This week's SmackDown Live was the go-home episode for Fastlane and saw the final piece of build for the Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Championship act as the main story. WWE Champion AJ Styles was originally scheduled to face Dolph Ziggler in the main event, but the pair would eventually find themselves in a show-closing teaser Fatal Five-way match as Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin joined the fray. But how did it all go down in Green Bay? Lets take a look!
Commentary - Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, Corey Graves & Bobby Roode
Ring Announcer - Greg Hamilton
Interviewers - Dasha Fuentes
AJ Styles & Dolph Ziggler segment
Before the segment - - Sami Zayn repeated his pledge to lie down for Kevin Owens in the six-pack challenge at Fastlane, whilst it was more than hinted at that there were underlying issues between the pair - Baron Corbin cut a handheld promo promising to put a stop to John Cena's Road to WrestleMania, referencing their rivalry from last summer as the reason.
Leading into their match, AJ Styles and Dolph Ziggler clashed on the microphone in a solid segment that added depth to their bout, as well as clearing up their relationship ahead of the Six-pack challenge. Styles initial promo was decent, as he addressed John Cena's points from RAW, discussing how much he and the fans wanted to see Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania, letting us know he was "fighting for us". The content was a little cheesy, but Styles managed to just about make it work. Where the segment picked up was once Ziggler made his entrance and cut a passionate promo on Styles and the WWE Universe. It went over some old ground as Ziggler discussed his Money in the Bank cash-in and his love/hate relationship with the audience, but his stuff trying to warn Styles against relying on the crowd was well-reasoned. The Show-Off discussing never having a singles match at WrestleMania almost certainly came from a real place of frustration as there's no chance that Nick Nemeth is happy with his highest profile Mania bout including Snooki. All this lead to the match between the pair that had been scheduled for the main event happening straight away after Styles laid down the challenge.
AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn would eventually get involved in this one causing the DQ, which is always going to feel like a letdown, but Ziggler and Styles still had about twelve minutes of television time to put on their match. For me, considering the pair had just had a heated exchange on the microphone, the match had a surprising lack of intensity, with portions of the match feeling a little flat. The two bought a sense of urgency with a couple of finisher attempts, but whilst the next sequence of amateur style wrestling was lovely, it went against the initial immediate feel. Elsewhere there was a nice spot with Ziggler knocking Styles off the apron with a hip attack, alongside Styles' gorgeous Phenomenal Blitz strike combination, before the two had a really well-done back and forth sequence, featuring various signature move attempts being smoothly reversed, before Ziggler blocked a superkick by swinging Styles' leg onto the middle rope and hitting a ZigZag for a good near fall. This is where Owens & Zayn joined proceedings, meaning the 4th TV bout between Styles and Ziggler was left without a winner.
After the match - With Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn putting the boots to AJ Styles & Dolph Ziggler, SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon made an appearance to book the four in Fatal Five-Way also including Baron Corbin to happen straight-away.
AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
A very good main event this week, concluded with a shocking victory for Sami Zayn after he nailed his best friend Kevin Owens with a Helluva Kick for the pinfall and a shit-tonne of momentum heading into the WWE Championship match at Fastlane. The five-way was a good advertisement for the six-pack challenge on Sunday with the five men putting in a great effort in a well-structured multi-man collision. This included Baron Corbin dominating, which made sense with the Lone Wolf being the freshest man in the match, whilst Owens & Zayn also controlled portions of the contest through teamwork. With the WWE Champion spending most of the match as sweeper, breaking up pinfalls, the bout introduced an interesting concept that could provide some dramatic moments come Sunday. The action was fast-paced throughout with a number of sequences involving multiple competitors going back and forth, including a one in, one out section that lead into the advert break, a cute sequence in the turnbuckles with Ziggler, Zayn and Corbin that concluded with a Blue Thunder Bomb near fall for Zayn on Ziggler and Owens flying into a Deep Six from Corbin. The finish was lovely stuff, with a good sense of energy and movement, bringing up Styles' sweep as role, as he set-up for a Phenomenal Forearm, only to have to fight off Corbin and Ziggler, before Owens knocked the champion off the apron and found himself in the perfect position for a surprise boot to the face from Zayn for the pin. With John Cena added to the mix on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how the lads use this match and build upon it to create a higher level bout and how each competitor comes out with just four more SmackDown's before WrestleMania.
After the match - Sami Zayn spoke about why he turned on Kevin Owens, with the former NXT Champion launching into an angry speech about being overlooked and the victory proving that he was the best.
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal (with Sunil Singh)
In a poor match, Jinder Mahal got another victory over Randy Orton, putting away the 9 time WWE Champion with the Khallas, after Bobby Roode attempted to get involved from his position on commentary. Seriously, this was not good at all, with mostly dull plodding action during the ad-break, being followed up by an Orton comeback sequence that saw Mahal struggle taking almost every single move, with Orton's inverted headlock backbreaker looking particularly weak. The fact that these two have had 23 matches since May 2017 on TV and live events and are still putting on matches this sloppy makes Mahal's WWE title run even more baffling. To his credit, Orton at least tried to bring some intensity to the bout later on, attempting to get the crowd into the match and firing up, but it wasn't enough to save this. The highlight was Sunil Singh reprising his ridiculous release backdrop driver spot on the announce table, before some generic guest commentary spots resulted in Roode distracting Orton by trying to get in the ring for the finish. Orton vs. Roode has potential at Fastlane, but if both are unmotivated and tread water before a Jinder Mahal interference spot then it could end up being an insomniacs dream.
Becky Lynch vs. "Ms. Money in the Bank" Carmella
Carmella continued to have no win since the start of October, as she tapped to Becky Lynch's Disarmer in a short but fun contest. Whilst the booking of Ms. Money in the Bank continues to leave a lot to be desired, this match (Mella's first televised singles match in 2018) was much better than I had expecting it to be, with Carmella showing off a range of impressive offence in a bout that was dominated by the Princess of Staten Island. The turnbuckle handstand frankensteiner looked lovely, whilst Carmella also did a sound job of getting the crowd involved in what felt like a throwaway bout, with some hair pulling on the outside before some smack talk with ringside. A superkick near fall with a foot on the ropes was followed by nice little sequence, that whilst it could have been smoother, had a number of nice ideas and resulted in Lynch rolling through into the Disarmer for the submission victory. The finish was mildly spoiled by referee Mike Chioda loudly calling "One minute", precisely one minute before the tap out!
After the match - After Natalya mouthed off backstage, Naomi challenged the Queen of Harts and Carmella to tag team match against her and Becky Lynch on Sunday.
Charlotte Flair, Riott Squad & Bobby Roode segment
It was wonderful to actually hear the women speak on this episodes, after weeks and weeks of paper-thin storyline and repetitive matches. We finally got to find out what the Riott Squad was all about as we got some Storytime with Ruby Riott as the former AAW star put in a solid performance on the mic, letting us know that the Riott Squad was originally formed to take down Flair, because of some perceived myth surrounding her. Flair's promo, however well performed, felt misguided as she talked about the struggles of having a famous father and how "I have to be transcendent". As a heel promo (with a few tweaks) it actually would've worked pretty well, as Flair came across as a little entitled and the word "transcendent" isn't particularly one you'd expect from a babyface when talking about themselves. Riott closed with a fairly generic sounding "You're just going to be another bleached blonde failure with a famous last name" line, before United States Champion Bobby Roode's entrance was enough to stop Riott, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan from circling Flair, in a nice nod to their Mixed Match Challenge partnership. Whilst the feud still doesn't have the depth it could've needed heading into the PPV, Flair vs. Riott has potential to produce some top level action on Sunday if given the chance.
Also this week
- A superb hype package looking at the history of The Usos and The New Day, using last week's fire promos from the two teams.
- Rusev challenged Shinsuke Nakamura to a match at Fastlane in another entertaining performing from the Bulgarian Brute, as he compared Aiden English to Billy Joel, before Nakkers warmed up his pipes to sing "Nakamura Day".
- We saw a cameraman fall over in the snow, what a dork.
ATPW Scale Rating // 4.88 out of 10
Written by James Marston // @IAmNotAlanDale