Rusev and Jinder Mahal def. United States Champion Randy Orton and Bobby Roode
Mahal noted beforehand that Sunil Singh was still "hurt" from last week's attack at the hands of Orton and Roode, so he was replaced by Rusev in this match instead. They were actually tag team partners over a year ago and had a falling out, but apparently the company doesn't remember that. I fully expected Rusev to eat the pinfall loss for his team, but he ended up pinning Orton as I hoped he would, which led him to being added to the United States Championship bout at WrestleMania. The matchup was solid albeit a bit formulaic, though, and it ate up a good chunk of time.
Becky Lynch def. Ruby Riott
This was better than most women's matches we tend to see on SmackDown Live nowadays because it was actually competitive and featured fun back-and-forth action. Lynch managed to overcome the odds, further making The Riott Squad look weak in the process. I can't complain about that at this point because they're already weak as can be. As for Lynch, I would love to see her win the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal and then move to Raw, but I'm not sure how likely that is.
SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan Addressed Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
It's amazing how far Bryan as come on the mic over the years because now anything he says feels real and the audience hangs on his every word. As expected, he announced a tag team match for WrestleMania where if Owens and Zayn beat Bryan and Shane McMahon, they will earn their jobs back. I could certainly see a scenario where Bryan goes heel and aligns with Owens and Zayn to cover for his likely loss in his first bout back. As for Shane, he was hospitalized this week and I'd be shocked if he was cleared in time for the event. I assume someone else will end up taking his place, but I'm not sure who.
The Bludgeon Brothers def. The New Day by Disqualification
This match had plenty of potential to be a blast, but it was over as soon as it got started once The Usos ran out to attack The Bludgeon Brothers. I was fine with that finish because you can always go back to this down the road, and The Usos wanting to seek revenge for being laid out by Harper and Rowan last week was logical. The three teams will meet in a Triple Threat matchup for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania, and I have my fingers crossed it won't be bumped to the Kickoff show because The Usos deserve to be on the main card and it could very well steal the show.
Dolph Ziggler def. Tyler Breeze
Breeze made his main roster debut in a feud with Ziggler two and a half years ago, and now both guys couldn't mean less. Thus, it should come as no surprise that both men will be involved in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and this served as hype for that. It was painless yet pointless. Moreover, it left me wondering why Ziggler bothered to re-sign with the company recently (aside from the money, of course).
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin in a SmackDown main event? When was the last time that happened? I don't say that as a bad thing, as this was a very well-wrestled match and a refreshing change of pace from what we've been getting in the main event slot lately. Afterward, Nakamura and AJ Styles engaged in a heated verbal exchange, which was desperately needed. This rivalry has underwhelmed so far, so I appreciated how their segment put some heat on their WWE Championship match at 'Mania.
The road to WrestleMania on the SmackDown side hasn't been the best, but this was a well-done show all things considered. More matches were either confirmed or changed, and the in-ring action was average on the whole. The two hours seemed to fly by more than usual, but there wasn't anything must-see, either. Similar to with Raw, a strong go-home show next week can go a long way in building excitement for WrestleMania. I'm sure the event will be a spectacle no matter what, but that final hype is crucial.
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