By Graham "GSM" Matthews
SmackDown Women's Champion Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss Signed the Contract For Their No Mercy Match
I enjoy Daniel Bryan as an authority figure as much as the next guy, but is it really necessary for him to be involved in the opening segment every week? At least he remained a background player during this segment, so I don't have any major complaints. Meanwhile, Lynch and Bliss both delivered strong mic work that hyped up their upcoming No Mercy match very well. They didn't drag on forever and they made their respective points in the perfect amount of time. I continue to love how SmackDown Live utilizes each of its women and this was pure proof of that.
The Usos def. American Alpha in a No. 1 Contender's Match For the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
While I would have held off on this match until No Mercy, I really liked the story they told throughout this bout. Chad Gable, despite being medically cleared to compete, was still nursing his knee injury, and that was cost him in the end. Jason Jordan refusing to tag him in because of that was a nice touch as well. Sure, we just saw The Usos just face Heath Slater and Rhyno at Backlash, but Usos explained afterward that they wrestled two matches in one night that time, so it will be interesting to see if the outcome is any different in their rematch.
Baron Corbin def. Apollo Crews
I don't think I've seen without Crews without a smile on his face since he debuted in NXT over a year ago, so his serious demeanor here was a refreshing change of pace for his character. He was able to score some measure of offense, but the match mostly consisted of Corbin decimating Crews. That's great for Corbin, especially given he has a program with Jack Swagger on the horizon, but Crews continues to suffer because of a lack of direction.
Intercontinental Champion The Miz def. Dolph Ziggler
Yes, it's a match we've seen several times in the past (okay, more like a million), but you can't deny that they have awesome in-ring chemistry together. Henceforth, this was another excellent match from them and the crowd became more and more engaged in the matchup as the match progressed and that one Zig-Zag down the stretch made for a suspenseful nearfall. I'm happy Miz retained as he should have, but what was with the repeat finish from Backlash? How unoriginal.
Randy Orton def. Erick Rowan
I still have no idea whether Rowan is officially aligned with Bray Wyatt or not considering Wyatt wasn't at ringside here, and to be honest, I couldn't care less. You had to know Rowan wasn't going to stand a chance against Orton when his entrance wasn't even televised, so this was as simple and as straightforward of a squash as they come. Wyatt's post-match promo was short and sweet, but I was hoping Luke Harper would resurface when the lights came back on. Of course, I was disappointed.
Nikki Bella and Naomi def. Carmella and Natalya by Disqualification
Well, this was a waste of time. Naomi's awesome over-the-top entrance lasted longer than the match did. I don't know if another match went over time and they were a victim of time constraints or what, but why bother at that point? They should have just saved it for next week. The Nikki and Carmella feud was well-furthered, but that's the only positive thing I can say about it.
Dean Ambrose def. John Cena
This came across as a television main event and not the marquee match I know they are capable of producing, but I'm assuming they were merely holding back because we'll be seeing plenty of matches between them in the near future (i.e. once Ambrose goes full-fledged heel). Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the match and the clean win over Cena caught me by surprise. That's a major endorsement of Ambrose by Cena and the company, and regardless of what you think of Cena, you have to give him the props he deserves for putting over so many stars in recent years. Additionally, I loved how they advertised the WWE World Championship match one week out and how they're delivering on the promise of Ambrose receiving a one-on-one championship rematch before No Mercy.
This might have been my favorite edition of SmackDown Live since the Brand Extension went into effect, and that's saying something considering every episode has ranged from good to great. Sure, it wasn't without its flaws such as the throwaway women's match, but even that seemed to serve a purpose. Everything else was either meaningful or entertaining, or both! The plug for next week's WWE title match was awesome as well, rounding out a strong show. In opinion, Raw hasn't been horrible (I know many will disagree), but the blue brand has just been absolutely killing it lately.