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WWE SmackDown recap & reactions (July 22, 2022): A New Era

We have to start off by talking about how bizarre this all felt coming right on the heels of Vince McMahon announcing he was retiring. The circumstances surrounding it — the timing of it is most notable, considering the ongoing investigation by the Board of Directors at WWE over hush money payouts — cast a long shadow and absolutely influence the general feeling about it. It’s hard to have much sympathy here.

Having said that, it feels strange living in a world where Vincent Kennedy McMahon isn’t running WWE. His long reign as the most powerful man in pro wrestling is over. His daughter, Stephanie, will act as co-CEO alongside Nick Khan, so the family name will remain in the company, with all the power that comes with it. But it’s not the same.

It will never be the same again.

To get this new era underway proper, Stephanie McMahon kicked off this week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown. She was there to say goodbye to her dad, and do so in front of the WWE fans so that they, too, can know and understand we really and truly are moving forward without him. Despite everything, the fans showered him with “Thank you, Vince” chants. She told him she loved him.

And that was that.

The Street Profits hit the scene right after this, their music signaling that the show will go on, like it always has, like it, they certainly wanted to let us believe here, always will. Yes, Vince is gone, but WWE remains, and that’s still worth watching. It’s what he’ll be doing, after all.

Here we go into new days.

What an unbelievably pro wrestling story the whole Brock Lesnar thing turned out to be, huh?

McMahon retires, and reports instantly come out that Lesnar is so unhappy about this that he leaves the show. It wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory that a wrestler has done this, and it won’t be the last. But because he’s the main event of the next PPV that is just over one week away, WWE has to try its damndest to get him back.

As it turns out, they managed to get things settled, using whatever means they did, and Lesnar returned to the arena in time for a main event appearance that ended up having a lot more impact if only because no one actually expected him to be there because of all the reports.

Hell, commentary even mentioned it without outright mentioning it!

This is the kind of place pro wrestling can exist, where you aren’t sure if what you’re seeing is a work or reality. It could be this was the result of a quick backroom deal where Lesnar used some leverage to get a better arrangement for himself, or perhaps Vince himself got on the horn and talked Brock down, or Lesnar just came to his senses on his own and came back to get the big payday he’s surely getting for the stadium show he’s about to headline. It could be any of those things!

It’s also at least possible that this was a well orchestrated work to drive interest, though I highly doubt as much. It’s hardly even important if that’s the case. The fact that it’s at least possible is what makes this such a unique industry, one that gives us legitimate jaw dropping moments when a guy appears on a show he was always advertised to appear on.


I really liked how they did this.

I’m not crazy about relegating these two to a backstage face-to-face meeting that went for all of two minutes, but they accomplished a whole hell of a lot within that brief timespan.

Liv Morgan winning the SmackDown women’s championship was a feel good moment, for sure, but it was always going to lead to the question of how they would handle what comes next. That “next” was always going to be a Ronda Rousey rematch and what would a program between those two even look like?

They kept it simple, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t work.

Rousey more or less scoffed at the idea that this is even worth the time because, I mean, she’s Ronda Rousey and Liv Morgan is Liv Morgan. Let’s be real here, it’s a landslide in one direction.

Morgan responded the only way she could — by admitting she’s at a severe disadvantage but she does indeed have all the passion Ronda always credited her for and because of that she wants it more. Sometimes that’s enough to win the day.

This is as good as they can do with this, and they were both pretty damn good in their delivery here.

All the rest
  • Ludwig Kaiser beat Shinsuke Nakamura, but only after GUNTHER got involved and clubbed the latter with a big forearm to the back of the head. Kaiser was on his way to another defeat, and GUNTHER wasn’t happy with how it played out, so he did his chop routine. He faked like he wasn’t going to, then put Kaiser down with it anyway. I’m not sure how this works so well. Kaiser isn’t sympathetic at all but you still really dislike GUNTHER for what he’s doing to his number two man.
  • Bum Ass Corbin attacked Pat McAfee at ringside, leading to the color commentator chasing down his foe and the two brawling backstage. After, McAfee cut another promo on him, perfectly setting up their match by saying “when this foot hits your ugly, herpe looking head, I’m putting your big ass down for a nap for good. See you in Nashville, bitch.” Them’s fighting words!
  • The Vicious Viking Raiders defeated Jinder Mahal & Shanky via count out. Brains to go with the brawn, was the message they were trying to send. I’m not buying any of this so far.
  • Sheamus wants Drew McIntyre’s big ass sword banned and you know what? He’s right! It should be banned! There’s no payoff for McIntyre waving it around. It looks cool, sure, but it’s not like he’s actually going to cut someone up with it one day. Just get rid of it. Thankfully, next week they’ll do just that in a good old fashioned donnybrook match where they finally settle up on who will headline Clash at the Castle.
  • Sonya Deville continued getting on Adam Pearce’s bad side, so he booked her in a bout with Raquel Rodriguez. They had a surprisingly strong TV match that saw Deville get her comeuppance. Not much to say about it but I enjoyed the match they put together and it’s clear they could do more here with both of them if those choose it later on.
  • Lacey Evans is no longer even pretending like she’s good. She took Boston to task, saying she’s accomplished more today than they all have in the past year and “no wonder Tom Brady left” town. Aliyah was there again, demanding the match she’s been close to getting for weeks now, and Evans did like usual, hitting her with a cheap shot and bailing out. There’s only so many times they can do this, so we’ll see what comes next here soon enough.
  • Just me or is Jeff Jarrett starting to look a little bit like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler but with shorter hair?
  • The big debut of Maxxine Dupri was a pre-tape where the artist formerly known as Sophia Cromwell from NXT said they’ll be back with another collection next week, this one for Beachwear. It was about as underwhelming as it gets.

I don’t even know what to think of any of this after everything.

Grade: B-

Your turn.

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