The John Report: WWE Smackdown 05/21/21 Review

Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review. It’s the first Smackdown episode since last Sunday’s WrestleMania Backlash event (my review is here). On the Smackdown side, Roman Reigns beat Cesaro to hold onto the Universal Title in a great match. Cesaro was also beaten up after the match by Seth Rollins. It was a big night for Rey & Dominik Mysterio as they defeated Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode to become Smackdown Tag Team Champions – the first father/son team to do so. Bianca Belair also defeated Bayley to keep her Smackdown Women’s Title. Next up on the WWE PPV calendar is Hell in a Cell on June 20.

From the WWE ThunderDome at the Yuengling Center in Tampa Bay, Florida, this is Smackdown for episode #1135. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit 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.

The show began with the shot of the ThunderDome setup as usual and then the reminder that Smackdown is sponsored by Progressive.

Smackdown Parade of Champions

The Smackdown champions were on the stage: SD Tag Team Champions Rey & Dominik Mysterio, SD Women’s Champion Bianca Belair, Intercontinental Champion Apollo Crews with Commander Azeez and WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Natalya & Tamina. The announcers were Michael Cole and Pat McAfee as usual.

Sonya Deville, the WWE Official, was in the ring to let us know that WWE was going back on the road starting in mid-July and they showed some media coverage covering the news from earlier on Friday. Sonya said that her fellow WWE Official Adam Pearce was scouting locations. In case you missed it, the first TV show with fans is July 16 Smackdown in Houston and then July 18 is when Money in the Bank takes place. Here’s our news story on that.

Sonya wanted us to welcome the Smackdown Parade of Champions. Sonya mentioned all the champions on the stage. Crews responded to Sonya saying he will be retaining his title and he’ll unleash annihilation on Big E, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Crews said he would be victorious. Sonya introduced Bianca last. And finally, Sonya introduced the Tribal Chief Universal Champion Roman Reigns, but it was Paul Heyman instead.

Heyman entered to the old theme song of Roman Reigns. Heyman said that it was not a Parade of Champions because these other wrestlers were just title holders. Heyman said that Reigns is “the” champion and the pre-eminent champion in all of WWE and all of sports entertainment. Heyman said that when somebody buys a ticket to these live events, they will do so knowing that WWE is represented by Roman Reigns. Heyman said that there will be a “Parade of Champion” later tonight at Roman Reigns’ leisure. Heyman left.

Sonya said that was the first surprise of the evening, but probably not the last (good hint about what happened later). There was another interruption as Sonya called for a celebration for the champions.

Bayley showed up in the ring reminding us she is the longest-reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion in WWE history. Bayley said that they should be thanking her for putting this company on her back. Bayley trashed Dominik and Rey. Bayley mocked Natalya & Tamina for crying after they won their titles. Bayley to Crews: “Whattup!” That’s it. Bayley trashed Bianca Belair for wrapping her hair around Bayley’s legs to beat her. Bayley wanted Sonya to strip Bianca of her title and give it back to Bayley where it belongs.

Belair went down to the ring to confront Bayley in the ring. Bayley backed away saying it wasn’t time, but then Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax showed up to attack Belair. That led to Natalya & Tamina getting involved to try to save Belair. Jax held Tamina while Baszler hit a jumping kick on Tamina to put her down. That ended the segment.

Analysis: It was a different kind of start to Smackdown in terms of format, but still the usual setup with a promo running for more than ten minutes. The good thing is we got to hear from different people, so it wasn’t boring. Sonya did a good job in her role. Heyman was great as usual. Bayley was funny in trashing the champions except for Crews since he’s a fellow heel. It’s clearly leading to a six-woman tag team match.


The six-woman tag team match was made official. Cole claimed that Jax and Baszler were on Smackdown to take advantage of the brand-to-brand invitational once per quarter. At least they tried to explain it.

Bayley, Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair, Natalya & Tamina

The heel trio worked over Tamina in their half of the ring. Bayley wanted a suplex, but Tamina overpowered her and hit a suplex. Natalya tagged in with two snap suplexes to Bayley, but Bayley came back with a hair pull takedown. Baszler tagged in and pulled back on Natalya’s left arm. Jax was legal for her team with a body slam. Natalya with a jawbreaker on Jax, Belair tagged in against Baszler with a dropkick. Belair with a backflip off the middle ropes leading to a spinebuster. Belair went up top, but Bayley and Jax pulled Baszler out of the ring. Belair turned to the women on the floor and Belair hit a cross body block onto Jax, Baszler and Bayley on the floor. When Belair hit the floor, she was grabbing her left knee as if she hurt it.


The match continued with Bayley in the ring with Belair, who was favoring the left knee. Belair jumped over Bayley and Tamina got the hot tag. Tamina sent Bayley into the turnbuckle repeatedly, then an uppercut and a powerslam. Natalya was back in with a basement dropkick and a release German Suplex. Tamina back in with a superkick for two with Bayley getting her hand on the bottom rope. Bayley avoided a clothesline, Baszler tagged in and hit Natalya with a knee. Tamina with a headbutt to Baszler. Natalya with the discus clothesline on Bayley. Jax knocked down Natalya, Tamina kicked Jax, Baszler sent Tamina out of the ring, Belair with a forearm to Baszler and Bayley pulled Belair out of the ring. Bayley hit the Bayley to Belly on Belair on the floor. Baszler applied the Kirifuda Clutch on Natalya for the submission win with Natalya tapping out. It went about ten minutes.

Winners by submission: Bayley, Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler

Analysis: **3/4 It was a solid match with a lot of action and chaos towards the end of it. I liked some of the spots like Bayley hitting the Bayley to Belly on Belair to take her out. Baszler’s submission finisher doesn’t win enough, so I’m happy she got a chance to win a match since she lost a lot even when she was a champion. The heels were all losers last week with Bayley losing to Belair at the PPV and Jax/Baszler losing to Natalya/Tamina on Smackdown last week, so this was a way to give them some momentum back. No surprise that Belair wasn’t beaten to keep her strong.

Big E was interviewed by Kayla Braxton backstage. Big E talked about the Intercontinental Title match and said that by the time the night is over, he’s going to walk out as the Intercontinental Champion.

Analysis: A basic, confident babyface promo. Good energy by Big E.

The 4-Way IC Title match is still to come and they’ll cover the Reigns match with Cesaro at WrestleMania Backlash.


There were images shown of media coverage about the announcement that WWE is going back on the road starting July 16 with Smackdown in Houston.

There was a video featuring Aleister Black talking to us about “Beautiful Pain.” Black said there is no lying with pain because it is honest and it is truth. Black was shown without his shirt as the camera focused on his creepy back tattoo. Black said that it has become your identity to be loathsome and blind. Black said it’s time to separate the weak from the strong. Black said it’s time to “cull the herd” and it featured more shirtless images of Black. That was it.

Analysis: Black remains an odd character. I think he’s a heel now and I hope he gets a solid match whenever he wrestles again.

King Corbin made his entrance without his crown and cape since Shinsuke Nakamura stole it from him last week. They showed Instagram videos from Nakamura doing things with the crown on like driving a convertible, holding his cat and making coffee.

Corbin said that he wasn’t going to say anything because he wanted to let his actions do the talking, but then he saw it. Corbin said that Nakamura was disrespectful. Corbin said that Nakamura can say he’s the King of the Strong Style, but he is no king. Corbin said that a real king owns dogs of war, not some fat cat and a real king respects the crown. Corbin said he’ll drive his face into this canvas with the heel of his boot. Corbin said that the crown belongs on his head and called out Nakamura right now.

There was a guy with an electric guitar on the stage. It was Rick Boogs (he let us know his name) and he is there to rock with the real king of Smackdown. Boogs played some of Nakamura’s song on the guitar as Nakamura’s song played in the arena. McAfee thought it was a treat and was really excited about it. Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance wearing the king’s crown as Boogs played the guitar on Nakamura’s way down to the ring. McAfee was marking out for it. He loved it. The match is after a break.

Analysis: Rick Boogs is a guy named Eric Bugenhagen that has been in WWE developmental for a few years. There was a period where he was doing a gimmick that saw him playing the air guitar on NXT too. I guess he’s pretty good at playing the electric guitar. That was impressive.


King Corbin vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Corbin was in control with a clothesline. Rick Boogs was at ringside with the guitar. Nakamura went for a few kicks, but Corbin caught him and hit a Powerbomb for two. Corbin worked over Nakamura with punches to the ribs along with the foot against the throat. McAfee wondered what kind of name “Boogs” is and Cole said that’s his last name, so McAfee apologized to the parents of Boogs. Corbin with a chinlock, Nakamura broke free and Corbin hit a back elbow. Nakamura with a kick to the head, a backstabber knee and a sliding knee. Nakamura with an STO trip for two. McAfee was standing on commentary like he likes to do. Nakamura charged, Corbin moved, Nakamura hit the turnbuckle and Corbin hit a German Suplex for two. Nakamura with a knee to get out of a Chokeslam, but then Corbin came back with the Deep Six slam that is usually good for a two count and it got two here. Boogs played some of Nakamura’s theme song, so Corbin was distracted and Nakamura got an inside cradle for the pinfall win after five minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Shinsuke Nakamura

Analysis: **1/2 It was fine for a shorter match. When I watched Raw on Monday I was annoyed by how many distraction finishes there were and that’s what we got here. It’s also typical 50/50 booking since Cesaro beat Nakamura last week, so Nakamura got his win back. I hope the Rick Boogs addition to Nakamura is a good thing for Shinsuke and I think it will be.

Post match, Nakamura kept the king’s crown after the match while Boogs played the Nakamura song. McAfee loved that pairing together.

Jimmy Uso walked into Sonya Deville’s office. Jimmy wanted to get back into tag team action. Jimmy said that they want the smoke, they want the Street Profits and Sonya agreed to that saying that it needs to be advertised and built up. Sonya said how about next week we do The Usos vs. The Street Profits on Smackdown. Jimmy agreed to it and left. The announcers wondered what Jey Uso would think about it.

Analysis: That’s an awesome tag team match for next week.

Roman Reigns made his entrance as the Universal Champion with Special Counsel Paul Heyman by his side and the “Right Hand Man” Jey Uso as well. Roman had his new theme music in case you were wondering. After Reigns got into the ring, he held up the Universal Title and the pyro went off.

A commercial aired for A&E’s Biography about WWE Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior on Sunday night.


Kevin Owens was backstage for a promo looking into the camera. Owens said in his first two years in WWE he was called the Prizefighter because he won so many titles. Owens talked about taking out Sami Zayn, Big E and Apollo Crews and he’ll shove the Commander’s thumb up his “Azeez” and Owens intends on being a three-time Intercontinental Champion.

There was a Progressive Match Flo replay of Roman Reigns beating Cesaro at WrestleMania Backlash. After the match, Seth Rollins beat up Cesaro as well.

Let’s Hear from Roman Reigns

There were “Roman sucks” chants piped into the building. Roman was wearing a jacket that had his “Superman Punch” logo on it. Roman said that he’s a humble man that teaches his sons (he has four sons that are two sets of twins by the way and a daughter) about humility. Roman said that he doesn’t like to brag on live television, so he’ll allow his Special Counsel to celebrate Reigns.

Heyman said that he has a moment to acknowledge your Tribal Chief. Heyman did a rundown of some of the dominance of Reigns by talking about how he helped Jey Uso, he mentioned Reigns beating Kevin Owens and he had the most dominant victory at WrestleMania by beating Edge & Daniel Bryan at the same time. Heyman said that Edge has been gone while Bryan is off Smackdown into “Bella retirement.” Heyman said that Reigns beat Cesaro on his own with no one’s help (that’s true) and he beat Cesaro at his own game. Heyman said it’s a career highlight to celebrate and acknowledge the pre-eminent champion in all of WWE and sports entertainment, Roman Reigns. Heyman said that Roman’s wish is his command and Heyman wondered what else he can do.

Reigns: “Bring me my cousin.” Heyman yelled at a guy at ringside to hit Jimmy Uso’s music. Instead, it was Cesaro.

Cesaro walked out in a suit with his right arm in a sling to sell the attack from WrestleMania Backlash. Cesaro said he heard all the yapping in the ring. Reigns wondered what Cesaro was going to do because he only has one. Cesaro said it’s just a flesh wound. Cesaro challenged Reigns to a Universal Championship match at Hell in a Cell. Reigns laughed it off and then Seth Rollins attacked Cesaro at ringside. Rollins whipped Cesaro into the steel steps. Rollins was going after Cesaro’s right arm, but then the attack was broken up by referees and officials. When Cesaro was getting helped from ringside, Rollins ran back down to the ring and Rollins did an armdrag on the floor followed by The Stomp on the floor outside the ring. By this point, Reigns and his crew left. Rollins agreed to stop, but then Rollins ran at Cesaro with The Stomp again this time on the bottom of the steel ramp. That looked rough. Cole screamed about how Rollins had “Wild Eyes” on his face. A stretcher went out there for Cesaro.

Analysis: The promo from Heyman was the usual hype man stuff that Heyman has been doing for years whether it was for Brock Lesnar, CM Punk or now Roman Reigns. Heyman is so great at that. I thought they would use this segment to advance the Jimmy Uso story with Reigns a bit, but instead, they used Cesaro to confront Reigns again. The Rollins attack suggests that there is going to be a big Cesaro/Rollins match coming soon and that might be inside Hell in a Cell to put an end to the feud. I don’t know if that’s where they are going for sure. I wonder what it means for Reigns, who may face cousin Jimmy to beat him the way that Reigns beat Jey last year. Anyway, the attack from Rollins on Cesaro was devastating especially when he hit The Stomp on the bottom of the ramp.


The announcers talked about the headlines about WWE going back on the road in two months. McAfee was pumped about it and he wanted the fans to bring it.

Jey Uso walked up to Roman Reigns in his dressing room. Jey said he had nothing to do with Jimmy making that tag team match next week. Roman said that Jimmy was being selfish. Roman said that everything that “we” do represents the family. Reigns hugged cousin Jey and Roman said something to Jey as well.

The Street Profits were backstage for a promo talking to the camera. They were making fun of The Usos saying that they would disrespect them…respectfully. They said this isn’t paranoia (an Usos line) and said that “we want the smoke” to end it.

Sami Zayn was interviewed behind the curtain by Kayla Braxton, who mentioned Sami was a former champion. Zayn complained about her line of questioning while calling her a corporate hack and propagandist. Zayn said that he will never stop talking about the conspiracy against him. Zayn said that the documentary will be coming out at some point. Zayn said he’ll reclaim the Intercontinental Championship and be the champion of the people. Zayn left for the IC Title main event match.

Kevin Owens was up next and they went to commercial.


This Monday on Raw: Natalya & Tamina defend the Women’s Tag Team Titles vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler.

Next week on Smackdown: The Street Profits vs. The Usos.

Big E made his entrance for the IC Title match as one of the challengers. Apollo Crews was last as the Intercontinental Champion with Commander Azeez by his side.

Fatal 4-Way for the Intercontinental Championship: Apollo Crews (w/Commander Azeez) vs. Big E vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

The first fall wins this match. There are no countouts and no disqualifications in a Fatal 4-Way match in WWE. The three challengers are all former Intercontinental Champions.

It started with Owens going after Zayn while Big E attacked Crews with punches. Crews with punches, then he ran the ropes and Big E hit a back elbow. Owens with an atomic drop to Big E and an enziguri kick to Big E. Zayn was back in with punches to Owens. Zayn was standing on Owens by the ropes, so Big E sent Zayn over the top to the floor. Big E worked over Zayn with punches on the apron, then Big E decked Crews with punches as well. Big E set up Crews/Zayn on the apron side by side. Big E hit a running splash on Crews/Zayn at the same time. Owens hit a running somersault dive using the ropes for momentum and landed on Big E on the floor. That led to a break.


Big E with punches on Crews, but then Big E ran the ropes and Crews hit a dropkick. They left the ring with Crews sending Big E into the steel steps. Crews sent Owens into the steel steps. Crews hit a standing moonsault off the apron onto Big E on the floor. Zayn hit his own moonsault off the barricade onto Crews. Owens got back at Zayn with a clothesline. Back in the ring, Owens hit a Swanton Bomb off the top on Zayn for a two count. Big E battled Owens in the ring with Big E hitting a running clothesline. Crews sent Big E into the top rope. Crews hit three German Suplexes on Big E for a two count as Owens broke up the pin with a senton. Owens charged at Zayn, who caught Owens with an Exploder Suplex into the turnbuckle. Zayn slipped out of a Stunner attempt and got a rollup for two. Zayn with a Michinoku Driver on Owens for a two count. Zayn wanted a superplex on Owens, but Owens countered that with a Fisherman’s brainbuster out of the corner. Crews broke up the pin. Crews blocked a Big E charge with a knee. Crews gave Owens a Death Valley Driver on Owens on the apron. Big E ran the ropes and hit a Spear on Crews leading to both guys going to the floor. There was another commercial.


Crews hit a suplex on Big E for a nearfall about 17 minutes into the match. Crews worked over Big E with punches. Big E hit an overhead belly-to-belly suplex on Crews, a belly-to-belly suplex by Big E on Zayn and a side belly-to-belly slam on Crews. Zayn decked Big E with a superkick. Owens with a cradle suplex where he drove Zayn’s neck into KO’s knee. Owens went up top, but Crews was there to knock Owens down. Zayn with a jawbreaker to Crews. They did a three-man suplex spot with Crews suplexing Zayn while Big E suplexed Crews. Owens jumped off the top with a Frog Splash on Owens for a two count. Owens hit the cannonball splash, then a suplex to Big E and a cannonball on Crews/Big E. Zayn with a suplex on Owens with Owens flipping over onto his stomach. Zayn hit the Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Zayn was up top, Big E went after him, Zayn jumped over Owens. That led to Owens hitting superkicks on Big E and Zayn back to back. Owens hit a Powerbomb Bomb on Crews for two since that is not KO’s finisher anymore. Zayn was sent over the barricade by Owens. When KO went after Zayn on the floor, Zayn got a hold of Owens with a head/arm suplex on the floor. Big E caught a running Zayn and hit the uranage slam. Big E hit the Big Ending on Crews for two because Azeez pulled Big E out of the ring. Big E avoided a charging Azeez and then Big E sent Azeez into the ring post. Big E went back into the ring, the lights were off and then there was a spotlight by the entrance. It was Aleister Black, who was staring at Big E. Crews was holding Big E’s leg, Black went into the ring and Black hit Big E with the Black Mass kick. Crews covered Big E for the pinfall win after 24 minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Apollo Crews

Analysis: ***3/4 I thought this was a great main event match even with the cheap ending because I like the story of what happened. They all worked hard, they all had moments to shine with Owens/Zayn hitting each other with all of their crazy moves that they do any time they are in the same match. Big E was on the big roll at the end, then Azeez pulled him out to stop him and that set up the return of Black. While I don’t think this means Black will be aligned with Crews, I do think this means Black will feud with Big E, so that’s pretty cool. Crews found a way to escape as the champion. The fans at home should be frustrated by it because it was a cheap win thanks to Azeez breaking up a pin and then with Black’s involvement. It’s good booking for a heel champion, though.

Crews celebrated the win with Cole saying Apollo was the luckiest man on the planet. They replayed the Black Mass kick by Black, who left up the aisle. Black was shown on the stage looking back with an evil smile. Crews celebrated some more and that was it.

Analysis: Aleister Black’s return has been teased for weeks after the backstage vignettes he was in. We didn’t know who he might feud with, so to see Black against one of Smackdown’s top faces like Big E is a great sight.


Three Stars of the Show

  1. Big E
  2. Apollo Crews
  3. Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens


The Scoreboard

7 out of 10

Last week: 6.75

2021 Average: 7


Final Thoughts

It was the usual solid edition of Smackdown. There was only really one great match with the Fatal 4-Way IC Title match getting a lot of time in the last 30 minutes. The foursome of Crews, Big E, Owens and Zayn had an outstanding match that was very entertaining. The win was cheap for Crews thanks to Aleister Black, but I don’t care because it fits the kind of champion that Crews is. The other matches on the show were just average like the women’s tag or too short like most of the other matches that were five minutes or less. The introduction of Rick Boogs as the electric guitar player for Shinsuke Nakamura wasn’t something I expected, but it worked.

The Roman Reigns promo segment was okay, but it didn’t really do much to advance his story with The Usos. We did learn that The Usos will face The Street Profits next week, so that should be awesome. Also, I thought the Seth Rollins attack on Cesaro was excellent. It was even better than what Rollins did at WrestleMania Backlash and Cesaro sold it so well.

I’m glad that Aleister Black made his return in a prominent role. Ever since his vignettes aired several weeks ago, I was worried he may not be in a featured role. However, having Black return and target Big E the way that he did makes me optimistic that maybe…finally…WWE is going to use Black to his full potential. I sure hope so because he’s a talented guy. Anyway, that ending meant it ended on a strong note. That’s a good way to end it.

Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.

John Canton


Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook