Smackdown’s lashing back at RAW in their solo pay-per-view debut!
Question is, should anyone care?
Emanating from Sacramento, CA
Announcers: Mauro Ranallo, David Otunga, John “Bradshaw” Layfield
SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP SIX PACK CHALLENGE: BECKY LYNCH vs. CARMELLA vs. ALEXA BLISS vs. NAOMI vs. NIKKI BELLA vs. NATALYA
SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT SECOND CHANCE MATCH: HYPE BROS vs. THE USOS
INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP: THE MIZ (C) vs. DOLPH ZIGGLER
BRAY WYATT VS. KANE- NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH
SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT FINAL: HEATH SLATER & RHYNO vs. THE USOS
WWE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: DEAN AMBROSE (C) vs. AJ STYLES
SPOLIER ALERT: MATCH RESULTS AHEAD, BE WARNED
When it comes to the whole “brand warfare” thing that WWE has been pushing in relation to having RAW and Smackdown as two separate shows, I haven’t exactly been all that invested, since even the hardest believers in kayfabe would have trouble buying that either show is really in competition with one another. However, were I to indulge that notion, I would say that Smackdown has been struggling the last few weeks to even match RAW in terms of show quality. But there are always opportunities to right the ship, and Smackdown’s first brand-exclusive PPV Backlash is just the opportunity Smackdown needed.
That said, it wasn’t exactly the slam dunk I’m sure WWE was hoping for.
Make no mistake; I give all the credit in the world to the talent involved. Everyone, from top of the card right to the bottom, put on strong performances and did the best they could to make their matches memorable. Backlash as a whole was not let down by the quality of its matches, but rather by the lack of proper build and hype, and a card that was more than slightly underwhelming on paper and in execution.
But before I get into that, I wanna focus first on performances, because as I said, they were for the most part excellent. The women excelled in the Six Pack Challenge, delivering a fun, fast-paced contest. While it might have benefitted from only being a singles match or a tripe threat match to make it feel less cluttered, the Six Pack Challenge was strong nonetheless. Having Becky Lynch pick up the win and the championship was both the right and only real call to make. Elsewhere on the card, Ziggler and Miz delivered a surprisingly strong contest that proved to be a delightfully suspenseful back-and-forth that both guys worked incredibly hard to sell as having a lot on the line. And of course, I have to give props to the one match on the card that had some level of legitimate hype: the WWE World Championship match. While Ambrose and Styles took a little while to get going, once they did, their match quickly became the match of the night. Both guys slipped into their roles perfectly, Ambrose being every bit the gutsy fighting champ, and Styles becoming more and more adept in his role as arrogant smug heel. Styles picking up the win and the championship- while a little heartbreaking for me as an Ambrose fanboy- was absolutely the right call to make and the best possible way to capitalise on Styles’ huge and surprising win over John Cena at Summerslam.
But, as I said, strong though the performances in this show were, they were greatly let down by the circumstances surrounding them. While the Miz has been genuinely picking up steam these past few weeks since his blistering worked shoot promo on Daniel Bryan, that momentum really couldn’t be transferred to his match with Ziggler. The only way that promo and Miz’s apparent feud with Daniel Bryan will make any sense is if it leads to Bryan getting back in the ring, and that seems unlikely. Add in the horribly damaged credibility of Dolph Ziggler and the sheer number of times which he’s wrestled Miz with the IC title on the line, and the IC title match struggled to feel valuable. The tag team stuff on the show was hit-or-miss as well. While it’s definitely refreshing to have the Usos finally change up their act with a heel turn, the execution of their role in the show made for a questionable way to consolidate the Usos’ heel turn. While they looked impressive crushing the Hype Bros, The Usos were immediately made to look ridiculous by dropping the final match to Slater and Rhyno, who great as they’ve been, have also been portrayed primarily as a comedy act.
By far the show’s most disappointing low-point however was the Bray Wyatt/Randy Orton match, which as you may have guessed from the aforementioned match card, never happened due to an apparent injury Orton has been dealing with. Regardless of whether this is some kind of angle or not, it was pretty frustrating to be denied one of the bigger matches on the card, and Kane hardly made for a decent substitute. While Wyatt and Kane worked hard, it was difficult to get past the disappointment of the original match being called off, and Orton inexplicably making an appearance just to cost Wyatt the match just felt like insult to injury. This combined with just the general mundane nature of the card really seemed to sap the crowd’s energy too. Reactions throughout were weak and lethargic, and there were awkward periods of silence and visible disinterest even during the more anticipated matches on the card.
Backlash, while a fine offering for decent wrestling, wasn’t necessarily the ringing endorsement WWE needed to justify the Brand Split. Backlash was harmed significantly by its distinct lack of star power or overall interest in the card, and kind of exposed how thin Smackdown’s roster is, especially in comparison to the much more stacked RAW roster. If nothing else, you’ll get a kick out some of the matches on the card, and the great crowing moments for Becky Lynch and AJ Styles, but the show as a whole isn’t one you desperately need to check out.