World Wrestling Entertainment presented Backlash on Sunday night on WWE Network. It was the first major pay-per-view event since WrestleMania last month unless you want to count the Greatest Royal Rumble from two weeks ago, but that was more of a glorified house show rather than a traditional PPV.
Backlash ran for 3 hours and 28 minutes. It’s on WWE Network, so WWE doesn’t have to restrict their PPVs to three hours like they used to. They can go as long as they want. The problem is when you run that long, you run the risk of hurting the card because it’s tough for a crowd to be excited for every match.
Here are ten thoughts I had on the show that took place in the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
10. Seth Rollins and The Miz had the best match of the night by far
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) May 7, 2018
The opening match of the PPV was Seth Rollins defending the Intercontinental Title against The Miz. It was such an awesome match with Miz working over the knee of Rollins after Rollins hit the ring post going for a flying knee attack. Miz nearly won multiple times when he applied the Figure Four Leglock submission and when he hit his Skull Crushing Finale finisher two times. Rollins kicked out of the Skull Crushing Finale both times, which is rare to see in an opening match on a PPV card. The fans really bought them as believable finishes even though logically, Miz taking the IC Title with him to Smackdown (which already has the US Title) was unrealistic.
The crowd was into the whole match as well. Rollins has been performing at such a high level this year. While I wouldn’t say the announce team had a great night, they did put over Rollins very well by talking about how he finally looks completely healthy after dealing with multiple knee injuries in the last few years. That’s why Rollins can do stuff like a Frog Splash all the way across the ring and make that move look as well as anybody that’s ever done it.
Rollins eventually got the win after 21 minutes with The Stomp, which is a cool move that needs a much better name. I understand WWE not wanting to go with “The Curb Stomp” that was the original name, but The Stomp isn’t very interesting.
EXCLUSIVE: #ICChampion @WWERollins is proud to carry the workhorse title that was held by such greats as #PatPatterson, @ShawnMichaels, and even his #WWEBacklash opponent @mikethemiz! #ICTitle pic.twitter.com/sY4OfQgLbZ
— WWE (@WWE) May 7, 2018
As much as I like Rollins in a long match and carrying a title, he’s a guy that should be main eventing shows again. Wrestling in PPV openers is not where a guy at Rollins’ level should be. It’s time for WWE to back this man again and get him in the main event scene. If they don’t want to put the Universal Title on Roman Reigns (fine with me) then maybe it should be Rollins that beats Brock Lesnar, or perhaps Braun Strowman. I think Rollins should certainly be considered since the fans love the guy and they show.
The Miz has a fresh start on Smackdown without the IC Title on his show. I think he’ll probably settle into a summer feud with Daniel Bryan soon, leading to a big SummerSlam match between them.
9. Nia Jax beat Alexa Bliss in a match that went on too long
You shouldn’t concern yourself with bullies and people who want to put you down. But sometimes it just feels good to put them in their place. #AndStill #NotLikeMost #TheIrresistibleForce pic.twitter.com/N1LWTBs8Ry
— Lina Fanene (@NiaJaxWWE) May 7, 2018
It was painful watching Nia Jax, who is over 250 pounds, trying to sell the offense of Alexa Bliss, who is about 110 pounds at most. The WrestleMania match was better than this, but not by much. All this talk about the “women’s revolution” producing great matches isn’t true when these two wrestle.
I give the women credit for trying hard and some of the offense Bliss did looked good. There was a point where Bliss was trying to grab a headlock, it looked terrible and they just skipped it. The problem with the match also was that there wasn’t any point where you thought that Bliss might win, which meant that for ten minutes all I kept thinking is “can this match end?” It finally did when Jax dropped her with a Samoan Drop.
After the match was over, Jax delivered a heavily scripted promo (just judging by the dialogue) about how you should be true to who you are, stand up to bullies and of course she mentioned Be A Star, which is WWE’s anti-bullying program. That was followed up with Michael Cole reading lines about the anti-bullying campaign that WWE does. It comes off as so tacky when Jax is out there reciting lines and Cole’s continuing to deliver the message.
I’m not sure what the next plan is for Nia Jax as champion. Raw is seriously lacking in potential heel challengers unless they do the smart thing by turning Sasha Banks heel, which should have been done months ago. Who’s Jax going to wrestle? Ruby Riott? It’s not going to be good. Jax is a natural heel. Booking her as a face is a challenge and I don’t think WWE’s creative team is good enough to make it interesting.
8. Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton had a boring match in front of a crowd that didn’t care
— WWE (@WWE) May 7, 2018
I feel like it’s disrespectful for us fans to say that wrestlers are “going through the motions” in a match, but if any two guys were to have the most average match you can have for 12 minutes, that’s what Jeff and Randy did. The two veterans had a big rivalry for the WWE Championship ten years ago, so this was their first match in ten years. This match wasn’t close to as good as those matches were when they were in their primes. It’s not like either man is that old either.
The problem with this match, which I mentioned going into it, is that both guys are faces that the crowd likes, although neither man has really done anything of late to get the fans behind them. It’s as if the WWE creative team thinks that nothing needs to be done for them because they are legends, so the fans are going to cheer them anyway. Sorry WWE, but that’s not the way to think.
When I watched this match, the first thing that came to mind was how dead the crowd was. There just wasn’t a lot to the match from the spots they did to the build to the match. You can present better matches, WWE. This is not good enough.
7. Elias’ concert that was unnecessary filler on a show that was already too long
There was an Elias “concert” that took about twelve minutes. I timed it and to be perfectly honest, it felt like 20 minutes. Keep in mind that this show went 3.5 hours, yet here we are with WWE killing time with a bunch of midcarders that weren’t on the show.
I can understand why WWE wanted to do it because this segment got people like Elias, The New Day, No Way Jose, Titus O’Neil, Apollo Crews, Dana Brooke, and Bobby Roode on the show. Is this really the best use of time, though? At least the crowd reacted to it better than they did to most of the matches that led to the fans sitting on their hands in silence.
The whole point of the attack was to frustrate Elias because his concert was constantly being interrupted. It also furthered the story of Elias having an issue with Roode, who dropped Elias with a Glorious DDT. I would have rather seen a match than whatever you want to call this segment. It wasn’t that interesting to me.
6. Big Cass did not impress in a losing effort against Daniel Bryan
— WWE (@WWE) May 7, 2018
Daniel Bryan beat Big Cass in about eight minutes. It was not a good match, which is rare to say about a match that Bryan is in, but that’s the reality of the situation. Cass had a lot of pressure on him to deliver a good performance in the biggest singles match of his career and his showing was mediocre. I feel bad being critical of the guy that missed about seven months of action after a torn ACL, but that’s just how I see it.
Bryan was selling for most of the match. The offense of Cass didn’t impress me, though. All he really did were the most basic punches and kicks. You would think a guy at his size (he’s nearly seven feet tall legit) would have some power moves or something cool. Nope. It was so basic. Bryan made the comeback with the running dropkicks followed by the Yes Lock. Cass tapped out quickly.
After the match was over, Cass attacked Bryan and dropped him with a boot to the face. That went exactly as I predicted it because I knew Bryan was going to win while Cass would find a way to get his heat back. This is what I wrote before the show: “After the match is over, Cass will get his heat back by attacking Bryan with a big boot.” That’s what happened. You’re welcome.
I assume there will be another match due to the Cass attack. I hope if they do have that match that it’s planned out better and that Cass has a more impressive showing because his performance at Backlash was disappointing.
5. Carmella beating Charlotte Flair clean was the wrong decision
“Carmella screams too much!”
“Carmella is the ‘wrong’ kind of annoying!”
“Carmella can’t wrestle”
— Smackdown Womens Champion (@CarmellaWWE) May 7, 2018
I thought this was the worst match of the night. It’s probably the worst match of Charlotte’s career on the main roster as well. I’m not going to say it’s totally Carmella’s fault. It just came off as a really boring match. I wanted to like it, but Carmella’s offense consisted of boring rest holds that led to her screaming or talking trash a lot. It was so bad that the announcers would go silent because they were probably told to do so in order to let us hear Carmella’s yelling.
What bothered me the most was that Carmella won clean. Why? Because Carmella is the kind of chicken shit/cheap heel that should never win clean and always get help from others. By winning clean, it just exposed her as being a lesser in-ring performer than the other women.
The finish saw Charlotte go for a moonsault, Carmella moved out of the way, Charlotte grabbed at her right knee as if she was hurt from the landing and Carmella kicked the knee. Carmella rolled up Charlotte to win the match. What a lame finish. At least have Carmella hit a superkick or do something else.
Carmella should cheat to win every match she has. By winning clean, this also meant that Carmella beat the woman (Charlotte) that ended Asuka’s undefeated streak. This doesn’t make Asuka look good either. I’m fine with Carmella retaining, but I wish it was a cheaper win.
4. Styles vs. Nakamura III was a good match with a disappointing finish
— WWE (@WWE) May 7, 2018
This was the third high profile match with WWE Champion AJ Styles defending his title against Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura. Styles won at WrestleMania and after the match, Nakamura turned heel with a low blow punch. At the Greatest Royal Rumble event two weeks ago, they had a double countout finish. That set up this No Disqualification match.
It was a good match as usual from them, but they have yet to have the classic match that a lot of us have hoped for. Perhaps it is wrong for us to have such high hopes from them. I think they’re good enough to deliver on those expectations if only WWE could book a finish that was interesting.
— WWE (@WWE) May 7, 2018
They barely used weapons in this No DQ match even though all weapons were legal. It took Nakamura 15 minutes to bring a chair into it. There were plenty of low blows too with Nakamura and Styles each connecting with low blows. The finish saw Styles and Nakamura kick eachother in the groin at the exact same time. They both stayed down for a ten count, so the match ended in a draw since neither man could continue going. That finish is rare in WWE, so at least they opted to do something out of the ordinary for a change.
What a lame ending this was. It made you forget about all the good work they did for 20 minutes building up to it. The crowd hated it just like most of us watching did.
I’m assuming the plan will be to do a Last Man Standing match at Money in the Bank in June. Maybe Nakamura will finally get the title there, but I’m starting to think that WWE has lost faith him. It could be Samoa Joe that beats Styles for the WWE Title at some point later this year.
3. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens lost another meaningless tag team match
— WWE (@WWE) May 7, 2018
The big man team of Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley easily defeated the bickering best friend duo of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. It was a nothing match with no build to it. Two weeks ago on Raw they did the same match with Strowman and Lashley winning. Last week on Raw, they did a six man tag with four of these guys involved with Strowman and Lashley’s team winning again. At Backlash, it was another win for Strowman and Lashley.
What’s the point of this? I don’t have an answer other than WWE wanting to put Lashley over since he just returned to WWE last month. The finish of the match saw Lashley hit a delayed suplex on Owens even though Zayn was the legal man, which Michael Cole and Corey Graves pointed out. A delayed suplex can win a match now? That’s such a weak finisher.
I like all four guys, but this “rivalry” accomplished nothing except made us realize that Owens and Zayn moving to Raw was terrible for their careers because they have looked like fools since they got there. I figured Lashley and Strowman would win just because Strowman wins nearly every match he’s in. It just makes Owens and Zayn look bad, though.
Strowman or Rollins is the guy that should beat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title. Of course, I was writing that last year when the Reigns experiment was clearly failing. Speaking of that, let’s get to the main event.
2. The crowd turning on another Roman Reigns PPV match should lead to changes
— WWE (@WWE) May 7, 2018
Roman Reigns beat Samoa Joe in the main event match that went about 20 minutes. There were no titles on the line and no prize for the winner. It was just a match between two guys that have wrestled a bunch of times. It was also a bad match featuring way too many rest holds, with Joe holding Reigns on the mat leading to “boring” chants from the crowd.
The fans in the arena hated this match so much that they chanted random stuff during it including “beat the traffic.” There were several reports of people leaving early to beat the traffic because they had no interest win the match. Leaving early isn’t that uncommon after a really long show, but I guarantee you that if Rollins or Strowman were in this main event match those fans would likely stick around because they are wrestlers that most fans like. Reigns is not.
Reigns ended up winning with a Spear. It was an obvious result that was done to give Reigns some positive momentum after he failed to beat Brock Lesnar twice in the last month. The crowd hated it as much as they hated any Reigns match in the last few years. It’s funny how these fans were so hot earlier in the show, yet by the time we got to the main event you could almost hear them groaning when they realized they paid a lot of money to see this boring main event.
— Ryan Falcone (@RYANFALCONE) May 7, 2018
I feel like it’s something I have written many times before, but if WWE continues to refuse to turn Reigns into a heel then they are making a big mistake. The fans are rejecting the guy. Raw has plenty of viable top faces right now with guys like Strowman, Rollins, Balor and maybe Lashley if he became more popular. As a face, there just aren’t as many options for Reigns to wrestle.
Vince McMahon, WWE’s Chairman and CEO, wants Reigns to be his next Sammartino, Hogan, Austin, Rock, or Cena, but it’s been four years of this guy in WrestleMania main events and the fans are rejecting it more than ever. I’m not anti-Reigns at all. He works hard and I like him. I’m just a realist that listens to the people. That’s something Vince must do as well because turning Reigns into a top villain could be the best thing for him. Long term, it may make him more popular a few years from now as well.
1. Backlash was a very predictable show that will likely be WWE’s worst PPV of 2018
If you read my 10 Predictions for Backlash article, then you would know that I predicted seven of the matches right. You could say I got the eighth match right as well because I picked AJ Styles to retain the WWE Title, which he did in controversial fashion. The five title matches saw every champion retain, Roman Reigns beat Samoa Joe in the main event and there were no big moments in terms of storyline advancement.
It just felt like a regular wrestling show without much thought put into trying to do something creative. I was hoping there might be teases of a heel turn for some people or maybe some kind of surprising finish to a match that made us say “wow that was great.” Nope. It didn’t happen.
One final point about the predictability factor is I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if a show is predictable. I just want the action to be good and, in this case, a lot of Backlash was poor.
Backlash was forgettable (aside from Rollins vs. Miz) and will probably be the worst WWE PPV of the year. If they manage to do something worse than this, I’ll be very surprised. That’s not to say that all WWE PPVs are great. I’m just saying if I were to put a letter grade on this show it might be a D.
Most WWE PPVs are better than this and with the current roster that WWE has with a lot of incredible talent, they have no reason to book a show that is this bad. It’s up to the WWE creative team to be better at their jobs because Backlash wasn’t good enough.
That’s all for Backlash. If you missed it, watch Rollins vs. Miz for 20 minutes and just turn the show off after that. You really won’t miss a lot if you do. I don’t like being negative because I write about WWE for a living and ripping the product is not a fun way to spend my time. I’m just an honest guy that want the product tobe better because there’s so much talent in WWE right now and so many matches I want to see. I just hope there’s not another show as bad as Backlash any time soon.
The good news is that the next WWE PPV is Money in the Bank on June 17, which is usually a good show because it’s hard to mess up multiple ladder matches.