By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Curt Hawkins Announced He Would Wrestle on SmackDown Live (Kickoff Show)
I thought they were saving Hawkins' debut for the actual pay-per-view, but because he didn't wrestle, I'm glad it was relegated to the Kickoff show. His promo was beyond corny, and as skilled of a wrestler as he is, I don't see this gimmick getting above a certain level. Delaying his in-ring debut another two days really doesn't matters, but I hope he doesn't steal Eva Marie's shtick. Did anyone else have a heart attack thinking Scott Steiner was coming out when those sirens hit? On a side note, I'm annoyed they aren't using his old entrance music, which was ten times better than the generic crap he has now.
American Alpha and The Hype Bros def. The Vaudevillians and The Ascension (Kickoff Match)
We've seen multiple different combinations of this match over the last few months, but I can't complain about seeing American Alpha in action because they're always fun to watch. The Hype Bros were over with this audience and the heels played their roles well. That said, I would have actually preferred to see Breezango involved in this match over The Ascension, who fans couldn't care less about.
WWE World Champion AJ Styles def. John Cena and Dean Ambrose in a Triple Threat Match
Yes, it was a strange move to have the main event of the show kick off the night, but I understood they did it because the debate was on in the second hour. That really shouldn't affect subscription numbers in any way, but hey, that was their call. It's funny because this would have been the first pay-per-view Cena had been in the main event of since Survivor Series 2014, but that obviously wasn't to be. Nevertheless, this was every bit as exceptional as you'd expect it to be. I didn't think for a second Styles was losing the title, especially in the opener, but all three competitors had a phenomenal (no pun intended) showing and Styles pinning Cena was certainly interesting. I assumed we were getting a Cena vs. Ambrose feud out of this, but is it possible Cena disappears for a while to film the second season of that American Grit show and Styles resumes his rivalry with Ambrose in the meantime?
Nikki Bella def. Carmella
I felt bad for the women because Nikki and Carmella deserve credit for putting together a pretty good feud and their match suffered from having to follow that tremendous title match. Despite that, they tried hard and had a better bout than I originally anticipated from an in-ring standpoint. Nikki was my pick to win, so I'm not frustrated with her going over given she was bound to beat her at some point. Carmella was made to look credible in defeat, so this was handled quite well.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions Heath Slater and Rhyno def. The Usos
The Usos have been doing the best work of their career for the past month and their change in character has injected more excitement into their matches as well. That was certainly the case here as they were the stars of this match. Fans are still behind Slater and Rhyno as a comedy act, so WWE should ride that out for as long as possible. Henceforth, I was fine with them retaining the titles and the Usos vs. American Alpha program doesn't need the straps, anyway.
Baron Corbin def. Jack Swagger
This match was initially advertised for the Kickoff Show, but I'm sure Becky Lynch's injury changed WWE's plans and they moved it to the main card instead. There wasn't anything extraordinary about it, but it was a well-wrestled matchup and thankfully the right person went over. Swagger might stand to benefit from being on SmackDown over Raw, but Corbin is really the one who needs the momentum boost at the moment because he has plenty of untapped potential.
Dolph Ziggler def. The Miz to Win the Intercontinental Championship
I realize these two have had no less than a thousand matches against each other over the years, but if you truly think about it, have any of their matches been below-average? This was yet another outstanding encounter from them and the crowd was invested in every single second of it. From the brilliant build to the stellar story to the exhilarating in-ring action, I honestly don't know why this wasn't positioned in the main event. As much as I wanted Miz to continue on as champion, I have to admit that Ziggler winning the belt was a damn cool moment, and the fans were 100% behind him. Again, WWE missed the ball big time on not closing the show with this.
Naomi def. Alexa Bliss
I'm glad that WWE didn't strip Becky Lynch of the SmackDown Women's Championship if she is only going to be out injured for a month, and they didn't waste any time in advertising that title match for an episode of SmackDown Live in Scotland next month. With nothing on the line, the crowd didn't have any reason to invest in this match, not to mention it was fairly sloppy. Congrats to Naomi for perhaps picking up her first singles win ever on pay-per-view, and while it is a weird booking decision to have the No. 1 contender lose so decisively, I suppose it could lead to a feud between them to keep Bliss busy in the meantime.
Bray Wyatt def. Randy Orton
There was a likely chance that this match could have bored me to tears, but it didn't. They actually delivered a rather solid match. Did it blow me away the same way the WWE World and Intercontinental Championship matches did? Absolutely not, nor should it have been the main event, but let's appreciate how it wasn't as deplorable as it could have been. They needed some sort of memorable moment to justify putting this in the main event, and that was what we received in the form of Luke Harper's long awaited return. WWE did a great of swerving fans by putting him on the Raw house shows only to bring him to the blue brand with Wyatt, and Wyatt needed that victory more than anything. It won't solve all of his problems just yet, but it's a step in the right direction.
With a different match order, this show could have been better than it was, but it was still a highly enjoyable event from start to finish. The undercard lacked a little, but the top two title matches delivered in a major way even if neither of them were the main event. As for Orton vs. Wyatt, it was a standard match mostly, but Harper's return ended the evening on a high note. All in all, SmackDown hit a home run once again with their second straight special and I'm interested to see where several of the storylines go from here.