Posted by Joshua Molina @JoshMolina
Award-winning journalist. Covers mixed martial arts and professional wrestling and the convergence of the two industries.
Joshua Molina

It's Smackdown Live! and time to get through two hours of David Otunga on color commentary.

Let's take a smart fan's leap into the show, including analysis and grades of the segments. We're three weeks away from the Survivor Series and James Ellsworth-mania is running wild. Fortunately, AJ Styles is still phenomenal and Daniel Bryan is still the company's most popular star.

Ellsworth Apologizes

The show opened with jobber to the stars James Ellsworth, who was emphatically apologizing to Dean Ambrose. Ellsworth super-kicked AJ Styles a week ago, causing Ambrose to get disqualified and lose his title shot. Ellsworth is such a buzzkill. I wonder if this is how hardcore MMA fans feel when they see CM Punk in the Octagon. Ellsworth, with his bleach blonde mohawk just doesn't belong.

Ambrose came out, said he couldn't stay made at Ellsworth because he looks like "E.T.," before telling him to never, ever get in his way again. AJ Styles, in his Bullet Club jacket, came out to a massive pop and chants of "AJ Styles." They chirped back and forth before Styles pushed Ellsworth into Ambrose, kicked him and then gave him a "Phenomenal Forearm" before leaving the ring to more massive cheers.

The Bottom Line: Styles deserves better than this.

Segment Grade: C+. Thank you, A.J. for making this segment bearable.

They recapped last week's drama between Randy Orton, Luke Harper and Kane, when Orton surprisingly RKO'd Kane, raising suspicions that Orton may be under the spell of Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt family.

Unfortunately, we get more Ellsworth in the back chatting with Ambrose and Daniel Bryan, where Bryan declares Ambrose will get his last shot at Styles later in the show. If he wins, he becomes the No. 1 contender to Styles' championship. Bryan also warns Ellsworth that he is not, under any circumstances, allowed to go to to ringside during the match.

Randy Orton vs. Kane (No disqualification)

Kane pounded Orton with chair shots to the back and they traded blows a bit inside the ring before Bray Wyatt's music hit and the Wyatt family came out to beat up on Kane allowing Orton to pin Kane with an RKO. Harper and Wyatt then beat up Kane before Orton posed on the turnbuckle and Wyatt over his kill inside the ring. What a way to treat Kane like an average schlub. Can you imagine if The Undertaker had been booked this way? Orton had been gaining momentum as a babyface, but unfortunately that's been halted. Lame.

The Bottom Line: The Wyatt's schtick is really old and Orton, in the twilight of his career, shouldn't be tweening.

Grade: D+

Nikki Bella & Women's Champion Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss & Carmella

Clearly, the best female wrestlers are on Raw. I know it was Mauro Ranallo's dream to be a WWE commentator, but I wonder if in the back of his head he's thinking, "damn, I used to call PRIDE fights."

Bliss defeated Lynch with a DDT in about a minute to set-up their title match next week in Glasgow, Scottland. Carmella and Bliss then shrieked through a post-match interview, where Carmella played a dingy babe, while Bliss actually showed some signs of a personality.

The Bottom Line: This match and interview segment was GLOW 2016.

Grade: F

In the back, Bryan declares Natalya the coach for the women's team at Survivor Series.

The Spirit Squad vs. American Alpha

Despite the fact that they are probably making more money now, Jason Jordan and Chad Gable must be dreaming of the good ole days of NXT because now they are wrestling the male cheerleading team of The Spirit Squad

Jordan threw a right hand at Kenny that would have made John Cena's offense look like Mike Tyson. Jordan and Gable are great athletes, but their pro wrestling is weak. They look like athletic guys attempting wrestling moves. It wasn't believable. American Alpha wins so they qualify for a the tag team match at Survivor Series.

The Bottom Line: Just a nonsense match to get American Alpha into the Survivor Series.

Grade: D

They recapped the Goldberg-Heyman-Rusev segment from Monday Night Raw, which makes no sense because why so-called rival shows promote each other? Most notable is that the WWE edited out Goldberg's accidental slip when he attempted to jackhammer Rusev.

Miz TV with Daniel Bryan

Out comes the most popular wrestler in the WWE in the last decade, Bryan. I know we should be happy for him, but I can't help but think of what could have been, everytime I see this guy inside the ring. The crowd chanted "Daniel Bryan" a testament to Bryan's incredible appeal. Miz is the male version of Carmella; total frat boy lame brain. Miz freaks out when Bryan announces that the Smackdown Live! Survivor Series tag team will consist of Randy Orton, Baron Corbin, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and WWE world champion AJ Styles and most importantly, not The Miz.

Miz started yelling at Bryan for embarrassing him on his own show in front of his wife Maryse and botched his lines by referring to Smackdown Live as "Raw." Then Bryan shoots: "We need superstars who aren't afraid to fight. At Survivor Series we need men who are going to fight on our terms!" Miz a week ago turned down a match with Intercontinental champion Dolph Ziggler.

This set Miz off who responded that Bryan is the one who is afraid to fight.

"Why don't you go back to doing what you do best, moping around at John Cena's house on Total Bellas," The Miz screamed.

Bryan threw a chair and then yelled. "Do you want to know what you are best at Miz, it certainly isn't wrestling." He told Miz to leave and leave the real fighting to the superstars. He then told Miz to go to the commentator's desk and watch Ziggler defend the title in an "open challenge."

The Bottom Line: Bryan is gold in the ring and this segment worked because it is fueled by truth. These two argued a month ago on "Talking Smack" after Bryan said Miz had a wrestling style that indicated he didn't like to get hit. Miz responded and said that he has never been injured in his career, while Bryan was forced to retire because of concussions. Miz then said if Bryan really loved wrestling he'd quit the WWE and go wrestle for independent organizations. In this segment, you have Bryan, the best pro wrestler in the world at one time, against The Miz, an overpushed, below average worker yelling at each other over who's the better wrestler. Truth sells.

Grade: A-

Dolph Ziggler vs. Curt Hawkins

Oddly, when we get back from the commercial, Dolph Ziggler is already in the ring. Should we get to see Ziggler's entrance? Instead we get Hawkins talking about how people are going to have sore necks in the morning because tonight he is going to turn heads. Ugh. Ziggler pinned Hawkins faster than Ronda Rousey submitted Cat Zingano. Renee Young interviewed Ziggler after the match and Ziggler announced that he was challenging anyone on Monday Night Raw for the Intercontinental Championship. Damn. Raw's getting the title.

The Bottom Line: Ziggler challenging someone on Raw makes little sense because as champion he should let the challengers come to him.

Grade: D

Ellsworth in the back asks Ambrose if there is any way he could come down to ringside for the main event to make up for his mistake last week. He said he wants to make it up to him. Ambrose reaffirms: NO!

Then it's Orton again, wearing a vest and hood, standing alongside What and Harper in a dark room. Orton mumbles that he was born with the devil whispering in his ear and that now "the darkness has showed me the light."

Orton then said "Bray, you are a God" before a close up camera shot showed Orton's eyes flickering red, like he were some Reptilian member of the Illuminati. Obviously Orton is still concussed from Brock Lesnar's elbows.

The Usos vs. The Headbangers

Is Smackdown really that strapped for talent that they have to bring back The Headbangers and The Spirit Squad? The Usos have really fallen far. At least they get the win here and qualify for the tag team match at the Survivor Series.

The Bottom Line: A nothing segment. Absolutely nothing:

Grade F

In the back Ambrose escorts Ellsworth out of the building, which of course means he'll be back to interfere in the main event.

AJ Styles (WWE Champion) vs Dean Ambrose

AJ Styles has the best music in the WWE. He comes out to a big pop. Do people realize that the former TNA champion is "The Face That Runs The Place" in the WWE?

Big AJ Styles chants break out as Ambrose comes to the ring in his wife beater T-Shirt.

Great match. Ambrose attacked Styles early from behind and dominated him. Styles is so good at selling; he could make sitting on a toilet exciting. Ambrose delivered a beautiful butterfly suplex from the top rope. He landed a flying clothesline from the top rope onto Styles on the floor. Ambrose missed a Blockbuster and landed on his knee and was nursing it the whole match.

It was a good match before Ellsworth runs from the crowd to the ringside area. Security chased him out, but not before he distracted Ambrose and Styles, allowing each of them to gain near falls on the other. Ellsworth returned and tried to run back into the ring before he security apprehended him. As they were escorting him out, Styles took a moment to knock him on his backside, into the ringside commentator's table, which would prove to be a mistake. When Styles attempted to give Ambrose a Phenomenal Forearm, Ambrose countered with the Dirty Deeds and pinned Styles, making Ambrose the No. 1 contender.

The Bottom Line: Styles is amazing and Ambrose is good, but Ellsworth distracted from the match. Is there not a better way to make Ambrose the No. 1 contender than force-feeding Ellsworth? At least we can look forward to a good PPV match between Styles and Ambrose and hopefully we never see Ellsworth again.

Grade: B-