WWE SmackDown Live 05/16/17 is the go home show for Backlash and is relatively stacked out of the gate. Already confirmed are Jinder Mahal vs. AJ Styles and Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin. Also on deck are a contract signing for the women’s six-person match (really?) and Rusev allegedly returns to demand his two dollars (aka – title shot) from Shane McMahon at Money in the Bank. Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English has already been booked for the Backlash Kickoff Show, so I imagine we get one more match locked down on tonight’s show as well. Let’s get to the recap.
WWE SmackDown Live 05/16/17 Recap
WWE. Then. Now. Forever. Updated SmackDown Live opening credits, pyro, and we’re live from Manchester. Tom Phillips welcomes us to the show and we’re sent to the ring for Kevin Owens’ Highlight Reel.
Yep, KO has stolen the Highlight Reel show from Chris Jericho and vows that the “old host” will never, ever, ever be seen… a-gain. We’re shown footage of Jericho being written off TV at the hands of Owens and KO goes to introduce his guest in French, because he can. But, wait! AJ Styles interrupts.
AJ heads to the ring while cutting a promo on Owens for stealing “Jericho’s everything for a year” and stooping so low to steal his show. KO says that everything Jericho can do, he can do better – including beating AJ Styles. AJ responds, in English (because he can), and says he’ll be taking the U.S. title on Sunday and bringing it back to the good ol’ USA. But, hey, why wait until Sunday – let’s do this now.
The original guest for the Highlight Reel, Jinder Mahal is out next. Mahal cuts a promo in Punjabi (because he can) which is a Gandhi quote. KO says that tonight AJ will lose to Jinder and Sunday he’ll lose to Owens. This causes AJ to chase KO from the ring, so AJ asks Mahal to get in the ring for the “AJ Styles Highlight Reel” (aka – their scheduled match).
Back from break, KO has joined commentary and the match begins.
Match #1: AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal (w/ the Singh Brothers)
I’ll just come out and say it – this was possibly the worst singles match AJ Styles has worked since signing with the WWE. Not that it is his fault, because Jinder is so limited in the ring it’s ridiculous. But, wow, it was painful watching AJ attempting to salvage this match. Styles gives up a lot of size to Mahal and AJ’s offense always looks kind of weird going against someone that much bigger than him. But, Mahal brings very little to the table so AJ has nothing to work with. After a Singh Bros. distraction, Owens leaves commentary and hits AJ in the knee with the belt on the apron. Mahal turns around and hits Styles with the Cobra Clutch Slam (now apparently called The Khallas) and gets the tainted victory.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – I expected them to put Jinder over AJ going into Backlash, but this match exposed just how limited Mahal is in the ring.
Later tonight? Orton vs. Corbin duke it out and the ring will be declared a “No Dive Zone”.
Also later tonight? A contract signing for the women’s six-person match at Backlash.
Back from break, Lana… dancing… whatever.
Now it’s time for more Fashion Files (aka – the only thing I actually enjoyed on this week’s show). Tonight’s episode, “Fashionable Intent”, involves Breeze having gone undercover as a bald janitor, and Breezango cutting promos on other wrestlers’ merch. Corbin has 3 shirts, all wolves. And Fandango wonders aloud with “Day One Is H” means on the Usos’ gear. Great stuff. The segment even ends on a “freeze frame”.
Meanwhile, Orton is backstage… walking. Renee asks Orton to discuss Mahal and Orton says that Mahal has a bunch of conspiracies as to why people don’t like him, but in reality, Mahal is just an ass. Okay, then.
Next, Breezango are out for a match and we head to break.
Back from break, we join the match already in progress.
Match #2: Breezango vs. The Colóns
Well, this was easily the high water mark for the in ring work on tonight’s show. And, it’s nothing super spectacular. A relatively by the numbers tag match where Breeze goes in peril, hits the hot tag to Fandango, and ‘Dango hits a Falcon Arrow and pins Epico.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – A standard tag match to give Breezango another win heading into Backlash.
Post-match, the Usos are out and cut one of their bizarro promos on Breezango and start talking about the Uso Penitentiary. You know, I’d rather see a “Uso Penitentiary Match” over a “House of Horrors” match. Breezango no sell this just like they no sold the last Usos post-match promo.
Meanwhile, Naomi and Becky are backstage… walking. They find Charlotte Flair, who joins them… and they continue… walking. Surprisingly, no one turns on Becky during this brief segment.
Back from break, Shane-o-Mac is out to preside over this unnecessary contract signing. He announces the heels first, who all come out as a unit (w/ James Ellsworth) to Natalya’s music. The faces all get individual entrances which can’t be by accident since even in the pre-signing promo Natalya cuts she warns Becky that someone will turn on her. Hey, I’d take those odds too, Nattie! Anyway, the contract signing serves to allow Nattie and Becky throw barbs, to let Charlotte to say she’s going after Naomi’s title after Backlash, and for Naomi threaten to snatch the entire Welcoming Committee, including James Ellsworth, bald.
Ellsworth talks over Shane and starts cutting a weird and misguided promo telling Becky and Charlotte they can never have him. He turns to Naomi and tells her that Carmella is going to steal her “glow” and Naomi lays hands on Ellsworth and gets slammed head first into the table by Carmella for doing so. Since everyone is dressed in their ring gear, Shane is able to restore order and makes a match between Carmella and Naomi for after the break.
Back from break, the match starts.
Match #3: Naomi (w/ Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair) vs. Carmella (w/ James Ellsworth, Natalya, & Tamina)
So, look. I like women’s wrestling. But seriously, this match went on way, way too long for what it ended up being. Carmella and Naomi don’t have any real chemistry and I’m still not even sold on Carmella in the ring – with anyone – yet. So, this was a slog to get through. The match just drones on and on through commercial breaks and seeing Ellsworth, Natalya, and Tamina all thrown out for attempted interference. After the ref tosses Nattie and Tamina, they run back and start brawling on the outside with Charlotte and Becky. Carmella uses this distraction to get a cheap roll up victory over Naomi. Oh good, more Naomi and Carmella matches in our future. Ugh.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – Counting the unnecessary “contract signing” and a match that was way too long, this entire segment is a massive thumbs down. Nattie leading a faction is about the only thing that has clicked for me, but the faction itself hasn’t really done anything and leaves a lot to be desired. Can we just get to Charlotte vs. Naomi already?
Next, the announcers shill the Network ahead of Backlash.
Later tonight? Orton… Vintage Orton vs. Corbin… Big Banter.
Back from break, an “inspirational” themed “New Day is coming soon” vignette airs.
Next, we see a locker room promo from Ziggler who sends us to a highlight package on Nakamura’s “remarkable things” he’s done on the main roster. It starts with Nakamura’s entrance music and then just shows “Footage Not Found”. Yeah, Dolph’s not wrong here. This “all talk and do nothing” way of debuting Nakamura seems misguided to say to the least. It hasn’t made me “so excited” to see him work on Sunday – it’s just annoyed me week in and week out. We’re then treated to a highlight reel of all of the great things that Dolph has done. Yay.
Meanwhile, Dasha is with Sami Zayn. We learn that Sami now has a match at Backlash with Corbin. Sami claims that he is a threat to Corbin’s ego because he won’t back down and never gives up. Predictably, Sami’s jumped from behind by Corbin and Big Banter says he’ll put Sami down, permanently, on Sunday.
Orton is out next and gets an extended entrance as we head to break.
Back from break, TJP cuts a promo on Aries to hype up tonight’s 205 Live.
Next, Corbin enters for the main event.
Match #4: Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin
Eh, this is largely boring. I’m not a huge fan of Orton and his plodding style really doesn’t meld well with Corbin – as evidenced here. It’s also highly possible that tonight’s show was so utterly uneventful and boring that my brain just checked out during this match. Orton sells as good as I suppose he sells on TV for Corbin, but c’mon – we all know how this match ends. Sure enough, after Corbin hits a Deep Six for two, he slides out of the ring and back in only to be hit with a RKO (out of nowhere).
Verdict: Thumbs Down – Orton as champ bores the Hell out of me. I like Corbin well enough, but much like Mahal / Styles to start the show, Orton and Corbin felt like they had zero chemistry in this match.
Post-match, Mahal comes out and cuts a promo on Orton. Meanwhile, Orton is jumped from behind by the Singhs and it’s not very effective. Right as Orton is about to “Double Vintage Orton” them, Mahal hits the ring, and the 3 on 1 beat down ensues. Mahal hits The Khallas and demands that the Singhs grab “his” belt.
We go off the air with Mahal holding the WWE Championship aloft. No Rusev as promised and I found 90% or better of this week’s show excruciatingly tedious. Thank the Wrestling Gods for Breezango!