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As the first blue brand only pay-per-view of the new era, Backlash has a lot to live up to. And with the crowning of the first ever SmackDown Women’s champion, the eyes of women’s wrestling fans have never been so focused. Tonight we witness six women give it their all, and one woman overcome the odds. And what a fantastic show it proves to be…
To start things off, SmackDown’s Commissioner Shane McMahon and the General Manager Daniel Bryan introduce the show. And, luckily for those of us who want to get to sleep early, our main event kicks off the show! Becky Lynch, Natalya, Naomi, Alexa Bliss, Carmella and Nikki Bella swiftly make their way to the ring and the match gets on its way!
The contest begins with Carmella running out of the squared circle and Natalya, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Bella being thrown out, leaving Lynch and Naomi to face off between the ropes.
We see some great offense as Naomi does a huge springboard on the outside to hit all of her opponents, as well as a powerbomb and neckbreaker combination on Alexa, with the help of Natalya. The latter, which takes place around ten minutes into the match, leads to the elimination of Alexa Bliss.
Staying on top of her momentum, Naomi manages to beat on other girls and attempts a springboard on Nikki Bella. Unfortunately for Naomi, Bella quickly reverses it into a forearm, leaving the high-flyer defenseless. Natalya takes charge of this momentum however by shoving Nikki into the corner and forcing Naomi to tap to the Sharpshooter.
A short while later, Nikki performing her new finisher on the Queen of Black Harts – and eliminates her! However, before Nikki can simply react to her successful pinfall, Carmella smashes her head into the ground and rolls her up for the three count, whilst holding her tights. A furious Nikki Bella is then pushed to the ropes by Carmella, and reacts by slapping her to the ground – literally.
Carmella is then quickly enraged and screams consistently as she takes out her anger on the only other competitor left, Becky Lynch. The Princess of Staten Island takes charge of the moment but is put into three consecutive BexPlexes before reasserting her dominance with a kick to the stomach. However, before Carmella can put her opponent to rest, Lynch quickly inserts the Dis-Arm-Her and forces the Staten Island native to tap out.
An ecstatic Becky then celebrates her victory to the thunderous roar of a supportive crowd. As Charly Caruso asks her for her thoughts, the newly crowned champion thanks the fans for their constant chants, banners and singing of her theme tune. She boasts about how this would have never had happened without their support.
In a backstage Fallout video, Lynch discusses how she was previously the only member out of her fellow Horsewomen (Bayley, Sasha Banks and Charlotte) to have never received a title. She seems extremely grateful and proves to be the adorable Becky we all know and love.
Later on in the night we see The Miz (accompanied by Maryse) defends his Intercontinental Title against Dolph Ziggler. The two put on a pretty huge fight but thanks to the Sexiest of Sexy spraying Ziggler in the eyes with mace/perfume, The Miz inserts the Skull Crushing Finale and gets the pinfall victory.
Thoughts: The best part about this match is the fact that it really feels like it could be anyone’s game – even the newbies. We see each woman have their memorable time in the spotlight and take hold of the pace of the match. And for a division to grow as a whole, this is exactly what we need to see.
What Backlash proves is that there is no blatant hierarchy within this division. Even if there are favorites backstage, the show isn’t giving us any evidence of that. No one is handed special treatment, each woman is made to earn their spot, and no one is forced to “job”.
Every woman really shines, and it’s a true pleasure to witness.
Although Alexa Bliss was the first to be eliminated, she doesn’t leave without making her mark. Bliss’ work manages to solidify herself as a strong heel competitor and someone to keep an eye on. Throughout the match she manages to beat on top tier members like the Lass Kicker and the longest reigning Divas champion, and I can’t help but appreciate the fact that she isn’t treated like throwaway talent. Prior to the match we all pretty much knew that Bliss wouldn’t walk away with the victory, but the fact that she made her mark with her impressive moveset and character work managed to still solidify her as a talent to watch.
Naomi also really stands out. Going into the match the former Funkadactyl was seen as the dark horse, and, even if she doesn’t walk away with the victory, she is truly a standout competitor. I really adore the way SmackDown is handling Naomi at the moment. Though her win would’ve been a truly incredible shock, I appreciate how she isn’t being given the title just yet. Naomi has had a seven year career and nine unsuccessful title shots. And with her new face gimmick that’s getting everyone talking, a slow build towards the championship is what she needs right now. For the past year Becky has been given the biggest underdog story, whereas Naomi has had a year long heel run and just recently became a fan favorite. Naomi’s time is coming, and with this build and consistently excellent performances (much like Backlash), then her title win could become inevitable and easily adored by the audience.
Natalya is also someone that we shouldn’t ignore. Her fierce nature and need to remain dominant throughout this match doesn’t go unnoticed. Even when she can easily allow Bella to take out Naomi, the Queen of Black Harts decides that she wants to be the one to do the deed. And what better way to reassert her dominance by using the Sharpshooter to force a crowd favorite to tap out of the match? Natalya’s heel tactics are great tonight. She isn’t afraid to turn on allies like Carmella, and nor is she willing to get the crowd on her side. The Queen of Black Harts is a great heel, and her work at Backlash is evidence of that.
Now moving onto Nikki and Carmella. I understand the fear that many had of Bella “stealing the spotlight” and bringing back the 301 days reign that people claimed to hate yet couldn’t stop talking about and tuning into watch. However, what SmackDown is doing with her shouldn’t receive any kind of criticism. By Bella being eliminated by her biggest enemy, we’re not seeing the end of Carmella’s momentum arrive so soon. Instead we’re given the chance to truly the despise the Princess of Staten Island and sympathize with the Total Bellas star. A lot of us predicted that Nikki would get her revenge, yet she doesn’t. And with this being the case, not only does this further this feud, but it almost confirms that we will be getting multiple women storylines going into No Mercy. Nikki will aim to get her revenge on Carmella whilst Lynch will try to defend her title against her first competitor. SmackDown really is giving us women’s wrestling fans what we want (or at least some of us).
Regardless of your personal thoughts on Becky Lynch, there is no denying that she deserves this moment. After being the only member of the Four Horsewomen to never receive a title, constantly putting over other women before herself, and being one of – if not, the – most popular woman on SmackDown Live, Backlash was practically designed to be the Lass Kicker’s moment. As the crowd favourite going into the match, and someone that has the skill necessary to carry a division, Lynch is most definitely a great choice. The best part about her win is that as soon as it’s revealed that only her and Carmella are left, it asserts both of them on either end of the spectrum. The heat Carmella gains from eliminating a crowd favourite in Nikki Bella quickly allows the already popular Lynch to skyrocket with support. And this solidifies Carmella as a top heel, and Lynch as a top babyface – and what a way to have the biggest underdog of the roster finally get her moment.
I also want to praise Lynch’s speech. It’s nice to see a face in the women’s division give a triumphant speech without crying over Bra & Panties matches they never experienced and 2 minute matches they were hardly a part of. It’s really refreshing to see them purely thank the fans and discuss the current storyline, rather than banging on about an evolution again and again.
And whilst the six pack challenge is great, I can – at long last – discuss the work of Maryse. Typically the French-Canadian Beauty stands idly and occasionally yells during The Miz’s matches. But here, she brings back an old fashion heel tactic of spraying the opponent in the eyes and allowing her man to steal the victory. The Miz is already receiving tons of heat from his speech against the beloved Daniel Bryan, and his wife’s actions tonight are amplifying that reaction even more. Brilliant!
Backlash turns out to be everything it needs to be. Each woman, including the often ignored valet, receives time to shine and develop their character/storyline. We now have each woman in definitive roles and multiple choices for upcoming feuds… Nikki can continue her feud with Carmella to push both competitors, Naomi can try (and fail) to get revenge on Natalya to further her underdog gimmick, and Alexa can go for Becky’s title to raise Bliss’ profile in the division as well as the title itself. And we even have Maryse becoming an important factor in the Intercontinental storyline! SmackDown is truly killing it at the moment, and I couldn’t be happier!
What are your thoughts on Backlash? How long do you think Lynch will hold onto the title? Who should face her next? How would you book the rest of the women from this point onwards? Let us know your views in the comments below!