WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from October 18
The most improbable match in SmackDown Live history occurred Wednesday night as James Ellsworth received a WWE World Championship match against AJ Styles in the main event of the night.
The contest was the culmination of a storyline that saw Dean Ambrose further his issues with the champion by costing him a non-title bout.
How would he figure into Tuesday night's proceedings, and would he directly inspire the biggest victory in Ellsworth's life?
What would Kane and Randy Orton be up to as they continued their war of attrition against The Wyatt Family? How would Alexa Bliss look to etch her name at the top of the list for women's title opportunities as she battled Naomi?
These questions and more were answered Tuesday night as WWE's blue brand took to the USA Network airwaves.
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper
Randy Orton kicked off this week's broadcast, targeting Bray Wyatt in another intense promo. His promises were cut off by The Reaper of Souls, who appeared on the video screen while lying in a casket, with the exchange of mind games increasing with every passing second.
Luke Harper made his way to the ring for the night's opening contest, but just minutes into his match with The Viper, and seconds after a superplex felled both men, Wyatt made his way to the ring, distracting Orton in the process.
A two-on-one beatdown ended when the lights dimmed and Kane emerged from the same casket Wyatt had populated just moments earlier. The babyfaces appeared to have the upper hand until Wyatt and Harper disappeared to close out the segment.
Randy Orton defeated Luke Harper by disqualification.
The feud between Orton and Wyatt continues to be stuck in neutral, never really intensifying or progressing in any meaningful way. The introduction of Kane and Harper to the mix is hardly the solution to the problem.
This, like the feud as a whole, was more about style than substance as WWE Creative continued to rely on cheap parlor tricks to tell their story.
Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss
At No Mercy, Naomi scored an upset victory over Alexa Bliss that sidetracked the former NXT star's quest for SmackDown Women's Championship glory. Tuesday night, they met one-on-one in a vastly superior rematch.
Bliss, dressed in an outfit best described as an ode to A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise star Freddy Krueger, seized control of the bout with an eye rake. Naomi countered her opponent's underhanded methods, scoring a split-legged moonsault and a near-fall during a fiery comeback.
The villain would withstand Naomi's array of offense to score the win off Twisted Bliss, strengthening her reputation as the lead heel on Tuesday nights.
Alexa Bliss defeated Naomi.
Bliss may be the smartest, most character-driven worker in the women's division. Everything she does has a purpose within the context of the story, and it also has enough attitude to keep fans invested. She may be the most complete female performer in WWE, and that is saying something.
The victory over Naomi brings the former Funkadactyl's win streak to a halt and exorcises the final demon from Bliss' closet ahead of her November 8 showdown with Lynch.
Apollo Crews vs. Curt Hawkins
After weeks of pre-taped vignettes, Curt Hawkins was to make his SmackDown Live debut Tuesday night.
He did not.
After spouting off a few "facts," Hawkins was the recipient of a punch to the face. Dismayed, he walked out on his match with Apollo Crews, refusing to fight.
Remember Eva Marie's character, where she would enter to her own personal PA announcer, make a great big deal about herself and then never actually wrestle?
Welcome to the Curt Hawkins experience, minus the legitimate heel heat and beauty.
Hawkins is a dead-in-the-water character after only two in-ring appearances, and nothing Creative can do at this point will change it. Poor Crews, relegated to such nonsense, was forced to watch silently as the act died a horrible death in front of a Denver fanbase that would have cheered Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers before giving Hawkins even the slightest bit of heat.
Things got real in the rivalry between Nikki Bella and Carmella as they joined up for a verbal confrontation inside the squared circle.
Carmella unloaded on her rival, dropping a few bombs as she credited John Cena and Brie Bella for Nikki's success and stardom.
Bella, in typical babyface fashion, chalked it up to hard work and dedication—an unwavering drive to be the best even.
Still, it felt like Carmella had gotten the best of her most hated opponent as she strolled up the entrance ramp.
It was nice to see Carmella get some time on the mic to show she can be more than the sidekick flunky of Enzo Amore and Big Cass, a gimmick she has continued to play up despite no longer being paired with the former NXT breakouts.
The only negative about the entire segment was the fact that these two women have been engaged in a fairly intense rivalry but at no point did either think of walking up and and slapping the ever-loving hell out of the other.
Typically, when tension is that high, fisticuffs ensue. Instead, the heel hurled insults, the babyface responded in typical babyface fashion and the latest chapter in the rivalry was delivered in unexpectedly great fashion.
Jack Swagger vs. Baron Corbin
The feud between Baron Corbin and Jack Swagger took an abrupt turn Tuesday night as The Lone Wolf decisively defeated Swagger, flattening him with End of Days to seemingly bring about the conclusion of their program.
Corbin fought through an early onslaught by The Real American and planted him with his finisher to earn the three count.
Baron Corbin defeated Jack Swagger.
And with that, the latest chapter of Jack Swagger's never-ending pushes comes to an end as he was beaten by Corbin, ending anything even slightly resembling doubt that The Lone Wolf could not earn the victory.
The match was nothing special, as has been the case with all of their bouts. Now, Corbin can move onto bigger and better things, while Swagger takes Apollo Crews' spot at the bottom of the singles totem pole.
Dolph Ziggler, Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. The Miz and The Spirit Squad
One week after Heath Slater and Rhyno came to Dolph Ziggler's aid, the SmackDown Tag Team champions teamed with the intercontinental champion to face The Miz and Spirit Squad members Kenny and Mikey.
Ziggler surprisingly played the babyface in peril, isolated from his partners and beaten down by his opponents. Yet one quick shift in momentum, courtesy of a superkick, allowed The Showoff to make the hot tag to Slater, who unloaded on his opponents.
As the action broke down, The Miz was able to deliver a cheap shot to Slater that allowed Kenny to score the rollup and upset victory.
Kenny, Mikey and The Miz defeated Heath Slater, Rhyno and Dolph Ziggler.
There was nothing inherently wrong with the match itself but the The Spirit Squad's presence, and their victory, suggests they will be in line for a title opportunity. How they jump to the front of the line in 2016, with a team like American Alpha sitting on the sidelines, is a question that boggles the mind.
Outside of this, nothing was really accomplished other than an entertaining tag match featuring six talented wrestlers.
WWE Championship Match: James Ellsworth vs. AJ Styles
The James Ellsworth saga continued in this week's main event as he challenged AJ Styles for the WWE World Championship, while Dean Ambrose conducted ring announcing and timekeeping.
Styles, predictably, beat Ellsworth around the squared circle, but The Lunatic Fringe's constant distractions prevented him from putting the lovable loser away.
Then a little No Chin Music (dubbed such by Mauro Ranallo on commentary) nearly put Styles down and led to the biggest upset in wrestling history. Luckily, The Phenomenal One kicked out and proceeded to unload his frustration on the jobber.
His failure to break the beating in the ropes by the count of five necessitated the disqualification, giving Ellsworth another victim of him.
James Ellsworth defeated AJ Styles via DQ.
Anyone questioning AJ Styles' greatness as a worker can look no further than this match, a storyline-driven debacle that hosted a brilliant near-fall that left fans guessing as to what would actually happen.
Styles retained the title, Ellsworth got his moment in the sun and Ambrose was left tall after Dirty Deeds to the champion, once again ensuring Styles knows he is coming for the gold. One could not have asked for more.