WWE SmackDown Live aired it's go-home show for Sunday's No Mercy pay-per-view last night (Oct 4., 2016) in San Diego. For full results and the live blog click here. For even more coverage of SmackDown Live, check out Tonya Rodgers and myself discussing the episode on Live! After SmackDown Live.
Feud of the Year
The Spirit Squad was on WWE television. In 2016.
The Spirit Squad.
All Hail SmackDown Live.
The Miz invited Dolph Ziggler onto an episode of Miz TV to show his opponent on Sunday a "Dolphumentary" that had been made (allegedly) by the WWE Network. "The Success of a Failure: The Dolph Ziggler Story" was absolutely viciously done. (Seriously, if you haven't yet, just watch it, now.)
It remains amazing what SmackDown Live has done with a Miz-Ziggler feud, and that video was prime example of the quality put into this feud. The Miz berated Ziggler after the video, saying "If my career was embarrassing as yours I would have quit years ago."
After Ziggler reproaches the champion, saying that "you're not taking my career from me," the A-Lister goes for the kill:
Your career will end this Sunday because of me. But don’t worry, I have just the thing to raise your spirits.
No way. NO WAY.
Kenny and Mikey of The Spirit Squad, in the flesh, mocked Dolph by suggesting that—in a cheer!—he'd be on the unemployment line after he lost Sunday. (The Miz saying that the other two were lost in transit when they were shipped back to OVW was another great touch.)
This was next-level pro wrestling.
Ziggler had enough of all this, and said to Miz that he wanted to fight right now. Miz, that wonderful, ever dastardly man that he is, told Kenny and Mikey to "sick him!" and watched as Dolph's old stablemates attacked. Ziggler eventually got the upper hand, nearly hitting The Miz with a superkick when the Intercontinental Champion tried to get in a flash Skull Crushing Finale.
Here's hoping the match on Sunday is as emotionally charged as the feud has been. It could be an absolute classic.
Ziggler did cost himself a lot of goodwill with a subpar (that's putting it generously) performance on Talking Smack. It's not actually a shoot, Dolph. Talking about what your "character" has done lately is just bizarre.
After watching his appearance on Talking Smack, I'd be very surprised if he went over on Sunday.
And I can't wait for The Miz's gloriously gloating promo next Tuesday!
This was the segment of the year, for the feud of the year—for the best talker of the year, The Miz.
Talk Is Cheap
AJ Styles came out to address both Ambrose and John Cena, his challengers at No Mercy for The Phenomenal One's WWE World Championship. He addressed his successes of recent months before noting that after he beat his two opponents Sunday ...
And Ambrose's music hit.
Ambrose quickly went in on Styles, saying that he had won championships all over the world but when he got to WWE, "you took the low road" by giving Ambrose a low blow to win the title. But Dean's real target hadn't yet arrived—Ambrose was mad that John Cena had cost himself the championship last week:
I’m mad because I had you pinned for about 27 seconds last week when John Cena just had to interfere. JC who "couldn't care less about me" couldn’t stand the fact that I beat him two weeks ago, and that I was about to win the title right in front of his face. He should thank me for bringing the WWE championship to SmackDown Live in the first place so he can think about breaking Ric Flair’s record...
And Cena's music hit.
Before the former Face That Runs the Place could get in a word, Styles told him to shut up:
SHUT UP. JUST FOR GOD’S SAKES SHUT UP. We already know what you’re gonna say, so for once in your life, just shut up. You’re chasing history, right? You’re gonna be a 16 time world champion, right? How dare you compare yourself to an icon, a legend, like Ric Flair. I don’t care how many championships you have won, you will never be in the same conversation as Ric Flair. But to tell you the truth John, I wouldn’t be worried about Ric Flair’s legacy. I would be worried about AJ Styles. You wanna chase history? Chase it John! It’s gonna be a long road... You chase history, I MAKE history. So let’s hear it! One of those rah-rah speeches! Yay everybody, cheer for John Cena! The WWE World Champion is gonna stand over here and watch you make a fool out of yourself.
Cena only got out, "You know what," before Ambrose then stepped to him:
STOP. Let me save you the trouble. That you didn’t screw me over, that I screwed myself over. That I’m my own worst enemy, that I’ve always been that, to stop complaining, to stop making excuses... You’re the master of the political spin, you’re good at it, you should run for office. That’s why you’ve been on top 15 years, that’s why you’re in this match in the first place... Mr. Loyalty, the poster boy. I guess you got no respect for having the most matches in the last two years. You’ve got zero respect for me, because I’ve never come in here and kissed your ass and came to you for advice and played your little game. I’ve never played by your rules... being a fake, plastic, suck ass behind the scenes ... I’ll just be Dean Ambrose. Have fun being the guy that plays John Cena on TV.
Cena finally had enough of this, merely saying "Talk is cheap" before taking down Ambrose and hitting him with numerous punches. Styles attempted to interfere but was tossed outside, Ambrose went for Dirty Deeds on Cena but was aggressively grabbed and thrown into an AA. Cena's music hit, and he stood tall holding the title ...
But then Styles hit Cena with a Phenomenal Forearm, and the champion stood triumphant outside the ring with the belt as his music played ...
And then Ambrose gave Styles a nasty-looking Dirty Deeds on the ramp, and then he held the title with his music playing.
Wonderful go-home segment. That's how you sell a world title feud!
I thought Ambrose in particular was great tonight. Dean with a chip on his shoulder is a trillion times more compelling than pouring a bunch of sugar in some random backstage guy's coffee. I have zero complaints with his work of late.
This program has been incredibly well done, and everyone has looked really good.
No Mercy is going to be a great show.
SmackDown Live Special
Nikki Bella and Alexa Bliss faced off tonight, with Carmella on commentary. Shortly into the match, the action spilled outside, and Carmella stood up to Nikki and shouted, "WHAT'S UP NIKKI? WHAT'S UP? YOU THIRSTY KARDASHIAN WANNABE! COME AT ME!" Nikki instead sent Bliss hurtling into The Princess of Staten Island, rolled her opponent back into the ring, and attempted to hit her finisher.
Carmella of course intervened once again, and the heels laid a beat down on Nikki. This brought out the SmackDown Live Women's Champion, Becky Lynch, to make the save—and set up a tag team match to immediately follow.
Truly enjoying Carmella's heel work of telling Nikki, "No one cares about you anymore!" Carmella got serious boos tonight! That's such a good sign.
After Carmella hit a superkick on the champion, she was speared by Nikki, and their fight spilled to the outside. Carmella ran off, with Nikki hot in pursuit, allowing Bliss to take advantage and hit Twisted Bliss for the win.
That's twice now that Bliss has pinned Becky. In all likelihood, she's not winning Sunday, so it'll be interesting to see how they continue this feud. (It seems highly unlikely that they'd reinsert Natalya into the title feud against Becky, and Carmella and Nikki are nowhere near done with each other.) General Manager Daniel Bryan directly addressing the camera on Talking Smack and saying, "I challenge Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss to have a better match than Sasha Banks and Charlotte did last night" was a wonderful way of motivating his charges.
I will note that when Bayley defeated Bliss in November 2015 in an NXT Women's Championship match, she was confronted post-match by a certain All Red superstar who hasn't appeared on SmackDown Live lately ...
The expected Carmella and Nikki Bella match for No Mercy was announced later in the show. Bryan noted on Talking Smack that part of him "wanted to make it a No DQ match," but ultimately decided against doing so because they hadn't even had an actual singles match. That makes a lot of sense, as this feud is nowhere near over—the No DQ bout seems to be a perfect fit for a blowoff match on a certain December pay-per-view.
Pretty certain that about a month ago I had zero interest in Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton randomly pairing up against each other. And though I'm about 100 percent certain of the result on Sunday—which isn't a bad thing, by the way—they've managed to draw my attention.
Wyatt opened the show with a match versus Kane, but ended up abandoning the fight when Orton appeared upside down on the tron ("I'm looking at the world as you see it, upside down") and suggested to The Eater of Worlds that he should "come catch your prey." Wyatt's expression of pure delight that Orton was indulging him in his mind games was very well done.
Of course, he then walked into a shipping container simply because it had his rocking chair inside, and Orton cooly locked him inside. (And his line was great: "Lord, have mercy. Or not.") The show cut back to Wyatt several times throughout the night, at first angry at his predicament, than enjoying it, then utterly losing his mind as he addressed Sister Abigail, saying "Take me home, I'm ready to go home." When Orton went to check on him, Wyatt had disappeared.
This is SmackDown Live's litmus test—if they can make Bray Wyatt a relevant and legitimate player, it'll be the greatest wrestling show of all time. This is not hyperbole. (OK, it is. But still!)
Unfortunately, that's not starting on Sunday.
All the rest
Jack Swagger defeated Baron Corbin by submission. The first match of what looks to be a continuing feud, and Corbin took the loss as the referee interpreted his crawling to the ropes as a tap out—despite him clearly not tapping his hand on the mat. Makes sense that they didn't want to give any decisive result, and Corbin absolutely losing it after the match was perfectly in character. I have a feeling these two could put on something really good, to be honest.
Jason Jordan defeats Jey Uso after a short match. American Alpha sure have The Usos number. But they also have legs, and the revitalized two-time tag champions took Jordan's left following the match. When they went to inflict permanent damage, SmackDown Live tag team champions Heath Slater and Rhyno made the save.
I continue to be wildly impressed by The Usos since their turn. And I love that they're already building the Big Feud in the tag team division despite them not actually being in a program with each other yet.
The Hype Bros defeated The Vaudevillains with the Hype Ryder. Seemed an odd placement on the go-home show. Was nothing wrong with it, and Mojo's hot tag remains entertaining—though he needs to never again do whatever that axehandle thing was, which even David Otunga buried on commentary—but would have rather had another Carmella and Nikki Bella brawl segment somewhere backstage. The Ascension also came out and watched the match from the ramp.
Where'd Breezango go?
Curt Hawkins is a weird dude. And he's apparently wrestling on Sunday.
GM Daniel Bryan did the promo for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The whole time, all I could think about is how badly I wanted The Miz to come interrupt, but that probably would have been too far for a company so (rightly) focused on public relations. But the heat!
Bryan telling the production staff to cut the music, "I'm the GM," when they tried to get him to wrap up was wonderful. He has brought a fantastic humanity to the role.
The streak is broken. Of course, that's hardly a criticism, considering this show had what is likely the best wrestling segment in all of 2016 (I feel like I've written that several times in the last month). The world and intercontinental title feuds got some serious juice added to them, both women's feuds were advanced, the tag titles were briefly touched, Orton and Wyatt legitimately started getting somewhere—this did the job of a go-home show really well.