By: Keila Cash
Location: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
California Dreaming: Can John Cena dream the impossible dream and headline WrestleMania?
Pancakes Are For Suckers: Last Team Standing - The New Day vs. The Usos Part IV.
· SmackDown Live kicked off with John Cena pleading his case to be added to the WWE Championship match at Fastlane. Shane McMahon came out to remind Cena that he could make history at WrestleMania if he becomes a 17-time World Champion. McMahon was about to make an announcement when Daniel Bryan made his way down to the ring. Bryan told Cena that he has to earn his way into the title match Fastlane and he can do just that by defeating AJ Styles later tonight as the opening segment came to an end.
· This was a good way to start the show. Cena is in desperation mode as he tries to find a path to WrestleMania. His confidence was sky high until he realized he had to face his arch-rival in order to get a WWE Title shot at Fastlane. The solemn look on Cena’s face was spot on which heightens the drama heading into tonight’s main event. LA is in for a treat if Styles and Cena are given enough time to deliver one of the best television matches of the year.
· Baron Corbin defeated Sami Zayn with End of Days thanks to an assist from Dolph Ziggler. Kevin Owens was being snarky on guest commentary when Ziggler blindsided him with a Superkick. The distraction gave Corbin enough time to hit his finisher for the win. The Lone Wolf didn’t get a chance to celebrate as Ziggler dropped him with the Zig Zag to emphasize that it was every man for himself at Fastlane. The match was fine while it lasted, but the heel vs. heel dynamic left the crowd cold as they started up a “Rusev Day” chant to entertain themselves.
· Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were having a spat backstage about Owens possibly interfering in Zayn’s match. Their constant bickering is so third grade at this point…
· Ruby Riott defeated Naomi with the Riott Kick in a solid match. Riott won the match fair and square which keeps her strong heading into her SmackDown Women’s Championship match against Charlotte at Fastlane next Sunday. Two down. One to go!
· The Usos and The New Day had another classic verbal confrontation as Jimmy and Jey cut a passionate promo about being sidelined at the last SEVEN WrestleManias. There was no chance in hell (no pun intended) that they were going to let The New Day steal their moment for the eighth year in the row. Fastlane would be their Superbowl where they would be the real MVPs and All-Stars heading into the biggest show of the year while The New Day sat on the sidelines.
· Big E had a great rebuttal by stating that same old shtick that The New Day has been doing for the past five years resulted in them breaking barriers for everyone. While E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods were hosting last year’s Mania, The Usos were hanging out in catering. The New Day didn’t have a famous father to help them get their foot in the door. They forged their own path to success and vowed to become five-time Tag Team Champs at Fastlane.
· Both teams were about to go at it when The Bludgeon Brothers made their way down to the ring. The Usos and New Day left the ring to avoid certain doom as the segment came to an end.
· The New Day has been hit or miss for me lately when it comes to their pancake loving ways. However, they know how to flip the switch when it comes to getting serious. Big E can be so much better than he is based on his promo work tonight. Relying on comedy can only get you so far and I believe he has what it takes to be a main eventer if he’s presented as a legit badass. Tonight proved that E can deliver the goods when called upon to do so. More of that, please!
· Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Aiden English with the Kinshasa in a decent match. Rusev tried to interfere, but the outcome was never in doubt. Rusev being at ringside created a weird atmosphere because Nakamura is supposed to be the most over guy in the match. However, the fans view Rusev as a cult hero which almost outshined the man who has a direct path to WrestleMania. It’s another case of WWE trying to serve multiple masters at once while muddling the heel-face waters at the same time.
· John Cena defeated AJ Styles with the AA and will be added to the WWE Championship match at Fastlane in a couple of weeks. This was a very good match, but I wasn’t a fan of WWE not showing the viewers at home some of the great near falls that took place in real-time. They replayed the highlights after the commercial break, but it still should’ve been on the actual broadcast to make the bout feel more complete.
· Minor criticism aside, Cena and Styles put on a show that was filled with high drama and near falls throughout.
· Both men hit their respective finishers, but they weren’t able to keep the other down. Things got dicey at ringside when Cena crashed against the steel steps. The referee started the ten-count, but Styles stopped the ref mid-count and went after Cena. That was a bad idea as Cena put Styles through the announce table with an AA.
· Miraculously, Styles managed to get back in the ring before the count of ten thanks to a fan helping The Phenomenal One to his feet. Cena went for another AA, but Styles countered with the Calf Crusher. Cena managed to roll through and hit another AA for the win.
· Styles will now defend the WWE Title in a Six-Pack Challenge at Fastlane. Sensing that the odds were starting to swing in the opposite direction. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn made their way down to the ring to confront Cena and Styles. However, Baron Corbin fired the first shot when he attacked Cena from behind. Chaos ensued as the heels attacked the babyfaces and each other until Dolph Ziggler evened the odds by nailing Owens and Corbin with the Superkick.
· Styles, Cena, and Ziggler stood tall in the ring but the truce was short-lived when Ziggler punched Styles in the face. Cena dropped Ziggler with the AA as the show abruptly went off the air.
· This was a good way to end the show. Styles and Cena have had better matches on PPV, but this was still the best SD Live match of the year thus far. Both men know each other so well and their chemistry was on full display once again. The ending gives Cena one more chance to headline WrestleMania. I have a feeling that his hopes and dreams are going to be dashed once again, but a certain Dead Man will be waiting in the wings. Just a hunch…
· The Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Title should be very good. This match has been changed three times over the past few weeks which is a bit much for my taste. However, each man can get the job done in the ring which should elevate the quality of the bout. I fully expect Styles to retain the title and move on to his dream match against Shinsuke Nakamura at Mania. Anything less would be idiotic.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was solid. The show was more focused from a creative standpoint which was refreshing to see for a change. The in-ring action ranged from solid to very good with John Cena and AJ Styles easily winning best match of the night honors.
· However, I am not a fan of the visual presentation of the show as of late. Besides the stupid word graphics, I hate how the camera cuts backstage multiple times during matches. WWE ditched the Second Screen Experience on their app a couple of years ago, but it appears that they are trying to inundate the audience with unnecessary shit that detracts from the overall quality of the show.
· Watching wrestling shouldn’t be a chore. It should be an enjoyable experience with little to no fluff involved. Perhaps the company should conduct a survey to see if fans enjoy seeing giant words on the screen or various camera cuts that would make Steven Spielberg quit the film business. If the answer is no, here’s hoping that the madness stops because it’s draining me to no end.
· To end things on a lighter note, next week’s go-home show from Green Bay, Wisconsin should be good as the creative team puts the finishing touches on the Fastlane PPV. Like Elimination Chamber, this is another speed bump on the Road to WrestleMania. It will be a predictable show, but the in-ring action should be strong. With five weeks to go until Mania, it’s time for the blue brand to get out of their winter funk and deliver the goods because Raw has been kicking their ass of late. Every Monday and Tuesday should be must-see heading into the heart of WM season. Let’s hope the creative team surprises fans with some razzle-dazzle to make up for a rough start to 2018. Fingers crossed!
On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!