By: Keila Cash
Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of The SmackDown Files. Tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live emanated from the SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire. The building formally known as the Verizon Wireless Arena served as the backdrop for the Backlash go-home show. With the crew returning from a grueling two-week tour of Europe, did jetlag set in or did they brush off the cobwebs heading into the PPV on Sunday? The answer to that question can be found throughout this blog. Without further ado, let’s dissect tonight’s episode of SD Live in no particular order.
· The opening segment of SD Live was pretty unremarkable. Kevin Owens hijacked The Highlight Reel from Chris Jericho and vowed to defeat AJ Styles at Backlash to keep maintain his status as the New Face of America.
· Styles came out and challenged Owens to a fight, but Jinder Mahal crashed the festivities and cut a very low energy promo about how he planned to beat Randy Orton for the WWE Championship on Sunday before focusing his attention on Styles as the opening segment came to a close.
· Mahal continues to be unimpressive on the mic which is not an encouraging sign heading into the biggest match of his life this weekend. Let’s hope Styles is able to make him look like a million bucks in the ring because Mahal is flat lining on the personality front.
· Jinder Mahal defeated AJ Styles with the Cobra Clutch Slam thanks to an assist from Kevin Owens and The Singh Brothers. Styles was about to hit Mahal with the Phenomenal Forearm, but The Singh Brothers distracted the referee which allowed Owens to hit Styles’ left knee with the US Title belt.
· Styles did a beautiful sell job as Mahal hit his finisher for the win.
· The match was fine, but Mahal is very one-note when it comes to his in-ring work. He delivers impressive kicks and knee strikes, but everything else is pretty rudimentary. The fans were dead when he was on offense, but they popped whenever Styles hit a signature move which helped salvage things a bit.
· Outside of Mahal escaping with the WWE Title via a stretch limo, his tenure as number one contender has been pretty lackluster for the most part. With Backlash taking place in Chicago, Mr. Mahal might be in for a rude awakening if he brings his basic brand of wrestling to the Allstate Arena filled with the hardest of hardcore fans. My condolences go out to him in advance…
· The Fashion Files continues to be a guilty pleasure of mine. Tyler Breeze using a mop to describe the luscious locks of The Usos was awesome. Breezango is starting to catch on with the masses which is long overdue.
· Breezango defeated The Colons when Fandango pinned Epico with the Falcon Arrow in a decent match.
· After the match was over, The Usos read Breezango their rights to get their asses kicked at Backlash. Breezango would take a trip to the Uso Penitentiary where they would be tried and sentenced in a court of law where the use of gurneys is optional. Jimmy and Jey continue to be in the zone when it comes to delivering stellar promos and I expect both teams to have an excellent match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship at Backlash.
· As with all WWE Contract Signings, the trios of Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina & Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Naomi got into a scuffle after James Ellsworth insulted the babyfaces which led to Naomi grabbing Ellsworth by the collar before Carmella slammed Naomi’s head against the table.
· Shane McMahon quelled the situation by booking both ladies in a match after the commercial break as the segment came to an end.
· The contract signing was fine, but it was nothing special outside of Naomi calling James Ellsworth “her” when she vowed to snatch the heels bald during the six-woman tag team match at Backlash.
· Carmella defeated Naomi with a roll-up as her crew continues to build momentum heading into the PPV on Sunday.
· The match was decent for the most part, but it went a bit long for my taste. Despite that minor criticism, Naomi did a good job controlling the action while Carmella was the pesky heel who tried to one-up her opponent to no avail until she got help down the stretch.
· Towards the end of the match, the referee banned Tamina and Natalya from ringside after the ref caught Tamina trying to knock Naomi from the top rope.
· The heels didn’t go away quietly as they charged after Becky Lynch and Charlotte. Natalya slammed Lynch into the barricade while Naomi kicked Tamina in the back to even the odds. However, the distraction gave Carmella enough time to squeak out the win which gives her team momentum heading into Backlash.
· The heels have been booked strongly over the past few weeks which has kept the dreaded 50/50 booking monster at bay. We shall see if the streak continues on Sunday, but I have a feeling that the babyfaces will be the ones standing tall when it’s all said and done.
· That was quite the slip by Tom Phillips when he called Becky Lynch Bayley as hyped her appearance on Talking Smack after 205 Live.
· Randy Orton defeated Baron Corbin with an RKO in a solid main event match. The pacing was a bit methodical in nature, but that’s not surprising considering the talent involved. I’m a little surprised that Corbin ate the pin because he has a match with Sami Zayn on Sunday and he needs to look strong heading into the PPV. I would’ve been down with a DQ finish with Zayn retaliating on Corbin in order to even the score, but Orton picked up the win which didn’t make sense in hindsight.
· Jinder Mahal came out and warned Orton that he was gunning for the WWE Championship. The Singh Brothers attacked Orton from behind, but The Viper gained the upper hand by taking Mahal’s henchmen out.
· He had both brothers in position for a Double Draping DDT until Mahal attacked Orton from behind.
· The heels triple teamed Orton for a bit until Mahal laid him out with the Cobra Clutch Slam. SD Live went off the air with Mahal standing over Orton while hoisting the WWE Title over his head.
· This was a nice way to put heat on Mahal heading into his championship match, but the presentation still feels cold. WWE is doing all the right things when it comes to building up a viable challenger for the WWE Title, but Mahal is not connecting as a menacing heel who draws heat for all the right reasons. Being presented as a jobber for the majority of his career muddies the waters even more which makes the company’s venture in the India Market hit or miss at best.
· If Mahal has any shot at righting the ship, he has to have a blow away match on Sunday. Orton needs to hold up his end of the bargain as well because resting on his laurels is not going to cut it. If the goal is to make a new star, everything must go off without a hitch. If not, expect bedlam in Chi-Town because those fans shit on mediocrity.
· Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was subpar at best. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, SD Live couldn’t afford to make the same mistake as Raw by putting on a poor go-home show heading into a major PPV. The blue brand didn’t heed that warning as the in-ring action ranged from middling to decent at best. The crowd was lukewarm throughout the night which only exacerbated the issue.
· Fortunately, the Backlash card looks strong on paper which should cancel out tonight’s so-so show. The Chicago crowd will be hot for certain matches and will bring out the pitchforks for others. It should be a crazy atmosphere, to say the least.
· Random Observation: If I’m not mistaken, Rusev was supposed to confront Shane McMahon about ignoring his request for a championship match at Money in the Bank next month. I guess that conversation will take place at a later date.
On that note, this wraps up another edition of the SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!