Fastlane is in the books and the final march to WrestleMania has begun so this week's episode of SmackDown...doesn't really accomplish much in the grand scheme of things. Aw man. At least Mauro Ranallo is back on commentary after being out last week. Don't ever scare me like that again, sir!
Promo Time: Triple H
The WWE World Heavyweight Champion makes a rare appearance by opening the show, placing his championship on a velvet-covered platform to show it off while he speaks. Triple H says that he may be the devil depending on who you ask then says if his WrestleMania opponent Roman Reigns didn't expect retribution from the latter's attack months ago there's definitely no doubt now. We cut to a video from RAW where Triple H beat the holy hell out of Reigns, concluding with a Pedigree on the steel steps. Back live we cut to a post-surgery photo of Reigns, who needed to have his nose reconstructed due to the attack. Triple H says the look on Reigns in that photo is the look of a man who has been humbled, then launches into a screed about how no one can ever defeat authority either in wrestling or in real-life because the authority always wins. Triple H says Reigns has given his sweat then he pulls out a bloody rag and says he has Reigns' blood and at WrestleMania he will take Reigns' tears. There's not a damn thing he can do about it either because Triple H is the law, the authority, and THE GAME. It probably didn't translate well into text but this was a solid opening promo from Triple H to build their WrestleMania match. Hope Reigns isn't out for too long though they kind of need him to do his part in building the match as well.
Neville, Dolph Ziggler, & The Lucha Dragons vs. The League of Nations
Naturally, with so many men involved, this one immediately breaks out into an out of control brawl. The Dragons hit duo tope suicidas to the floor but get taken out by Rusev and Del Rio. The League of Nations wear Ziggler down, with Barrett hitting the Winds of Change and Del Rio connecting with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Ziggler tries to tag out but gets driven into the LON corner by Rusev. Sheamus tags in and toys with Ziggler some more but falls victim to a superkick. Neville gets the hot tag and takes it to Barrett, who's now the legal man. He goes for the Red Arrow but Sheamus runs in so he jumps over him and goes with a 450 splash instead for the 1...2...Rusev breaks the count. Sin Cara and Kalisto clear Rusev out of the ring and Neville finally gets to hit his Red Arrow but Del Rio kicks him in the skull and Sheamus finishes him off with a Brogue Kick to give The League of Nations the victory. A fun enough opening match, usual WWE multi-man shenanigans. (4:58 shown)
Final Rating: **1/4
Cut to an interview segment earlier in the day between Renee Young and Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens. Owens says he was inspired by the resiliancy shown by Dean Ambrose on Monday (getting beaten up, returning in an ambulance, then getting beat up again by Brock Lesnar) and offers him a title shot for tonight. Young says Ambrose isn't here so Owens smugly says that since Ambrose has the night off he now does as well. The Big Show interrupts and grabs him by the collar when he tries to snark, saying they have a match tonight. If anyone can drag a watchable match out of Show it's Owens.
D-Von Dudley is in singles action against Jimmy Uso tonight but before the match Bubba Ray Dudley gets on the mic and says the people aren't getting tables because they are neither a circus or nostalgia act, they're the greatest tag team ever. The people can take their tables and chants for tables and shove it.
Jimmy Uso vs. D-Von Dudley
Bubba pulls out a table to distract Jimmy, D-Von rolls him up for the win. That's that. (0:46)
Final Rating: N/R
Chris Jericho is backstage with AJ Styles. Jericho says he wasn't expecting their team to be as good as it is and mentions they have the same chemistry as he had with the partners he's won Tag Team gold with. Jericho says if they beat The New Day tonight then that puts them at the top of the list for a title shot and Styles is all for his WrestleMania moment coming with the Tag Team Championship. They need a partner however and in comes Mark Henry to offer his services. Jericho and Styles agree and Henry shakes Jericho's hand a little too hard, making sure he's serious and there will be no funny business. Jericho promises such.
The Big Show vs. Kevin Owens
Owens' championship is not on the line for this one. Show overpowers Owens right from the outset, hitting him with one of those hard skillet chops. Owens holds up his index finger asking for a minute and bails to the floor to recover. Show palms him to the apron and Owens charges right into a Chokeslam. Show randomly decides to climb to the top turnbuckle and gets crotched on the top rope, tumbling to the floor and earning himself a countout loss which Owens sells by immediately bailing to the back to avoid any fallout. A solid game plan by Owens in this one but Show trying a top rope move was super uncharacteristic and felt forced in order to set up the conditions for the countout. That was dumb. (3:03)
Final Rating: **
Becky Lynch vs. Natalya
These two Divas are all about respect. They back and forth a bit and Natalya sends Lynch to the floor with a release German suplex. Naomi and Tamina Snuka show up and cause a DQ when Snuka superkicks Lynch's head off. That's disappointing, this match could have been good. (1:22)
Final Rating: N/R
Natalya is an afterthought as Sasha Banks runs to the ring to help Lynch fight Naomi and Snuka off. Out comes Divas Champion Charlotte who announces that Banks and Lynch will face off for the #1 contendership this Monday on RAW, and she'll be at ringside to watch it go down. Fingers crossed they end up doing a triple threat at WrestleMania but I'll settle for Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks too.
R-Truth vs. Heath Slater
Slater has his Social Outcasts buddies with him. Goldust comes out to Truth's chagrin, but promises to stay in a neutral corner. Slater gets a little offense in but it's mostly Truth and Bo Dallas tries to distract the referee so the Outcasts can help their friend. Goldust instead interferes and decks Slater so Truth can roll him with a backslide for the victory. Shrug. (2:33)
Final Rating: N/R
Truth seems to be somewhat warming up to Goldust after the match. Just kiss already guys, jeez.
The New Day make their way out for their customary pre-match promo segment. They doubt Mark Henry's claim of being the 'World's Strongest Man' with Xavier Woods posing and insinuating he's stronger. Kofi Kingston says to be as strong as Woods the first thing you need to do is eat your Booty O's. Woods then disparages Y2AJ, saying they're not a team like The New Day who ride together, eat together, and take baths together. New Day-led chants as we go to commercial before the match and there you have it. Not their strongest segment but when WWE has you doing this before everymatch every week they can't all be winners.
Mark Henry & Y2AJ vs. The New Day
Henry and Y2AJ are all offense before the break, clearing the ring of The New Day and doing a little dancing of their own to mock their opponents. After the commercial The New Day take over with a Unicorn Stampede on Jericho followed by a running basement dropkick by Kofi and some celebratory dancing as Woods plays his trombone. Perhaps you've seen them do this before. Big E tags in and hits a splash while Woods hits a legdrop for the 1...2...Styles breaks it up. Jericho escapes the Big Ending and hits Big E with a kick then tags out to Styles who hits Woods with the inverted DDT of a springboard backflip. He covers but Big E breaks the count so Henry takes him out. Kingston then takes Henry out with a Trouble in Paradise and tries to do the same to Styles but Jericho moves him out of the way and eats it instead. Styles and Woods jockey for position and Styles rolls him up into a Calf Crusher, Woods quickly tapping to avoid injury. A really fun ending sequence to an otherwise okay match. Man this SmackDown felt pointless. (7:51 shown)
Final Rating: **1/2
The faces celebrate and that's the end of the show.
THE SMACKDOWN RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Kevin Owens, probably. His 'give me a minute' sell to Show's hard chop was tremendous.
Least Entertaining: Goldust and R-Truth's “will they or won't they” schtick.
Match of the Night: Mark Henry & Y2AJ vs. The New Day
Summary: Outside of Triple H's opening promo this felt like a pretty lame duck SmackDown with nothing all that memorable happening. Almost felt like a two-hour Main Event. There's thirty or so days left to build to WrestleMania it'd be nice to see SmackDown get some love and actually help build to the show instead of just have a bunch of matches that don't matter for once.