Vince McMahon made a rare on-screen appearance as live fans returned to a WWE television show for the first time in 17 months.

WWE had been forced to close its doors to fans at the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

With the exception of WrestleMania earlier this year, all of its events have been held without paying fans in attendance.

That made Friday night’s episode of Friday Night Smackdown the first of the company’s flagship weekly shows to have a live crowd in some 17 months.

It was no surprise that a sell-out crowd of some 14,000 packed into the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

They were treated to an amazing show, too, with things kicking off with a rare appearance from company supremo Vince McMahon.

The 75-year-old is far from a regular on WWE television these days, and he was given a heroes welcome by the live crowd.

McMahon expertly turned those cheers to boos, though, by turning on his evil Mr McMahon character and blasting the fans in attendance.

He barked “Where the hell have you been?!” before turning and making his exit to a chorus of jeers and laughs.

It wasn’t the only surprise the Texas audience was treated to, though, as former Universal Champion Finn Balor also made his return as part of the show.

Balor had been away from main roster action since Summerslam 2019, having returned to NXT for a hugely successful spell there.

He made a triumphant comeback to the blue brand by interrupting Sami Zayn before attacking him – much to the delight of those watching ringside.

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The show was the final episode of television going into this Sunday’s Money in the Bank pay per view, which will also play host to fans.

Smackdown saw all the final build-up to that show, with Seth Rollins scoring a major win over a number of those he’ll face in a ladder match at the weekend.

Rollins downed Big E, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Kevin Owens in the main event, but not before Owens had driven Nakamura through a table with an elbow drop from the top of a ladder.

The first match of the night had an equally big-fight feel to it, as Roman Reigns teamed with The Usos to defeat Edge, Rey and Dominik Mysterio.

WWE Money in the Bank airs this Sunday night on WWE Network and BT Sport Box Office.

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