By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE Champion AJ Styles def. James Ellsworth; Baron Corbin Attacked Dolph Ziggler
The title match was short, sweet and exactly what it needed to be. They couldn't have drawn this out any longer, and I was happy they got it over with at the start of the show. Styles laying a brutal beating on Ellsworth was a refreshing change of pace for his character and I hope he keeps that aggressive edge going forward. Please let that be the last we see of Ellsworth, though I fear it won't be. As for the face-off between Corbin and Ziggler, I thoroughly enjoyed their heated verbal exchange and Corbin getting involved in the main event mix was long overdue. The crowd chanting "One more time!" after Ziggler received the End of Days from Corbin spoke volumes.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz def. Apollo Crews
I was thrilled that they followed up on Crews' victory over Miz from Tribute to the Troops last week when they easily could have forgotten about. They had a fun few matches over the summer and this was another entertaining encounter from them. The crowd was engaged in the action much more than I thought they would have been given Crews has been off TV for such a lengthy period of time, so that was a pleasant surprise. Miz verbally burying Renee Young afterward by bringing up her relationship with Dean Ambrose was incredibly well done and it was about damn time they brought that up on TV (I assume it's because they've gone public with it on Total Divas).
Natayla Admitted to Attacking Nikki Bella
This storyline went off the rails at TLC, but this was by far the best thing these two (as well as Carmella) have produced up to this point. It didn't make any sense at first for Natalya to outright admit to talking crap about Nikki to Carmella behind Nikki's back, but once Natalya (which again wasn't a shocker) revealed herself as Nikki's attacker from Survivor Series, the segment heated up. Sure, Natalya calling her a bitch is a cheap way to elicit a reaction, but it was the most fire we have seen out of the Natalya character in some time.
Dean Ambrose def. SmackDown Tag Team Champion Luke Harper
Although Ambrose isn't currently feuding with The Wyatt Family, this match did make sense from a storyline standpoint because Ambrose eliminated Harper from the main event Fatal 4-Way last week. Those little things make the biggest differences. They delivered a good match in the time they were allotted even if the ending out was never in doubt. The Wyatt Family maintained their heat by attacking Ambrose afterward while Miz also ambushed Ambrose to further their feud. This was excellent booking all around.
La Luchadora def. SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss (Non-title)
This is the third time Bliss and Becky Lynch have had a match this month, and they'll face each other yet again next week. I've been digging the feud so far, but I hope they don't run it into the ground and fans get as sick of it similar to Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair on Raw. The crowd reaction to this match was relatively quiet and it's hard to blame them because it was beyond obvious Lynch was under the mask. On the other hand, I do love the addition of their championship clash to next week's stacked show.
Mojo Rawley def. Curt Hawkins
Zack Ryder could not come back from injury any quicker. I don't hate The Hype Bros as much as most other people seem to, but Rawley is bound to die a death on his own. I feel bad for him because he desperately needs Ryder right now to remain relevant, not to mention he just isn't a skilled wrestler whatsoever. It doesn't help virtually nobody cares about Hawkins, but it would be interesting for both of Ryder's former tag partners to pair up in his absence. On a side note, the dude from Shooter wasn't too bad on commentary, but he didn't say anything I'll remember tomorrow, either.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin in a No. 1 Contender's Match For the WWE Championship Ended in a Double Count-out
It's amazing that this was a rivalry fans desperately wanted to wrap up many months ago, yet was a servicable main event on this show. Granted, Ziggler has received several start-and-stop pushes this past year, but Corbin has evolved into a legitimate threat to the top-tier talent on the blue brand with the win streak he's been on as of late. There wasn't anything too special about this bout early on, but it got better down the stretch with the suspenseful nearfalls and they were much more motivated than usual. I can't remember the last time Corbin was beaten decisively (other than when he lost at Payback to Ziggler, coincidentally enough), so I was content with the non-finish here and how Corbin will be a part of next week's world title match. That should create more suspense surrounding the finish to the match.
Although the first hour of the show was hotter on the whole than the second, this was still an exceptional edition of SmackDown Live and one of the best in recent memory. Not only was there plenty of stellar storyline progression, the build to next week's Wild Card Finals (which is a weird name by the way) has been wonderful. From three title matches to John Cena's return, it should be a sensational show as well as a fitting way to close out a blockbuster year for the blue brand.