By: Jamie Henry –
Starting off last night’s Smackdown Live at the Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, California is Dolph Ziggler for his return from a seven-week sabbatical when he won the United States Championship at Clash of Champions before vacating the title on the Dec. 19th episode of Smackdown Live. He is facing Baron Corbin, who he won the title from nearly two months previous. When Corbin’s music plays, Corbin doesn’t come out and all is quiet for a few minutes as Ziggler waits for him. We go backstage to see Owens and Zayn attacking Corbin, which isn’t a surprise as the match up was for a spot in title match between Owens, Zayn and Styles at Fastlane, which Shane McMahon mentioned on Twitter after last weeks’ Smackdown Live! Owens and Zayn begin making way towards Ziggler with the statement “One down, one to go”, proving they will do anything for it to be just them vs Styles.
Zayn steps away from Owens as Owens comes down the apron and heads through the audience. Ziggler, realizing what’s going on, goes to attack Zayn but he and Owens dominate Ziggler before throwing him over the barrier and towards the ring. Ziggler is left on the ground as the duo walks away until Corbin attacks them. They beat Corbin well until officials come out to stop the fight.
Next up is The Riott Squad who comes out with Sarah Logan in a match vs Charlotte Flair. The match kicks off with both Flair and Logan going back and forth on offense, causing the massive frustration within The Riott Squad. It appears like Logan will win after Flair hits the ring post, however Flair ends up pulling out a Natural Selection on Logan and pinning her for the win.
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan are backstage, with McMahon claiming to Bryan that Owens and Zayn are not the type of champions that Smackdown Live wants. He proclaims that Corbin will face Owens, and Ziggler against Zayn, and if either one of them win, the match at Fastlane will become a fatal-four-way or fatal-five-way. He then drops the verbal bomb: “If either one of your boys (Owens, Zayn) interfere in the others’ matches, they’re out of Fastlane!”
As Corbin approaches the ring for his match against Owens, it’s clear he’s not 100 per cent. Zayn can be seen watching backstage as Corbin gains the upper hand over Owens. Ultimately, Corbin successfully pins Owens with an End of Days, a counter to Owens’ pop up power bomb, turning the match at Fastlane into a fatal-four-way. Following the match, a furious Zayn is seen backstage as Corbin celebrates in the ring.
Universal Champion, Bobby Roode comes out and asserts that the United States Open Challenge will continue, with great pride and respect towards John Cena, as he is someone who Roode hopes to surpass one day. While the challenge is open to anyone, Roode challenges Randy Orton to accept this week’s challenge. Orton takes the bait but before the match can begin, former champion Jinder Mahal jabbed Orton with this verbal barb, “at least the WWE universe respects you. I wish I can say the same thing about the WWE Roster, who voted you #9 in the top ten list.”
Mahal approaches the ring with each word. “The rest of the Smackdown Live roster? They think you’ve already peaked,” he added as Orton claims he doesn’t give a damn about any top ten list. Mahal continues to doubt him, comparing Orton’s number nine spot after 16 years in the company and Roode’s spot, number five, after being in the company for five months.
“Jinder, those are some pretty big words for a man who didn’t even make the top 10”, Roode retorts to cheers from the crowd as Mahal grows more angry.
The New Day dance out with their trumpet and pancakes and a table full of pancakes in the ring so Big E can eat 113 pancakes in less than eight minutes. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin come out, saying that The New Day should leave the roster and the Smackdown Live tag team division to more serious wrestlers. In response, The New Day say that no one wants to see Benjamin and Gable as a tag team. The entire segment is the brand of funny that has become The New Day’s signature. The teams begin a match and both go back and forth with The New Day eventually pinning Gable with a Midnight Hour, though Benjamin was the legal man in.
Ziggler, backstage, heading towards the ring, is interviewed by Renee Young. “The reason I am back is for one thing only, the one thing that has alluded me my entire career – I want to main event Wrestlemania, and I’ll be damned if I don’t walk in there as WWE champion”
Ziggler and Zayn close out the show with both men going back and forth. At one point, Ziggler is punched off the apron of the ring and into the announce table. Owens, like Zayn, is watching backstage. Ziggler scores a near fall on Zayn after hitting him with the Famouser. Ziggler pulls out the win with a superkick, making the match at Fastlane a fatal five-way.