Warning: This article contains major spoilers of WWE Backlash 2016.
The eyes of the world watched as WWE Backlash returned to our screens, marking SmackDown LIVE's first solo pay-per-view event since the return of the brand split. And although many had their doubts — myself included — it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the blue brand is more than capable of carrying a PPV event all on its own.
Catch up on the world of wrestling with this WWE Draft 2016 recap:
Despite a thinner roster, a last minute match change and many critics heading into the event, Backlash pulled off the impossible and put SmackDown LIVE back on the WWE map. And don't worry if you could catch the event, because we're taking a look back at all the exciting matches Backlash 2016 had to offer.
Pre-Show: Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews
Result: Baron Corbin defeated Apollo Crews.
The Good: A really good, well-received match from two of the company's future stars. While Crews continues to get pushed in the mid-card division, Corbin hasn't done too much since his Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal win at WrestleMania 32 so I'm glad he got the victory here.
The Bad: Why was this match on the pre-show? The event ended up being just over two and a half hours, so it's likely that they could have fitted this on the main card.
What's Next?: SmackDown used to be considered the land of opportunity for rising stars. If that's still the case, then athletes like these should flourish on the main card of PPVs, instead of being hidden on the pre-show.
SmackDown Women's Championship Six-Pack Challenge
History was made as the main show opened with the woman six-pack challenege to determine the first ever SmackDown Women's Championship.
Result: Becky Lynch became the first ever SmackDown Women's Champion.
The Good: What an opener! This highly entertaining back and forth match between six talented female athletes was basically SmackDown's way of telling RAW "we got great female talent too!" There were some seriously incredible spots in this one, including Naomi's dive from the top rope onto five other women. Becky Lynch was the perfect choice to win — she's not only a fan favorite, but she's arguably the most talented woman on the roster.
The Bad: There was a little too much repetition going on here. I lost count of the amount of times Alexa Bliss threw the competition out of the ring so the whole "six-pack" aspect somehow kept getting reduced to one-on-one action. Also, the match was beautifully long with all athletes refusing to lose, but the moment one of them was eliminated the population started to drop too quickly. This took a little excitement out of it, and eliminations were becoming predictable.
What's Next?: Hopefully Becky Lynch will hold onto the title for a long time — with SmackDown playing the underdog role, the new champion can help elevate the brand to new heights. Though we ultimately expect these women to feature more heavily in SmackDown storylines, considering they all proved to be major competitors during the match.
The Usos vs. The Hype Bros
Result: The Usos defeated the Hype Bros to qualify for the Tag Team Championship finals later that night.
The Good: I'm really digging the new Usos. The dark colors and angry attitude freshens up the characters and makes them even more entertaining to watch. The new vicious streak livens up their matches — taking out their opponentss' legs seems to be their new thing and that's totally cool. They needed this victory to solidify their heel turn and they rightfully got it.
The Bad: The crowd wasn't really into this. The Hype Bros aren't over enough yet to be major faces and the Usos are only new heels. Hopefully, the audience will interact more as the characters grow.
What's Next?: Both teams need to be built up more, especially the Hype Bros. As for the Usos, that came later in the night.
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler — Intercontinental Championship
Result: The Miz defeated Dolph Ziggler to retain the Intercontinental Championship
The Good: This match really surprised me and turned out to be one of the best of the night. The Miz has been underutilized a lot in the past, so it's great to see him getting some recognition now. He attempted to be less safe — stemming from his argument with Daniel Bryan a few weeks back — and actually ended up being unusually vicious. Ziggler held his own mostly and the two delivered an incredible match with some amazing moments, including the Miz imitating Daniel Bryan.
The Bad: I can't really fault this one. I know some were unhappy with Maryse getting involved in the end, but it didn't hurt the match and furthered the whole "Miz will do anything to win" angle. I would have liked a little more input from the crowd but I guess they weren't originally expecting much from this match, so they weren't really vocal.
What's Next?: I'm hoping to see more of Miz taunting Bryan. We saw plenty of it in this match when he borrowed from Bryan's move-set and mocked him, so this story isn't over. As for Ziggler, he needs a big win.
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Bray Wyatt vs. Kane — No Holds Barred Match
Due to Randy Orton's unforeseen injury, this was sink or swim for the show. Orton's absence had many worried that the PPV might be a trainwreck. Thankfully, WWE crafted a great storyline injury for Orton and as punishment for attacking him, put Bray Wyatt in a No Holds Barred match against the Big Red Machine, Kane.
Result: Kane defeated Bray Wyatt with his signature chokeslam.
The Good: This was a solid hard-hitting brawl reminiscent of the 2007 SmackDown days with multiple finishers, a splash through the announce table and a hard-fought victory for Kane. Although Orton's absence was unfortunate, Kane once again proved why he's the company's most reliable talent, filling the gap for an exciting match. Bray Wyatt may have lost, but he looked incredibly strong and was protected by the ending, in which Orton RKO'd him leaving him for Kane to chokeslam. Kane debuted in 1997 and here he is, 19 years later, putting on one heck of a show. That man is a legend and there are a lot of people out there who really need to realize that
The Bad: There was nothing bad about this one. Some complained that Wyatt lost, but this was far from a "burial." It took two main eventers to keep him down and furthered his storyline with Orton.
What's Next?: While I'm very happy Kane got this win, Wyatt needs to come out of the Orton rivalry as the overall victor to be considered a threat. He has immense talent, but the company continues to underestimate him. Furthermore, why was Kane not on the card in the first place? The monstrous fighter excelled last night — he always does against the right opponent — and deserves a great rivalry for the next PPV.
The Usos vs. Rhyno & Heath Slater — SmackDown Tag Team Championship
Result: Heath Slater & Rhyno defeated the Usos to become the first ever SmackDown Tag Team Champions.
The Good: Heath Slater has a WWE contract "BAYBAY!" An entertaining tag team match between the two teams that the crowd was really into. I dare say the Slater obtaining a contract angle was pushed even more than the Tag Titles, but it worked and was a really enjoyable match. It's great seeing a veteran monster like Rhyno working with Slater. It reminds me of Team Hell No's tag team run a few years back.
The Bad: Again, I can't fault this fight. It was everything it was supposed to be. Fun reigned supreme here and we loved it.
What's Next?: Hopefully Slater and Rhyno can reinvigorate the tag team division. They need more competition and the division needs a makeover.
AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose — WWE Championship
Result: AJ Styles defeated Dean Ambrose to win the WWE Championship.
The Good: AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose delivered one heck of a showstopping match, worthy of the championship. There were plenty of over the rope, over the barricade and over the top moments that made this the best match of the night. Styles's victory is monumental as it's something we never thought we'd see. The "face that runs the place" is officially the WWE Champion and I couldn't be happier about it.
The Bad: Ambrose didn't have a long enough run as the champion, but it's forgivable as his feud with Styles will likely continue. However, rumor has it that when John Cena returns, he'll pick up his rivalry with AJ, and that means Cena's shovel may be looking to bury AJ's title reign. The thought of a 16th World title reign for Cena in this new era is just too terrifying to think about. Dear God, no.
What's Next?: This isn't over. WWE has a real opportunity to use Ambrose's unstable character here as he seeks revenge. There wasn't enough time to really build the rivalry up in the first place, so now we'll really get to see it evolve thanks to the questionable finish, before another amazing match.
So despite naysayers and controversy surrounding its buildup, SmackDown LIVE delivered big time with Backlash 2016 and set the bar incredibly high for solo PPVs. Orton being unable to compete didn't hinder the event and the new champions have solidified that WWE's new era is well underway. Backlash 2016 will go in the books as a big win for SmackDown. Your move RAW.
Did you enjoy Backlash 2016? Let us know in the comments below!