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WWE SMACKDOWN TV REPORT
JULY 16, 2021
HOUSTON, TX. IN THE TOYOTA CENTER
AIRED ON FOX BROADCAST NETWORK
REPORT BY BRUCE LEE HAZELWOOD (@B_Lee253), PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentators: Michael Cole, Pat McAfee
Ring Announcer: Mike Rome
Backstage Correspondent: Kayla Braxton, Megan Morant
Tonight after the show, join Wade Keller and guest cohost Brandon LeClair (from PWTorch.com) and on-site correspondent James Caldwell (former PWTorch assistant editor) to break down the show with live callers and emails.
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(Hazelwood’s Take: It’s WWE’s first weekly show in front of fans in something like 15 or 16 months. The good thing is this entire Roman Reigns story is so engrossing, engaging, and interesting that these fans should have plenty of reactions. It’s also the final show before Money in the Bank on Sunday, so I expect some high-paced action in the fatal four-way involving the Smackdown men in the MITB match. I expect Reigns to begin the show, but maybe to get that babyface pop, Edge begins the show to setup the six-man tag match for later in the evening. Then again, it’s probably more likely that Vince McMahon starts the show. Finally, let’s hope that Wade Keller has been right and WWE was just in a senioritis stage and this return to live touring shows with instant fan reaction improves the overall quality.)
-They began with a video of Bianca Belair, Rey Mysterio, Drew McIntyre, Kofi Kingston, and others, with a graphic about being away from fans for over a year. They played some iconic moments from WWE’s past where fans played a huge role, including recent events like Edge’s return last year, McIntyre winning the Royal Rumble match, and Belair vs. Sasha Banks earlier this year. They played a lot of the best fan reactions, including the faithful here in Seattle raining down boos on Elias & Kevin Owens (remember when they were a thing?). They showed Kingston’s WWE Championship victory, Becky Lynch becoming “The Man,” and a final “Welcome Back” graphic. Well done.
-They panned the crowd for the first time in 70 weeks (according to Michael Cole). Cole said, “Damn, we sure have missed you,” and announced over 20 thousand fans. They showed the Houston, TX graphic and the crowd erupted. Vince McMahon’s music hit (I guess I was right), and he received a HUGE pop. They sung the chorus to his song as he stood on the stage. He said, “Where the hell have you been?” He bowed, then walked away. Cole said only he could make an entrance like that.
-Cole & Pat McAfee welcomed fans as Roman Reigns’ music hit (I guess I was kind of right?). The crowd booed (good!) as he made his entrance as Universal Champion for the 320th day, according to Cole. Heyman reverently handed the title to Reigns, who raised it and posed with pyro. Cole hyped his match against Edge for Sunday night as Heyman walked to the ring holding the title up as he’s done for pretty much every entrance. The Usos appeared at ringside with Reigns and entered with him (Heyman as well). Cole hyped The Usos vs. The Mysterios for the Tag Team Championship on Sunday.
The Mysterios made their entrance next for this six-man tag match. Cole reminded viewers that this is the younger Mysterio’s first match “in front of the WWE Universe.” Edge entered next to the biggest pop, without a doubt, thus far in the early going. The set and Tron they have for the return is really nice; big, clean, and crisp. They showed some photos of Edge locking in the crossface with the bar to Reigns and both Usos. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: I hedged my bets with who would enter first, and I was partially right! The crowd involvement ALREADY has made a difference, and if you’re WWE, you HAVE to love that they booed Reigns heavily while giving the biggest pop to Edge. That tells you that at least with this group, they’ve been booked well.)
(1) ROMAN REIGNS & THE USOS (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) vs. REY MYSTERIO & DOMINICK MYSTERIO & EDGE – Six-man tag team match
They returned with the heels on the outside as the faces were in their corner. Reigns drew in Edge and allowed Jey Uso to attack Edge from behind; the ref began the match right after. Edge fought back by hitting a flapjack on Jey, then tagged in Dominick. He grabbed an arm, tagged in his father, and the elder leaped off of the top rope with an axe handle across the arm. Jey was able to fight off and tag in his brother, but Jimmy was taken down with an arm drag.
Edge tagged in and began working the left arm. He wrung it a few times before tagging in the elder Mysterio and they hit a spinebuster/West Coast Pop double team for a two-count. Dominick tagged in and hit a springboard moonsault off of the second rope for a two-count that really popped the crowd. He nailed Jimmy with a deep arm drag, and the crowd started chanting his name. Jey made a blind tag and hit Dominick with an enziguri, followed by a big right from his brother. Jey hit a splash in the corner.
Reigns called for the tag without looking at Jey and just dragged Dominick to the floor outside. He rolled him back in and hit a quick snap vertical suplex for a two-count. Reigns rolled Dominick right back outside. He sat on the apron and rubbed his hands together like he had a plan formulating. He rammed Dominick’s head onto the announce table, broke the count, then looked for a powerbomb on Dominick and he hit, but the table didn’t break! They cut to commercials. [c]
They returned with Dominick fighting off Jimmy with a tornado DDT off of the top rope. The crowd is still hot for this opening match. Jey tagged in, but so did Edge. Edge took out Jimmy, missed Reigns, then took out Jey. He hit a baseball slide on Jimmy on the outside, then dropped Reigns with a lariat. Edge slipped out of a Samoan drop, Rey tagged in, then hit a West Coast Pop. He hit a tornado DDT off of the ropes, but his pin was broken up by Jimmy.
Dominick took Jimmy outside with a tilt-a-whirl, then hit a springboard. He was immediately thrown into the post by Reigns. Rey set Jey for the 619, but Reigns caught him from the outside as he went for it and rammed him into the ring apron. He trash-talked to the announcers, but ate a spear. In the ring, Rey tried rolling up Jey, but Jey kicked out and Jimmy punched him behind the back. Jey rolled him up with the tights for the victory.
WINNER: Roman Reigns & The Usos at 9:21 (rollup with tights)
-After the match, they attacked the Mysterios until Edge entered with a chair and took out both Usos. Reigns entered and nailed a Superman punch to Edge, leaving him as the only one standing. Heyman paraded around the ring with the title before handing it to Reigns. Reigns then looked down at the chair, dropped the title, and broke off the lower bar like Edge.
However, Edge nailed him with a spear as Reigns turned around. McAfee said the second spear of the night for Reigns. Edge had his wild-eyed look before locking in the crossface with the bar across the mouth of Reigns. Reigns tapped! Edge lifted the Universal Championship before draping it across a downed Reigns. They showed replays after.
-Cole hyped the fatal four-way between Big E, Shinsuke “Kingsuke” Nakamura, Kevin Owens, and Seth Rollins as they cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: For as standard of a six-man tag team as that was in WWE in terms of booking, the crowd REALLY impacted the match for the positive. The pace was actually pretty quick if formulaic. The crowd cheered who should have been cheered and when, and the same for booing. The crowd in Houston is very, very excited to be back, and it comes through the screen.)
-They returned with the face team walking in the back discussing the match as Kayla Braxton approached for Edge. The Mysterios walked away. She asked about the match on Sunday. Edge said he wished he could say that making Reigns tap out like a bitch just now would entail the same for Sunday, but he knows that’s not the case. He said he has to be the most selfish manipulative son of a bitch he can be to beat Reigns at his game.
Seth Rollins cackled and approached, still cackling, saying Edge couldn’t beat Reigns. He called Reigns the most self-absorbed megalomaniacal man he’s met in his left, but Reigns has Edge’s number. He said he’s Edge’s biggest fan this Sunday so that he can cash-in the Money in the Bank contract after he wins it, “and finish what I started seven years ago when I had my boot on your neck and didn’t pull the trigger.” He said he would love to cash-in on the man who made the match famous, said good luck, and cackled some more.
-Sami Zayn made his entrance. He told the crowd to stop before they could sing, then said everyone is talking about the MITB match, but not that he is purposefully being exculuded. He said they want you to focus on all the happy things: fans are back, new entrance. He said it’s to distract that for over a year, there’s been a conspiracy against him. He said that’s fine because for the first time in forever, he has something in his corner: the people. He said they’ve seen him been victimized and persecuted, so he needed all of them to stand up and let their voices heard that this conspiracy will not stand. He chanted “Justice for Sami!” They didn’t.
He said he’s not surprised as the yeehaws of Texas aren’t on his side. He said he actually doesn’t need them; he needs justice! He said if there was any justice in the world, he’d be in the match, no, the briefcase would be lowered right now and be handed the contract on a silver platter. Suddenly, Finn Balor’s music hit to a huge pop, and McAfee went nuts. The crowd did his customary entrance pose with him.
He entered the ring and circled Zayn. Zayn welcomed Balor back and the crowd popped. He tried to attack him, but Balor dropped him and hit the shotgun dropkick. He quickly climbed for the Coup de Grace and hit it square to Zayn’s midsection. Balor posed, then went to the corners and looked to the crowd. They showed a replay of the Coup de Grace. He did his pose in the ring to his music with the fans. They showed McAfee doing the finger gun pose with Balor.
-Cole shifted to last week when Shotzi & Nox debuted. Unfortunately, the FOX player froze, which caused my laptop to freeze. Please read Wade Keller’s report for what I missed.
-They returned from break with a video on the Intercontinental Champion, Apollo Crews, highlighting his Nigerian heritage and victories in the ring, along with Commander Azeez. Liv Morgan and Zelina Vega joined commentary. Vega immediately talked over Morgan, putting herself over.
(2) SHOTZI & NOX vs. NATALYA & TAMINA (c) – Non-title match
Tamina started with Shotzi as Morgan and Vega bickered on commentary. Tamina tossed Shotzi into their corner before taking out Nox, then tagged in Natalya. Natalya stomped away, but Shotzi slipped out of a bodyslam for a rollup, a quick one-count, then did a Jeff Hardy-like double leg drop across the chest after yelling about being in the ball pit.
Tamina distracted Shotzi, who fell to the mat like she took a bullet after being struck in the back by Natalya. They isolated Shotzi in their corner, but she fought back and tried to crawl away. She was briefly stopped before Nox entered.
Nox hit a series of strikes on Natalya, then a basement dropkick to Tamina and a inverted cannonball senton to knock her off the ring. She did the same to Natalya before hitting a Shining Wizard. Her pin was broken up by Tamina.
Morgan and Vega went at it at ringside as Natalya tried for the Sharpshooter. She was distracted, and Nox rolled up Natalya for the victory.
WINNER: Shotzi & Nox at 3:22 (rollup)
After the match, the champs attacked both women at ringside, taking out Morgan first, then Vega. They went after Morgan again, but she fought off both and hit her finisher on Natalya in the ring, the jumping double knee to the face.
-They showed Belair walking in the back. She got a huge reception. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: The vaunted rollup! It’s hard for me to get a good take on that match because of my computer freezing and missing the pre-match video and entrance for the newcomers. I understand wanting to build them up, but Natalya has now lost both of her singles matches this week after losing on Raw. That might not be the best way to maintain her momentum as champion, but we’ll see.)
-They returned with tweets from various wrestlers and celebrities about being back on the road in front of live fans. They hyped the fatal four-way for later, I’m guessing the main event after the six-man began the match.
-Carmella entered with I think a new Tron, although it did say Mella is Money at the end. Cole reminded viewers of Bayley’s injury and Carmella being the replacement. Belair entered next to a big pop. They showed some ESPYS video, including Belair vs. Banks being named Best WWE Moment. Greg Hamilton gave formal introductions, including calling Carmella “The most beautiful woman in WWE.”
(3) BIANCA BELAIR (c) vs. CARMELLA – Women’s Championship match
The bell rung, and Carmella tried pushing Belair. Belair shoved her back, only Carmella fell to her butt. Carmella then slapped Belair, who chased Carmella around and back into the ring. Carmella hit a wheelbarrow arm drag, but Belair hit a shoulder tackle, then a dropkick into a kip up.
Carmella kicked a rushing Belair in the corner, then trapped Belair and hit a series of back elbows, followed by an extra one that sat Belair down. She hit a running bronco buster for a one-count. Belair avoided Carmella, hit a back handspring, then hit a running shoulder tackle to Carmella in the corner.
From the apron, Belair hit a forearm to Carmella, but as Belair went to grab her for from around the corner, Carmella grabbed Belair’s arm and pulled her shoulder-first into the post. She rolled Belair back in for a two-count. They went back outside, and Carmella threw Belair into the barricade twice as they cut to break. [c]
They returned with Belair hitting a clothesline out of the corner to drop Carmella, then beating on her before throwing her into a corner, then another, then hitting a bodyslam. Carmella grabbed a leg, but Belair fought out and hit a back handspring off of the ropes, but elongated her splash as Carmella tried rolling away. It was a feat of athleticism.
She set Carmella for the 450, but Carmella met Belair and sat her on the top rope. She went for her handspring rana, but Belair fought her off. She then brought Carmella up to the second rope with her, but Carmella fought her off a bit and went for an avalanche rana and hit! It was only for a two-count!
Carmella took some time to regroup, but the crowd chanted “E S T!” Belair set for the Glam Slam, but Carmella rolled through for a two-count. Belair countered into her own rollup, but Carmella kicked her out into a turnbuckle. Carmella then locked in a standing guillotine, dropping Belair to one knee.
Belair regained her composure and rose to her feet, turning the choke into a delayed vertical suplex that popped the crowd. She covered for a two-count that some fans found surprising even though it was just a delayed vertical suplex.
Belair went after Carmella, who was on the apron, but Carmella grabbed the ponytail. Belair fought her off, but missed with the hair whip on the outside, allowing Carmella to hit a superkick. She rolled her foe back in for a two-count.
Carmella held the ponytail, but Belair, pulled it away and whipped Carmella in the stomach. She then hit the K.O.D. to retain her title with a clean pinfall victory. The crowd seemed happy and cheered.
WINNER: Bianca Belair at 11:00 (K.O.D.) to retain the Women’s Championship
-They cut to the back where Chad Gable said he teaches all five sense. He went through saying some things about all five senses, relating it to their competition. He asked about fear, and Otis said they smelled fear. Cesaro walked up and said what he smelled was bold (I think?), then said it was good they didn’t make a bonehead mistake and attack him. Gable said Cesaro wasn’t on their list, but now he has Otis’ full attention. Otis immediately attacked Cesaro and laid him out. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: There were a few clunky spots, some that looked highly rehearsed, but it was still a serviceable match. Again, it was probably at least a half-star better due solely to the crowd involvement, though it was noticeably inconsistent in this match compared to the first hour. Good for Belair, and now we’ll see if her next foe comes from the MITB match or not.)
-They returned with a vignette for the soon-to-debut Toni Storm. If you’ve followed “PWT Talks NXT” then you know the hosts and I don’t have the highest opinion of Storm. Still, she seems better for “main roster” than NXT.
-Alpha Academy made their entrance next as they played a video showcasing Otis’ destruction over the past few weeks. They hadn’t even hit the ring when Cesaro’s music hit, who received a HUGE pop. He sold his ribs from Otis’ attack as they then showed some videos of the Cesaro Swing on various wrestlers, large and small.
(4) OTIS (w/Chad Gable) vs. CESARO
They locked up, but Otis immediately targeted the ribs and forced Cesaro into the corner. He then hit a HUGE left hand on Cesaro’s head, but Cesaro hit a series of European uppercuts. Gable distracted Cesaro, and Otis his his version of the World’s Strongest Slam.
He rushed at Cesaro in the corner, but Cesaro sidestepped and Otis hit the post. Cesaro dropkicked Otis into the post again, sending him outside. Gable entered and hit a German suplex to cause the DQ.
WINNER: Cesaro at 1:04 by DQ
-After the match, Gable got caught with a popup European upppercut, then suffered about eight swings of the Cesaro Swing before Otis reentered and just ran over Cesaro. He then hit the Otis Bomb (Vader Bomb) to the compromised ribs of Cesaro. McAfee said they don’t care if they lose as long as they can do some destruction.
-Cole & McAfee then shifted to how they’re sold out for the first show with fans in 70 weeks. They then replayed the aftermath of the night’s opening match with Edge locking in the crossface with the bar across Reigns’ mouth. They also showed Edge’s comments to Braxton.
-Heyman exited Reigns’ locker room, saying Braxton was a little aggressive with the knock. She said the situation with Edge, but Heyman said Edge, who will confess his sins and have those sins beaten out of him by the defending Universal Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns, that Edge? He said that wasn’t a prediction, then Big E yelled “PAUL HEYMAN! DON’T YOU DARE BE SOUR! CLAP FOR THE MAN WHO WILL WIN THE MONEY IN THE BANK CONTRACT, AND FEEL THE POWER!”
He said there was something serious he did need to talk to Heyman about. He said it seems Edge has a hold of Roman Reigns, and mocked Heyman about Edge locking in the crossface as he walked away. That was funny. Cole & McAfee then hyped the fatal four-way again.
-Baron Corbin then dejectedly made his way to the ring as the crowd booed. He really did look sad. [c]
BARON CORBIN’S “SPECIAL REQUEST”
They returned with a disheveled Corbin in the ring as they played video of him losing his crown to Nakamura. They also showed him telling Braxton & Sarah Schreiber that he lost his investments, hundreds of thousands of dollars, his Mercedes-Benz SUV, not being called “King” anymore, and his losses in-ring. Corbin, who hasn’t shaved or cut his hair, said it’s no secret, just look at him, that the last few weeks have been the most difficult time of his life. He said he lost everything: his crown, his car, his investments, and his savings. He got the first “What?” treatment. He said the bank is threatening to foreclose on his house.
He said his two-year-old daughter is sick because she has to eat spaghetti out of a can instead of Wagyu beef, and if it continues, they’re going to have to move in with his in-laws. He said there’s some good news because all the fans there and those watching at home can help him out of his dark financial times. He said he started a “crowd-funded” website called “CorbinFund.” His targeted goal is 100 thousand dollars, not a lot, just to get back on his feet. He said every little bit helps, and please don’t tell him that everyone in Texas isn’t as cheap as everyone else in the world.
He said he’s asking for help, then went to his knees. He said he is literally on his knees begging please, please, and Owens’ music hit to a good pop. Owens yelled as he made his way to the ring. Corbin was on one knee now, looking pitiful. He rose to his feet, head down, and said he wants to believe that Owens is out there for the right reasons: to help Corbin. He said Owens has influence in the locker room so if Owens and a few others help him, “these people” will fall in line.
He said he’s just like Owens: Owens has a heart and sypmathizes with those less fortunate. He said he knows Owens has money, just look at him! He said don’t take this the wrong way, but we know Owens doesn’t spend money on his wardrobe. Owens then hit a Stunner on Corbin to pop the crowd. Big E’s music hit as the remaining competitors made their entrances. They cut to break. [c]
(Hazelwood’s Take: Look, I haven’t been a fan of Corbin since he moved from NXT, but there is a certain brilliance to this character. He’s at his worst, but his worst seems to be a regular day for many people. I’ve never had Wagyu beef, for example, but I have had canned spaghetti! Further, his ability to still be a smarmy heel while asking for help is just the right kind of self-obliviousness that’s needed for this character. Hopefully the “What?” chants don’t hinder his path.)
-They returned with Rick Boogz playing the electric guitar and getting the crowd ready for Kingsuke Nakamura’s entrance. Nakamura entered and the crowd sung as loud as possible! Nakamura does look good with the white & black coloring to his gear. Rollins then entered, and he received a pretty good pop, actually. This match is going to be both fun and a pain to type out. They showed video of Rollins cashing in on Lesnar, “the heist of the century.”
(5) KEVIN OWENS vs. BIG E vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (w/Rick Boogz) vs. SETH ROLLINS
They began with Rollins telling the other to fight it out and that he’d see everyone Sunday. As Rollins went to the apron, Big E hit his spear to the outside. Owens then hit a tope con hilo to E, and Nakamura hit a running knee off of the apron to Owens. They cut to break. [c]
They returned with an ad for next week’s live show in both Cleveland and the Rolling Loud festival in Miami. That will be interesting. E and Owens were in the ring as E landed a big clothesline. Nakamura entered, but E sent him right back out and turned his attention back to Owens. Owens climbed to the top, but E met him and climbed for a superplex. I feel a stack coming.
Indeed, Nakamura climbed up for a double superplex and they hit. Rollins went for a frogsplash immediately, but Owens moved. Nakamura took out E, but Rollins attacked. Instead, Nakamura hit his running knee to the gut of Rollins laid across the top rope. He then hit his rolling kick and half-and-half suplex to Owens. He set for the Kinshasa, but Big caught him and hit the Big Ending instead! Rollins broke up the count just before three!
Rollins sent E outside (there are ladders set around the ring) and then grabbed a ladder. He used it to clear the ring, then went back outside. He glanced at the taller ladder, then cleared the announce table. He punched Nakamura several times and laid him on the table. He tried climbing the large ladder, but Owens intercepted and climbed instead. Rollins, was clearly holding the ladder for Owens as he leaped off for a Mach Man elbow drop through Nakamura and the announce desk!
Back in the ring, E went for the Big Ending, but Rollins slipped out and kicked out his knee. He then hit the stomp to E on a ladder for the victory with about three minutes left in the show.
WINNERL: Seth Rollins at 8:01 (stomp onto ladder)
-After the match, Rollins set a ladder in the middle of the ring and did the obligatory climb to grab the briefcase as the lasting image on the go-home show heading into Money in the Bank. Cole asked if Rollins will once again become Mr. Money in the Bank as Rollins grabbed the green briefcase and cackled some more from the top of the ladder as the show ended with about 90 seconds before the top of the hour.
(Hazelwood’s Take: Again, a formulaic match, but the crowed investment made it better. The last two spots probably gave the fans a bit of what they wanted with two memorable moments, and if Jalen Rose has taught me anything, it’s that you’ve got to give the people what they want. I don’t think this signals Rollins winning on Sunday, but the video they showed of his previous cash-in and Cole reminding viewers at the end he could win again at least adds a bit of mystery to the outcome. I said on Monday that the field for the men’s match was underwhelming due to the booking of each man heading into the match, but that wasn’t the case tonight. A good showing for all four men. I think the likelihood of winning the match go E, Rollins, Owens, then Nakamura.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Seriously, what a difference having a crowd makes. I started covering Raw in November, in the midst of the pandemic, and this was the first televised show I’ve covered with live fans. Wow, it made those two hours feel quicker than they already do on most Friday nights. I did caution that we should probably take the first two weeks of reactions as an outlier, but still have to credit the fans in Houston tonight for being so engaged in the best of ways. The “What?” chants only happened with Corbin, for example. I just hope the fans have a similar effect on Monday nights because three hours is, well, a slog.
Next week will be interesting with matches (billed as live) from two cities. I remember they did this with the 25th anniversary show for Raw with some matches in Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t well-received then, but maybe they’ve learned since then and added some tweaks to make it better. Until then, stay safe everyone!