So. WWE Backlash 2017 was a weird show. Very weird, but ultimately accomplished what it needed to accomplish for the most part. And, I’m not even talking about the ending that “rocked the IWC to its core”. Let’s see what made WWE Backlash 2017 so bizarre.
WWE Backlash 2017 Recap – Kickoff Show
Well, it’s a main roster Kickoff Show. No WWE (Then. Now. Forever.) – which felt odd, but maybe they don’t do these for Kickoff Shows? I can’t honestly remember, but I made a note of it. Our panel is Renee Young, Booker T, and Peter Rosenberg. Dasha Fuentes is in the social media lounge and her guest is Sami Zayn.
Panel discussions are about what you’d expect, until women’s wrestling prodigy, James Ellsworth joins to discuss the women’s match. We get an extended exchange with Booker T who essentially demands to know if Ellsworth is banging Carmella (complete with hand gestures). A bit later on, Erick Rowan wanders in front of the camera and sits down, uninvited. After knocking over Renee’s can of Mt. Dew Kickstart and showing off some of his masks he leaves. He’s SmackDown Live’s answer to Raw’s “The Drifter”.
Also of note, we see “a door called Shinsuke Nakamura” and Kayla Braxton has an uneventful interview with Dolph Ziggler that added more talking (yay!) to a feud with way too little action.
The lone Kickoff Show match finally begins a little over half way through the hour. Aiden English comes out using his “Drama King” persona and sings himself to the ring. He’s about to do an “encore” when Dillinger’s music hits and he heads out. Dillinger is wearing his Flash Gordon PPV collar so sorry about that extra shot you had to take if you were playing the drinking game.
Match #1: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English
This one goes about how you’d expect. Dillinger goes over with the modified version of the Tye Breaker in just under ten minutes. Regardless of the outcome, it was good for both of these guys to get some extended in ring time since I can’t imagine them getting nine minutes on a SmackDown episode. I’m not 100% sold that English’s “Drama King” gimmick is going to work for him on the main roster, but it always felt like it had legs to it at NXT.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Dillinger going over was the right choice, but I’m glad this was a rather competitive match. Completely squashing English wouldn’t do much to rebuild his character post-Vaudevillains.
We close out with a video package on the WWE Championship match and it’s time now for the main show.
WWE Backlash 2017 Recap
“Don’t intercept this show illegally” disclaimer. WWE. Then. Now. Forever. Backlash opening video, pyro, and we’re live from Chicago. WWE was excited enough about the opening video that they uploaded it to YouTube. I’ve honestly already forgotten about it.
Ziggler is out first. Nakamura gets a chant from the crowd until the lights finally go out. Standard Nakamura entrance (no violinist or other out of the ordinary theatrics). Huge pop, still one of the best entrances in the game in its basic form.
Match #2: Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Okay. So, the positive thing here is that Nakamura wins and wins clean. I had a problem with just about everything else. Okay, I get the WWE pretending that AJ Styles hadn’t accomplished anything when he debuted. Don’t give New Japan or TNA that shine on your show. But, WWE does this weird thing with NXT now where they pretend their entire Raw & SmackDown viewing audience follows NXT, but then when someone like Nakamura debuts, they play it up like we’ve never seen him before. C’mon WWE, I watched an ENTIRE YEAR and a few months of Nakamura on YOUR NETWORK, that YOU OWN, on a show YOU PRODUCE. Which is it? “NXT is the biggest thing in wrestling” or “a two-time NXT champ is unproven in the ring”? Anyway, the match. I felt it was okay. A far, far cry from Nakamura’s epic debut at NXT against Zayn. Ziggler looked a little better than usual here, but therein lies the problem. The match went on way, way too long. It was the second longest match on the entire card and that should not have been. If they really think Nakamura is going to be a next-level Superstar on SmackDown he should have cut through Ziggler in five minutes – less than ten minutes, tops. Going almost sixteen minutes and having to struggle to beat someone like Ziggler just seemed wrong. But, hey, a Kinshasa and a win is still a Kinshasa and a win.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Nakamura going over bumped this up from “Thumbs Down” territory, but I have yet to enjoy much of how Nakamura has presented on the main roster. Hopefully, this doesn’t get a rematch because I’d be good never seeing this pairing again.
Meanwhile, AJ Styles is backstage getting ready for his U.S. Title match.
In case you missed it, the entire “Fashion Files – Fashionable Intent” episode airs. I normally hate re-runs, but I’ll allow this. Not only does it potentially expose more people to the brilliance that is Fashion Files, but it explains why Breeze is dressed the way he is for their entrance.
Sure enough, Breezango are out next and Breeze is in “undercover janitor” costuming. I kinda wish he came out in a “Day One Is H” sweatshirt and dressed up like a Uso to “go deep undercover”, but maybe I’m just jumping ahead to later in the first season of Fashion Files. The Usos are out in long pants and sweatshirts even though it is late May (hey, it was almost 100° F here while I was watching this match).
Match #3: The Usos (c) vs. Breezango (WWE SmackDown Live Tag Team Championship Match)
Usos retain, by way of a double-team behind the ref’s back, but wow this was a fun match. It’s in a tie with the U.S. Title Match for “Match of the Night” as far as I’m concerned – both for different reasons. It felt a lot like WWE was putting one toe in the water to see what Breezango are capable of. The match was strange because it was at times a comedy match and at other times a competitive tag match. Breeze is brilliant at being able to switch between the two modes. He works in the janitor outfit, and later changes into an old woman outfit – finally finishing the match in his standard Tyler Breeze gear. Great stuff. I also loved how each time Breeze changed outfits he seemed to completely recover from the damage he’d received prior. The Usos were excellent foils for this type of match and even though I really, really wanted Breezango to win here – the Usos retaining was probably the right choice. Either way, I haven’t been this entertained by a duo in WWE since the days of Edge and Christian, which is saying something.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – An incredibly fun match and I hope that Breezango losing doesn’t mean the end of the Fashion Files.
Up next, we get the Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin match. Zayn enters first, Corbin enters last. Surprisingly, no one is jumped during their entrance.
Match #4: Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
Going in I figured Corbin winning this was a no-brainer. That said, I wasn’t super into this match until the very end. It felt very “by numbers” and like Corbin would plod through and get another PPV victory. Hey, I actually like Corbin (sometimes I feel like I’m the only one) and I still felt this way about the match. And then, Zayn hits a Helluva Kick more out of nowhere than most RKOs and wins the match. Yeah, that woke me up (which was good because no 5-Hour Energy ads on PPVs). So, the implications for this are weird. Corbin seemed like a shoe-in for the Money in the Bank briefcase, but maybe that goes to Rusev now? Maybe WWE is tapping the brakes on Corbin a little? I suppose we shall see. Either way, it was definitely a welcome surprise to see Zayn go over on a PPV.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – The match itself did very little for me, but the ending was definitely exciting.
Next, since Rocket League is sponsoring the show, we see Xavier Woods’ UpUpDownDown channel playing the game. This includes Zack Ryder and Ember Moon, so I guess the WWE Disabled List gets tapped to play video games for Woods’ show?
Meanwhile, limos pull into the backstage area. The Singh Brothers get out of the first one and lay down a rug for Mahal to stand on as he exits the longer of the two vehicles. Dasha attempts to interview Mahal and he cuts his standard “evil foreigner” promo he’s been cutting since joining SmackDown Live. He says “hate” a bunch of times and vows to turn the hate into “goodness”.
James Ellsworth is out next to call the crowd “sausages” and introduce Carmella. She’s out, Tamina enters next, and Natalya enters last. I found it odd they’ve been entering together as a unit on TV but all entered separately tonight. It ended up meaning nothing.
Becky (w/ special mohawk PPV hair) is out first, followed by Charlotte, and the champ enters last.
Match #5: The Welcoming Committee (w/ James Ellsworth) vs. Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, & Naomi
This was definitely a confusing one. I didn’t expect a whole to happen here, and sure enough not a whole lot happened. The confusing part came at the finish – notably that it didn’t involve Naomi, Carmella, or Charlotte. It seemed like a given they’d use this to further the “Carmella has wins over Naomi” story OR to have Charlotte get one over on Carmella to set up a triple threat. Hell, even Charlotte taking a clean loss to make her more sympathetic as a babyface seemed plausible. So, imagine my surprise when Becky Lynch randomly taps out to a Sharpshooter from Natalya. I mean, I like Nattie enough and I’d love to see her hold another title before she retires, but I don’t necessarily see this getting us any closer to that happening. Much like the entire “Team PCB vs. Team BAD” junk when Becky, Sasha, and Charlotte all debuted – the WWE women’s division seems to be at its worst when they resort to faction-based warfare.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Average all of the way around. Nothing that happened progresses the show’s only women’s story line at all.
Post-match, surprisingly, no one turns on Becky Lynch.
U.S. Title time. AJ is out to a big face pop. Owens enters last, and make sure to not step on his face on the ramp LEDs while entering. Can’t get the Face of America dirty!
Match #6: Kevin Owens (c) vs. AJ Styles (WWE United States Championship Match)
Like I said above when talking about the Tag Team Championship match, this one was tied for my “Match of the Night”. The only thing that killed it was the incredibly awkward finish. After a twenty-one minute battle, we go out with AJ getting a count out loss as his foot is stuck in some cabling at the announce desk. Okay, weird. He got in that predicament by attempting to Styles Clash KO on the announce table and KO escaping – with AJ getting stuck in the process. The only thing I can fathom is that we’re getting a rematch at Money in the Bank between these two, since neither really need to be in the MitB match itself. Up until the clunky finish, this match fired on all cylinders and was as fun to watch as anything on TakeOver Saturday night. Kind of a rarity, since a main roster match rarely matches the level of the “developmental matches” the night before. But, I mean this IS Kevin Owens and AJ Styles we’re talking about so, well, you know.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Weird finish aside, this was about as great as you probably thought it would be when you saw “Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles” on the card.
Post-match, KO cheap shots AJ while he’s still stuck in the table. AJ ends up needing to be helped to the back by a trio of refs.
With little fanfare, Luke Harper is out next for the penultimate match on the card. Erick Rowan follows and isn’t using the clown gimmick he teased on Talking Smack or has been using at live events.
Match #7: Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan
OMG THEY LET SAMI ZAYN AND LUKE HARPER BOTH WIN PPV MATCHES ON THE SAME SHOW??!?!?!? Being a huge Harper mark, I feared the worst with the way Rowan has been highlighted since Tuesday night. Fortunately, Harper goes over with the Discus Clothesline in a relatively solid match. Harper is easily more agile than Rowan, so the match more played to his strengths and he looked as good as does when WWE decides to dust him off and actually have him work matches. I’m not sure where this is going, but I sure hope it means Harper is used more on SmackDown TV going forward.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – The match was nothing too special but they remembered Luke Harper and had him go over, I can’t ask for much more.
Main event time! Mahal is out first with the Singh Brothers and they’re color coordinated in sea green and black outfits. Love it. Orton (w/ sperm snake ramp graphic) enters last. In true WWE babyface fashion, Orton attacks Mahal before the bell.
Match #8: Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal (w/ the Singh Brothers) (WWE Championship Match)
JinderMania ran wild and it was as glorious as Bobby Roode’s entrance music. Over the course of the week, I turned the corner on this match. Largely because I began to realize how lackluster this Orton run has been. From the “face turn” on Bray Wyatt, this run of Orton’s has been on a steep downhill slide – from the WrestleMania match, to the House of Horrors… just not good. But, I’ll give Orton credit. He brought his “A” game for this match and didn’t just phone it in. He even sold, a lot, for Jinder which really added a dimension to this match I was not expecting to see. I figured we’d just get “Randy is losing so he’s going through the motions” but to Orton’s credit that was not what we got at all. Also, the Singh Brothers get a nod for taking some insane table bumps towards the end of the match (that even made Orton cringe after he did the spot). Sure enough, Orton tried to fly too close to the sun by double “Vintage Orton”-ing the Singh Brothers which gave Mahal time to recover on the outside to hit the Khallas and become the new WWE Champion.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – Jinder may not be my top pick for this title, but he’s something different and plays into the “land of opportunity” motto that SmackDown has run with since the split. Whatcha gonna do, when JinderMania runs wild on you???!?!?!?
Post-match, we see a bunch of shocked faces in the crowd. Wrestling Twitter goes into a complete meltdown at this point with people losing their minds that Jinder Mahal is champion. Meanwhile, the planet keeps spinning and no one died (the Singh Brothers checked in on Twitter after the show and said they were okay)… so yeah, it happened guys. I, for one, welcome our new, veiny overlord!
Wow, I have to say this is the first time in a LONG TIME that the Sunday PPV after a TakeOver didn’t feel like an absolute let down. Sure, this show was odd and had some questionable moments, but I’m definitely interested to see where things go as we head towards Money in the Bank in June.