John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE No Mercy preview. The WWE Smackdown brand is presenting No Mercy this Sunday night in Sacramento, California in the brand new Golden 1 Center on WWE Network.

I think it’s a pretty good lineup thanks to some incredible promos by the likes of AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and John Cena to promote the WWE Title match while The Miz and Dolph Ziggler have had one of the best feuds of the year over the Intercontinental Title match. Those are two main matches and both are likely going to get a lot of time to tell some interesting stories as well deliver great matches. The rest of the card is solid.

Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matty J. Douglas and Mike Holland.

Kurt: Unlike Clash of Champions a couple weeks ago, this is a PPV event that I’m highly looking forward to. Smackdown has been superior basically every week since the draft happened, minus the debut week and the week where Kevin Owens won the Universal Title. I like the focus that Smackdown puts on pretty much everyone on the roster. Every match on this card, minus the Swagger/Corbin match, has emphasis put on it & makes you want to see a resolution. Even with the likes of American Alpha left off the card, it’s different than Raw leaving Enzo & Cass off the card. Smackdown has built in a reason for Alpha not to be involved, whereas Raw’s decision was just inexplicable. Based on how much I enjoyed Backlash and the fact I think this is a better card, I expect this to be a very good show.

Mike: There’s little argument in the general consensus that Smackdown Live’s blue brand has had the better of the brand split most weeks, and a lot of that has to do with how they’re handling the builds for their matches. While Raw has tossed the ingredients around willy-nilly and called it a salad, Smackdown’s investment of time and flavor has produced a more satisfying meal. (Granted, I’m not a salad guy anyway, but you get the idea.) No Mercy has four title matches, including one with a very intriguing retirement angle and another that’s a triple threat, and also gives us the tantalizing treat of seeing Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton finally throw down after weeks of video edits, storage containers, and sheep masks. That’s a more than decent grouping to build around. While I didn’t think this Tuesday’s “go-home” show was as tremendous as it could have been with setting up the entire card, it’s got all the makings of a solid event. I am loving the buzz not being around just one match for a change. As always, it remains to be seen if they deliver, but I like the look of this card overall.

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Curt Hawkins vs. An Opponent To Be Named 

Kurt: Based on recent live events, I fully expect Hawkins opponent to be Apollo Crews. Which says a lot about Crews’ standing right now, but I digress. I’d love for it to actually be Mojo Rawley, have Hawkins beat him and tell Ryder to “Face the Facts!” about his choice in partners. However, since The Hype Bros won on Tuesday & faced off with The Ascension, I don’t see that happening. Regardless, I’m sure Hawkins will fill out the bottom of the roster, but for all the time spent on his vignettes (which are entertaining) I think he has to win his debut match and make him look credible to begin with.

Prediction: Curt Hawkins

Matt: Ironically, allow me to be curt here. This Curt Hawkins’ build and gimmick is the Shining Stars of Fall 2016, in that there is really nothing to the gimmick in its current incarnation. Like with Primo and Epico, this debut will be lacklustre. Nobody will care, and honestly why should they? I at least hope he debuts and jobs out to somebody like Apollo Crews, and even then it accomplishes very little. I’m pretty down on this if you can’t tell.

Loser: Curt Hawkins (because does anybody need to see him win anything?)

Mike: Trains stop at Curt Hawkins crossings. When Curt Hawkins throws a boomerang, it doesn’t come back. Curt Hawkins doesn’t dial the wrong number, you pick up the wrong phone. Death once had a near-Curt-Hawkins experience. What do all these things have in common? They are all much more entertaining than whatever will happen with this match against a mystery opponent. And I’ve provided, free of charge, WWE’s next Hawkins video package. You’re welcome, Titan Tower!

I can’t fathom that Smackdown would make such a big deal out of Hawkins wrestling after all this time just to have him lose, so I’m not sold on the opposition being someone like Apollo Crews. It’s far more likely to be that Hawkins wrestles some jobber, or someone expendable from the main roster like former partner Zack Ryder’s stay caffeinated colleague Mojo Rawley. I’m not sure why we even care since in all likelihood it’s the blue brand’s future version of Jinder Mahal. This character feels as stale as the recycled Chuck Norris jokes they are using to promote him. I like his chances Sunday, though.

Winner: Big foot claims he saw Curt Hawkins

John: I think it’s silly not to announce who the opponent is going to be. It might be Apollo Crews since they worked together at live events. It could also be somebody like Kalisto, who isn’t doing much these days. I doubt Hawkins is going to get a big push or anything close to that, but he’ll probably win a few matches after his debut. Hawkins should get the win here.

Winner: Curt Hawkins

 

Jack Swagger vs. Baron Corbin (Kickoff Match)

Kurt: Since I’m positive on Smackdown, I’m going to overlook the ending of their match on Tuesday that set this match up. Let’s just say it was… awkward. It certainly did no favors for Corbin either. However, this matchup is exactly why Smackdown appeals to me. Two guys who deserve more of an opportunity and are getting it against each other. Swagger still needs some rehab to wash the stench of the last couple years on him, but people still love the “We The People” chant and he’s so gifted in the ring that he can overcome that faster than most. He just needed the TV time and opportunities to do so. I like that he is getting that now.

I really think Smackdown wants Corbin to be a main event player, but they’re afraid to pull the trigger on a full push. This match will be much better than you think, but I think Corbin gets the win and maybe they’ll keep this feud going. I’d definitely like to see more if done right.

Prediction: Baron Corbin

Matt: Is Baron Corbin Smackdown’s official Kickoff King? As of writing this, Swagger vs. Corbin is scheduled for the Pre-Show, and I can honestly say that I can’t think of somebody who has been a part of more pre-show bouts than Baron Corbin in 2016. I’d also be willing the guess, just based off memory, that he has the best pre show match record in the WWE this year. Between that and winning the Andre The Giant Battle Royale, I’d say he’s having a year filled with accomplishments (note: sarcasm is difficult to convey via written word, but I feel like I got it across here right?).

As for the match, I don’t really care, but it’s nice that Jack Swagger is in any kind of angle I suppose.

Winner: Baron Corbin (because I expect his sterling kickoff match record to remain sterling)

Mike: Has Baron Corbin made it off the pre-show yet? It seems half of his WWE career has been appearing before the real action even starts. Corbin is the poster child for what’s wrong so far with this brand split: Red hot from his NXT call-up, gets a big victory at the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, and then…meh. It’s hard to take his backstage badass persona seriously when he’s rarely involved in anything of import.

As for Swagger, his defection to Smackdown at least felt important for a minute or two as the first wrestler to switch brands. Other than being a Trivial Pursuit footnote, though, that hasn’t merited much. I fervently hope that Jack gets the time to become the big time player his resume leads you to believe he can be, and Smackdown needs him to fill that role with the losses they’ve taken in personnel of late. I liked Tuesday’s contested finish with Corbin appearing to tap, and I’ve no reason to think the feud ends here. This has the potential to be a solid rivalry, and with WWE’s 50/50 booking, I’d imagine Corbin finds a way to win, likely dirty. Swags will win the war.

Winner: Baron Corbin

John: This is happening because of the “controversial” ending on Smackdown when a referee thought Corbin tapped out to Swagger’s Patriot Lock submission when he was really just crawling to the ropes. That was a terrible finish. Corbin should get the win back because it’s pretty easy to see that Swagger is just there to put over the newer guy. Remember when Rusev beat Swagger about 130 times on his way up the ladder? That’s what this will be for Corbin. I just hope they don’t repeat the match too often.

Winner: Baron Corbin

 

Nikki Bella vs. Carmella

Kurt: This has been the perfect storyline for Carmella. She’s coming into her own as a heel, although I don’t think she’s fully grasped it yet. That’s not a bad thing either, I just think she’s still finding her way transitioning from “Fabulous” Carmella that was a babyface to “Heel” Carmella who thinks she’s fabulous. She’ll get there though. I love the aggression she’s shown towards Nikki and to Nikki’s credit, she hasn’t just buried Carmella and made it abundantly clear that Carmella is beneath her. I think Nikki is just happy to be back and genuinely wants to help the next generation of women in the company.

On the surface, I don’t think there’s any reason for Nikki to win this match since she’s so established and a win here for Carmella would really legitimize her. The fact that Total Bellas premiered this week and so they will want to spotlight Nikki, makes me nervous, but I think the fact that Becky getting established contenders is more important makes me lean towards the up and comer.

Prediction: Carmella

Matt: I have to say, I’m surprised they’ve let Carmella get the best of Nikki Bella as often as she has in the build up to this match. It’s been truly remarkable, and effective. More than ever, I’m buying stock in Carmella as a character. This is her niche. She’s a sassy loud-mouth who will hit you from behind and brag about it obnoxiously. She’s been a great heel, and Nikki playing off her injury has been a great underdog babyface in peril. Both roles I wouldn’t have imagined either playing this time last year.

With all the praise I can give them for how they’ve built this, I’m not optimistic about the match. These guys have worked well in the multi-woman match setting, but Carmella is still pretty limited in the ring and Nikki isn’t exactly one of the women who lights the world on fire in the ring. If they focus on telling a good story in the ring, that will suffice. I’m not expecting a technical classic from these two.

Winner: Nikki Bella (because Carmella has to be getting her comeuppance here right?)

Mike: I can’t confess to being a very big proponent of Carmella’s in-ring abilities thus far, but I can’t argue with the way she’s been booked. I’ve really enjoyed her flip to the heel side of the script, as it’s both distanced her completely from her Enzo & Cass roots and allowed her to show some range with brutal beatdowns of Nikki Bella at seemingly every turn. That’s a very good way to build character depth, and a veteran like Bella provides the perfect foil for the nefarious newbie.

That said, Nikki’s got another run left in her at least, and Carmella’s luck can only hold up so far so long. I liked the decision to have Carmella cost Nikki in the Women’s Championship match, and naturally she’s going to have to get her revenge. No Mercy is as good a place as any to make that happen. Building a solid secondary division needs to be a critical step for the blue brand going forward, and I’d hope we see a good start to that here. Rest assured we’ll have another Bella title reign before too long.

Winner: Nikki Bella

John: The story has been okay because we have the “new” Smackdown women’s wrestler (I almost typed diva for old time’s sake) in Carmella that’s there to make a name for herself. She turned heel by attacking Nikki in a cheap way. Ever since then, she’s gone out of her way to continue to attack Nikki every chance she’s had. She even pinned her in a tag match a couple of weeks ago.

As for the booking of this match, it can either be something where Carmella wins her first PPV match as a way to show that she is capable of beating Nikki. What makes more sense is Nikki getting the win because after nearly two months of being attacked I think the face needs to go over. If Carmella wins it wouldn’t be a bad thing, though.

Winner: Nikki Bella

 

SmackDown Tag Team Championships: Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos 

Kurt: Clearly the real story here is The Usos vs. American Alpha and what will ultimately be a great feud over the tag titles, which makes Slater and Rhyno look like the prototypical transition champions. However, I think it would be a real shame to put all that work into Slater, for his team to lose the titles barely a month into the reign.

If I were booking this division, I would have American Alpha come into the match and get the champs DQ’ed after attacking The Usos. Then you can do a Triple Threat Tag Title Match at Survivor Series and maybe do the title change there. Or if Tuesday is any sort of indication for a push for The Hype Bros, then you can throw them in the mix, do a traditional Survivor Series match to bridge the gap, and then get to TLC at the beginning of December with four established tag teams and have a massive Ladder or TLC match at that PPV. Either way, I would keep the belts on Slater and Rhyno just a little longer so all the effort put into them doesn’t seem for naught.

Prediction: The Usos by Disqualification, Slater & Rhyno retain

Matt: Slater and Rhyno have really faded into the background since capturing the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. It was a predictable occurrence, but even I’m blown away by how fast they cease to inspire emotion in the fans. It was great when Heath’s career depended on capturing those belts, but now that they have them, and he’s got a contract, I don’t see much else for these guys to do as a team. They’re not even doing the funny sketches with them anymore.

Conversely, The Usos are fully on an upswing. They have been incredibly for the last few weeks. Everything about their new heel personas, from the new look, to the new entrance, to the way that they wrestle feels fresh. It’s amazing how much perception can be altered once a character evolves and changes. The Usos are one of the top five commodities on Smackdown, and I wouldn’t have imagined that a few months ago. With these two teams headed in opposite directions as far as narrative traction, I feel like this result should be obvious.

Winners and New Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Usos (because Slater and Rhyno would be more loveable chasing, and we all just really want to get to American Alpha vs. The Usos for the belts anyway)

Mike: Maybe it’s me, but it feels like the WWE has already backed off of the inscrutable but undeniable Heath Slater and Rhyno pairing a tad. Even though they are scoring solid reactions, it sort of feels like they are ladies in waiting for the eventual crowning of the team we really want to see with the gold, American Alpha. On the other side of the coin, the heel turn for the Usos has done them a world of good. There’s not a single thing about them that hasn’t improved since that fateful day, from their entrance to their wardrobe to their promo skills. It’s also allowed them to stand out in a crowded field.

I could really see this going either way, as Slater & Rhyno are just really getting started in their championship reign and their charisma hasn’t fully gelled. The Usos are reliable hands and an injury angle to one of the champions would play up their dangerous personas quite well. What swings it for me is the fact that Usos vs. Alpha still has to happen, and belts don’t have to be in play. It’s likely too soon to make Heath return his pool to Rent-A-Center.

Winners (and STILL Smackdown Tag Team Champions): Heath Slater & Rhyno

John: The Usos have done an excellent job since they turned heel in the last month. It was something they needed to do because their characters had become stale and the crowd stopped caring about them. Their cousin Roman Reigns should also turn heel, but that’s another column that I wrote months ago. I just think this turn shows what can be if WWE allows talents to try different things.

There was a lot of focus on Slater and Rhyno going into Backlash. They won the titles there, Slater “won” his brand new contract and then they were barely shown in the build up leading to this. That tells me that WWE really doesn’t plan to do much more with them as a team. It made sense for Slater & Rhyno to win at Backlash. Things have changed now. I think it’s time for The Usos to win so they can lead Smackdown’s tag division until they drop the titles to American Alpha likely at some point in early 2017. I would suggest WrestleMania, but not sure if WWE will wait that long.

Winners and New Tag Team Champions: The Usos

 

SmackDown Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss

 Kurt: Ok Jeff, if you’re reading this, go ahead and skip ahead. (That’s an inside joke for you longtime readers of the NXT Spotlight) I don’t get, nor like, Alexa Bliss right now. Is she a psychotic Harley Quinn type cosplay or is she a spoiled brat? Is she both? Neither? I’m very confused. I liked the attitude she sported at NXT, especially after dumping Blake & Murphy, but now on Smackdown she just comes across as… weird. Her promos aren’t bad, but that’s about all I can give her. I think her new look right now makes her look more ridiculous than different. I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority here, so go ahead and send all your hate mail to @KTankTMB on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Becky is establishing herself as the leader of the division and I fully expect her to have a long title reign. This match will be all about making Alexa look like a worthy contender and a player for the future, but Becky being a fighting champion and being able to outlast her challenger.

Prediction: Becky Lynch retains

Matt: I’ve become a huge fan of Alexa Bliss in recent weeks. She’s really great at being the worst. She’s a truly captivating character and performer, that really understands her character to a level that most in the WWE don’t. Every expression on her face, every movement she makes in and out of the ring, is so perfectly in character, I’m starting the believe she might actually be an awful diminutive demon pixie. The narrative ceiling on her character, at least from my perspective, is unlimited. I have my eye on her.

I also really enjoy Becky as Champion. There’s an authenticity that she possesses that is only matched in the women’s division by Bayley. It just feels good that she’s the Champion, and that she’s this kind of awkward bad ass that has struggled her way to the top of Smackdown’s Women’s Division. If there was a reason that I’m happy about the brand split, it’s her. So needless to say, as much as I like Alexa, I won’t be blissed off if she loses to Becky.

Winner and Still Smackdown Women’s Champion: Becky Lynch (because Alexa’s time will come, let Becky continue her moment)

Mike: Becky Lynch deserved to be the first Smackdown Women’s Champion, and delivered some really solid promo work following that victory. Too often, foreign wrestlers only have that as their character development, and it gets old in a hurry. Lynch’s story is both compelling and genuine, and that makes her the perfect brand ambassador. The smart money claims that Eva Marie was first in line to get a run at Lynch before her suspension, and that makes some sense. It’s the perfect way to build a heel. Her loss was Alexa Bliss’s gain, and Bliss has done admirably with that responsibility.

It may sound trite, but I appreciate how mean Bliss has been going about her business. She doesn’t like Lynch and doesn’t think she deserves her success, and is trying to convince the champion of her own admitted insecurities. It ain’t deep and it ain’t complicated, and it works wicked great. Whether Eva gets back into her assumed role upon her return is open for debate, but what’s not a question for me is this match being very solid. Bliss has a big upside and a great character overall. It’s too soon for Becky to taste defeat as champion, though.

Winner (and STILL Smackdown Women’s Champion): Becky Lynch

John: This is easy to figure out because Lynch won the title at Backlash last month. Why take it off her so early? There’s really no reason to do that. Bliss has done pretty well as a smaller heel with a chip on her shoulder. She always wants to prove to the world that she’s good enough and this is the biggest chance of her career to show what she can do. I think they’ll have a competitive match, but Lynch should win in about ten minutes. If it goes longer than that I’ll be surprised.

Winner: Becky Lynch

 

 

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt 

Kurt: Call me lazy, but I’m going to copy and paste my words from Backlash. I mean, what much has changed since then? It’s still been nothing more than backstage vignettes and promos. This match is still tough to pick because I still don’t know what WWE is feeling with Orton. Orton still does NOT need this win, but WWE may feel he does as a bounce back from the beatdown he took from Lesnar & the fact he was forced to miss Backlash because of it. Wyatt on the other hand, still needs this win. So as tough as this match was to predict a month ago, it’s doubly as much now. However, as I look at the layout of the rest of the top level of the roster, I can see Ambrose and Cena going off on their own feud, which leaves Styles needing a new contender. Clearly that person has to be a babyface and the only person that makes sense at this point is Orton. (Unless WWE decides to ruin Styles’ reign with Kane. How you doin’ Daniel Bryan?) So on that alone, I have to go with The Viper to outsmart Bray and get the win.

Prediction: Randy Orton

Matt: Woof. The build up to this match has been pretty awful. I will say this: I do appreciate the effort. They really went out of their way to try something here, and I give them an A+ in that regard. It wasn’t the run of the mill feud. With that said, none of it really hit. It lacked logical consistency far too often, and relied upon camera tricks that may have bewildered and audience in 1995, but in 2016, everyone and their mother knows how to use simple camera effects on snapchat. Were we really supposed to be impressed that Randy’s editor could flip his image on the Tron?

I think the biggest failure of this feud has been Bray Wyatt’s inability to defeat Kane of all people, on the road to this match. I hate to say this, but Bray is a pretty big bust, especially when you consider the lofty aspirations for the character. If he was meant to be a new age Undertaker, he’s closer to the Boogeyman at this point in his career, and I’d argue Boogeyman was legitimately more frightening a character than Bray Wyatt.

Winner: Randy Orton (because I sense a Title match in his future, and Bray never accomplishes what he says he wants to)

Mike: Let me begin by saying I have every expectation that this will be a good match. There’s been plenty of build, although most of it Dollar Tree meets Halloween Store creepiness, and both guys are big time players for Smackdown. It was also a bit of a tough break that this feud already feels a little dragged out due to Orton’s concussion issues not allowing it to go down until this point in time. The real problem with this match, though, is that Bray Wyatt has been booked so badly that it’s hard to even imagine him winning anything anymore. He’ll take the loss, deliver solid promos in the dark, and carry his magic lantern to the next town.

Orton suffered a bit of a credibility hit not necessarily in losing to Brock Lesnar, but certainly in the way he lost. He’s been unable to recapture that former glory that makes him a title threat. That’s why Bray is a very good choice to get the Viper back on track. I fully expect Orton to be the next WWE Title contender, and therefore he can’t lose here. As for Bray, look on the bright side: invisible friends make sure he’ll never be forever trapped in a storage unit.

Winner: Randy Orton

John: The feud has had a lot of build since their Backlash match never happened. It’s been weird because they have done these backstage stalking vignettes in back to back weeks that are different from what we are used to seeing in WWE, but I don’t think it was necessarily better than a typical feud. The good thing is that unlike some matches on this show, it will feel fresh because of the little interaction these guys have had. Unlike some feuds, there were no tag matches or anything else featuring these guys in the same match.

It’s a match that feels like it will be the first in a series of matches whether it’s two or three matches. I could be wrong on that, but if they go that route then I feel like Wyatt should get the advantage as the heel. In terms of need, both guys “need” to win here. Momentum would help each of them. I just feel like something cheap is going to happen to give Wyatt the win. It wouldn’t shock me if there’s a disqualification finish either.

Winner: Bray Wyatt (It won’t be clean!)

 

Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler (If Ziggler loses, he must retire)

Kurt: I know there’s 0% chance of this actually happening, but if Smackdown wanted to go out on a limb here and show that they really are different, then I would have this match close the show. I think it’s worthy of that spot. Obviously the WWE Title match is just as worthy, so it’s not a big deal that it won’t happen. I just want to make a point of how great this storyline has been. They lost me a little bit with the Spirit Squad this week, only because I think if you can’t bring back all of the original members, then what’s the point? So that was a little hokey for my taste, but the promo work for these guys has been nothing short of stellar.

I think this should be booked to be the longest match of the night. With such high stakes, give them 25 minutes, and get the crowd eating out of their hands. Both guys can go and can tell a story like no other, so let them do it. The crowd reactions for Dolph have been better as of late, so at least people care enough about him still to not want him to retire. I think any time you hear a career on the line, it can be easily predictable who’s going to win. This one, not so much.

If Miz can actually win this match and force Ziggler to retire, the hatred he’ll receive off of that will continue to send him into that next level that he’s reaching nowadays. So that would actually be a great finish in my opinion, something that a lot of people will never see coming. However, this is one of those scenarios where until it actually happens, I can’t predict it to happen. So I’m picking Ziggler for the happy ending of his redemption story and both men will be better coming out of it.

Prediction: New Intercontinental Champion. Dolph Ziggler

Matt: The build to this match has been spectacular. With that said right off the bat, I don’t want The Miz to lose the Intercontinental Title. He’s just been too good recently. I want him to beat everyone right now. I want him to have a team of Hollywood editors make unflattering trailers for everyone he gets in the ring with. I am all in on The Miz right now.

Ziggler has played his part well in this stellar build as well. He hasn’t been nearly as Awesome as The Miz, but he’s been better than usual. His screaming “I’m really being passionate right now” style of promo has seemed more authentic here, and they’ve all done a great job of raising the stakes and escalating the feud from week to week (take notes Seth Rollins/Kevin Owens).

That said, part of me really wants Dolph to lose, just because I don’t believe in the character in any meaningful way anymore. He’s a loser to me, and even if he wins this match with his career on the line, I’ll just be counting down to his inevitable downfall. He’s WWE’s Charlie Brown. He can be loveable, but he’s also a loser. We’ll always be waiting for Lucy (WWE) to move the football he’s trying to kick, just to embarrass him. I’d be fine with him losing, leaving for a month or so, and returning with a brand new character. Maybe some kind of Sting rip-off, where he wears face-paint and fights injustice. Anything is better than Dolph “Charlie Brown” Ziggler.

Winner and New WWE Intercontinental Champion: Dolph Ziggler (because I don’t believe for a second that he’s retiring or going to leave wrestling right now. I could be wrong of course, but I doubt it)

Mike: Congratulations to both of these guys and the creative team behind them for finding ways to make this rivalry still feel fresh, no easy task given the repetitive nature of wrestling, especially with abbreviated rosters. While much of that is due to how fully and utterly The Miz has relished his role of heel from hell, Dolph’s promo work and facial reactions throughout this feud have managed to make him a big deal again from the brink of extinction in the area of relevance just a few short months ago. Ziggler taking the bait and putting his very career on the line to show that he is capable of unseating Miz makes this an epic chapter in the story instead of just another page or two of addendums to what we’ve already read.

Going into this match, several factors point to a Ziggler win. In addition to the fact that he’s already lost to Miz twice, his career is over should he not get the job done. This is professional wrestling, though, so let’s take all the dire consequences with a grain of salt. Plenty of losers never actually leave town. Miz has been one of the major reasons Smackdown has been taking the cake lately, and I see no reason to upset that apple cart until the company is ready to elevate him back into World title contention. What better way to create a difficult emotional moment then to have Dolph be so close to exorcising his demons just to fall victim to his so-close curse at the final hour? What better way to bring a man back than have him give it all up and come up short? The creative possibilities are endless.

I find it interesting that Maryse hasn’t been banned from ringside, and she could definitely be a major factor in how things go down Sunday. While Ziggler winning would be a solid moment, him losing is an even bigger one with mega impact. Worry not how WWE will find a way to wiggle out of the creative corner they potentially paint themselves into with a Dolph loss. They will just change the blueprints.

Winner (and STILL Intercontinental Champion): The Miz

John: The story has been great here. One of the best feuds of the year. I never thought I would say that about Miz vs. Ziggler because they’ve wrestled so many times in the last few years, yet they have been able to make it fresh thanks to Miz being an entertaining champion and Ziggler continuing to have good matches. Ziggler’s actually been one of the best performers in all of WWE since the brand split because he was very convincing in the build up to SummerSlam against Dean Ambrose too. That match was a disappointment, but the build was strong.

There are a lot of questions about what might happen with Ziggler. Is his contract really up? Some people are saying that. Ziggler also did a tweet a few days ago posting the twitter handle of a guy that will handle his booking after No Mercy if he loses. Is it all a way to get people worked up or is there some legitimacy to it? I know that sometimes retirements in wrestling don’t last, so there are going to be some fans that think it’s a lame angle. It might be. I guess we’ll find out after the match is over.

The truth is I really don’t know if Ziggler’s contract is up or if he’s going to win. That’s what I like about this. I could see Miz winning, Ziggler moving on to do other things in his life and Miz becoming an even better heel because he can brag about ending a guy’s career. Then again I can also see Ziggler winning since it makes sense for the story for a face to come up huge when his back is against the wall. He has nothing left to lose, so he’s going to go all out to try to win a title over a good champion.

I’m going to roll with the Ziggler win because there’s not that much depth on Smackdown and they are going to need everybody they currently have. If his deal was up, they’re probably going to keep him around and maybe give him a push. Miz could also move up the ladder a bit after a great run with the IC Title. He deserves it as much as anybody.

Their matches at Backlash and Smackdown a few weeks ago were excellent. I except them to get 20 minutes or more here. Both of those matches finished with the dreaded perfume into the eyes, first by Maryse and then by Miz, so that should play into the finish except Ziggler should avoid it and hit a superkick to win right after. Since there’s so much on the line, the crowd should be really into the match. I’m looking forward to it.

Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Dolph Ziggler

 

WWE World Championship: AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena

Kurt: Whereas our fearless leader John Canton is tired of all the triple threat matches, I love them. There’s an element of these matches that really appeals to me. In WWE, the standard bearer for Triple Threat matches is still the Vengeance 2002 one between The Rock, Kurt Angle, & The Undertaker. I don’t think this one will be on that level, but I do think it’ll be damn good.

I don’t know if it’s the pressure being taken off of being champion, Cena’s stinging words as of late, the fallout of Austin’s criticism on his podcast, or a combination of all, but Ambrose is looking much more motivated now. He looks like someone that has something to prove. AJ is of course the MVP of WWE this year as I’ve said repeatedly, and Cena has really embraced his role well. As much as I’m not a Cena fan, I respect the fact that even on a reduced schedule, he can still go 0-100 in any match. His matches now feel more special all of the sudden.

I think the play here will be Ambrose will be very close to recapturing his title, but Cena cuts him off. AJ backdoors his way into retaining the title due to Cena and Ambrose focusing in on eachother. Then you can have Ambrose and Cena go into their own feud while Styles waits for his next contender.

Prediction: AJ Styles retains

Matt: As much as I love AJ Styles, and I think he’s one of the 3 or 4 best wrestlers in the world right now, he’s being overshadowed in the build to this match. He’s the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, and the focus should be on beating him since he’s been on such a hot streak recently. With that said, all my focus is on Dean Ambrose and John Cena, because their war of words has been captivating and scathing. They’ve done a great job of highlighting animosity between the two (real or manufactured?) and I’m much more excited to see these two battle each other than I am about either fighting AJ.

AJ and the Title just feel like window dressing for that feud. That isn’t to say that Styles hasn’t carried the Title well since winning it. He’s held his own. He’s been a great heel on the mic, and the underhanded tricks he uses to ensure his victories demonstrate that he’s a clever weasel that you should hate. He deserves the Championship and everything that having it says about him as a performer. He just hasn’t seemed as important to the build up of this triple threat match as the other two have.

I see Styles winning on Sunday and moving on to defend against Randy Orton, while Ambrose and Cena continue their rivalry afterward. There’s a lot of gold to mine from Ambrose vs. Cena. The animosity feels authentic, and it’s that authenticity that the crowd is latching onto going into Sunday. It’s the part of the match that I’m 100% most looking forward to watching play out, and hoping continues through to Survivor Series. Cena is bringing out the best side of Ambrose, the side of him that was always there but has been neglected in favour of wacky lunatic hijinks Dean.

Winner and Still WWE World Heavyweight Champion: AJ Styles (because he’s face that runs the place, and surely has a date with a Viper in his future)

Mike: You might recall that my chief complaint about Raw’s last Universal Title match was not the potential quality of a Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins showdown, but the idea that we pretty much already knew what we were getting. There was simply no discernable way for KO to not leave as champion. Smackdown has put themselves in the same pickle here. Any attempt to put either challenger over AJ Styles risks severely damaging his credibility as the man before he’s even had his due diligence. Unlike last time, I won’t completely put it out of the realm of possibility. It’s just highly, highly unlikely.

In John Cena’s case, the issues are twofold. The first is a practical one: we all know he’s due to leave and go film another season of his terrible television show. The second is no less important but far more intuitive: the WWE has made no bones about hitting us over the head with the fact that he’s trying to chase down Ric Flair’s legendary title reigns. When the lady doth protest too much, it’s time to cover your ears. Cena would be the predictable choice, and would theoretically suffer a bit from taking the pin, but due to this being a triple threat match he doesn’t have to.

That brings us to Dean Ambrose, who seems now even more of an outsider than when he was in the Shield and playing one on TV every week. Ambrose’s run with the World Title was a nice story that seemed a marriage of convenience more than a true attaboy, and he’s floundered a bit since the decision to relieve him of that burden. I can confess to loving the coining of “clown who runs the town,” and he’s gotten some humdinger shots in on Cena, but other than that it’s been a smooth and relatively uneventful ride. I’m not sure when they will swap Ambrose back over to the heel side of things, but it feels like a matter of when and not if to me at this point. No way does he unseat Styles at this stage.

With all of that said, this match will be the best on the card by a large margin and the ending leaves plenty of opportunity for various storylines to play themselves out. The most obvious to me would be Ambrose “accidentally” costing Cena the victory, thus setting up Styles’s next title defense against Orton and securing JC’s first opponent when he returns from hiatus. It doesn’t have to go that way, but it would check the box of presenting Styles as a sneaky, do-whatever-it-takes heel champion and protect Cena’s rep. No matter how it goes down, there’s not much intrigue pointing me in the direction of AJ not continuing what to me has been a highly successful reign as World champ.

Winner (and STILL WWE World Champion): AJ Styles

John: The build up for this match has also been very good. In the last few weeks on Smackdown, Dean Ambrose beat John Cena clean, which is pretty rare, and then Styles beat Ambrose with the WWE Title on the line. The WWE Title match ended when Cena got involved to provide an accidental distraction that cost Ambrose the win. They followed up those great matches with some very intense promos with Cena talking about how much he wants his record-tying 16th WWE World Title while Ambrose has talked repeatedly about not liking Cena and what he represents.

I’m interested in the match because there are so many ways it can go after the match is over. My feeling is that Styles is probably going to retain the title since he just won it last month and he’s a champion that should hold the title for five or six months just because he’s the best performer in WWE right now. After he retains, is he going to have a singles title match with Cena or is he moving on to somebody else? We just don’t know right now.

Cena is working Survivor Series, which was reported a few weeks ago, so we know he’s going to be around for that show even while filming his American Grit TV show for Fox. Is he going to be in a tag match there, singles against Styles like I mentioned or matched up with Ambrose? After all, most of the praise for this feud has gone to Ambrose and Cena because of their excellent promos in the ring as well as on the entertaining Talking Smack show.

In terms of the match, I think they’re going to have one of the better triple threat matches we’ve seen in a long time. Yes, I complain about triple threats all the time because they are repetitive, but when guys of this caliber are in there it’s easy to get excited about it. They should get 20-25 minutes with a lot of believable finishing spots where each guy has a chance to win. Ultimately, I think Styles will pin Ambrose as a way to protect Cena to set up Styles vs. Cena at Survivor Series.

Winner: AJ Styles

 

Final Thoughts

John: The show will be remembered for the WWE Title and the IC Title matches. If those matches are as awesome as I expect then it will be a very good show. Nothing else on the show is that bad to me, so as long as the booking is simple they should have a quality event. My concern with a show like this is that I don’t think there will be any major angle or happening to really create a buzz. That’s something WWE should do more often, but they just don’t do it often enough on PPVs anymore.

If you want more WWE No Mercy talk as well as discussion on everything else going on in WWE, check out the TJRWrestling Podcast with info on how to listen here (search “John Canton” or “TJRWrestling” on iTunes). I also have posted it below.

Check out my No Mercy review on Monday morning. Go Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Rams.

Kurt – @KTankTMB

Matt – @MJDP_GSE

Mike – @DharmanRockwell

John – @johnreport

If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.

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