WWE Smackdown is live from Uncasville, CT this evening, and we will have live coverage of the show starting at 8pm Eastern. The top story of the show? Is AJ Styles fired, or will he actually face Shane McMahon at Wrestlemania? After the brutal attack Styles gave to McMahon during Smackdown last week, General Manager Daniel Bryan actually fired Styles. But Shane issued a challenge to Styles at Wrestlemania. How will this play out?
Plus, American Alpha defend the Smackdown Tag Titles against The Usos, and much more!
Follow along here and on Twitter @RingRap for live thoughts and reactions throughout the show!
The show opens with a recap of the top angle – AJ Styles attacking Shane McMahon, throwing him through a car window after losing the main event match at Wrestlemania. We see a clip of Daniel Bryan firing Styles, and then Shane coming out at the end of the night to challenge Styles at Wrestlemania.
We go live to the backstage area, and Daniel Bryan is talking with a stagehand when AJ Styles walks in asking for “Shane O’Mac.” He’s decked out in Wrestlemania gear. Bryan says he doesn’t agree with this, and would keep him fired. Bryan says Shane isn’t like the rest of the McMahon family, who pursue vendettas. He says Shane will let Styles face him like a man, and he has no idea what he’s in for. Bryan says Shane isn’t there yet, and will be shortly, and Styles says it feels like deja vu – that it felt so good last week, he’s gonna go do it again. He’s gonna go tell the world how it feels to beat up Shane McMahon.
We go ringside, and it’s a table for three – JBL, Tom Phillips, and David Otunga. Phillips advises us that Mauro Ranallo is out sick this week…
AJ Styles’ music hits, and he walks into the arena. Styles soaks up the chants, which seem mixed. He says he’s had seven days to think about what he did last week – he’s not sorry for anything he did last week. He says it made his heart swell seeing Shane’s head like that. He’s glad he had a chance to put him through a car window after all AJ has been through. He says Shane had the audacity to call him out after he’s not in the building last week. He says Shane must be crazier than anyone else thought he is, because he accepts Shane’s challenge. And, he knows what we are all thinking – why would AJ Styles, a world class athlete and former WWE Champion, want to be in the ring with Shane McMahon? He says it’s simple – he wants to be a part of the “Ultimate Thrill-Ride, Wrestlemania.” Styles says we should be asking why Shane McMahon would want to be in the ring with him. “Without AJ Styles, Smackdown plummets. Without AJ Styles, Smackdown’s social media crashes, just like Shane McMahon going through a car window!” Styles says he is untouchable – he can do what he wants and get rewarded for it. He says he loved how much Shane had a welcoming committee last week, so he’s gonna do it all over again. He says if we thought what happened last week was bad, it can go from bad to “phenomenally worse.”
Another solid promo from Styles, who is doing a good job of getting a match over that excites about half of the fanbase.
Later tonight, Miz and Maryse show footage from an unaired episode of Total Bellas, plus the Tag Titles are on the line, next!
Back from break, Bryan is on the phone with Shane. He gives Shane the head’s up about AJ’s plan. Bryan nods agreeingly, and says he supports him 100% before hanging up. Then Baron Corbin walks in and asks if Ambrose accepted his challenge for the Intercontinental Championship. Bryan says thanks to Corbin he hasn’t heard from Ambrose in a couple of weeks – news that Corbin is happy about. Corbin says he’s got the night off, so he’s gonna go hit the tables in the casino. Bryan holds him up and tells him he’s going to be in action against someone he’s never faced before – Randy Orton. Corbin is not pleased.
We see Rob Gronkowski in attendance in the arena, and he’s having a great time.
American Alpha (c) vs. The Usos for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships
The Winner: The Usos to become the Smackdown Tag Team Champions
The Action: Jason Jordan and Jimmy Uso start it off. Otunga makes note of Jordan’s marriage this weekend. The fans are pro-Uso. JBL sends love to Jim Ross from all at WWE, due to his wife’s severe injury.
Gable tags in and keeps Jimmy isolated, working the left arm. Jordan tags in and slams Jimmy to the mat. Jey makes a run in and American Alpha takes him out too, sending both to the floor as we go to break.
We return and it’s Jey is the legal man. He whips Gable into the top turnbuckle, chest first. Jey Uso hits a blind tag, and Gable goes for a hot tag, but Jimmy yanks Jordan off the apron. Gable is laid out, but makes it back into the ring at 9.
Jimmy Uso legal, he sets Gable up in a tree of woe. Gable pulls himself up and Jimmy misses a shoulde rin the corner. Hot tag to Jordan, who is on fire, suplexing everyone. He hits a flying shoulder block in the corner, and an Angle Slam for a near fall. They go up top, Gable making the tag, and he hits a flying clothesline. Gable is rolled up for two, eats a superkick and is immediately splashed by the other Uso for a very, very near fall. The crowd bought it as a win for the Usos.
Jey tags in and goes up top as Jimmy sets up in the corner. Jordan takes Jimmy out and Gable takes out Jey. Tag to Jordan, and they go up top for the bulldog off the top. Jimmy pulls Jordan out of the ring to break the pin. Jordan hits a belly to belly on the floor, but gets dropkicked off the apron.
The fans start to chant “This is awesome.” Gable hits a moonsault to the floor, and is immediately tossed by the other Uso over the barricade. Jordan is crotched on the middle rope thanks to some outside interference, and a superkick puts him away.
This match really picked up steam and proved that these two teams can indeed have a great match. It almost redeemed last week’s afterthought of a match. I’m curious to see what’s next for the tag division, which essentially only has these two teams as legitimate contenders.
AJ Styles waits in the garage for Shane McMahon. A hype package for Orton vs. Corbin, later, plus John Cena vs. Fandango.
Out of the break, we see a Baron Corbin superstar fact. We then go to a vignette with Luke Harper. He talks about Sister Abigail turning a good man into a madman. He says Randy Orton opened up Pandora’s Box, and eviscerated it, but now a new evil roams the earth. He says Wyatt forced Orton to destroy Sister Abigail, and next week, Harper will destroy Wyatt.
A fake episode of Total Bellas airs, with Maryse playing both Nikki and Brie Bella, and The Miz playing John Cena. It’s all mockery. I’m not recapping it.
Baron Corbin vs. Randy Orton
The Winner: Randy Orton
The Action: Corbin comes to the ring before the break, Orton after. We see a recap of Wyatt’s message for Orton from last week, and then go ringside.
Corbin takes Orton to the mat with a shoulder. Orton goes for an RKO early on, Corbin scouts it and rolls out of the ring. Back in the ring, Orton methodically attacks Corbin. He hits a series of uppercuts in the corner, then lays in punches up top. Corbin bails out of the ring again, and suckers Orton in, ramming him head first into the ring post as we go to break.
Back from the break, Corbin is still in control. Corbin sizes Orton up with a right, and runs at him in the corner, eating a boot from Orton, who fires up. Corbin slips under the ropes and back in, and Orton powerslams him immediately. A full nelson slam from Orton leads to a 2-count. Orton hits a draping DDT off the second rope, and sizes Corbin up for an RKO. Corbin counters the RKO with a sloppy Deep Six for two.
Outside the ring, Corbin misses a shoulder charge and hits the steps instead. He rolls back into the ring. As he’s recovering, Dean Ambrose stands on a forklift inside the arena. He calls for Corbin and distracts him, and Orton hits an RKO for the win.
Ambrose strolls down to the ring as Corbin lies there. He agrees to a match for the IC Title at Wrestlemania, and hits him with Dirty Deeds in the middle of the ring.
Well, Corbin is protected by the distraction finish, which ties in with his story with Ambrose. I still feel like this was a wasted opportunity for a pay-per-view match between a legacy star and a rising up-and-comer. Neither really had a chance to take it to the next level.
AJ Styles is still backstage awaiting Shane. We go to break. We return to the announcers hyping up the IC match for Wrestlemania, which is now official. Plus, John Cena vs. Fandango later tonight.
Renee Young interviews Randy Orton backstage. He talks about Bray’s message last week – he says he doesn’t know what to think, and that he’s done everything he can think of to get rid of Bray Wyatt. As he’s talking, the lights start to waver, and creepy music plays. Orton calls out to Wyatt. When the lights come back up, he’s surrounded by men in sheep masks and overalls. He starts swinging, but the numbers get him. Wyatt walks forward, and blesses him with a cross of sorts, before setting it in front of him, and kneeling. Wyatt says Orton changed him by exposing his one flaw – Abigail. He says that one flaw will be his greatest strength. Wyatt sings “He’s got the whole world” at Orton, and the camera cuts out to break.
When we return…
Fandango (w/ Tyler Breeze) vs. John Cena (w/ Nikki Bella)
The Winner: John Cena
The Action: Fandango comes out first, and Tyler Breeze is dressed up like Nikki Bella – short shorts, wig, bra, everything. It’s… something, that’s for sure. Fandango cuts a promo on him, saying Cena was exposed for beaing a lousy boyfriend on Total Bellas, wearing Jorts in 2017, and other things. Breeze issues tickets for each offense. Fandango points to his “muscle” Breezy Bella, who flexes. Cena points at the entrance, and Brie Bella heads out to join him at ringside. JBL makes a crack about Lance Catamaran and Chet Chesterfield calling commentary, and the bell rings.
This is a short one. Cena hits a Five Kunckle Shuffle. Breeze enters the ring, and Nikki takes him out. They both hit their versions on an AA and lock in STF’s. Breezango taps out.
AJ Styles continues to pace backstage. Up next, Becky Lynch vs. Carmella.
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella (w/ James Ellsworth)
The Winner: Becky Lynch via DQ (never announced)
The Action: Natalya is sitting in on commentary here. Ellsworth tries to create some separation between Lynch and Carmella. Natalya walks right into the ring and clotheslines Carmella, causing a DQ.
And then Mickie James runs down to the ring and attacks, and Alexa Bliss is right behind her, also attacking. It’s a brawl. Lynch leaps off the top and takes out Ellsworth. Alexa Bliss is the last one standing, and she holds the title up high.
Neville cuts a promo hyping his match against Mustafa Ali for 205 Live, and we go to another episode of “Total Bella Bull-shit.” I’m also not recapping this.
Renee Young asks AJ Styles what his intentions are, just like last week, and just like last week, AJ sneaks off mid-sentence, to ambush Shane. But when the car pulls up, it’s Heath Slater and Rhyno, not Shane McMahon.
And then, in the arena, Shane McMahon’s music hits, and he dances out to the ring. He says he understands AJ Styles is looking for him and here he is, so now, he’s looking for AJ. Renee Young alerts AJ that Shane is in the arena right now. Styles looks confused and disappointed, and we go to break.
We return and Shane is still in the ring, awaiting. He says Styles acts like a tough guy when Shane has his back turned. He’s giving Styles a chance to prove how tough he is now. He says if Styles came and spoke with him man to man, they could’ve resolved it. Or, if it escalated to the ring, they could’ve settled it that way. But Styles didn’t do that – he blindsided him and attacked him from behind. He says the fans are chanting for Styles, so he either comes out there, or Shane goes to him.
We see Styles walking backstage, and it looks like he’s on his way to the arena. Styles walks into Gorilla, and stands there, looking around. He grabs a mic and walks out to the stage, and his music hits. He tells Shane to calm down. Styles says he has to understand where he’s coming from – he had the main event at Wrestlemania, and then all of a sudden he doesn’t. He apologizes to Shane, and says he went off the deep end. “You did me a favor – I wanted a match at Wrestlemania, and you gave it to me.” Styles agrees that Shane isn’t like the other McMahons, and for that he’ll be a man about this. He’s going to come into the ring, tell him he’s sorry, and shake his hand.
Styles sets the mic down, and Shane immediately attacks him with a series of punches. Styles bails out of the ring, and the two start to brawl at ringside. He suplexes Shane into the barricade. Styles tears apart the announcer’s table. Shane hits a belly to belly on Styles on the floor. Shane continues to tear apart the table, and starts hitting Shane with the monitor. He lays Styles out on the table and climbs up to the top rope, takes a breath, and hits a flying elbow drop, breaking the table. Both men are laid out as the fans chant “Holy shit.”
The announcers recap the entire thing, as clips of the dive play over and over. Shane makes it to his feet and points at the Wrestlemania sign as his music plays the show out.
Despite my misgivings about the match itself, the fans love Shane, and he gets a Wrestlemania-worthy reaction. It’s hard to fault WWE for pairing Styles with Shane, when Shane gets people hyped. I’m not crazy about the match because I would rather see Styles in a 5-star classic, but this is a trainwreck that has the potential to be a lot of fun, and I have faith in Styles to pull a great match out of Shane.
The rest of the episode wasn’t bad – nothing crazy, more build to Wrestlemania. I wish I could say that Smackdown feels like a priority on the show, but they don’t. That said, AJ vs. Shane has been built up quite nicely, and Miz/Maryse are doing a good job generating heat. The rest seems to be an afterthought.
I’m heading over to cover 205 Live. Hope to see you there!