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WWE SmackDown Live recap & reactions (Mar. 13, 2018): Forward focus

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WWE SmackDown Live came waltzing back into our lives last night (Mar. 13) from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can find all the results at the most glorious (it won’t give in, it won’t give) live blog here.

Finally

The show opened with WWE champion AJ Styles. He was soon joined by Shinsuke Nakamura. They didn’t say anything too noteworthy, but there’s a subtle electricity when they’re sharing the same place.

This led into a scheduled match between Rusev and AJ Styles. And I’m going to be that guy for a moment. I love Rusev, and I’m clearly not alone. So I should be excited to see a match between him and Styles. And in some sense, I am. But in another sense, I don’t think Rusev should just be used to build a story between Styles and Nakamura by losing to them both. He’s too popular with the crowds not to be doing something on his own. And then when we do see Rusev/Styles, it should be a big deal.

Back to this week’s happenings. The two men had a pretty good TV match that was interrupted by Aiden English when it looked like Rusev was trapped in the Calf Crusher.

As the Artiste laid the boots to the champ, Nakamura watched at ring side. Sure, he helped out eventually, but dude took his sweet ass time doing so.

Turns out Styles wasn’t upset that Nakamura took his time but upset that he helped at all. Shinsuke vowed to help each time until WrestleMania so he can beat him with a knee to the face.

The chemistry between these two has been great when it comes to all their interactions, which will certainly help as they build to WrestleMania. I would bet every week their animosity increases as time ticks closer to a fight for the gold and as that happens, this should get even better.


Brutality

The main event segment was Shane McMahon announcing that he is stepping down as commissioner. He understood that he’s become too biased, which he believes rightfully so, and after speaking with Daniel Bryan, he’s going to step down indefinitely. However, he made one match prior: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens at WrestleMania.

Zayn and Owens were NOT happy about that.

In fact, they outright beat the living hell out of the former commish. This was an extended, nasty beatdown. They even put Shane’s neck in a chair and ran it against the ring post. After that, they dragged him to the back and then powerbombed him on some equipment. This left the commissioner struggling to breathe as paramedics attended to him.

This piqued my interest, though I’m unsure where it will go. This entire story was in major stall mode the last few months. Now they amped it into high gear and I’m again curious to see what’s next.

Shane was acting pretty heelish, especially at Fastlane, but stepping down was a sympathetic move. He knew he was too biased and gave up his post. And now Sami and Kevin took it to a different level with their viciousness. We’ve seen this side of Kevin, but we haven’t seen this level of brutality from Sami at all. While it doesn’t revert Shane to the complete babyface just yet given his actions the last couple months, it helps him on that way.

So what’s next? Is this going to be a tag match at WrestleMania? But if so, who really makes sense as Shane’s partner?

There are a lot of variables that will determine how this story goes. With the advancement this week, I’ll be giving it another chance to see how it plays out.


Bludgeoning

The only two men from the Sunday’s tag team bludgeoning actually cleared to compete, Jimmy Uso and Big E, joined forces to take on the Bludgeon Brothers. This was an attempt to get a modicum of revenge after Harper and Rowan destroyed the New Day and Usos at Fastlane.

We’ve seen a new side of Big E lately, a more serious side, and it’s been fantastic. He’s always entertaining, but the last few weeks, he’s shown a different aspect of his character. He’s more serious. Hell, he walked to the ring and DIDN’T gyrate his hips. At all!

Jimmy and Big E showed a bit of a spark, but they really didn’t have much of a chance against the vicious Bludgeon Brothers. And that’s exactly how it should have gone down. Not only are Jimmy and E not a regular tag team, they’re also injured.

They’re building this very well and I’m already looking forward to that moment when the full force of the New Day and Usos finally get some revenge against Harper and Rowan.


Big Match Feel

SmackDown isn’t going to have to do much to sell me on Asuka vs. Charlotte. Put them in the ring together to have them stare each other down and I’m good.

This week, they had a small promo segment, where Charlotte said she’s glad Asuka chose her because she wants the challenge. Iron sharpens iron. And while she hasn’t faced anyone like Asuka, Asuka hasn’t faced anyone like her.

Asuka stated she doesn’t bow to anyone and of course “no one is ready for Asuka.” It looks like Asuka is getting more comfortable out there with her promos and it likely helps they keep booking her promo segments for her to find that comfort. I can only imagine how difficult it is to go out there and cut a wrestling promo in another language.

Once again, SmackDown did the bit where the segment ended when someone else randomly came out. They finished their segment, the camera stayed on the women, and then Randy Orton’s music played! I mean, I just assumed he was going to RKO them both, but instead it was another weird transition.


Battle Royal Build

Carmella defeated Naomi, which makes her the winningest MITB briefcase holder ever. The match was a good one, though I thought Carm was going to put her foot on the ropes given her positioning and the fact she’s a heel.

Name of the Moolah battle royal aside, I do worry that means a bunch of random matches for the next month between all women not in a title match. Tonight’s match was a follow up from Fastlane, but WWE isn’t typically creative when it comes to booking towards multi-person matches like these.


US title

The US title stuff pretty much continues unchanged. Orton has the title instead of Bob Roode. And thankfully they’re not talking about that damned list any more. But most of it is the same. Jinder is still trying to stir the pot, then he defeated Roode, and at the end received an RKO.


This week was definitely a step up from the last month or so, and much of that is due to the fact they’re building to some really great matches. Shinsuke vs. Styles. Asuka vs. Charlotte. The tag triple threat.

Let’s see if they can build off this in the next few weeks.

Grade: B

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