The first brand-exclusive PPV of the new era delivered a number of crowd-pleasing moments. It delivered with a shorter more focused event that the bloated mess that was Summerslam 2016. Here are the main points.
1 AJ Styles is on top of the mountain -Dean Ambrose’s title reign has been underwhelming, to say the least. It started with such promise yet a lacklustre display in a mini-feud with Dolph Ziggler completely killed any momentum he may have been able to build. His whole Lunatic Fringe persona was once fresh and is now lost. The time was right for the WWE to pull the trigger on the AJ era and they did so with aplomb. AJ and Ambrose put on a very high-quality match. Both pulled off a number of high spots and new moves, yet still, Ambrose looked lazy. I wonder whether it is his fault or not? My own view is that Ambrose should have assumed the mantle of ‘The Vigilante’ from Sting, instead of his Mick Foley lite approach with the same finisher. Imagine Ambrose just stalking the dressing room with a bat dealing out his brand of justice? It would suit the character and the persona. The crazy, goofy character just doesn’t work for a supposed lunatic and it will be interesting to see where he goes. By contrast, AJ Styles must be Vince McMahon’s dream. He works incredibly hard with everyone he is in with and makes both wrestlers look better. last night there were a few spots performed on him by Ambrose that others would have flinched at. He took the bumps and now he is in charge. His heel persona is dialled in and now he is ready for a lengthy championship run. Smackdown Live now has a dependable A-List champion respected by the independent wrestling circuit and now respected by the higher reaches of the WWE. The possibilities for him are endless as long as the people paired with him step up to the plate. For once the right champion at the right time.
2 Becky Lynch gets her deserved gold – The last of the ‘Four Horsewomen’ to taste gold, Becky is a proper wrestler. The difference in her style and the ‘Divas’ era is immeasurable. Last night she hit Carmella with 3 T-Bone suplexes that were brutal and visceral. This is such a marked contrast to the days when a slap could win a women’s match. Now separated from the Charlotte, Sascha, Bayley triumvirate on RAW, Becky will have to hold up the role of the true wrestler among the remnants of the Total Divas brigade on Smackdown. When eliminated last night Nikki Bella, had a face on her that would have killed and it was far from a work. Becky got a resounding pop from the crowd as she made Carmella Tap then went mental in the ring with the belt. The conveyance of emotion is what wrestling is all about at this level and Becky gets it across better than most. The only problems on the horizon are the people she will have to face. Eva Marie and Nikki Bella are the two most dangerous opponents she can have right now. Both are highly favoured by creative and any misstep in Becky’s reign a la Ambrose above will have them putting the strap on someone far less talented in the ring. it is up to her now to make the most of this opportunity and carry this division.
3 The Usos show us what could have been with Roman Reigns – What an image change! Gone is the stupid face paint and dance at the start. In now is the angry Samoans. Wow. imagine if Roman Reigns was allowed to turn heel in the same way. The Usos are now right back in the picture for the most exciting tag team. They have a point. They are like a new Samoan swat team and will be gunning for the belts at every opportunity. The fact they lost to Slater and Rhyno means nothing as they will surely feud with the excellent American Alpha. WWE won’t keep the belts on two essentially singles stars when there are a bunch of good teams beneath them. The new brutal Usos have the potential to destroy the division and reach heights many thought they were incapable of. Now maybe try this with Roman Reigns.
Bonus – CM Punk CM Punk had his long-awaited debut in UFC at the weekend and to say it didn’t go well is an understatement. Punk was great in the WWE but the manner in which he left stops him being a true legend to me. Other wrestlers had disagreements but cemented their legacy. Punk did come across as a whiner. An amazing talent in the ring and equally a superstar on the mike. Punk should still be in the WWE. Instead, he became annoyed at the schedule and with Triple H. Not being privy to the meetings it will always be one word against another. So came his reinvention in the UFC. Yet it wasn’t really. He came out to his same theme music and still called himself CM Punk. He deserves the utmost respect for stepping into the octagon like everyone does but seriously? After two years of training, you run straight at your opponent within the first few seconds. Take a few seconds, assess, try to stay on your feet. Instead, Mickey Gall gobbled him up and made an example of him. I really wanted Punk to perform better so that wrestlers would get more respect. Unfortunately, Brock Lesnar remains the one crossover star.