WWE Backlash 2016 (9/11/2016)- Richmond, VA
I tuned in just in time for the discussion of the tag title situation. Chad Gable will be out for 2-4 weeks. They are putting the two teams that last in the semi-finals into another semifinal to determine who will face Slater & Rhyno (or, as I have decided to call them, The Gore & the Bore). Lita immediately did everything she could to still technically be putting over this decision while still making it clear that she thought it was a very stupid idea.
TOM PHILLIPS INTERVIEWS HEATH SLATER & RHYNO- Rhyno is wearing a shirt that says “Vote for Rhyno. He’ll fight for you.” I kind of want one. Other than that, this was terrible. It was boring and unfunny. Lawler is the heel, and I completely agree with everything he said about being sick and tired about hearing of Heath Slater’s f*cking kids.
Lita defended Heath Slater but saying, among other things, that he is the wrestler who has trended the most worldwide on Twitter. First of all, I really hope that’s not true. Secondly, doesn’t that bury everyone else if this loser gets more attention from fans than they do? Third of all… ZACK RYDER?!
ALEXA BLISS JOINS THE PANEL- She’s got a Harley Quinn thing going on with blue and pink. It would look fine without the lipstick. She cut a good promo and did a great job of fielding the panel’s questions. Lawler puts her over, but then Lita immediately says that Lawler “compliments all of the girls.” My first thought was “King is trying to put her over and you are trying to make it mean as little as possible, asshole!” Alexa apparently had the same thought as she immediately looked off camera and rolled her eyes, and you could almost see the thought bubble asking “what is this bitch’s problem?”
Alexa continued to be great pretty much refuting everything her doubters (Booker and Lita) said. She left, and Booker declared this to be the “shucky-ducky quack quack moment” of the pre-show, with their goofy graphics making everything Alexa said about how important it is to her to win this title look like a big joke. Booker and Lita both seemed to realize their mistakes and tried to talk about how important the title is and how much it seems to mean to Alexa, but the damage was already done.
On a different note, if you want yet another reason why this belt is a bad idea, at different times during this segment, Renee, Lita, and Alexa all had to pause and remember to insert the word “Smackdown” in the name of the title. I’m certain we’ll see the same happen with the tag belts, too. Unfortunately, there is no other good name to give either championship, so this is yet another reason why having two belts for each division was a mistake.
APOLLO CREWS vs. BARON CORBIN- 6.25/10
Two of the supposedly top young stars in the company going at it with no build and no hype on the pre-show. Neither of these guys should be losing right now, but one of them will have to. It turns out to be Crews, who now hasn’t won a televised match in over a month.
This is also frustrating because they seemed to have had a feud already set up for Corbin and Kalisto… but now we’re getting Corbin vs. Crews, with the Kalisto stuff seemingly forgotten. If there was any match that should have been on the pre-show, it should have been the “Second Chance” tag tournament semifinal.
OPENING VIDEO PACKAGE- pointless and annoying. Okay… not exactly pointless, but the Shane McMahon part was pointless and annoying. We don’t need them to talk up Shane and we don’t need to go back to Shane’s face narrating things. They can say what they want, but the fact that they feel the need to do these things makes their promise that it’s going to be all about the wrestlers and not about the authority figures feel like BS. There is no reason for the person who gets the most screen time in this video package to be Shane McMahon.
And now here is SHANE coming out to open the show. Daniel Bryan gets his own entrance, too. They waste time. Shane thanks us all for making Smackdown a success and other such pointless bullsh*t. When Bryan started to tell us about the title matches taking place on tonight’s show, I screamed “WE KNOW!” at the top of my lungs. This did nothing whatsoever.
ELIMINATION SIX PACK CHALLENGE TO CROWN THE FIRST EVER WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION: Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Nikki Bella vs. Carmella vs. Becky Lynch- 6/10
JBL actually did screw up and forget to say Smackdown in the name of the title. Two Glitter Blizzards by Alexa, and she now does it so that it looks more like a Code Red, so it’s an even better signature move because it feels bigger.
This match was rather weird. I’ll get to the terrible booking in a moment, but as for the action itself… while it was very good, it felt like the first ten minutes or so were all laid out before they knew it would be an elimination match and they didn’t bother to change it, so you had people breaking up pins and submissions (including Alexa doing a double knee-drop to break up Naomi using a cattle mutilation). It was very strange.
The booking here was terrible. Naomi pinned Alexa, then immediately got tapped out by Nattie. Nattie got beat by Nikki, who, in one of the only two good decisions made all match, was quickly snuck up on from behind and rolled up by Carmella. This should have been used to continue their feud, but Nikki got her revenge by responding to Carmella’s post-elimination shoving and trash talk by slapping her in the face hard enough to knock her down. This left us with Becky and Carmella, and no one in the world thought Carmella had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.
The first one out should have been Naomi. Neither she nor Alexa have anything going on right now, but she has an over babyface entrance and is the more established wrestler, so she can afford to look bad by being the first one out. I would have had her eliminated via Alexa sneaking in from behind and rolling her up, which we would use to establish Alexa’s role in this match: the sneaky, chicken-sh*t heel. This would not only make Alexa look better by not getting pinned first, but would also play into her appearance on the pre-show where she bragged about having a plan to win despite her disadvantages in both size and experience.
After that I would have Carmella eliminate Nikki via some sort of BS shenanigans to keep that feud going. Nikki will be protected by not losing cleanly and we have now done something to keep that feud going so Carmella becomes expendable. This allows her to be eliminated by Alexa a few minutes later. I’d have her up on the top rope and Alexa would come out of nowhere to shove her off, then hit the Twisted Bliss for the pin (once again playing up the sneaky heel plan).
Now we have babyface Becky facing off against the two heels, who immediately ally against her and beat the crap out of her. The alliance crumbles when Alexa takes advantage of Nattie’s back being turned and tries to roll her up by Nattie kicks out and unleashes her wrath on Alexa. This would buy time for Becky to make her comeback and make Alexa tap to the Disarmer. It would come down to the two women everyone thought it should have come down to in Becky and Nattie, and Nattie would win via pinfall with her feet on the ropes (if this wasn’t the opener I would have even done a ref bump and given Becky a visual pinfall) to put off giving Becky that big win while still keeping her hot as a challenger (because the way WWE did this, everyone got beat clean so now they have no challengers).
As you probably expected, Becky won. She cut the big “I can’t believe I finally won the title. Thank you for all your support” promo.
BRAY WYATT JUMPS RANDY ORTON BACKSTAGE- he slams his leg in a door a bunch of times.
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT “SECOND CHANCE” SEMIFINAL MATCH: The Hype Bros. vs. The Usos- 4.5/10
The Usos have traded in their face paint and Haka for big white hoodies. It helps makes them look bigger, and as a result, more intimidating, so that’s good. They beat Ryder with the same superkick to the back of the knee into a Tequila sunrise combo they put Gable out with, although there was no splash this time, and they started it off with a chop block.
RENEE YOUNG INTERVIEWS HEATH SLATER & RYHNO- Heath is annoying as hell. The new joke with them (they did it in their appearance on the pre-show, too) is that they don’t realize they’re live, which always winds up making one of them look like a moron.
WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH: The Miz(c) (w/Maryse) vs. Dolph Ziggler- 7.5/10
After Dolph made his entrance, we cut backstage to Miz yelling at Daniel Bryan. Miz says he is the IC champion and is a big star so wants his contract renegotiated. Um… what leverage does he have? He also makes a point rubbing it in Bryan’s face that he is about to go out and do what Bryan can’t do anymore: wrestle. If they were going to do this, I think it would have been better to do it before they went to the video package for the IC Title match. It comes off as very awkward to me to have Dolph do his entrance and then cut backstage for a segment.
Dolph could have sold his knee better at times, but other than that this match was GREAT. They had me sucked in with all of the false finishes. That battle over the Figure Four- both Dolph trying to turn it over and then struggling to get to the ropes was epic! Miz did a lot of things here to mock Daniel Bryan. If this isn’t leading to Bryan getting back in the ring, there are going to be a lot of very disappointed fans.
NO HOLDS BARRED: Bray Wyatt vs. Kane- 6.75/10
They had Bray insist on the ten-count to claim a forfeit victory over Orton, which gives him something to brag about on Smackdown until Randy is healthy again. I guess the “No Holds Barred” stip is to make the crowd feel they are getting something better than the advertised match which isn’t happening. These two went out and did their best to make it up to the crowd. They had a great match with a terrible finish, which saw Kane pick up the win when Orton came out and nailed Bray with an RKO, so Bray’s attack amounted to absolutely zero heat because Randy has already gotten his revenge. In fact, this is like negative heat because now I have even less desire to see the originally scheduled Orton vs. Bray match.
AJ STYLES IS MEAN TO INDY WRESTLERS BACKSTAGE- well… that was kind of pointless.
WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS: Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos- 6.5/10
The Usos work on Slater’s back, but Rhyno and Slater get the win when Rhyno GOREs an Uso and Slater gets the pin, so Heath Slater now has both a title and a job, even though he deserves neither. So the new titles are now a joke because they hard held by a joke. Yeah. That’s a good way to start things off.
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: Dean Ambrose(c) vs. AJ Styles- 8.75/10
These two went crazy. The story of the match was AJ completely dominating Ambrose and Dean never giving up and always fighting back. AJ worked over Dean’s neck and he couldn’t put him down. He worked over his knee and he couldn’t beat Dean. Dean made a big comeback, but eventually we got a ref bump and AJ kicked Dean in the nuts, hit the Styles Clash and won. JBL pushed the idea that AJ’s “legions of fans” would have to consider this a “tainted victory” so I guess they REALLY want the fans to treat AJ like a heel.
All things considered, this was a pretty good PPV, but it was not without its issues. Firstly, most of the strength of the show came from the main event. If that match isn’t as awesome as it is, the show slides down to “disappointing” at best. The booking on the show was also quite poor.
This show also felt very small, which shouldn’t be the case for any PPV, never mind one where we are crowning the first champions of not one but TWO titles. Losing the Orton vs. Wyatt match certainly hurt it, but I think the majority of the responsibility lies with the poor build to the matches for the two new titles. The build for the women’s match was simply non-existent. They just had three weeks’ worth of random matches with no consequences. The only thing that resembled build was really for a Nikki vs. Carmella feud, so any interactions that weren’t between those two had almost no heat to them.
With the tag titles, the fault lies in the booking. We had three teams have a chance tonight, and both babyface teams had a guy who was a jobber two months ago. The whole “second-chance semifinal” also created some problems. First, as people have pointed out, they are essentially giving us a match-up of losers. Then one of these loser teams went on to face the babyface combination of Slater and Rhyno, meaning that the babyfaces headed into the match with an advantage. Finally, the Slater storyline felt a lot more like it was about Heath getting a job than it was about the tag titles, so the titles wound up feeling unimportant.
While the show finished on a very strong note, it also finished well over twenty minutes before the top of the hour, when most WWE PPVs recently have actually gone past 11pm. That, along with the lack of pre-announced matches, also made the show feel small. If a normal PPV is a Raw, this first Smackdown-exclusive PPV very much felt like a Smackdown PPV: shorter and a smaller. That’s not a good thing when whole point of the Brand Extension is to make Smackdown feel like it is equal to Raw.