By Graham "GSM" Matthews
John Cena Called Out United States Champion Alberto Del Rio
I was shocked when Cena didn't show up on Raw this week let alone get mentioned at all, but I'm even more shocked they didn't bother advertising him for SmackDown. You would think they would have to draw more viewers to the show knowing a big name was appearing. When was the last time he appeared only on SmackDown and not Raw? Nevertheless, I speculated in my Raw review that Del Rio could have been done with Cena based off his absence, but apparently not according to this segment, though it doesn't matter now considering Cena has since announced he's injured and will be out of action indefinitely. On a side note, Cena's endorsement of Kalisto was a nice touch.
Kalisto def. United States Champion Alberto Del Rio (Non-title)
I wasn't too fond of their last in-ring encounter last November, but this bout was a vast improvement. I know why they clicked this time and not last time, but whatever it was, it worked. It was fun while it lasted and Kalisto scoring the win was a pleasant surprise. It never pans out well for anyone who is portrayed as "Cena's little buddy," but for one night, Kalisto got a great rub from being associated with Cena. I would love to see Kalisto challenge Del Rio for the U.S. title at the Royal Rumble, but I imagine they'll give it away on next week's SmackDown as a hook for people to tune in.
WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day, Dolph Ziggler, Goldust, Neville and R-Truth Crashed 'Miz TV'
Ugh. I enjoyed last week's crash-style 'Miz TV' to an extent (a.k.a. up until Big Show came out) because they had a limited roster that night, but this was just an embarrassing attempt to recreate it with different Superstars. The New Day felt out of place here because they are bigger stars than everyone else combined. And whatever happened to Neville's feud with Miz? He won't get any more over by being involved in garbage like this. He did have a point, though: as much as I love Miz, he would probably benefit from scrapping the always-throwaway talk show segment.
Dolph Ziggler, Neville, Goldust and R-Truth def. The Miz and WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day
This was about as formulaic eight-man tag team match as its gets stemming from 'Miz TV.' Everyone put forth a decent effort and it was fine for what it was, but in the long-run, it was worthless and I question why WWE would bother wasting time with it on the USA Network premiere. Of course, it was meant to serve as hype for the Royal Rumble match, but there are better ways of doing that than by throwing eight guys together in one tag match.
Divas Champion Charlotte def. Becky Lynch
First and foremost, the in-ring introductions before the bell were an excellent touch. It really helped add to the match and make it feel like a major deal. For the second time this week, Charlotte and Lynch had a very good match and the crowd responding to both women the way they should have (cheering Lynch and booing Charlotte) was encouraging. I expected Charlotte to cheat to win and she did, so hopefully that sets up another title match between them for the Royal Rumble event. Could Sasha Banks get involved and make it a Triple Threat?
Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens Ended in a Double Count-out
It was cool to have this match close out the show and have the Intercontinental title take center stage, which is what SmackDown should continue to do going forward: showcasing the midcard. As expected, Ambrose and Owens worked very well together and produced another enjoyable matchup. The crowd could have been more engaged in the action than they were, but that's merely nitpicking. I didn't mind the non-finish because it kept the feud alive and the brawling afterward sent the crowd home happy.
Other than the forgettable 'Miz TV' segment and the subsequent eight-man tag team match, this was a pretty standard show made must-see for the two title matches. I can't say it felt any more special now that it's on USA Network because they once again relied on Raw replays to kill time, but it was a step in the right direction to making the blue brand mean something again. Furthermore, this was my first time listening to Mauro Ranallo on commentary and he was awesome in his SmackDown debut. He definitely brought a fresh feel to SmackDown, but more can definitely be done to change up the appearance of the program.
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