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    Sunday, July 25, 2021

    The SmackDown BreakDown (7/23/21): This Ain't No Missionary

    Is anyone going to make a ringtone out of Paul Heyman's version of "The Time is Now?" I don't receive calls often, but it will ease my anxiety if I hear Heyman's do-do-do-do every time someone actually remembers to call me. I'm Ricky Publico, and this is the SmackDown BreakDown.

    Let me just get this out of the way—this week's episode was a banger. This show literally started with John Cena and ended with Roman Reigns. How's that not one of the best episodes this year? While RAW was busy shitting on Karrion Kross and bringing Oldberg back from the nursing home, SmackDown was out here finessing it up by being in two goddamn locations at once. And hey, Toni Storm was here! And she brought her cool DDT finisher (Storm One) with her. Now that's how you debut an NXT star.

    Anyway, you know we're going to talk about the brewing main event for SummerSlam: John Cena vs. Roman Reigns II. WWE probably booked John Cena for this week and the week until the big event only, so they made the most out of their short time with Cena by having him rile up the crowd on both RAW and SmackDown. And what else can I say about John Cena that hasn't been said before? I'll just say I'm glad he found time out of his Suicide Squad duties to go back and kickstart a new era in WWE.

    If Cena blew the roof off to open the show, of course, Roman Reigns had to respond with an explosive promo of his own. Normally, I would suggest Reigns delay his answer until next week and make everyone wait, but this week's episode felt so unique that ending it on a weird wouldn't have done it justice. And I'm really glad they didn't hold back because Reigns ate Cena's promo for breakfast. This ain't the build for No Mercy 2017 anymore. This time, both men are actually on equal footing.

    The heel champion ducking the babyface challenger storyline has been told a thousand times, but I can't remember the last time it was handled with this amount of subtlety and logic. Think about it: you could argue that Roman Reigns is just afraid of John Cena, but the last time these two stepped inside the ring, Big Dog Roman beat him clean as a whistle. Head of the Table Roman doesn't have to prove anything to anyone, which makes his promo this week even more compelling and, dare I say, credible.

    And you can't even claim he's a chicken-shit heel in disguise because he certainly didn't back away from Finn Bálor moments after denying John Cena. 

    Hold up, let's process that for a minute: they're actually catapulting Finn Bálor to the world title picture. That's huge! Sure, he's basically just the stand-in for John Cena, but at least he's actually in the world title picture, and that's good enough for me. And hey, it looks like Finn gets to keep his edgy persona after all. Why did he wrestle as Blue Bálor earlier, then?

    Another SummerSlam rivalry that received some love this week was Edge vs. Seth Rollins. After weeks (or years, if you think about it) of carefully planting seeds, they finally pulled the trigger on this goldmine of a storyline. If you had any doubts before, this week's face-to-face segment should convince you that they should co-main event SummerSlam. And if you're worried that they held back on exposition, you'll be pleased to know they addressed that horrific segment seven years ago head on.

    That alone should've been enough to anchor a program between Edge and Seth Rollins, but having Seth cost Edge the Universal Championship is a welcome addition to the mix. They even covered their bases by addressing the fact that it would've been easier for Seth if he cost Roman Reigns the title but he chose to target Edge anyway out of pure spite. This was an easy home run and I really hope they don't drop the ball during the five-week SummerSlam build. I'm counting on you, SmackDown.

    Also, can we talk about how SmackDown was in two places at once? The main show was on Cleveland and the other half took place in Miami as part of the FOX Rolling Loud festival. I'm not familiar with the festival (or anything hip-hop, for that matter) so I don't know how big of a deal this is, but I think it's always a good thing to see wrestling get any form of mainstream attention. And if there's a good time to pull off a WrestleMania 2, it's now while the stakes are low and the cameras are a million times better.

    And while Angelo Dawkins vs. Chad Gable was a bit underwhelming consdering the venue they were in, they made up for it by booking a championship match between Carmella and Bianca Belair. If I knew they were scheduling a rematch to headline a popular concert event, I wouldn't have reacted too negatively in last week's review. Belair and Carmella always have great chemistry and this week was no different. Overall, SmackDown's first venture in a multi-location setup was a huge success.

    Okay, I promise we're almost done, but I can't help but give praise to Baron Corin. There's no doubt about it now: this is a babyface turn vehicle for the Lone Wolf and they're ticking all the right boxes. Sure, last week he was a bit of an asshole, but they gave him a more human side this week by appealing to the conscience of the locker room, Kevin Owens. The irony isn't lost on me, but I think both men's history of being the biggest jerks will help fuel this storyline in the coming months. 

    Just when you thought the segment would end on a positive note, Corbin got hit with a missile and his hard-begged cash got stolen by the Dirty Dawgz. They even got Shotzi and Nox some airtime as the indirect culprits behind the mugging. They set it up naturally and the budding friendship between Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin tied everything up with a nice bow. I never expected I would unironically root this hard for Baron Corbin. After all, being broke will never be not relatable in this day and age.

    FINAL BREAKDOWN: I love this episode! Forget the novelty of being in two locations at once; SmackDown packed a lot in the two hours without making it feel like they were rushing the storylines. They might as well move SummerSlam to next weekend because the Blue Brand did a great job hyping everyone up with this promo-loaded show. Even RAW held up their end of the bargain! WWE didn't give us the missionary position this week, that's for sure.

    Show Grade: A+

    BreakDown Thoughts That Fans Also Always Reject

    • The one dud this show had was them spoiling Big E's celebration speech just to redefine the Intercontinental Championship landscape. Why couldn't we have both? A kick-ass Big E speech would've been perfect to punctuate his historic MITB win. Instead, we got a random parade of midcarders and a lousy brawl. On the bright side, at least Cesaro will be busy for a while with Apollo Crews. Stay away from Otis for a while, big guy.
    • I get that it's probably health-related, but the hip-hop festival crowd would've popped their heads off if they would've witnessed Montez Ford's From The Heavens finisher. Whatever injury he's currently nursing, I really wish him a speedy recovery. The live crowd could have definitely used a reason to lose their minds.


    Ricky Publico (@nyamnyamgarbage) is Smark Henry's seasoned veteran and resident main roster reviewer. He's a sucker for well-written promos and fast-paced matches. While he enjoys nitpicking shows, he now prefers enjoying wrestling for what it is instead of stressing himself over things he can't control. He's anxious about the future, now more than ever. His potential haunts him. 

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    Item Reviewed: The SmackDown BreakDown (7/23/21): This Ain't No Missionary Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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