By Graham "GSM" Matthews
John Cena and Dean Ambrose Confronted WWE World Champion AJ Styles
Based off the reactions he's been receiving alone, there is little doubt that Styles is the sole star of SmackDown and thus it was wise to put the belt on him when they did. As I've said in the past, his mic work continues to improve immensely and he cut another solid promo here. Cena's unannounced return was a pleasant surprise, and while I assumed he would be back to set his sights on scoring his record-tying 16th world championship, I'm slightly disappointed he didn't comment on his latest loss to Styles at SummerSlam. Ambrose was excellent here as well and I liked how Cena was able to light a fire underneath him, planting the seeds for a future feud between the two.
The Uso def. The Hype Bros
This was essentially the same match we saw between The Usos and The Hype Bros at No Mercy, just a condensed version. I'm digging the new look for The Usos and hope they change their tired entrance theme sometime soon as well. With American Alpha out for another few weeks, this was a proper showcase of the newly turned tandem. I expect them to clash come No Mercy and there is no rush in bringing American Alpha back just yet.
Dolph Ziggler Interrupted Intercontinental Champion The Miz
Miz continues to cut the best promos of his career and this extra aggression he's been showing lately has been, pardon the pun, awesome. His apparent program with general manager Daniel Bryan has been fun to watch as well, but I continue to question where it's headed. They didn't confront each other after their initial interaction because officials were worried fans would think it was leading toward a match. Has something changed since then? Either way, I still couldn't care less about Ziggler and as good of chemistry as he and Miz have together in the ring, I'm not anxious to see them contest a rematch any time soon.
Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews Went to a No Contest
Thank the lord Corbin attacked Crews before the bout could come to fruition. It's not that I don't like Crews (I actually feel bad he's been getting the short end of the stick for almost a month now), it would have been dumb to hold a rematch so soon after their match on the Backlash Kickoff show. I assumed something was up with Jack Swagger after what we saw from him on Raw this week, and it looks like he's officially a part of the blue brand. It's a logical move given Alberto Del Rio just left, but a renewed push for Swagger feels like a retread. Like, 2013 all over again. If they can manage to make me care, then good for them, but time will tell, though.
Alexa Bliss def. Nikki Bella, Carmella, Natalya and Naomi in a No. 1 Contender's Fatal 5-Way Match For the SmackDown Women's Championship
Similar to Sunday night, the women once again delivered a very good match where all five ladies were able to shine at one point or another. They kept the pace consistent and it wasn't a train wreck whatsoever as many of these type of matches tend to be. Bliss was the best choice to go over considering Nikki Bella and Carmella don't need the title for their feud, Natalya has gone for the gold several times this year and Naomi isn't ready yet. I obviously don't expect Bliss to win, but it should be an entertaining feud/match, nevertheless.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions Heath Slater and Rhyno def. The Ascension
It's so cool to see a storyline that fans are invested in finally get a happy ending for once as that rarely happens in this company. Slater is naturally over and Rhyno is a great seasoned veteran to pair him with. I just hope they aren't splitting up in the near future and Rhyno showing frustration with Slater is merely a part of the gimmick. I had a bad feeling they would drop the titles here to The Ascension of all people given the fear fans had coming out of Backlash, but I was glad that wasn't the case.
Randy Orton Attacked Erick Rowan
This feud might have jumped the shark for me at Backlash when Bray Wyatt lost to Kane, who wasn't even on this show. How is anyone supposed to take Wyatt seriously as a threat to Orton now? The mic work in this segment was fine, but that was all that was on my mind. And since when did Rowan reunite with Wyatt? Didn't they tease going their separate ways about a month ago? I am so confused.
John Cena and Dean Ambrose def. WWE World Champion AJ Styles and Intercontinental Champion The Miz
Damn, I was really hoping James Ellsworth would make his SmackDown in-ring debut in this match. Anyway, it was a well-wrestled matchup and mostly formulaic but still enjoyable. Miz's involvement allowed him to take the pin and I don't think it did much damage to him here. Of course, the the main focus of the match was the tension teased between Cena and Ambrose and I look forward to the feud they're bound to have following No Mercy.
In my opinion, SmackDown Live has been the better brand over Raw more often than not. The two hour format compared to three is definitely a plus, but even the way they utilize their roster is refreshing. The main event scene is stacked at the moment and there a few other feuds that have me intrigued as well. Backlash was certainly a success and I'm excited to see how next month's No Mercy pay-per-view can top it.
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