After weeks of stagnant television, WWE SmackDown kicked into high gear this week just under four weeks away from WrestleMania 34.
Following Fastlane on Sunday night, WWE attempted to tie up some loose ends while also renewing some feuds and opening some new ones for the biggest show of the year. One feud in particular, in the main event segment this week, has the world talking about what the ramifications could be and if the story will be parlayed into a gigantic return at WrestleMania.
Though the second hour of the show was great, the first hour was still a bit of a slog. In the end, what did we learn on this week's WWE SmackDown?
1. AJ Styles Is A Confident Champion
The show opened with AJ Styles coming out, still the WWE champion following the six-pack challenge at Fastlane. He spoke about carrying the title into WrestleMania against Shinsuke Nakamura, which prompted the fans to chant "you deserve it." Styles responded "no, I earned it," which the fans wildly cheered.
Styles talked about being just like the fans outside the ring, the every man's champion, but being phenomenal once he enters the ring. Styles was doing his best to be the dominant, confident champion which was nice to see since his booking has almost felt secondary in recent months.
They then brought out Nakamura for a mid-ring faceoff, because that's the way this company always books championship matches. We got Nakamura struggling to speak English in front of the fans in this confrontation with Styles, prompting some awkward "What?" chants. As I've written numerous times in the past, there's just no reason they need to put Nakamura in these awkward situations. He's one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the company and doesn't need to talk to get over. It hurts him more than anything. If they insist on verbal exchanges, give him a mouth piece. You don't see Brock Lesnar out there talking because he's not good at it. The same should apply here.
We meet again. pic.twitter.com/3L6FrIwGRN— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) March 14, 2018
The segment was interrupted out of nowhere by Rusev, because logic would indicate that the guy who has barely been used on televsion for weeks would interrupt this big face for SmackDown's WrestleMania main event (I'm being saracastic). Rusev is super over with the crowd and should be used way more on the show, but this made absolutely no sense.
It transitioned into a Styles vs. Rusev match to start the show, with no hype whatsoever, which was won by Styles following interference from Aiden English. A very good match, as well. Rusev had one of the best matches of the night on Sunday with Nakamura, then a great television match here with Styles, further proving his worth. But to just throw him into stuff like this with no reasoning whatsoever does nothing for him moving forward.
Following English and Rusev double teaming Styles after the bell, Nakamura came to the save before staring at Styles and walking off.
2. The Tag Division is the Highlight of This Show
We got an unlikely tag team this week as Big E and Jimmy Uso tagged up to take on the Bludgeon Brothers. Following the Bludgeon's utter destruction of both teams on Sunday at Fastlane, they were the only two left standing that could compete (Jimmy at his right arm wrapped, by the way).
IT'S AN UCE DAY, YES IT IS. pic.twitter.com/YSn2iDLHdz— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) March 14, 2018
After Jimmy and Big E jumped them on the ramp during their entrance, they grabbed some chairs and waited in the ring. This prompted the Bludgeons to grab their mallets.
The match finally got started and was a powerhouse display by the Bludgeons. They destroyed Uso and Big E, winning with a big powerbomb to Jimmy. Following the match, Harper and Rowan destroyed Big E on the outside of the ring before walking out.
The tag division has been the highlight on this show for quite some time. The slow build of the Bludgeon Brothers has been great and as I wrote last week, the Usos are arguably the best thing going on SmackDown right now (yes, Styles is the best performer, but his last couple of month's booking has left a lot to be desired).
3. The U.S. Title Picture Will Remain The Same
Randy Orton is now a grand slam champion, becoming the U.S. champion at Fastlane this past Sunday. As predicted, this will allow Roode to invoke his rematch clause to keep the feud going until WrestleMania.
Jinder Mahal isn't going anywhere either. He interrupted a segment between Roode and Orton this week as they spoke about Roode's rematch at WrestleMania. Orton watched from ringside as Mahal wrestled Roode. Following some distractions from Samil Singh, Mahal was able to get the victory so you know he'll use this as leverage to be added to the Mania bout.
Orton came into the ring and gave Mahal a RKO out of nowhere as he was celebrating his victory.
Hey, got a second? pic.twitter.com/Zst5JnHuqj— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) March 14, 2018
4. This Is Going To Be (Truly) Awesome
The "this is awesome" chants at WWE events are overdone, but the pending match at WrestleMania between Charlotte and Asuka will truly be deserving of that treatment.
After Asuka made it known that she would be facing Charlotte at Mania this past Sunday at Fastlane, the two went face to face in the ring on this week's SmackDown.
Charlotte called Asuka to the ring and told her "be careful what you wish for." Flair talked about traveling the world and hearing two things: congratulations on her own accomplishments and people wondering what would happen if she faced Asuka. She admitted to wanting to face Asuka and was hoping that she would pick her just so that she could have the challenge. She noted she's never faced anyone like Asuka but said Asuka has never faced anyone like her either.
One is an EMPRESS... One is a QUEEN...March 14, 2018
Asuka got on the microphone and said she chose to Charlotte (rather than Alexa Bliss) because she likes a challenge. She said Flair is a queen but she is an Empress and she doesn't bow down to anyone.
This was a good segment that was kept brief, as it should have been. Though I sometimes wonder if Asuka being on the microphone is more detrimental than helpful, similar to Shinsuke Nakamura, her delivery is definitely more clear and better than Nakamura's.
It was interesting that they didn't directly address Bliss' comments from RAW on Monday night in her face to face with Asuka, I guess taking the route that these two will take the high road (as two babyfaces) where as Bliss, a heel, takes the low road.
5. The Storyline That Has Everyone Talking
The main event segment was pumped throughout the show as Shane McMahon coming out to make a special announcement. What has everyone talking isn't that announcement, but the ramifications of what happened after the announcement.
McMahon announced he was relinquishing his spot as SmackDown commissioner for the time being because he has become too emotionally invested in what has been going on with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, pin-pointing the start of it to when Owens attacked his father Vince last year. He said he would be stepping away and GM Daniel Bryan would return next week to run the show on his own. He also announced Owens vs. Zayn for WrestleMania.
However, this brought out Zayn and Owens, together again and on the same page once more, and they proceeded to beat McMahon senseless all over the ringside area and backstage. At one point he was rammed into the ring post with a chair around his neck, and the show closed with McMahon in pain and barely able to breathe after taking a powerbomb on top of some equipment backstage.
Goodbye, Mr. Shane. pic.twitter.com/DF7AEQLbjz— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) March 14, 2018
It would seem that this is leading to Shane and a partner taking on Owens and Zayn at WrestleMania. The logical direction would be Daniel Bryan tagging up with McMahon, which immediately had everyone talking after the show Tuesday night about a possible Bryan return. Logically, Bryan would make all the sense in the world but it would also mean that WWE needs to clear him to perform again. The way the story has built over the last couple months, it would make you think it almost has to be Bryan.
Who else could it be? It would obviously need to be a top name to be put into this position, and no name on the active SmackDown roster who isn't slated for something at WrestleMania already would seem to make sense.0comments
Outside of Bryan, the only other name I can come up with that would make sense here is Chris Jericho. He has the built-in storyline with Owens that has yet to be completely resolved, though Jericho is booked for a concert on the day of WrestleMania in New Hampshire with his band Fozzy. Then again, concerts can always be cancelled.
We'll have to wait and see where this goes, but there's no doubt the closing segment of SmackDown got the world talking and gave the brand a much needed shot in the arm after some lackluster television in recent weeks.