Moment of the night?
Adam O’Brien: I’ll say the final segment between Ambrose and Styles. With all the focus on “The Phenomenal One” these days it’s easy to overlook Ambrose, especially since his matches lately have gotten awfully stale, but that guy is a real talent on the microphone. Even with all of Styles’ experience, Ambrose was able to make him look like the underdog heading into Sunday, which as a champion, is kind of a necessity for Dean. I’m not sure I like the whole low-blow portion of the feud, but it was a good segment nonetheless to remind people what the main event is at Backlash.
Brandon Jackson: Once again, The Miz was the highlight of the night. He and Maryse aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary as far as being a heel champion and manager goes, but they just do all the simple things so well. Maryse going to get Miz’s title out of the ring knowing Ziggler can’t touch her was not anything new, but all three involved did their part in getting Miz over. At this point, people may not care if Ziggler wins, but they want to see Miz lose.
Chris Schubert: It would have to be Heath Slater once again. He continues to be the most over thing on this show, besides the general manager and commissioner. Slater and Rhyno booked their ticket to the final of the Tag Team Championship tournament on Sunday at WWE Backlash. SmackDown needs people like Slater to draw fans to the show, because besides him, it is quite the slog of a show. Hopefully, there is a payoff for him on Sunday, with the crowd going nuts as he becomes champion.
Ronnie Rowlands: Was anything worth mentioning? Everything about that show fell absolutely flat. The showdown between AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose was weak, rushed, and felt completely insignificant — a far cry from the hard hitting moments that usually we have come to expect from both of these competitors. I suppose The Usos turning heel was surprising enough; it makes the two of them a little more interesting, but the tag team division on SmackDown is struggling so much that it’ll take more than that to breathe some life into it.
Joseph Nardone: Carmella putting Nikki Bella in her finisher. Originally having debuted as a face, which was presumably the WWE hoping Enzo and Cass’ being over would rub off through osmosis, she has been terrific since turning heel. While no one on the planet has any idea if she has an actual chance to win the women’s title, the WWE is doing a good job in making her feel like a credible threat. With the women’s division as a whole needing to be built within, I give that the moment of the night.
How big of a hit does Backlash’s tag title match take with the absence of Chad Gable/AA?
AO: It’s not all bad. The match itself won’t be as good, but it does provide an opportunity for The Usos to get over as heels, provided of course that they beat The Hype Bros, which they absolutely will. The story of the match is just as good as ever, at least as far as Heath Slater finally capturing a contract goes, and I’m still interested in seeing who the inaugural champions are going to be. In theory, American Alpha may have been better first titleholders, but seeing them on the hunt when Gable gets back to action will be great in helping them reach NXT levels of underdog popularity again.
BJ: It takes a huge hit. Without American Alpha involved, the match quality will be significantly less than it would have been with them in the match. The Usos turning heel is a great move, but putting them up against Rhyno and Heath Slater was not a very good one. This Slater angle needs a payoff, but not one that compromises the credibility of the new SmackDown tag titles. If Heath Slater is one of your inaugural champions, the belts mean nothing. If the team that wins beats Heath Slater, the belts also mean nothing.
CS: It’s a big deal. American Alpha is one of the top draws on SmackDown, and them being out of the first SmackDown Live-only pay-per-view is a mistake. There was a much easier way to keep AA out of being champions. They could have beaten The Usos and then at the pay-per-view, they could have turned and cost AA the titles. Or there could have been a run-in on Sunday by the current NXT champions, The Revival. Then you can have the tag titles go off with Slater and Rhyno, while also having another feud going in the division to build it up.
RR: A huge one. Heath Slater’s run has been fun enough, but it is patently obvious that he and Rhyno are going to win the tag team title purely to give some closure to that storyline. The pair are not a strong tag team at all, and it’s only going to cheapen what could be a strong match between them and either The Usos or The Hype Bros.
JN: Not that much. In my opinion, this is being done for storyline purposes. Since I believe that going in, it helps me swallow the bitter pill that American Alpha won’t be at full strength moving forward. Plus, I mean, let’s be honest — a Heath Slater title run is inevitable. While I am already picturing him winning multiple world championships, another snagging of tag team gold wouldn’t be bad. As far as actual match purposes is concerned, then yes it stinks. Still, sometimes stories/angles are more important than one individual match.
What title match has gotten the best build heading into Sunday?
AO: If you count SummerSlam as the starting point, it would have to be the World Championship, simply because Styles is heading into this match with a huge win over John Cena, while Ambrose is still coasting off the momentum from his recent victories over Dolph Ziggler, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. The week-to-week build could’ve been better, but the fact that both Ambrose and Styles are on pretty notable rolls makes the rest of the championships on the roster pale in comparison, which isn’t too hard considering two of them are new and the Intercontinental Championship is only really starting to become important after several months of flying under the radar.
BJ: The Women’s Championship has probably gotten the best build. The WWE title match has not been built up well because AJ Styles is in the match and people will watch no matter what. The women have gotten the best build because that was the match that needed the most help. After a few weeks of build, Carmella and Alexa Bliss can be taken seriously, and now everyone in the match can make an argument that they should be the winner.
CS: The Intercontinental Championship scene is the best title scene in the company, sans the Raw Universal Championship scene. The Miz is putting forth some of his best work, and he really is becoming must-see television. The feud with Dolph Ziggler leaves a lot to be desired, but this feels like more a slow burn. The company knows what it has going here, and it wants to slowly build to a massive payoff, with some babyface down the road dethroning the A-lister and taking his championship.
RR: Women’s. You might have a bunch of wrong people, much like some of the commentators on this roundtable, who insisted that the Eva Marie ordeal was in some way the best thing ever to happen in professional wrestling, but all of them have been able to emerge and put on solid matches the moment the attention wasn’t on the red queen’s match ducking. Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella are both hugely over with the crowd, and in particular, Carmella is starting to emerge as quite a solid personality and worker. They’re really starting to put themselves back on par with Raw in terms of that division, and with fans desperate to love women’s wrestling and embrace it, this match is going to mean something.
JN: If I were to power rank these bad boys (and girls), I’d slot the World Championship first, followed by the Women’s Championship, and bringing up the rear is the tag team title match. Thing is, even though I literally just stoke up for the tag team final, the build isn’t really for closure or to crown a new tag team champion as much as it is to further a story. As for the women’s build, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. However, AJ Styles makes everything better. While Dean Ambrose continues to shine less than rusty nail, the idea that he might actually win the title, coupled with his promos, is enough to make the build feel all that much better. Granted, that can mostly be a thing built inside my head.