On Raw, Stephanie McMahon suspended Becky Lynch because she is refusing to get medical clearance for a possible knee injury, which could jeopardise her clash with Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 35. Along with the announcement last week of a WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match, these were the big plot points for this week’s episode of SmackDown.
Charlotte Flair/Becky Lynch/Triple H Promo
Charlotte came out, acting like a thoroughly narcissistic and sarcastic villain, while addressing Becky Lynch’s suspension, only for Becky to interrupt her by walking through the crowd and towards the ring. As security and referees tried to stop her, Triple H came out, firstly to send Flair backstage and then to again advise Becky that just seeing a doctor could remove her suspension. But after Lynch insulted HHH by asking how Stephanie was doing following her attack on his wife on Raw, The Game then hellishly lectured The Man, taking the interesting view that maybe Becky doesn’t want to see the doctor because he will actually clear her, and she’s afraid of Ronda Rousey, even questioning whether she is really injured. That earned HHH a slap before Becky left to huge cheers. It looks like The Authority are going to oppose Lynch with Charlotte as their chosen one; the plot thickens on the hottest storyline of WrestleMania Season.
Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Set up last week by a backstage confrontation, the new heel combo of Rusev and Nakamura were very unlikely to lose this contest. And so it proved, though it took a still-hurt Lana to encourage Nakamura (laid out at ringside) to get back into the squared circle for their team to ultimately triumph. I’m not sure where this alliance is going, but I guess we’ll find out over the coming weeks.
Backstage, The Usos cut a promo on Shane McMahon and The Miz proclaiming that they are the true best tag team in the world, ahead of an appearance on what is described as McMiz TV next week.
Randy Orton vs. Mustafa Ali
Before this match, Orton humorously suggested that he wouldn’t even take the time to learn his opponent’s name, such was his confidence in terms of getting a victory. However, Ali demonstrated his heart and toughness by giving Randy a real fight, suffering an injury to his left eye in the process. But, as ever, Orton sealed the win with an RKO, this time after pulling Ali off the ropes as he was going for a 630 and nailing him with his finisher. Before the post-match replays had concluded, Samoa Joe had arrived to lock Orton in the Coquina Clutch and to attack Ali too, promising victory at Elimination Chamber.
Daniel Bryan/Rowan Promo
In his home state of Washington, Daniel Bryan was beloved for the first time since his heel turn, and he didn’t really shy away from the cheers, only expressing anger at those chanting “What?” at Rowan. This was more or less a filler promo; though the delivery was great by Bryan as always, he simply reiterated that he was The Planet’s Champion and again espoused the benefits of his organic championship belt. This angered Jeff Hardy backstage, who then exchanged words with AJ Styles, another Chamber match participant.
Naomi & Carmella vs. The IIconics vs. Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville
Beforehand, we learned that Naomi and Carmella were now in the Women’s Tag Team Championship match at Chamber. Hence the reason for this clash between the three SmackDown squads in the Chamber bout. That being said, the underlying thread remained the ongoing feud between Naomi and Mandy Rose, and with some assistance from her partner Sonya Deville, Rose managed to score the pin over The Glow. This rivalry will continue to progress over the next few weeks, since I can’t see Naomi and Carmella capturing the titles next Sunday.
We had a quick backstage promo from Andrade, who again discussed his dislike of Rey Mysterio, and a video of Asuka, the SmackDown Women’s Champion missing SD for the second straight week. Also absent were The New Day and R-Truth, who captured the United States crown last week.
Daniel Bryan vs. Jeff Hardy
This was a pretty standard main event here; thoroughly watchable, but not overly exciting, most notable for the partisan Washington state crowd backing Bryan and lightly jeering Hardy. The real talking point was the post-match fracas: Rowan dragged Jeff out of the ring following a Swanton Bomb to cause the disqualification finish, leading to a brawl involving Samoa Joe, Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali and finally AJ Styles, as Bryan and Rowan scuttled backstage. There, Bryan had another rant, amusingly questioning Kayla Braxton “shoving a microphone in (my) face”.
This was similar to Raw in that Becky Lynch’s segment was the only vital part of the show to see. Otherwise, it was entertaining, and continued the build to Elimination Chamber, but it was fairly missable. With the exception of the opening angle, this episode provided no further clues as to what SmackDown will be offering us at WrestleMania 35.