For the first time since 2009, the Backlash pay per view returns to our screens in a Smackdown exclusive show, which in itself is the first brand exclusive pay per view since February 2007. Since the brand extension two months ago, Smackdown has been running a steady ship while over at Raw it’s been peaks and valleys, with amazing moments and matches being followed up poorly. Smackdown definitely benefits from it’s two hour format, forcing all stories to be told in a short and snappy manner. After a poor showing at SummerSlam in comparison to Raw, Smackdown has the honour of producing the first brand exclusive event in this new era and if I’m being honest, it could go either way. Let’s press on and see if the blue brand can deliver.

With Charlotte being the owner of the original Women’s Championship over on Raw, Smackdown had to create their own Women’s Championship. The biggest compliment I can give Smackdown is their use of every single woman in the division. Over on Raw you have the likes of Summer Rae and Alicia Fox who are barely seen, while Smackdown uses every single one of theirs in an effective capacity more often than not. Tonight Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch, Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Natalya and Naomi will compete in a six person elimination match to determine the first Smackdown Women’s Champion. The only woman not included in the match is Eva Marie, who is still relaxing in the British Isles due to the hostility of WWE fans. In reality, she’s still suspended for her first violation of the Wellness Policy. Both excuses are glorious in their own way. Who is walking away with the championship?

When you have six people in a single match it’s going to look like a mess, thankfully this match was given the time to execute it correctly. Gone are the days where the women were put in a fourteen person sudden death match and given five minutes to get everyone’s stuff in. These six women had around fifteen minutes and we didn’t even get our first elimination until ten minutes in. Eventually Becky Lynch made Carmella tap out and was the last woman standing, becoming the first ever Smackdown Women’s Champion. Becky is interviewed in the ring immediately after and she’s so thankful and awkward it’s all kinds of adorable.

As expected, this match was chaotic but I would say it was organised chaos. Naomi was particularly impressive hitting so many high risk moves, it’s a shame her elimination was a little lackluster. Despite being eliminated first, Alexa Bliss still looked like a star. It took a powerbomb/super neckbreaker combo in order to take her out of the match, can you imagine any of this happening three years ago? This was the perfect match to kick off the show, well done to all involved.

In another case of the original championship being on Raw, Smackdown needed to create their own Tag Team titles and we’ve been having a tournament over the last few weeks to crown the first ever champions. American Alpha had originally won themselves the right to compete in the finals by defeating The Usos last week in around thirty seconds, but following a post-match attack and a wonderfully executed heel turn by The Usos, they’ve put American Alpha out of contention due to an injury to Chad Gable. The Usos will now face the painfully annoying Hype Bros tonight with the winner going on to face Rhyno & Heath Slater (no, seriously) in the finals.

Due to their recent turn to the dark side, The Usos have stopped doing their war dance at the start of their entrance, they wear black and no longer wear face paint, despite the screen still displaying the phrase “Play hard in the paint” which never made sense to begin with. They wore paint, they never played in it. Regardless, let’s get that seen too as quickly as possible. The only thing that doesn’t need changing is their music, I feel it works for them both as faces or heels. The Usos defeated The Hype Bros because they’re awful in every way, moving on.

The Miz is defending his Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler, for what reason I don’t know. Since Dolph Ziggler lost his WWE Championship match he said he couldn’t afford to lose at SummerSlam, he hasn’t actually won a match. So the only reason he actually has a title opportunity is because he got in The Miz’s face a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, The Miz cut the promo of his career on Daniel Bryan and because there is no way you can satisfyingly follow up on that story without Daniel Bryan wrestling, they had to steer in a different direction and it just so happened Dolph Ziggler was available. Can Dolph finally get the win that matters or will The Miz continue the best run of his career?

Holy cow was this match good. Going almost twenty minutes, Dolph Ziggler put on his best match in a really long time. The Miz busted out some new moves and even mocked Daniel Bryan by doing some of his signature moves. Maryse continues to be one of the biggest assets to Miz’s character, she sprayed something in Ziggler’s eyes which allowed The Miz to take advantage and pick up the victory. Unquestionably the right decision here and it was done in a way that makes Dolph’s loss look like it wasn’t his fault.

In a match that is only happening because they need to fill out the card somehow, Randy Orton is facing Bray Wyatt. Following Orton’s bloody loss to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, Bray Wyatt confronted him and cut the standard spooky Wyatt promo that no-one remembers because it all more or less has the same message as every single one he’s done over the last three years. Can I be honest? I’ve given up on Bray Wyatt. Outside of defeating Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble in 2014, name me one important thing he’s done. It’s the same formula, Bray sets his sights on a new target, delivers spooky promos, loses the match, finds a new target and repeats. I want Bray Wyatt to be an important and effective character and if he still isn’t after over three years, he’s not going to be. So I’m sorry if I don’t give a damn about this match. Anyway, who wins between The Viper and The Eater of Worlds?

The match doesn’t actually happen because Bray attacked Orton backstage, so Wyatt wins by forfeit. Bray Wyatt still has to wrestle tonight though, he is in a No Holds Barred match against Kane. Oh, goodie. This match was so dull it’s unbelievable. In fairness there was a cool little moment where Bray Wyatt hits a senton on Kane through the announce table. But Randy Orton comes out, RKO’s Wyatt and allows Kane to hit the chokeslam for the victory. Even in BOTH scenarios, Bray Wyatt still loses. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t painfully annoying.

Moving on to the finals of the Tag Team Championship Tournament, The Usos who won earlier in the night are facing the new team of Heath Slater & Rhyno. I, like many regular Smackdown viewers, can’t really explain why Heath Slater & Rhyno are just perfect together. Heath has been clamouring for a contract since he was left out of the draft in July. Since then he’s been involved in so many ridiculous segments in the lead up to this big match, like the time we met Heath Slater’s wife, Beulah. It’s weirdly endearing and the crowd is fully behind Heath as well.

The match itself wasn’t anything that would set your world on fire but it was fine for what it was. Despite being the illegal man, Rhyno gored Jimmy Uso and Heath Slater was able to crawl over and get the three count. Heath Slater has got himself a contract with Smackdown and more importantly, himself and Rhyno are the first ever Smackdown Tag Team Champions. I can’t see this reign lasting a particularly long time, but it’s nice to see Slater finally get his due. Heath Slater & Rhyno are champions in the year 2016, this is a weird world.

Dean Ambrose has been WWE champion for about three months and its been… Okay? He retained in The Shield Triple Threat at Battleground which was impressive, he then retained against Dolph Ziggler at SummerSlam which wasn’t as good. I’m slowly getting over the fact that the character I want Dean Ambrose to be isn’t what WWE wants him to be. Meanwhile, after AJ Styles defeated John Cena in a show stealer at SummerSlam, Styles rightly earned himself a WWE Championship opportunity tonight. Ambrose has been treading water as champion and Styles is on fire, so who takes home WWE’s oldest and richest prize?

This was a really good match between these two, probably the best match Dean Ambrose has had in a ridiculously long time because the best worst kept secret is that Dean Ambrose isn’t actually that great in the ring. It goes about twenty five minutes and my favourite part about this was that it wasn’t the standard pay per view main event where both men hit their finishers numerous times, to the point where it lessens the mystique of the move. On this occasion both men were so close to hitting their finishers numerous times, but couldn’t quite do it. AJ Styles’ had to resort to a low blow when the ref was down in order to hit the Styles Clash and pin Dean Ambrose. AJ Styles is the NEW WWE Champion. No doubt that this was the right call here, something about Dean Ambrose wasn’t quite working as champion and AJ Styles is having the run of his career at the moment.

The show comes to a close with an image that many thought they would never see…

AJ Champion.png

Final Thoughts:

You’ve got to hand it to Smackdown, despite the incredibly shaky start two months ago, they have managed to pull off a really entertaining first pay per view. If you take the Bray Wyatt and Kane fiasco off the show, you would have a near perfect show and this is a show that contained a Hype Bros match, just think about that. The opening match for the Women’s Championship was an exciting way to kick off the show, Backlash maintained its momentum with an incredible match between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler and finished off with a mighty fine WWE Championship match.

The first Backlash event in over seven years had a great beginning, middle and end and despite the little missteps a times, you can chalk this event up as a major success for the blue brand.

Final Rating: 8/10

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