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No Punches Pulled: Backlash 2016 Review

September 12, 2016 | Posted by Eric Presti
WWE Main Event Slater and Rhyno Image Credit: WWE
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No Punches Pulled: Backlash 2016 Review  

No Punches Pulled is a hard-hitting, no B.S., call-it-right-down-the-middle, review column written by PJ Presti and Eric Garrels, dedicated to delivering unbiased thoughts and criticisms from the world of WWE to readers everywhere. Just because professional wrestlers pull their punches, doesn’t mean we have to pull ours.

WWE Smackdown Live’s Backlash takes place from the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia.

Pre-Show: Apollo Crews vs Baron Corbin

Finish: Baron Corbin hits the End of Days for the win.

Thoughts: For an unannounced match that we have seen in several incarnations before, this wasn’t bad. It was your basic meat and potatoes match, with little to no sequencing or psychology, but there were some nifty spots. PJ felt as though it was just one guy hitting a few moves, then the other hitting a few moves. It went on like this until Corbin hit the End of Days for the win. Eric was indifferent on the match feeling as though Corbin is unfortunately going the typical route of an Andre The Giant Battle Royal winner and Crews is just not unique enough to bring a lot to the table. We truthfully think without Cena, and Ziggler’s continued losing streak, the roster is light on baby faces, so we’re not big on the Corbin win here but it kicked off the show proper and wasn’t the eyesore that it could have been.

Rating: 2 Stars

Becky Lynch vs Naomi vs Natalya vs Alexa Bliss vs Carmella vs Nikki Bella in a Six-Pack Challenge for the Inaugural WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship

Finish: Naomi pins Alexa Bliss after a Blockbuster off the top rope. Natalya submits Naomi to the Sharpshooter. Nikki Bella pins Natalya after the Fireman’s Carry Cutter (can we get a name for her finisher please?). Carmella rolls up Nikki Bella for the pin. Becky Lynch submits Carmella to the Dis-arm-her to win. WINNER and FIRST EVER WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch.

Thoughts: This was really good. You can tell they really put their time putting this together because the match was all killer no filler. Sure there were some sloppy points (Eric disliked the first half of the match for this reason, women being thrown out of the ring every time a spot was going to occur was slightly irking), but when it comes down to it, a lot of it was nitpicking. Every single woman got her chance to shine in this match and you walk away remembering something notable about all of them. Naomi outside of slightly botching the skin the cat spot was on fire. Her new entrance is very cool, and her full out springboard is something not a lot of women can do. Even though Alexa was the first one eliminated, she shined bright beforehand, and got eliminated by a powerbomb/blockbuster combo that we’ve never seen before. Tidy little match to open things up for the main card. Carmella is really the only Woman P.J. didn’t like. He feels her strikes are weak and after it came down to her and Becky it was fairly obvious who would win. Having the match come down to Becky v Nikki or Naomi would have kept us much more on the edge of our seats. So points off for that, but overall this was a good way to kick off the division for team blue.

Rating: 3.25 Stars

The Usos vs The Hype Bros

Finish: Zack Ryder taps out to a modified knee-bar.

Thoughts: Usos come out here sans Samoan Haka, sans face paint, and sans bright colors. Cool new look to set off their heel turn, though I’m not sure the crowd is buying into it. Eric felt they should have reworked the entrance a bit beforehand, as the tron still said “Play Hard in the Paint” despite not wearing any, and was full of their typical bright colors. Sometimes, it’s the little details that can really lock down a mood, especially with the Usos new attitude. This match was better than expected in P.J.’s opinion at least. Ryder played face in peril while the Usos took it to him. Rawley looked better in this match than usual, not that that is saying much, Eric has disliked Rawley since before his injury in NXT. But PJ noted that tackle he hit on the outside was pretty sick and the crowd really had some momentum for him. You can’t ignore that. Love the limb targeting by the Uso’s just as they did to Gable and having them win with a submission further separates them from their prior characters (also brings Dash & Dawson to memory). We liked this one for what it was.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The Miz (c) vs Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Finish: Maryse sprayed Ziggler in the face with perfume and, off the distraction, Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale to retain. WINNER and STILL WWE Intercontinental Champion, The Miz

Thoughts: Miz has been on fire as of late, most notably since his monster promo on Talking Smack (but really it’s been since Maryse joined him as a manager). Every promo and segment he’s been in has been outstanding and when he says the IC title is the most important title on Smackdown, you really feel like it is in that moment, which is saying a lot with AJ Styles in the WWE Title picture. Dolph Ziggler on the other hand has not been on fire and is on quite the PPV slide. Smackdown just threw him in the title pictures with no real build up and he left looking just as lame as he did pre-draft. P.J. thought this match had good heel and face dynamics. He liked that the Miz was drawing cheap heat mimicking some Daniel Bryan offense and gestures, however it took away from Ziggler who is floundering once again. We are all for a cheap Miz win because it’s all heat, plus the froot Rick Martel homage with the perfume is always cool by him. Eric’s biggest issue with the match was that Ziggler is repeatedly placed in spots he’s not built for, so it makes him look awful with a loss. They already used up the “No one believes in me” angle where he ended up losing to Ambrose, and now he’s lost to the Miz for the IC title. This sequence of losses is really placing Ziggler in a hole he may not be able to dig himself out of. PJ would argue that happened years ago.

Rating: 3.25 Stars

Bray Wyatt vs Kane in No Holds Barred

Finish: Randy Orton interferes and hits Wyatt with an RKO. Kane then hits Wyatt with a Chokeslam for the victory.

Thoughts: Not a bad impromptu match with the news of Orton being unable to compete, but not having Orton on the card had us both pretty bummed. That aside, the match wasn’t bad, PJ noting that it had some pretty nice spots, especially with the table. Having Orton interfere was a nice touch since it ensures the feud will continue, but left us scratching our heads since Bryan can’t even break up a women’s brawl on Smackdown, but Orton can hit an RKO? The biggest issue Eric had was that both Orton and Wyatt could have used a win in this match. With Orton unable to wrestle, this would have been a great time to get Wyatt a win and make him a bit more legitimate before continuing the feud with Orton. Having Wyatt lose drags him further down and unless you happen to really like one of these two their match doesn’t really mean a whole lot in context.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Heath Slater & Rhyno vs The Usos for the Inaugural WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships

Finish: Ryno hits the gore on Jimmy and Slater covers for the victory. WINNERS and FIRST EVER WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champions, Heath Slater and Rhyno. Slater will get a Smackdown contract and a double wide bay-bay!

Thoughts: This was pretty good albeit sort of clunky. Surprised at just how over, not just Slater, but Rhyno is. I like how Rhyno has become the calm, cool and collected straight arrow, to Heath’s ridiculousness. Somehow these two just work. That being said PJ is not sure they need the titles. He was thinking more a hard-fought loss earned Slater a contract in the eyes of Bryan and Shane, and The Usos could fight for the titles with American Alpha. Now it looks more like AA will feud with Usos for #1 contendership. Eric wishes they would give Slater some new music (or a joint theme) since this One Man Band theme just brings back memories of long-haired, baby faced (not the wrestling term) Heath Slater. At the end of the day, Slater and Rhyno are over and the crowd is into them with the titles, so that’s really all that matters. The match itself wasn’t bad and we felt the most interesting part was the Usos heel work with the cheap double teams. This change in attitude could add a whole other level to their career, if they can get their entrance and actual character straightened out. We’re curious to see how progresses.

Rating: 2.75 Stars

Dean Ambrose (c) vs AJ Styles for the WWE World Championship

Finish: With the ref recovering from his bump, Styles kicks Ambrose in the balls and finishes him with the Styles Clash. WINNER and NEW WWE World Champion, AJ Styles.

Thoughts: What a match. AJ Styles is a bad, bad man. Not only can he do a spotty match with Cena filled with finishers, he can put on a psychological clinic here with Ambrose. Both matches so good, both matches so different. Both guys sold each other’s offense perfectly and Ambrose looked better here than he has in months. P.J. loved AJ’s transitions into the Calf Crusher, and the apron catapult was sweet, have never seen that before and AJ sold it like he got shot. Eric was a fan of the psychology AJ displayed by gradually increasing the complexity of his moves in response to the previous one not putting Ambrose away. This is a great change from guys just hitting a different move when someone kicks out and not putting anything extra behind each one. The Pele into the rebound lariat (or Lunatic Lariat as Mauro has so named it) was also a neat little spot that led into the ref bump. Kick to the sackeroonie, Styles Clash, NEW CHAMP! You got to be happy for AJ. Went out on a limb to come to the WWE not even knowing if people would recognize him, and 9 months later in September he is the WWE Champion. Quite cool, and well deserved. The cheap victory is sure to lead to an elongation of the feud, but if this was just the first match, we’re drooling over what more the next match could bring.

Rating: 4.25 Stars

The final score: review Good
The 411
Tough show to grade. Not a lot of matches but every single match delivered at, or above expectations, with the main event being a grand slam home run. Not a lot of shows can boast that same remark. Every performer seemed to make the most out of their extended ring time. Both tag matches were solid, the women put on a heck of a performance, the IC title match was good. Even Bray and Kane and the pre-show match were more than watchable. This event may go down into the laurels of time though for the fact that AJ styles became the champ here. Damn good show. Who knows, maybe all the future brand shows will decrease in match number and give their matches more time.