By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Backlash 2018
Aired live on May 6, 2018 on WWE Network and pay-per-view
Newark, New Jersey at Prudential Center
A video package opened the show… Michael Cole introduced the show and touted that it would feature Raw and Smackdown wrestlers. He noted that there were 14,724 fans in attendance. Cole was joined on commentary by Corey Graves and Jonathan Coachman…
1. Seth Rollins vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship. Cole noted that it was a co-branded match. Graves said he loves Miz, but he didn’t think he could regain the title because Rollins has been on such a hot streak. At 3:00, Rollins went for a springboard move, but Miz caught him with a kick that sent him tumbling to ringside. At 5:40, Miz kicked the knee of Rollins and DDT’d him for a near fall.
Rollins came back with a facebuster at 6:50. Rollins performed a suicide dive moments later and then rolled Miz back inside the ring. Rollins went for a springboard move. Miz caught him on the way down and set up for his finisher, but Rollins rolled him up for a two count. Rollins performed a Blockbuster for a two count.
At 9:55, Miz tripped up Rollins on the apron and then threw him back inside the ring. Miz went for a cross body block. Rollins rolled through the move and slammed Miz for a two count. Rollins went up top and performed a frogsplash for a near fall. Rollins tuned up the band with a cadence that led to a soft “Burn It Down” chant. Miz rolled to ringside to avoid the Stomp.
Miz regained offensive control and went for a DDT on the apron, but Rollins blocked it. Miz caught Rollins with a boot to the head. Rollins hit Miz with three forearm shots. Rollins went for a high knee, but Miz avoided it and Rollins’ knee hit the ring post. Back inside the ring, Miz applied a figure four. Rollins ended up rolling Miz over to reverse the hold.
Rollins and Miz traded shots in the middle of the ring with the fans cheering for Rollins and booing Miz’s strikes. Rollins’ knee gave out as he was going for a move and then Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale for a strong near fall at 16:10.
At 18:00, Rollins superplexed Miz and then went for a Falcon Arrow. Rollins’ knee gave out again. Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale and got another strong near fall. At 19:55, Miz set up for his finisher from the second rope, but Rollins fought him off and knocked him off the ropes. Rollins went for a Stomp from the second rope, but Miz avoided it. Rollins came up holding his knee. Miz rolled him up. Rollins rolled through. Miz went for another rollup, but Rollins connected with the Stomp and scored the pin…
Seth Rollins defeated The Miz in 20:30 to retain the Intercontinental Championship.
Powell’s POV: An excellent match that is sure to be in contention for best match of the night despite opening the show. They had the disadvantage of the outcome feeling highly predictable, but don’t tell that to the live crowd. The fans were hot throughout the match and definitely bought in when Miz hit his finisher for a pair of terrific near falls. It’s also fun to hear the broadcast team gushing over this run that Rollins is having. This isn’t a case of the fans being hot for something that the office isn’t onboard with. I’m very curious to see where it leads.
The broadcast team spoke about the Rollins hot streak and then set up a video package on the Raw Women’s Championship match…
2. Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship. JoJo delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Bliss applied an early sleeper. Jax broke it and then Bliss tried to run away. Jax glared at her and grabbed her arm and twisted it, then tossed her across the ring a couple times. Bliss caught Jax with a kick as she was returning to the ring.
Bliss got cocky and slapped Jax a few times. Bliss went for a DDT, but jax hoisted her up. Bliss slipped away, but Jax knocked her down. Bliss avoided a rolling senton. Bliss ran the ropes and Jax caught her again. Jax put Bliss on her shoulders and walked toward the ropes. Bliss slipped out again. Bliss applied a front facelock.
At 5:05, Jax flung Bliss from the middle rope and into the center of the ring. Jax tossed Bliss across the ring a couple of times and splashed her in the corner. She tossed her again and then put her in position. Jax went to the middle rope and set up for a Vader Bomb, but Bliss recovered and shoved her over the top rope and down to the floor.
Cole said the hard part for Bliss would be getting Jax back inside the ring. Bliss followed to the floor and pulled Jax’s face into the ring steps. Bliss struggled to get Jax in the ring. She entered the ring and barked at the referee, who stopped and then restarted his count. Bliss got Jax back inside the ring and covered her for two. Bliss threw a tamtrum after not getting the pin.
Bliss threw a few punches and then ran the ropes. Jax put Bliss on her shoulders and went to the ropes. Bliss slipped away again and ended up kicking the hamstring of Jax to knock her off the ropes. Bliss covered her for a two count. Bliss went for Twisted Bliss, but Jax caught her and put her on her shoulders and performed a standard Samoan drop and pinned her…
Nia Jax defeated Alexa Bliss in 10:20 to retain the Raw Women’s Championship.
After the match, Renee Young asked Jax what the win means to her. She said it meant everything. She said Alexa’s Moment of Bliss is over. She said the win was for everyone who has ever been bullied. She asked who wants to be ordinary. She told the fans to be extraordinary. She said you shouldn’t change for a friend or a boyfriend. “I make no apologies for who I am,” she said. “This is me. So you, you be who you are. Be a star! And remember, in the end, a bully always gets their ass kicked”…
Powell’s POV: The match didn’t work for me. They had the misfortune of following the hot opening match, but that wasn’t the issue. I just don’t buy Bliss as a threat to Jax in a straight up match. Jax looked silly and stubborn for trying to get Bliss to the ropes for her Samoan drop several times and failing to actually perform the move. The post match promo is along the lines of what I’ve said is missing with Jax. She needs to connect with the fans instead of making this bullying thing all about herself. Unfortunately, it felt like she was delivering lines rather than speaking from the heart, especially when she delivered the damn Be A Star line.
The broadcast team recapped the finish of the Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns cage match for the WWE Universal Championship at the Greatest Royal Rumble event…
Backstage, Dasha Fuentes interviewed Samoa Joe and asked him if Reigns is rattled headed into their match. Joe said Reigns is more than rattled. He added that Joe will feel pain. He said Reigns will close his eyes, see Joe’s face, and lament all his failures. Joe said he would turn the Big Dog into a whimpering puppy…
3. Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton for the U.S. Championship. Smackdown ring announcer Greg Hamilton delivered the introductions as the wrestlers walked to the ring. The broadcast team for the match was Tom Phillips, Corey Graves, and Byron Saxton. At 3:45, Hardy leapt off the ring steps and caught Orton with a leg to the side of the head at ringside. A short time later, Hardy went for a springboard move and jumped into a nice dropkick from Orton.
At 8:50, Jeff hit a Whisper in the Wind for a two count. Jeff went for a Twist of Fate. Orton countered into an RKO attempt. Jeff pushed him off. Orton caught Hardy with a quick slam for a two count. Hardy performed a draping DDT. Orton looked to the crowd and then struck the Viper’s Pose. Orton went for the RKO, but Hardy rolled him up for a two count. Hardy hit a Twist of Fate and followed up with a Swanton Bomb before scoring the clean pin…
Jeff Hardy defeated Randy Orton in 12:00 to retain the U.S. Championship.
Powell’s POV: I had some buffering issues, so the time of the match is a an estimate. Two popular babyfaces and the live crowd didn’t seem all that interested in choosing sides. In fact, they chanted Rusev Day at one point. The match was decent, though it didn’t really build to a cool finish as much as the finish just sort of seemed to happen out of nowhere.
Elias sat in the ring with his guitar. He got a great reaction as he teased the crowd with leaving if they didn’t follow his instructions. New Day made their entrance. Xavier Woods brought Francesca, Kofi Kingston had cymbals, and Big E had a drum. Elias asked them if they wanted some autographs. They told him that they wanted to perform a dual branded Backlash concert with him.
Elias asked if they wanted to play with him. ‘No, no, we want to walk with Elias,” Xavier Woods said. Elias said he’s a solo act. They played and Elias said they might be able to open for him someday. Elias called for the lights for his solo performance. Aiden English could be heard clearing his throat. The crowd popped big and there were Rusev Day chants. English sang about New Day, Elias, and Rusev Day. Rusev made his entrance.
Elias asked what they were doing. Rusev said they are doing what they want. He said he had a holiday in his honor unlike “Bootleg Bob Dylan and the Booty Boys.” Elias called for the lights so he could perform. No Way Jose and the Rosebud Rejects made their entrance along with Titus O’Neil, Apollo Crews, Tyler Breeze, and Fandango.
Elias called for it to stop and said it was his night and no one would ruin in for him. He called for the lights to go down again. Bobby Roode’s song started. Roode was in the ring and hit the Glorious DDT on Elias and led the crowd in the “glorious” bit. Roode pointed at Jose, whose music started. Roode danced in the ring as Jose led the conga line to the back. Roode followed at the end and lifted up his robe to shake his ass in front of Rusev and English…
Powell’s POV: The live crowd seemed to have fun with his. If nothing else, they didn’t find a way to bury Rusev for a change.
A video package set up the Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass match…
4. Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass. Bryan threw a couple of early leg kicks. Cass clubbed him with a shot to the back and then a punch. It sounded like there was an actual “We Want Enzo” chant from the Jersey crowd. Bryan performed his Yes kicks. Cass cut him off before the big finale and tossed him to the mat. Bryan performed his running dropkicks until Cass eventually cut him off.
Cass stood in the ring and held his fist up to taunt the crowd and then clotheslined Bryan. Brayn ducked a big boot and then connected with a kick. Bryan went for the Yes Lock. Cass fought it initially, but Bryan clubbed the side of his head a few times until he got the move applied. Cass tapped out quickly…
Daniel Bryan defeated Big Cass in 7:45.
After the match, Bryan celebrated his win on the ropes. Cass attacked him from behind and knocked him to ringside. Cass tossed Bryan on the floor a couple of times. The fans chanted “You tapped out” at Cass, who rolled Bryan back inside the ring. Cass delivered a big boot to the head of Bryan. Cass stood over Bryan and raised his fist in the air…
Powell’s POV: More buffering issues so another rough estimate on the time for those who care. I can’t believe we are this early in Bryan’s return and the live crowd actually started chanting for Enzo Amore during the first minute or two of the match. Only in Jersey (Enzo’s home state). Anyway, this played out pretty much as I predicted with Bryan getting the win, yet Cass attacking him afterward. In other words, we’re not finished with this feud yet.
After a Camp WWE ad aired, Graves vented Phillips and Saxton about what Cass did. They also hyped that Daniel Bryan and The Miz will appear on the Backlash Post Show, which will be hosted by Renee Young and Peter Rosenberg… They set up a video package for the Smackdown Women’s Championship match…
Powell’s POV: A very nice hook for the post show with the goal of getting viewers to watch in hopes of seeing Bryan and Miz cross paths.
5. Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Greg Hamilton delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. Carmella strutted. Charlotte went for a big boot. Carmella ducked it and rolled to ringside. Carmella teased leaving with her title. Charlotte caught her and slammed her down at ringside and rolled her back inside the ring and covered her for a two count.
A short time later, Charlotte tried to dive on Carmella at ringside. Carmella moved and Charlotte landed on her feet, but Carmella caught her with a kick. Carmella rolled Charlotte back inside the ring and applied a chinlock of doom and then taunted the crowd. Later, Carmella got cocky and moonwalked. Charlotte speared her.
Carmella came back with the Code of Silence. Charlotte powered to her feet to break the hold. Carmella rolled her up for a two count. Charlotte caught her with a big boot for a two count. Charlotte went for a moonsault and landed on her feet when Carmella was already standing in the corner. Charlotte sold it as if her left knee buckled. Carmella threw a kick to the back of Charlotte’s leg and then pinned her for the win…
Carmella pinned Charlotte to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship in 9:00.
Powell’s POV: A disappointing match. This was a chance for Carmella to show in-ring improvement. She failed this time around. Too bad.
A video package set up the WWE Championship match…
6. AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in a No DQ match for the WWE Championship. Hamilton delivered in-ring introductions for the title match. The bell rang to start the match and Nakamura immediately rolled to ringside. Styles chased Nakamura, who rolled back inside the ring and did his “come on” bit. Styles pulled Nakamura to ringside and ran him into the barricade.
Styles worked over Nakamura at ringside until Nakamura avoided his dive, causing Styles to crash into the barricade at 4:15. Nakamura threw Styles at the ring steps. Styles’ knee hit the steps and he sold it. Nakamura placed Styles on the apron and then acted like he was thinking about what he wanted to do. Nakamura turned and delivered a running knee. Nakamura went to the ring steps and dropped a knee to the back of Styles’ head. Nakamura brought him back inside the ring and got a couple of two counts.
There were dueling chants for the wrestlers around 6:00 as Nakamura worked over Styles inside the ring. Nakamura threw several knees to the side of Styles’ head around 9:00. A short time later, Nakamura delivered a kick to the head of Styles, who tumbled to ringside. Nakamura followed and ran him into the barricade. Nakamura tossed Styles into the timekeepers area. Styles landed on his feet and went for a springboard move, but Nakamura cut him off and rolled Styles back inside the ring.
Nakamura applied a dragon sleeper at 11:20. Styles broke it quickly and connected with a punch. Styles went for a springboard move, but Nakamura caught him and placed him on the ropes and then delivered a big knee to the gut. Nakamura went to the corner and stood on the second rope. Nakamura delivered a leaping knee and got a two count. Nakamura performed a falcon arrow for a two count.
Nakamura rolled to ringside and grabbed a chair at 13:30. Nakamura smirked as he brought the chair inside the ring with him. Nakamura wound up to hit Styles with the chair, but Styles hoisted him onto his shoulders. Nakamura broke free. Styles caught him with a strike, but Nakamura ducked others and connected with one of his own. Nakamura performed a reverse exploder suxplex onto the chair and got a two count.
Nakamura showed frustration at 15:00. He went to the corner and set up for his finisher, but Styles hit his knee with a chair when he went for the Kinshasa. The chair bounced off the knee of Nakamura and hit Styles in the face, which cut Styles’ cheek. Styles applied a Calf Crusher. Nakamura countered into a triangle. Styles powered him up into Styles Clash position against the ropes. Nakamura ended up on the apron, and Styles knocked him to the floor. Styles set up for a springboard move, but gave it up when Nakamura returned to the ring.
Styles hit a running forearm to the back of Nakamura’s head and got a nearfall moments later. At 18:25, Styles connected with a Pele Kick and went for a Styles Clash, but Nakamura blasted him with a low blow. Styles returned the favor.
The referee counted with both men down as Phillips clarified that they had to answer his call. They both got to their knees and fought to break the count. They got to their feet and traded forearm and punches. Styles got the better of the exchange, but Nakamura caught him with a headbutt. They delivered simultaneous kicks below the belt. The referee counted to ten to end the match…
AJ Styles fought Shinsuke Nakamura to a no-contest in 21:05.
Powell’s POV: I praised a match for ending via the referee’s ten count recently, but it was different circumstances. The crowd rightfully groaned at the finish. You give people a No DQ match and they have every reason to feel let down when they don’t get an actual winner. On the plus side, this was the best WWE match that Styles and Nakamura have had. And as much as I groaned at the finish, it does keep the feud going. How about a new stipulation that requires both men to wear nut cups? Anyway, for everyone asking why this match didn’t headline the show you now have your answer.
The dual brand pay-per-view commercial aired. I don’t think the state of New Jersey will have to issue any apologies for this tomorrow…
7. Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The Raw broadcast team was back on the call. Lashley didn’t receive much of a reaction when he made his entrance. The international broadcast teams checked in during the entrances. Lashley had some early offense before the heel duo ended up isolating him.
Lashley tagged in Strowman around 5:15. Strowman worked over Owens and Zayn. Owens dodged Strowman charging him in the corner and tagged in Zayn. Sami charged at Strowman, who caught him. Zayn escaped and tried to leave. Owens stopped him from leaving. They bickered at ringside. “We stay and fight,” Owens told him. Zayn grabbed Owens and threw him inside the ring.
Owens rolled to ringside and ended up throwing Zayn inside the ring. Owens shoved Zayn, who slapped him. Zayn was apologetic and said he got carried away. Owens teased punching him. Zayn ended up leaving the ring. Strowman and Lashley worked over Owens. Lashley performed his vertical suplex on Owens and covered him for the win.
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley beat Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in 8:40.
Graves pointed out that the legal man was not pinned. Coachman tried to make sense of it in a way that only made sense to him. After the match, Strowman picked up Owens and powerslammed him while Zayn protested from ringside. Strowman ended up grabbing Zayn a short time later and throwing him inside the ring. Strowman hoisted him up and gave him a running powerslam…
Powell’s POV: The idea was to give the fans a crowd pleasing moment after that Styles vs. Nakamura finish. I’m not sure how effective it really was. Some in the live crowd were into it while others seemed a little quieter than most crowds are for Strowman destruction moments. I’m curious to see if Owens and Zayn are back on the same page tomorrow while crying foul since the legal man wasn’t pinned or if they will be going separate ways. By the way, Lashley is really cold and should have been brought back as a heel.
An ad aired for the WWE Money in the Bank event, which will be held on June 17… Cole said Miz, Carmella, and Elias would appear on the post show. Daniel Bryan is out due to the injuries he suffered at the hands of Big Cass after their match. Ugh…
A video package set up the main event…
Ring entrances for the main event took place. There were some “Joe” chants as he walked to the ring. Reigns received more boos than cheers as Cole questioned if there was a man more polarizing than Reigns. Graves said he’s used to it and lives for the hostile environments. Joe held the ropes open and motioned for Reigns to enter the ring and then stood on the bottom rope and jawed at him.
Cole said he spoke with Reigns about the brutal schedule the company has had lately. He said he asked him if his confidence has ever wavered. Cole said Reigns answered no. Joe delivered a cheap shot punch to Reigns as the referee was standing between them. They went to ringside and traded punches. Joe gave Reigns a urinage through the table. Graves noted that the bell never rang to start the match. Joe picked up Reigns and tossed him over another broadcast table. Joe picked him up again and tossed him over the third table.
8. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe. Coachman tried to kill the pre-match attack by saying that it was nothing Reigns hasn’t gone through before. Good lord. Joe rolled Reigns inside the ring. The ref checked on Reigns while a loud “Joe’s gonna kill you” chant broke out. The ref called for the bell to start the match once Reigns was ready.
There were dueling chants of “Let’s Go Roman” and “Roman Sucks” as Joe targeted his left arm about 90 seconds into the match. Joe had his own left elbow wrapped coming into the match. Joe told Reigns “this is the pain I was talking about” as he wrenched his neck. Coachman wondered whether Joe putting Reigns through the table was the quickest it’s ever been done in WWE. Coachman really needs to stop talking.
Joe continued to jaw at Reigns while wrenching his neck. He told him he has to go away. Reigns pried at the fingers of Joe and then threw some punches before Joe whipped him into the corner and caught him with an enzuigiri. Joe followed up with two punches and a knee and went back to wrenching the neck of Reigns.
At 6:15, Joe performed a flying forearm through the ropes and onto Reigns, who was at ringside. Joe rolled him back inside the ring and worked his arm. The crowd was restless and followed up an earlier “boring” chant with a “This is boring” chant and some boos. Reigns got to his feet and traded punches with Joe, who caught him with a forearm. Reigns followed up with a boot to the head of Joe.
At 10:20, Reigns threw multiple clotheslines at Joe, then threw several more at him in the corner. Reigns ran the ropes and Joe caught him with an inverted atomic drop. Joe performed a sequence that ended with a senton and got a two count. A short time later, there was a “beat the traffic” chant from the crowd. Ouch.
At 13:00, Reigns went for a Drive By Kick, but Joe caught him and dragged him into the ring. Reigns rolled him up for a two count. Reigns stood up and hit a Superman Punch for another two count. A Rusev Day chant started. Reigns set up for a spear, but Joe caught him with a kick. Reigns got up and speared him again and had him pinned, but Joe put his foot on the bottom rope to break it.
At 15:20, Joe applied the Coquina Clutch. Reigns rolled onto him for a cover. Joe ended up applying the hold again. Reigns appeared to be out, then came back to life and reached the ropes to break the holds, which drew loud boos. Graves said the referee may have been able to call the match when Reigns appeared to be out.
At 17:25, Joe picked up Reigns and set him on the top rope with the plan of going for a Muscle Buster. Reigns leapt over him and ended up turning around and spearing Joe for the win…
Roman Reigns defeated Samoa Joe in 18:10.
Powell’s POV: Vince McMahon’s obsession continues. Get ready for another round of “any reaction is a good reaction” batch of excuses. Anyway, they had the crowd with Joe’s pre-match attack and then lost them once the bell rang and they went into Joe applying holds to give them a chance to catch their breath. It was the typical Reigns move set and what started as a fairly split crowd seemed to grow into louder resentment of Reigns as the match went on. They have a really hot babyface in Seth Rollins right now and I would love to see him beat Reigns to the punch by defeating Brock Lesnar to drive Reigns to snap and turn heel, but seeing his believing. There’s no sign of either Vince or the fans letting this go. I will have more to say in my members’ exclusive audio review with Jake Barnett later tonight and in my WWE Backlash Hit List on Monday.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...