By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Prowrestling.net Live returns today at 3CT/4ET. My usual co-host Will Pruett is in China today, so I will be joined by special guest Matt Koon, and we will be taking your calls live at PWAudio.net.
WWE Backlash Hits
Seth Rollins vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship: The show peaked with the opening match. Rollins and Miz delivered a gem and managed to make the live crowd actually buy into the unlikely scenario of Miz regaining the Intercontinental Championship despite everything pointing toward Rollins retaining. It was encouraging to hear Miz say after the show that he will be going after the WWE Championship. He was ready to be in that top mix last year, but he was moved to Raw and spent the year feuding over the Intercontinental Title. Meanwhile, Rollins is red hot and it would be nice to see the company capitalize on this by getting him into the main event mix. Either way, Rollins and Miz stole the show.
AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in a No DQ match for the WWE Championship: The best Styles and Nakamura match in a WWE ring to date. The match ended with a lousy double kick to the balls and the referee counting down both men. This was the type of finish that puts heat on the company rather than the heel. A case can be made for the finish being so bad that the match belongs in the Miss section, but I enjoyed what we saw up until the finish. And as much as I groaned at the lousy finish, it did not kill my interest in the rematch they are obviously working toward.
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton for the U.S. Championship: More of an in the middle than an actual Hit or Miss. There was nothing particularly memorable about the match aside from the surprising clean finish.
WWE Backlash Misses
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe: Joe’s pre-match attack was strong and got this off to an energetic start. That was erased once the bell rang and they settled into rest holds. We’ve seen better from both men, but the match quality wasn’t the real issue with the match. It’s Vince McMahon continuing to dig his heels in and refusing to budge when it comes to turning Reigns heel. It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If so, then Vince is completely insane when it comes to his obsession with Reigns being his company’s top babyface. Sure, we’ll hear all the usual lines about how any reaction is a good reaction. What about the other frequently repeated line about how WWE listens to its fans? They are screaming to the company that they don’t want Reigns to be the top babyface. It’s the same ol’ story. Reigns would be a tremendous top heel. Will Vince ever accept this or will we have to endure another year of the insanity?
Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella delivered on the mic in a big way leading up to this match and I was anxious to see how she would perform in this match. Unfortunately, this was a lousy match that left me wondering why they opted to end Asuka’s winning streak at WrestleMania. I’m all for the company attempting to make a new star, but when the jury is still out on Carmella’s in-ring ability it sure seems like a very regrettable decision to cool off Asuka in favor of having Carmella take the title just two nights after Asuka’s first loss.
Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship: The big babyface vs. undersized heel dynamic just isn’t working for me. It was odd to see Jax repeatedly fail as she tried to perform her Samoan drop from the second rope and then give up and perform a standard version of the move for the win. Jax’s post match promo was poor and it had more to do with the writing than her delivery. I can’t even believe they worked in the Be A Star line, which eliminated any chance of this coming off as a genuine, heartfelt promo.
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass: This was another in-ring test for a wrestler that the company is getting behind coming out of WrestleMania. I didn’t come away impressed by what we saw. The bigger issue is that we are just a handful of televised matches into Bryan’s return and he has already lost momentum. There was a wave of genuine excitement when the company announced that Bryan had been medically cleared unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s not like it’s completely evaporated, but it just doesn’t feel like they are giving fans much to stay excited about. It was nice to see Bryan win, but the post match attack by Cass sets up a rematch that I don’t sense most fans want to see.
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn: The idea seemed to be to give the fans a crowd pleasing moment coming out of the lousy WWE Championship match finish. I don’t know if the fans were still bitter over the bad finish or if it’s due to the fan apathy toward Lashley or if they liked the heels in this match, but this just didn’t seem to click with the crowd as much as most Strowman’s segments do. When it comes to Lashely, it’s hard to blame the fans for not being excited about him. He’s just a smiling babyface who has no character depth thus far. The positive coming out of the match is that I’m curious to see what comes next with Owens and Zayn given the issues they had during the match.
Elias dance party segment: Was this really necessary on a show that ran over long by over 30 minutes? WWE has to know that these shows are simply running too late for many of their fans who live in the eastern and even central timezones. Vince McMahon loves these wacky segments and there are certainly some fans who enjoy them, but they rarely do anything for me aside from take me out of the moment and make the wrestlers involved look ridiculous.
Overall show: This was the worst WWE pay-per-view event in years and a lousy way to kick off the dual brand era that they have been heralding.