By Graham "GSM" Matthews
John Cena Returned and Announced His WWE Championship Intentions
The general consensus among fans coming out of this promo was that Cena sounded more heelish than usual, but then again, how many times have we said that in the past five years or so and it's nothing more than a tease? Either way, this was strong mic work from Cena, who is always much better in serious mode than he is when he's making unfunny jokes. He hyped up the night's three big bouts in addition to announcing himself as the new No. 1 Contender to the WWE Championship, even though he did absolutely nothing to deserve it. But hey, he's John Cena, right? Sigh.
American Alpha def. The Wyatt Family, The Usos and Heath Slater & Rhyno in a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match to Win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The elimination stipulation definitely helped this match and added to my excitement of it, especially down the stretch. All four tandems played their roles well and Slater and Rhyno were the right team to go first. Expect Slater getting pinned to play a factor in his eventual break-up from Rhyno. I thought The Usos attacking American Alpha after they got eliminated would give them an out for losing, so I was surprised Alpha ended up taking the titles. I have no complaints, however, because it was high time WWE pulled the trigger on these guys and it was huge for them to pin Randy Orton and not Luke Harper for the win. They definitely deserved that awesome moment. Meanwhile, it's too soon to split Orton from The Wyatt Family because this is the most intriguing he has felt in years. This match on the whole was a ton of fun and those final few minutes were fantastic.
SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss def. Becky Lynch
Bliss and Lynch have had a handful of good matches against each other throughout their feud, but truth be told, their in-ring chemistry really isn't that strong. This was another solid match from them, albeit nothing out of the ordinary early on. I'm just ready for them to move on, though I get the feeling isn't yet over after the fluky finish. The important thing is that Bliss retained the title and Lynch has a new rival in whoever is under the La Luchadora mask. Unlike with Lynch last week, I truly have no idea who it might be. Deonna Purrazzo? Mickie James? Tamina Snuka? There's a few different options. All of the focus was on who the mystery woman was coming out of this, but let's take a second to applaud Bliss on that exceptional acting with her elbow. No, it didn't actually pop out of place. I'm 99 percent sure she's double-jointed.
WWE Champion AJ Styles def. Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin in a Triple Threat Match
I was thrilled to see that they were given a ton of time and they run a real risk when they do that based on how well they work together. Well, it turned out to be nothing to worry about because they produced a terrific Triple Threat match. You had to know Styles was walking away with his title intact, but there were several suspenseful nearfalls from both Ziggler and Corbin, who I thought specifically shined here. Sure, he was in the ring with two sensational workers, but he proved he can hang at the main event level in my eyes, and he will win gold inevitably in 2017. I liked the post-match staredown between Styles and Cena, and after their first two absolutely amazing encounters, I am heavily anticipating the third matchup at the Royal Rumble.
We had have seen some stellar editions of SmackDown Live this year, but I might go so far as to say this was the greatest of them all. The blue brand advertised a stacked show coming in, but I figured there would be filler at some point. But nope. It was one excellent match after another and plenty of newsworthy moments from Cena's return to the announcement of the WWE title match at the Rumble to new tag champs being crowned. It's such a shame Raw has been so dull as of late because SmackDown has been a blast to watch all 2016 round. Here's hoping they can keep up the hot momentum heading into the new year because this was a pretty perfect episode with a hot Chicago crowd to boot.