With that out of the way, I just wanted to share a few thoughts on Backlash 2016, the first single-brand PPV since the brand split. This is not an exhaustive play by play recap. You can find those all over the internet. So, to that end, I assume that you have either seen the show or you read the recap of your choice already.
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BARON CORBIN pinned APOLLO CREWS.
BECKY LYNCH defeated NAOMI, NIKKI BELLA, CARMELLA, NATALYA and ALEXA BLISS to become the first SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S CHAMPION.
THE USOS defeated THE HYPE BROS. to advance to the finals of the SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT.
THE MIZ (w/MARYSE) retained the INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE against DOLPH ZIGGLER.
BRAY WYATT defeated RANDY ORTON by forfeit.
KANE defeated BRAY WYATT in a NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH after RANDY ORTON interfered.
HEATH SLATER and RHYNO beat THE USOS to become the first SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS and earn SLATER a Smackdown Contract.
AJ STYLES pinned DEAN AMBROSE to win the WWE WORLD TITLE.
My thoughts on the show:
- Miz is on Fire. Ever since his now infamous promo on Daniel Bryan a few weeks ago, Miz has launched what may wind up being the best work of his career, especially since it translated into his ring work at Backlash. I firmly believe that Miz and Ziggler stole the show (edging Styles vs Ambrose because they told a better story), and that was not due to Miz being carried, but more than holding his own. In fact, my biggest knock on that match was Ziggler forgetting to sell so he could make sure he "got his s--- in". Miz even busted out a few "new" moves, as he's begun ripping off Daniel Bryan's offense in his matches. The only problem I have with that is the end game: Is WWE planning to clear Daniel Bryan to wrestle The Miz? If not, what is the end game? I can only assume that if Bryan isn't planning to wrestle again, whether it's regularly or a one-off match so he can have a more proper in-ring send-off, then this will build to a new Smackdown signing. After all, heel Intercontinental champions have a history of being suddenly destroyed out of nowhere, and Daniel Bryan unleashing Samoa Joe on The Miz as revenge for this would be a fresh and hot start to Joe on the main roster.
- The Right Finishes. This is obviously subjective, but the right people seemed to go over all across the board at Backlash (save one, which I will discuss below). I feared that Nikki Bella was going to take Becky's moment of glory, but that didn't happen. I feared that The Usos were going to rob us of the best feel good moment on WWE TV in some time, but Heath Slater prevailed. As much as I like Dean Ambrose, something never clicked with him as WWE Champion, and AJ Styles is killing it right now, so that was the right choice. Given that I have spent a few shows shaking my head and wondering what in the Hell the writers are thinking, I found very little to argue about with the outcomes of this show...except for one.
- Keeping Kane Strong. Look, I love Kane. One of my favorites of all time. I believe in loyalty, as well, so don't just humiliate a guy who has put in the kind of service he has. He and Bray had a surprisingly good match, especially at this point in Kane's career, but did he really need to go over? Bray has been positioned as "The New Face of Fear", is a great mic worker, is over as Hell, carries his gimmick in a "reality era" like Kane and Undertaker did before him...but he looks like a chump over and over. Hurting Orton before the match was a great move. Standing toe to toe with Kane was an even better move. Losing to Kane, even with outside interference, was silly. I get that you want to get the Orton pop on the show since you advertised the match, but maybe save it for post match, instead? Kane is on his last legs, Orton isn't getting any younger, and Bray needs to win something big, fast or he's going to become damaged goods. Now, the rest of the feud may play out in Bray's favor...and, if so, I'll eat these words...but I haven't seen that yet with many of his feuds, so I am skeptical here.
- The Feel Good Moment of the Year. Easily the biggest surprise post-draft is that WWE has made me care about Heath Slater (and Rhyno). It seemed telegraphed that they would win the tag team titles since Slater's contract depended on it, but the Uso heel turn made me question it. I was stunned that they not only won, but won clean (I expected one or both members of American Alpha to at least cause a distraction), but Slater even scoring the pin (still after a Rhyno Gore) made it sweeter. I have no illusions that they will be champions after No Mercy. Heck, they may not be champions after Smackdown tonight, but this was definitely the right finish to the Slater contract story. The heel turn for the Usos should be great just as soon as they get a new entrance video and music, and then the tag team title scene will revolve around them and American Alpha, which could provide a few instant classics.
- Good Finish, Weird Booking. I am very glad that Becky Lynch won the Smackdown Women's Title. Sometimes WWE outsmarts itself, and I had a scary moment where I thought Carmella would win, setting up a Nikki-Carmella feud for the belt. That said, I have no idea a) why Carmella - arguably the least over woman in WWE - was the last person in the ring with Becky, and b) why they let Nikki Bella get her hands on Carmella at all before Backlash. You could have accomplished the same thing and played the end game out with Natalya or Alexa, or even Nikki Bella (though that runs the risk of splitting the crowd, which the finish didn't need). That said, coming out of the match we have feuds with Nikki and Carmella, apparently Naomi and Alexa, and I assume Becky vs Natalya (which hopefully puts that feud to rest once and for all).
- I Don't Like The Smackdown Commentary Team. Man, JBL used to be great. Now he's going through the motions worse than Lawler ever has. On top of it, as a heel commentator he's terrible, rallying behind guys like Mojo Rawley, who is a babyface even if the internet hates him. Mauro Ranallo started off as a fresh voice on Smackdown, but he's started to grate on him, with his overblown exclamations that feel more like someone trying to emulate Jim Ross than legitimate expressions. David Otunga has been the surprise for me, as I HATED Otunga in his WWE run, but he's not only surprisingly good, he's a good babyface commentator. Ranallo mis-called a few moves at Backlash that would have gotten Michael Cole crucified, and he completely talked over Otunga trying to point out that Miz was intentionally ripping off Daniel Bryan's moves in his match with Ziggler. This team just isn't working to me.
I had zero expectations for Backlash, but it was one off the most entertaining WWE shows of the year, top to bottom and well worth checking out. The right finishes and strong performances from the roster, nothing bad on the show, a legitimate markout moment with the Heath Slater win and the length felt juuuuuuust right. Hopefully they can carry that momentum into No Mercy in a month.