Live from Phoenix, Arizona (for the second night in a row), this is Smackdown Live for episode #965. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.
The show began with a shot of the WrestleMania sign and the crowd in Phoenix. Renee Young was in the ring. She introduced the WWE Champion AJ Styles.
Let’s Hear From AJ Styles
The great AJ Styles made his entrance with the WWE Championship around his waist. He will face Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler in a Fatal 5-Way for the WWE Championship at Fastlane on March 11. The announce team of Tom Phillips, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton welcomed us to the show.
The fans chanted “AJ Styles” before Renee could get conduct the interview. Styles posed on the turnbuckles, which drew more cheers. Renee asked Styles about the disadvantage he’s in at Fastlane. Styles stared at the WrestleMania sign saying he’s still in control of his own destiny. Styles said he feels like he can beat any man in the ring and he knows it’s cocky, but he’s backed it up his whole life. Styles pointed out the announcer’s table saying that it would feel good to put Kevin Owens through the announcer’s table. Styles pointed in the middle of the ring saying that while that happens, Dolph Ziggler could pin Sami Zayn and Styles will no longer be WWE Champion. Styles pointed out the steel stairs were tailor-made for Sami Zayn’s face, but back in the middle of the ring, Dolph Ziggler can beat Kevin Owens and he’s no longer the WWE Champion. Styles pointed out there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
Styles said individually he can take them all. Styles put over Owens saying he knows what he’s capable of, but he can take him. Styles said Zayn is ruthless when he wants to be, but he can beat him. Styles mentioned Ziggler holding multiple championships and he is the show off, but he is not phenomenal. Styles was about to mention Baron Corbin and right on cue (imagine that), Corbin’s music interrupted him.
Corbin made his entrance with a microphone in hand. Corbin told Styles can’t beat him. Corbin reminded Styles that the last time he faced him, Corbin beat Styles for the US Title and he beat him again in his rematch. Corbin got into the ring. Corbin said he has AJ’s number because of a major difference between them – Corbin said that Styles is an athlete while Corbin is a fighter. Corbin said he’ll pin Styles or he’ll just pin somebody else because there’s nothing Styles can do about it. Corbin added that you’re looking at the new WWE Champion.
Kevin Owens was up next for the interruption. Corbin said he did everybody a favor by shutting them up. Owens told Styles that the only person going through the announcer’s table is Styles courtesy of a Popup Powerbomb. Owens told Corbin didn’t look tough when he was writhing in pain. Corbin pointed out that last week he dropped Owens like a punk that he is. Owens told Corbin he doesn’t belong near the WWE Title, but Shane’s vendetta against Owens has given Corbin the opportunity. Owens pointed out that Shane has had it in for him since Owens headbutted Vince McMahon.
Styles told Owens he looked great, asking him if he got that boil lanced off his back. Owens: “What?” Zayn said the boil was Sami Zayn and not a lot of people laughed. Owens talked about how Zayn let him down last week because Zayn lost to Ziggler and he didn’t have enough time to prepare like Zayn did.
Shane McMahon’s music interrupted the promo fest. Good ovation for Shane like usual with fans chanting “Shane O Mac” for him. Shane did a promo on the ramp. Shane said he didn’t think they wanted to hear talk in Phoenix. Shane said they wanted action and told Corbin he’s in the main event against AJ Styles. Shane said that this may add to KO’s conspiracy theory and put Owens in a singles match. Shane told Owens his match starts right now….against this man…Dolph Ziggler.
Ziggler walked by Owens and Owens went up to Shane to complain as the show went to break.
Analysis: It was the usual opening promo segment where people voice their opinions to set up a match. The most shocking thing is that it didn’t set up a tag match. The “boil” line by Styles failed miserably because the crowd didn’t pick up on it all. Other than that, it was fine.
The bell rang as they returned from the break.
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler attacked, Owens went to the floor and they went back into the ring with Ziggler hitting a dropkick to send Owens out of the ring again. Ziggler sent Owens back into the ring. When Owens tried a move, Ziggler nailed another dropkick. Owens bailed to the floor for the third time. This time it worked with Ziggler going after Owens and Owens sent Ziggler into the barricade. Owens was on the apron, so Ziggler hit another dropkick to knock Owens down. Welcome to Dropkick City, I guess. Graves and Saxton argued about things being unfair at Fastlane. Owens whipped Ziggler against the side of the ring apron. Back in the ring, Owens with a senton splash attempt, but Ziggler moved out of the way. Ziggler hit a corner splash followed by a suplex. Owens with a kick to the knee, back elbow by Ziggler, corner charge missed by Ziggler and Owens hit a cannonball on Ziggler against the turnbuckle for a two count as they went to break.
The show returned with both guys in the ring with Phillips asking who will “gain momentum” heading towards Fastlane. The “gain momentum” thing is something WWE loves pushing on commentary. Ziggler nailed a sweet leaping DDT on Owens. Ziggler hit a neckbreaker for two. Ziggler set up for a superkick, Owens avoided it and hit a gutbuster followed by an elbow drop off the ropes for a two count. Owens went up top, Ziggler went after him and Owens fought him off with a headbutt. Owens went for a Senton off the top rope, but Ziggler got the knees up to block. Ziggler hit the Fameasser, which got a two count like it has done in nearly every Ziggler match for about a decade. The fans thought that might be it. Fans chanted “this is awesome” for them although it was not the full crowd. Owens wanted a Popup Powerbomb, but Ziggler slipped out of it and Ziggler hit the Zig Zag for a two count. That was Ziggler’s old finisher. Ziggler hit a splash in the corner. Sami Zayn’s music hit to interrupt the match with Zayn running down to the ring. With Ziggler looking at Zayn, Owens nailed a superkick to the back of the head and covered Ziggler to win. It went about 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Kevin Owens
Analysis: ***1/4 It was a good match that was very competitive with a lot of nearfalls for each guy. Ziggler looked like he was going to win a few times. I don’t really like the interference where a guy’s music plays to distract, but that’s what WWE likes to do sometimes leading to the finish. Ziggler got the win over Zayn last week, so having Zayn cost Ziggler makes sense and also reflects 50/50 booking with Ziggler losing this week after a win last week. The “this is awesome” chant from the crowd was well deserved.
Zayn and Owens exchanged a look. A replay aired of the superkick. Owens celebrated the win.
Still to come: Six woman tag match. They mentioned the Top 10 List talking about the issue between #5 Bobby Roode, #9 Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal, who wasn’t on the list. Jinder is up next because he was shown walking backstage with Sunil Singh.
There was a quick video package about Charlotte Flair sponsored by Popeyes.
Let’s Hear From Jinder Mahal
Jinder Mahal was in the ring with Sunil Singh with both guys in black suits, so I guess Mahal won’t be put into an impromptu tag team match. Mahal said that he discovered something about Bobby Roode holding a secret, but Mahal was about the truth.
Mahal said he had Bobby Roode’s superstar list with Roode listed at number one. Mahal said Roode broke the rule voting himself number one. Mahal said he's not on there and there’s no Randy Orton on the list either. Mahal claimed that Roode fancies himself as being better than Randy Orton and being the new legend killer. Mahal said the rude awakening is that Roode is an egomaniac and an inglorious liar.
Bobby Roode walked out with the US Title on his shoulder and he was in a suit. Roode said that it wasn’t his list. Roode said he had a secret on Mahal while adding that Mahal can’t even make a Top 10 list. Roode said that Mahal wants to put Orton against Roode to make sure Roode is looking over his shoulder. Roode said that in a fair fight, Mahal knows he can’t beat Roode. Mahal said that Roode’s right that Mahal wishes he was the US Champion. Mahal claimed that he needs Roode to admit that he thinks he is better than Orton. Roode said he never said that. Roode said he never said that he thinks he’s the next Legend Killer. Mahal thinks that Roode is scared of Orton. Roode said he never said any of those things, but he said he’s not scared of Mahal. Roode told Mahal to forget about Orton. Roode said this is about Mahal and Roode.
Randy Orton walked out in his ring gear. Orton got into the ring. Orton exchanged words with Roode, Orton punched Roode and Roode hit a clothesline on Mahal to knock him out of the ring. Roode knocked Sunil Singh out of the ring. Orton went for a RKO on Roode, but Roode avoided it and Roode hit a Glorious DDT. Roode’s music started to play, but Mahal snuck up behind Roode and hit The Khallas to knock him down. Mahal was standing tall with Sunil by his side.
Analysis: It was a decent segment to set up the three-way rivalry. The problem with this thing is the Top 10 List was pointless from the moment they announced it, so having a feud based off a made up Top 10 List really doesn’t come off as that interesting. I’m also not a fan of a 3-Way feud when the next PPV has a 5-Way match in the main event. These kinds of things feel very repetitive, yet WWE doesn’t seem to give a shit and continually set up these kinds of matches.
Daniel Bryan was shown in the office watching what happened. Shane McMahon was there too. Bryan suggested Roode vs. Mahal and Shane suggested Roode vs. Orton, so they said they are not on the same page. Shane talked about adding Corbin and Ziggler to Fastlane after they earned the opportunity. Bryan talked about how whenever he makes a decision, Shane makes it difficult. Shane said it would be Roode vs. Orton for the US Title at Fastlane. Bryan said okay if that’s what he wants, boss. Bryan left.
Analysis: More bickering from Bryan and Shane. I was writing way back in November about how one of them needs to turn heel for something interesting to happen. It’s late February and not a lot of progress has been made. Smackdown creative has been going through the motions for too long.
Charlotte Flair, the Smackdown Women’s Champion, made her entrance. She’s in the Mixed Match Challenge match after Smackdown when she teams with Bobby Roode against Apollo and Nia Jax. Charlotte is in action up next.
Becky Lynch was in the ring completing her entrance as a teammate of Charlotte. Naomi made her “glow” entrance to join her partners. Naomi had some glow hair for her entrance, but she took it off before entering the ring.
The Riott squad trio of Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan made their entrance. Charlotte beat Logan and Morgan in singles matches in back to back weeks.
Analysis: This match was announced before Raw’s tag team match, but doing a 6-women tag on Smackdown one night after a 6-woman tag on Raw is lame. Please try to make the shows more different, WWE.
Charlotte Flair, Naomi & Becky Lynch vs. Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan
Charlotte started with Logan. Naomi used her athleticism on Logan early with a kick to the leg, Lynch tagged in and a double team hip toss followed by a leg drop. Lynch hit a running leg drop on Logan. Logan pulled Lynch down by the hair, Riott tagged in, Lynch avoided a double team move, Naomi in with a dropkick and the faces cleared house from there as Charlotte hit Morgan with a clothesline.
Back from break, Lynch with an arm drag and an armbar on Riott. Naomi tagged in with a leap over the top with a sunset flip into a pin attempt. Morgan tagged in with a running shoulder tackle on Naomi and then Naomi sent Morgan into the middle turnbuckle. Naomi with a split legged moonsault on Morgan. Riott and Logan pulled Morgan out of the ring, so Naomi jumped onto the two heels floor. Morgan sent Naomi into the steel steps. Back into the ring, the heels were in control working over Naomi with Logan slapping on an armbar. When Naomi got back to her feet, Logan hit her with an elbow to keep Naomi down. Naomi avoided a corner attack, avoided a suplex and a hurricanrana took down Logan. Charlotte got the hot tag with a back elbow on Logan followed by a chop and a knee to the face. Charlotte with a neckbreaker followed by a running boot. Kick by Charlotte knocked Morgan off the apron. Logan with a chop block on Charlotte’s left knee and she did it again. Charlotte kicked Logan away leading to a tag by Lynch, who hit a missile dropkick. Riott tagged in, kick by Lynch and two suplexes from Lynch followed by a forearm on Riott. When Lynch went for the Disarmer, Riott got a rollup and Lynch applied the Disarmer again. Morgan into the ring, Charlotte with a suplex, Naomi in, Logan decked her with a kick, Lynch sent Logan out of the ring and Riott recovered with a leaping kick to the head of Lynch for the pinfall win. It went 13 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan
Analysis: **3/4 It was a pretty good match. Logan and Morgan are improving every week. There are some awkward moments, but a lot less than there were when they first got called up. The outcome was what I expected because this story seems to be building up Riott for a title shot against Charlotte. That’s why WWE booked this match. I’m glad that it wasn’t Charlotte that got pinned because they do that far too often, so having Riott beat Lynch is fine in this scenario.
Kevin Owens was in the locker room. Sami Zayn showed up and Owens said he wanted to thank Zayn, but Zayn said he needed to thank Owens. Zayn said for a long time, Zayn was doing nothing and since joining Owens, he’s now where he belongs because he’s headlining events due to Owens. Zayn said that Owens needs his guardian angel because he’s got KO’s back. Zayn said he’s always done what’s right because in this case, what is right is paying back his friend for helping him. Zayn said that they are more powerful than any superstar in that Fatal 5-Way match. Zayn said they will take care of everybody in the match and when it comes down to them, Zayn said he’ll lay down for Owens in the center of the ring. Zayn told Owens he needs to be WWE Champion and go on to main event WrestleMania.
Analysis: Good to see Owens and Zayn on the same page again, but it won’t last long.
Still to come: Styles vs. Corbin.
The New Day were backstage giving people pancakes because they are up next.
The New Day did their intro. They have done this for over three years and the words appeared on the screen as if we don’t know what they are going to say. The trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods made their entrance with the pancakes like usual.
The team of Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin made their entrance.
This was announced as a #1 Contender’s match with the winners getting a Tag Team Title match against The Usos.
The New Day – Big E & Xavier Woods (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin
Woods started with Gable with neither guy really doing much. Benjamin tagged in with a spinebuster on Woods followed by a body slam. Woods kicked Benjamin the gut, but Benjamin came back with a running knee to the face. They went to commercial there, but it continued on the US broadcast. Not here in Canada, though.
Back from break, Woods was seated on the top rope, he punched Benjamin down and Woods hit a missile dropkick to knock down Benjamin. Big E got the hot tag against Gable. Big E with two belly to belly suplex throws and Gable avoided the other belly to belly. Gable hit a belly to belly suplex of his own for two. That was impressive by Gable. Gable went up top with a moonsault, Big E moved out of the way and hit a uranage slam. Big E wanted the Big Ending, but Gable pushed him away and hit a strike to the face. Benjamin picked up Big E, Kingston distracted the ref while Gable hit his top rope clothesline on E leading to the Benjamin Powerbomb for a two count as Woods made the save. Gable and Benjamin complained about the ref. Woods tagged in, he threw Gable out of the ring, a forearm shot to the face of Shelton and Woods hit a Shining Wizard running knee on Benjamin to get the pinfall win for his team. It went 7 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The New Day
Analysis: **1/4 The match was just average between two teams capable of a lot more. Time was the issue in this case because they just didn’t get enough of a chance to show what they can do and have the kind of tag match we’re used to seeing. The story was that Gable and Benjamin were upset about the ref not counting the pinfall when they hit their finisher right away. That continues the ongoing story of Gable and Benjamin whining about the refs. I thought the finish could have been better because the fans didn’t react that much to the Shining Wizard by Woods. A double team move with Big E would have worked better.
The win means it’s The New Day challenging The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at Fastlane on March 11. Graves complained a lot about the referee, so he’s a heel announcer against New Day and a face at other times.
Analysis: They wrestled a lot in 2017 and had great matches every time. It was one of the best feuds of last year. It’s been a while since they have had a title match, so I’m all for it one more time.
The Bludgeon Brothers duo of Harper and Rowan entered while The New Day were still at ringside. They walked right past New Day, Rowan looked at them, but Harper just kept walking towards the ring.
Analysis: Fastlane is next, but I think at WrestleMania they will do a 4-way tag team match with The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers vs. Gable/Benjamin. It better be on the main card as well because The Usos have yet to have a match on the main card at a WrestleMania, which is ridiculous.
There was a cell phone promo from Charlotte Flair talking about how she never backs down from a fight. Charlotte said Ruby Riott will be another victim destroyed by the queen. Woo.
The Bludgeon Brothers – Harper & Rowan vs. Two Dudes With No Chance
The bell rang and the Bludgeon Brothers hit dropkicks at the same time. Body slam on the floor followed by the second guy getting slammed onto both guys. Rowan slammed Harper onto both guys. Rowan hit a running splash on both guys on the floor. The two guys were stacked up in the corner, Rowan hit a running splash and Harper hit a sitout Powerbomb on one of the dudes. Rowan got the tag, they picked up a dude and hit a double team slam for the pinfall win. It was done in under two minutes.
Winners by pinfall: The Bludgeon Brothers
Analysis: 1/2* Another squash win for The Bludgeon Brothers. It’s been going on for months with no progress for them, but the beatings are fun to watch.
Ruby Riott with the Riott Squad did a cell phone promo. Riott challenged Naomi to a match next week. Ruby told Charlotte to bring her title to Fastlane.
The announcers plugged Raw’s Elimination Chamber PPV that takes place this Sunday in Las Vegas that we can watch on WWE Network.
Baron Corbin did a cell phone promo while the words of his promo appeared on the screen while he talked. Corbin said at Fastlane he’ll be the new WWE Champion.
Analysis: I’m so tired of the promos with some of the words on the screen. I hope that ends soon.
A video package aired about Shinsuke Nakamura, who won the men’s Royal Rumble match.
Analysis: They put Nakamura over huge at the Royal Rumble by having him win and they have followed it up with nothing. It’s a shame because he makes this show better, so when he’s not on it his absence is felt. How does creative have nothing for a guy that is featured in a match of WrestleMania? Lame booking. What WWE normally does is the Rumble winner will get a singles match at the pre-Mania PPV and get the win to give them momentum. I'm not even sure if Nakamura will be on the Fastlane card. If Jinder Mahal is out of the US Title picture then I'd have Nakamura beat Mahal since Mahal beat him last year when they feuded. It would make Nakamura look good.
AJ Styles, the WWE Champion, made his entrance to a big ovation from the crowd like usual.
The match is official for Fastlane: Charlotte Flair vs. Ruby Riott for the Smackdown Women’s Title. Also, Bobby Roode vs. Randy Orton for the US Title.
Analysis: Charlotte will win there. The expected match at WrestleMania is Charlotte vs. Royal Rumble winner Asuka because Asuka can choose what champion she will face. The Raw title match could be Bliss vs. Jax, but I expect that one to feature multiple women.
Baron Corbin made his entrance for the main event.
AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin
This is not for Styles’ WWE Title.
Corbin decked Styles with a clothesline early on. Dolph Ziggler was shown watching on a TV backstage. Styles went for a sunset flip, Corbin held on, dropkick by Styles and a forearm by Styles caused Corbin to roll out of the ring. Styles went for an attack out of the ring, but Corbin caught him with a chokeslam into a backbreaker as the show went to break.
Back from break, Styles avoided a corner attack, so Corbin slid to the floor and went back into the ring with a hard clothesline for a two count. Corbin slapped on an armbar on Styles. Styles avoided a corner attack, which led to Corbin going shoulder first into the steel ring post. Styles kicked Corbin into the barricade. They were on the floor with Styles nailing a running knee to the face of Corbin. Corbin shoved Styles onto the announce table, but Styles landed on his feet and they went back into the ring with Styles hitting a forearm for a two count. That was a sweet sequence by Styles showing off his speed. Corbin hit a front slam for a two count. They battled on the top rope. Styles jumped off, Corbin avoided him and Corbin hit a Deep Six slam that seemed to have a bit more to it as he spun Styles in the air quite a bit. That was a great nearfall. Styles countered the End of Days and slapped on the Calf Crusher submission. Corbin reached back and slammed Styles’ head into the mat to break free. Corbin yelled at Styles about how he can’t beat him while he was choking him. Styles hit a forearm to knock Corbin back and Styles went up top with a Phenomenal Forearm that connected. Styles covered for the victory after 13 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles
Analysis: **3/4 It was a competitive match with a good finish. That’s what you want to see in the main event. They have had better matches in the past, though. It was nice to see the champion win a non-title match because that’s a rare thing in WWE. I loved the spot Styles did where he went over the announce table only to recover quickly with a forearm. The loss doesn’t hurt Corbin since he beat Owens last week and losing to Styles is fine since Styles is the top guy on this show.
Styles was celebrating the win when Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn went into the ring to attack him with punches. They knocked Styles out of the ring. Owens cleared off the announce table. Corbin got back to his feet and hit the End of Days on Zayn. Owens went back into the ring and Corbin hit the End of Days on him too.
Corbin’s music played as he stood tall over the other three men. That’s how Smackdown went off the air.
Analysis: The end of last week’s show had Dolph Ziggler standing tall, so this week it was Corbin’s turn. Next week it will probably be Styles or Owens and Zayn. It’s a typical way of WWE building to a multi-person match. Plus, it makes Corbin look strong after a loss.
Do I expect Styles to lose the WWE Title at Fastlane? Nope. I sure hope not even though I’m a huge fan of Zayn and Owens. I want Styles vs. Nakamura at WrestleMania like most people do. I think WWE is going to do it.
Three Stars of the Show
1. AJ Styles
2. Kevin Owens
3. (tie) Dolph Ziggler
3. (tie) Baron Corbin
6.5 out of 10
Last week: 6
2018 Average: 5.81
Last 5 Weeks: 6, 6.5, 5.5, 7.5, 5.5
2018 High: 7.5 (January 23)
2018 Low: 4.5 (January 2 and January 9)
It gets a 6.5 out of 10.
The in-ring action was pretty good all night long with Owens vs. Ziggler as the best match even though there was the Zayn interference done in a way that I don’t like. Styles vs. Corbin was a competitive main event with a very good post match angle as well. The women’s tag was fine. The tag match was good.
The frustrating thing about the show is there just isn’t enough progress in the Shane/Daniel story. It just keeps dragging. I want to see something happen there. It’s been a few months like this.
I missed Rusev. Two weeks in a row where he had nothing to do.
— WWE (@WWE) February 21, 2018
The next Smackdown PPV is Fastlane on March 11 and here’s what we know so far.
WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. The New Day
United States Championship: Bobby Roode vs. Randy Orton – It’s possible they add Jinder Mahal to it.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Ruby Riott
There should be more matches added in the next few weeks.
That’s all for now. Go Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs.
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