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One week after Finn Balor stepped up to challenge Universal champion Roman Reigns, The Prince joined The Head of the Table for a contract signing on SmackDown.
What went down when they put pen to paper and how did John Cena react to The Tribal Chief shooting down his challenge for a match at SummerSlam?
The answer lies within this recap of Friday’s Fox presentation.
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Announced for Friday’s show are:
- Finn Balor and Roman Reigns’ Contract Signing
- Rey Mysterio vs. Jimmy Uso
Coverage begins at 8 p.m.
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“This doesn’t sound as good as the remix!” John Cena exclaimed as he hit the ring to kick off this show, the rejection of his challenge for a SummerSlam match by Roman Reigns fresh on his mind.
Cena offered up “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock as examples of guys who didn’t change, referencing Reigns’ criticisms of his repetitive act. He then claimed Reigns was “some stooge named Joe” too afraid to fail.
Baron Corbin interrupted the proceedings, ran down his recent misfortunes, and claimed he is now unable to perform following an accidental low blow courtesy of Shotzi’s tank a week ago. After refusing to help him after polling the crowd, Cena dropped Corbin with an Attitude Adjustment to a big ovation.
Cena was fire on the microphone, attacking Reigns’ ego, essentially daring The Tribal Chief to reconsider his challenge. He spoke with conviction, probably because some of the comments he made about the Universal champion were based in his own perception of reality.
Those promos, spliced with bits of truth, are always among the best and most engaging. This was no different. Cena’s issues with Reigns are far from over. With WWE Creative playing the slow burn, promos like this will only help create greater demand for the match, which should still take place at SummerSlam.
The Corbin stuff, while not groundbreaking by any means, was fun enough schlock that kept the down-on-his-luck heel on television.
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The feud between SmackDown tag team champions The Usos and The Mysterios continued this week as future Hall of Famer Rey Mysterio battled Jimmy Uso in singles competition.
Jimmy controlled the action through the commercial break but Rey fired off a comeback that included a dive to the floor that flattened both tag champs. Back inside, he rocked Jey with a 619 and, with help from son Dominik, scored the pinfall victory.
Mysterio defeated Uso
Mysterio and Uso are good enough that they will never have a bad match. They are as consistent and steadily good as anyone and that was on full display here.
More so than the match were two developments involving Dominik Mysterio.
Interfering in the closing moments and assisting Rey with the pin just like Jimmy and Jey have done numerous times for each other was a great touch. It plays up previously established spots in the feud while escalating it by way of the babyface victory.
More importantly is the potential long-reaching storyline potential.
Rey calling his son a rookie and suggesting he watch him closely, then reiterating it during the match itself, plants the seeds for a potentially overconfident Dominik to turn on him. If that is indeed the long-term goal, this could prove a banner night in the professional life of the young third-generation star.
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Bianca Belair made her way to the ring for an in-ring interview with Kayla Braxton.
The SmackDown women’s champion quickly found herself interrupted by Carmella, then Zelina Vega, each woman staking their claim for a title opportunity. Just as The EST accepted Vega’s challenge, she found herself on the receiving end of a beatdown from the heels.
Suddenly, Sasha Banks’ music played and The Boss made her much-anticipated return, saving Belair and standing tall alongside her WrestleMania opponent.
Make no mistake about it: Banks’ return was awesome. She is the best women’s wrestler on the main roster and her presence will only help bolster the brand’s star power and division’s workrate. She will also provide Belair a credible opponent come SummerSlam, assuming that is the direction WWE heads.
What hurt the overall grade of this one was the idea that Carmella or Vega would even remotely be deserving of a title opportunity. One has lost two consecutive, decisive matches to Belair. The other has yet to win since returning.
In what universe would anyone believe them to be valid contenders?
That is no knock on the performers themselves, only on a creative process that oftentimes overlooks details like that.
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After a confident backstage promo with Kayla Braxton, 24/7 champion Reggie took to the ring for his latest challenger: Otis of Alpha Academy.
Or so he thought. Instead of the refocused big man, Chad Gable attacked, revealing himself to be the challenger.
The Olympian momentarily dominated and when it appeared Reggie might steal the win, Otis attacked to draw the disqualification.
Reggie defeated Gable via DQ
Where to start with this one?
Perhaps it is the disqualification finish to a match in which the title at stake is defended every moment of every day and often has multiple competitors battling for it.
Maybe it is WWE Creative insisting on protecting a character no one cares about, nor has cared about, no matter how much television time is devoted to him.
Or maybe, just maybe, it is that same writing team wasting weeks of rebuilding Otis into a threat by programming him in a ridiculous feud over the comedy title.
Whatever the case, this didn’t work.
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Roman Reigns and Finn Balor made their ways to the ring for a special contract signing ahead of their anticipated SummerSlam match-up for The Tribal Chief’s Universal Championship.
Reigns recalled John Cena’s promo from earlier in the show, suggesting that the franchise star deemed Balor to be lesser than him. Reigns didn’t think that, though. He thought he was worthy of a beating at SummerSlam and being sent back to NXT.
Balor vowed to take the title that he was first to hold back to NXT. Before his could join Reigns’ signature on the contract, Baron Corbin attacked from out of nowhere. Just when it appeared as though the unfortunate Superstar would sign on the dotted line, Cena rushed the ring, laid him out and signed the contract.
After the break, Paul Heyman questioned the validity of what we just witnessed, only for Sonya Deville and Adam Pearce to officially announce Cena vs. Reigns for SummerSlam.
So, Balor appears to be in the hunt for the top title on SmackDown, only to be discarded and tossed aside, literally, by Corbin? No wonder he never achieved the momentum on the main roster that he did in NXT.
And since when did championship contracts get passed around like a midcard comedy title? WWE’s out here booking contract signings like the 24/7 title and while that might make them more interesting than usual, why the hell wasn’t Akira Tozawa out here cashing his ticket to SummerSlam?
Cena vs. Reigns was the match WWE needed for SummerSlam and we’ve finally got it, but one cannot help but wish it could have been accomplished without hurting Balor’s credibility or stature in the process.
The biggest revelation is just how well this Corbin character is working. When it picked up the contract and motioned to his pants pocket for a pen, the crowd was totally ready for him to sign and reverse his fortunes. The character, if WWE is not careful, is going to accidentally be the most unexpectedly over one on the entire roster.
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Big E, Cesaro and King Nakamura battled Dolph Ziggler, Bobby Roode and Intercontinental champion Apollo Crews in a six-man tag team match.
An action-packed match that saw all six competitors get their signature stuff in before Rick Boogs provided a distraction that allowed Nakamura to score a rollup on Crews for the win.
Big E, Cesaro and Nakamura defeated Ziggler, Roode and Crews
This was a fun, energetic tag team match that could have been predicted by the most novice of fans after last week’s lackluster segment.
It kept “Mr. Money in the Bank” Big E at the forefront, gave the suddenly directionless Cesaro something to do and presented Nakamura as the next threat to Crews’ title. How do we know this? Because he beat the champion and that’s how WWE books these days.
Damage the credibility of the champion to set up the next challenger, in hopes that the PPV win restores legitimacy.
Considering how much of a backseat Crews has taken since WrestleMania, one has to wonder if now is not the time to pull the proverbial trigger and add another championship to Nakamura’s already sparkling resume.
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Edge made his way into the Target Center to a thunderous ovation, only to be jumped in the aisle during the commercial break.
Rollins stood tall in the center of the squared circle after and discussed his recent actions. He relished in everything he had done to that point, including costing Edge the Universal Championship at Money in the Bank.
“If I can’t be the Universal champion, neither can Edge!” Rollins added the exclamation point to his promo.
Between the Monday Night Messiah, the neverending Mysterio storyline, The Vision and the drip, it has been along damn time since we have seen a driven and focused Seth Rollins eyeing championship gold. More importantly, it’s been a long damn time since we’ve seen what his thirst for gold means for those who stand in his way.
Edge enduring a beatdown at the hands of The Architect was one thing but stealing his promo time was a great heel move.
Their eventual showdown between these two, presumably at SummerSlam, is going to be damn good and the start of a tremendous rivalry if Edge sticks around past the event.
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In a main event made earlier in the night, SmackDown women’s champion Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks teamed up against Zelina Vega and Carmella.
The heels isolated Belair, cutting The EST down and working over her in their corner of the ring. When the champ made the tag to The Boss, the babyfaces mounted a comeback that concluded with Banks tapping Carmella out with the Bank Statement.
After the match, the victors celebrated until Banks flattened Belair, appropriately, with the backstabber. She brutalized the champ, destroying her with a tornado DDT and leaving her tapping out to close the show.
Banks and Belair defeated Carmella and Vega
Banks showing up, showing out and still picking up that win despite knowing full well she was about to stab her partner in the back was a great touch. After all, Banks is all business and wants those Ws so obviously, winning would trump any potential for revenge on the woman that ended her title reign back at WrestleMania.
The post-match was great, with her showing the proper amount of intensity as she beat down The EST, just an hour after luring her into a false sense of security by saving her from her attackers.
Speaking of Carmella and Vega, they delivered a strong showing and proved that despite questionable booking, they can still perform up to the moment.
The eventual Banks-Belair rematch is going to be fire in Las Vegas. The only question now is whether they set the bar impossibly high in Tampa for them to ever realistically match come August 21.