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Tuesday, March 28th 2017.
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WWE Backlash 2016

by Scrooge McSuck

WWE Backlash 2016

- The Second Coming of the Brand Extension brings us to our first Brand Exclusive Pay-Per-View: Backlash, featuring the Smackdown Live roster. This is the first time they're using the Backlash name for a Pay-Per-View since 2009. I stopped watching at that point, so I'm a bit surprised it has been that long. Even though Smackdown Live has been consistently better than Monday Night Raw, the lack of roster depth is a major issue when it comes to filling out a three-hour show. We'll just cross out fingers and hope for the best.

- LIVE on the WWE Network on September 11th, 2016, from the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, VA, with Mauro Ranallo, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, and David Otunga calling the action unless otherwise noted.

Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin:

The Official Kickoff Match of Backlash. I wonder if they've already dropped the idea of doing Corbin vs. Kane? JBL compares Corbin to Bobby Duncam and Ernie Ladd. Lockup and Corbin shoves him to the corner. Ranallo actually references their history in NXT. It's a new era where the commentators (or at least Mauro) are allowed to have a brain. Corbin avoids Corbin's caveman techniques and peppers him with blows. He goes for a springboard, but Corbin interrupts with a hard forearm, knocking him to the floor. We return from a break with Corbin in control with a cobra clutch inspired chin-lock. Crews fights free but runs into an elbow. Crews avoids a big right and nails a roundhouse kick from the apron. Crews with more kicks and a leaping lariat. He hits a Stinger Splash in the corner. Corbin does the quick in-and-out and nails him from behind with a clothesline to regain control. The crowd tries to rally Crews as Corbin keeps a methodical pace. Corbin with a clothesline from hell, turning Crews inside out, but it only gets two. He tries to do the in-and-out again, but Crews greets him with a running knee. Crews with a jumping enzuigiri and standing moonsault for two. Corbin with a modified STO for two. Crews avoids a charge and hits the Olympic Slam for two! Corbin hangs on to the ropes and catches Crews with Deep-Six for two. They take it to the floor, with Corbin crashing into the steps on a charge and Crews planting him with a Samoan drop. Back inside, Crews tackles Corbin into the corner and pounds away. Corbin counters with a knee to the face and End of Days finishes at 9:58. **1/4 Perfectly Acceptable Wrestling. Corbin does what he needs to and does it well, and his role isn't to have 4-star matches. I'd like his matches to be better, but that isn't what he's designed to do. Even though Crews lost, they keep putting him over as competitive and never treat him as a guy out of his league.

- Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan come out to run down some of the featured attractions for tonight (and to pad out the show. Not to beat a dead horse, but this is a thin card for three hours) and inform us that the Women's Six-Pack Challenge will be kicking things off... RIGHT NOW.

WWE Women's Championship Match:
Nikki Bella vs. Becky Lynch vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella:

As mentioned in last week's recap of Smackdown Live, this is being contested under Elimination Rules. Becky/Natalya and Nikki/Carmella are the programs coming in, with Naomi and Alexa just hanging around. Alexa Bliss comes out with a Harley Quinn inspired look. I guess Nikki is supposed to be Wonder Woman. The ring quickly clears, leaving Becky and Naomi. Becky with arm drags into an arm-bar. Naomi avoids the Disarm-Her, sweeps the legs, and covers. Naomi with the lame jumping in place kicks. Charge to the ropes and Becky dumps her over and out. Becky climbs to the top, but Carmella interrupts with forearms and the Trish head scissors spot for two. Nikki and Carmella tease a confrontation before Alexa and Natalya break it up. Alexa with the double knees hand-spring on Nikki for two. Nikki springs off the ropes with a roundhouse kick for two. Alexa with a Code Red for two. Natalya runs over her and hits a basement dropkick for two. Becky with clotheslines and a jumping leg lariat to Alexa. Charging forearm into the corner. Natalya breaks up the bulldog attempt with a release German Suplex. Naomi with a hurricanrana on Natalya, followed by the Bubba Bomb. Alexa breaks up a butterfly bridge with double-knees to the midsection. Nikki with a spear on Carmella. Carmella goes for the Code of Silence, but Nikki counters with an Alabama Slam for two. We get a Tower of Doom spot, with Natalya, Nikki, and Carmella. Alexa tries to pin all three, unsuccessfully. Another Code Red to Becky gets two. Carmella interrupts a dive through the ropes. Naomi ends up the one with the higher ground and springs off the top with a plancha onto the pile.

Bliss' strategy seems to be throwing people to the floor. She mounts Natalya in the corner and Naomi joins the fun with a Blockbuster Powerbomb to eliminate Bliss at 9:39. Natalya tosses Naomi over the top rope and they do a clumsy head scissors spot. Naomi with a roundhouse kick to Nikki, but she springboards into a forearm. Natalya tosses Nikki to the corner, and the Sharpshooter finishes Naomi at 10:51. Natalya backstabs Carmella before the alliance is 30-seconds old, but that buys Nikki time to recover, and the TKO finishes Natalya at 11:58. Carmella throws Nikki down and rolls her up with a handful of tights at 12:07. Nikki decides she isn't done and slaps Carmella across the face. She catches Becky coming in with some Jenna Morasca inspired slaps. She's more concerned with being pissed off at Nikki bitch slapping her. She goes back to slapping Becky around. Becky finally comes back with three Beck-Sploders. She gets hyped and runs right into a boot. Becky surprises Carmella with the Disarm-Her to become the 1st Smackdown Live Women's Champion at 14:23. ***1/4 Surprisingly good match, although I didn't care much for the rapid fire eliminations once we reached the 10-minute mark. Becky's only fall on Carmella clearly leaves the door open for feuds with the rest of the division.

- The Miz has a backstage altercation with some kid. Seriously, do they not have any more pull to get someone of real name value?

- Bray Wyatt is beating up on Randy Orton. His method? Slamming a door on his leg repeatedly. What does this mean for their match tonight? Well, Randy Orton wasn't cleared to wrestle earlier in the day, so the odds are against Orton working his match tonight.

The Hype Bros vs. The Usos:

(Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley vs. Jimmy & Jey Uso)
Second-Chance Semi-Final Match to determine the finalists for the Tag Team Championship tournament later tonight. The Usos don't come out to do their traditional pre-match dance, without the face paint, and wearing all black tights. I guess that makes them the heels. Otunga actually questions the Usos getting this opportunity, being rewarded basically for injuring Chad Gable. Mojo and Jey start. Jey just looks at him like the geek he is. Jey charges, gets taken over with a back drop, and rolls to the floor. Back inside, Mojo with a slam and Ryder with a slingshot splash for two. Jimmy with chops on Ryder. Whip to the ropes and Ryder slams Jimmy face-first to the canvas. He sets up the Broski Boot, but Jey makes the save. Ryder with the slide between the ropes to nail them both and comes off the apron with a missile dropkick on Jimmy. Mojo comes in from the other side with a football tackle on both Usos. Jey with the blind tag and Ryder gets sent into the ring post during the confusion. Back in the ring, Jey comes off the ropes with a headbutt for two. Jey with a pendulum back breaker and Jimmy with a headbutt. Snap suplex for two. Ryder fights out of a chin-lock, but gets caught with a spinning roundhouse kick. Jey charges into the corner with a running hip attack. Ryder counters a suplex with a hangman's neck breaker. Jimmy cuts off the tag and the Usos double team Ryder in the corner. Ryder fights out of the corner with knees and Mojo finally with the hot tag. He runs over Jey with clotheslines. He hits a pair of Stinger splashes and tosses Jimmy over the top rope. Jey comes off the middle rope, but Mojo counters into a military press slam. They set up the Hype Ryder, but Jimmy saves. Ryder with a top rope hurricanrana on Jey, but Jimmy makes the save. Mojo misses a tackle, crashing into the security wall. Jey clips the knee of Ryder. Jimmy with the jumping kick to the back of the knee, and Jey locks in a modified single leg crab for the victory at 10:11. **1/2 Good match to put over the newly established Usos and their heel makeover.

- Heath Slater and Rhyno Interview. Slater says he feels like the guy from Star Wars who fought the Empire by himself. The guy who got killed within 30-seconds of the attack in Empire Strikes Back? Rhyno is wearing a "Vote for Rhyno" shirt. Slater says he's not feeling good. Maybe it was Bealuh's crab dip. He continues going on about having the runs until Rhyno reminds him he's still live. Slater: .... You've been swerved! Uh-oh, he might have to go again.

- Miz is backstage, this time with Smackdown General Manager, Daniel Bryan. He's demanding a contract renegotiation. Miz reminds him that he's going to go to the ring to do what Bryan can't do, leaving Bryan steaming mad. I sense either Bryan bringing in someone to destroy him, or just trading him to Raw for Rusev and the United States Title.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
The Miz © (w/ Maryse) vs. Dolph Ziggler:

Dolph Ziggler earned his title shot by losing to WWE Champion Dean Ambrose at Summerslam and to the #1 contender A.J. Styles three weeks ago on Smackdown. Miz has a point, how did he earn this title opportunity? Mild "Let's Go Miz" chant... people really can't stand Ziggler anymore. Ziggler with a double leg takedown and goes for a rear-naked choke. Yeah, there's your CM Punk/UFC obliteration reference. Ziggler shoots for the leg and cradles Miz for a series of two counts. Miz plants a boot to the midsection and lands a right between the eyes. Ziggler counters a slam and connects with a pair of dropkicks. He teases a Super-Kick, but Miz avoids it and sends Dolph into the ropes with a handful of tights. Miz with a catapult underneath the bottom rope. Miz splashes down across the back for two and traps Ziggler in a bow-and-arrow stretch. Dolph avoids a kick and rolls up Miz for two. Miz catches a dropkick and sends Dolph over the top rope and to the floor via slingshot. Miz with the dropkick between the ropes, not unlike what Zack Ryder does. Back inside, Miz covers for two. Miz with a snap mare into a chin-lock. Ziggler tackles Miz into the corner, but a dive meets nothing but the ring post.

Miz continues to keep Dolph grounded, hooking a surfboard to mock Daniel Bryan. Miz with running dropkicks into the corner, also not unlike the Smackdown General Manager. That's how you get the crowd to boo you. In case you didn't get it, he starts to do the mocking "Yes" chant gesture. He runs into the corner with the Awesome Clothesline. He heads to the top rope and connects with a double axe-handle. Dolph counters the Skull Crushing Finale with a victory roll for two. Dolph with a dropkick, but both men are slow to their feet. Ziggler comes off the ropes with clotheslines. Splash in the corner and swinging neck breaker. Ziggler with a spine-buster and jumping elbow drop for two. Miz counters the Fameasser with a springboard sit-out Powerbomb for two. Miz catches a boot in the corner and comes down hard with it. Dolph fights off a Figure-Four attempt and hits the Fameasser for two. Miz blocks the Zig-Zag, but Dolph hops on his back with a sleeper. Miz runs into the corner, sending Dolph (weakly) into the turnbuckle. Dolph with a high-angle DDT for two. Miz blocks the Super-Kick and connects with a DDT. He slaps on the Figure-Four in the center of the ring, and damn has it come a long way since the abortion of an attempt three years ago. Dolph fights through the pain and hooks the bottom rope. Ziggler kicks off another attempt and the Super-Kick gets two. Miz rolls to the floor and tries to crawl up the ramp, but Ziggler stops him and fireman carries him in, even with a limp. Maryse with a distraction, allowing Miz to roll him up, but Ziggler counters. Maryse sprays Ziggler in the face with something behind the back of the referee, and the Skull Crushing Finale finishes at 18:19. ***1/2 Matches like these establish the importance of the Intercontinental Title, not a 5-minute piss-break match on a 6-hour PPV. Miz throwing in Daniel Bryan spots to be a dick was great, and Dolph's bad luck continues in high pressure situations. He's got to be turning heel sooner than later. Nice to see heels actually cheat to win.

- Bray Wyatt comes out to gloat about earning a forfeit victory over Randy Orton in a case of blatant false advertisement. Seriously, they had to have known this ahead of time, and still pushed forward with it? This isn't some undercard nothing match that is barely promoted, it was second from the top. I wasn't that excited for it, but I still expect to see what has been promoted for the last few weeks. BUT WAIT. There's a mysterious note at ringside telling us we're going to have a match...

No Holds Barred Match: Kane vs. Bray Wyatt:

This seems like something out of a house show, where the injured star is replaced by someone beneath him to make it up to the crowd. Hopefully they don't follow the mantra of putting the face over, since Bray Wyatt is still way ahead of Kane when it comes to importance on the depth chart. So many years later, and the "Your Opponent Tonight is... KANE!" joke still is relevant. Wyatt pounds away and puts the boots to him in the corner. Kane turns it around, unloading with rights, followed by a clothesline. They take it to the clothesline and Kane with another clothesline. He takes apart the Spanish Announcers Table to crowd approval. Wyatt whacks him with the ring bell, but no "ding" sound effect. He finds the ONE folding chair on a sea of more comfortable furniture, but gets kicked in the face. Back inside and Wyatt with the diving body tackle. Kane knocks him to the floor with a boot to the face. Wyatt with a chair shot to the knee to swing the momentum back in his favor. Wyatt with chair shots across the back for two. Kane fights out of the uranage attempt and plants him with a DDT on the chair. Kane with clotheslines in the corner, followed by the side slam. He signals for the Choke-Slam, but Wyatt fights free and sends Kane to the floor. Kane pulls him out for another Choke-Slam attempt, but Wyatt goes to the eyes and lays him out with a stiff clothesline. He sets Kane across the Spanish table, mocks Orton's pose, and comes off the English table with a running senton! Back inside, Bray goes for Sister Abigail, but Kane counters with the Choke-Slam for a two count. Wyatt with the uranage on the chair for two. Suddenly Randy Orton limps his way down the ramp, "dressed to compete." The distraction allows Kane to come back to life. Orton runs in with the RKO, and Kane finishes with the Choke-Slam at 11:00. *1/2 Not an awful brawl, but a huge disappointment when it comes to the "Card subject to change" bull crap. That and there's no excuse to put Kane over Wyatt, even when factoring in Orton's interference.

- A.J. Styles comes across a couple of nobodies to give them advice. He says they're destined for failure, but they can say they've met the Face That Runs the Place™, and on the night he becomes the WWE World Champion.

WWE Tag Team Championship Match (Tournament Finals):
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos:

Winners become the 1st ever Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Slater and Rhyno beat the Head Bangers and Hype Bros to get here, while the Usos beat the Ascension, lost to American Alpha, and beat the Hype Bros earlier in the night. Slater and Jimmy Uso start. Crowd is firmly behind Heath Slater. He pounds away with rights and connects with a diving forearm. He takes Jey down with a drop toe hold and grabs a front face-lock. Whip to the ropes and Rhyno and Slater with a double elbow. Rhyno comes off the ropes with a shoulder tackle. Slater goes for the arm and continues to fight off both Usos. Jey with a headbutt to the stomach, sending him to the floor. The Usos with a double suplex into the post, followed by a Super-Kick. Back inside, Jimmy covers for two. Jimmy with a snap mare and Jey with a boot to the face. Slater fights out of a chin-lock and gets boots up on a charge. Jimmy cuts off the tag and sends him hard into the corner. Jimmy with a back breaker and Jey comes off the top with a forearm smash. Jey casually kicks away Rhyno's outstretched hand sends Slater back into their corner. Back suplex gets a two count. Jimmy with a jumping forearm in the corner and a leg drop. Crisscross and both men collide going for body presses. Rhyno finally gets the hot tag and nails Jimmy with clotheslines. Whip to the ropes and Rhyno with a diving shoulder tackle, followed by a belly-to-belly suplex. Rhyno meets the turnbuckle on a GORE~! attempt. Slater tags himself in and hits a neck breaker. Jey comes in and gets a neck breaker too. Slater with the Implant DDT on Jimmy, but Jey breaks the cover. Jimmy with a Super-Kick. Rhyno with the GORE~! and Slater covers for three at 9:58! SLATER AND RHYNO ARE THE NEW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS! ** An average match, but WWE delivered the happy ending to a storyline, even though I'm sure it's a short-term push. I can't believe I was this ecstatic for Heath F'N Slater. Post-match, Slater is milking this moment for all it's worth.

WWE World Championship Match:
Dean Ambrose © vs. A.J. Styles:

The entire build up has been about Styles beating John Cena and never shutting up about it. Ambrose just kind of did what Ambrose does, and tried to play mind games with Styles by not taking him seriously. Styles insisting on being introduced as the Face That Runs the Place is great stuff. Crowd seems split, with 50/50 reactions for both guys. Lockup and they trade waist-locks. Styles with a snap mare and trash talking. Styles with a small package and more smugness. Dean shoves him on his ass... to boos. Ambrose with a pair of arm drags and a scoop slam. They play cat-and-mouse until Styles suckers him back in the ring. Whip to the ropes and Ambrose with a sunset flip. Styles quickly recovers and hits a short forearm smash. Ambrose with a flurry of rights and chops. Whip to the ropes and he sends Styles in the air with a back drop. Styles rolls to the floor, but runs back in to trip Ambrose up on a dive attempt. Styles with a neck breaker and drops him across the top rope. Ambrose escapes a chin-lock. Crisscross and Styles connects with a picture-perfect dropkick for two. Styles with a slam and jumping knee drop for two. Styles with a pair of knee lifts and forearms in the corner. Ambrose turns it around and stomps him down to more boos. Whip across the ring and Ambrose meets the post on a charge. Ambrose keeps mounting meager comebacks, but Styles quickly stifles him every time.

Styles finally makes a mistake, missing a dive into the corner. Ambrose sets him up on the top turnbuckle and brings him down with a Super Back Suplex, flipping Styles in the process. Ambrose goes for Dirty Deeds, but Styles blocks. Ambrose with clotheslines. He catches Styles off the middle rope and connects with a twirling back breaker for two. Styles rolls to the floor and Ambrose comes off the top with the big elbow. Back inside, Ambrose misses a charge to the corner, but recovers in time to hit a sit-out butterfly face-buster for two. Styles goes for the Calf Crusher, but Ambrose rolls through. He goes for a suplex, but Styles blocks and counters with a suplex into the turnbuckle. Ambrose avoids the Phenomenal Forearm, as does Styles with the Dirty Deeds. Styles traps the knee and comes crashing down to the canvas with it. Styles with kicks to the back of the knee and hooks a leg-lock. Ambrose with a flurry of kicks across the face to escape. The leg gives out on another suplex attempt and Styles applies the Calf Crusher in the center of the ring. Ambrose digs down and manages to make it to the ropes, but Styles reapplies the hold. Ambrose slams A.J.'s head into the canvas to break it a second time. Ambrose hangs on to the ropes to avoid the Styles Clash. Styles with a jumping roundhouse kick. Ambrose sweeps the legs of Styles on the apron and catapults him into the ring post!

Back inside, Ambrose with the hobbled forearm into the corner and a running bulldog. La Magistral gets two. Styles with the fireman's carry into a neck breaker for two. He goes for the Styles Clash, but Ambrose escapes with a back drop. Styles counters the bulldog and gets a spin-out Powerbomb for two. Styles with a slam and the springboard 450 splash for another near fall. Ambrose ducks under a clothesline and takes Style down with a swinging neck breaker. He unloads with a flurry of strikes an knocks Styles out of the ring with a basement dropkick. Ambrose with tope suicida, sending Styles flying over the announcers table. He tosses Styles into the crowd and dives in after him with an axe-handle. Back inside, Ambrose misses a forearm and Styles knocks him silly with the Pele Kick. Ambrose's momentum lands him in the ropes and he springs back with the Lunatic Lariat! He sets up for Dirty Deeds, but Styles rams him into the referee! Styles with a low blow with the referee momentarily down, and the Styles Clash finishes at 24:56! A.J. STYLES IS THE NEW WWE CHAMPION! **** At times it seemed like Styles could have the same match with a broomstick or other inanimate object, but Ambrose showed good fighting spirit kicking out of so many pin attempt and seemed a bit crisper on everything than he has been for a while.

Final Thoughts: We'll get the complaints out of the way first. To run a successful string of three hour specials every month, the roster needs to add more depth, otherwise we'll be suffering through recycling before the end of the year. Also the false advertisement of Randy Orton and replacing him with Kane was bad business practices. Now the good stuff: everything else. Every match delivered the quality of match it needed to make this a successful show. Styles brought the best out of Ambrose and delivered a phenomenal main event. Miz worked outside his comfort zone and had an outstanding performance against Dolph Ziggler, the Women looked better than they've been for most of the brand split (and by that I mean the lower three), and the Heath Slater saga has a satisfying finish that I honestly didn't expect. Not a blow-away show, but very satisfactory, and worth checking out.

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