Written By: Mark Armstrong
(Read the original version on Pro Wrestling Journal at http://prowrestlingjournal.com/index.php/2018/05/07/wwe-backlash-2018-review-analysis-05-06-2018/.)
WWE’s latest Pay-Per-View event felt like a return to old times (WWE even touted as much when hyping this card), due to the fact that it was a dual-brand supershow. The card didn’t seem like the most appealing PPV beforehand, but the line-up still promised some good matches, which is never a bad thing, right?
Random moments of note from the Kick-Off Show: The Miz was officially divorced from The Miztourage backstage; Laycool … sorry, The IIconics mocked the Kick-Off panel members, in particular Peter Rosenberg; and Bayley’s request for Sasha Banks to be in her corner was totally rejected by Banks, as a true feud between the former best friends is surely not far away now.
Kick-Off Show Match
Bayley vs. Ruby Riott
The match in question for Bayley was against Ruby Riott, who of course had her Riott Squad comrades Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan by her side. Some basic early exchanges were halted by a hard right hand by Ruby. The momentum continued to swing both ways until a distraction by Morgan and Logan caused Bayley to fall victim to an STO-style slam by Riott.
From there, Ruby worked on the face and left arm of Bayley, which included Logan hitting a right hand from ringside. Soon, The Hugger began to mount a comeback with a springboard crossbody, clotheslines and a back suplex, as well as a hurricanrana to Logan. A top rope elbow got a two-count, and Bayley hit Morgan with a mini-spear off the apron, but the latest distraction allowed Riott to catch Bayley with a Pele Kick for the win.
Intercontinental Championship Match
Seth Rollins (C) vs. The Miz
The crowd in Newark was hot for this one from the opening bell. After the usual feeling-out process for both, some heelish strikes by Miz contrasted with his supposed recent change in attitude following the birth of his daughter. Rollins struck back with a dropkick, though Miz avoided another high-risk attack by booting Rollins to the floor. Miz stayed on offence for the most part as the match progressed, which included batting away a superkick and nailing a huge DDT for a near-fall.
An X-Factor by Seth slowed down Miz’s momentum, as did a Slingblade and a suicide dive after clotheslining Miz outside. After some fine exchanges, Rollins hit a flying clothesline, but an attempted jump from the apron saw him get dropped face-first. A rare Miz crossbody attempt was countered Cena-style, and a Rollins frog splash got another two. Miz prevented another suicide dive, and back-and-forth shots on the apron saw Seth strike the post with his Revolution high knee, perfectly paving the way for Miz to apply the Figure-Four Leglock. But Seth refused to submit and eventually turned over the manoeuvre; a quick reversal by Miz allowed Seth to break it via the ropes. Further back-and-forth shots and reversals resulted in Miz finally hitting the Skull-Crushing Finale after Seth stumbled on his knee, yet Seth somehow kicked out.
Miz tried to go aerial again, but Rollins halted the attempt and looked to hit a top rope suplex. Miz batted him away by targeting the still-weak knee, but Seth then ran back to the top to hit the suplex, yet Miz countered a Falcon Arrow with a second Skull Crushing Finale, but Rollins kicked out again! Miz placed Seth on the ropes as he looked to hit another Skull-Crushing Finale, but Rollins knocked him to the canvas and attempted a Curb Stomp that Miz rolled out of. Further roll-ups by both allowed Seth to successfully hit the Curb Stomp for the win. This was a damn good opener, with great drama considering the predictable outcome; Rollins in particular is currently performing at his highest consistency since his 2015 singles peak.
Raw Women’s Championship Match
Nia Jax (C) vs. Alexa Bliss
Alexa arguing with fans booing her and covering her ears when they cheered Jax made me laugh before the bell. Bliss tried to bring Jax down early on. but to no avail as Nia squashed her into the turnbuckles twice, sending her to the floor. A hard kick from the apron and a right-hand finally grounded Nia as Alexa looked to take control. A big clothesline put Jax back in charge momentarily, but she then missed a rolling senton as Bliss resumed control.
Nia caught her and looked to place her on the ropes for a big Samoan Drop which Bliss countered, only to drive her back into the corner and eventually hurl her off the top by her arms. Jax fought back with further throws across the ring, and she even went for a Vader Bomb, but was shoved hard out to the floor by Alexa. A DDT on the steel stairs seemed to set up a title change, as did a subsequent kick that saw Jax fall back off the ropes after another Samoan Drop attempt. But Nia caught Alexa off a Twisted Bliss and hit her Samoan Drop for the three-count. A decent match, then, which should officially end the Nia-Alexa feud. Perhaps the Riott Squad will target Jax next?
United States Championship Match
Jeff Hardy (C) vs. Randy Orton
Again, we had basic exchanges to kick off this face vs. face bout. A jawbreaker properly put Hardy on offence, which led to a diving clothesline to the floor. Orton fired back with a dropkick and crotching Jeff on the top turnbuckle, which allowed for some attacks with Hardy in a Tree Of Woe position. Further kicks and uppercuts followed, but a huge Poetry In Motion via the steps had Hardy back in control, at least until Randy dropkicked Jeff back to the floor.
Three back suplexes on the barricade aided the challenger further; Orton was definitely playing a subtle heel role here. As fans chanted “Rusev Day!”, Hardy fought back with his usual signature attacks, in particular a Whisper In The Wind which may have connected too well (at least he caught Orton, in contrast to Jinder Mahal at the Greatest Royal Rumble). A Twist Of Faye was almost countered directly into an RKO in a nod to their previous meeting at Royal Rumble 2008, but Orton did hit a powerslam for two, and soon hit a draping DDT too. Boos rained on Orton as he set up an RKO, which was countered into a roll-up, a Twist Of Fate and a Swanton Bomb for the win. This was okay but nothing special; I’m guessing we see this pairing again on PPV after another Orton heel turn.
Before the next match, Elias was about to perform a song for Bruce Springsteen (“He calls me the Boss!”) before being interrupted The New Day, Rusev Day and others for some cross-brand musical shenanigans. It all ended with Bobby Roode planting Elias with a Glorious DDT. (By the way, have you ever noticed how jacked Aiden English’s arms are?)
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
This was unquestionably the biggest match in Cass’ career to date. Bryan started with kicks and punches, and though Cass tried to exert dominance, Bryan had him reeling with a knee off the apron and a diving dropkick amidst awkward chants of “We want Enzo!” Bryan launched the Yes Kicks, but Cass reversed into a huge spinebuster. Big chops and a bodyslam by Cass followed, with the seven-footer clearly dominating at this point.
A drop toehold by Bryan led to kicks and the corner dropkicks, but Cass followed with a major clothesline and several short-arm clotheslines. An attempted Big Boot was avoided, and a high Bryan kick led to an attempted Yes Lock that Daniel finally applied, with Cass tapping out almost immediately. This seemed a bit rushed, meaning that we didn’t get to see too much from Cass, though Daniel getting the win is unlikely to disappoint anyone. Post-match, Cass attacked Bryan and tossed him around ringside, before hitting him with a Big Boot in the ring.
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Carmella (C) vs. Charlotte Flair
Carmella’s mockery of the Flair strut led to her being floored by a boot. Carmella then tried to leave with her title, and of course Flair didn’t let her, dragging the champion back into the ring. Charlotte continued to dominate her opponent, but a superkick at ringside finally provided Charlotte with some hope. The champ grounded the challenger with a headlock (I was half-expecting an advert to run for the next PPV at this point), but this would never be enough to put away the Queen.
Indeed, Charlotte broke free, though she suffered further damage from the increasingly-desperate Carmella. Charlotte’s comeback flurry demonstrated just how much better she is than Carmella, both in storyline and in reality; her offence was so much smoother. Carmella stretched Charlotte around the ring post, and slapped her as she reminded the Queen who holds the title. Charlotte struck with a Spear, though Carmella managed to catch her in the Code Of Silence. Charlotte fought out of it and hit another boot for two, but an attempted moonsault saw her tweak her knee, and a kick to that area followed by a roll-up earned Carmella the surprisingly clean win. This wasn’t very good.
WWE Championship No Disqualification Match
AJ Styles (C) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura slid out of the ring immediately to antagonise AJ. Styles caught him and rammed him into every corner of the ringside area, before sending him into the ring for a hard kick to the back and a snap suplex. Shinsuke fought back, only to take a stiff dropkick from Styles. Back at ringside, AJ pounded Shinsuke in the aisleway and splashed him into a barricade, only to miss on the second attempt. Nakamura began to take control, sending AJ flying over the steel stairs and driving a knee into the side of his head and the back of his head over the ring apron.
Stiff kicks maintained Shinsuke’s dominance, and he barely reacted to chops by AJ before unleashing another ferocious kick. Nakamura’s signature knees to the side of the head led to another flying kick that sent Styles out to the floor, before Shinsuke tried to throw AJ towards the timekeeper; Nakamura kicked Styles’ feet from under him as he prepared to unleash an aerial response. A dragon sleeper in the ring unintentionally led to AJ fighting back, though Shinsuke continued to pummel the champion, and he positioned for a flying knee that got two.
After more kicks, Shinsuke retrieved a chair, but AJ avoided contact; a bare exchange of strikes led to a reverse exploder suplex onto the chair to get Nakamura a close two-count. Shinsuke went for a Kinshasa, but AJ threw the chair at his knee; however, the chair accidentally rebounded into AJ’s face, cutting him open in the most painful-looking moment of the evening. Styles was able to lock in the Calf Crusher, which Nakamura reversed into a triangle choke. AJ almost turned that into the Styles Clash, but a forearm and the Ushi Goroshi got him two. Another attempted Styles Clash allowed Nakamura to hit yet another low blow, but AJ responded with one of his own! Further exchanges of strikes resulted in both kicking each other low at the same time, which had to be a first (between the chair miscue and the multiple low blows, AJ had to be hurting after this). Speaking of which, neither man made it to their feet before the referee’s ten-count, so despite this being No DQ, the match ended in a draw, allowing Styles to retain the title.
Considering that they had battled to a double countout in Saudi Arabia, this result was a let-down, especially since this was definitely the best AJ-Shinsuke match of their WWE feud so far. On the bright side, another showdown is guaranteed after this latest inconclusive result, which based on this evidence should be a great encounter.
Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
This would be Bobby Lashley’s first PPV match in WWE since he battled John Cena for the WWE Championship at The Great American Bash 2007. Lashley started with Zayn, though Sami used the ropes to his advantage to avoid contact initially. A shoulder tackle led to Sami tagging out to KO, though Lashley simply began dominating Owens instead. Another tag out saw Lashley leapfrog and clothesline Sami, as the heels struggled to find any hope of surviving, never mind winning. Eventually, a distraction by Owens allowed Sami to fire back, and the heels began to take over with frequent tags and constant attacks on Lashley.
Zayn and Owens tried to prevent Bobby tagging out to Braun, but of course he did, and Strowman quickly dominated Owens and Zayn as only the Monster Amongst Men can, both in the ring and out. Braun ramming into the post gave Kami a chance, but an attempted Helluva Kick being blocked saw Zayn try to leave, which Owens wouldn’t allow. In response, Sami instead threw Owens back into the ring, and KO responded in kind. After shoves and slaps, Zayn left Owens to take further punishment from both Lashley and Strowman; Bobby’s delayed suplex decided the match for the faces (Strowman powerslammed KO and Zayn after the match), and presumably the KO-Zayn partnership is about to undergo a divorce. It seems a bit soon for this, but perhaps Sami as a heel and KO as a face will bring a fresh angle to their longtime connection.
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe
Since Brock Lesnar hasn’t wrestled a full-time schedule since 2004, this inter-brand contest would be the main event. Joe struck Reigns with a hard right before the bell, and the two fought at ringside, as Joe drove Reigns through one announcer’s table with a Uranage and tossed him across the other two. Joe threw Reigns back into the ring, and after a battered Roman told the referee he could continue, the match officially began as Joe pounded Reigns with further punches, chops, kicks and knees, along with several wear-down holds.
Roman attempted to make comebacks but Joe continuously cut him off, including with a huge Tope Suicida to the floor. Roman finally fought back proper with a stiff-looking boot followed by a Drive-By, which increased the speed of what had been a deliberately slow-paced contest. Reigns pounded Joe into the corner only to taste a senton that led to a two-count. A big spinebuster earned Reigns a near-fall of his own, and Roman broke a Coquita Clutch attempt via the ropes; however, Joe expertly turned a Drive-By into a Clutch momentarily, though Reigns broke it quickly and hit a Superman Punch for two.
Reigns aimed for a Spear and tasted a Pele Kick, but on the rebound he managed to hit the Spear on the second attempt, and only the ropes kept Joe in the fight. Joe blocked another Spear with a stiff knee and he applied the Clutch again, which Reigns rolled over into a pinning combination. Another roll-up led Joe to finally apply the Clutch properly, and it seemed like he was about to win via stoppage, but a last-second revival allowed Roman to break it via the ropes. Joe surprisingly looked to hit a Muscle Buster, but Roman leapfrogged his way to safety and hit a second Spear for the win. It was a well-worked match and told a good story, but the pace was a bit too slow early on, and the crowd losing interest at various points didn’t help.
Overall, then, though it boasted a great opener and several other good bouts, Backlash definitely wasn’t a classic PPV event. It was missable, partly because of several results being telegraphed by the Superstar Shake-Up and partly because of other results being a head-scratcher. It wasn’t a bad PPV – there have been far worse supershows – but it wasn’t must-see by any stretch of the imagination. Check it out for Seth vs. Miz and Styles vs. Nakamura, but the rest of the card is unlikely to provide you with any lasting memories.