We’re well into the brand split-era and have had three pay-per-views within six weeks. I think it’s finally starting to wear me down.
WWE are doing some interesting things, like bringing back Goldberg to face Brock Lesnar later next month and experimenting with their match placement, but other than that my interest in the company is dwindling. It’s inversely proportional to how great other wrestling is though. WWE gets worse and everything else gets better.
This wasn’t even a bad show, but I’m glad there’s finally a longer gap between pay-per-views. I need space.
Smackdown presented their second exclusive pay-per-view this year, No Mercy. The previous Smackdown exclusive show, Backlash, was a solid first outing and WWE could really only go up from there.
Earlier in the day on Sunday it was announced that the main event championship match would OPEN the show. Clearly WWE wanted people to tune in for the biggest match since they figured everyone else would tune out to the presidential debate and Sunday Night Football. This isn’t a first in pro-wrestling history books, but in modern WWE this never happens.
AJ Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena
Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Championship
AJ Styles two previous feuds all come together into a three-way dance. John Cena wants to win his 16th world championship and tie Ric Flair’s all-time record. Ambrose is still bitter at Styles for losing the title to him, as well as starting some tension with Cena. They have delivered good promos and have had as good of a build as you can get in 2016 WWE.
I had high hopes for this match since I typically like triple-threats and they mostly delivered. Cena was the powerhouse and the base for the match, catching the other two out of midair and keeping the match grounded. Styles was a high-flyer and Ambrose was the brawler. Everyone’s styles complimented each other well and this would have made for a good main event.
This wasn’t a spotfest where everyone went 100 miles an hour. Instead they kept a solid pace throughout and let everyone have time to shine. At one point Ambrose and Cena both have AJ Styles locked into a submission hold and AJ tapped out. It acted as a fakeout to let the crowd know that the dastardly heel is in fact beatable, but he was beaten by two guys at the same time. The match continued until Styles returns with a chair and lays out Cena for the win. Ambrose is staying very protected as one of Smackdown’s top characters, and he looks to be next for Styles as Cena is leaving to film a TV show. Very good match but never broke through to something great. Match rating: 3.5/5
Carmella vs. Nikki Bella
I completely skipped this match. Match rating: 0/5
Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) vs. The Usos
Tag Team Match for the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship
This same match happened on the last show and was nothing to write home about, besides some amusing character work. Tonight was more of the same but with some more character development fleshed out.
The big storyline paid off with Slater winning the belts and a performer’s contract and has actually become one of the highlights on Smackdown. Heath got a hot tag in the match and was on FIRE. The crowd was into it and Heath was a fiery babyface not unlike something Daniel Bryan used to do. He’s half the wrestler but his personality shines through and the crowd eats it up. Good stuff. I figured The Usos would take the belts to further their team as heel characters but surprisingly Heath and Rhyno retained. Heath and Rhyno aren’t putting on barn-burners in the ring but they’re fun to watch. Match rating: 2.5/5
Baron Corbin vs. Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger recently moved from Raw to Smackdown as the first character to jump ship. Could’ve been interesting had they done a trade, but oh well. Both of these guys are dull in the ring and are cold with the crowd. Nobody cares about this feud and it’s just serving as a stepping stone for Baron Corbin to get a win over a character with some (albeit not much) credibility. Dull. Match rating: 1/5
The Miz (c) w/Maryse vs. Dolph Ziggler
Title vs. Career match for the Intercontinental Championship
For a midcard feud this is one of the better things going on Smackdown. Miz has been killing it in promos and has really improved since he’s become a fixture on Smackdown. Ziggler’s promos are better and he’s toned down his ring style.
They played up this match with Ziggler claiming he would retire if he couldn’t beat The Miz tonight. I could have seen this match going either way since I was convincing myself that Ziggler could actually be done, or that Ziggler could end Miz’s hot streak.
The first 10 minutes or so of the match was typical, psychology based stuff with Miz focusing on Ziggler’s leg. They soon kicked it into overdrive and went for all the stops. Ziggler kicked out of everything The Miz was throwing at him. Miz’s wife Maryse tried to interfere and Ziggler’s old stablemates ran down to try and screw him over, too. The crowd was lit up for the last half of the match and were really into everything Miz and Ziggler did. Everything tied in and called back to everything that’s happened in their build and it worked tremendously.
The ref sent all of the interfering heels to the back (the referee booting out the cheating bad guys is one of wrestling’s greatest tropes) and after some more back and forth, Ziggler hits Miz with a superkick and gets the win. The crowd’s going nuts, the announcers are shouting with glee that Ziggler won the belt and kept his job.
A great match followed through with a great bookend to the Miz and Ziggler story. This was peak WWE and I feel this is the kind of wrestling they excel at. If you weren’t into this, then WWE probably isn’t for you. Considering how they flipped the card around this could have easily main-evented and ended No Mercy on a high note. This match might not end up on my year end Top 10 but it’s definitely a close contender. Match rating: 4/5
Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi
It was going to be hard to top that match. This was originally scheduled to be Becky Lynch defending the Smackdown Women’s championship against Alexa before going down with some sort of injury over the weekend, unfortunately.
Bliss comes out and chastises Becky for not being able to compete when Naomi’s music hits as her new opponent. They certainly had a match. Bliss is still pretty green and Naomi is not a ring general. Their timing was off like they weren’t on the same page. They kept it short with Naomi pinning the number one contender for some reason. A good women’s match could have really helped this show out and neither match delivered. Match rating: 1/5
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
With the triple threat opening the show I actually thought that Miz and Ziggler would main event, until Miz and Ziggler happened in the middle of the show. This match had to main event by process of elimination.
I’d been looking forward to this match. Their match was delayed last month due to a Randy Orton concussion and held off even longer. I’d thought their styles would mesh well together and they could put on something great. Boy, was I wrong.
This match was slow and plodding, and not in a cool doom metal kind of way. They slowly chased each other around the ring and barely got any offense on each other. Felt like they were underwater. Orton seemed uninterested and it never got any better. Orton was charging up to hit the RKO when the Wyatt’s stinger hit and the arena went black. The lights came back on and Luke Harper was in the ring, causing Orton to lose the match.
I’ve really enjoyed Orton in the past, but since his Lesnar match he’s been losing points with me. Wyatt’s good with the right opponent and it looks like Orton is not that guy. Bummer. Match rating: 2/5
Smackdown’s second outing was at the very least, interesting. WWE tried some new things and the show almost felt like an experiment. The highs of the show with Miz vs. Ziggler and the WWE Championship three-way were very high, but the lows were very low with Corbin vs. Swagger and Orton vs. Bray. The highs outweigh the lows by a mile at No Mercy. I have no desire to ever sit through this three hour show again, but I would be happy to re-watch those two matches. Overall No Mercy gets a C+.
by Nate Dimit (@ndimit)