Venue: Smoothie King Center (New Orleans, LA)
Commentators: Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, & Byron Saxton
WWE looks towards Fastlane this week on SmackDown as we find out who will challenge ‘The New’ Daniel Bryan for his eco-friendly WWE Championship at the final stop before WrestleMania (BE KOFI. WHY NOT KOFI?). Also on the show The Miz aims to make a public apology to tag team partner Shane McMahon for costing them the Tag Team Championship, maybe some more NXT involvement, and much more. Follow along live as I recap WWE’s superior brand.
- WWE Champion: ‘The New’ Daniel Bryan
- WWE United States Champion: R-Truth
- SMACKDOWN Women’s Champion: Asuka
- SMACKDOWN Tag Team Champions: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso)
- Aleister Black vs. Andrade (**1/2)
- Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa vs. The Bar (***1/4)
- Asuka vs. Mandy Rose (*3/4)
- Ricochet vs. Eric Young (**)
- Kofi Kingston, AJ Styles, & Jeff Hardy vs. Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, & Samoa Joe (**3/4)
Shane McMahon makes his way out to the ring to open the show. As he bumps knuckles with the fans we go to a video from Elimination Chamber highlighting Kofi Kingston’s run in the main event and the post-match standing ovation/’Kofi’ chants. If you still haven’t watched the match yet please go do so, it’ll make you feel like a kid again. He’ll be in a six-man tag team match, teaming with Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles against Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, & Randy Orton. Yay all the people I like and also Randy Orton!
Back to the ring where Shane puts over tonight’s main event and says the NXT guys from RAW (Johnny Gargano, Aleister Black, Ricochet, TOMMASO CIAMPA EVEN THOUGH SHANE FORGOT TO MENTION HIM) will also be in action tonight. The Miz interrupts to make his Mizpology about causing he and Shane losing the Tag Team Championship at Elimination Chamber to The Usos. Miz is torn up about it, especially since McMahon took a chance on him given his history. Miz brings up the fact that when Miz’s Dad was brought out after their championship win and said he was proud of him, that was one of the best moments of his career and life, and thanks Shane for it. Miz says he let Shane down on Sunday and wants to make it up to him, and implores Shane to circumvent the ‘no rematch clause’ it’s him.
Before Shane can answer out come The Usos to interrupt. They bring up that there is no automatic rematch clause (yes, we’ve been told two seconds ago) but say if Shane can forgive Miz they will give them the rematch. Jimmy says there’s one reason why Shane doesn’t want the rematch: his boy Miz is a JOKE, a LOSER, a FAILURE, a FRAUD. Shane stands up for Miz and says the rematch is ON…at Fastlane in Miz’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.
- Miz showed off some great acting skills there with his heartfelt apology, and bringing up how he used Shane initially but was won over. I liked it a lot. I’m sure this is still leading to Miz vs. Shane at WrestleMania but I’m hoping that maybe it doesn’t because I kinda like that these two are getting along so well. It’s nice to see Shane make a friend that isn’t in the Mean Street Posse.
‘The Dutch Destroyer’ Aleister Black vs. Andrade [w/ Zelina Vega]
Black defeated Andrade for the NXT Championship last year in this same arena, so we’ve got some history to this one! I forgot they lumped off the rest of Andrade’s name. What a stupid and unnecessary thing to do. Before we get to the match we get a video package for Black with a series of highlights from his time in NXT so far. Cool. LET’S GET TO THE MATCH THOUGH.
Lots o’ back and forth from the two, Andrade dodges Black’s kick and they reset. Black slides under Andrade’s legs, Andrade drops him with a chop. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are watching backstage, and will be interviewed after this match. Uhhh why? Andrade with a corner Irish whip and a running pair of knees to the sternum for a two-count. Black sends Andrade to the floor and plays some mind games with a flip into a cross-legged seat (Indian style is a bad thing to say now, right?). Picture-in-picture with the commercial break, Black flips over Andrade and connects with a knee to the midsection for a two-count. Black with a flipping armdrag into an armbar. Black to the apron, Vega distracts him and allows Andrade to catch him with a cheapshot to the skull. Black brings Andrade to the apron and they trade forearms and big boots. Andrade dazes Black and hits a backbreaker ON THE HARDEST PART OF THE RIIIIIING. Andrade with a chinlock, Black breaks it up by ramming Andrade into the corner. Andrade kicks Black, Black responds with one of his own and both men are down. BACK TO FULL SCREEN just in time for Black’s rapid-fire strikes. Black goes for a springboard, Andrade dumps him out to the floor. Black counters the Hammerlock DDT with an inside cradle for a one-count. Black kicks Andrade away followed by a meteora and bridging German suplex for the 1…2…kickout. Andrade hip tosses Black into the corner and follows up with the running double knees for the 1…2…Black kicks out. Black counters the Hammerlock DDT and hits Black Mass for the 1…2…3!
Aleister Black defeated Andrade via pinfall with Black Mass (8:40)
- Good match, though it’s odd to see NXT get another win over a main roster member given I don’t think they’ve actually been called up yet. Maybe the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT teased for tomorrow’s NXT will shed light on the plan going forward. (**1/2)
-Cut backstage where Gargano and Ciampa are interviewed backstage. Ciampa says they’ve made careers out of defying expectations and he does his best work with a spotlight. Gargano brings up the fact he and Ciampa went to war last year in the same building but now they’re together on SmackDown Live to show everyone they are the future. They’re interrupted by The Bar and their SUPER PURPLE CAMO JACKETS. Cesaro tells them to go back to RAW and NXT. Gargano says they aren’t here to set The Bar, they’re here to BREAK the bar. Cesaro and Sheamus laugh and walk off. I WONDER WHO GARGANO AND CIAMPA ARE FACING TONIGHT. Also seeing Ciampa and Gargano being buddy buddy and not completely insane is…strange.
–Kofi Kingston and The New Day extend a pancake branch to AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy to make sure they’re on the same page tonight. This feels like it’s too back to the motions for Kofi, DON’T DO THIS TO ME WWE.
Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa vs. The Bar (Cesaro & Sheamus)
Gargano & Ciampa apparently drew the long straws this week as last night they got to go toe to toe with their former NXT rivals The Revival last night on RAW and now they’re taking on The Bar tonight. To be honest I’m more interested in this one as it’s a legitimately fresh match-up and also it’s not on RAW so that means I’m not watching RAW.
Sheamus paintbrushes Ciampa with his forearm, Ciampa shoves him and grabs a waistlock. Sheamus easily escapes with a back elbow, Ciampa drops Sheamus to his knees with a kick followed by a running kick to the side of the head. Cesaro tags in and wants Johnny Wrestling! Gargano obliges and my WrestleMania main event fantasy booking is coming true! Cesaro with a wristlock, Gargano kips up and reverses a backbreaker with a good ol’ pair of headscissors. Cesaro responds with a European uppercut and down he goes. Ciampa tags in and clotheslines Cesaro out to the floor, Gargano with a tope suicida on Sheamus. Ciampa tries to splash Cesaro from the apron but Cesaro catches him and hits a backbreaker while Sheamus blindsides Gargano. The Bar are in control as we go to commercial.
Cesaro has Ciampa in a chinlock as we return to the match. Ciampa escapes with a jawbreaker but ends up flying right into a European uppercut so that’s that. YouTube TV just skipped but apparently Gargano got knocked off the apron so no tag can be made. That was weird. Sheamus, now the legal man, tries to hit White Noise from the middle buckle, but Ciampa escapes and counters with a sunset bomb AND SHEAMUS LANDS ON CIAMPA’S KNEE IN A REAL AWKWARD WAY JESUS. Gargano gets the tag, sending Cesaro to the floor with a hurricanrana. Gargano with a superkick to Cesaro from the apron followed by a cannonball on Sheamus. Cesaro charges, Gargano dodges and he goes into the barricade. Gargano rolls Cesaro back in and covers for the 1…2…THE BAR STILL HAS LIFE. Gargano with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors into Garga-NO Escape. Cesaro escapes with a backbreaker, Sheamus tags in and connects with a flying knee for the 1…2…Ciampa breaks it up! The Bar toss him back to the floor, Sheamus with Irish Curse on Gargano for the 1…2…Gargano kicks out! Gargano belts Sheamus with a superkick and covers for the 1…2…nope! Cesaro gets the tag, Ciampa gets the blind tag and rolls Cesaro up for the 1…2…3! YES!
Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa defeated The Bar when Ciampa pinned Cesaro with a roll-up (8:25 shown)
- I dug this one a lot. I thought Ciampa was done for after getting his knee smashed in that awkward angle, but he still got back in and got the pin. Here’s hoping he’s okay for real. The Bar are SO GOOD, y’all. (***1/4)
–Samoa Joe, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, and Rowan are shown backstage talking shop ahead of the six-man tag team match tonight.
-SMACKDOWN Women’s Champion Asuka makes her way out for an interview…after the break. Hey they remembered she exists, awesome! Back live Kayla Braxton recaps Asuka’s many accomplishments, then brings up the fact people seem to be more interested in Ronda Rousey. Braxton asks if she feels lost in the shuffle, Asuka feels…ready for a new challenge and reminds everyone that she’s already beaten Becky and Charlotte so she doesn’t want to talk about them, she wants to know who is ready for her…RIGHT NOW. Apparently Mandy Rose is ready, backed by Sonya Deville. Rose mocks Asuka for feeling ignored (even though she JUST SAID she didn’t care) and says Asuka should take notes from her. Rose says she’s ready for Asuka…and apparently this match is happening RIGHT NOW.
Asuka vs. Mandy Rose [w/ Sonya Deville]
I didn’t see no graphic so I’m assuming the Women’s Championship isn’t on the line. Asuka belts Rose with a dropkick and gets an early one-count. They’re interrupted by Lacey Evans, who’s here for another walk. Deville tells her to get the f out of here, which Evans does because she’s only here to do the model thing. Rose tries to take advantage with a Russian Legsweep but Asuka easily kicks out at 1. OH THANK GOD. Rose gets some strikes in but gets sent to the floor and now it’s time for a COMMERCIAL.
Back live Asuka goes for a kneebar, but Rose gets to the bottom rope before it’s really cinched in. We go to the floor where Rose drops Asuka with an AWESOME pump knee strike. Rose tries to get the countout win but Asuka breaks the count just in time. Rose talks trash, making Asuka angry enough for some strikes and a missile dropkick from the middle buckle. Asuka drops Rose and covers but she manages to kick out. Asuka with a release German suplex followed by a Shining Wizard for the 1…2…not yet. Rose gets hit in the eye and goes into full flop mode. Rose takes FOREVER to finally go in for the kill, sending Asuka into the ropes and rolling her up for the 1…2…3!
Mandy Rose defeated Asuka via pinfall with a roll-up (6:01 shown)
- MANDY ROSE just beat ASUKA? 2019 is weird. The match was okay but it was pretty clear Asuka was holding back a bit out of necessity. Rose’s pump knee strike was pretty sweet though. I guess this is Asuka’s new championship feud, but hey it’s new blood so I can’t be too mad. (*3/4)
–Charlotte Flair is in the locker room, having watched the match on closed-circuit TV. She gets interrupted for an interview, Flair reiterates that Becky is suspended and she’s the one main-eventing WrestleMania. Usual stuff but delivered well because Flair is SO GOOD at being a heel.
-The Miz tells Shane backstage that Mr. Miz will be at ringside at Fastlane for their Tag Team Championship rematch. Oh maaaan, you’re really tempting fate, dude.
Ricochet vs. Eric Young [w/ Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain]
Hey SAnitY still exists and finally got a televised entrance…during the picture-in-picture commercial break. Still counts! Young with a wristlock, Ricochet does the flippy flippy and reverses into one of his own. Ricochet gets sent to the mat with a shoulderblock, but kips up quickly and hits a headscissors into another kip up and a dropkick. Young rolls to the floor, Ricochet does his superhero fake-out stance, annoying the leader of nu-metal band SAnitY. Young sends Ricochet to the apron, Wolfe distracts him and Young sends him to the floor with a forearm to the side of the head. Young goes to work, hanging Ricochet with a chinlock from the middle buckle and a flying fist drop for a two-count. To the chinlock we go. Ricochet dodges a corner splash followed by a lariat. The comeback continues with a springboard European uppercut and STANDING shooting star press for the 1…2…Young kicks out. Young escapes a fireman’s carry but eats a back elbow. Ricochet battles out of the corner and sends him out to the floor. Ricochet with a springboard dropkick to Wolfe followed by a moonsault on both Young and Dain. Back in the ring Ricochet drops Young with a kick to the face and hits the 630 Splash for the 1…2…3!
Ricochet defeated Eric Young via pinfall with the 630 Splash (TIME NOT RECORDED)
- My stopwatch app screwed up so I didn’t catch the time for this one. I’m sure you don’t care but it drives me nuts. Good stuff here, Ricochet hit all his beats including his INSANE finishing splash. So many rotations. I miss Impact-era Eric Young and when he actually got to do things. (**)
-Kayla Braxton (?) is backstage with The New Day. Woods says Kofi has been grinding for 11 years, longer than Instagram! Kingston says the entire WWE Universe has his back, Woods holds up a #KofiMania sign. Kingston puts over his BROTHERS Woods and Big E for nominating him to be in the Elimination Chamber match in the first place. Please don’t ever break up The New Day, WWE. They don’t need a stupid breakup angle. Anyway this bleeds right into Big E’s intro and The New Day’s entrance, which is executed excellently. Bret Hart would approve.
–Kevin Owens with another video hyping his return. He’s at the movie theater with his son Owen. He says that while he’s been away he puts things in perspective and remembered why he started fighting in the first place. He’s ready to fight again. He asks his son for the change from buying a popcorn and soda but there is none despite Kevin giving him 20 bucks. As someone who worked at a movie theater for a decade: this tracks. I’m not sure what the game is here with these Owens promos but I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. Has he done a zoo one yet? I feel like that should have been the first one.
–Daniel Bryan cuts a promo during his entrance, and OH MY GOD HIS CHEST IS STILL BRUISED THE F*CK UP FROM SUNDAY. JESUS. Bryan says the people tried to will the WWE Championship away from him by forcing him into the Elimination Chamber but he survived for his serves a higher purpose. Bryan won’t tell us who his opponent is at Fastlane but he’ll tell them who it’s not: NONE OF THE PEOPLE IN THE MATCH TONIGHT because he already beat them at the Elimination Chamber! Not his decision though, so KOFI STILL HAS A SHOT. Anyway the match finally happens after the commercial.
Kofi Kingston, ‘The Phenomenal’ AJ Styles, & Jeff Hardy [w/ Xavier Woods & Big E] vs. ‘The New’ Daniel Bryan, ‘The Viper’ Randy Orton, & Samoa Joe [w/ Rowan]
Bryan immediately tags out to Joe when he sees Kingston on the other side. Kingston with a series of strikes, Joe reverses a corner Irish whip but gets hit with a missile dropkick for a one-count. Hardy tags in and hits usual offense (legdrop, basement dropkick, you know the deal). He goes for the Twist of Fate, Joe spikes him face-first into the mat and tags out to Orton who drags Hardy to his team’s corner for some Garvin Stomps. Bryan tags in for some ex-YES Kicks and a penalty kick to the dome for a two-count. Orton tags back in for a…chinlock. Hardy escapes and tags in Kingston, who is a HOUSE OF FI-YAH. New Day Boom Drop to Orton, Bryan charges but gets sent to the floor, Kingston clotheslines Orton to the floor and goes to take flight but Bryan knocks him off the buckles. Orton picks Kingston up and slams him on the announce table as we go to commercial.
Bryan pummels Kingston as we return live. Orton tags in and ONCE AGAIN drops Kingston on the announce table like a big ol’ jerk. Orton rolls him in and covers but Kingston kicks out. Back to a chinlock we go and wait didn’t this just happen two seconds ago? Is my TV rewinding itself? Kingston dodges a corner splash and Orton rams shoulder-first into the LED post. Styles gets the hot tag for his own HOUSE OF FI-YAH moment. Backbreaker and ushigorishi to Bryan for the 1…2…champ kicks out. Orton runs in, Styles counters the RKO with an enzuigiri. Bryan belts Styles with a kick, Styles rolls him into the Calf Crusher. Joe breaks it up, Hardy hits him with a Twist of Fate, Orton slides Hardy out to the floor, Styles sends Orton out to the ring. Styles rolls Bryan up for the 1…2…Bryan kicks out and locks in the LeBell Lock. Styles forces a rope break and catches the champ with a Pele Kick. Kingston gets the tag and gets backdropped onto EVERYBODY. Bryan goes for a tope suicida, Kingston belts him with a forearm and follows up with a missile dropkick. Bryan bails to hide behind Rowan, Kingston flattens them both with a stage dive! CROWD GOES NUTS and Kingston hits Trouble in Paradise for the 1…2…3! YESSSSS
Kofi Kingston, AJ Styles, & Jeff Hardy defeated Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, & Samoa Joe when Kingston pinned Bryan with Trouble in Paradise (8:21 shown)
- Solid main event with a GREAT ending stretch that only just put Kofi over even harder. The crowd was ELECTRIC in the final minutes and he looked like a goddamn superstar by not only clearing everybody out but for the SECOND time pinning the WWE Champion. Kofi rules so hard. What a two week stretch this has been. (**3/4)
Shane McMahon makes his way out and announces that Daniel Bryan will be defending the WWE Championship at Fastlane against…KOFI KINGSTON! Hell yeah. I’m sure this is being done so they can move onto Bryan’s REAL WrestleMania opponent while also giving the fans what they want in a Kofi title shot, but still HELL YEAH! This might be the first time I’ve ever been interested in a Fastlane PPV.
Overall Thoughts: Another enjoyable episode of SmackDown which is not surprising since this is the only consistent main roster show (on cable) WWE has. RAW might have the prestige but SmackDown is actually bearable and entertaining to sit through. The NXT ringers came through in their outings, they ended the episode by announcing a championship match EVERYBODY wants to see, not much to complain about here y’all.
- Match of the Night: Gargano & Ciampa vs. The Bar
- Moment of the Night: Kofi officially gets his WWE Championship match at Fastlane, instantly making the PPV into one worth watching when it’s normally skippable. WHY NOT KOFI, DO IT YOU COWARDS.