So the road to Wrestlemania has very much begun now, and one the first episode of Smackdown since Fastlane we will surely get more of the route revealed as the blue brand approaches the show of shows. First out is STILL the WWE Champion, AJ Styles. He cuts a promo speaking about how he overcame the odds on Sunday, and how he makes things happen that are ‘unbelievable, not impossible’, he goes on to talk about his dream match that has been set up now between him and Shinsuke Nakamura; he says he has the upmost respect for him but that although they are similar that ends when he steps in the ring because he is phenomenal… and right on queue enters the 2018 Men’s Royal Rumble winner himself. As the crowd get chants of “NA-KA-MU-RA” & “A-J-STYLES” echoing around the arena Shinsuke tells his Wrestlemania opponent that he is a champion and that everyone likes him, but that ‘everyone likes me too’. He goes on to say he respects him, and that at Wrestlemania dreams come true, and that ‘my dream… knee to face… and I become champion” (this was a really intense yet respectful segment, and it really captivated the excitement and anticipation of this upcoming match, I cannot wait). To the delight of the crowd next the music of RUSEV hit, he was accompanied by his companion and musical ally Aiden English as it will be the Bulgarian Brute vs the WWE Champion in our opening match of the show. Lovely stuff.
The crowd were well into this match between 2 of their favourites, both men exchanged offence early on, Rusev hitting a really impressive Spinebuster for a 2 count. An ad break was followed Rusev with AJ on the top rope, and after a possible Superplex that AJ wriggles out of he then plants Rusev’s face into the top of the ringpost. AJ did some more strikes in the ring on Rusev, got a nearfall before Rusev would come back with a huge kick to AJ that got a nearfall of his own. AJ hit a Pele kick and a backbreaker, he went for the Styles Clash but Rusev powered out and went to go for the Accolade submission but AJ was able to get out and try to lock in the Cabcrusher. Rusev would hold on to the middle ropes to stop, AJ rolls him to the floor for the move and once Styles eventually locked the it in Aiden English entered the ring and him and Rusev would beat AJ down to bring an end to the match. Sitting at ringside for the match was Shinsuke Nakamura, who (after taking his time) would eventually come in the ring and make the save. He hit a Kinshasa to Rusev as him and English made their escape. AJ & Nakamura stared each other down before Shinsuke walked off to the back. The build up to this one continues, and each day that passes I am more and more excited by the prospect of it. Both are so loved and have so much respect for one another it only promises to be nothing short of absolutely… PHENOMENAL!!!
We then were shown a recap of the Tag Title match from Fastlane and the destruction that The Bludgeon Brothers dished out afterwards. It really was one hell of a job Harper & Rowan did at the ppv, they’ve made this gimmick work and I’m so happy for them as both are underrated particularly Harper. Big E was walking backstage next, he was spoken to by interviewer Dasha Fuentes, E told her he will represent his New Day brothers Kingston and Woods who are not here after the Bludgeon Brothers’ attack. Jimmy Uso then comes in and tells him that when all their teammates are back they will go to battle again but ‘right now, let’s take care of some business’. So we will have E and Jimmy vs Harper & Rowan then. Cool. AJ Styles was then seen backstage with Shinsuke Nakamura, Styles says he didn’t need Shinsukes help, Shinsuke said it ‘looked like you did… but don’t worry I will help every time until Wrestlemania, then… Knee to Face’. Again, good stuff.
So then we have Big E of The New Day teaming with one half of The Usos Jimmy. They have a pretty entertaining match with The Bludgeon Brothers. Both Big E and Jimmy Uso hitting their opponents with some fierce strikes, Big E all night far from his usual happy-go-lucky self and demonstrated his more serious demeanour in this match here. It was very reminiscent of his NXT days and reminded me just how good Big E can be. Harper and Rowan showed off their power-based offence in this match though, in particular Harper hitting a ferocious big boot to Jimmy Uso, as Big E was thrown into the steel steps by Rowan. With Big E out of action Harper & Rowan hit their double team finisher on Jimmy to get the win. They destroy Big E some more after the match as the career renaissance of these 2 continues onto Wrestlemania (where I imagine they will win the Smackdown Tag Team championships). Really enjoyed this.
There’s a recap of Shane McMahon’s involvement in screwing Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens out of the WWE Championship in the main event of Fastlane. Renee Young is then backstage with Sami Zayn; she asked him who he blames for the loss at Fastlane, he says the obvious answer is Shane McMahon but it’s really Kevin Owens, that he is guilty by association with Owens and so that’s why Shane continues to screw him, that although Owens has always been there for him as far as his career goes he is a self-obsessed ego-maniac, that at Fastlane he was mili-seconds from the WWE Championship, and that’s a price “I’ll never pay again”. I like heel, slightly-delusional Sami so much. He’s great.
Next up CHARLOTTE FLAIR comes out to the ring. She tells the crowd that when you’re a champion you’re always a target, and that when Asuka challenged her she was excited and honoured, and that she wanted to be in the ring to meet her woman to woman. AND THEN ASUKA CAME OUT!!! Charlotte welcomes here to Smackdown Live and says ‘well, I guess as they say you better be careful what you wish for’, Asuka says thank you, Charlotte says that she has travelled all over the world and she is told 2 things; congratulations, and what will happen if you face Asuka? She continues saying that ‘iron sharpens iron, that she wanted to face her and got Goosebumps on Sunday when her music hit, and that although ‘I haven’t faced anyone like you before, but you haven’t faced anyone like me, so at Wrestlemania YOU should be careful what YOU wish for, because I’m going to end your streak and cement my legacy… WOOOOOOOO”! This was really, really good stuff from Charlotte, anytime someone says something that you could imagine them saying outside of WWE it’s so much better for the simple reason that it doesn’t come across as forced. Asuka responds by saying ‘I chose you because I like a challenge, you are the Queen but I am The Empress, and Asuka, Asuka bows to no one, because nobody is ready for ASUKA” (again good, believable stuff). As they were face to face then in the ring, Randy Orton’s music hit… and that was the end of the segment for the women… THAT WAS IT! JUST LIKE LAST WEEK THE US TITLE SEGMENT JUST STARTS BEFORE THE WOMEN’S TITLE SEGMENT ENDS, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?????!!!!! I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START WITH THIS, SO I’LL JUST STOP, BUT THIS HAS HAPPENED TWO WEEKS IN A ROW NOW AND MAKES NO SENSE, WHY NOT JUST HAVE A 30 SECOND ADVERT AND THEN HAVE THE US TITLE SEGMENT BEGIN?! WHY BURY THE WOMEN’S SEGMENT, HAVE A NONE-ENDING AND JUST HAVE THE US TITLE SEGMENT START!? It’s not even like the US title scene is exciting right now…
So let’s talk about the United States Championship segment that followed then… actually… let’s not because it was boring as FUCK! I’ll summarise as quickly as possible so we can move on. So: Randy came out and said how happy he was to be a grand slam champion and how much he respected Bobby Roode, but the title is mine now and he’s taking it to Wrestlemania, Roode came out and said he wants his rematch at Mania, Jinder came out and but both men down, Roode and Jinder had their match which ended when a distracted Roode was hit by Jinder with his finisher and Mahal won, Orton who was at ringside for the match came in and RKO’d Mahal, and the 3 way at Mania without being officially announced yet is surely a certainty now. Great… who cares? Kevin Owens was backstage with Renee Young who asked him for his reaction to what Sami Zayn had to say earlier in the night, Owens said it was all down to Shane McMahon and that he should be WWE Champion right now. He says how much Shane loves the spotlight and that if Sami can’t see Shane is to blame for all this then he has no problem teaching him a lesson and to open his eyes to see the truth. Good stuff this from Owens, once again was believable which means it was good. Naomi vs Carmella next. I lost interest with this match as soon as it all became about each woman pulling the others hair. I thought we had left that shit in 2008? Guess not… Carmella won when she pulled on the ring ropes to knock Naomi down and she pulled her to the ring floor hard and then pinned her. Crap all round here, and it’s a shame because Nomi is great and Carmella is excellent (her character work is really good and she’s improving all the time in-ring) but this was shit. Only notable thing here was Carmella openly teasing a cash in of her Money in The Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania… we shall see.
The show closed with Shane McMahon coming to the ring, apparently to make a big Wrestlemania announcement. He tells us all how he has had issues with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in the last few months (OH MY WORD SHANE WE FUCKING KNOW IT’S BEEN GOING ON FOR 3000 YEARS), and that his emotions had not been befitting the conduct of a Smackdown Commissioner, and that after numerous conversations with Daniel Bryan (who will return next week) he will be going it alone as he is taking a ‘leave of absence’ as Smackdown Live Commissioner, but before that he was making one match… KEVIN OWENS VS SAMI ZAYN AT WRESTLEMANIA! Owens comes out and says he finally agrees with a decision from Shane, with his leave, but that he can beat Sami Zayn but doesn’t have to wait till Wrestlemania. Zayn then comes out and says ‘thank god you’re leaving [Shane] etc. etc.’, Shane says he thought they’d be happy as he gave them an opportunity, Owens and Zayn then beat Shane down really aggressively, including one spot where Zayn got a steel chair as Owens held Shane, he set the chair up, they put Shane’s neck into it and rammed the chair against a ring post so that the impact crushed Shane’s throat and neck, there’s no way that doesn’t hurt even a little bit. They then dragged him all the way to the backstage area before Owens powerbombed McMahon onto some racking. Referees and emergency personnel attended to Shane as the show went off the air. I liked this, makes Owens and Zayn look good and Shane does a job of sorts on his way out (however long it is he’s gone for). Be interesting to see if it is just Owens vs Zayn or they do a handicap match involving Shane of some form or if they add any stipulation to it. I hope they do something like that anyway. Just to end this ever-lasting story if nothing else.
And that was Smackdown. Plenty to talk about that was on this show, some of it was great, some of it was just… there, and some of it was dreadful. But such is to be expected from a Smackdown show in 2018 I guess.
Key Points to Take Home
. I’m ready now, not sure how I’m going cope waiting until Wrestlemania for AJ vs Nakamura
. The Bludgeon Brothers have made it work
. Charlotte vs Asuka… enough said
. The US title scene STILL needs major help to get me interested
. I really wish the Shane/Owens/Zayn story would just conclude already I’m so over it now
Alexa Bliss on Raw this week referred to Smackdown as the “B show”. This was something that has always been labelled at Smackdown, due to the star power that Raw has always had. But Smackdown could always boast that it was ‘the land of opportunity’ that Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan always proclaim it to be. So as we go to Wrestlemania on Smackdown we have arguably the two most anticipated matches of the entire show with Asuka vs Charlotte and AJ vs Nakamura; all great stuff that I don’t think I need to convince anyone to be excited about. We have the Bludgeon Brothers on their way to the tag titles surely which will be a fun match if it even makes it to Mania, the US title scene despite the talent (and Jinder Mahal) it has the most boring creative and with that the US title match at Wrestlemania looks odds on at the moment to be my ‘bathroom break match’. I hope whatever they decide to do with Owens and Zayn next week with Daniel Bryan back is good, I love both Owens and Zayn but I’m becoming so bored of this whole thing now, hopefully before Mania they can re-ignite my interest.
What I’m trying to say is that going in to Wrestlemania it all seems very lop-sided towards Raw in terms of matches and good stories, and again I will say that there is so much potential on Smackdown to have a really good show start to finish that some of it is being wasted, because of lack of direction or no creative whatsoever. I get that Smackdown is an hour shorter than Raw and that may have a lot to do with it, but you had 5/6 names that were on the card for Fastlane that didn’t even appear on this show! What does that tell you about the ppv we all watched? Well it confirms that it was just a filler before Wrestlemania that’s for sure. I always have hope for Smackdown because of the vast array of very talented performers it has, the creative team I no longer have faith in for Smackdown though. I hope I’m wrong but I’m much more excited to watch Raw in the next few weeks than Smackdown. I don’t really see how anything that will affect Wrestlemania can happen between now and then, I feel as if we could just not have a Smackdown between now and then and nothing would be any different. I hope I’m proved wrong. I’m hopeful, but not expecting. I so want to like you Smackdown, PLEASE I BEG YOU; keep me engaged and interested for 2 hours and not thinking why this and that person and underutilised. It can’t be that difficult… surely..???