It was a long night as WWE opted to try to stretch this 6-match show into three hours. Given the lack of heat for the matches, an undisclosed injury forcing Randy Orton out of his match with Bray Wyatt, and only two real stars on the entire show (hello, Heath Slater), this had all the makings of a total disaster. It wasn’t quite that, but Backlash was still my least favorite WWE PPV of the year thus far. I break it down match by match below.
The show started with Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan talking about how historic the night was. It wasn’t really necessary, but they got out of the way pretty quick, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Better than The Authority, that’s for sure.
Match 1: Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Nikki Bella vs. Naomi vs. Carmella vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss
This match ended up being much better than I thought it would be. I think that’s a testament to the unpredictability of the match, which is itself a testament to how WWE has built the Smackdown Women’s division. Every woman brought their A-Game tonight, and there were points when it seemed like any one of them could’ve walked out the victor. Alexa Bliss shined early on; her offense was vicious and she was pretty over due to dressing up like Harley Quinn. However, she was unfortunately eliminated first by the much less impressive Naomi who regularly botched spots during this match and whose high kick offense looks terrible. This woman has been wrestling with WWE for six years, and she still hasn’t learned her limits as a performer, which are to this day still quite low. Thankfully she was the second woman eliminated when she got hit by Nikki Bella’s forearm midair off of a springboard spot. Next Natalya and Nikki Bella were eliminated in quick secession, the former by Bella and the latter by Carmella, who has been after Nikki since her return. That left us with Carmella and Becky Lynch, an unlikely final two by any stretch. Carmella didn’t do much before she was ultimately eliminated via the DisarmHer making Becky Lynch the first Smackdown Women’s Champion.
Winner: Becky Lynch
Although this match was far from perfect, it was still a lot of fun and was easily the second best match on the card. They had plenty of time due to the show’s length, which played to the strengths of this match even if it was a detriment to the rest of the show. There was a lot of time between the start of the match and the first elimination, which made it that much more impactful when it came. Overall great work from all except for Naomi, who I consider an even weaker performer than Carmella at this point.
My Rating: ***
Backstage Miz got dissed by some kid from Nickelodeon. Three weeks after cutting his great promo, he’s already back to where he was a month ago: as a complete geek. This was totally unnecessary.
We also had a backstage attack from Bray Wyatt on Randy Orton. Orton was legitimately not cleared to compete due to an, at this time, undisclosed injury, so this was how WWE wrote him off of the show. Hopefully it isn’t serious and he’ll be back very soon, because this brand desperately needs him.
Match 2: The Usos vs. The Hype Bros
Befitting their heel turn, The Usos came out thuggin, wearing hoodies and nixing the pyro, lame chanting, and facepaint. The Hype Bros made their entrance to total apathy from the crowd. It’s fascinating that the man The Miz beat for the Intercontinental Title was Zack Ryder, and even more incredible that the man that Ryder technically took the title from was Kevin Owens. This was a garden-variety Smackdown television match. The Usos won, which was no surprise.
Winners: The Usos
My Rating: **
We had a rather lame backstage segment with Heath Slater, Rhyno and Renee Young. Slater joked about having stomach issues after eating something. Whatever.
Match 3: Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
Before the match, The Miz owned Daniel Bryan backstage again. So much for these guys not being allowed on TV together. Even though Miz is a total geek, he’s still a more believable champion than Ziggler at this point, who has been buried beyond belief. That trend continued here as he ultimately went down to The Skull Crushing Finale cementing his status as one of the biggest jobbers on Smackdown next to Apollo Crews (who disgustingly jobbed to Baron Corbin on the pre-show) and Bray Wyatt.
Winner: The Miz
For some reason, this match got a lot of love on Twitter. I don’t understand that. I think this match could’ve been good, and it did have some decent moments and psychology involving Miz working over Ziggler’s leg before slapping him into the Figure 4, but the match was way too long, and at the end of the day, I ultimately didn’t care who won, making this one of the weaker matches on the show in my eyes.
My Rating: **
After hearing from the pre-show panel, Bray Wyatt came out to be declared the winner by forfeit over Randy Orton. However, he was told that he would have a No Holds Barred match against Kane instead. Ugh.
Match 4: No Holds Barred Match: Kane vs. Bray Wyatt
As to be expected, this match was slow and sluggish, and considering it had no buildup whatsoever in storyline, there wasn’t much of a reason to care about it. There were some decent spots on the outside, particularly when Wyatt utilized a Senton to put Kane through one of the announce tables, but other than that, it went way too long for something that really just should’ve been a showcase match to get Bray Wyatt over. Instead, Randy Orton came down toward the end of the match, hit a one-legged RKO on Wyatt, and allowed Kane to pick up the victory. Hoo boy…
This was easily the worst match on the show and I can’t see any reason why Kane should’ve won here unless he’s going to become a much larger part of Smackdown programming and face The Miz for the Intercontinental Title or AJ Styles for the WWE World Heavyweight Title. Otherwise, we’re just going to have to hear more of Bray Wyatt’s rambling about being a “God” knowing full-well that he doesn’t have the ability to back it up.
My Rating: *1/2
AJ Styles dissed a couple of random jobbers backstage. Not sure why they were even in the building in the first place.
Match 5: Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno
This may just have been the most anticipated match on the show. WWE have done an excellent job of building up Heath Slater over the last couple of months. The fans got behind him just as they wanted, and they even got Rhyno over to boot. This match played out as the capping off of one of WWE’s most successful storylines of the year as, believe it or not, Slater and Rhyno managed to defeat the newly repackaged Usos to become the inaugural Smackdown Tag Team Champions.
Winners: Heath Slater and Rhyno
This was clearly the right decision as, other than AJ Styles, Heath Slater and Rhyno were the two most over guys on the show. It’s a great moment for Slater, who I’ve been a fan of for years, and the fact that Rhyno is along for the ride only makes it all the more satisfying and entertaining. The match was nothing special, but it sent the fans home happy, and that’s always a good thing.
My Rating: **
Match of the Night: Main Event: WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose
As to be expected AJ Styles was the star of the show. He’s on top of the world after beating John Cena, is easily the best worker in the company, and is one of the greatest athletes in the history of wrestling. Dean Ambrose, on the other hand, has been treading water since the draft. He had a great program with Seth Rollins after winning the title, but his match with Ziggler at Summerslam was underwhelming and his momentum in no way comes close to what Styles has amassed in his nine months as a part of the company. Styles did everything he could to make this match phenomenal, but it ended up being just very good. The buildup to the climax was good and AJ was a star as he took Ambrose’s offense and sold his heart out, but the match suffered from being overlong like most of the matches on the show. In the end, Styles won with the Styles Clash, which he teased throughout the match.
Winner: AJ Styles
By the time Styles got his hand raised, it seemed like a forgone conclusion. He’s better than Dean Ambrose in every way right now, who has unfortunately been the worst champion out of the three Shield brethren. Hopefully Styles’ hot streak will continue, but he’s going to have to work to get the best out of a roster that he heavily overshadows and outworks. Maybe Samoe Joe will get called up soon…
My Rating: ***1/2
Overall, the show wasn’t terrible, but suffered form a long running time and too few matches, the majority of which had no real heat between the competitors going in. I’m still pulling for Smackdown in the brand split, but they’re going to need to really work if they’re going to compete with RAW in any way shape or form, especially after the Cruiserweight division debuts in a couple of weeks.