WWE Smackdown Live is in Dallas, TX this evening, and we will have live coverage of the show as it happens. The build for Backlash continues, with some major title matches already announced. AJ Styles is you #1 Contender for the WWE World Championship, the ladies have a new title to fight for in a 6-pack challenge, and the tag division continues a tournament to determine the final two to face off.
But, the majority of buzz is surrounding a scathing promo unleashed by The Miz on Daniel Bryan on last week’s Talking Smack. What will Bryan have to say to The Miz? Will there be repercussions? Is this the start of a new push for The Miz?
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We get right to the point here, and immediately begin with a clip of Daniel Bryan laying into The Miz about having a soft style, and The Miz going off on Daniel Bryan with the promo of the year.
And then, we go backstage to Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan. Shane says Bryan owes The Miz an apology. Bryan looks somber. Shane says he agrees with what Bryan said, but in the future he can’t get in the talent’s face. Daniel Bryan says he’s right, and maybe he won’t be so honest next time. “By the way, I find this advice ironic coming from the guy that has beef with Brock Lesnar.” The fans ooo and ahh over that one!
The Miz and Maryse march out to the ring, with Miz coming out before his music even hits. He’s pissed, and immediately cuts his music. “Now do I have your attention? Don’t you dare boo me. Don’t you dare boo me.” He says he’s been pushed aside week after week by the GM and Commissioner. He says it took a 148 days to get our attention, and it was a prestigious that has been tarnished by quitters and serial failures. He vows to make it rise to relevance again. “I am your Intercontinental Champion, but I have a soft style, I don’t like to get hit in the face,” he says, mocking Bryan. He says maybe it’s because he’s a champion – he’s smarter and more talented and finds a way not to get hit. He mocks the GM and Commish for wanting to apologize yet agreeing with each other.
Miz heads towards mixed work/shoot territory even further, saying we don’t know what goes on backstage. Who do they call on when they need a spokesperson? Him. Who do they call for a commercial? Movie? Red carpet? Main event Wrestlemania and then play a “freaking chicken?” Him. But we all seem to think he’s unworthy because he didn’t spend the first 12 years of his career in bingo halls in front of 50 people. He says the fans applaud for person after person that ends up being a failure, but he is not a failure. He calls the fans cowards for acting like he is unworthy.
And then, Dolph Ziggler interrupts him. He says he makes a lot of great points, but there’s a reason the fans never get behind him – they see through everything he does. Ziggler says as WWE Superstars they go above and beyond to be the best, but Miz just wants to be famous. “That’s why noone will ever believe in you, that’s why Daniel Bryan calls you soft and a coward.” Ziggler says he just wants to walk a red carpet and hold up a title and be famous. “And every single week you, and you alone, have a chance to change that perception.” He says he gets chance after chance to prove he’s not a coward, yet he doesn’t. He says if he wants to prove to the fans, Daniel Bryan, his wife, himself that he’s not a coward, then he should do it right now. “No title shots Miz, no referees, no ring bells, prove to the entire world right now that you will fight me.”
Ziggler takes off his shirt, and then Miz ducks out of the ring, takes off his jacket, rolls his sleeves up, then heads back on the apron, considering it, before walking backstage after all. Huge heat. Huge heat. Ziggler says Daniel Bryan was right, as was the world. “You’re nothing but a soft, safe coward.” Miz heads back to the ring, enraged, but Maryse holds him back.
Our announcers speak for the first time and announce Dean AMbrose vs. Baron Corbin later tonight, plus Bray Wyatt’s “Sermon for the Serpent.” And, The Hype Bros vs. The Vaudevillains in a Tag Team Tournament match!
I’m not typically a fan of talking segments opening up a show, but this was very strong work from The Miz, and Ziggler delivered here as well, being the voice of the fans. They’re parlaying this into a good story for The Miz, and hopefully, it leads to him making some character changes. As good as he is as a heel, I wouldn’t mind it if he freshened things up a bit.
The Hype Bros (Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley) vs. The Vaudevillains (Simon Gotch & Aiden English) in a Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament Match
Ryder and English start it off. Ryder hits a nice dropkick and a flying forearm in the corner. Gotch pulls him out from a Broski boot, and counters with a neckbreaker outside the ring. Gotch tags in and gets a 2-count.
Mojo gets the hot tag and hits a series of Stinger splashes in the corner. Gorilla press for two. Gotch breaks the tag, Ryder counters and hits a Broski Boot. Mojo hits a running clothesline in the corner, tags in Ryder, and they hit the Hype Ryder for the win.
Winners: The Hype Bros
After the match, the new announcer girl asks them about their win. Ryder says the Hype train has left the station and it’s not coming back. Mojo says “Choo choo Playboy. The Hype Bros are here.” They don’t get hyped, they stay hyped.
I’m fine with this because the Hype Bros need some credibility, but I wish The Vaudevillains would get some wins.
Backstage, AJ Styles is wearing the John Cena armband around his head. He walks up to a number of people backstage, says he’s the face that runs this place, and then comes across someone who’s name isn’t important enough to remember. It’s Apollo Crews. Crews spells his name out for him. AJ says it’s not a spelling bee, it’s Smackdown Live, and he is the face that runs the P-L-A-C-E.
A video hypes up the new NXT Champ, Shinsuke Nakamura. Nice.
AJ’s music hits inside the arena. He wants to be announced as “The Face that Runs this Place.” Funny. The fans chant AJ’s name. “Smackdown Live, the Phenomenal One is here!” The face that runs this place, the face that beat up John Cena, the face that beat John Cena at Summerslam, and the face that will beat Dean Ambrose. He says Ambrose will have nightmares about him, and that he’ll be crowned WWE World Champion. Before he can continue, Apollo Crews interrupts him. AJ demands his music get turned off. “Are you kidding me?” He wants to know if he went to Daniel Bryan to challenge him in a spelling bee, but Crews says he actually got permission to challenge AJ in a match, and that match is right now.
AJ Styles vs. Apollo Crews
AJ goes on the offense immediately. Crews lands a nice reverse leapfrog and a dropkick. He pulls AJ out of the ring and nails him with a punch. Crews chats up Mauro Ranallo, asking if he saw his P-U-N-C-H and we go to break.
Back from the break, and AJ is in control of Crews. AJ lands punch after punch, but Crews fires back with some clotheslines and a splash in the corner. Jumping clothesline, and Crews kippups. AJ runs at Crews and Crews dumps him over the top rope, then follows him to the apron, hitting a standing moonsault off the apron to the floor. Impressive. He sets AJ up top, but AJ slip free, dropping Crews face-first into the turnbuckle. He hits a leaping clothesline, then sets up for a splash, but Crews catches him for a near fall.
AJ counters Crews with a neckbreaker across the top rope, then hits the Phenomenal Forearm for the victory.
Winner: AJ Styles
This might have been the best showing for Crews since his debut on the main roster. He looked good in defeat.
Back from break, and the announcers talk about Heath Slater’s quest for a contract. He’s teaming up with Rhyno tonight, but we first see Renee Young’s trip to Heath Slater’s home. And apparently, it’s a trailer. Slater welcomes Renee to his home, and introduces Rhyno, who is sneering. Slater introduces his wife, who says hi, and then practically leaps on him.
They sit around a table and have crackers with aerosol cheese. Young wants to know how he felt being the last one in the draft room and being unchosen. He says it was an oversight, and just happened. His wife says she bought pizza crusts for dinner tonight, and Rhyno draws a sad face with cheese on a cracker. Amazing. Slater talks about going face to face with Brock Lesnar, and then nearly getting a contract with Smackdown after his match with Randy Orton. He apologizes for calling Shane “Stephanie” and got the beards mixed up. Slater says they probably couldn’t meet his salary anyhow.
Young asks about what it means to be teaming with Rhyno. He says he’s lucky to be teaming with Rhyno, but it’s more for his family. Slater’s wife burps. Young asks Rhyno why he’s teaming up with Slater, and Rhyno just shrugs. Slater says when they win he’s going to upgrade to a double-wide trailer. He says he wishes she could meet their kids. Renee asks if they’re at school, and Slater deadpans “No. They’re out in back picking up cans and bottles.” As Slater starts to talk about the above-ground pool, a car peels away and Slater yells one of his kid’s names. Rhyno just smiles. Looks like they’re taking on The Headbangers later tonight!
Bray Wyatt heads out to the ring to a full intro. He sits in a rocking chair in the middle of the ring. Wyatt says he doesn’t fear snakes or monsters, because he is fear. He doesn’t think of the legend of Randy Orton as a mythological serpent, but just a man. Orton believes he has venom running through his veins, and that excites him. Wyatt calls him sick, and that’s why he likes him. Wyatt says he eradicates the infected, and if he really does have voices in his head, then the voices should be telling him to run.
Orton’s music hits, and he comes out slowly. Orton says the voices in his head are asking him who the hell does this guy think he is? “You think I’m damaged because I have staples in my skull.” He says he’s been damaged a long time. “From one damaged man to another, you have my attention.” Wyatt says that’s the predator he wanted to see, covered in scars but still not afraid. He says Orton is no longer the predator in this situation. “You are damaged, you are weak. I am the predator now.” He says Orton should know what a predator does best – he kills. At Backlash, he’s going to cut the serpent’s head off, and he’ll hang it on his mantle.
Orton talks about his scars – back when Cactus Jack dropped him on thumbtacks, or Hell in a Cell with The Undertaker. Orton says those aren’t the scars he should worry about – it’s the ones inside that he needs to worry about. He says he knows Wyatt has scars too, and he agrees to the match at Backlash. “But fear? I’m not afraid of you Bray. I’m not afraid of a man that calls himself god, and I most certainly am not afraid of kicking your ass right now.” Orton moves into the ring and the lights go out. And then we go to a plug for the next match. What the hell.
Nikki Bella is on commentary for the next match. We see a replay of Carmella’s attack on Nikki, and what happened on Talking Smack as well. Nikki says it’s hard to watch.
Natalya & Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi & Becky Lynch
Naomi and Natalya start it off. Nattie drops Naomi to the mat early on, but Naomi counters and hits a running hurricarana, sending Nattie outside. We go to break. When we return, Naomi is in a bad way. Bliss has control of Naomi in the corner. Naomi tries for the tag, but Bliss cuts her off. Naomi counters and makes the tag, and Lynch is on fire, taking out both Bliss and Natalya. She hits a flying forearm in the corner, then heads up top, and hits a flying boot. Natalya breaks up the pin, Naomi tosses her out of the ring, and out of nowhere, at ringside, Carmella attacks Nikki Bella.
Becky Lynch is distracted by the attack and it gives Alexa Bliss a chance to get the roll-up pin.
Winners: Natalya & Alexa Bliss
Carmella gloats and stands on the barricade over the fallen Bella.
Mauro Ranallo hypes up the return of The Headbangers, who haven’t been in a WWE ring in 16 years. It seems a little weird to have them back, since they haven’t been mentioned in, well, 16 years, but hey.
A series of Curt Hawkins facts airs. They’re recycled Chuck Norris facts.
The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno in a Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament Match
Slater mocks The Headbangers. It’s Slater and Mosh to start it out, and Mosh catches Slater from behind, hitting a springboard cross body to the apron. Tag to Thrasher, who hits a clothesline. Poor Slater is getting double-teamed here. Mosh hits Slater in the corner, takes out Rhyno, and tags in Thrasher, who hits a double-team. Rhyno runs in and breaks the pin. Apparently he suffered a cut over his eye as the left-side of his face is covered in blood. He drags Slater to the corner, gets the tag, and Gores Thrasher for the win.
Winners: Rhyno & Heath Slater
I would’ve been floored if The Headbangers won with the lack of build they’ve had heading into this. Plus, I like Rhyno and Slater together. It’s silly, but it works.
During the break, a commercial hypes up the Cruiserweight Classic, highlighting the quarterfinals. We go ringside, and AJ Styles is on commentary.
We go into the ring, and there’s someone in the ring with a mic, button up shirt, and a tie. He says his name is “Harry ‘The Milkman’ Millman?” He has been granted a license to compete tonight. But apparently, there’s noone in the back that wants to get into the ring. He says he’s not leaving until someone gets in the ring with him. I hope it’s The Miz.
This dude starts undressing in the ring, down to his underwear. And then, Kane’s music hits. Milkman starts to put his pants back on but Kane gets to him first. Kane drops him with a chokeslam, and then walks out of the ring.
And then, Baron Corbin’s music hits. He and Kane pass glances as Corbin heads to the ring, and with the new stage, Corbin’s entrance looks like money.
Baron Corbin vs. WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose
Corbin hits a shoulder block early on. He lays into Ambrose in the corner. Ambrose hits a flying clothesline, and knocks Corbin out of the ring. He heads to the apron and leaps onto Corbin, landing on the floor. He brings Corbin around to the announcer’s table and slams his head into the table.
Ambrose is distracted and nearly gets attacked on the apron, but he reverses it and hits a dropkick out of the corner. Corbin sends him chest first in the corner and hits a clothesline from behind. Corbin maintains control with boots. Corbin sends Ambrose out of the ring as we go to break.
Back from break, Corbin maintains control, getting a near fall. Ambrose fights out of a rest hold. Corbin slides under the bottom rope as a counter, but Ambrose counters with a neck breaker of his own. Ambrose hits a flurry of attacks, and goes for Dirty Deeds but no luck. Corbin hits a shoulder into the ring post. He fires back on Ambrose with a vicious clothesline.
Ambrose and Corbin fire back and forth with elbows. Ambrose rebounds with the lariat for two. Corbin catches Ambrose up top, and heads up for a superplex. Ambrose fights out, but Corbin hits and elbow too. Ambrose yanks the ropes and Corbin goes flying over, and Ambrose dives through to Corbin outside the ring.
Back in the ring, Corbin hits a sweet looking Deep Six for a near fall. Ambrose bails out of the ring and Corbin follows. He sends Ambrose into the barricade. AJ Styles heads over and starts yelling at Corbin, tells him to stay on him. Corbin gets in Styles face, says noone tells him what to do. Ambrose takes advantage, attacking from behind. He rolls Corbin in and hits a diving elbow. Styles distracts Ambrose, and Corbin gets a near fall. Ambrose heads towards Styles and Styles accidentally kicks Corbin, causing the DQ.
Winner: Baron Corbin via DQ
AJ and Ambrose immediately start brawling. Corbin attacks Ambrose too, because why not. Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds on Corbin. Styles goes for the Phenomenal Forearm, but gets crotched on the ropes. Doctor? Doctor. Ambrose shakes the ropes up and down, then shakes AJ’s hand before taking his belt. Ambrose leaves the ring, AJ still on the ropes in pain.
A pretty good showing for Corbin, who carries himself like a star. His in-ring work needs to catch up to his persona, but it’s happening little by little, and really, that’s the easier problem to have. He looked good mixing it up with Ambrose (and Styles) and leaves me hopeful that they’ll push him – and Apollo Crews – to a new level now that the brand split is starting to settle.
Overall, I would have to give this show a thumbs up. Although Daniel Bryan never gave us the apology he promised, we got an incredible promo from The Miz and the start of a possible program with him and Ziggler. The matches were all entertaining, and although some things felt like we were on fast-foward it fels like everything had purpose and there was no filler.
Next week is the go-home show for Backlash. Will Smackdown continue on course, or will they swerve?
It remains to be seen.
Thank you for reading along with me tonight folks. See you tomorrow on Ring Rap Audio!