WWE has been awful at promoting its monthly shows for years. Monday Night Raw puts out 12 hours of content a month, which means WWE should use this time accordingly to create interesting storylines and feuds for its upcoming PPVs. It instead packs the show with nonsense and filler that wastes precious time. WWE Network shows are composed of lackluster stories which suffer from perfunctory or otiose booking, causing the shows to have virtually nil significance. The WWE draft, though, has allowed Smackdown to give us a well booked and well put together this Sunday night.
It is unusual for backstories for WWE PPVs to be interesting, never mind the fall one, yet No Mercy had two backstories that were extremely interesting. The show’s buildup made myriads of wrestling fans galvanized to watch the show, something that does not happen far too often these days.
Although the PPV was not as good as it could have been, it does not negate the fact it was still an enjoyable show. Scott Keith called it the “worst PPV of the year”, and while he is entitled to his opinion, I cannot help to think the statement is a kneejerk reaction.
A show that delivers what it predominantly advertised is worth of commendation. The WWE and IC championship matches were the predominant reasons people ordered or watched the show, so long as those two matches lived up or around expectations, it would be nearly impossible for the show to be bad. And both matches lived up to expectations.
Because of the presidential debates, WWE made the WWE Championship match the opener. I understand moving matches around on TV because of ratings, but I do not understand moving a match around on a Network PPV. Either way, the decision did not affect the quality. It was awesomely structured, paced, and built, progressing as time elapsed, thanks to the Road Agents putting together a smart match and the wrestlers working a smart match.
The edifice of the contest made for a free-flowing contest, with no downtime or heavy-handedness, as if it were poetry in motion. The match was morphing into something too intense, suspenseful, and cumulative to shoehorn such an unfitting and false finish into it, one that lacked sense – seeing that AJ Styles should have been eliminated, for tapping out, letting two men, who made him tap out, see who the better man is.
The finish took the air out, rendering the momentum they built, and the little time left made it impossible to rekindle what was lost. One ill-advised decision does not mar numerous smart decisions, hard work and effort, though. It was an unbelievable match.
The even more anticipated IC match, between Dolph Ziggler and The Miz, had a tall order in front of them if they wanted to steal the show, because of how terrific the WWE title match was, but as a result of how they conveyed the story and layered the match, they stole the show. The match was a testament to myriads of things, like how important developing an interesting mid-card is, giving substance to wrestler’s personas to humanize them so that people can relate to them, and making important matches seem, well, important.
Allow me, for a moment, to use this story to show why Smackdown’s booking is better than Raw’s . Unlike Raw’s booking, Smackdown knows how to connect the dots. Dolph Ziggler received two title opportunities and came up short in each one; therefore, he was undeserving of another shot unless Miz approved one. Ziggler, consequently, risked something to make it fair. It was a smart move, as nothing is more annoying than a babyface who receives title and after title shot with nothing to lose because society frowns upon people being handed things instead of earning them.
Theoretically speaking, Raw would have booked this match in a way that made fans wish Ziggler would not lose instead of win, because of its perfunctory booking. Seriously, one day, Raw creative team would have said, “let’s put Ziggler’s career on the line”, even though it would not fit smugly in the context of the feud. Smackdown’s creative team planted the seeds for this to happen, with Ziggler continuously coming up short in every important match, and in addition to Ziggler being a down-to-earth, honest loveable loser, Miz, being the effective heel he is, antagonized and belittled him to the point where the fans wanted to see sympathetic Ziggler get his moment and Miz get the comeuppance he deserved.
That is a major difference. Smackdown pays attention to detail, carefully designing its feuds logically and effectually, so fans can emotionally connect with the wrestlers than guessing the logic behind the story.
The match itself was an awesomely character-driven match, something that has lacked in WWE for far too long, since back-and-forth aesthetically pleasing athletic contests have replaced them. I love the aesthetically pleasing spots and moves more than anyone, though it would not hurt to inject some storytelling and in-ring characterizations into the matches too.
This was pure old-school configuring, with the heel throwing everything underhanded tactic they can think of at the babyface, whose perseverance and drive enables them to keep getting up. Both wrestlers had justifiable reasons to win, and the match created scenarios where both men looked like they would win. The drama, heat, and tension, as well as the teeter-totter action, all made this a dramatic roller-coaster of a ride, one that evokes gut-wrenching feelings in one’s stomach, no matter how jaded nor cynical they are.
Surely, there was dubious booking decisions – Alexa Bliss losing despite remaining the number 1 contender; Bray Wyatt – the man who may set the all-time record for stop-and-go pushes, going over presumably the number-one contender for the WWE championship; that match main eventing over the IC title match, which had way more at stake; and the ill-advised false finish in the opening match, to name a few –and bad wrestling matches – Baron Corban vs Jack Swagger, a match with no energy, drive, psychology or selling; Carmella vs. Nikki Bella, a match that was “just moves”; and while not bad, but rather, an uneventful ho-hum main event match.
Despite that, the two matches we all wanted to see delivered at or even beyond our realistic exceptions. Thus, I believe No Mercy was a good, albeit flawed, show, and still miles better than anything Raw has done lately.