WWE's SmackDown Live dealt with the aftermath of No Mercy last night (Oct 11., 2016) in San Jose. For full results and the live blog from the excellent ReverendKain click here. For even more coverage of SmackDown Live, check out Tonya Rodgers and myself discussing the episode on Live! After SmackDown Live.
The Glory Days Are Back
Dolph Zigger and The Miz are putting on an Intercontinental Championship feud for the ages.
Growing up, the secondary men's title was always my favorite—I was always naturally drawn to its programs and usually had little interest in the heavyweight world championship feuds. There are few things better in wrestling for me than a good heel Intercontinental Champion—and though The Miz no longer retains the gold, his character constantly reminds me of all those dastardly heels I always wanted to see beaten.
Dolph Ziggler opened the show with a celebratory promo, but was interrupted after a few minutes by The A-Lister. The Miz and Maryse were both decked out in all black, clearly mourning The Miz' loss on Sunday—or, as The Miz put it, "a moment to mourn the death of the Intercontinental Championship."
Are you happy? Is everybody happy? Cuz Sunday a championship wasn't just lost, it was the death of the Intercontinental title. I was the one to bring the prestige back to that title. Nobody but me. I made it the most prestigious title on SmackDown Live.
You winning, your victory, is a funeral for the Intercontinental Championship's legacy. It's tainted and dragged down by the mediocrity of YOU. If you think this is the end of this story you are delusional. This is just Act II, the part of the movie where the hero needs to overcome unbeatable odds... I AM THAT HERO. All great stories have the same ending, the hero gets the gold and girl, and I've already got the girl. Now I want my gold back.
Ziggler proceded to mock Miz for nearly crying after the loss Sunday—and I could really do without this sort of, "Men having emotions is bad, duh duh duh, me no cry," thing. The Miz retorted:
YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY? Oh I bet you and Daniel Bryan got a good laugh at that, but let me tell you about that face, that face is everything I worked for and sacrificed.
("You were crying" chant interrupts)
(Shaking his head) You people wouldn't know what passion and pain and sacrifice means...
Dolph, think for one second anything and everything I did just to keep that. Just imagine what I'll do to get it back. I'm not done with you, and neither are they.
They being ... Kenny and Mikey of The Spirit Squad. This still blows my mind.
Unsurprisingly, Ziggler went over his old stable mates, but had no time to celebrate. The Miz immediately pounced following the victory—it seemed barely two seconds between the bell ringing and the beginning of his assault—but was ultimately foiled when SmackDown Live Tag Team Champions Heath Slater and Rhyno showed up to make the save.
This program somehow keeps getting better and better. Though The Miz claimed the Intercontinental Championship was dead, he and Ziggler have legitimately revitalized this title—but it still remains completely bewildering why they didn't close the show Sunday.
AJ Styles may very well have saved James Ellsworth's life last night. He needs to be seriously commended for altering the Styles Clash when he realized Ellsworth had tucked his head (meaning the bump for the move would impact square on his head). I wanted to point that out before getting into the segment, because it demonstrates how much a pro Styles is at this whole pro wrestling game.
AJ's "Victory Celebration" was delightful but about what was expected. Initially seeming to bask in the adulation of the crowd, and then rejecting it wholesale, was typical heel behavior:
Enough about you, let's talk about me. I beat Dean Ambrose. I beat John Cena. And some may not like the way it went down, well let me tell you something about AJ Styles. I am a winner, and winners find a way to win. Did I mention that I beat JC and DA at the same time? It's so nice let me say it twice (repeats). I mean after a monumental moment like that most champions would take a year off, maybe at least a month. Or a night! But not me. Because I know SDL is the land of opportunity. And I am gonna give someone an opportunity tonight. I am gonna give a man of main event status an opportunity. Without further ado, bring my opponent down.
Dean Ambrose strolled to the ring, clearly not who Styles was expecting. As he berated AJ, telling him "you like the easy way out" and that "you don't want none of Dean Ambrose." But Styles quickly grew tired of this, and gave the cue again for his opponent.
Of all the people Styles could have selected, he chose "The Man With Two Hands," James Ellsworth.
Ambrose was excited at this prospect, and suggested he wanted a ringside seat. Though Styles told him to leave, General Manager Daniel Bryan instead showed up and said that Ambrose would be the special guest referee.
I am somewhat of a grouch in that I don't particularly like comedic acts in world title scenes. Though my issues with Ambrose's wackiness have been well documented, I was enjoying the segment—but then it just kept going, and going, and going. Ambrose pulling out a few things out of his pocket, including a flask, was cute, but he just kept digging back down into his jeans. It soured me on the segment, and his goofiness as referee didn't help.
Styles had Ellsworth tapping to the Calf Crusher, but Ambrose pretended to take a phone call. Styles had Ellsworth pinned after the aforementioned Styles Clash, but Ambrose stopped the count at two—before delivering a Dirty Deeds to the WWE world champion. He pulled Ellsworth into the cover, but Styles still kicked out even despite a quick count—so Ambrose hit another Dirty Deeds on Styles, pulled Ellsworth on top again, and recorded the pinfall victory.
James Ellsworth pinned AJ Styles. I get that this was very entertaining for the huge majority of the audience in attendance and at home. But it rubbed me the wrong way. I hate champions taking pins like this, and it's a bit confusing that they ran the "Styles is the smartest man in the room" angle with his claims he deliberately tapped out in the Triple Threat match Sunday to break the hold, and then immediately followed it with him not understanding that Ambrose would never give him a win of any sort tonight.
Daniel Bryan would later make an actual world title match for next week, pitting Ellsworth again versus Styles.
Dead on Arrival
Here's what a Bray Wyatt promo is to me: Yada yada yada yada bull****.
The amount of acts you'd have to sacrifice to get Wyatt to any position of relevance is mind boggling. It's just not worth it. Turn him or repackage him. He's a good talker who literally says the same thing in every promo, and it is utterly boring. If his gimmick is that he's a fraud and charlatan, it's a terrible gimmick that sucks the air out of every arena. Enough already.
That one glorious night when he tagged with Roman Reigns and got the babyface hot tag—that also produced arguably the best wrestling GIF of 2016—was such a tease. Down with the machine Wyatt could be something. Leader of a faux-supernatural cult and bad at false imprisonment Wyatt is not.
It doesn't help that Randy Orton's matches are very much "just there" even if his character work has been pretty good of late. So a main event match of Orton and Kane teaming vs. Wyatt and Luke Harper—who, frankly, is arguably more compelling on the mic than Wyatt—was pretty uneventful. Toward the end, Orton reached to make a tag to Kane, but then was greeted by the trademark Wyatt noise—and when the lights flipped back on, Kane was gone, with Harper in his place mockingly reaching for a tag. The distraction allowed Wyatt to sneak up from behind and hit Orton with (a pretty bad, in all honesty) Sister Abigail for the victory.
Later, on Talking Smack, Wyatt and Harper appeared unexpectedly, told Renee Young to leave, and then Bray cut another of his usual promos promising that they were going to take over SmackDown Live.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twelve hundred trillion times—well, actually, I'm not getting fooled by a Bray Wyatt mini-push.
Carmella is a mafioso, and Nikki Bella better watch her back. The Princess of Staten Island assaulted Nikki in a pre-taped backstage segment from earlier in the day and threatened to end Little Miss Fearless' career, "capiche?"
Later, during Carmella's pretty decent match with Naomi, Nikki strolled out to the ring, stopped by several referees. But the distraction allowed Naomi to sneak up from behind and pin Carmella with a bridging O'Connor Roll. In the confusion, Nikki slipped past the officials and slid into the ring, only for Carmella to desperately flee. Despite getting her hands on her adversary, Nikki was unable to bring Carmella to justice, as The Princess escaped through the San Jose crowd.
Looks like we're still on track for a stipulation match between the two at TLC. On Talking Smack, Daniel Bryan seemed to imply that he had wanted to book a No DQ match for No Mercy, but that higher ups intervened. Once the Hell in a Cell match between Raw Women's Champion Sasha Banks and Charlotte takes place later this month, it's likely SmackDown Live will also get a gimmick match for its women's division.
Really liking the unofficial feud hashtag, #BellavsMella.
All the rest
Jimmy Uso defeated Chad Gable in singles competition when Jey cheated by helping Jimmy leverage a schoolboy rollup. I continue to love that they're not building this feud despite it not actually being the main feud for The Usos—it's setting up what should be an excellent title program between the two sides sometime in the coming months.
Alexa Bliss was interviewed by Lita on the pre-show—during which she suggested she liked Lita in the most terrifying way possible—about her loss to Naomi at No Mercy, and was later shown during tonight's episode to be watching the Carmella-Naomi contest on a monitor backstage. After the match, she was asked about Naomi's two consecutive victories:
A roll? Puhlease ... I was ready for a title match, not a rave that left me in motion sickness. I would have put the power out on that Little Ms. Bright Light out there. I can beat Naomi any day of the week and twice on Sun---
Daniel Bryan interrupted, saying that if she were so confident she could beat Naomi whenever, they would have a match next week to find out. I still suspect Naomi is being added to the women's championship match at the November 8 episode in Glasgow.
The Hype Bros were engaging in locker room talk backstage before The Ascension interrupted. The heels stared down Zach Ryder and Mojo Rawley before leaving without saying a word.
Give SmackDown credit. The Ascension are, well, The Ascension, but they're making them part of an actual story.
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon laid down the gauntlet for Survivor Series next month, challenging Monday Night Raw to traditional 5v5 Survivor Series matches for the men's, women's, and tag team divisions.
Curt Hawkins is a weird dude. And was slated to have his first match tonight ... but then didn't appear at all on the show. What's the deal, SmackDown Live? You're so good about everything making sense and being on point.
Oh, wait a minute.
All hail SmackDown Live.
More than once tonight, USA Network continued to play ongoing matches in a small inset while commercials were airing. I really wish they'd do this all the time, as it's such an enjoyable and necessary addition.
Literally upped my grade one notch just because of the Curt Hawkins fallout video. My God, this show. Even when I'm not exactly feeling it, I can still recognize that it's mostly good and well thought out and logical—it's usually just something that isn't really for me, like Wacky Dean Ambrose. On the red brand, when I'm not feeling the show, it's because the program is insulting to my intelligence.