By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Sasha Banks def. Divas Champion Charlotte (Non-title)
When was the last time the women kicked off Raw or SmackDown? I was excited to see the Divas tag team match open Fastlane last month and this was another encouraging step in the right direction. I would have waited to hold the first ever singles match between Banks and Charlotte or at least advertised it in advance, but I was glad they didn't give too much away yet still had a enjoyable match in the time they were allotted. Becky Lynch performed well on commentary and I was happy she got the upperhand afterward, showing she isn't an afterthought in the feud. Is anyone else more excited for the Divas Championship Triple Threat than a majority of the matches on the card?
Sheamus def. WWE Tag Team Champion Kofi Kingston
I'm glad the talking between the two stables was kept to a minimum here unlike on Raw where it felt like it dragged on forever. Sheamus and Kingston have worked together a handful of times in the past (Kingston actually beat Sheamus for the United States Championship five years ago), so it wasn't a surprise that they produced another good match on this show. It was also important for Sheamus to score the victory considering League of Nations have had zero momentum up to this point. Being there live, I can tell you that New Day was one of the most over acts on the entire show. Their shirt sold out at the merchandise stand faster than anyone else's!
The Usos def. The Ascension
The crowd reacted favorably to The Usos yet couldn't have cared less about Ascension, which was to be expected. The match was over relatively quickly and was kept short and sweet as it should have been to give The Usos a nice win. I figured The Dudley Boyz would stop them from putting Ascension through tables, but apparently not. Boston ate that spot up, though. All signs point to The Usos vs. Dudley Boyz at WrestleMania becoming a Tables match.
Sami Zayn and Dolph Ziggler def. Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens and The Miz
I love Owens dodging Zayn at every turn. It will make that moment when Zayn ultimately gets his hands on Owens mean that much more. As for the match itself, it was very well-wrestled and all four guys played their roles well. I'll never know why Miz and Owens continue to team after all the times Owens has attacked Miz, but at least The Awesome One scored a measure of revenge by hitting Owens with a Skull Crushing Finale during the bout. Zack Ryder laying out Owens during the post-match brawl with a Rough Ryder shocked the hell out of me, but it must have been a cool moment for him. Woo woo woo, you know it!
Bubba Ray Dudley def. Roman Reigns by Disqualification
I was actually looking forward to seeing these two have the hard-hitting match I know they're capable of, but instead Reigns beat the holy hell out of Dudley and the match was over before it even began. I wasn't too disappointed by that because it was clear that the intent was to make Reigns look strong and like a total badass, so mission accomplish I guess. I've been liking the extra aggression he has been showing as of late, but I don't think it necessarily means it's a guarantee he will be going heel soon (even though he certainly should).
AJ Styles def. Tyler Breeze
Being able to see Styles live in WWE for the first time was a treat. His entrance alone was an absolute spectacle. Breeze didn't get much offense in over Styles, but it was a fun little match while it lasted. It could have been something more had it gone longer, but the main purpose was to give Styles a credible victory coming off his loss to Owens on Raw. I was surprised Chris Jericho didn't appear at all since I assumed this was where they would make their WrestleMania match official.
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman Called Out Dean Ambrose
You have not lived life until you have seen Lesnar in person. I've been fortunate enough to see him live three times in the last seven months (SummerSlam, Raw and now SmackDown). Heyman cut a great promo about Lesnar's upcoming No Holds Barred battle with Dean Ambrose and Lesnar wasted no time in decimating The Wyatt Family. Lesnar delivering a suplex to Braun Strowman was quite the sight to see, but poor Wyatt Family. They have never meant less. The brief exchange between Lesnar and Ambrose was entertaining and their 'Mania match should be something special. I don't see Ambrose winning, but rather looking strong in defeat.
I only caught parts of this show on television, but being there live, it was an awesome experience as it was my first SmackDown taping in almost seven years. The crowd was livelier in person than it was on TV, but they were far from dead. There were several solid matchups as well as plenty of build for WrestleMania, so I'd chalk it up to being a successful show. If nothing else, it was a significant upgrade over Raw from Monday night (but I'm probably biased because I was in attendance).
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