By Graham "GSM" Matthews
James Ellsworth Interrupted WWE World Champion AJ Styles
There were plenty of reports coming out of TLC that Styles hurt his ankle in his match with Ambrose and it looks there was truth to those rumors, unfortunately. Fingers crossed the injury isn't serious and won't sideline him from action for too long because he's one of the best things going on the entire blue brand right now. This was a pretty paint-by-numbers segment with everyone playing their roles well: Styles was hilariously arrogant on the microphone, Ellsworth was dillusional, and Ambrose got his revenge by promptly laying out Ellsworth before walking out. Wouldn't he have wanted to inflict more punishment on him, though?
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Wyatt Family def. Heath Slater and Rhyno
I enjoyed the TLC outing a bit more simply because it was kept short and sweet, and sometimes longer isn't always better. Slater and Rhyno were/are a fun comedy duo, but they aren't capable of contesting compelling matches from what we've seen, so it was wise to get this rematch out of the way early. I'm really digging The New Wyatt Family stuff a lot more than I thought I would, and the best part is that I have no idea where it's going.
Carmella vs. Natalya Ended in a No Contest
I was very glad this match never ended up coming to fruition because I can virtually guarantee you it would have been a dud. From an in-ring standpoint, it might have been decent, but who would the crowd have cheered for? They're both heels, making it all the more puzzling why the commentators were so shocked Natalya was apparently the one who attacked Nikki Bella backstage at Survivor Series. It's the most predictable path they could take, so I hold out hope this is merely buying time until Mickie James comes in and takes that spot instead.
The Hype Bros def. The Ascension
How many times have we seen this match on SmackDown Live in recent months, and how many times has The Hype Bros' momentum gone nowhere? And this is coming from a Zack Ryder fan. I like The Hype Bros, but WWE either has to do something meaningful with them or move on. This wasn't a bad bout by any means, but it needs to be headed somewhere significant because it was a waste of time otherwise that could have been devoted to someone such as Apollo Crews.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz Hosted Miz TV with Dean Ambrose
I still say Ambrose will thrive as a heel long-term, but I understand SmackDown needs top faces for right now with John Cena out and Randy Orton returning turning tweener/heel. He was perfectly bearable in this segment and I've always loved the dynamic he has with Miz. They worked off each other very well, setting the stage nicely for their match in the main event.
Baron Corbin def. Kalisto
I was surprised they went back to this bout so soon after their Chairs match, especially since we already had another TLC rematch earlier in the evening. I would have stretched this program out a few more weeks, if only because Corbin will likely go back to doing nothing before the Royal Rumble. I never thought I'd say this, but their Chairs match from TLC was better than this, though I liked it for as long as it lasted. Not to mention that finish was fantastic and Corbin can seemingly hit the End of Days out of nowhere.
Chad Gable def. Tyler Breeze
I would have complained had The Hype Bros landed a spot on SmackDown over American Alpha this week, but thankfully, that wasn't the case. There's no question they have been vastly under-utilized since coming to SmackDown, but I hope they are gradually built up to a point where they can take the tag titles from The Wyatt Family down the line, potentially at WrestleMania 33. Simple squash matches such as these will be a treat in the meantime and Gable's moveset is just a blast to watch.
Becky Lynch Confronted SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss
Well, you had to know this feud wasn't over either, and I'm happy it isn't. Their program has been a recurring highlight on the show each week and this was a solid segment as well with Bliss running her mouth only to back out of a title rematch with Lynch. The over-the-top title celebration for Bliss was well-deserved, I must say. I don't know if they will wait until the Royal Rumble to do the rematch, but I'd personally rather see them blow it off on an upcoming episode of SmackDown.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz def. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose and Miz have had a handful of matches against each other over the years and each of their encounters has been entertaining. I really dig their chemistry, and although the ending outcome of this contest might have been predictable to some, it was a pretty good main event matchup. Miz retaining his title was the right move, of course, and Ellsworth exacted revenge on Ambrose from the start of the show. Are they really going to have them feud for the foreseeable future? Ambrose should just annhiliate Ellsworth with one attack and be done with it. It's a waste of Ambrose, who I'd prefer to see chase the Intercontinental title or something along those lines.
While this wasn't the hot post-TLC edition of SmackDown I was hoping for, it's hard to blame Creative when they likely had to rewrite the show due to Styles getting hurt and not being medically cleared. Then again, I doubt Styles vs. Ellsworth Part 4 would have been all that engaging. SmackDown has plenty of time before Royal Rumble at the end of January, so here's hoping they can maintain the momentum they had going before TLC and keep delivering quality shows as WrestleMania season quickly approaches.