It started with an exaggerated crotch shot on the ropes by Dean Ambrose then evolved into a straight-up kick to the crotch by A.J. Styles and it ended with a match to determine who had the most testicular fortitude at Backlash.
The A.J. Styles and Dean Ambrose Crotch Shot Feud easily ranks right up there with the Al Snow, Big Bossman feud over Snow’s pet Chihuahua Pepper or Eddie Guerrero and Big Show’s bathroom, poop feud.
A.J. Styles though got the best of all the nut-busting by giving Ambrose one final shot to the Family Jewels to win the WWE World Title. While the match at Backlash highlighted Styles’ deep and lethal arsenal as perhaps the greatest wrestler in the world today, it also might have exposed just how much Ambrose’s face status has been compromised by his heelish shenanigans of late. Although he was the scripted hero, Ambrose received more boos than Styles, the reprehensible villain, throughout their match at Backlash.
Styles cried…You are going down! I can take anything you got!…as they circled each other. Styles drew first blood with an arm drag which generated a slow clap from Ambrose. Style continued to show Ambrose up with mat wrestling and impressive reversals.
Backing Ambrose into the ropes, Styles ran his mouth some more.
”I own you,” he spat.
Ambrose eventually fought back with arm drags of his own and then a scoop slam which was met with a chorus of boos from the crowd. As they chased each other around the ring, Styles caught Ambrose coming back in with some stomps and a flying fist to the bridge of the nose to which the crowd responded…Let’s go A.J.!
As dueling chants echoed throughout the Richmond Coliseum, Ambrose rocked Styles with machine gun fists to the face and a thunderous backdrop which forced Styles to flee outside and lick his wounds. Ambrose went to dive outside but A.J. slide back in, tripped up the WWE’s resident lunatic and guillotined him on the bottom rope.
As the announce team reflected on Styles’ two IWGP Heavyweight Championship title reigns in New Japan Pro Wrestling, he and Ambrose traded kicks and punches. A slam and a flying fist to Ambrose’s face garners Styles a two count.
Styles delights in punishing Ambrose. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
Like a runaway train, Ambrose charged Styles but the Phenomenal One side-stepped him and Ambrose crashed into the steel ring post. After being suplexed out of the corner, Styles lay motionless as did Ambrose. Upon escaping another two count by once again rolling out of the ring, Styles was dusted to the floor when Ambrose hit a flying elbow smash from the top rope.
The tide began to turn in A.J.’s favour when he suplexed Ambrose into the turnbuckles and then hit a brutal leg buster which left Ambrose hobbling for the rest of the match. Styles worked over the knee before reversing a suplex into a Calf Crusher. Ambrose made it to the ropes just to be dragged into another Calf Crusher. Bouncing Styles’ head off the canvass like a basketball, Ambrose broke the hold to more boos from the impatient crowd.
Styles dominates Ambrose. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
As A.J. went for the Styles Clash, Ambrose smartly grabbed the ropes. As they fought on the apron, Ambrose slingshot Styles into the steel post. Ambrose slide outside and stalked Styles before hurling him into the barricade and then back into the ring so he could batter him with punches and kicks.
Styles countered with punches and kicks of his own before driving Ambrose to the mat with a fireman’s carry into a neckbreaker for a two count and then a sit-out powerbomb for another two count.
”Let’s see if he gets up from this one!” shouted Styles as he landed a springboard 450 splash for another two count.
A wrecking ball drop kick knocked A.J. to the floor as Ambrose threw him over the announce table and over the barricade into the crowd. Running off the announce tables and leaping over the barricade, Ambrose landed a really weak axe handle.
A.J. delivers the final crotch shot. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
Back in the ring, Styles backed into the referee thwarting Ambrose from hitting Dirty Deeds. While the referee was woozy, Styles kicked Ambrose in the groin for good measure before putting his lights out with the Styles Clash for the win.
Backlash also saw two other Smackdown championships decided with Becky Lynch winning the Women’s Championship and underdog misfits Rhyno and Heath Slater winning the Tag Team Championship.
Perhaps most surprising of all though was how consistently good the show was. Especially clever was the decision to sub Kane in for a legit injured Randy Orton and making his match against Bray Wyatt a No Holds Barred encounter. It was the kind of mayhem fans wanted to see and probably made them wonder if Wyatt should have been feuding with The Big Red Machine from the very start. Yeah, it was that good.
Everyone across the board seemed to really step it up their game and because of that, the WWE put on one of the best pay-per-views of the year. While it may be a little too early to say whether the WWE’s brand split strategy will eventually evolve into a bunch of regurgitated matches and feuds that put even the most dedicated fans into a coma like the last time it was tried, there is no doubt that at present, Smackdown is assuredly a far better product than it once was.
The next WWE Network pay-per-view is Raw’s Clash of Champions on September 25th.
- On the pre-show, Baron Corbin interrupts Daniel Bryan’s conversation with Apollo Crews backstage. Corbin wonders why he was not scheduled for the last two episodes of Smackdown Live and doesn’t have a match slated for Backlash. Bryan agrees and makes Corbin’s wish come true by pitting Corbin versus Crews on the pre-show tonight. Crews is still saddled with the spelling bee gimmick. There’s just one word for that and I will spell it out for you, S-A-W-F-T.
- Good to see Alexa Bliss sporting an awesome Harley Quinn look and getting some air time at the roundtable panel with Booker, Rene, The King and Lita. She is the new face of the WWE and is going to prove it tonight.Question: Why in the world is Lita brought back time and time again for the pre-show when her interview skills are that of a drunken squirrel?
Apollo Crews Vs Baron CorbinBaron Corbin takes it to Apollo Crews. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
- A power struggle from the start with Mad Max-wannabe Corbin and Apollo trading pushes and shoves. Corbin matches Apollo’s power but cannot combat his agility until Apollo is just drilled to the floor with a vicious haymaker to the jaw. A leaping lariat though takes Corbin to the mat but not for long. Corbin mauls Apollo to the canvass. The crowd chants…Let’s Go Crews! A decapitating clothesline gets Corbin a two count. Apollo’s standing moonsault gets him a two count minutes later as does an Angle Slam. Corbin counters with a Deep Six for yet another two count. Corbin charges Apollo outside the ring but Apollo dodges and Corbin crashes into the steel steps. Apollo unleashes a Samoan Drop on the floor but End of Days puts Apollo away after a great hard-hitting battle.
- Winner: Baron Corbin at 9 minutes and 51 seconds.
- Match Rating: 7 / 10
- Lita cites A.J. Styles’ time outside the WWE as toiling in the “independents”. I guess she doesn’t watch TNA or NJPW. I also guess she doesn’t count headlining Wrestle Kingdom or the Tokyo Dome as anything THAT important. Please, WWE. Get the Three Stooges – Lita, JBL and Otunga – off my screen, forever.
- Before the event begins, WWE has a long crawl and moment of silence dedicated to those who were victims of the 9/11 tragedy.
- Despite the WWE saying the new era is all about the talent not the management, once again Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan take the spotlight in the middle of the ring, each getting their own entrance. Shane must be reading from his dream diary when he says that Smackdown Live is “soaring in the ratings” and “blowing up social media”. Wake up, Shane. Wake up.
Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella – WWE SmackDown Women’s ChampionshipBecky Lynch is finally a WWE Champion. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
- Mauro Ranallo points out that Alexa Bliss is the shortest female competitor on Smackdown. Why that matters at all, we are not sure.
- A bit of a spotfest to be sure but a chaotic and really nasty bout with bodies, fists flying everywhere. It really did surpass expectations. A fantastic job by everyone involved.
- Natalya gets a lot of heat from the crowd. Bliss is eliminated by Naomi and Natalya at 6:52. The crowd is not happy. Naomi taps out to Natalya’s Sharpshooter at 7:53. Nikki takes out Natalya with a backbreaker at 8:55 and Carmella takes out Nikki seconds later with a sneaky pin.
- An angry Nikki pops Carmella in the mouth before she leaves the ring. Carmella and Becky are the finalists. The crowd chants…Let’s go Becky! Carmella wastes a lot of time trash-talking and slapping Becky around. Becky suckers Carmella into her Dis-arm-her and Carmella submits.
- Winner: …and new WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion…Becky Lynch at 11 minutes and 10 seconds.
- Match Rating: 8 / 10
- The Miz is ticked that some snot-nosed kid with his own Nickelodeon skateboard show has “stolen” his locker room. Jagger Eaton mocks The Miz which is just NOT awesome at all.
- Bray Wyatt viciously attacks Randy Orton backstage injuring his leg to cover for Orton’s real-life injury.
The Usos (Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso) vs. The Hype Bros (Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley) – Tag Team Tournament MatchZack Ryder taps out. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
- The sombre and serious Usos come out wearing white hoodies and matching black wresting gear. No war paint. No Samoan ceremony. No smiles. No colourful attire. I like it…a lot.Standard tag match with The Usos ducking out often and double-teaming their opponents. Mojo catches both Usos with a massive tackle into the barricade. Spot of the match that. Mojo is hot-tagged in after Ryder is beaten from pillar to post. Ryder’s Frankensteiner gets his team a two count while Mojo misses a tackle outside the ring. The Usos injure Ryder’s knee with a chop block and a flying kick. He taps out.
- Winners: The Usos at 9 minutes and 52 seconds.
- Match Rating: 7 / 10
- Rhyno and Slater chat to Renee Young about their chances in the tag tournament. Slater cuts the interview short because his stomach feels awful. His wife’s cooking, apparently. He leaves to go to the bathroom. The whole segment is just crap, in more ways than one.
The Miz (champion) (with Maryse) vs. Dolph Ziggler (challenger) – WWE Intercontinental ChampionshipMaryse blinds Ziggler. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
- No matter what you think of The Miz, the WWE is on the right track grooming him as an iconic Intercontinental Champion as it is about the time the historic title regained the grandeur it once had. Before the match, The Miz demands that Daniel Bryan pay and treat him like the “A-lister” he is. He wants to renegotiate his contract after he retains the Intercontinental Championship.
- The crowd seems divided with cheers for The Miz and Ziggler. The Miz puts the boots to Ziggler as he asks the crowd and the announce team if he is a coward. At about four minutes in, The Miz takes over the match and starts stretching and battering Ziggler, slingshoting him over the top rope to the barricade outside. Ziggler is favouring his shoulder getting up. The Miz begins targeting the shoulder as he asks Ziggler…Who’s the coward now? Ziggler looks to regain control running at The Miz. The Miz ducks and Ziggler rattles his chin off the steel post.
- The Miz dominates, mocking Ziggler between moves and pummelling him with four corner drop kicks in a row and a running clothesline. The Miz then mocks Daniel Bryan with a Yes! chant.
- Ziggler fights back with a drop kick of his own taking down The Miz. Ziggler tries a Zig-Zag but Miz bounces him off the top rope for a sit-out powerbomb. A really bad DDT gets Ziggler a two count. Otunga: What does Ziggler have to do to win this match?
- Ziggler is planted with a DDT and put into the figure four but he manages to get to the ropes. An enraged Miz stomps on the leg and kicks Ziggler into the head. Ziggler superkicks The Miz but he too reaches the ropes avoiding a three count. The Miz falls outside the ring and tries to crawl away up the ramp. Ziggler carries him back into the ring. Maryse sprays something into Ziggler’s face. The Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale for the win.
- Winner: …and still WWE Intercontinental Champion…The Miz at 18 minutes and 22 seconds.
- Match Rating: 8 / 10
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
- Wyatt walks out with his lantern and hoodie while there is a replay of him blindsiding Randy Orton backstage earlier in the evening. Wyatt demands the referee start the match. It is announced that Randy Orton is not cleared to compete tonight. Wyatt asks for a 10 count to assure his victory as he smiles in a corner. Wyatt wins by forfeit. Wyatt: This is what gods do.
- Winner: Bray Wyatt at 10 seconds, by forfeit.
- Match Rating: 0 / 10.
Kane vs. Bray Wyatt (No Holds Barred)Orton stalks Wyatt. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
- After the 10 count, it is announced that Wyatt will be fighting in No Holds Barred Match against Kane. As the match goes to the floor, Kane takes Wyatt down with a clothesline and pitches him over the barricade. Wyatt clocks Kane with the ring bell as he gets up then slams his head into the ring. Kane knocks a chair out of Wyatt’s hands and the fight goes back into the ring where Wyatt clotheslines Kane down. Back outside, Wyatt whacks Kane’s knee with a steel chair and beats on him inside the ring saying once again that he is a god of some sort. If so, why does he always lose?
- Kane eventually turns the tables by DDTing Wyatt into the steel chair. A Sidewalk Slam and Kane sets-up Wyatt for the Chokeslam but Wyatt fights back. Outside, Wyatt clears off a broadcast table, poses like Randy Orton before crushing a prone Kane with an amazing running senton through the announce table. The sadistic crowd chants…One more time!…and boos when Wyatt rolls Kane back into the ring. Wyatt goes for Sister Abigail but Kane reverses it into a Chokeslam. Wyatt slams Kane onto the steel chair for a two count.
- At 9 minutes and 40 seconds, Randy Orton comes limping out to ringside with a taped up ankle. The Viper takes down Wyatt with a RKO and Kane Chokeslams him to the mat.
- Winner: Kane at 10 minutes and 46 seconds.
- Match Rating: 8 / 10
- A.J. Styles runs into some nameless jobbers backstage. He says they are “destined for failure” but tonight will be the high point of their careers because they can say they came face to face with the WWE World Champion.
The Usos (Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso) vs. Rhyno, Heath Slater – Tag Team Tournament Match – FinalsRhyno and Slater celebrate. Photo Courtesy: WWE Network.
- The crowd is firmly behind Slater. When Rhyno tags in the crowd chants…ECW! ECW! The Usos double-suplex Slater into the steel post and super kick him in the face before rolling him back into the ring. The Usos corner Heath Slater and continue to beat the tar out of him. Slater refuses to quit. Rhyno is hot-tagged in and makes short work of both Usos. Rhyno misses a Gore but Slater blind tags in. Slater hits a DDT but he is dragged out of the ring. He is super kicked in the ring but Rhyno unleashes a Gore. Slater gets the pin.
- Winners: …and new Smackdown Tag Team Champions, Rhyno and Heath Slater at 9 minutes and 31 seconds.
- Match Rating: 7 / 10
A.J. Styles (challenger) Versus Dean Ambrose (champion) – WWE Heavyweight Title Match
- Winner: …and new WWE World Champion…A.J. Styles at 24 minutes and 22 seconds.
- Match Rating: 8 / 10
- Total Event Time: Approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes.
- Overall Event Rating: 8.5 / 10
- One of the founding managing editors of SLAM! Wrestling, John Powell is a veteran entertainment journalist currently covering Big Brother., Survivor for Shaw and the video game industry for G4TV.. Check out his comic book Cover 2 Cover blog. He can be reached at [email protected] or @POW2112 on Twitter.