Let’s try something new, getting thoughts on WWE’s first Smackdown Live-only WWE Network special, Backlash. I’m watching the show on my iPad and putting together thoughts on what happens.
It’s been 15 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, so WWE, as usual, kicks off the show with a patriotic message about freedom not being free. I’m sure everyone is just relieved they didn’t replay clips from the first SmackDown after that horrible day. Although Lillian Garcia’s National Anthem was pretty sweet.
We’ve got three hours and six matches. This should be fun. The first match on the show is for the NEW SmackDown Live Women’s Championship.
Six-Pack Challenge: Nikki Bella vs. Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella. I really did figure they would put the belt on Nikki to give the title some gravitas, but Becky Lynch deserves the title just as much. Leaving her in there with Carmella as the last two in the elimination match was another surprise, since Becky has been feuding with Nattie and Carmella has been feuding with Nikki. I suppose it allows for options down the road, but I suspect another multi-woman match next month at No Mercy.
Second Chance Tag Team Semi-Final: The Usos vs. The Hype Bros. The Usos lost to American Alpha and then proceeded to attack the new tag team favorites, putting Chad Gable “out of action” and keeping the team out of the finals. So instead, we get a new semi-final with a newly-heel Usos vs. Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley. Ten minutes of Mojo and Zack is about 8 minutes too many, but I’m digging the Usos as the bad guys. The twins get the submission win and get to fight Heath Slater and Rhyno later.
Intercontinental Title Match: The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler. The Miz has been in a war of words with SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan since this incident on a SmackDown post show a couple of weeks ago.
Seriously, it’s the most interesting Miz has been… ever, really. But because Daniel Bryan can’t wrestle, we get YET ANOTHER match between Miz and Ziggler. Miz and his wife Maryse cheat to win, preventing Ziggler from winning the IC belt from Miz for the third time. Another match that went way too long.
Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton. As Bray attacked Orton before the match happened, Orton was unable to compete and Bray won by forfeit. So instead, we get..
No Holds Barred: Bray Wyatt vs. Kane. Orton comes down and nails Bray with an RKO to let Kane get the win over Wyatt. Bray desperately needed a win to establish him as a top heel on the SmackDown roster, and instead, he gets to continue his feud with Orton via a loss to the Big Red Human Resources Manager.
SmackDown Tag Team Title Match: Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. The Usos. Heath Slater has been one of the most enjoyable parts of SmackDown and Raw, looking for a contract to one of the two shows. The deal: Win the tag team title tournament, get a contract. Honestly, having Beauty and the Man Beast win the belts was the best option, as it gives more TV time to the deadpan Rhyno, who is another great little character. It’s a shame I missed the match due to a meeting at work, but it sounded like a fine contest.
We’re two hours into the show with one hour left and one match to go. But did anyone notice the WWE Network commercials with the Hulk Hogan voice clips? I guess the ban is over when you beat $100-plus million from a media company…
WWE Title: Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles. After getting two wins over John Cena (who was with the Raw crew overseas and off this show), it was pretty clear AJ Styles was getting a rocket push. And it made sense to put him over Dean Ambrose here, as I don’t really think he was cutting it as champ. And really, if ever the chant “YOU DESERVE IT” was merited, AJ Styles as WWE Champ is it. I assume there’s a rematch next month at No Mercy before AJ-Cena III at Survivor Series in November.
Overall, the first SmackDown only Network special of the new Split Brand era was really an average show with some good action, but a bunch of matches with guys no one has been given a reason to really care about. Which, with SmackDown’s roster, is an issue that’s likely to continue. They really need to pad things out a bit on Tuesday nights if they’re going to have three-hour monthly PPVs. Hopefully, next month at No Mercy, we get an American Alpha match and a John Cena match.
In two weeks, the Raw brand presents Clash of Champions.