Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review. This is a show where WWE has decided to load up Smackdown with Roman Reigns defending Universal Title against Daniel Bryan with the stipulation that Bryan is “banished” from Smackdown if he loses. In addition to that, Apollo Crews will defend the Intercontinental Title against former champion Big E in a WrestleMania 37 rematch. A big reason why WWE is putting on two title matches this week is because they know round two of the NFL Draft will do pretty well on ABC/ESPN tonight, so WWE probably felt like they had to put on a bigger show than usual. That’s a good thing for us as fans. I’m interested to see how those two title matches go along with the rest of the show.
Today is also the last day of the month of April. I just want to say thank you for making April 2021 the busiest month ever in TJRWrestling history in terms of traffic. The presence of WrestleMania obviously helped, but our daily views are up as are views for my regular TV reviews, so we’re doing something right. I’m more motivated than ever and want to keep growing. I think Smackdown, NXT, and AEW Dynamite are generally good shows every week (my average rating for those three shows is between 7 to 7.5 this year). I just wish Raw was a better, more consistent show because it is tough to watch sometimes even though there are talented people on there. It’s a creative team issue. In personal news, I got my first COVID-19 vaccine shot on Wednesday. Here in Canada, we are behind the US in terms of vaccine distribution and I have to wait until July for the second shot, but I’m happy to have completed the first step. I was out of it for Thursday after the vaccine shot, but I felt a lot better when I woke up, and now I’m ready to roll again.
From the WWE ThunderDome at the Yuengling Center in Tampa Bay, Florida, this is Smackdown for episode #1132. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Let’s get to it.
There was a quick video promoting the Universal Title match between Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan. That was followed by the “Are You Ready” opening video package. We don’t see that most weeks, but they are showing it this week.
The show began with an impressive fireworks display at the Yuengling Center with the Thunderdome setup all around the building. The announce team of Michael Cole and Pat McAfee were on hand at ringside to call the action.
Bianca Belair made her entrance as the Smackdown Women’s Champion. She is advertised for a six-person tag team match this week. They aired a quick video package showing some Belair highlights. There were piped in “EST” chants for her. Belair welcomed us to the coolest, dopest, hottest show on Fox…Friday Night Smackdown. See? She’s the “EST” of WWE. Belair was about to say more but was interrupted.
Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, the Dirty Dogs, are the Smackdown Tag Team Champions and they claimed that they were the best. I think there was a new theme song for them.
The Street Profits duo interrupted Ziggler and Roode with some quick words about how Ziggler/Roode just interrupted Bianca, who main evented WrestleMania.
Bayley was next. Bayley got into the ring, took the microphone out of Belair’s hand, and did some laughing. Belair shut her up with a slap to the face. That led to Bianca/Bayley brawling in the ring while the guys got into a brawl, so that led to a brawl.
Analysis: This match was already advertised before the show, so it was just a way to take up a few minutes of TV time to get them out there. They went out of order due to Ziggler/Roode being heels and getting heat for interrupting Belair. It is better than the usual 10-15 minute promo that we get most weeks.
It was announced that next week’s Smackdown is a “Throwback Edition.” They didn’t provide many details other than putting on old-school graphics.
Bianca Belair, Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins vs. Bayley, Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode
Bayley with a clothesline. Belair with a takedown into a pin and then a shoulder tackle. Bayley avoided a dropkick and hit some punches. Ziggler faced off with Belair for a moment, but then Belair had to leave since it’s men vs. men and women vs. women in a match like this. Dawkins with a shoulder tackle on Ziggler and Ford got the tag with a dropkick on Ziggler. Street Profits with a flapjack on Roode, Dawkins clotheslined Roode over the top to the floor. Funny spot with Ford acting as if he was tying his shoe to avoid Bayley attacking Belair. Ford hit an incredible somersault dive over the top onto the heels on the floor. Bayley drove Belair back first into the steel steps, so Ford checked on his wife Bianca and Ziggler hit a superkick. Ford rolled out of the ring after that. Roode tagged with a uranage slam on Ford for a two count. Ziggler back in for a double team suplex on Ford. Ziggler with a sleeper on Ford, who got out of it with a takedown and Ziggler hit a corner splash. Ziggler set up for a superkick, but Ford beat him to it with a superkick of his own. Dawkins tagged in against Roode with punch, a jumping back elbow, and an overhead throw on Ziggler. Dawkins with a corner splash on Roode, a bulldog and a double underhook slam into neckbreaker for two as Ziggler made the save. Belair lifted Ziggler, Bayley into the ring and Belair hit the KOD slam on Bayley. Roode with a boot to the face of Dawkins, Roode with a rollup using the tights, and Belair used her hair to whip Roode in the back! Dawkins with a spinebuster. Ford tag and he did a springboard Frog Splash for the pinfall win after about nine minutes. Incredible height by Ford as usual. It’s an amazing visual when he does that.
Winners by pinfall: Bianca Belair, Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins
Analysis: ***1/4 This was a fun match with everybody getting a chance to do their thing. I thought the interaction with the women was good with Bayley taking out Belair with a cheap shot on the floor, so then Belair hit the KOD slam in the ring. The guys did their part too with Ziggler hitting that superkick, but Ford was able to roll to the floor to avoid being pinned. I liked the finish a lot with Belair using the hair whip, Dawkins hit his slam and then Ford hit an incredible Frog Splash with a lot of height to win. The Street Profits beating Ziggler/Roode in this tag team setting could lead to a title shot even though the Street Profits lost the last time they had a title match.
Daniel Bryan was interviewed by Kayla Braxton. Bryan said that he is at peace with the decision because he has always wanted a fair fight against Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship and he’s confident because he tapped out Roman before, so he’ll tap him out again. Bryan said that his first title defense will be against Cesaro.
They showed comments from Seth Rollins saying his prediction for Reigns vs. Bryan is pretty simple and then he said that Bryan will win in one of the biggest upsets of all time. Rollins said that Cesaro is not going to make it past next week and said that’s a challenge for a match next week.
Analysis: That’s great. I expected a Cesaro vs. Rollins WrestleMania rematch, so next week is a good time for it.
Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler and Reginald were interviewed backstage about Jax losing to Tamina last week. Baszler noted it was a singles match, so then Natalya and Tamina attacked them in the backstage area. Natalya and Tamina left.
The team of Natalya and Tamina made their entrance for tag team action. The champs Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler were up next.
Tamina & Natalya vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (w/Reginald)
This is not for the titles held by Jax and Baszler. Tamina sent Jax into the turnbuckle and kicked her in the back. Tamina went up top, she jumped with a splash, but Jax got the knees up. Baszler tagged in with a knee to the face. Baszler with a knee against the turnbuckle and Jax tagged in leading to a running splash against the turnbuckle. Jax landed on top of Tamina after Tamina lifted Jax for a slam. Baszler tagged in with an armbar, but Tamina powered out of it with a body slam. Natalya got the tag, she hit the discus clothesline and that got a two count. Natalya with a release German Suplex for a two count. Baszler fought out a Sharpshooter attempt, Jax tagged in and hit a running elbow for two. Natalya avoided Jax with a splash, Tamina tagged in, kick to Jax and Natalya got a hold of Reginald on the floor. Baszler tossed Natalya over the announce table. Tamina up top, Jax with two headbutts and Baszler tagged in going for a superplex that was never going to happen. Tamina with a headbutt to knock Baszler down. Tamina jumped off the top and hit a Superfly Splash on Baszler for the pinfall win after about six minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Tamina & Natalya
Analysis: ** The match was decent. Tamina was the face in peril, Natalya cleaned house and that led to the finish with Tamina beating Baszler, who usually loses matches for her team when they lose. It’s the typical WWE booking style to have champions lose non-title to set up a title match. I don’t like it, but the formula has existed for decades.
There was a video from Booker T saying he picked Roman Reigns to retain the Universal Title tonight.
Shinsuke Nakamura talked about the Universal Title match saying he thinks Daniel Bryan is going to win. Nakamura said if Reigns can beat Daniel, Nakamura said he’ll be waiting for him.
Rey and Dominik Mysterio were interviewed by Kayla Braxton. Dominik talked about how great it is teaming with his dad and said it’s like being in a comic book. Rey spoke about how he has accomplished a lot, but those accomplishments don’t compare to this experience because they can make history as the first father-son champions and that would be legendary.
Analysis: They should have done it at WrestleMania. There should have been a plan in place to have Rey & Dominik win the titles at WrestleMania, yet they weren’t even on the show. If it was me, I would have built it up to be this huge thing that they built up for months and then have them do it at WrestleMania in front of that big crowd. It would have been so cool. It was an opportunity missed by WWE. If it happens in the future, save it for when crowds are back or wait until SummerSlam. Make it feel like a big deal.
Aleister Black was featured in a backstage video where he read some book “Tales of the Dark Father” about “Reality.” Black talked about all the good things that people strive to have in their lives and how he could help you get out of it, but he won’t. In other words, he’s a heel.
Analysis: I don’t know where it’s going. I’m just happy they have remembered to use Aleister Black again.
There was a Progressive Match Flo replay from WrestleMania 37 when Apollo Crews beat Big E to win the Intercontinental Title thanks to Commander Azeez attacking Big E.
Big E was interviewed by Megan Morant behind the curtain. Big E said that he’s been round and round with Apollo, but tonight all of that comes to an end because tonight he takes his baby back. Big E said that he’s going to become your three-time Intercontinental Champion.
Big E made his entrance for the Intercontinental Title match.
Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez were shown backstage with Crews talking to Azeez. That match is next.
They showed comments from Xavier Woods talking about Reigns vs. Bryan saying Bryan will win. Kofi Kingston was in his car with his kids in the backseat. Kingston said that normally he’d go with Bryan, but Roman has the right-hand man Jey Uso, so he has to go with Roman.
The entrance of Apollo Crews was up next as the Intercontinental Champion with the big man Commander Azeez by his side. They showed Crews beating Kevin Owens last week thanks to help from Azeez.
Intercontinental Championship: Apollo Crews (w/Commander Azeez) vs. Big E
There were some holds and counters early on just as a feeling out process. Big E applied an abdominal stretch briefly. Big E set up Crews on the ring apron and hit a running splash that he likes to do, which got a two count. Crews with a stun gun into the top rope followed by a clothesline. Crews hit a suplex off the apron onto the floor as the show went to break.
Crews was in control of the action with punches. Big E sent Crews into the corner, Crews got a boot up and Big E hit two belly to belly suplexes. Crews sent Big E to the apron followed by a kick to the head to knock Big E off the apron to the floor. Crews hit a standing moonsault off the apron onto Big E on the floor. Back in the ring, Crews up top for a splash, Big E moved and Big E hit the belly to belly slam he was looking for earlier. Big E hit a running splash for a two count. Big E wanted the Big Ending, but Crews slipped out of that and Crews hit a jumping kick to the head for two. Crews with a corner splash, then a charge and Big E blocked that with a uranage slam for two. With Crews on the apron, Big E charged, but Crews got the knee up to block the attack. Crews lifted up Big E on the apron and gave him a Death Valley Driver on the ring apron. That was impressive. Crews went up top and hit a Frog Splash for just two. Big E avoided an Angle Slam leading to a rollup for two. Big E hit the Big Ending on Crews near the ropes, Big E went for a cover and Azeez pulled Big E out of the ring. That led to a DQ finish because the referee saw it. It went about 11 minutes.
Winner by disqualification: Big E (Apollo Crews retains the title)
Analysis: ***1/4 A good match as usual between these guys with a predictable result. I think most people watching could have assumed that was coming since Crews only won the title a few weeks ago and with Azeez out there, a DQ finish seemed obvious. It seems like every time they have a match, there isn’t a clean finish so at some point they need to do something like that. This wasn’t the right time for that, though, so that’s why they did the DQ.
After the match, Commander Azeez tossed Big E into the ring post. Big E was attacked by both guys and then Kevin Owens ran out for the save. Big E got back in the ring to go after the heels. Azeez tried to fight off Big E and Owens when Sami Zayn showed up with a Helluva Kick on Owens to knock him down.
Zayn picked up the Intercontinental Title and handed it to Crews. Zayn also lifted up the hand of Azeez, but Azeez didn’t like that and delivered the Nigerian Nail (a thumb to the throat) to knock Zayn down. Zayn was down selling while Crews and Azeez stood tall in the ring.
Analysis: This should set up an obvious tag team match with Zayn and Crews teaming up against Big E and Owens. I like how Azeez knocked down Zayn there because just because they are heels doesn’t mean that Crews has to be friends with Zayn.
The Miz offered his pick for the WWE Universal Title match. Miz said he didn’t think anyone on the entire roster can take down Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan definitely can not.
An interview with Paul Heyman is next.
This Monday on Raw, Braun Strowman’s victory on Raw last week changed WrestleMania Backlash to a three-way WWE Title match between Bobby Lashley, Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre. Plus, what’s next for Charlotte Flair and Sonya Deville while wondering if a Raw Women’s Championship pursuit of Rhea Ripley is on the horizon.
Cesaro said that he accepts Seth Rollins’ challenge for next week. Cesaro predicted that Daniel Bryan will win the Universal Title match and then Cesaro will win the Universal Title at WrestleMania Backlash.
Roman Reigns was shown preparing for his title match. The announcers talked about it.
A video package aired setting up the Reigns vs. Bryan match.
Paul Heyman was interviewed backstage by Kayla Braxton, who is his co-host on Talking Smack. Heyman talked about Daniel Bryan’s career from the time he started in the business, rising up indies, succeeding in all levels of WWE, then headlining WrestleMania as the WWE Champion and coming back to become a champion again. Heyman was really fired up in the promo leading to “yes” chants about Daniel Bryan, but then he said that Bryan will not beat Roman Reigns. Heyman said that Bryan will not be on Smackdown again. Heyman simply stared into the camera and said: “No.” That was it.
Analysis: Tremendous promo from Paul Heyman. That’s no surprise. I liked it a lot.
Daniel Bryan made his entrance with the “YES” chants. They showed highlights of WrestleMania 30 when he beat Triple H to earn a spot in the main event where he beat Randy Orton and Batista to become the WWE Champion. I was there seven years ago and it was a lot of fun. Bryan’s championship match is next.
Next week on Smackdown: Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins. That’s going to be awesome.
King Corbin commented on the Universal Title match saying he doesn’t like either one of them (Reigns or Bryan). Then it seemed like Corbin sided with Reigns because Corbin mentioned Bryan going home for good if he loses and Corbin smiled about that.
Roman Reigns made his entrance with the Universal Title on his shoulder with the Special Counsel Paul Heyman by his side. Reigns had a new theme song, so that’s something to get used to. I don’t know if people will like it, but I’m all for change because it sounds like an authoritative song that is fitting for a character like him.
The wrestlers stood in the ring as the ring announcer Greg Hamilton did the introductions for this championship match. Hamilton does a great job of that. There were piped-in “YES” chants for Bryan and boos for Reigns.
Analysis: I think the way WWE built this match up last week and this week was tremendous. All of the videos with wrestlers offering predictions helped make this feel like a bigger deal too.
WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan
The match started with about 30 minutes left in the show, so they had a lot of time. Bryan with a running dropkick and then kicks to the body. Reigns came back with a huge uppercut. Bryan came back with a running attack and went for a submission, so Reigns bailed to the floor. Bryan kicked Reigns into the barricade. Bryan with a running knee off the apron onto Reigns on the floor for a two count.
The match returned with Bryan working on the left arm of Reigns with knee drops and kicks to the arm. Bryan with two running dropkicks in a row, but then Reigns came out of the corner and hit a huge clothesline leading to a flip bump from Bryan. Reigns was selling the left arm leading to a two count. Reigns with a suplex for a two count. Reigns applied a chinlock, Bryan fought out and Reigns delivered a knee to the face. Bryan with a backflip off the ropes, then he ran the ropes and Reigns hit an elbow smash for two. There were “Daniel Bryan” chants that Reigns didn’t like at all as Reigns hammered Bryan with punches. Bryan with two uppercuts, then Reigns charged and Bryan gave him a drop toe hold into the turnbuckle. Bryan set up Reigns on the top rope, Bryan tried a hurricanrana, Reigns blocked it and Reigns hit a Powerbomb off the top rope for a two count. Great counter there for a nearfall. There are about 20 minutes left in the show.
Reigns was in control out of the ring as he sent Bryan into the barricade and they went back into the ring with Reigns getting a two count. Reigns delivered several knees to the face. Bryan was seated on the top rope, Reigns went after him there and Bryan managed to shove Reigns onto the turnbuckle. Bryan climbed up after Reigns with Bryan hitting a belly to back superplex. That was impressive by Bryan and it got a two count. I agree with the “this is awesome” chants in the arena. Bryan worked over Reigns with kicks, but then Reigns came back with a Samoan Drop for two. Reigns charged with a Superman Punch, but Bryan blocked that with a kick to the arm, a kick to the leg and a kick to the right arm. Bryan wrenched on Roman’s right arm. Bryan sent Reigns on the floor, Bryan tried a suicide dive, but Reigns caught him. Reigns hit a belly-to-belly suplex on the floor. Reigns charged at Bryan, who moved and Reigns did a Spear into the barricade, so Reigns went crashing through the barricade! There was another break. They were at about 18 minutes into the match at this point.
It was time for the final part of the match. Bryan was on the top rope and he jumped off with a headbutt on Roman’s injured right shoulder for a two count. Bryan charged at Reigns, but then Reigns came back with a Superman Punch for a two count. Reigns went for a Spear, but Bryan turned it into an inside cradle for two. Bryan with a running knee for one…two…and no because Reigns got his foot on the bottom rope. The referee Dan Engler saw it and called it perfectly while they filmed it from the right angle. Bryan stomped on Roman’s face repeatedly and then he applied the Yes Lock submission on the right arm of Reigns that Bryan worked on for most of the match. Reigns countered by backing Bryan into a pinning position. Reigns got back up and hit a Spear! Reigns covered for one….two…and no because Bryan kicked out with his left shoulder up at the last possible moment! There were “this is awesome” chants that were very accurate because it’s true. Reigns went for the Guillotine Choke, but Bryan managed to slip out of it. Bryan applied a cross armbreaker that he turned into a Yes Lock submission. When Reigns tried to get his hand towards the ropes, Bryan pulled back on that left arm and brought Reigns back towards the center of the ring. Pat McAfee was standing at ringside and Michael Cole joined him just to show how excited they were. Reigns powered out of the submission attempt with punches and then Reigns delivered another Powerbomb. Reigns delivered repeated forearms to the head of Bryan followed by another huge Powerbomb from Reigns. This time Reigns applied the Guillotine Choke using the stronger left arm (since Bryan worked the right arm all match long), the announcers pointed it out as well and this time it weakened Bryan so much that Bryan passed out in the hold. The referee tapped the arm of Bryan, then Bryan wasn’t moving his arm at all and the referee called for the bell because Bryan passed out. The match went about 28 minutes.
Winner by submission: Roman Reigns
The win by Reigns means that Bryan has been banished from Smackdown.
Analysis: ****1/2 A clean win for Reigns in what was an outstanding match. This is probably one of the best matches in Smackdown history. It was also similar to their Fastlane match in terms of my rating. I think WWE relied on the cheap wins by Reigns in title matches in the past, but this time it was totally clean and I like that it was booked that way. I loved the story of the match with Bryan working on the right arm the whole time. A lot of times in wrestling they work on the left, which doesn’t make sense since most people are right-handed, but they do it that way because it’s what has been done in wrestling because then guys make their comebacks with right-handed punches and clotheslines. In this case, having Bryan work on the right arm meant that there was a change needed for the finish and I thought the announcers did a very good job (Cole and McAfee did a great call of this match) of telling the audience that Reigns was using the left arm because his right arm was hurting so much. It made logical sense. With Reigns hitting those Powerbombs, it was a way to tell the audience that while Bryan did weaken the right arm, he didn’t do enough damage to totally stop Roman and that’s what allowed Roman to hit those Powerbombs. It’s not like Reigns no-sold the attack. It’s just that what Bryan did wasn’t enough to beat Reigns. Bryan losing was the expected outcome since we know Reigns is firmly entrenched as “the guy” on Smackdown while Bryan’s slowing down, so I thought it would be a Reigns win and that’s what we got. I thought it might be another cheap win, but I’m glad I was wrong about that because it was better this way. This was a PPV main event level match that we got for free on Smackdown. That’s pretty damn cool.
Post match, Reigns brought two chairs into the ring to attack Bryan some more. Cesaro made the save with a running uppercut on Reigns. Cesaro knocked Reigns out of the ring and hit another uppercut, but then Jey Uso showed up to attack Cesaro from behind. Jey tied up Reigns into the ropes and held him while Reigns delivered a Conchairto to Bryan! The chair shot is done so that it doesn’t really come close to the head if you do it right and Reigns did it right. Anyway, the idea was that Cesaro was helpless to help his friend Bryan. Reigns taunted Cesaro some more. That ended Smackdown.
Analysis: This should set up Reigns vs. Cesaro for the Universal Title at WrestleMania Backlash now. That has been expected for a few weeks anyway, so it’s just a matter of when WWE decides to make it official. If there was a crowd, I think they’d be booing Reigns so much here and cheering for Cesaro, so it worked. It was a good idea for an angle since it makes Reigns look like an even meaner heel since he did a cheap shot double chair attack on Bryan right in front of Cesaro. It also makes fans want to see Cesaro kick Roman’s ass, so that’s another thing I really like.
I will really miss Daniel Bryan on Smackdown. He has been my favorite wrestler in WWE for over a decade. I assume we’ll see him on Raw or NXT in the future (I assume it’s Raw), but for now, this is his Smackdown goodbye. I certainly wouldn’t mind if Bryan did a run as a free agent on different WWE shows, then he could have some match with Raw and NXT guys before settling somewhere. Bryan’s contract is up soon as well. We don’t know if he’s staying in WWE for sure although I assume he will. Enjoy the break for however long it lasts and I’m sure he’ll be happy being at home with his wife Brie and two young kids.
Three Stars of the Show
- Daniel Bryan – First star since it’s his Smackdown goodbye.
- Roman Reigns
- Big E/Apollo Crews
8.5 out of 10
Last week: 8
2021 Average: 7 – I had an error in the previous weeks in terms of the average score. It’s accurate now.
2021 High: 8.5 (April 30)
I thought it was great Smackdown thanks to the Universal Title match. It was the best Smackdown episode of the year at least in terms of my ratings.
The main event between Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan was one of the best Smackdown matches ever. Brilliant storytelling with Reigns beating Bryan by using the left arm for the Guillotine Choke submission since Bryan worked on the right arm so much during the match. They kicked out of big moves and had near submissions too. It was absolutely outstanding and a clean win for Reigns, which doesn’t always happen for him. I was so impressed by both guys. The way the match was built up throughout the show was really good, then they were given most of the second hour for the video package, the introductions and the grueling match as well as a post match angle involving Cesaro and Jey Uso. This is the kind of great stuff that I love to see on a pro wrestling show. It sucks that Bryan is off Smackdown because I liked this storyline a lot, but I’m sure he’ll be proud of this match. He should be.
The rest of the show was solid. The Apollo Crews/Big E match ending with a DQ was predictable and should lead to another match down the road while also setting up a tag match with Crews and Sami Zayn vs. Big E and Kevin Owens based on what happened post match. I liked the opening six-person tag as well. Lots of energy there with the babyface team of Bianca Belair & The Street Profits getting the win.
There wasn’t a lot of talking on Smackdown this week. It was more about the in-ring action. It was probably one of the best episodes this year from a pure wrestling standpoint.
The next WWE PPV is called WrestleMania Backlash on May 16th. Here’s what we know so far.
WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley
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