Happy Wednesday, guys. David Spain here with another instalment of Spain’s SmackDown Report. We’re nary a week away from Backlash, so let’s get right down to it and see what’s going on on the blue show.
We kick things off with Kevin Owens in the ring, apparently presenting the Kevin Owens Highlight Reel. Owens welcomes us and says that the show’s original host will never be seen again. Apparently wrestling-themed talk shows are run along Highlander rules. He laughs about injuring Chris Jericho, because wrestling is a business populated by sociopaths, and promises to wreck AJ Styles’ shit before addressing his guest in French. I’m actually learning French now, so I appreciate the chance to hear a fluent speaker.
And I just learned I suck at French.
Anyway, the guest is AJ Styles, who interrupts Owens’ frog talk. He takes Owens to task for imitating Chris Jericho, or for at least doing it without a bitchin’ braided goatee. Styles says that he’s going to win that belt for America, patriotism and momma’s hot apple pie or whatever you savages eat.
Styles teases heading into the ring, but then Jinder Mahal, Jinder Mahal’s veins and the Singh Brothers (in that order) show up onstage. Apparently Mahal was the original guest on the show, because Indian and Canadian relations are super friendly. Jinder shows us a clip of him beating Randy Orton, and promises that all of America will bow at his feet when he’s World Champion. I kind of feel like Jinder Mahal doesn’t get what being WWE Champion means, because he seems to think that having it makes him somehow politically important. I’d laugh about what a world that would be, but Donald Trump is President so we’re more or less there.
Jinder quotes Gandhi in Punjab, saying that “in order to find yourself, you must first lose yourself”. He misses off the end of that quote, which is actually: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. In academic culture, that is considered a dick move. Still, I have to admire the nuts on Jinder to quote Mahatma Gandhi in a threatening context, unless he was referring to Civilisation Gandhi; that would be quite understandable.
Styles gets in the ring and chases Owens out of it before telling Mahal to get his truncated-quotation-making ass into the ring.
Gandhi also enjoyed suplexing bitches
After the break, it’s time for the match: a good chance to see what Jinder can do. Mahal backs Styles into the corner, holding onto him until the count of four and then backing off. Styles shoves Jinder into the corner, then latches on a headlock. He’s shot off the ropes and runs into a brick wall named “Jinder Mahal”. Styles manages to play avoidance with Jinder until he completely blasts him with a dropkick.
Mahal fires back with a shot to the throat, and hurls Styles into the corner. He drops knees onto AJ as the Singh Brothers and Kevin Owens, who’s on commentary, look on. A knee to the head almost knocks Styles right out of the ring, and Mahal keeps attacking the skull. He tries to suplex Styles back into the ring, but Styles counters with a shoulder to the gut and vaults over the ropes to stagger Mahal with a forearm.
Styles unleashes some hard kicks to the chest of Jinder, then looks for the Styles Clash. Jinder resists, locking his arms around AJ’s knees and shoving him away, but Styles comes right back with strikes. The Singh Brothers try to get involved, and though AJ avoids getting tripped up the distraction allows Mahal to dump him throat-first onto the ropes and take a running knee to the face which knocks him into a commercial break.
When we come back, Jinder has regained full control of the match and has AJ trapped in a chinlock. He breaks that to stomp on his opponent before hitting a dropkick to a seated Styles, getting a two count. Jinder applies a sleeper, trying to wear Styles down, but AJ hits a jawbreaker before running into a tackle from Mahal. Jinder lifts Styles onto the top turnbuckle for a superplex, but AJ slides out of it, runs into a superkick which sends him reeling but then catches a flying Mahal with a dropkick!
Both men are down, but reach their feet for a slugfest. AJ gains the upper hand, dropkicking the knee out from under Jinder before slamming into him with a forearm for two. Mahal muscles Styles into the corner with some shoulders to the gut, almost gets taken over in the ushigoroshi but slides out of it and boots styles right in the jaw for a near fall.
Mahal waits on Styles, who manages to duck a clothesline and nail him with a Pele Kick. A running clothesline and an ushigoroshi earns AJ a near fall. Jinder rolls out of the ring and takes a baseball slide from Styles. Back in the ring, Styles is elevated onto the apron and staggers Mahal again, looking for the Phenomenal Forearm. The Singh Brothers distract the referee, which allows Owens to nail Styles in the knee with the belt. Mahal connects with the Khallas, and it’s over.
This goes a fair way to reassuring me about Mahal’s abilities; Styles was a smart opponent for him. Fairly good match with a finish that allowed everyone to save face. 2.5 Stars.
More Fashion Files comedy with Breezango (“Baron Corbin: three shirts, all wolves”). Watch the clips and give them the Championships, because this is the best comedy WWE’s cranked out for a while.
Randy Orton’s backstage before Renee steps out of nowhere to interview him about Jinder Mahal. Orton says that this whole Jinder thing has nothing to do with race, which is a super-specific denial to a question that was not about that at all.
Whatever happened to American Alpha?
It’s time for a tag team match, as the number one contenders take on the Colóns. The Colóns start off strong, with Epico shoving Breeze hard into the steel post shoulder-first and then tagging in Primo to continue the beatdown. Primo locks Breeze’s arm and wrenches back on the face, but Tyler punches away at Primo until the Colón shoves him away.
Primo clotheslines Breeze hard in the corner, but misses a second charge and eats a jumping enzuigiri. Epico and Fandango both get the tag, and Fandango beats away at the Colón before Primo breaks things up. Breeze and Primo are thrown out of the ring and Fandango hits the Falcon Arrow to claim the win.
Very through-the-motions, and I’d love to see Breeze get any offence. 1.5 Stars.
And then the Usos come out and stagger and stumble their way through a promo. Good God, Roman Reigns is a more charismatic individual. I hate anyone who told these two that they could talk.
It’s a contract signing: you know the drill
Here’s Shane McMahon, ready to oversee a contract signing. He introduces the Super Elite Team of Women’s Division Geniuses, followed by the Submission Sorority 2.0. Natalya says that it’s really funny to see Becky, Naomi and Charlotte pretend to be BFFs, but they’re pathetic. After that smidge of fighting talk, the Super Elite Team of Women’s Division Geniuses sign the contract.
Becky says that she couldn’t imagine a reality where she’d be friends with Natalya and that they’re going to wreck some fools on Sunday. Naomi reiterates this, including James Ellsworth in the threat for giggles. Charlotte calls the heels a Babysitters’ Club, which is below the belt, and then says that after Backlash she’s coming for Naomi’s title. Naomi seems to be totally fine with this, which is the kind of awesome competitive spirit I like to see in a Champ.
Ellsworth then grabs a microphone and then pretends to be African American whilst claiming that the entire Submission Sorority 2.0 is in love with him. Naomi almost kicks off the fight right there, but Shane manages to hold them all in line because no-one wants to fuck with the guy who took on AJ Styles at WrestleMania. He makes a match for Naomi vs. Carmella right now.
Ever feel like Ellsworth believes his own gimmick?
Bell rings and Naomi heads right for Carmella, who tries to escape using the ropes. Naomi finally gets her hands on the Princess of Staten Island and proceeds to clobber her. Carmella takes a Thesz press, then gets her head run into turnbuckles by Naomi.
Naomi locks the shoulder, holding Carmella down on the mat. When Carmella reaches her feet, the Champ applies a headlock, then goes right back to the arm. Carmella finally manages to kick Naomi’s legs out from under her, but takes a kick herself right to the midsection. Carmella is sent off the ropes for the Rear view, but Ellsworth pulls Carmella out of the ring to safety. The ref ejects Ellsworth, who erupts with rage as he’s thrown out. Bless him: the guy puts his all into this role.
Following a break, Naomi is still in full control. Carmella tries to have a kick-off with Naomi, which even Daniel Bryan would have to think twice about. Carmella tries to escape over the barricade, but changes her mind and superkicks Naomi as she chases after her. Carmella heads back into the ring, with Naomi following her in and just beating the ten count.
Carmella beats on Naomi back inside the ring before hitting the Bronco Buster. Naomi regains control with a hard kick to the face that sends Carmella sprawling. She follows that up with flying forearms, her volley of kicks and then a jawbreaker. Carmella elevates her onto the apron but takes a roundhouse kick to the skull. Tamina tries to get involved, and the referee tosses both Natalya and Tamina out!
Natalya and Tamina attack Carmella and Becky on the outside, and Naomi takes a moment to help out, which allows Carmella to roll her up for the pin!
So, Carmella just pinned the Women’s Champ: might lead to something down the line. Good match, and a nice way to whet the appetite for the six-woman tag match on Sunday. 2.5 Stars.
Dolph Ziggler is in the locker room, talking to the camera. He says that he didn’t understand Shinsuke Nakamura, so decided to research him. He shows us a tape with nothing on it, because Dolph Ziggler is a master of comedy. We then get shown a clip which actually manages to make Ziggler look like a badass. They really don’t pay their highlight reel people enough.
Ziggler promises that nobody’s looking forward to Nakamura’s debut more than him, as it’s a chance to prove his detractors wrong. To be honest, most of his detractors blame WWE for giving him no opportunities whatsoever.
Elsewhere, Sami Zayn announces that he has been granted a match at Backlash against Baron Corbin. He says that Corbin is intimidated by him, because someone as unstoppable as Zayn is a threat to Corbin’s ego. Baron apparently overhears this and jumps Sami as a matter of course. Talk shit, get hit.
And I spent all match hoping for a Sami run-in
And Baron must have been walking past Zayn on his way to the arena, because it’s main event time. Randy Orton makes his entrance, followed by the Lone Wolf himself. Both men circle each other and then lock up, breaking clean. Corbin shoves Orton, who shoves back and latches on a headlock, stopping Corbin’s attempt to shoot him off the ropes. They chain wrestle, countering and avoiding, until Randy raises the stakes and decides just to go for the RKO; Corbin manages to counter the attempt, but he looks rattled.
Orton backs Corbin into the corner and breaks clean, which is a huge mistake because Baron punches him in the throat. Corbin tries to bring the fight back to Orton, but Randy isn’t putting up with anyone’s shit tonight and keeps hammering away at the big man, culminating in an axe handle off the second rope. Baron gets worked over in the corner, but slides out of the ring off an Irish whip, dashes back in and beheads Orton with a clothesline as we go to a break.
When we come back, Orton misses a knee drop and promptly gets the shit stomped out of him by a vengeful Corbin. Baron chokes Orton on the ropes, then shuts down the Champ’s attempt to take back momentum with the tried and tested strategy of smacking the sweet fuck out of him. He applies a Cobra Clutch and stays on Randy when he breaks out of it, finally putting him back down with a big boot for two.
Orton takes a punch from Corbin, which is the equivalent of taking a kick from Naomi or any risky move from either Samoa Joe or Seth Rollins. Orton tries to fight back sporadically, but Baron Corbin can’t be having with that and smacks him down time and again. Randy finally dodges a blind charge from Corbin, and the Lone Wolf slams into the steel post shoulder-first.
Randy reaches his feet, measures Corbin and then takes him to Clothesline City. A powerslam follows that, and then Corbin rolls onto the apron. Jesus, Baron: that’s the least safe place in an Orton match. Vintage DDT teaches Corbin a valuable lesson, but Baron shoves away a second RKO attempt and scores a near-fall with the Deep Six. Corbin goes for his signature clothesline again, and this time Orton isn’t just ready for it, he RKOs the poor fool coming at him to finish the match.
Quality match: the kind I’ve come to expect as of late. No complaints. 3 Stars.
Jinder Mahal then comes out to make some more threats, thankfully not quoting Gandhi this time. The Singh Brothers try to jump Orton, but like hell Orton’s going to dignify racial stereotypes by selling for them. Randy holds everyone off for a while before the numbers add up and Jinder takes him out with the Khallas. Mahal raises the Championship as we end the show.
So, the bad: Breezango are still not being presented as credible contenders, and it would have been nice to give them a bit more of a push than a couple of weak wins. I also hate the Usos every time they’re handed a microphone.
The good: more or less everything else. By and large, Backlash has had a fairly competent build and I’m looking forward to most of the matches on the card. It’s nothing flashy and there’s no gimmicks or anything, but it should be a solid PPV. Breeze and Fandango are also comedy geniuses.
All in all, pretty great night. 8/10. See you all after Backlash!
Tags: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch, Breezango, byron saxton, Carmella, charlotte, Dolph Ziggler, James Ellsworth, jbl, Jinder Mahal, Kevin Owens, naomi, Natalya, Randy Orton, sami zayn, shinsuke nakamura, smackdown live, Tamina Snuka, The Colons, the usos, Tom Phillips, WWE