By Chuck Carroll
The second SmackDown exclusive pay-per-view will take place Sunday night when WWE presents No Mercy.
The “blue team” will have its hands full trying to top Monday night’s surprise when Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte to capture the WWE RAW Women’s Championship. So how will they try to win this game of one-upmanship?
It starts at the top.
Even though there shouldn’t be too much doubt about how this one will turn out, the main event where AJ Styles defends his title against John Cena and Dean Ambrose should be nothing short of phenomenal. Say what you will about Cena, the guy can wrestle. That whole knock about “five moves of doom” are as played out as his jorts.
The career versus Intercontinental Title match between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler could wind up stealing the show though. The return of the Spirit Squad this week signals Mr. Hollywood and his wife have more surprises in store for the former cheerleader.
Also on the card, Alexa Bliss gets her first crack at the big time as she challenges Becky Lynch for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Could WWE have both women’s titles change hands in the same week?
Helping to answer that question and many others, I’ve enlisted WWE insiders Scott Fishman and Aaron Oster once again. Oster was on the money with his Clash Of Champions picks, getting right five of the seven matches. Fishman and I nailed four.
WWE Championship Match
AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena
Aaron Oster: This has to be AJ Styles. They didn’t build him up to give him the title just to hotshot it. It seems clear that Cena and Ambrose are going to have a legitimate feud after this though, so if you wanted to tell me that Cena could walk out with the title, I could see it. Don’t think it happens, and I think it’s more likely that they have a non-title feud, so the question remains, does Ambrose fully turn heel, or do they just let it play out? PICK: AJ STYLES
Scott Fishman: I’m going with AJ Styles here. The company appears high on him and for good reason. There is nobody better all-around than the “Face that Runs the Place.” That is why I don’t see Styles losing here, especially with John Cena filming his show. You also don’t want to play hot potato with the WWE championship. PICK: AJ STYLES
Chuck Carroll: I don’t think “The Phenomenal One” will have that short of a title reign. I see him getting a convincing win here to cement himself at the top of the SmackDown card. I agree with Fishman that there is zero probability of Cena winning here because of outside commitments. And Ambrose will have another turn at the top in the future, but this night belongs to Styles. PICK: AJ STYLES
SmackDown Women’s Title Match
Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss
Oster: Once again, Becky didn’t finally win the title after chasing for basically the entire year only to drop it quickly. Alexa Bliss might be the most interesting woman on SmackDown though (and no, not just because of her new Harley Quinn look), so I have a feeling this match will do a lot to showcase her. Maybe it will be a DQ finish to let the feud continue? PICK: BECKY LYNCH
Fishman: As much as I’ve loved Alexa Bliss’ evolution so far on SmackDown Live, I see Becky Lynch retaining here. Though there may be more legs to this rivalry. PICK: BECKY LYNCH
Carroll: I’m sold on WWE making two women’s title changes in one week. Of all the new faces on SmackDown’s female roster, Bliss has perhaps the most potential. She has already proven she already has the look and can work a mic. She’ll do well as the champion. PICK: ALEXA BLISS
SmackDown Tag Team Title Match
Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. The Usos
Oster: The tag tournament did what it was needed to, which was allow Heath to get a contract and end on a fun moment. However, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, The Usos have suddenly become one of the most compelling tag teams on either brand. The real feud on SmackDown right now is between The Usos and American Alpha, so the Usos need to win it here, and the feud can now be for the titles. PICK: THE USOS
Fishman: The Usos attitude change was much needed. I think there is a good chance the Cinderella Story of Heath Slater and Rhyno will come to an end. At least Heath got that contract and above-ground pool. PICK: THE USOS
Carroll: I make no bones about it. I’m a fan of the Usos. I love the heel turn to freshen up their characters. WWE saw that they were losing traction with fans because of their association with Roman Reigns. Now is the time to cement their new era. Fingers crossed we still see a healthy dose of Heath Slater in the future. PICK: THE USOS
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
Oster: This one could go either way. Carmella has gotten the better of Nikki for this entire feud though. A Nikki win feels right, especially since they haven’t really hyped the fact that it’s remarkable that she’s even wrestling right now. PICK: NIKKI BELLA
Fishman: Carmella has had Nikki Bella’s number ever since her arrival on SmackDown Live. I predict Nikki will finally get that win over Carmella. PICK: NIKKI BELLA
Carroll: Total Bellas debuts this week, and it will be harder to sell the show to fans if Nikki doesn’t secure a victory here. Plus, she’s due to even the score with Carmella. PICK: NIKKI BELLA
Career vs. Intercontinental Title Match
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
Oster: This is going to be the match of the night, which is fitting because this feud has been great. You can argue that Dolph Ziggler has been doing the best work of his career over the past few weeks. I think that the career stipulation is at least somewhat legitimate, and Ziggler does want to step away for a bit. I don’t think it’ll be a multi-year thing, but if you tell me that Ziggler is gone until next summer, I could buy it. It could even be a good thing for him, to get a reset. PICK: THE MIZ
Fishman: I have loved the build for this match. I’m going to go with Dolph Ziggler here, simply because my heart can’t take another loss for the Show-Off. I also don’t want to see Ziggler’s career come to an end, even though Terry Funk is proof a pro wrestler never retires. PICK: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Carroll: Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. No matter who wins this match, Dolph Ziggler isn’t going anywhere. That guy is the heart and soul of WWE. Now then, I don’t see him losing either. The storyline has been spectacular, and there is a big payoff coming for Ziggler. My only question is whether we’ll see The Spirit Squad again. PICK: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Oster: You know the LOLCenaWins meme? After losing to Kane, you have to wonder if we’re reaching LOLBrayLoses territory for Bray when it comes to singles matches on pay-per-views. The biggest thing though is that if, like I think, Cena and Ambrose are going to break away from the title to have their own feud, then someone needs to step up to face AJ. The natural fit is Orton, so he needs the win here. PICK: RANDY ORTON
Fishman: Randy Orton has been playing mindgames with Bray Wyatt leading up to the match. Considering the last few months, WWE may give RKO the win here to build some momentum for him. He could be a good number-one contender for AJ Styles down the line. PICK: RANDY ORTON
Carroll: Bray Wyatt eluded Randy Orton Tuesday night, and a win will elude Orton on Sunday. This is another match with a lot of potential. Wyatt is at a point in his career when he could use a quality win, and I think WWE will grant him that. But Orton should come up the victor in the long run. I agree with Fishman that sooner or later he’ll be in the title picture. PICK: BRAY WYATT
Curt Hawkins vs. TBA
Oster: They’ve built up Hawkins for close to two months now. He has to win, right? Well, I’m not certain. This gimmick feels like a non-starter, so I could see some comedy nonsense with Kane coming out and squashing him. However, WWE should at least give him one match to see what he can do. PICK: CURT HAWKINS
Fishman: No matter whom the returning Curt Hawkins faces, odds are Hawkins will win. Fingers crossed his opponent is James Ellsworth. PICK: CURT HAWKINS
Carroll: Unless Goldberg is the surprise opponent, this one belongs to Curt Hawkins. PICK: CURT HAWKINS
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.