SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair and Ruby Riott Came Face-to-Face
SmackDown Live kicks off with a talking segment more often than not nowadays, but it was a refreshing change of pace to feature the women in this spot for a change. The division hasn't been lighting the world on fire nowadays, but I thought both women cut their best promos in recent memory here, hyping up their championship clash for Fastlane effectively. It didn't overstay its welcome either and was well-executed all around. I also liked the tie-in with Bobby Roode making his entrance for the subsequent match given his current alliance with Charlotte in the Mixed Match Challenge.
Jinder Mahal def. Randy Orton
I hoped we would never have to see another Orton vs. Mahal match again after their atrocious feud last year, yet here we are. That said, this was wasn't all awful, as the match was perfectly solid and not nearly as boring as I feared it would be. Roode cost Orton the win after he tossed Mahal into him earlier in the outing, and I was slightly surprised by the finish considering how de-pushed Mahal has been since losing the WWE Championship. Not that I want him to be, but Mahal has to be added to the United States Championship matchup at Fastlane at this point, right?
Becky Lynch def. Carmella
Lynch challenged Carmella to a match backstage last week after SmackDown went off the air on WWE's YouTube channel, but beyond that, this was a meaningless match. I will give them credit, though, for having a pretty passable bout and to Carmella for holding her own against Lynch. Carmella has lost any steam she may have had when she first won Money in the Bank, and I'm honestly not sure when she'll cash in. As for Lynch, she has been overlooked for far too long and I'm honestly hoping she gets shipped to Raw in the Superstar Shake-up post-WrestleMania. Apparently we'll be getting Lynch and Naomi vs. Carmella and Natayla on Sunday, a match I couldn't care less about as of now.
WWE Champion AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler Ended in a No Contest (Non-title)
The promo battle that preceded this match was actually very good and Ziggler came across as motivated on the mic for once. I'd be excited for a one-on-one feud between these two if Ziggler hadn't been so damaged over the years. The match itself was very well-wrestled and had a nice pace before it was interrupted by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, leading to the predictable Fatal 5-Way featuring these four and Baron Corbin immediately thereafter.
Sami Zayn def. WWE Champion AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler in a Fatal 5-Way Match (Non-title)
It's bad enough they're doing a Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Championship at Fastlane, but to basically do the pay-per-view main event five days early on free TV without John Cena seemed super stupid to me. Granted, it was an entertaining match and everyone had their time to shine, but the outcome of the Six-Pack Challenge doesn't feel like it's in doubt whatsoever despite what we saw here. Additionally, Zayn turning on Owens by pinning him to pick up the victory was premature and odd timing. WWE is desperate to make it look like Styles' title is in jeopardy, but it's coming at the expense of one of their longer running angles on the brand.
I have been fairly (okay, extremely) critical of SmackDown lately, but this was a decent go-home show that was fully focused on Fastlane. The first hour was fine and the second hour solely centered around the WWE Championship picture, but only the main event is really worth watching in my opinion. The card for the event is weak on paper because of how poorly many of those matches have been built over the past month, but I have faith it can exceed expectations.