The beginning of this week’s show featured a Daniel Bryan highlight package ahead of his imminent in-ring return. It definitely wasn’t the same one they used when he retired a couple years ago. There was some other less important stuff too before the main event where tension continues to grow between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. Welcome to the most must-see Vulture Hound weekly review in history; welcome to… The SmackDown Review.

Jinder Mahal had the pleasure of opening the show. He shamed his WrestleMania opponents, Randy Orton and Bobby Roode, for beating up Sunil Singh so bad that he was unable to compete this week. As a replacement, he introduced Rusev as his chosen tag partner to face them in tag team competition.

The stereotypical evil foreigner duo managed to get one over on Orton and Roode after the snake Randy Orton hit an RKO on his own partner. This allowed Rusev to smash Orton in the face with a Machka kick for the win.

In a later backstage segment, Jinder thanked Rusev for his help and invited him and Aiden English to his Punjabi celebration after he wins at WrestleMania. However, Rusev had plans of his own, stating that as he just pinned the United States Champion, he wants to have the WrestleMania Triple Threat match turned into a Fatal 4-Way.

The other stuff:

– Yet another match with no story between Becky Lynch and Ruby Riott saw Lynch claim the victory, making short work of all 3 Riott Squad members.

– Daniel Bryan addressed the crowd and said, after everything they’ve been through, he is going to give Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn one final chance. He confirmed that it will be Owens and Zayn vs Shane McMahon and himself at WrestleMania as he is sick of being a general manager and cannot wait to get back in the ring. He also added the caveat that if Owens and Zayn win, they will be reinstated.

– The Usos ran in to attack the Bludgeon Brothers during their match with the New Day. The Usos and the New Day argued with one another over the disqualification, before the Bludgeon Brothers attempted to murder them all with their 10-inch mallets. Oh Matron!

– Dolph Ziggler squashed Tyler Breeze in a throwaway match, which saw Fandango get superkicked for good measure.

The dream match build-up:

Much of the build-up for the night’s main event was around the mind games between Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. Ahead of his match with Shelton Benjamin, Nakamura asked AJ Styles to be in his corner so he could watch out for any attacks from Chad Gable. Styles reluctantly agreed but made it clear to Nakamura that he was only doing so to make sure nothing gets in the way of his dream match at WrestleMania.

There wasn’t much for Nakamura to worry about as he finished the match with a Kinshasa on Benjamin but it was what followed that caused tensions to rise between the two former New Japan stars. After the match, Nakamura invited Styles in the ring and said he never needed his help – he just wanted to show him how he’s going to beat him at WrestleMania. Styles refused to play any games and simply said they will tear the house down at the grandest stage of them all, to which Nakamura refuted, declaring he will be the winner because AJ it “too emotional”.

As Nakamura left the ring, Gable and Benjamin jumped Styles, but Nakamura returned to help him clear the ring. With AJ down on the mat, Nakamura teased hitting him with a Kinshaha before stopping and taunting Styles instead.

By Bradley Tiernan

"Wrestling is better than the things you like" - John Oliver