We’re roughly a month out from WrestleMania, but Fast Lane is only days away. SmackDown has done a better job of preparing for Fast Lane, in that the blue brand haven’t really looked beyond that card towards WrestleMania at this point. This episode was the final push for FL on Sunday, but it could also be a way to start dropping hints as to what we might see on April 7.
Daniel Bryan/Rowan/Kevin Owens Promo
I say “Rowan”, but his only verbal contribution was to say “Shut up!” to the crowd twice in a menacing fashion. Otherwise, Bryan handled the talking, saying that after remaining silent last week, it was his turn to speak. Bryan said that Kofi Kingston (who was removed from the WWE Championship match at FL) didn’t deserve his opportunity because he was a supporting act rather than a top-level performer. That being said, he also criticised his new foe Kevin Owens, claiming he is worryingly similar to the fans in the arena. This brought out Owens, who suggested that he wanted to be like the people as it meant he wouldn’t be like Bryan. One word led to another, and it culminated with an Owens/Bryan brawl, before Rowan face-slammed KO, setting up a match later on.
Jey Uso vs. The Miz
It was unusual to not see Miz on SmackDown last week, so it was good to see him back here. Before the match, The Usos mocked their Fast Lane opposition Miz and Shane McMahon, with Jimmy Uso doing a surprisingly good impression of Miz. The Awesome One responded by calmly saying that he would capitalise on a moment of distraction, and so it proved: as Jimmy Uso and Shane clashed at ringside, Jey took his eye off the ball for one second, allowing Miz to nail him with the Skull-Crushing Finale for the win. All remains strong in the Miz/Shane camp; expect that to not be the case come this time next week.
Backstage, Charlotte Flair discussed Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch (I feel like I type this for every review nowadays), and her match with Becky on Sunday, before inviting Lynch to have a “calm discussion” with her later on in the show.
R-Truth and Carmella then came out, and Truth said his “childhood hero” John Cena provided United States Championship Open Challenges every week, which he wasn’t preferred for. He nevertheless said he would do so, as Lacey Evans came out and then walked back to the locker room as usual. Truth somehow thought this constituted his match, saying “Damn you John Cena!” His challenge was then answered for real by Samoa Joe (whose entrance was accompanied by “Joe!” chants from the crowd, to which Truth was responding “No!” which was funny), Rey Mysterio and Andrade, and ring announcer Greg Hamilton proclaimed that we would see a four-way match for the gold (hey, we are all the Authority now, right?), much to Truth’s surprise.
United States Championship Fatal Four Way Match
R-Truth (C) vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade vs. Samoa Joe
This was in many ways a carbon copy of last week’s match, except with the added element of Joe. There were some big spots, as well as some strange moments, such as Rey almost clipping a security guard in the head when Truth pushed him over the barricade. Andrade tossing Joe’s trusty towel into the audience is something I’m sure Joe will be kept awake at night about. I’m sure he doesn’t mind, though, especially since he struck gold here: with Truth being laid put at ringside by Zelina Vega (which led her to be superkicked by Carmella), Rey had Andrade down beaten only for Joe to back-splash onto both, and then nail Andrade with a Uranage to win the title. I personally would have liked Truth to retain the title since he was entertaining in the role, but I can understand them making Joe champion to potentially set up a WrestleMania storyline, especially since he dropped a tease of a John Cena match in an interview shortly afterwards.
Rey vs. Andrade was announced for the Fast Lane Kick-Off Show, and we heard briefly from The New Day, who are currently on a promotional tour of India, and the faction vowed to be at the PPV on Sunday. Shenanigans in the WWE Title match, perhaps? (And also, how could The New Day miss SD on the night of Pancake Tuesday?)
Aleister Black & Ricochet vs. The Bar
I’m not sure why Black and Ricochet were here given that they have a chance to win the Raw Tag Team Titles against The Revival and Chad Gable/Bobby Roode on Sunday (meaning they should be, well, Raw roster members now). Nevertheless, this was a brief yet enjoyable clash with Sheamus and Cesaro, which ended with Ricochet drilling Cesaro with the 630. A post-match beatdown by Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev to barely any reaction (Rusev Day really is over now, folks) led to a louder pop for a Hardy Boyz cameo, with Matt and Jeff helping the NXT stars.
Mandy Rose vs. Naomi
About six weeks ago, this was a genuinely interesting feud on SmackDown, but since Rose was diverted towards Asuka and her SD Women’s Championship, that storyline seems to have been forgotten. Which is bad news for Naomi, especially since a Sonya Deville distraction led her to lose so quickly, she probably thought it was 2014 all over again. Post-match, Asuka laid out both Sonya and Mandy at the aisleway. I can’t see Rose entering Mania as champion, but having Asuka destroy them here may have been a sign of a shock title change on Sunday. Hmm …
AJ Styles was interviewed backstage for the second week in a row, and was again interrupted by Randy Orton, who questioned Styles saying that Kofi Kingston should have gotten his title opportunity, saying “No wonder you didn’t make it to WWE for 15 years”. The seeds are clearly being planted here for an intriguing singles clash at MetLife Stadium.
Kevin Owens vs. Rowan
Daniel Bryan sat on commentary for this one, which was a basic way for KO to build momentum ahead of Sunday. It didn’t last very long, though, as Bryan mouthed off to Owens at ringside, which earned him a beating and thus Kevin ended up winning via DQ. It looked like Kevin was going through the announcer’s table, only for Mustafa Ali to return and try to save Kevin. He was actually swatted away, but it did allow Owens to hit Bryan with a Stunner once again. I would be very surprised if KO won the title on Sunday given the momentum that Kofi has right now, but surely he doesn’t clean, unless WWE has something unexpected up their sleeves. Maybe Harper returns to join his old buddy Rowan and to side with Bryan’s group of environmentalists?
Charlotte Flair/Becky Lynch Segment
To close the show, we had a Charlotte/Becky promo. Lynch adhered to Flair’s invitation, who said she was hurting from Ronda Rousey’s beating on Raw, but noted that she was in both of their heads, and that she has nothing to lose at Fast Lane (actually Stephanie McMahon had said Becky “is done” if she loses, but that’s beside the point). Of course, if she wins, she’s back in the WrestleMania title match. Flair kicked Becky’s crutch from under her (you’d think that Becky would have gotten a medical appointment for her knee by now), but Lynch fought back and trapped Charlotte in the Dis-Arm-Her as referees separated them. This plotline has had lots of twists and I’m really enjoying it, though I do wonder (assuming that Becky wins on Sunday) how they can maintain this level of interest for the next four weeks. We’ve seen so much happen between the three central figures since Royal Rumble, and it is being covered by both weekly shows. I’m confident that it will reach its peak level at Mania, but aside from the Fast Lane match, they may want to slow things down over the next seven days or so, to ensure that fans aren’t burned out by the storyline before we get to MetLife Stadium.
This was another enjoyable episode of SmackDown. I preferred last week’s show, but there was still a lot to be entertained by, and Samoa Joe’s US Title win was an unexpected surprise. As with Raw, next week’s episode will be well worth checking out, because at that point the sole focus will be The Road To WrestleMania, meaning that some major plot points (and possibly even a return or two) are likely to go down that night.