WWE Champion AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Kevin Owens, SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon and Dolph Ziggler Interrupted Each other
It's amazing that Raw kicked off with a super lengthy match on Monday night yet SmackDown Live was the total opposite in opening with a talking segment. While this wasn't terrible by any means and everyone handled their promos fairly well, it felt very formulaic. Styles being the only babyface in this whole thing makes little sense and adding Ziggler and Corbin to the mix does nothing to make the storyline more compelling than it already was (and it wasn't). Fastlane couldn't come quick enough to end this abysmal angle.
Kevin Owens def. Dolph Ziggler
All of the WWE Championship challengers need wins right now, so putting them in meaningless matches against each other heading into Fastlane won't help matters any. Nevertheless, Owens and Ziggler have good enough chemistry together that this was an entertaining match. Despite the heel vs. heel dynamic, the crowd was engaged in the action here and bought into some of the nearfalls down the stretch. Was Sami Zayn aiding Owens to victory a sign that there's no tension there after all?
Jinder Mahal Attacked United States Champion Bobby Roode and Randy Orton
This was essentially the same segment we saw last week with Mahal bringing up the pointless SmackDown Top 10 and trying to goad Roode into defending the United States Championship against him. Per usual, Orton attempted to attack both men out of nowhere but was unsuccessful. Mahal was the last man standing for the second straight week, yet it will be Roode vs. Orton one-on-one as of now for the title at Fastlane. You probably already knew this, but SmackDown booking is beyond illogical.
The Riott Squad def. SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Naomi
The women of SmackDown are allotted the same amount of time every single week, and while they usually make the most of it, I find it incredibly difficult to care about any of them because no one manages to stand out. The match was well-wrestled but will likely be forgotten about a few days from now. On the bright side, The Riott Squad finally won, but how long will it be before they lose again? Apparently Riott pinning Lynch was enough to earn her a shot at the SmackDown Women's Championship at Fastlane. I figured they were headed in that direction, but that's a weird way of getting there.
The New Day def. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contender's Match
I was hoping for a longer match from these two teams after their encounter last week was cut short, but this wasn't much of an improvement. What we did see was fun, but Gable and Benjamin continue to run into issues with referees. I assumed it was because they were being protected last month, but it's happened so many times since then that I don't think it's leading anywhere. They lost yet again here, so whatever momentum they had after the Royal Rumble is virtually gone by this point. The Usos and New Day had some stellar matches last year, but revisiting that rivalry four months removed from their outstanding Hell in a Cell clash is too soon.
The Bludgeon Brothers def. Local Athletes
When I heard the theme music of The Bludgeon Brothers cut off New Day's victory celebration, I figured they were coming out to attack New Day and plant the seeds for a future face-off between them, but no such luck. It looks like WWE will hold off on them entering the SmackDown Tag Team Championship picture for a little while longer. At any rate, this was a significantly more vicious squash from The Bludgeon Brothers than we normally we see from them, so I'd hope those jobbers are getting a nice payday.
WWE Champion AJ Styles def. Baron Corbin (Non-title)
Styles had to slow down for Corbin at various points, but I liked this matchup on the whole even if it wasn't the most exciting. I have no idea where this "squandered opportunities" gimmick is going for Corbin. I know he will be a part of the Fastlane main event for the WWE Championship, but it's obvious he isn't winning. If nothing else, he had a competitive outing against the champ here and laid out Styles, Owens and Zayn to close the show.
SmackDown is in quite the rut at the moment, but this was a better show than we've seen in recent weeks I thought. I enjoyed Owens vs. Ziggler and Styles vs. Corbin, though my opinion on the WWE Championship match at Fastlane hasn't changed: it screams lazy storytelling. The rest of this show wasn't great, nor was it awful, it was just kind of there. The same can be said for SmackDown overall these days. That's a shame considering where the blue brand was around this time one year ago.
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