By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Champion AJ Styles Interrupted Dean Ambrose and James Ellsworth
After last week, I could have sworn Ambrose was the one going heel, but all signs definitely pointed to Ellsworth turning at some point during this segment and throughout the rest of the night. I still would turn Ambrose because I feel he needs the change in character more than Ellsworth does, but I am intrigued. As for Styles, per usual, he played his role exceptionally well. I could have done without them setting up the same exact match from last week, but I'll discuss that a little later on.
Randy Orton def. Kane in a No Disqualification Match
I must not have been paying attention because I didn't even realize this was a No Disqualification match until afterward. That would explain why The Wyatt Family were able to interfere and the referee did nothing about it. I'm barely interested in anything involving Kane, so I was glad this was kept relatively short and sweet. I continue to believe Orton is playing mind games with Bray Wyatt, but at least they've ditched most of the hocus pocus garbage.
Alexa Bliss and Carmella def. SmackDown Women's Champion Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella
It's funny because although this was the longest match on the show aside from the main event, most of the match consisted of the commercial break. However, what we did see was good, and I'm happy Bliss has built up a ton of momentum heading into next week's SmackDown Women's Championship match against Lynch. Pinning the champ here was a great touch. The material she was given to work with in her post-match promo wasn't amazing, but she made the most of it and turned it into an excellent promo. She impresses me more and more by the week. If Lynch wasn't so early into her title reign, I'd say give her the belt right now!
American Alpha def. The Spirit Squad to Qualify For Team SmackDown at Survivor Series
Every time I think we have seen the last of The Spirit Squad, they show up again. That said, I'm not complaining because the act is fine and there might use in keeping them around, or at least Kenny Dykstra on his own. It's been a while since we've seen American Alpha on SmackDown, and this was a nice return for them. Their involvement on Team SmackDown at Survivor Series was obvious, so of course the right team went over here.
The Miz Hosted 'Miz TV' with Daniel Bryan
Bryan and Miz have such a tremendous chemistry together on-screen that I don't have a problem with them teasing a match with each other even though I know deep down it isn't leading to that. Bryan made a big deal out of Miz not being on Team SmackDown, but what about Dolph Ziggler? Anyway, this was well done. I don't want people to get their hopes up about Bryan vs. Miz, but we'll see where it takes us. For now, I'm enjoying the ride.
Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler def. Curt Hawkins
Sure, the match was all of five seconds long, but I think it was exactly what it needed to be. Let's face it: Other than me and maybe two other people, the casual fan couldn't care less about Hawkins, and all that hype surrounding his SmackDown in-ring debut culminating in a brief bout was actually very fitting, especially since he was going to be positioned as a jobber from the get-go. Ziggler's championship challenge to a Raw Superstar at Survivor Series was cool, and they'd be missing the boat big time if it wasn't Sami Zayn. They are in Canada after all.
The Usos def. The Headbangers to Qualify For Team SmackDown at Survivor Series
The Headbangers weren't nearly as sloppy in the ring this time around as they were when they first returned. I thought it was comical they were just randomly in the ring, though, without any explanation whatsoever. The Usos made short work of them, and having been wonderful heels lately, their place on Team SmackDown was also a given. Who will be the final tandem to qualify?
Dean Ambrose def. WWE World Champion AJ Styles to Earn a Future Title Match (Non-title)
Was this their best encounter to date? Not even close, but somehow, it was still an entertaining effort from SmackDown's current top two guys. The nonsense with Ellsworth might have actually added to the match this time because at least it provided something different and told a unique story that ultimately led to Ambrose getting that win over Styles finally. I'm not a huge Ellsworth fan, but SmackDown is making the oddball angle with him and Ambrose work to an event, which is terrific. I was worried about getting three Ambrose vs. Styles matches back-to-back-to-back, but it was revealed on Talking Smack after this show ended that they will face off at TLC. Even better! For now, they can focus on coexisting at Survivor Series.
I can't place my finger on it, but if Raw did this same stuff on Monday night, it would fall flat in my opinion. Yes, the three hours are draining, but it's the way SmackDown Live formats its shows that make the two hours fly by and always worth watching. It has seriously become my favorite wrestling program to watch in 2016. The build to Survivor Series was exceptionally executed on this show and we even have a few things to look forward to at TLC in a little over a month. Needless to say, this was another above-average episode for the blue brand.