By Jason Powell
WWE Backlash Hits
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship: I feel better about Mahal winning the WWE Championship than I thought I would. Jinder delivered a good backstage promo earlier in the show that was better than any of his mic work on Smackdown. The actual match was dramatic with believable and suspenseful late near falls. The Singh Brothers added to it by bumping around for Orton, including one of them taking a nasty head first bump on a broadcast table. There’s no telling how Mahal’s title reign will go, but it clicked on this night and the broadcast team and production crew did a good job of making it feel like the shocker that it was.
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles for the U.S. Championship: A well worked match. The finish seemed to leave the live crowd more frustrated with WWE than upset with Owens or feeling sympathetic for Styles. It was a cheap yet creative finish that occurred at the right point of the feud in that it set up the need for a rematch. Plus, Owens is good enough on the mic to turn this finish into heat for himself. I just hope creative does something to convince viewers that Styles actually cares about the U.S. Championship before they get to the rematch.
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English: A good night for English as he turned his hometown crowd against him and had a solid show opening match performance. The throwback to his NXT singing gimmick combined with the addition of his character being overly emotional makes for a nice and easily recognizable undercard gimmick. I enjoy English’s gimmick more than Dillinger’s single note “10” gimmick.
Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn: The story in the ring didn’t mesh with the broadcast team telling us that Corbin dominated 99 percent of match. Granted, Zayn worked his usual underdog style, but it was not nearly as lopsided as the broadcast team implied. Zayn getting the win was a surprise, but I suspect we’ll see Corbin get his revenge on television. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Zayn’s night was that there were no signs of him playing the neurotic character that has been teased on Raw and Smackdown.
WWE Backlash Misses
Overall show: The main event made the night feel relevant. And while there were some decent moments on the show, it was my least favorite of the three WWE Network specials that aired over the weekend. The NXT show was terrific and the UK Championship Special was also a lot of fun.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler: After weeks of hype and buildup, casual viewers who were unfamiliar with Nakamura had to be left wondering what’s so special about a guy who struggled to defeat Ziggler in a nearly 15-minute match. This felt like it should have been an offensive showcase for Nakamura. Instead, he spent more time selling for a guy who typically spends most of his own match time selling for opponents. The match quality was solid, but this wasn’t the type of match that would leave a casual fan feeling like Nakamura lived up to the hype.
The Usos vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango for the Smackdown Tag Titles: Breeze dressing like a janitor and then an old woman during a rare tag title match for his team did nothing for me. There’s no denying that the live crowd had more fun with this than I did. Good for them, but this just wasn’t for me.
Charlotte, Naomi, and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Tamina, and Carmella: A straight forward match without any teases of potential issues between Charlotte and her tag partners during or even after the match. The question of where Charlotte stood was the most compelling aspect of the match. They didn’t have to move the story forward, but surely they could shown some creativity by at least having an awkward moment or two that left viewers wondering if the babyface team was going to self destruct. The heel trio going over was fine in that they needed the win if WWE wants to move forward with this feud or even with the three of them as the only heels of the division. My guess is that we get a rematch on television with the storyline development.
Erick Rowan vs. Luke Harper: One wrestler’s character consists of him delivering occasional promos in a room filled with energy saving lightbulbs. The other started to develop his character on Talking Smack and it carried over to him wandering around the Kickoff Show set. Oddly enough, the guy with zero character development won the match. We’ll see where things go with Rowan’s bizarre antics, but Harper certainly deserves and needs a real character beyond just being that guy who was in the Wyatt Family.