Cena and Balor Challenge Reigns, Edge Targets Rollins and More SmackDown Fallout
Friday's SmackDown marked its second week back in front of a crowd since the onset of the pandemic and was the post-Money in the Bank episode, so there is a lot to talk about from the show.
John Cena made his return to the blue brand with a rousing promo at the top of the show, during which he reiterated his desire to challenge Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship.
Finn Balor was back in action Friday night in a match against the man he brawled with on the previous week's episode, Sami Zayn.
We also saw Bianca Belair defend the SmackDown Women's Championship from the Rolling Loud festival, and Edge confronted Seth Rollins about why he cost him the universal title at MITB.
Let's look at some of the biggest moments from Friday's show and discuss how WWE may follow up on these segments.
John Cena Is Back on the Blue Brand
SmackDown wasted no time getting to the return of Cena to the Friday night show for the first time since before WrestleMania 36. The crowd gave him a warm welcome, and he looked hyped to be in front of a live crowd for the third time in a week.
He did his usual job of getting the audience excited before Paul Heyman came out to rain on his parade. He said Reigns felt Cena wasn't worth his time, but Heyman promised he would get an answer to his challenge when The Tribal Chief was ready.
It took until the final segment of the show for the universal champion to make an appearance, so WWE bookended Friday's entire show with this feud.
He made fun of Cena for having the same tired act he has had for 15 years and gave Cena a firm no in response to his challenge for a showdown at SummerSlam. Surprisingly, Balor made his way to the ring instead of Cena. He immediately challenged Reigns to a title match.
Reigns thought about it for a moment before saying "challenge accepted." The show ended right after that, so we have no idea whether this bout will happen at SummerSlam, on the next episode of SmackDown or somewhere between. This is an unexpected but welcome twist to this story.
The Prince and the Conspiracy Theorist
After returning to SmackDown the previous week in a segment with Zayn, Balor made his official in-ring return Friday in a match against The Great Liberator.
Obviously, they put on a good performance. Two guys like Balor and Zayn would have to try hard to do anything that could be considered bad because they are so talented.
A clip was played prior to the match that showed Zayn winning the Intercontinental Championship last year, and the announcers made sure to emphasize that Balor is looking to win gold. It seems like WWE is setting them up to chase different belts.
We saw Balor set his sights on Reigns. Zayn will likely reignite his pursuit of the IC title and join Cesaro and a few others in a multi-person match at SummerSlam.
Twice in 1 Week
During the part of the show taped at the Rolling Loud music festival, Carmella challenged Belair for the SmackDown Women's Championship for the second time this week.
Belair defeated her on the previous week's SmackDown, so it surprised some people when WWE announced she had been granted a rematch for a week later without any logical storyline reason for a second contest.
Odds are good that WWE was happy with their performance and wanted to bring that same energy to the festival, but rematches this close together are never as exciting the second time around.
It was hard to tell how the live crowd reacted since WWE piped in all of the crowd noise, but it was clear most of the audience couldn't see what was going on since the match was not playing on the projection screen.
Predictably, Belair retained the title. If WWE doesn't move on from this feud to something new, it is going to risk The EST losing momentum as the champion.
Naomi, Mia Yim, Liv Morgan and just about every other woman on the SmackDown roster should be asking for the next shot as we approach SummerSlam.
A Feud 7 Years in the Making
Edge came out to a raucous ovation to discuss the circumstances of his loss to Reigns at Money in the Bank and the role Rollins played in the outcome.
The Messiah came down and mocked The Rated-R Superstar for being an aging wrestler who is taking away opportunities from people like him. It was the usual "you don't belong here" exchange. The segment ended with Edge hitting Rollins with an Edgecution DDT after they brawled for a bit.
WWE went back to their exchange in 2014 to paint this as a feud that has been building up over a long time. It was a nice inclusion of continuity you don't usually see from the promotion these days.
This is obviously going to be one of the big attractions at SummerSlam. A contest between Edge and Rollins has been on a lot of people's dream-match lists for years, and to finally see it happen is going to fulfill a lot of wishes.
WWE needs to take the slow approach. The two have already put their hands on each other, so the next couple of weeks should consist of verbal exchanges to create more tension before they clash at the PPV.
What did you think of this week's SmackDown?