WWE SmackDown results, recap: AJ Styles' temper causes a Fastlane triple threat
A non-finish in Tuesday night's main event sets up a triple threat at WWE Fastlane
The more things change on SmackDown Live, the more they stay the same.
Despite a main event match on Tuesday designed to give some much-needed clarity to the laborious feud between AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (and Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon), WWE presented a non-finish that simply kept things in neutral.
For a feud that began as far back as last May and likely has an end date set for WrestleMania, the most recent chapters have been dull throughout the buildup to the Royal Rumble. Tuesday's result did it no favor, outside of the reveal that Styles, Owens and Zayn will face off in a triple threat match for the WWE championship at Fastlane on March 11.
In many ways, the Styles-Owens/Zayn feud has become a microcosm of SmackDown's issues as a whole. Gone are the days of 2016 when the revived blue brand, fresh off WWE's first brand split in five years, provided viewers with a Raw alternative that was consistently better.
These days, SmackDown has had difficulties simply remaining relevant, becoming the ultimate DVR show to skim through and search for any major storyline developments. This week, like most of the nine months before it ever since the Superstar Shakeup following WrestleMania 33, they were once again few and far between.
SmackDown Live needs a major reshuffling of the deck in a way that goes way beyond adding on-screen graphics and selfie promos.
Let's take a look at what went down Tuesday night during SmackDown Live.
Angry Styles causes triple threat match at Fastlane
SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon opened the broadcast with an emotional in-ring plea toward general manager Daniel Bryan. Despite sharing his respect for Bryan, McMahon stood firm in believing that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had manipulated him into handing out undeserved opportunities.
McMahon, who called out Bryan for not listening to the WWE universe, then took it one step further. After calling the "Yep! Movement" a cheap imitation of the greatest thing that Bryan created, McMahon told him he was living vicariously through the two heels. But just as McMahon referenced Bryan's longing to compete again in the ring, WWE champion AJ Styles interrupted matters. Styles reprimanded both for obsessing over Owens and Zayn.
"Every time you guys make a decision based upon them, it affects me," Styles said. The WWE champion warned both to stay out of it during the main event.
The newfound friendship between Owens and Zayn was tested early. Eventually the match turned into a brawl, filled with multiple pay-per-view quality high spots and near falls. With Styles at ringside on commentary, both wrestlers were deserving of the "this is awesome" chant from the crowd.
The finish came following a memorable sequence in which Owens yelled in the fallen Zayn's face, "Just stay down, I'm the one who wins the titles." After the action spilled outside, Zayn began jawing in the champion's face. Styles snapped and landed punches on both Owens and Zayn, forcing the disqualification. He then hit a springboard splash from the top rope onto both heels.
Although there would be no winner to the match, Bryan came out to clean up the mess. Because of the outside interference, he booked a triple threat title match at Fastlane involving all three.
How unsatisfying. After a nonsensical handicap title match at Royal Rumble, the triple threat discovery does nothing to hide WWE's intentions from now until WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans. We can still expect Styles to face Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE championship and both Owens and Zayn to settle their brewing feud in yet another classic. The end game isn't the problem; it's the journey to get there that has been so mailed in. WWE spent far too much time in recent months featuring McMahon and Bryan in this feud only to curiously remove them for much of the past month. While Tuesday's episode opened with some much-needed storyline development between the SmackDown brass, anything short of Bryan returning to the ring at this point will be a letdown because of how long it has taken to tell his story.
#SDLive General Manager @WWEDanielBryan declares that BOTH @FightOwensFight & @SamiZayn are going to #WWEFastlane to challenge @AJStylesOrg for the @WWE Championship in a #TripleThreat match! pic.twitter.com/KFtu3e1ypm— WWE (@WWE) February 7, 2018
What else happened on SmackDown Live?
- Charlotte Flair def. Liv Morgan via submission: Serving up payback after being attacked last week, Flair dominated physically from the start. Interference from the Riott Squad led to Sarah Logan and Ruby Riott getting tossed from ringside by the referee. Flair forced the tapout quickly after with her Figure 8 leg lock.
- The Bludgeon Brothers def. unnamed jobbers via pinfall: The losers of this squash match weren't even given the courtesy of having their names mentioned. Harper and Rowan delivered the expected beatdown in violent fashion, manhandling their tiny opponents as if they were children. A double crucifix bomb finisher produced the pin. After the match, The Usos delivered a brief staredown while walking past them in the aisle.
- The Usos deliver in-ring promo: Jimmy and Jey opened by saying their Uso penitentiary catchphrase isn't about real jail but "a state of mind. We turn that mind into a prison, a lockdown, which means we run that prison." The Usos closed the entertaining rant by alternating their delivery and referencing both their hunger for success and how far they have come.
- Daniel Bryan reveals SmackDown's first top 10 list: AJ Styles took home the top spot on a list that doesn't seem to make much sense as to why it debuted or what it's purpose really is. The only surprise was the puzzling omissions of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Rusev. Order: 10. Tye Dillinger, 9. Randy Orton, 8. Becky Lynch, 7. The Usos, 6. The New Day, 5. Bobby Roode, 4. Naomi, 3. Shinsuke Nakamura, 2. Charlotte Flair, 1. Styles.
- U.S. championship -- Bobby Roode (c) def. Rusev via pinfall: Rusev, who earned a title shot by winning a fatal four-way last week, continued to receive strong babyface reactions from fans. In fact, the crowd heated up considerably late in the bout after each near fall teased a Rusev victory. But the finish was noticeably sloppy as Roode, whose stock continues to fall despite being champion, botched a pair of reversals which led to his Glorious DDT for the 1-2-3. After the match, Randy Orton interrupted Roode's celebration with an RKO out of nowhere. He went on to deliver the same fate to Aiden English and Rusev.
Orton has been needing the procedure done for a while now
Everything you need to know ahead of WWE's annual Money in the Bank pay-per-view
USA Network is planning to keep Raw but wants WWE to shop SmackDown elsewhere
Rousey is in action in Europe, while Amore was released from WWE back in January
Trying to make sense of everything going on with two of WWE's top superstars
Shinsuke Nakamura now has the upper hand over AJ Styles going into their next bout