AJ the Soothsayer.
Smackdown Live kicked off with a segment between AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, and Kevin Owens. AJ Styles got a lot of mic time tonight, even after the other two had entered the conversation. He definitely bounced back tonight promo-wise, as he used some creativity to show Renee Young the scenario he had in mind come March 11th. Besides that, everything else was just run-of-the-mill. The promo ended with 2 matches being announced for the night: Owens vs Ziggler immediately after the segment, and Corbin vs Styles for the main event. Not bad, but nothing too spectacular.
The Good-old Trick.
Dolph and Kevin put on a great match tonight, with Owens dishing out powerful moves as usual, and Ziggler jumping and leaping to spike everyone’s adrenaline level. It was worth noting that Ziggler seemed more energized than most days. That was what would happen if you drank a 1.2-million-dollar sweetheart deal as protein shake before matches. Some edge-of-the-seat back-and-forth action, and OH THAT FINISHER KICK-OUT AGAIN. In the end, Ziggler fell for the oldest trick in the heelbook: Distraction by entrance music. It made us wonder if the wrestlers actually learned from others’ (and their own) mistakes.
Well, the Mahal – Roode – Orton segment was better than we thought. Mahal was slightly better and slightly different tonight, using something other than his (kayfabe) birthplace to rant. Roode did a really good job legitimizing Mahal as well when Roode said the United States Championship feud was not about Orton, but was about Mahal and Roode. And Randy came out, fumed, and initiated the violence. He really did not have to do anything differently.
The Orton – Roode interactions continued to build a strong base for a Fastlane showdown, and right now, Orton vs Mahal vs Roode at WrestleMania actually sounds enticing thanks to the uncharacteristically nuanced build so far.