AJ Styles defends his newly won WWE World Championship in a triple threat match against long-time rival John Cena, a man who has never beaten Styles one-on-one, and Dean Ambrose, the usurped champion who holds an almighty grudge as to how Styles beat him for his championship. Meanwhile, Dolph Ziggler puts his career on the line against The Miz, with the WWE Intercontinental Championship up for grabs…
AJ Styles (C) vs John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose
(WWE World Championship)
The real main event of the evening opened the show, most likely due to the 2016 US Presidential debate that would take place later in the evening. Given the whole concept of the WWE Network, seems odd to worry about such clashed on television, but it is what it is.
The match started fast, and never let up. AJ Styles’ flying forearm to Cena on the outside o the ring was beautiful. Cena and Ambrose worked hard as the supporting acts, but this match was all about Styles, who played the main role throughout. Some wonderful wrestling throughout the whole thing.
False finish came when Styles tapped to a double submission, meaning neither Cena or Ambrose specifically beat him. Referee kept the match going, much to Ambrose’s fury, and Cena eventually ate the pin after a chair shot from Styles. Great heel method of victory by Styles, and Smackdown continues to bring back wrestling basics to the company – the crowds and modern audiences will need to start buying into all of this, as THIS is how a wrestling promotion builds its stars and feuds.
Very odd seeing Cena as such a weakened version of himself, but he gets my applause for winding down his career in this way, and putting people over. He’s put over AJ Styles more than I think he has for anyone else in his whole career. Wouldn’t be surprised to see those two face off again at Wrestlemania 33.
This has been an interesting feud, and Carmella has been entertaining since she turned heel. If this was WWE RAW, they never would’ve done anything to acknowledge that Carmella as a face was sinking without a trace. Got to applaud Smackdown creative for that.
Both girls worked hard, but Nikki Bella has had better matches against other graduates from NXT – not a slight on Carmella, but she did get called up whilst she was still learning. Carmella is still better than the non-NXT ladies on the roster, and Nikki did a good job of making her look like a threat here. Can’t say I was a fan of Carmella kicking out of the Bella Buster though. Nikki Bella picked up the win with the Rack Attack 2.0.
For a first match between the two, it was decent, but flat.
Heath Slater & Rhyno
(WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship)
The Uso’s have been superb since they turned on American Alpha, and I love the changes they have made to their gear. Heath Slater has been superb since the brand split too, and fully deserves his current title run.
A surprisingly competitive match, given all the momentum going into this has been with the Uso brothers. Slater looked like he’d had his head kicked off his shoulders when he took a super kick from Jimmy Uso. Won’t lie, I’m not a fan of the Uso’s using the super kick as a standard move when they’ve been building it up as a finisher for Dolph Ziggler.
Huge shock win for Slater and Rhyno, and Rhyno gets the hot tag and hits a gore for the win. Crowd are mad behind the champions, and it’s refreshing to witness. Smackdown is building its tag team division very well.
No flying around in this one, just two big guys beating the hell out of each other. Corbin took out Swagger’s hand early on, and worked it over for the duration of the match. Lots of hard hitting knocks shared between both men.
Fans chanted “boring” at one point, but not many. Demonstrates the issue with the modern audience being spoilt by high fliers in every other match. Neither man put in a poor performance here, and they rightfully won the crowd over by the end. Corbin got the three count win after hitting his finisher, following a poke to Swagger’s eyes.
The Miz (C)
(WWE Intercontinental Championship, with Ziggler’s career on the line)
Great video package, felt like the end for Dolph Ziggler. Heading into No Mercy, this was the hottest feud on the blue brand.
Their last matches would take some beating, but both men clearly planned to give it their best shot. Ziggler took quite the beating throughout, as as JBL said on commentary, The Miz was clearly “winning.” Felt like a traditional wrestling match, and had zero flying around the ring.
Marries managed to spray Ziggler in the eyes with her hairspray, a great throwback to the last match between the pair. That kind of thing just works, and they should connect their matches in feuds more often. As a viewer, it definitely felt as though Ziggler was going to lose due to the interference. Fans went nuts when he kicked out, and both men clearly had everyone invested. The chorus of boos when Spirit Squad showed up suggested to me that everyone thought Ziggler was about to get screwed. So did I, if I’m honest.
Ziggler stops the interference, but gets hit with a Skull Crushing Finale. That felt like it would be the finish, but Ziggler kicked out and the arena went wild. The Miz’s cohorts were quickly ejected from ringside (Maryse is great as a valet, but the way, and is the blue brands Lana), and Ziggler immediately hit a super kick for the 1-2-3 and the win.
The crowd celebrated the win as though it was a world championship win. Says it all about how well both men did here, and in their feud up until this point. The interference that led to the finish was just done so perfectly, and so old school, that it elevated the match even more and got the crowd really invested. Smackdown just gets it, it really does.
Naomi has one of the best entrances in the entire business, but once the lights come up and she starts wrestling, it all starts to fall apart. If she could back up the incredible entrance she has, she could really be a player. But she can’t, and she won’t.
Not a great match here, and it’s easy to feel a little robbed given Bliss was meant to be facing Becky Lynch for the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship, prior to Lynch’s last minute injury. Luckily Bliss has put on good matches in NXT, and on Smackdown too, so I won’t worry too much about what I saw here. Naomi really needs to up her game though.
Naomi got the surprise win somewhat out of the blue, leaving Bliss fuming. Finish was very flat, as was the whole match in truth.
This has been an interesting feud, and I’ve enjoyed the supernatural aspects of it, which is a surprise as in the 2010’s that stuff often comes off as ridiculous. Orton has done good work, and the feud being extended due to his concussion postponing their match at WWE Backlash 2016 has only made this rivalry stronger. Problem is, as good as Wyatt is on the mic, he has never backed up all his talk once he’s got in the ring. Top of my head, I can’t think of a single big feud that he’s come out on top in.
Both men worked at the slow pace I expected, and the crowd were a little flat following the exhausting Ziggler/Miz match. That said, I’ll never understand why the continue to put a cooler match before the main event – kills the momentum of the show every single time, without question.
The match never really gets going, before the lights go out, leading to Luke Harper making his return to cause the distraction, helping Bray Wyatt hit Sister Abigail for the win. The Wyatt Family is reunited…again.
Decent event, which would likely leave a stronger impression had the WWE World Championship match gone on last. That match was a great opener, and I’m never too bothered by match placement, but it did feel wrong having the world title match open an event that didn’t really have a whole lot else happening on the card. If they were going to open the show though, then Miz and Ziggler should have been the main event. The finish, and the scenes of Ziggler with the crowd, would’ve made for a great ending to the show.
Losing Becky Lynch to injury just before the show was a blow, as I think that could’ve been a three or four star match. Bliss struggled with Naomi, but so do a lot of others, so can’t put much blame on her there.
One thing you can always see with these Smackdown events is forward planning, and that was no different. Really enjoying the work they are doing, and the wrestlers are clearly enjoying themselves too.
Match of the Night
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
WWE No Mercy 2016: