wrestling / TV Reports

Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 7.23.21

July 23, 2021 | Posted by Robert Winfree
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Winfree’s WWE Smackdown Review 7.23.21  

Hello everyone, another Friday is upon us and that means another episode of WWE Smackdown. In the wake of Money in the Bank everyone’s buzzing about the potential for a feud between Seth Rollins and Edge. . . OK jokes aside the big news has obviously been the return of John Cena. Cena made his intentions clear on Monday, and tonight he will get to go face to face with The Tribal Chief, The Head of the Table, the Universal Champion Roman Reigns. Tonight we’re also having a rematch between Bianca Belair and Carmella, for no reason. Last week Belair pinned Carmella clean to retain her title, we’re getting a rematch here because I assume whoever is actually going to feud with Belair shows up tonight to interfere. Speaking of debuts, Toni Storm will be here tonight, and Finn Balor returned last week and abused Sami Zayn to potentially set up something between them. Big E won the Money in the Bank ladder match, so I assume his lower level place holder feud will start tonight. If past is prologue he’ll lose a lot of that because the briefcase is seen as some kind of magic prop that means someone is always over and safe. The Usos claimed the tag team titles before Money in the Bank, tonight we’ll see if they’ll keep clashing with the Mysterio clan or if the Street Profits are healed up enough to slot back into the title picture. I’m also fairly sure we’ll get something involving the sad decline of Baron Corbin’s financial situation. Well with all that in mind, let’s get to the action.

We’re getting some split action tonight, not only the live stuff at the venue but also some matches taking place at a rap/hip-hop festival. I’m sure that wont get tiring. Our main venue is in Cleveland, Ohio and here’s John Cena to get the show going. Cena gets a very loud pop, and a mic so he can speak to everyone. He just plays with the crowd at first, he understands they’re amped up and that it’s been a hell of week. His surprise return, he was so excited he crashed RAW to address some fan issues most notably him being the only guy left to chin check the lifeless egomaniac that is Roman Reigns. He came back to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal title at Summerslam. Everyone can feel how close they are to Cen and Reigns going face to face, and he couldn’t think of a better place than Cleveland. He brings up the Indians changing their name to the Guardians, and says he changed his middle name to Guardian because someone has to protect the small amount of respect WWE has left. Smackdown with Roman Reigns as champion has absolutely sucked, but that’s just his perspective and he knows there’s dozens, nay hundreds of Roman Reigns fans who disagree with him. But the important thing is they can be heard now, no more Thunderdome, no more LED screens, it’s live and in person finally. Summerslam is a chance to stand up for what you believe in, and he asks which team the fans are on. That leads to a fairly large “Cena” chant, and Cena asks if you’re on team Jorts or Cargo Pants. Team Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect or on a team the fans always reject. Are you on Team Cena or on Team Roman Reigns. Speaking of Roman Reigns where is he? Roman must know that he can’t see Cena, and after Summerslam he’ll realize that the champ is here. Cena wants Roman to show up, he wants to make history. But everyone should know at this point, Roman does things on his time and not yours. Paul Heyman is here with a mic on the entrance ramp. Ladies, Gentlemen, things that live in Cleveland, John Cena has this all wrong. Roman can’t hear Cena because Cena isn’t worth the time to listen too. Don’t get your panties in a bunch though John, Heyman is giving him his word that tonight Cena will get an answer to his challenge. But only when Roman decides to come out and show everyone that the Tribal Chief is here. Heyman then sings Cena’s entrance song is a truly glorious spot as he heads to the back. Nothing ground breaking from Cena but there’s very few men who can match his delivery, and Heyman is as consistent as ever in his role.

Up next is a recap of last week when Finn Balor returned and kicked around Sami Zayn. Nicely timed, as here comes Balor for his first match back on Smackdown. That match will come up after this commercial break.

As we come back from break Sami Zayn is making his entrance.

Match #1: Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn

They tie up, Balor with a go behind and Sami goes to the strikes right away. Sami goes for an arm wringer, Balor escapes but eats a right hand. Some mounted punches from Sami then he tosses Balor out of the ring. Sami follows Balor out of the ring and lays in strikes before they head back into the ring. Balor’s turn for offense, he lays in strikes and stomps then tosses Sami out of the ring and dives onto him to send us to another break.

We come back to Balor running into a clothesline. Some knees from Sami, then Balor fights back with a kick before walking into a DDT. Sami sets for the Helluva kick, but Balor intercepts him with a Sling Blade. Eye of the Hurricane from Balor, he tries the shotgun drop kick but Sami counters with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall. Balor avoids an exploder suplex with elbow strikes then hits a standing double stomp to Sami. Shotgun dropkick, then another one so we can be properly positioned for the hard camera. Coup de Grace follows and Balor wins.


Rating: 2 stars

Decent match, hurt by a lack of story or anything approximating stakes. I’d also have found something more Balor dominated more appealing if you’re trying to set him up for a title shot instead of a competitive bout with Sami, but that’s just me.

In the back Kayla welcomes Baron Corbin into an interview. Corbin has added a ketchup stain to his rumpled shirt. Kayla asks how much money he made from his crowdfunding effort, apparently he lost money as the guy who built the website for him ghosted him and stole his identity because now his credit is crap. He had to take the bus to get here, and public busses smell like curdled cheese and gym socks. I mean, he’s not wrong. Corbin wonders what happened to him.

Back to the ring and here’s Big E with the briefcase. We get a recap of Big E’s win at Money in the Bank, and after this commercial break he’ll be doing something in the ring.

Here’s Big E in the ring with a mic. He plays with the crowd, then gets a “You deserve it” chant. He appreciates that, and calls Money in the Bank a night he’ll never forget and jokes that he jumped off a ladder and knows he has no business jumping off of ladders. But when he climbed the ladder and won, oh here’s Apollo Crews with Commander Azeez. Crews congratulates Big E on overcoming the odds and climbing the ladder all to win a contract. Now that’s not the same thing as actually winning a title like he did by beating Big E at WrestleMania, oh God here’s Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. Ziggler says if you want to talk about the Intercontinental title you better be talking about the Dirty Dawgs, but here’s Rick Boogs to bring out Shinsuke Nakamura. Revolving door promos kill my soul. Before anyone can say anything here comes Cesaro with a mic. Cesaro says enough talking, he’s right, he wants that title and it’s Swing time in Cleveland. We get a brawl, it takes both Cesaro and Nakamura to stagger Azeez then Big E sends him out of the ring. Crews gets caught in a Big Swing but a truncated one as the other heels were showing up. Everyone stares and yells for a bit, but there’s no authority figure to make the obvious multi-man tag team match.

We head to the Rolling Loud portion of our broadcast. Wale plays with the crowd, tries to get them to play with “we want the smoke” but they’re not mic’ed up so it all falls flat. Anyway here’s the Profits, Dawkins has a singles match with Chad Gable after this break.

Match #2: Angelo Dawkins w/ Montez Ford vs. Chad Gable w/ Otis

Gable gets an early advantage laying in strikes to Dawkins. They run the ropes, and I can feel Kevin Dunn weeping over the limited camera angles he can use to cut between. Dawkins fights back with strikes, Gable returns fire with strikes. Dawkins puts Gable on the top rope but Gable counters a punch into an armbar over the top rope and he holds it for as long as possible. Gable up top with a flying clothesline for a near fall. Gable goes to work on the arm of Dawkins, and hits a hammerlock northern lights suplex for a near fall. The crowd noise for this is painfully obviously piped in. Gable with a German suplex and gets another near fall, then heads up top for a moonsault but lands on his feet. Dawkins avoids a charge and lays in a clothesline to start his comeback. Gable with a Rolling Thunder kick, and the worst possible camera angle for it, but he tries to follow up and runs into a right hand from Dawkins that floors him. Backslide from Gable for 2, then he runs into The Anointment to end this.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Angelo Dawkins won

Rating: 1.5 stars

That was rough, not from an action standpoint which was more or less fine, but the production was pretty bad.

Bianca Belair is here, to no real reaction from the Rolling Loud crowd. Her rematch with Carmella will be up right after this break.

Post break Belair is still doing her little dance in the ring, to no visible reaction from the Rolling Loud crowd. Here’s Carmella, with slightly new entrance music at first which then turns back into her usual one.

Match #3 – Smackdown Women’s Title Match: (c) Bianca Belair vs. Carmella

Some early roll ups are traded. Carmella with a kick to the body then starts shoving Belair around. Belair does her gymnastic bit then a low one legged drop kick to the body. Carmella runs the ropes with a tilt a whirl headscissors takeover but Belair is able to shoulder block her after that. Belair wants the Kiss of Death, Carmella avoids that but gets dumped on the apron. Carmella is able to slam Belair down onto the apron then they head back into the ring. Belair fights out of a chin lock, and hits a backbreaker. Carmella avoids a corner rush, heads up top and hits a crossbody but Belair rolls through and stands then hits a fallaway slam. Handspring off the ropes then a moonsault from Belair but that just gets 2. Carmella with a jawbreaker but Belair tries a suplex, Carmella counters into an X-Factor for a near fall. Some super kicks from Carmella, Belair avoids the second one and hits a right hand, then the Kiss of Death and we’re mercifully done.

OFFICIAL RESULT: Bianca Belair retained her title

Rating: 1.5 stars

Again the production issues hindered this, but in this case the action itself wasn’t memorable either as Belair and Carmella don’t really seem to click in the ring. That Rolling Loud crowd could not possibly have cared less about any of this.

Back to the Cleveland venue where Kevin Owens talks with Shotzi and Nox about fixing their tank. Owens heads out and runs into Corbin, Corbin apologizes for last week, he’s just having a bad week. Owens mentions Corbin has had a bad habit of being a jerk for 8 years or so, and he’s brought a lot of the behavior on himself. Corbin laments his situation, noting that this isn’t the same shirt as last week but he’s still got a spaghetti stain on it from the canned spaghetti. Owens gives him 40 bucks and tells him not to be a jerk to people, Corbin appreciates it. Right about then Shotzi gets her tank working and the projectile hits Corbin in the crotch, recreating the famous George C. Scott moment in his Oscar winning role in Football in the Groin. Ziggler and Roode are here to mock Corbin, try to steal his money, and Owens chases them off with a chair.

Back to the ring, here’s Edge and a recap of Seth Rollins costing him the Universal title at Money in the Bank. After this break he’ll talk, probably get interrupted by Rollins and then brawl.

Edge has a mic as we come back from break, he plays with the crowd before bringing up his history. We know how hard he’s fought to get this back, how hard he fought to get them back, and that he should be standing here right now as Universal champion. The only reason he isn’t is Seth Rollins. He thought he had all his bases covered, the Mysterios had his back against the Usos but he didn’t figure on Rollins getting involved. This is bigger than just the title, this goes back to 2014 when Edge and Rollins first met, when Rollins couldn’t pull the trigger on Edge because he thought Edge wouldn’t be back. But guess what, Edge is back and now they’re in each others way. Rollins has no idea about the Pandora’s box of pain he’s opened, Edge learned from the most evil minds in the history of this industry, he was in The Brood, he was in The Ministry of Darkness, you have no idea the depths he’ll sink to to get the job done. But you’re gonna find out. That prompts Seth Rollins to show up and do the dumbest dance this side of Sami Zayn on the entrance stage. He’s got a mic, and wonders if someone said his name. That’s right, it’s grandpa Edge talking about the man he used to be. Rollins cackles, and Edge does us all a favor by telling him to shut up. Why doesn’t Rollins come down here, and Edge promises not to get physical. Rollins is coming down, he knows Edge isn’t as stupid as he looks and Edge knows what Rollins can do to him so he’ll behave. He was going to come out here and talk about how much he hates Cleveland, and people like Edge and John Cena who come back whenever they want and jump the line to take chances they don’t deserve from people like him who deserve them. He was going to talk about all those things, but the more he thought about it the more he agrees with the people of Cleveland, he’s thrilled Grandpa Edge is here. Rollins is thrilled Edge is here, because Edge has been such a scumbag that nothing will make him happier than killing Edge’s dream and ending his little comeback story. He warns that if Edge keeps pushing Rollins that in years to come they wont talk about Edge, they’ll talk about the man who ended Edge. Rollins reminds everyone he could have ended Edge 7 years ago when he brought The Authority back, but he hesitated. But the next time he gets that chance, with his boot on the back of Edge’s surgically repaired neck, he will not hesitate. Edge reminds him of promising not to lay hands on Rollins, but Edge is a liar and they start brawling. Eventually Edge hits the Edgecution DDT, then Rollins runs away from a Spear. Edge stands tall. Predictable promo, I have no idea what Rollins was doing with his constant cackling, and Edge’s delivery was good per usual but this felt like it took too long to make the obvious points.

Post break Toni Storm will debut against Zelina Vega.

We come back and here’s Toni Storm making her debut.

Match #4: Toni Storm vs. Zelina Vega

Vega with a kick early, but runs into one from Storm. Low diving elbow from Storm sends Vega out of the ring. Storm out of the ring, and Vega slams her into the announce table then they head back into the ring. A kick in the corner then a running knee strike from Vega gets a near fall. Storm counters a tilt a whirl DDT with a sick looking headbutt and both women are down. Storm with a running hip attack in the corner then a bridging German suplex for a 2 count. Vega with a slow motion Code Red for a near fall. Storm and Vega trade rear waist locks, Vega gets the belt off of Storm then Storm catches her with a Storm-1 to win.


Rating: 1.5 stars

Slightly awkward at points, and I don’t quite think Storm got the reaction you’d hope for. But ultimately this was to introduce Toni Storm and they accomplished that, because this wasn’t bad.

The Usos are here for Jimmy’s singles match. He’ll go one on one with Dominik Mysterio after this break.

We come back and Dominik is making his entrance.

Match #5: Jimmy Uso w/ Jey vs. Dominik Mysterio w/ Rey

Dominik jumps Jimmy right away, but runs into a shoulder block as they run the ropes. More rope running and Dominik with a hip toss and drop kick. Jimmy catches Dominik on the top rope and drops him to the mat. Super kick to the body from Jimmy, then a really unimpressive whip into the corner. Dominik tries to fight back, but eats an enziguri for a near fall. Jimmy grabs a chin lock, but Dominik fights out and positions Jimmy for the 619 but Jey pulls his brother to safety. That prompts Rey to hit a seated senton onto Jey then Dominik with a triangle cross body onto Jimmy on the outside to send us to break.

Dominik is in control and hits a tope con hilo as we come back to action. Dominik attempts the Three Amigos in homage to his canonical father, but Jimmy fights him off. Jimmy fakes a Frog Splash, Dominik sends him into the ropes and hits a 619. Dominik up top, Jey gets involved but Rey starts brawling with him, though the distraction allows Jimmy to hit a super kick when Dominik jumps at him. They botch a Samoan Drop counter, have to recover and eventually Jimmy gets a Rana pin position and Jey leans on him behind the refs back to get the pin.


Rating: 1.5 stars

That botched ending really hurt this, but Dominik has come a long way over the last months.

Before the Usos even hit the back here’s the music for Roman Reigns. Roman is here with Heyman, he approves of Jey and Jimmy and they all slowly make their way to towards the ring. They’ll get there eventually, I imagine they’ll get there right about the time we get back from this commercial break.

We come back and Roman is in the ring with Heyman, and Heyman hands him a mic. Roman waits out the boos of the crowd, then tells Cleveland to acknowledge him. They boo in response. He looks to camera and tells all of us sitting at home to acknowledge him, we might as well since everyone including John Cena has acknowledge him. Cena acknowledged him at Money in the Bank, and RAW, and tonight, and he really did want to acknowledge Cena. Hollywood fooled him though, they put a paint job on Cena and he wanted something new, but all Cena’s doing is a nostalgia act. The same music, same run to the ring, same outfit, same promo, same insults, if Roman wanted that all he had to do was search online for 2005 John Cena, it’s like missionary position every single night. OK, that line ruled. But the Tribal Chief, they’re not motivated or inspired by that. Cena was right, Roman can’t see him, doesn’t want to see him, doesn’t need to see him, and has no desire to see him. And we’re not gonna see Cena in the main event of Summerslam. Because Roman’s answer is no. This all prompts Finn Balor to show up. Well that’s certainly a choice. Balor has a mic as he gets in the ring, Roman says Heyman informed him that Balor is here to do what he normally does and follow Cena’s footsteps and acknowledge him. Balor isn’t here to acknowledge Roman, but if Roman isn’t interested in Cena’s challenge maybe he’ll be interested in Balor’s. Roman chuckles at that, briefly confers with Heyman while the crowd chants “Roman’s scared” at him. Between Heyman and the crowd Roman’s demeanor changes, he gets serious then tells Balor he accepts his challenge. They stare down each other as the episode ends.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
The highs this week were quite good, but ultimately this fell short as an episode. Cena's opening promo was fine, but that segment didn't get legs until Heyman showed up and mocked him. The closing segment was really good, Roman still might be the best thing in professional wrestling and his response to Cena then the methodical but obvious change in his demeanor after Balor challenged him was great. The stuff in the middle this week was really lacking, between the revolving door promo segment and the botched ending to the Dominik and Jimmy match the live crowd had it kind of rough. All that's saying nothing about the absolute bomb that was the stuff at Rolling Loud, between a visibly dead crowd and production issues that whole experiment was a flop. Edge and Rollins set up their feud, which was alright but felt very mechanical. An unfortunate slip from Smackdown, hopefully next week they get back on form.

article topics :

WWE Smackdown, Robert Winfree