Photo courtesy of WWE.

I’ve been watching wrestling since 1998. It was a family thing.

My grandmother and grandfather were so into it, which influenced my dad, which in turn, influenced me. Eight-year-old me.

Though I’ve been an on-again-off-again fan, I’ve always found a reason to gravitate back to it. Whether it was Edge cashing in his “Money in the Bank” over John Cena in 2006 or CM Punk delivering his infamous “pipebomb” to Cena in 2011, I always somehow got back into it.

Once I accepted wrestling as entertainment, I didn’t care that the product is not considered “real” by others.

That’s why walking into Madison Square Garden on July 7 for WWE Friday Night Smackdown hit different for me. I was excited.

The sold-out July 7th edition of WWE “Friday Night Smackdown” took place in Madison Square Garden in New York City. The event became WWE’s highest-grossing event at Madison Square Garden, and the highest-grossing domestic “Smackdown” in history. 

The nearly 40-minute segment of “Tribal Court” that featured The Bloodline drew in 3 million viewers. Also after the end of the live broadcasting of “Friday Smackdown” was two dark matches, which are matches not seen on television, or have any bearing to current storylines. This live event had something for everyone who is a fan of WWE.

The night began with “Tribal Court” as the Usos would confront their cousin, “The Tribal Chief” Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, who was pinned by his cousin, Jey Uso at “Money in the Bank.” 

Jey Uso makes his entrance on July 7 at Madison Square Garden. (Courtesy of Wrestling Junkie)

Roman had not been pinned since December 2019. 

Roman teased no longer being the “Tribal Chief” before hitting Jey Uso with a low blow. This all resulted in an all-out brawl amongst “The Bloodline” which ended with Solo Sikoa splashing his own brother Jimmy Uso through the announcer’s table, thus injuring him. Jey Uso would return by the end of the show to tease challenging Roman Reigns to a match for “Summerslam.” 

“Tribal Court” may have been a success and compelling to watch, but watching it in person, the show can feel like it drags too long. 

Part of it is because it’s filmed for television, meaning there are commercial breaks where nothing happens in the ring. It’s not until the lights come back that “The Bloodline” would all speak again.

“The Tribal Chief’s” entrance is also particularly long as he walks the ramp to the ring. Finally, when Roman takes maybe an extra minute before he actually says “New York City, acknowledge me!” This all adds up to become a 40-minute segment. 

Roman Reigns enters the ring. (Aldwin Romero / SOC Images)

It is very likely with “Tribal Court” running so long, that other aspects within the card were affected as a result. 

AJ Styles defeated Karrion Kross in a very short match. WWE Women’s Champion Asuka made her entrance, and while in a commercial break, just danced in the ring for about a minute straight. 

When the commercial was finally over, Bianca Belair and Charlotte Flair headed to the ring to brawl. 

Amidst the chaos, Bayley and “Money in the Bank” Iyo Sky tried to cash in her championship match on Asuka before being stopped by Bianca Belair.

Austin Theory successfully defended his United States Championship over Sheamus after interference from tag team “Pretty Deadly.” The match was actually long, and didn’t feel rushed like other events in the card.

Edge returned to be a guest on “The Grayson Waller Effect.” The 49-year-old is regarded as one of the best professional wrestlers ever, winning 31 championships in his WWE career. Growing up, he was one of my favorite wrestlers.

During the segment, Grayson Waller thanked Edge for his career, suggesting Edge was retiring, but instead, the WWE great challenged Waller to a match later that night. In the match, Grayson Waller would go for his finisher the “Rolling Stunner” only to be caught by Edge’s signature “Spear” and pinned one, two, three!

“Hit Row” began the night in an untelevised segment where they taunted the Madison Square Garden crowd. 

“LA Knight” appeared to a thunderous ovation as he cut a promo on “Hit Row” before hitting his finisher “BFT.”

Billed as the co-main events were Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens who took on “Pretty Deadly.” Seth “Freakin” Rollins defended his World Heavyweight Championship against Finn Balor. 

Since these matches are dark matches, they do not appear on television and are not part of any storyline – usually. 

The matches are usually put on for fans, and are mostly wrestling with less of the antics that would come with a televised show. 

An example is Finn Balor’s “Judgment Day” which did not make an appearance despite being a match for Seth’s World Heavyweight Championship.

Both the matches were highly entertaining, as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn defeated “Pretty Deadly.” 

Rollins defeated Balor and defended his championship. After the match Rollins grabbed the mic, and spoke directly to the crowd. He gave a heartfelt message on how much he loves the crowd and appreciates everyone for showing up. 

The crowd serenaded Rollins with his theme song as the night ended.

The night was full of great matches and moments. 

Understanding that “Smackdown” is also taped live, you kind of understand why the “Tribal Court” segment ran very long. While some aspects of the card were clearly affected, the overall quality of the night was phenomenal. 

The matches. The chants. The antics. The appearances. 

The dark matches may have been the best matches of the night. But overall, it was a night to remember for sure. 

Here’s hoping that WWE returns back to the New York-New Jersey area sooner, rather than later. “Wrestlemania 40” next year is set for Philadelphia next year at Lincoln Financial Field for those looking for the next major WWE event in the area.

I hope I can be there. 

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