WWE Backlash 2017
May 21 2017
We’re in Chicago, Illinois. Hosts are Ragin’ Tom Philips, JBL and Byron Saxton. As if Philips has just dropped into Mauro’s spot, trying to do the same calls but looking more photogenic.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
It’s astonishing to me how WWE have managed to cool off someone as naturally entertaining as Nakamura. Although I’m willing to admit that Nakamura sometimes doesn’t help his own cause by sleepwalking through perceived unimportant matches. This isn’t just any old match though, it’s his main roster debut and cast your mind back to his NXT debut when he and Sami Zayn tore the house down.
Not only that Ziggler needs to remind people why he was once rated at the world title level. Nakamura’s personality oozes forth and the crowd seem, at least temporarily, enchanted. The match takes a while to warm up, which is possibly the guys seeing if they can get responses without doing anything. It’s usually worthwhile to do a temp check on the crowd by starting slowly.
When it does get a bit frisky they go into big spots with kick-outs. Nakamura looks solid but he doesn’t share the chemistry with Dolph that he had with Sami Zayn. Nakamura’s theatrics occasionally look strange, even for him and especially when he’s selling. He’s far more entertaining on offence where his strangeness and odd angles of approach make more sense. Ziggler eats Kinshasa and Shinsuke picks up a debut win. This wasn’t a patch on Nakamura-Zayn, partially due to the crowd being less hyped up and partially because the match wasn’t as good.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Video Control gives us a flashback to Smackdown Live where Breezango continued their investigations into fashion faux-pas. The Fashion Files is the best ‘WWE style’ series of skits WWE have done in some time. It helps that Fandango plays an excellent moron and both of them are tremendous at their jobs.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. The Fashion Police
Tyler is still ‘undercover’ as a janitor and mops his way into the ring. JBL claims the Usos are the best tag team of the last “half a decade”. They’re not even the best tag team in the ring, mate. Tyler Breeze turns out to be exceptional at prop-use, turning a mopping janitorial gimmick into instant pops. Who knew Tyler was such an outstanding babyface. His ‘rolling out the way of a dive’ work is incendiary stuff. And he’s not done! He switches from janitor to little old lady to chants of “let’s go Grandma”. Tyler Breeze, ladies and gents, pro wrestling genius. The whole atmosphere during this match is so playful, it’s wonderful. The Fashion Police have arrived. Long may they remain. I’m almost sad when Tyler stops fucking around and an actual match breaks out. The Usos win by cheating but the real winners here were the Fashion Police. They were so entertaining.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
This is a fairly straightforward and well-utilised style of match; the big guy versus the underdog (from the underground). An issue Corbin suffers from on the main roster is not having a massive amount of size, comparatively. He has a few cool looking moves (Deep Six and especially End of Days) and is very capable at the banter. However anyone that uses a bearhug worries me with their lack of creativity. Maybe he’s been listening to Rip Rogers. Just grab a hold, kid! Yeah…and bore the audience. That’ll work fine. Sami tries hard to make the match engaging, mainly by pretending to be knocked loopy by the abuse. The match is far, far better when Sami takes it to Corbin, instead of absorbing abuse, and when it’s competitive the match is passable. I know I’ve recently stated that monsters should dominate but Corbin doesn’t feel like a monster to me. The result is a patchy match that occasionally wows me but spends too long plodding in between. Corbin gets caught cold with the Helluva Kick for the win, in an upset.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control takes us to Xavier Woods and some other nerds playing Rocket League.
Elsewhere the Bollywood Boyz prep for the arrival of Jinder Mahal, future WWE World Champion, by rolling out the, uh, rug. The crowd start to chant “CM Punk”, which is worrying news for the main event. They also yell “what”, like a pack of utter pricks.
The Welcoming Committee (Natalya Neidhart, Tamina Snuka & Carmella) vs. Charlotte, Becky Lynch & Naomi
Becky has used an entire can of hairspray on a new look. Somehow no one mentions it. Look at that thing! Imagine turning up for your 9-5 sporting that barnet and not getting a few complements at the very least.
The heels work heat, which is fine as long as Natalya is involved and awful when she’s not. Seriously though, the heels are supposed to lead the match. Having inexperienced wrestlers work heel is not going to help your match structure. Although, there’s no way you could get Chicago to cheer for Carmella or Tamina. The match, again, is better when they’re just blowing through back and forth attempts to win. Which culminates in Becky and her new hair tapping out to the Sharpshooter. Why must they continually re-invent Becky Lynch and change her persona and then job her out immediately. This was mostly shit to be honest.
Final Rating: **
WWE United States Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. AJ Styles
This is the ‘workrate’ main event. They both have similar lives from before WWE, grinding away at the Indies. The difference being AJ’s New Japan main events and TNA background, which got him catapulted right into the main roster and main events ahead of the re-named Kevin Steen. The crowd are definitely split between the two but mainly because the rowdy Chicago natives like both guys. That’s often an issue in wrestling, where a fanbase loves both guys and finds it hard to cheer or boo because of it. Owens works heel enough for the crowd to side against him but not in massive numbers, even when he grabs a chinlock. It’s quite a deliberate ploy but it’s quite tedious. AJ is quite good at knowing when to change the pace and force KO to work at a quicker tempo. The good news is that the crowd bite on everything they do, thanks to a strong record beforehand. That and it’s Chicago; a fantastic wrestling crowd. Just as everything starts to click Owens turns it into a leg match.
AJ Styles does wonderful work from a defensive perspective, at one point falling off the ropes while attempting the Phenomenal Forearm. In a world where selling is largely underdone it’s nice to see someone like AJ, who’s had previous issues with selling, to bring it back. Any time you sell something it makes that something meaningful. Oh no, I’m starting to sound like Rip Rogers. Speaking of selling; Owens does a cracking job of putting over a suplex on the apron (IT’S THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING). You know, as a fan, that’s he’s in fucking agony because of that spot. So you’ve got AJ on one leg and Owens struggling to move. The finish sees AJ get stuck, with his injured leg, in the announce table and counted out. It’s an unfortunate ending to a solid contest.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Luke Harper vs. Erik Rowan
Rowan is a touch irritated that Luke left the “family”. That’s the basis for them fighting…again. The major issue with them fighting is that I have to watch an Erik Rowan match. The crowd is ever so slightly disinterested and the whole match sits in the ‘cool down’ spot before the main event. It’s a pity the whole thing doesn’t exist to get Harper over by basically just hitting all his spots one after another. Let’s face it, Rowan is dead. He just hasn’t noticed he’s stopped breathing yet. When Harper starts firing off his spots Erik goes to his new mask for inspiration and Harper hits him with the discus lariat for the pin. That mask worked real well, huh?
Final Rating: *1/4
Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal
This is one of the most WWE matches, ever. The red, white and blue chipper versus the evil foreigner and his dancing cohorts.
The crowd end up getting into the match because they hate Orton as champion. They hate him so much they’d rather see Jinder Mahal win the belt. When they started this feud off it felt like a total placeholder because Smackdown has no strength in depth and now we’re here it’s 50-50 as to whether WWE will pull the trigger and put the WWE title on Jinder Mahal, mainly in order to sell more tickets in India. Orton meets the threat (and my threat I mean rest holds) by trying to shoot injure Jinder on the announce table spot. When that doesn’t work he murders one of the Bollywood Boyz instead.
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) May 22, 2017
The Chicago crowd alternate between cheering Jinder Mahal, to be ironic, and cheering for CM Punk, because it’s Chicago. Generally there is an air of apathy in between the chanting, suggesting the crowd did not want to witness this main event. It’s certainly a chore to sit through and it runs way too long. The basis of the psychology comes from Orton having a bad shoulder, worked on constantly during the match, and it prevents him from winning the match. Specifically because he hits the RKO and then can’t get the pin because he’s injured. The Singh Boys die by Orton’s hand but Jinder hits him from behind with the Cobra Clutch Slam for the pin and the crowd is like…
Final Rating: *3/4
Backlash was a filler PPV on paper. They went with the wild decision to switch the title, which I’m largely indifferent about. I don’t think Jinder Mahal is particularly useful as a main event but if it sells some tickets then that’s cool. Likewise I wasn’t bothered about Orton as champion either. So I was already in a position where I wasn’t bothered about the outcome. Some people got seriously angry about it. I’m glad they have that passion for wrestling. Based on the way this show was put together there wasn’t a great deal of passion involved in constructing this particular PPV. The builds weren’t great and the matches were ok. Laugh at the marks gaping open-mouthed response to Jinder’s victory and check out a few of the more highly rated matches and you’re good to skip a lot here. My personal preference would be for more Fashion Police.