NEW DAY PROMO - um... guys? The PPV has already started. It's too late to be cutting your money promo. That being said, the promo was quite good.
HELL IN A CELL MATCH FOR THE WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day(c) (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. The Usos - 8/10
They went to get weapons right away. The stuff New Day got was utterly ridiculous. I'm talking garishly-colored trombones and a gong. I can buy that a promotion would leave Kendo sticks under the ring if they knew there was going to be a No DQs match, but a gong? That strains credulity to me.
That assisted back-cracker off the apron was a little crazy. I'm kind of shocked no one got hurt in that spot. Using those Kendo sticks to trap Jey Uso in the corner was a clever spot, but it definitely made the babyface-heel dynamics feel a little wonky while Jey was stuck (which they were smart enough to ensure wasn't for very long). Plus, in the long term (well... relative to this match, I mean), any issues this caused were then undone by The Usos handcuffing Xavier to a ringpost and beating him repeatedly with cane shots. This match can best be summed up as a vicious, intense fight between a team of babyfaces and a team of heels... and that's all I really want out of my wrestling. Awesome match.
KAYLA BRAXTON INTERVIEWS AJ STYLES - Fine. Hey! They took my booking advice and added Tye Dillinger to the US Title match. AJ cut a fine babyface promo based on the situation.
RANDY ORTON vs. RUSEV - 7/10
Randy won a GREAT match. The finishing sequence was perfectly well executed, to the point of having me, as a huge Rusev fan, feeling almost heartbroken.
WWE TLC COMMERCIAL - Terrible. Why can they not take these things seriously? "L. Ladder. Sure, you can climb it... but if you can dive off of it, always dive." Because in WWE's mind, people just care about spots rather than wrestlers trying to win matches.
WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles(c) vs. Tye Dillinger vs. Baron Corbin - 7.25/10
We started off with AJ and Dillinger teaming up on Corbin, but once he was out of the picture for a mere moment Dillinger tried to roll AJ up and this became a proper Triple Threat match. This did a good job of setting the tone for the story of this match, which was that Corbin was the big scary monster that the babyfaces had to make sure was out of the way before they could win. Corbin stole AJ's pin to win the title, which plays into their "Baron Corbin takes shortcuts" angle very well.
WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Natalya(c) vs. Charlotte Flair - 7.25/10
These two were well on their way to having an awesome match, with Nattie working the leg and Charlotte selling it but still fighting back valiantly like Ricky freakin' Steamboat... and then they ended it via DQ. The actual attack on Charlotte's knee with the chair was executed very well, but this is the angle you do on TV to set up the PPV match, not what you do when you get to the PPV itself.
FASHION FILES - Skipped it. I can't have f*cking clean finish in this awesome Women's Title match with a great babyface story going into it, but they're going to give me this sh*t?! No thanks. I'll just go back to reading that Politico article on George McGovern. Even he was less of a loser than Breezango.
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Jinder Mahal(c) (w/the Singh Brothers) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - 6/10
Well... at least they made the actual pinfall slightly cleaner this time, but it's still the same old Jinder match, and it's nowhere near good enough for the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
KEVIN OWNS PROMO - Awesome.
BOBBY ROODE vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER - 6.5/10
Dolph's big entrance was to have a record scratch play in the middle of his music, then come out with no music or TitanTron at all. This would have been a good idea if this was what they were doing from the beginning with Dolph, rather than these idiotic mock entrances and having him cut the same stupid promo week after week after week.
This was got pretty good towards the end, and the finish- Roode responding to Ziggler's attempts to pull his tights on some pinfalls by doing it right back to Dolph and getting the pin- could send this in some interesting directions based on Ziggler's reaction to. What he did here was quickly nail Roode with a Zig-Zag, but the thing that will really matter is how Ziggler frames Roode's actions in the context of Dolph's own claims to be the best. For once they almost have me looking forward to Smackdown.
FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE HELL IN A CELL MATCH:
Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon - 9.75/10
The first part of this match was exactly what you would expect it to be, with lots of weapons used and lots of big bumps. Then they wound up on top of the cell, and it became one of those situations where the drama... well... it became real. The best way I've heard this described was by Peter Rosenberg in the first few minutes of Talking Smack when he was talking about the anxiety he was feeling while watching them battling on top of the cell, worried that the cell would collapse or that someone would get thrown off or something would happen and someone would wind up getting really, truly, seriously injured... and that I think that feeling is what played into the finish. Owens and Shane were very clearly milking the dread of those bumps for all they could, and I think where they are going with this is that Sami Zayn didn't want to see these two people destroy each other anymore, because, after both Owens and Shane had situations where they probably could have gotten a winning pinfall but instead chose to climb to the top of the cell and attempt to jump off of it onto the other guy, I think Sami thought that if he didn't do something to end this match, one of these two men was going to wind up crippled or worse. At this point that is all speculation on my part, but that seems to be the only way this would make sense, and it also works well with both the story Owens and Shane were telling and the tone of the announcers' (excellent) commentary.
The issue, though- and reason that I have given this a 9.75/10, a rating I only reserve for matches that would have been 10/10s if not for one or two flaws that prevent me from calling them perfect, is that while the story was told well, the finish just wasn't satisfying. I almost couldn't be. Someone ran out and took the match away from us before it reached its conclusion. No matter how noble the reasoning behind it was, this finish just doesn't quite get there for me.
This was actually a really, really great show from WWE, but I can definitely see it being overshadowed by the disappointing booking decisions in the top half of the card. Between the finish of the main event and the Roode/Ziggler finish, they do actually have me excited for Smackdown, though, and I can't remember the last time I said that.