Tye Dillinger and Breezango def. Mojo Rawley, Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable (Kickoff Match)
This was a primary example of a match that was literally thrown together at the last minute to kill time on a pointless hour-long Kickoff show. All six of these stars have been floundering for months, so putting them in a six-man tag team match made some sense, I suppose. It was as formulaic of a multi-man tag match as you'll ever see, but the crowd was happy to see the babyfaces score the victory, so there was that.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Rusev
For a match that was confirmed for the card literally days ahead of the event, this was a super entertaining opener. Of course, Nakamura and Rusev being over with the audience was a major factor, but the in-ring action was much better than I thought it would be. Rusev's nearfalls were well done even though no one in their right mind predicted him to win and he certainly gained something in defeat. Rusev, despite his popularity, has been a non-player on SmackDown Live lately, but I hope that changes coming off this performance.
Randy Orton def. Bobby Roode to Win the United States Championship
I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, but this feud would be way more engaging if one of these men was a heel, a role they both thrive in. It didn't help that this match lasted a little longer than it should have. Regardless, it was pretty good. Orton winning genuinely surprised me, if only because Roode just won the title back in January, but we'll see what the endgame is at WrestleMania, where I assume these two and Jinder Mahal will meet in a Triple Threat with the gold up for grabs.
Carmella and Natalya def. Becky Lynch and Naomi
I realize the point of this match was merely to kill time on a three hour show, and while I'm all for the women getting more matches, this was completely pointless and would have been better off saved for SmackDown. That isn't to say it was terrible, but it was decent at best and with nothing at stake and no real rivalries in place, it was a waste of time. Expect the babyfaces to get their win back on Tuesday night.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos vs. The New Day Ended in a No Contest
I don't believe I have ever seen a below-average match between these teams, so the fact that this was a ton of fun didn't surprise me in the slightest. Them stealing each other's signature moves was a treat and it was going really well until the non-finish with The Bludgeon Brothers laying everyone out. I figured that was coming based off what we've seen on SmackDown over the past month, but it was disappointing, nonetheless. On the bright side, this appears to be heading toward a three-way tag title match at WrestleMania, which has the potential to steal the show. Throw in ladders or even a TLC stipulation and it could be a blockbuster.
SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair def. Ruby Riott
SmackDown's women's division has been lifeless forever by this point, but I have to commend Charlotte and Riott for putting forth a hell of an effort here. The outcome was never in doubt, mind you, and there were a few awkward spots with Riott oddly hitting her finisher early on to no reaction, but it was a strong showing from her overall. Fingers crossed she'll be focused on again following WrestleMania. As for Asuka confronting Charlotte afterward, it was exactly what I expected to happen, but it was executed to perfection and I'm looking forward to seeing them clash for the first time one-on-one on the grand stage.
WWE Champion AJ Styles def. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin and John Cena in Six-Pack Challenge Match
Say what you will about the build to this bout (and it was extremely lazy to say the least), but this delivered in being an excellent main event. Everyone had a chance to shine at one point or another and it was wisely laid out with Styles and Cena facing off at the beginning, Corbin being protected, and Owens and Zayn teasing tension in addition to furthering their feud with Shane McMahon. I don't know how that will culminate at WrestleMania, but I'm curious to find out. Of course, Styles needed to retain his title here, and now him vs. Nakamura in a dream match for the WWE Championship is official for WrestleMania.
My expectations for this event were fairly low going in because SmackDown has been abysmal for many months and the predictability hindered my excitement for it as well, but it turned out to be a solid show from start to finish. Save for maybe the women's tag team match, everything was well-wrestled and served a purpose, setting the stage for WrestleMania nicely. After all, isn't that what these road to WrestleMania pay-per-views are designed to do? The awesome main event pushed this toward being a quality show on the whole and not as forgettable as I feared it would be.