Since the dawn of professional wrestling there has been a long-standing metaphor, “sometimes you have to make chicken salad out of chicken s***”, and tonight’s crafty cavalcade of men and women pouring their souls out and leaving every ounce of fortitude in the middle of that ring gave the phrase a whole new meaning. With the inexcusably weak string of SmackDown LIVE episodes that have been shamelessly shelled out the past two weeks nobody could’ve expected WWE Backlash to deliver the way it did—and boy, did it deliver!
On paper, this show seemed to be doomed at the start from a lack of roster depth and was even less stable due to the weak angles and baby-style heat associated with them. However, to their credit, the WWE managed to hit a proverbial shot to the warning track with this show. On a night steeped with so much meaning that had previously been unrecognized by the company, they precisely captured those important moments on live television at the pay-per-view when it mattered. Watching Becky Lynch rise above five other talented females to realize her lifelong dream of being a WWE champion felt special like it should’ve. Seeing Heath Slater & Rhyno’s journey to becoming the SmackDown LIVE tag-team champions culminate in the ring was a moment that took a long and sometimes strange route to this ultimate conclusion but, in the end, was worth every moment. AJ Styles has won every major title in every major professional wrestling organization of the 21st century and now can finally add WWE World Champion to his lengthy list of accolades—need I say more?
To me, it is extremely rare for a big show like tonight’s to lose so much steam going in and then turn it around into something special. The WWE is known for being able to pull the rabbit out of their hat when they really need to, and tonight was no different.
The six-pack challenge for the inaugural SmackDown LIVE Women’s Championship proved exactly why we are firmly entrenched within the vortex of the women’s evolution in professional wrestling. We witnessed nothing less than another step forward for every female in that locker room. They showed us in-ring psychology; they showed us great storytelling in a fight; they showed us how well they can work any type of match; but most importantly, they showed us why they belong on the grandest stage in the world at the highest level of the sport.
The Miz is one of the very best in the game and tonight he showed the world exactly why. I don’t care what anybody says—if you looked up the term “heel” in a wrestling dictionary there would be a picture of The Miz right under it! If you don’t get it, go back and watch tonight’s match on repeat until you figure it out.
The Usos have finally found their niche as a heel team and proved that they are the perfect characters to fit that bill. At the same time however, Slater and Rhyno were able to get even more over and have their special moment in winning the inaugural tag titles. This is what I’d hoped would happen and I believe most fans were clamoring for Rhyno and Slater to get those belts as well. This was a win-win situation because one team got over as true heels and the other team became even bigger baby-faces. This is an example of where WWE gets it right.
And then, of course, the WWE had their forever reoccurring momentary lapse of reason and put Kane over Bray Wyatt in the most undesirable turn of events. What the f*** is wrong with you people?
Thankfully, Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles made the night with a near perfect match. This was one of the best matches of the year and what made it such a great match was that it felt real. They’re in the ring fighting one hell of a fight and I’m squirming around on my couch with butterflies in my stomach because I’m so zoned into the match and emotionally connected to it. Again, the WWE failed miserably three weeks in a row to give me something, anything at all, to connect with and care about going into this match. But on fight night when it counted, I forgot about the last three weeks and was able to just get pumped for the match. This is how WWE is able to work their magic and I have to give them credit for that.
I watched this main event as a 29-year-old man, but got into it like I was a 5-year-old kid all over again—and that felt amazing! That is why we all watch wrestling in the first place right? To escape the less favorable bits of our reality and stresses of our everyday lives, if only for a few hours, and feel like kids again without a care in the world. Tonight did that for me and reminded me again why I’ve been a wrestling fan for my entire life—no matter how good or bad it was. And, to me, that’s what this whole gimmick of wrestling is about!
In the end, tonight proved to be about so much more than just wrestling—it proved that it was about one man’s legacy being cemented, and new legends being born!
Until next time, The Gonzo Shark checks out…