By Steven Flora
With this Sunday looming ever so close, Smackdown Live superstars look to put their contemporaries on notice before the brand’s exclusive PPV. A seething Show-Off, a fabulous princess and a motivated ‘Maharaja’ look set to make a statement before Backlash.
Mahal sends a message to the WWE Champion
Randy Orton (c) def. Baron Corbin (Non-Title match)
Initially when this match was announced, I felt underwhelmed. Both superstars are good, but at this moment, their in-ring action wasn’t as solid as I hoped it would be. Corbin is very slow in between holds and Orton’s methodical approach to breaking down his opponents did not mix well at all. Orton teases the RKO early but Corbin avoids that. After some back and forth, Orton lays the boots to Corbin. Corbin slides to the floor, back in and hits a clothesline and covers for 2. Post break, Corbin is in control, laying the boots to Orton. He then chokes out Orton in the ropes, and follows with knees to the gut. Corbin then lays the boots to Orton in the corner, talks some shit and covers for 2. Orton fires back with rights and a head butt, and Corbin then cuts him off with a boot, covering for 2. Corbin follows with rights, talks more and again lays the boots to Orton. Thrilling offense here (insert sarcasm here) as Corbin connects with forearm strikes. Corbin then posts himself as Orton sidesteps a charge, allowing Orton to hit clotheslines and the snap slam. Orton then hits the draping DDT, sets for the RKO but Corbin counters and hits deep six for 2. He then runs into an RKO and Orton wins. Winner: Randy Orton.
Post match, Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers attack Orton leaving him unresponsive in the ring as Mahal hoists the WWE title high above his head. As Broken Matt would say … WONDERFUL!
Side Note: As a go-home show for Smackdown it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. Orton’s reign as WWE champion has been lackluster and quite frankly boring. This new edge to Jinder Mahal could allow him to capture the title at Backlash and maybe provide some much needed resurgence for Randy Orton’s career.
Breezango & The Usos exchange words before Backlash
Breezango def. The Colons
First things first, Breezango are entertaining as hell. With American Alpha unfortunately floundering on the main roster, WWE needed some good guys that could take it right to the tag champs … enter Prince Pretty and FAAAAAAAAANDAAAAAAAAANGO.
As the bout begins, The Colons gain solid heat, keeping Breeze isolated. Breeze fights to his feet, but gets taken back to the Colon’s corner. Breeze hits a desperation enziguri, and gets the tag. Fandango is the house of fire, hitting lefts and a leg lariat for 2. Breeze is tossed to the floor along with Primo. Fandango then hits the falcon arrow (thought that move belonged to Seth?) for the win. Winner: Breezango.
After the match, SmackDown tag team champions The Usos came out and verbally annihilated Breezango, and in all fairness, made Breezango look/feel like a complete joke.
Side Note: A really solid feud with The Usos still taking shots at Breezango. I feel from the confrontations The Usos will retain on Sunday, but nonetheless, this feud is billing up Breezango as credible contenders for the tag team titles. Also ‘The Fashion Files’ are absolutely genius! Please WWE, never stop making them!
Owens looks set to stop AJ Styles’ momentum heading into Backlash
Jinder Mahal def. AJ Styles
Mahal overpowers Styles early, backing him off to the corner. Styles tries to pick up the pace, but Mahal easily tosses him away. Styles then picks up the pace, hits the dropkick and Mahal cuts him off with a shot to the throat and tosses Styles to the corner. He chokes out Styles and then connects with knee drops and lays the boots to him. Mahal sends Styles to the apron and continues to lay the boots to him. Mahal looks for a suplex, but Styles fights it off and slingshots in with a forearm strike. Styles looks for the clash, but then lays on kicks and forearms. The Singh brothers tease tripping up Styles, allowing Mahal to stun Styles off the ropes and hit a knee strike for the near fall. Styles hits a baseball slide dropkick and follows Mahal to the floor. Back in, Styles hits a forearm and Owens then gets involved, allowing Mahal to hit the cobra clutch slam for the win. Winner: Jinder Mahal.
Side Note: This was a solid match though I did feel like it went on longer than it should have. AJ Styles is probably the best wrestler in the world and his match with Kevin Owens at Backlash will steal the show. I do feel this feud isn’t being built properly and maybe they’re going to feud for awhile after Backlash. Though they are both great wrestlers this match will be awesome, however, I wish the creative team put more thought into the story, rather than “it’s just a title match.”
Contract Signing For Naomi, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch vs. Tamina, Carmella and Natalya
This was indeed the most boring segment on Smackdown Live. Also why isn’t Naomi defending her title? It’s almost as if she’s been given the Brock Lesnar treatment here. All six competitors line up in the ring and shut down each other ahead of their match at Backlash. It was quite boring until the legend that is James Ellsworth rocked the mic and claimed that both Lynch and Charlotte fancied him but he just wasn’t interested … Yes Ellsworth, you’ve certainly got that right! He also claimed Carmella would steal Naomi’s glow and that was the catalyst for a brawl to begin … classic WWE.
Side Note: This feud needs to end quickly. Initially I said having all the women on TV at once was a good idea because it gives them each substantial TV time. However as the weeks go by, I miss the personal rivalries Smackdown used to have like Alexa Bliss and Bayley are having right now on Raw. Smackdown needs to build up a credible contender for the women’s champion and the sooner this feud ends the better.
Other notable moments
Carmella took on Naomi (c) in a below-average non-title match. Carmella begins by trying to work leg kicks, but Naomi no sold and then lit her up with some kicks. Carmella started to scream, so Naomi hit a dropkick. Carmella took a powder; Naomi followed and walked into a superkick. Back in and Carmella worked some ground and pound, and then hit the broncobuster for 2. Naomi fought back, hitting a kick out of the corner. She fired up, hitting clotheslines and then the speedball kicks. To the apron and Naomi hits a head kick, she gets distracted by Tamina and Natalya; the ref tosses them to the back. Charlotte and Becky back them off, and they all brawl. Naomi kicks Tamina, but Carmella then rolls her up for the win. Winner: Carmella.
Ziggler hypes up his match at Backlash by showing the WWE universe what accomplishments Nakamura has attained in WWE. *Error Footage not found* (Guessing NXT doesn’t count then). Ziggler claims beating Nakamura will be his greatest accomplishment, however, with WWE saving Nakamura’s debut till a PPV, it’s clear they favor Nakamura over Ziggler any day.
Overall Smackdown Live Rating: C+
Things to look forward to next week