By Graham "GSM" Matthews
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Wyatt Family def. American Alpha, The Usos, Breezango, Heath Slater & Rhyno and The Ascension in a Tag Team Turmoil Match
Once one team was eliminated, the next would come out. You know, how a standard Tag Team Turmoil match would work. Slater and Rhyno kicked things off with The Ascension, which was pretty dull, but there was a point where Rhyno was getting louder cheers than Slater. Maybe Slater should be the one to go heel coming out of their tag team? I was surprised they were eliminated by The Usos, who then made short work of Breezango (talk about an easy night of work). The Usos were beaten by The Wyatt Family, and although they had a fine outing, The Usos acted as the babyfaces, yet the crowd didn't have a team to cheer for. American Alpha were the last team out and were largely dominated by Randy Orton (who received a loud reaction) and Bray Wyatt. They had a quick comeback before being beaten by The Wyatt Family.
SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss def. Becky Lynch
Bliss and Lynch worked a pretty decent matchup albeit nothing out of the ordinary. It was on the same level as most of their other encounters. Bliss rolling up Lynch and holding the tights seem to come out of nowhere, and I was disappointed by the lack of crowd reaction for the match. Lynch gave Bliss her comeuppance afterward by attacking Bliss and attempting to walk away with the title.
Apollo Crews, Jack Swagger and Mojo Rawley def. Curt Hawkins and The Vaudevillians
Shoutout to my good friend Noah Wade, who I met up with near the concession stand during this match. While there was an intermission later on, this was basically the bathroom break of the show. I really like Crews, but he's in undercard purgatory right now with the rest of these guys. The match was exactly what you would expect with the babyfaces going over in decisive fashion. I'm sure there were those in attendance asking how Swagger was still employed.
James Ellsworth def. Aiden English
After the six-man tag team match, English, who took the fall in the six-man tag team match, stuck around and issued an open challenge, which was accepted by Ellsworth. Although he's been a heel as of late on TV, he received a pretty favorable reaction. English turned around for a split second and allowed Ellsworth to hit him with a No Chin Music for the victory. I was still outside when this happened so I have no thoughts on it other than Ellsworth wasn't advertised for the event but was spotted outside before the show, so at least he didn't do a run-in during the main event.
Dolph Ziggler def. Intercontinental Champion The Miz in a Steel Cage Match (Non-title)
Miz claimed before the bout his lawyers told him he didn't have to defend his Intercontinental Championship in Madison Sqaure Garden, so this was made a non-title match at the last second. That essentially meant Ziggler was going over at that point, and I was fine with it because all of the champions on SmackDown Live are currently heels. Unsurprisingly, they contested a strong match with plenty of sweet spots and cage teases, though Ziggler won in the end with a superkick I believe.
Nikki Bella def. Natalya
Coming out of the intermission was this match. Carmella was originally advertised to face Nikki, but I guess Natalya replaced her because of the storyline they have going right now. I don't know if the match would have been any better with Carmella in there, but I feel bad for Carmella because this was her MSG debut and she thought she'd be wrestling. She did make a run-in at the end that backfired, leading to Nikki scoring the victory after a forgettable match.
Baron Corbin def. Kalisto
These two never cease to produce entertaining matches against each other. Their feud hasn't been anything to write home about, but their matches have always exceeded expectations in my opinion. This was another solid effort from Kalisto and Corbin with Corbin emerging victorious in clean fashion. His End of Days finisher always looks impressive in person. Kalisto did execute the 619 at one point, so it will be interesting to see if he starts doing that on the regular on TV going forward.
WWE Champion AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose and John Cena in a Triple Threat Match
Fun fact: This was Cena's first match back in WWE since No Mercy, where he also faced Styles and Ambrose in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship. Much like that matchup, this was a terrific Triple Threat that was far and away the match of the night. I'm sure Cena's grand return was a big selling point for most people; otherwise, I don't know if the attendance would have been as strong as it was. He and Styles were among the two most over guys on the show, and the wrestling was superb. Styles won by hitting Cena with a chair and then again with a blow again to retain the title, but Ambrose and Cena closed out the night by hitting their finishers on Styles.
This was my very first wrestling show at Madison Square Garden, and my first time in the arena in almost exactly nine years, so it was a very enjoyable experience. It was just short of a sellout, so as previously noted, I imagine most people showed up to see Cena return. Some matches were better than others, but it was well worth it for the Steel Cage match and the main event alone. It was definitely a good way to close out the year in wrestling for me, and I might look into going back when they return to MSG on March 12th for a Road to WrestleMania show featuring Brock Lesnar.
SEE ALSO: "WWE SmackDown Live Event - New York, New York - December 27, 2016"