From an Intercontinental Championship match to a high-stakes challenge, this week's edition of WWE SmackDown featured many contrasting moments.
The Blue brand delivered an enjoyable episode on the Road to WWE WrestleMania Backlash. There's just a different tone to SmackDown's weekly proceedings when compared to Monday Night RAW.
Despite a few repeated issues, most matches and segments delivered in terms of quality on SmackDown tonight. Which show was better this week, RAW or SmackDown? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Here are the five biggest news stories from this week's WWE SmackDown (April 23, 2021).
#5 Aleister Black made a cryptic onscreen WWE return
When Michael Cole set up Aleister Black's vignette on WWE SmackDown, Pat McAfee's enthusiastic reaction as a commentator perfectly captured the fans' excitement.
Aleister Black sat in an ominous setting as he held a storybook titled "Tales of the Dark Father." He narrated the first chapter — The Dragon. Dragons often symbolize power and strength, and Black connected his melancholic past to express that he was taught to "become the dragon" as a child.
His promo soon turned into a tirade against WWE fans. Judging by his words, Black will continue his run as a heel.
While Black always possessed a dark quality, his gimmick never reached its best potential on WWE RAW. Also, since being drafted to SmackDown last year, he hasn't had a chance to make any kind of impact.
Let's hope that his luck changes. Not only has Black returned to his darker roots, but there seems to be a new element of mystery surrounding his latest onscreen persona.
Who do you think Aleister Black will target on WWE SmackDown when he eventually returns to in-ring action?
#4 Daniel Bryan will put his WWE SmackDown career on the line
WWE SmackDown kicked off with a segment between Cesaro and Seth Rollins as a result of what went down last week. Rollins isn't done with Cesaro yet, even if the latter has already aimed his focus towards the WWE Universal Championship.
Jey Uso, Daniel Bryan, and Roman Reigns soon emerged during the segment. As expected, Reigns had the last word. The chaotic element to this multi-man scenario led to a tag team match pitting Bryan and Cesaro against Uso and Rollins.
This particular bout took up a huge chunk of television time, but the performers involved maintained an appreciable level of excitement. Cesaro and Bryan picked up the victory and baited Reigns to come out and save Jey Uso after the match.
While Reigns did not fall for the bait, this development set the narrative for the rest of the night. Cesaro was teased as Reigns' next challenger, and it was up to The Tribal Chief to respond in the last segment of the night.
WWE did a good job presenting Cesaro the way they did, as Reigns eventually subverted expectations and challenged Bryan instead. The irony is that Reigns' championship will be on the line during next week's SmackDown, but he's the one laying down the challenge instead of the other way around.
The only reason behind Reigns' offer to Bryan is that the latter will be banished from SmackDown if he loses next week. Clearly, the stakes are huge.
Could Edge play a role in Daniel Bryan's high-stakes contest? Where do you think Daniel Bryan will end up next if his WWE SmackDown career comes to a close?
#3 Nia Jax and Tamina's WWE rivalry led to an uninspiring match
It seems as though the WWE women's tag team division has reached a roadblock after WrestleMania 37. WWE hasn't booked any women's tag teams as legitimate challengers who could dethrone Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler.
In recent memory, Natalya and Tamina have risen to the occasion on WWE SmackDown. But at the same time, their momentum took a hit when they lost against Jax and Baszler at WrestleMania.
Yet, WWE has tried to build Natalya and Tamina as legitimate contenders once again. After all, Natalya defeated Baszler on last week's SmackDown.
Tamina stepped up to Jax this week in a battle between two powerhouse competitors. While Tamina eventually secured a win, the victory only came about due to Reginald and Baszler's ringside drama.
Moreover, the match itself stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the bouts.
The Samoan connection between Nia Jax and Tamina makes up for an intriguing story. But judging by their recent SmackDown match, the two stars just don't seem to share good in-ring chemistry.
#2 Bayley addressed her WWE WrestleMania Backlash match against Bianca Belair
This week on SmackDown, Bayley broke up a backstage conversation between Robert Roode, Dolph Ziggler, and The Street Profits to address her upcoming title match.
Bayley took credit for helping out Belair before the latter shot to superstardom on the Road to WWE WrestleMania 37. After Belair made history at WrestleMania though, Bayley called her out for being selfish and spoiled. She vowed to win the SmackDown Women's Championship at WrestleMania Backlash.
Montez Ford reentered the frame with his phone, informing his wife that Bayley was talking about her. Belair soon arrived at the scene and dared Bayley to repeat everything she said before.
This led to a comical moment where Bayley extensively praised her WrestleMania Backlash opponent and walked away, only to come back and laugh in front of a confused Belair.
These two women have natural chemistry, both inside and outside the ring. Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks' rivalry didn't have the best buildup, but Bayley has the excellent ability to add a lot of depth to her WWE storylines.
So the future looks bright for Belair's latest feud on SmackDown. At the same time, it is possible that Banks could be added to the mix at the last minute.
#1 Two WWE WrestleMania feuds crossed over on SmackDown
Crews put his WWE Intercontinental Championship on the line this week against Kevin Owens. Big E made it clear in a backstage segment that he wasn't happy with Owens getting the title match before him.
During Owens vs. Crews, Sami Zayn joined the commentary. Commander Azeez turned out to be a major distraction for Owens as the Intercontinental Champion capitalized on this chance to roll up his opponent and retain the title.
After the match, Kevin Owens suffered the wrath of Azeez. As Owens was temporarily incapacitated, Zayn entered the ring and danced all over him.
Unfortunately for Apollo Crews, Big E spoiled his victory mood later in the night. Crews gave a backstage interview without Azeez by his side, which allowed Big E to ambush him.
Big E will get his Intercontinental Championship shot on the next SmackDown. Will he and Crews be able to top the intensity of their Nigerian Drum Fight? If they are given enough time on next week's show, the two stars could put on their best match so far.
Meanwhile, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn could clash again, either on SmackDown or at WrestleMania Backlash.
Do catch the latest edition of 'Smack Talk' in the video linked above, as the legendary Dutch Mantell joins Rick Ucchino and Sid Pullar III (SP3) to recap this week's WWE SmackDown.