WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from May 21
WWE intercontinental champion Apollo Crews has found himself at the center of a four-man feud over his title that culminated Friday night with Big E, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens challenging him in a Fatal 4-Way match.
That match headlined a show that also featured the latest drama in the relationship between universal champion Roman Reigns and cousin Jimmy Uso as well as Cesaro's ongoing rivalry with Seth Rollins.
What went down in the high-stakes title bout, and what developments on the existing rivalries captivated the audience Friday night on Fox?
Find out now with this recap of the May 21 episode.
Announced for Friday's show:
- Fatal 4-Way match for the Intercontinental Championship: Big E vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Apollo Crews
Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET.
Another In-Ring Promo Kicks Off SmackDown
WWE official Sonya Deville welcomed the viewing audience to an "extra special" edition of SmackDown and revealed that, beginning in July, the company returns to the road beginning with the blue brand's trip to Houston.
She introduced the current SmackDown champions, including Apollo Crews, who vowed to retain his Intercontinental Championship in the night's main event. From there, Deville introduced Roman Reigns, only for Paul Heyman to arrive and remind fans that The Tribal Chief is a champion whereas the rest of the men and women on stage are simply titleholders.
Bayley interrupted the proceedings and took exception to Natalya and Tamina as women's tag champs, gave props to Crews and Commander Azeez, and claimed Belair cheated to win Sunday at WrestleMania Backlash. The EST made her way to the ring, coming face-to-face with The Role Model.
Bayley backed off, allowing Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax to attack from out of nowhere. Natalya and Tamina made the save, setting up what is sure to be an obligatory tag match.
This was a terrible segment that served no purpose other than reiterating the announcement from earlier in the day that fans will soon be returning to the stands and to set up a sure-fire six-woman tag.
And therein lies the problem.
Can WWE not just announce the damn match ahead of time without relying on the tired show-opening promo to get to it? The setup was so ridiculously convoluted that it is almost impossible to think a writer thought it was the right call.
Announce the match and, I don't know, start the show with a match. People might even appreciate the change-up in format.
Six-Woman Tag Team Match
Belair, Natalya and Tamina battled Baszler, Jax and Bayley in the predictable six-woman tag.
The babyfaces started hot before Baszler downed Natalya and exercised her joint manipulation to great effect. The Queen of Harts managed to create some separation and make the tag to Belair, who took the fight to her opponents.
She scaled the ropes and leapt off, laying out Bayley and Jax but nursing a potentially injured knee heading into the break.
Bayley targeted the knee coming out of the commercial, attacking like a shark smelling blood. The EST mounted a comeback and made the tag to Natalya as the action broke down. On the arena floor, Bayley delivered a Bayley-to-Belly on Belair.
This distracted Natalya enough for Baszler to apply the Kirifuda Clutch and score the submission victory.
Baszler, Jax and Bayley defeated Natalya, Tamina and Belair
The match was OK, an energetic exhibition that shined a light on two separate feuds but did nothing to enhance or advance either of them.
Belair was explosive off the hot tag, and Natalya was the glue that held the match together, as she often is. Bayley was great, like always, and benefited the most from this match as she set herself up to once again challenge Belair for the blue brand title. She was the star of this first half-hour of the show, and rightfully so.
She’s too good to be forgotten like she was on the road to WrestleMania and is right back where she belongs: fighting for titles and stealing the spotlight.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. King Corbin...and the Debut of Boogs!
King Corbin made his way to the ring, royalty without a crown.
He talked about the disrespect and disgrace he experienced a week ago when Shinsuke Nakamura attacked him after their match and stole his crown. The debuting NXT export Rick Boogs played Nakamura to the ring, absolutely killing it on the electric guitar ahead of Nakamura and Corbin's scheduled rematch.
An enraged Corbin punished Nakamura, stomping away in the corner while Boogs claimed the heel had "it" coming to him. The king worked over The Artist, wearing him down and attacking the head and neck of his opponent.
Nakamura fought his way back into the match and set up for the Kinshasa, but Corbin cut him off and dropped him with a belly-to-back suplex for two. Boogs played Nakamura's theme, providing a distraction and allowing the babyface to counter End of Games into a rollup for the win.
Nakamura defeated Corbin
Nakamura really is above winning matches by distraction, especially when he is the babyface in the match. He is too talented a performer, and too recognizable around the world, to be utilized in a matter that suggests he can't beat King freaking Corbin.
With that said, the introduction of Boogs was interesting and puts him in position to be a part of a fairly significant midcard program. For an otherwise pedestrian match, that development was enough to earn the segment the grade.
The Champion Parade of Roman Reigns
Universal champion Roman Reigns made his way to the ring, accompanied by Jey Uso and Paul Heyman, for the special Champion Parade.
After a video package recapping his victory over Cesaro at WrestleMania Backlash, Reigns discussed humility and how he tries to teach it to his sons. So instead of talking himself up, he's going to let his special counsel do it for him.
Heyman cut a glowing promo about Reigns and his success over the last year before demanding Jimmy Uso comes to the ring. Instead, Cesaro appeared and issued a challenge for a rematch at Hell in a Cell. Before Reigns could accept (or not), Seth Rollins jumped him from behind, leaving Cesaro to further nurse his arm injury.
Rollins returned to the ringside area, again attacking Cesaro and leaving him lying with the stomp. He added a second, driving Cesaro face-first into the steel ramp.
Reigns touting humility, then taking great pleasure as Heyman bragged about him was great stuff.
Also great was the universal champion ordering Cesaro's music shut off...and the production team listening. It all adds to Reigns' claims that he is The Head of the Table and WWE's greatest asset.
Rollins jumping Cesaro again not only continues their feud, but it keeps him on screen and around Reigns and the Universal Championship. Eventually, The Shield teammates will cross paths, and the more Rollins and Reigns are around each other, the more it keeps the program in the forefront of the WWE Universe's mind.
Good stuff, and the first real “hit” of this week's show.
Dominik Mysterio vs. Robert Roode
New SmackDown tag team champions Rey and Dominik Mysterio hit the ring just five days after their emotional, historic victory at WrestleMania Backlash. Former champions Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode cut a bitter promo ahead of Roode's match with Dominik.
Dominik withstood a furious onslaught early, while Rey countered a superkick attempt by Ziggler at ringside.
The second-generation Mysterio delivered a 619 to Roode and finished with a frog splash for the win.
Mysterio defeated Roode
There is plenty of time later to argue whether Dominik should be beating Roode in singles action, but one thing is for sure: This feud needs to end.
It has run its course, dating back to the end of 2020, and has been bogged down in repetitiveness in recent weeks. Now that the Mysterios earned the victory and titles, it is time for the father-son tandem to set their sights on new opposition. Given how many times they worked with The Street Profits and Alpha Academy heading into WrestleMania, the show really needs new blood in its tag division.
Maybe a call-up from NXT is in order.
Fatal 4-Way Match for the Intercontinental Championship
Apollo Crews defended his Intercontinental Championship in a Fatal 4-Way Match against Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Big E in Friday's main event. The babyfaces wasted little time establishing dominance as Big E delivered a big apron splash to Crews and Zayn, only to be wiped out on the floor by a diving Owens.
The Prizefighter stood tall heading into the break.
Back from the commercial, Crews sent Owens into the ring steps and wiped Big E out with a moonsault from the ring apron. Zayn delivered one of his own off the guardrail, wiping Crews out. Owens delivered a swanton bomb from the top rope on to Zayn and Big E broke up the pin.
Owens delivered a fisherman's brainbuster from the middle rope and both Crews and Big E, sensing the title slipping through their fingers, broke up the pin. Crews dropped Owens on the back of his neck on the apron, only to suffer the spear through the ropes and to the floor by Big E.
Back from the final break of the night, an aggressive Crews pounded away at Zayn and Big E, much to the delight of the massive Commander Azeez. Big E fought back, delivered a belly-to-belly but ate a boot from Zayn to cut him off.
Owens countered a half-and-half suplex and delivered a big neckbreaker for two.
Big E delivered a double suplex to Crews and Zayn, only for an alert Owens to catch him with a frog splash for two. Owens delivered the cannonball in the corner, but Zayn delivered the Blue Thunder Bomb for a close near-fall.
Big E looked for the Big Ending on Zayn, but Owens caught him with a superkick, then added one for Zayn, too. Owens delivered the pop-up powerbomb to Crews, but he ate a half-and-half suplex on the floor by Zayn.
Big E caught Zayn with the Uranage and nearly earned the win over Crews, but Commander Azeez pulled him out of the ring. Big E fended off the massive heel, but the lights dimmed and Aleister Black arrived, making his way through fog to blast Big E with Black Mass.
Crews made the pin and scored the win. Black flashed an evil grin as the show went off the air.
Crews defeated Zayn, Owens and Big E to retain
This was a great conclusion to a so-so episode.
Not only was this a pay-per-view-quality match that could have easily been featured on WrestleMania Backlash and enhanced that card even more, it brought with it the return of Black, who suddenly feels like a big deal in an already stacked SmackDown mid-card.
The question WWE Creative will have to answer now is why Black targeted Big E.
Is it because of his positivity? Is it merely to make an example out of one of the fans' beloved heroes?
There is plenty of potential, but one thing that cannot happen is for WWE to allow Black to become just another guy in the IC title hunt. That will do neither Black nor the company any good and only further muddy the waters in that area of the roster.