In my "Notes" posts, these are random observations, written in real time, as I'm watching the event. These posts are not meant to be traditional blog style articles, they are just random lists of observations. I hope you enjoy them and thanks for taking the time to view my website. Any comments can be sent to @NVSportscards on Twitter.
Live from the Richmond Coliseum, it's WWE Backlash 2016, presented by Smackdown Live! The announce crew for the night are Mauro Rannalo, JBL and David Otunga. The Pre-Show Panel is anchored by Renne Young and includes the Hall Of Fame lineup of Jerry Lawler, Booker T and Lita.
The set looks great, but from the wide shot, you can see that there are a LOT of empty seats in the arena. There's been a general feeling in WWE, for over a decade, that Smackdown is the B show and that a Smackdown only PPV would be a tough sell for the mainstream wrestling audience. Perhaps tonight, with these empty seats, is the proof the IWC needs to confirm that Smackdown is the step-child of the WWE. At any rate, let's get into it.
BECKY LYNCH VS ALEXA BLISS VS NATALYA VS CARMELLA VS NAOMI VS NIKKI BELLA [SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH] (Prediction: Nikki)
As in the last 3 PPV's, Carmella came out to zero reaction. I'm really starting to feel bad for her. Carmella was on top of the world in NXT, but seemingly no matter how hard she works, heel or face, the crowd isn't buying her as a character. Give it one more PPV, but if she's still generating no reaction at No Mercy, then it's time to rethink her development, possibly even sending her back to NXT or if Emma is set to return anytime soon, maybe they should be teamed together.
The 2 major standouts from this match were, hands down, Alexa Bliss and Naomi. Even though Naomi impressed for a 2nd straight PPV, this time something wasn't quite right. Her entrance was a little more slow paced than normal and her timing for several sequences seemed off, including a botched head scissors where Naty basically threw herself out of the ring, just to complete the move. Still though, she really impressed with the high spots and there is definitely something to build on here. I look forward to more from her, next month.
Meanwhile, Bliss pulled out some high impact moves of her own during the match, including 2 good looking, lightweight versions of The Canadian Destroyer. If you're unfamiliar with The Canadian Destroyer, here you go
. Alexa Bliss is a good heel, on her way to becoming a great heel, which eventually means she'll be a big face in the women's division. As a bold prediction, I think she can be as big as Trish Stratus sometime in the next couple of years.
All this aside, Bliss was actually the first one eliminated. This surprised me, because I had the first elimination spot pegged for Carmella, who in a decent bit of storytelling, actually lasted until the final 2. In another surprising twist, Nikki Bella did not win the inaugural belt. Becky Lynch did. 0-11 at PPV, Becky Lynch won via submission, when Carmella tapped out to the Dis-Arm-Her.
Taking this win into consideration with everything else that is going on in WWE, I'm wondering if the fans are getting too much of what they want. Is that even possible? Can a business who runs strictly on fan support, spoil their fans by giving them too much of a good thing? I'm sure I'll come back to this topic later, but it sure is an interesting direction that WWE is taking.
WINNER: BECKY LYNCH [INAUGURAL SMACKDOWN WOMEN'S CHAMPION]
SEGMENT: THE MIZ AND JAGGER EATON
This was bad. I don't know who this kid is, but he's a terrible actor. He spat out his scripted lines, like V.I.C.I. the robot, from the 80's TV hit Small Wonder. I really dislike these nonsense segments that don't do anything for anyone. Oh well.
THE HYPE BROS VS THE USOS [TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT MATCH] (Predicition: Usos)
The winners of this match will go on to face Slater and Rhyno, later in the night, to become the Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Ironically enough, it's really hard to get "hyped" for this match, because it seems so one-sided. I should start by saying that I hate Mojo Rawley. I hate him. I don't know what he is or why he should be taken seriously. To me, he is the bro equivalent to Adam Rose. I personally thought that Zack Ryder was finally starting to come into his own a couple of months ago, then boom, he gets saddled with this Hype Bros albatross. This team is going nowhere. I really don't understand how this team made the main roster, even as jobbers. It seems they could have stuck any 2 jobbers together to job out to tag teams, so why create an actual team with a name and merch? Mojo Rawley is an anchor. WWE needs to cut ties with him ASAP, if not sooner.
My prediction was that The Usos will win this match and I'm so confident in this, that I used this time during the PPV to vacuum my living room. There is no need to watch this match, if you've already been fortunate enough to miss it. This should have been on the pre-show, plain and simple. Nothing to see here.
WINNER: THE USOS
DOLPH ZIGGLER VS THE MIZ [CHAMPION] [INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH] (Prediction: Miz)
Dolph Ziggler is a certified jobber to the stars and The Miz is fast becoming one of the best heels of this decade, so this should be a decent match. I don't think that anyone who watched the PPV believed for one second that Ziggler had a chance to walk away with the belt. It's clear what his role is. He's the mid-card Randy Orton, without all the gold, who will flip flop between heel and face like a fish on the deck of a clipper ship. Thankfully, he's toned down the bumping, which made him look like a video game stuntman and he's putting more wrestling psychology into his matches, rather than trying to steal the show with his propensity for high spots.
This was a good back and forth, going almost 20 minutes until Maryse popped up for the interference. I like how The Miz is using his wife to become a bigger heel, but they'll have to start trying a new formula soon. Lately, Maryse just hangs out in the background, almost making the fans forget she's even there. Then, 15 minutes later, she slowly walks over, interferes and the match is over. In this case, she sprayed Ziggler in the face with some type of aerosol. 1990's me is secretly hoping that if you pause the match and zoom in, the bottle she's holding will say "Arrogance" on the label, in a nod to "The Model" Rick Martel. Speaking of which, I'm still just as mad at The Model for blinding Jake The Snake Roberts, as I am at Papa Shango for putting a curse on the Ultimate Warrior. If 12 year old me could fight you guys, I would, and I'd scratch your stupid faces off.
After the interference, Miz won. I'm guessing that because of Maryse, these 2 will have one more match next month, most likely with some sort of stipulation that keeps her away from ringside. I guess I can look forward to that.
WINNER: THE MIZ
BRAY WYATT VS RANDY ORTON (Prediction: Randy Orton)
There was a segment that I skipped over earlier. It was a backstage segment that involved Bray Wyatt repeatedly slamming a door on Randy Orton's leg. There was speculation earlier in the weekend that Orton was going to miss the PPV, so this segment was a no-brainer. It's a shame too, because this match would have helped to make Orton strong again, after getting grizzly-bear-mauled by Brock Lesnar, last month. Now, I'm starting to wonder why Orton came back at all. 2 PPV's in a row and no decisive victory (even though Brock technically won via TKO, the match was stopped prematurely). It seems Orton could have stayed out until Royal Rumble, that way the fans would really pop huge for him and he could go fresh into the Road To Wrestlemania.
On a sidenote, the character evolution of Bray Wyatt is taking some turns in the road. The dreadlocks popped up a month or two ago, then the red streaks in his hair started showing up. Now, he's wearing leather and looks something like a cross between a pirate and an outlaw biker. Either way, he's not a swamp cult leader anymore. So, I would think that it's just a matter of time until he ditches the rocking chair and the lantern. Anyway, on to the action.
The crowd is informed that Randy Orton is not cleared to compete in the match and Bray Wyatt insists on a 10 count to officially win his match. The ref obliges and the bell rings. 10 count, Bray wins. Then it is announced that instead, Bray Wyatt will be facing "this man"....Kane...dun dun dun.
BRAY WYATT VS KANE (On The Fly Prediction: Bray Wyatt)
Ok. So this was semi unexpected. Bray is going to have an impromptu match with the Big Red Machine, Kane. I predict that Bray will win, because otherwise, why have the match? Let Bray win and carry the Orton feud over until next month.
Sweet sassy molassey, I was wrong.
In a move that nobody saw coming, Kane wins. Don't get me wrong, the match was decent, including a spot through the Spanish announce table (it's ALWAYS the Spanish announce table). The way this match played out, I really feel like Bray and Orton could have put on a great match. But this? This I don't get. Why even waste PPV time on Bray Wyatt, if he's just going to lose a No DQ match to Kane. The no DQ part is the most confusing part. Under standard rules Orton could have come out and delivered his RKO to Bray, disqualifying Kane and securing the win for Wyatt. Eveybody wins. With a no DQ, Orton hits his finisher, Kane gets the pin and Bray racks up another loss. I think it's safe to say that this character is done. There's no heat left when you can't win a match for a year and get embarrased in the process.
WINNER: KANE [BUT WHY?]
THE USOS VS HEATH SLATER / RHYNO [SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH] (Prediction: The Usos)
I really like the work that Heath Slater has been doing of late, but let's be honest, he can't win the belt tonight. He just can't. You remember when Damien Sandow was doing the Mizdow stunt double gimmick? The fans erupted everytime he was on screen or he got tagged into a match, but then what? How do you possibly build on that? Once you give the fans exactly what they want, they consume it, throw it away and move on to the next thing. This is exactly the case for Heath Slater. BTW, you ever notice how much work he gets in WWE considering he doesn't have "a job"? Yeah, me too.
This was a pretty standard tag match, as far as tag matches are concerned. Lucky us, we get The Usos twice in one night. In my opinion, the Usos are completely overrated. They have no fire, no intensity. They go through their matches with a manufactured amount of enthusiasm, that quickly wears off once you hit the 5 minute mark. That said, they should win this match. Slater and Rhyno would be better off chasing the titles, rather than defending them, because realistically, where do they go from here? Do they have a rematch with The Usos (yuck)? The Hype Bros? No thanks. They have to face someone and that someone isn't going to be American Alpha. You can't sacrifice all of Slater's buzz by dropping the titles to another face tag team. The only hope here is that The Revival gets called up from NXT and they become involved in the title picture on Smackdown.
Holy monkeys. Slater and Rhyno win the belts. At this point, it's like asking a kid if they want to eat ice cream for every meal. Cool it, WWE, you can't give the belts to every single crowd favorite. You're going to ruin these characters and they'll have nowhere to go...
WINNER: HEATH SLATER / RHYNO [NEW SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS]
AJ STYLES VS DEAN AMBROSE [CHAMPION] [WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH] (Prediction: AJ Styles)
I know what I said about not giving the fans everything they want, but that doesn't apply here. That belt needs to come off of Dean Ambrose, stat. He isn't a "lunatic" or "wacky" or "outrageous". He's a fairly bland, one-note wrestler who has been involved in all the worst matches of 2016. Even though he still gets a pop on his entrance, the crowd usually goes dead quiet, during Dean's matches. That's not what a world champion brings to the table.
I do like that Dean has brought his B+ game to tonight's show. He's being more agrressive than he has been in recent PPV's and as I noted during the Summerslam notes, he's showing minor flashes of a heel turn. It helps that the crowd has started to low-key boo him, because they're fed up with his cookie cutter matches too. I'm thinking that once his feud with Styles is completely over, we might see an Ambrose/Cena feud, which this guy (me) is completely on board with. Whatever the future holds for Ambrose, it had better be without that title. Seriously, he's dragging it down.
As before, the crowd was mostly quiet during this match. Eventually, at the 20 minute mark, it was a Springboard 450 Splash from AJ Styles that woke the crowd up. This intensity held up for another 10 minutes as Styles finally got the win after hitting a Styles Clash on Ambrose (and hey, if the ref didn't see the low blow, then neither did I, ok?). AJ Styles is the new champion of Smackdown and following the lineage of the championship belt, this makes Styles the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. This is the top belt in WWE and it now belongs to Mr. TNA himself, AJ Styles. I really look forward to what the rest of the year has in store for Styles, as he is currently doing some of the best work of his career!
WINNER: AJ STYLES [WORLD CHAMPION]
I'd give the overall PPV a 5 out of 10. But, to recap the WWE's new direction, I can sum that up by saying that the fans are spoiled. Spoiled rotten. You can't get everything you ever wish for. I mean, who are you, IWC, Veruca Salt? Wrestling 101 dictates that you get what you want, a little bit at a time, over a long period of time. WWE just gave us title victories from Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, Becky Lynch and Heath Slater, all in the last couple of months. There's no slow build anymore, and that's going to be a bad thing, heading into next year's Wrestlemania. Where do they go from here?
Message me on Twitter and try to tell me why this is a good thing. @NVSportscards