The jumbled order of WWE No Mercy 2016 took fans on a jarring ride, writes Ryan Dilbert of Bleach Report.
Sunday's SmackDown-exclusive pay-per-view began at its high point, a thriller for the WWE World Championship where AJ Styles outlasted John Cena and Dean Ambrose. The show's de facto main event —Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton—ended up being a snoozer, capping off the night in underwhelming fashion.
Dolph Ziggler's fight to keep his career alive could have headlined No Mercy. It was The Showoff's best outing to date—an emotional, moving work of theater.
Cena's pursuit of 16 world titles, which was the expected main event, would have been a stellar climax, as well.
Instead, seemingly in a reaction to the viewership it expected to lose to the presidential debates, WWE reimagined the PPV formula. The main event went on first. A sluggish, middle-of-the-card battle went on last.
Orton vs Wyatt did not build on the outside-the-box storytelling fans had seen of the feud up to this point. It limped along, while the night's top battles soared.
Had WWE placed it elsewhere on the PPV and left fans with the image of Styles celebrating or Ziggler surviving, No Mercy would have been far better off for it.
Curt Hawkins 'Debut' (Pre-Show)
Curt Hawkins stepped into the ring and chuckled as he said he had done as promised. He announced he would have his first match on Tuesday's SmackDown.
Hawkins strutted out of the ring with his cane in hand.
American Alpha, The Hype Bros vs The Vaudevillains, The Ascension (Pre-Show)
As the announcers talked up how much momentum was at stake here, Aiden English of The Vaudevillains and Chad Gable of American Alpha kicked things off. Gable and Jason Jordan outwrestled English early on.
Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley maintained the babyfaces' control, both members of The Hype Bros frustrating Viktor.
The Ascension later slowed the bout down. The duo worked well with The Vaudevillains to punish Ryder in their corner.
Eventually, the match turned briefly chaotic with just about everyone getting involved. American Alpha teamed up on English to put away their foes.
AJ Styles vs Dean Ambrose vs John Cena (WWE World Championship)
WWE threw a curveball and kicked off the PPV proper with the main event.
Dean Ambrose pounced on both AJ Styles and John Cena, setting off a fiery brawl. The fight moved to the outside where The Lunatic Fringe briefly reigned.
Cena's power earned him the momentum. Styles' high-flying put him on top for a time. Ambrose relied on back-alley offense.
Styles ousted Ambrose from the contest for a long stretch by throwing him onto the ring steps. That left The Phenomenal One and Cena to push each other, each man trading the advantage.
Ambrose charged into the action. He nearly seized the match as it grew wilder and more high-octane.
Near-falls followed near-falls as each wrestler hit their biggest moves.
Cena clamped on the STF on Styles as Ambrose wrenched the champion's leg. Styles tapped out, but the referee called the submission decision off when he realized two opponents had on submission holds.
Cena had Ambrose beat moments later, but Styles used a steel chair to knock out The Face That Runs the Place to score a three-count.
Nikki Bella vs Carmella
As soon as the bell rang, Nikki Bella unloaded on Carmella, but her attack was short-lived.
The Princess of Staten Island beat up her foe, dishing out vicious offense. Carmella focused on the babyface's neck and squealed as she held Bella down.
It took a furious comeback for Bella to get back on top. She hit Carmella with the new version of the Rack Attack to secure the win.
Heath Slater and Rhyno vs The Usos (Tag Team Championship)
Heath Slater ran into trouble early in the tag team title match. The Usos throttled the champ in their corner leaving him wobbly.
Rhyno didn't fare much better. He took plenty of punishment from Jimmy and Jey Uso.
A fired-up Slater upped the bout's pace. He battled hard and survived The Usos' onslaught. Eventually, Rhyno steamrolled over Jimmy to put away the challengers.
Jack Swagger vs Baron Corbin
The match left the ring in a hurry.
Jack Swagger and Baron Corbin bashed each other near the announcers' table. Swagger slammed Corbin into the table; The Lone Wolf responded by smashing Swagger's hand into the ring steps.
Corbin then stalked his prey, doling out a methodical offense focused on further damaging that hand.
While favouring his hand, Swagger clamped on the ankle lock. Corbin, though, was able to escape, poke his foe in the eye and hit End of Days for the win.
The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler (Career Versus Intercontinental Championship)
With his career on the line, Dolph Ziggler went for pinfalls early. His exuberance and high-speed offense weren't enough to get him the advantage. The Miz grounded him instead.
The intercontinental champ twisted and tortured Ziggler in the center of the ring.
The Showoff fought back, having to fend off The Miz's underhanded tactics, from pulling on his tights to leaning on the ropes for illegal leverage. The Miz started to attack Ziggler's left leg to slow his comeback.
A figure-four leglock left Ziggler racked with pain, even after he escaped. Ziggler's Zig Zag wasn't enough to end the bout, either.
The challenger took an eyeful of hairspray from The Miz's wife Maryse, but managed to fight on.
The Spirit Squad came down to assist The Miz. The referee soon kicked the duo and Maryse out. Ziggler kicked The Miz out cold to keep his career alive.
Alexa Bliss vs Naomi
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan announced that Becky Lynch couldn't compete Sunday night because of a medical issue. They told Alexa Bliss she would get her title shot in November.
Bliss instead took on a surprise opponent in Naomi.
Speed and agility allowed Naomi to take control early on. She flustered Bliss briefly, but the heel took over with a mat-based attack.
Naomi eventually rolled up Bliss for the win.
Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt tried to unsettle his opponent by staring, smiling at him. Randy Orton countered with an early RKO attempt.
The match stood at a stalemate with each man avoiding the other's offense. Until things moved to the outside. Wyatt battered Orton in the announcers' area.
The Eater of Worlds stayed atop Orton, leaving his opponent loopy.
It took another trip out of the ring to allow The Viper to make a comeback. The ring steps and the security barricade served as Orton's tag team partners.
The lights went out, and Luke Harper popped up once they came back on. That distraction cost Orton as Wyatt pinned him following a Sister Abigail.
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