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Former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee joined Michael Cole at the commentary table Friday night for the SmackDown after WrestleMania 37, where Roman Reigns dominated the competition and defeated both Edge and Daniel Bryan to retain the Universal Championship.
How did the former No. 1 contenders look to rebound and what did The Head of the Table have to say in the wake of his emphatic victory?
Find out now with this recap of a Friday’s broadcast, which also featured a big tag team title defense by Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, as well as the latest in the rivalry between the Mysterios and Alpha Academy.
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Announced for Friday’s show:
- SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The Street Profits vs. Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
- Rey Mysterio (with Dominik) vs. Otis (with Chad Gable)
Coverage begins at 8 p.m.
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Universal champion Roman Reigns, flanked by “The Right Hand Man” Jey Uso and Paul Heyman, kicked off Friday’s episode of SmackDown.
Heyman put over Daniel Bryan and Edge’s Hall of Fame credentials before handing the mic over to The Tribal Chief. The champion said no one wants to fight him because of what he does to Hall of Famers. He humbles them and no one wants any part of that.
He ordered Heyman to tell WWE to cut the check and fire up the jet because he’s out of there.
Before they could leave, Cesaro made his way to the ring. Before he could address The Head of the Table, Cesaro watched as Reigns, Uso, and Heyman exited, refusing to acknowledge the new threat to the title.
Reigns as the uber-arrogant heel who touts his own dominance despite interference from Uso is simply outstanding. He was so confident in himself following his win over Edge and Bryan that he suggested no one in their right mind wanted to face him.
When Cesaro stepped up, he turned tail and refused to acknowledge the existence of his potential opponent.
Ironic, considering Reigns’ constant insistence that he is acknowledged himself
Cesaro is exactly the right challenger at exactly the right time. While there is a minuscule likelihood he dethrones Reigns, a feud with The Big Dog is exactly the sort of program that will continue to establish The Swiss Superman as a genuine main event performer and credible title contender.
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The rivalry between the Mysterios and Alpha Academy continued Friday as the massive Otis battled WWE’s biggest little man, Rey Mysterio.
The future Hall of Famer overcame the strength advantage of his opponent, rocking him with a running knee. Moments later, he dropped Otis across the middle rope and delivered the 619.
Mysterio launched himself from the top rope but Otis caught him. Mysterio shifted his weight, forced a rollup, and scored the win.
Mysterio defeated Otis
There wasn’t much to this one, nor did it particularly advance the ongoing rivalry between the two teams. It was, instead, a match that existed solely to remind fans the duos continue to feud.
There is an argument to be made that Otis should not be losing, especially as WWE tries to build him into a dominant big man heel, but the company has never hesitated to book finishes like this one, regardless of the repercussions on the talent.
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Sami Zayn made his way to the ring and wasted little time spouting conspiracy theories and excuses for his loss at WrestleMania, laying the blame at the feet of Logan Paul. He would not be denied his vindication, he said, and demanded a match with Kevin Owens.
“There’s no one to provide a distraction, no way for you to steal a win,” he said before Owens made his way to the ring.
Owens took the fight to Zayn after the break, pummeling him on the floor. Zayn created separation and seized control of the match, driving Owens throat-first into the ring ropes. KO fought back and sent Zayn bouncing off the top rope with a release front suplex.
The competitors fought to the top rope, where Zayn stunned his former friend and delivered a sunset flip powerbomb for a near-fall as the show headed back to the break.
Owens flattened Zayn and added a swanton bomb as the show returned from the commercial.
Zayn tried to bail out of the ring but Owens brought him back in and delivered a fisherman neckberaker for across the knee for two. Zayn evaded one stunned and raked the eyes of his opponent. Zayn escaped up the ramp, gladly losing via countout.
Owens rushed the ramp, fought Zayn back to the ring and delivered a stunner to put an exclamation point on things.
After the match, cameras caught up with new Intercontinental champion Apollo Crews and his new associate, Commander Azeez. Crews christened the move formerly known as the Samoan Spike, used by Azeez, as the Nigerian Nail.
Owens defeated Zayn via countout
Even a relatively mundane Owens-Zayn match is still pretty damn good, a testament to the performers and their chemistry with each other.
This was hurt by the commercial breaks and the fact that the match was broken into pieces, with no real chance to establish flow or any story to speak of. Still, it was an entertaining romp that didn’t really add to the feud, but damn sure ensured it will continue.
Look for the latest chapter as soon as the Backlash pay-per-view on May 16 as neither really has anything else better to do between now and then.
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The Street Profits made their way to the ring for a SmackDown Women’s Championship celebration featuring Brianca Belair but first, threw to a beautifully produced video package highlighting The EST’s win over Sasha Banks at WrestleMania.
From there, the new champion made her way to the ring, joining husband Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins in the ring for her first promo as new titleholder.
Belair said she feels like she has been floating since WrestleMania, then said calling herself The EST is not cockiness or arrogance. It’s just about being herself. She reminded Banks that she left her with a little something to remember her by if she tries to step to her again.
Belair ended her celebration by telling Ford to go get the tag titles because “we only wear gold in this house.”
An infuriated Banks walked out on an interview with Kayla Braxton and moments later, Bayley spoke to the reporter, issuing a challenge to Belair for a title opportunity.
This was never meant to be anything more than a celebratory promo from Belair and in that regard, it worked. She was overjoyed, charismatic and made sure those potentially tuning in for the first time knew exactly what she is all about.
Banks being infuriated makes sense, as does Bayley’s attempt to jump right back into the title picture without earning her way there. Both brief glimpses of the future of the division were true to those particular characters and set Belair up with two ready-made programs.
There are far worse ways to spotlight your new champion than by having her battle two of the most decorated and celebrated women of all time.
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The SmackDown Tag Team Championships were up for grabs in the night’s next match as Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode defended against The Street Profits. Ford and Dawkins rolled early, taking the fight to the champions and leaving them reeling ahead of the night’s latest commercial break.
The champions worked over Dawkins, isolating him from his partner and keeping him grounded. The big man caught Ziggler, launched him into the ring post with a slingshot and inched toward Ford.
The lightning-quick babyface downed both competitors with dropkicks, then added a clothesline for good measure. A standing moonsault to Roode nearly earned Ford the victory but the champion shot his shoulder off the mat for two.
Dawkins flattened Roode and Ford delivered the frog splash, but Ziggler broke up the pin. As the babyfaces rolled, Ziggler executed a blind tag and dropped Ford with a Zig Zag for the pinfall victory and successful title retention.
Ziggler and Roode defeated The Street Profits
Just when you thought it was a given that WWE would follow up Belair’s win with her husband Ford’s tag title victory, the company pulls the carpet out from under you by booking a clean heel victory.
And with good reason.
Ziggler and Roode need the credibility. Yes, they are tag team champions but they don’t exactly have a long and illustrious run with the titles. They needed a definitive win and after last week’s Fatal 4-Way victory, this straight tag match win further solidifies their status as the top team in the division.
With that said, theirs is definitely a reign that feels like it could end any given week. Considering how popular the Street Profits are, not to mention the potential of the Mysterios and Alpha Academy, their run with the titles may not be all that long-lived.
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Natalya battled Shayna Baszler in the night’s next match.
The Queen of Harts survived an early onslaught by The Submission Magician and built momentum for herself. Nia Jax, sensing things were not going in her partner’s favor, hopped on the apron to provide a distraction.
Natalya shook it off and sent her opponent into her own tag team partner. Natalya scored the rollup victory for the pin-fall victory.
After the match, Tamina rocked Jax with a super kick and stood tall with her partner to close out the segment.
Natalya defeated Baszler
This was certainly a thing that happened.
The match did nothing to benefit Natalya in that it was such a fluke rollup that no one will buy it seriously. Tamina rocking Jax wasn’t even a particularly cool development because we saw the two exchange blows at WrestleMania.
This was a retread that accomplished little and failed to build genuine excitement for the teams’ next match.
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The main event of the night saw Cesaro seek to prove himself as a viable contender to Roman Reigns as he battled “Main Event” Jey Uso.
Uso controlled heading into the final commercial break of the night but Cesaro fought his way back into the match. He delivered a deadlift suplex to the awe of the commentary team and added a springboard corkscrew uppercut for a two-count.
Uso kicked his way out of the swing, but ate another uppercut. He recovered and delivered a neckbreaker for a near-fall.
Uso talked trash, slapping Cesaro repeatedly. The Swiss Superman added a flurry of strikes, stunning Uso and following up with a clothesline for another near-fall as Michael Cole touted the toughness of the contest. Cesaro downed Uso and delivered the swing, only for Seth Rollins to attack from out of nowhere.
The Architect, seething following his WrestleMania loss, left Cesaro lying. At the top of the ramp, he said nothing was settled between them because he is the “end all, be all of this industry.”
Cesaro defeated Uso via disqualification
Cesaro and Uso were hitting their stride just as Rollins interfered, robbing fans of a definitive conclusion of the match.
What Rollins’ victory does is set up a potential three-way feud over the Universal Championship or, at the very least, keeps the prospects of Cesaro challenging alive while he settles things with Rollins.
The concern is that WWE will do what it does and book a finish in Cesaro’s inevitable next match with Rollins in which all of the goodwill built at WrestleMania is lost as The Architect gets his win back. It will be imperative for WWE to avoid that particular finish or risk leaving fans wondering why it even bothered to put The Swiss Superman over on wrestling’s biggest stage.
The absence of Reigns at the end of the show would seem to suggest Cesaro may not be his next pay-per-view opponent. Though, the lack of Edge and Bryan on tonight’s show would seem to suggest they’re out of the picture, too.