This week on Smackdown Live, John Cena returns to Smackdown Live and looks to get a spot in the Fastlane main event when he battles WWE Champion AJ Styles in a non-title match.
World Wrestling Entertainment presents Smackdown Live
From: Los Angelas, CA
John Cena opens Smackdown Live since he’s on a mission to find his path to WrestleMania. He makes it immediately known that he wants to be in the title picture at Fastlane and make it a six man match. Cena doesn’t want a handout and wants to earn the opportunity. He hasn’t been on Smackdown for months and one match will earn him a title shot? Shane McMahon comes out and agrees with Cena and the idea. Shane also notes that Cena could make history with his 17th title reign. Daniel Bryan comes out and has a minor disagreement with Cena, but agrees to give Cena an opportunity, since that is what Smackdown Live is all about. If Cena wins a match against AJ Styles, then he’ll be in the main event at Fastlane. That match will be tonight. This blows my mind and I can’t believe they are doing this. I don’t mean that as a good thing, either.
Opening Contest: Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin: Kevin Owens is on commentary for the match. Zayn bails to the floor after tapping Corbin on the chest a few times. Corbin shoulder blocks Zayn and then stares down Owens. Owens makes a cheap shot about Corbin’s hairline being on top of his head. Zayn drives Corbin face first into the corner but is met with a right hand. Zayn backdrops Corbin over the railing into the crowd as we see Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon watching the match and they argue about Kevin Owens being on commentary. Zayn continues to beat on Corbin with strikes as we go to a split screen commercial. Zayn keeps control with mostly strikes during the break. Corbin counters a suplex attempt with a vertical suplex of his own. Zayn is able to drop Corbin with a strike to regain control of the match. Zayn hits a top rope crossbody for a near fall.
Fans are chanting for Rusev Day. We go backstage to Bryan and Shane talking about Owens on commentary again. Zayn comes off the top but Corbin catches him with a backbreaker. Zayn attempts a tornado DDT but Corbin avoids it and decks Zayn with a lariat for a two count.
Corbin catches Zayn coming to the floor and drops Zayn over the announcers table face first. Owens doesn’t like Corbin looking at him and Zayn nearly wins with a rollup. Zayn plants Corbin with a tornado DDT for a two count. Dolph Ziggler comes out from behind Owens and delivers a superkick! Zayn is distracted by that and Corbin hits the End of Days for the win. (**1/4. I really enjoyed Owens on commentary as he kind of reminded me of Bobby Heenan. Aside from that, this was a rather average match at best.) After the match, Ziggler takes Corbin out with a Zig-Zag.
Backstage, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are still talking about their issues and Bryan decides to head home. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens try to complain to Shane, but Shane suggests they talk to Bryan, instead.
Second Contest: Naomi vs. Ruby Riott: Considering Riott is challenging Charlotte for the Smackdown Women’s Championship match this should rather obvious where they’ll be going with this. Charlotte and Becky Lynch are in Naomi’s corner. This leads to a six women brawl to start the match. Long story short, they got about seven minutes and Riott wins after hitting the Riott Kick on Naomi. This is just a matter of Riott having some momentum for Fastlane. After the match, Riott tells Charlotte that it’s two down and there’s one more to go.
Backstage, Josh Duhamel meets the Fashion Police and promotes his special about Biggie and Tupac. Josh has a new series on USA Network known as Unsolved. New Day were also involved. The whole thing is just a comedy segment. Fashion Police brag about solving all their cases. They are going to solve his unsolved case. They were suggesting that Big E was Biggie Smalls. It was kind of funny.
New Day make their way out to cut a promo about their title match against Smackdown Live Tag Team Champions, the Usos. They respect the Usos, but this is all about the titles. They are going to party in NOLA when they go to WrestleMania. Usos come out and talk about how they won their feud against New Day and they continue to be overlooked. They haven’t been on the main card for WrestleMania, and this year that changes. Usos are the future while New Day is a thing of the past. Big E notes they didn’t get in the business due to their father and earned records. They will be 5-time tag champs. This leads to the Bludgeon Brothers arriving and both the Usos and New Day leave.
Backstage, Shane McMahon lets Aiden English know he’ll be wrestling Nakamura tonight.
WWE United States Champion Bobby Roode took some time out of his day to promote his PPV match against Randy Orton. Roode respects Orton, and then makes fun of where Orton landed on the Top Ten list. We hear from Orton who is focused on winning the title.
Third Contest: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Aiden English: The crowd is very vocal about Rusev Day, and it may be louder than the Nakamura chant, honestly. Rusev hits Nakamura with a kick on the floor to help out English. English nearly wins with a reverse AA but Nakamura kicks out at two. English is actually able to last nearly seven minutes with the number one contender. Nakamura nails English with a running kick. Nakamura gets the momentum in his favor and never looks back. Nakamura wins with a running knee strike for the win. (*1/2. I’m really confused as to why they aren’t using Rusev better. I mean, I don’t want him losing here, but he’s just being wasted on a show full of opportunity. I’m not sure if Nakamura winning the WWE Championship is a great idea. He doesn’t seem to hold the crowd interest for an entire match.) After the match , John Cena comes out and stares down Nakamura before entering the ring for his main event match.
Main Event: WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. John Cena in a non-title match: Cena gets right in AJ’s face to let him know how big of a deal this is for him, I guess. Cena works over Styles with strikes and goes for a quick cover. Cena shoulder blocks Styles and works over AJ with right hands in the corner. Cena goes for a cover again but Styles quickly gets free. Styles fights back with several chops but runs into s boot and Cena hits a tornado DDT for a two count. We go to commercial.
Cena drives Styles down with a slam and comes off the ropes to hit Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena waits for AJ and attempts an AA but AJ holds onto the ropes. AJ drops Cena over his knee for a two count. Styles tries for the Styles Clash but Cena sends AJ face first into the corner. Cena plants Styles with a TKO for a near fall. Cena has AJ on the top turnbuckle and already tries for a super AA, but AJ counters with a Torture Rack and hits a Rack Bomb for a two count.
Cena avoids the Styles Clash by putting AJ onto his shoulders and drives AJ face first onto the mat for a two count. Cena runs over Styles with a clothesline for a two count. Styles stops Cena with a kick to the head as we go to another commercial.
During the commercial, Styles hit Cena with a Styles Clash for a two count. Cena avoided a springboard forearm and hit an AA for a two count. Those both happened during the break. Styles clotheslines Cena for another near fall. Styles misses a springboard moonsault and Cena hits a Code Red! Cena pulls Styles away from the ropes and locks in an STF. AJ rolls over and nearly pins Cena. Cena misses a splash in the corner and AJ connects with a Phenomenal Forearm for a two count
Styles goes to the apron and attempts a springboard 450, but Cena got his knees up. Cena drives Styles down to hit an AA, but Styles avoids a second one by going to the floor. Cena misses a running spear and hits the steps shoulder first. Cena puts Styles through the announcers table with an AA.
AJ grabbed a fan and the fan seemingly didn’t want to let go. AJ is able to avoid being counted out and gets back into the ring by the count of nine. Cena goes for the AA, but Styles counters with the Calf Crusher. Cena teases tapping out but rolls through and hits another AA. Cena has the cover and pins Styles clean in the middle of the ring. (***1/4. Well, it’s a good match but damn do I hate this booking. Cena hasn’t seemingly won an important match in forever. He comes to Smackdown Live and pins their WWE Champion. Why is he needed in the title match? I hate this booking. I really do.) After the match, everyone involved in the title match at Fastlane brawl to close the program. Ziggler, Cena and Styles stand tall in the ring. Ziggler decks Styles and Cena plants Ziggler with an AA as the show ends.
Sure, Cena/Styles is a good match, but John Cena being in the title picture on Smackdown is quite annoying and just screams desperation to add interest to the brand. This was a tough show to get through for me, really. There’s just nothing going on here to keep me interested.
Thanks for reading.
31-year old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Longtime fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Vikings. Avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on the old school wrestling.