The final WWE Smackdown Live prior to Backlash was live from the SNHU Arena in Manchester NH on 5/16/2017.
We start the night off with Kevin Owens standing in the ring hosting a newly branded “Kevin Owens Highlight Reel”. Owens wasted no time mocking the former host of the show. He showed highlights of the absolute mauling that he unleashed on the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla. He made the obvious segway of comparing what he did two weeks ago to what was in store for AJ Styles this weekend at Backlash.
I have to say that I’m not overly impressed with this more “serious” Kevin Owens. Owens has always been a great hybrid of comedy and intensity. Using one or the other where it seemed most fitting. Now it just seems like he is trying to be more hated. I get it, the WWE wants him to be heel right now. But don’t sacrifice a huge part of what makes you appealing to achieve a higher degree of heat.
Kevin Owens was about to introduce his guest (in French, because he can) when AJ Styles showed up to address Owens’ underestimation of the threat Styles poses. Some back and forth ensues before Jinder Mahal shows up. Jinder was supposed to be the guest on the Highlight Reel tonight, and he is none to happy with the Phenomenal One for showing up uninvited. Some more jaw-jacking before the first match of the night begins.
AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal – Winner: Jinder Mahal
The Good: Obviously it’s AJ Styles.
“The best of his generation” is said by someone on the announce team almost weekly during Smackdown Live. I can’t disagree with this statement. Every time AJ is in the ring I’m so happy that he has had the longevity in the sport to make it to the WWE. AJ can make almost any match exciting, no matter the opponent. Notice how I said “almost any match”.
The Bad: Jinder Mahal
He’s still way to green in my eyes. All the mean faces and “supplements” are not going to substitute for solid in-ring skills. His reactions are slow. His selling is sub-par. I know for the past two years the WWE has really been pushing their India interests, but Jinder’s push is such a blatant public relations move it’s insulting. He slowed down the match to a crawl with one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. If AJ couldn’t make the match look good, who will if Jinder becomes champion?
The Ugly: Anti-America Heel Writing
I’ve mentioned it in the last few recaps but it needs to keep being said. Using an anti-American mindset is lazy heel writing. The writing for Jinder isn’t the only offender, the writing for Kevin Owens is getting lame as well. Let Kevin do what he does best, and let Jinder just be a cocky royal from India. If the writing is good enough, you wouldn’t need to use “I hate America” as a crutch. Step up your game Smackdown Live writers.
My New Favorite Part of Smackdown
We were treated to another “Fashion Files” sketch prior to the next match and it didn’t disappoint. I know some people think it’s campy, but that is what I love about it. Why can’t we have fun with this stuff? It doesn’t have to be ALL badasses and amazing matches. I found myself watching this skit a few times just so I could catch all the “fashion offenders” in the background. I hope they keep this up for months to come. Well done Breezango.
Breezango vs. The Colon Brothers – Winner : Breezango
The Good: In Ring Action
Both teams looked really good tonight. The Colon’s have put in solid performances since they arrived on Smackdown Live. Breezango are also getting a great chance to show that they are not all gimmick. I’m really hoping that this is a sign for things to come for the Smackdown Live Tag Team division.
The Bad: Recent Tag Team Division history
It’s no secret that the Smackdown Live Tag Team Division has been lackluster for quite some time. I’m hoping that with the trade of The New Day and the push of Breezango, we might see some new life in that division. If not, any team that doesn’t have a instantly popular gimmick will get lost before they can find their character. I fear the Colon’s are next on the obscurity chopping block.
The Ugly: Usos Promos
Don’t get me wrong, I do like where the Usos are trying to go. I definitely like this version better than their previous neon facepaint one. I just think that they are trying a bit too hard. To me it’s like I’m watching two kids from the suburbs trying to be gangster. If they just took it down a notch, and didn’t scream everything like they are performing Lil’Jon karaoke, it might not turn me off so much.
Six Woman Tag Match Contract Signing
This was a very typical contract signing. Both sides spoke their peace to hype up the match. However I think Naomi, Becky and Charlotte obviously were the better on mic performers. Once everyone had signed the contract, James Ellsworth wanted to be part of the party and grabbed a mic. He told each woman on the opposing side why they couldn’t get with him. Once he got to Naomi, he told her that Carmella would be coming for the belt. This caused Naomi to snatch Ellsworth and Carmella attacking Naomi. This contract signing was all an elaborate stunt to set up a singles match between Naomi and Carmella.
Naomi vs. Carmella – Winner: Carmella
The Good: Carmella
I don’t know what it is but I just love Carmella’s actions as a heel. It’s so easy to hate her based on her gimmick alone. However she plays the part perfectly while she is in the ring. Her running away, her princess attitude, and even those annoying screams are spot on for her character.
The Bad: Camella
Yup. She’s both. Her in ring skills need sooooooo much work. The real crime is that she IS athletic, just clumsy when it comes to wrestling. I don’t know what it will take for her to improve. Maybe her winning this match, and possibly having a title shot will force her to step up.
The Ugly : James Ellsworth
Dolph Ziggler cut another promo on Shinsuke Nakamura. He continued his assault on Nakamura’s popularity and unproven hype. He went to show what Nakamura has done since debuting on Smackdown Live. A cut to a screen of vertical colored lines and the words “footage not found” were crystal clear in making his point. He then provided us with a video package of what he has done in the WWE, which I must say was quite well done. I like this Ziggler and I love Nakamura. I am a bit anxious for this match though. They HAVE to perform. I don’t doubt in either superstar’s ability, but there’s always that chance.
We were then shown an interview with Sami Zayn where he announced that he was granted a match with Baron Corbin at Backlash. He highlighted the fact that Corbin was threatened by him. Threatened by the fact that although Corbin is used to bulldozing over opponents, he can’t keep Zayn down. This statement was met with an attack from behind by Corbin. This match could be really interesting and fun to watch. Sami is no stranger to taking a beating from a larger man, his most recent feud with Braun Strowman being the most glaring example. Having Sami be the new #1 “resilient superstar” could be a great move by the WWE writers to save Zayn from obscurity.
Randy Orton vs Baron Corbin – Winner: Randy Orton
The Good: Baron Corbin
He continues to impress me. Every. Single. Week. This is kind of a bitter sweet “good” designation. I believe this match is the match we should be seeing at Backlash for the title. My hope for Corbin is that he wins at Money in the Bank.
The Bad: Randy Orton
He just seemed sluggish in this match. Granted that Corbin controlled most of the match, and it’s hard to be explosive while getting your butt kicked. I’m just saying that he didn’t seem to be selling very well and looked blown up halfway through the match.
The Ugly: Post Match
After the match Randy Orton was once again decimated by the Maharaja and his cronies. Usually these frequent/multi-week beatings by a heel are a precursor for the babyface to emerge victorious at the PPV. I just have a really bad feeling that this won’t be the case at Backlash.