WrestleMania Week is here! SmackDown Live brings it all home from Nashville, just days before a stacked WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans. Was SmackDown able to keep the momentum and interest riding into “The Grandest Stage of Them All”? Let’s find out!
All photos by WWE.com
SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon make their way to the ring, to a chorus of “Yes!” chants, and give a rundown on how deceitful and villainous Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn happen to be. Bryan and McMahon come to terms with their past tensions, leading to a prolonged desire from the Nashville crowd to have Bryan and McMahon “Hug it out!” Shane tries to settle for a mere handshake, which Bryan refuses. After a few more “hug it out” chants, Bryan and McMahon embrace, and promise to get their revenge on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn at WrestleMania. SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte makes her entrance as Bryan and McMahon head to the back…
Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya
Flair and Natalya have a spirited match here. At times, it gets surprisingly stiff, and the intensity is there throughout. An assortment of headlocks, schoolboy pins, snap suplexes, chain wrestling, headlocks throughout.
The match takes an interesting turn as Charlotte reverses a sleeper hold from the corner with a Backpack Stunner. Charlotte decides to head to the top, hops off with her trademark moonsault… but lands squarely on Natalya’s knees. Charlotte later counters a lariat from Natalya, leaving both of them out of it.
Carmella enters with a referee, running straight to the ring with the Money in the Bank suitcase in hand! Carmella tells match referee Charles Robinson that she’s cashing in. But before she can, Charlotte kicks the briefcase from Carmella hands and squashes her opportunity. Natalya tries to use a schoolboy roll-up, but Charlotte kicks out! Charlotte locks in the Figure Eight and picks up the win.
As Charlotte celebrates her win, Asuka enters the ring and stares her down. Asuka says that Charlotte isn’t ready for her – but Charlotte snatches the mic from Asuka! Charlotte, assuredly, tells Asuka that she’s indeed ready. C’mon, WrestleMania!
Backstage, WWE Champion AJ Styles is interviewed about his WrestleMania challenger, Shinsuke Nakamura. Styles refutes that his emotions are his weakness – his emotions are actually his strength. While his encounter with Nakamura is a “dream match,” Styles enforces that him defeating Nakamura is a reality.
Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal
Bobby Roode enters for his commentary spot during this match. Sunil Singh and Aiden English introduce their prospective accomplices. Rusev and Mahal are both involved in the Fatal Four match for the United States Championship this Sunday at WrestleMania, so both are out to trump the other in this contest.
Mahal has control in the early-goings, with repeated knees and kicks in an attempt to keep Rusev down… but it’s not quite enough. Rusev gains ground, locks Mahal in the Accolade but Mahal manages to get a rope break. Rusev keeps his advantage going, with Singh trying to distract him from an incoming Machka Kick. Singh eats a roundhouse kick for his troubles. Rusev nails a Machka Kick on Mahal for the victory.
While Rusev is celebrating, Randy Orton appears and, literally, delivers an RKO “from outta nowhere”! Bobby Roode enters the ring, picking up the United States title and hands it back to Orton – not before keeping it in his grasp for a few moments first.
Backstage, Shinsuke Nakamura has some words for WWE Champion AJ Styles. Nakamura pretty much admits that he’s been toying with Styles on purpose, but he’s dead-serious about walking out of WrestleMania as the new WWE Champion.
Back from commercial, still backstage, the New Day hype up the WWE Network with free WrestleMania viewings for new subscribers. The Usos eventually crash the party, saying they’ll walk out as retaining champions on Sunday. The Bludgeon Brothers enter… and smash the ground with their hammers, effectively ending the segment.
Breezango, Zack Ryder & Tye Dillinger vs. Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley & Primo Colon
Quick action here, as pretty much everybody lands a spot of their own. In the finishing stretch, Mojo eats a Rough Ryder, who is later bundled out by Primo. Tye Dillinger returns the favour and tosses him out. Ziggler goes for a Fameasser on Dillinger, which is countered. But Ziggler manages to re-counter that with a headscissors to the outside. Tyler Breeze runs in for a superkick, but Ziggler tosses him over the top rope for his troubles. Baron Corbin lands an End of Days on Fandango for the win.
Baron Corbin poses with the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy afterwards, throwing up the deuces for another WrestleMania win.
Selfie promo with Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin. They’re in the main event against Styles & Nakamura tonight, but they promise to send them limping into WrestleMania.
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, who are technically still fired, wreck the show by talking trash to Bryan & McMahon while standing on the announcer’s table. Zayn apologizes in advance to Brie for the beating that they plan to give Daniel – with plans to “obliterate” him. Owens runs down Shane McMahon by promising to send him back to Titan Tower in tears.
Eventually, their microphones are cut and they decide to leave through the crowd. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon make their entrance and tell the Nashville crowd to take the last photos they can of Owens and Zayn on SmackDown Live. Shane leads Nashville into singing “Na na na na…” And you know the rest.
AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Chad Gable and Nakamura start things off here with various sequences: countered waistlocks, armbars, takedowns, switches and bridges. Nakamura eventually slithers out of Gable’s holds, tagging in AJ Styles with a coy pat on the head. Styles gets heated, getting in Nakamura’s face… before Styles is double-teamed by Gable and Benjamin. Styles is deep in their territory as we come back from a commercial break.
Styles tries diligently to get back to his corner. When he does, Nakamura gets the hot tag and lands a string of offence. Eventually, Gable gets a blind tag and takes Nakamura down. Gable goes for a moonsault and eats canvas. Commercial break.
Nakamura and Gable are going at it after the commercial. Gable counters a clothesline with a German suplex that gets a near fall. Gable tags in Benjamin, who keeps Nakamura down with snapmares, elbows, and strikes before locking him in a sleeper. Nakamura eventually fights out and trades some balanced blows with Benjamin before they’re both taken out.
Styles tags in! We get a Styles Rush and Pele Kick to Benjamin. Gable tries to go for an inside cradle, but it’s countered. Styles turns to Nakamura in corner and stares him down. Styles hopes onto the apron next to Nakamura, and delivers a Phenomenal Forearm to Gable for the win.
Styles celebrates by brandishing his WWE Championship while walking up the ramp. Benjamin attacks Nakamura from behind in the ring! Styles has a moment of hesitation, but he fights Benjamin off and “saves” his opponent. While Nakamura regains his vertical base, AJ Styles springboards from the apron for a Phenomenal Forearm… and fakes him out! Just like Nakamura’s fake-out last week. Nakamura is not happy at all. WWE Champion AJ Styles exits, having made his point. We’ve got a dream match on Sunday!
This SmackDown Live go-home show, while lacking in surprises, was succinct in it’s storytelling going into WrestleMania. SmackDown is represented with 5 matches on the 13-match WrestleMania card, so there’s room for any of those features to steal the show – even with Styles vs. Nakamura in the Superdome.