Backlash is only a few days away, and this week’s SmackDown featured a match that will likely overshadow the whole card. Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles fought to become the new Intercontinental champion, and it was incredible. Sheamus sought to embarrass Jeff Hardy once again, Braun Strowman was looking for payback against The Miz and John Morrison, and Sasha Banks and Bayley’s tag title victory celebrations were cut short, thanks to Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross.

Quick Results

Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura def. The New Day via pinfall

AJ Styles def. Daniel Bryan via pinfall

Braun Stowman & Heavy Machinery def. The Miz & John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler via pinfall

A Leopard Doesn’t Change Its Spots

Jeff Hardy has been the victim of wrongful accusations and psychological abuse from Sheamus over the last month, and it’s going to come to ahead at this Sunday’s Backlash. However, that didn’t stop him from trying to embarrass Hardy one final time before their match. Renee Young stood in the ring and invited Sheamus and Jeff Hardy for a contract signing. Sheamus brought a team of security guards and a doctor with him. When both men were face to face, Sheamus began his tirade of insults, disrespecting Hardy by calling him a “junkie,” and bringing up his family.

Sheamus said that his lawyers had convinced WWE Management that Hardy needed to take a urine test before their match. Jeff Hardy said he was an alcoholic, and how he goes to meetings every week to talk about how he’s let everyone down, including his friends and family. “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Hardy said, before talking about how his demons are starving, and that Sheamus was the thing to sate their hunger.

Hardy went along with the urine test and walked behind a black stand to complete it. As Hardy relieved himself, Sheamus continued to wind up Hardy, who told viewers to not be a loser like Jeff Hardy, and not to do drugs. When Hardy finished, Sheamus looked at the sample and said Hardy “must’ve enjoyed happy hour.” Enough was enough, and Hardy managed to get some sweet revenge.

As Hardy said, “it’s better to be pissed off than pissed on,” he grabbed the sample and threw it in Sheamus’ face. Gagging from the smell, he removed his shirt and tried not to vomit. Is this a new low in WWE’s creative ideas, or did it help to bring humour to a sensitive subject? Personally, I think we’re passed mocking sensitive subjects like alcohol abuse, and the entire angle hasn’t worked at all. I’m looking forward to seeing these two fight at Backlash, but I wish it had gone down differently.

Backstage, Sheamus was trying to wash off the urine, when the doctor came in and told Sheamus the test came back negative. This only enraged him further, who couldn’t seem to escape the smell. Both Sheamus and Jeff Hardy continued to brawl a little later on, with WWE personnel forced to break them up. Inside a ring, these two have great potential to tear it up. Hardy has a lot to prove, and Sheamus has shown how good he is in a ring over the last few weeks.

Celebrations Cut Short

Love it or hate it, Bayley and Sasha Banks are the new Women’s Tag Team champions. They arrived in the ring to celebrate their win, with white, black, and gold balloons everywhere. Bayley said that many believe it’s lonely at the top, but not her. She has her best friend Sasha Banks with her. Sasha added that she told everyone they were going to win and that they were leaders, not liars. Before Bayley was able to read a poem she had written for Banks, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross interrupted.

Bliss said she was happy with them celebrating, but not reading poetry. The Iiconics then appeared on the big screen and reminded the new champions they were the ones to defeat them to take their titles off them the first time around. Bliss and Cross then attacked Bayley and Banks, leaving them furious outside the ring.

This Triple Threat Match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship should be great, but I hope Bayley and Sasha drop the titles. The Iiconics are more deserving, and even if they don’t manage to pick up the win, I’d be happy with Bliss and Cross winning them back. I’m starting to get fed up of this best friend charade, and even Bayley’s over the top heel performances are starting to grate on me. Please, Sasha, turn on your friend and give Bayley a match for the ages.

All Aboard The Strowman Express

After last week’s shenanigans, Braun Strowman was looking to get his hands on The Miz and John Morrison before their match at Backlash. Otis and Tucker would be joining him, and Dolph Ziggler would be teaming with Miz and Morrison in a six-man main event. Earlier in the evening, Otis was wearing a blindfold, with Tucker telling him he would need all his senses in their match. He then placed a plate of hamburgers under his nose as Mandy gave him a kiss. I’m not entirely sure what this segment was about, but it led into Jeff Hardy and Sheamus brawling backstage.

Braun had also spoken backstage earlier on about how there was so much happening. He said his windshield could be fixed, but nothing was going to be able to fix what happens to The Miz and John Morrison at Backlash. I’m counting down the days for when Roman Reigns returns because I really want a new champion. Big men need more than just their stature to get over, and Strowman has no personality at all; his promos are lifeless, and his overacting is tiresome.

Braun Stowman & Heavy Machinery vs The Miz & John Morrison, & Dolph Ziggler

As for the match itself, it didn’t really amount too much, maybe because everything was overshadowed by the Intercontinental Championship match from earlier in the night. Otis ran off halfway because King Corbin was seen on the big screen talking to Mandy Rose about what transpired last week. Back in the ring, Tucker was being worn down by his opponents, and Braun Strowman got double teamed by Miz and Morrison at ringside.

When Otis did reappear, he went on a rampage, taking out everyone. He threw Dolph Ziggler over his head to the outside of the ring. Braun Strowman then charged into The Miz at ringside, and almost sent John Morrison to the moon, launching him up high into the plastic perspex. He then grabbed Ziggler and chucked him into the barricade, before throwing him back in the ring. Otis went for the Caterpillar and elbow drop to pick up the win.

Since Otis won the men’s briefcase at Money in the Bank, WWE have done little to push him into the title picture, other than making him team with Braun Strowman. We all know Otis is a good guy but is he really capable of cashing in against The Monster Among Men? Maybe we’ll find out at Backlash.

Bringing Prestige Back To The Intercontinental Championship

Before Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles competed for the Intercontinental Championship, we got an amazing video package that showed the prestigious champions who had held the title, from Pat Patterson being the inaugural champion in 1979, to the likes of ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, The Rock, and Shawn Michaels. This title hasn’t been treated properly for a long time, but it looks as though that has now changed.

Randy Orton and Edge are supposed to be having “The Greatest Match Ever” this Sunday at Backlash, but they’re going to have to pull something special out of the bag to get anywhere near as good as this one was. Both of these guys would’ve made an excellent Intercontinental champion, and after the hard-fought war these two had, I was happy with the victor. In all honesty, both deserved it after their performances tonight.

Intercontinental Championship Match: Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles

Throughout the match, both Superstars were evenly matched. Daniel Bryan used his intelligence to try and weaken Styles’ left arm. Bryan threw it into the ring post, stomped on it on the apron, and wrenched at it in the ring, but Styles wouldn’t quit. Never being one to miss out on an opportunity, Styles targeted Bryan’s left leg, employing similar tactics to weaken one of Bryan’s limbs.

AJ Styles tried a couple of times to hit the Phenomenal Forearm, but Bryan was always there to stop him. The second time he tried to land it, Bryan countered him to lock in an armbar. Styles then reversed the armbar into a calf crusher, but Bryan reversed into another armbar, transitioning into a triangle lock. Whilst on his knees, Bryan kicked Styles in the head, but could only manage a two-count.

Bryan landed a huge superplex off the turnbuckle, but Styles wasn’t beaten yet. He hit a picture-perfect Pele kick into a brainbuster. He followed it up with a German suplex, but afterwards, Bryan hit a German suplex of his own. Both hit secondary German suplexes and pin attempts, but neither could get the win. Bryan started off the “Yes” chant as he prepared for the running knee, and as he ran towards Styles, The Phenomenal One countered and landed the Styles Clash.

Styles then went for the Phenomenal Forearm again, except this time he was successful, and covered Bryan for the victory. I’ve not seen a match this good on SmackDown for a while, and there have been some great matches as of late. I’m very happy for AJ Styles, and it would be good to see where his new path takes him. After the match, Renee Young stepped in the ring to speak to the winner. Styles said, “I’m the best WWE champion the WWE Universe has ever seen,” and ended his speech with, “I am phenomenal.” You most certainly are, Mr Styles.

The Highs And Lows From The Rest Of The Show

Highs

It was announced before the main event that Matt Riddle would be appearing on next week’s show. A man can dream, but I’d love to see him interrupt AJ Styles and set something up between them both. Riddle is capable of dream matches, and that would definitely be one I’d love to watch.

The New Day had a great match with Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura, but I’d have liked it to have been for the titles. WWE do far too many non-title matches where the champion(s) don’t win. Respect to Kofi and Big E kneeling in honour of those black people who have wrongly been murdered.

 

Lows

This moment lasted for less than a second, but as Otis attacked King Corbin, we saw a green flicker of interference. It looks as though the hacker storyline is still being told, and I hope we get to see more information revealed soon because I’m getting fed up of nothing happening with it.

Final Thoughts

Tonight’s show was made infinitely better thanks to the Intercontinental Championship match. AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan put on an incredible match, and I’m glad they were allowed to wrestle for as long as they did. New Day’s match was fun to watch, but other than that, there wasn’t much else about the show I enjoyed.

The Jeff Hardy angle is quite frankly an embarrassment at this point, and even though I’m a huge fan of Sheamus, I’d rather WWE utilised him for something much better. Braun Strowman vs The Miz & John Morrison seemed like a waste of time unless we see Otis try and cash in. The six-man tag match was disappointing tonight, but I think it was more down to Strowman having so little personality and a small move set.

Bayley and Sasha Banks may be the new Women’s Tag Team champions, but I really hope they lose the titles at Backlash. I also hope they finally fall out because I really want to see them face each other for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Finally, on next week’s show, we’re going to see the debut of Matt Riddle on the main roster. It goes without saying I cannot wait for this, and everyone else should be excited as well.

All images and video courtesy of WWE