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It was championship Friday on SmackDown this week as both the Intercontinental and tag team titles were up for grabs in marquee bouts.
Rey and Dominik Mysterio sought to retain their newly won championships against one of the best teams in WWE history, The Usos, while Apollo Crews clung to his IC title in the face of a challenge from Kevin Owens.
Were the champions able to retain, which rivalries across the blue brand intensified, and what does it all mean for the competitors and the show moving forward?
Find out with this recap of the June 4 episode.
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Announced for Friday’s show are:
- Intercontinental Championship Match: Kevin Owens vs. Apollo Crews
- SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The Mysterios vs. The Usos
Coverage begins at 8 p.m.
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Universal champion Roman Reigns made his way to the ring, accompanied by special counsel Paul Heyman, as SmackDown hit the Fox airwaves.
The Tribal Chief warned The Usos that, while he’s changed his opinion on them challenging for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships against the Mysterios, they better win. He reminded them that the entire family is watching. The enthusiastic Usos vowed to do just that.
Everything Reigns does at this point is fire.
He has a star power that absolutely no one else on the roster can come close to duplicating and everything he is involved in is must-see TV. This was no different. There was a menace to his voice as he addressed The Usos, almost making the audience want to see Jimmy and Jey lose to see what happens.
More importantly, The Head of the Table elevates the tag title match’s significance simply by issuing a single warning to The Usos, more so than anyone in creative has done for those same titles in years.
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No time wasted, the tag team title match kicked off the in-ring portion of the show as Jimmy and Jey attempted to dethrone Rey and Dominik Mysterio.
The challengers seized control of the bout when Jey caught Rey in a fireman’s carry and delivered a Samoan Drop onto the announce table. A hot tag to Dominik after several minutes of punishment sparked a babyface comeback. The rookie competitor fended off both opponents, then caught a flying Jimmy with knees to the midsection and scored a controversial rollup for the win.
The Mysterios defeated The Usos
Any match with this talent involved was destined to be damn good and this did not disappoint, even as the commercial break threatened to derail its overall quality. Mysterio as the babyface-in-peril and Dominik receiving the hot tag is a formula that works for the champions while the challengers picked right up where they left off over a year ago, the last time they competed with each other.
The Usos failing to get the job done will earn the wrath of Reigns but the fact that the commentary team astutely pointed out Jimmy’s shoulder being off the mat as the referee counted three gives them an out. Whether that is enough to calm the fury of The Big Dog remains to be seen.
Finally, the SmackDown brand has done an excellent job of presenting its tag team division as something special. After months of repetitive matches and lackluster creative, it feels like a major element of what Fridays are trying to accomplish.
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Backstage, Reigns berated The Usos for their loss and demanded they fix this tonight by going to Adam Pearce or Sonya Deville and getting another shot.
Earlier today, Kayla Braxton attempted to interview Seth Rollins, who balked at questions about Cesaro before abruptly ending things without an answer.
Finally, The Street Profits were backstage when Chad Gable approached. He offered them managerial assistance in hopes that they would return to the winning ways. It did not go over well.
Reigns lashed out at his cousins, as expected, but laughed things off by the end of the promo when it became clear Jey was still pledging his allegiance to The Head of the Table rather than his brother, Jimmy. That was the biggest takeaway and something that should weigh heavily on the storyline moving forward as Jimmy tries to regain his brother’s support.
The Rollins segment was meaningless and accomplished nothing, which seems suspect for a star of the former WWE and Universal champion’s stature.
Finally, Gable offering managerial services to The Street Profits was interesting in that it will certainly create questions about a certain tweet that featured Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford with Raw’s MVP. Might the format tag champions be undergoing an attitude change and seeking assistance as the losses begin to mount?
It was nice to see WWE further the above stories with these short, sweet vignettes. Hopefully, it is something it does better and more frequently as it finds ways not to overexpose talent through weekly, repetitive matches.
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Carmella and Liv Morgan did battle next, each woman looking to gain momentum as they jockey for position in the women’s title picture.
Morgan, going it alone after the release of partner Ruby Riott earlier in the week, kept The Princess of Staten Island off-guard early and often. The former champion, though, recovered and tapped Morgan out to the Code of Silence before demanding ring announcer Greg Hamilton announcer as the most beautiful woman in the world.
Backstage, Sonya Deville told The Usos her and Adam Pearce would take their claims to a rematch with The Mysterios under consideration after watching the footage.
Carmella defeated Morgan
Morgan cannot catch a break.
First, her singles push last year came to an abrupt halt. Then, her run with Riott underwhelmed, thanks in large part to a creative team that never really got behind them. Now, in her first opportunity to make an impression as a newly single competitor again, she loses in what amounted to little more than a glorified squash match.
The New Jersey native has a hell of a story, and an incredibly frustrating history with WWE Creative. As much as it would be nice to see her finally enjoy the push she has worked so hard for, it does not seem to be in the cards.
At least for now as WWE officials appear more interested in reigniting Carmella’s push, as evidenced by the efforts the creative team went to put her over Friday night.
There was not much to the match, which saw limited offense from Morgan before Carmella suddenly put her away with the submission with little story to invest in.
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Backstage, Pearce and Deville stopped the Mysterios from leaving, informing them they will defend their tag titles against The Usos for the second time later tonight.
SmackDown women’s champion Bianca Belair made her way to the ring and admitted that Bayley’s laugh has been getting to her a little more every week. She cited the disrespect and challenged her foe to a match at Hell in a Cell.
Bayley accepted before laughing hysterically, her picture taking over every screen in the ThunderDome, the ultimate taunt to The EST of WWE.
Elsewhere, The Street Profits attempted to talk sense into Otis and get him to drop out of Gable’s Alpha Academy. Instead, the big man attacked Dawkins and Ford before standing tall.
The Bayley-Belair segment was not good. The idea that the SmackDown women’s title is now at the center of a feud that stems from the babyface taking exception to the heel’s laugh is laughable, but not at all in the good way.
Their match will be excellent, especially considering Bayley’s experience in big-match situations and Belair’s tendency to perform up to the moment, but the creative has taken a nosedive of late, culminating in a fairly bad promo segment.
The tag title match announcement was to be expected and puts the champions in a sympathetic position, giving them an out if (and, mostly likely when) they drop the titles.
Finally, the Profits vs. Alpha Academy may not be the flashiest program but it gives them something to do in between feuds.
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Rick Boogs played Shinsuke Nakamura to the ring for a match with King Corbin, the crown around the head of the babyface at the centerpiece of the feud.
The sprint-of-a-match came to a rather abrupt conclusion when Corbin scored a rollup victory.
After the match, Boogs held Corbin up, allowing Nakamura to rock him with a Kinshasa and regain the King of the Ring crown.
Corbin defeated Nakamura
WWE is really out here trying to convince us all that Nakamura can’t beat Corbin on his own.
If that isn’t insulting, the idea that Nakamura needs Boogs to stay over and relevant sure is.
For a show that has repeatedly done more good than bad over the last 10 months, its use of The King of Strong Style remains one of the biggest headscratchers. Unfortunately, it does not appear as though that pattern of misuse is anywhere near over as WWE officials appear far more interested in Boogs and what he brings to the show than the veteran competitor that introduced him to the masses in the first place.
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Despite enduring a Nigerian Nail and sneak attack at the hands of Commander Azeez prior to his Intercontinental Championship opportunity, Kevin Owens was faced the with the task of overcoming the focused attack, on the injured ribs, by Apollo Crews early and often Friday.
A missed frog splash by the pride of Nigeria allowed Owens to fight back and mount an offensive. The Intercontinental Champion cut him off, delivering a Death Valley Driver onto the ring apron that allowed him to score the pinfall victory.
Sami Zayn hit the ring after the match and blasted Owens with a Helluva Kick, exclaiming, “I didn’t just kick you. Karma kicked you, Kevin!”
Crews defeated Owens to retain the title
This was a relatively one-sided match, which can be attributed to the pre-match assault by Azeez. Crews retains, in true heel faction by beating a guy already felled by injury, and Owens looks sympathetic for making a go of it despite the agony he felt.
More interesting than the match itself was Zayn attacking Owens and keeping that particular feud alive. With nothing else more pressing for those particular characters to do, there are far worse options than continuing a feud that has always delivered superb in-ring results.
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Jimmy and Jey Uso’s desperation reared itself early as they grounded and beatdown Dominik Mysterio in the main event of Friday’s SmackDown, a tag team title rematch against the rookie competitor and father Rey.
Young Dominik tagged Rey into the match and the future Hall of Famer exploded into the match. He took Jey Uso down at ringside, then added a 619 to Jimmy back in the ring. As Dominik headed upstairs for the top-rope splash in hopes of scoring the win, Reigns appeared from out of nowhere and attacked both babyfaces.
The Tribal Chief brutalized the father-son combination, choking Dominik out with the guillotine as The Usos watched. Jimmy implored his cousin to release the hold. Disgusted by Reigns’ actions, he left the ring, attempting to sway Jey to do the same. Reigns stopped the Right Hand Man, staring him down and preventing him from leaving.
Reigns added more rights and powerbomb to Dominik to end the show.
The Mysterios defeated The Usos via disqualification
No company knows how to bludgeon its audience with repetitive matches quite like WWE and that was the case here, not even waiting a week to present the same match it kicked off the show with. Instead, it went right to the rematch, weakening the effect the first match had on the fans.
The positive here was Reigns’ involvement, which single-handedly elevated the segment.
What was a much weaker match than the opener was rescued by Reigns’ display of savagery as he sent a message loudly and clearly to his cousins. While Jimmy isn’t about hearing that noise, Jey remains subservient to The Head of the Table, torn between his twin and the success Reigns has brought him.
It is very much the best story in wrestling and a major reason SmackDown has received the sort of positive response as it has.