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WWE SmackDown results, recap, reactions (April 23, 2021): Swerve!

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There’s been word going around that another COVID-19 outbreak within WWE has led to the absence of several wrestlers since WrestleMania 37. That could very well be why the company seemed to use so few during this week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown.

That may have actually been a good thing, too! It gave us more focused storylines and a greater emphasis on said storylines. Funny how that works, huh?

Hit up Claire Elizabeth’s live blog for the full rundown of the show right here.


Swerve

WWE did an interesting thing where Cesaro was given a singles victory over Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 37 and that was used as a catalyst to kick off a main event run. They didn’t really build up to this at all, with it seemingly coming out of nowhere, but it’s still driven by years and years of fans having lobbied for him to be pushed beyond the mid-card he’s been stuck in for what feels like forever.

Of late, we’ve heard stories that Daniel Bryan, another guy who struggled to get to the main event title picture, before a big breakthrough in 2014, has been doing his own lobbying for Cesaro behind-the-scenes. Here, Bryan took that lobbying to television, doing his best Paul Heyman going full advocate for the Swiss Superman.

Bryan put over how Cesaro deserves the shot, how Reigns is afraid of losing to Cesaro, and how he knows he can’t win against him. He did this after they worked a tag team match against Seth Rollins and Jey Uso, one they were victorious in, and Cesaro treated Uso like a rag doll to be tossed around and upside down.

It built to a main event segment that saw Cesaro demand an answer from Reigns and immediately get put in his place. He was shouted down, dismissed, and instantly put on the back burner in favor of Reigns challenging Bryan to a match for the title next week, with Bryan’s SmackDown residency on the line.

It’s equal parts compelling and hilarious, compelling because there’s certainly intrigue in how they’ll handle Bryan from here and hilarious because it’s indicative of the broader treatment of Cesaro. Reigns dismissed him to such a degree I found it hard to take him as seriously as Bryan was demanding we should. Then Cesaro was encouraging Bryan to accept the challenge!

Sure, this could simply be delaying Cesaro’s main event run but WWE would do better to make up its mind on giving him the push and committing to it. Don’t have Bryan tell me how great and worthy he is and then in the tag match they’re in together, have Bryan be the guy scoring the pin. Don’t have him push for Cesaro to get the title shot the entire night just to then take it himself. It doesn’t matter if you tell me he’s worthy, if I see every action betray those words, I’m going to believe he’s the second-rate wrestler you continue to present him as.

But, hey, there’s probably another good PPV match against Rollins coming. So at least there’s that.


All the rest

Intercontinental title scene: I liked that WWE gave Kevin Owens an impromptu title shot on this show over Big E. Sure, he didn’t win and his issues with Sami Zayn were continued while Apollo Crews was attacked by Big E to keep their feud going, but there was a brief interaction between Owens and Big E backstage that created some electricity and it deepened the pool of contenders for the title. That’s four super talented wrestlers all in the same vicinity with a lot of good matches to be had among them.

Reginald returns: It took exactly zero shows for Reginald to be a distraction that caused issue for the women’s tag team champions and cost them yet another singles victory. This time it was Nia Jax losing to Tamina Snuka. There’s no shot this isn’t leading to a breakup and it’s long overdue. Natalya and Tamina will do just fine as transitional champions.

Top contender Bayley: Sasha Banks wasn’t on this show, and it’s strange just how little follow up there’s been to that historic match with Bianca Belair at WrestleMania 37. In fact, Bayley is stepping right in and getting the next crack at the SmackDown women’s championship. They didn’t even give them a segment in the ring on this show, instead enlisting Montez Ford to snitch on Bayley talking trash and Belair showing up confront her over it. Babyface Bayley briefly returned to say a bunch of nice things but SWERVE, she didn’t actually mean it hahahahahaha. I say “hahahahahaha” because that’s what Bayley did to end the segment. This isn’t good so far.

The new Aleister Black: He told a story about slaying a dragon and how we’re all a bunch of liars who suck and should be scorched from the Earth. I don’t really get what the idea is here, but I don’t think I’m supposed to just yet. I’ll wait for Chapter 2, and 3, and maybe even 4 before making any judgments here.

The Mysterios: Rey and Dominik are actually a pretty fun tag team! I wouldn’t mind watching the two of them continue to have these fun matches en route to a run with the titles. It’s an easy, feel good story that WWE really can’t mess up.

This show was largely about establishing a guy who ended up not getting the thing he was supposed to be getting established for. A weird one.

Grade: C+

Your turn.