I will say right off the bat that I have been enjoying SmackDown Live much more than Raw since the brand split. Only running for two hours instead of three, and having a superior announce team certainly helps, but the one issue I have had is that the championships on SmackDown have not felt as important as those on Raw.
Did this inaugural SmackDown exclusive pay-per-view event do enough to assuage this fear?
BECKY LYNCH vs. NATALYA vs. NAOMI vs. ALEXA BLISS vs. CARMELLA vs. NIKKI BELLA (Six Pack Challenge for SmackDown Women’s Championship): Becky Lynch opened with going for the “Disarmer,” but Naomi countered and went for her rapid fire bicycle kicks. Lynch vaulted her out of the ring and went to the top rope. But Carmella got in a sucker punch, then a “Frankensteiner” off of the top rope. Carmella then faced off against her rival, Nikki Bella, but both were ambushed by Alexa Bliss and Natalya. Alexa Bliss is improving by leaps and bounds in each outing and showed that improvement here by nailing Bella with a back flip into double knees to the abdomen. She followed up with a sunset flip driver. Natalya broke it up with a “Yakuza Kick.” Naomi is also someone who has shown great improvement in the ring, with her full nelson bomb into a submission being quite an impressive move that almost made Natalya tap out. Carmella locked in the “Code of Silence” to Nikki Bella, but Nikki hit her with an “Alabama Slam” to free herself. All of the combatants were thrown outside of the ring. Naomi made her way to the top rope and did a slingshot dive to all five opponents outside of the ring. Once again, Alexa Bliss stepped up, laying in some stiff punches to Natalya. But Natalya and Naomi combined to hit her with a power bomb Blockbuster combination. Naomi then eliminated Bliss. Natalya locked in the Sharpshooter and made Naomi tap out, eliminating her. Nikki Bella hit Natalya with an Argentine backbreaker, eliminating her. Carmella rolled up Nikki Bella and got a quick pin fall. Carmella and Becky Lynch were the last two women standing. Lynch hit her with several “Becksploder Suplexes,” but Carmella rebounded with a gut kick, taking down Becky. Stalking her prey, Carmella was baited in by Becky and got locked in the “Disarmer,” forcing Carmella to tap out. Not a fan of Becky Lynch winning her first Women’s Championship in such a clusterf*ck of a match that meant less than what it should have. However, she was LONG overdue. Congrats to one of the most underrated workers in the business today. WINNER: BECKY LYNCH
We cut to a backstage segment and some funny banter between the Miz and Nickelodeon star Jagger Eaton. This was followed up by a scene backstage where Bray Wyatt ambushed his opponent for later in the evening, Randy Orton. Wyatt slammed a door on Orton’s ankle. A referee broke it up, but who knows how much damage was done.
THE USOS vs. THE HYPE BROS: In this last semi-final match of the SmackDown Tag Team Championship, the Usos wasted no time pummeling Zack Ryder. They kept him on their half of the ring and made quick tags in and out. Ryder finally got back up to a vertical base and tried to build some momentum, but Jey Uso cut him off with an “Enziguri.” They then did a double team running hip attack to Ryder in the corner. The Usos continued to build the heat until Ryder hit a hangman’s neck breaker counter. Ryder tried to make the hot tag to his partner, Mojo Rawley, but was cut off by Jimmy Uso, who knocked Rawley off of the apron. Ryder knocked down both opponents and this time did make the hot tag. Rawley entered the ring swinging with several clotheslines, and then a “Stinger Splash” in the corner. They attempted their double team finisher, the Hype Ryder. However, Jey Uso broke up the move. Zack Ryder hit Jey Uso with a Frankensteiner and went for the pin, but Jimmy Uso made the save. Jey Uso delivered a nasty chop block to the back of Ryder’s knee. He then went for a single leg crab, making Ryder tap out. WINNERS: THE USOS
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. THE MIZ (Intercontinental Championship): Miz looked to gain a quick advantage, but Ziggler looked to turn this into a brawl early on, with Miz having to exit the ring and catch a breather. Ziggler then went to his amateur wrestling background and ran circles round Miz with two point takedowns and “Fireman’s Carry” into pin falls. Miz got a well timed kick in and began to build heat. Ziggler turned the momentum again with one of the best dropkicks in the business. But Miz was able to gain the heat again with a catapult into the bottom rope, followed up by a leg thrust to the back of the head. Miz locked in a “Bow & Arrow” stretch, but Ziggler countered it and nearly pinned the Miz. This was a back and forth affair for the duration of the match. Miz hurled Ziggler outside of the ring and nailed him with a baseball slide, followed up by a catapult into the security barrier. Ziggler tried to build momentum and went for a splash in the corner, but Miz dodged and Ziggler went face first into the turnbuckle post. Miz locked in an inverted surfboard stretch. He continued to work the legs of Ziggler. Miz then went for another move from GM Daniel Bryan’s repertoire, the repeated dropkicks in the corner. He then did Bryan’s YES taunt. Miz went for the “Skull Crushing Finale,” but Ziggler countered. Ziggler locked in a Sleeper hold, but Miz drove himself and Ziggler into the turnbuckle to escape. Ziggler went for the Super Kick, but Miz dodged it and locked in the “Figure Four Leg Lock” to the already injured leg of Ziggler. Ziggler somehow managed to get to the bottom rope to force the break. Ziggler nailed him with the kick this time, but the pin fall was broken due to Miz getting his leg on the bottom rope. While the referee was distracted, Miz’ wife, Maryse, sprayed perfume into Ziggler’s eyes. The momentary distraction allowed Miz to hit Ziggler with the “Skull Crushing Finale,” getting the pin fall and retaining his Intercontinental Championship. WINNER: THE MIZ
BRAY WYATT vs. KANE: Due to Wyatt’s actions earlier, Orton was not able to compete. However, Wyatt was then put into a No Holds Barred match against the Big Red Monster. The two went back and forth for a bit until gain started building major momentum. Wyatt cut him off however when he got his hands on a steel chair and then went to town on Kane. Wyatt looked to hit Kane with a “Sambo Suplex” onto a folded chair, but Kane countered and hit Wyatt with a DDT onto the chair and followed up with a Sidewalk Slam. Kane attempted to chokeslam Wyatt through one of the announcers’ tables, but Wyatt countered with a stiff clothesline. Wyatt placed Kane on the table, mocked Randy Orton by doing his taunt, and then hit a “Flying Senton to Kane,” which collapsed the table. He dragged Kane in the ring and went for his finisher, Sister Abigail. However, Kane chokeslammed him and attempted a pin, but Wyatt kicked out. Orton came out of nowhere and drilled Wyatt with an “RKO.” Kane followed up with a chokeslam, picking up the win and further taking away from Bray Wyatt’s mystique or intimidation factor. There was no reason for Orton to one up Wyatt this soon. WINNER: KANE
THE USOS vs. RHYNO & HEATH SLATER (SmackDown Tag Team Championship): Slater had more to fight for than just the tag titles. He had to win this match to ensure that he got signed to a contract with SmackDown. Slater came out of the gate on fire, unleashing a flurry on Jey Uso, who quickly tagged in Jimmy. Slater tagged in Rhyno, to an arena full of fans chanting E-C-W! Rhyno and Slater made quick tags and kept the heat on. Jey delivered a hard head butt to Slater’s stomach, did a double suplex into the turnbuckle post and then a double team super kick outside of the ring. The Usos isolated Slater and continued their tandem offense, wearing down the ‘One Man Rock Band’. Slater tried to make the tag, but Jimmy Uso Irish whipped Slater into the turnbuckle with authority. The Usos continued to focus their offense on the back of Slater. Slater and Jey Uso both hit each other with cross body blocks, knocking each other out. Rhyno finally got the hot tag and hit clothesline after clothesline. Slater tagged in and went for a pin but was pulled out of the ring. Slater got distracted and allowed Jimmy Uso to hit him with a super kick. Rhyno delivered the gore to Jimmy while the ref was looking away. This allowed Heath Slater to get the pin fall and a contract with SmackDown Live (along with the tag team titles). WINNERS: RHYNO & HEATH SLATER
AJ STYLES vs. DEAN AMBROSE (WWE Championship): Styles went for some cocky early pins just to show how much better he is than Styles. But Ambrose didn’t play his game and began to brawl with Styles. AJ had to regroup outside the ring. Ambrose chased him back into the ring, but Styles sucker punched him. Ambrose went for a “Tope Suicida,” but Styles scouted it and slid back into the ring and did a drop toe hold, sending Ambrose careening into the middle rope. Styles maintained the offense for the next few minutes. Ambrose finally made the comeback, but was cut off when he went crashing into the turnbuckle post after Styles dodged. Ambrose did a belly to back suplex off of the top rope, which took both men out for quite a while. Styles went for the “Calf Crusher,” but was countered. Ambrose went for a suplex but was countered. Styles then suplexed Ambrose into the corner. After several minutes of high impact offense, Styles slowed the pace down and went to work on Ambrose’s leg. Styles locked in the Calf Crusher for a least a minute, but Ambrose was able to force the break. He then went to hit Ambrose with the Styles Clash, but Ambrose grabbed the rope to once again force the break. I have given Ambrose crap in the past for him selling an injury during a match for all of about 20 seconds and then forgetting about it. But he did a damn good job of selling for the duration of this match. Styles nailed Ambrose with an Ushigoroshi, but wasn’t able to get the pin fall. Ambrose did a Tope Suicida to Styles outside of the ring. While the referee was distracted, Styles hit Ambrose with a low blow. He then followed it up with a Styles Clash, pinning Ambrose and becoming the new WWE Champion. WINNER: AJ STYLES
Though many of these matches didn’t have strong enough build ups, nearly all of the performers stepped their games up to make this feel like more than just a random episode of SmackDown Live. They also did the job of making the championship belts have meaning. Monday Night Raw, it’s time to step your game up.