Previously on the Best and Worst of Backlash: AJ Styles shocked the world by becoming WWE Champion and Heath Slater became one half of the Tag Team Champions, definitely giving us both the most unexpected WWE title win and most unexpected win for a former member of 3MB in the same show! That’s a feat that’ll never be topped!
If you missed Backlash 2017 and somehow have no idea where to watch it, click here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WWE Backlash 2017 for May 21, 2017.
Worst/Best: How Not To Debut Shinsuke Nakamura
These are divisive, emotionally tumultuous times, so instead of going my normal route of making Dolph Ziggler jokes, I’m going to point out a couple of things I don’t think he should’ve done in this match with Shinsuke Nakamura.
Dolph Ziggler should not have wrestled this match like a babyface. Up until now, the Ziggler/Nakamura feud has been built around Ziggler’s inherent sense of superiority and entitlement clashing with the sudden occurrence of a guy who naturally does everything Ziggler claims to do and is naturally everything Ziggler claims to be without having to constantly insist it. Nakamura connects with people, and he’s an ace in the ring, and even when he loses, people think of him as one of the best wrestlers in the world. So Ziggler — and just to clarify, we’re talking about Dolph Ziggler The Wrestling Character here — lashes out at him, puts him down and calls him names. He’s called him a fake Michael Jackson and a freak.
At Backlash, instead of heeling it the hell up and letting Nakamura crunch him for being an a-hole, Ziggler wrestles the match like they’re even-stevens babyfaces. It almost feels like they’re trying to recreate Nakamura’s NXT debut against Zayn without doing the work. I think the most heelish things Ziggler did the entire match were swivel his hips, which he does no matter what his alignment is, and getting lightly booed for “tuning up the band” instead of being cheered. Where’s the storytelling? Where’s the drama? They could’ve had this exact same match with zero segments to build it. They could’ve had Ziggler open the show saying he’s great, have Nak interrupt, and have them have this match. Nothing that happened before it needed to exist to inform it.
And that’s because:
Dolph Ziggler should not have made Shinsuke Nakamura wrestle a Dolph Ziggler match. It should’ve been the other way around. Part of what made Zayn/Nakamura so great is that Nakamura wasn’t suddenly slotted into an NXT-style match with Zayn, Zayn was slotted into a New Japan-style match with Nak. And while you probably don’t need to go full New Japan in a Smackdown live special opener in the dude’s first main roster match, having a charismatic, dynamic, bad-ass striker like Nakamura spend most of the match on the ground while Ziggler dropkicks and chinlocks him isn’t the way to go, either. Ziggler controlling most of the match and telling the story of a 50/50-ish struggle between two “good wrestlers” dulled Nakamura’s shine, I think, and like too many stars in their call-ups from NXT, how we feel about Nakamura is 100% based on how we already felt. Because it’s about adding WWE to Nakamura, and not the other way around.
Ask yourself this: if you’d never seen Nakamura before, would this match have told you his story? Would this match express to you that he’s one of the best and most popular wrestlers in the world, based on his weird, unstoppable, internal charisma and real-life fighting skill? Now ask yourself how different this match would’ve been if you’d subbed in Zayn for Nakamura, or Kofi Kingston for Nakamura, or anyone Dolph’s ever wrestled for Nakamura. It’d still be the exact same Dolph Ziggler match, and that’s why I spend most of my time joking and ragging on him instead of dissecting what he does. He’s a great performer, I’m not going to front, but he’s terrible at reading a room, and the disconnect between his character and what he does in the ring makes way too much of it forgettable. It’s shooting off fireworks for an empty stadium, and that’s a shame.
The shorter version, in case you skimmed that: Ziggler/Nakamura was a perfectly fine wrestling match, it just wasn’t the wrestling match I think it should’ve been.
Best: Breezango Is H
Up next we have the best Chikara Campeonatos de Parejas match of the year, The Usos vs. Breezango. The best part is that the wrestlers, crowd AND announcers are all having fun, which makes it one of the rarest forms of a “good match” in WWE.
What I wrote in our predictions post:
This is the one I’m looking forward to the most. I’m looking forward to this more than I’ve looked forward to any WWE pay-per-view match this year, oddly. The Usos are God-tier right now, and Tyler Breeze and Fandango have been among the most underappreciated talents (and comedic talents) on the roster for years. This has story, build, and purpose. I want the Usos to retain, but I want Breezeango to find great victory in defeat, and continue to build themselves as a tag team until they get a moment they truly deserve.
That’s exactly what happened. If you read the comments on the WWE Fan Nation video, you can see how it forms the opinions of casual WWE fans. A lot of people have pointed out that Breezango is funny, which they are, because they’re not “trying to be funny.” They’re just funny. They seem like funny guys doing funny stuff, instead of like wrestlers performing badly-written sketch comedy. You’ll also see a lot of, “I think Breezango is underrated,” which is also true. They did a bunch of dumb shit to pop the crowd, but they also showed they’re super secret great wrestlers. Fandango’s dive over the ropes was great. One thing people don’t appreciate about comedy wrestling sometimes is that you have to be good at wrestling to be good at comedy wrestling. Otherwise there’s no foundation to what you’re doing, and you just look like a jackoff farting around in a wrestling ring.
I love both of these teams a lot right now, so I’m pretty bummed that the New Day’s gonna sweep in on Tuesday and Sonny Boy all over them. But hey, maybe having some teams around them more charismatic than The Club will heal New Day a little and get them back to where they were before too many people noticed they were funny.
Best: That’s What I’m Zayn
I liked Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin on my first watch — it’s Corbin dominating almost the entire thing, then Sami hitting a Helluva Kick and pinning him — but I liked it more after watching the main event. Not to jump too far ahead of myself, but how great could a Sami Zayn vs. Jinder Mahal title feud be? Not only would you have the closest thing WWE’s got to a pure babyface going for the WWE Championship against a 1980s cartoon villain and his jobber cruiserweight henchmen, you’d have an ethnically confrontational Indian guy against a happy-go-lucky Syrian Muslim everyone loves. He can be the penniless sitar player to the Modern Day Maharaja. That’s fucking rad, especially for the company that used to make an Italian guy who was playing a misunderstood Arab-American do terrorist attacks and had the Asian wrestlers gang up and try to choppy choppy your pee-pee. I’m about that title feud for days.
Plus, the next title feud writes itself. Baron Corbin’s been losing so you know he’s winning Money in the Bank, and how great will it be when he’s waiting in the wings for the new, in-over-his-head champion Sami Zayn to get beaten up too much?
Worst: A Means To An End
Backlash was less a “pay-per-view” and more like “a good episode of Smackdown that sets up a better pay-per-view down the road.” You had Nakamura debuting, but not in fantastic fashion. You had The Usos retain to set up the feud with the New Day. You had Zayn beat Corbin to possibly set up a Money in the Bank thing, as mentioned. Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles had a corny finish and was clearly part one in a multi-part series, Harper/Rowan was part two in a three-match series, and even the main event was less about the main event and more about the shock, and what happens after.
The women’s tag was no different. Instead of feeling like its own thing, it felt like an excuse to have Natalya defeat Naomi without actually defeating Naomi, to set up the next Smackdown Women’s Championship match. And hey, I don’t think I’ve said a nice thing about Natalya in years, but if the next challenge is either her, Carmella or the poorest man in the world’s Nia Jax Tamina Snuka, I’m picking Natalya 10 times out of 10.
Also, poor Becky Lynch. Every pay-per-view she looks more like a character from Beyond Thunderdome, but it doesn’t seem to be helping.
JBL had me for a minute. He was funny as hell in the Smackdown Tag Team Championship match because he legitimately sounded like he was having fun, and him low-key admitting to paying for sex with a man in a dress got me more interested in him than I should’ve been. But then the women’s match happens, and he happily screams NATALYA HART! after she wins with the “Hart Family Sharpshooter.” You know, because Bret Hart is her dad. And Jim Neidhart is the John Redcorn of the family, I guess.
Best/Worst: AJ’s Gotta Cut Loose, Footloose
One of the worst announcing bits is when they mention how Booker T and Peter Rosenberg believed Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles “could steal the show.” What a hot take!
What’s funny is that they didn’t — Breezango and the Usos did that — but it’s obviously still a very good match. You could put Kevin Owens and AJ Styles in a blindfold match and they’d get something good out of it. I’d probably pay to see Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles in a bungee jump match.
As I mentioned before, this just happens to set up future matches. You just did the unexpected title switch with Owens and Chris Jericho, so you can’t afford to have him lose to Styles right away. The “Face of America” stuff is too good to bail on. But you also don’t necessarily want your new ace taking clean pinfall losses to the secondary champion, so you have him get counted-out in a creative but extremely dumb way to justify the next two matches.
In case you missed it, Styles tried to put Owens through the announce table with a Styles Clash, but Owens tripped him so his leg went in one of the monitor holes. Then the camera lingers on it a little too long so we see Styles intentionally getting his foot caught in the wires under the table, and just kinda lying there like a dying fish while he got counted out. Pretty lame.
Y’all wrestled for 21 minutes and the finish is “AJ slips on a banana peel?”
Anyway, happy to retract this criticism if the finish to the rematch at Money in the Bank is Styles getting trapped like this again and hitting a Pele Kick with the entire announce table.
Worst: You Should’ve Settled This In A Poor Person’s House In San Jose
This was certainly a match. I spent most of it wishing a ghost tractor would drive over them. The highlight is the finish, which is a discus clothesline that turns into a forearm because the timing was off.
Woof. And hey, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have each beaten each other once! Excited for match three, which will be an empty arena match whether the arena’s full of people or not.
And Now, Jinder Mahal Becomes WWE Champion
Get out of here.
Blurst: Changing Jinder Roles
Like many of you, my first thought was, “loooooooool.” Jinder Mahal winning the WWE Championship after years of being portrayed as the least dangerous member of 3MB, a main roster talent that couldn’t beat developmental guys in the NXT title tournament and someone who would and has played music in the ring to snake charm a hand puppet is like … well, it’s not like anything I can think of. Okay, we’re currently in the middle of writing up 1997 episodes of Raw. Imagine if Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and the Undertaker were all there but the WWF was about to do a tour of Puerto Rico, so they put the heavyweight title on Savio Vega. That’s pretty close. But not even, because Savio Vega won wrestling matches sometimes.
Upon reflection, here are some positive notes about Jinder and his bumpy, sinewy meat body winning the WWE title:
It’s new. God bless them for that. My major complaint over the past … several years of reviewing Raw is that they keep doing the same thing over and over, and nothing’s really surprising or new. Putting the goddamn WWE Championship on goddamn Jinder Mahal is something I would’ve have ever expected them to do, so if you’re going for shock value, consider me (and everyone else) shocked.
It’s better than Randy Orton. At this point, putting the title on a hamster would be better than Randy Orton. After the WrestleMania bug ring and the House of Horrors, I would’ve rooted for Tom Phillips to slide into the ring and face-fuck the championship away from Orton. For real, I’d rather see the worst guy try something new with the championship than see a guy we know can’t do anything entertaining with it failing for the 13th time.
This match was better than those. “Jinder Mahal is better than Bray Wyatt” is a thing I never thought I’d type, but here we are. Although honestly, if this had been the third worst pay-per-view match of the year it would’ve been better than Orton’s previous two.
It sets up a fun environment for Smackdown. Jinder Mahal is the WWE Champion. Every single human being on Smackdown should be trying to get a title shot right now. Like I said before, how great would it be for Sami Zayn to overcome this lousy dude, win the WWE Championship, and get immediately eaten by Baron Corbin?
To keep it fair, here are a few negatives:
Jinder Mahal is the WWE Champion. Rowdy Roddy Piper, Ted DiBiase, Arn Anderson, Jake Roberts, William Regal and Scott Hall never held a world title, but ¯_(ツ)_/¯
A Singh brother died so we could have this.
We know you hate cruiserweights, but be careful with their heads and necks ya dickbag.
John Cena is probably returning to Smackdown on the 4th of July
It’s on a Tuesday this year.
Best: Top 10-ish Comments Of The Night
Minister of Propaganda
Jinder Mahal, proving you don’t need a t-shirt to win a championship.
Every Chinese wrestler at the Performance Center is running up to Matt Bloom with charts showing him there are more people in China than India to justify giving them the title.
Jinder winning proves that wrestling is fixed. I wonder how much they paid Randy to take a …. dive?
VIVA LA RAJA
This is what I get for wishing on a monkey’s paw that Randy Orton wasn’t champion anymore.
The Real Birdman
Chicagoans have been practicing throwing pretzels all afternoon
Damn. That rug really ties this feud together.
The Perfect Tim
Breeze has gotten a Chicago crowd to chant for a mop and a grandma. He’s basically the greatest wrestler ever.
Ben James ن
Kenny Omega is going to be pissed watching Tyler Breeze’s ‘Cleaner’ persona.
Starry, starry night
Paint your spandex blue and grey
Sing out on a summer’s day
With tights that know the darkness in my soul
Aiden English in the ring
Crying now cause he feels the sting
Catch the breeze and the perfect 10
With or without Gotch you lost again
That’s Backlash. At first we were like,
but now we’re like,
Be sure to click those share buttons so everyone you know can argue about Jinder, and drop a comment in our comments section below. And hey, make sure you’re here tomorrow when I have to write up Tony Nese pinning Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship.