By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Intercontinental Champion The Miz Hosted Miz TV with WWE Champion AJ Styles
Yes, the identity crisis of the championship continues with the name being changed from WWE World Championship back to WWE Championship. As for the segment itself, everyone played their roles well, but I especially enjoyed the verbal exchange between Miz and Styles. Miz wasn't wrong when he said he's brought the Intercontinental title to another level, and I would not at all be opposed to him returning to the main event scene soon. This segment was successful in establishing several potential contenders to the WWE title as well setting up the No. 1 Contender's Fatal 4-Way matchup.
Carmella def. Natalya
For a match between two heels, I was honestly surprised this match went as long as it did. There wasn't anything technically wrong with it, and the bout was actually half-decent, but it's hard for fans to get invested in a match featuring two women they can't cheer for. The Nikki Bella-Natayla saga continues to do nothing for me, but I would love if it ended in a swerve with Mickie James or Eva Marie being revealed as Nikki's attacker.
The Hype Bros def. The Ascension, Breezango, American Alpha, Heath Slater & Rhyno and The Vaudevillians in a No. 1 Contender's Tag Team Gauntlet Match For the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
From tournaments to Gauntlet matches to Battle Royals, SmackDown always does a good job of building up new contenders to the twin titles. I assumed that if American Alpha wouldn't win, then Hype Bros were the next logical set of victors. The Battle Royal was nothing too special, but being the ultimate underdog he is, Zack Ryder is always excellent in Battle Royals, so I liked how he won for his team here. Sure, there's a lot of jobber teams on the blue brand, but at least SmackDown tries to make each of them meaningful. There will be those mad about American Alpha losing, but they should be the tandem The Wyatt Family ultimately drops the belt too down the road.
Becky Lynch def. SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss by Count-out
I just got done praising Deonna Purrazzo in my review of the Women of Honor episode of Ring of Honor from this week, and she'd be an awesome pick-up for them in their rumored women's tournament next year. Bliss granting Lynch her rematch only to back out at the last second was classic heel work. They could have just ended the segment there and it would have been fine. Doing an unadvertised title match is unlike SmackDown, even with the non-finish. What we got was solid and I'm glad they didn't blow off the program here. I wouldn't wait until Royal Rumble, but I could see them having one final match in two or three weeks.
Dolph Ziggler def. Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper and Intercontinental Champion The Miz in a No. 1 Contender's Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match For the WWE Championship (Non-title)
I appreciated Harper's presence in this match as he's a fresh face in the title picture. I doubt it will lead to anything long-term, but he had a strong showing throughout the bout and I loved how it took two finishers to get rid of him. Once the pace picked up, it was a quality main event and Ambrose and Ziggler worked well together down the stretch (much better than at SummerSlam). Ziggler vs. Styles is a match we've seen only once before, so they should produce something special in two weeks. As for Miz vs. Ambrose, that's a huge improvement over Ambrose feuding with James Ellsworth.
SmackDown has quite a while before Royal Rumble, so they're effectively killing time by resuming rivalries and developing new stories. New contenders were crowned on this show, which should set the stage for the next several weeks. A mere four matches were held, but each of them received a ton of time and I'm a big fan of the "less is more" approach. Once again, SmackDown was easier to watch this week than Raw and I'm excited for what John Cena has in store upon his return in two weeks (never thought I'd say that).