I wanted to share with you my thoughts on WWE’s first Smackdown Live! PPV, Backlash. It was a really interesting PPV overall and though I did go into it with low expectations, I came out happy. Here are my hits and misses from the show.
1) Becky Lynch becoming SD’s Women’s Champion.
I’m a big Becky Lynch fan. Yes, part of that reason is because she’s gorgeous but she is also a really solid in-ring performer. Since the Women’s revolution, and with both Sasha Banks and Charlotte already having shared the spoils of the Raw brand’s women’s championship, I think it is fair to say that Becky’s week in week out work has made her a deserving champion. And let’s face it, it would have been REALLY easy to put the title on Nikki Bella so kudos to the WWE for not.
I’m really high on Carmella’s evolution as a WWE superstar. She was always decent in NXT but my recollections of her during her time there weren’t that of someone I’d consider to be main roster material. Her heel turn has done her a lot of good and I like her new attitude. If she works hard and has a decent feud over the next month with Nikki, who’s to say she can’t go all the way to the top of SD Live!
3) Heath Slater and Rhyno
I have to confess I do really love this pairing; they work so well together. And while I very much doubt that they’ll be a long term thing, their comedy injections into the show very much remind of the light hearted duos of the past like Booker T and Goldust and William Regal and Tajiri. Both guys are really good in-ring workers and Heath Slater’s over the top personality does compensate for the Man-beast’s quieter character although he does make some funny quips every now and then himself. I like it and I’m glad to see them both getting gold. I always felt that Rhyno particularly was underused after his big injury during the 2001 Alliance Invasion and I was really sad to see him get jobbed out so soon during the ECW originals versus Wyatt Family feud last year. I’m hoping for much more in the future though I hope they don’t go down the R-Truth/Goldust cringe road.
4) AJ Styles versus Dean Ambrose
This was a brilliant match to end the PPV and I was so glad to see AJ Styles win the WWE title. This certainly makes up for the horror show of a match Ambrose had against Ziggler at Summerslam and at least gives some credibility to his rather lacklustre WWE title run. AJ meanwhile will be a great champ as he can put on 5 star matches with pretty much anybody. I hope his title run is a decent length and that he doesn’t succumb to John Cena’s inevitable WWE title run too soon.
1) Naomi’s underutilisation
Coming into the PPV, I would never have thought that Naomi was really a legitimate contender for the Women’s Championship but that being said, I did find her showing somewhat disheartening. The girl has changed her gimmick twice in the last two years and has gone from Face to Heel to Face again. She’s extremely athletic too, a natural athlete and a decent women’s wrestler. So I don’t quite get why she doesn’t get more of a look in. With Alexa Bliss, you can argue that her place on the roster is due to her age but Naomi is looking more and more destined for the scrapheap. I hope I’m wrong though.
2) Bray Wyatt losing again
Bray Wyatt loses on PPV yet again. Shocking! Well, it seems that Bray has become somewhat of an enhancement talent over the past year and not someone who the WWE feels comfortable with putting in the WWE title scene. What’s the reason? At one point it was thought that his weight was the issue but Kevin Owens has shown that even a “big” man can reach the top of the WWE. Unless something changes, the WWE are going to miss out on utilising a really talented and unique character before it becomes stale and inconsequential.
3) AJ Styles/Ambrose finish.
I can’t quite wrap my head around this. One month ago, AJ Styles goes clean over the “Face that runs the place” John Cena but then, when he comes to face Dean Ambrose, the only way he can beat him is with a low blow? Come on! Yes, I get AJ is a heel and he has to be bad but hasn’t Styles proven over the past year that he is far more than a snivelling cowering bad guy who can only cheat to win? If that’s the road they are going down, then I think it will totally delegitimise his ability and undervalue the talented superstar that he is.
4) Lack of roster depth
Let’s face it, Smackdown has a really thin roster. And part of me thinks that the reason behind Chad Gable’s injury, in addition to the fact that they didn’t want American Alpha to lose to Rhyno and Slater, was that it enabled them to beef up the card and make it seems bit meatier than it otherwise would have been with the extra Usos versus Hype Bro’s match. And if it hadn’t been there, then what? If they had put Corbin versus Crews on the main show instead, that would have really been a big disappointment and failure for a PPV that should aim to be something greater than the average Smackdown Live! SD Live is going to need to bulk up over the next couple of months to properly come across as a legitimate challenger to Raw or it will always remain the B show regardless of it being live.
OVERALL SHOW RATING: B-