WWE Backlash has come and gone. The time between WrestleMania and SummerSlam is always meandering, and honestly this year’s Backlash did a great job proving that. The card wasn’t the most promising one, but we, as a community pushed through and watched anyway. So what were the redeeming matches and which were the ones that dragged Backlash down?
Apollo Crews (c) vs. Andrade (United States Championship): Backlash opened up with a surprisingly strong match, even for the Kickoff Show. It did an excellent job showing the clash of the two styles and Apollo Crews did an excellent job seeming dominant and worthy of the title. I like heel K.O. better, but Kevin Owens with his pink tie was a treat to watch. All around, a very good start to a pay per view.
Sasha Banks and Bayley (c) vs. The Iiconics vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross (WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship): The first real match of Backlash was amazing. Bliss’ training during her injuries in the past years really shined. The first pinning sequence was especially fun to watch with all three women doing a solid back and forth.
It’s also extremely exciting to see The IIconics in their first big match since their return as well. They are not the best in the ring but they do have a lot of skill which is always overshadowed by their characters being cowards. This match (and honestly the past month or so) allowed them to show off some of that in-ring ability, which was much appreciated.
Honestly, there wasn’t a dull point in this match. There wasn’t too much storytelling in the ring, but there didn’t need to be. It was just big hits and cool flips. My one complaint is it could have been longer but honestly, it’s probably for the best that it came in, hit hard, then got out.
Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy: And then suddenly, Backlash fell into a hole it almost couldn’t climb out of, starting with this match. A plot can make or break a match. In this case, the match was extremely hurt by the plot. Even without the real-life ties that are just way too uncomfortable, the build up has been lacking any heart or excitement. When the most exciting thing in a feud is throwing pee in someone’s face, maybe you should rethink the plot.
And so we as an audience went into the match extremely uninterested and it dragged a mediocre match down to just a complete snoozefest. Sheamus had some fun big hits, but it didn’t make up for even the smaller hiccups I normally am able to just completely look past. The near falls were met with disappointment that the match wasn’t over yet. I hate to sound this harsh because both of these men are good in the ring, but I just couldn’t get into it at all.
Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax (Raw Women’s Championship): We followed up with another pretty pointless match. This one is a bit more forgivable for being bland, however, as Asuka’s between serious feuds and they just needed to make a match for her for Backlash.
That being said, I did enjoy this one more than the previous match. It was a lot more fast paced and didn’t feel like a game of Snails Pace Race. The match opened well with Asuka bursting out with some fast-paced moves, which is always entertaining. And say what you will about Nia, but I do love her presence in the ring.
But the end ruined any amount of good will I had built up to the match. The multiple botches made things feel choppy, and the ending was just sort of out of nowhere. There was absolutely no build up to the finish to the point that it felt like an accident.
Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Miz and Morrison (Handicap Match for the Universal Championship): This was a fine match. I absolutely love The Miz and Morrison both individually and as a team, and I am enjoying these handicap matches Braun has been doing recently. This match wasn’t anything unique or new, but it was just sort of fine. It got Braun over more as the champion, which was was the goal. It wasn’t an offensive match in any way, it was just… there. By next week we will have all promptly have forgotten this match ever took place. Although, we will forever remember that song.
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bobby Lashley (WWE Championship): Big E said on his podcast months ago that his favorite wrestling matches are with two big meaty men slapping meat. And that’s exactly what this was. I, myself am not as big of a fan of big meaty man slapping meat as Big E, so sometimes it’s hard to determine if a match is boring or just not my cup of tea.
I’m going to go with the latter on this one. Despite it not being my thing, there were still moments I thought were great. Lashley running at Drew only for Drew to throw him into the guard rail, Drew’s Alabama Slam, and really just any of those other big, heavy throws I really enjoyed. The ending felt abrupt and I was expecting Lana to be out there for longer. In the end it was OK for what it was, but it was just never going to be something that grabbed me.
At this point, Backlash was starting to be a slog. Sure, there were moments here and there, but overall I wished I could just turn on an old CHIKARA PPV. And then came the next match….
Street Profits (c) vs. Viking Raiders (Raw Tag Team Championship): I was not a fan of this whole thing, at all. There were cute fun moments during the build-up, but it turned the Raiders into a comedy bit. The Raiders needed something to push them to the next level, and making them a comedy duo was not it.
I loved the Money in the Bank match, but my one complaint was that it was mostly just jokes and skits with little actual wrestling. I was able to dismiss that because at least all the bits were centered around one thing: the uniqueness of the Money in the Bank match. But without some sort of theme, Backlash‘s cinematic ‘match’ was just a bunch of very loose and random ideas strung together with no through-line. It felt like a 13 year-old back in the early 2000s of internet “lol that’s so random” humor wrote it.
When you compare this to the Stadium Stampede match, the Stampede match had humor within the wrestling but there was a focus of about 50/50 wrestling and jokes, and a lot of the jokes stemmed from the wrestling itself. With this match, it was about 95% jokes which just felt like they didn’t revolve around wrestling but were just a collection of gags that were thrown in at random.
Edge vs. Randy Orton in “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”: And so Backlash came to its main event. I went into this match skeptical — the repeated “greatest match ever” marketing with no sense of irony whatsoever left a bad taste in my mouth. For the first couple of minutes I remained skeptical, but slowly, slowly, the match started to draw me in. After the initial slow buildup, things sped up and my interest was piqued.
The two did an excellent job showing that pathos between sequences (and honestly during sequences) and really kicking it in, hammering it home. Especially Edge’s desperation and frustration to win was so well played in his bad, frantic pin attempts. I honestly was going very quickly from skeptic to believer.
But then it kept happening. The match kept going. And going. For roughly 45 minutes. I started to realize the front of my seat was an incredibly uncomfortable place to be sitting as 30 minutes went by. Then 35, then 40 with finisher after finisher to a comical degree. I was honestly expecting Mr. Socko to come out at some point. The returns had diminished and were going fast.
I don’t want to leave the impression this match wasn’t good. It was very good. But judging purely from Twitter’s reaction, I think I’m going to have to go somewhat against the grain and say that it was good but nothing more. It was enough though to have dragged Backlash out of that hole it had thrown itself into, at least.
The Verdict: As I say occasionally, especially with wrestling, reviews are inherently subjective and I feel it’s no use pretending to be objective. Backlash had a solid start and a solid end, but the middle lacked any real substance and were all matches that will be forgotten soon. However, Backlash usually is one of the slower PPVs of the wrestling year, so it’s honestly not surprising.
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