Finn Balor Is Back, Bianca Belair Retains, Fans Return, More SmackDown Fallout

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2021

Finn Balor Is Back, Bianca Belair Retains, Fans Return, More SmackDown Fallout

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    The WWE Universe is back, baby!

    Friday's SmackDown was the first show back on the road after more than a year of holding shows at the Performance Center and ThunderDome.

    The crowd was electric and gave several Superstars heroes' welcomes as they made their entrances. Bianca Belair, Edge, Kevin Owens and Finn Balor were just a few of the people who received big pops.

    Speaking of Balor, he made his return to the main roster after spending the better part of two years with NXT. Here is a quick rundown of the major events from Friday's show:

    • Roman Reigns and The Usos defeated Edge and the Mysterios.
    • Nox and Shotzi defeated Natalya and Tamina.
    • Balor made his return to SmackDown.
    • Belair retained her title against Carmella.
    • Cesaro defeated Otis by disqualification.
    • Seth Rollins defeated Shinsuke Nakamura, Owens and Big E.

    Let's get into some of the major highlights from the evening and discuss what it means to have the crowd back for live shows.

Finn Balor Is Back on SmackDown

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    After spending more than a year and a half in NXT, Balor made his return to the main roster during Friday's show to take out Sami Zayn during his promo about being the subject of a conspiracy.

    He may have been a heel and tweener in NXT, but there is little doubt that WWE is going to book him as a babyface moving forward after the reaction he received. The fans voiced their opinion, and they are firmly in The Prince's corner.

    This segment seemed like more than just a simple return. This felt like the start of a new feud, and a program between Zayn and Balor is exactly what WWE needs as it hits the road again.

    We have never seen a long-term feud between these two in WWE. It's a fresh program that will produce some great matches. A few random encounters on the way to a blowoff match at SummerSlam is the most likely way this will go. Whether it continues after that is the question.

    Zayn will most likely demand a match against Balor from Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville next week.

Nox and Shotzi Give a Repeat Performance

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    Nox and Shotzi made their SmackDown debuts the previous week with a big win over the women's tag team champions. On Friday, they managed to score a second victory over Natalya and Tamina.

    During the match, Liv Morgan and Zelina Vega got into a fight at ringside. The distraction was enough to allow Nox to roll up Natalya in an inside cradle for the pin.

    This gives the newcomers two victories over the champs, so it's crystal clear WWE is positioning them as the next challengers for the belts.

    For now, Natalya and Tamina have the Money in the Bank match to worry about. If they end up fighting over the briefcase, it might cause a rift in their relationship their rivals can exploit.

The EST Retains the SmackDown Women's Championship

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    Originally, Bayley was set to face Belair at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. When the challenger went down with an injury, Carmella was given her spot and the bout was moved to SmackDown.

    The crowd gave The EST of WWE a huge ovation as she made her first appearance in front of a live audience since winning the SmackDown women's title at WrestleMania 37. The boos were almost as loud for Mella.

    They made this a physical battle from the opening bell. They held nothing back and treated this like a major PPV encounter, so the crowd was hot from start to finish.

    After a hair whip to the stomach and the KOD, Belair got the pin to retain her championship. The result was predictable, but the path to get there was a lot of fun.

    This is feud could continue after MITB while the person who grabs the briefcase considers whether to challenge The EST or whoever leaves the PPV with the Raw Women's Championship.

    Even with the addition of Nox and Shotzi, the SD women's roster is low on competitors who deserve a title shot. Keeping Carmella in the hunt for gold until someone else emerges as a worthy challenger would be smart.

Crowds Are Back in Full Force

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    While WWE had a limited number of fans for WrestleMania and has had people at NXT shows for months, Friday's show was the first time the main roster returned to the road in 70 weeks.

    That's 70 episodes of Raw and 70 episodes of SmackDown without the benefit of live fans rooting for their favorites and booing the heels. It felt like even longer.

    The audience in Texas was lively for the entire show. We heard loud pops, chants and reactions to high spots throughout the night. While some of it may have been helped by WWE's productions team, it sounded like most of what we heard was genuine.

    This is the first step on the road back to some semblance of normalcy. The WWE Superstars looked energized by the reactions, which helped make the crowd more excited in return. It was a beautiful cycle of cheers and jeers as the men and women of WWE showed the world they were back.

    We will likely see similar energy at the Money in the Bank PPV and Monday's Raw. As WWE continues to visit each city for the first time in more than a year, we can expect those reactions to return to their normal levels at some point.

    WWE needs to strike while the iron is hot. The crowd is excited to have the product back, so management needs to give the WWE Universe more memorable moments than usual to keep everyone invested.

    Sunday's PPV might feature some unexpected results to create some authentic surprise reactions from the fans. It's great to see the WWE Universe back. Let's hope we never have to go through fanless shows ever again.