- Smackdown Live Episode #926 is live from Manchester, NH. Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, and John "Bradshaw" Layfield are at ringside to call the action, unless otherwise noted. We're only FIVE DAYS away from possibly having to say "WWE Champion Jinder Mahal", showing that all dreams and nightmares are possible. Advertised for tonight is Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin and A.J. Styles vs. Jinder Mahal. Wow, if they job Styles to Mahal, I don't even want to think about it.
- US Champion Kevin Owens is in the ring to host his own "Highlight Reel." I'm sensing we haven't seen the last of the KO vs. Jericho angle. He says the old host will never, ever be seen a-gain. We see highlights from two weeks ago where Owens did his best to try and permanently injure Jericho. The only list Jericho is on now is the "Injured List." What he did to Jericho is only a sneak preview to what will happen at Backlash when he beats A.J. Styles. He offers to introduce his guest in French, but out comes A.J. Styles. He accuses Owens of stealing from Jericho for the last year. Styles isn't supposed to be the guest, but he says he didn't learn a thing in High School French class. He says he's going to bring the US Title back to the Good Ol' US of A. He says why wait until Sunday, when we get can do it right now. Jinder Mahal interrupts next. He was supposed to be the guest on the "Highlight Reel", but Styles, like a true rude American, stuck his nose where it didn't belong. We see highlights of Mahal pinning Orton last week on Smackdown Taped. I'm TRYING not to judge him based on his past, but damn if Mahal draws zero interest from me either way. Styles wants to start the A.J. Styles highlight reel, right now.
We return from commercial, with Mahal in control of a chin-lock. A chin-lock that will last as long as a fast from Gandhi. Styles escapes with a jaw breaker, but runs into an elbow. Whip to the corner for a chest-first bump gets two. He sets Styles up across the top turnbuckle, but Styles slips between the legs and drops him across the turnbuckle. Styles charges and meets a boot. Mahal comes off the middle turnbuckle and gets caught in mid-air with a dropkick. Styles gets the better of a slugfest and clips the knee. Sliding forearm connects for two. Mahal slips out of a fireman's carry and hits a boot to the face for two. He misses a charging forearm and Styles nails him with the Pele Kick. Styles with the diving forearm and Ushigoroshi for two. Mahal bails and Styles follows with a baseball slide. Styles sets up for the Phenomenal Forearm, but Owens hits his knee with the US Title. What a coincidence, the referee was distracted by the Singh Brothers. Mahal takes advantage of the opportunity, and the Cobra Clutch Slam (with a new, stupid name) finishes at 11:54 (shown). Well... yeah, that was something, I guess. **1/2 Another paint-by-numbers match where an elite worker couldn't get much more than the basics out of Mahal.
- Lana is coming to Smackdown Live... soon. For the love of God, how long are they going to milk this? (Don't even start with Emmalina)
- Episode #3 of The Fashion Police Files: Fashionable Intent. Deputy Dango is up to his ears in Fashion Felonies. He comes across a dingy janitor, but it's really Tyler Breeze in disguise. Baron Corbin has three shirts with just wolves. Sami Zayn's drawers are the same as his Credenza. Then there's the Usos sweater. "Day One IS H. what does that even mean?!" "I don't think anybody knows." Fandango has to remind a hysterical Tyler he's Prince Pretty, the Prettiest of all Princes. At Backlash, their Day One will be H. FREEZE FRAME!
- Renee Young interrupts Randy Orton's WALKING. He says Jinder thinks American people don't respect him for his look or how he talks, but the truth is that people don't like him because he's an ass.
- Time for the first ever Six-Women's Tag Team Match CONTRACT SIGNING. Seriously, how many more times can they milk this gimmick as something important to see? Shane McMahon is in the ring to host the festivities. I guess Rusev isn't showing up this week, after all. Natalya speaks on behalf of her entire team, because Tamina isn't allowed to talk. She doesn't believe for a second that the unlikely alliance is genuine, and calls them pathetic. Becky says there was no chance in hell she would join their goon squad, and at Backlash, they finally face them with even numbers, and plans on slapping the face of all of them. Naomi threatens to snatch them bald. I guess that's the new dumb catchphrase. Charlotte has menacing words for the Welcoming Committee, and when that's over, she's taking the Smackdown Women's Title. James Ellsworth gets mouthy too, which leads to a brawl and a match being made... RIGHT NOW.
We return from commercial, with Naomi wasting time doing a dance in the corner. They trade kicks, with Carmella coming out on the short end of that exchange. Naomi follows her to the floor and gets laid out with a Super-Kick. Back inside, Carmella with the Bronco Buster for two. Naomi fights out of a chin-lock and catches Carmella in the corner with a roundhouse kick. Naomi comes off the ropes with a clothesline and elbow. She does the stupid jumping in place kicks and connects with a split-legged jaw breaker. Natalya and Tamina with a distraction, and now THEY'RE EJECTED TOO. They don't take it kindly, and instead start a brawl with Charlotte and Becky at ringside. Naomi gets distracted by that too, and Carmella rolls her up for three at 8:20 (shown). F*cking roll-up finishes... * Not the worst match I've ever seen (that would be the House of Horrors debacle). Everything that Naomi does just seems so unnatural and forced, it's hard to enjoy her matches, and Carmella isn't good enough to be a one-woman show.
- WWE Smackdown Live looks like it's coming to Tampa, FL on August 12th. Maybe I can see WWE Champion Jinder Mahal in action!
- The New Day aren't going to let negativity keep them down, and will make the WWE Tag Team Division great again, when they arrive on Smackdown Live. Coming Soon!
- Dolph Ziggler is backstage to hype his match at Backlash with Shinsuke Nakamura. He says he's trying to figure out what made him so great, and studied all his matches since coming to the WWE. The video shows a part of his entrance video and a "Footage Not Found" screen, which seemed like the obvious conclusion to the segment. Instead, we get a montage of Dolph Ziggler, being a former 5-time Intercontinental Champion, Money in the Bank Winner, and World Heavyweight Champion.
- Dasha Fuentes is backstage with Sami Zayn. He's requested and be granted a match at Backlash with Baron Corbin. He says Corbin is threatened by his arrival on Smackdown Live, because he's a constant reminder that Corbin isn't the dominant performer he thinks he is. He knows he can't keep Sami down, and that's a threat to him. Corbin doesn't take kindly to those words, attacking Zayn from behind, and threatening to put him down for good at Backlash.
We return from commercial, with Orton missing a flying knee drop. Corbin stomps him down in the corner and chokes away. Orton with rights, but he's slowed with a knee to the midsection. Whip to the corner and more clubbering from the Lone Wolf. Orton fights out of a chin-lock, but runs into a boot. Corbin trash talks and comes off the ropes with a right hand. You know the phrase methodical fits Corbin very well. That's also a nice way of saying "moving slowly" and "dull." Orton with elbows to fight out of a choke-slam. Corbin charges the corner but meets the post. Orton with clotheslines and a snap Power-Slam. Corbin rolls to the apron, but gets pulled back in and planted with the draping DDT. Corbin blocks the RKO and catches Orton off the ropes with Deep-Six for a near fall. Corbin goes for his in-and-out again, and this time is met with the RKO. That finishes at 9:32 (shown). *1/2 This was way too slow, and again shows Orton only works to the level of his opponent.
Post-match, Jinder Mahal interrupts the celebration, but Orton doesn't fall for the sneak attack from his lackeys. He goes for the draping DDT on both Joey Mercury Singh and Jamie Noble Singh, but Mahal finally sneaks into the ring to attack Orton, and lays him out with the Khallas (yes, that's the new name for his Cobra Clutch Slam) as the show goes off the air.
Final Thoughts: I try to stay positive as much as I can, but I'm not too hyped for Backlash, which feels like the definition of a throwaway show. They did their best to touch on everything scheduled for the PPV, but a lot of it feels uninspired. We knew weeks ago they would add Corbin vs. Sami Zayn, but it feels like it was done with little thought beyond the next-to-last segment on the go home show. Using a Six-Women Tag feels like a crutch to slot everyone into a match, including a nonsensical face-turn, even if it's short term, for Charlotte Flair. The less said about the lack of enthusiasm for Jinder Mahal the better. The only match with potential to be a show stealer is A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens, and I wouldn't be shocked if there was a bull-crap finish for it.