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WWE SmackDown preview (July 23, 2021): John Cena has some explaining to do

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SmackDown airs tonight (July 23) live from Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as the Rolling Loud festival in Miami, Florida. This is the first SmackDown episode during the five week build towards the upcoming SummerSlam 2021 event on August 21.

John Cena has some explaining to do

John Cena returned to WWE at Money in the Bank and stole the spotlight from Roman Reigns. Cena then appeared on Raw the next night to say that he will confront Roman Reigns on SmackDown. If you are wondering why Cena didn’t just take care of his business with Roman when they shared the same ring at Money in the Bank and instead decided to drag it out until tonight, it’s because of ratings, of course.

Cena thinks he can just show up in WWE and immediately go after the Tribal Chief’s Universal championship. And he’s probably right, because most part-timers do indeed have that privilege. But before Cena does that, he really should address the elephant in the room: how did he return to WWE after being wiped out by The Fiend in the Firefly Fun House match at WrestleMania 36?

I don’t need a full-fledged explanation here. A witty one-liner could suffice. John should at least provide some sort of explanation here so I can be assured that this is actually John Cena standing in the ring, and not some possessed soulless puppet in the form of Cena that is really being controlled by Bray Wyatt. It would also be nice for the Firefly Fun House match to have some actual relevance or consequence outside of just being an oddity of the empty arena pandemic era of pro wrestling.

Anyway, we’re probably not going to get that explanation tonight. What we’re likely to get is a worked shoot promo exchange that relies on insider pro wrestling terms, because Cena and Reigns have the creative freedom to pretty much say anything they want on the mic. That’s how they did it when they feuded at No Mercy 2017, and the build for SummerSlam will likely be more of the same.

The title scene

Bianca Belair defeated Carmella clean last week in a SmackDown women’s championship match. Despite the fact the champ won without controversy, we’re getting a championship rematch tonight, because it wouldn’t be a WWE television show without multiple rematches. A lot of folks are waiting for Sasha Banks to return to WWE to try to take back her championship. Maybe she’ll finally show up tonight at Rolling Loud after Belair retains the title again.

Speaking of rematches, Big E is set to take on Intercontinental champion Apollo Crews for the millionth time tonight. Now that Big E holds the Money in the Bank contract, it can be easily argued that he actually has the more valuable prize here.

Shotzi & Nox have scored two straight tag team wins over Tamina & Natalya, who happen to be the Women’s tag team champions. The newcomers are now owed a title shot at some point in the future.

The Usos defeated The Mysterios at Money in the Bank and became the new SmackDown tag team champions. Maybe there really is a skill to winning championships shortly after a DUI arrest.

Other stuff to keep an eye on

- Toni Storm is set to debut on the main roster tonight. Let’s hope that her first opponent isn’t Jeff Hardy.

- Seth Rollins screwed Edge at Money on the Bank. These two stars are likely on a collision course for a match at SummerSlam, and tonight’s show should have some promo time to help build to that fight.

- Finn Balor returned to the main roster last week when he interrupted Sami Zayn. It sounds like Balor will be pursuing championship gold soon enough, but for now he’ll likely have to beat some sense into the conspiracy-addled brain of Zayn.

- There could be a couple of new feuds brewing on Friday nights. Kevin Owens gave a stunner to broke Baron Corbin last week, while Cesaro might need to find a tag team partner to help fend off Alpha Academy.

- SmackDown will be split across two venues tonight, which should create a very different viewing experience from what we’re accustomed to on typical WWE television.

What will you be looking for on SmackDown tonight?