What’s up, lads and lasses? Well, the day hath finally dawned: AJ Styles is the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Sunday was SmackDown Live‘s first independent PPV and, honestly, it wasn’t bad. Nothing world-shattering, but not much at all to actively complain about. If it’s the starting point of a rise in quality, then we’ve got nothing to worry about.
Becky Lynch also became the SmackDown Women’s Champion, being the first person to do so. I’ll admit, I didn’t guess that on the TRA prediction page; in fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t pick more than one correct outcome for this event, but I was never going to win this year anyhow.
And now, onto the show!
We get a recap of Backlash, showing everything I just said. They actually recap almost everything, which is a nice move: it made everything seem important. They put a little more polish on the main event, but when you give AJ Styles the top belt in the company, you give it some fucking fanfare.
AJ Styles kicks off the show, to one hell of a good reception from the crowd. I think after beating John Cena fairly and winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in two pay-per-views, you get a lot of moral leeway. Guy could probably kill Heath Slater’s kids and get a pop. Shame Lesnar’s on RAW, because they’d be able to make that a hell of a match.
Styles starts off by telling us that he told us so: he’s done everything that he’s said he was going to do: either beating John Cena or becoming the World Champ. Whatever he says comes true, and he’s now the Champ That Runs The Camp. Um…probably not the best moniker, honestly.
John Cena arrives, because Styles has been gimmick-infringing the fuck out of him lately. He walks right down to the ring and gets inside. Cena says that Styles can’t fool the people or him, and says that Styles has something that belongs to him. AJ throws his wristband into Cena’s face, but Cena corrects him: he’s talking about the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. If Cena takes the belt one more time, then he’ll be a sixteen time champ, and he doesn’t want to make history off anyone who isn’t Styles.
Ambrose shows up, looking pissed, and he steps into the ring too. He ignores Cena, and goes eye-to-eye with Styles, who raises the belt. Dean says that Styles made the biggest mistake of his life with that low blow: he stole from Ambrose, and now Ambrose is his enemy. When Dean Ambrose is your enemy, your life changes. He’s going to take his title back with interest.
Cena gets into Ambrose’s face, telling him that Dean hanging Styles up on the top rope makes him a hypocrite for whining about losing via a low blow. Wait, seriously? Those two things are barely in any way related, Cena, you fucking moron. John really goes after Ambrose, and this is an interesting direction for him: he’s usually way less of a dick about things.
Dean says he’s got no idea why Cena thinks he cares what he thinks. Ambrose doesn’t give a damn about any lazy part-timer, and says that John’s better off doing award shows, because he can’t keep up anymore. Corporate’s using Cena as much as they can, because they know he’s done. Before things get nasty, Shane McMahon arrives. Not that I mind too much, but if I was the Commissioner of SmackDown, I would dress way more formal than he did.
Shane says that there’s some amazing talent in the ring, and he compliments Styles and Cena for the match they put on at SummerSlam, and congratulates Styles for being able to beat Cena clean. He says that AJ’s earned the right to say what he’s been saying, but then chastises him for winning with a low blow. Shane promises that Ambrose will have his one-on-one rematch, but at No Mercy, the title will be on the line against both Ambrose and Cena in a Triple Threat match. Yeah, Dean’s never going to see that rematch in a million years.
Tonight, however, Styles is going to need to find a tag team partner to face both Cena and Ambrose. If he can’t, and props to Shane for acknowledging the possibility, then Bryan will appoint him one.
Is Jimmy wearing a trash bag as a shirt?
Speaking of tag team matches, we’ve got the Hype Bros facing the Usos in a rematch from Sunday. Jey goes after the injured leg of Ryder, who manages to fight back for a minute before Jey takes him at the limb, tagging in Jimmy. Jimmy works over the leg too, then tags back out. Jey works the leg again, grapevining it with his own legs.
Ryder kicks his way free, tagging in Rawley, who hits the fucking Pounce! Stinger Splash to Jimmy in the corner, and then another stinger to Jimmy whilst Jey ducks out of the ring. Jimmy is able to superkick Rawley, and Jey finishes him with the Samoan Splash.
Simple and effective: it’s important to rebuild the Usos’ rep as fantastic tag team wrestlers after this heel turn, particularly after the blink-and-you-missed-it loss to American Alpha. 2 Stars.
Oh God, Curt Hawkins is now doing his promos in person. He is pure, unadulterated cringe. I feel like every WWE athlete needs to refuse to lower themselves to actually fighting this guy, because to do so would only serve to acknowledge his worthless existence. I imagine knowing him is akin to having an incurable and really itchy STI.
Here’s the Miz, suited up and accompanied by Maryse. He says that people have been calling him a coward recently, and I’ve called him so many other things than that. He’s apparently been the Intercontinental Champion for 162 days, and it feels like it’s been way longer. I can’t even remember who he took that belt off.
Oh good, Ziggler’s still coming after the title apparently. God, I can’t even tell if that last sentence was sarcasm or not. Dolph gets into the ring, telling Miz that even the Miz himself can’t believe his own lies. Everyone backstage knows that Miz will never be a top guy, and when Dolph Ziggler tells you that, you know he knows what he’s talking about.
Miz says that he’s the top guy on any show he’s on, and he couldn’t give a damn what these people think. Ziggler’s career is pretty much buried, whilst he’s riding high. Dolph agrees that he’s in a slump, and but asks if Miz doesn’t want to actually have a no-excuses match against him, without any outside help.
Maryse asks Ziggler whether he’s serious, and the crowd apparently hates her, and vocally too. She doesn’t get too far into her spiel before Bryan shows up on the ramp and insults her too. Jeez: does everyone hate beautiful French women? Bryan gives Ziggler his rematch, but Miz insists that Dolph never even won the right for his original title match, and they’re still not done renegotiating Miz’s contract.
Bryan gets in the ring, and Miz gets out. Admittedly, Bryan was getting a touch of the crazy eyes just then, so I’d get out too. Bryan and Ziggler stand in the ring together to end the segment.
Meanwhile, AJ Styles is backstage, and happens upon Baron Corbin. Oh wow: please say he wasn’t the first guy you went to; even AJ Styles has got to be on good terms with someone better than Corbin. If not, I actually feel sorry for him.
Corbin turns down the offer to be in the SmackDown main event and to fight two former World Champs alongside the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, because getting noticed and career advancement are for suckers. He says that he wants the title, despite the fact he apparently has no motivation to actually get into the Championship conversation.
The day Baron Corbin becomes World Champ is the day I stop recapping
When we come back, Corbin is in the ring. Crews shows up, gets jumped and has his ass handed to him by Corbin, culminating in the End of Days on the outside.
Oh my God, JACK SWAGGER’S MUSIC JUST STARTED PLAYING!! IT’S JACK SWAGGER!! JACK SWAGGER IS IN THE BUILDING!!
Swagger gets into the ring, goes eye-to-eye with Corbin like a stone-cold motherfucker, and Corbin backs the fuck up and out of the ring.
Swagger cuts a really bad promo, but I don’t care. I don’t even know why I love this guy off the strength of one match against Rusev, but I just do.
Becky Lynch is walking around backstage. If life was fair, AJ Styles would ask her to be his partner. Where my multi-gender matches at?
Cheer up, Nikki; you’ve got your own TV show
Here’s Becky Lynch, making her way to the ring. After months and months of her being a background player whilst Charlotte fought Nikki, Paige and Sasha, it’s fantastic to see her as Champion. I hope she stays on top for a while, because that guarantees a great base level of quality for future title matches.
Becky is interviewed by Charley, and a ‘you deserve it’ chant instantly breaks out: awesome. Becky says she was in the fight of her life on Sunday, but she stuck it out until she was the last one standing. She’ll take on all comers, which is an appropriate note to end on, because it’s time for a Fatal Five-Way match to determine our new number one contender.
Naomi, Natalya, Bliss, Carmella and Nikki all make their way to the ring, and this match is underway as Becky looks on. Nikki goes right after Carmella, who has to duck out of the ring to escape. Natalya takes it to Nikki in Carmella’s absence, throwing her into Bliss and Naomi before trying to roll her up; Carmella breaks up the pin to keep the match going.
Natalya drops Carmella with a clothesline, then snap-suplexes Nikki and Bliss. Sit-out bodyslam from Natalya to Naomi, then Nikki’s on Nat, rocking her skull right off the Bella’s knee. Carmella breaks up the pin, and then has to dash out of the ring as Nikki goes right for her again. Unfortunately for her, Nikki just gets out of the ring too and hurls herself at Carmella.
Naomi slaps a kick into Natalya’s skull from the ring apron, and then rolls Nat up with a sunset flip. Nikki breaks the pin up, then runs right into a kick from Naomi in the corner. Naomi chokes the Bella out on the top rope, but Nikki takes her right out of the corner and hits her with the electric chair suplex! Nikki crawls towards the cover, but Bliss beats her to it; when Naomi kicks out she tries to cover Nikki, but to no avail.
Natalya grabs Alexa by the hair, then hits her with a knee to the gut and a spear in the corner. She goes for another spear, but Alexa dodges, looking for a roll-up, only for Naomi to bean her with a step-up enzuigiri! Full nelson bomb connects to Bliss, and then Natalya hits a running dropkick to Bliss’ face for the two count! Nikki hits the Bella Buster to Natalya for a seriously near-fall, then takes the Rear View for another close call!
Naomi tries to baseball slide Natalya, but Nat catches her and slams her face off the steel steps. She celebrates, but Nikki jumps her and tosses her into the barricade before going back into the ring to face Bliss. Nikki puts her on the top rope, and pulls her onto her shoulders, but Carmella catches Nikki full in the face with a superkick! Alexa hurls Carmella out of the ring, and she gets the win!
Great match. Naomi and Nikki looked best in here, but I’m psyched to see Bliss get a spotlight on her; I really want to see what she’s capable of. 3 Stars.
AJ Styles is backstage again. Wow, Kane? Really? I mean…Bray’s got to be kicking around there somewhere, and he hates Cena and Ambrose. Kane sort of cackles, and then just fucks off. Not exactly an answer, Kane.
When we come back from a break, Shane McMahon is in the ring. He takes a moment to talk about Slater seizing an opportunity, and then calls Rhyno and Slater to the ring. Crowd is so into this right now; how the hell did WWE pull this off? Slater signs the contract, so that’s pretty much solid employment.
Slater thanks Shane and Bryan, along with his wife. He also thanks Rhyno, without being a goofy dick about it. Then he thanks his kids, whose names ought to be argument enough for them being put into care.
Oh, and the Ascension show up. Wow, you couldn’t get the Headbangers back? The Ascension want a match, which everyone seems okay with apart from Slater. Shane makes the match, which will take place after the break.
Is this the Ascension’s Make-A-Wish?
When we come back, Viktor has Slater in a headlock, and Heath hits a jawbreaker to get out of it. Viktor drives Slater into the corner, and hurls a legal Konor into him. Konor takes Rhyno out, then tags Viktor in. Viktor launches himself at Slater from the second rope, with Rhyno just managing to break up the pin.
Rhyno tosses Konor shoulder-first into the post, and Slater needs to make a tag. He crawls over to the corner, kicks Viktor away and tags in Rhyno. The ECW veteran knocks Viktor all over the shop, almost pinning him off a spinebuster before Konor breaks up the pin. Slater locks a sleeper onto Konor, who dumps him out of the ring and then gets speared in the corner by Rhyno. Viktor gets the useless gored out of him, and that’s one successful title defence.
Not bad for a first match. Rhyno really has not lost much of a step. 2.5 Stars.
AJ Styles is still backstage, and is apparently now aware that everyone thinks he’s an absolute dickhole. And apparently Daniel Bryan has hired a jobber to go out and die for AJ Styles. Morally, that is some fucked up shit.
Randy Orton makes his entrance, heading towards the ring. His leg got injured, officially by Bray Wyatt. And whoever that ref was who kept yelling at Bray to back off has got to be the bravest man employed by the WWE: shit was inspirational.
I hope to God Randy Orton has some more bullshit stories about snakes. Or some more great Curt Hawkins facts. Or a load of toxic waste he can dump into the city’s drinking water: any of the above.
Orton says that Bray is afraid of him, and that’s why he viciously attacked him. Interesting tactic. He says that he’s ready for a fight, and that Wyatt should get out here and face him. Yeah, because they didn’t show it on a PPV, they’re obviously about to show it on free TV.
Bray shows up on the titantron, and mumbles about how pissed he is that Kane actually pinned him on Sunday night. He tells Orton not to sleep, and then suddenly appears behind him. Only he doesn’t attack Orton, even though he had the absolute best opportunity. Oh, and then the lights go out again, and Rowan is beating the shit out of Orton. OH GOOD, THIS AGAIN. Except Randy then RKOs him, because he must be as sick of this shit as I am.
If Ellsworth had stuck around, things would have been different
It’s time for our main event, and here’s AJ Styles, making his way to the ring. He’s followed by James Ellsworth…who is then blindsided and has the shit kicked out of him by Miz. Miz, you motherfucker: this was James Ellsworth’s big night. And, wait, did AJ Styles not ask the Miz? The fuck, AJ? That’s literally the first person any heel should go to for a tag team partner. Cena and Ambrose make their way to the ring, and this match is on.
When we come back from the break, Miz has booted Cena in the face for a two count. Miz showboats for a moment, but Cena fires up…only for Miz to shut his ass right down with a DDT. Miz chokes Cena on the bottom rope, and then Styles whacks Cena with a kick when the ref’s not looking. Awesome clothesline in the corner to Cena connects, but Miz’s second attempt falls wide. Cena tags in Ambrose as Miz tags out as well.
Ambrose goes right after Styles, hitting him with clothesline after back elbow. He catches Styles with a spinning backbreaker and he heads up to the top rope to hit a standing elbow drop. Dean throws Styles into the corner, and rains punches and kicks down on him before taking out the Miz and hurling him into the barricade. AJ, however, has had time to recover, and slams a Pele kick into Ambrose’s skull as we go to our final break.
When we come back, Ambrose has just put the Miz down, but he doesn’t want to tag out. Instead, he takes Miz up to the top, where the Miz fights him back to the floor and hits a flying axe-handle. Styles tags in, and hits a forearm to Cena. Cena gets back into the ring, and the distraction to the referee allows Miz to interfere. Styles hits a load of shots to Ambrose, who suddenly fires back with chops. Styles overpowers him, hitting a bunch of chops and kicks himself to put Ambrose right back down.
Chinlock’s applied to Ambrose, who starts to work his way back to his feet. He fires back again, and suddenly catches AJ with a swinging neckbreaker! Cena’s in! Miz is in! Cena takes the Miz down with a shoulder tackle, then a second, and then a spinning back suplex. Five Knuckle Shuffle connects, and Cena takes him up for the AA; Styles dashes into the ring, gets low-bridged by Dean and has Ambrose dive out on top of him. Cena gets Miz up on his shoulders, and he hits the Attitude Adjustment for the win!
Solid match. For all the stuff about Miz having a safe style, he didn’t look hugely out of place here. 3 Stars.
Cena ignores the pretty obvious death glare that Ambrose is shooting his way, and walks right into an even more obvious Dirty Deeds. Wow, it’s like they’ve got a match in a month or two.
Good show, really. Nice cool-down from Backlash, which immediately looked ahead to the next PPV. No complaints, minus the reappearance of Erick Rowan and the horrifying mix of AIDS, cancer and leprosy that is Curt Hawkins. 8/10.
Tags: AJ Styles, Alexa Bliss, apollo crews, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, Heath Slater, Jack Swagger, James Ellsworth, jbl, John Cena, Kane, Maryse, Mauro Ranallo, naomi, Natalya, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton, Rhyno, Shane McMahon, smackdown, smackdown live, The Ascension, The Hype Bros, The Miz, the usos