This year, SmackDown Live has been anointed as the last stop on the Road to WrestleMania 34. For most of the matches on this Fastlane card, the WrestleMania implications are considerable. Will John Cena’s path to WrestleMania include walking into the show as WWE Champion? Will Charlotte Flair or Ruby Riott defend the Women’s Title on the grandest stage of them all? Will the Usos defend Tag Team gold on their first main-card WrestleMania? Fastlane would expand on a lot of these threads. Let’s take a look at what went down.

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Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev

The match starts at a slow pace, with some well-placed grapples and headlocks. Rest hold, taunt, a little bit of Nakamura offence, taunts – you know the deal. Eventually, the action would spill to the outside, with Rusev becoming more aggressive with barricade slams (and backed up by constant Aiden English trash talk). Nakamura would try to incapacitate Rusev with rest holds of his own, but like the brute that Rusev is, he’d power out with some stiff slams to Nakamura.

A high number of “Nakamura” and “Rusev Day” chants throughout. Rusev’s rest holds would help bolster these chants to a frenzy, helping Nakamura catch that babyface heat.

The match builds to a finish with an attempted Accolade that eventually ends with Nakamura landing the Kinshasa.

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United States Championship
Bobby Roode (c) vs. Randy Orton

Freshly-minted United States Champion Bobby Roode must defend his title against Randy Orton – who’s determined to win the only title that’s eluded him for his entire career. In the wings, Jinder Mahal has stirred tensions between the two, after having lost the US Title to Roode in the final of the US Title tournament.

Wristlocks lead to facelocks, headlocks, drop toe holds and extended “Glorious” and “RKO” posturing in the beginning. Orton goes for an RKO very early, but Roode catches on and adjusts accordingly. The holds turn into stiff chops, haymakers and uppercuts. Roode goes for the Glorious DDT, but Orton scrambles out of it. Timely clotheslines from Roode are evened out by suplexes from Orton. Roode lands a top-rope clothesline to Orton, only to regain momentum with his patented powerslam.

Orton goes for another RKO, only for Roode to counter it and clothesline Orton to the outside. Orton fights back, eventually placing Roode on the top rope for a superplex. Roode counters into a powerbomb, granting him a two-count. Bobby Roode goes back to the top rope, but Orton stops him and pulls off a superplex – this time it’s a two-count. Tired and fatigued, both men exchange fisticuffs. Roode goes for the backslide pin – two-count. Roode throws Orton to the ropes and delivers a killer spinebuster – two-count! Roode’s starting to look weary, constantly shifting his glance from Orton to the giant WrestleMania sign. Bobby Roode goes to the second rope but meets an RKO for his troubles. The Viper captures the United States Championship and Bobby Roode’s “glorious” reign comes to an end.

During Orton’s celebration, Jinder Mahal makes his way to the ring and attacks our new champion. Roode makes a statement by delivering the Glorious DDT to Mahal and Orton. With less than four weeks until WrestleMania, Roode is understandably upset about losing his championship.

Backstage, full-time “frenemies” Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have a tense interaction. Zayn, after betraying Owens on this recent SmackDown Live episode, assures Owens that he is, indeed, still his buddy.

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Naomi & Becky Lynch vs. Natalya & Carmella

Becky and Carmella start things off, after some trash talk and shoves, Becky goes for a Dis-Arm-Her, only for Carmella to reach the ropes. Carmella tags Natalya in, Becky brings her to the corner with Naomi and the two share a quick double team. Tag to Naomi. Quick spots from Naomi, hitting Natalya with clotheslines and hurricanranas, before stopping her momentum with a powerbomb from the top corner. Tag to Carmella, who brings the trash talk, moonwalks, and sleeper holds.

Naomi briefly fights out of the sleeper hold and tries to tag in Becky, but Carmella slams her to the mat by pulling her hair from behind. Carmella drags Naomi to her corner, tags Natalya, and locks Naomi in a sleeper. Naomi fights out of it again and tries to tag Becky, but Carmella keeps her just out of reach on her shoulders. She’s sent to the corner with Carmella, who unleashes an aggressive onslaught of offence onto Naomi.

Naomi eventually gets away and gets a hot tag to Becky. Bexploder and missile dropkick to Natalya. Carmella and Naomi tag in with quick icks from Naomi before tagging Becky in for a top rope leg drop. The match comes to a climax as Natalya distracts Becky with the Money in the Bank briefcase – enough for Carmella to gain the pin on Becky Lynch.

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WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day

Old rivals reunite their feud for the SmackDown Tag Team titles. Heavy WrestleMania implications are at stake, as The Usos are determined to compete on the main card of WrestleMania for the first time in their careers.

Xavier Woods and Jimmy Uso have a heated exchange before throwing stiff shots. Jey tags in and gets the better of Woods in the early goings. Kofi Kingston tags in and rolls with some high-flying offence. Kingston taunts for a little while, even using the Usos’ turnbuckle spot to rub it in. Jimmy Uso stops Kingston’s run with a spinning kick. The Usos double team with The New Day’s finisher, the Midnight Hour, on Kofi – only to gain a two-count.

Xavier Woods tags in, exchanges with Jey Uso with clotheslines and kicks. Kingston tags in, Woods lays out Jey Uso – with Kofi coming from the top rope with an Uso Splash – two-count – leaving Woods incredulous. The action eventually winds up outside, as the Usos deliver stereo splashes to all three members of The New Day over the top rope.

While everybody’s laid out, The Bludgeon Brothers make their way down to the ring, taking out both teams. The referee calls for the bell, deeming it a no contest. It’s an extended beatdown, as the Bludgeon Brothers lay waste to everybody. Irish whips into the steel steps, bodyslamming Uso-on-Uso – even Rowan bodyslamming Harper onto the Usos’ carcasses. The beatdown culminates in a powerbomb from Harper to Woods onto the steel steps. Harper and Roman make their exit, with the EMTs bringing out the stretcher for Woods. On the eve of WrestleMania, the Bludgeon Brothers have made their intent known to SmackDown’s tag team division.

Backstage, WWE Champion AJ Styles talks to Renee Young, dutifully bringing up the odds of Styles’ chances of retaining in the Six Pack Challenge main event later. Nakamura interrupts Styles, saying that he hopes Styles wins. Styles cuts him off, saying he’ll win tonight and defeat Nakamura at WrestleMania.

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WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ruby Riott

SmackDown Live’s resident anarchist Ruby Riott, having made a statement in recent months by forming the Riott Squad, gets her first shot at the Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair.

Riott opens with some submission holds, with a few cheap shots thrown in for good measure. Riott locks in a sleeper hold and wraps herself on Charlotte’s back. Both women fall to the outside of the ring, with Charlotte slamming Riott into the barricade a few times. Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan appear at ringside, distracting Charlotte a few times for Riott to gain control. Naomi and Becky Lynch rush to the ring to even things out.

Charlotte regains control with a slingshot suplex to Riott. A few exchanges later, Riott brings Charlotte down with more submission moves, all the while taunting “They’re gonna see you fail!” Riott takes Charlotte to the corner, but all she gets is a neckbreaker for her troubles – while dangling from the second rope. Charlotte goes to the top rope, but she’s pushed face-first into the barricade outside.

On the outside, Charlotte delivers a suplex to Riott on the barricade and follows up with a moonsault from the barricade, as well. The action eventually spills back into the ring. Riott corners Charlotte and delivers a top rope hurricanrana for a two-count. Riott’s getting frustrated, so shegives Charlotte’s some chops – but Charlotte’s not having it and fights back with some chops of her own. Riott regains control by throwing Charlotte’s face into the bottom turnbuckle.

The Riott Squad double team Charlotte behind referee Mike Chioda’s back. Eventually, Naomi, Becky, Logan, and Morgan are ejected from ringside. One-on-one, Riott goes for an inside cradle for a two count. Riott hops onto Charlotte’s shoulders, but she’s eventually slingshotted face-first into the turnbuckle. Charlotte locks it up with a Figure 8, prompting a quick tapout from Riott.

As Charlotte is celebrating, Asuka (!!!!) makes her way down to the ring. She’s face-to-face with Charlotte, with the crowd going nuts. Asuka points to the WrestleMania sign and dances away. Charlotte knows the deal now.

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Six Pack Challenge for WWE Championship
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens vs. Baron Corbin

With a dream match looming for AJ Styles at WrestleMania versus Shinsuke Nakamura, Styles is determined to walk into WrestleMania as champion and continue his dominance. John Cena, finding himself lost in the main event shuffle, is betting on this match as his path to this year’s WrestleMania. And after sharing the spotlight with Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn is looking to breakthrough in his own way by becoming the WWE Champion.

Shane McMahon makes his way to ringside to watch the match. The bell rings and John Cena delivers the AA to Ziggler, Zayn, Corbin and Owens in succession. He tries the same thing with Styles but he ain’t falling for it meaning Cena and Styles are facing off one-on-one! Brief exchange from Cena and Styles before Zayn, Owens, Corbin and Ziggler re-emerge and beat down Cena in unison with the champion. Styles fends off Zayn and Owens’s pinfall attempts with reversals and counters. High-flying DDTs and impact moves keep Ziggler and Corbin at bay, as well.

Styles and Owens fight in the corner, with Styles attempting a superplex with no success. Cena’s back in the ring and he dispatches Corbin. Ziggler lands a DDT on Cena, only to eat a frog splash from Kevin Owens. Styles breaks up the two count. The action’s getting faster and faster. Owens and Styles exchange punches before delivering a Pele Kick to Owens. Styles is ejected from the ring. Corbin, Ziggler, Cena and Zayn go through a dizzying sequence of signatures, before Cena lands a Five Knuckle Shuffle on Ziggler. Cena picks up Ziggler for an AA, but reverses into a Fameasser for a two-count.

Ziggler does a superkick, but its reversed into an STFU. Styles saves his championship by sprinting to the ring and breaking it up. Styles lands a Styles Clash on Cena! Zayn breaks it up for a 2.9 count. Zayn lays into Styles out of frustration. Corbin’s in the game now, taking Zayn to the outside, laying out Owens with a hellacious clothesline, a Deep Six to Styles, and tossing Ziggler into the crowd. Corbin and Ziggler keep fighting well into the bleachers – both eventually destroying the arena’s hockey barricade in the process.

Ringside, Owens tries to send Styles through an announce table – only to take an Enzuigiri. Styles clotheslines Zayn over the time keeper’s barricade. Cena tries to deliver an AA to Owens through the announcer’s table, but Owens fights out of it. Styles attacks Cena, but he’s caught and launched into the adjacent announcer’s table with a hellacious AA. The champion’s out!

Cena crawls back into the ring, but Zayn ejects him. It’s Zayn and Owens face-to-face. There’s some trash talk, but Zayn slowly lays down on the mat waiting for Owens to pin him, promising that he’d allow him to take the win. Owens goes for the pin, but Zayn turns it into a cradle. Fisticuffs erupt between Owens and Zayn, which spills to the outside. Owens goes for an apron powerbomb to Zayn, but it’s reversed into a backdrop on the apron.

Zayn spots Shane at ringside and talks trash to his face. Owens tries to superkick Zayn from behind, but it’s dodged! Shane takes a superkick to the face! Through the ropes, Zayn delivers a DDT on Owens. The action’s pulled back into the ring and Owens dispatches Zayn. Ziggler runs in and takes a Pop-Up Powerbomb from Owens! The ref counts… until Shane pulls the ref out of the ring! Zayn delivers a Helluva Kick to Owens! The ref counts… Shane pulls Zayn out of the ring! No one is happy.

Corbin returns with steel steps in hand. He’s taking out everybody, until Cena stops him and beats him down with the steel steps himself. Cena delivers an AA to Corbin on the steel steps until Ziggler breaks up the count. Cena takes a Superkick from Ziggler, but Cena rebounds quickly with an AA and attempts a rollover AA. Owens takes out Cena before he can pin, but Styles delivers a Phenomenal Forearm to Owens to retain. AJ/Shinsuke for WrestleMania!

Fastlane, as a whole, was a refreshing pay-per-view to watch. The results may have been predictable, but this show had a lot of breathing room – lending to a natural progression in every match tonight. RAW’s pay-per-views tend to suffer from being overstuffed at times, lending more time to segments instead of matches. But SmackDown’s Fastlane stuck to the matches, giving all of them plenty of time, and kept the segments to a bare minimum.