Universal Champion Roman Reigns Bullied Adam Pearce
I don't know if Peace has been established enough in his role for fans to feel sympathetic toward him, but he was pretty good here and Reigns was remarkable as always. He's just so effective at being an asshole but in a subtle way where it's not over-the-top and he knows Pearce won't fight back. This was a solid segment designed to set up Peace's involvement in the Gauntlet main event.
Intercontinental Champion Big E def. Apollo Crews
Considering that this marked the first-ever one-on-one outing these two have had, I was hoping they would get more time than they did. After all, they're excellent athletes and are capable of having a banger of a match. Instead, it only went a few minutes before apparently ending in a draw, which was a nice hook heading into the commercial break. Big E then picked up a decisive victory a few minutes later, but I hope this isn't the last we see of these two in the ring together. Crews was acting a little heelish, so we'll see if that leads to anything or if it was just because this had a babyface vs. babyface dynamic.
Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode def. The Street Profits to Win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
You had to know the heels had a chance of winning when they brutally assaulted Montez Ford's leg last week. I just didn't know if WWE would actually go through with it, and they did. I would have kept the titles on Street Profits until at least WrestleMania 37 where they could have defended against The Usos as heels, but who's to say they won't get the belts back before then? This was a quality contest and Ford being the one to get pinned was perfectly logical. The feud these teams have had has been fine, but SmackDown desperately needs new blood in its tag team division.
Adam Pearce def. Shinsuke Nakamura, Daniel Bryan, King Corbin, Rey Mysterio and Sami Zayn in a Universal Championship No. 1 Contender's Gauntlet Match
Mysterio quickly squashing Zayn was completely in line with the latter's conspiracy-driven character and almost everything that followed in this Gauntlet was great. The only thing that wasn't was the finish, but Nakamura had a stellar showing throughout and his mini match with Bryan was especially outstanding. The stuff with Pearce was where this match went south for me. Needless to say, I don't think Reigns vs. Pearce at the Royal Rumble will stick, but this is a weird way of getting to wherever they're going instead. Will Pearce give up his shot to either Nakamura or Kevin Owens? If so, why have him earn the title shot in the first place? I've been digging virtually everything involving Reigns since his return, but I have no clue what the endgame here is.
The Gauntlet was going wonderfully until the ending, but otherwise, it was a terrific main event that was wisely spaced out in the final stretch of the show. Big E vs. Crews wasn't what it could have been, but I'm curious if there's more to the story there with Crews teasing a heel turn. We also got new SmackDown Tag Team Champions in a well-wrestled match and Pearce was showcased out of nowhere for whatever the hell that's worth. All in all, this was a top-notch edition of SmackDown that gave me hope for the remainder of 2021. I wish I could say the same for Raw. On a side note, I'm glad it was explained that Sonya Deville (who previously lost a Loser Leaves WWE match to Mandy Rose at SummerSlam) is only back because she took up a job as Pearce's assistant. We'll see how long that lasts before she returns to the ring.