It might feel like it’s been forever, but this is the first post Wrestlemania Smackdown Live pay per view. With a new Championship contender in Jinder Mahal and the small matter of AJ Styles and Kevin Owens – there seemed to be a heap of potential in this Backlash event. Did it live up to expectations?
Nakamura def. Ziggler
The Uso’s def. Breezango (Smackdown Tag Team Titles)
Zayn def. Corbin
Welcoming Committee def. Team Naomi
Owens def. Styles (US Title)
Harper def. Rowan
Mahal def. Orton (WWE Championship)
Nakamura vs. Ziggler
A solid if slightly underwhelming payoff to the weeks of build. If I was a casual viewer watching this feud, I might wonder what all the buzz around Nakamura was for. This match was fine, nothing overly wrong with it – but protecting Ziggler ultimately robbed Shinsuke of that killer first win.
A lot of the early match was Ziggler’s, as he dominated proceedings and kept the live Backlash crowd waiting. Inevitably this turned, but it didn’t really end with the huge burst of greatness we know Nakamura can produce. He hit his finisher and that was kind of it. Hoping that WWE have something bigger planned for their growing star heading out of Backlash – this felt like a waste of potential.
The Uso’s vs Breezango (Smackdown Tag Team Titles)
Hugely fun match, if slightly demeaning to the Tag Titles. The live audience had a hoot with this one, as Breezango played up their gimmick to full effect. Breeze dressed up as both a janitor and old lady throughout, leading to chants from a wildly bemused crowd. They even managed to get some nearfalls through it all – a great match in terms of entertainment.
I wouldn’t have been happy if they’d won with all that funny stuff going on, and The Uso’s winning makes sense. Fun match, certainly different and arguably the best source of joy from the Backlash card.
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
It’s clear these two work well together. Corbin worked as the dominant force for a good 90% of the match, rarely letting Zayn get the edge. There were some great spots from Zayn, whom the crowd were desperate to win it, but was always just one step behind the much larger Corbin. I will say that as good as the match was, it was slightly undone by an ending that came from nowhere. Zayn hit his kick in the corner and that was it, the live crowd in particular were shocked it ended so quickly.
It’s a good way of protecting Corbin I guess, but does it do anything for Zayn when he’ll probably be back in this same type of feud next week?
Welcoming Committee vs. Team Naomi
Fairly forgettable in honesty. There were some nice moments – but the match never really excelled in any area – with all the ladies getting time to throw some offence in. I guess the story of this match is that the Welcoming Committee won, leading to one of them stepping up and challenging Naomi. Nattie getting the submission win was a nice touch, Lynch taking the pin made sense too (Not like she’s going to be challenging for the title anytime soon).
But easily the most passable match on the Backlash main card – which is a shame given the talent involved.
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles (US Title)
Great match from these two, as to be expected. The back and forth kept the pace up, and the live audience seemed hugely invested in the match. Throughout they played up AJ Styles injury, which inevitably began to play into the direction the match took, The countout finish helps protect Styles while setting up the inevitable round two down the lime.
Arguably the best match on the Backlash card – even if the ending kicked the momentum in the nuts.
Luke Harper vs. Eric Rowan
I won’t lie, I forgot this match was happening. Right up until Rowan’s music hit – I was all set for the WWE Championship match. Ultimately this was a dull affair. Harper and Rowan are getting better but they just don’t click whenever they connect in the ring. It’s like watching two hams slap each other in the hopes it’ll create magic. They really need to get Harper doing something different now he’s free of the Wyatt mess, he really needs a solid feud to get his character back into gear.
Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton (WWE Championship)
The match itself really didn’t do much for me. I’m not adverse to Orton matches, but this on seemed to rely very heavily on getting outside the ring and bringing in Mahal’s croneys. There were some great moments as Orton beat down on Mahal – ultimately unable to overcome the numbers. I’m not that thrilled about Mahal being Champion – kind of feels like he hasn’t earned it – instead just getting a free pass because of his Indian marketing potential.
The key to changing this will be giving him a good feud out of all this. A long Orton back and forth would be a disaster for those prospects. The weeks following Backlash will be make or break for this whole story.
Backlash was one of those pay per views that felt more like an extended version of Smackdown Live. One of the problems the Brand Extension brings with it is the introduction of pay per views that ultimately don’t do achieve much outside of being called a pay per view.
Obviously Jinder Mahal winning was a mega moment for the him and the company, but it came with a huge side-order of doubt. Many fans simply don’t see him as a main event player – and while he might be able to push forward for a few months, eventually he’ll need to deliver the kind of quality matches that shuts haters up. Right now that scepticism is perfectly justified.
Outside of this, the whole pay per view had an air of slight disappointment. None of the matches were awful, but there’s also next to nothing (bar the above mentioned) to really make you feel like Smackdown is in a new era. If you put this on a Tuesday evening – you’d be hard pressed to tell it wasn’t a normal episode of Smackdown Live.
Maybe I’m expecting to much. Or maybe WWE have to many PPVs.