Save Mart Center, Fresno, CA
Announcers: Tom Phillips, JBL & Byron Saxton
Has it been a month already? Where has the time gone? Since we last were together, we crowned a new United States Champion, found out what the word “abscond” really meant, discovered the true meaning of “house of horrors” and I’m terrible if you ever invite me to an escape room. Okay, you probably didn’t learn that last one but trust me, it’s true. A big show was promised to us tonight. Will we see another important WWE match photo in this article like last week? Hell yes! Will I crown my first ever 5 Iced Coffee segment? There’s a distinct possibility! Will I shut up and finally get on with the show? Okay, fine!
We begin with a earlier recorded photo shoot of Jinder Mahal pimping his absconded WWE Championship belt. The same strap he used to put down The Viper in the House of Horrors match against Bray Wyatt at Payback. Mahal is doing his “Maharaja” thing when Shane McMahon spoils the party and tells Jinder that championships have to be earned. Jinder promises that at Backlash, he will bring glory to SmackDown Live and to the McMahon Family though Shane gives the Indian Prince a chance to prove himself in a match against Sami Zayn later tonight. Good for them in making Jinder continue to look like a viable threat. Those pics of him with the title could be a fun collector’s item someday. Bad for Sami Zayn who likely will be cannon fodder for our new #1 contender. McGinn’s Grade: 3/5 ICED COFFEES
After the open, Shane-O-Mac heads to the ring to a massive pop. Fresno loves the Commissioner, that cannot be denied. He introduces our NEW U.S. Champion, Y2J, Chris Jericho. The place is deafening as thousands of Jericholics stand as one for their hero. One guy in particular held up a sign that read “Y2J #GOAT.” Now what Jericho has to do with Tom Brady, I’ll never know but I did think the sign was creative and Jericho took a minute to stand just to the left of it as the camera focused on him in the aisle way. Jericho jokes the SmackDown Live is the “New Show of Jericho, Smack it down man!” This leads to Shane putting his newest addition to work on day one and says that Chris must defend his title tonight against his former best friend, Kevin Owens. This brings A.J. Styles out from the Gorilla position. AJ reacquaints himself to his old rival and even references the Y2AJ shirts that were on the market for about four days last year. Styles says he’ll take Jericho’s belt away at Backlash… if he’s still champion of course!
Jericho reminds “The Phenomenal One” that he made Owens tap out not two nights earlier and that people who don’t believe in Jericho will find themselves on The List. Of course, we didn’t get that far as who would come out next but the former United States Champion, Kevin Owens. With his left hand wrapped in tape, Owens snears at his two biggest enemies and calls them both pathetic. He tells Jericho that what he went through at the Festival of Friendship and WrestleMania will be nothing compared to what he’ll experience tonight in the main event. He then turned his fury towards AJ who responded with fists to Owens’s face on the ramp. Officials broke everyone up and it was later announced that AJ would be barred from ringside for tonight’s U.S. Title match. There will be a clear winner. MCGINN’S GRADE: 4/5 ICED COFFEES Solid work by all parties involved. My gut tells me that Jericho’s reign will be quite brief this time but with SmackDown’s unpredictability lately, who the hell really knows?
Naomi will team with Charlotte Flair this week to take on Committee members, Natalya and Carmella. This story is getting interesting. I laugh at the idiot who wrote how stupid this angle was three weeks ago! That guy will never write for this site ever again!
SAMI ZAYN VS. JINDER MAHAL
So you probably know by now, but in case you missed it, Zayn was viciously manhandled by Baron Corbin last week on Talkin’ Smack. Corbin then put his hands on a referee and this time anyway, the brass decided to come down hard on “The Lone Wolf” and suspended him for one whole week. Even without the big guy causing havoc backstage, Zayn still has a tall order against Mahal and the newly christened Singh Brothers. I guess Bollywood Boys wouldn’t work with this new Maharaja gimmick. It’s a shame because I so wanted to write about them doing the Kid and Play dance before each of their matches. Not to get sidetracked but did Jinder look exceptionally “vein-y” tonight? Anyway, Zayn took a few stiff shots in this match including a concussion inducing elbow to the head and a running high knee to his face. Break out the Tylenol for Sami after this one is over! After a completely botched tornado DDT (Jinder’s fault), Zayn looked to have the match in hand with the Singh with the pink shirt pulled Mahal out of the ring. That allowed the Singh in the red shirt to distract Sami long enough for Jinder to score with a slick cobra clutch slam for the victory. Not a terrible match. I’m a little bummed at Sami’s lot in life but the experts tell me this is “all part of his character” so I’ll let it be. Jinder and his acolytes look unbeatable and that’s what counts. MCGINN’S GRADE: 2.5/5 ICED COFFEES
In the back, the gorgeous Becky Lynch confronts the Welcoming Committee. She jokes that they are her favorite ladies and includes Ellsworth in that statement. Natty has no time for jokes though and said that they heard Becky’s comments last week calling the group a bunch of snakes. They point out that Charlotte stabbed Becky in the back previously and if anyone deserves title shots, it’s the Lass-Kicker who was once SD Live’s top female draft pick. They once more ask Becky to join their ranks and together they can make this “our division.” Becky needs time to think this over as we go to break. Hmmmm… We have never seen Becky be heelish on the main roster. Charlotte has betrayed her in the past. Becky is sort of lost in the shuffle as of late. Is this like an NWO type of thing? Whose side are you on Becky?? MCGINN’S GRADE: 3.75/5 ICED COFFEES
We get an extra-long video package for Shinsuke Nakamura. I mean, in case we didn’t already know this guy was awesome, SmackDown is giving us the hard sell for the pay-per-view whether we like it or not. I’m so ready to see this guy every week but good things come to those who wait. Speaking of waiting, sitting in the locker room area with a cast of extras is Dolph Ziggler who is awaiting his big match with the “King of Strong Style.” He’s outraged Shinsuke isn’t here tonight and thinks it’s foolish that Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon have marketed an entire special event around the appearance of a performer who has yet to perform on SD Live. Oh but Shane is standing right there as Dolph runs him down and reminds Ziggy of last week’s encounter with Nakamura. Sarcastically, Dolph admits he was impressed by Shinsuke’s entrance but he’ll impress Shane by what he does to Sin Cara in the ring tonight. Can these two just go at it already? I am hanging on the moment here with these two! I think we’re in for a Rice Krispee Treat of a match at Backlash! MCGINN’S GRADE: 3.5/5 ICED COFFEES
TYE DILLINGER VS. AIDEN ENGLISH
Back in the ring, Aiden English asks for the spotlight again. On a side note, has anyone ever seen Aiden English and Marvel’s Ben Morse in the same room at the same time? A long time fan of the site with the Twitter handle @Criticalbill77 once asked if he was “the only one who hears a lot of similarities in the voices of English and Morse?” Bill, not only do they sound alike, I think they could be the same person! Seriously though, Ben is a great guy and I’m not just saying that because I want free stuff (But, my wedding is just around the corner, just saying)!
So English has a mic and starts singing about how he is, among other things, the Maestro of Mayhem, the Picasso of Pain, the Rembrandt of Rage and the Drama King. His voice is the work of angels and probably the best singer in the company since Nikolai Volkoff but he gets interrupted again by the insanely over Tye Dillinger. English was quickly put away with a new modified version of the Tye Breaker that almost looked like a GTS. After the bout, English is seen throwing a tantrum in the ring which probably means he’ll but US Champ by years end the way things are going on SmackDown. Meanwhile, Tye continues to be on a roll and I just adore his entrance which is definitely a pick-me-up to start my week. MCGINN’S GRADE: 3/5 ICED COFFEES
Y2J is in the back and gets stopped by Renee Young who asks about tonight’s main event. He calls her “Ronnie” and is about to speak when English walks by crying his head off. Jericho says that there is no crying on SmackDown and asks if he knew what happens when “tears start pouring out of your face?” English pleads with Y2J but the answer was an emphatic “YOU JUST MADE THE LIST!” Jericho then put Renee on the list as well as English began to cry once more. Brilliant! I’m going to miss Jericho if the rumors of him touring Fozzy again are true. MCGINN’S GRADE: 4.5 ICED COFFEES
Clips of last week’s Women’s Championship match are followed by a backstage interview with Charlotte. She says that the Welcoming Committee can’t change the fact that she is now on SD Live and that Naomi’s belt is her destiny even though they are teammates tonight. Like a plague of locusts, however, Flair is caught surrounded by the entire heel faction and is assaulted three against one. After taking a hard bump into a storage container, Flair is left holding her ribs just moments before our big tag match.
NAOMI & CHARLOTTE FLAIR VS. NATALYA & CARMELLA
Naomi starts the match alone. The announcers even play up the fact that during the commercial break, the crew played Charlotte’s music and The Queen never emerged from the locker room. So the champ must hold her own in a handicap match but I would argue it was Carmella who was at a disadvantage having to absorb so many of those lethal Naomi kicks. The heels though gain the upperhand and double team Naomi with Tamina providing a lick or two from the outside. About halfway through, Charlotte does appear though she walks gingerly down the aisle holding her left side. Eventually, she gets tagged in and immediately tagged Carmella with a right hand. She’s on fire while picking up face pops from the crowd which seemed absurd just a few weeks ago. After The Committee gets some work in on Flair’s ribs, Naomi gets back in and busts out a rear view on Carmella. The numbers game would prove to steep a hill to climb though for the SD Women’s Champ as Carmella rolled her up on an Ellsworth distraction to give The Committee the “W.” MCGINN’S GRADE: 3/5 ICED COFFEES
Things really begain to sizzle in the aftermath. Pissed off at losing the match for her team, Naomi decked Carmella and a brawl ensued. Heels work on top as you’d expect outnumbering Charlotte and Naomi 4-to-2. Fans chant for Becky and they get their wish… or did they? Becky walks to the ring and stands over her former adversary, Charlotte. She then turns and smiles at the members of the Committee and begins to shake hands with them. My heart is breaking as she works her way down the line until she reaches Ellsworth. Becky does the “brothers don’t shake hands, brothers hug” routine on James and they embrace. Just long enough for Becky to swerve us again and deposit Ellsworth into Tamina. Becky fights her way through the Welcoming Committee beforefalling victim to a pair of swift kicks by Tamina. The Committee stand supreme in the center of the ring and it looks like their promise to take back the division is coming true. Wow! I stand corrected. I thought a month ago that this storyline was pointless and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now I just want Becky, Charlotte and Naomi to clobber this committee S.H.I.E.L.D style. Maybe powerbomb Natty through an announce table? That’d be nice! MCGINN’S GRADE: 4.5/5 ICED COFFEES
SIN CARA VS. DOLPH ZIGGLER
Blah! I’ll keep this brief. Has Sin Cara gotten bigger? I mean, I’m no Greek God or anything. No one will ever confuse me for Finn Balor walking on the beach. But did Sin Cara tonight look like a member of the Blue Man Group who got a few ill-advised tatoos and eats at Cinnobon everyday? Anyway, he tried for a Lionsault only to get his guts smashed by a pair of Ziggler’s knees and then devoured a superkick by Dolph for the easy three-count. Nothing else to see here. MCGINN’S GRADE: 1.5/5 ICED COFFEES
LANA VS. THE CHAIR
I’ve never been more jealous of a chair in my whole life. Some pieces of furniture get all the breaks. MCGINN’S GRADE: 1,000,000,000,000/5 Iced Coffees
Now the greatest moment in Sports Entertainment history happens. The Fashion Files. We go live inside the Fresno Fashion Department. Pictures of various athletes including the late Big Boss Man and Classy Freddie Blassie can be seen in the background. Other superstars are hanging on the case board and Tyler Breeze is one-finger typing on his typewriter. In comes Fandango, who is affectionately referred to by his partner as “Deputy Dango.” He says that now that they’ve closed The Ascension Case, they now have bigger fish to fry since they are the new #1 contenders for the tag team championships. So Dango opens a new file on The Usos and lists off all of the charges against them. They include grand theft (stealing the tag titles), disorderly conduct (their silly dance before matches), identity theft (being twins), unlawful assembly (no one in locker room wants them around), Jay and Jimmy walking (walk around like they own the place), visual assault (wearing face paint), and assault resulting in bodily harm (their outfits hurting Dango’s eyes). They plan to make their big bust at Backlash live from “The Windy Apple” Chicago. Oh my lord this thing was fantastic. Cheesy? Oh yeah, but executed to perfection. Kudos to these guys for making chicken salad out of this gimmick and running with it now that they were given the opportunity. This has definite rewatch potential and if you don’t agree with me, I’ll write you a ticket slander (running your mouth, Jabronie). MCGINN’S GRADE: 5/5 ICED COFFEES
UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Chris Jericho (C) vs. Kevin Owens
Only in Professional Wrestling can we have two Canadians fighting over who truly is the Face of America. Naturally Jericho goes right to work on Owen’s injured hand from Sunday night. They both try to end it early with their signature moves, particularly Owens who tried the pop-up powerbomb on several occasions. There is one sequence where he missed that which was followed by Y2J failing on the Lionsault only to see Owens crash and burn on a cannonball attempt. To say these two had each other well scouted would be the biggest understatement in the history of our sport. Jericho applied the Walls in the center of the ring on two occasions with Owens just barely being able to grab the bottom rope. The match turned on a dime when Jericho slide under the bottom rope to retrieve Owens only to eat a superkick for his troubles. Owens then delivered the death blow by executing a DDT onto the concrete floor that rattled the brain cells of Y2J. Loud Jericho chants were drowned out by another nasty superkick and a near fall by the challenger. Owens pulled Jericho up by the beard and screamed, You’re done,” but Y2J responded by nearly winning on an inside cradle. Fed up, Owens whipped Jericho into the ropes and finally succeeded with the pop-up powerbomb. Three seconds later, we once again have a new United States Champion. We all saw this coming, but we are back on the KO Show. Incredible follow-up to their match on Sunday. I feel like down the road, they can pull out this program, dust it off and they’d still be able to put on a terrific match. A fitting end to an outstanding story. MCGINN’S GRADE: 4/5 ICED COFFEES
But wait, there’s more! The ref called for medical assistance to help Jericho who was clearly shaken after the DDT on the floor. Owens looks dejected and sets down his title belt on the apron. He re-enters the ring to check on Jericho but instead of helping his buddy out, he drops him with another pop-up powerbomb. He lifts Y2J’s lifeless body up and screams “You were never my best friend” and tries to powerbomb him again but Jericho’s body just gave out on him. Owen’s leaves allowing the medical staff to help Chris out of the ring. As he’s walking up the aisle, Owen’s does his Braun Strowman “I’M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU” impersonation and attacks once more. He finishes off Y2J by placing a chair around his neck and ramming him into the steel ring post. Nobody is getting up from that! Owens was right. This was much worse than the Festival of Friendship and WrestleMania. Enjoy the tour Jericho!
And there you have it! Crazy crowd, insane finish, and a red hot show as we make our last moves before Backlash. We didn’t even have the WWE Champ on tonight and this show had very little dead space. Honestly, I have the best gig on this whole site and soon I’ll be able to add Nakamura, Rusev and The New Day to this already loaded show. John Cena may not need to come back when all is said and done. Plus, now we have a clear path to an AJ/Owens program with Jericho seemingly out of the picture.
FINAL GRADE: 4.75/5 ICED COFFEES Bottoms Up!