Charlotte Flair finally got the upper hand on her WrestleMania 38 opponent Ronda Rousey. Flair and Rousey's feud kicked into a new gear on WWE SmackDown.
SmackDown was the Flair and Rousey show on Friday night as the rivals developed their WrestleMania rivalry over two segments throughout the evening. The SmackDown Women's champion Flair got a measure of vengeance on Rousey after being out-grappled on last week's SmackDown and the Elimination Chamber event.
Big E suffered a very serious injury in SmackDown's opening match, the WWE Intercontinental title was defended by Ricochet, The Usos' WrestleMania opponents were revealed and Brock Lesnar gave Paul Heyman a serious scare. Lots of developments on Friday's program.
CBS Sports was with you all night with recaps and highlights of all the action from the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair come to blows
Tensions between Rousey and Flair continue to escalate on SmackDown. The WrestleMania opponents came face-to-face in multiple segments over the course of two hours.
Rousey's in-ring segment was interrupted by Flair, who made excuses for tapping out to Rousey's ankle lock in the aftermath of Rousey vs. Sonya Deville on last week's show. Flair promised to embarrass Rousey at WrestleMania and Rousey challenged Flair to scrap but the reigning SmackDown Women's champion promptly exited the ring. The former UFC champion assured Flair that her only escape at WrestleMania will be to tap out.
Following Friday's main event Intercontinental title match between Ricochet and Zayn, the camera crew headed backstage to find Flair and Rousey brawling in the loading dock. Producers "Hurricane" Shane Helms and Jamie Noble attempted to separate the rivals but were unable to restore order. Flair suplexed Rousey into the hood of a car. Flair attempted to put Rousey into a sleeper hold, but referees and other witnesses pulled her off as SmackDown went off the air.
Ricochet def. Sami Zay via pinfall to retain the WWE Intercontinental championship. Zayn enacted his rematch clause after losing the Intercontinental crown to Ricochet on last week's episode of SmackDown. The two talented performers pieced together a very good match. Highlights included the Benadryller, a springboard lariat, backflip into a Tijeras and exploder suplex. Ricochet capped off the match with an exhilarating 630 senton.
A great call to give Flair some offense in what has otherwise been a lopsided feud benefitting Rousey. The attempted submission attempt was a reminder that Flair has plenty of submission weapons in her arsenal against famed Judoka and UFC champion Rousey. The Intercontinental title match also delivered. Ricochet and Zayn are supremely talented and the match benefited from not having Johnny Knoxville's shenanigans impede on the proceedings. Grade: B+
What else happened on WWE SmackDown?
- Brock Lesnar chased Paul Heyman through the arena. Lesnar kicked off the show calling for Roman Reigns' blood after The Bloodline assaulted Lesnar in Madison Square Garden as a house show last week. Heyman interrupted Lesnar, claimed that Reigns was not backstage and subsequently fled from his former client.
- Sheamus and Ridge Holland (w/ Butch) def. New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) via pinfall after Sheamus cracked Kingston with the Brogue Kick after interference from Butch. Sheamus and Holland introduced Butch in a pre-match segment, better known to fans as NXT's Pete Dunne.
- Big E suffered a broken neck during the match. The former WWE champion took a belly-to-back suplex from Ridge Holland ringside and landed on the crown of his head. E was stretchered out of the match. He later took to social media from the hospital to reveal the extent of his injury.
- Drew McIntyre fought off Happy Corbin, Madcap Moss, Jinder Mahal and Shanky. McIntyre was scheduled to team with The Viking Raiders (Erik and Ivar) vs. Corbin, Moss and Mahal. The heels attacked Erik and Ivar backstage and tried to overwhelm McIntyre in the ring. The segment concluded with McIntyre landing a Michinoku Driver on Shanky as Corbin fled.
- Naomi and Sasha Banks def. Natayla and Shayna Bazler via pinfall. Banks made quick work of Natalya, finishing her with a low-angle codebreaker.
- Rick Boogs def. Jey Uso via pinfall after landing a pump-handle powerslam. Boogs and tag team partner Shinsuke Nakamura earned a shot at The Usos' (Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso) SmackDown Tag Team titles at WrestleMania with the win. Jimmy offered Boogs and Nakamura the title opportunity in a pre-match segment.
- Pat McAfee attacked Austin Theory after Theory slapped the SmackDown commentator. McAfee was escorted away, building more tension to their announced WrestleMania match.