SmackDown continues to go Lazy Story Telling route with Fatal 5-way decision


Electric performances from WWE SmackDown’s Superstars have done well to cover up the stink of the blue brand’s writing of late.

By the end of Tuesday’s SmackDown, Fastlane’s Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship turned into a Fatal 5-Way. Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin will now join Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens in challenging AJ Styles for that prize at the March 11 pay-per-view.

The path to that point was exciting thanks to one of Corbin’s best in-ring efforts to date and the show Zayn and Ziggler put on in the main event. But no one is going to confuse SmackDown’s main event scene with Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart in terms of storytelling.

It feels like SmackDown is just throwing elements into the WWE title chase to see what sticks.

Last week, Zayn had to battle his best friend Owens in order to decide who would face Styles for the WWE crown at Fastlane. The Phenomenal One, though, lost his cool and attacked the participants. That led SmackDown general manager Daniel Bryan to decide to place both Zayn and KO in the big bout.

Not long afterward, SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon tried to one-up him. He announced that the winner of the scheduled Ziggler vs. Corbin contest would also take on Styles at the upcoming PPV:

His reasoning was that he wanted to make things “more interesting.” Wade Keller of PWTorch scoffed at the concept: “So adding a fourth wrestler makes a title match ‘more interesting.’ Okay. There’s high-concept booking for you.”

And as much as McMahon tried to sell the audience on Corbin and Ziggler being deserving, it didn’t ring true.

Ziggler walked away from the company (in storyline), relinquished the United States title and collected paychecks from home. He then came back in time for the Royal Rumble where he lasted all of two minutes and one second, per WWE.com. How in the world does that make him a viable world title contender?

Corbin belonged in that conversation even less.

Before beating Tye Dillinger last week, The Lone Wolf had lost six bouts in a row, as seen on CageMatch.net. He didn’t even make it out of the first round of the U.S. title tourney. He wasn’t in anyway treated as a guy worthy of the WWE Championship.

On Tuesday, the company expected the audience to forget all about that.

After KO and Zayn upended the Corbin vs. Ziggler bout, McMahon booked two matches to give each of the ambush victims a chance to be added to the WWE title tilt. Corbin knocked off Owens to earn his spot in the bout. Ziggler outlasted Zayn to join him.

Now Fastlane’s big title bout is a Fatal 5-Way match.

It would be different if this were some slow-burn tale of redemption for either The Lone Wolf or The Showff. This was no well-earned rise to the top, just two guys thrown into the mix arbitrarily.

And it feels odd that SmackDown is going the five-man route at the same time that Raw has seven men set to vie for its top prize. As TJRWrestling.net Editor-in-Chief John Canton pointed out, multiple-wrestler matches don’t stand out when they are done so often:

Ziggler and Corbin’s presence only adds to the crowded mess at the top.

There are so many moving parts in the WWE title narrative that the champion is being lost in all of it. Styles has become some abstract goal for Corbin and crew. The Phenomenal One wasn’t even around on Tuesday. He’s often been pushed to the background as the focus has been on Owens, Zayn and often the show’s authority figures.

WWE has paid more attention to building tension between the GM and the commissioner than giving Styles a true foil.

For a reminder how lackluster this current cramped feud is, look back at the sizzling energy between Styles and John Cena or The Phenomenal One and Dean Ambrose. It’s not nearly as memorable or powerful as those feuds.

En route to Fastlane and at the PPV itself, SmackDown has to hope the Superstars can again excel despite what the writers are giving them. If the blue brand’s main event picture is going to thrive, it’s clearly going to be because of the performers, not the folks setting the narrative stage.

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