WWE Backlash 2016
September 11, 2016
Richmond Coliseum – Richmond, Virginia

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our reviews

  • Rich Kraetsch: Created this here website in 2011 and today handles a majority of the editing duties, website maintenance and co-hosts the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast. Follow him on Twitter @VoicesWrestling.
  • Kelly Harrass: Voices of Wrestling’s resident writer about odd things like Okada playing card games with children on an anime. Ready to drop a star off of the rating for every match if they don’t have the crazy swinging claws as a part of the set for the show. Find him on Twitter @comicgeekelly.
  • Andrew Rich: A contributing article writer for Voices of Wrestling, this is his first official show review for the website. Boy, does he know how to pick ‘em. You can find him on Twitter @AndrewTRich.

WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch def. Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Naomi, Natalya & Nikki Bella

Rich Kraetsch: The elimination rules of this six-pack challenge was the right move as it opened up many different possibilities and potential stories down the road. The downside: you need everyone in the ring to understand the logic behind elimination matches. This match featured far too many instances of (heels especially) breaking up pinfalls. One instance saw Natalya turn on Carmella when they were about to double-team Nikki. Of course, Nikki pinned Natalya seconds later. Regardless, this was a fun opener with each of the competitors putting their own mark on the match. Naomi even busted out a Cattle Mutilation (!). The end, the decision to make Becky the inaugural champion was predictable but definitely the right one. She’s worked so hard to get to this point. She deserved this. **3/4

Kelly Harrass: Initially I was unhappy to see this open the show, but it was a damn hot opener. In the first couple minutes of the match, I thought that these women were on their way to four stars. While I don’t think that they reached those heights, this was a very strong match. Everyone worked hard to make their mark in this one and they all had some great moments. The standouts to me were Alexa Bliss for her great heel work, Naomi for using Cattle Mutilation, and Carmella for putting in the best performance that I’ve seen from her. The match suffered a bit from some sloppiness in the middle of it and gaps in logic throughout with wrestlers breaking up pins when this wouldn’t benefit them in any way. I didn’t expect to see Becky pick up the win, but she can clearly carry the division and I’m happy to see her get her time to shine. ***1/2

Andrew Rich: A very curious opening to the show, but it was a good way to get the people excited given the finish. Becky Lynch winning was absolutely the right move in my mind, as she’s a strong name to be the first SmackDown Women’s Champion. The match itself was sloppy at times (that Naomi/Natalya skin the cat spot, yeesh), but overall fine. Alexa Bliss to me was a big standout. Her petulant pixie heel character grew on me immediately and it was a shame she was the first one out. As Kelly and Rich say, logic wasn’t this match’s strong suit, but didn’t sour it overall. ***

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Tournament Semifinal
The Usos def. The Hype Bros

Rich Kraetsch: The Usos debuted a new look tonight with all-black attire and no face paint. Better than that, they debuted a new in-ring attitude that was much more methodical, slower paced and focused. This was a shockingly great match that way exceeded my expectations. You may not like The Hype Bros, and I understand fully why but I think they fill their role perfectly. He’s pretty terrible at most aspects of this business but goddamn if Mojo Rawley can’t run through a hot tag sequence. The Usos smartly moved on here with a devastating chop block to Ryder. I’m all in on heel Usos and look forward to see where they go with it moving forward. ***

Kelly Harrass: I’ve never really been a fan of the Usos, but this new heel persona for them works for me. Losing the face paint and adding the new gear and done a ton for their look. Giving them both different gear is the best possible thing for this team, especially if they want to have different personalities. Love the look with the black pants and the bright white shoes. The match itself was fine. It was absolutely the prototype for a WWE tag match. That being said, Mojo knows how to make it count when he gets the hot tag. Nothing wrong with this one, but it was very basic. **1/4

Andrew Rich: I am ALL IN on vicious heel asskicker Usos. It gives them such a fresh coat of paint (no pun intended) and SmackDown really needs that top heel tag team as the foil to top babyface team American Alpha. Mojo Rawley, meanwhile, makes me laugh. The guy is a big ball of muscle and screams. Like, he won’t stop screaming. But as annoying as he is, The Hype Bros gives Zack Ryder something to do, so I can’t complain too much. And Mojo does have the energy to keep the crowd interested. The match was typical WWE tag team fair: Good, but nothing standout. **3/4

WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz © def. Dolph Ziggler

Rich Kraetsch: I’ve been on The Miz’ bandwagon for quite a few years now but he’s really reached a new level this year. Unsurprisingly, he turned 35 and as we’ve discussed numerous times on the VOW Podcast, that’s really when workers peak in-ring. It’s the right combo of still having athletic ability coupled with an understanding of what to do in the ring and how to work a crowd. This was arguably Miz’ best performance ever. Everything he did in this match was perfect from his heel mannerisms, how he attacked Ziggler, the viciousness throughout (obviously in response to Bryan calling him out) his mimicking of Daniel Bryan’s moveset… perfect, all of it. Even the finish, Maryse spraying something in Ziggler’s face, seemed to work in the grand scheme. This current iteration of The Miz is great and I’m still holding out hope we get Bryan vs. Miz at some point. ****

Kelly Harrass: This match was so much better than I was expecting it to be. Ziggler and Miz have great chemistry together and they were given the time to really tell a story here. Miz brought it to Ziggler with a more aggressive style than normal. It was also more submission heavy, which was clearly a call out to Daniel Bryan. Thankfully it doesn’t look like this story is going anywhere. Another story that’s sticking around is Ziggler as a perpetual loser. Ziggler is the Hirooki Goto of WWE where he just can’t win the big one. In Ziggler’s case, the big one is becoming a lower tier match with every loss. It looked like Ziggler might have been able to pull this one out, but interference kept that from happening. Miz is doing amazing heel work and this might actually be one of my favorite matches of his. The outcome was exactly what it should have been with the never ending title reign of Miz rolling on. ***3/4

Andrew Rich: In wrestling, it’s all about the little things. And in this match, Miz was a master of the little things. Whether it was muttering “Who’s the coward” as he’s stomping away on Ziggler, utilizing Daniel Bryan-type moves such as the Bow and Arrow Lock and the Mexican Surfboard Stretch, or just having that extra little umph of viciousness against Dolph’s leg, Miz was so good in this match at conveying A) his hatred of Daniel Bryan and B) his desire to prove to people that he’s not a coward. He can get real nasty when he wants to. So great. I also enjoyed Ziggler’s performance more and more as the story went on, as his own desperation to win and find some semblance of redemption after months of going nowhere became more apparent. He really needed a big win, especially after failing against Ambrose at SummerSlam. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. The finish was a bit eye-rolly, but the story of Miz still having some level of cowardice in him in needing Maryse to help him win makes sense in a way. That said, I still would have prefered a cleaner finish. ***3/4

Kane def. Bray Wyatt

Rich Kraetsch: Kane replaced Randy Orton to the fright of many. What followed was actually a pretty damn good match two guys that have disappointed in the past (SummerSlam 2013). This had the perfect blend of out of the ring brawling (including a great Senton through a table from Wyatt) and some hard-hitting, hoss-y moves. I was ready to do laundry to avoid this match but I’m glad I didn’t. This was a fun match. Backlash is delivering big so far. ***

Kelly Harrass: This is the kind of match you get in the main event of a house show where an advertised big star can’t make it. The big red replacement took on the lead singer of Korn in a match that nobody was looking forward to. I’ll take this time to point out that WWE messed up big time by not finding a way to integrate the stupid claw things into the Backlash set. Those were the one thing that I really looked forward to whenever Backlash was on the horizon. Now all we get is a weird blue L in the logo. I shake my head at you WWE. Now, why did I go into this? Simple, it’s meaningless, just like this match. These two wrestlers went into this match and took some more dangerous than normal bumps for absolutely no reason. Wyatt lost because wins and losses don’t matter to his character. Kane won and, well… He’ll still be Kane, a guy that is always over to some extent, but nobody will ever lose their mind over. This match was fine. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it was nothing. **1/2

Andrew Rich: Midway through the match, Bray Wyatt was standing on the announce table, doing Randy Orton’s arm taunt. Unfortunately, the camera crew decided to do a close up on Bray’s face instead of a wide shot. It’s a quite appropriate metaphor for Bray Wyatt’s WWE career. All the wrong choices. He shouldn’t be just a guy. Bray should be a Big Bad, the leader of an army of goons that you have to fight through to get to. Instead he’s alone, he’s lost almost all of his aura, and he’s losing to Kane in 2016. Kane, I love ya buddy, you’re a great hand, but you should not be beating Bray Wyatt. Was this match horrible? No, it was a brawl that held my interest and there were some cool spots like Bray’s senton. But overall, this loss does no favors for Bray. All it does is continue his feud with Orton, which we all knew was continuing anyway. And it makes him look like a chump. **1/2

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Tournament Final
Heath Slater & Rhyno def. The Usos

Rich Kraetsch: The oddest and perhaps best story in WWE right now is this Heath Slater/Rhyno team and the crowd’s attachment to them. Slater embracing his inner hillbilly has been a revelation none of us could’ve seen coming but it’s the first time you can honestly say they may have something with this guy. As far as the story arch, I’m not sure if WWE lucked into this or they had a plan when he wasn’t drafted to either brand but i’ll be damned if WWE didn’t nail it. Kudos to them if this was the long-term idea.. I also love the logic of the Usos, who wrestled earlier in the night, not having the energy to hang with the fresh team. THEY GETTIN’ A DOUBLE WIDE, BABY!!! ***1/4

Kelly Harrass: HEATH SLATER BAYBAYYYY!!!!!!!! Beauty and the Man Beast take home the Smackdown tag titles and my heart give this five stars. Not getting drafted might be the best thing that has ever happened to Slater because now he’s in a fantastic tag team with Rhyno. I can’t say enough how much I love this team. And, you know what? I’ll sing the praises of the Usos too. These guys are so great as a heel team. They seem like such natural dicks, I can’t believe that they were wasted so long as babyfaces with little to no character. This match was probably three stars, but I’m so happy to see that they actually made the right call and went with the hot hand here. I was truly worried that this match would end with Slater crapping his pants. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. We got the happy ending. Heroes are real. *****

Andrew Rich: Never in a million years would I find myself rooting for a babyface Heath Slater, but welcome to 2016. Heath really deserves it, he’s been there for so long, he works hard, and to see him get his moment in the sun is wonderful. His mismatched buddies tag team with Rhyno is something else I never would have imagined happening, but I like that too. It actually gives me vibes back to when Rhyno was teaming with Tajiri on Raw in 2004. An odd pairing, but it works because you want to see these guys work together and conquer the world despite their inherent differences. Once again, I was sucked in by the heel Usos. Even something as simple as Jey kicking Rhyno’s hand away when he was trying to tag in Heath was a nice bit of heel work. In addition to the feel good title win, the match was a fitting end to Heath’s undrafted storyline as he’s finally found a home. I expect a forthcoming American Alpha-Usos feud and a healthy reign for Beauty and the Man-Beast. Long live the ONE MAN BRAND, BAYBAY!! ***

WWE World Championship
AJ Styles def. Dean Ambrose

Rich Kraetsch: As if this surprising show didn’t need another home run, Ambrose and Styles absolutely killed it. Styles is on another level over these last few years and 2016 may be the best of the bunch. He’s making magic with each and every man he steps into the ring with. This was arguably Ambrose’s best singles match ever and a large portion of that has to be credited to Styles. Regardless of who’s on the other side of the ring, Styles makes it work. The bulk of this match saw both men pulling out all the stops and neither being okay with a cheap win. Ambrose had a few chances to get the countout victory but each time opted to win the respectful way. Styles took a sickening slingshot spot into the post and both men controlled the crowd perfectly from bell-to-bell. In a finish that wouldn’t work for everyone, this worked for Styles. He held back for a moment realizing the referee was out and hit a low blow not to be a dastardly asshole but to make the most of every opportunity he’s given. Styles continues to build on his Wrestler of the Year resume and he’s making it increasingly harder to justify voting for anyone else. ****1/4

Kelly Harrass: As I start writing this, I keep waiting for the reveal that this match isn’t truly over, but then the show ends and yes, it’s official; AJ Styles is the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. While I may not be a fan of the way Styles won with the low blow, I really enjoyed this match. Styles got the best match out of Ambrose that anyone, barring Seth Rollins, has gotten in WWE. The match was as fast paced and as exciting as it needed to be. Ambrose looked great with some of the counters he offered to Styles’ dynamic offense. For as good as Ambrose was, AJ really deserves most of the credit for this one. He took some crazy bumps and very much kept the pace. I believe that he has an inarguable wrestler of the year candidacy and this was one more performance to add to his resume. One might argue that the ending of this match makes Styles look weak, but I would argue that it was done to keep Ambrose looking strong. The vile means that Styles used to get his title win leaves things open for a rematch between the two, which I am now very much looking forward to. This was a fittingly great match to close out a surprisingly good show that was one step away from being a disaster. ****1/4

Andrew Rich: TNA World Heavyweight Champion. IWGP Heavyweight Champion. WWE World Champion. AJ Styles, at 39 years of age, has essentially wrote his own name into the annals of all time great pro wrestlers. 2016 has been HIS year in the ring and tonight was another notch in the belt. Everything about him: His moveset, his selling, his character work. They all showcase his non-stop dedication to be the best pro wrestler in the world. AJ stepped into the ring with Ambrose and delivered yet again. Ambrose was also wonderful in this match, his wild, brawling “punch away at anything that moves” style a contrast to AJ’s flash. Willing to put his body on the line as much as AJ, maybe even more. Kudos to AJ as well for taking two hellacious bumps: The catapult into the ringpost and the dropkick off the apron. Both had me audibly groaning. AJ’s low blow into the Styles Clash win was a little surprising, given that he beat Cena clean just a few weeks prior, but if AJ wants to truly be “the face that runs the place,” he needs to pull out all the stops. The low blow then becomes justified in his mind. So it makes sense in that manner, plus it builds for an Ambrose rematch. This match was as long as it needed to be and was a great ending to a show that was much better than it had any right to be. ****1/4