WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from March 6
The final SmackDown Live before Fastlane hit the USA Network airwaves Tuesday night and featured an explosive Fatal 5-Way main event pitting five of the six Superstars in Sunday's pay-per-view against each other.
Bookending it was a show-starting promo in which Ruby Riott revealed the emphasis for The Riott Squad's creation, selling Sunday's match with Charlotte Flair as a heated bout.
With the rekindling of the rivalry between Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal, the ignition of the latest chapter in Becky Lynch and Carmella's rivalry, and another passionate promo from Dolph Ziggler, the show did just enough to make Sunday's event that much more anticipated.
Dasha Fuentes Interviews Ruby Riott
With Charlotte Flair in the ring, her Fastlane opponent—Ruby Riott—wasted little time snatching the microphone from Dasha Fuentes and addressing both the SmackDown women's champion and the WWE Universe.
She admits she watched the myth that is Charlotte being the sole personification of the Women's Revolution and formed The Riott Squad in response to it.
Charlotte took exception, claiming the only myth is she was handed everything because her father is the legendary Ric Flair.
Riott claimed when she dethrones Charlotte at Fastlane, she will be just another bleach-blonde failure.
As Riott was joined by Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan for a beatdown on Charlotte, United States champion Bobby Roode's music played. He entered the arena to serve on commentary for the night's opening match.
The promo was harder hitting than one would have expected and actually provided a reason for The Riott Squad's existence, something WWE Creative has not explained to this point.
The most interesting aspect of the segment was Roode's interruption of the beatdown.
There has been a chemistry between Charlotte and Roode during the Mixed Match Challenge that has hinted at potential romantic involvement between the two going forward, including Charlotte exclaiming "that's my man" during their victory in Round 1.
Whether that is a direction the two characters take heading into WrestleMania or afterward remains to be seen.
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal
The rivalry absolutely nobody wanted to see rekindled was Tuesday night as Randy Orton battled former WWE champion Jinder Mahal ahead of The Viper's United States Championship opportunity against Bobby Roode at Fastlane.
The Maharaja and The Viper fought their standard match, with Mahal wearing the future Hall of Famer down and relying on the interference of Sunil Singh to keep him in the match.
Late in the match, Bobby Roode distracted Orton, allowing Mahal to deliver the Khallas and score yet another victory over his most hated foe.
Jinder Mahal defeated Randy Orton
Mahal and Orton have history and chemistry, but this was an unspectacular match that was used to set up an even more unspectacular match between Orton and Roode on Sunday night.
Positioning Roode as the heel in the match via the distraction is an interesting decision. Orton is a much better heel than babyface and could have built some sympathy for a Roode character that is not catching on with audiences beyond his theme music.
Another questionable bit of booking by a SmackDown creative team that has made more than its fair share in recent months.
Becky Lynch vs. Carmella
On the surface, the matchup between Becky Lynch and Carmella would appear one-sided. Perhaps that is why the match itself was somewhat surprising.
Miss Money in the Bank dominated the match, wearing Lynch down and blasting her with a superkick that earned her a near-fall.
The Lass Kicker fought back into the match, unloaded on her with a Bexploder and tapped her out with the Disarmer.
Becky Lynch defeated Carmella
As we found out during a backstage segment following the match, this was intended to set up a tag team bout pitting Lynch and Naomi against Carmella and Natalya at Fastlane.
Otherwise, it was a nice showcase between two of the brand's once-prominent performers.
Carmella looked solid in dominating the match, and Lynch again proved why she is the most underrated and underappreciated performers on either Raw or SmackDown.
The right woman went over, and more importantly, it kept Carmella in the minds of fans, setting up her eventual Money in the Bank cash-in.
Dolph Ziggler Confronts AJ Styles
Just five days before a Six-Pack Challenge match for the WWE Championship, AJ Styles hit the ring for his scheduled match with Dolph Ziggler but had a few words for the WWE Universe.
He talked up his opponents and recalled his defeat at the hands of John Cena last week. He aired footage from Raw of Cena claiming he will win title No. 17 Sunday night.
Styles said Cena won't win because he wants to headline WrestleMania against Shinsuke Nakamura.
Ziggler interrupted. He told his story of being champion and how the fans turned on him. There is no "we" or "us," he insisted.
Styles, instead of waiting, suggested they have their match now.
This felt like an excuse to give these guys mic time rather than accomplishing anything productive.
Ziggler came across as though he believed every word he said, perhaps because it came from a place of reality. Styles, to his credit, felt very passionate about his desire for a match with Nakamura.
Still, it seemed too much like a waste of time unless the idea is to turn Styles for his 'Mania program.
That would be a terrible idea.
AJ Styles vs. Dolph Ziggler
Heading into the commercial, Styles frustrated Ziggler, but on the flip side, it was a different story.
Ziggler wore Styles down, working him over in an attempt to score an enormous win ahead of Sunday's Fastlane pay-per-view.
The Phenomenal One fought his way back into the match, but The Showoff cut it off by sending him face-first into the ring post ahead of another break.
Ziggler caught Styles with a Zig-Zag and stacked him up but could only keep his shoulders down for a count of two.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn rushed the ring and drew the disqualification. Ziggler and Styles fought the heels off before Shane McMahon's music played and the SmackDown commissioner interrupted.
McMahon proceeded to book a Fatal 5-Way match in an appetizer of sorts for this Sunday's show.
AJ Styles fought Dolph Ziggler to a double disqualification
Ziggler and Styles were never afforded the opportunity to get into a groove of any kind, thanks to commercial breaks that led to a disjointed bout.
The screwy finish designed to set up a Fatal 5-Way match that is essentially the same main event fans will get Sunday night is a decision only a creative team at a complete loss for what to do before it gets into WrestleMania mindset would possibly book.
A head-scratcher for sure.
Fatal 5-Way Main Event
The match, as one would expect, was an energetic and action-packed one that served as a nice preview of Sunday's main event.
At different points throughout the match, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler and Sami Zayn executed their signature maneuvers, leaving each other lying in the center of the ring, unable to capitalize.
Late in the match, with Styles, Corbin and Ziggler deposited to the arena floor, Zayn caught an unsuspecting Owens with a Heluva Kick to score the massive upset victory.
The commentary team put over the significance of the win and the stipulations for Sunday's match that state a similar outcome would leave Styles a former WWE champion.
Sami Zayn defeated AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin and Kevin Owens
Any match with these five guys involved is destined to be entertaining.
With that said, the finish in which Zayn pinned Owens and obliterated all preconceived notions he would allow his best friend to win the WWE title Sunday night was the perfect way to create intrigue for the main event.
Zayn as the manipulator rather than the manipulated is a nice change of pace and makes him the most interesting performer in Sunday's bout.