By Graham "GSM" Matthews
AJ Styles and Chris Jericho def. The Social Outcasts
Jericho's pre-match promo was some of the best mic work I have heard from him in some time. Although he makes a fun face, he is even more exceptional as a heel and it truly showed when he talked about respecting Styles but not liking him. The impromptu tag team match was a nice change of pace because usually it's a singles match becoming a tag match, but they ended up saving Styles vs. Jericho for the main event slot. I always get a kick out of The Social Outcasts, but Bo Dallas' absence was felt. The match was successful in teasing tension between Styles and Jericho and giving Y2J the upper-hand going into the bout by having him lay out Styles afterward with a Codebreaker, making me more excited for their encounter than I was originally.
The Dudley Boyz Explained Their Actions
I was ecstatic to see The Dudley Boyz go rogue on Raw as they have felt stagnant for a few months now. That said, this was a fantastic follow-up. Bubba Ray is a much better heel than he is a face, but it's cool to see The Dudley Boyz are sticking together for a while longer to go after the WWE Tag Team Championship instead of splitting up so soon as it has been rumored. I also appreciated D-Von mentioning how they are the farthest thing from a nostalgia act, which is what they have been referred to lately by fans. Bringing up how crowd chant for tables more than the do the duo was a great touch and I'm looking forward to their heel run.
Sasha Banks def. Naomi
I never thought I would be as entertained by a Banks vs. Naomi match as much as I was. They obviously have history, but Naomi and Tamina have been background players for so long that I assumed few fans would care about their program with Banks and Becky Lynch. However, this was the best match Naomi has had in recent memory, and that's not to say she isn't a good athlete. Rather, for the first time in a long while, one of her matches felt extremely personal, and I credit a lot of that to Bank's natural connection with the crowd. Meanwhile, Lynch was excellent on commentary and really set the stage for the upcoming tag team match at Fastlane. The audience was much more engaged in the action than you would think they would have been and that alone significantly enhanced my enjoyment of it. Kudos to everyone involved for putting together such a surprisingly pleasant matchup.
The Wyatt Family Addressed the Audience
I was hoping we would get more of a sense what's next for The Wyatt Family with this promo, but per usual, they didn't give any hints whatsoever. That might be for the better, but with Fastlane next Sunday, it would be wise to confirm what their involvement will be at the event. All of them were given minimal mic time, but nothing of note was said. I really want to buy into them as a dominant force, but I fear they'll run into a roadblock sooner rather than later.
Neville and The Lucha Dragons def. The Cosmic Wasteland
Was there a reason why this match was held? Don't get me wrong, it was fun while it lasted and they made the most of the time they were allotted, but none of them are feuding with each other at the moment. I was glad Kalisto avenged his loss from Monday's Raw, but where were League of Nations to further their feud with The Lucha Dragons? WWE must have been working with a limited roster otherwise I'm not sure why they wouldn't have made an appearance. But hey, I'm not complaining!
Chris Jericho def. AJ Styles
Once again, Jericho and Styles produced a very well-wrestled matchup with plenty of suspenseful nearfalls and awesome action. The extra aggressive nature of Jericho's arsenal has been a welcome change. Most importantly, this was even better than their first solid encounter. The final few minutes were especially fantastic as they exchanged finishing maneuvers and it could have very well gone either way. I don't at all have a problem with Jericho going over in clean fashion as it evens their score and makes a rubber match (hopefully at Fastlane or possibly WrestleMania) that much more important.
It seems as if SmackDown is getting better by the week. The program is worth watching for the above-average commentary alone, but the formatting of the show has only improved over the last month. Advertising Styles vs. Jericho a week out was a great idea and I love how they are doing the same with Brock Lesnar's appearance next week. The night was focused on Styles and Jericho, but the promo from The Dudley Boyz and the women's match were equally entertaining and the two hours flew by.
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