The Road to Wrestlemania, Episode Four

This is the fourth episode in a series, retelling the Road to Wrestlemania 2016. This episode covers Thursday Night Smackdown, televised on February 4 2016.

Match #1: Roman Reigns vs Rusev

Thursday Night Smackdown opens with a match between Roman Reigns and The League of Nations’ Rusev. With King Barrett and Alberto Del Rio pacing outside the ring, Reigns spends as much of the match facing them down as he does fighting Rusev, until they finally rush the ring, ending the match in disqualification.

Dean Ambrose emerges in response, taking the fight to the League. However, leaping from the apron, Ambrose accidentally knocks down Reigns, leaving himself open to a 3 on 1 assault. And while Reigns recovers and chases the League off with a chair, Ambrose is left the worse for wear…

As Fastlane approaches, the tension between Reigns and Ambrose will continue to rise, and the Authority and their various minions will continue to exploit it by forcing them into situations that offer the chance to turn on each other. With the League of Nations happy to oblige once again, this match remains the same as the one televised, and shortly after its conclusion, a new main event is created, to further deepen the crack between the two brothers in arms.

Match #2: Natalya vs Naomi

Hoping to set herself up for another run at the Women’s Championship, Natalya faces off against Naomi in a one on one match, with Tamina lurking at ringside. The Queen of Harts dominates the early going, avoiding Naomi’s attempts to change the pace. But a distraction from Naomi opens the door for Tamina to interfere behind the referee’s back, superkicking Natalya and leaving her vulnerable to an easy pinfall.

There are a number of women in the division who deserve a chance at the Women’s Championship. Expanding the number of singles matches in the lead up to Wrestlemania allows for a clearer picture around the title to emerge. It also provides an opportunity for Naomi and Tamina to settle into the roles that will carry them forward now Team BAD is over - with Tamina returning to being Naomi’s enforcer.

While being interviewed about coming to the aid of Sasha Banks on Monday Night Raw, Banks interrupts Becky Lynch, claiming she didn’t need the help that was offered, and certainly didn’t need friends. Lynch in turn replies that she is not Banks’ friend, but when she sees someone in trouble, she helps; and Banks needed help.

The two contenders for the title storm off, neither really certain if they’ve just agreed to watch each other’s back or not…

This promo occurs just as the televised one did, with perhaps a little more time allowed for Lynch and Banks to clash. That said, it perfectly summarises the situation they find themselves in. They aren’t friends, but circumstance may well have set them on a path to be short term allies before they turn their attention to the title.

Match #3: AJ Styles vs The Miz

With Chris Jericho watching from commentary, The Miz goes looking for payback after AJ Styles attacked him on Monday Night Raw. Despite holding his own, and a couple of near falls, Miz gets caught in a Calf Crusher, and is forced to tap out, giving Styles another victory.

After the match, Jericho enters the ring with a proposition - a rematch, next week on Thursday Night Smackdown.

The build up here towards Fastlane was always solid, with Miz and Jericho both looking to knock Styles down a few pegs. This match remains the same, including the challenge from Jericho after the contest is over.

Match #4: The Social Outcasts vs The Hype Bros

The next match in the Tag Team Tournament sees The Social Outcasts taking on NXT’s The Hype Bros. Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley come to Smackdown looking to make a name for themselves, their enthusiasm matched only by Bo Dallas. While The Hype Brose put on a good showing, eventually the numbers become too much for them, and a distraction from Adam Rose sets up Heath Slater to get the victory for his team, and a place on the Fastlane card.

The Social Outcasts are underutilized and oversaturated. By which I mean they show up far too often, but nothing is ever done with them. Almost like the Spirit Squad back in the day. Pushing them into the pay-per-view picture allows for substantial opportunities within the fatal four way match, given that they will have the numbers advantage, and an opportunity to push some of the other tag teams to the limit.

Match #5: Alicia Fox vs Charlotte (Non-Title Match)

Charlotte barely lets the bell ring in her one on one match with Alicia Fox. After losing on Raw to Fox’s tag team partner Brie Bella, the Women’s Champion unleashes all her fury, ending the match quickly with a brutal spear and Figure Eight Leg Lock, before walking out of the ring dismissively.

The only real change made to this match is the ending, with Charlotte being far more dismissive of her opponent than is necessary. The main issue with the Charlotte vs Brie Bella match at the televised version of Fastlane was that it felt forced and under sold nature of the title shot. Now, with Charlotte clearly dismissive of the talents of Fox and Bella, the following promo can set up both her next match, and Fastlane…

After the break, Charlotte storms into Stephanie McMahon’s office, demanding a rematch with Brie Bella next week on Monday Night Raw. Stephanie is disinterested, since she wasn’t impressed with Charlotte’s behaviour in the last match, and has no interest in seeing further poor performances from the Women’s Champion.

When Charlotte gets in her face, Stephanie backs down and acquieses, though with one stipulation - if Brie Bella wins, she gets a title shot at WWE Fastlane.

Charlotte’s frustration at being defeated by Brie Bella spills over into her match with Alicia Fox, and continues into her interaction with Stephanie McMahon. On top of that, her overconfidence and desire to defeat Bella helps reinforce this promo to set up the match in Episode Five.

Match #6: Kevin Owens vs Jack Swagger

Jack Swagger takes the fight to Kevin Owens like few have in recent weeks, suplexing him around the ring, and countering a running cannonball with a Swagger Splash. He stands up, staring up at the crowd with his hand on his heart. Silence. A look of concern and uncertainty comes over his face, as he appears to not know the words he would normally say. He shakes it off, but turns back straight into a clothesline from Owens, and a Pop-Up Powerbomb for the victory.

The purpose of this match is to further Owens’ run at the Intercontinental Championship, and to put himself above Swagger in the pecking order. More importantly though, it further enforces the current uncertainty in Jack Swagger, as he continues to wrestle with the direction he is taking…

Match #7: Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs The League of Nations

Having accidentally taken out Roman Reigns when coming to his aid earlier in the night, uncomfortable tension exists between Reigns and Dean Ambrose as they start their match against Alberto Del Rio and Rusev. Though they quickly get things together, it all almost falls apart when Ambrose leaps through the ropes, almost taking out Reigns once more. After a few moments of frustration though, they get back on the same page, finishing the League off with a spear.

Just as with most of this storyline, this remains as televised. The friction between Ambrose and Reigns continues to rise with each passing week, and will eventually boil over. But for now, they are able to remain on the same page long enough to see off their opponents.

Summary

While the main structural pieces of the televised version of this episode remain in place (Styles/Miz, Reigns/Ambrose), the primary focus of the revised episode is the Women’s division, as the contenders start to come to the fore. Beyond that, two new storylines develop further with new matches, as we get closer to Fastlane.

In the next episode, the contract signing for the World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contender Match gets heated, while a member of the League of Nations looks to take down an Internet Darling…

Let me know what you think in the comments down below.

Episode Card
Original Schedule Revised Schedule
Roman Reigns def. Rusev by disqualification Roman Reigns def. Rusev by disqualification
Kalisto def. Kevin Owens (Non-Title Match) Naomi def. Natalya
Ryback def. Erick Rowan Sasha Banks/Becky Lynch Promo
Sasha Banks/Becky Lynch Promo AJ Styles def. The Miz
AJ Styles def. The Miz The Social Outcasts def. The Hype Bros
The New Day def. The Social Outcasts Charlotte def. Alicia Fox
Charlotte def. Alicia Fox Charlotte Promo
Goldust/R-Truth Promo Kevin Owens def. Jack Swagger
Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose def. The League of Nations Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose def. The League of Nations