By Steven Flora
With the WWE Championship Fatal 5-Way Match at Fastlane coming into focus, WWE Champion AJ Styles took on Baron Corbin in non-title competition, while Kevin Owens squared off against Dolph Ziggler, with Sami Zayn playing a pivotal role in both bouts.
Styles and Corbin thwart the threat of KAMI
Non-Title Match: WWE Champion A.J. Styles def. Baron Corbin
An old rivalry was rekindled on SmackDown as Baron Corbin attempted to make a major statement against AJ Styles in a non-title contest.
Corbin, who had come out on top against Styles the last two times they faced, competed with confidence because of his track record. The Lone Wolf used his size and strength to wear Styles down, making it difficult for the WWE Champion to get rolling with his explosive offense. However, as he always does, Styles rallied, breaking free from The Lone Wolf’s clutches, taking to the sky and putting him down for three following an utterly Phenomenal Forearm. Winner: WWE Champion A.J. Styles.
The Phenomenal One would have no time to celebrate, however, as Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn hit the ring and pounced on Styles, knocking him out of the squared circle. KO followed Styles’ limp body to the outside, while Zayn stayed inside. The tides quickly turned, though, when Corbin found a burst of energy and dropped an unsuspecting Zayn with End of Days. Owens, noticing this, hit the ring to attempt to avenge his best friend, but felt a similar fate, also succumbing to The End of Days.
Corbin lost the battle, but he proved there is a lot of road left to go before anyone wins the war at Fastlane.
Side Note: Tom Phillips made a statement that almost caught me off guard … Corbin is the one in this situation who has nothing left to lose. He's gone through hell and back, including winning and losing his Money In The Bank contract. Now he has a huge chance to prove himself to the WWE universe and also the doubters who believe he brings nothing to WWE.
Owens prevails over the Show Off thanks to his Guardian Angel
Kevin Owens def. Dolph Ziggler
With chaos running rampant on SmackDown, Owens and Ziggler squared off, each wanting to carve out a stronger position with the WWE Championship Fatal 5-Way Match at Fastlane on the horizon.
Continuing to show no signs of ring rust after his multi-week absence, Ziggler appeared to have KO on the ropes several times. However, in a surprise to many, Owens snatched the victory when Sami Zayn ran out to distract Ziggler, allowing KO to hit a picture-perfect superkick right to The Showoff’s dome piece for the win.
After the match, Owens seemed somewhat surprised by Zayn’s assist, suggesting all was not yet right within The “Yep!” Movement. Winner: Kevin Owens.
Side Note: It a good match until Zayn got involved, as you knew how it would play out, and it's just a shame a good match was ruined.
Jinder Mahal delivers a “Roode Awakening”
With the animosity between Jinder Mahal, United States Champion Bobby Roode and Randy Orton continuing to build, Mahal (flanked by Sunil Singh) arrived on SmackDown with a copy of what he claimed to be Roode’s Top 10 Superstars List ballot. The Modern Day Maharaja declared that Roode voted for himself at No. 1 and had neither Mahal nor Orton on it. Mahal used this piece of information to try and drive the wedge further between The Glorious One and The Viper, claiming it’s clear Roode has no respect for The Apex Predator.
Not thrilled with these assertions, the United States Champion interrupted, suggesting he saw through Mahal’s plan to pit him and Orton against each other simply as a means for Jinder to carve out an easier path to the United States Title. This led to a heated exchange between Roode and Mahal that Orton soon broke up with his arrival.
Without saying a word, The Viper stepped to Roode, and a brawl soon erupted. Orton punched Mahal, which Roode followed up by clotheslining Mahal over the top rope. The Apex Predator then went to RKO The Glorious One, but Roode turned it around into a Glorious DDT. The United States Champion stood tall, but only for a moment, as The Modern Day Maharaja slid back into the ring and dropped Roode with the Khallas.
Side Note: You can just tell this feud is stagnated and I'm still wondering how in the hell Mahal figures into this feud with Roode & Orton. I guess you can't have Mahal lose his WWE title and then disappear. Mahal's time has come and for now, it looks like it will be triple threat match at Fastlane for the U.S. Title with Mahal taking the pinfall.
Other Notable Moments:
The Riott Squad vs. Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch & Naomi: With SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair targeting the members of The Riott Squad and defeating Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan over the past several weeks, it appeared Ruby Riott was the only one left for The Queen to conquer. However, it seems fair to ask whether Riott is displaying signs of brilliance or panic at the thought of facing Charlotte one-on-one. This Six-Woman Tag Team Match was a different story, as Riott had both Morgan & Logan by her side. Flair, Lynch & Naomi did not hold back in attempting to unleash an onslaught on the controversial Riott Squad, but Ruby picked up a point in her favor, defeating The Irish Lass Kicker with a wicked Riott Kick after a flurry of action. After the match, Charlotte rolled into the ring to tend to her fallen friend, and in a bit of role reversal, Ruby could be seen saying “one down, two to go.” Later in the evening it was made official that both Superstars would get their chance to face off against the other when Flair vs. Riott for the SmackDown Women's Title was made official for Fastlane. Winner: The Riott Squad.
The New Day vs. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable to challenge SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos at Fastlane: Following a controversial loss last week, Benjamin & Gable demanded a rematch against The New Day on SmackDown. The New Day did not waffle in the face of the challenge, accepting without hesitation. In announcing the rematch on Twitter, SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan acknowledged the interference by Xavier Woods last week and turned this match into an opportunity, with the winners earning the opportunity to face off against SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos at Fastlane. As is always the case with these two squads, the bout was action-packed and seemingly never-ending, with both pairs looking as though they were closing in on victory several times. It appeared Benjamin & Gable may have had the victory locked up when they caught Big E with their impressive double-team Powerbomb Bulldog. However, Kofi Kingston jumped up onto the apron, taking the referee’s attention. By the time the official turned back around to the action in the ring, Big E kicked out, and The New Day prevailed after Woods caught Benjamin flush with a vicious knee to the face. After the contest, The New Day’s celebration was temporarily halted when The Bludgeon Brothers hit the scene. The New Day couldn’t help but react to the sheer size of Harper & Rowan as the two behemoths walked past them. At one point, it appeared Rowan was ready to step to Big E, Kofi & Woods, but Harper stopped him, and the two then continued on to the ring to prepare for action. Winner: The New Day.
The Bludgeon Brothers vs. Local Competitors: With making a statement to SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos (and now maybe The New Day as well) clearly on their minds, The Bludgeon Brothers continued to bludgeon their opposition in rare form, decimating their competition in short order for an emphatic and decisive victory. Winner: The Bludgeon Brothers.
Overall SmackDown Live Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
Is Baron Corbin a bigger threat to the WWE Championship as he's the man with nothing to lose?
Roode vs. Mahal for the U.S. Title at Fastlane?
What happened to Mike Kanellis and the power of love?
When will the Bludgeon Brothers go after the SmackDown Live Tag Team Titles?