WWE BACKLASH REVIEW 11/09/2016: AJ Styles Joins Wrestling Royalty

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, and its first exclusive pay-per-view since the draft, Backlash. We evaluate the show itself, and then commenting on the good, the bad, and everything else in-between. All aboard.

WWE Backlash: 11/09/2016

Long gone are the glory days of the Attitude Era, and an era of massive ratings, but there are particular moments in professional wrestling stick with you. For avid fans, and those who generally watch the product out of intrigue (like most who feel distant with what WWE has become), SmackDown's first live pay-per-view might just have a place in the memory banks, and yes, for the right reasons.

Booked almost flawlessly, Backlash aligned the right champions at the right time, and ultimately have produced a show that has become more manageable, and simply better than RAW. For our most recent SmackDown review we claim that WWE is having a problem trying to establish a lot of the talent on RAW, with a lot of the roster not knowing its place. At Backlash, it was a night of establishment more than anything, but it was clear come the end of the night the structure of the show moving forward, and if you watched Backlash with the same optimistic smile as we did, it is likely to be a show you watch every week.

The flow of the show, weighing in at a modest two and a half hours, helped punctuate the success of Backlash. The show didn't once feeling like dragging (with the exception of Bray Wyatt against Kane - a match subscribers to the WWE Network didn't ask for), with the pace of the show matching the many high moments. 3 new champions were crowned, and one rightful champion retained his continuing growth the Intercontinental Championship.

Below you can read all about our opinions and comments about Backlash, but we'll use the review portion to highlight the same point over and over: Backlash was a night for WWE to savour.

The crowning of AJ Styles, Becky Lynch, Heath Slater, and Rhyno, as divisional champions really does set the marker that the brand has its best guys and girls as champions, and it is only right that in a world that often compares WWE to other mainstream fighting promotions in the realms of boxing and mixed martial arts, the art of creating legitimacy in WWE only helps build the SmackDown brand. Fair enough, Heath Slater and Rhyno aren't the apex of the tag team division on the blue brand, American Alpha are, but Heath Slater's been rightfully rewarded for half a decade of endeavour in the squared circle for Vince's PG promotion. The art of reinventing the Slater character has left a sweet taste in the mouths of viewers, providing the cherry on top of an event which saw The Miz and Dolph Ziggler compete in the best match of the night.

Wrestling fans have been provided with so much content in recent years, inside and out of the WWE, with the big money maker hardly offering value for money. In the words of Chris Jericho, we need to drink in this moment as a potential turning point for SmackDown Live. NXT has laid the foundations for growing a varying brand of entertainment, with SmackDown slowly tuning its band to the chords that for so long have made the developmental brand a highlight of the product.

As wrestling enthusiasts the biggest mounting to hurdle for wrestling fans is the sheer simple fact that AJ Styles is WWE World Champion. Not Universal Champion, thee champion. The main man. For ten plus years AJ Styles played his trade in TNA, and was very close to rejoining before finalising a move to the WWE, and re-watching old clips on TNA's official YouTube channel, it's bizarre to see the leap that AJ has made in such a short space of time, remembering that AJ only made his debut in the Royal Rumble. The rapid rise of AJ hasn't felt like that at times, with several PPV losses to Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, and John Cena under his belt. In particular the loss to Cena at Battleground in tag team action was hard to take. For us at The Hype Train we were sure that AJ's career hanged in the balance, with so many falling to the waste side after being disposed by the immovable force of John Cena's ego.

Mounting hurdled, and now we have the most surprising WWE World Champion, perhaps ever. A fairy tale element has been diluted because of AJ's allegiance as a heel in the company, but with SmackDown all in on AJ Styles, and Backlash reflecting this, the blue brand has been transformed into the alpha show. Now it's about continuing the momentum picked up at a PPV event that had few people expecting the world.

Backlash Results Results: 11/09/2016

Backlash Kick Off: Baron Corbin defeated Apollo Crews

SmackDown Women's Championship: Becky Lynch defeated Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Naomi, Natalya, and Nikki Bella

SmackDown Tag Team Tournament Semi-Finals: The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso) defeated The Hype Bros (Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder)

Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (c) defeated Dolph Ziggler

Bray Wyatt defeated Randy Orton (via forfeit)

Kane defeated Bray Wyatt

SmackDown Tag Team Championships: Heath Slater and Rhyno defeated The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso)

WWE World Championship: AJ Styles defeated Dean Ambrose (c)

Who’s on SmackDown’s Hype Train?

Rhyno and Heath Slater: The Tag Title Tournament left a few nervous the closer the final got. The Usos were genuinely poised to create the upset and defy Slater his contract, but thankfully, the pay off was worth it. Slater's big win capped another stellar moment for the SmackDown brand, with Shane and Daniel helping turn Heath into a legitimate talent on the show... RAW would never have done that with Slater (just look at Jinder Mahal!).

Becky Lynch: Obviously so, the victory for Becky was the right, and in a few years when we look back, the only choice for Women's Champion. A deserving champ who is at the top of her game, and that's what a champ is all about, right?

AJ Styles: The Face that Runs the Place won the big one at Backlash, and cements Shane and Daniel's vision for the future with SmackDown Live. Hinting that AJ is ruining his legacy is a very juicy prospect. How low will AJ go before erupting?

The Miz: Alongside Maryse, The Miz has now won our 'Star Man' award twice in quick succession. We'd suggest you go enjoy the IC Championship match. Both Miz and Ziggler put on a wrestling clinic of selling moving, storytelling, genuine talent, with genuine passion.

Upcoming Pay-Per-View: No Mercy (Sunday 9th October 2016)

We'll have to wait until SmackDown live to find out the first announced matches, but it's pretty clear the direction of the company is going. Dean will get a rematch against Ambrose, whilst Randy Orton might finally get his match with Wyatt.

The Good…

We don't need John Cena to turn heel, that version is Cena has been on television ever since The Club attacked Cena on RAW many months ago. By hinting that AJ is damaging his legacy, it's symbolic of what the WWE would do if Cena was to turn his back on his stellar career. That's ok in our eyes because as long as they continue to develop AJ the way WWE's creative team failed with Cena, AJ's in no harm is becoming the next Superman.

In general, AJ winning the WWE World Championship feels surreal, but it is oh so right. Dean Ambrose needs to rediscover what made his so great to begin with, rather than prancing around the backstage area with little to do. Dean really did need the Shield to be relevant...

Naomi was very good in the Women's title match, who'd have Funk'd that? Her athleticism really helped drive spots such as the triple power bomb and the big splash to the outside. She'll be loved is the neon dancer keeps delivering the high octane spots and moves in matches... That being said, Naomi and Natalya messed up spot up at the ropes.

A little predictable, but the right result giving Becky Lynch the honour of being the first ever Women's Champion on SmackDown. We favoured Carmella (who got the the final 2) but in the end and in years to come, we're hoping it proves to be the right decision.

The Miz was once again at his very best. His continuing feud with Daniel Bryan, is it leading to a match at Mania for the IC Title? That would be something else, and another great platform for The Miz at Mania. Against Ziggler, the pair crafted match of the night. No question.

The PPV was well paced. Instead of a bumper PPV lasting between 3-4 hours (in SummerSlam's case - 5 whopping hours), Backlash ran for 2 and a 1/2 hours, didn't take up your entire evening, and what we got in that time was well formulated and presented on the night. We're hoping Clash of the Champions does the same.

Mauro Ranallo's commentary at Backlash was fresh and involving, and his voice sets himself apart from the set up the RAW team have. A definite win that helped sell a lot of the story for the evening.

The Tag Team titles are very appealing to look at, even more so on Rhyno's shoulder. It is hard to believe that the wrecking ball has only ever won a few tag team belts (both in independent feds) and not in any major promotion. Independent.

The Bad…

JBL's commentry was very shouty, at times entertaining, but mostly down right inaccurate throughout the show. A highlight of "John O'Clock" (yes, we're plugging What Culture's King Ross, *you're welcome*) was when moments before the six-pack elimination match for the SD Women's Championship, JBL claimed the match would be won after the first pin-fall... We're beginning to think WWE store their commentary teams in isolation in-between shows, how can the colour commentary be all colour, and no commentary?

WWE have once again put another nail in the fading career of Bray Wyatt. How much more can people take of Wyatt losing until we give up on the new Face of Fear? Unless this is all one big set up for an eventual run as champion, what is the point? Kane didn't need the win last night, and Bray could have used Kane's momentum as an example to Randy Orton of his dominance leading up to the No Mercy PPV. But no...

Creative could have at least acted like they cared about the Kick-Off match between Corbin and Ziggler (wait, we mean Crews! - old habits, we know).

The finish in the Tag Team Tournament semi-final was very predictable, with The Usos beating The Hype Bros the same way they dismantled American Alpha after their original semi-final match. Not enthralling as you knew what was being set up in the final.

That Kick-Off panel that runs throughout the night is just god awful. No offence meant to Lita, but Jerry Lawler and Booker T offer nothing when commentating on matches. If you're going to have a round table, you need legitimate stars (maybe Cena could have done a good job in that position, he wasn't doing anything) that legitimise the talent. Nobody really listens to Booker and Jerry. Bring back 'Black Snow' for Booker, then we can talk.

Why were the women breaking up pin-falls in a six-pack elimination match? Just let it happen...

Everything else in-between…

SmackDown Live's first brand exclusive PPV, and it didn't feature John Cena? Who needs him... Then again, his star power could help define the next AJ Styles and is still an asset for the brand. We're glad though, it was AJ's night. Cena's had his moment in the sun (15 times and then some).

We're just spit-balling here, but SmackDown could really go bold and host a PPV on Friday or Saturday, moving away from the Sunday format, giving the PPVs and televised shows some room to breathe. In terms of content, there is A LOT whenever a PPV comes on. It's nice to not have too much all at once, over saturating the product.

Is it bad that we can't tell The Uso brothers a part? We do like their new attitude though

Eva Marie is still serving a suspension after failing the wellness policy at WWE. She wasn't really missed from the show.

A note on Dean Ambrose. He's fallen off the wagon as of late, creatively speaking. WWE has really run out of steam with his character since drafting him over to SmackDown in such quick time. Dolph Ziggler destroyed Dean on the mic and performed admirably at SummerSlam, but Dean's been set up to fail ever since. Participating purely in backstage skits until going face to face with AJ, it was a weak angle to have Dean defend on - not taking AJ seriously. The one good thing is that Dean has the ability to reinvent himself, even though his promo against AJ on the go-home SmackDown was very good.

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The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015 specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), and professional Wrestling, providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, television, live music, festivals, and any relevant topic in the public eye.

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