WWE Backlash – September 11th 2016
Richmond Coliseum: Richmond, VA.
There’s no other way of looking at the WWE 2016 Draft so far as anything other than a complete an utter failure. Ratings for both shows have been pretty dismal, the talent pools on each roster are positively anorexic and have provided us with such stellar feuds as Darren Young vs. Titus O’Neil and Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz, plus we still have McMahon drama clogging up RAW and to a lesser extent SmackDown. The television product is becoming more sterile with each passing week, as RAW has to contend with Vince McMahon changing the script right up until the show goes on the air, not to mention the biggest problem of all – that killer of a third hour. Under the pencil of head writer Ryan Ward, SmackDown has been much more focused in terms of storyline progression, however the show is constantly fighting an uphill battle due to the laughably weak roster. Look no further than the SD Tag Team and Women’s divisions to see just how thin the talent really is on the blue brand.
Even with all these issues facing the current WWE product, Backlash was a much better show than expected. On paper it looked like a complete nothing show, but everybody on the under-card worked extremely hard to at least make things respectable, until AJ Styles came out and showed everybody why he has been in the discussion for best wrestler in the world for at least the last three years. Styles defeated Ambrose to win the WWE World Championship in what was an outstanding wrestling match. 2016 continues to be one of the craziest years in recent memory. Forget a couple of years ago. If you would have told me on January 3rd of this year that AJ Styles would be WWE Champion in September I would have either called you a damnable liar or presumed you had come from an alternate reality. Unlike when he was on RAW and losing PPV matches to Chris Jericho before going on to a main event title shot, Styles has been booked extremely strong on SmackDown ever since he beat John Cena clean and winning the title was the next logical step in what is assuredly a long build to a big title defense against Cena.
While the rest of Backlash unquestionably over-delivered, it was far from a show of the year contender or anything like that. The fact that we had the crowning of two new champions made it feel somewhat important, but come on, who really cares about the secondary Tag Team and Women’s titles on the B show? Becky Lynch outlasted five other women to become the first ever SmackDown Women’s Champion in a decent match that some people are over-hyping to a ridiculous degree. The new SmackDown Tag titles were won by Heath Slater & Rhyno in the pay-off to the two month storyline of Slater trying to earn himself a contract.
One of the biggest stories of the show was that Randy Orton was not cleared to compete against Bray Wyatt and was replaced by Kane of all people…in 2016. News started to leak out earlier in the day that Orton would not be working the match, however WWE acted like nothing was wrong and continued to promote the match as if it were happening. They shot an extremely weak backstage angle with Wyatt “injuring” Orton’s leg and Randy was announced as being unable to compete as the match was about to start. The word going around is that Orton was banged up much worse than first thought by Brock Lesnar and was suffering concussion symptoms. It is hard to believe that WWE only found out about any of this the day of the show, so the fact that they continued to promote the Orton/Waytt match even though they knew full well it was never going to happen was a pretty sleazy promotion tactic. Again, Kane being the big replacement for Orton further exposed the depth issues of the SmackDown roster.
You know the gimmick by now. Renee, Lawler, Booker & Lita were on the panel; they recited awful scripted WWE verbiage for an hour. Heath Slater & Rhyno were in the social media lounge; Slater made some jokes about his fictional kids. They set up Apollo Crews vs Baron Corbin with a backstage segment; Apollo’s new gimmick of spelling words out-loud is death. Match turned out to be pretty decent, as both guys worked very hard and the crowd even got into it by the end. Corbin won clean with the End of Days in 10:00. Corbin came out looking strong, but this did Apollo no favours at all, (**¾).
Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan were out to stall for time and they basically just ran down the card to kill a few minutes. Shane also thanked the fans for making SmackDown a success and said they were responsible for the “soaring” SD ratings. HA!
SmackDown Women’s Championship, Elimination Six Pack Challenge: Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Nikki Bella vs. Carmella vs. Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss. – Becky Lynch became the first SD Women’s Champion in 14:21. Typical WWE multi-person match, where everyone politely waited on the outside for the cue to come in. The girls basically just did a bunch of moves and spots for about nine minutes or-so and constantly rotated in and out of the ring. There was a Tower of Doom and Naomi hit a Springboard Plancha onto the pile on the floor. After no early eliminations, we got four in under three minutes, as Naomi eliminated Alexa with a Sunset Powerbomb at 9:38. Alexa was dressed like Harley Quinn and looked amazing. Naomi was sent packing at 10:52 by Nattie and the Sharpshooter. Nikki pinned Nattie with her Backbreaker at 12:00. They continued the Nikki/Carmella storyline by having Carmella eliminate Nikki with a roll-up at 12:08. Finish saw Becky submit Carmella with the Shirome Armbar and she cut a pretty tepid victory promo afterwards. – Match was sloppy in place, but it was fine and the crowd were into it. Some clowns have been calling this the best ever women’s match on the main roster. I can assure you it was no where even close. (**¾).
There was an awful backstage skit involving the Miz and some skateboarder kid named Jagger Eaton, who told Miz he wanted John Cena for his nickelodeon show instead of him.
They shot the lame Randy Orton injury angle. Orton was on the floor in the back already selling, as Wyatt had supposedly trapped his leg in a door. Some referees quickly ran over to break it up and that was it. – Bill Watts would have shuck his head in disgust at the lack of effort put into shooting this angle.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Tournament Final: The Usos vs The Hype Bros. – Usos over in 10:11. Usos are have gone full heel and ditched their multi-coloured attire/face paint for some simple black gear. It was a huge improvement. Basic TV match. Heat on Ryder, Mojo stumbled his way through the comeback. Finish saw the Usos attack Ryder’s knee like they did to Chad Gable on TV and Jimmy got the win with the Tequila Sunrise. (**).
Atrocious backstage skit with Heath Slater & Rhyno. Slater said his wife made crab cakes and he had been to the toilet five times already. Rhyno told him the cameras were still on and Heath tried to pretend he was doing an episode of Swerved.
We got yet more time-filler, as Miz met with Daniel Bryan before his IC title defence. Miz said that he wanted to renegotiate his contract after he won and told Bryan to watch him do what he can’t anymore.
IC Championship: Miz (C) w/Maryse vs. Dolph Ziggler. – Miz retained in 18:22. Despite nobody on the planet caring one bit about these two facing each other it turned out to be a solid match, although it did go a little too long, but hey they needed to fill time. Miz did the Romero Special and some Bryan-esque Dropkicks in the corner then did the “Yes!” chant – they have to be building to something with Bryan/Miz. Miz worked over the shoulder for a while then changed his mind and went after the leg to set up the Figure Four. Dolph made his comeback and they traded some good near-falls. Finish saw Maryse spray Zigger in the eyes with some kind of aerosol gimmick behind the ref’s back and Miz won with the Skull Crushing Finale.– Dolph loses yet again. He is in desperate need of a heel turn. The Miz/Bryan stuff is getting really weird, as they are clearly setting something up. Since it has been made abundantly clear the WWE will not clear him to compete, the only pay-off I can imagine is Bryan putting Miz in the Yes-Lock at some point. (*** ½).
Bray Wyatt made his entrance. Ring announcer Greg Hamilton was handed a note and he announced that Randy Orton was not cleared to wrestle. Bray argued with referee Charles Robinson and wanted to be declared the winner by forfeit. Robinson called for the bell, counted to ten and declared Wyatt the winner via forfeit. Hamilton then announced that Wyatt would be competing in a No Holds Barred match against “this man” (dramatic pause). Kane’s music played and everyone watching let out a collective sigh of contempt.
No Holds Barred: Bray Wyatt vs. Kane. – Kane over in 10:55. I’m not going to lie. I was so disinterested in this match that I went to make a sandwich as soon as Kane came out. Luckily I can still see the TV from my kitchen so I casually watched Kane & Wyatt have their crummy match while I waited for my bread to toast. Wyatt used a chair; Kane hit a lame DDT that was supposed to be on the chair but it missed by a mile. Wyatt put Kane through the Spanish announce table with a running Senton off the other tables; crowd enjoyed that nearly as much as I enjoyed my cheese toastie. They did some more stuff until Randy Orton limped out and hit Wyatt with an RKO, which is a strange thing to let a man with an apparent concussion to do. Kane followed up with a Chokeslam and got the pin. – I guess they didn’t want to put Wyatt over since the crowd were already upset about Orton being taken out of the match. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for having Kane win this thing. They could have put Bray over then had Orton come out and hit the RKO to make the crowd happy, but apparently we still need to protect the 49 year-old joke of a monster. (*¾).
AJ Styles came across some jobbers in the back and told them they had the privilege of meeting him on the night he won the WWE title. More filler.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship: Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos. – Slater & Rhyno became the first SD Tag Team Champions at 10:02. Crowd were hot for Slater & Rhyno early. Rhyno did virtually nothing the entire match and Slater sold for the hear. Rhyno got the hot tag and hit Jimmy with a Belly-to-Belly but missed an attempted Gore. Slater tagged himself back in after about 30 seconds, which was totally stupid but whatever. Rhyno took out an Uso with the Gore and Slater made the cover to win the titles. Slater cut a great victory promo afterwards and said it was the best day of his life expect for a few of his kids being born then declared that he was getting a double-wide for him and his wife, Beulah. (**½).
WWE World Championship: Dean Ambrose (C) vs. AJ Styles. – Styles became the new WWE Champion at 24:55. Fantastic match that was different from the usual WWE big match formula. They worked at a methodical pace and didn’t spam up the home stretch with a million moves and finisher kick-outs. Things built really well. It was back and forth early; Ambrose landed a Dive to the floor then Styles came back win a Snap Suplex into the buckle. Styles smashed Ambrose’s knee and began to soften up the leg for the Calf Killer. Styles went for the Clash on the apron, but Ambrose countered with a slingshot and Styles took a nasty bump into the ringpost. They traded some near-falls: Ambrose hit a Bulldog then a roll-up and Styles came back with the Ushigoroshi and a spinning Torture Rack Powerbomb. Ambrose hit a Dropkick and Styles flew through the ropes like a madman to the floor; Ambrose followed up with a Tope and AJ bumped like a king over the announce table. Ambrose tossed AJ over the barricade and landed a running Elbow drop off the announce tables. Crowd were going insane at this point. Back inside, Styles hit the Pele, but Ambrose fired up and came right back with the Jawbreaker Lariat. Finish saw Styles counter the Dirty Deeds DDT and he shoved Ambrose into the referee, allowing AJ just enough time to hit a low blow before he finished Dean off with the Styles Clash. – The lack of WWE main event tropes really made this match standout and Styles absolutely worked his ass off. The low blow was a good way to set up an easy rematch and was a nice reminder that Styles is in fact still supposed to be a heel, as the crowd got more behind him as the match wore on. This match absolutely saved the show from being utterly forgettable and Styles showed that he is clearly head and shoulders above virtually everyone on the main roster. Can you say Hall of Fame? (**** ½).
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