Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin in a WWE Championship Qualifying Match Went to a No Contest
There was no reason for this match to happen in the first place, but announcing that the winner would advance to Fastlane to enter the WWE Championship matchup was completely stupid, especially after the inception of the SmackDown Top 10 and neither man was a part of it. Neither of these guys deserve a shot at the strap, so if anything, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens attacking them made them look like babyfaces. That isn't a bad thing, though, because I don't think anyone was looking forward to this and it created a nice hook in regards to how the situation would be addressed. It's also encouraging that no tension was teased between Owens and Zayn during any of this.
SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair def. Sarah Logan (Non-title)
Apparently Charlotte's goal is to eliminate all of The Riott Squad one-by-one, even though they have hardly posed a threat to anyone in recent months. Despite being slightly clunky at various points, this was a way better bout than the one Charlotte contested with Liv Morgan last week. The Riott Squad's credibility is currently in the toilet, so I hope Riott beats Charlotte next week to set up a title rematch at the Fastlane pay-per-view.
Baron Corbin def. Kevin Owens to Qualify for the WWE Championship Match at WWE Fastlane
Fans didn't have any incentive to cheer for one guy over the other considering they're both heels, and while it started out slow, they picked up the pace nicely down the stretch and produced a solid matchup. Corbin has been horribly handled over the past six months or so, but it was cool to see him score the clean victory here. There's really no reason for him to be a part of that WWE title match at Fastlane, but here's hoping a strong showing can get him back on the right track.
Jinder Mahal Attacked United States Champion Bobby Roode and Randy Orton
As dumb as the SmackDown Top 10 is, at least it was used effectively here with Mahal making fun of Orton for coming in at No. 9. The list should determine the next contenders to the WWE Championship, but if nothing else, the logic behind this segment made sense. Everyone played their roles well here, and while I'm looking forward to Roode and Orton mixing it up for the first time ever soon, Mahal re-entering the U.S. title picture does nothing for me. I guess they had to find some sort of role for him on the show.
The NEw Day def. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin
The match was preceded by a segment where Gable and Benjamin interrupted New Day eating pancakes. Today was National Pancake Day (or something along those lines) after all, and the segment wasn't nearly as atrocious as it could have been. As for the match they had, it was fun while it lasted, but most of it consisted of a commercial break and thus this should have lasted longer than it did. There were some shenanigans with the referee, so I assume a rematch will be held in the near future.
Dolph Ziggler def. Sami Zayn to Qualify for the WWE Championship Match at WWE Fastlane
Similar to Owens vs. Corbin, this had a weird dynamic with both men being heels, and it actually took time for the crowd to get invested in the action as a result. That said, this turned into a highly entertaining main event. I don't think Ziggler and Zayn have clashed one-on-one before, so I was impressed with the chemistry they had and the nearfalls were well done. Maybe WWE putting Ziggler in the WWE title match at Fastlane is their way of wanting him to re-sign (if he hasn't already), but I'm just beyond done with him at this point. We never found out why he walked out of SmackDown in the first place and why he's returned, and unfortunately, I doubt we ever will.
SmackDown is in such a rut right now it's ridiculous. By and large, the booking of these shows is straight-up lazy and uninspiring. The over-reliance on multi-man/multi-woman matches is tiresome and doesn't give me much hope that SmackDown will have many compelling stories to tell on the road to WrestleMania outside of AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. By the way, both men were totally absent on this episode, which is inexcusable. The wrestling on this edition was enjoyable on the whole, but the blue brand lacks direction at the moment and it's difficult to care about much of anything.
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