Dean Ambrose Confronted Intercontinental Champion The Miz
I could list off a million reasons why this feud over the Intercontinental Championship between Ambrose and Miz is a vast improvement over whatever the hell WWE seemed to be setting up with Ambrose and James Ellsworth coming out of TLC. For one thing, Ambrose and Miz can hold their own on the mic and this was a nice way of kicking off the night to build toward the title match in the main event. I assume Maryse will get her comeuppance in the form of Renee Young sooner rather than later.
Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler
We saw this match one too many times last year, but I didn't mind this match if only because of their awesome clash in the Triple Threat main event last week. Ziggler is irrelevant as he was six months ago, but Corbin has definitely benefited from the monster push he's received since arriving on SmackDown. They contested a solid match that featured the correct finish with Corbin going over in clean fashion. I was on the verge of complaining about WWE rekindling the rivalry between Corbin and Kalisto, but then Ziggler finally turned heel afterward and all was right with the world.
Becky Lynch def. La Luchadora
Well, I guess we can put the rumors to rest that La Luchadora is Tamina because this match was actually well-wrestled while it lasted, whereas it would have been a mess if Tamina was under the mask. In all seriousness, current speculation is that Deonna Purrazzo is under the mask, at least for now until Mickie James comes in. They won't do the reveal for a while it seems, so I didn't mind the bait-and-switch with Bliss. As champion, Bliss should be protected better, but it furthered the feud effectively.
WWE Champion AJ Styles and John Cena Signed the Contract For Their Royal Rumble Match
The best heels are those who have some truth and merit to what they say, which is why Styles works so well in the role. I mean, he wasn't wrong when he said that SmackDown has been flourishing thanks to him being champion, he was champion when SmackDown beat Raw in the ratings, and that he is far superior to him in the ring. Meanwhile, Cena is stellar in serious mode and I'm glad he didn't cut crap jokes here. Styles and Cena's verbal inteactions are always excellent and this was another strong segment from them. This felt like a weird time for Corbin to announce his participation in the Rumble match, but perhaps it was planting the seeds for a future feud between Corbin and Cena? I would actually love that.
Carmella def. Aliyah
I like how SmackDown Live differs itself from Raw by utilizing actual notable names in their women's divison as their enhancement talent instead of random independent wresters. Aliyah is an up-and-comer from NXT and fared well for herself here. The match was hardly anything of note, but it wasn't a complete waste of time with Carmella and James Ellsworth apparently officially forming an alliance. I can't say I'm all that intrigued, but we'll see where it leads.
SmackDown Tag TEam Champions American Alpha def. Breezango (Non-title)
These two teams had a damn good match several months in the tournament to crown the inaugrual SmackDown Tag Team Champions, so I was disappointed this was so short-lived. I couldn't care less about Breezango getting "buried" because they hardly have any credibility as it is, but they could have cut out the previous match to allow American Alpha and Breezango to produce the barn-burner of a bout I know they're capable of. I'm slightly surprised they're going with the American Alpha vs. Wyatt Family title match on next week's show, but I guess it's possible they could do a non-finish and hold a rematch at the Royal Rumble.
Nikki Bella Attacked Natalya
Truth be told, this feud has exceeded my expectations thus far. That said, I don't know if that will be the case in a few weeks from now, but each of their promos thus far have been pretty pleasant. Natalya taking digs at Nikki is entertaining in a crash TV-style way, but how long can they drag this on for? The eventual match likely won't light the world on fire, but I assume this is merely meant to kill time before Nikki sets her sights on the SmackDown Women's Championship.
Dean Ambrose def. The Miz to Win the Intercontinental Championship
Ambrose and Miz typically deliver above-average outings and this was no exception. The ending outcome was certainly unpredictable and could have gone either way, so the nearfalls were suspenseful and the crowd was engaged in the action. Ambrose taking the title was a cool moment, but I hope there was a long-term reason for it and not a spontaneous decision from Creative. Miz winning the Royal Rumble match would be sweet, but that would just make too much sense, now wouldn't it?
This, THIS is how you kick off the new year. Monday's Raw was abysmal in my opinion, but this was an exceptional edition of SmackDown Live from start to finish. The title change capped off the evening on a high note, but the rest of the show was enjoyable from a fun opener to a newsworthy heel turn from Ziggler to a spectacular contract signing and more. If you're as disinterested in Raw as I am at the moment, the blue brand is what you should be watching week-to-week. The road to the Rumble is already off to a strong start and I look forward to what 2017 brings for SmackDown.