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Credit: WWE on Fox
The Summer of Cena continued Friday on SmackDown as the star of several of this summer’s blockbuster films returned to the company that made him a household name and confronted Universal champion Roman Reigns.
After their tense encounter at Money in the Bank, what did the leader of the Cenation have to say to the Head of the Table and would Reigns accept his challenge for a match at SummerSlam on August 21?
Find out now with this recap of Friday’s show, a simulcast from Cleveland and Miami’s Rolling Loud music festival.
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Announced for Friday’s show are:
- John Cena returns to SmackDown
- SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Bianca Belair vs. Carmella
- Toni Storm makes her SmackDown debut
Coverage begins at 8 p.m.
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John Cena exploded through the curtain, drawing a huge reaction as he kicked off the first episode of SmackDown on the road to SummerSlam. The franchise star immediately reiterated his challenge to Roman Reigns for a Universal Championship match on PPV.
Cena said SummerSlam is a chance for all of us to stand up for what we believe in, then asked “whose team are you on?!” as fans erupted into chants of his last name. The former 16-time champ called out Reigns, repeatedly, to no avail.
Instead, Paul Heyman made his way onto the SmackDown stage and said Cena isn’t worthy of being listened to by The Head of the Table. He said Cena will get his answer later tonight…but on Reigns’ time. The special counsel for The Tribal Chief mocked Cena’s music in a funny bit to close out the segment.
Cena was great here, the consummate entertainer. He brought energy to the show right out of the gate, captivated the audience with every word he spoke and framed the feud with Reigns exactly as intended. He represents respect. The Tribal Chief? Selfishness.
Heyman answering on behalf of Reigns and setting up a main event promo segment for later in the show may not be everyone’s preferred conclusion to a show but given the star power involved, it is exactly what a show this close to one of WWE’s premier events deserves.
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Finn Balor battled Sami Zayn in the night’s first match, the result of The Prince’s return to the main roster a week ago via interrupting the conspiracy-minded loudmouth. After several moments of nonsense from the heel, Balor fired back, stomping away at him and flattening him at ringside with a dive heading into the break. During the timeout, Zayn established control and coming out of it, grounded Balor with a side headlock and followed with a DDT.
Balor fought back, countered out of an exploder suplex and delivered a double stomp. The sling blade followed and the former Universal champion put his opponent away with the Coup de Grace for the hard-fought victory.
Balor defeated Zayn
There wasn’t much to the match, but there doesn’t have to be. Balor and Zayn are old pros who almost could sleepwalk their way through an adequate match. The commercial break certainly hurt the flow but both men upped the intensity for a fun final stretch.
Balor winning should have been a no-brainer given his recent return but considering the way management has treated other NXT champions recently, it was still something worth crossing your fingers and toes over.
The commentary team put Balor over strong, especially Pat McAfee. Time will tell if The Prince’s return to the big stage of the WWE main roster will net him different, and better, results than his first trip there.