On Sunday night, SmackDown Live got its first crack at a PPV; what that meant was only those from that show would be included and on paper it wasn’t looking like a great event. Even though most of the matches were for titles, at only six matches, fans were wondering how long this PPV would actually go, as most PPVs usually are closer to eight with a few extra on the pre-show. To add to the initial trepidation, Randy Orton was pulled from his match due to not being cleared, thanks to the injury (requiring staples) from his match against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam.
Well, not only did the event deliver, but it was one of the finest PPVs WWE has put on in recent memory with solid pacing, great finishes, and enough allowance of time for each match, so fans could get fully invested. With the potential “underdog” feeling in the locker room, it felt like every wrestler brought it on Sunday knowing full well a great performance can make a different for their standing within the show.
With a number of excellent matches, the winners of Backlash were pretty easy to pick out, the losers on the other hand weren’t so simple, but seven were needed. Is there such a thing as a half-loser? Well, we’ll get to them in a minute, let’s start with those who got the fans out of their seat and on their feet!
15. AJ Styles
A cocky AJ started out the match letting Dean know “I own you! I own you, Dean! I can do this all night long!” His attitude and confidence was beaming throughout the match, constantly talking, taunting, and smiling his way through much of the match. Even though Styles was fairly dominate, he continued to sell incredibly hard for Dean, it’s amazing he doesn’t get hurt more often. One notable bump came when he was while both men were on the apron, Styles was catapulted straight into the ring post, with a sickening thud.
Even though AJ was the heel in this one, the crowd seemed to be getting behind him much more as the match went on. The ending came after a ref bump occurred, giving Styles the opportunity to land a low blow on Ambrose followed by a Styles Clash to get the win and the title! It wasn’t a given that he was going to win the match, but clearly WWE has appreciated the amazing year he’s put together and awarded him with one of their biggest prizes.
14. Becky Lynch
Even though initial rumors were that Nikki would be the first to hold the title, it was instead Becky Lynch who finally broke through to become the champ. It’s been a long road for Becky who has traveled all over the world to finally become champion in wrestling’s biggest promotion. While never holding the NXT title, it looked like she was going to be a bit of a brides mate on the main roster. That soon changed when they split up brands and put her in a division where she could more easily lead the pack.
After the match, Becky said she planned on going to bed with the title – that’s how much it meant to her. Focusing on her performance in the match, she didn’t really stand out for most of it, with five other women it was a little more difficult. Once it got down to Carmella, Becky wasted no time absolutely destroying her with suplexes and her armbar submission. The crowd was totally behind her throughout and helped make this feel like a really important win, possibly the biggest of her career.
13. The Miz
Miz laid into Daniel Bryan pre-match by asking for a contract negotiation, which Bryan didn’t seem very interested in doing that moment. Miz let him know that if he wasn’t going to do anything now, after he won the match, he would be worth a whole lot more. After an amazing match, he was able to snatch up the win, although Ziggler did not make it easy on him. Early in the match, Miz sent Ziggler to the outside “injuring” his shoulder, it was a focal point for Miz in the early parts of the match.
As things progressed Miz would taunt Bryan stealing his moves and his “Yes” chant. Both wrestlers brought out some amazing moves, including a sequence in which Miz slammed his shoulder into the ring post, recovering, and pulling off a slingshot sit-down powerbomb. Ziggler went on a run that nearly won him the title, Miz got to the outside and attempted to slow crawl all the way to the back, he didn’t make it. Dolph got him back in the ring, but Maryse waited for the perfect moment to spray something in Ziggler’s eyes, the distraction was enough to get Miz the cheap win. An absolutely amazing match that you have to check out!
For awhile it looked like Carmella’s call-up was going to be a disaster with fans not really reacting to her at all. Someone had the bright idea of turning her bad and to go after Nikki Bella, ever since then things have been going much smoother for her. Last night was no different as Carmella constantly got in Nikki’s way, at one point shoulder blocking Nikki’s attempt at diving out of the ring, which received plenty of boos from the crowd.
One of the bigger reactions of the night came when Nikki was trying to compose herself after eliminating Natalya. Before she could even get a breath, Carmella was there to roll her up for the elimination. Frustrated, Nikki got up and went to walk out of the ring, Carmella shoved her and got slapped in the face. She began screaming and yelling “She slapped me, are you kidding me!” as she started slapping Becky Lynch. Becky went on to decimate Carmella after that, but it was a nice second place showing for the Staten Island Girl.
11. Slater & Rhyno
Before the match, Slater was given some strange “bad crab cake” story to talk about, which was hopefully not some kind of foreshadowing later in the night. Luckily, this didn’t come into play at all later on in the night. Much like previous matches, Slater got destroyed for most of the match against the highly aggressive Usos. It may have gone on just a hair too long as the crowd’s pop for Rhyno’s hot tag wasn’t quite as big as it should have been.
Later in the match Slater finally had a surge of offense, Rhyno jumped into while the ref was distracted to land a Gore, and Slater was able to get the pin, the contract, and the titles! They did an in-ring interview afterwards and Slater said: “This is the biggest moment of my life, beside a couple of my kids being born. Hey Beulah, we’re getting a double wide!” The crowd went nuts for the new champions and hopefully WWE can keep this momentum going now that Slater is actually on the show.
10. The Usos
Kofi Kingston held down the number one spot for “Most in need for a gimmick change” for the longest time, and once the New Day gimmick got rolling, the Usos took over that spot. Jimmy and Jey had done a great job building up their gimmick and getting over with fans, but when they weren’t wrestling, their gimmick became incredibly stale.
Thanks to working with Roman Reigns, the fans soured just a bit with them and the potential for a heel turn was ripe for the taking. At Backlash, they came out in totally new outfits going with black and white. They came out with a lot more attitude, mean-muggin’ their way to the ring, no face paint, and no Siva Tau for the fans. They bent the rules much more throughout the match and fought a bit grittier. A chop block put Ryder down and they used the same splash/single leg Boston crab combo to force Ryder to tap out. Later in the night the Usos lost in the finals, but their gimmick change is really what won the night for them.
9. Dolph Ziggler
To kick off the match, Ziggler and Miz recreated a quick version of how CM Punk’s UFC match went down. Miz charged in, Ziggler took him down and locked in a rear naked chokehold before Miz got to the outside. Most felt like it was a dig at CM Punk, while some thought it was just two guys who are from Cleveland (where UFC 203 took place) and sent out a tribute to Punk, who also replicated MMA fights while in WWE.
Early on, Dolph worked an intense mat game with Miz, fighting with some desperation and frustration throughout the match, trying to get that elusive big win. He went for high-risk moves, sometimes missing and sometimes not. The crowd was totally into the match as they exploded when Ziggler was able to reach the ropes after being put in the figure-four. Then again when Ziggler nailed a superkick, went for the pin, and Miz was able to put his foot on the rope at the last second. Most would pick the main event as the match of the night, but this one was just as good. Ziggler took the loss, but that was a hell of a match that keeps Dolph still in the winner section.
8. Baron Corbin
Even though this match seemed to come out of nowhere, there was a little history with Corbin and Apollo Crews when both men eliminated each other at the same time during a battle royal for a chance to take on Miz and his Intercontinental title. For a pre-show match, these two did a great job, Corbin took a lot of punishment taking bumps on the outside while also getting throwing into the steel steps.
He was able to finish off Crews with the End of Days, continuing his solid run in the mid-card. Fans are still being introduced to this newcomer, but it’s clear WWE has big plans for him down the road. At this point, it seems unlikely he will take on the Miz, so whenever Miz drops his title to someone else, expect Corbin to be moved right into a feud with them. Until then, he still has Kalisto to deal with, whenever he gets back on TV.
7. Dean Ambrose
We continue to wonder what exactly is Dean Ambrose’s gimmick? He’s been watered down to this super laid back guy, who makes some super cool jokes and just… chills. He’s not really crazy (neither in natural way nor in WWE’s stereotypical version); he’s just the champion that doesn’t want to lose that title. Luckily for him, AJ Styles is so on his game that he’s made this feud interesting.
In this match, Dean stuck to his brawling ways, jumping awkwardly off of everything and going for broke (literally) performing an insane suplex off the top rope and landing terribly on his neck (how he didn’t get hurt was surprising). As the match went on, you could hear whispers of boos for Ambrose, nothing major, but he was not as over as you would expect. He’s still a big draw, but since becoming champion, something has changed with how fans see him. It’s also possible Styles has just been so great, that despite being a jerk, fans want to see him succeed.
6. Bray Wyatt
Sure, he’s been plugged into some big matches and gets enough TV time, but WWE refuses to put this guy at the top. Forget the top though… once Orton was pulled from their match, you would think he could beat Kane in a No Holds Barred match, right?
Well, you would be wrong. Yes, Orton came down and landed an RKO to help Kane get the win, but what’s the point of making Wyatt eat the pin? They could have had Bray win the match and bring Orton down afterwards to hit an RKO and continue the feud. The match itself was the worst of the night too, even with the use of chairs, ring bells, and announcer tables.
This is what happens when a face is forced to be a heel as Natalya just doesn’t exude enough in this arena to get fans to really boo her. Fans actually like her, so when she comes to the ring there’s just no reaction at all for Natalya. Carmella and Alexa are starting to receive bigger reactions and they have only been on the main roster for just over a month. The other issue is Natalya does the same moveset, so when she pulls off the Sharpshooter, again fans want to cheer her on. It’s similar to when Cesaro worked with Paul Heyman as a heel, yet when he did the big swing, fans cheered him on. Some people are just too likeable.
A funny moment in the match was when Natalya was on the outside, she was just running back and forth as she mistimed when she was supposed to jump back into the ring. It’s tough to really recollect what she did in the ring because it was all forgettable.
Once Orton was pulled just before the PPV, fans wondered how WWE would replace him. Maybe just do a promo with Bray, a backstage attack, or just bring in a new opponent for Bray. They went with option three and it unfortunately The Big Red Machine who took up the void. Props to Kane for jumping into a No Holds Barred match at the last minute, but fans just couldn’t get into this match at all with boos sprinkled throughout the match.
The problem with Kane is that since the Draft, he’s basically done nothing but wrestle (and lost) in a six-pack challenge, chokeslamed Fandango and a Milkman. So how do they go from that to trying to make him a credible threat against Bray Wyatt. With Orton’s assistant, Kane was able to chokeslam his way to a win, unfortunately what good does that do Wyatt or the fans? The live crowd was amazingly loud for much of the PPV, but this match brought them way down.
3. Alexa Bliss
To be fair, this was a great PPV with nearly everyone performing well, so some of these loser picks aren’t totally fair for the wrestlers. Alexa would be one of them as she did a great job last night with some fancy moves including a float-over twisting powerbomb out of the corner on Becky Lynch. She rocked a new Harley Quinn inspired look and was touted as the smallest WWE Superstar at 5’1”. Hopefully WWE will continue to promote that along with her over-the-top anger issues. Constantly yelling throughout the match “Get out!” as she kicked another wrestler out of the ring.
What she didn’t do so well was break up a submission attempt between Naomi and Natalya. This was an elimination match, so if someone is about to submit, why would you ever break that up? Also, Alexa was eliminated first, so even though there’s only one winner, going out of the match first is not a good look.
2. Apollo Crews
It will be a great day when we can speak more positively of Apollo Crews in the sense of having direction, a lengthy feud, or even a string of wins. That day is not today though as Crews lost to Baron Corbin in a pre-show match at Backlash. He brought a ton of intensity into the match, the crowd was really behind him, and he even threw in an Angle Slam that hopefully stays in his moveset going forward.
The main issue is that he continues to lose while still being impressive in the ring. A loss in itself is not such a big deal, but Crews just can’t seem to get any traction as creative continues to figure out where his gimmick is going. As of right now, it’s nowhere, hopefully that will change though with these smaller rosters, everyone has a chance at becoming a star.
1. The Hype Bros
The positive thing is these guys aren’t The Ascension or The Vaudevillians, but clearly those two teams are at the bottom of the totem poll and don’t look to be moving up any time soon. The negative is they continue to lose, falling out of the tournament in the semi-finals. The gimmick is somewhat popular with the crowd, but it’s just so damn over the top. Mojo is out of his mind and very polarizing for fans; kids may love it, but adults continue to have a tough time latching onto him.
The match itself had some good moments with some heavy physicality from both teams, for whatever reason Mojo literally took himself out of the match by throwing himself into the barricade as his partner got his leg destroyed by the Usos. Expect to see American Alpha, The Usos, and Slater/Rhyno tango for the titles for awhile, with the Hype Bros staying in the middle of the pack, bro.