For the first time since WWE switched to the oversized Titantron stage set up for its television shows, Friday Night SmackDown had a different look. This week’s show was held at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and had a much smaller entranceway, giving it a unique look and feel to go along with the locale.
Speaking of Puerto Rico, holy shit this crowd was electric. When The LWO kicked off the show, they were showered with a reception worthy of kings and queens, and when The Judgment Day cut them off during their opening promo the response was equally as loud in the other direction.
And, as has become the norm, Dominik Mysterio can hardly speak without being drowned out by the boo birds.
It’s so good.
Here’s what was even better about the opening segment — I can’t even really tell you what was said. I don’t speak Spanish, which is the primary language Rey and Dom were using while going back-and-forth. Dom said something about him being a deadbeat dad and I believe Rey brought up spanking his ass at WrestleMania 39.
The thing is, despite that barrier, it was still an awesome segment because the crowd was so into it and everyone else in the ring was using body language to get the point across. By the end of it, they had booked a mixed tag team match with Dom & Rhea Ripley taking on Rey & Zelina Vega in the main event.
Said match later in the show was, predictably enough, awesome. The heat on Dom mixed with the love for Rey & Vega made for the perfect mix for a main event match, TV or not. The finish came quick, with Rey pinning his son via roll up, but I think that may have been necessitated by time constraints and wanting to ensure they got to the go home angle.
That angle, of course, being Damian Priest showing up to help Judgment Day put the boots to poor Rey and Bad Bunny finally make his advertised appearance to make the save, leading the charge for the entire LWO to a thunderous ovation.
They built to Bunny squaring off with Priest with a kendo stick, but Damian bailed out when Dom gave him enough cover by taking a shot for him. The show ended with Bunny putting on an LWO shirt, seemingly becoming an honorary member of the group.
This was fantastic all the way around. Brilliantly played by everyone.
WWE had one more opportunity to build to Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar at Backlash in Puerto Rico on SmackDown, and they did so in the form of a promo from the former.
The message was simple and effective — Brock Lesnar is many things and one of those things, perhaps the most important, is his status a gatekeeper. He is a mountain all unto himself, yes, but nevertheless climbing it will not represent Rhodes reaching his goal.
No, the goal is still very much to finish the story, and that story is defeating Roman Reigns to win the WWE Universal championship.
As an aside, Cody had a great line where he said we still don’t know why Lesnar did what he did by turning on him and attacking him but maybe we’ll learn at Backlash “when I beat it out of him.” That got a huge pop.
I’m ready for the match now!
Things are getting a lot more visibly tense within The Bloodline.
While Jimmy Uso was trying to get hyped for the six-man tag team match pitting Jimmy, Jey, and Solo Sikoa against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn & Matt Riddle, he asked Sikoa if he was ready. He got no response. He didn’t seem to mind this all that much, but Jey sure did.
Jey got right up in Solo’s face about it and Sikoa played it off with a mix of apathy and a subtle threat. He plans to take care of his side of the bargain at Backlash and all he knows is that The Usos damn well better take care of their side. Is that coming from Solo himself or a message from Roman Reigns?
Later, Riddle, Owens, and Zayn got their chance to cut a promo backstage about the match and Riddle said all the usual before trying to kick it over to the tag team champions. Zayn said, well, there’s nothing more to say at all. “It’s time.”
Indeed it is.
Time for the match and maybe something even more?
All the rest
The opening match of the show featured The Viking Raiders, in their final appearance on the blue brand before being shipped off to Monday Night Raw, taking on The O.C., who are newly drafted here. AJ Styles was on commentary and made clear he’s got Roman Reigns in his sights — “of course I do” — along with the title. The match was fun, in part because of the work of the teams in the ring and in part because the crowd was insane for every spot. It’s a great start for Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, Michin, and Styles on the blue side.
Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair got a promo segment to remind us she was drafted to SmackDown and how happy she is to be here. She also made sure to point out she’ll be the “longest reigning women’s champion of the modern era” if she retains her title this weekend. Damage CTRL interrupted to basically send the same message about being drafted here while also getting some licks in ahead of IYO SKY challenging for the championship at Backlash. Liv Morgan & Raquel Rodriguez showed up to make the save to end the segment. A bit generic, but they got the point across.
The Street Profits defeated Imperium in a straight up tag team match that was great fun. I don’t really know what else to say about it. It was just a fun tag team match where the babyfaces went over the heels clean, and great times were had by all. Besides the bad guys, of course!
Shinsuke Nakamura and Karrion Kross had a fairly solid brawl with great physicality. Those who believe Kross has lost favor may feel that even more with how he look the loss here, but this seemed more about getting some shine back on Nakamura. To that end, it worked well enough.
We got our first glimpse of Cameron Grimes, who was introducing himself to Adam Pearce. Baron Corbin pulled up to make fun of himself for being the last pick. Grimes fired back insulting him by saying it’s better than not getting picked at all. Corbin tried to spin it like he’s on Brock Lesnar’s level because he’s a free agent. In the end, a match pitting Grimes vs. Corbin was booked for next week. The big main roster debut is finally here!
This was a really fun show all around, and it was a delight getting to watch a wrestling show with a crowd like that.
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