By Graham "GSM" Matthews
WWE World Champion AJ Styles Interrupted SmackDown Live Commissioner Shane McMahon and James Ellsworth
As much as I loved how Ellsworth was used at Survivor Series, it's really getting to the point where he feels overexposed. It's the same shtick with him every week, too: Styles talks down to Ellsworth, an authority figure sticks up for him, and he's granted a match against Styles. It was funny at first, but now it's just grown tiresome for me. Dean Ambrose and Styles had a ton of bad blood at Survivor Series, but it seems like a majority of their feud has gone through Ellsworth.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz def. Kalisto
It's such a shame Kalisto doesn't have much momentum right now (considering he returned all of two weeks ago) because this would be a really fun feud over the Intercontinental Championship, and perhaps it could be down the line once Kalisto stacks up a few notable victories. Although it was obvious Kalisto wasn't winning, I like that they at least tried to make the match more meaningful by putting the title on the line. Did Baron Corbin run in late or did that spot look off to only me? I have no problem with Dolph Ziggler attacking Miz afterward because that should set up a Ladder match between them for the TLC pay-per-view.
American Alpha def. The Usos, The Vaudevillians, Breezango, The Hype Bros and The Ascension in a No. 1 Contender's Gauntlet Match For the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The first two-thirds of the match were total throwaway and no team seemed to last longer than two minutes. In other words, it should have been American Alpha and The Usos from the get-go, but I understand wanting to giving everyone an equal opportunity in storyline. I was disappointed they apparently abandoned this program a few months ago, but it was cool that they rekindled their rivalry with their entertaining outing here. American Alpha winning took me by surprise, and what was even cooler was The Wyatt Family challenging them for their title shot next week on SmackDown Live. I assume Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton win that match, and I like that they have direction coming out of their big win at Survivor Series.
SmackDown Women's Champion Becky Lynch def. Natalya (Non-title)
These two had a whole feud against each other earlier in the year, but it's been long enough since then that this felt fresh. Furthermore, they work well together and produced a good match, not to mention Natalya being from Canada certainly helped. Alexa Bliss was excellent as always on commentary and her wasting no time in ambushing Lynch as soon as the bout ended was a nice touch. I'm slightly disappointed their rematch at TLC won't be a gimmick match as of now, but they still have next week to add a stipulation if they want.
Baron Corbin def. Kane by Disqualification
Truth be told, I had no desire to see a Corbin vs. Kane match because it had the potential to be beyond boring, and this likely would have been headed in that direction had it not been cut short by Kalisto's interference. Plus, it protected Corbin in that he technically won the match and it furthered the feud between himself and Kalisto. They're really hitting the fast forward button on the rivalry, but that was to be expected when there's two weeks to go until TLC.
James Ellsworth def. WWE World Champion AJ Styles in a Ladder Match to Earn a SmackDown Live Contract and a Future WWE World Championship Opportunity
The outcome of this match could have been seen coming from a mile away because only Ellsworth benefited from winning this match. With a mere ten minutes left in the show, it played out exactly how I envisioned it would with Styles selling for Ellsworth and Ambrose getting involved to cost him the contest. For those keeping track at home, Styles is now 0-3 against Ellsworth, which is ridiculous when you realize he's a glorified jobber. But I guess they wanted to get another title match out of them before TLC next Sunday.
SmackDown has the tough task of building up a pay-per-view with only two weeks' worth of shows, but I thought they did a solid job on this night by confirming several matches for the card that make sense. With what's currently on tap, I'm highly anticipating the event, though they could have hyped the WWE World Championship match better without resorting to comedy. Then again, they have a chance to redeem themselves on the go-home show.