The go home Smackdown before Backlash will feature AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal, but first, we have…
Kevin Owens’ Highlight Reel
Owen’s is developing a bit-a, of the way-a, HHH-a, speaks-annnnnnd I don’t like it. He does have a nice line parodying Jericho when he says the Fozzy frontman will ‘never, EVER, be seen again’. Also about how the only list Jericho is on, is the injured list. He segways those comments into hyping up his match with AJ and then starts to introduce his guest in French. Until…
AJ Styles interrupts
It’s still so odd to hear Styles’ southern drawl on a WWE show after it becoming synonymous with WCW for all of those years.
Styles says he’s going to bring the title back to the ‘good ol’ USA’ which prompts ‘U-S-A’ chants. Styles is such a natural out there it’s great to see the best worker is also solid with the crowd. He tells the crowd how him and Owens can get it on right there but then…
Jinder Mahal interrupts
Mahal’s still sounds ragged. Does this guy party all the time or is that just his regular voice? It could be the effect of putting on an ‘evil foreign heel voice’. Mahal quotes Ghandi in Punjabi, which is hilarious to mix the ultimate man of peace with Mahal’s evil vibe.
Styles runs after Owens but KO runs away. Styles challenges Mahal and we’re told their match is next. After a commercial. Does that mean we might get an uninterrupted match?
A sleepy start with nothing too exciting, but it didn’t drag or contain any cringe-worthy bits. Perfectly fine way to start the show and we’re getting the promise of a match next segment.
AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal (Kevin Owens on commentary)
Why do they show the title video again? What a waste of time.
This is a battle of two no.1 contenders, but there’s nothing on the line. These two have great chemistry though so I don’t mind.
I love the camera work. Lots of low camera angles close to the action. It really shows off the movement and size of these incredible athletes.
The Singh brothers are dressed perfectly in black dress pants and sharp white shirts with the top few buttons undone. Popping a collar might have been overkill but I think it would have gave them that extra douchey vibe they should be going for.
AJ and Mahal go back and forth with the usual small vs big style that they do pretty well. Mahal gains control after Styles is distracted by the Singhs and Mahal plays possum, eventually landing a great looking running flying knee.
AJ slips through Mahal’s legs to avoid a superplex but runs into a big boot. Mahal follows up with a mid-rope axe-handle but Styles hits him with a sweet dropkick. The crowd approves. They both struggle to their feet and AJ gets in some strikes while dodging Mahal’s. AJ has his irish whip reversed but takes out Mahal’s knee with a great sliding kick. He finished off the sequence with a flying forearm to a sitting Mahal.
Styles gets Mahal up in the firemen’s carry position and the crowd is excited but Mahal slips off and hits him with another big kick. The big man loves to use his feet.
JBL talks about Mahal’s ability to deal with frustration and compares him to a soccer team making Premier League. Ah, so that’s why JBL is a terrible wrestling broadcaster, because he’d rather be watching soccer!
Styles gets into position for the Phenomenal forearm but while the Singhs distracts the ref, Owens hits AJ with thebelt from behind, injuring his knee. Mahal hits his finisher, which the broadcasters finally tell us the name of. The Khalas? Styles loses.
An above-average match. Several exciting moments, enough time to showcase both wrestlers. Styles will be injured and angry going into his match with Owens. Injuries are a fine motivator
and provide an easy story to tell in the ring, but playing up the leg with Rollins either limited his exciting offense or made it look stupid when he could perform agile moves. Styles is a brilliant seller but I don’t want to see him lose his fantastic aerial offense because of it.
I liked this one. They had the usual sharp jokes about wrestler’s attire (Corbin: three shirts, all wolves) but also a mini plot of Breeze going undercover as a janitor to get information, and struggling to snap out of the persona because he ‘was in too deep’. I appreciated their take on ‘wearing’ the tag belts after the PPV. We also find out they’re facing the Colons next.
Orton backstage with Renee Young
You ever look at old pictures and see odd hairstyles that don’t fit the person? That’s what Renee often looks like to me. She’s pretty, but the 80’s warrior bangs aren’t the best look. They’re not as long as her husband Dean Ambrose’s though, so it’s all about perspective.
Orton says Mahal thinks people don’t like Mahal because he’s different, but the truth is that people don’t like him because he’s an ass.
Breezango vs The Colons
Much better segment/match ratio than last week. Unfortunately we lose the beginning of the match to a commercial.
The crowd isn’t really into this match. Smackdown is still building their tag division and the star power here feels like a Sunday Night Heat Main Event. The teams are talented but the crowd isn’t invested. Already knowing that Breezango is getting a title match in five days makes the match meaningless. It would be nice to have more no.1 contender tournaments, and draw the matches out, like a King of the Ring qualifier. People like sports because the regular season wins amount to playoff positioning. People love playoffs because wins and losses are incredibly important. I don’t care about this match because Breezango would be better forfeiting and resting up for their guaranteed match this Sunday.
The match is over in a few minutes. Another wasted opportunity.
Usos cut a promo on Breezango
The Usos come out and people are hyped to see if they can replicate the success of last week’s killer ’12 Days!’ promo.
Instead of copying the same format as last week, they go in a new direction, insulting Breezango going for laughs and social media popularity.
What makes the Usos interesting is the feeling of improv. Their back and forth feels like two comics trying to top each other. Wrestling lost a lot of charm when it went extremely scripted, forcing wrestlers to memorize bad soap-opera dialogue.
Breezango looks terrified of the Samon bros and don’t even get a chance to respond.
Naomi, Becky, Charlotte backstage
Naomi and Becky are walking towards the camera and invite Charlotte to join. She reluctantly joins as the WWE is playing her slow burn to face very well. A song is loudly playing and it looks like Charlotte is mouthing the words, which is a charming touch. Becky is also mouthing words and punching the air, but to the beat of her own drum. It’s a bit weird.
Contract Signing – Shane McMahon and the 6-Woman Tag Match
Why does this need a contract signing? Are they going to have a 6-person tag Championship like old WCW?
The heels come down first and then Shane introduces the faces. He’s not good at it. Maybe if he did it while jumping off the titan-tron…
Natalya says her opponents are just pretending to get along, but she only thinks of them as pathetic. She warns Becky that she blew her chance to join her side, and can’t wait to say she told her so. Natalya has a great heel voice. She sounds unhinged and unlikable but doesn’t have to sound shrill or grating.
Becky says she was given a chance, but there was no chance in hell she’d join the good squad. She’s excited to slap the face of every last one of them.
Naomi says the W.C better focus on a hair appointment because they’re gonna get snatched bald. She also calls Ellsworth a woman, and the crowd digs it.
Charlotte calls them a Babysitter’s Club but finishes her promo on the heels by saying she’ll eventually come for Naomi’s title.
Ellsworth says although Becky wants him bad, she has no chance in hell. He tells Charlotte she can’t be queen if Ellsworth is the Prince to the Princess of Staten Island. And informs Naomi that her glow will be stolen. This prompts Naomi to shove the doofus but his bodyguard Carmella comes to his rescue, slamming Naomi’s head into the table.
Shane stops the impending brawl and sets up a match between Naomi and Carmella. Again, for zero stakes. Who cares.
Naomi vs Carmella
At least they don’t start the match until the commercial is over this time.
Carmella avoids contact repeatedly, screaming for the ref to help. Naomi eventually hits a Lou Thesz press and gains control, tossing her from corner to corner. Carmella is a hilarious seller, and I mean that as a compliment. She injects a lot of personality and uses her whole body to writhe around in pain, constantly whining. You want to see a face shut her up, which means she’s doing her job.
Carmella retreats to her committee outside and Ellsworth gets ejected from ringside by the ref.
Back from commercial and Naomi is hitting her groove, shaking her ass between moves and tossing in a dab. Naomi seems more confident as the Champion.
Carmella attempts to leave through the crowd but sneaks in a great super kick when Naomi comes to retrieve her.
Naomi hits her rapid-fire kicks and a cool jaw-breaker. When she stands up I realize why the female wrestlers constantly flick the hair out of their face as it hangs in front of her eyes like the girl from the Ring.
Tamina and Natalya get ejected as well but run back to brawl with Charlotte and Becky. While Naomi is distracted by this – you guessed it! -Carmella steals the pin with a quick roll-up.
Dolph Ziggler backstage promo about Nakamura
Ziggler introduces a video about all the remarkable things Nakamura has done but the video says ‘footage not found’.
He then shows his own career highlights and talks about proving himself to the fans that turned their back on him.
Maybe because he’s done most of the promo work solo, but Ziggler’s current heel angle feels very flat. It should have every chance to succeed as he really did go from smark hero to zero. He has all the material to really go after the fans but it feels too generic. It was reported that he was pursuing a comedy career and other opportunities outside of wrestling but ran into roadblocks with WWE’s tight grip. I get the feeling his heart isn’t into putting over the next big thing while he wallows in the lower ranks.
Zayn talks about Corbin
Zayn says he requested and got his match with Corbin at the PPV. He has a natural, conversational style that many wrestlerts struggle to deliver. This lasts about a minute until Corbin hits him from behind.
Randy Orton vs Baron Corbin
Orton slowly walks to the ring, and even stops to hear his name called. Drink it in Orton, you’re only champion because you kept quiet about the WWE’s irresponsible concussion practices and this boring run will be over soon…I hope.
The two big guys have a wrestling exchange straight out of Stu Hart’s dungeon to kick things off. Grappling, headlocks, snap-mares and head scissors galore before Orton fails an early RKO attempt. The broadcasters laugh and say ‘it only takes one’ since the ridiculous amount of kickouts has diminished the power of finishers.
Orton pounds on Corbin like a heel but Corbin gets control back, and tells the crowd ‘that’s why I’m the best’. The match is getting interesting so of course it’s time for a commercial break.
We not only get commercials, but have to watch the stupid Smackdown intro and a NAKAMURA video!?
The broadcasters tell us that while we were stuck watching WWE commercials, the match was all over the outside. Sounds great! WISH WE SAW IT TOO. Oh well, at least we have the broadcast team to tell us about it. Oh wait, they’re awful.
Although Orton hasn’t done much to get the crowd on his side, Corbin still manages to get the crowd to boo him and actually cheer ‘let’s go Randy’. When’s the last time you heard that? Corbin is bursting with potential.
Corbin gets thrown to the corner but baseball slides out and runs back in. This is the second time he did it in the match and this time Orton catches him with an RKO and grabs the win. I like that bit of story-telling as it makes sense to get punished for over-using a move. Unfortunately, it’s tough to believe Orton as someone who could adapt or change his ring strategy considering he hasn’t changed a damn thing about his character in over a decade.
Mahal comes out
Jinder talks to Orton long enough for his Singh buddies to hop up on the ring apron. Orton is about to deliver a double mid-rope DDT but Mahal attacks him and the three heels beat Orton down.
Mahal gives his finisher and yells at the Singhs to get him the Championship belt.
The show ends with Mahal standing tall, holding the belt.
Orton was into it and Corbin looked great. The match showed off their strengths and I wouldn’t mind seeing another PPV tilt between the two. Corbin worked the crowd incredibly well and has a ton of star-potential.
Some decent matches but it feels like many of the feuds haven’t clicked yet or are holding patterns for future moves. Owens and Styles could have a classic saga and the PPV should kick that off. I’ll be interested to see what WWE does with Mahal after investing so much tv time into this build. If the WWE was ever going to give Mahal a World Championship, I wouldn’t mind him beating Orton. If he loses, he’ll most likely be relegated to the lower mid-card and forgotten. All of this will have resulted in a meaningless diversion.
WWE has me asking enough questions that I’m interested in seeing the PPV, and that’s what booking is all about. Even if I’m not asking the right questions, they can still consider that a success.