By Steven Flora
After announcing he'd be taking an indefinite leave of absence from his position, SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon delivered on his promise to make a major WrestleMania announcement, but the plan backfired on him when Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn were not happy with what they heard. Elsewhere, matters intensified between WWE Champion AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, as their WWE Title Match at WrestleMania 34 draws closer.
Zayn & Owens finally get their revenge on Shane McMahon
McMahon was at the center of controversy on Sunday when he cost both Owens and Zayn opportunities to win the WWE Championship. However, Shane-O-Mac, who seemed somewhat pleased over potentially causing a permanent rift between Owens and Zayn, claimed to have a huge WrestleMania announcement.
He first had two blockbuster revelations regarding the future of SmackDown: General Manager Daniel Bryan would return next week, but The “Yes!” Man would be going it alone, as Shane would be taking an indefinite leave of absence as commissioner.
Shane-O-Mac then declared Owens and Zayn would compete against one another at WrestleMania 34, drawing out the irate KO & Sami, who believed Shane was just trying to toy with them one more time before he took off.
Zayn and Owens refused to have it though, mockingly “thanking” Shane for the opportunity at WrestleMania and then proceeding to deliver an unrelenting assault onto Shane that included a Helluva Kick and a Pop-up Powerbomb. WWE officials tried to stop the beatdown, but The “Yep!” Movement took them out too.
From there, Owens and Zayn continued their savage attack, first wrapping a chair around Shane’s throat and smashing it into the ring post, then dragging Shane into the backstage area by both arms and giving him a tandem Powerbomb back-first into heavy steel equipment.
From there, Owens & Zayn left the scene, but not before doing an immense amount of damage on the commissioner, who was hauntingly loaded onto a stretcher as SmackDown concluded.
Side Note: I get this, I honestly do, but I'm really surprised they're doing this three weeks before WrestleMania. This whole SmackDown Live show feels like a mess. The Daniel Bryan/Shane McMahon saga looks like it won't be settled any time soon and the troubles between Kami & Shane McMahon don't look as though they'll be settled either. I hope creative have a backup plan, because at the moment, the WrestleMania card doesn't look full at all.
Shinsuke Nakamura helps A.J. Styles?
A.J. Styles def. Rusev via DQ
Following his nail-biter loss to Nakamura at Fastlane, Rusev squared off against Styles, as WWE’s Rockstar and The Drama King observed from ringside.
Rusev was aggressive in the early goings, wearing down the WWE Champion with an onslaught of offense that was both grounding and dynamic. Just when Styles executed a slick counter to trap The Bulgarian Brute in the Calf Crusher, Aiden English jumped into the ring and attacked the WWE Champion.
Styles was awarded the disqualification victory, but it was small potatoes compared to the beating he was receiving from English and Rusev. After observing the attack for a few moments, The King of Strong Style came to the aid of his WrestleMania opponent, disposing of English and then connecting with the devastating Kinshasa on Rusev.
The mutual respect between Styles and Nakamura remained strong enough tonight, but can it last all the way to WrestleMania?
Side Note: You can have as much respect as you want for a person, but when two people are beating down on your WrestleMania opponent, why in the hell would you help them? Let them beat your opponent, it only means easy-pickings when you face each other next. It doesn't make sense but then Nakamura could be playing mind-games and at this point, and no one does them better than the King of Strong Style.
Triple Threat Match for the U.S. Title?
Jinder Mahal def. Bobby Roode
After Bobby Roode dropped Mahal with a Glorious DDT at Fastlane, and the two engaged in a heated exchange on Team Blue, it was not a surprise to see The Glorious One and Jinder Mahal come out swinging on SmackDown.
Sunil Singh paid for hopping onto the apron when Roode shoved him into the ring post, but Mahal capitalized by connecting with the Khallas for the win. The Modern Day Maharaja did not get long to celebrate, though, as Randy Orton slithered into the ring and hit the unsuspecting Mahal with a ruthless RKO outta nowhere.
For now, The Road to WrestleMania remained quite rocky for the United States Title.
Side Note: Like I said last week, triple threat for sure, since Mahal holds victories over Roode & the NEW U.S. Champion Randy Orton. This match won't be interesting in the slightest, so they need to add a stipulation to at least spice it up a little.
Other Notable Moments:
Carmella def. Naomi: Carmella entered SmackDown fresh off scoring a victory over Naomi in tag team competition at Fastlane, and she’s begun to loosely allude to the idea of cashing in her Money in the Bank contract at WrestleMania. First, however, Ms. Money in the Bank would have to square off against The Glow. The two Superstars picked up right where they left off Sunday, ferociously battling inside the squared circle. Ms. Money in the Bank scored the win by dodging the hard-charging Naomi to leave her tangled in the ropes, then grabbing her by the hair and slamming her to the canvas for the 1-2-3.
Charlotte Flair and Asuka went face-to-face: Following her shocking decision to challenge SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair for the title at WrestleMania, Asuka made her first appearance on SmackDown to go face-to-face with The Queen. Charlotte did not even remotely beat around the bush, making it clear she was ecstatic Asuka chose her as her WrestleMania opponent because it now allowed her the opportunity to end The Empress of Tomorrow’s undefeated streak and cement her own legacy. Asuka absorbed every word The Queen had to say, but she reinforced the idea she bows to no competitor and that no one – not even Charlotte Flair – is ready for Asuka.
The Bludgeon Brothers def. Jimmy Uso & Big E: After suffering a brutal attack at the hands Harper & Rowan on Sunday night at Fastlane, Jimmy Uso and Big E, the only two medically cleared members of The Usos and The New Day, teamed up to seek a measure of retribution against The Bludgeon Brothers. Right from the get-go, Jimmy and Big E were in no mood for messing around, jumping The Bludgeon Brothers during their entrance and getting a solid amount of damage done to the behemoths. Uso and Big E then grabbed chairs, but Harper & Rowan grabbed their mallets and used them to knock the chairs out of their opponent’s hands, causing the unlikely duo to retreat to the outside and regroup. From there, Jimmy & Big E fought valiantly. Although they were cleared to compete, it was evident neither was 100 percent following Sunday’s savage attack. Harper & Rowan overwhelmed their weakened opponents with their vicious powerbomb combo on Jimmy for another emphatic victory. After the match, Harper & Rowan proceeded to drop Big E. The message being sent? The bludgeonings are far from over.
Overall SmackDown Live Rating: C
Things to look forward to next week
Is Nakamura playing mind games with the phenomenal one?
How will Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan & WWE Executives deal with Kevin Owens & Samu Zayn?
The Burial of Rusev Day
More Becky Lynch? Criminally underrated performer
Roode vs. Orton vs. Mahal & WrestleMania for the U.S. Title?