WWE Friday Night SmackDown was easily the most anticipated broadcast of the year in WWE’s return to live fans. With fans back in the building in the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, SmackDown also marked the go-home show for Sunday’s Money in the Bank 2021 pay-per-view in Fort Worth.
In addition to a rumored return from Finn Balor, SmackDown advertised a six-man tag team match pitting Edge and the Mysterios vs. Roman Reigns and The Usos. SmackDown also advertised Bianca Belair vs. Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship and a Fatal 4-Way match between Money in the Bank competitors Big E, Seth Rollins, King Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens.
Last week’s broadcast of Friday Night SmackDown was up from its record-low from the week prior with 1.986 million.
- July 9, 2021—1.986 million
- July 2, 2021—1.861 million
- June 25, 2021—1.971 million
- June 18, 2021—2.045 million
- June 11, 2021—1.944 million
WWE SmackDown—Key Competition
The 5 Most-Anticipated Returns in front of Live Fans (Pro Wrestling Bits)
WWE SmackDown Total YouTube Viewership Last Friday: 4,603,294
- Most-Viewed: Edge gets help from Mysterios (2,329,911 views)
- Least-Viewed: Otis and Chad Gable Promo (164,437 views)
- Median Viewership: 493,557
WWE SmackDown Results—Friday, July 16, 2021
Vince McMahon Opens the Show; Roman Reigns and The Usos def. Edge and The Mysterios
Vince McMahon said “where have you all been?” and walked off like only he could.
Edge got the biggest reaction of anybody in this match and it’s difficult to imagine anybody surpassing this pop.
Seth Rollins cut a very good promo on Edge backstage, and hopefully by the time we get to Edge vs. Seth Rollins, Seth drops this suit gimmick entirely.
Finn Balor Returns
I was underwhelmed by the reaction for both Finn Balor and Sami Zayn, though once the music died down the fans (who didn’t even chant “welcome back!” seemed to follow their cues of cheering Finn Balor.
It’s cool to see Finn Balor back on the main roster and everything, but I won’t really care until he becomes The Demon.
Shotzi and Nox def. Tamina and Natalya
Neither Liv Morgan or Zelina Vega came off as babyfaces on commentary as they obnoxiously bickered throughout this match.
Latina Heat, a term used by Zelina Vega, could be a thing.
Fans were very happy to see Liv Morgan and Zelina Vega brawl, as was I because that meant they no longer had to be on commentary.
Sooner or later, WWE has to stop booking Shotzi and Nox to react to a win like they’ve never won a match in their lives. This is two wins in a row now, it really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to them.
Bianca Belair def. Carmella—WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Some of the cheers sounded piped in, but in terms of real cheers, Bianca Belair appeared to get a strong reaction and Carmella’s pyro got a strong reaction as well.
Bianca Belair came off as a huge star in this match as fans loudly chanted “EST!” while trying to rally her back into this match.
Poor Carmella didn’t even get her “most beautiful woman” announcement after losing.
Cesaro def. Otis by Disqualification
This match ended in a quick disqualification and these fans were not happy.
The Cesaro swing received one of the better reactions on this show, if only Cesaro had a character or gimmick as compelling as that move.
Michael Cole noted Chad Gable has turned Otis into a complete human destruction machine, with the operative word being “machine” as Otis has clearly been instructed to show zero personality.
Baron Corbin Makes a Special Request
Despite being such a sympathetic figure, these fans couldn’t wait to boo Baron Corbin. It’s almost as if they booed him for all the times they couldn’t boo him throughout the pandemic.
Baron Corbin’s “CorbinFund” account simply links to the same image that was displayed on the Titantron, so thankfully, WWE is not actually taking $100,000 of people’s money for the sake of this gimmick, because that would be cruel.
Corbin used his plight to passive aggressively take pot shots at not only the fans but Kevin Owens’ wardrobe. He’s still very much a heel and seems lightyears away from “Happy Corbin.” By the end of this segment, fans were begging Kevin Owens to stun him.
Seth Rollins def. Shinsuke Nakamura, Big E, Kevin Owens and Shinsuke Nakamura
Rick Boogs did a great job of keeping this crowd active for Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance and they enthusiastically sang along.
This match started with a series of dives—including Big E’s insane spear through the middle rope—before going to commercial.
Big E getting pinned on the go-home show by Seth Rollins—whom nobody expects to win—actually bodes well for his chances of making history this Sunday by winning.