Moment of the night for SmackDown Live?
Brandon Jackson: The Miz’s homecoming celebration. In true Miz and Maryse fashion as of late, they steal the show again and are the most entertaining act on SmackDown. Miz goading Ziggler into putting his career on the line was fun to watch because both men put their heart into it. The segment was especially hot because Cleveland loves both these guys in their own way, and it showed in the performance.
Joseph Nardone: It was a very iffy show from an overall standpoint, so this is like picking your favorite part of getting punched in the face. That being said, I’ll go with John Cena giving Dean Ambrose the Attitude Adjustment. It helps to elevate the anger level between the two of them, making the triple threat match less about two faces and one heel, and more three guys who all hate each other.
I need to be clearer about this though: That’s only the moment of the night by default. There were no sincerely spectacular moments.
Adam O’Brien: The backstage antics of Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. I’ve been saying for a while that their feud needed something more than meaningless promos and matches with Erick Rowan to drive it forward, and WWE put them back on the right track by compiling all the things that make Orton and Wyatt who they are, and turning it into something actually entertaining. The collective charisma of Orton and Wyatt is enough to make this feud one of the best in the whole company today, so utilizing that as a backdrop of mind games and eeriness for SmackDown this week did well to get these guys back in the conversation before the go-home show for No Mercy.
Chris Schubert: Would probably have to go with Ziggler’s promo during the segment with The Miz. This was a great example of how a promo can elevate any feud, even one that seems to be losing its luster. The passion from both guys in this segment is something that is sorely missing around WWE. There was fire and reasoning behind everything both guys were saying. Of course, it had its heel-face dynamic, but it was more than that. It was bigger than that. It’s moments like this that the reality era can create. Is Dolph Ziggler really leaving? That plays into how people predict this match, and how they feel about it. The storytelling in this one was really, really good.
Ronnie Rowlands: All of that stuff with Wyatt and Orton. I’m not normally big on extensive “shenanigans” in the place of guys having matches and looking strong, but this was a nicely pieced together series of vignettes that held the show together well. I’m looking forward to these two finally going at it. I think that consigning Orton vs. Lesnar II to a quiet house show and not mentioning it much is doing wonders for this feud, which no longer feels like a stopgap on the way to Suplex City.
Did Ziggler’s “lose or go home” stipulation revive his feud with Miz?
BJ: Yes and no. Yes because on the surface this is always an interesting stipulation. But on the other hand, people know Ziggler signed an extension within the past year, so it is unlikely he’d want to retire from WWE. That being said, Miz retiring Ziggler may push Miz back into the main event scene. Because even though Ziggler has had a rough couple of years, that win would still be a big deal. Ziggler has lost enough matches that it is entirely plausible that he could lose this match too.
JN: Yes and no.
The “no” is because I never thought this feud needed reviving. Semantics and all that jazz.
But the “yes” is for the people who think the feud was fizzling.
Words can’t explain how great of a feud I think this has been. As far as mid-card title feuds are concerned, I would argue it has been one of the best of that sort since the Attitude Era. It has — and had — all the makings of what incorporates a great storyline. Miz is an evil heel who is going through some of his own stuff, Ziggler is the face who can’t seem to win no matter what, and it is all coming to a head in a title versus career match.
It helps that both guys have been doing some of their best mic work in their careers during this period of time.
AO: It feels like they’re clutching at straws. As good as Ziggler’s emotional delivery was, it’s just too hard to be invested in his “do or die” attitude after seeing it time and time again for years, with little to no outcome. All they’re doing right now is trying to justify taking the title off The Miz, and with how much fun he’s been to watch since SummerSlam, that’s not a productive move for Ziggler.
That said, Ziggler’s desperation to defeat The Miz is great for the champ’s ongoing resurgence, so if there is some possible scenario in which Miz comes out of No Mercy with the Intercontinental Championship, he’ll be far better for it after this feud is over and done.
CS: Yes. I didn’t think it was possible to make a third match between these two watchable and must-see TV. I think this stipulation can do that. As I mentioned for the previous question, the promo from both of these guys was something else. It had that little extra that takes a promo from good to great. And, in this reality era, the whole “go home” stipulation has something else behind it. Is Ziggler really leaving? Or do they want us to think that, so we expect him to lose? There’s a lot of options on the table for this match. Because we really don’t know the circumstances around this, it makes the match a little bit more interesting.
RR: Like it needed reviving! These two guys are doing some of the best work of their career, and this just takes it to another level. The best matches are the ones with the most emotional investment and the most on the line. This feud continues to deliver that in spades, which is a rarity in the hit and miss tactic of having guys face each other over and over.
Between Styles, Cena and Ambrose, who has benefitted the most from this feud?
BJ: Ambrose, mostly because he got a free win over Cena because of it, and given how it has played out, looks the strongest out of all three. Ambrose still hasn’t lost clean to AJ Styles which is a good thing. Both Styles and Cena take Ambrose seriously which is huge, because half the battle of his character is what other people say about him. Ambrose may not end this feud with the title, but it has not diminished his stock in any way.
JN: Probably Ambrose. Both Cena and Styles were fine before this angle. Ambrose, on the other hand, had lost intrigue. He’s being elevated by two guys who are better in the ring, more interesting as characters, and thanks to that, Ambrose has yet to hit that creative purgatory that likely awaits for him as soon as this feud is over.
Maybe this angle will even help him avoid going to that fictional place. I give him a lot of garbage for being wretched in the ring (because he is) and for his character growing stale (since it has), but he is definitely getting a little more out of this than the other two guys, and it is helping him.
How much? Only time will tell.
AO: Dean Ambrose. As a champion, “The Lunatic Fringe” was beyond stale heading into Backlash where this all kicked off, but now he’s actually interesting again. It definitely rings true that people like Dean Ambrose are definitely more entertaining in pursuit of a championship than they are in possession of one, and losing to Styles has reignited that spark in Ambrose that makes him want to go the extra mile. His matches are more interesting, he’s showing a ton of character and he even got a clean victory over John Cena last week because of it. This feud has freshened him way up, and he might just be deserving of a second title reign for it.
CS: That’s a tough question. Ambrose is a tough sell, seeing that he lost the belt a couple of weeks back. Cena really isn’t a position where he benefits from a feud. He’s above all of that at this point of his career. So, I guess by default I’ll go with Styles. Everything he has done in the WWE has elevated him to new, higher heights. Giving him the WWE World Championship was just the next part of this. If he does get through this triple threat match at No Mercy, he will have gone through two of the top dogs in WWE to keep that title.That’s a big deal for a guy that has made a name for himself outside of the company. So right now, it would have to be Styles. But, anything can happen over the next couple of weeks to allow either Cena or Ambrose to benefit as well.
RR: Cena, because he came back at just the right time to get himself back over and popular with the fans and create a career-defining moment, as well as a potential moment of the year in potentially tying himself with Ric Flair’s world championship record.