Last night's SmackDown was certainly one for the books, and there was a lot to process and consider after the night came to a close, though as we saw on social media, there was even more to see after the broadcast ended. SmackDown is cruising along rather smoothly as we head into SummerSlam season, but not everything is perfect of course, and we're here to highlight the good and the bad of the night in a new feature here at ComicBook.com titled the SmackDown Rundown. We'll be here every Saturday, so let's kick off the first edition with some talk about what we enjoyed most about the show, what stuck out most, and what might need some improvement.
That Cena Energy: It's undeniable that Cena's return has brought a missing injection of energy into the mix, and you can see this in the pop he receives as soon as his music hits, even now that we've seen it a few times in recent succession. Seeing all of the videos shared on social media of fans, especially kids, reacting to his entrances and return only cements the excitement and buzz around his return, and that was the case once more on SmackDown.
This young John Cena fan didn’t know he’d be at #SmackDown last night, so his reaction is pure excitement ❤️July 24, 2021
Paul Heyman Singing the Cena Theme: That's also why the perfect counterbalance to all of that positive energy is Paul Heyman, who delivered one of my new favorite promos to kick off the night when he not only put Cena in his place but also sang a rendition of Cena's theme song that I now need as a ringtone. Amazing.
We've got even more thoughts on SmackDown, and you can check them all out starting on the next slide!
Once you're done let us know what you thought of the first SmackDown RunDown in the comments, and as always you can talk all things WWE with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!
The Babyface Journey of Baron Corbin
There's not been a turnaround this drastic in this short of time that's worked in a while, and while some of the setups are forced obviously, it's still undeniably effective in eliciting sympathy for someone that was as hated as you can get just. a few months ago. The transformation is one of SmackDown's most unexpected successes, and I can't believe it, but I'm actually rooting for the former King to come out the other side, and that's really the point, right?prevnext
Toni Storm Getting Debut Win
There's been quite a bit of backlash to WWE's decision to hit Karrion Kross with a loss in his first Raw match, especially since he's the current NXT Champion, and I can't disagree with the pushback in the least. That said, SmackDown's been on the opposite trajectory, booking the recent NXT additions to the show strongly right out of the gate, and that trend continued last night with Toni Storm. It appears Storm is a face again, and she is now well on her way with a win under her belt and a good match against Zelina Vega.prevnext
Seth Rollins and Edge
Those wondering what would be next for Edge now have their answer, and it really is the best-case scenario for both competitors. Rollins' current over-the-top persona really works in promos like these, and his callback to what happened between the two before was perfectly placed and allowed Edge to run with it in the hero role. There's no doubt these two are going to deliver in the ring, but we're going to need more promos like this to make sure people are invested in the why of it all.prevnext
Roman's Swerve and Missionary Promo
Speaking of amazing promos, Reigns continues to be a machine, and last night was a perfect example of why. There were several golden lines throughout, and the missionary line caught fire on social media, but more impressive is the delivery and how effortless it seems. While this is a rematch of sorts, go back and watch that previous promo showdown between the two and just marvel at how different Reigns feels. It truly feels like night and day, and that's part of why even with Cena's star brightly shining, Reigns still feels like the biggest deal on WWE television, and that's the ultimate goal of all this anyway once all is said and done. Oh, and denying Cena his match just adds a little intrigue to how we get there, even though we all know it's going to happen.prevnext
Reigns vs Balor
You could say the same for the most recent development in the Reigns saga, which had Reigns denying Cena only for Finn Balor to come out and challenge the Tribal Chief. While I have issues with the crowd's engagement overall through the night, this was received exactly as it should've been, and it's also the right move in more ways than one. Not only do you keep the fire around Balor's return by putting him in the title picture, but you also set up a stellar trio around the title that will keep the Universal Championship as the most buzzed-about men's title in WWE. Plus, we get a killer match and possibly more of them, so it's a win-win-win.prevnext
The Cena Formula Needs to Change Soon
Now, while the energy in having Cena back in WWE is palpable and undeniable, it doesn't mean everything is perfect. This is now the second show in a row that Cena has essentially made the same promo while talking about Reigns, and odds are he will do the same next week as we build towards the inevitable showdown. If Heyman hadn't been a part of this one I have to admit the shine would've already worn off that particular formula, and I can see it getting quickly played out by next week's Raw. Having Cena be a part of every show is fine, but he needs to be doing something in each of those appearances that feels fresh, so hopefully, he's got something special planned for next week to keep things moving.prevnext
The Crowd Isn't Clicking Yet
As I said before, Cena's entrance popped like crazy, and there were a few moments like the Reigns line and the Balor showdown that felt electric, but overall there's just something not quite clicking yet with live crowds back in attendance. Sometimes I find myself just wanting to hear the promo and judge it on its own without constantly hearing random screams or worse the What chants, which cannot die a soon enough death. There's no rhyme or reason to how the crowd reacts at times, especially with the What chants. They used to be saved for big heels, but now they are just used wantonly, even in Cena's big return promo on Raw, and other matches are interspersed with an energy that just feels as if it's down not because of the match itself but because the crowd isn't being directly engaged with. Things will likely settle in time, so fingers crossed.prevnext
Belair and Carmella Need Fresh Opponents
Belair had a good match with Carmella, but at times the crowd didn't seem as into it, though to be fair it was at a festival made up of not just WWE fans. Always up for WWE trying something different, but also in that same regard, we've got to find a new opponent for Belair and Carmella. This program seems like a direct result of Bayley's injury, and that's obviously no one's fault, but this match-up just doesn't feel fresh and both of them need some new energy to spark things up. A return of either Sasha Banks or Becky Lynch (or both) will do just the trick, but that might not happen until SummerSlam, so something in the meantime would help too.prevnext
Can Zelina Get a Win Please?
Now, I know every win or loss is not the same in WWE, and when losses are with purpose (i.e. Baron Corbin lately) they make all the sense in the world. What doesn't make sense is when you bring someone into WWE or back in Vega's case and book her with losses to open up her new run. Granted, Vega has looked strong in each match and they've been good matches if a bit brief. Wins mean something though when you're trying to build momentum, especially for heels, and I would just like to see Vega get some wins to help cement her as the threat she should be.prev