With four opponents awaiting the WWE Champion at Fastlane, AJ Styles seems confident in his abilities. However, he is fully aware he can lose his title without being involved in the decision. How does Styles plan to retain his title and move on to Wrestlemania?
AJ Styles may have his WWE Championship title rain cut short unless he can once again beat the odds. However the odds have never been this stacked against him. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn renew their friendship and cultivate a new strategy for the upcoming fatal five-way. What swerves can we expect at Fastlane?
Smackdown Live comes to us from Phoenix, AZ this February 20th, 2018.
The Phenomenal Underdog
Styles continues to entertain on the mic as a face who can back up his ego. His interview with Rene Young
Baron Corbin would interrupt Styles to remind the WWE Universe that he holds two victories over Styles. This is hard to imagine at this point but remember, James Ellsworth also holds victories over Styles. Baron Corbin is doing a solid job incurring a negative response from the crowd.
Never one to pass up an opportunity to run his mouth, Kevin Owens came out to save the segment. Shane McMahon would then appear to kill the momentum again and make a math between Corbin and Styles for the main event.
For the time being Kevin Owens would take on Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler once again proves that he is a show off in this contest. Against an ever solid performer in Owens one can only expect greatness. This match absolutely delivered and had fans invested in every near fall.
Sami Zayn would intervene in the match after losing last week to Ziggler. Owens would seize the opportunity to super kick the distracted Ziggler and gain the victory.
No telling why Zayn is seemingly helping Owens after their latest fallout with former (or current) best friend. Perhaps Zayn feels as though he stand a better chance in the five way match with an ally. Hopefully there is a grander scheme at play here but WWE struggles with continuity.
Ditch The List
Jinder Mahal continues to use the Smackdown Live top ten list to stir the pot between Randy Orton and Bobby Roode. The focus on this pier produced popularity contest is weak. There are so many ways to create drama between these three competitors that does not involve this stupid list. The newer WWE upstart in Bobby Roode naturally rubs the veteran Randy Orton the wrong way. Meanwhile Jinder Mahal is not one to be overlooked in this scenario. All of this can be achieved without a list no one cares about.
If there was ever a clear example of how WWE can make no sense in terms of booking it is using something like this list to set up feuds. More compelling feuds have started with spilled coffee (literally). Not sure what is broken here but things can be done better to bridge generations of wrestling fans, some of whom remember when story was everything.
Thankfully big names like Orton and Roode can still make this interesting.
The Riott Squad Find Their Niche
Flair and Friends took on the Riott Squad in a match that utilized the Riott Squad to their full on heel potential. Teaming with Becky Lynch and Charlotte, Naomi stood out in this match with a strong sequence with Liv Morgan. Morgan also had a chance to shine during her time in the ring and seems to be progressing as a worker.
Several times the Riott Squad would break the rules and gain the upper hand. This is how these loathsome ladies should be used. Their willingness to win by whatever means necessary should garner them wins in which the squeak by. Ruby Riott was able to catch Lynch off guard at the end of the match for the win.
Although this was technically a clean pin it still felt dirty, which is great! Enough of these close, questionable victories will garner excellent heel heat and momentum for the Riott Squad.
It is hard to invest in a New Day feud with Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable. The dynamic is clear as the New Day throws seriousness to the wind which angers Benjamin and Gable who feel they deserve more on Smackdown Live.
Whereas pancakes are only a step above a top ten list in terms of feud fuel, it is still lacks a certain level of conviction.
That being said both teams work well together and put on a fast paced and hard fought match. Xavier Woods would achieve victory over Benjamin. The New Day cheated to win during this match which continues to be interesting. It would be hard to imagine the purveyors of positivity turning to the dark side after years of being super over.
The Bludgeoning Continues
The Bludgeon Brothers made their entrance amidst the celebration of the New Day. They continue to do this during promos and match endings featuring prominent tag teams as if to warn of future doom.
I’m not sure if this makes a case for brutality as it seems as though they are taunting their future competition. Harper and Rowan seem like the type who would not care about intimidation and would just soon murder their opponents.
They did exactly that to two local wrestlers on Smackdown Live. This squash was more grotesque than normal featuring hard slams and presses on the outside. Mere minutes later the Bludgeon Brothers mercifully pinned their competition.
An Ingenious Plan
Following up on the questions from earlier Sami Zayn visited Kevin Owens in the locker room. Zayn professed that he realized he owes much of his WWE success to Owens. It was then that Zayn hatched a brilliant plan to overcome the fatal five-way odds. Zayn will attempt to lay down for Owens in order to allow him to win the WWE Championship and go on to main event Wrestlemania.
WWE has effectively silenced the continuity argument from earlier. It will be interesting to see how this angle creates a potentially awesome in ring story. Not only will the superstars be worried about each other but now they may have to constantly break up Owens and Zayn. Also, will we see management get involved to offset this new strategy?
An Athlete Faces a Fighter
Baron Corbin came into this match up with a chip on his shoulder.
He laid into AJ Styles early on in the match with stiff hits. Corbin would also match the quickness of Styles and it seemed as though the WWE Champion was a step behind the Lone Wolf. Styles would eventually buy some time after dodging a corner attack which sent Corbin into the ring post. Styles would ultimately prevail after delivering a Phenomenal Forearm for a pinfall victory.
Corbin looked great in this match.
AJ Styles has the ability to bring out the best in his opponents and this really worked with Corbin in the main event. Corbin showcased his quickness and really stuck his moves during the match. Whether it was wrestling Styles or being in the main event, Corbin had “it” tonight.
This worked well to set up a post match run in from Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The crowd had become invested in the previous match and levied boos upon the Canadians for their actions. Corbin was able to take out Owens and Zayn before Smackdown Live went off the air.
Regarding Corbin And Fastlane
Corbin’s character could benefit greatly from more showcase like this. Although you may not like him, he wrestled a great match tonight. Most of his matches as of late have been inconsequential or have featured too many superstars for anyone to notice him. He has played the same jerk for the entirety of his WWE run.
His wrestling ability may be his saving grace. Unless the WWE get creative they need to feature him in more high profile matches that come down to the wire. Until now it seemed as though Corbin was filling a spot in the Fastlane match for the WWE Championship. Now Corbin at least feels like a viable contender. Corbin will not win at Fastlane given the certainty of AJ Styles defending against Nakamura at Wrestlemania. It is imperative however that Corbin looks like main event quality during the match.
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