the crowd. It was a hot way to end an awesome show. When Cena appeared on Monday’s episode of Raw, he called Roman Reigns “an asshole” among other things. Going into Smackdown, Reigns vs. Cena at SummerSlam isn’t official yet, but that’s the plan and it should be official very soon.
From the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio (and Rolling Loud music festival in Miami), this is Smackdown for episode #1144. 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 show began with a packed house in Cleveland with the fans cheering loudly. That led to the familiar music of John Cena as John Cena made his entrance in the green/yellow/white shirt and the jorts along with sneakers. Cena got a HUGE ovation just like on Raw and just like when he returned at Money in the Bank. Michael Cole mentioned the “Summer of Cena” phrase that WWE is likely to push over the next month. Cole and Pat McAfee were on commentary as usual.

Let’s Hear from John Cena
Cena stood in the ring as the crowd gave him a loud, sustained ovation. Cena noted that the crowd was amped up. Cena said it’s been one hell of a week, a big surprise at Money in the Bank that was fun and then he went to crash Monday Night Raw. Cena said he answered questions like how he escaped the Firefly Fun House, he referenced the Peacemaker costume and then he mentioned Roman Reigns. Cena said he came back to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. Cena said this is Smackdown and we are a few heartbeats away from John Cena and Roman Reigns in this very ring, right here and right now. Cena said he couldn’t think of a better place to do this out of Cleveland. Cena said big sports news out of Cleveland (the fans booed the Cleveland Indians name change to Guardians), but he went to Cleveland government offices to change his middle name to Guardians. Cena said that he had to protect WWE because Smackdown with Roman Reigns as the champion absolutely sucks. Cena said he knows there are hundreds of Roman Reigns fans out there somewhere and he said that they deserve to stand up and be heard. Cena said no more Thunderdome, no more LED screens, they are in our face and there is noise on each and every side of this arena. The fans cheered. Cena said that SummerSlam is a chance for us to stand up for what we believe in. Cena asked what do you believe in and whose team are you on? There were loud “Cena” chants. Cena: “Are you on team jorts or team cargo pants? Are you on team Hustle, Loyalty & Respect or are you on a team that the fans always reject? Are you on Team Cena or are you on Team Roman Reigns?” Cena wondered where Roman Reigns is and he knows that “you can’t see me” while adding that one more familiar phrase: “The Champ Is Here.”
Cena was fired up as the fans chanted for him and he asked for Roman Reigns to come on out there. Cena gestured for Reigns to get out there, but there was no Roman. Cena: “Please come out, Roman Reigns.”
That led to Special Counsel Paul Heyman appearing on the stage saying “ladies and gentlemen” and then “things that live in Cleveland.” Heyman said that Cena has it all wrong. Heyman laughed about how Reigns can’t see you and Heyman said that Reigns can’t hear you because you’re not worth Roman listening to. Heyman gives Cena his word that he will get an answer to the challenge but only when Roman Reigns decides to come out to show that: “The Trible Chief is Here.” Heyman even did some of Cena’s theme song! Heyman is the greatest! Cena’s music played to end it.

Analysis: A very good promo from Cena as usual. The fans are fully behind him, so it’s not like when he was getting mixed reactions all the time. At least for now, the crowd is ready to cheer Cena and they are glad he’s back. Heyman interrupting made sense since it’s a way to upset the viewer by not giving the Reigns/Cena segment right away, but tease it for later in the show. I think it’s a smart move to do it later. Heyman doing his version of Cena's theme song is tremendous. If you missed it, it's worth playing the clip above to hear it.
They showed highlights of last week when Finn Balor returned to Smackdown when he shut up Sami Zayn.
Finn Balor made his entrance to a big ovation. It’s still such a cool visual seeing the posing with the full arena of fans. Balor faces Zayn after a break.
Sami Zayn made his entrance as the opponent with his unique dance moves. They showed last September at Clash of Champions when Zayn won the Intercontinental Title in a triple threat match with Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles. That was a terrific match.

Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn
Zayn with an elbow to the jaw and then Zayn applied an armbar. Balor went for an arm wringer, but Zayn got a punch followed by some eye raking across the top rope. Zayn tossed Balor out of the ring, then Balor left the ring and Zayn punched Balor. Back in the ring, Balor tripped up Zayn and tossed Zayn out of the ring. Balor with a somersault dive over the top onto Zayn to a big pop. They went to break there.
The match returned with Zayn hitting a clothesline for a two count. Zayn with a chinlock on Balor, a whip into the corner and Balor came back with a boot. Zayn came back with a snap DDT that drew loud boos. This crowd is into it. Zayn set up for the Helluva Kick, but Balor came back with the Slingblade. Balor ducked Zayn leading to an elbow drop into the mat. Balor charged right into a Blue Thunder Bomb by Zayn for two. Cole said Michinoku Driver at first, but got it right saying Blue Thunder Bomb because that’s what it was. The fans chanted “Let’s go Balor” for Finn. Balor with elbows to the head to block a suplex and then Balor with a forward roll into a double stomp to the ribs. Balor with a running dropkick and another running dropkick sending Zayn into the turnbuckle. Balor up top and hit the Coup de Grace double foot stomp on Zayn for the pinfall win after about ten minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Finn Balor
Analysis: ***1/4 A good match between two of the best wrestlers in WWE with Balor picking up the win to build momentum since he’s “new” on Smackdown again. Zayn got plenty of offense in the first half, the Blue Thunder Bomb is always good for a nearfall and then Balor made the big comeback for the win. It was nice to hear the fans into the match the whole way through. They booed Zayn a lot and cheered Balor. When Balor was in NXT he didn't use the Coup de Grace as his finisher all the time, but it was the finish here.

Baron Corbin was interviewed by Kayla Braxton. Corbin still has his hair grown out a bit and a disheveled beard again. Corbin claimed that his CorbinFund website failed because the guy that set up his website stole money from him. Corbin said he had to ride the bus while adding it smells like curdled cheese and gym socks. Corbin: “What’s happened to me?”
Analysis: Wrestlers get to shows because the company flies them to the cities they are in, but I guess we can try to believe what Corbin said.
Big E made his entrance to a good pop from the crowd. Big E was carrying the green Money in the Bank briefcase that he won on Sunday. They showed highlights of Big E’s win at Money in the Bank. The fans loved it when he won. I did too.

They showed some photos of the Milwaukee Bucks holding the custom WWE Championship given to them after winning the NBA Finals earlier in the week. Bobby Portis of the Bucks was holding the replica WWE Championship at the parade.
Big E was in the ring doing a promo as he shouted out “Cleveland” and they cheered. The fans chanted “you deserve it” to Big E, who paused to soak in the reactions from the fans.
Analysis: I loved hearing Big E get that kind of reaction. It was wonderful to hear that for Big E, who absolutely deserves it.
Apollo Crews showed up with Commander Azeez, who congratulated Big E on winning a contract while laughing at him. Crews mentioned beating Big E for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania.
Robert Roode and Cleveland’s own Dolph Ziggler showed up to interrupt them. Ziggler said if you’re talking about the Intercontinental Title then you better be talking about the Dirty Dogs.
Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance with Rick Boogs making the guitar.
Cesaro was up next saying he wants that Intercontinental Title and told Apollo that it’s “Swing Time” in Cleveland.
That led to a brawl in the ring with Big E, Cesaro and Nakamura sending the heels Crews, Ziggler and Roode out of the ring. Nakamura, Cesaro and Big E worked together to send Azeez out of the ring. Cesaro gave Crews the Swing briefly and then the heels left.
Analysis: This looked like it was going to set up a six-man tag team match after a break, but then it didn’t air on Smackdown. I'd like to see Cesaro as the next Intercontinental Champion.
NOTE: The six-man tag team match happened for the fans in Cleveland with Cesaro, Big E & Nakamura beating Crews, Ziggler & Roode.
The Rolling Loud festival in Miami was shown. Wale, a big WWE fan that's also a very successful musical artist, was on the stage hyping up the crowd. Wale led the crowd in chanting “We Want The Smoke” and then The Street Profits made their entrance on the stage. Angelo Dawkins was announced for a match. He faces Chad Gable up next.
Analysis: There’s a huge crowd outdoors at Rolling Loud. I don’t know if those people are drunk or high or both or if they care about WWE, but there’s a ring on the stage for a couple of matches.

The announcers Cole and McAfee called the action from where they were in Cleveland.
Angelo Dawkins (w/Montez Ford & Wale) vs. Chad Gable (w/Otis)
Dawkins was on fire with a couple of dropkicks along with a double underhook into a slam. Gable came back with an armbar on Dawkins’ arm against the ropes. Gable hit a clothesline off the top rope for a two count. McAfee kept mentioning rappers that I don’t know for the most part. Gable hit an impressive Northern Lights Suplex for a two count. Gable hit a German Suplex on Dawkins for two. Gable jumped off the top with a moonsault, Dawkins moved and tossed Gable out of the ring. Back in the ring, Dawkins with a clothesline, corner splash and Gable hit a rolling kick. Dawkins decked Gable with a punch for two. Gable with a backslide pin for two. Dawkins hit the huge spinebuster for the pinfall win after five minutes. It sounded like fake crowd noise during the whole match.
Winner by pinfall: Angelo Dawkins
Analysis: ** A simple match to give Dawkins a win since Otis has beaten up the Street Profits repeatedly in the last few weeks. Gable got some good moves in, they worked well together and Dawkins got the clean win. I assume we get a tag team match between the teams soon.
Bianca Belair made her entrance as the Smackdown Women’s Champion. Belair’s match is up next. There was more fake crowd noise just like during the match.

Bianca Belair was officially introduced by Alicia Taylor at the Rolling Loud music festival in Miami Gardens. Carmella was up next while being introduced as “the most beautiful woman in WWE.” This is a rematch from last week at the top of hour two.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair vs. Carmella
I missed the first minute at the start of the match. Belair was in control with a shoulder tackle and then she lifted Carmella over the top to the apron. Carmella did a hair pull on the apron. Carmella applied a chinlock with McAfee marveling at the huge crowd in Miami. Belair hit a backbreaker. Belair charged, Carmella knocked her down and Carmella hit a cross body block off the top, but Belair held Carmella in her arms. Belair hit a fallaway slam across the ring. Belair bounced off the ropes with a cartwheel into a moonsault for two. Carmella with a jawbreaker. Carmella slipped out of a suplex and hit an X-Factor face first into the mat for two. Belair with a forearm to the face and Belair hit the KOD (Kiss of Death) slam off the shoulders for the pinfall win after about four minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Bianca Belair
Analysis: *3/4 A shorter match than last week with the same result as Belair beat Carmella again. Carmella got one good nearfall in this match. Other than that, it was all about putting over Belair. I’m hoping they do Belair vs. Sasha Banks at SummerSlam in a WrestleMania rematch. I figure Banks has been off all this time because they want to bring her back fresh.

Belair celebrated on the stage. I don’t think the Rolling Loud fans were making any noise, but WWE piped in some fake noise for sure.
Kevin Owens was shown talking to Shotzi & Nox as they checked on their tank. Baron Corbin walked up to Owens saying sorry for the comments he said to Owens last week. Corbin said it was a bad habit. Owens said that’s how Corbin has been for like six years. Corbin said that he’s been a mess. Corbin asked for Kevin to help him with something, then Kevin pointed out the stain on Corbin’s shirt that was there from last week and Owens gave Corbin some money. Owens left. Shotzi & Nox shot their nerf “bullet” from their tank and Corbin sold it like he was hit in the groin. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode showed up to take poor Corbin’s money. Owens went back over to Corbin, but those guys left with the money. Corbin was down on the floor selling the dreaded groin injury.
Analysis: The groin shot made me laugh. I am easily amused. It made me think of “Man Getting Hit by Football” from The Simpsons. Anyway, Corbin’s sad storyline continues. At least they are progressing with Owens trying to help. Remember that WWE recently trademarked the phrase "Happy Corbin" so I guess that's coming soon. Great. That comment was from "Sarcastic Canton" for the record.
Edge made his entrance to a huge ovation from the crowd. Edge was feeding off the energy of the crowd. They showed what happened at Money in the Bank when Seth Rollins played a major role in Edge losing the Universal Title match against Roman Reigns. Edge promo time is next.

Let’s Hear from Edge
Edge thanked Cleveland for the crowd reaction. Edge said you know his history, you know how hard he fought to get back and you know how hard he fought to get the fans back. Edge said if you watched Money in the Bank then you know he should be standing there as the Universal Champion. Edge said he’s not the champion because there’s one reason why – Seth Rollins. Edge said he had the Mysterios watching his back against The Usos. Edge said that he thought maybe Seth would attack Reigns because he might think Reigns was easier to beat than Edge (Edge claimed that was not true), but that’s not the case. Edge said this goes back to 2014 when Rollins didn’t pull the trigger to get the job done and now Edge is back. Edge warned Rollins saying he has learned from the most evil minds in this industry. Edge said that he was in The Brood, he was in the Ministry of Darkness and noted the depths that he will sink to in order to get the job done. Edge said you’re going to find out. (I loved The Brood, but they weren't together that long. They didn't really have any major or significant storylines.)
Seth Rollins made his entrance wearing a ridiculous suit as usual. Rollins: “Did somebody say my name?” Rollins said it’s “Grandpa Edge” talking about the man that he used to be. Rollins laughed at him. Edge: “Shut up! You’re embarrassing yourself.”
Edge invited Rollins to come down to the ring and promised not to put his hands on him. Rollins walked down to the ring saying Edge would not put his hand on him knowing how capable Rollins is. Rollins said he was going to talk about how much he despised this city, despised people like Edge and John Cena coming back to take opportunities from people like Rollins, who has earned those opportunities. Rollins said he was going to talk about those things, but now he is thrilled that Edge is standing in his right now. Rollins: “Give it up for Grandpa Edge!”
Rollins told Edge that he has been a scumbag to Rollins, so nothing would make him happier than to crush Edge’s dreams. Rollins said nothing would make him happier than to put an end to Edge’s comeback story. Rollins said when they talk about Edge’s Hall of Fame career, they are going to talk about the man that ended Edge and that’s Seth Freakin’ Rollins. Rollins said that he had a chance to end Edge seven years ago when he brought The Authority back but he hesitated and fans chanted “you suck” at Rollins. Seth said that he hesitated, but when he gets that opportunity again with his boot on the back of Edge’s surgically repaired neck, Seth will not hesitate to pull the trigger: “Bang!” Rollins laughed. Rollins laughed about how “poof” there goes your neck up in smoke. Edge said he lied about putting his hands on Rollins.
Edge and Rollins got into a brawl as they exchanged punches. Rollins stomped on Edge, but when Rollins took off his jacket, Edge came back and hit the Edgecution DDT. Edge charged for a Spear, but Rollins left the ring and went up the aisle. Edge’s music played as he stood tall in the ring.
Analysis: I liked that segment a lot. The fans were into it with a lot of support for Edge and booing Rollins the whole way. Both guys delivered strong promos. It was smart to turn it into a brawl and have Rollins escape to break free. I know Cena vs. Reigns will main event SummerSlam and the build will be very good, but I think Edge vs. Rollins is going to be outstanding in terms of the story, the TV segments and their match at SummerSlam too. I’m a big fan of both guys.

Toni Storm’s Smackdown debut is next against Zelina Vega.
Toni Storm made her entrance. There wasn’t much of a reaction for her. Zelina Vega was already in the ring.
Toni Storm vs. Zelina Vega
Storm knocked Vega out of the ring with a clothesline. Back in the ring, Vega hit a knee to the face. Storm came back with a headbutt. There was definitely a bit of a sound for that move. Storm with a running hip attack against the turnbuckle. Storm hit a bridging German Suplex for a two count. Vega jumped on the back of Storm into a Sunset Bomb for two. They did a spot where they battled over a waist lock and Vega took the belt off. Storm hit a lifting slam on Vega that they are calling the Storm One after calling it the Storm Zero in the past. It went two minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Toni Storm
Analysis: * A basic match to give Storm a win in her debut. Vega got a few moves and a decent nearfall, but it was all about putting over Toni as a babyface in her first Smackdown match. During Storm's recent NXT run she was in a heel role. She has been in both roles in her career.
There was a Progressive Match Flo replay showing The Usos beating The Mysterios to win the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at the Money in the Bank PPV in the Kickoff Show match.
The Usos made their entrance for a match with Jimmy Uso facing Dominik Mysterio up next.

Dominik Mysterio entered with his father Rey Mysterio and they got a nice reaction from the crowd.
Jimmy Uso (w/Jey Uso) vs. Dominik Mysterio (w/Rey Mysterio)
Jimmy with a shoulder tackle, Dominik with a hiptoss and a dropkick. Jimmy tripped up Dominik on the top rope with Dominik landing ribs first into the top rope. Jimmy whipped Dominik into the turnbuckle with Dominik going sternum first into the turnbuckle. Jimmy choked Dominik against the ropes. Jimmy hit an enziguri kick to Dominik’s head for a two count. Dominik used his legs to send Jimmy into the ropes, but Jey pulled Jimmy out of the ring. That led to Rey jumping on Jey on the floor. Dominik followed up with a springboard cross body block over the top to the floor onto Jimmy. That led to a break.
Jimmy sent Dominik to the apron, Dominik sent Jimmy throat-first into the top rope and a senton splash. Dominik hit a suplex, but Jimmy stopped him from paying tribute to Eddie Guerrero and Jimmy knocked Dominik down. Dominik sent Jimmy into the ropes and hit the 619 kick. Jey went after Dominik, but then Rey took care of Jey on the floor. Dominik jumped off the top and Jimmy hit a superkick for two. Dominik got a rollup for two. Dominik jumped onto Jimmy’s shoulders, they messed up the spot they were trying to do, then they battled over a pin attempt. Jimmy ended up sitting on top of Dominik with Jey putting his feet on his brother’s back for support. The referee never saw it, so Jimmy pinned Dominik to win the match. It went about nine minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Jimmy Uso
Analysis: **1/2 It was just an average match. They messed up the finish a bit, but they were able to end it the right way with Jey helping Jimmy win again. I thought Dominik might win since that’s typically how WWE books this sort of thing where a champion loses a non-title singles match, but I guess this was about wanting to show the Usos can cheat to win at any time. I can see these teams getting another match at SummerSlam and then maybe The Usos feud with The Street Profits after that.

Roman Reigns made his entrance as the Universal Champion with Michael Cole noting that The Bloodline (Roman & The Usos) is draped in gold since they are all champions. Reigns had Paul Heyman with him as usual. Reigns held up the Universal Championship while The Usos held up the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. The fans booed Reigns as some pyro went off.  Reigns will answer the Cena challenge up next.
Analysis: That’s a superstar reaction for Reigns. Great to hear that.
This Monday on Raw: Bobby Lashley will respond to Goldberg’s challenge and Nikki A.S.H. will address the fans as the Raw Women’s Champions, but how will the women’s division react? Also, AJ Styles & Omos defend the Raw Tag Team Titles against the Viking Raiders again.

Roman Reigns Addresses John Cena’s SummerSlam Challenge
The main event saw Roman Reigns standing in the ring with Paul Heyman by his side holding the Universal Championship. Reigns was wearing his “Head of the Table” shirt. There were “you suck” chants for Reigns.
Reigns wanted Cleveland to acknowledge him, so they booed. Reigns stared into the camera telling the TV viewer to acknowledge him. Reigns said that everybody is acknowledging him while noting that John Cena acknowledged him at Money in the Bank, then on Raw and tonight on Smackdown. Reigns said that Hollywood fooled him since he thought we would get something new and special, but then Cena came out here putting on a nostalgia act. Reigns said that Cena had the same music, the same entrance, the same promo, the same insults and if he wanted that then he’d search online for 2005 John Cena (that was the first year of Cena's main event push). Reigns said it was the same thing over, over, and over. Reigns said it was like the missionary position every single night. (What a great line!) Reigns said that the Tribal Chief is not interested in that. Reigns said that they are not motivated and inspired by that. Reigns said he can’t see Cena, he has no desire to see Cena and he said we’re not going to see Cena in the main event of SummerSlam. Reigns: “My answer to your challenge is no.” Heyman held up the Universal Title held by Reigns.
Finn Balor made his entrance in street clothes including a black leather jacket. Balor got into the ring with Reigns.
Reigns said that you must be here to acknowledge Reigns. Balor said he wasn't there to acknowledge Reigns, but if Roman isn’t interested in Cena’s challenge then maybe he is interested in Balor’s challenge. The fans chanted “Finn” for Balor while Reigns laughed it off. The fans chanted “Roman’s scared” as Heyman talked to Reigns.
Reigns told Balor: “Challenge accepted.” Roman’s music played to end the segment. That was the end of the show.
Analysis: First of all the missionary line by Reigns was outstanding. I was shocked when he said it, but it made me laugh and the Tribal Chief should be acknowledged for that line. Secondly, I didn’t expect them to do this segment without Cena joining Reigns in the ring, so that was a bit of a twist. Lastly, I like the idea of a Reigns/Balor match on Smackdown because it should be awesome. While I fully expect Balor to lose the match assuming it’s for the Universal Title, I realize some fans will complain about Balor losing to Reigns. So what? It’s Reigns. He’s the Universal Champion. There’s nothing wrong with losing to him. It’s a way to present a big match on Smackdown. They are obviously doing Reigns vs. Cena at SummerSlam and just holding off announcing it as an official match. They’ll probably announce it next week.

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Finn Balor
  2. John Cena/Roman Reigns
  3. Edge/Seth Rollins

The Scoreboard
7.25 out of 10
Last week: 7.5
2021 Average: 7.08

Final Thoughts
It was a good Smackdown as usual with a lot of talking. That’s because we are in SummerSlam season, so they needed to start it with a John Cena promo and end it with a Roman Reigns promo. I’m a bit shocked that they didn’t have Cena/Reigns on screen at the same time, but that’s something that can be saved for next week. Shoutout to Reigns for the awesome “missionary position” line. If you saw it then you know and if you didn’t then read the review. The Reigns promo set up a match with Finn Balor, which should be great on Smackdown with WWE choosing to wait to announce Reigns/Cena for SummerSlam. Balor had a good night since his match with Zayn saw Balor pick up the win in what was the best match.
I don’t think WWE made the right move by having two matches at the Rolling Loud music festival. I know that they were trying to reach a younger audience by doing two short matches on the stage, but the crowd there looked like they had no interest and WWE had to use fake crowd noise. I understand why WWE tried it. I just don’t think it worked well. I would have rather seen the six-man tag team match that was teased on television and not shown, but it did happen in front of the fans in Cleveland.
The segment between Edge and Seth Rollins was one of the best parts of the show. It’s not a title feud, but I think they’ll have a great build to their SummerSlam match and they might have the best match at SummerSlam too. They work well together. Anyway, a good Smackdown overall with plenty of star power all night long.

Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Blue Jays. My contact info is below.
John Canton
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