SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon and SmackDown General manager Daniel Bryan Confronted John Cena
"Desperate John Cena" is a great new character for Cena, if only because he's delusional to think that he won't have a road to WrestleMania. Everyone expected him to be apart of the WWE Championship picture somehow, but I'm glad he wasn't just handed a match with Shinsuke Nakamrua at Fastlane simply because he's John Cena. That said, I understand that SmackDown Live is the "land of opportunity," but a Six-Pack Challenge WWE title match? Really? Worse yet, with Cena vs. AJ Styles being as big as it is, that should have been advertised at least one week out, not thrown together at the last minute for the night's main event.
Baron Corbin def. Sami Zayn
The commercial break dominated a majority of this match and Kevin Owens was more entertaining on commentary than the action was, but what we did see was good. It's just hard to care about anyone in this WWE Championship match coming up at Fastlane when no one can win consistently. For example, Corbin won two weeks ago, lost last week, and picked up a victory this week. 50/50 is what's killing SmackDown right now. Also, how obnoxious were those cut-ins from Shane and Bryan from the back?
Ruby Riott def. Naomi
Riott and Naomi worked well together for the most part and put together a fairly decent match, but it was hardly anything out of the ordinary. I guess the story they're trying to tell is that Charlotte Flair beat two members of The Riott Squad, and now Riott has beaten both Becky Lynch and Naomi in back-to-back weeks. I'm glad they're giving Riott some wins, but I still don't think she has a shot in hell of beating Charlotte for the SmackDown Women's Championship at Fastlane.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos Interrupted The New Day
Along with their amazing matches, another thing I really loved about the feud these two teams had in 2017 is that their promos were always incredible. This was no different as Big E cut probably the best promo I've ever heard from him while The Usos were on fire yet again. The Bludgeon Brothers forcing them to flee from the ring was interesting, though. I figured they would be added to the SmackDown Tag Team Championship match at the pay-per-view and this virtually confirmed that.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Aiden English
After being left off SmackDown the last two weeks (which I'm not so sure is a bad thing given SmackDown's current state), Nakamura returned to TV... for a meaningless match against English. I would get it if it was a quick showcase for Nakamura, but this was actually competitive, and that should not be the case for the Royal Rumble winner so close to WrestleMania, especially since his opponent was Aiden English of all people. I could see Nakamura vs. Rusev being added to the Fastlane card for no other reason than the lineup needing to be filled out.
John Cena def. WWE Champion AJ Styles to Qualify for the WWE Championship Match at Fastlane
As previously noted, I hated how this received no build-up aside from the announcement at the start of the show, but as a match, this was excellent. The three matches Cena and Styles had in 2016-2017 on pay-per-view were fantastic and this was up there with each of them. I figured Cena was winning, but the nearfalls were still suspenseful down the stretch. I realize Styles was protected in defeat via the four Attitude Adjustments, but I'm not a fan of making him lose a non-title matchup just so Cena could be added to the Fastlane main event, which is now a Six-Pack Challenge. That screams overkill (and laziness) to me despite the star power involved.
Anything Styles is a part of on these shows is usually the only segment/match worth going out of your way to see, and while that can be said for this edition of SmackDown, I also enjoyed the interaction between The Usos and New Day. Everything else was just kind of there. The build for the WWE title match has been all over the place, there's nothing exciting about the women's division, Nakamura is merely killing time before 'Mania, and the overexpose of the authority figures is nauseating. SmackDown was slightly more bearable this week than it has been recently, but the blue brand has a long way to go before it's back to where it once was.