Jeff Hardy Embarrassed Sheamus
I've enjoyed this rivalry by and large and didn't have a huge problem with the angle WWE ran with them two weeks ago, but this was just flat-out dumb. I didn't find it as offensively bad as others seemed to based off the reaction I saw online, but needless to say, it did absolutely nothing to make me any more excited for their Backlash bout than I was before. Why can't they just focus on the fact the Hardy bumped Sheamus from the Intercontinental Championship Tournament and not Hardy's past/present struggles?
Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro def. SmackDown Tag Team Champions The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Big E) (Non-Title)
It looked like New Day were headed for a feud with The Forgotten Sons, but Jaxson Ryker's recent tweet and the response it received from other Superstars may have played a part in that program being put on hold (if not abandoned all together). Personally, I think Nakamura and Cesaro gunning for the gold is far more interesting, if only because the matches are bound to be better. This was enjoyable while it lasted, but I don't understand why Nakamura and Cesaro couldn't have earned a title shot some other way than by beating the current champions. WWE is notorious for doing this and it's why most of their titles mean very little.
AJ Styles def. Daniel Bryan to Win the Vacant Intercontinental Championship
I don't think it'd be a stretch to say that WWE purposefully did this match on SmackDown so it wouldn't overshadow what they're billing as "the greatest wrestling match ever" between Edge and Randy Orton at Backlash. Seriously, this was stellar stuff. They were given a ton of time, but never at any point did I feel bored. Rather, they made every minute matter, kept the pace flowing, and took it to another level as the matchup progressed. Those final few minutes were especially excellent. The Intercontinental Championship has felt like a total afterthought in recent years, but after this phenomenal performance, Styles might be able to make me care about it again. If we're going to be getting more of these types of matches from Styles as Intercontinental Champion, then I'm looking forward to the rest of his reign.
Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross and The IIconics Crashed SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley and Sasha Banks' WWE Women's Tag Team Championship Celebration
I never thought I would say this, but I've been really digging Bayley as a heel the past month or so. She started out rough in the role, but she's slowly but surely finding her footing and is quickly becoming one of the highlights of SmackDown. She and Banks were fun here before being interrupted by their upcoming challengers at Backlash. I hope their WWE Women's Tag Team Championship reign isn't short-lived.
Universal Champion Braun Strowman and Heavy Machinery def. Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and John Morrison
It's about damn time Tucker resurfaced. He's been off TV for almost two months! At any rate, Strowman has natural chemistry with Heavy Machinery, and the same can be said about the trio of Ziggler, Miz and Morrison (who would have been an awesome heel faction a decade ago). This was a well-wrestled main event, yet nothing out of the ordinary. Otis being booked to look strong is great, but I was surprised WWE would have the heels lose so close to Backlash where we're supposed to take Miz and Morrison seriously as a threat to Strowman's Universal title. Give me a break.
Some of the matches advertised for Backlash have promise on paper, but I'd be lying if I said this edition of SmackDown left me way more excited for the event than I was previously. In fact, the best thing by far on this episode was that fantastic Styles vs. Bryan championship clash, and it just so happened to have nothing to do with Backlash. Definitely seek that out, but feel free to skip the rest, as you're not really missing much (even though it was a decent show on the whole).
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