Although I am pulling for Smackdown hard in the post-draft WWE environment, their buildup to Backlash and the PPV itself, did not blow me away by any stretch. We’ve got a lot of new champions, which is fine, but who in the world could ever hope to stand against AJ Styles, who is far and away the best person on this roster? Styles vs. Orton would be a fresh matchup, but he hasn’t even been able to deal with Bray Wyatt yet, so it doesn’t look like that’s in the cards for the near future. Also, after another embarrassing loss, what’s next for Dolph Ziggler, aka, the biggest loser in WWE? Not to mention Bray Wyatt who, for all his talk, couldn’t even beat a 50-year-old man in a mask. This roster has a lot of work ahead of it tonight, and in the weeks ahead.
AJ Styles starts the show to a massive ovation. Well-deserved. He says he’s “the champ that runs the camp” several times before John Cena arrives and makes a beeline for the ring. Styles throws Cena’s armband in his face. Cena says he wants to tie Flair’s record of 16 World Championships, but then Dean Ambrose comes to the ring. Cena totally owns Ambrose and tells him Austin was right when he called him out on his podcast. Crowd pops big for that. Ambrose responds by calling Cena a lazy part-timer. It was a good comeback. Finally Shane McMahon arrives to make sense of all this. He makes the main event for No Mercy: A Triple Threat for the title between Cena, Styles and Ambrose. McMahon then pulls a Teddy Long by making a main event tag match: Cena and Ambrose vs. AJ Styles and a partner of his choice. Not bad.
Match 1: The Usos vs. Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder
This match did not last long. Not sure why WWE thinks showing a match that we just saw a couple of days ago is appealing. But that’s what they did here. Unlike at the PPV, though, it was basically a quick squash in favor of The Usos, making the match between these two at Backlash a total waste. Not that it was much more than that anyway.
Winners: The Usos
My Rating: DUD
We get Curt Hawkins backstage spewing a bunch of nonsense and striking idiotic poses before telling us to face the facts. Here’s one: this guy’s a geek.
Next The Miz makes his way to the ring with Maryse. What a failed opportunity to make this guy more than just another cocky heel. Miz is spouting off some good facts about how he’s held the Intercontinental Championship longer than legends like Pat Patterson and HHH, when Dolph Ziggler shows up. Dolph says the fans will always see through Miz. What does that say about him considering he lost? Despite this fact, Dolph challenges The Miz to a match again. Maryse gets nuclear heat when she starts talking, but then Daniel Bryan shows up and says the rematch will take place. Miz refuses and leaves.
AJ Styles runs into Baron Corbin backstage. He asks him to be his partner, but Corbin refuses with some lines that would suck the life out of a cheerleader after her boyfriend scored the winning touchdown. This guy has no charisma whatsoever and I have no idea what WWE sees in this guy.
We’re about to be treated to another rematch from two days ago in Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews, but before the match starts, Corbin takes out Crews. They couldn’t bury this guy any further. Jack Swagger then shows up and runs off Baron Corbin before spouting some amazingly horrible lines. So let me get this straight: they just sacrificed Apollo Crews for… Jack Swagger? Mind-numbingly stupid.
Becky Lynch makes her way to the ring to a good ovation. She looks thrilled to be the champ. That Caruso girl interviews her, but first Becky is showered with “You deserve it” chants. Never heard those before. Lynch gets a Foley-esque cheap pop by putting over Philadelphia. Now to find out who her first challenger will be.
Match 2: Women’s Championship No. 1 Contender’s Match: Naomi vs. Nikki Bella vs. Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella
David Otunga calls Naomi the WWE’s version of Nicki Minaj. Oh. My. God. Somebody please kill this man. Alexa Bliss is still dressing like Harley Quinn. Becky Lynch does not look impressed, which amused me. Mauro compares some of Natalya’s offense to The Dynamite Kid which surprised me. I wonder if he’ll get heat for that. It takes Naomi forever to get into position for an Electric Chair spot from Nikki Bella, then later she just sits there waiting for Natalya to get some offense in. She also has the worst finisher in the company: The Rear View. Bottom line: Naomi sucks. The match is chaotic; not bad, but not quite as good as the PPV match. The finish comes as Carmella nails Nikki Bella with a superkick, but then gets thrown out of the ring by Alexa Bliss who pins Nikki for the win.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
I’m surprised by this winner, but she’s not a bad choice, really, as Carmella and Nikki can feud without the title.
My Rating: **
AJ Styles asks Kane to be his tag partner. Kane just laughs and walks away. I guess that’s a no.
We return from commercials with Shane in the ring to sign Heath Slater. It’s funny that JBL says Heath has gold around his waist. There isn’t an ounce of gold on those tag titles. Slater successfully signs the contract and is officially a member of the Smackdown roster. Heath Slater starts thanking his kids, whose names he is clearly just making up on the spot before The Ascension shows up with some weird face paint on. One of the fans says “You guys are scrubs!” at the top of his lungs. Can’t argue with that. Despite this, however, Shane makes a match between the two teams with the tag titles on the line. Uh-oh.
Match 3: Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. The Ascension
We return from commercials with the match already in progress, which annoys me. The Ascension totally botch a tag team move which draws the ire of the crowd. Slater tags Rhyno who runs wild on Viktor who he then Gores for the easy win.
Winners: Rhyno and Heath Slater
Slater is bleeding slightly from the nose at the close of the match.
My Rating: 1/2*
AJ Styles runs into Daniel Bryan. AJ says he doesn’t need a partner, but Bryan says that he actually found one for him and reveals it to be James Ellsworth, otherwise known as the guy who jobbed to Braun Strowman on the first episode of RAW since the draft split. He gets a huge pop from the crowd. I like this choice.
Randy Orton arrives to talk about Bray Wyatt, I guess. I’m just glad it’s not the other way around. Orton calls out Wyatt, which hopefully means he’s been cleared. Wyatt appears on the titantron to spew some bullshit. He then appears sitting on the announce table. Next Erick Rowan appears behind Randy Orton and ambushes him. He gets RKOd. And that’s that.
Main Event: AJ Styles and James Ellsworth vs. John Cena and Dean Ambrose
Styles is disgusted that he has to team with this jobber, but the fans love it. Unfortunately, The Miz runs out and attacks Ellsworth as he makes his way to the ring. He destroys him with a Skull Crushing Finale on the ramp. Miz tells Styles he’s the main event. Styles responds with “I’ll take it!” Oh well.
Match of the Night: Real Main Event: AJ Styles and The Miz vs. John Cena and Dean Ambrose
Once again, the match is already in progress when we return from commercials. Lame. Then we get, like, two minutes of action before there’s another commercial break. There were four matches on this show, but they had to take all the breaks during the main event. Stupid. What we see of the match is just your typical Smackdown tag main event. Ambrose gets a hot tag to John Cena, who hits The Five Moves of Doom on The Miz for the win.
Winners: Dean Ambrose and John Cena
My Rating: **1/2
After the match, Ambrose nails Cena with the Dirty Deeds and gets some heat for doing so. He stares down AJ Styles to end the show.
Overall this was a better show than last week, but it was far from perfect. At the very least, the two hours didn’t drag too much, which is more than what can be said for RAW. However, none of the in-ring action impressed at all, and Smackdown seems to have a bad habit of pushing the wrong guys in the undercard. This show needs to work on ironing out both of these issues if it’s going to become a viable alternative to the flagship program.