Welcome to this week’s WWE Smackdown review on TJRWrestling. It has a big feel to it this week because it’s taking place in the “World’s Most Famous Arena” Madison Square Garden in New York City. They have promoted a bunch of things including the return of Brock Lesnar. As I write this on Friday night, it’s an emotional time in the world as we reflect on the September 11, 2001 tragedy from 20 years ago. It was a sad day for sure and I know WWE being in NYC on this date is not an accident. They posted a “WWE Returns After 9/11” documentary on Youtube right here. It’s well done, but it’s still difficult to think about that time 20 years ago. The world changed that day, that’s for sure. Anyway, let’s stay strong and keep moving forward.
From the Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY, this is Smackdown for episode #1151. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage, insightful columns from our team along with reviews about wrestling’s past (including my reviews of every WWE PPV ever listed in order) and present. Let’s get to it.
There was an opening video to the tragedy on September 11, 2001 noting that thousands of lives were lost, but we preserved thanks to our strength and courage. They showed highlights from the Smackdown two days later in Houston along with other sporting events during that period. They showed current images of the area around the World Trade Center in New York City. “Our resilience is what unites us and serves as a beacon of hope. On this day, we remember and we will never forget.”
— WWE (@WWE) September 11, 2021
There was a shot of the crowd in MSG cheering after the video aired.
The announce team of Michael Cole and Pat McAfee were shown. Pat was back after missing two weeks with COVID-19 illness. Pat was fully vaccinated, but he still got it. I’m glad he’s doing well now. Pat McAfee: “Let’s get to it, baby bay.” Yes, I got that reference to Pat’s former NXT rival.
Let’s Hear from Roman Reigns and The Bloodline
The WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns made his entrance with cousins The Usos, who are the Smackdown Tag Team Champions and the Special Counsel Paul Heyman. The family was wearing “The Bloodline” shirts while Heyman was in a suit as usual. Big crowd reaction to these guys who are heels, so they were booed, but it was still a loud reaction.
Roman Reigns started by asking some questions with Heyman reassuring Reigns that he runs WWE. Reigns said that The Tribal Chief and The Bloodline runs WWE, so therefore they run New York City and Madison Square Garden. Reigns: “So MSG, acknowledge me!” That led to boos. There were some cheers, but a lot of boos. There were even some “Roman” chants with Pat saying that the fans were acknowledging him.
Brock Lesnar’s music hit and he got a huge pop! Lesnar was dressed in street clothes or I guess you can say farm clothesline. Lesnar had a beard along with a short haircut along with a ponytail.
Lesnar walked around the ring as he likes to do and then he got in Roman’s face. The fans chanted “HOLY SHIT” at that visual. The Usos stepped in front of Roman. Heyman spoke up saying he fails to understand why Lesnar wants to go after the Universal Title and Lesnar held the microphone.
Lesnar: “I’ve got a question for you, Paul? Why didn’t you tell Roman I was going to be at SummerSlam?” Crowd: “You fucked up!” LOL that’s great.
Reigns was not happy about that. Heyman told Reigns that he didn’t know. Reigns took his Universal Title out of Heyman’s arms while Reigns left with The Usos.
The fans chanted “Suplex City” for Lesnar. Heyman did his “Ladies and gentlemen” introduction saying for 20 years he was the advocate for Brock Lesnar with the fans cheering the famous introduction. Lesnar was smiling and laugh.
Lesnar said that was great, just like old times. Heyman held out his arms for a hug or something like that, but Lesnar got in his face. Lesnar said before Reigns fires Heyman, accept Brock’s challenge…please. Lesnar said he wanted a shot at Roman Reigns for the Universal Title. Lesnar told Heyman he had five seconds, then counted down and Lesnar picked up Heyman on his shoulders. Roman Reigns got back into the ring and hit Reigns with a Superman Punch. Lesnar got a hold of Reigns, but the Usos hit him with superkicks. Lesnar came back with two clotheslines. Lesnar hit German Suplex on Jimmy and Jey Uso back to back while Reigns left up the aisle.
Analysis: This was great. The MSG crowd LOVED Lesnar. That was the most talking Lesnar has done in a promo in years, but now he has to do it since he’s a babyface on his own. Lesnar did well and the line about how Heyman didn’t tell Reigns that Lesnar would be at SummerSlam is what drew a huge reaction. It’s been a very long time since we have seen babyface Brock Lesnar, but it feels fresh and the fans ate it up. Reigns is so good and so strong as a heel that Lesnar going against him is going to work. Plus having The Usos there to take suplexes makes it even better. We are so used to opening promo segments to begin WWE shows. That one definitely felt better and bigger than the usual opening segment.
There were babyface wrestlers in a hallway and the heels in another hallway. It’s a 10-man tag team match up next.
The Bloodline group was shown walking in the backstage area. The wrestlers went into the dressing room without talking to Kayla Braxton while Paul Heyman did talk to her. Heyman didn’t like Lesnar accusing him of knowing Lesnar would be at SummerSlam. Heyman said that Reigns was helping The Usos prepare for their title shot. Heyman claimed that Reigns will answer Lesnar’s challenge when he deems it appropriate to answer…Brock Lesnar.
Analysis: A nice tease for more to come later in the show.
King Nakamura the Intercontinental Champion entered with Rick Boogs playing the guitar. Sami Zayn cut them off. Zayn claimed to love New York. Zayn was wearing a New York Knicks jersey and said he had a special guest. Zayn introduced the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, who led the Hawks to beat the Knicks in the NBA Playoffs.
Analysis: That was funny. Trae Young is one of the top players in the NBA. It was great to have him there to get some heat from the crowd.
Big E, Rey Mysterio, Dominik Mysterio, King Nakamura & Rick Boogs vs. Apollo Crews, Otis, Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode & Sami Zayn (w/Commander Azeez, Chad Gable & Trae Young)
Doing a 10-man tag team match is a nice way to get more people on a show in MSG where everybody wants to be in a match. Otis knocked Nakamura off the apron to take control. Back in the ring, Otis with a corner whip followed by a running splash. They went to break there.
The match continued with Nakamura hitting Zayn (who is wrestling in “I Love New York” pajama pants) with a kick to the head. Rey Mysterio tagged in with a senton splash on Zayn followed by a Sunset Bomb for two. That led to a sequence of moves by different people going into the ring with everybody hitting a move. Big E hit a huge belly to belly on Ziggler and Roode with a spinebuster on Big E. Rey with a headscissors into the turnbuckle, but Zayn tripped up Rey. Zayn was choking Rey against the ropes, but then Trae did some choking on the ropes and the referee Dan Engler ejected Trae to the back! The fans cheered that. Dominik with a neckbreaker to Sami against the ropes, then Dominik with a double 619 kick with his dad. Big E hit the Big Ending on Zayn for the pinfall win after about seven minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Big E, Rey Mysterio, Dominik Mysterio, King Nakamura & Rick Boogs
Analysis: **3/4 A good tag team match with a lot of energy. It was rushed because there were ten guys involved, yet it was under ten minutes and some of them didn’t even get to tag into the match. The spot where everybody hits a big move and then bumps to the floor is common for these kinds of matches. While I like Zayn and prefer he doesn’t lose matches like this, it made sense since he’s the heel that riled up the crowd before the match. I figured he would get beat. Also, it was clever to have Trae Young get involved to have him get ejected, which the crowd loved. Smart booking.
Big E was interviewed in the ring. He sucked up to the New York Knicks to get a pop from the crowd. Big E held up the Money in the Bank briefcase. Big E teased this might not be the last time you see him tonight. Big E said that it could be the WWE Champion Bobby Lashley or the Universal Champion Roman Reigns while saying that he was going to be on Raw this Monday. Big E said that if you have what he needs then “you will feel my power.” Good line that he can use as a catchphrase.
Analysis: It’s always nice when a Money in the Bank briefcase holder teases a cash-in because it causes a lot of excitement.
Still to come: Edge vs. Seth Rollins.
Bianca Belair made her entrance for the contract signing segment. Good ovation for her.
There was a video about 9/11 with comments from former President George W. Bush.
There was a moment where they recognized families that were affected by 9/11. They showed some families in the crowd.
Contract Signing: Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair
Bianca was in the ring with the WWE Officials Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville. They had the contract signing table in the ring along with black carpet. Belair mentioned MSG for the cheap pop. Belair said that she respected as a competitor and a new mom, but she always thought that Becky would never run from a fight. Belair said that things have changed. Belair said that Lynch knows if they went toe to toe then the outcome would be different. Belair said that at Extreme Rules, Becky can win back some of her respect while Belair wins back her championship. Belair signed the contract.
Becky Lynch made her entrance as the Smackdown Women’s Champion. She was wearing a red fur coat and some ridiculously large sunglasses. Becky mentioned she was the original WrestleMania main eventer and called herself “Big Time Becks.” Lynch went on about how she can beat Belair again. Becky asked what happens if she doesn’t sign the contract. She was asked what does she mean? Becky said she didn’t want to sign it. Bianca Belair told her to “sign the damn contract” (the crowd cheered) and said “sign it a lot” which started a “sign it” chant.
Becky Lynch asked the crowd: “Really?” Lynch talked about how she was sitting at home listening to the fans chanting “we want Becky” for her and now she came back, but this is the reception she gets. Lynch talked about coming back at SummerSlam last minute and winning in 26 seconds, yet the fans are booing her. The fans booed Becky mentioned leaving her baby at home to come back, yet they are favoring a flash in the pan over her? The fans chanted “EST” for Belair. Lynch finally agreed to sign the contract, then she threw it at Belair and was booed. Lynch left the ring while Belair celebrated that the match is official.
Analysis: Good heel work from Lynch. The outfit was obnoxious (much like husband Seth Rollins), so I could tell right away that Becky was going to be more of a heel here. I predicted last week that Becky Lynch’s heel turn would be cemented this week at MSG and that’s what happened. The NYC crowd is the right place to do it. Anyway, the signing was official. The crowd reactions were exactly what WWE wanted, so I’m sure they were happy with it.
A Progressive Match Flo aired showing replays of Edge’s win over Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. I thought it was the best match on the show. They also showed Rollins hitting some Edge-like moves against Cesaro and then Edge saved Cesaro after that match.
Edge made his entrance to a huge pop as usual. You can tell how much he loves hearing that crowd and feeding off their energy. Cole said it has been over 4,000 days since Edge has had a match in Madison Square Garden and they showed an Edge tweet about it being a big moment for him. That match is next.
Paul Heyman was talking on his phone in a hallway and then he was interviewed by Kayla Braxton. Heyman ripped on Braxton for bothering him. Heyman said that Reigns is going to watch the Usos defend their titles against The Street Profits and then he’ll give an answer to Brock Lesnar later. Heyman asked if you like a good cliffhanger? Big E showed up with the Money in the Bank contract to laugh in Paul’s face.
Analysis: I love the taunting from Big E with Heyman in these backstage segments. It’s such a great tease that should make the fans happy every time they see it.
Seth Rollins made his entrance for the SummerSlam rematch. Rollins was booed as the heel in the match. This started at the top of hour two.
Edge vs. Seth Rollins
They started the match with each guy running the ropes leading to Rollins hitting a dropkick to the left leg. Edge with punches, Rollins tried to send Edge into the turnbuckle, but Edge blocked and sent Rollins into the turnbuckle. Edge whipped Rollins shoulder-first into the ring post. Rollins left the ring, he pulled Edge out of the ring and sent Edge into the barricade. Edge drove Rollins throat first into the top rope. Edge with knees to the face, but then Rollins got a knee up to block a charging Edge. Rollins with a knee to the back to send Edge out of the ring. Rollins hit a suicide dive on the floor leading to a break.
Rollins continued on offense with punches while Edge was against the barricade. Back in the ring, Rollins with a springboard knee attack off the top for a two count. Rollins applied an armbar on the left arm followed by leg whip takedown. Rollins worked over the left leg with some kicks. Edge with punches, Rollins ducked a kick attempt and Rollins hit a Glam Slam that Edge’s wife Beth Phoenix. Beth is now an announcer on NXT. The move didn’t look that good the first time, so Rollins picked up Edge again and delivered a much better Glam Slam for a two count. They each went for a lifting DDT, Rollins teased a Pedigree, Edge got out of that and Rollins got to the ropes to get out of a submission attempt. Edge hit a Pedigree on Rollins! That got a two count. Shoutout to Triple H dealing with a heart issue earlier in the week. The fans chanted “you still got it” at Edge. That led to Edge going up top and hitting a dive onto Rollins on the floor. It was just a diving attack to knock Seth down. Still impressive for a guy that is 47 years old.
The match continued with Edge hitting a Full Nelson Slam for a two count. Edge went up top, Rollins popped up for a superplex, but Edge countered that with a slam off the top. Edge jumped off the ropes, Rollins got a foot up and Edge applied a submission on the legs, but Rollins countered by sending Edge into the bottom turnbuckle. Edge countered a Crossface into a two count. Edge applied a Crossface submission, rolled it into the center of the ring and Edge slammed Seth’s head into the mat as Seth got to the rope to break the hold. Edge was making crazy faces to show how serious he was. Edge hit the Edgecution DDT with no cover. Edge went for a Spear, but Rollins countered it into a neckbreaker! That was great. Rollins went for The Stomp, Edge popped up and hit a sitout Powerbomb for two. Edge went for a move by the turnbuckle, but Rollins got a hold of him and hit a Buckle Bomb into the turnbuckle with Edge taking the bump on the lower back. Rollins went for The Stomp again, but Edge got back up and hit a Spear for just two with Rollins getting a two count. Great nearfall there! They were both down selling, Rollins with a knee to the face and they went into the ropes, the referee Jessika Carr never saw it and Rollins hit a low blow kick! Rollins with two superkicks and Rollins with a third superkick. Edge was on his knees, Edge stared at him, another superkick by Rollins and the fans were booing loudly! Edge was down on his knees in the ring, then he sat back up and Rollins yelled: “Why won’t you die?” Rollins with another superkick, which drew more boos. Rollins hit The Stomp on Edge. Rollins did a slow cover for the pinfall win after 23 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Seth Rollins
Analysis: **** This was great. It was one of the longer matches on Smackdown this year. They did a nice job of building it up with the big moments and Rollins even kicked out of a Spear, which a lot of people don’t do. I think the Rollins/Edge match at SummerSlam was better, but not by much. That match probably had more big moves now that I think of it. I just like how they work together. The pacing feels just right, nothing is rushed and everything they do makes sense. Rollins getting the win because the low blow got the advantage is the right way to book it in order to get him heat for cheating. I also liked all of the superkicks followed by The Stomp to end it. Two great storytellers work well together. No surprise there.
Post match, the referee called for the EMTs to come down to the ring. The EMTs had a stretcher. There were also WWE Officials Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville at ringside.
Analysis: That puts over The Stomp as a huge move because of Edge’s history of neck injuries as well. Edge works part-time, so the stretcher job gives him a break and can build a return match in a few months.
There was a backstage scene of Edge getting loaded into the ambulance. Rey Mysterio was there to support his friend.
The announce team was shown at ringside with Cole using SERIOUS VOICES~! to talk about the Edge injury. They put over the idea that if Edge gets hit in the neck, there was always concern about what would happen to him. They replayed the finish of the match.
They showed the ambulance leaving. Seth Rollins was interviewed saying he didn’t know how he was supposed to feel about what happened. Rollins said “I don’t know” and “maybe I don’t feel anything at all.” Rollins left.
Analysis: Seth does a nice job as this heel character. The fans don’t like him and his performance is usually very good. I know some people may not like the character, but I do. Seth is one of my favorites in WWE.
Roman Reigns was shown in the locker room with The Usos, who were the Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Reigns gave them a pep talk saying they run the Garden and they run WWE. Jimmy and Jey told Roman they will make the family proud because “we the ones.” The Usos left. Reigns turned to Heyman and told him: “I saved you.” Reigns asked Heyman why he didn’t tell him Brock was at SummerSlam? Heyman said nothing in return. Reigns stared at Paul. The scene ended.
Analysis: They are doing a nice job of teasing tension between Reigns and Heyman since the belief is that Heyman knew Lesnar would be at SummerSlam, so Reigns is upset about it. It’s smart to keep mentioning it to keep it fresh in the mind of the audience.
There were comments from former President Barack Obama talking about 9/11 20 years ago as well.
The Street Profits made their entrance first as the challengers for the Tag Team Titles. The Usos were next as the Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Roman Reigns was shown watching the match with Paul Heyman standing by.
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) vs. The Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins)
Ford with a dropkick on Jimmy, Jey wit ha distraction, so Ford knocked him off the apron and Jimmy shoved Ford to the floor. Jimmy hit a suicide dive onto Ford on the floor. They went to break less than one minute into the match.
The commercial for Raw said that they are having WWE Champion Bobby Lashley defend the title against Randy Orton on Monday’s Raw. That was the match advertised for Extreme Rules, and now it’s on Raw this Monday in Boston.
The match returned with Dawkins hitting a shoulder tackle on Jimmy and then Dawkins flipped Ford onto Jimmy. The Usos managed to take control as Jimmy drove Dawkins into the turnbuckle and Jey hit a forearm on Dawkins. Good spot with Dawkins running the ropes leading to a leapfrog and a dropkick. Jey with an elbow knockdown on Dawkins. Jey went for a leg drop, Dawkins avoided it and both Usos were sent to the floor. Ford tagged in, he ran the ropes and hit a somersault dive over the top to the floor! That was amazing. Roman Reigns showed up with Paul Heyman to watch the match.
Reigns was watching in the aisle with Heyman. Jey went for a move, but Dawkins got a double underhook neckbreaker. Ford got the tag with a cross body block off the top on Jimmy. Ford was on fire as he kicked Jey in the head. Ford lost a shoe and tossed it to the crowd! Ford with a dropkick followed by a Blockbuster for two. The fans were chanting “one shoe” at Ford. Dawkins got the tag, he had Jimmy on his shoulder and Ford jumped off the top with a double team Blockbuster neckbreaker for a two count. Great nearfall there. Jimmy got out of a move with a headbutt, Jey made the tag and Dawkins ran the ropes, right into a superkick by Jey for two! Ouch. That was great. Dawkins with a rollup, Jimmy sent him to the ropes, Jey with a superkick, Jimmy with a superkick and Jey went up top with an Uso Splash for one…two…and no! Dawkins kicked out. I thought that was it. The fans chanted “this is awesome” for them and I strongly agree with that. Dawkins with forearms, Ford tagged in, Jey with an enziguri kick, and Jimmy tried a top rope splash, but Dawkins got the knees up. Ford hit the Frog Splash off the top rope for the one…two…and Reigns went in to break up the pin! DQ finish. It went 15 minutes.
Winners by disqualification: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso)
Analysis: ***1/2 This was a great match with a lot of big spots with both teams coming close to winning a few times. I figured when the Uso Splash connected that would be it, so I was a bit surprised by the kickout. All four guys worked very well together, Ford stood out with his athleticism as usual. The cheap ending will piss the fans off, but that’s okay. I didn’t expect The Usos to lose the titles. It can lead to a rematch down the road.
Roman Reigns did a promo saying if Brock Lesnar then he’s got it. Reigns said he’s going to smash Lesnar as soon as he’s done smashing Finn Balor.
Analysis: I assume Reigns vs. Lesnar is at Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia in October. It seems like the right place to do it.
That led to the lights going out and then they came on with the red lights. It was the return of “Demon” Finn Balor as the fans popped big for Balor’s alter ego making his entrance in the arena filled with smoke. Balor did his posing in the aisle. Balor went down to the ring and got in the face of Reigns. Balor and Reigns had a face off with Cole saying it appears that Reigns will have to face The Demon Balor at Extreme Rules. Balor’s music continued to play as he faced off with Reigns. The show ended there.
Analysis: That’s cool that it will be “Demon” Finn Balor against Reigns. I think it’s fair to assume that Reigns is probably going to win, so that might hurt the Demon mystique a bit, but I just don’t think Reigns is going to lose to him especially since the Reigns/Lesnar match is already being mentioned. With that said, it should be an outstanding match, so I’m looking forward to it.
Three Stars of the Show
- Seth Rollins
- Roman Reigns/Brock Lesnar
Shoutout The Usos and Street Profits. Becky Lynch deserves praise too.
8.5 out of 10 – Tied for the 2021 high with April 30, which was Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan in the main event.
Last week: 7.5
2021 Average: 7.09
This was a great show from top to bottom from the strong opening segment to the Edge/Rollins match and the Tag Team Title match. That Reigns/Lesnar interaction felt like a really big deal and the MSG crowd reacted to it in a big way helped a lot. I also thought Becky Lynch’s heel promo worked in terms of getting the fans to hate her while Bianca Belair more than held her own as the likable babyface that she is.
The lack of a women’s match on the show was sad and some fans will complain about that, but there’s only so much time on the show. The Rollins/Edge match going long likely played a part in that. They could have definitely shaved off a few minutes of the Edge/Rollins match and maybe Usos/Profits to give time to the women’s match that was scheduled. Zelina Vega lost her dad on 9/11 20 years ago, so it meant a lot to her to be in a match and it got cut.
An excellent episode of Smackdown like this is an example of what WWE can do. Let’s get that consistently. Let’s see Raw improve. I know the WWE Draft is coming in a few weeks, so I hope that helps Raw a lot. The product can be better with some solid effort like what they did for this show because it was at MSG. Treat every city like MSG. The talent is there and more than capable. It’s up to creative to live up to their part of the deal.
The next WWE pay-per-view is Extreme Rules on Sunday, September 26. Here’s what we know so far.
WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. “Demon” Finn Balor
WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Randy Orton
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Bianca Belair
Raw Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
United States Championship: Damian Priest (c) vs. Sheamus
Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Rams. My contact info is below.