By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Roman Reigns def. Rusev by Disqualification
We have seen this match a number of times in the past, but at least they always work well together and this bout didn't last long, anyway. It was a nice change of pace to kick the night off with a match featuring two notable names instead of the typical drawn-out promo. This was a more original, less predictable way of setting up the main event tag team match. It was academic at that point where it was headed, but it had significance since it showed Dean Ambrose still has Reigns' back despite facing him a Triple Threat match at Fastlane coming up soon.
United States Champion Kalisto def. Kevin Owens (Non-title)
Kalisto is perfectly cast in the underdog role, so I really liked how he took an ample amount of punishment here at the hands of Owens, who is portrayed as a bully. The dynamic they have is great, but fingers crossed it's a while before we see them feud because both guys need wins right now. I don't know if I would have had Owens get pinned for the second time in one week, but there's no denying it was a big plus for Kalisto in that it helped him establish credibility. I also appreciate how we have a real rivalry between Owens and Dolph Ziggler now with Ziggler sitting in on commentary during this match. They were simply trading wins before, and although I have zero idea where they are going with this, at least they have an actual beef with each other and aren't having matches every week for no apparent reason.
Ryback def. Erick Rowan
First and foremost, bonus points go to Ryback for changing up his ring attire. I still have zero idea what his motivation is as a character at this point, but him debuting new trunks was refreshing. The match itself, however, really wasn't anything of note and basically what you would expect from the two, meaning it was rather mediocre. I assumed this would be Rowan's redemption win, but apparently not. Ryback won and then proceeded to leave the ring unscathed. The booking of The Wyatt Family just boggles my mind at times.
AJ Styles def. The Miz
I discussed this in my Raw review from Monday, but I loved how this match was given a proper set-up with the 'Miz TV' segment and not randomly thrown on TV. It made me care more about the match as a result, and as Chris Jericho (who was great here by the way) noted on commentary, Miz is no slouch in the ring. He's a former WWE champion and has been a regular on WWE programming for almost a decade, so Styles' win over him didn't feel throwaway. Plus, Styles debuting his Calf Crusher submission finisher was super cool to see. The post-match interaction between Jericho and Styles was even better and I'm highly anticipating their rematch taking place on next week's SmackDown.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day def. The Social Outcasts (Non-title)
I figured it was only a matter of time before we saw these two tandems clash, but I didn't understand why it happened. Don't get me wrong, their pre-match promos were humorous and the match was a treat, but I'm still confused as to whether Social Outcasts are supposed to be heels or babyfaces. I guess they're intended to be tweeners, but how should the crowd react then? That aside, this was a rare instance of a heel vs. heel match being done right.
Divas Champion Charlotte def. Alicia Fox (Non-title)
Insert obligatory complaint about not knowing whether Fox is a face or a heel here. Seriously, I feel like a broken record discussing it, so I won't even bother; just know it's implied. Regardless, the match was fine for what it was and a decent way of boosting Charlotte's momentum as she prepares to enter a rivalry with Brie Bella. Speaking of which, I can't say I'm enthralled with the idea of a Charlotte vs. Brie program, but as long as it's filler before WrestleMania, I'm content with it.
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns def. League of Nations
I realize WWE is limited with what they can do with the build for the Fastlane main event because everyone involved is babyface and Brock Lesnar doesn't wrestle full-time, so that leaves Ambrose and Reigns to tag together most weeks. That's perfectly fine, but it will only work if they are teasing tension with each other, and they succeeded in doing that here. I never thought for a second one would turn on the other during this contest, but it might have convinced a casual fan or two, who knows. League of Nations have never looked weaker, but they're a lost cause by now (at least in my opinion), so I wasn't outraged by them taking another clean loss.
It's amazing how SmackDown has consistently stepped it up each week since arriving on USA Network just about a month ago. In all honesty, it's quickly becoming my favorite WWE show to watch with the exception of NXT. The wrestling on the program hasn't been this strong in years, programs are progressed, and even matches are being set up ahead of time. Styles vs. Jericho is a big get for SmackDown next week, but as for this episode, I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish and would recommend it. I surely hope this roll SmackDown has been on isn't short-lived and WWE will keep up the quality of the show going forward.
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