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SmackDown just the beginning as WrestleMania 39 ready to rumble over weekend

Roman Reigns, left, and Cody Rhodes stare each other down in the run-up to WrestleMania this weekend. Supplied photo
Roman Reigns, left, and Cody Rhodes stare each other down in the run-up to WrestleMania this weekend. Supplied photo

Jan Murphy
Postmedia Network

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – It was all about WrestleMania 39 as World Wrestling Entertainment kicked off the first of its live events at Arena in Los Angeles on Friday night.

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Friday Night SmackDown, which was followed immediately by the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, was all business from start to finish.

From its opening segment featuring Canadians Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and their WrestleMania opponents The Usos through to a final stare down between Undisputed WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns and challenger Cody Rhodes, WWE moved to tie up any loose ends ahead of WrestleMania, which happens over two nights on Saturday and Sunday at Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles.

Rhodes and Reigns, Sunday’s main event, capped the evening, each receiving raucous ovations from the L.A. faithful, addressed one another.

“What do you want to talk about?” Rhodes asked the crowd before delivering an impassioned promo that was cut short by Reigns.

“Cody Rhodes,” Reigns simply said as they stood toe to toe following his methodical journey to the ring. “Acknowledge me!”

With that, all that is left is Sunday’s main event.

The only exception to the evening when the crowd was treated to the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, an all-in battle royal featuring more than 30 superstars vying for a trophy in honour of the man himself. The event began as a WrestleMania staple, before behind moved to being part of the weekend.

Participants were eliminated by being thrown over the top rope, with both feet landing on the floor. Unlike the Royal Rumble, all participants start inside the ring to open the match, vying to be the last participant standing.

After a messy and slow start, the match picked up when it was down to its final eight or so entrants. Its final three were Braun Strowman, Bronson Reed and Bobby Lashley, with the heavily favoured Lashley taking home the hardware, much to the approval of the L.A. crowd.

The evening featured only four total matches, the other three of which all had implications leading into WrestleMania.

Two tied directly to tag-team matches happening on the weekend, while the other linked to a triple threat match for the Intercontinental title.

The first match of the evening was a fourway match featuring one competitor from each of four teams who will square off in a tag-team match at WrestleMania. Ricochet, Viking Raiders’ Erick, Chad Gable of Alpha Academy and Montez Ford of the Street Prophets faced off in a preview of some of what will come at Mania. Ricochet scored the pinfall victory. Almost identically, Raquel Rodriguez, Sonya Deville, Natalya and Shayna Bazler each represented the tag team they’ll be part of in a fatal fourway women’s match at WrestleMania. Rodriguez scored the victory for her team heading into the Mania match.

The show opened with the Usos, Jimmy and Jey, taking to the ring to promote their Undisputed WWE tag-tag championship match at WrestleMania 39. They were quickly interrupted by their opponents in that match, Quebec natives Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Owens and Zayn delivered powerful promos, setting up what should be an excellent match on night one of WrestleMania on Saturday.

Friday Night Smackdown results

· Bobby Lashley wins the Andre The Giant Battle Royal.

· Ricochet def. Erick, Chad Gable and Montez Ford.

· Raquel Rodriguez def. Sonya Deville, Natalya and Shayna Bazler.

· Sheamus and Drew McIntyre def. Imperium’s Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci.

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