Review: WWE Backlash  PPV
Here is Smackdown Live’s first PPV of the new WWE era! Two new champions were crowned tonight, and two champions had to defend their titles against the innovative offenses of their opponents. The build up to the PPV was so-so, but there have been plenty of excellent shows that had terrible build-ups to precede them. Tonight really was a historical night, and what better city to do it in than historic Richmond, Virginia, which I grew up only an hour away from.
As the new brands continue to discover their new and fresh identities, it’s important start off on a strong foot and keep getting stronger and stronger. WWE Fans have dealt with too much indecisiveness and lackluster outcomes for too long, so our abilities that trigger happiness and forgiveness are running along a very thin line. Yes, the brand split has created some interesting pops and exciting storylines, but will it all eventually settle down to the familiar bore we’ve come to loath? Boy I hope not, and tonight is a prime example of why Smackdown is leading the charge that’s going to keep turning up the heat in WWE.
Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews
While I cannot wait to see these two get more time on the bigger stage, they are exactly where they need to be in this business. They are young, fresh, and strong up-and-comers who have very bright futures ahead of them if they stay obedient and keep working hard.
And this match allowed us to peek into the very wonderful futures of these two superstars. This was a short but sweet bout where each performer got to show off and use their great chemistry to woo and entertain the crowd, getting them ready for a fun night. Not only were their great reversals, brutality, high-risk maneuvers, and powerful exchanges captivating, but Corbin’s “End of Days” has become one of the most powerful moves in the industry. I had fun with this one, only wish it could’ve gone on just a tiny bit longer.
Match Grade: B-
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Becky Lynch vs. Nikki Bella vs. Carmella vs. Alexa Bliss
It’s time for the ladies of Smackdown to lead the evolution that has been building and building its momentum as of late. While the Divas Revolution might have been less-than-stellar, the Divas Evolution (yes, it’s different) has proved to be very promising. With most of the Divas going over to Smackdown, this is definitely the type of re-branding the division needed. New show + New Wrestlers + New Championship = A New Start.
This match was a good indicator that the women’s division is heading in the right direction, but the chemistry between all six women wasn’t blooming with very bright colors. There were too many missed spots and slow offensive exchanges, and then Naomi’s complete botch on the ropes put an exclamation point on the sloppy sentence headlining this match.
And yet, the several high-risk spots and Becky’s rampage and ability to entertain, allowed for the match to surpass an “Average” rating, but it still didn’t feel like a championship match. Hopefully now that the new champion, Becky Lynch, has been crowned, the Divas Evolution will continue its steady climb through one-on-one matches, and maybe a few triple threats as well.
Match Grade: C+
Second Chance Tag Team Match: Hype Bros. vs. The Usos
The new Heels on the block, The Usos, were able to get a second chance in the tag team championship tournament by removing American Alpha from the competition. A controversial turn of events? Yes, but it gives The Usos the chance to grow as Heels, which I would love to see them find success with.
Ryder showed off in this match, demonstrating how entertaining he can be if given the chance. I would love to see him in more singles matches, but his tag team with Mojo Rawley isn’t all that bad… even though I’m still not a fan of Mojo’s gimmick. He really has no character, just too much adrenaline.
Anyways, the match itself wasn’t anything special but wasn’t bad, either. It felt like a normal Smackdown match with a little extra hype added on top. The Usos most certainly work as heels, but this “chop block then submission” spot they have is going to lose its luster sooner than later. They need to add some more flavor to their gimmick. Maybe wear chains or some other potentially dangerous attire that they could use illegally during their matches. This will help their characters and help all of their matches in the end. It would’ve helped this one get a better grade than a…
Match Grade: C+
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
Miz has been on fire lately with his promos and opinions of the WWE universe. Many WWE fans may not like Miz as a wrestler, and yes he’s not the best in-ring worker, but he always makes up for his weaknesses with his incredible ability to captivate an audience with his smug demeanor and energetic charisma. I’ve liked him as intercontinental champion and he’s one of WWE’s best and most annoying heels, but it’s most definitely time for the title to change hands. And my man Dolph Ziggler needs another title reign of some sort to keep his career going.
I’m not complaining when I say this match was long for an intercontinental title defense. That’s because these two performers had the first GREAT match of the night. The energy was hot when Ziggler had the momentum, and then the energy simmered down to a methodic level when Miz took over, creating a nice mix that was fun to watch. Their reversals allowed for the momentum shifts to turn into great plot points of entertainment. Miz even added some innovation to his armory with a springboard powerbomb that was actually pretty dope… seriously.
It was a good championship fight. Its illegitimate ending does wonders for Miz and Maryse’s alliance. I’ve always thought Heel Managers are the best and need to be more evident in their “client’s” matches, and even though Maryse was quiet for most of this one, she gave it a finish that fits the Miz’s gimmick and title reign. Some may be mad it ended with illegal interference, but the match was good enough to where the ending was perfectly acceptable. And I do not say that very often.
Match Grade: B
No Holds Barred Match: Kane (Not Randy Orton) vs. Bray Wyatt
Randy Orton was supposed to be Bray Wyatt’s opponent tonight. Now, I don’t know if this was WWE Creative’s plan or if something happened to Orton, causing them to call an audible. If an audible was called, I honestly would’ve liked to see someone other than Kane take on Bray Wyatt… but at least Kane is in his demonic form instead of his corporate attire. Kane isn’t what he used to be, which is understandable. It’s still good to see a future hall of famer.
Two big men went at each other during this one, so it was understandable when the match’s momentum slowed down to a drawl and when it took the performers awhile to string their spots together. That’s usually what happens in these types of matches. With that said, Bray Wyatt is one of the most athletic big men, and he demonstrated it beautifully when he performed a running senton that smashed Kane through a table. Other than that, this was a pretty mellow No Holds Barred match with the exception of some brutal chair spots.
Orton did eventually make an appearance, which added a bit of fun to the mix, and gave Bray Wyatt a sweet RKO, symbolizing this match switch was only made to add fuel to their Rivalry and increase appeal until it can end/continue at a more popular PPV. Orton’s RKO allowed Kane to take advantage for the win, but this surprising ending doesn’t save the match from an average score.
Match Grade: C
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno
Who ever thought we’d see Heath Slater in a tag team title picture again? This is why I love the brand split. It’s giving the little guys/chumps opportunities to go out there and show off why they were signed to the WWE in the first place. Win or lose, it’s awesome to see Slater getting some crowd love and a title shot. He’s been around for a long time, taking too many losses and embarrassing himself week in and week out. This man deserves some time in the spotlight, at least give him that.
This match was an excellent example of what happens when you put two very likable teams in the ring. The Usos are fresh with their Heel turn, and Heath Slater & Rhyno are so different that they work wonderfully together. In this match, Slater was the ultimate underdog. We all know his career hasn’t been that great over recent years and he was the only wrestler not to be drafted in the WWE Draft. Because of this, a win in this match gives him a championship and a contract with Smackdown. So automatically, the crowd wanted to see success rain on the guy that has been manhandled by his opponents for too long. Dramatic tension is the best!
The Usos and Slater/Rhyno had great chemistry, and their styles mixed in a way that helped the underdog story flourish. To see what I mean, watch The Usos’ violent onslaught on Slater, which lasted a good five minutes. Once Slater/Rhyno took back the momentum, we got to see Slater spark the match’s finale, hitting The Usos with two vicious neckbreakers that could give the RKO a run for its money. The finale ended with the belts around the underdogs, and I can’t wait to see if this is just a little fad WWE Creative wants to entertain for a month or if Slater’s newfound popularity and exposure are something they are going to run with for awhile.
Match Grade: B-
WWE World Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles
Capping off the night with one of WWE’s better stories/rivalries in recent weeks is everything a fan could ask for when it comes to a main event. AJ has defeated Cena, legitimately, and is now on Cloud 9 with his arrogance and dangerous arsenal. Dean Ambrose is the perfect champion for Smackdown’s new era, and he’s surely going to be seen in Wrestlemania’s main event sometime in the next two years. With these two superstars and a dramatic story backing them, this right here is a recipe for success that only needs to be executed perfectly.
And it was executed with flying colors. I’ll be honest, the beginning of this match had me kind of disappointed, but once AJ and Ambrose’s styles started clicking, then that’s when the match took off. The constant switching of momentum created a flow that only got better as the match continued. AJ brought his innovative offense, as always, but Ambrose brought some new, brutal offense and defense as well, classifying him as a champion who won’t go down without a fight.
By the time the match hit its finale, these two beaten superstars were duking it out in brutal fashion, exerting themselves in impossible ways in order to beat their opponent. AJ might’ve won off of an illegal low blow that the ref didn’t see, but this only stirs the rivalry’s pot and pushes AJ into the realm of a Nasty Heel.
Match Grade: A
Tonight was a good night. Even though we’re seeing some of the same superstars and the new title belts look exactly the same as Raw’s, with the exception of their color, tonight felt different. In a good way, I mean. It felt like a new era has truly begun, and all the fans in the WWE Universe could breathe a breath of fresh air. Disappointments came along with the show’s excellence. That happens in live entertainment (trust me, I know), but it no way am I worried about the future of Smackdown Live and the WWE… Though, I have said that before and was proven wrong the very next day.
So, we shall see what tomorrow holds!