August 23, 2016
Your hosts are David Otunga, JBL, and Mauro Ranallo
The show starts with a few guys shown in the locker room talking when AJ Styles interrupts, referring to himself as the new “face that runs the place.” AJ then puts on a John Cena headband then walks over to Dolph Ziggler and makes fun of him for looking sad as he lowers himself to Ziggler’s ear and says that he does not like losers. Ziggler loses it and attacks AJ until the others break it up. I liked this segment as AJ amped up his arrogance coming off his big win at SummerSlam to taunt the babyface who came up short in Ziggler.
All of the Tag Team and Women’s Division are in the ring as Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan head out to the ring for the revealing of the new Smackdown Championships. Shane talks about everyone on Smackdown getting an opportunity as Bryan talks to the women and says they all have the potential to be the face of the Women’s Division but wants to know who will be the first-ever Smackdown Women’s Champion. Shane lets us know the champion will be crowned at Backlash in a six-pack challenge. Bryan then announces a Tag Team Title Tournament that will culminate at Backlash and that starts tonight. However, Heath Slater interrupts. Slater talks about how close he became to getting a Smackdown contract but Shane & Bryan took it away from him then suggests he get an opportunity for some gold. Bryan then tells Slater he is not “equipped” to challenge for the Women’s Title. Slater laughs it off and said he was talking about the Tag Team Titles as Shane does not think he is equipped for that as he is not part of the roster and needs a partner. Slater said he guarantees he can go to the back and find a partner then win the titles. Bryan tells Slater if he does find a partner, then he can be part of the tournament as Shane adds he will be a member of the Smackdown roster only if he wins the tournament. AJ Styles interrupts and is pissed off about not being the focus as he yells at Slater about not being his partner. Ziggler then jumps AJ from behind as several referees run out to break up the melee. I also liked this as it made everyone competing for the titles seem important and it continued the Slater storyline, which has been one of the highlights of the brand split.
Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss
Natalya and Naomi are on commentary. Becky grounds Alexa to start as Natalya believes the Women’s Title belongs to her. Alexa scurries over to the ropes as Becky tried the Disarmer then kicks Becky in the face and chokes her out. Alexa roughs up Becky some more then applies an armbar. Becky makes a comeback and runs wild as the crowd approves. Alexa comes back with a Code Red of sorts in the corner or a nearfall then goes back to the arm but Becky counters and puts Alexa away with the Disarmer (4:05) **.
Thoughts: Good match. They positioned Becky as one of the favorites to become the Smackdown Women’s Champion and Alexa good a chance to shine a bit too. Natalya and Naomi did not provide much on commentary and Naomi was really soft-spoken here.
Backstage, Slater tries to court Miz as a partner but he gets blown off. Miz & Maryse then laugh as Miz tells Slater he might be looking at the next Indiana Jones. The Miz & Maryse pairing are fantastic. They are an underutilized act on a roster with a depth problem and the Miz is the Intercontinental Champion so they need to have him become more involved on the show because he has been treated like an afterthought since the draft.
Smackdown Tag Team Title Tournament Match: The Ascension vs. The Usos
The Ascension jump the Usos before the bell. They work over Jimmy to start, using a lot of double-team offense. The announcers babble about acting as Konnor works a nerve hold. Jimmy manages to hit an enziguiri and makes the tag as Jey runs wild on Viktor until Konnor cuts him off. Jimmy catches Konnor with a super kick then flies out with a tope then Jey tags him in for a top rope splash and the win (3:45) *1/2.
Thoughts: Short but fine for what it was. The Ascension actually got to show off some solid double-team work here. The Usos have to be one of the favorites here and a heel turn at the end of this tournament would not surprise me either. Their act is stale.
Tonight, Randy Orton will address us regarding his match at SummerSlam.
AJ Styles heads out to the ring. Mauro talked about Styles match against Cena at SummerSlam being one of the best matches in WWE history. The starts up a chant for AJ, who tells them to stop and addresses all of the angry faces in the crowd and jealous faces in the locker room because of what he did at SummerSlam. We see some still photos of that as the camera cuts back and zooms in on the Cena armband AJ is wearing, as AJ comments how it looks better on himself anyway. AJ tells all of Cenation that they can now be AJ Styles fans because he is the face that runs this place and should be the #1 Contender to the WWE World Championship. Ziggler heads out as several officials are stopping him. Bryan comes out and will not let the two of them ruin the show. Bryan then says he agrees with AJ that he deserves to be the #1 contender and that Ziggler was very close to winning the Championship last night. However, Bryan says that it seems like they both want to fight as he asks the crowd if they want to see that. Bryan makes the match and says if AJ wins, he will face Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship at Backlash and if Ziggler wins, he is added to the match as it will be a triple threat match for the Championship.
Good segment. AJ is just killing it tonight in his role and having Ziggler angry because he came up short makes sense. I love how AJ is wearing Cena’s merchandise. Reminds me of Paul Orndorff coming out to “Real American” when he was feuding with Hulk Hogan. Ziggler is a much better performer when he actually shows passion too. You can say that Ziggler should not get another title opportunity after losing at SummerSlam but at least he has to work for it by beating AJ tonight.
We get more Chuck Norris-like facts to hype up Curt Hawkins’ return to the company.
Before the match with Carmella, Renee Young asked Nikki about returning from injury and what it means. Nikki said it means everything but Carmella attacks her from behind. Carmella hammers away until a second referee breaks it up. Carmella then comes back in and hits a facebuster.
Another good segment. They had to turn Carmella because her act was awful as a face. The character was far too obnoxious and unlikable to cheer. It also helps Nikki establish her face act now too as she has returned from a potential career-ending neck injury.
Randy Orton heads out to the ring. He is walking gingerly to sell the beating he took from Lesnar at SummerSlam. Orton starts off by telling the crowd they were likely not expecting him to appear tonight but here he is as Orton points out getting ten staples in his head. Orton then said he would rather be knocked unconsccious than lose the match they way he did and said while Shane thinks he did the right thing by interfering, he will cross paths with Lesnar again. Bray Wyatt interrupts and sits down on his rocking chair at ringside. He laughs as he asks Orton how his head feels then talks about seeing the blank look in Orton’s eyes at SummerSlam and its a reminder that Orton is just a man. Wyatt then proclaims himself not a man, but a god, and that a god can never die and not to worry because he will find out in time. Wyatt then disappeared after Orton challenged him to come into the ring.
They established this as a feud here but it was not in spectacular fashion or anything as Wyatt is still really cold right now. I never liked involving him in the Ziggler vs. Ambrose feud because he should have been kept strong instead of losing to Ziggler on TV. Hopefully, they can show good chemistry and work an interesting program.
Shane is backstage with a referee as Charly Caruso interrupts and asks him about Lesnar. She then asks if Stephanie will deal with Lesnar like she promised as Shane laughed and said he heard she fined him $500. Shane says the thing with Lesnar and himself is far from over. Based off of the ending to SummerSlam and this segment, they are certainly teasing a potential Shane vs. Lesnar match. I really hope we do not get that.
Slater is backstage as he asks Arn Anderson to be his partner. Arn talks about when he was considered a tag team specialist as Slater tells Arn he is his only hope. Arn is then offended at not being Slater’s first choice then walks away. The camera shows a hand on Slater’s shoulder as it turns out to be Rhyno. He agrees to be Slater’s partner as Slater is elated. The joy Slater showed when Rhyno agreed to be his partner was awesome. He is killing it in this role.
Breezango vs. American Alpha
We get pre-recorded comments from both teams. Both did a good job. Gable takes Fandango down after some back-and-forth action. Breeze tags in as Gable takes him down a few times. Jordan tags and hits a dropkick then Alpha clear the ring as they pose to the fans. Breeze re-enters as Alpha switch off working his arm. Fandango clotheslines Gable behind the referee’s back as Breeze rolls him up for a nearfall right before the break. We return with Gable taking Fandango outside then he crawls over to his partner and makes the tag. Jordan runs wild on Breezango in impressive fashion. The match breaks down then Fandango shoves Gable off of the top rope as Breeze hits Jordan with a hurricarana. Breeze gets a few more nearfalls then Gable takes Fandango and himself out to the floor with a crossbody. Jordan then comes back and hits and suplexes Breeze into the corner and tags Gable as they put Breeze away with the Grand Amplitude (10:39) ***.
Thoughts: Good match. Breezango really impressed here, Breeze in Particular. I hope they give this team more to do going forward. Alpha is also clearly positioned as one of the top favorites to win the tournament and once again looked great.
Dean Ambrose is walking backstage, wearing a Mohegan Sun shirt and a foam cowboy hat. He is asked about his potential opponents at Backlash but Dean was in the casino and has no clue what happened as he babbles about his roulette strategy, or lack of one for that matter. Dean is then informed it will either AJ Styles or both AJ and Ziggler as he gets a coffee and a drink from a waitress then drops a bunch of chips on her tray as a tip. Too much goofy, cornball comedy from your WWE World Champion.
After the break, Ambrose heads out to the ring. He tosses his foam hat to a fan then heads over to the announcers table for our main event.
Dolph Ziggler vs. AJ Styles
Ambrose talks about trying to make Ziggler angry and thinks he wrestles better that way now. These two go at each other’s throats to start. AJ then knocks Ziggler but stops to yell at the ref as Ziggler takes AJ down and grounds him. AJ rolls outside for a breather then comes back in as Ziggler continues to be aggressive. Ziggler then dropkicks AJ through the ropes as we cut to commercial. The match returns with AJ working over Ziggler in the corner as we saw a replay of how he used a slingshot to regain control. Ziggler dodges a charge then fires away but gets whipped into the corner. AJ gets two with a backbreaker then circles Ziggler as he slowly hits him with strikes. Ziggler catches AJ and tries to take him down but AJ breaks out of a waistlock then goes back to work. Ziggler tries to fight back but AJ cuts him off on the apron then snaps his neck on the middle rope as we head to another break. The action comes back with AJ still in control. He works the arm as Ambrose talks about himself and how he is on a role and that momentum is everything. Ziggler fires away but AJ cuts him off with a knee smash. AJ charges but Ziggler drills him with a dropkick as both men are down. Ziggler is up first as he fires away. He hits a DDT then gets two with an elbow drop. Ziggler misses a charge but is able to catch AJ with the Fameasser for a nearfall. AJ then comes back to hit Ziggler with a fireman’s carry neckbreaker as the announcers talk about how Ziggler’s arm is probably numb. AJ misses a springboard 450 as Ziggler hits him with a DDT for another nearfall. Both men are down again then AJ tries for the Styles Clash but Ziggler escapes and hits the Zig Zag as that almost puts AJ away. AJ dodges a super kick and puts Ziggler’s leg in through the ropes and kicks him before taking him out and hitting the Styles Clash for the win (21:28) ****. After the match, AJ stares down Ambrose then rips off his headphones. Ambrose gets up as AJ laughs in his face as we end the show.
Thoughts: A tremendous match and the best singles match of Ziggler’s career. AJ was great and carried himself like a star as Ziggler sold better here than he has in a long time and showed great fire when he made his comebacks. The end was a great way to hype the AJ/Ambrose title match and you can go many different ways with Ziggler’s character, such as snapping and turning heel or convincing everyone he can get to the top on his own. This is a match you need to go out of your way to watch.
Final Thoughts: Overall, a very good episode of Smackdown. You had a PPV-caliber main event and they made both the Tag Team and Women’s Championship Titles and contenders seem important. All of the segments here had a purpose too.
Another key thing was how they capitalized on AJ’s momentum coming out of SummerSlam. They presented him as a star and he acted the part. He also won a great match as he is firing on all cylinders. Who would have thought that AJ Styles would have this type of impact in the WWE? He’s been fantastic since his debut.
With Backlash less than three weeks away, they are on the right track to make the card as compelling as possible.