Buongiorno, everyone. It is I, your friendly British SmackDown Live reviewer. We are less than one week away from the final pay-per-view on the Road to WrestleMania: Fastlane, but there’s one more stop off at SmackDown before we get there.
Let’s dive in.
The Women’s Champion just got saved by a man
The show kicks off with Dasha Fuentes in the ring, who’s about to interview Charlotte Flair. The Queen comes out, robed up and title on. And then Dasha brings out Ruby Riott, because if that bitch Renee thinks that she’s the only one who can have an interview segment turn into a brawl then she’s goddamn wrong.
We get a look back at the three-on-one beating the Riott Squad laid on Charlotte, because these athletic hot messes are going to fight on this interview if it’s the last thing that Dasha does. Dasha asks Ruby about her weird, motive-less crusade against Charlotte, getting only a few words in before Ruby takes the microphone and says that’s all fake news.
Ruby, who has apparently stolen a pair of Zack Ryder’s old tights, says that this whole thing began when Charlotte got the Women’s Championship. Riott says that for her entire life, Charlotte’s been set up for success. When she won the Women’s Championship here, she became the first woman to hold the female titles on all three WWE shows. She goes on about the myth of Charlotte Flair, which was apparently “the personification of the Women’s Revolution”. And so Ruby Riott formed the Riott Squad, because Charlotte’s sort of feminism was the wrong sort of feminism and this could only be settled by destructive infighting.
Charlotte says that the whole idea that she’s been handed anything is bullshit; she’s had to work harder due to the family name. Thank God WWE banned blading, because otherwise she’d have bled out trying to live up to Ric. She says that any of her failures are magnified hugely, but she’s here right now because she’s good: as good as Ruby’s heard.
Riott says that Charlotte, and everything she stands for, is on a pedestal: it’s all on the line at Fastlane. And when Charlotte loses, she’ll just be “another bleached-blonde failure with a famous last name”. Somewhere backstage, Natalya Neidhart sneezed.
This apparently riles Charlotte up, which is weird considering some of the stuff the Women’s Division have said to each other (I wish you’d died in the womb, Paige mocking Charlotte’s dead brother, etc.). The Riott Squad get in the ring, because eventually the Women’s Champ is going to have to learn that three-on-one aren’t decent odds.
Holy shit, Bobby Roode’s music just started. Well, that’s killed any chance of this being a brawl, because like hell the WWE would let a male fighter deck a female fighter. The Riott Squad’s expressions make it look like the Principal just walked into the classroom, and I probably have a high school metaphor in my head purely due to Ruby’s hair, make-up and angst.
Still, Roode’s entrance is so lengthy Ruby and the Riotts could probably beat the shit out of Charlotte, take a Five-Second Pose and leave before he arrived.
Jesus Christ, Randy
Hey, remember how much you loved that series of Randy Orton/Jinder Mahal PPV matches? Yeah, me neither, but let’s do another one in case the fifth time’s the charm. Bobby Roode’s on commentary, meaning he didn’t show up in the last segment just to smack bitches around.
Randy Orton arrives, wearing his douchey sleeveless hooded jacket. Between him and Ruby Riott, there are some real issues of personal maturity on display here. Sunil Singh arrives to handle Jinder’s entrance (literally the best bit about Jinder Mahal unless he’s got a particularly attractive dick, though I can only assume it’s veiny as hell just like the rest of him).
Tom Phillips also thinks that Bobby being ranked number five in that fucking Top 10 List means that he was only two spots higher than Randy, who was at number nine. You ever get the feeling that if a moderately intelligent person was employed by WWE they’d either worship him as a God or murder him rather than face their own glaring inner faults?
And why are we only showing flashbacks to previous broadcasts as photographs? I get why you do it on PPVs, but this shit’s on YouTube; WWE puts it on there. Fuck’s sakes.
Bell rings, and I hope like hell that this match is better than every other one that these two have had, because the only way it could be worse would involve Jinder unleashing a virus that would wipe out 100% of the planet’s population and using his dying moments to take a dump in the centre of the ring.
Collar and elbow tie-up starts things off, and the two jockey for position with holds on the arm. Jinder elbows his way free, is shot of the ropes and tackles Orton. Randy returns the favour, knocking Mahal down with a back elbow. Jinder comes back with strikes, and he’s already got in way more offence than any of his other matches against Randy. Orton goes for the RKO, because he wants to spare us this shit as much as I’d rather slit my wrists than watch it.
During the commercial break, I actually watch the commercials rather than the little preview showing the match. And one of them features Dolph Ziggler’s advert for Cricket Wireless, which is like my rapist following me home. When we come back, Orton has just kicked Jinder Mahal in the face, which is a signal to all of us that dreams do come true. And then Jinder boots Orton in the face because…I don’t know, there’s probably no message in anything and there’s no God either.
Randy tries to fight his way back, finally hitting a high back suplex. On the microphone, Bobby Roode keeps yelling about respect like he’s been possessed by Al Pacino, James Gandolfini and John Cazale. Orton tries to hit the Vintage DDT, but Jinder counters and so gets fallaway slammed. Randy hits his backbreaker, and Jinder rolls out onto the apron, which is essentially just asking to get Vintage DDT’d, that big slut.
Mahal keeps rolling to the outside, and uses Sunil as a barely-human shield. Randy dumps his open shirt-wearing ass onto the announce table, then hurls Jinder at Bobby Roode, because Randy Orton could cause a fight in a monastery. Back in the ring, Jinder rolls out onto the apron again: shame. Shame. Shame. Orton gives the veiny whore what he wants, and then looks for the RKO, and by “looks for the RKO” I mean “flails around on the floor so much I’m amazed that two priests don’t show up to perform an exorcism”.
Roode gets up on the apron and yells at Orton. Randy, the idiot’s idiot, decides to stop winning this match and engage him. Mahal hits the Khallas, beating Randy Orton for the fourth time. If Orton had any pride left, he’d hang himself.
Fairly decent match. Jinder is far more watchable than he used to be, though there’s still some ways to go. 2.5 Stars.
Sami Zayn is backstage, and Kevin Owens shows up. Zayn acts all happy and cheerful and shit, and at least Owens is savvy enough to have his guard up around the guy. He asks Zayn about his offer of humiliation and sacrifice, clearly not totally believing it. And good, because otherwise he should be institutionalised for his own safety.
Sami does his best to sell his story, and Owens appears to go along with it. This is like Game of Thrones without the nudity or the intrigue.
It’s like Game of Thrones without the nudity.
Baron Corbin’s here, and so are those fucking onscreen graphics. I hope whoever’s idea this was has their dishwasher and washing machine leak, and their oven break. Like, on the same exact day, and they’ll have no food in the house they can eat raw.
Anyway, Corbin is yelling angrily into his phone, which is pretty much his ground state of being. He seems to have a bee in his bonnet about John Cena, because facing that guy at WrestleMania worked out great for Rusev and Wyatt.
We get a look back at the New Day and the Usos’ confrontation from last week, which was awesome and looks even more amazing in the package that’s put together. I was already invested in this match, which is going to kick all the ass, but this promo just put it over like a million bucks.
Dasha is backstage with Shinsuke, who she’s probably going to sic on a helpless innocent in her quest for blood. She asks him whether he’s worried about AJ Styles not bring the WWE Championship to WrestleMania. He says yes, and hopes Styles wins so that Nakamura can beat him on the Grandest Stage Of Them All.
Rusev then shows up, saying that Shinsuke damaged English’s throat and challenges him to a match at Fastlane. Nakamura accepts, and says that when he wins, Sunday will be Nakamura Day. He leaves, and Rusev says “you can’t just make up your own holiday, bro”, and I love this big, funny man.
How much do you bet that Carmella’s actually forgotten what the briefcase is for?
Here’s Becky Lynch, and rather than facing Ruby Riott to give the number one contender more momentum before she steps up to the plate, she’s facing Carmella. Apparently this feud started due to Twitter, which is a sad statement on the state of the world. The flashback uses graphics, and I truly hope that the mind behind this idea is studied for the good of science and humanity in general, after its owner is beheaded by an old, rusty, French guillotine.
Becky and Carmella circle each other before locking up. Carmella whips Becky into the corner, props her out on the apron and takes a forearm to the face. Lynch ascends to the top turnbuckle, but Carmella’s able to bring her down with a headscissors. Becky weathers Carmella’s assault, almost putting her in the Disarmer.
Carmella pummels Becky, regaining the advantage before choking her with her legs against the ropes before pulling on the hair. Damn, Carmella came here to fight, and she hits a hell of a running knee to the face, earning a two count. Back on the outside, Carmella keeps hurling Becky into the barricade before smashing her face into the ring post. Surprising aggression on display from Ms. Money in the Bank.
Carmella applies the sleeper hold, but Lynch works her way out and manages to hit a calf kick. She keeps fighting, but a side kick by Carmella almost wins the Staten Island Princess the match. A Christian-esque tantrum gives Becky a momentary advantage, but Carmella is still almost able to regain control of the situation before Lynch turns a headlock takeover into a Disarmer; Carmella taps after holding out for a few seconds.
Surprising amount of dominance from Carmella, potentially paving the road towards bigger things. 2.5 Stars.
Naomi has been watching the match backstage, and then Natalya shows up to be a big dick and trying to sow discord between Becky and Naomi based on literally no evidence. The two of them get into a big old fight over who actually has friends, which I guess is a little better than Twitter. Naomi makes a tag team match between Natalya and Carmella against Becky and Naomi. Oh, a Women’s tag team match: what a rare treat.
Footage of the arena catches some guy in shorts falling over in the snow, leading to a surprisingly human moment where all three commentators laugh together. I really liked that.
It’s never Dolph’s fault
Here’s AJ Styles, and he says that it wasn’t that long ago that he only cared about himself. But after winning the WWE Championship a second time, he’s had a change of perspective. He’s had to work absurdly hard just to get to the WWE, and even more to become WWE Champion. This leads to him thinking about Fastlane, where the odds are once again stacked against him. Well, yeah: you and everyone else in that match.
Styles says that it doesn’t matter if shit’s not fair; he’s going to go out there and fight, because that’s what he does. He addresses his hard-fought loss to John Cena last week, and says that it managed to motivate him even more than he already was. He shows us some footage of Cena from Monday night, talking about himself winning his seventeenth WWE Championship. There are graphics in this promo as well, and whoever did this should be first up against the wall come the revolution.
Styles says that getting a rematch at WrestleMania for the Championship is not what he wants, and it’s not what the WWE Universe wants either. Christ, if they’re doing this just to give Cena the WWE Championship then this is entirely new levels of fucking awful from Vince McMahon. Styles says that he’s not just fighting for himself, but for everyone else who wants this match as well, and it will be phenomenal.
Dolph Ziggler arrives, microphone in hand. He asks what happened to Styles; he says that he’s changed, that he used to be cool. Dolph says that AJ is desperate, and Styles shoots back with a crack about Ziggler still not having reached his potential. Dolph tells him that he’s going to lose at Fastlane because his head’s not in the right place.
Ziggler tells Styles that these insects known as the WWE Universe aren’t worth fighting for. He says that he was told that he’d never be Champion, but he did. For, like, three weeks or so. But Ziggler spins it as the audience not appreciating him rather than Swagger concussing his Championship away from him.
Styles suggests that rather than doing their entrances and shit all over again, they should just have their match right now. Dolph’s apparently amenable, so this thing’s on.
Can’t have two great matches in two weeks, AJ
As soon as the match starts, Dolph goes for a superkick. Styles counters, looking for the Styles Clash, but Ziggler scoots out of the ring. Back inside, they lock up and struggle to gain the advantage. Dolph takes it to the mat, then gets facelocked by Styles before reaching the ropes. Ziggler punches away at AJ, almost catches him with a small package, then gets taken over with a waistlock by Styles.
Styles keeps Ziggler grounded, but the Showoff hits a snapmare and dropkicks the WWE Champion to the mat. Dolph continues to work Styles over, hitting his head against the corner before dropping a big elbow on him. He locks a sleeper hold in, seemingly trapping AJ entirely. Styles works back to his feet, elbowing his way out, then shoots Dolph off the ropes before smashing him with a dropkick of his own.
Ziggler ducks to the outside, and Styles takes him out on the outside with the Phenomenal Forearm. During the break, Styles continues to lay a hurting on Ziggler, who manages to hit a wild charge as we come back from the commercials. Dolph tells the official to count AJ out, but Styles makes it back into the ring.
Inside, Ziggler beats on AJ in the corner before raking his face over the ring ropes. Styles tries to keep himself in the match, and works his way back, finally levelling Ziggler with a clothesline before laying him out with a forearm. Ziggler’s hit with a diving clothesline in the corner, but is able to rake the eyes and hit a Fameasser for a two count.
A slugfest commences between the two men, and Ziggler comes off the better in that exchange. Styles heads to the apron, but Dolph catches him and tries to suplex him back inside. AJ resists, finally hoisting Dolph out there too. Ziggler, however, manages to catapult Styles right into the barricade! There’s a brief break, and when we come back Ziggler is trying to beat AJ with the Styles Clash! AJ counters into a Calf-Crusher attempt, then tries for a superkick before Dolph is able to put him down with a Zig-Zag! AJ kicks out, and then Owens and Zayn bust in and start beating up the two of them.
Really good match with a disappointing ending; could have saved this until after the bell rang. 3 Stars.
Styles and Ziggler finally manage to fight back, and they’re able to eject Owens and Zayn. Shane arrives, and asks what Kevin and Sami think they’re doing. He makes a Fatal Five-Way match, with those four men and Baron Corbin! I guess John Cena is too good for this.
Cena wants SmackDown’s main Championship, but to only appear on RAW
When we come back, Corbin has just whipped Owens into the barricade, then goes to work on Zayn. Styles and Ziggler are on the outside, trying to get back into the ring. Baron starts beating on Zayn in the corner, then takes out Styles. Owens goes after Corbin, which he shortly regrets, and then Baron takes out Ziggler before whipping Styles hard into a corner and hurling him across the ring.
Ziggler is able to low-bridge Corbin, and Kevin and Sami immediately leap onto him, beating the fuck out of Baron before throwing him into the steel steps. In the ring, they carry out a concerted assault on Ziggler before turning their attention to Styles. Sami keeps kicking Corbin to the floor every time the Lone Wolf makes his way to his feet.
Owens and Zayn hit a drop toehold/back senton to AJ, making sure that Dolph’s not able to interfere. Corbin finally gets back onto the apron and starts taking it to Sami Zayn, but a superkick from Owens puts him down. Owens is taken out by a Fameasser from Ziggler, who eats a big boot from Zayn, who then gets laid out with a Pele Kick from Styles! All five men are down as we go to a commercial break.
When we come back, Ziggler and Styles are trying to double-superplex Zayn, and then Baron and Owens join in, both adding the powerbomb component! Everyone’s down again, and I hope they’re all proud of themselves: ludicrous behaviour.
Corbin makes his way to his feet first, hitting both Ziggler and Zayn in the corner. Dolph ducks a charge, taking it to both Zayn and Corbin, then Zayn takes control; he runs into a boot from Corbin, then shoves Ziggler into the Lone Wolf. Blue Thunder Bomb takes Ziggler down, but Styles breaks up the pin!
Sami goes after Styles, hurling him out of the ring. Ziggler is able to do the same to Sami, right before Owens German suplexes him. Owens wants a cannonball, but has to dodge a charge from Corbin, then hits the cannonball to Ziggler before taking Baron out with a KO Bomb! Styles breaks up the pin again, getting tossed out, and Owens is spiked by Ziggler’s DDT!
Corbin wants Deep Six on Dolph, but Ziggler turns it into a Zig-Zag! Sami tries for his tornado DDT, but eats a superkick, and Styles again breaks up the pin! Corbin tosses Styles onto the apron, and counters his Phenomenal Forearm attempt with a huge punch! He clotheslines Zayn, chokeslam-backbreakers Ziggler, then hits Owens with Deep Six! AJ breaks up the pin!
Styles clotheslines Baron out of the ring, then lays Dolph out with a spinning kick. He takes Zayn out with a moonsault/reverse DDT, then smashes Corbin with a sliding knee, throws Ziggler out of the ring and then gets taken off the apron by Zayn and Owens. Suddenly, Zayn Helluva Kicks Owens! Sami Zayn wins!
Feel like Zayn might have shot his bolt a little too soon; I expected the betrayal to come during the Six Pack Challenge match. Still, this was great, and a really nice teaser for what I’m sure will be an even better match on Sunday. I’m definitely sold on it. 4 Stars.
Dasha shows up, desperate for one last brawl, and asks Zayn “why”. Sami says that he’s the best that WWE has (citation needed), and that he’s been the most underlooked performer on the SmackDown roster (still Dolph Ziggler). He says that tonight was about who was the best, and he proved that it was him.
Tags: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Bobby Roode, byron saxton, charlotte flair, Corey Graves, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Fastlane, Jinder Mahal, John Cena, Kevin Owens, naomi, Natalya, Randy Orton, Ruby Riott, rusev, sami zayn, Shane McMahon, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, The Bludgeon Brothers, The New Day, The Riott Squad, the usos, Tom Phillips, WWE