Liam Hoofe reviews WWE Backlash…
On Saturday night the WWE delivered NXT: Chicago, which was one of the finest events the company have blessed us with in a long time [read my review here].
Featuring a serious match of the year candidate, some awesome in-ring work and an expertly executed shock of a finish, Takeover: Chicago will likely be the best show of 2017. 24 hours later SmackDown Live delivered their first post-Mania PPV – could the blue brand, and the main roster, live up to the standard set on Saturday by NXT? Let’s break down each match, and find out.
Shinsuke Nakamura Defeated Dolph Ziggler
How over is Shinsuke? The audience reaction to his entrance is one of the best I’ve seen for a debuting superstar in a long time. Any fears of whether he would be accepted by the mainstream WWE audience have been thrown straight out of the window.
Going into the match my main concern was whether the WWE would allow Dolph Ziggler to be competitive, especially with the outcome being so obvious. The decision to give Nakamura Ziggler as his first opponent was questioned by some, but last night he showed that he was the perfect candidate. By allowing Ziggler to get in plenty of offence, they provided Nakamura with the perfect platform to introduce his unique style to the WWE universe. It doesn’t hurt that Ziggler is one of the best sellers in the company as well – the guy could make a paper bag look good.
The match also featured a brilliant amount of near falls from Ziggler – they even briefly had me convinced that he could steal the victory.
Nakamura ultimately picked up the victory with the Kinshasa and while many will be talking about Shinsuke, Ziggler deserves a lot of credit here – this was a great match, and I’d be more than happy to see a rematch down the line – if not to just help Ziggler out a little as well.
Match Rating: ****
The Usos Defeated Breezango For the Smackdown Tag Team Titles
The Fashion Files are absolutely brilliant. The pre-match segment here was hilarious and I hope we still see more of them on TV after this. Everything about the Fashion Police is great – their entrance is incredibly infectious, they’re both good in the ring, and their work on the mic rarely disappoints. Their character work over the last few weeks has been top-notch too – Tyler Breeze showing up to the ring as a janitor, and then changing his disguise half way through the match was a great touch – and the crowd really got behind it. It also worked as a nice way of getting The Usos some cheap heat.
Once the action turned away from the comedic and got serious, the two teams managed to put on a solid encounter. Fandango’s dive over the ropes was a pleasant surprise, and the finish, despite being done by The Usos hundreds of times, was well executed.
Now, I know there will be some who will say this match was too goofy, and that it made the belts look silly, but the crowd in the arena got behind it, and I pretty much laughed from start to finish, so no complaints from me.
Match Rating: ***
Sami Zayn Defeated Baron Corbin
Okay, so Sami Zayn picked up the shock win here – which was great, but he still wasn’t booked to look that strong.
Zayn should be one of the biggest babyfaces in the company, but his booking on Raw for the last year killed any momentum he had gathered. The match here was solid, not spectacular and had some nice moments.
Corbin dominated the majority of the in-ring action until Zayn caught him with a helluva kick out of nowhere. With Corbin undoubtedly being one of the favourites to win the Money in the Bank in a few months – this is a strange decision.
Match Rating: ***
The Welcoming Committee Defeated Charlotte, Naomi and Carmella
This match just felt like a standard match you would see on SmackDown. The majority of the match had Naomi playing the role of the face being beaten down by the heels, which wasn’t particularly inspiring.
The action then began to pick up before Natalya made Becky Lynch to tap to the sharpshooter. A very average match, though, the man in the crowd who was distraught when Lynch tapped was quite amusing.
Match Rating: **
Kevin Owens Defeated AJ Styles by Countout for The United States Title
As expected Styles and Owens delivered a brilliant match-up. These are two of the best workers on SmackDown Live right now, and it’s a crying shame that the two of them aren’t in the main event.
The storytelling in the match was spot-on, with Owens targeting AJ’s injured leg throughout the bout. This played into several nice spots, notably with AJ not being able to hit the phenomenal forearm at one point in the match because he couldn’t get up on the ropes.
The pair delivered some great near falls as well. Owens hitting an inverted suplex off the top rope was a great spot towards the finish, as was the suplex onto the apron delivered by AJ following it with both spots producing a suitable chance from the red hot Chicago audience as well.
The finish saw AJ get his leg stuck in one of the holes on the announce table, and get counted out as a result. While it’s a bit lame, it suited the story of the match and will produce rematches later down the road, which is not a bad thing.
Match Rating: *** 1/2
Luke Harper Defeated Erick Rowan
So I still don’t get the Erick Rowan mask thing, but thankfully it didn’t really serve too much of a purpose in this one. From an in-ring standpoint, this match was one of the night’s more pleasant surprises. The two delivered an entertaining big man match that was a considerable step-up from their match on SmackDown a few weeks back.
Harper is incredibly agile for a big guy and all the match’s best spots were down to him. Sadly for the match, it was given the unwanted toilet break spot on the card and the crowd were largely absent for the majority of the encounter. Harper picked up the win with a clothesline.
Match Rating: ***
Jinder Mahal Defeated Randy Orton for the WWE Title
So, they did it. At Backlash, WWE decided to pull the trigger on Jinder Mahal, and crown him the WWE Champion. Precisely what this is going to mean for the brand is anyone’s guess – ratings have been struggling over the last month, so slapping the title on Jinder seems a massive risk.
That being said, Randy Orton has been a lame champion – he has delivered two outright terrible matches with Bray Wyatt, and given us nothing to get excited about in terms of potential feuds. His comments about Indie wrestlers likely hasn’t sat too well with the big brass either.
The match itself was a fairly standard Orton affair. Slow, methodical build, a bit of playing with the crowd, an RKO out of nowhere – you know the drill by now, and quite frankly, it’s pretty darn boring.
This was a match that was actually more enjoyable to watch once the shenanigans began. I actually thought Orton had killed when one of The Singh brothers at one point when he threw him over the announce table like a piece of garbage.
The outside interference actually got the crowd into the match a bit more – and Jinder’s shock win certainly woke up everyone up.
The match was very meh, but the finish is likely going to be the only thing anyone actually remembers.
Match Rating: ** 1/2
Final Thoughts – Well, 2016 had Trump and Brexit, now 2017 has Jinder Mahal. Backlash was the culmination of one of the most bizarre pushes in recent memory, and it could potentially be a decision that does some serious damage to SmackDown in terms of ratings, in the coming months.
Backlash was, for the most part, a fairly consistent show from an in-ring perspective, and the crowd more than played their part throughout the night. The mid-card matches lacked any real heat, though, and this will likely continue to be a problem that will plague SmackDown for the coming months. With Summer just around the corner, though, the brand appears to be in fairly good shape and has an array of exciting potential feuds on offer, let’s just hope WWE know what they’re doing with Jinder Mahal.
What did you think of Backlash? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter here – @liamhoofe