Shinsuke Nakamura took on Shelton Benjamin in the main event of SmackDown LIVE, with WWE Champion AJ Styles in The King of Strong Style’s corner at the Royal Rumble Winner’s behest. Elsewhere, SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan laid down a once unthinkable challenge to Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn for WrestleMania.
For Randy Orton to retain his United States Title at WrestleMania, he will need to outlast both Bobby Roode and Jinder Mahal in what is sure to be a hard-hitting Triple Threat Match, but The Viper teamed with The Glorious One tonight to take on Mahal & Rusev, who took the place of the injured Sunil Singh.
Despite a few disagreements in the early goings, Orton & Roode did their best to work in tandem against their common enemy. Mahal exploited the uneasy alliance when he tossed Roode into Orton, who looked poised to hit an RKO on The Bulgarian Brute. However, with WrestleMania looming, The Apex Predator had no patience for the accidental contact, and after a bit of a shoving match, Orton connected with an RKO that laid out The Glorious One. This distraction proved costly, as Rusev caught The Viper flush with a kick to the jaw and secured the major pinfall over the United States Champion.
After being approached by Mahal in the backstage area after the match, Rusev declared that his victory over Orton granted him entry into the United States Title Match at WrestleMania, a notion SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan agreed with, officially making it a Fatal 4-Way for the United States Championship at WrestleMania 34 later in the evening.
After being savagely attacked by Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn last week, an act which spoiled the announcement that he was now cleared to return to in-ring competition, SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan hit the scene on SmackDown LIVE with a blockbuster announcement.
Despite SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon currently suffering from a case of acute diverticulitis due to being brutalized by KO & Zayn, Bryan proclaimed that he believes Shane-O-Mac will be ready to compete at WrestleMania 34. With that in mind, The “Yes!” Man challenged Owens & Zayn to a tag team match against him and Shane at The Show of Shows. If Bryan & Shane win, then KO & Sami would still be fired, but the Commissioner and General Manager would get their retaliation. However, if Owens & Zayn win, they would get their jobs back on the blue brand.
An impassioned Bryan then made it clear that he was heading to WrestleMania with one goal in mind: Pulverizing The “Yep!” Movement.
In a first-time-ever battle between two of SmackDown LIVE’s most athletic and hardest-hitting Superstars, Shinsuke Nakamura took on Shelton Benjamin. The Phenomenal One made good on his word to be in The Artist’s corner in the interest of protecting their WWE Title Match at WrestleMania 34. Benjamin, of course, had his partner Chad Gable by his side, adding extra wrinkles to the match.
Benjamin brought it to WWE’s Rockstar, not backing down in the face of Nakamura’s onslaught, but The King of Strong Style reigned supreme, defeating Benjamin with a stinging Kinshasa for the win as Styles kept Gable at bay.
After the match, Shinsuke grabbed a microphone and made it clear that he never needed AJ Styles in his corner tonight. More words were exchanged, but Benjamin & Gable suddenly attacked Styles from behind as WWE’s Rockstar was exiting. Nakamura was quick to come to The Phenomenal One’s aid and fend off both Shelton & Chad, clearing them from the ring. However, with them now gone, Nakamura noticed that the battered Styles was staggering to his feet. The Artist began gearing up to clobber AJ with a Kinshasa, but he stopped short.
Nakamura once again let The Phenomenal One know what awaits him at WrestleMania: “Knee. To. Face.” Shinsuke then delivered a sly smile and patted Styles on the head before exiting, letting Styles know that one Kinshasa may be all it takes on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
In other action … Becky Lynch def. Ruby Riott … The New Day vs. The Bludgeon Brothers ended in calamity … and Dolph Ziggler def. Tyler Breeze.