Kevin Owens’ Highlight Reel ★★
Pretty standard fair from all involved in the opening segment of Smackdown. Kevin was less eloquent than his typical delivery, AJ was solid on the mic, and Jinder was Jinder. It is a little worrisome after all the tread he is getting that Mahal has not improved much on the mic. The segment ultimately pushes the US title match for Backlash and sets up the opening match pretty well.
Jinder Mahal def. AJ Styles ★★1/2
I will give them credit, the finish was right. Instead of a repeat of most all of Jinder’s matches since becoming #1 contender, we have Owens get involved with a title to the back of AJ’s head while the Singh brothers play distract the ref. I little different, helps the narrative of both title matches at Backlash, and keeps Jinder out of the loss column. The match as a whole was pretty boring, which says a lot for one that features AJ Styles. I think we have finally learned what Mahal’s Achilles heel is. While he is capable in the ring, he is vastly limited when it comes to creative maneuvers, improvisation, and interesting spots. He can hold his own and work a match, but he is lost when AJ wants to hit something cool and fresh. I’m not expecting much against Randy Orton, who is a guy who goes mostly through the motions.
The Fashion Files Episode 3 ★★★★
Ok, so I liked the 1st episode. I thought last week’s edition was forced. 3rd time is the charm because I loved this episode. I went in groaning, turning to my fellow WEVO writer who attended Smackdown with me in Manchester NH, and simply said “Again?”. The duo won me over quickly though with the master of disguise Tyler Breeze. Exhibit A, Baron Corbin, 3 Shirts, all wolves. Priceless. “Day One Is… H?” Amazing. Janitor PTSD from undercover work. Lights Out. “Finally, our day one will be H!” My god just glorious. The whole episode is below, because I had to include it.
Breezange def. The Colons ★★★
This match did better than last week’s bout against the Ascension. Breezango looked like the better team throughout and really, no one holds a torch for the Colons. I don’t know if it could be heard in the broadcast, but there were some calls for Carlito in the crowd. Fandango had some funny moments in the ring, the elongated balancing act before hitting his dance was great. Tyler had good moments and sold offense well. The team is improving and I may have been harsh on them last week, but I still dont see them going over the Uso’s at Backlash, especially with the twins really coming into their own with their heel personas. The Uso’s came out after the win and cut a really solid promo. At first they stumbled a bit, but hit a stride that was impressive and really earned this segment/match an extra half star on their own. Riffing on the whole Fashion Police shtick was solid but also what got them in trouble early, as it seemed forced. Once it got going and they started reading them their rights it worked very well.
Six Women Tag Match Contract Signing ★★1/2
Ok, I hate most contract signings. As a oft used segment template, it is one of the worst. Their isnt a ton of room to make something happen as they all need to be able to sign the damn thing. That said, there are situations to use the contract signing, but this was standard stuff. Some of the stabs back and forth were good. Naomi bumbled through the entire segment. Elsworth actually stole the show on this one, letting each of Becky, Charlotte, and Naomi down easy because he’s noticed the way they look at him. Eventually this triggers a match between Naomi and Carmella.
Carmella def. Naomi ★★★1/2
This gets a very good rating for a few reasons. The in-ring work was solid, Naomi didn’t botch anything (although she did her rapid fire kick thing and it looks even worse in person). What really made it work was Carmella’s antics in the match, the execution from the ladies and Elsworth (I have given him too much props in this review) on the outside, and the ultimate conclusion being well booked. First we get Elsworth thrown out of ring side for pulling Carmella out of the ring in a save attempt. His reaction was good and the crowd loved it, getting them involved in a match that saw a lot of people heading to the concession stand. Then when Tamina and Natalya get banished, it seems like Naomi will have this in the bag before the duo head back quickly to attack the taunting Charlotte and Becky, distracting Naomi long enough for Carmella to get the roll up for the three count. It was a solid sequence of events which has the Welcoming Committee entering Backlash on top, on the same page, and confident.
Dolph Ziggler’s backstage promo on Shinsuke ★★★
This was solid work from Ziggler, the no footage found for “the remarkable things Shinsuke has done on Smackdown” was clever. Overall solid work for Backlash. As an aside to this, the dark match for the show after the 205 live tapings was Shinsuke vs Ziggler. If you don’t want to know how the match went or who won, please skip to the next segment! The match between the two was solid at best. Nakamura had some good moments and Ziggler played heel well. Really I expected a lot more from the match, but here is hoping that this was an abridge to the show they want to put up at Backlash, but my expectations will be very much tempered. Shinsuke kicked out of a few zig zags before dodging a sweet chin music (Ziggler did tune up the band to come off disrespectful) and then hitting the Kinshasa for the pin.
Sami Zayn Announces Backlash Match ★★1/2
Nothing spectacular here. Sami announces he has been granted a match at Backlash versus Baron Corbin per his request. He talks about how guys like him scare Corbin because they threaten Corbin’s world view and self worth basically. It was well done, but seemed relatively out of nowhere. Corbin comes in for the attack from behind, letting Sami know he is the one who should afraid and to learn to stay down.
Randy Orton Def. Baron Corbin ★★★1/2
Something stopped me from giving this match 4 stars, but I am not sure what. It was just missing something. However, both guys did a great job throughout the match. It had good spots and solid work. Baron continued to show his ability to heel it up throughout a match. Again, I am unsure how this came across on the broadcast but there was a moment when the guys on the floor in front of us wanted an irish whip into their corner of the barricade and Corbin looked like he was about to oblige and pointed to them while saying “You want it there?” before just throwing Randy back into the ring and taunting those fans. Its the small things like that that elevate Corbin as a heel. The finishing moments of the match were good, with Corbin walking into an RKO… ahem… out of nowhere to suffer the pinfall. Jinder came out taunt the victorious Randy but ultimately just distracted him as the Singh Bros. came up from behind to attack Randy. Orton looked like he might overcome the numbers at first, getting both Brothers in position for his patented DTD from the ropes before Jinder finally wrestled control of the situation permanently away from Randy. The show ends with Mahal hitting his Coloss finisher and standing tall with the title.
This show suffered from being a go-home show with WAY too much time to set up the feuds. A lot of it came off as retreads from previous weeks and absolutely nothing surprised me. There was some solid execution throughout the night however. Backlash should be a solid but probably not great show as well.