- NXT Star Appearance: SmackDown showcased NXT stars in backstage and in-crowd segments, hinting at WWE’s potential plan to send main roster stars to NXT and have NXT face AEW again.
- United States Open Qualifying Match: Rey Mysterio emerged victorious in a Fatal 4-Way Match, setting up an intriguing feud between himself and Austin Theory for the United States Championship.
- Santos Escobar’s victory: Escobar scored a decisive victory over Austin Theory, cementing his position as the most impetuous contender heading into his match with Rey Mysterio. He also showcased his skills and made him more credible as a singles competitor.
Friday’s WWE SmackDown featured the anticipated Rules of Engagement between Roman Reigns and Jey Uso for SummerSlam, along with an invitational United States Championship involving Rey Mysterio, Sheamus, Cameron Grimes and LA Knight. Additionally, impromptu matches wowed fans, including Austin Theory vs. Santos Escobar and Butch vs. Dominik Mysterio.
These are the winners and losers of SmackDown, July 21, 2023:
Winner: NXT All-Star Appearance
Considering that SmackDown was taking place from the house of NXT, there were plenty of stars on hand to get in on the action. WWE showcased a handful of roster members in backstage segments and in the front row watching crowd. With the rumors WWE going to send more main roster stars to NXT and with the talks WWE would like to pit NXT against AEW again, getting these stars exposed on Raw and SmackDown is a good idea.
Winner: US Open qualifying match
Rey Mysterio triumphed over LA Knight, Cameron Grimes and Sheamus in a thrilling Fatal 4-Way Match to determine another top contender for the United States Championship held by Austin Theory. Despite Theory’s interference, apparently directed at Mysterio, the master of 6-1-9 won anyway. The well-produced contest showcased fan-favorite competitors getting their moments. WWE gave Knight a lot of love but went with the veteran. It sets up an intriguing fight between the members of the LWO for the next week.
Mysterio still gets a lot of respect from the WWE Universe, so he wasn’t a bad choice. After Theory tried to get involved, Santos Escobar went down for the save, scaring Theory away. The frustrated champion then demanded a non-title match with Escobar for later that night.
Knight continued to be immensely popular, receiving a thunderous ovation from fans as the clear fan favorite in Friday’s opening contest.
Winner: Charlotte Flair and Iyo Sky Wrestle A Long Match
Charlotte Flair and Women’s Money in the Bank winner Iyo Sky had plenty of time to fight in their match on Friday. It was hit or miss, much of it really strong, and some lacking. Still, there should be no complaints if WWE is going to give the women’s division a chance to shine. There was also good news as Bayley was sitting ringside for the match and was part of the show without any visible injuries. She didn’t watch the match until the end as a deranged Shotzi appeared on screen and scared Bayley into giving up her faction partner Damage CTRL.
Back and forth action with Sky arguably the more impressive of the two competitors, Charlotte secured the close win with Natural Selection. She didn’t get much of a chance to celebrate when Asuka attacked after the match and aimed for Charlotte’s arm, leading to their SummerSlam clash, a match that was confirmed earlier in the day as a Triple Threat between Bianca Belair, Asuka and Flair.
Flair, Asuka and Belair’s next SummerSlam match should be great, but it’s time to give Iyo Sky a push to the upper echelon of the division. She’s that good and makes even her opponent’s clumsiest series of moves look strong.
Winner: Santos Escobar
In an astonishing turn of events, Santos Escobar scored a decisive victory over United States Champion Austin Theory, cementing his position as the top contender heading into next week’s match with Rey Mysterio. There are rumors that WWE is thinking of making Escobar the number one contender for the title, and if so, a non-title victory over Theory is a big-selling feature heading into his eventual match. Escobar’s clean pinfall victory in the center of the ring is a rare feat, as WWE has protected Theory as a future star.
As much as some fans may call this a bad loss for Theory, who many argue has had a disappointing run as United States Champion, this was a great win for Escobar. He is a popular member of a popular faction, but he doesn’t win individual matches very often. Making it more believable is a smart move, even if it’s not destined to win the title. Notably, Escobar displayed an extraordinary feat, executing a daring airborne head scissors from the top rope with minimal margin for error. He was extremely impressive.
Winner: Pretty Deadly
Dominik faced Butch in a match for the NXT North American title, but it wasn’t the feud between the two that fans will remember. He appeared in Pretty Deadly, with Elton Prince in a wheelchair after suffering a separated shoulder. As expected, The Brawling Brutes did not take their appearance very well and the distraction allowed Dirty Dom to take the victory. The fact that Pretty Deadly can still be useful and entertaining despite an early injury shows just how versatile and big these two can be. This shows that you can make the most of your time and situation on TV, even if you’ve been dealt a bad hand.
Winner: Tribal Match for SummerSlam
As Jey Uso and Roman Reigns sat down to close the show, Jey revealed that the elders said that their next SummerSlam match should be Tribal Combat. A new matchup for WWE, this is basically anything goes. Reigns was a bit nervous, so he went on the offensive. Before things got out of hand, Jey clarified that the stipulations meant Reigns had to put his tribal chief status on the line. Reigns placed his lei on his belt, the two cousins gently embraced and put their heads together, and Roman tried to get out of the ring. Only Sikoa tried to jump on Jey, but Reigns stopped him.
Clearly, while this is new to WWE fans, it’s not new to the family. Both seem to know the importance of the match and there is a ceremony for it. It’s still unclear if these two have to keep their hands off each other. We will find out in the next two episodes of SmackDown.