SmackDown Recap: February 20, 2018
S2018 episode 966 Aired on February 20, 2018

With the WWE Championship Fatal 5-Way Match at WWE Fastlane coming into focus, WWE Champion AJ Styles took on Baron Corbin in non-title competition, and Kevin Owens squared off against Dolph Ziggler, with Sami Zayn playing a pivotal role in both bouts.

With chaos running rampant on SmackDown LIVE, Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler squared off, each wanting to carve out a stronger position with the WWE Championship Fatal 5-Way Match at WWE Fastlane on the horizon.

Continuing to show no signs of ring rust after his multi-week absence, Ziggler appeared to have KO on the ropes several times. However, in a surprise to many, Owens snatched the victory when Sami Zayn ran out to distract Ziggler, allowing KO to hit a picture-perfect superkick right to The Showoff’s dome piece for the win.

After the match, Owens seemed somewhat surprised by Zayn’s assist, suggesting that all was not yet right within The “Yep!” Movement.

With the animosity between Jinder Mahal, United States Champion Bobby Roode and Randy Orton continuing to build, Mahal (flanked by Sunil Singh) arrived on SmackDown LIVE with a copy of what he claimed to be Roode’s SmackDown LIVE Top 10 Superstars List ballot. The Modern Day Maharaja declared that Roode voted for himself at number one and had neither Mahal nor Orton on it. Mahal used this piece of information to try and drive the wedge further between The Glorious One and The Viper, claiming that it’s clear that Roode has no respect for The Apex Predator.

Not thrilled with these assertions, the United States Champion interrupted, suggesting that he saw through Mahal’s plan to pit him and Orton against each other simply as a means for Jinder to carve out an easier path to the United States Title. This led to a heated exchange between Roode and Mahal that Orton soon broke up with his arrival.

Without saying a word, The Viper stepped to Roode, and a brawl soon erupted. Orton punched Mahal, which Roode followed up by clotheslining Mahal over the top rope. The Apex Predator then went to RKO The Glorious One, but Roode turned it around into a Glorious DDT. The United States Champion stood tall, but only for a moment, as The Modern Day Maharaja slid back into the ring and dropped Roode with the ring-shaking Khallas.

For the second straight week, Mahal left his foes down. If Roode and Orton weren’t taking notice before, they surely are now. However, Mahal may not exactly have SmackDown LIVE management taking notice, or at least Shane McMahon, as after this dominant display, Shane decreed that it would be Roode vs. Orton for the U.S. Title at WWE Fastlane, overruling Daniel Bryan’s idea to give The Modern Day Maharaja a championship opportunity.

An old rivalry was rekindled on SmackDown LIVE, as Baron Corbin attempted to make a major statement against WWE Champion AJ Styles in a non-title contest, with the Fatal-5 Way Match at WWE Fastlane casting a large shadow.

Corbin, who had come out on top against Styles the last two times they faced, competed with confidence because of his track record. The Lone Wolf used his size and strength advantages to wear Styles down, making it difficult for the WWE Champion to get rolling with his explosive offense. However, as he always does, Styles rallied, breaking free from The Lone Wolf’s clutches, taking to the skies and putting him down for three following an utterly Phenomenal Forearm.

The Phenomenal One would have no time to celebrate, however, as Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn hit the ring and pounced on Styles, knocking him out of the squared circle. KO followed Styles’ limp body to the outside, while Zayn stayed inside the ring. The tides quickly turned, though, when Corbin found a burst of energy and dropped an unsuspecting Zayn with End of Days. Owens, noticing this, hit the ring to attempt to avenge his best friend, but he felt a similar fate, also succumbing to The Lone Wolf’s End of Days.
Corbin lost the battle, but he proved that there is a lot of road left to go before anyone wins the war at WWE Fastlane.

In other action … Tensions continued to rise ahead of the WWE Championship Fatal 5-Way Match at WWE Fastlane … The Riott Squad def. Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch & Naomi … The New Day def. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable to challenge SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos at WWE Fastlane … and The Bludgeon Brothers def. local competitors.