By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Green Bay, Wisconsin at Resch Center
Dasha Fuentes was in the ring to kick off the show, and brought Charlotte Flair out to the ring. After Charlotte hit the ring, Dasha brought out her opponent on Sunday Ruby Riott, who was joined by Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan. Dasha started to speak, and Ruby told her she was ill informed, and that she would take it from here. Ruby said it all began November 14, 2017 when Charlotte became the Smackdown Women’s Champion. She said that Charlotte’s life was always set up for success. She listed her positive qualities, including her 2 Time Hall of Fame Father, and said she became the first ever NXT, Divas, Raw, and Smackdown Women’s Champion.
She said the myth was formed, and she formed the Riott Squad two weeks later to bring it down. Charlotte responded that she her life created great expectations for her, and she had to work harder than anyone to live under that weight. She has transcended any myth about her, and she is every bit as good as Ruby has heard. Ruby responded that whether it was handed to her, or whether she fought her way there, she was up on a pedestal. Ruby said she would knock her down on Sunday, and she’d be just another bleach blonde loser with a famous last name.
Charlotte got in her face, and Ruby called the Riott Squad into the ring to back her up. Just as things looked bleak, Bobby Roode made his way to the ring to break the tension. Charlotte looked relieved as Roode made his way to the ring, apparently to join on commentary for Orton vs. Mahal up next…[c]
My Take: I enjoyed that promo a lot more than the throwaway segments without much narrative that have permeated the women’s segments for months and months. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, as it didn’t really establish much of a motive for Ruby other than she doesn’t like Charlotte, but I appreciate the attempt to create some tension for the match on Sunday. It would have been a tall task to really tie this whole thing together in one promo, so they kept it fairly basic.
Randy Orton made his ring entrance, followed by Jinder Mahal. Some video was shown to setup the feud thus far.
1. Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton: The match developed slowly. Mahal hit a sharp elbow early on, but Orton quickly recovered and sent him out to the floor…[c]
Mahal controlled the action during the break and focused the offense on Orton’s neck and back. He hit a high knee and went back to a neck crank. Orton back suplexed his way out and hit some lariats to get back in the match. He hit a big powerslam and played to the crowd for his comeback. Orton went for a Draping DDT, but Mahal escaped into the ring. Orton then hit a fallaway slam and a backbreaker, which caused Jinder to roll out to the apron.
Mahal then escaped to the floor, where Sunil Singh tried to get involved. Orton tossed him in a huge back suplex onto the announce table, and then tossed Mahal into Bobby Roode. Orton then hit a draping DDT. He setup for an RKO, but Roode jumped up on the apron to cause a distraction. Jinder Mahal then hit a Khallas and picked up the win.
Jinder Mahal defeated Randy Orton at 10:33.
Backstage, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens had a conversation. Owens reminded him that it was every man for himself, but reminded Owens that he told him previously that he’d be willing to lie down for him and let him become Champion. Owens said he almost can’t believe that he would do it for him, it was too good to be true, but he was such a good guy that he just might. Zayn said nobody would be paying attention to him if it weren’t for Kevin, and he’s the only reason he’s in the six pack challenge. He said his time will come, and this is Owen’s chance to become a grand slam champion, and he’s be really proud of him when it happens. Owens and Zayn embraced…[c]
My Take: Sami is going to be the backstabber this time, and it makes complete sense. I hope the payoff makes their eventual WrestleMania encounter worth it. I have to imagine Shane McMahon will interject himself, if only to fall off of something really high in the air. I wish the US Title Picture was more exciting, but it just isn’t. These three are just boring. End of story.
We got a selfie promo from Baron Corbin, who said he would beat John Cena’s eyes closed at Fastlane for what he did to cost him the Money in the Bank Briefcase. We then got a video package regarding the feud between The Usos and New Day. Backstage, Dasha Fuentes interviewed Shinsuke Nakamura. He was asked about the Fastlane Main Event, and he said he hopes AJ Styles wins, so he can beat him at WrestleMania with a knee to the face. Rusev walked up and told Nakamura that he broke Aiden English’s voice with a knee to the throat last week. He challenged him to a match at Fastlane, and Shinsuke accepted. He said that when he wins, Sunday would be Nakamura Day. He even belted out the tune. Rusev yelled at him as he walked away that he can’t just create his own Holiday. In the arena, Becky Lynch made her entrance…[c]
My Take: Nakamura vs. Rusev could have been a pretty fun mini feud had they spent a few weeks setting it up, but as it is it just feels like a way to give them something to do and fill time. The New Day and Usos package was well done.
Carmella made her ring entrance for the next match. A brief video package was shown of the WWE.com interview that set up their week long social media battle.
2. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella: Carmella hit a nice head scissors out of the corner in the early going, but only got a two count. She then paint brushed Becky’s face on the mat, and talked trash. They went back and forth briefly before the action spilled outside, where Carmella smashed Becky into the ringside barrier and the post. There was exactly zero crowd reaction for any of Carmella’s offense. The crowd woke up a bit for a dropkick from Becky. Both women then traded blows, but Carmella hit a side kick and covered. Becky was able to break the pin by getting a foot on the ropes.
Carmella melted down and ran at Becky, but got caught with an exploder suplex. Becky went for a wheelbarrow suplex, but Carmella reversed into a headlock takeover. Becky then countered and slipped on the Disarmer for the tapout victory.
Becky Lynch defeated Carmella at 8:33.
Backstage, Naomi and Natalya got into an argument about Becky only beating Carmella because she had the flu over the weekend. Naomi claimed all of Nattie’s friends are cats, and Nattie said everyone who befriends Becky ends up getting burnt. Naomi made a tag challenge between her and Becky vs. Nattie and Carmella for Fastlane. Nattie accepted. So I guess they are booking the Fastlane filler for tonight.
My Take: Carmella is pretty limited in the ring, but she was successful at executing her limited offense. The crowd, however, couldn’t have cared less. She has really falled as a character since her successful run with Ellsworth. It’s not that Ellsworth was the key to her success, but she has lost a lot of her attitude and swagger since that time. It’s amazing that Becky is as over as she is, given how poorly they’ve protected her.
AJ Styles made his way out to the ring and said that there was a time in his life when he only cared about one person, but after winning the WWE Championship a second time, he sees the world a bit differently. He said it was a grind to get here, and it’s a grind to stay there, and that’s what makes him think about Fastlane. He said the odds are against him on Sunday, because he doesn’t have to get pinned to lose his championship. But to hell with fair, he’s going to fight because that’s what he does. He said he fights and he’s a winner, but sometimes life doesn’t go your way. He said John Cena beat him clean last week. He didn’t make any excuses, but he did need some motivation. He then showed footage fo Cena’s promo from last night.
Styles said he’s not the only one who has to win to pave his way to WrestleMania. He said John said he could execute his rematch at WrestleMania, but that’s not what he wants or what the fans want. He said he wants to have his moment, and go to WrestleMania as WWE Champion and defend his Championship against the best. He said he wanted Shinsuke Nakamura, because nobody would have ever dreamed to see that match in WWE. He said he wasn’t just fighting for himself on Sunday, he was fight for “us”, because that match would be nothing short of phenomenal.
Dolph Ziggler then interrupted, and called Styles out about the match being for “us”. Ziggler said he’s not cool, and he’s not phenomenal anymore. Now he’s just desperate. Styles said that’s rich coming from a guy who’s been in WWE 13 years and never reached his potential. Zigger responded that Styles was the guy that spent 10 years trying to get in the house he built. He then said Styles is doing it for the wrong reasons, because he cares what the people think.
Ziggler then ran down how the cards were always stacked against him, how he was told he’d never make it, and how he’s knocked down every barrier put in his way. He said when he cashed in Monday in the Bank everybody relished in the moment, but the fans didn’t deserve it. Ziggler then in 13 years he’s never had a singles match, and that’s criminal. The facts don’t jive with Style’s reality, and the real world doesn’t give a damn about Style’s dream match.
AJ said he’s talking a whole lot, but since they had a match later, why don’t they do it right now…[c]
My Take: Interesting approach to hang the Nakamura/Styles match over people’s heads as the stakes for Sunday. It’s probably the only real reason to make people tune in on Sunday, unfortunately, so it makes sense to lean into it. I just wonder if they are making Styles out to be a little too sentimental over the possibility of the match. They seem a bit too friendly for WrestleMania Rivals.
3. Dolph Ziggler vs. AJ Styles: They played cat and mouse early on with neither guy getting a solid advantage. Ziggler finally opened things up with a dropkick, and then dropped an elbow for a one count. Styles fired back with a slick dropkick of his own that sent Ziggler out to the floor. He then kicked Ziggler out to the floor as he attempted to get back in the ring, and followed up with a springboard forearm…[c]
Ziggler knocked Styles from the apron to the floor, and he was forced to answer a 10 count. Ziggler then pressed the advantage and hit a back body drop that only got a one count. Styles fought back into the match with a flurry of strikes, and hit diving forearm on the seated Ziggler. AJ fired up and hit a stinger splash in the corner. He went for a fireman’s carry to dump Ziggler over the top rope, but Ziggler raked the eyes and hit a fameasser for a near fall. He then hit a big forearm that sent Styles out to the apron. They each attempted suplexes, and Ziggler ended up on the apron. He then catapulted Styles into the ring post and out to the floor…[c]
Ziggler got a near fall after a Zig Zag, but that prompted Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to come down and lay a beating on Styles and Ziggler.
The match ended in No Contest at 15:32.
Shane McMahon then headed out to the stage and told Kevin and Sami to head back towards the ring. He said hello to Green Bay, and said they were probably expecting him to make a Tag Match, but instead, he made a Fatal Five Way match involving Baron Corbin as well. I guess John Cena was busy for the Go Home Tuesday…[c]
My Take: Ziggler and Styles were in the middle of a fine match. I guess Cena’s promo taking place on Monday should have been signal enough, but he was too busy for Tuesday this week. Having a Five-Way now seems a bit too on the nose for me, but we’ll see how it goes.
4. AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin: Owens and Zayn swarmed early, but Corbin quickly took them apart and sent AJ Styles into the ring post. Ziggler low bridged him out to the floor, where Owens and Zayn sent him into the ring steps. Owens and Zayn entered the ring and attempted to put away AJ Styles. Zayn kept Ziggler busy while Owens worked on Styles, but their strategy blew up once Corbin rejoined the action. Corbin took down Owens and Ziggler, and Styles hit Zayn with a Pele Kick. All five men were down in the ring…[c]
There was a tower of doom spot in the corner with Sami taking big fall. All five men were down again, with Styles and Owens out on the floor. Corbin, Ziggler, and Zayn tangled in the ring. Sami dumped Corbin to the outside and hit a Blue Thunder Bomb on Ziggler for a near fall. Owens entered and hit a German Suplex on Ziggler. He then avoided a Corbin spear into the corner and hit a Cannonball on Ziggler in the corner. Things broke down as Ziggler hit a Zig Zag on Corbin and a Superkick on Zayn. Styles was able to break up several tags down the stretch.
Styles set up for a springboard, but Corbin punched him out of the sky. Corbin then hit a bossman clothesline on Ziggler and a deep six on Owens. Styles broke up Corbin’s pin and then clotheslined him out of the ring a moment later. Styles hit Zayn with a reverse DDT, and then set up for a Phenomenal Forearm. Corbin and Ziggler offered a distraction, and Sami Zayn unloaded on Kevin Owens with a Heluva kick and got the win.
Sami Zayn defeated AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, and Baron Corbin at 17:33.
After the match, Styles looked dumbfounded from ringside as Zayn stood triumphantly in the ring. He was then interviewed on the stage, and was asked why. He said he is the best WWE has, called himself the most underlooked man on the roster. Tonight wasn’t about the WWE Championship, it was about who was the best, and he proved that the best is Sami Zayn. The show went off the air mid-interview…
My Take: Presuming Sami Zayn had this master plan all along, why the hell would he reveal it here? I mean, I love Sami Zayn and all, but this makes him look like a bit of a doofus rather than a master planner. This will continue to play out heading into WrestleMania, but it didn’t do much service to the suspense of the Fastlane Main Event. Maybe they felt cornered into making AJ’s title seem under serious threat, but I think they accomplished that by adding Cena to the match after beating Styles clean, right? It’s hard to argue with a solid second hour of wrestling, but man it’s hard to not feel like they popped off a little early with the Zayn reveal.