by Scott Saffran
Because you demanded it, SmackDown was back on October the 9 for its second exclusive show in No Mercy. The card was stacked, tempers flared, and men and women of the Blue Brand came to compete!
I’ll just tell you already that I absolutely loved the show and I feel a little spoiled for it. How long can SD Live keep this train on the tracks?
4 Worst Things
Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss
Just a forewarning for the rest of this list: nothing is really outright bad. No Mercy was another fantastic pay-per-view from the Blue Brand. Though Becky out with some undisclosed, non-injury malady (Get well soon!), Alexa was still scheduled to compete. The match had no stipulation, which was definitely working against it from the get-go. Going from a hotly anticipated title match to a vanilla singles match is never going to entice a single soul.
Naomi turned out to be the mystery opponent, probably the best decision outside of debuting an NXT talent or returning Eva Marie, and the ensuing contest was just painfully average. I deeply respect the exceptional talent of both ladies, but this was a disappointment. The biggest problem was its lame duck finish intended to be a surprise, ‘outta nowhere’ pin. Instead of a shocking upset, it felt more along the lines of semi-expected and entirely emotionless. Not a good look for either competitor.
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
The next three consecutive picks spin out of No Mercy’s pre-show extravaganza (a word which here is used sarcastically). In a perfect world, I would rather not have to pick on matches that were never given much of a chance to begin with. However, it seems the actual world in which we live produces such fantastic main card action, that I am left having to scrounge the bottom of the barrel for evening’s Worst Things.
Nikki and Carmella are doing their best to convince the rest of the WWE Universe that they’re feuding. This ends up looking like Nikki minding her own business, then finding herself suddenly on the receiving end of an assault from Carmella. I’d have called the cops several times at this point, but this is WRESTLING! We need to settle this kind of stuff in the ring! So Nikki and Carmella had themselves a bona fide wrasslin’ match on Sunday night and wow, was it uninteresting.
I’ll give Carmella credit for heeling it up, but don’t think that puts her in the black. The Princess of Staten Island needs a lot more time to hone her craft and build confidence in how she moves about the squared circle. Nikki was fine, as she has always been. A little too vanilla for my tastes, but she is always serviceable in any match. I could never bring myself to say this was a step back for women’s wrestling in the WWE. It was more a Big Show vs. Curtis Axel type of showdown.
Pre-Show Eight Man Tag Team Match
A lot of little things compounded to push this eight-man match on to the List of Saffran. First off, I just do not care for the way the WWE often handles Atómicos matches. There’s an artistry to pulling off that amount of men in one match, and within the confines of a WWE ring it often turns out to be a muddled disaster. Second, this combination of tag teams has squared off far too many times. With absolutely no story backing, no rhyme or reason, booking this matchup time and again just makes the whole thing look like a farce.
Third, and most offensively, the Ascension and the Vaudevillains have been embarrassed once again. As far as I am concerned, this was a squash. From the outset, there was one obvious winner and the proceedings delivered exactly what was assumed, beat for beat.
Wrestling will forever be its best when expectation is thrown by the wayside. It will always be less-than-palatable when it conforms to a repetitive formula. I have no problem with the face team conquering the heels, but there was not one second during this match that I ever believed the heels to be formidable or even have a whisper of a chance to win.
Curt Hawkins’ Debut
I just wanted to see him wrestle, ok? But the gimmick lives on, hilarious and entertaining. I hope we see more tomfoolery on SmackDown to avoid actual in-ring action, because at this point I’d rather him pursue ways to get out of wrestling than actually engage in a match. Missing out on THE Curt Hawkins was soul-crushing in the moment, but definitely the right call for the long game.
4 Best Things
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Much in the vein of Cena and Styles’ heart-thumping instant classic, you really just have to watch this one. There’s nothing I can say to do this emotional rollercoaster justice. I felt like an eight-year-old again, watching my first pay-per-view and feeling every peak and valley like I was riding the Tower of Terror. The near falls, the twists, even Miz’s continual Daniel Bryan-mockery shtick. I can’t say it was flawless wrestling, but it was perfect entertainment. The bravos and applause I owe these two will last an eternity.
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose
In a rather fun twist that was more to combat every other massive media event taking place Sunday night than just for the sake of spicing up the card, the main event of the evening went on first! What? I know! It was madness! But a good kind of madness, a madness that inspired one of the better triple threats I’ve seen in some time. Thanks, AJ Styles! Such talent in the ring, the pinnacle of athletic ability crossed with the perfect dosage of wrestling psychology. And he wins via steel chair strike! Very set in my smarky ways, I can’t help but cheer for the guy.
He plays the cocky heel so well, it’s hard not to applaud his efforts. This isn’t to neglect our other two participants, as in this case it takes three to tango. Cena has only been looking better in the ring since meeting his match in AJ Styles and I, for one, have never had a bad thing to say about the Lunatic Fringe (except, maybe, about that nickname). The match didn’t blow me away, but, as triple threats naturally have a disadvantage, I was more than satisfied with the overall experience and the story it furthered between the three top stars of SmackDown. A victory on all fronts!
Rhyno and Slater (c) vs. The Usos
SmackDown has done the simply unbelievable job of taking 2015’s table scraps and turning it into 2016’s Michelin 3-Star cuisine. The four of these rather unlikely gentleman put on, yet again, an exciting wrestling contest that, frankly, shattered my expectations for this second go-around and proved, yet again, that the SmackDown staff has come to play in 2016.
Much props to the ever-entertaining Beauty and the Man-Beast for turning an Odd Couple duo into the must-see tag act of the main roster. Even more props to the Uso brothers for adapting to the new atmosphere and pulling off a believable heel gimmick and carrying it through Backlash to this month’s show.
Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
Is this exclusively on the Best list because Bray actually got a win on a PPV? Yeah, maybe. Is this exclusively on the Best list because Luke Harper returned? Could very well be the case. Some matches aren’t destined to be remembered as grappling contests, sometimes they’ll only be recalled as spectacle events.
Bray and Randy will, more likely than not, put together a solid in-ring match (which they definitely did Sunday night), but the characters both men bring to the table offer a far greater promise for story. This No Mercy contest was a successful blend of both ingredients, giving the two esoteric egomaniacs a platform to ply their craft on several different levels. I am no less than thrilled that Bray was able to snatch the victory, and definitively jubilant that my old pal Luke Harper has returned to side with his master/friend. I eagerly await further development on SmackDown and maybe even another match or two before all is said and done.
SmackDown makes it a streak with another excellent brand-exclusive PPV and has officially put Raw on notice and back on their heels. Tons of great wrestling, a decent helping of solid narrative, and the emotional masterpiece that was Miz/Ziggler made a treasured memory out of No Mercy 2016. I expect the WWE Universe won’t soon forget this show.
Cutting predictions for Hawkins and Lynch/Bliss out, brings the total down to 6. As always, this takes only into account the matches I was able to predict beforehand on the officially distributed WWE No Mercy 2016 card.
Photo Credit: WWE.com