Carmella Challenged Sasha Banks to a SmackDown Women's Championship Match Later in the Night
Didn't Banks just recently have a contract signing with Bayley prior to Hell in a Cell? This stuff is done to death, so I liked the approach they took here instead with Carmella no-showing and saying she knew Banks would have attacked her again if she was there. Their back-and-forth on the mic was fine and did a decent job of setting up the night's main event between them. Their storyline has been relatively simple yet solid up to this point, but I don't know if doing their SmackDown Women's Championship match a week early was a big enough hook to keep viewers engaged until the end of the show.
Dolph Ziggler def. SmackDown Tag Team Champion Montez Ford
This isn't breaking news by any means, but Ford has loads of potential. I want The Street Profits to go on for a lot longer, obviously, but when the day comes for him to branch off on his own, it's going to be something special. He's always a treat to watch in the ring and he had a fun match with Ziggler here. I actually didn't hate Ziggler going over because he's currently the bigger singles star of the two and the challengers needed the momentum boost before next week's SmackDown Tag Team Championship match.
Intercontinental Champion Sami Zayn def. Big E by Count-Out (Non-Title)
Normally I'm not a fan of count-out endings to matches and I can understand fans feeling like it's getting repetitive with Zayn, but he's been made out to be a cowardly champion and it's been established that he'll do whatever it takes to win. Therefore, this made sense. The match itself was very good and I appreciate that Zayn isn't losing every week. Big E wasn't pinned or submitted, either, so he was protected. There's a few different people who could face Zayn for the title and I like that it isn't obvious. Maybe we're going to get a Triple Threat with Zayn, Big E and Daniel Bryan eventually?
Kevin Owens Attacked Jey Uso Before Universal Champion Roman Reigns Attacked Owens Backstage
Owens has been doing his strongest work since the Seth Rollins feud in his ongoing rivalry with Reigns and Uso. He brought the intensity here as he effectively hyped his TLC match against Reigns next weekend and made the stipulation matter. I hope Uso doesn't continue to take a beating every week, but he sold this one well from Owens. Reigns then ambushing Owens backstage while trash-talking him was also excellent. I say it almost every week but Reigns as a heel has been the best thing to happen to SmackDown in ages.
The Riott Squad def. Billie Kay and Natalya
Riott Squad challenged Kay to a tag match last week on Talking Smack and I was hoping Kay's partner would be a bit more interesting than Natalya. Yes, Natalya is coming off a victory over Bayley, but that didn't make me care about her any more than I did previously. This was pretty paint-by-numbers stuff and I'm glad Riott Squad went over. Kay doesn't need a partner seeing as how The IIconics just broke up not too long ago, but I'd like to see her as Adam Pearce's assistant or something along those lines as had been teased on social media.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro def. Chad Gable and Otis
Oh, look, Gable and Otis are already back in the tag team ranks, this time together. That's probably where Otis belongs, but he had a great thing going with Tucker in Heavy Machinery and there was no reason for them to split up when they did. As for Gable, the guy has never been given a real chance to shine on his own and it's a shame. Hell, he lost here, too, so it doesn't feel like much has changed despite recently getting his name back. I don't know if this was a bump in the road for them and they'll eventually overcome these obstacles, or if this is leading to them feuding with each other. On the bright side, it was nice to see Cesaro back in action after not wrestling since October.
Carmella def. SmackDown Women's Champion Sasha Banks by Disqualification
While far from a barn burner, this was a solid main event. Banks can have an above-average match with just anyone, so this was a more a test to see if Carmella could deliver in a main event spot. Obviously, Banks' matches with Bayley were better, but this was still enjoyable. I hated the disqualification finish, but I assume this was done to set up the need for a gimmick match (likely a Chairs match) at TLC. The bottle spot was well done, but I didn't like how they basically gave away the matchup if we're going to get it again on pay-per-view next Sunday.
SmackDown has definitely been more consistently entertaining than Raw these past few months, but I can't stress enough how much Reigns, Uso and Owens have carried the blue brand since Survivor Series. They were the best part of the show for me. The rest of the two hours featured well-wrestled matches that either built toward TLC or next week's episode, so there really isn't worth complaining about. I feel like I've said this about most episodes lately, but while the two hours weren't electrifying by any means, everything seemed to matter, so at least there was that. If you missed it, I'd say all you need to seek out is the Owens, Uso and Reigns segment.