With FOX’s women’s World Cup coverage underway, the network moved this week’s episode of SmackDown to FS1, giving fans a place to go while Team USA handled its business in primetime.
The show, which broadcasted from the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., featured Universal Champion Roman Reigns’ return to the program, as he joined Jey Uso to discuss the “rules of engagement” for their upcoming title match. We also saw a United States Championship Invitational Fatal-4-Way and Dominik Mysterio’s first North American Title defense.
The show had a few low points, but there were moments that were worthy of praise, too.
What went right on the July 21 episode of SmackDown?
Dominik Mysterio defends the North American Championship
Putting the NXT North American Championship on Dominik Mysterio and brushing Wes Lee aside still feels like a shortsighted move, but it will take a few months to determine whether the move was worth it. From a booking standpoint, all we have to judge WWE on is Mysterio’s inaugural title defense against Butch.
Relative to the other matches on the show, this one didn’t last long (a little less than eight minutes) and the former Pete Dunne got the lion’s share of the offense. But shenanigans with Pretty Deadly would ensue, and this opened the door for Rhea Ripley to help her “Latino Heat” retain his belt.
There are plenty of things to critique about this match, particularly in terms of what it says about where Mysterio is as a performer. It’s telling that WWE shoehorned in all these bells and whistles for a wrestler who supposedly generates so much “legitimate heat” (that suspiciously dissipates when it’s time for him to wrestle), but at the very least, it reinforces him as a contrast to the previous champion.
Good in-ring action
Quality-wise, Mysterio vs. Butch was the worst match on the show, which should tell you how good the rest of the matches were. While you can quibble with the booking (as you can read here), you can’t do the same with the workrate.
The Fatal-4-Way match featuring Rey Mysterio, Cameron Grimes, Sheamus, and LA Knight got over 18 minutes and these seasoned workers made the most of it, maintaining a fun tempo and mixing in some great multi-person spots. Charlotte Flair vs. IYO SKY took a little while to get going, but once it did, the two former champions showed why they are among the best in the world. And despite Austin Theory’s blandness, he and Santos Escobar had an entertaining non-title match.
Recent episodes of SmackDown have been more promo-heavy (including that 40-minute “trial” that took place a couple of weeks ago), so this was a nice change of pace.
Roman Reigns and Jey Uso discuss the “rules of engagement”
WWE thinks that they’re slick. This discussion of the “rules of engagement” was basically a contract signing between Roman Reigns and Jey Uso, a sign that WWE knows that fans are tired of the trope but still want to use it. As with most things Bloodline related, though, the segment’s quality rendered any nitpicks pointless.
Reigns’ condescension to Uso perfectly meshed with Uso’s determination to avenge his twin’s hospitalization. Eventually, Uso told Reigns that, at the behest of the elders, their title match will take place under “Tribal Combat” and that the Tribal Chief title will be at stake alongside the Universal Title.
Reigns’ reaction to this news emphasized how important this match is. Preventing Solo Sikoa from hitting Uso with the Samoan Spike also added another layer of tension between Reigns and Sikoa while allowing Uso to preserve his momentum by superkicking “The Street Champ”.
Even if an Uso title win seems unlikely, WWE has done a nice job building him up as a viable challenger to Reigns, and the Bloodline saga continues to be the best thing on the show, even on a lean week.