By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Dolph Ziggler Confronted Intercontinental Champion The Miz
I was fearful that they would completely ignore what happened at the end of Talking Smack last week, and who knows? Maybe it was never designed to do what it did in terms of reinvigorating Miz's character but merely to get the word out about the show. Either way, I was happy they capitalized off the buzz and had Miz kick off the show since he has been the most talked about Superstar in the past seven days. And he once again turned in an excellent performance on the microphone and I loved how he maintained the intensity from last week. Ziggler was also solid on the microphone here, but he cut several good promos in the weeks leading up to SummerSlam and then fell flat. Their matches are always awesome (no pun intended), so while I'm not totally in favor of them rehashing this feud from two years ago, the match should be a treat. As long as Miz walks out of it with the title intact, I'm content.
The Hype Bros def. The Vaudevillians in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship Tournament Quarterfinals Match
I don't think The Hype Bros get the credit they deserve for being as fun as they are in the ring. As much as I wish Zack Ryder was back to killing it on his own as he was last month, I can't complain about him and Mojo Rawley adding depth to the depleted tag team division on SmackDown. They've faced The Vaudevillians several times before on Main Event and on NXT, so they've had enough practice working with each other, and thus they had an above-average match as a result.
AJ Styles def. Apollo Crews
Crews just seems lost at the moment, and I don't think having him spell things out as a gimmick will do him any favors. Thankfully, he's an exceptional athlete between the ropes, and he was able to showcase those skills in this match with Styles. The match mostly consisted of Styles on offense and ultimately scoring the victory, but at least it wasn't a total squash of Crews. If he can get a bit more character development, he will be well on his way toward the top of the card.
Randy Orton Interrupted Bray Wyatt
As I alluded to last week, I have been long awaiting this rivalry for over a year now and I'm glad it's finally coming to fruition. Wyatt's promos can be hit or miss depending on the material he's given to work with, but I thoroughly enjoyed his exchange with Orton here. Orton didn't come off as monotone, either, so I'm hoping this is what we'll be seeing more of throughout the rest of the rivalry. I'm also interested to see how strong their in-ring chemistry is at Backlash.
Alexa Bliss and Natalya def. Becky Lynch and Naomi
It's cool that although we have a Six Pack Challenge for the new SmackDown Women's Championship at Backlash that we have a real one-on-one rivalry between Nikki Bella and Carmella. They weren't involved in this match, but they did further their feud with Carmella attacking Nikki on the outside. The match itself was well-wrestled and I liked how Alexa was able to pick up the "surprise" victory, but at the same time, I feel Lynch getting rolled up from behind has been done to death at this point. When will she ever learn?
Heath Slater and Rhyno def. The Headbangers in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship Tournament Quarterfinals Match
Anyone who knows me well enough knows I'm not a huge fan of 1998 WWE (watch WrestleRant and you'll know why), but it was a pleasant surprise to see The Headbangers back in action. I'm actually shocked they hadn't made a one-off appearance sooner. They didn't blow me away in the ring or anything, but they were decent versus Slater and Rhyno and showed few signs of ring rust. I wasn't dying of laughter at the segments filmed with Slater, Rhyno and Renee Young earlier in the evening, but the duo can be a blast, though.
Baron Corbin def. WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose by Disqualification (Non-title)
Before I discuss this match, the interaction between Kane and the "milkman" was... uh, weird, but it looked like it was supposed to plant the seeds for a future face-off between Corbin and Kane. Perhaps Kane is finally getting jealous that Corbin is using his signature red lights during his entrance? In all seriousness, Ambrose and Corbin produced a pretty basic match, but I appreciated how Corbin was an equal against Ambrose and was involved in the main event scene for a night. He has the potential to be a top-tier talent on the blue brand with the right build-up. As for the comedy that played out afterward with Ambrose and Styles, I hope that isn't what this feud will consist of. Ambrose doesn't typically do comedy well and it'd be better if the feud had a more serious tone.
SmackDown continues to kill it in terms of entertaining in-ring action, fresh feuds and successful storyline progression, and this episode was no exception. They have had only three weeks to build to Backlash, yet I am already more excited for that show than I am Raw's Clash of Champions pay-per-view. Fingers crossed they can hit a home run with next week's go-home edition of SmackDown Live.