This week’s SmackDown! has a little good and a little bad. The good is that Byron Saxton is not on commentary this week, so we get the fantastic team of Mauro Ranallo and Jerry “The King” Lawler. The bad is that this week's matches were taped before RAW saving time for WrestleMania setup. What this means is we are going to have a show with very little meaningful content and mostly preview for Sunday’s big event. SmackDown! is usually a show that is already hard to watch, but this should make this week’s episode dreadfully dull. Keep moving folks, nothing to see here.
AJ Styles vs. Heath Slater
Joined in the ring by the Social Outcasts, Heath Slater declares that the Outcasts will be the winners of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. He also referred to his group of friends as “fournominal.” “AJ Styles” chants fill the arena as the match begins. Styles takes control early with a dropkick and knee drop for a two count. Curtis Axel causes a distraction to Styles to which Heath Slater boots him out of the ring to the floor. Slater still in control of the match threw Styles again to the outside where he beats on by the Outcasts. Eventually, Styles gained ground and took back over with clotheslines on Slater. Styles fended off the interference of the Outcasts and hit Slater with the Phenomenal Forearm for the win. Nothing special with this match, but AJ Styles can always bring the excitement level up when he is in the ring.
Final Rating: *3/4
We now go to Renee Young and Byron Saxton, who are in Dallas at AT&T Stadium. They are previewing the matches at WrestleMania, showing hype video packages and giving the first look at the setup in the Stadium. This is filling much of the shows time.
Jey Uso vs. D-Von Dudley
Jey gets the upper hand early taking it to D-Von and clotheslining him to the outside. Bubba Ray is able to get a cheap shot on Jey outside while D-Von distracts the ref. D-Von keeps the upper hand on offense as Bubba continues with a verbal assault from the outside. Bubba Ray, especially in the recent weeks, has shown not only how great he is on the mic but also how valuable of an asset he is that WWE is completely misusing. After missing a flying headbutt, D-Von is hit with a clothesline and Samoan drop for a near fall. Jey climbs to the top with D-Von to attempt a super plex, but D-Von reveres and hit the RDS spine buster for the win. Honestly not a bad match from these two. Being that it is two members of tag teams on a throwaway show, they did the best they could.
Final Rating: *3/4
We are now back with Byron and Renee hyping WrestleMania filling multiple segments of the show. A little bit of this is okay, but by the third commercial break of nothing by preview videos, I’m bored to tears.
Dean Ambrose vs. Erick Rowan
Erick Rowan initially came out with both Bray and Stroman in tow, but part way down the ramp, Bray sent Rowan to the ring on his own as he and Stroman headed to the back. It looks like Erick Rowan is flying solo tonight. This match starts off with some up-tempo, high impact back and forth. Ambrose sends Rowan to the outside and delivers an elbow drop from the apron in classic Ambrose fashion. After the commercial break, Rowan has taken the upper hand slowing down the match and working over Dean. Rowan doesn’t shine too often in his matches, but this is where he thrives. The match has slowed down and he using his power to wear down his opponent. This is really the only time he looks halfway decent in the ring. Ambrose’s selling is perfect. Rowan goes for a high-risk move from the top but is caught and superplexed by Ambrose. Ambrose dropkicks Rowan to the floor followed by a suicide dive referred to by Maruo as a “Tope Suicida”. Rowan was able to get the upper hand again for a couple of near falls, but Dean bounced back (pun intended) with a rebound clothesline and dirty deeds for the win. This was the best I’ve seen out of Erick Rowan in some time.
Final Rating: **
THE SMACKDOWN! RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Seeing the setup at AT&T Stadium
Least Entertaining: Byron Saxton
Match of the Night: Dean Ambrose vs. Erick Rowan
Summary: With the matches being taped before RAW this week and everything already moving at full speed for setup at WrestleMania, I can understand why the content of this show was minimal. It honestly reminded me of the Pay per view pre-shows where you have a bunch of hype for the event and a few matches in between. Any other time I would give a show like this hell for lack of really anything worthwhile, but this understandable. It just adds to and is almost the official kick off to WrestleMania weekend. Next week after all the dust clears, SmackDown! will hopefully have something worth watching, not that it normally does.