Tonight’s episode of WWE Smackdown Live! emanates from Cleveland, OH and promises to be noteworthy as WWE World Champion AJ Styles defends against Dean Ambrose. Let’s see how WWE continues to build towards No Mercy and the triple threat match between AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and John Cena.
Smackdown Live! Review: AJ Styles Defends Against Dean Ambrose
Randy Orton opened the show and made his way to the ring to address Bray Wyatt. The live audience gave Orton a very warm reception. Orton said he knows why Wyatt tries to use fear to get into his head, and it is because Wyatt himself is afraid of Orton. Orton called for Wyatt to come to the ring to face his fears. Cue the Wyatt sounder, and a video played of Wyatt. Wyatt asked if Orton has ever heard of Hansel and Gretel. Wyatt says, that like in the story, he has left a trail of breadcrumbs to help Orton find his way through his own mind. Wyatt had an hourglass and said that the sands of time do not wait for any mortal man and began singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” As soon as the video was over, Orton left the ring and headed straight for the back.
Dean Ambrose was interviewed in the back about his match tonight. Ambrose said that tonight he will turn AJ Styles from the man with the face who runs to place to the “guy who will cry because I dropped him.”
Rating: 7/10 – The Wyatt tease is interesting and will provide a hook for some viewers to see where it leads tonight. Unfortunately, Wyatt has only been built up to where people will expect Orton to get the better of him. The Ambrose line about the guy who will cry was as bad as it sounds.
The Usos and The Ascension teamed up to take on America Alpha and the Smackdown Tag Team Champions Heath Slater and Rhyno. Mauro Ranallo shared the tweet from Slater showing the above ground pool he put in for his family. Only the Usos received a full televised entrance, which featured much needed new entrance music. The music was more of a lyric-less rap beat. The match began with Jimmy Uso and Jason Jordan. For reference, it appears that Jimmy will be the twin that wears a shirt during their matches. Jordan performed a double leg take-down and put Jimmy in an arm wrench. Jey Uso and Chad Gable tagged in and Gable caught Jey in an over the top rope arm bar. The action spilled outside where Jey clipped Gable’s bad knee again. Jordan checked on Gable as they went in to commercial.
Back from commercial, the heel team worked Gable over in the corner. The crowd came to life by chanting “Rhyno” and “ECW.” Gable moved out of the way from a Jimmy corner splash. Gable was close to tagging in his partner until the Ascension tried to cut him off. Gable avoided both, then was cut off by Jimmy. As he got close to Jordan again, the Ascension pulled Jordan off of the apron. Eventually, Heath Slater received the hot tag and performed a series of moves on Jey. After a series of moves from all competitors, Jimmy his Slater with a super kick, followed by the knee attack they’ve been performing recently. Jimmy got Slater in a submission move, which made Slater tap out.
John Cena was shown walking through the back. It was announced that Cena would be ringside during the main event tonight. Cena was asked if he cared who had the championship going in to No Mercy. Cena said he did not care because no matter who went in to No Mercy as the champion, Cena would make history as the 16 time World Champion.
The camera zoomed in to a picture of Lebron James. The camera backed up to show Cleveland’s own The Miz looking at the picture and shaking his head. Someone came in and put a picture of The Miz in front of Lebron.
The Wyatt sounder played and we see Orton walking in the back. He walks up to an arrow that is made of wood, pointing to the right. Orton noticed light around a corner and turned the arrow around, walking around to the left. The camera panned back to the arrow, which had been turned back to the right and revealed a masked Eric Rowan standing there.
Rating: 7/10 – The tag match was good for what it was meant for, which was to continue to put the Usos over as heels and put doubt into the idea that Slater and Rhyno will retain at No Mercy. The finish was the right decision. A lot happened before going to commercial. Cena continues to ramp up the idea that he wants to be the 16-time World Champion, which was discussed last week. The Miz clip was short but so effective for the Cleveland crowd. The Wyatt video seems campy, but we will see where it goes.
Back from commercial, the Wyatt sounder played again. Wyatt said Orton was not very good at following directions. He said that Orton will understand tonight.
Carmella and Natalya were in the ring. A pre-taped segment aired where Carmella said she would make Nikki Bella disappear for good. Naomi made her entrance. There was not quite as much dancing this week around. Bella made her entrance and the announce team plugged Nikki and Brie Bella being on the cover of Muscle and Fitness. A pre-taped segment aired, in which Bella said that Carmella would not put out her flame. Carmella and Naomi exchanged moonwalks in between moves. Carmella and Natalya regrouped on the outside as the show went to commercial.
Back from commercial, Natalya and Naomi were the legal participants. Natalya performed a Michinoku Driver on the outside to Naomi. Carmella was tagged in and the heels continued to work over Naomi. Eventually, Naomi moved out of the way of a leg drop attempt from Natalya and tagged in Nikki Bella. Bella hit a series of moves that included a spring board Enziguri. Carmella made the tag, and Bella pulled her in over the top rope. Nikki Bella was distracted by Natalya, which allowed Carmella to roll up Bella for the win.
Backstage, Orton was showing walking. He came upon a door that had “I AM A GOD” written on it and an electrical box that said “ONE WAY OUT CHOOSE WISELY.” There was a second door that said “Predator or Prey.” Orton opened the door that said “I AM A GOD” to reveal an Orton cardboard cutout with the eyes removed. Orton opened the other door and peeked in. A camera on the other side showed Rowan waiting to attack if Orton came in. Orton never did and shut the door. The camera zoomed in to show the handle was jiggling, as if Rowan was locked in.
Rating: 5/10 – The women’s tag match was very slow and felt like one of the old “divas” matches, not anything like the newer women’s matches we have recently seen. The Orton and Wyatt stuff continues to feel campy.
The Miz made his entrance for his homecoming celebration. There were pictures in the ring of Miz holding up the Intercontinental Championship, the WWE Championship, a Hollywood style headshot and a picture of him from a movie. Fireworks went off on the stage. Maryse introduced a video. The video highlighted his time on The Real World and his time starting out. There were clips of him winning the Tag Team Championship, Money in the Bank, and the WWE Championship. The video ended with his infamous rant on the Smackdown after show and a couple more quick highlights. The Miz got on the mic and said “Cleveland, I’m home and the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals!” Miz pointed out that 1.3 million people came out to celebrate the Cavaliers championship, but asked that this is all he gets? Miz said the fans opened their arms to a traitor while he was on day 176 of his Intercontinental Championship reign.
Miz pointed out his parents sitting in the front row and plugged that his dad owned Mr. Hero. Miz also pointed out that Dolph Ziggler’s parents were also sitting in the front row. Miz said it must be hard for them, because they produced an elite class loser. Ziggler’s music hit, and he came to the ring. Ziggler said Miz can say what he wants to him, but not to say anything to his parents or his city. Ziggler said the Miz cheated all the way through his title reign. Miz said the only thing Ziggler does is lose and asked when Ziggler would end his mediocre career. Miz said Ziggler should be embarrassed because all he has done lately is lose. Miz said he was leaving because Ziggler had nothing to offer him.
On the way out, Ziggler stopped him and said he was right, and the wrestling ring was all that he had. Ziggler got emotional as he said that you can give and you can give but sometimes you get nothing back. Ziggler said he can’t stop himself, but offered a match to the Miz. The Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler’s career. Miz clarified that this means he won’t just go to RAW or NXT. It’s all or nothing. Ziggler confirmed that he either walks out as champion or he is done. The Miz accepted to set up the match at for No Mercy.
Backstage, Dean Ambrose was shown preparing for his match against AJ Styles.
Rating: 7/10 – Both the Miz and Ziggler showed great fire here. The Miz in particular continued his stretch of great mic work with this segment. It will be interesting to see how WWE handles this. Common sense says that Ziggler will win, but it almost doesn’t seem right to take the Intercontinental Championship off of the Miz right now unless they have bigger plans for him.
Bray Wyatt was shown backstage waiting for Randy Orton. He said he was watching Orton like a mouse in a maze and told him to be careful.
Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch made her entrance. During the part with the steam, Alexa Bliss attacked Lynch from behind and slammed her head on the ground multiple times. Bliss said that Lynch did not deserve the title.
A Curt Hawkins video aired with more of the corny Curt Hawkins sayings. At the end, Hawkins said it was time to face the facts and that he will be making a big announcement next week.
Rating: 6/10 – The Wyatt stuff is starting to feel like a return for Luke Harper. Whatever it is, it needs to wrap up. What felt like a hook to start the show has been underwhelming. The Alexa Bliss attack was nice and added even more fire to her character. Bliss continues to exceed main roster expectations with her performance lately. Curt Hawkins videos have been playing for weeks. At this point, his character already feels stale.
Wyatt was shown in the back again asking where Orton was. Orton showed up behind him wearing the white sheep mask. Wyatt didn’t even realize he was there until he turned around. The two exchanged punches until Wyatt took off. Orton laughed, picked up the mask and put it back on. Orton sang a creepy rendition of“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
AJ Styles was interviewed and said that he will walk out tonight and walk out of No Mercy as the WWE Champion.
John Cena made his entrance to join the commentary team for the main event.
Rating: 7/10 – A nice pay off to the Wyatt and Orton stuff. Is the Orton character evolving or is it just more mind games? AJ Styles continues his same spiel as he has since winning the WWE Championship.
Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles made their entrances for the main event. This is the first time ever that the WWE World Championship was defended on Smackdown Live! Ambrose came out firing, eventually sending Styles over the top rope. The two fought on top of the announcers table as the show went to commercial.
Back from commercial, Ambrose quickly took control. Ambrose performed his signature dive through the ropes on to Styles outside. Ambrose did a top rope elbow off the top rope to a standing Styles on the outside.
Back from another commercial, AJ Styles was attacking Ambrose’s left leg. Styles rolled Ambrose into the calf crusher submission move, but Ambrose was get out by slamming Styles’ head against the mat. Ambrose took control until Styles’ escaped a top rope maneuver. Styles hit a spinning torture rack in to a sit out power bomb. Ambrose stradled Styles on the top rope and launched into him with a diving lariat from the second rope. Styles came back with the Pele kick and set up for a springboard 450 attempt, which Ambrose dodged. Ambrose hit a top rope elbow for a near fall that the live crowd bought in to. Styles hit Ambrose with a running knee and then attacked Cena sitting at ring side. Cena tried to attack Styles but the referee cut him off. Ambrose had Styles rolled up, but the ref was distracted by Cena. Styles kicked out and Ambrose went after Cena for distracting the ref. Ambrose went back in the ring, and Styles rolled him up for the pin.
After the match, Cena and Ambrose jawed at one another. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Ambrose. Styles tried to sneak up behind Cena and hit the Styles Clash, but Cena reversed it into another Attitude Adjustment. Cena held up the title, then left the ring.
Rating: 7/10 – The match was solid, but not a five star or match of the year contender by any means. The show ended with Cena standing tall, so they really seem to be driving home the thought that he will win his 16th Championship at No Mercy. Overall, the show felt rushed at times but delivered a solid two hours of television. There were some low spots, but overall the show did well in advancing storylines.