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WWE Fastlane recap: Styles vs. Nakamura, Asuka vs. Flair set for WrestleMania

With just four weeks to go before WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans, SmackDown made its last major stand at Fastlane on Sunday night. A new champion was crowned, two major matches for WrestleMania were locked in and a lot of SmackDown superstars had a path to the biggest show of the year appear over the course of the evening.

Sean Coyle recapped the action throughout the night. This file was updated in real time.


(c) - indicates defending champion

WWE championship: AJ Styles (c) def. Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, John Cena, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

Regardless of the outcome, the main event of Fastlane was going to shed a lot of light on the fates of the six men vying for the WWE championship.

By match construction, the odds were stacked entirely against AJ Styles, who had five challengers standing in between him and a WrestleMania appointment with Shinsuke Nakamura. In reality, derailing or altering the Styles vs. Nakamura match in any way would've been a fool's errand.

So when Styles emerged from out of nowhere in the closing moments of the match to deliver a Phenomenal Forearm to Kevin Owens, securing his title defense and WrestleMania spot, it came as little surprise.

In reality, it was all about about figuring out the fates of all of the challengers -- and at least as far as Owens and Sami Zayn are concerned, that answer came in the form of SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon, who cost each man what looked like a surefire WWE championship victory by inserting himself into the match. Things seem a lot less certain for Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin, while John Cena's never-ending search for a road to WrestleMania has hit another dead end.

Regardless of their varied fates, all six participants showed up ready to go for this match. Cena dispatched everyone other than Styles with a series of Attitude Adjustments, but by the time he and Styles had chewed up the scenery for a moment, the four vanquished foes had returned seeking revenge.

It set the tone for a match that never really slowed down over the course of the next 20 minutes.

Corbin got his chance to shine early, as he tossed Styles and Owens around the ringside area. He'd later hit a mesmerizing Deep Six on Styles and a chokeslam backbreaker on Owens, and he'd toss around the steel stairs with Cena, but he'd ultimately spend most of the match outside of the spotlight.

As he has done a few times in recent matches with Zayn, Styles brought back his moonsault inverted DDT to great effect only to get swept out of the ring. Ziggler delivered a beautiful DDT of his own on Cena but got caught immediately by a frog splash off the top rope by Owens, who flew in from out of frame.

Ziggler picked his spots throughout and eventually turned an Attitude Adjustment into a Fame-asser. Ziggler then set Cena up for a super kick, but the 16-time champ ducked and turned it into an STF submission. Styles broke it up before Ziggler could tap out and then hit Cena with a Styles Clash, but Zayn broke up that pinfall and assaulted Styles in the fallout.

As part of a mad scramble outside of the ring, Owens fought off an Attitude Adjustment through a table, only for Styles to fly in and take that fall; Styles would be incapacitated through the closing moments of the match.

Finally, after largely staying out of each other's way to that point, Zayn and Owens stood alone in the middle of the ring. Despite taking advantage last Tuesday and pinning Owens in a Fatal 5-Way, Zayn tried to insist he'd still lay down for Owens and let him win the WWE championship consequence free. Owens refused to believe Zayn, though, and he tried to pick Zayn up only to get rolled up for a two-count.

They traded punches and spilled out of the ring, with Owens taking a back body drop on the apron, and Zayn took the opportunity to get into the face of McMahon, who had been sitting ringside. Owens lined up for a superkick to the back of Zayn's head only for a last-minute dodge to cause the kick to land flush on McMahon's chin. As Owens surveyed the fallout, Zayn hit one of his signature spots -- a dive through the corner of the ropes into a DDT, which he made famous in his first NXT match with Cesaro.

Action eventually returned to the ring, as Owens finally caught Zayn with a superkick, followed by a pop-up powerbomb to Ziggler. But as Owens was closing in on a three count, a recovering McMahon pulled the referee out of the ring. That caused enough of a distraction that Zayn was able to hit Owens with a helluva kick, but McMahon got involved yet again -- pulling Zayn out of the ring when he seemingly had the match locked up.

On the other side of the ring, Corbin nailed Cena with the steel ring steps, brought them into the ring and began to clean house. Cena turned it around and eventually hit an Attitude Adjustment on Corbin onto the steel steps, but the pinfall was broken up just in time by Ziggler. After catching Ziggler with an Attitude Adjustment, Owens caught Cena with a pop-up powerbomb only for Styles to come flying in from out of nowhere to hit a Phenomenal Forearm on Owens to pick up the victory.

After a fitting ending to an overachieving pay-per-view, Styles vs. Nakamura is now officially locked in, and Owens and Zayn will have their hands full with McMahon. As for Cena, and everyone else, only time shall tell.

SmackDown women's championship: Charlotte Flair def. Ruby Riott

Walking into Sunday night, Charlotte Flair's direction heading into WrestleMania 34 couldn't have been more mysterious or hard to figure out. Outside of her challenger at Fastlane, Ruby Riott, no one had separated themselves from the pack on SmackDown Live, and a multi-woman match felt like a real possibility.

Riott put on one hell of a performance in her first time under the bright lights of pay-per-view, but Flair ultimately walked away with her title match intact. Mere moments later, her WrestleMania plans got cleared up in a hurry, as Asuka made a shocking appearance -- finally locking up her pick of women's champions six weeks after winning the first women's Royal Rumble.

The live crowd could not have been much more enthusiastic in reacting to the news, and with good reason. With Asuka having torn through all of the Raw women's division and Flair having taken care of business against every challenger to date on SmackDown, this is the most marquee match you could make in the WWE's division at this moment.

But back to the match at hand. There were very few, if any, who thought Riott would be walking out of Fastlane as the new SmackDown women's champion. But in her first title challenge and first one-on-one WWE pay-per-view match at hand, Riott had both pressure and opportunity on her hands when she stepped into the ring.

She proved worthy of the challenge in a hurry. After missing big swings back and forth, Riott's compatriots Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, who didn't walk out with her, suddenly appeared at ringside and caused a distraction. Riott hit a Riott Kick right out of the gate, but it only earned her a two-count and the early edge.

As the Riott Squad tipped the balances in Riott's favor, Becky Lynch and Naomi came to the aid of Flair to keep things balanced and the action focused in the ring. Riott and Flair traded suplexes, but Riott regained the edge by smashing Flair face-first into the turnbuckle. It became quite one-sided for a stretch, in fact, as Riott landed an elbow, an STO and a flurry of offensive that kept the champion incapacitated. Flair got her knees up on an aerial maneuver from Riott, but as she herself got up onto the top rope, Flair's moonsault attempt was foiled as Riott shoved her off the top and crashing into the ring barrier. As the action moved to the outside, Flair sent Riott into the barricade and hit a moonsault from said barricade to regain a measure of control.

Back inside the ring, they traded chops back and forth, but Riott once again sent Flair into the turnbuckles to slow Flair's momentum. The Riott Squad got some shots in on Flair, but they as well as Lynch and Naomi were ejected from ringside by the referee. In the ensuing moments, Riott set up for a reverse hurricanrana, but Flair reversed the momentum and flipped Riott face-first into the top turnbuckle.

A spear and a figure eight later, and the win was elemental for Flair. She was quickly interrupted by Asuka, and WrestleMania added a bonafide co-headliner in the SmackDown women's championship match to come.

That only leaves one question in its wake -- who will Raw women's champion Alexa Bliss face at WrestleMania? I imagine the answer will come on Monday night.

SmackDown tag team championships: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day go to a no contest

To say that the Usos and the New Day have dominated the SmackDown Live tag team division over the past year would be an understatement. Over the last 355 days, either the Usos or the New Day have stood atop the heap as the holders of the SmackDown Live tag team championships. During that time, the titles have changed hands four times between the two teams, but they haven't been eager to share.

That changed Sunday night, though, as the long-lingering threat of The Bludgeon Brothers inserted themselves into the middle of the match -- making an emphatic statement that SmackDown should no longer be a two-team show.

Up until the point when Rowan and Harper laid waste to all five other men at ringside, the latest chapter of the fantastic feud between New Day in the Usos -- their sixth two-on-two pay-per-view match to date -- was shaping up to be another great one.

Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston were New Day's representatives on this night, and Woods fell into trouble early after eating a vicious double superkick. They continued to wear Woods down in their corner of the ring, until he managed to squirm away and tagged in Kingston. He immediately charged into the ring and hit both Usos with a series of dropkicks and axe handles. After a boom drop by Kingston, he missed his Trouble in Paradise kick and got caught a by a roundhouse for his troubles.

Jimmy regained control against Kingston and hit a boom drop of his own. He then tried to hit Kingston with a trouble in paradise for a dose of his own medicine, to no avail. Kingston attempted it one more time himself, but Jimmy ducked and the Usos hit another of the New Day's signature offensive moves -- the midnight hour -- for a two-count.

After a missed splash in the corner by Jey, Kingston tagged in Woods and they copied The Usos' approach of a wave of superkicks, though the Usos got in some fun of their own. Woods eventually tagged in Kingston who used the Usos' finisher -- a superfly splash onto Jey -- but only for a two count.

The Usos hit a double dive over the top rope onto all three members of New Day, but that was effectively the end. The Bludgeon Brothers music hit and they slowly stalked towards the ring with a purpose in mind. Harper hit a Boss Man Slam onto Jimmy and both Bludgeon Brothers hit a double suplex onto Woods.

The onslaught continued with a Rowan cross body block onto Big E and double power slams to both Usos. Rowan then slammed his own partner, Harper, onto both Usos. As a parting gift, the Bludgeon Brothers double powerbombed Woods onto the steel steps, bringing an end to the mayhem. A video package played, but even on the other side of the clip we saw both teams helped to the back, with Woods traveling by way of a back board and stretcher.

While it's a bit disappointing to see a match with this much potential come to an end so early, the set up to a multiple team collision at WrestleMania was effectively telegraphed. For too long the Bludgeon Brothers loomed on the fringes, but now the destiny of at least three teams seems to be determined for WrestleMania.

Carmella & Natalya def. Becky Lynch & Naomi

In a match thrown together at the last minute, four incredibly talented superstars were given the opportunity to separate themselves from the pack. Becky Lynch, Naomi, Natalya and Carmella each lacked a clear path to WrestleMania walking into Fastlane, but it didn't seem as though their tag team match did much to help any of the four women to break out on Sunday night.

Carmella still has the Money in the Bank contract in her back pocket, to be sure, but the direction of the SmackDown Live women's division and championship both seem to be up in the air with just a few weeks to go until WrestleMania.

As for the match itself, it felt more suited for an episode of SmackDown Live than a pay-per-view. It began with Lynch and Carmella, who attempted to end it early with a Dis-arm-her arm lock, but Carmella made it to the ropes. After tagging Natalya in, Lynch regained control and tagged Naomi, who made her entrance into the match.

After a hurricanrana by Naomi, she went up to the top rope for a split legged moonsault, but was distracted long enough to allow Natalya hit her with a sit down powerbomb -- allowing her to tag Carmella back in. Carmella continued on the offensive and nailed Naomi with her version of the bronco buster.

Naomi escaped, but was pulled down by the hair by Carmella when attempting to make the tag to Lynch. Natalya took over and continued to wear down Naomi, but that set things up for a hot tag to Lynch that would seemingly lead to the eventual conclusion.

Lynch was tagged in and nailed her Bex-sploder suplex onto Natalya, followed by a missile dropkick. After a series of unfortunately sloppy sequences, Natalya tried to introduce the Money in the Bank briefcase into the match as a weapon -- and that moment distracted Lynch enough to allow Carmella to catch her with a superkick that earned her team the win.

So what can we take from this match as it pertains to these four superstars' roads to WrestleMania? Nothing. It was simply filler. But the women's championship match later in the night and next Tuesday's SmackDown should do a lot to clear things up.

United States championship: Randy Orton def. Bobby Roode (c)

Bobby Roode has accomplished quite a bit in a short period of time since arriving to the WWE. He held the NXT championship for 203 days and became the premier villain on the brand. In a much different role on SmackDown Live, slowly rose up the ranks as one of the top babyfaces and became United States champion -- but he never really hit his stride after winning the tournament to crown a new champion after Dolph Ziggler vacated it.

He faced his highest profile challenge Sunday night in 13-time world champion Randy Orton, and ultimately suffered the first true disappointment of his main roster run by losing the U.S. championship just weeks before WrestleMania.

Orton had seemingly done it all in the WWE, but in over 15 years with the company he had yet to win the United States championship. There's no doubt that Orton is a future WWE Hall of Famer, but adding that missing piece would put another major line on his resume as a Grand Slam champion -- but more on that later.

After trading early finisher attempts and some solid back and forth, Orton took the early edge as he hung Roode over the top rope and assaulted him with strikes. Roode hit a clothesline to turn the tide, but Orton quickly escaped a rear chin lock by Roode and landed a perfectly executed suple. Roode popped up and countered with a series of clotheslines and a neck breaker, followed with a clothesline off the top rope and again attempted the Glorious DDT -- but Orton was waiting, and countered and with a snap power slam.

After hanging Roode off the top rope following a failed attempt at his draping DDT, Orton got hit by a Roode blockbuster from the middle rope. It was just a short delay, though, as Orton got Roode in position for the draping DDT and nailed it the second time around. They traded finisher attempts yet again, but neither man was ready to go down.

The two made their way to the outside of the ring, where Orton dropped Roode back first onto the barricade, and they barely got back into the ring in time to beat the referee's 10-count. Orton set up for a superplex, but Roode countered with a sunset flip that he ultimately carried out into a powerbomb in the middle of the ring. Orton continued to take advantage of second chances, and absolutely crushed Roode with a superplex. "No one does it better," exclaimed Corey Graves on commentary, and the replays proved Graves had a strong point.

The worn out superstars traded punches and traded yet another series of finisher attempts, and Roode grabbed the edge one final time with a spine buster, which earned him a two count. Roode went up for another blockbuster off the middle rope, but it was a case of going back to the well one time too many as Orton caught him with an RKO in mid-air.

Orton secured the pinfall, the victory and the title, but there wasn't much time to celebrate. After the match, Jinder Mahal, who's been involved with both of these men in recent weeks, made his entrance and attacked the new champion. However, he was intercepted by Roode, who nailed a Glorious DDT -- but Roode didn't stop there. In frustration, Roode had a DDT for Orton as well, and perhaps showed signs of a much-needed edge.

This sets us up for a triple threat match for the United States championship at WrestleMania. While the potential match doesn't seem too exciting on paper, all three superstars are veterans with the ability to steal the show on any given night.

Shinsuke Nakamura def. Rusev

Talk about a "rivalry" with virtually no build. This match was simply put in place to get Shinsuke Nakamura, who awaits his WWE championship match at WrestleMania, on the Fastlane card -- and Rusev drew the assignment.

His popularity of late made him as good an opponent for Nakamura as SmackDown had to offer, and in the opening match of the pay-per-view what began as a filler match turned into a strong opener and a solid (if disappointing) showcase for Rusev.

After being serenaded to the ring by Aiden English, who now carries a microphone with a "Happy Rusev Day" flag on it, Rusev tried to grab control of the action as soon as the bell rang. He locked up with Nakamura in the middle of the ring and worked on some mat wrestling maneuvers, followed by a stiff shoulder block. But it didn't Nakamura long to break out his offense, as he took Rusev down and dropped a knee into his sternum.

After a missed clothesline, Nakamura taunted Rusev, who responded by rolling in and out of the ring several times to try to grab the psychological edge. Nakamura quickly had enough of the mind games, though, and chased Rusev outside of the ring where he landed some running knees. But as Nakamura tried to climb back into the ring, he was greeted by a body avalanche that allowed Rusev to slow down the pace and take control.

Nakamura rolled through Rusev's legs and found a way to lock in a heel hook, but the hold was broken when Rusev reached the ropes; Rusev quickly rose to his feet, slammed Nakamura to the mat and dropped an elbow onto his opponent.

As dueling "Nak-a-mura" and "Rusev Day" chants rang through the crowd, Rusev and Nakamura proved to have great chemistry in their ever one-on-one clash. After a rest hold, the two traded shots with Nakamura grabbing the advantage with a shot to the chest of Rusev. From there, he continued to pelt him with kicks and knees and once again, they allowed the crowd to invest themselves in the match as Nakamura slowed things down with a front face lock.

Rusev eventually countered with a fall-away slam and a roundhouse to the back of Nakamura's head, but couldn't keep him down for the three count. The two returned to their feet and traded some more strikes as the pace picked up to the match's climax, and as Nakamura attempted his kinsasha knee strike, Rusev side stepped him and rolled him up for another two count.

Nakamura attempted the Kinshasa, but Rusev dodged the attack and hit a vicious side kick to Nakamura's face that sent his opponent flipping through the air and landing on his head. After a sloppy, exhausted cover from Rusev, Nakamura kicked out a fraction of a second before the ref counted to three.

Rusev then attempted The Accolade, but Nakamura slid underneath him and turned the match around in an instant. He nailed a flying knee to the back of Rusev's head, hit the ropes and finished it off with the frontward facing version -- a successful Kinshasa that earned Nakamura the victory.

There was no question about it when the match began -- Nakamura was undoubtedly going to come out of Fastlane looking strong. It's a shame that Rusev is continually put in situations that stunt his climb up the ladder, but if he was ever going to benefit despite a loss, this match was a reminder of how good he really is. With Nakamura already locked in for WrestleMania, Rusev made the best case he possibly could for some WrestleMania role of his own on Sunday night.


Kickoff Show: Tye Dillinger & Breezango def. Shelton Benjamin, Chad Gable & Mojo Rawley

Tye Dillinger and Breazango defeated Shelton Benjamin, Chad Gable and Mojo Rawley as part of the WWE Fastlane Kickoff Show. In a match that leaned heavily on humor in its early stages, action picked up late with Dillinger hitting his "Perfect 10" facebreaker on Rawley to get the pinfall.

Tim Fiorvanti, ESPN.com195d ago