Backlash was a legitimately great PPV in which we crowned the poster boy of the new era in the form of Heath Slater (baby).
About a day ago, if you would have asked for my thoughts about Backlash I’d said, “Oh yeah, Backlash is soon isn’t it? That’ll be 3 hours I don’t get back.” Whereas now, I would like to formally revoke my pessimism regarding the first Smackdown-exclusive PPV.
I don’t wish to generalise (although I am about to), but most wrestling fans were expecting Backlash 2016 to be fine at best. A couple of new titles, and probably shit filler match or two. Oh how wrong we were.
Baron Corbin Vs. Apollo
On the kickoff show, genius booker Daniel Bryan made this match, by mashing together the only two singles wrestlers absent from the card. Luckily, the kickoff show had a lot of time to fill, so we got a match that really showed off the newbies’ skills. In the end, Baron Corbin picked up a win with an End of Days, but all you Crews-heads out there (anyone?) needn’t worry – both guys got to look pretty strong in this fight.
Women’s Championship Match
Weeeeeellll it’s the main show, and the authority figures who promised Smackdown would be about the performers kicked things off with their entire lengthy intros. Following that unnecessary nonsense, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Naomi, Carmella, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Bella came out to fight it out for the chance to be the inaugural Smackdown Women’s Champion.
A good few minutes went by of everyone showing off their particular set of skills, like Alexa’s solid in ring ability and Naomi’s solid, flashing shoes. Then the dominos fell, in this order: Alexa, Naomi, Natalya, and Nikki, leaving Becky to lock in the Disarmer on Carmella for the win.
People were pretty behind Lynch, so everyone was happy. I personally wanted Eva Marie to show up and ruin everything.
A couple of backstage segments followed, including The Miz picking a fight with a kid promoting his Nickelodeon show. He had a nonsense name, like, it was probably based on the letter selection part of Countdown. And let me stress, this kids was not A-List material – dude couldn’t act for shit.
After that, we joined a moment already in progress: Bray Wyatt was beating down Randy Orton backstage, hoping to gain an advantage for their scheduled match.
Usos Vs. Hype Bros
Credit to the Usos for committing to their heel turn. The Samoans came out sans haka, face paint or merchandise, and kicked Zack Ryder’s cute little butt. They secured the win with a submission after working on the knee of Zack Daddy (whose trunks said “Zack Down Live” on them, by the way).
Another backstage segment now, in which we’re led to believe Heath Slater shat his pants?
The Miz Vs. Dolph Ziggler – Intercontinental Championship
Last night’s IC title defence was undoubtedly The Miz’s best singles outing in quite some time. He was out to prove Daniel Bryan wrong, and he looked like A-list material doing so, like George Clooney doing neckbreakers.
Miz seemed on his way to winning clean, but a cheeky pepper spray from Maryse, followed by a Skull Crushing Finale was all it took to silence the perennial challenger, Dolph Ziggler.
Bray Wyatt Vs. Randy Orton
So, here’s some heelish fun: Randy Orton was not cleared to compete following Wyatt dishing out the beat down earlier, but Bray still demanded the match begin and Randy be counted out, which is exactly what happened. So technically, we saw Bray Wyatt win on a PPV, which they say mirrors the rarity of Hayley’s Comet. After Wyatt was celebrating, however, it was announced that he would be competing in a no holds barred match tonight against this man…
Bray Wyatt Vs. Kane
Yes, the Devil’s Favourite Dentist himself, Kane, was Bray’s mystery opponent. It would appear this man’s recent squashy appearances were leading up to this. And while the could feel the groans of the viewers when he strode down to the ring, Kane and Bray actually put on a good match. Kane went through a foreign announce table; Bray looked strong, dishing out the beatings with a chair; and Kane reversed a Sister Abigail into a chokeslam, which Wyatt kicked out of.
Then, unfortunately, things all got a bit shit. Parseltongue Randy Orton waltzed down to the ring and landed an RKO #OuttaExactlyWhereWeExpected on Wyatt, and Kane capitalised with a second chokeslam to get the win. So yeah, Kane went over on Wyatt, in what was the only bad decision of the night.
Backstage, we were greeted by AJ Styles wandering around thinking he’s the hottest shit you ever did see (and he is). He then spoke to some jobber-looking types, who were in their ring attire backstage at a WWE PPV, but they weren’t Smackdown Superstars, so… who the fuck were they? And why were they dressed to compete? This became the biggest mystery of the night, with the commentary team constantly bringing up that nobody knew who these people were. Were they meant to be there? Were they ghosts? The next match was cancelled so the proper authorities could investigate (this didn’t happen, but there were some people backstage in ring attire, with no explanation).
Usos Vs. Slater and Rhyno – Tag Team Championship
So, it was now time for the hottest tag team in sports entertainment and Roman Reign’s cousins to go head to head. Heathy baby and Rhyno got a massive pop, rightfully so after capturing the hearts and minds of the WWE Universe. If the Usos were gonna win, there was a hellfire of heel heat coming their way.
The Samoans were good in their heel role, utilising a lot of submission holds and grounding their high-flying sensibilities. And Slater actually landed some attacks, instead of being the team’s punching bag. There was a moment in which Heath did a bit of a nice looking DDT and the entire viewing audience were forced to ask themselves “Is that Heath Slater’s finisher? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him do a finisher, so should I be marking out at the prospect of him maybe getting a pin in a second? Or was that just a DDT?”
The match started getting a little screwy, with a potential heel victory on our hands, until Rhyno lined up the active Uso for a gore (which is quite similar to a spear, don’t you know?) and Slater, the legal man, painstakingly slowly, shuffled over to cover one of Rikishi’s kids. And that was that! Heath Slater and Rhyno were crowned inaugural Smackdown Tag Team Champions and Heathy baby was gifted with a contract. In the post match interview, he seemed genuinely overcome with emotion, possibly because he’s rarely felt the joy of winning a match. He thanked the crowd, claiming this was the happiest moment since “the birth of a couple of my kids” and with glee proclaimed “Bula, we’re getting a double-wide, baby!” It was a beautiful moment and we’re all lucky to have Heath Slater.
Dean Ambrose Vs. AJ Styles – WWE World Championship
If you wouldn’t mind thinking back to a piece I wrote a few days ago, you may recall I mentioned that AJ Styles would Styles Clash Dean Ambrose’s face off and win the title. You all called me mad! Now who’s mad?! The guy who is writing this wrestling recap at four in the morning? Maybe.
I’ve made it no secret that I don’t think Ambrose is so great. His character on the mic is a mess and he’s got about five moves in the ring, despite being this unpredictable lunatic. With that said, he actually held his own fairly well in this match. He pulled out a few new moves and actually seemed slightly unhinged. This character development worried me, because it felt like Ambrose was going to retain, which is downright illogical because AJ Styles cleanly beat the most protected man in the industry under a month ago. But, luckily, this is not something I have to complain about, so I won’t. The right man won.
We were treated to some lovely spots in this bout, like AJ’s springboard 450 splash actually connecting, and some particularly brutal looking mat counters from Ambrose.
The match culminated in the referee being distracted after a fumble, which AJ capitalised on by way of a good ol’ kick to the dick, followed by a Styles Clash for the win. It was a genuine shock. Many were expecting a screwy finish followed by months of Styles coming close to capturing the title, but hey, WWE saved us some time.
If you would have told me a year ago that Heath Slater and Rhyno were tag champions and former TNA star AJ Styles was currently in possession of the brand’s top title, I would have straight up murdered you, because I don’t take kindly to liars.
The reason Backlash was a successful pay per view can be boiled down to this one thing: the matches actually had time to be good, instead of getting a quick result out of the way and then dropping in on the social media lounge. All the wrestling was actually good. The show was about good wrestling. It’s crazy that good wrestling being the focal point of a PPV is considered unusual, but hopefully this is an indication of a “new era”.
CUT TO ME IN A MONTH:
Well, No Mercy was a piece of shit, wasn’t it?