By Graham "GSM" Matthews
SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon and SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan Introduced the New Tag Team and Women's Titles
Well, we were all expecting this to happen eventually, and while I was originally in favor of having only one women's and one tag team title, this was necessary in ensuring Superstars aren't going back and forth between brands. The presentation of both belts was well done and I liked how they made two new matches for Backlash right off the bat. I'm not crazy about them using the same designs as Raw's women's and tag titles, but the blue color is fine, I suppose. Thanks to the Connecticut crowd for not crapping on the titles the same way Brooklyn did at SummerSlam. I appreciate that.
Becky Lynch def. Alexa Bliss
Bliss is still not the complete package in the ring just yet, but she does excel in just about every other area. As I've said in the past, in working with better wrestlers such as Lynch, she will be on that same level in no time. She had an impressive outing here against Lynch and I was fine with Lynch getting her win back following her team's loss at SummerSlam. Meanwhile, the bickering between Natalya and Naomi didn't do much for me on commentary, but at least it wasn't over-the-top.
The Usos def. The Ascension in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship Tournament Match
The damage has been done, folks. I enjoy The Usos, but their association with Roman Reigns over the last year caused the fans to turn on them, though it doesn't help that they were already stale to begin with and have been babyfaces for over five years by this point. This wasn't a bad bout by any means but rather formulaic. I'm anxiously anticipating the tournament coming down to The Usos vs. American Alpha with Usos flipping the switch sometime soon.
Dolph Ziggler Interrupted AJ Styles
It continues to blow me away just how talented of a talker Styles has evolved into over the past few months alone. He is definitely comfortable in the heel role and plays the part to perfection. I thought we would find out what was next for Cena here, but it looks like he'll be off TV for the foreseeable future to film the second season of his show. Ziggler showed good intensity in coming down the ramp to fight Styles and it set up the main event effectively.
Carmella vs. Nikki Bella Went to a No Contest
I was going to criticize Carmella for attacking a heel when she is clearly a babyface, but as she continued to ambush Nikki, it became apparent that this was designed to be a double turn. And I am totally in favor of that, oddly enough. Carmella simply wasn't clicking as a babyface, so maybe this turn could be exactly what she needs. Nikki has always been a better heel, but fans want to cheer her coming off her return, so we'll see how this plays out.
Bray Wyatt Interrupted Randy Orton
There was a tease for a Wyatt vs. Orton feud last week and I'm happy that's the direction they're headed in with them. I am fearful, though, as I am with every Wyatt feud that it won't meet expectations because Wyatt will talk too much about nothing and come out of this looking weaker than he did going in. However, that's almost impossible considering he has no momentum right now as it is, so they have my interest as of now. It's also a fresh feud for Orton.
American Alpha def. Breezango in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship Tournament Match
Breezango's Battleground bout versus The Usos last month proved how excellent of athletes they are and this match with American Alpha further solidified that. I was glad to see them receive the time they deserved and contest a fun match that mastered the art of tag team wrestling. American Alpha were the obvious winners, but Breezango deserve credit for having a strong showing as well.
AJ Styles def. Dolph Ziggler
I had totally forgotten until the bell rang that this was a match we had never seen before, and then I got extra excited. Sure, Ziggler still doesn't mean squat and I didn't seriously think he had a shot of beating Styles, but I enjoyed the match for its exceptional in-ring action and the crowed seemed to do the same. I loved how the match went as long as it did and Styles cheating to win should further anger Ziggler. Styles is one of the best things going in the company right now and he should be the one to take the title from Ambrose at Backlash.
Although I was in attendance for Monday's Raw, I must admit that SmackDown was the stronger show this week. The two hour format is undoubtedly the blue brand's biggest advantage, but even that notwithstanding, they make the most of the roster they have and create compelling stories in each of the divisions. Backlash is shaping up to be a strong card and with two more episodes to go until the event, here's hoping it comes together nicely next week with more matches being made official.