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For the first time in SmackDown history, two Superstars climbed inside Hell in a Cell to settle an intensely personal rivalry, the Universal Championship hanging in the balance.
Was Rey Mysterio able to avenge his son, Dominik, and unseat The Head of the Table in their pay-per-view-worthy main event match or did Roman Reigns add another legendary figure to his list of the conquered?
Find out now with this recap of the hellish June 18 episode.
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Announced for Friday’s show are:
- Hell in a Cell for the Universal Championship: Rey Mysterio vs. Roman Reigns
- Kevin Owens and Big E vs. Apollo Crews and Commander Azeez
- Angelo Dawkins vs. Otis
- Battle for the Crown: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. King Corbin
Coverage begins at 8 p.m.
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Rey Mysterio kicked off SmackDown, the unforgiving steel structure known simply as Hell in a Cell hanging ominously overhead, a dark cloud on the night’s proceedings.
The legendary competitor relived the pain and agony suffered by his son, Dominik, a week ago. He called Reigns out, wanting to hear from the man himself that he accepted Rey’s challenge for the Hell in a Cell match later tonight.
The Head of the Table emerged from his palatial locker room and informed his special counsel, Paul Heyman, that he tried to be diplomatic but now…he’s going to do things his way.
Mysterio as the pissed off, vengeful father calling out the biggest badass on the roster was great. Reigns showing up and vowing to take matters into his own hands was just as fantastic.
Now, the table is set for a genuine pay-per-view quality main event on free television. It is event television, something WWE has not produced in a long time. Even if that means taking a match off Sunday’s presentation and giving it away to the masses.
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Commander Azeez made his in-ring debut for SmackDown in the night’s first match, teaming with Intercontinental champion Apollo Crews to battle familiar foes Big E and Kevin Owens, all while the conspiracy-minded Sami Zayn sat in on commentary with Michael Cole and Pat McAfee.
Azeez flattened Big E with a suplex coming out of the commercial break as the heels isolated the former IC champion. An inverted suplex by Big E to Crews on the ring apron allowed him to recover enough to tag in Owens.
A spirited comeback by The Prizefighter failed to fuel the babyfaces to victory, though, as a well-timed distraction by Zayn to Owens left KO prone to the Nigerian Nail as Azeez and Crews picked up the win.
Crews and Azeez defeated Owens and Big E
This was a bit of a disappointment, only because the talent involved would suggest it would have been much better. A poorly timed commercial break, without much of a sustained heat portion, nor a particularly great babyface comeback, hurt it.
What should have been a monumental debut for Azeez was overshadowed by the latest in the Owens-Zayn rivalry, which will end with a pay-per-view showdown between them Sunday night at Hell in a Cell, per a backstage confrontation between KO and WWE officials Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville.
There was nothing inherently wrong with any of it, it just lacked the spark you would have hoped from based on the pieces involved.
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For the fifth time in six weeks, Shinsuke Nakamura battled King Corbin Friday night, this time in a Battle of the Crown.
Corbin grounded and pounded The Artist, working him over with his strength and size advantage. Nakamura fought back, though, and put Corbin down with the Kinshasa to win the match and the crown.
After the match, a tearful Corbin sulked while Nakamura celebrated with Rick Boogs at the top of the SmackDown stage.
Nakamura defeated Corbin
How is it possible for two guys to have five matches in six weeks without a single one of them advancing beyond average quality?
Both Corbin and Nakamura are strong in-ring workers but, whether it was their series in 2017 or here, four years later, they’ve just never had the in-ring chemistry to deliver a great match.
They brought the effort here but what we got was more of the same, with Nakamura’s crowning moment, quite literally. Hopefully, this is the end of the feud, though Corbin’s expressions after the bout suggest that may not be the case.
Here’s hoping we at least get some new direction or creative for Corbin, who made the most of the king gimmick for way too long.
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SmackDown women’s champion Bianca Belair made her way to the ring for a promo ahead of Sunday’s title defense against Bayley.
After weeks of laughter and being told she’s less-than, Belair issued a challenge for a match inside Hell in a Cell.
Bayley entered the ThunderDome and after a brawl around ringside, delivered the Rose Plant, laying The EST out and standing tall with her title to end the segment.
Belair has low-key been great on the mic since winning the title, even as some of her promos become more scripted shlock. Her natural charisma and delivery help them exponentially. This was no different. She issued a challenge for Hell in a Cell and though it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever from a storytelling standpoint, she made it seem like an enthralling idea.
That Bayley is so damn good between the ropes, and demonstrated some solid chemistry with The EST at WrestleMania Backlash, only helps the buzz for the match.
The rest of the segment was strong and Bayley looked hella dominant as she stood over the champ with her title overhead. Too bad the storyline hasn’t supported the endgame of the cell match because all of the other ingredients are there for something special.
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Backstage, Jimmy Uso approached Roman Reigns and admitted while they may not see eye-to-eye on everything, they are blood. Family. The Head of the Table told his cousin to find brother Jey.
Faced with going it alone for his scheduled match with Otis, an already-injured Angelo Dawkins found himself beaten down by the Alpha Academy big man and partner Chad Gable. The refocused big man partnered with Gable to leave Dawkins lying following a lariat/German suplex combination.
The facial expressions from Reigns alone is enough to warrant an “A” grade. The Tribal Chief is at an entirely different level than anyone else, maybe in the entire industry, right now. He is completely invested in this character right now and it shows every week that he steps on screen.
He is the best character in WWE and one of the most engaging in the entire business. It was on display again here tonight as he continued his expert gaslighting with Jimmy ahead of his own title defense against Mysterio.
It has been a long damn time since we have seen a heel of this caliber on WWE television and we should be so lucky to bask in what he has created every week.
The beatdown of Dawkins by Alpha Academy was strong and helped earn Gable and Otis some heat, even if the latter is as uninteresting as ever since the character change.
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Seth Rollins interrupted an interview between Cesaro and Kayla Braxton, vowing to teach The Swiss Superman a lesson Sunday at Hell in a Cell.
In the ThunderDome, Rey Mysterio made his way to the ring for the night’s main event Universal Championship match with Roman Reigns, inside the pay-per-view namesake.
Mysterio, fueled by the hatred developed by Reigns’ assault on Dominik a week ago, dominated the opening minutes of the match. He blasted Mysterio with a toolbox, wrapped a steel chair around his neck and sent him into the cage. A missed spear sent the champion crashing through a table.
Reigns slung Mysterio into the cage, turning the tide in his favor entering the commercial break. Reigns overwhelmed his opponent until a blind charge in the corner allowed Rey to fight back into the match. He added a splash, driving a chair into the midsection of the champion.
Reigns caught Mysterio in a powerbomb, sending him out of the ring and into the side of the steel cage, ala the devastating attack on Dominik from last week. Back in the ring, a cravat finished Mysterio as Reigns retained via submission.
After the match, The Tribal Chief tapped him out one more time and added a “Happy Father’s Day” to add insult to injury as the show went off the air.
Reigns defeated Mysterio via submission
Mysterio threw everything at Reigns in this one and when he wasn’t tossing weapons at his opponent, he was evading the explosive offense of the champion. That was a plan that was destined to last only so long, though, as Reigns caught him mid-flight and from there, ended things in short order.
The booking was great, the action made sense within the context of the story, and Reigns continued his dominant run atop SmackDown.
Some will question why this was pulled from the pay-per-view and while that answer is known only by those in WWE at this point, it elevated the significance of this SmackDown episode and made it feel like a big deal. Considering how strong the show has been in recent weeks, that is quite the statement.