Welcome to this week’s SmackDown! where we are at our final show before Sunday’s Fastlane event. Advertised for tonight’s final build is a main event of Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose against The Dudley Boyz, a confrontation between A.J. Styles and Chris Jericho and for the first time on SmackDown! in twelve years, “The Beast” Brock Lesnar will make an appearance. I am not expecting much from this show being the last ditch effort to put over matches for Sunday, but we can hope for an entertaining show. We are in Ontario, California for tonight’s show and as much as it pains me to say this, Michael Cole, Jerry “The King” Lawler and Byron Saxton are on commentary. The best thing going for SmackDown!, Mauro Ranallo is out with the flu. Please get well soon Mauro, my ability to watch this show with any enjoyment depends on it!
Dolph Ziggler & The Lucha Dragons vs. Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus & Rusev
To start out the show we get the usual RAW recap followed Kevin Owens coming out for commentary. Hearing Saxton give the opening to SmackDown! instead of Mauro is such a disappointment. You can tell from the beginning the main focus of this match is to hype up the Ziggler vs. Owens and Del Rio vs. Kalisto matches at Fastlane. I feel like I have seen some combination of this match over and over before. Rusev and Kalisto start this one off with Kalisto getting the early offense. From here they have the standard rotation for each team getting everyone involved in the match for a short time. As we head to the commercial break, Kalisto, Sin Cara and Ziggler all dive onto their opponents on the outside. We get a replay from the commercial break where Sheamus throws Sin Cara into the outside barricade insanely hard. This was the beginning of Sin Cara being beaten on by the League of Nations for a while. Eventually, Ziggler gets the hot tag from Sin Cara and begins to run wild on Sheamus. Ziggler hits the Fameasser on Sheamus to which he kicks out making me wonder if that move ever beats anyone. Owens leaves commentary to jump up on the apron, distract Ziggler, who turns back around into a Brogue Kick from Sheamus for the three count. Not an awful match as multi tags tend to be on this show and did its job of hyping the matches for the pay per view Sunday.
Final Rating: *3/4
Sasha Banks vs. Tamina
They are wasting no time tonight getting right into the matches. Before the break, Sasha was shown in the back making her way to the ring with the Total Diva’s music playing. This made me cringe slightly at the thought of them ruining the best women’s wrestler they have. I also want to note that Tamina has her regular entrance music back this week after the Jimmy Snuka reject entrance theme they gave her on RAW. In my opinion, this is the best against the worst on the main roster and a test to see if Sasha can get a decent match from Tamina. Right out of the gate Tamina takes the early offense using her size in a monster like beat down. They are keeping this high impact obviously knowing Tamina's lack of technical skills. Not long into the match, Naomi jumps up on the apron, but Sasha quickly knocks her off, dodges a clothesline from Tamina. Here is where the slight innovation is impressive. Knowing it would probably be tough to do the standard setup into the Bank Statement, Sasha comes off the ropes, jumps and turns wrapping her legs around Tamina and pulls her down into the Bank Statement cross face for the tap out. This match was very short, but it gave you a quick glimpse into the great mind and in ring ability Banks has to get a decent match out of even the worst of opponents. Post match Naomi and Tamina attack Sasha with Becky coming out for the save.
Final Rating: **
Backstage we have Sasha and Becky trying to work out their differences before the tag match they have this Sunday. They end it with Sasha saying “we are not friends, but I hate losing”.
Chris Jericho heads to the ring to announce his decision whether or not he will have a match with AJ Styles at Fastlane. He says he will give the answer, but he wants to say it to AJ’s face. Instead of AJ, The Miz hits the ring as Jericho repeatedly says “please quit the business Miz”. Miz says Jericho doesn’t have to worry about AJ because he has a match with him right now. Miz goes for the quick cheap shot, but Jericho counters and throws Miz out of the ring.
Chris Jericho vs. The Miz
Coming back from commercial, the match is on with Jericho getting all of the early offense. Lawler and Cole spend a lot of time discussing The Miz’s false claim that he made it into the Playboy Mansion’s Grammy after party to which Lawler states “you mean he never made it to the grotto like I did?” Lawler as a heel is so much better all around. Miz gets control of the match for the first time as Jericho goes shoulder first into the post. This doesn’t last long, and after Jericho throws Miz to the outside, he hits a beautiful springboard dropkick knocking Miz off the apron. Miz gains control again as we head into the commercial break. Miz did get in one great spot where Jericho misses the lionsault and Miz immediately hits him with a DDT. This looked great. After a little more fast paced back and forth action, the Miz runs and jumps at Jericho, but Jericho catches him by the legs and turns him over into the Walls of Jericho for the submission win. That finish came out of nowhere. Decent match and to be honest, The Miz’s matches with Jericho and Styles over the past couple of weeks have been his best in years.
Final Rating: *1/2
Post-match, again Jericho invites out AJ Styles so he can give his answer about Sunday. Jericho tells Styles that in the WWE you are only as good as your last match and in the last match, he beat AJ. Jericho goes on to say that he respects Styles, but he doesn’t like him and doesn’t want to do him any favors, so his answer is no. After a brief stare down, AJ attacks Jericho knocking him out of the ring. He throws the mic to Jericho and says “now what do you say?” He tells Styles that was a stupid move, and if he wants a match with him at Fastlane, he’s got it, but he is going to regret it.
Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose are backstage discussing their tag team match tonight. Roman says “don’t try and pull that dirty deeds stuff again tonight” to which Dean replies “you can’t take a joke?” As Dean is walking away, he runs into Paul Heyman. Paul tells him that Brock is here at SmackDown! and is looking for him. Dean acts scared and asks Paul for advice saying “you're an advocate, advocate me!” This short segment showcased Ambrose’s incredible talent for promos. Scripted or not, he delivers perfectly.
JoJo is backstage interviewing The New Day about being on the Cutting Edge Peep Show at Fastlane. I can easily describe this for you; It is every new day interview or promo you have ever seen! at one time these guys were entertaining, but in many ways it has run its course and hit bottom. Annoying babyfaces to entertaining heels to annoying heels....life of The New Day.
Natalya vs. Charlotte
This match has a solid start with both women having an incredibly smooth technical matchup, which they should if you have ever seen their previous matches. Commentary again disappoints making everything a Total Diva’s reference. I understand, promote your show, but don’t kill the match. At one point they both slide out of the ring and Charlotte comes around the corner with a kick to Natalya’s face that would even make Sheamus proud. After a little more basic mat work, Natalya gives Charlotte a huge clothesline knocking her out of the ring. As Natalya begins to head out after her, Charlotte pulls the ring apron causing Natalya to go down. Showing her veteran skills, Natalya briefly sells her knee before Charlotte rolls back in and puts her in the figure eight for the win. A talent like Natalya shouldn’t be taken for granted. While she is being beaten on SmackDown!, Summer Rae is getting wins on RAW.....what?!?!? Anyway, Brie Bella runs down post match and give Charlotte some yes kicks before Charlotte is pulled from the ring by Ric. Decent final setup for their championship match Sunday.
Final Rating: *1/4
The R-Truth and Goldust saga continues this week with Truth talking to his wife of the phone and being interrupted by a rapping version of Goldust naming himself “Duster Rhymes”. The rest is just like every other Truth/Goldust segments with Truth eventually blowing him off.
Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. The Dudley Boyz
Our main event of the evening starts off with Ambrose and D-Von but Bubba is tagged in pretty quickly. Bubba takes a cheap shot at Reigns on the apron which prompts Dean to tag him in. Little offense by the Dudley Boyz heading into the break. When we get back, Bubba has Ambrose on the mat and has slowed the match down. Ambrose continues to get worked over for a while before Bubba misses a move from the middle rope and gets the hot tag to Reigns. Reigns is on fire taking out both Dudleys and preparing for a superman punch when Brock Lesnar's music hits. It is a little weird that Brock’s advertised appearance on SmackDown! is an “unplanned” walk to the ring. As Ambrose and Reigns are baffled by the sight of Brock and Heyman, The Dudleys attack them from behind. They set up for the 3D but Reigns hits D-Von with a superman punch and Ambrose hits Bubba with an elbow off the top. Ambrose heads outside to throw D-Von back in the ring and Lesnar attacks him for the disqualification. Lesnar, Ambrose and Reigns begin to brawl and Lesnar gives suplexes to both men. Back on his feet, Reigns goes for a spear on Lesnar, but Brock moves and Roman runs into Ambrose. This provokes Ambrose to go for the Dirty Deeds on Roman, but it gets reversed into a Samoan drop. Lesnar then hits Reigns with an F5 and his music begins to play as if it was the end of the show. Lesnar’s music is interrupted as Triple H’s music begins to play and he makes his way out. With Roman and Ambrose both down on the mat, Lesnar and Triple H have a staredown to close the show. The match was not too good, but the setup for Fastlane was efficient.
Final Rating: *1/4
THE SMACKDOWN! RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Tie between Sasha Banks and Chris Jericho - They both showed off their talents in the short amount of time they had tonight.
Least Entertaining: Byron Saxton - He did absolutely nothing to add to this show.
Match of the Night: Chris Jericho vs. The Miz
Summary: Ultimately, this was not a very exciting show and a fairly average SmackDown! at that. The one positive I can give it is that it did exactly the job it was meant to and that is give the icing on the cake to the build for this Sunday’s Fastlane. Often as we have seen in the past, the true go home show for a pay per view can be rather bland with most storylines being capped off on RAW and SmackDown! just being used to add the smallest bit more excitement or intrigue. Tonight, SmackDown! could easily be called the glorified Fastlane pre-show and I am okay with that. On a final note, if you ever wondered if Mauro Ranallo could already be greatly missed on commentary, he is and this show was proof.