Here we pick up my fantasy booking of the SmackDown men’s division through to Wrestlemania 34. Read part 1 here for the stories so far and the general ground rules underpinning this whole thing, but here’s a brief summary of where we got to:
- Shinsuke Nakamura is WWE Champion, with Baron Corbin owed a rematch
- Kevin Owens is United States Champion, with AJ Styles never getting a US Title match against him again
- Randy Orton has had a poor six months, with questions over whether he can still win a big match, and will address his future on the next SmackDown
- Team SmackDown just lost the Raw vs SD 5on-5 elimination match at Survivor Series
And so we pick up two nights after Survivor Series. Strap in, it’s a long ride!
November 21st, SmackDown
Results: Baron Corbin defeats Sin Cara by pinfall, Sami Zayn & Tye Dillinger defeat Jinder Mahal & Rusev by pinfall (Dillinger pins Rusev), AJ Styles defeats Mike Kanellis by pinfall
Promos: – Post-victory, Baron Corbin demands his WWE Title rematch. (Danel Bryan later grants this for the next PPV, Roadblock.)
– Backstage post-victory, AJ Styles says in an interview that the reason Team SmackDown lost at Survivor Series was Baron Corbin. Styles challenges Corbin to a match next week on SmackDown, saying Corbin isn’t the only one who want to be WWE Champion.
– Randy Orton makes his way to the ring for the main event segment. Orton says he knows he let people down at Survivor Series. It was embarrasing, and it was one of the lower points of his career. 2017 started out so well, but it’s turned into a trainwreck. He’s starting to wonder if he’s still cut out to be a player on SmackDown. At that point, Orton is cut off by the debuting Bobby Roode. Roode squares up to him and says Orton’s right, he is embarrasing. He is a trainwreck. He doesn’t belong any more. He’s a shadow of the man he used to be, and it’s Bobby Roode’s job to make SmackDown Glorious again. Roode drops Orton with a Glorious DDT as SmackDown goes off air.
Storylines: Baron Corbin tweets that a match with AJ Styles isn’t worth his time as he has bigger fish to fry. Daniel Bryan responds to him, saying that the match is official, and it is worth his time because if AJ wins he’s added to the Roadblock main event.
November 28th, SmackDown
Results: Baron Corbin defeats AJ Styles by pinfall
Promos: – US Champion Kevin Owens start SmackDown by walking to the ring and proclaiming to have no challengers left. Tye Dillinger comes out and asks for another shot. Chad Gable then does the same. Sami Zayn adds his name to the list. Owens laughs them all off, saying he’s already beaten every single one of them, proving that he’s better than them all. Shane McMahon comes out and says he can make arguments for any one of Dillinger, Gable or Zayn getting the next title shot. He says that Owens has beaten them all one-on-one, but when you add people to the mix anything can happen. Shane makes a 4-way elimination match for the US Title at Roadblock.
– Orton barely starts a backstage interview before he is attacked by Bobby Roode
– Kevin Owens is complaining to Daniel Bryan in Bryan’s office about the match Shane made for Roadblock, when Orton storms in demanding a match with Roode. Bryan makes Orton vs Roode official for Roadblock, but also says both guys need to blow off some steam so makes Orton vs Owens for next week
– An over-the-top vignette claiming Mahal to be a god-like figure to 1.3 billion Indian people airs
Storylines: Post-match, Baron Corbin continues to attack AJ Styles, leading to Shinsuke Nakamura making the save forcing Corbin to retreat
December 5th, SmackDown
Results: Chad Gable, Sami Zayn & Tye Dillinger defeat Mike Kanellis, Dolph Ziggler & Aiden English (Zayn pinning Kanellis), Randy Orton defeats Kevin Owens by pinfall
Promos: – Nakamura in the ring says Baron Corbin crossed a line last week, and at Survivor Series. Corbin is obsessed with power, which he thinks is represented by the WWE Title, and he’ll do anything to get it. Nakamura disagrees, saying the title represents the fans. Corbin is only losing the respect of the superstars in the back by acting like he is. Corbin’s music hits, but Corbin enters through the crowd and attacks Nakamura from behind. Corbin hits the End of Days on Nakamura, takes the mic, and says he doesn’t care if people like him or respect him, it’s a results business and in 12 days he’s going to become a two-time WWE Champion.
– Another Jinder Mahal vignette airs, similarly proclaiming him to be worshipped in his home country
Storylines: Bobby Roode is on commentary during Randy Orton’s match. Owens also tries to walk away from the match three times in three different directions, but each time is blocked by a different Roadblock opponent.
December 12th, SmackDown
Results: Kevin Owens defeats Tye Dillinger by pinfall, Sami Zayn defeats Chad Gable by pinfall
Promos: Rusev walks into Daniel Bryan’s office asking why he doesn’t have a Roadblock match yet. Jinder Mahal walks in and says he should take priority for a match at Roadblock over Rusev as a former WWE Champion that’s a hero to 1.3 billion people. AJ Styles then walks in and asks about a match at Roadblock. Bryan turns to AJ and says he has two opponents ready right in front of him, take your pick. Styles says he’s already beaten Mahal, so he’ll take Rusev on Sunday. Mahal, offended by this, says to Bryan he’ll face anyone on the roster on Sunday before leaving.
– Vignette airs about Bobby Roode’s accomplishments before coming to the WWE main roster
Storyline: Shinsuke Nakamura makes his entrance for a tune-up match before Roadblock, but on his way down to the ring Baron Corbin attacks him from behind. Nakamura manages to turn the tables though, turning it into a back and forth brawl, eventually managing to hit a Kinshasa on the stage as SmackDown goes off air.
December 17th, Roadblock
Results: Kevin Owens defeats Chad Gable, Sami Zayn and Tye Dillinger in a 4-way elimination match to retain the United States Championship, AJ Styles defeats Rusev by pinfall, Bobby Roode defeats Randy Orton by pinfall, John Cena defeats Jinder Mahal by submission, Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Baron Corbin to retain the WWE Championship
Promos: After Owens retains the US Title, but before his match, Randy Orton walks into Shane McMahon’s office and suggests that he should get a US Title shot having beaten Owens twice. Shane agrees, and gives Orton the match for the first SmackDown of the year.
Storyline: – In the US Title elimination match Sami Zayn eliminates Tye Dillinger first by pinfall, then Chad Gable by pinfall, and Zayn kicks out of a pop-up powerbomb before finally falling to Kevin Owens.
– John Cena answers Jinder Mahal’s open challenge, returning to SmackDown for the first time since SummerSlam. Crucially, even though he was near the top of the card, he never won the Universal Championship in his stint on Raw.
December 19th, SmackDown
Results: Kevin Owens defeats Sin Cara by pinfall, Jinder Mahal & Baron Corbin defeat John Cena & AJ Styles by pinfall (Corbin pins Cena)
Promos: John Cena opens SmackDown, and says it’s good to be back on Tuesday nights. He says SmackDown always feels like home – it’s the show he made his WWE debut on, it’s the show he won his first WWE Championship on, and it’s the brand he won his record-equalling world title on. So there’s only really one thing left: he want to win his record breaking world title. Baron Corbin comes out. Corbin blasts Cena for leaving for months to go to Raw if he loves SmackDwon that much. Corbin asks if Cena was running away from him, since he’ made a name for himself in Cena’s absence. Cena reminds Corbin that the last time he was on SmackDown, he beat Corbin at SummerSlam.
Jinder Mahal walks out, saying it was unfair that Cena answered his open challenge because he had no time to prepare. Mahal reminds everyone that he never got a one-on-one rematch for the WWE Title, and since it’s the giving season Daniel Bryan can make 1.3 billion very happy by giving Mahal a title shot. Daniel Bryan enters the mix, and says while it’s tough to argue with John Cena’s pedigree or the roll Baron Corbin has been on in 2017, Mahal is the only one who can claim to be owed a title match. Bryan announces he’ll get it in two weeks time. Bryan also announces Cena vs Corbin for two weeks time, with the winner getting a WWE Title shot at the Royal Rumble. But that’s then, and this is tonight, so Corbin and Mahal will team up to face John Cena and a partner of his choosing in the main event.
Storyline: – Randy Orton is on commentary for Kevin Owens vs Sin Cara.
– Cena picks Styles as his partner for the main event, saying Styles earned his respect in their battles and proved himself to be every bit the competitor Corbin & Mahal haven’t been.
December 26th, SD Live
Results: AJ Styles defeats Rusev by pinfall, Sami Zayn & Randy Orton defeats Kevin Owens & Bobby Roode (Zayn pins Owens)
Promos: – Shinsuke Nakamura does an interview backstage where he says he will take on all challengers, and no matter who is put in front of him he’ll find a way to keep fighting and hold on to his WWE Championship
– John Cena cuts a promo saying that every time he goes away and with every year that passes, he has to prove that he still belongs. It’s a young man’s game in WWE, and he has to be at the top of his game to be able to compete with the best. But he has also never doubted his ability to compete at the highest level, and next week Baron Corbin will find out why he’s a 16-time world champion. Then, at the Royal Rumble, he’s going to be able to call himself a 17-time world champion.
January 2nd, SmackDown
Results: Kevin Owens defeats Randy Orton by pinfall to retain the United States Championship, John Cena defeats Baron Corbin by pinfall, Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Jinder Mahal by pinfall to defend the WWE Championship
Promos: – AJ Styles announces in a backstage interview that he’s the first man from SmackDown to enter the 2018 Royal Rumble match
– Bobby Roode complains to Daniel Bryan backstage that he beat Randy Orton at Roadblock, yet it’s Orton who got a title match tonight. Bryan sets up a number one contender’s match for Kevin Owens’ US Title for next week, between Sami Zayn, Bobby Roode and Randy Orton.
Storylines: Over the next week, Baron Corbin, Chad Gable, Jinder Mahal and Rusev announce their entries into the Royal Rumble match on social media
January 9th, SmackDown
Results: Chad Gable & AJ Styles defeat Baron Corbin & Jinder Mahal (Styles pins Mahal), Bobby Roode defeats Randy Orton by pinfall
Promos: A vignette covering John Cena’s 16 world titles airs
Storylines: – Prior to the schedule triple threat match, Sami Zayn is found attacked backstage, so the number one contender’s match goes ahead as Roode vs Orton. During the match, Kevin Owens in his ring gear comes out and sits on the stage to watch the match.
– A contract signing for John Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura is announced for next week.
– Tye Dillinger, Mike Kanellis, Aiden English and Dolph Ziggler are announced for the Royal Rumble match.
January 16th, SmackDown
Results: Baron Corbin, Jinder Mahal & Rusev defeat AJ Styles, Chad Gable & Tye Dillinger (Corbin pins Dillinger)
Promos: – Backstage, Shane McMahon runs into Kevin Owens and accuses him of attacking Sami Zayn last week. He points to their history, including Owens attempting to take Zayn out the same way Owens attacked Shane at SummerSlam. Shane wonders if Owens just didn’t want to run the risk of facing Zayn one more time with the US Title on the line. Owens tries to deny this, but Shane isn’t having any of it. Shane says since Zayn never got a chance to compete last week, it’s going to be a triple threat match at the Royal Rumble for the United States Championship between Kevin Owens, Bobby Roode and Sami Zayn.
– At the contract signing, John Cena talks about how Nakamura is a great competitor who the fans love, and has proven himself to be a worthy champion. Cena says John Cena vs Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship is a match many people never thought they would see, and it’s going to be a battle for the ages at the Royal Rumble, but it’s one Cena is looking forward to. Cena says beating Ric Flair’s 16 world titles is motivating him to be better every single day, and in twelve days time he is going to make history. Nakamura simply replies bring it on. The two shake hands to end the segment.
January 23rd, SmackDown
Results: Kevin Owens defeats Sami Zayn, AJ Styles wins an over-the-top-rope challenge
Promos: – Video package hyping the WWE Title match at the Rumble plays
– Shane McMahon talks to Sami Zayn backstage, asking how he’s doing and if he knows who attacked him. Zayn says he’s doing fine, but he doesn’t know, he was attacked from behind and covered up to protect himself – they were gone before he could get a look. Shane tells Zayn he thinks it was Owens given their history, Zayn agrees it’s a strong possiblity. Shane sets up a one-on-one match between Zayn and Owens for later.
– Pre-match, Kevin Owens gets on a mic and says he knows it sounds like something he would do, but even though he wishes it was him Owens didn’t attack Zayn.
Storylines: – Bobby Roode is on commentary for Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn
– The next day, Shane McMahon tweets saying that Owens is known for lying to suit his needs, and that Shane still thinks Owens attacked Zayn
January 28th, Royal Rumble
Results: Bobby Roode defeats Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn to win the United States Championship (Roode pins Zayn), Shinsuke Nakamura defeats John Cena by pinfall to retain the WWE Championship, Royal Rumble match is won by a Raw superstar (SD’s entrants: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, Sami Zayn, Jinder Mahal, Rusev, Chad Gable, Tye Dillinger, Dolph Ziggler, Mike Kanellis, Aiden English
Storylines: – In the Royal Rumble match, Sami Zayn eliminates Bobby Roode, Baron Corbin is SmackDown’s most prolific eliminator, Randy Orton eliminates Baron Corbin, AJ Styles lasts the longest out of anyone from either brand and finishes runner-up to a Raw winner.
– John Cena moves back to Raw for a Wrestlemania storyline after the Royal Rumble. It was a relatively short lived stint designed to give Nakamura a big title defence at the Royal Rumble, and hopefully a couple of great matches against Corbin and Nakamura. But lets face it, when there’s potential matches against Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe and Finn Balor on Raw, there’s not a lot for him on SmackDown that can trump that.
January 30th, SmackDown
Results: Randy Orton defeats Mike Kanellis by pinfall, Sami Zayn defeats Rusev by pinfall, Bobby Roode defeats Dolph Ziggler by pinfall
Promos: – Shane McMahon opens the show to say that since there was a Raw winner of the Royal Rumble, the WWE Champion needs a number one contender for Wrestlemania. That person will be decided inside the Elimination Chamber in four weeks. As the last SmackDown representative in the Royal Rumble match, and the overall runner-up, AJ Styles is being awarded a place in the match, but there will be qualifying matches to decide the other five men, starting right now.
– Sami Zayn backstage interview to say that he hasn’t forgotten about being attacked three weeks ago, but now he has the chance to walk out of Elimination Chamber as the number one contender for the WWE Championship that’s his priority right now
– Bobby Roode before his match against Dolph Ziggler, says that now he is our United States Champion, SmackDown is getting Glorious, but the process will be complete after he wins the Elimination Chamber match and becomes WWE Champion at Wrestlemania!
– Shinsuke Nakamura comes out for the main event slot and thanks John Cena for giving him a great match on Sunday. It was an honour to go up against one of the greatest of all time. AJ Styles interrupts Nakamura, congratulates Shinsuke on still being WWE Champion. Styles tells Nakamura to enjoy it while it lasts, because at Wrestlemania Styles is coming for the WWE Title. The two men have a stare down as the show goes off air.
February 6th, SmackDown
Results: Baron Corbin defeats Tye Dillinger by pinfall, Jinder Mahal defeats Chad Gable by pinfall, Randy Orton defeats Sami Zayn
Promos: – Kevin Owens bursts into Daniel Bryan’s office furious that he wasn’t in a qualifier for the Elmination Chamber match. He says this is just the latest in a long line of biased decisions against him, after he wasn’t originally given a qualifying match for the Survivor Series team, and then he wasn’t given a spot in the Royal Rumble. Bryan says it wasn’t his call. Owens says Shane is holding a grudge from SummerSlam, and is falsely accusing him of blindsiding Sami Zayn. He beat AJ Styles in an Iron Man match last summer, he’s beaten Randy Orton and Sami Zayn so many times he’s lost count, yet they have a chance to headline Wrestlemania and he doesn’t. And the icing on the cake is he can’t even get a rematch for his US Title because Bobby Roode is in the Chamber match too. Bryan accepts that point, but points out that Owens did lose the title so will have to earn an opportunity. Bryan points out that they don’t currently have a challenger for the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber, and says if Owens can beat AJ Styles next week, he can get that match. Then Owens can’t complain he hasn’t been given a fair chance to headline Wrestlemania.
Storylines: Bobby Roode distracts Sami Zayn during his match, leading to Randy Orton defeating Zayn
February 13th, SmackDown
Results: Baron Corbin & Jinder Mahal defeats Randy Orton & Sami Zayn (Corbin pins Orton), Kevin Owens defeats AJ Styles by pinfall
Promos: AJ Styles goes up to Shane McMahon backstage and asks what’s in it for him in his match against Kevin Owens tonight. Shane tells Styles that shutting Owens up is a prize in itself, but if he wins, he will enter the Elimination Chamber match last.
Storylines: Kevin Owens beats AJ Styles by putting his feet on the ropes for leverageg. During the match, Shinsuke Nakamura is shown backstage watching on a monitor. Post-match, Nakamura comes out to face off with Owens.
February 20th, SmackDown
Promos: – All the Elimination Chamber participants are in the ring to start SmackDown. Baron Corbin speaks first, saying that he owes Nakamura. Winning the Elimination Chamber will give him the chance he needs at redemption, and that he has to be considered the favourite because the match suits him – he likes inflicting suffering more than anyone else. Randy Orton interjects wondering if Corbin has forgotten everything Orton has done in his career. Orton has to prove he still belongs, and he’s willing to sink to the levels everyone knows he’s capable of to do so. Jinder Mahal says he’s against five men inside the steel structure, but the others are against the 1.3 billion people of India. Sami Zayn points out that he’s in the match with four former world champions and the current United States champion, while he’s never held gold in WWE. On paper he stands no chance, but he’s never given up before and he’s not going to roll over on Sunday. Zayn says at Wrestlemania, he’s finally going to be able to call himself a champion.
Bobby Roode tell Zayn that he can wish for that to happen, but wishes don’t come true. Roode didn’t wish that SmackDown would become Glorious again, he promised it, and he’s already won the US Tiele. It will be a historic moment when he sets foot inside the Chamber, and when he becomes US and WWE Champion at the same time at Wrestlemania it will be Glorious. AJ Styles says that does sound glorious, but it would be even more phenomenal if the Wrestlemania main event was AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura. Styles says he didn’t become the face that runs the place for no reason. SmackDown Live is the house that AJ Styles built while Jinder was losing every week on Raw, while Corbin was still trying to show he belonged in WWE, Randy was being distracted by weird voodoo and Roode wasn’t even in WWE. Styles says he is the best wrestler in the world today, and he’s going to walk out of Elimination Chamber as the number one contender. Roode gets in his face, and the whole thing descends into a wild brawl between all six men.
– Kevin Owens comes to the ring to talk about how it’s finally his time. On Raw, he became the longest reigning Universal Champion but this is going to be his first shot at the WWE Title, and that’s down to Shane McMahon’s incompetence. Owens promises he won’t let this opportunity slip away. Shane McMahon comes out to the stage, and says he straight up doesn’t like Owens. A prime example of why is the way he won last week. Owens wants to talk about incompetence, but Shane says some would say it’s incompetent to not take away Owens’ title shot after he clearly cheated to “earn” it. Some might say it was incompetent to not fire Owens after he attacked Shane at SummerSlam, or after he attacked Sami Zayn. Owens starts to protest his innocence, but Shane cuts him off, pointing out Shane hasn’t done either of those things. Instead, Shane wants to make sure that Owens can’t win the most prestigious title in sports entertainment in a similarly cheap way. Shane makes Kevin Owens vs Shinsuke Nakamura at Elimination Chamber a 2 out of 3 falls match. Nakamura joins Shane on stage smiling and holds up the WWE Championship as Owens goes ballistic in the ring.
February 25th, Elimination Chamber
Results: Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Kevin Owens in a 2 out of 3 falls match to retain the WWE Championship, AJ Styles wins the Elimination Chamber match to earn a WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania 34
Storylines: – In the WWE Title match, Kevin Owens wins the first fall clean, then Shinsuke Nakamura wins the next two falls clean to win the match 2-1
– AJ Styles and Bobby Roode open the Elimination Chamber. Jinder Mahal enters 3rd. Sami Zayn enters 4th. Sami Zayn eliminates Bobby Roode. Baron Corbin enters 5th. AJ Styles eliminates Jinder Mahal. Randy Orton enters last. Baron Corbin eliminates Sami Zayn. Randy Orton eliminates Baron Corbin. AJ Styles eliminates Randy Orton to win the match.
February 27th, SmackDown
Results: Randy Orton defeats Mike Kanellis by pinfall
Promos: – Kevin Owens opens the show in the ring to tell everyone that he should be the WWE Champion right now. If it wasn’t for Shane McMahon’s needless stipulation he would be headlining Wrestlemania 34. Owens says he keeps getting screwed out of titles, first he lost the United States Championship without being pinned and now this. He deserves better for Wrestlemania. Shane McMahon comes out onto the stage, telling Owens that he would be lucky to be on Wrestlemania at all after what he’s done in the last year. But there’s someone else who doesn’t have a match for Wrestlemania yet, that’s looking to get their hands on Owens. Sami Zayn joins Shane on stage. Shane says next week Zayn will face Owens, with the winner picking their Wrestlemania match.
– Video package airs with AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura talking about their careers so far; including how much they respect each other and their friendship since AJ’s time in Japan. They say they bring out the best in each other in the ring, and they’re going to leave everything in the ring when they face each other at Wrestlemania.
– Zayn and Shane are in McMahon’s office, where Zayn thanks McMahon for making the match against Owens for next week. Shane says it’s Sami’s chance to get revenge on the man who attacked him last month, and to give Sami the best possible chance of retribution it’s going to be a no-disqualification match.
– Bobby Roode does a backstage interview where he says Elimination Chamber was most definitely not Glorious, and the WWE Universe can rest assured he’s going to right the wrongs of Sunday nights.
Storylines: After Orton defeats Kanellis, Baron Corbin attacks Orton with a steel chair
March 6th, SmackDown
Results: Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Rusev by pinfall, Kevin Owens defeats Sami Zayn by pinfall in a no-disqualification match
Promos: – Baron Corbin in the ring says he is the most dangerous superstar on SmackDown, and the only reason he’s not headlining Wrestlemania and getting his revenge on Shinsuke Nakamura is Randy Orton. Orton stuck his nose in Corbin’s business at the Royal Rumble and at Elimination Chamber, so Orton has made himself Corbin’s business. Corbin’s going to chop the viper’s head off and send him slithering back home for good. At that point Orton’s music hits, but he enters through the crowd and hits an RKO on Corbin.
– Jinder Mahal announces backstage that he’s entering the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and he has the support of 1.3 billion people to go and win it, just like he rightfully should have last year.
Storylines: – AJ Styles is on commentary for the Nakamura vs Rusev match
– Roode attacks Sami Zayn suring his match with Kevin Owens, costing Zayn the match. Roode grabs a mic after the 1-2-3 to reveal it was Roode who attacked Zayn back in January as SmackDown goes off the air.
March 13th, SmackDown
Results: AJ Styles defeats Rusev by pinfall
Promos: – Kevin Owens announces that at Wrestlemania he will be competing in a street fight against… Shane McMahon.
– A vignette airs detailing Randy Orton’s accomplishments in his career, but it fades out to Baron Corbin, who says Orton was a great superstar who achieved more than 90% of the roster could ever dream of, but the key word in that sentence is “was”. Corbin says Orton has shown over the last year that he’s just not cut out to be a player on SmackDown anymore, and at Wrestlemania, Corbin is promising to put the old dog down.
– Bobby Roode comes out to the ring to explain his actions last week. Roode says Zayn was responsible for the first “L” beside Roode’s name on SmackDown, but it’s clear to see that Zayn doesn’t belong in the same ring as him. Zayn definitely didn’t deserve to get a United States Championship shot at the Royal Rumble, so he tried to take Zayn out of the equation. Ever since Roode became US Champion, Zayn has been a thorn in his side, eliminating him from the Royal Rumble match and the Elimination Chamber. Roode claims Zayn is preventing SmackDown from becoming Glorious, and Roose will make him pay. Daniel Bryan interrupts to say that Zayn didn’t get a fair chance to win the Wrestlemania match of his choice because of Roode, and in Bryan’s opinion Zayn showed in the Rumble and the Chamber that he can get the best of Roode. So, with that in mind, at Wrestlemania, Bobby Roode will defend the US Title against Sami Zayn.
Storylines: During AJ Styles’ victory over Rusev, Shinsuke Nakamura watches from ringside
March 20th, SmackDown
Results: Baron Corbin & Bobby Roode defeat Randy Orton & Sami Zayn by pinfall (Corbin pins Zayn), AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura defeat The Usos by pinfall (Nakamura pins Jimmy Uso), Chad Gable defeats Jinder Mahal by pinfall
Promos: Kevin Owens notes that Shane McMahon isn’t at SmackDown tonight because he’s “training” for their Wrestlemania match. He says people have been asking him all week why he picked Shane to face at Wrestlemania, but as far as Owens is concerned, it’s obvious. Shane’s incompetent refereeing cost Owens the United States Championship at SummerSlam last summer, Shane kept him out of Team SmackDown at Survivor Series by not putting him in a one-on-one qualifier, Shane didn’t give him a spot in the Royal Rumble match, Shane forced him to defend the US Title in unfair multi-man matches agint undeserving challegners, falsely accused him of attacking Sami Zayn, and made the stipulation that stopped Owens from standing here as your WWE Champion right now. Owens says that when Shane hasn’t stuck his nose in, there isn’t anyone on SmackDown that can stop him one-on-one, and Shane is going to wish he had fired Owens months ago by the time he’s finished with him at Wrestlemania.
Storylines: – Various people are added to the Andre The Giant battle royal at Wrestlemania, including Chad Gable, Rusev and Tye Dillinger
– After securing the pinfall in his tag match, Nakamura rolls to the outside. The Usos attack AJ Styles back in the ring, and Nakamura immediately jumps back in to make the save.
March 27th, SmackDown
Results: Bobby Roode defeats Randy Orton by pinfall, Kevin Owens defeats a local enhancement talent by pinfall, AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura defeat The Usos (Styles pins Jey Uso)
Promos: – Backstage interview with AJ Styles, he says credit where credit is due, when we’re talking about the WWE Championship it’s easy to take any advantage you’re given. Nakamura could easily have stood and watched AJ get softened up ahead of Wrestlemania, but he didn’t, and that’s testament to Nakamura’s character. AJ says that he appreciated Nakamura watching his back last week, but what he want above all else is the WWE Championship, and warns Nakamura that Styles won’t be doing him any favours heading into their Wrestlemania match.
– Backstage interview with Sami Zayn, who says that he has been an underdog his entire life. He says he’s been proving people wrong ever since he can remember, first people said he was too small to be a wrestler, that he wasn’t charismatic enough, that he was just too quirky to be relatable. They said he couldn’t make it to WWE, but every time someone tells him he can’t do something it just drives him on. Now, people are saying that he can’t be a champion in WWE, but Bobby Roode telling him he doesn’t belong in the same ring as Roode is no different to the other doubters he’s already silenced in his career. He says he’s proven them wrong before, and at Wrestlemania he’ll do it all over again to become the United States Champion.
Storylines: – Kevin Owens wins his squash match after three pop-up powerbombs, and then takes the mic to say that he hopes Shane was watching, because that’s a preview of what’s going to happen to Shane at Wrestlemania.
– After AJ Styles gets the pinfall to win his tag match, he leaves the ring and heads back up the ramp. The Usos then attack Nakamura back in the ring, which AJ sees on the screen on his way to the back. AJ turns, but pauses for a few moments, conflicted. Ultimately, he runs back down to the ring to make the save for Nakamura.
April 3rd, SmackDown
Results: Baron Corbin vs Sami Zayn ends in a no contest, Jinder Mahal wins a battle royal
Promos: – Kevin Owens walks out and says he’s going to give Shane McMahon one chance to get out of their Wrestlemania match. Owens says Shane claims to have been training while he’s been off SmackDown the last two weeks, but we all know that he was really just too scared to face Owens like a man. All it will take to get out of their street fight this Sunday is for Shane to add Owens to the WWE Championship match instead. Shane’s music hits, he walks out to the ramp and just stares at Owens. Then he runs down to the ring and starts brawling with owens, eventually clotheslining him over the top rope. Shane sets Owens up for his elbow drop from the top rope through the announce table, but before Shane jumps Owens rolls off the table and escapes through the crowd.
– Shinsuke Nakamura calls AJ Styles out to the ring. Nakamura says last week, AJ Styles had a choice, Styles could have taken the low road and walked away and left him to the wolves. But Styles didn’t. Styles showed he was just as honourable as Nakamura tries to be. Nakamura says they have been through wars together before, and they will put on a show on Sunday. Nakamura shakes Styles’ hand, then goes to leave, but Styles holds on and pulls him in close, squaring up to Nakamura. Styles says there was a time he would have left Nakamura to be beaten to a pulp last week. There was a time Styles would have punched Nakamura square in the mouth right now. Styles wonders what Nakamura would do if he decided to get nostalgic tonight. Styles tells Nakamura to make no mistake, he helped Nakamura out last week, and he knows he’s in for one of the toughest matches of his life on Sunday, but he also knows Nakamura is in exactly the same situation. Styles says in his time on SmackDown, he’s called himself a lot of things. He’s called SmackDown Live the house that he built. He’s called himself the face that runs the place. But it’s been far too long since he’s been able to call himself world champion. Styles says on Sunday that’s going to change, because he’s coming for the WWE Championship.
Storylines: During the Baron Corbin vs Sami Zayn match, Randy Orton and Bobby Roode both come to ringside, and it ends up in a mass brawl between all four men. It winds up with Orton fighting with Roode in the ring, Sami Zayn goes to push Orton out of the way to get his hands on his Wrestlemania opponent and Orton RKOs Zayn, allowing Bobby Roode to retreat to the back. Corbin then tries to attack Orton again, but Orton drops him with an RKO too.
April 8th, Wrestlemania 34
Results: Chad Gable wins the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, Baron Corbin defeats Randy Orton by pinfall, Sami Zayn defeats Bobby Roode by pinfall to become the new United States Champion, Kevin Owens defeats Shane McMahon by pinfall, Shinsuke Nakamura defeats AJ Styles by pinfall to retain the WWE Championship
Storylines: – In the battle royal, have Gable and Mahal be the final two, with Gable winning. If he’s in the match from Raw (i.e. not Intercontinental Champion or something), have Jason Jordan be part of the final three along with them, and jump in the ring to raise Gable’s hand after the match
– In the Corbin/Orton match, the story of it is that Corbin keeps countering Orton’s signature spots to continue the idea that a new generation is passing Orton by, and Orton can never hit the RKO before Corbin wins.
– In the US Title match, Roode throws everything he has at Zayn, but Sami just won’t quit. Zayn becomes the first person on the main roster to kick out of the Glorious DDT, before eventually seecuring his first title on WWE’s main roster.
– In the McMahon/Owens street fight, Shane hits both his Leap of Faith elbow drop through the announce table, and the coast-to-coast inside the ring, but Owens is on offense for most of the match and eventually wins by powerbombing Shane through a table in the ring.
– In the WWE Title match, just give them time, 20+ minutes, to have a barnstormer of a match. Even have them go somewhat outside the WWE style of match, and put on something slightly closer to the New Japan style as a one off. The idea is that they’re showing they’re just as good as each other, but it’s Nakamura who ends up going over.
April 10th onwards…
- The post-Mania SmackDown opens with a sign of respect between Nakamura and Styles, as they shake hands. After tearing the house down at Mania, they don’t have to do much, so this segment is just about giving them a reception, keeping them both faces and showing how much respect they have for each other. At least, that’s what the segment starts off as, untill…
- Randy Orton turns heel. Orton RKOs Styles out of nowhere. This is the payoff to the whole self-doubt/past it/underachieving angle, Orton gets so frustrated that he snaps. Personally, I’d have him punt Styles, but somehow I doubt WWE would let that happen. This sets up so many fresh matches for Orton on SmackDown, with Nakamura and Zayn well established, and Gable in line for a push post-battle royal win. Plus, there’s this guy…
- Finn Balor moves to SmackDown. The Superstar Shake-Up is still eight days after Mania, but instead of wholesale changes just have five or six people maximum swap brands. You could potentially save NXT callups for then too, but I’d keep them on the post-Mania shows and say they’re ineligible to move, as are champions. What I’d do here is have Styles (sorry, but it’s inevitable at some point, and he leaves having put over Nakamura and Orton as a heel) and Corbin move to Raw, and Balor and Samoa Joe move to SmackDown. That would leave you with Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn and Chad Gable as the top faces, with Joe, Kevin Owens, Bobby Roode and Randy Orton as the top heels.
- So with those people in mind, the feuds going forward are Nakamura vs Owens for the WWE Title, Roode vs Balor with the winner getting the next title shot, Joe vs Zayn for the US Title and Orton vs Gable, with the winner getting the next US Title shot. If there’s time on the shows, there’s Jinder Mahal vs Tye Dillinger too.
And there we have it. That’s how I’d book the next eight months through to Wrestlemania, and beyond! If you’ve made it through the whole journey, thank you, I know it was a helluva long read but I hope it was worth it. As always, comment to let me know if you enjoyed the stories I crafted, and what you would have done differently. As a final summary, here are the story arcs I was trying to sculpt:
- Kevin Owens vs Shane McMahon: the key to this was keeping KO as a legitimate threat, who from his point of view had fair gripes against a GM who was biased against him for months – from SummerSlam through to Wrestlemania. Moving from AJ vs Owens, to Owens taking on all comers as US Champ, sewing the seeds for Zayn vs Roode through to Owens vs Shane, everything was linked by Shane’s decisions and actions towards Owens.
- Orton’s “decline” and subsequent heel turn: he’s coming off three losses to Jinder Mahal coming in, which in itself is enough to damage anyone’s morale and reputation. He exchanges wins with Rusev (who isn’t a major factor later on the show, so it’s not a big deal in hindsight), before being embarrassed at Survivor Series, and subsequently beaten by Bobby Roode, Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin. He will pick up some wins along the way, but never against top caliber opponents, and Randy starts to doubt he can still win big matches. This realisation at Mania sends him over the edge, and he brings back his more vicious side in an attempt to get some high profile wins on PPV. This narrative is a way of getting some character development for the veteran, while also keeping him out of the title picture because you can’t have everyone going for gold at once.
- AJ Styles’ journey back to the world title picture: losing the US Title in a match with a no-rematch stipulation means AJ naturally turns his attention back to the world title, but because of his US Title feud with Owens there are a few people ahead of him on his way back there. He gets past Rusev and Mahal, is SmackDown’s star performer at Survivor Series, before just coming up short in December against Baron Corbin (as part of Corbin’s title chase) and then again in the Royal Rumble match in his quest to get another title shot. He eventually beats the best SmackDown has to offer inside the brutal Elimination Chamber (which helped set up two other Mania matches too) to earn his shot, which just so happens to set up the dream match of AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship
- Making SmackDown Glorious/Sami Zayn US Champion: it’s not a coincidence Zayn entered the US Title picture around the same time Roode debuted, from the start this was where I was going. I could use the Orton story to establish Roode near the top of the card from the start, and used the Orton/Shane story to make it a title feud, while also later touching on Roode vs Orton to further the Orton/Corbin Mania feud. Roode’s gimmick just suits being a champion. I then thought the perfect foil for him was the quirky Zayn, who Roode would think is not worthy of his time, and making Zayn’s lack of championship success a story going into Wrestlemania is a way of giving him a cinderella story moment in front of a crowd who will love him. The hope would also be that putting Roode against Zayn would make the crowd boo him despite his song.
- Shinsuke Nakamura as a dominant champion: the only times he loses are after attacks. He loses at SummerSlam to a Money in the Bank cash-in after a 3-on-1 assualt, he loses at Survivor Series after being attacked by Corbin and having a 3-2 deficit, and I tihnk that was it. I toyed with the idea of having AJ win at Mania, but I think the move to Raw is inevitable and it puts Nakamura over huge to win what could be WWE’s match of the year at Wrestlemania.
- On a related but similar note, notice how certain people didn’t wrestle on TV all that much? I tried to keep Nakamura and Roode especially off tv-matches, with the idea that it makes it a bigger deal when they do wrestle on PPV. It also keeps potential matches and feuds fresh, because you won’t care as much about Nakamura beating Corbin at Hell In A Cell if he’s beating him every week on TV in some form. By my count, I wrote 43 shows worth, and I only had Nakamura in a match on 18 of them. Bobby Roode was on SmackDown for 24 of those shows, and wrestled 10 matches, of which half were on PPV (including double duty at the Royal Rumble).
In conclusion (for real this time, seriously congrats and thank you if you’ve gotten this far), I tried to intertwine the rivalries so future matches would make sense. At the time, who would think Zayn/Orton beating Owens/Roode in December would directly tie into a Mania match? Orton’s wins over Owens in November and December were initially furthering US Title feuds, but also tied into a title match between the two in January. Hell, Styles and Nakamura were teaming together as early as September in my shows (earlier in real life), and I was using that established friendship to tie into Wrestlemania a whole seven months later. These are the kinds of things WWE doesn’t do enough of, too often we see random matches thrown together for no reason, with no follow up – or worse, the follow contradicts logical conclusions from what we’ve already seen.
How did I manage to weave it all together? I put together my PPV matches first, and worked backwards from there. When you know where you’re going, you can hint at things for months down the line. We only rarely tend to see that this time of year as attentions start to turn towards Wrestlemania. But it should be all year round – even looking ahead from where I left off, Nakamura and Owens already have history at the Elimination Chamber to play off of, Owens hinted at a WWE Title match the week before Mania to show where his attention was going to turn to, and Owens has beaten Styles, Zayn and Orton to justify his shot. I think I did a decent job overall of making things make sense and giving matches meaning, but even if you disagree I had an absolute blast putting this together. WWE creative – this is my challenge to you to do it better!