Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE Backlash: AJ Styles lost a match because he got his leg trapped in a hole on the announce table and Jinder Mahal won the WWE Championship. Could this year’s show be even worse? The answer will not surprise you!
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Here’s the Best and Worst of WWE Backlash for May 6, 2018.
Best: Miz And Seth Rollins Burn Out A Crowd
Up first at Backlash we have …
… the only reason you’d possibly ever watch this show again, obvious WWE ace Seth Rollins defending the Intercontinental Champion against secret WWE ace The Miz. I believe on Twitter I referenced the match as “being on some 2012 Ring of Honor kicking out of everything shit” based on Rollins kicking out of not one but two perfectly-timed Skull-crushing Finales, but he’s also had an “irresistible force” thing going on for the past couple of months, so I’ll allow it.
Aside from probably that second Finale kickout, and even probably including that, this was fantastic. To say Seth Rollins is on a physical and connective role right now is a massive understatement, and combining his undeniable it with Miz’s suddenly ring-general ass is about as good as WWE’s going to get right now, especially in the undercard. The combination of these two is so great because Miz (for lack of better phrasing) keeps Rollins mostly grounded in reality, and Rollins takes Miz’s King of Safe Style bit and makes it a little more dangerous without feeling errant or sloppy. Also, they’re just both really fucking great professional wrestlers.
Rollins retaining was a foregone conclusion with Miz being moved to Smackdown and all, but they did such good work that you had to have bought at least ONE of those near-falls. From the frog splash from halfway across the ring to that finishing sequence with the Curb Stomp off the ropes tease into multiple counters into a sudden Curbstomp Classic, this was just wonderfully done. The best compliment I can give it is that it was so good, it made me think Backlash was gonna rule.
Spoiler alert: LOL
Worst: The Rest Of Backlash
These are the important things you need to know:
- there were five championship matches, but all five champions retained
- some of the match finishes were so bad you’ll be shocked this isn’t the Best and Worst of Nitro
- the show went 30 minutes long presumably to make room for the show being co-branded, but they still found time to do a “pile of people” comedy skit in the middle of it
- by the end, the crowd was chanting “beat the traffic” and “this is boring,” and the first shot after the pinfall in the main event is people leaving the arena in a hurry
- and, just to say it one more time for the people in the back, the talent is doing their best with what they’re given, but they can only do so much when the creative content is this bad
The most obvious example of this at Backlash was Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss, which once again pays off two months of body-shaming stories by having Bliss, who is about 1/4 the size of Jax, control the offense for almost the entire match. They seriously agent them like they’re the same size. Then, after the match, Jax cuts a very inhuman sounding after school special about how the Raw Women’s Championship is for all the people who are bullied, and the crowd boos her. They literally boo a promo about how you shouldn’t bully.
It’s all a combination of the crowd being burned out by the first match, the second being booked so physically illogically — imagine if they’d had Rey Mysterio beating down Mark Henry for 10 minutes before Henry miraculously countered and pulled off an underdog victory — and the post-match promo being delivered by Stephanie McMahon warging into Nia. Pretty much everything after the opener can be summed up with, “huh, that was a bad call.”
A Match From Smackdown: This Match From Smackdown
At about this point in the show my major talking point was that these are the most difficult kinds of shows to write about, because they’re pretty good and the wrestling’s there, but nothing’s happening, and nothing means anything. That description has never been more fitting than Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton for the United States Championship, which plays out like somebody chose them in WWE 2K18 and made it CPU vs. CPU.
It’s perfectly fine pro wrestling from two long-time veterans who know what they’re doing, and unless you come into it with a deep connection to either of them, I can’t IMAGINE reacting to it. Randy Orton, as we’ve said many, many times, is probably the best and most complete wrestler ever born who is also horrible to watch have wrestling matches. Jeff’s going through the motions, which is still pretty impressive for a guy in his 40s doing (a couple of) high-flying moves, but it’s better than the shit he tried to do with Jinder. By the time you get to the finish, which is just signature moves, you’re like … “oh, that’s it? That’s all they’re gonna do?” And you aren’t like, upset about it, because the Randy Orton match is over, but you’re still like, “??”
Furthermore, I do not have anything else to type.
Worst: Big Cass Gets His “Heat” Back
Around Big Cass vs. Daniel Bryan is when you realize the show’s done.
You know you’re struggling as a professional wrestler when Daniel Bryan can’t get something good out of you. Almost the entire match is Cass slowly walking around the ring, slowly raising his arm over his head. That’s it. And yeah, you don’t expect a 7-footer to be an athletic dynamo, and yeah, the story is that he’s overconfident and it’s going to cost him, and yeah, Bryan’s the underdog and I JUST complained about the size differential in the Bliss/Jax match, but here are a few truths.
1. Daniel Bryan is Daniel Bryan and not a normal tiny wrestler
2. This is Cass’ first match back and Bryan’s first singles match, so ONE of them has to do SOMETHING
3. If you make the story that Cass is overconfident and the smaller but better-at-everything Bryan’s able to catch him on the ground and tap him out, maybe let us sit with that for like … a second? You don’t have to have Cass instantly get up, completely unharmed, and hit his moves to “get his heat back.” There was no heat to get in the first place. Brother is Siberia The Wrestler right now.
I think the worst part of all is that they advertise Daniel Bryan and The Miz as appearing on Talking Back (which is what they should’ve called it), but the “vicious” post-match attack of GLOW-style hair mares meant Bryan wasn’t MEDICALLY CLEARED TO SIT IN A CHAIR AND TALK. So not only is this Burgertime hot dog monster-looking motherfucker doing a sub-par Sycho Sid impersonation, he’s attacking the best wrestler in the world like Ninotchka would attack Americana, and it’s robbing us of the only reason we’d have to sit through the rest of the show.
Worst: It’s Jokes!
Right in the middle of the show we get this weirdly long comedy bit where Elias tries to sing a song and keeps getting interrupted until somebody beats him up. Oh, have you seen that one before?
Elias tries to play a song, but New Day interrupts him. He tries to play the song again, but Rusev Day interrupts him. He tries to play the song again, but No Way Jose and a conga line of guys who are probably never having a pay-per-view match again if the shows are co-branded interrupt him. He tries to play the song again, but he’s interrupted by Bobby Roode, who attacks him. You see, Elias beat him on Raw, so now he’s got WWE Babyface Clearance to sneak attack Elias over and over again as “revenge.” Then everyone dances!
Really the only part of this that worked for me is Rusev on Twitter saying “Bob Roode” twerks like a skunk.
They love to have fun, Corey!
Worst: This Right Here, This Is Carmella
It was a bad night for “knee tweaks.” Seth Rollins, Nia Jax, Jeff Hardy, Big Cass and Charlotte Flair all did some variation of the knee tweak as a transition, allowing their opponent to go on offense. Flair’s ended up being the finish of the match, which is kind of hilarious when you realize (1) Rollins has a notoriously bum knee, took tons of knee damage and still fought back but Charlotte hurts herself doing one offensive move and immediately dies, and (2) that Charlotte Flair seriously just ended Asuka’s nearly 1,000-day undefeated streak in the best match of a WrestleMania card in front of like 70,000 people and within a month she’s losing to someone who’s barely a professional wrestler via one leg kick and a roll-up. Maybe Asuka should’ve tried that?
I don’t think Carmella is hopeless as a wrestler — she’s the best of the group of three she hung with in NXT, which is almost a compliment — but she’s visibly terrified to take any offense. And not in the “playing a character” or “telling a story” way either. Like, she in real life looks like she’s afraid wrestling moves are going to hurt. That’s not a thing pro wrestlers should be doing, and it results in stuff like her selling a big boot a foot before it connects like she’s John Cena sleepwalking through a thing with the Undertaker.
Carmella’s social media presence, which is almost entirely chalking up all criticism to trolls, doesn’t help much. I guess we have to wait and see if something good can come of this run, and if that good thing is worth benching Becky Lynch, Naomi and Asuka and having Charlotte lose to a roll-up after doing a wrestling move to herself.
Worst: They’ve Successfully Made Us Not Want To See More AJ Styles Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura Matches
That’s such an insane thing to type.
But yeah, no, here we are. The match at WrestleMania was fine and then the ending came out of nowhere and disappointed everybody. So they have another match at the Greatest Royal Rumble that’s ALSO fine, and then does a super insulting double count-out finish. You’re like, “oh, that finish happened because they want to sell another match at Backlash.” And then Backlash happens, and what do we get? A fine match that starts to get pretty good, and then [elaborate magician gestures] disappoints everyone with a stupid finish.
They kick each other in the dick.
That’s the finish. To a no disqualification match. For the WWE Championship. Between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. On pay-per-view. In the third to last match on pay-per-view, behind a thrown-together tag match and a main event without anything on the line.
Is it time to just accept that AJ Styles WWE Championship matches without John Cena or Brock Lesnar in them are garbage? Because the series with Kevin Owens was full of stupid stuff like this, and we thought it was because of Shane McMahon. The matches with Kevin and Sami Zayn had the same excuse. He had a bunch of matches with Jinder Mahal, and we figured they were ass because of Jinder Mahal. But now he’s out here wrestling Nakamura — HEEL Nakamura, even — and it’s still not that good. Has the idea of AJ Styles surpassed the actual guy? My first reaction is, “what do you mean, of course not!” But then … everything else in the paragraph.
AJ Styles’ title run is best illustrated in this GIF of him throwing a chair at Nakamura’s knees to counter a Kinshasa and having it ricochet back into his face and bust him open. You think it’s gonna be cool, and then it super isn’t. I don’t know. I don’t know! All I know is that I don’t want to see any more of these matches, and that sucks. The only thing left to even hope for is that they blow off the feud at Great Balls of Fire, for the joke.
Worst: And Why Wouldn’t Styles Be Wearing A Standard Issue Athletic Supporter By Now
I mean, honestly.
And If All Of That Isn’t Enough To Bum You Out …
WWE follows up
- Nia Jax getting booed for saying people should be nice
- half of the mid-card being reduced to a conga line because there’s no room for them
- Big Cass beating up Daniel Bryan
- Daniel Bryan being announced for, then removed from a post-show bit with The Miz
- that awful Charlotte/Carmella finish
- a no DQ WWE Championship match ending as a no contest due to double dick-kicks
- that video of everybody singing
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens halfway turning on each over and over to set up Owens losing to Bobby Lashley via vertical suplex. Dude hits the former Universal Champion with a REGULAR SUPLEX and pins him. And if that’s not enough, they do a post-match non-stop attack where they bring Zayn and Owens back into the ring to hit signature moves on them. But none more devastating than the dreaded NORMAL SUPLEX!
Oh, and the show’s running long by now so a crowd that was expecting to leave before 11 realizes they’re gonna have to sit through 30 minutes of Roman Reigns pretending he’s not gonna just pin Samoa Joe. SOMEONE DID A GREAT JOB OF PUTTING THIS SHOW TOGETHER.
Worst: Beat The Traffic, Clap Clap ClapClapClap
That gives us the main event of the evening, a suddenly co-branded exhibition match for nothing built around a guy sending in condescending Instagram stories about how the other guy can’t beat a third guy who’s never actually on the show.
They start it off like it’s going to be exciting, with Joe putting Reigns through a table before the match even starts, but you quickly realize it’s a Damien Sandow situation. Somebody in the back just assumes Reigns would beat Joe 100 times out of 100, so they have to give him odds to overcome, so they, you know, break John Cena’s arm and do a Money in the Bank cash-in so you think he’ll definitely lose the championship to Sandow and then [trumpet fanfare] he still wins. That was this main.
They’re like a quarter-hour deep into a weird overrun and Joe’s got Reigns on the ground in a chinlock. Forever. The crowd chants “CM Punk,” “this is boring,” and “beat the traffic.” A lot of people just get up to leave, and you can see all the empty seats. The match goes for almost 18 minutes after the “devastating” pre-match attack, but it’s all to set up Reigns hitting a spear and winning. Winning nothing.
I don’t know who put this show together like this or why. Dave Meltzer is saying the show was “an experiment,” so I’ll skip the five dense closing paragraphs to say, “the experiment failed, let’s not do this experiment again.”
And that, somehow, is Backlash. If I had to describe it in two words, they’d be-
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
IC Champion Pdragon Dark
Dread it…run from it…destiny comes all the same…
The Real Birdman
I feel like Lashley would turn into 6 children if you yelled Shazam at him
If this were Lucha Underground, Bobby Lashley’s return would be explained by his being off the grid for the past decade, performing wetworks operations and toppling democratically elected governments, installing autocrats, including a new Guatemalan leader who is actually possessed by Cage’s demonic rival.
In WWE, he came back to entertain the fans!
Jushin Thunder Bieber
The title should really go to Tye Dillinger if both men fail to answer the 10 count.
It’s like the ending of Rocky II, but with shots to the dick.
I now have a strange new respect for Jinder Mahal’s championship reign.
Carmella championships: 1
Carmelo championships: 0
Can’t wait to read Brandon’s The Seth and Worst of Backlash article tomorrow.
I was spared by Thanos for this?
To Put It Another Way
This, for 4 1/2 hours.
The good news is that the awkward couple of pay-per-views compromised by the Superstar Shake-Up™ are over, and now we can (hopefully) go back to stories contained on the shows that build to matches with payoffs we might actually be interested to see. One of these days they’re gonna figure out they shouldn’t do the same match over and over for half a year at a time, but it is not this day.
Drop us a comment and share the column if you don’t mind, and thanks for reading as always. Be back here on Tuesday for the Best and Worst of Roman Reigns’ Raw promo about how he won this one match which means he’s number one contender to Brock Lesnar again.