By Jason Powell
WWE Backlash 2017
Aired live on WWE Network and pay-per-view
Chicago, Illinois at Allstate Arena
A video package opened the show and focussed on the show’s top matches… The broadcast team of Tom “Face Love” Phillips, JBL, and Byron Saxton checked in on commentary from ringside. The ring announcer was Greg Hamilton…
1. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler. After Ziggler was introduced, the crowd chanted for Nakamura, who then made his entrance. Ziggler went to ringside and acted like he was checking his watch and then felt his pulse. The crowd chanted for Nakamura again before the bell. JBL noted that Nakamura was a three-time “IWGP Champion” and then added, “But this is the big time.”
Nakamura ended up on his back and threw a kick at Ziggler, who dodged a standing kick. Ziggler backed Nakamura into the corner and then slapped him. Nakamura came back with a couple of knees to the gut. JBL compared Nakamura to Samoa Joe and said he’s been a champion everywhere he’s been, but he said it’s a new ballgame now. Nakamura chased him to ringside and then caught him with a kick and neckbreaker through the ropes as they returned to the ring. Ziggler applied a chinlock.
Powell’s POV: Save something for the Randy Orton match, Ziggler!
Ziggler caught Nakamura with a dropkick for a two count at 5:35. Ziggler backed Nakamura into the corner and held his hair while asking if he saw him. Nakamura came back with a knee. Ziggler ducked a kick, but Nakamura spun through and caught him with a second kick attempt. Nakamura threw punches at Ziggler and knocked him down with a knee. Nakamura followed up with a running knee in the corner.
Nakamura placed Ziggler on the top rope and threw another knee to the gut and then covered him in the middle of the ring for a two count. Ziggler rolled up Nakamura, who countered into a triangle, but Ziggler reached the ropes. Ziggler performed a DDT for a two count at 9:40. Nakamura caught Ziggler with another knee. Ziggler rolled him up for a two count and then hit the Fameasser for a near fall at 10:20.
Nakamura sold shoulder pain. Ziggler got to his feet and looked to the crowd and got some boos. Ziggler tuned up the band. Nakamura blocked the superkick, but Ziggler performed the Zigzag and covered him for another near fall. Ziggler set up for what appeared to be a piledriver, but Nakamura escaped and connected with a knee and then a kick. Nakamura went for an overhead suplex, but Ziggler landed on his feet and superkicked Nakamura. Ziggler covered him for a two count at 13:20.
Ziggler threw kicks to the side of Nakamura. JBL said Nakamura was doing everything he could to survive as he caught a Ziggler kick. Ziggler spat in the face of Nakamura, who fired up and threw more knees at Ziggler. Nakamura threw a knee to the side of Ziggler’s head and then went for his finisher from the ropes. Ziggler avoided it. Nakamura avoided a superkick from Ziggler, punched the back of his head, performed an inverted exploder suplex, and hit the Kinshasa for the win…
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Dolph Ziggler in 15:50.
Powell’s POV: Too competitive for Nakamura’s debut match for my taste. I was hoping to see Nakamura established with more of a dominant victory. Instead, he sold more than he was on the offensive for a guy who has spent the majority of his career selling throughout his matches. That said, they can always give Nakamura a more dominant win in his regular television debut, so I don’t think any harm was done either.
The third installment of the Fashion Files with Tyler Breeze and Fandango aired…
2. Jimmy and Jey Uso vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango for the Smackdown Tag Titles. Breeze dressed like a janitor just as he did in the Fashion Files skit that aired. Phillips acted like this was hilarious. Breeze remained in the outfit and was mopping the ring apron as the match started. Most of the fans were quiet, but there were some adult males who fired up when Fandango tagged in Breeze. A loud “mop” chant started when Breeze entered the ring. Breeze tripped Jey with the mop and then mopped his face with it.
Jey came right back and broke the mop for some boos. Jey went up top. Breeze rolled over. Jey went to the other corner. Rinse and repeat with Breeze rolling away. Breeze caught Jey with a kick and got a two count before Fandango tagged in. Breeze was knocked off the apron. When he stood up, he was dressed like an old woman and had a cane. The fans chanted “Let’s Go Grandma.”
Jimmy Uso kicked the cane away to boos. Breeze dropkicked him and then lifted up his dress (he had his usual ring gear underneath). Breeze performed a Bronco Buster and held up his arms and was cheered. Jimmy ripped off the dress and tossed it at JBL, who quipped that the last time that happened to him he paid for it. Funny.
At 7:05, Fandango performed a tornado DDT from the middle rope for a two count that some fans counted along with. Breeze tagged in as himself. The Usos put their own spin on the Demolition finisher and showed frustration when they didn’t get a three count. Breeze came back with the Unprettier on Jey and the fans counted along with another near fall.
The Usos tossed Breeze into the barricade and he went over the top of it. The Usos reached out to pull him back. Fandango dove over the top rope onto the Usos. Fandango went up top, but JImmy grabbed his foot from ringside, and Jey caught him with a superkick and pinned him. Saxton said the Usos were heavy favorites, but they merely survived this match…
The Usos defeated Tyler Breeze and Fandango in 9:15 to retain the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: The comedy did nothing for me, but the live crowd seemed to enjoy it. To each his own, I guess. Breeze’s antics were over enough that I suspect we haven’t seen the last of the Breezango comedy. Meanwhile, whatever happened to American Alpha?
A WWE Network commercial aired… Saxon had Breeze’s dress and said he thought it was JBL’s size. Phillips told him it was no laughing matter because of the upcoming match. Footage aired of Baron Corbin attacking Sami Zayn on the interview set on last week’s show…
3. Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn. In between the entrances, various foreign broadcast teams checked in. Zayn received a nice reaction, while the crowd was flat for Corbin. Sami got out to the fast start, then went into selling mode. The fans sang the Ole song after Corbin performed a spinebuster. Corbin barked at Zayn to stay down. Corbin played to the crowd and got good heat.
Zayn tried to pull himself up while Corbin gloated. Corbin ran the ropes and ran into a clothesline from Zayn, who followed up with another clothesline. Corbin performed a cross body block off the ropes for a two count. Zayn sold his back as he stood up. Zayn tossed Corbin aside. Corbin slid under the ropes, raced back inside the ring, turned Zayn inside out with a clothesline, and then covered him for a near fall.
Corbin performed a chokeslam into a backbreaker on Zayn and got another two count. Zayn performed a sunset flip powerbomb for a two count at 12:00. Zayn sold his back injury. Corbin blocked a toarnado DDT and then an exploder suplex. Corbin came back with a near fall and then showed frustration over Zayn kicking out. JBL said he didn’t know how Zayn was still in the match. Zayn caught Corbin with a Helluva Kick and pinned him clean…
Sami Zayn pinned Baron Corbin in 14:35.
Powell’s POV: That would have been so much better if Zayn had acted neurotic. Yes, that’s sarcasm. A good outing for both men. The broadcast team laid it on thick when it came to how dominant Corbin was. JBL even claimed afterward that he dominated 99 percent of the match. Zayn played the underdog role, but the match just wasn’t as one sided as the broadcast team made it out to be.
Footage aired of Xavier Woods playing the Rocket League (sponsor) game with Ember Moon and others…
A truck and a limo were shown arriving backstage. The Singh Brothers exited the tuck and rolled out a carpet next to the door of the limo, and then Jinder Mahal got out to loud boos. Dasha Fuentes welcomes him to Chicago. Jinder said Chicago and America are full of haters. He said people take one look at him and they hate him for who they think he is and because of the way he looks and the way that he talks. He said he would take the hatred and turn it into goodness. The fans started giving him the “What?” treatment. He said he would take a universe of doubters and discriminators and turn them into believers…
Powell’s POV: Good delivery and confidence from Mahal. This was much better than we heard from him on Smackdown leading up to the match.
James Ellsworth stood in the ring and introduced himself as the Michael Jordan of sports entertainment and the epitome of masculinity. Ellsworth introduced Carmella and then ring entrances for the six-woman tag match took place…
4. Charlotte, Naomi, and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Tamina, and Carmella (w/James Ellsworth). Lynch, whose hairstyle made her look like an extra from a Mad Max film, started the match with Tamina. The heel trio ended up isolating Charlotte early on. Naomi took the tag from Charlotte and threw her rapid fire kicks at Carmella. Tamina provided a distraction that allowed Carmella to take Naomi down. Naomi ended up being isolated. Naomi leaped for a tag to Lynch at 7:00, but Carmella pulled Lynch off the apron.
Lynch took the hot tag at 8:00 and worked over all three opponents. Lynch performed an exploder suplex on Natalya and followed up with a forearm for a two count. Lynch went to the ropes, but Tamina distracted her. Natalya got Lynch down and set up for her finisher, but Lynch countered into her own finisher. The other heels ran in and Lynch’s partners ran in to fight them off. Natalya took Lynch down off a Tamina distraction and applied the Sharpshooter for the win…
Natalya, Tamina, and Carmella defeated Charlotte, Naomi, and Becky Lynch in 10:05.
Powell’s POV: A solid match, yet it was disappointing in terms of storyline development. There was no drama in terms of where Charlotte really stood. And perhaps the heels needed to win to set up wherever they are going with Charlotte, but it still felt like they could have been more creative in terms of her role in the match. That said, the heel trio really needed a win if they intend to go further with this feud.
After some advertising, the broadcast team set up a video package for the U.S. Title match (meaning the WWE Championship match will be closing the show)…
5. Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles for the U.S. Championship. The broadcast team acknowledged the storyline knee injury that Styles suffered on Smackdown. Phillips said they spoke with him earlier and he said his knee was fine. JBL was skeptical. Phillips acted like the Kickoff Show crew stating that this match could steal the show was insightful commentary.
Styles threw a great dropkick at 3:25. There were dueling chants with the Styles chants winning out. Owens came back with a DDT for a two count at 6:35. Owens followed up with three sentons for another two count. At 9:30, Owens avoided Styles setting up for the Styles Clash. Owens avoided it, but Styles came right back with a slam onto his knee for a two count. Styles came up holding the knee.
Owens avoided a springboard move and superkicked Styles. Owens performed a quick package style neckbreaker for a two count. Owens targeted the right knee and slammed in into the post. He also performed a cannonball on it before applying a single leg crab at 13:15. Owens came up the hold and then applied an ankle lock. Styles reached the ropes to break the hold.
Owens took Styles to the ropes and put him up on his shoulder while standing on the middle rope. Styles slipped free and turned it into a powerbomb. Styles sold his knee while waiting to perform the Phenomenal Forearm. When Styles went for the springboard, he collapsed. Owens took advantage and performed a DDT for a two count. Owens slapped Styles and told him that he is the face of America. Styles responded with a Pele Kick.
Styles took Owens to the ropes. Owens gained position and performed a suplex for another two count. At 19:00, Styles suplexed Owens on the ring apron. Styles ended up performing a flying forearm off the barricade by the timekeepers area. Styles set up for a Styles Clash on one of the broadcast tables. Owens escaped and Styles foot and leg went into one of the holes in the table. Styles was unable to free himself and was counted out. Afterward, Styles was still caught in the table. Owens walked over and delivered a cheap shot in the form of a kick to the back of AJ’s head. Two referees helped Styles to the back as he sold the knee injury…
Kevin Owens defeated AJ Styles via count-out in 21:10 to retain the U.S. Championship.
Powell’s POV: A creative count-out finish, but certainly not a crowd pleasing one. I guess we know now why this match didn’t close the show. The match was entertaining and it’s hard to blame the fans for believing that it was building up to a better finish. At the same time, it wasn’t time for a title change, and Owens going over clean on AJ didn’t feel right either, though in retrospect perhaps that would have worked better given that AJ’s knee gave him an out. By the way, I like that the belt shot that Owens delivered to the knee of Styles was carried over to this match.
The broadcast team hyped the Talking Smack Backlash edition for later tonight with Renee Young, Peter Rosenberg, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Tye Dillinger…
6. Erick Rowan vs. Luke Harper. Harper came out to a flat reaction. Rowan came out to his terrible theme song to the sound of one guy clapping while leaning against the barricade. Footage aired of Rowan stating on Talking Smack that Harper needs further punishment for leaving the Wyatt Family. “To be a fly on the wall of Erick Rowan’s brain,” Phillips said. One of his partners questioned if brains have walls.
Rowan controlled the majority of the offense during the first four minutes and got a two count off a clothesline. Rowan went to the top rope. Harper avoided his splash attempt. Rowan reached for his mask. Harper stood on his arm. Rowan got free and rolled to ringside. Harper followed him and roughed him up in front of the broadcast table. Harper went back to the ring and played to the crowd before performing a suicide dive.
Harper rolled Rowan back inside the ring and performed a senton over the ropes and a big boot for a two count at 5:45. Harper performed a Sidewalk Slam for a two count. Rowan came back with a spinning kick and a powerbomb for a two count. Harper remained on the mat and the ref checked on him while Rowan gloated. Harper took Rowan down with a pin attempt for a two count. They traded punches and chops.
Rowan went for a powerbomb, but Harper rolled out of it and connected with a superkick. Rowan looked at his mask and stood up and ate another kick. Rowan looked at the mask on the steps again and fired himself up and ended up running into a discus forearm before being pinned…
Luke Harper pinned Erick Rowan in 9:00.
Powell’s POV: They tried hard and threw some stiff shots at one another, but there is nothing to latch onto from a character standpoint. Rowan seems to be getting some extra attention with his Talking Smack appearance and his antics on the Kickoff Show, but Harper is just a guy who was with Bray Wyatt and nothing more at this point.
A WWE Hero video aired… A video package set up the WWE Championship match…
7. Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal (w/The Singh Brothers) for the WWE Championship. Hamilton delivered the in-ring introductions for the title match. Jinder was introduced. Orton was being introduced as Mahal was talking to the Singh Brothers. Orton attacked Mahal from behind and roughed him up at ringside. The broadcast team stressed that the match was no underway.
Back inside the ring, the referee checked with Mahal, who was seething in a corner before the bell rang to start the match. Mahal avoided an early RKO attempt and rolled to ringside. Orton followed and clotheslined him. Mahal pulled Orton shoulder first into the side of the ring. Once they were back inside the ring, there were actually “Let’s Go Jinder” and “Jinder Sucks” chants that sounded equal in volume.
Orton and Mahal ended up back at ringside. Orton picked up Mahal out of a headlock and dropped him on a broadcast table. Orton brought Mahal back inside the ring, but Mahal caught Orton entering and put the boots to him.
At 9:00, Mahal went to the top rope and was crotched by Orton. The crowd was pretty quiet at this point. Orton superplexed Mahal. They got up and traded shots. Mahal wrenched the shoulder of Orton, who came right back with a powerslam and then went right back to selling the shoulder. Orton tossed Mahal over his head “with a fallaway slam of sorts.” Orton covered Mahal for two, and JBL said he couldn’t use the bad arm to hook the leg.
Mahal performed a neckbreaker for a two count. Orton performed the sidewinder backbreaker. Orton followed that with a hanging DDT from the middle rope. Orton teased the RKO, so Mahal rolled to ringside. Orton followed him and the Singh Brothers started bickering at him. Orton slapped one, kicked the other, and tossed them both around a bit before Mahal recovered and ran Orton’s bad shoulder into the post twice.
Mahal tossed Orton back inside the ring and followed him. Mahal walked into an RKO. Orton sold the shoulder. The Singh Brothers pulled Mahal to the floor. Orton went to ringside and tossed one Singh over a broadcast table and dropped the the other on a different table. Orton picked up the first Singh brother and dropped him recklessly onto a broadcast table and then made a facial that perhaps showed regret or concern. Orton brought one of the Singhs into the ring and the other followed. Orton gave them simultaneous hanging DDTs. Mahal grabbed Orton from behind and hit him with the Cravate (Cobra Clutch Slam) and pinned him…
Jinder Mahal pinned Randy Orton in 15:45 to win the WWE Championship.
After the match, Mahal posed with the title belt while JBL put it over as dreams coming true and hell freezing over. They showed crowd shots of a sad kid and a surprised adult male. Mahal entered the crowd and stood on the production table and posed with the title belt. Saxton questioned what it meant for Smackdown Live. JBL questioned what it means for WWE. “Jinder Mahal has shocked the world,” Saxton said. Mahal returned to the ring and posed with the title belt to end the show…
Powell’s POV: An entertaining main event. Sure, the middle section of the match was a little slow, but they got things off to a good start with the attack by Orton, and the closing minutes were strong. This is sure to be a very polarizing move with some fans endorsing the idea of a shakeup with others shaking their heads at Mahal holding the championship. I can’t say it does much for me, but I must admit that I feel better about it coming out of the match than I did with the idea prior to the show. It will be interesting to see if WWE is all in on this or if Jinder is a transitional champion. I will talk about that more tonight with Jake Barnett in our member exclusive audio review. Plus, Will Pruett and I will be hosting Prowrestling.net Live on Monday at 3CT/4ET at PWAudio.net, so feel free to call in and let us know your feelings on the title change.