The build up to No Mercy wasn’t exactly an easy one for WWE’s blue brand. The circus that is the American presidential debate saw them move the main event into the opening slot on the card while Becky Lynch’s injury meant a late change to the Woman’s Title match. For a show which is already quite thin on the ground, SmackDown was suddenly even shorter.
And yet, once again, they delivered a good show. It’s hard to get enthusiastic for WWE events at the moment with them coming every two weeks, but this is the second time in a row that SmackDown has exceeded expectations. No Mercy was by no means a perfect show, but it was a strong one from bell to bell.
A tone which was set by having the main-event open the show. It may seem counterproductive, but I think WWE should be applauded for it. It was a ballsy move, but it meant that everyone was going to tune in from the start. The Triple Threat was also great, which is no surprise. John Cena deserves credit for the way he’s adapted to his new role. He’s obviously happy to put people over and even if Styles used a chair to get the win Cena continues to make him look like a big deal.
While Styles, Ambrose and Cena taking the house down was hardly a surprise, I was pleasantly caught off guard by Carmella vs. Nikki Bella. It’s a shame that the crowd didn’t seem that involved in the encounter because the two women gave a strong showing. If you’d asked me beforehand, I would have called for a Carmella win, but she came out of the whole thing looking tough enough that I don’t think Nikki going over was a problem. SmackDown’s willingness to have more than one designated woman’s feud is a big strength to their programming.
Sitting alongside Camella and Nikki was Swagger and Corbin in the surprising category. This feud has failed to sparkle and has mainly succeeded in making David Otunga look stupid by his assertion that Corbin was tapping out to the Patriot Lock on SmackDown. However, this was a solid fight. Swagger’s strength has always been inside the ring, and he helped make Corbin look even better than he already is. The Lone Wolf has something to him, and I hope SmackDown take advantage of it.
Sadly, Alexa Bliss and Naomi weren’t able to keep up the surprises. These two didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength, and the whole thing was a bit of a mess. I hope they have a plan to heat Bliss up again before she fights Lynch as otherwise this was a strange move. On the flipside, Rhyno and Slater continue to be a delight. The crowd’s connection with them is a lovely example of how funny can equal money. It also needs to be said that The Usos have embraced this heel turn wonderfully. The maliciousness they have added to their game is better than a hundred nasty promos, and I hope they get the belts sooner rather than later.
Which leaves us with the match that closed the show and the match that should have closed the show. Wyatt vs. Orton and Ziggler vs. The Miz almost felt like two sides of the same coin. Both feuds are between talented wrestlers that haven’t always been dealt the best hand by the company. Unfortunately, one of them has been built around hokey silliness and the other around genuine emotion. Take a guess which came out better?
Wyatt vs. Orton was as run a mill match as you are likely to see. There was nothing special about it, and the crowd acted accordingly. The return of Luke Harper at the end was good to see (particularly as WWE fooled most into thinking he was off to Raw) but it wasn’t enough to save a humdrum affair.
Miz vs. Ziggler meanwhile was something we have seen a million times. An alright match between two guys that obviously know each other well. Except this time, it was different. Everyone from the crowd sitting in the arena to those watching at home on the Network had bought into that story. The idea of Ziggler being forced to retire turned fans who had been apathetic towards him just weeks before into rabid supporters once again. It was wrestling storytelling at its finest, and it worked.
No Mercy was by no means a brilliant show. Ziggler and Miz should have closed things out while Bliss and Naomi was a bad match. What it was, however, was enjoyable to watch. SmackDown is maximising the talent they have and when it comes to these specials that is making all the difference. It’s proof that with wrestling it doesn’t matter what you get up to in the ring, if you get the fans emotionally involved, it will trump everything else.