This week, SmackDown Live is going back to the old Monday Night Wars WCW style booking and giving us another pay-per-view quality main event on free television. Last week was a battle between John Cena and Dean Ambrose that saw the former Shield member go over clean. This week, it’s a WWE Championship rematch from Backlash between Ambrose and Champion AJ Styles.
With such a big match on tap tonight, and Monday Night RAW getting hammered in the ratings by the Presidential Debate and Monday Night Football, will this be the week that SmackDown Live passes the flagship show in viewership? My heart says yes.
Also this week it’s the Miz’s homecoming! SmackDown Live is coming from the same place he did – Cleveland, Ohio. Will the crowd be receptive to his coming home, or will they hate this temporary stop on his never-ending Intercontinental Championship world tour?
The tag team picture has become a bit clearer recently. The Usos are coming for Heath Slater & Rhyno’s titles at No Mercy, and they have a no-nonsense attitude and a penchant for destroying knees accompanying them. Will the Beauty and the Man-Beast survive their first real challenge? Or will the Usos get another run as tag team champions, this time on SmackDown?
All this, and probably more viciousness from Carmella, on the SmackDown Live review.
Orton makes his way to the ring and addresses Bray Wyatt. He says that Wyatt plays all the mind games because Wyatt himself is afraid of Orton. He calls Wyatt down to the ring to settle this, if he’s man enough.
Instead of coming down, Wyatt addresses him from the big screen. He starts telling the story of Hansel and Gretel. Wyatt talks about his own trail of breadcrumbs that will lead Orton into the confines of his own mind. He has an hourglass, and turns it over saying time waits for no one.
Orton is understandably confused, but charges to the back to find Wyatt.
Dean Ambrose is interviewed backstage by Charly Caruso about his upcoming title match. He talks about how Styles stole his title by going low, so he’s going to break Styles’ face and take back the title that belongs to him.
Heath Slater, Rhyno & American Alpha vs The Usos & The Ascension
Result: Usos & Ascension win by submission (Knee Submission) Rating:2.75 out of 5 stars
The Usos have new music and were the only team to get their entrance on TV. The new music is trap music and it fits their new look and attitude quite well.
The Usos are trying to get an advantage heading into their WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship match at No Mercy against Slater & Rhyno. American Alpha also has unfinished business with the Usos, as they haven’t really gotten their revenge after the Samoans took out Chad Gable’s knee, forcing him out of the finals of the tag title tournament. The former Olympian will be looking to get some vengeance.
On the outside early on, the Usos manage to chop block Chad Gable and take out his knee once again. Consistency week to week in WWE storytelling. Gable gets worked over by the heels, and the crowd is hot for a hot tag to Rhyno, Jordan, or Slater.
After a long sell, Slater gets the hot tag and goes bananas on all of his opponents. The match breaks down with the Usos using a blind tag getting the advantage and taking out the leg of Slater. One of the Usos slaps on their knee bar submission, and force the former Hottest Free Agent in Wrestling to tap out.
My thoughts on the Ascension getting a win on TV, summed up by our editor Rob Wolkenbrod:
Is this NXT or did The Ascension just win a match on TV? #SDLive
Caruso interviews Cena backstage about if it matters who is champion heading into their match at No Mercy. Cena will be at ringside tonight in order to prepare for hopefully getting his 16th world championship.
The Miz is shown backstage getting a portrait of himself put over a portrait of LeBron James. The heat is extreme.
Result:Natalya & Carmella win by pinfall (Roll-up)
Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars
Nikki Bella and Carmella are headed to a brawl at No Mercy, potentially in a No Holds Barred match of some sort because all of their interactions have been heated. The newcomer has assaulted Bella whenever the opportunity arises, and last week when they tried to have this exact match Carmella made it not happen by assaulting Nikki.
Naomi and Natalya have their own issues too, just not as heated. Natalya just seems to have some issue with Naomi’s “glow.”
The heels take control of Naomi and try to stomp out her glow. Natalya nailed Naomi with a Michinoku Driver at ringside which looked like it hurt like hell. No matter what the heels do to her though, Naomi is able to kick out.
Nikki Bella gets the tag from Naomi and turns the tide of the match. She is dominating the match, nailing a beautiful middle rope kick. However,, Carmella catches the veteran Nikki Bella with a roll up once again for the victory.
Carmella is being booked to constantly have Nikki Bella’s number, which is an intriguing angle. Both Bella and Cena losing so frequently may have to lead to an “Ultimate Power Couple” comeback story, or even a heel turn. That last one being more wishful thinking than an actual possibility.
Orton’s Super Spooky Adventure
Orton is shown a message written in “blood,” saying “One way out choose wisely.” He chooses a door that says “I am a God” and there is a cutout of Orton in it that says “Prey” on it. He then opens the door saying “Predator or Prey” and waiting for him behind the door is Rowan. He decides to not got through it, apparently locking Rowan inside in the process.
Finally, the Miz has come back.. to Cleveland? The biggest homecoming for Cleveland since some guy named LeBron came back to win them a championship or something. The Miz is here and he’s going to be celebrated like the A-Lister he is. There are pictures of the Miz all over the ring, and he gets a massive amount of pyro.
The Miz gets a hype video shown of his career, all the way back to his Real World and Tough Enough days all through his career. It details all of his title victories, including the WWE Championship cash-in on Randy Orton. It shows his movies, his IC title win over Ryder, and parts of his massively popular Talking Smack promo.
Miz then rips into LeBron James and the Cavaliers, calling him a quitter and a traitor while he’s always brought them titles. Miz even acknowledges his parents, calling them the only two decent people in the entire arena. Dolph Ziggler’s parents are here too, and Miz says that they created an elite level loser.
Ziggler comes out, and defends his parents, the fans, and his city. Miz says he doesn’t care if he cheated, it will always call him a winner while the record books will always call Ziggler a loser. Miz calls Ziggler a warm-up guy to get the crowd happy and then lose, and says Ziggler’s career makes him sick and it would embarrass him if it was his.
Miz says Ziggler’s career is nothing, and leaves to go celebrate in Hollywood. He insults Ziggler’s parents on the way out by saying they must be so proud.
Ziggler calls after Miz, even calling him Mike. Ziggler says that the ring is all that he loves but sometimes the things you love don’t love you back. He gets emotional about how he can’t stop and how his career may not have gone the way he thought it would. Ziggler wants the title shot one more time, and he’ll put his career on the line.
Wyatt appears telling Orton that the door is wide open. He tells Orton to be careful, and laughs his evil laugh.
Becky Lynch Attacked
Lynch is making her way out for a match when Bliss attacks the Women’s Champ from behind. She slams Lynch into the entrance ramp and poses with the title, screaming that Becky doesn’t deserve the title and she does.
Curt Hawkins appears with more facts and says next week he’ll have a Curt Hawkins Announcement.
Wyatt Being Spooky – The Conclusion!
Wyatt appears on the screen again, talking about how he’s disappointed Orton was not as good an opponent for his game as he had hoped. The Viper has no fangs. As he’s calling out for Orton, he appears behind Wyatt in a sheep mask. Orton lays into Wyatt once he sees him, and then sits on Wyatt’s chair. He puts the sheep mask back on, and sings Wyatt’s song. The audio and video get all wonky at the end, and it showed Wyatt still on the seat instead of Orton. Weird stuff.
Caruso interviews Styles about what Ambrose and Cena have said about him. Styles talks about #BeatUpJohnCena and how he did the same to Ambrose. He will remain champion after tonight, and that’s all that matters.
WWE World Championship AJ Styles (c) vs Dean Ambrose
Result: Styles def. Ambrose by pinfall (Roll-up)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
John Cena is on commentary for this one, there to assess his two rivals at No Mercy. He’s also probably still scratching the ever-growing bald spot on the back of his head about how Dean Ambrose beat him clean a week ago. Styles is trying to prove to everyone that he is the “Face That Runs The Place” by defending his championship against Ambrose. The Lunatic Fringe just wants his title back, and also wants to make Styles feel immense pain for robbing him of his belt. The action quickly spills to the outside, with Ambrose pounding Styles on top of the announce table. On commentary, Cena talks up his quest to become a 16-time world champion. While some may not want Cena to break the record, he talks about his quest to become the greatest of all-time.
Styles and Ambrose traded control early on in the match, and Ambrose hits one of his patented Tope Suicida’s to Styles on the outside. He clears out Styles with a diving elbow as well.
Ambrose gets locked in the Calf Crusher, but slams Styles heads repeatedly to free himself. The injury to the leg gives Styles the upper hand, but Ambrose manages to stick with him. Ambrose crotches Styles on the top rope again, and while seated there he clotheslines him out of his boots.
Styles goes for a springboard 450, but Ambrose isn’t there and he can’t connect. Ambrose follows up with a diving elbow, but can only get a two. On the outside, Cena gets nailed with a forearm by Styles. Cena hops up and talks to the ref about it. While the ref is distracted, Ambrose rolls up Styles for long enough to win, but there’s no count. At two, Styles kicks out. He runs out and attacks Cena for costing him his shot. Once back in the ring, Styles rolls up Ambrose and uses a handful of jeans to ensure he keeps his title for at least another week and a half.
Post-match, Cena and Ambrose exchange heated words. Eventually, Ambrose goes for a Dirty Deeds but gets an AA for his efforts. Styles tries to attack Cena, and gets an AA as well. The man with the doctorate in Thuganomics stands tall to end SmackDown Live this week.
The most exciting storylines on the blue brand recently have been around their two oldest titles: The WWE World Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. Tonight’s show continued to excellently build both rivalries.
Before tonight, the thought of another Miz-Ziggler match for the IC title was met with a low level of excitement. While it’s always going to be a technically good match, it had been seen too many times. Tonight managed to change that narrative by adding another layer.
Having Ziggler put his career on the line makes sense in line with his current character arc. He’s a desperate man trying to prove he is not a loser; if risking his career is the only way he’ll get another shot then so be it. How will this play out now? It’s a much more intriguing storyline now.
The main championship continues to have an interesting dynamic. Styles is the cocky heel who believes himself to be the greatest wrestler on the planet. Cena is a hungry babyface challenging for title number 16 in order to become the greatest of all time. Ambrose is the tweener, desperately trying to get his title back that he feels wrongfully free of.
WWE would be smart to go with any of these strong narratives, but the Era of Styles is still just beginning. Having him remain champion for even longer, frustrating Ambrose and delaying the satisfaction of Cena’s chase will make it that much better.