The first brand-specific PPV of the new era has wrapped up, with all eyes on the show that has been labelled the ‘B-show’ for over the last decade. Backlash, hosted by Smackdown Live, had 6 matches confirmed heading into the night. However, things looked gloomy heading into the night as a top superstar had yet to be cleared for ring action. Would this affect the pay-per-view in anyway? Who would be crowned the first ever Smackdown Women’s Champion and Smackdown Tag Team Champions?
1) Alexa Bliss vs Becky Lynch vs Carmella vs Naomi vs Natalya vs Nikki Bella – Six Pack Elimination Match to crown the first ever Smackdown Live Women’s Champion
It was surprising to see the six pack challenge kick off Backlash, but the match was a great showing of how strong the women’s division really is on Smackdown Live. It doesn’t contain the already-made star power of Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Bayley, but there is definitely a bright future for recent NXT call-ups Alexa Bliss and Carmella. Despite being the first two women eliminated, Alexa Bliss and Naomi both looked strong and it was clear the type of personas the two are working with. I really dig Alexa’s Harley Quinn look, along with her opportunistic mentality. Naomi performed a lot of aerial maneuvers, including a springboard splash onto the other competitors outside of the ring. I’ve always known Naomi had that type of athleticism and it was finally rewarding to see her show it off. Natalya was eliminated by an Argentine backbreaker from Bella, before Bella was rolled up by her main rival Carmella. Nikki made sure to leave her mark by slapping Carmella in the middle of the ring. I’m interested in seeing the rivalry between Nikki Bella and Carmella develop more, especially with Carmella’s potential as a top heel. Becky Lynch managed to submit Carmella to the Dis-arm-her and was crowned the first ever Smackdown Live Women’s Champion. No one on the roster is more deserving than Lynch. One of the top workers in the company and also the only member of the Four Horsewomen not to hold a championship, Lynch has now become the flag-bearer for women’s wrestling on Tuesday nights. Great match by all women, with a deserving winner.
WINNER: Becky Lynch – the first ever Smackdown Live Women’s Champion
2) The Usos vs The Hype Bros – winner faces Heath Slater and Rhyno later in the night to crown the first ever Smackdown Live Tag Team Champions
The Usos turning heel on the Smackdown Live show before Backlash was heavily needed for their careers. No one really cared for them anymore as faces and it didn’t help that they were associated with Roman Reigns. Backlash allowed for The Usos to show a side we had never seen before. Their ring gear made them look bad-ass, removing their patented face paint. It was obvious The Usos were going to move on to face Heath Slater & Rhyno, but this match was a chance to display their new heel tactics, with Zack Ryder tapping out to a half-Boston crab after the twins had worked on his knee during the match. It was refreshing to see The Usos end a match this way and made them look like strong heels.
WINNERS: The Usos
3) The Miz (c) w/ Maryse vs Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship
I said in my predictions that this match did not interest me at all. Boy, was I invested in this match. The Miz especially impressed me, working a more technical match and taking a shot at his General Manger Daniel Bryan in the process. We know that Ziggler can produce 4-5 star quality matches on a daily basis, but it was nice to see a slower match than what we’re used to nowadays in the WWE. Great technical wrestling was what made the Intercontinental Championship prominent back in the 90s and Miz and Ziggler brought this prominence back with this match. You could make a case that this match was the match of the night. Ziggler losing after Maryse sprayed a substance in his face made The Miz and his wife look like the awesome heels they are. A near-perfect Intercontinental title match and the rivalry between the two is sure to continue over the next couple of months.
WINNER: The Miz retains
4) Bray Wyatt vs Kane in a No Holds Barred Match
Before the pay-per-view, Orton had not been medically cleared to compete from his concussion. So WWE had Wyatt attack Orton backstage so the match could not take place. After not answering a ten-count, Wyatt became the winner of a big match for the first time in probably in his career. However, plans changed as it was announced the Eater of Worlds would compete in a No Holds Barred match. Who could be the opponent? Was it a return? A debut of an NXT call-up? Nope, it was Glenn Jacobs. The match was mainly forgettable, except for a nice table spot from Wyatt. What was worse about the match was that Wyatt lost! Yes, Orton came out and struck with an RKO, before Kane cleaned up with a Chokeslam for the victory. The only blemish of the night, WWE could’ve built Wyatt strongly here by having him dominate Kane. Not sure what to expect from the Wyatt/Orton rivalry from here on out, but what’s Kane gonna do? The last couple of weeks, he’s been interrupting and beating up lower card wrestlers. Now is he gonna get a push towards a title? Highly doubt it.
5) Heath Slater & Rhyno vs The Usos in the finals of the Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament
The match wasn’t the best tag team match I’ve seen. But it’s the storyline behind it that made this match compelling. The free agency storyline has been my favourite one since the draft. It’s what’s made this tournament interesting to watch. Will Slater win a contract? Or will The Usos build on their heat by preventing Slater’s dream? There was a great spot where The Usos hit a suplex on Slater on the ring post. I really like the look of those ring posts. Not the only time during Backlash where it was used, but its as though wrestlers can be more creative with moves. After struggling for most of the match, the One Man Band leaps to Rhyno for the hot tag, before later tagging himself in and almost winning the match with an Edgecution. At the conclusion of the match, Rhyno hits a Gore, allowing Slater to get the pin for the championships and for his contract. It was rewarding ending to a great storyline. A highly unlikely duo winning the Tag Team Championships is what we need. I’m definitely interested in seeing how Slater & Rhyno work now that the free agency storyline is out of the way.
WINNERS: Heath Slater & Rhyno – the first ever Smackdown Tag Team Champions
6) Dean Ambrose (c) vs AJ Styles for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
AJ Styles is the WWE Champion. I repeat, AJ Styles (the guy who made his name in Ring of Honor, New Japan and more importantly, TNA) is the WWE Champion. The championship victory caps off a truly phenomenal year for the former Club leader. The match itself was a standout, a contender for match of the night along with the IC title match. There were some great spots, including Styles catapulting onto the ring post and Ambrose slamming AJ’s head into the mat to escape the Calf Crusher. The low blow/Styles Clash combination for the finish was a great way for Styles to win, especially as a heel. I am still surprised that WWE pulled the trigger on Styles to win the top championship in the company. Our three main WWE champions are Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. A great 2016 for WWE.
WINNER: AJ Styles – NEW WWE World Heavyweight Champion
FINAL RATING: 8/10
Not bad for a brand-exclusive PPV. A lot of what I expected to be bad turned out to be way better than I thought e.g. the Intercontinental Championship match. The only downside was how they booked Bray Wyatt tonight, but maybe down the line he wins the war with The Viper. We saw the beginning of a new era on Smackdown, with Becky Lynch, Heath Slater & Rhyno and AJ Styles leaving as champions. I’m really excited for the future of the Smackdown brand.