By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Phoenix, Arizona at Talking Stick Resort Arena
In the ring, Renee Young introduced AJ Styles. He made his way to the ring as the Fatal 5 Way Main Event for Fastlane was reiterated by the announce team. An AJ chant broke out as Renee began to ask him about his match at Fastlane. He had her pause so he could soak it up. She continued and asked if he thought he was in control of his own destiny for WrestleMania. He said he’s in control, because he feels like anybody the steps in the ring with him, he can beat.
AJ acknowledged that the Fatal 5 way is a problem because anything is possible in and out of the ring. He looked towards the announce table and said it would be good to put Kevin Owens right through it, but Dolph Ziggler could be pinning Sami Zayn in the ring and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. He’d love to put Sami Zayn into the ring steps, but Baron Corbin could be pinning Dolph Ziggler. He ran down his opponents for Fastlane and said he could beat them all. As he was about to speak of Baron Corbin, he made his entrance with upgraded graphics and a remixed theme.
He told AJ that before he says he can beat him, he will stop him and keep him from embarrassing himself. He said he’s beat him the last time they were in the ring, won his US Championship, and beat him in the rematch too. He said the difference between them is that he’s a wrestler and Corbin is a fighter, and whether he beats AJ or someone else, he’s the new WWE Champion and there’s nothing he could do about it.
Owens made his entrance to interrupt and told AJ that he’d be the one going through the announce table courtesy of a pop up powerbomb. He told Corbin he didn’t look like much of a lone wolf when he was writhing on the ground in pain. He looked more like a cub. Corbin told him his memory was short, because when he got to his feet he dropped him like the punk he is. Owens told Corbin that he wasn’t deserving of a shot, and the only reason he had it was because of Shane McMahon’s vendetta over him giving his father the headbutt heard round the world. AJ went into an ill advised comedy bit about Kevin lancing the boil on his back we all know as Sami Zayn. Kevin said he doesn’t need Sami Zayn, in fact he let him down last week. He had time to prepare for his match, and he still lost.
Shane McMahon eventually interrupted Kevin to make some matches. Ziggler vs. Owens is next, and Styles vs. Corbin will be in the main event…[c]
My Take: Try as they might, adding Ziggler and Corbin to this match didn’t immediately make it better. AJ Styles walking around the ring with Renee Young to show her the furniture was an odd change of pace, but it just didn’t seem to fit with the Styles Character. Same could be said for his horrible lines about lancing the boil on Kevin Owens back. That felt like a joke aimed at the audience of one if I’ve ever heard one. It didn’t land and I felt bad for AJ for having to deliver it.
1. Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler: Both men traded offense in the opening minutes. Ziggler took Owens outside and slammed him into the announce table, but Owens caught Ziggler and tossed him into the barricade to create some space. Owens tossed Ziggler into the ring and climbed on the apron, but ate a dropkick that sent him back to the floor. Ziggler pursued and went for an irish whip, but Owens reversed and sent him into the display on the portion of the ring facing the television cameras.
Owens and Ziggler traded suplex attempts, with Ziggler getting Owens over. Ziggler attempted a splash in the corner, but missed and ate the ring post. He followed up with a Cannonball and covered for a near fall…[c]
Ziggler hit a DDT and both men were laid out. Owens missed running into the corner and went shoulder first into the post. Ziggler made a cover and got a near fall. Ziggler lined up for a superkick, but Owens caught him and hit a gutbuster. He followed up with a springboard elbow from the second rope for a near fall. Owens climbed up top and was knocked into a seated position by Ziggler. Owens fought him and went for a moonsault, but Dolph got the knees up. Ziggler followed up with a Fameasser for another near fall.
Owens and Ziggler traded superkick attempts, but couldn’t land. Owens then attempted a pop up powerbomb, but Ziggler countered and hit a Zig Zag, but only got a near fall. Ziggler setup Owens in the corner, but Sami Zayn’s music hit and he turned his attention. Zayn stopped as he got near the ring, and Owens blindsided Ziggler with a superkick to the side of the head. Owens covered for the victory.
Kevin Owens defeated Dolph Ziggler at 13:44.
After the match, Owens looked a bit confused, but eventually celebrated to some boos. A six woman tag was plugged for later, and Jinder Mahal is next to unveil a secret about Bobby Roode…[c]
My Take: That was a fun match. I still don’t really understand Ziggler’s character or why he left, but he’s had two competitive and interesting matches since returning to TV. Zayn’s involvement was a nice wrinkle, as now you have to wonder if he’s sincere or just putting his own plans in motion.
Jinder Mahal stood in the ring and said he made a startling discovery that has shook him to his core. He said he believes the WWE Universe deserves to know this discovery. He claimed Bobby Roode has a secret, and he believes in truth and transparency, so he unveiled Bobby Roode’s personal Top 10. It included Roode at #1, and didn’t include Randy Orton at all. Mahal concluded that Roode is a megalomaniac and a liar, and he doesn’t respect Randy Orton or his accomplishments like he claims too.
Bobby Roode made his entrance at this point and denied that was his list. He said he had a secret about Jinder, and that’s the fact that he can’t make any Top 10 list. He said he sees through his game, and that he’s trying to pit Orton against him so he always has to look over his shoulder. Jinder admitted he wants to be the next US Champion, but demanded Roode to admit that he thinks he’s better than Randy Orton, and wants to be the next Legend Killer.
Roode said he never said any of that. Mahal said he beat Randy Orton, so he should be worried. Roode told him to forget about Orton, because it was about the two of them. Orton made his entrance at that point and didn’t say anything audible on camera. He then punched Mahal, and Roode clotheslined him out of the ring. Orton went to hit Roode with an RKO, but Roode avoided it and hit a Glorious DDT. Roode jawed at Orton and went to celebrate, but Mahal snuck up from behind and hit him with the Khallas.
Backstage, Bryan and Shane argued backstage about the US and World Title picture. Bryan said he never imagined the Top 10 would create so much conflict, and asserted that Bobby Roode should face the man who got the better of him the last two weeks in Jinder Mahal. Shane made a match between Orton and Roode at Fastlane, and told Bryan that he was stepping in to modify decisions he makes based on emotion. Bryan said “Whatever you want, Boss” in a sarcastic manner and walked off after Shane made the match his final decision.
My Take: The Top 10 as the basis of feuds is the worst. Jinder died 1000 deaths trying to create drama with it. I have a feeling this will just end up being a triple threat at the PPV, but honestly they could just not have the match and pretend they did, because I can’t imagine a triple threat being interesting based on the pace those three work.
Charlotte had made her entrance prior to the break. Becky was finishing up her entrance as the show came back. Naomi got a fully televised entrance. They were followed by the Riott Squad.
2. The Riott Squad vs. Charlotte, Naomi, and Becky Lynch: Charlotte started the match with Liv Morgan, but the action quickly shifted to Naomi vs. Sarah Morgan. Naomi got the better of her for a moment and tagged in Becky, who landed several running leg drops. They babyfaces cleared the heels when Naomi and Becky Lynch tossed Morgan out of the ring, and then hit dueling dropkicks that sent Liv and Ruby out to regroup…[c]
Becky toyed with Ruby Riott in an arm lock, and then tagged in Naomi. She hit a hot shot sunset flip on Ruby for a two count. Liv Morgan tagged in, and she and Naomi traded some nice reversals before Naomi ran Liv into the second turnbuckle. She then hit a split legged moonsault, but the Squad pulled her out of the ring to avoid the pinfall attempt. Naomi dove onto Morgan and Riott, but Liv was able to quickly seize control by sending Naomi into the ring steps.
Morgan tagged in and applied a cobra clutch on the ground, but it wasn’t used as a submission. She then stood Naomi up in the corner and hit a forearm shot, but Naomi was able to find her way out and make a hot tag to Charlotte. She cleaned the rest of the Squad off the apron and hit some big chops to Morgan. She then hit a big boot. Liv jumped on the apron and hit a big boot, but that opened up Charlotte for a chop block from Morgan. Charlotte crawled for a tag to Becky.
Ruby Riott tagged in and was quickly locked in the Disarmer by Lynch, but Liv Morgan broke it up. The match broke down as Charlotte and Naomi took Liv and Sara out of the ring. The confusion allowed Riot to attack Becky from behind, and she then hit the Riott Kick for the win.
The Riott Squad defeated Charlotte, Becky, and Naomi at 10:44.
Backstage, Sami Zayn told Kevin Owens he was there to support him, and do the right thing by being his guardian angel. He told him he had his back, and needed to pay him back for rescuing him from himself. He told him they had to turn Shane McMahon’s plan on it’s head and take out all of the superstars in the Fatal 5 Way one by one, and when it came time, he would lay down for him. Owens looked confused and skeptical, but told Zayn he didn’t know what to say and gave him a hug.
My Take: Oh boy, another 50/50 women’s match. I wonder what kind of antics these six will get up to next week in their one 10 minute segment the division is allotted each week. Maybe Becky will cut another great promo that will be seen by 11 people on WWE.com. The Zayn and Owens segment backstage was very lacking in subtlety. We’ll see if ends up being interesting.
New Day made their entrance, followed by Benjamin and Gable. The winner of this match faces the Usos at Fastlane.
3. New Day vs. Benjamin and Gable: Woods and Gable started the match, with a series of leap frogs and reversals. Woods eventually connected with a lariat and covered for a two count. Woods attempted a suplex but it was reversed, and Benjamin made a blind tag. Woods was tossed into a kick from Benjamin, who entered the match and hit a scoop slam. He then hit a running knee, and covered for a near fall…[c]
Woods hit a missile dropkick to Benjamin to crawl to his corner and get Big E in the match. Gable tagged in and got suplexed all over the place. Gable returned fire with a belly to belly of his own for a near fall. Gable climbed up top for a moonsault, but Big E avoided it. Gable landed on his feet and charged at him, but E hit a Uranage out of the corner. Gable quickly rebounded and made a tag to Benjamin. They set up Big E for their double team powerbomb out of the corner, but Kofi got up on the apron to distract the ref. That bought enough time for Woods to break up the pinning attempt. Woods hit a shining wizard on Benjamin and got the win.
New Day defeated Gable and Benjamin at 9:33.
After the match, the Bludgeon Brothers made their entrance while New Day stood at ringside. They are in action next…[c]
My Take: This is clearly setting up a multi-team clusterfuck for WrestleMania, but they’ve done a decent job of giving multiple teams a case for a title shot. I’m guessing Gable and Benjamin and the Bludgeon Brothers get involved into the title match at Fastlane.
Backstage, Charlotte offered to put up her Smackdown Women’s Championship against Ruby Riott in order to get her hands on her.
4. The Bludgeon Brothers vs Two Jobbers: Everyone started the match in the ring, and the Bludgeon Brothers immediately dropkicked them out of their shoes. They slammed them both on top of each other at ringside, and then splashed them. In the ring, Harper hit a big sit out powerbomb, and then they hit their double crucifix bomb for the win.
The Bludgeon Brothers won in 30 seconds.
Ruby Riott gave her answer in a promo. She challenged Naomi for next week, and told her to bring her Title to Fastlane. Elsewhere, Baron Corbin said he’s ruthless and heartless, and at Fastlane, people would know him as the new WWE Champion. They are still doing the nonsense where words appear on the screen for emphasis. It sucks. The announce team threw to a video package for Shinsuke Nakamura.
In the arena, AJ Styles made his entrance…[c]
My Take: This week’s bludgeoning seemed especially vicious. Those independent wrestlers are going to be sore tomorrow. I liked the Shinsuke video package, but they need to establish a relatable motive for him.
Baron Corbin made his entrance.
5. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin: Styles jumped out to an early advantage, but Corbin shut him down with a big forearm. Corbin tossed Styles out to the apron, and then clubbed him when he attempted a sunset flip back into the ring. Styles then sent Corbin out to the floor, but got caught i a backbreaker when he went for a springboard out to the floor….[c]
Corbin hit a lariat and covered for a near fall. He then applied a neck crank, but Styles got to his feet and ran Corbin into the turnbuckle to break free. Corbin ran shoulder first into the post attempting to regain control, and that gave Styles a breather. Outside the ring, Corbin tried to toss Styles over the announce table, but Styles kept his feet and sprinted back towards the ring and hit a Phenomenal Forearm for a near fall.
Styles climbed up top, but had to bail. Corbin caught him in a deep six for a near fall. Styles recovered and locked in a calf crusher, but Corbin escaped by slamming his head on the mat. Styles went for a phenomenal forearm, but Corbin grabbed him by the throat and told him he can’t beat him. Styles landed and elbow to the jaw, and then hit the forearm to get the win.
AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin at 11:33.
After the match, Zayn and Owens went after AJ Styles. They sent him out of the ring and dragged him towards the announce table. Baron Corbin caught them by surprise and hit them both with an End of Days, thwarting the attack.
My Take: That match suffered from pacing issues, much like their other encounters. Corbin has bursts of explosiveness, but they are always punctuated with long periods of very little happening in the ring. Styles managed to create a lot of motion in this match to make up for some of it, but the commercial break and rest holds down the stretch for a short match took away from what was otherwise enjoyable. The End of Days spree to finish the show was a nice touch, and allowed Corbin to get something back after his loss. Though, that’s been a bit of a pattern for him since he debuted on Smackdown.