Date: March 13, 2018
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Commentators: Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, Tom Phillips
It’s finally time to start the Road to Wrestlemania with the first of four Smackdowns left to go. Tonight’s show is supposed to feature a Shane McMahon announcement about the pay per view, but given the way this company can’t seem to remember to deliver what they advertise, it could be something else entirely. Let’s get to it.
Here’s AJ Styles to talk about retaining the Smackdown World Title Sunday night. He was in trouble after John Cena put him through the announcers’ table on Sunday. How could he beat the other five superstars when anything goes? It was unbelievable, but not impossible. He found a way and is still WWE Champion. A few years ago, the idea of AJ Styles coming to WWE was unbelievable, just like him being WWE Champion or going to Wrestlemania. Unbelievable, but not impossible.
The fans give him the YOU DESERVE IT chant but AJ says he earned it. Now he’s got the biggest challenge of his title reign at Wrestlemania. AJ may be the everyman outside the ring, but when he steps inside the ring, he is phenomenal. Cue Shinsuke Nakamura to say everyone loves him too. He respects AJ but dreams come true at Wrestlemania. His dream: a knee to AJ’s face and becoming champion. This brings out Rusev of all people and we take a break.
Rusev vs. AJ Styles
Non-title. Rusev throws him into the corner to start so AJ goes after the leg, which Nakamura banged up on Sunday. A right hand rocks Styles though as the power game is working well for Rusev so far. AJ is right back with a dropkick to the floor and the slingshot forearm puts Rusev in trouble. Rusev throws him down again and we take a break.
Back with AJ pulling Rusev off the ropes to send him face first into the turnbuckle. The strikes have Rusev in trouble but AJ can’t hit the fireman’s carry backbreaker. Instead it’s the Machka Kick for two but AJ scores with the Pele. Now the backbreaker works but AJ bangs up his own knee. Rusev can’t get the Accolade so it’s the Calf Crusher instead, drawing Aiden English in for the DQ at 11:18.
Rating: C+. Now that’s a good way to set up the title match: Nakamura could pin Rusev but Styles can only beat him via DQ, even when Rusev was banged up in the match on Sunday. Let them build up the idea that Styles is phenomenal but Nakamura might be a step better. That’s a great way to go, assuming this wasn’t an accident.
Nakamura takes his time but makes the save.
We see the Bludgeon Brothers attacking the Usos and the New Day.
Big E. wishes he could say the New Day won the titles and were spending tonight filling Corey Graves’ car with pancakes. That’s not the case though, because his friends are both injured. Jimmy Uso comes in and says they’re taking care of the Bludgeon Brothers tonight.
Kid Rock Hall of Fame video.
Styles tells Nakamura that he didn’t need the help. Nakamura disagrees and will be there to help Styles until Wrestlemania.
Jimmy Uso/Big E. vs. Bludgeon Brothers
The makeshift team jumps the Brothers in the aisle and grab a pair of chairs. The Brothers grab the hammers to knock the chairs away and we take a break before the bell. Back from a break with the opening bell and Harper plants Big E. with a Boss Man Slam. Big E. slips over and makes the hot tag to Jimmy so things can speed up. Harper gets rocked with uppercuts and superkicks but Jimmy goes after Rowan. The distraction is enough for Harper to kick Jimmy in the face and a double powerbomb ends Jimmy at 2:34. This was exactly what it needed to be.
The Brothers keep up the destruction after the match.
We look at Shane McMahon costing Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens the title at Fastlane.
Sami says he’s known Owens for years but then he played him like a fiddle on Sunday. It was only because of Shane that he didn’t become champion and Sami will never pay the price again.
Here’s Charlotte to call out Asuka for a face to face meeting. Charlotte welcomes her to Smackdown and thinks she (as in Charlotte) should have been careful what she wished for. She’s been defending the title around the world and no, she’s never faced anyone like Asuka. The thing is though, Asuka has never faced anyone like Charlotte. WOO! Asuka says she picked Charlotte because she likes a challenge. Charlotte is a queen but Asuka is an empress. She bows to no one because no one is ready for Asuka. And….that’s it. Kind of an abrupt finish but this was good stuff to help set up the big match.
New US Champion Randy Orton comes out for a chat. He’s been called a lot of things, but for the first time ever he’s the United States Champion. Orton praises Bobby Roode as a tough competitor but he’s taking this title to Wrestlemania. This brings out Roode to say he’ll be having his rematch at Wrestlemania. Cue Jinder Mahal to also congratulate Orton on his title win. He’ll beat Roode just like he did to Orton last week.
Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal
The very early threat of a Glorious DDT sends Mahal outside and we take an early break. Back with Roode slugging away and hitting a running forearm. A neckbreaker puts Mahal down and a top rope clothesline does it again. Roode gets two off the Blockbuster but walks into a superkick for the same. Sunil Singh offers a distraction and Roode gets crotched, setting up the Khallas to pin Roode at 6:26.
Rating: D+. Well duh. Everyone knew that Mahal would get involved with this shindig and there was nothing we could do to stop it. Now that Mahal is no longer World Champion, it’s fair to say how much he manages to suck the life out of everything he touches. This is no exception and it’s getting even worse every single week.
Post match Orton gives Mahal the RKO.
Owens rants about how he was screwed over on Sunday because Sami knows he can’t beat him otherwise.
Fabulous Moolah battle royal video. They’re going to have some real issues defending Moolah in the coming weeks.
Carmella vs. Naomi
Before the match, Carmella enters the battle royal and teases cashing in the briefcase at Wrestlemania. Naomi throws her into the corner to start but gets taken down so Carmella can stand on the hair. The hair is pulled around the ropes so Naomi comes up slapping hard. A kick to the face sends Carmella down but she breaks up some kind of a springboard. Carmella pulls her down by the hair and grabs a rollup for the pin at 2:54. This wasn’t very good but at least Carmella gets some momentum.
Here’s Shane for his big announcement. He recaps the entire story between himself, Owens and Zayn before saying that he’s taking a leave of absence as Commissioner. Before he goes though, Shane makes Owens vs. Zayn for Wrestlemania. This brings out Owens with his head shaking. Before he can say much though, here’s Sami to interrupt. Sami doesn’t like Shane listening to the fans but doesn’t seem pleased that Shane is leaving.
Shane doesn’t understand this as he just gave them what they wanted. Owens does appreciate it, but thinks Shane will appreciate this too. The double beatdown is on and Owens hits a Pop Up Powerbomb and it’s time for a chair. They wrap it around Shane’s neck and ram it into the post before dragging him to the back. Shane gets powerbombed onto a big metal box and sounds like he can barely breathe. A stretcher is brought in to end the show. I’m sure Shane will be perfectly fine enough for Bryan to add him to the match and make it a triple threat.
Overall Rating: B-. This was a show that did what it needed to do. The promos here were very good and the matches were little more than filler. You don’t need to have big, long matches to set up stuff this close to Wrestlemania so just base everything on the talking. AJ vs. Nakamura is finally getting some focus and the other stories are getting good too. It’s pretty clear that Bryan is going to add Shane to make it a triple threat but at least Shane might be out long enough to not take up a bunch of TV time. Do more of this kind of show over the next three weeks and they could still manage to build things up quite well.
AJ Styles b. Rusev via DQ when Aiden English interfered
Bludgeon Brothers b. Jimmy Uso/Big E. – Double powerbomb to Uso
Jinder Mahal b. Bobby Roode – Khallas
Carmella b. Naomi – Rollup
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