No Mercy – Best to Worst
Another month, another SmackDown brand pay-per-view. At least that’s what it feels like. But that’s selling the product too short, since No Mercy this past Sunday was a pretty decent show. Not great, or even as pleasing as Raw’s Clash of Champions, but an improvement over September’s Backlash, which honestly feels like it happened ages ago at this point.
Hands down, the top match of the night was Dolph Ziggler against the Miz in a Career vs. Title match. The story between the two has been building for months, notably since their previous show-stealer at Backlash. The last few months of the Miz’s Intercontinental Title reign have been great, and in Ziggler he found a legitimate challenger to his position. That the two have an undeniable chemistry in the ring and a great story behind their matches helps immensely.
There were huge stakes for the match, and the crowd was captivated from the beginning. It really seemed up in the air whether Ziggler would retire or not. He’s a crowd favorite, and an underrated worker, but the company have never really gotten behind him. The whole thing actually felt unpredictable, which meant every near fall ratcheted up the tension.
The match itself was fast-paced, and both men put on a hell of a show, displaying impressive athleticism while also telling a captivating story. The twenty-minute match was gripping throughout, with the only missteps coming near the end, when two of Ziggler’s former Spirit Squad teammates ran out to distract him, and Maryse maced him once again from the outside. Neither interference proved to be a credible threat, and the match itself was so good that it’s pretty easy to overlook the distractions.
The company booked the right ending, with Ziggler dropping the Miz with a superkick and snatching his fifth IC Title reign. The crowd reaction was huge for the deserving winner, and the post-match celebration stood alongside the bout itself as the night’s best moment.
The company’s decision to move the Triple-Threat main event between John Cena, Dean Ambrose, and champ AJ Styles to the opening slot (due to the debate) paid off greatly. The match was a very good example of the Triple-Threat format, and kicked things off on a pretty damn high note. All three men are good-to-great workers, and with the exception of the Intercontinental match, this was the most anticipated contest of the night.
The match started off strong, with Ambrose taking the lead, perfectly displaying how his ring work continues to improve. Dean impressed throughout, especially after reversing a Frankensteiner into a roll-up. Beyond that, there were a number of impressive spots throughout, namely Cena’s double German suplex on both of his opponents. The three made the best use of the format, and the no DQ rules and incentive to run interference and score the first pin kept things interesting.
A false finish wherein both Cena and Ambrose forced Styles to tap out broke the action up and left the finish somewhat unclear. After the two had it out for a few minutes, AJ returned to the ring and easily put his challengers down with a steel chair, retaining his title.
The finish was a bit abrupt and unsatisfying, but the right decision overall. Having AJ as World champion is a great booking decision, and he should keep the belt for a long time. Ambrose and Cena were credible threats, and they all put on a great match, so his reign is going along very well. They gave the PPV one hell of a kick-off, and the crowd was fully engaged. Unfortunately, just as I’d worried beforehand, it was tough to follow such a good match, and the crowd’s interest waxed and waned throughout the night.
Alright, hear me out on this one: obviously the card was hurting without Becky Lynch’s presence, and the show really could have used another title defense. Nobody asked for the match between Alexa Bliss and Naomi, and judging by the crowd reaction, they didn’t warm up to it at any point either. But taken on its own terms, it really wasn’t bad at all, and I walked away enjoying it, filler or not.
Both Naomi and Alexa are incredible athletes, and provided some of the highlights of Backlash’s Six Pack challenge for the Women’s Championship. Given that, even in place of the announced title match, the pair were a good match-up and indeed put in a fine showing. The action was fast-paced, and both women impressed yet again with their performances.
Of course, the finish was abrupt, with Naomi pulling a reversal on Alexa to score the pin. Alexa, as the number one contender for the title, really should have won, and the conclusion should have come about far less suddenly. Of course, another huge problem was that the match was given just over five minutes, which meant most fans didn’t grow bored, but I wanted more. Given all of the disappointments surrounding it, I feel it’s important to look at the action itself, and then you’ll realize that the two really did make the best of what they were given.
If things continue this way (and should Alexa regain her spot), Bliss and Becky could have some pretty damn impressive matches in the future. Given more time and thoughtful booking, things are looking good for the SmackDown Women’s division.
Jack Swagger and Baron Corbin are stuck in the midcard, and unlikely to go anywhere else, which is unfortunate. Of course their match at No Mercy was originally announced for the pre-show, but was moved to the middle of the main show. While it was far from bad, it really didn’t belong on the main card, and didn’t manage to engage the way a PPV match ought to do.
The whole thing was very physical, and the two big men were pretty fairly matched in the beginning. Corbin took the lead quickly, however, and much of the match was a one-sided beatdown on his opponent. It was hardly surprising then when Corbin scored the win after hitting his impressive End of Days finisher.
Not a bad match per se, but also not the best use of time on the card. I like Corbin though, and the sheer physicality of the match was at least entertaining.
There has been a long build-up for the feud between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. In fact, the whole thing should have been over by now, since their match had been announced for Backlash. Of course, as I’ve already complained, that didn’t happen and the company teased something they couldn’t deliver. Interestingly, and misguidedly, the match went on last and was announced as the main event, despite the status of the opener.
The whole thing was slow, and the two wrestlers, both capable, hard workers, took their time. Unfortunately, the pace didn’t really pick up at any point, although there was a good deal of action outside the ring. It really just wasn’t main event caliber (Ziggler-Miz sure was though) and the crowd really wasn’t feeling it. The feud has run its course, and really just needs to end after this.
But here’s the good: the lights went out in the arena, and once they were restored Orton found himself face-to-face with a returning Luke Harper. The distraction allowed Wyatt to hit a Sister Abigail and grab his first major win (on a PPV, no less) in quite some time. Harper is by far the most impressive in-ring worker from the Wyatt Family, and things have been hurting since his injury months ago. I’m thrilled that he’s been added to SmackDown’s somewhat thin roster, and look forward to seeing what he can do in the coming weeks.
The entire feud between Nikki Bella and Carmella has failed to hold my interest at any point. Beginning right after Summer Slam when Carmella attacked the returning Bella, and continuing through Backlash, things have played out for a long while. Again (story of the night?), the problem wasn’t that the match was bad—it wasn’t—it just wasn’t what people wanted to see on a PPV. Even worse, it immediately followed the thrilling opening match, so there was little chance that the crowd would be captivated in a similar manner.
It was somewhat slow in pace, but short enough not to overstay its welcome. The work both women put in was solid, and nothing to be ashamed of at all. The brawling and hair-pulling that kicked things off was physical and gave a nice touch to the grudge match. Of course it ended the only way it was expected to, with Nikki hitting a Rack Attack 2.0 and scoring the win. Hopefully the grudge will be laid to rest now and both women can move on.
Coming in last was yet another match that was not objectively bad, but also not what the card truly needed. That’s right, a rematch between the Odd Couple (Heath Slater and Rhyno) and the Usos for the SmackDown Tag Titles. It didn’t help matters that this was one of the three title matches for the night, which robbed it of some of its excitement. American Alpha, the best tag team in the WWE right now were relegated to the pre-show while a thrown together team and their most recent challengers get the main spot.
The Usos’ heel turn did little for them as far as crowd support; even the natural heat they were getting seems muted now. Slater and Rhyno are at least entertaining to watch in the ring, so they had that positive. Interestingly, Rhyno took a beating from the Usos and was made to look far more vulnerable than in the past. Because of this, Slater got to show off some decent work, which delighted the crowd somewhat.
The Odd Couple predictably retained their belts, which is nice and all, but they still have a shelf life as a team. It was better than an Uso victory, and hopefully by the next PPV they’ll be out of the title picture.
Summary and Grade
Overall the show wasn’t bad: none of the matches were terrible, even if there were a few unwanted throwaways and some questionable booking. The card was pretty solid, and the good matches on the show made the whole thing truly worthwhile. Most PPVs are mixed bags, and this was no different, but the big moments really were special. It’ll be interesting to see where the brand takes things in the next month, but with Harper back, Ziggler and Styles holding the belts, and hopefully Becky’s quick recovery, I’m looking forward to where things are headed.
Call it a 63 out of 100.
-The Odd Couple
-John Cena/Dean Ambrose