by Scott Saffran
Rather than dilute the list with undeserving assignations, a shorter pay-per-view deserves a shorter Best Things/Worst Things. Now, let’s not squander our time together; onto the list of 4 Worst/Best Things about Backlash!
4 Worst Things
- Kane vs. Bray Wyatt
After Randy Orton was forced out of his match, Bray was able to pick up the win via count out in a deliciously heel moment fraught with his own mocking celebration. But wait…surprise opponent time! Who could it be? A returning Luke Harper to take vengeance on his old master? A bitter Erick Rowan ready to move on for himself? Waylon Mercy finally claiming gimmick infringement? Nope. It’s Kane!
The guy who spent the past few weeks beating up defenseless jobbers. Well, at least Bray gets a chance to look strong at practically no one’s expense. Never mind… he lost. Despite a few entertaining spots, this was the most pointless match on the entire card with the most pointless of outcomes. Sure Randy cost Bray the match, but even if the intention is to turn Bray and Kane into a long feud culminating with Kane’s retirement at WrestleMania, there is no reason to put Bray down even further. Kalisto has been booked stronger than the Eater of Worlds, fer cryin’ out loud!
- Randy Orton Injured
Randy Orton was again slighted a match on the card. In kayfabe, this was due to the dastardly deviations of one Bray Wyatt who mercilessly attacked the ankle of Orton earlier in the show. Randy was actually unable to compete due to lingering concussion symptoms from Brock’s elbow attacks at SummerSlam. Brock Lesnar, though strong in money-making potential, is a liability to the WWE and its Superstars. Concussions, as we all learn more and more every year, are incredibly dangerous to the health and well-being of athletes and to recklessly inflict injury of that magnitude is, frankly, an abomination. Randy has grown to be a respected and cherished member of the WWE roster who should not be, nor should he ever have been, subject to such brutish and thoughtless acts.
- The Commentary
Boy, did this commentary team take me out of the night’s matches! Mauro Ranallo is an absolutely fantastic play-by-play commentator who can erect a very sporting environment for the viewer, but, by God, when he reads such obviously scripted and force-fed lines, it is unbearable. More than most other commentators does Mauro sound like a shill puppet when cramming in ridiculous references. JBL has actually been on a road to redemption post-Maggle, but he does have some distance to make up before he truly becomes sufferable. David Otunga is the true issue with the team, and I really feel for the guy. More often than not does the Harvard Law grad rely on Mauro to bring himself in the conversation. Even with gifted opportunities, he falls flat on his face with the most basic of observations and nonsensical musings of less-than-zero value. Progress is being made, but when I transition from enjoying a technical spectacle to second-guessing what I thought I just heard on commentary, it’s very much still a mark against the experience.
- The Usos vs. The Hype Bros
To be perfectly clear, there was nothing bad about this match. It was actually a pretty decent match with a solid finish. Though very clearly taking a page out of the Success Manual to Tag Team Wrestling by The Revival, the Usos’ targeting of a body part and using it for a match-winning submission was very refreshing for a main roster tag duel. My gripe with the experience was how telegraphed it was. There was not a person in the building, nor a viewer at home, who thought the Hype Bros had a chance in the world of coming out on top. I don’t claim to be a master booker by any means, but having a face vs. heel tournament match with a face tag team already set for the final is clumsy at best. I’d much rather have had the Ascension square off against the Usos where the winner would be a true mystery, or at least somewhat less obvious.
4 Best Things
- The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
Who woulda thunk it? The Match of the Night was an absolute spectacle chock full of impressive technical prowess, traditional mat wrestling, and a trick out of the dearly departed Mr. Fuji’s bag of mischievousness to seal the deal! I have nothing but praise for both men; Ziggler dug himself out of the SummerSlam snooze fest and Miz was practically unparalleled across all matches, all night (hard to compete with the Best in the World, though). Seriously, Miz was incredible. Did I mention how great the Miz was?
He was great! Though Cena vs. Styles by no means, this was the absolute definition of an Intercontinental Championship match; the perfect dose of style matched with tremendous technical wrestling. Maryse’s hairspray finish was the perfect heel manager move to keep the title on the Miz but remove any risk of devaluing Ziggler. Bravo to all involved.
- AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose
Not the excellence that was the IC title match, the WWE title match was an enjoyable jaunt in its own right with the most astonishing finish (and winner) the WWE has seen in some time. AJ Styles is the WWE World Champion. The title held by Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and John Cena is now in the possession of an 8-month rookie who made his name in quite literally every other notable promotion in the world. Coming from the man who refused to let any former WCW star even sniff a WWE title until years passed under his careful watch, this is UNBELIEVABLE. Not like the unbelievable you say when you’re mildly surprised something unlikely has actually occurred. This is the unbelievable you say when something no one in the world thought could possibly come to pass happens before your eyes. This is pigs-are-flying, breathing-underwater, Adam-Sandler-just-won-Best-Actor kind of unbelievable. Hold on to that belt tight, AJ.
- Women’s Six Pack Challenge
Though the outcome was somewhat predictable, and even more so as the match progressed, this was a highly enjoyable, wonderful mess of a match. Each participant got their time to shine; be it in an impressive spot like Naomi or a surprise elimination like Carmella or Alexa Bliss (granted, from opposite ends of the spectrum). Best of all, the match was dedicated good time for appropriate progression and development, and suffered only from a brief spat of eliminations towards the end that jolted the pace only slightly. Becky Lynch claimed what she so rightfully deserves with an impressive showing and a great finish (the Dis-Arm-Her is a frighteningly believable submission). Long live the Lass Kicker.
- Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin
Stand back, we’ve got a Pre-Show Stopper on our hands! Slapped together last-minute by everyone’s favorite GM, Daniel Bryan, Crews vs. Corbin was born to be an ever-dull snorefest to kick off the proceedings. Instead, the two threw off the shackles of supposition and delivered a very entertaining bout that was very well paced and had several breath-taking near falls. The pre-show isn’t supposed to take my breath! It’s a shame this match wasn’t favored more, as it was highly enjoyable and the best possible way to initiate the first ever SmackDown Live PPV.
For a B-Show, this was truly exceptional and a wonderful way to kick off the brand split, especially for SmackDown and its starved roster. Favoring a shorter card for longer matches was absolutely the way to go and I desperately hope the trend continues for future SmackDown PPVs. High praise to Miz and Ziggler for MOTN, and a hearty congratulations to our four new champions.
Huzzah! A much better showing than my abysmal SummerSlam results.
Disclaimer: This reflects only the outcomes of the matches I was able to predict in advance in my previous Predictions article.
Images Credit: WWE.com