Main Event: WWE World Title Match – AJ Styles (c) vs John Cena vs Dean Ambrose
Ok, it was really weird having this match go on first. But the guys put on a great show regardless. The match went 21 minutes and didn’t really feel like it; they could have easily gone another ten. Styles continued his incredible in ring 2016 run with another top notch performance while John and Dean more than kept up with him. It looked for a moment like Dean was legit hurt after a spot where he landed near the ring steps, but he was ok. Cena pulled out a lot of ‘double’ spots from a double german suplex to a double Five Knuckle Shuffle to an attempted double Attitude Adjustment. And Styles continued with his completely underrated ability to judiciously use his aerial moves so that they have maximum importance to the match. The false finish where Styles tapped out to Cena’s STF and Ambrose’s version of the Calf Crusher at the same was a throwback to Summerslam 2012 when Big Show tapped out to Cena’s STF and CM Punk’s Anaconda Vice simultaneously. The actual finish was good enough and allowed AJ to keep the title. Great match overall.
Nikki Bella vs Carmella
They’ve been working house shows for a good month now and have going at it on Smackdown; I wasn’t sure going in if it would be a starting point for more between them or an ending point. And I’m still not sure. Nikki won clean and didn’t catch a post match beatdown which suggests this is over, but we won’t know for sure until Tuesday night. They got eight minutes and had a pretty match for all intents and purposes.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) vs The Usos
I had this pegged for the title change of the night; boy was I wrong. The match was good for what it was, and the champs went over clean. On the one hand, I get keeping the belts on Slater and Rhyno because they just got them a month ago. At the same time, where is this Uso heel turn going? Are they going to eventually get the belts and then face American Alpha for them? Or are they just the first up to put the new champs over before going to the feud with Alpha? We’ll see. For now I think it would be good to move them on to fighting the Ascension or the Vaudevillains.
Baron Corbin vs Jack Swagger
I had the feeling this was going to be a vehicle to get Swagger a push going upon his arrival to Smackdown. I wasn’t on board with that, but I figured it is what it is. Corbin went over instead, which is the right call in my book. I really hope they’re building Corbin into a bigger deal for 2017. He won’t ever be the number one guy but there’s no reason he can’t be an Intercontinental Champion or challenge for the World Title on a Pay Per View down the line. They had a good seven minute match here, long enough to do what they needed but short enough to not bore you.
Intercontinental Title Match: The Miz (c) vs Dolph Ziggler
The hook here was that if Ziggler lost he’d have to retire. Had it not been for that, no one would have given Ziggler a chance in hell of winning here. I still figured he’d lose here. These two have worked together 1000 times and can put on a great match in their sleep, and did it again here. And the false finish with Maryse spraying Dolph in the face was a great move. And Dolph getting the well overdue win was good stuff. We fans still love Dolph as a performer; the problem the past year and a half has been that he’s been booked in situations that are either foregone conclusions (with Ambrose this year) or dragged on too long (Rusev and Baron Corbin). When you put him in something that matters, he’s still gold. Hopefully this isn’t a two day title reign; at least let him hold it until December and then Miz can win it back. Kudos to both guys for great promo work leading in and two great back to back pay per view matches.
Naomi vs Alexa Bliss
This of course was supposed to be a Smackdown Women’s Title Match between Bliss and champion Becky Lynch, but Lynch’s injury this week caused her to be scratched from the show. Hopefully it isn’t anything that will keep her out of action too long. I’d hate to see her have to vacate the title after just getting it. This was basically a short cool down match to have before the last one of the evening, a throwback to the 2012-2013 Diva’s division five minute specials. Alexa and Naomi are better than those ladies were back then so this match was worked better, but other than that it was the same thing. Naomi winning seemed weird at first by since this was basically a throwaway match why not get her a win.
Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt
So for two times in three months we get Randy Orton in the last match on the show, instead of earlier where it belonged. Match was good enough, but the crowd was mostly out of it. The only real point of interest was whether or not Bray would actually get a win. Bray has developed a somewhat overblown reputation as a guy who job on pay per view, so he was badly in need of a win here to counter that narrative. And thankfully with some help from the returning Luke Harper, he got it. Whether this continues I have no idea. I’d rather them both move on if it keeping it going means a rematch that Orton wins.
All in all, a good show. Smackdown continues to do more with less and put on good shows by generally playing it straight. The matches all ranged from watchable to great and everything was entertaining. That’s a stark contrast from RAW which too often overloads things and tries too hard to be clever. Definitely worth a re-watch.