WWE SMACKDOWN REVIEW 06/09/2016: The Road to Backlash

The art of professional wrestling is one of the most socially active mediums of entertainment across the world. Millions watch men and women grapple for championships, financial success, accolades, celebrity status, and supposed immortality within the squared circle. The Hype Train provides a glancing review of WWE’s Tuesday night show, SmackDown Live, evaluating the show itself, and then commenting on the good, the bad, and everything else in-between. All aboard.

SmackDown Live Review: 05/09/2016

If you managed to get through Monday Night RAW in once piece, and you watch SmackDown the following day, it wouldn’t be a far cry of a thought when thinking… What’s wrong with RAW? The pressure of being the flagship show, and the long 3 hours of content is cannibalising interest in the red brand (as it has been the case since the 1 extra hour was added), and in turn is making SmackDown a breath of fresh air. Don’t get us wrong, this was not particularly a good edition of SmackDown Live, but it wasn’t bad. It just lingers between the lines of your interest and your expectation for the upcoming Backlash pay-per-view this Sunday. What is making SmackDown a more manageable prospect on a weekly basis is a lead announcer that is enthusiastic about the product, and the reality that watching the show won’t consume your entire evening, especially if you didn’t particularly enjoy the edition of the show.

The purpose of any go-home weekly show is to build up the upcoming PPV, and to a great extent, that’s what the blue brand did this week, even if there are certain areas which needed more screen time to sell. The proverbial wrench was thrown into the mix this week, trying to make the WWE Universe second guess what will happen this season in an event headlined by Dean Ambrose defending the WWE World Championship against a challenger that’s been booked to be the next face of the brand in AJ Styles... By removing American Alpha from the event, and teasing that the hot favourites in the Women’s title match (Becky and Nikki) are injured heading into the event, the show is leading up to the idea that anything and everything can happen come Sunday, even if that is a far push of what we’ll get on Sunday.

What SmackDown toned down well less than a day after RAW was the growing level of intolerable, cringe-worthy segments that are the brainchild of an immature grandfather in Vince McMahon. We weren’t given any ‘Old Day’ segments or have to sit through another meaningless Enzo and Cass promo, but perhaps SmackDown has gone one better and made their central feud about hurting their opponent’s private parts. Dean Ambrose’s reign as World Champion has found itself very little to do since Dolph Ziggler tore the champ to shreds on the microphone leading up to the pay-per-view. Dean’s switched to bobbling around the backstage area with very little to do, even though opponent AJ Styles has been riding the ‘hype train’ ever since beating John Cena clean at SummerSlam. The World Championship pretty much was lying dormant until this week when the pair squared off, and all that happened was AJ kicked Dean square in the nuts… that’s it. That was the end of SmackDown until Backlash.

Like a rapid fire, the two central feuds that are selling the pay-per-view, quite literally run out of time to promote itself, but perhaps by wanting to see more of the potential in the Wyatt/Orton and Dean/AJ feuds, perhaps these feuds will transition into the next month, meaning that we’d be very hard pressed to believe that AJ Styles is in line to win the big one. The threat of Dean Ambrose comes from his supposed ‘chaos’, an unpredictability that could come to rue AJ Styles. After tonight, we’re in no rush to give AJ Styles the belt and want to let this one bubble a bit before AJ Styles takes the gold.

Then again, AJ would be the first true World Champion under Shane and Bryan on the blue brand, and could very well happen.

Who’s on SmackDown’s Hype Train?

Rhyno and Heath Slater: A big attraction on the SmackDown roster (who would ever think anyone would ever be saying that?), Slater’s journey for a brand contract has led for memorable television.

Carmella: Sliding under the radar in the SD Women’s Championship match, Carmella submitted Nikki Bella to cement herself as the dark house to win the blue and white strap at Backlash. Carmella’s been built strong the entire campaign, even if Nikki or Becky are in pole position to win the belt.

AJ Styles: The Face that Runs the Place has continued to show his main event talent, and looks in strong form ahead of a match with Dean Ambrose at Backlash. AJ recovered from having his private parts squashed last week with an impressive promo against Ambrose.

The Miz: One of SmackDown’s hottest properties, The Miz has been a major focus on Tuesday nights since the worked shoot with Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack. Miz goes into Backlash as a hot favourite to retain the Intercontinental Championship against Ziggler.

SmackDown Live Results: 05/09/2016

The Miz defeated Apollo Crews

Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Natalya defeated Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Nikki Bella

American Alpha defeated the Usos (Tag Team Title Tournament)

Rhyno & Heath Slater defeated the Hype Bros (Tag Team Title Tournament)

Upcoming Pay-Per-View: WWE Backlash!

Dean Ambrose defends the WWE World Championship against AJ Styles.

The Miz defends the WWE Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler.

Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Natalya, Becky Lynch, Naomi, and Nikki Bella, compete in a six-pack challenge elimination match to determine the first ever WWE SmackDown Women's Champion.

The Usos battle The Hype Bros in the semi-final of the SmackDown Tag Team Championship Tournament.

The Usos or The Hype Bros will compete against Heath Slater and Rhyno to determine the first ever SmackDown Tag Team Champions

Randy Orton battles Bray Wyatt in singles competition.

The Good…

Dolph Ziggler leaned heavily on the 4th wall for this edition of SmackDown, with the Show Off’s general honesty a big win for us fans. On commentary Ziggler mentioned that the commentary team read off notes and referenced his chequered past of losing, something that doesn’t happen in the WWE because they only want you to have the memory of a goldfish. Whilst Ziggler offered decent commentary, acts like this probably go against Ziggler backstage in regards to pushing Ziggler to the very top. If Cena did the same thing as Ziggler though, it would be a whole different story.

The Usos genuinely surprised us and jumped on the radar in a big way when injuring American Alpha. Nobody expected to see the Alpha lose, and as The Hype Team discussed, we heavily doubted that Slater and Rhyno would be given the licence to beat American Alpha cleanly. What do we think will happen at Backlash? The Alpha will cost The Usos in the final of the tournament, leading up to a number one contenders match down the line to face new SmackDown roster member Heath Slater and his title winning partner, Rhyno… Now this is good because there’s a lot of good variables to talk about, which is good news heading into SmackDown’s first exclusive pay-per-view.

Maryse walking into the ring to claim The Miz’s title from Dolph Ziggler was exactly the kind of act that wrestler’s with escorts to the ring barely do. Smart move by Miz.

Alexa Bliss calling Daniel Bryan a “Bella trophy husband” was a definite plus for the opening Women’s segment.

Heath Slater wrestled in the main event, and won. Let that sink in because it’s completely deserved at this point in time.

The Bad…

We feel that there’s not been enough of a build up for Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt’s feuding leading up to Backlash. The promo by Bray about Hunters and Predators was typically Bray (very cryptic without ever being direct and packing a punch) with Randy’s short response summing up the feud… They’ve not really had a lot to work with, have they? Of course, this is leading up to another PPV match down the line, and is a likely slow burner which will lead the feuds victor to probably be in line for a WWE World Championship opportunity (most likely against AJ). For now we are happy with the in-ring efforts that will come of the two, but the build up to this fresh match-up has been anything but exemplary.

It’s expected that wrestlers play it safe leading up a PPV, and that was very much the case on this edition of SmackDown. A lack of in-ring action this week should hopefully help keep the talent fresh for Sunday’s Backlash, but it didn’t help the name of the show on this occasion – SmackDown!

Everything else in-between…

SmackDown opened with Daniel Bryan inviting out the Women competing in the six-pack challenge for the SD Women’s Championship. Becky Lynch came out first, cutting a good promo about winning the title, but one by one with each participant entering the ring, the segment lost its focus and dare we say it, they were acting more like ‘Divas’ than they were Women. The segment would have flowed better if all 6 women started in the ring to begin the show, rather than constant interruptions and petty bickering. There’s a title in the ring ladies, remember that.

The Miz faced Apollo Crews, again, and won clean, again. Was this really necessary? Crews has a long uphill battle if he wishes to gain any momentum. Perhaps a Cruiserweight division on the blue brand will help Apollo find a place on the show…

As bad as it is that American Alpha have been taken off the Backlash card, the kayfabe injury is ultimately to protect Gable and Jordan, with Slater and Rhyno primed for success. It’s a good and a bad thing that The Usos took American Alpha out, but we’re ultimately a little let down that one of the hottest tag teams will be missing out.

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