Backlash was the first SmackDown Live PPV since last month’s “Superstar Shake Up.” The Allstate Arena in Chicago hosted the nine match card. The two main pieces of business were Jinder Mahal vying for the WWE Championship and the WWE in-ring debut of Shinsuke Nakamura. Despite the slower pacing of the matches, was the blue brand able to deliver?
-Underwhelming Debut for the King of Strong Style
Shinsuke Nakamura versus Dolph Ziggler opened the show which was surprising at first considering the event was built around Nakamura’s debut. I thought it was going to go on last but I was wrong. As for the match itself, well, it was a missed opportunity to make Nakamura a star.
Most people expected a great match that was similar to Nakamura’s NXT debut last year. Instead, we got a slow paced match where Ziggler got most of the offense. I understand wanting to exhibit the resilience of a new character but having a difficulty beating someone who isn’t over in Ziggler made Nakamura came off as just another guy.
-Breezango Steals the Show
If I would have told you before the show that Breezango and The Usos would have match of the night, you’d laugh me off of the internet. Well, the fashion policing antics of Tyler Breeze and Fandango carried a hilarious affair against the SmackDown Tag Team Champions.
Breezango has gone from a forgotten to beloved. Tyler Breeze has adopted a “master of disguise” persona and dressed up as a janitor and then a grandma later on. At one point, The Usos took off Breeze’s dress, threw it, and it hit JBL square in the face.
Comedy was the name of the game here but the funniest moment of the match came when Jimmy Uso went up top for a frog splash, but Breeze rolled out of the way. Jimmy went to the opposite corner, and Breeze rolled out of the way again.
Things got serious near the finish and both teams pulled out all the stops. The end saw Fandango get pulled down from the top rope by Jimmy right into a superkick from Jey. As much as I wanted Breezango to win here, having them chase it for a few months will help them in the long run.
-The Face That Runs The Place vs. The New Face of America
Kevin Owens and AJ Styles put on an excellent match. It was probably the hardest match to predict since both men are over, especially AJ. Some believe that feuding for the U.S. Title is a demotion for these two. In reality, however, they are elevating the championship due to being two of the very best in the business.
The story of the match saw Owens work over the right leg of Styles. It’s rare to see someone work the right leg in a match since everything revolves around the left-hand side when working a match. Styles went for the phenomenal forearm but his leg gave out on the ropes. Owens tied up the leg on the bottom turnbuckle and did his running cannonball onto the injured leg.
Styles came back but his leg fell through the announcer’s table as he was about to deliver a Styles Clash. Owens got back into the ring, Styles couldn’t due to his knee, and was counted out. Great use of a count out here, which put more heat on Owens while being able to run it back on another show.
-Don’t Hinder Jinder
I predicted that Mahal was going to win the title. Simply giving Mahal the main event rub and having him lose would have done nothing for WWE’s marketing plans in India. Plus, Orton’s run as champion was devoid of anything remotely entertaining.
The booking here served two masters. The North American audience was told that Mahal was an underdog going into a title fight, which is true from a continuity perspective. Fans in India saw a superstar entering the building by limo and cut a promo that made him the conquering hero to be.
The match was nothing special, but it kept the fans interest as there were dueling Jinder chants. Orton jumped Mahal before the bell, which looked like a fiery babyface looking to strike back against a cheating heel. If you live in India, however, Orton was the heel attacking an unsuspecting Mahal.
Mahal worked over Orton’s shoulder but took most of the offense. The Singh Brothers stepped in front of Orton when he was about to put Mahal through a table. Again, duel booking. Heels sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong or concerned colleagues helping a wounded friend?
Orton gave both Singh Brothers a hangman DDT, and depending on your point of view, Mahal then either caught Orton off the distraction or scored a measure of revenge for his friends when he delivered the cobra clutch slam for the pin.
The 2017 edition of Backlash will ultimately be remembered for the being the night where Jinder Mahal won the WWE Title. Besides that, there was nothing to write home about. This is a shame considering how good of a show Backlash usually presents as well as the overwhelmingly positive response to the prior night’s NXT TakeOver show.
Quick Backlash Results:
Tye Dillinger over Aiden English
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Dolph Ziggler
The Usos def. Breezango to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Championships
Sami Zayn def. Baron Corbin
Natalya, Carmella and Tamina def. Naomi, Charlotte and Becky Lynch
Kevin Owens def. AJ Styles to retain the United States Championship
Luke Harper pinned Erick Rowan
Jinder Mahal def. Randy Orton to become the new WWE Champion