A SmackDown Live exclusive, live from Chicago’s Allstate arena, WWE Backlash will play host to three huge title matches, and feature the in-ring debut of Shinsuke Nakamura. The WWE Championship will be on the line as Randy Orton looks to defend against an unlikely challenger in Jinder Mahal, and it can be certain Mahal will be looking to make a statement against the current, 13-time champion of the blue brand. The United States championship will also be defended as the New Face of America, Kevin Owens (a Canadian), seeks to overthrow one of the best wrestlers on the planet in AJ Styles. But perhaps more important than both of those matches is the in-ring debut of Shinsuke Nakamura, as the King of Strong Style looks to show Dolph Ziggler, and the whole world, what he can do in a WWE ring. All of this, as well as a huge tag team title match, a grudge match of epic proportions and a fight between former family members at WWE Backlash.
+ Randy Orton (c) vs Jinder Mahal (w/ The Singh Brothers) (WWE Championship): this was never going to be a match of the year candidate., and I think everone knew that. The intrigue from the match came from how it would all go down, and it certainly was interesting. With the Singh brother on the outside it was somewhat obvious how the match would play out, especially with a motivated Randy Orton – and yes, it was a very motivated Randy Orton who showed up to fight. This was, as expected, not a fantastic match, but was certainly entertaining
+ Kevin Owens (c) vs AJ Styles (WWE United States Championship): perhaps unsurprisingly, this was far and away the match of the night. But even then, it still felt lacking. Because Owens was still so involved with Jericho until recently, I don’t feel like this one was built to what it should have been. Despite the build, once this amtch got going these two were able to put on a phenomenal battle, all the way up until another infuriating, if understandable, ending
+ The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) (c) vs The Fashion Police (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) (WWE SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships): this match was almost entirely comedy, and I don’t know how to feel about it. The Fashion Files segments from SmackDown have all been great, but I was hoping that once the match came, we would get a real match, which was not the case. It is no secret that all four of these guys acn be good in the ring, and as far as teams go they are arguably unsurpassed. Maybe somewhere in the future we’ll get a good match. This was a pretty average match, but it was so much fun it is hard to list it as a negative
+ Tye Dillinger vs Aiden English: even though this was the pre-show, English had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he came out singing, which was an ode to his old NXT gimmick (before being saddled with the now-released Simon Gotch). Dillinger has such an easy chant to get behind, and the crowd was so into both of these guys. Despite the crowd, the match was only about average, but hopefully a good sign of things to come
– Shinsuke Nakamura vs Dolph Ziggler: the crowd went wild for Nakamura’s entrance, but that was about where the volume stopped. It takes a certain kind of company to make a Nakamura match not a big deal, but going up against perennial loser Dolph Ziggler has done that to Nakamura. Ziggler made Nakamura’s offense look good, and Nakamura is good enough to make Ziggler look impressive as well, but this was a match that should have been entirely one-sided, but instead made Nakamura appear on Ziggler’s level, rather than the other way around. Very disappointing
– Baron Corbin vs Sami Zayn: Corbin might have the best entrance on the SmackDown roster right now. This felt like a regular SmackDown match, and the crowd all felt the same. The action itself was fine, but there was so little at stake for either competitor that it was hard to care. This was another dud for the show
– Naomi, Charlotte & Becky Lynch vs The Welcoming Committee (Natalya, Tamina Snuka & Carmella) (w/ James Ellsworth): despite the addition of Ellsworth’s introduction for the latter team, this, again, felt like a throwaway Smackdown match. An infuriating ending only added to my disappointment, but it doesn’t really matter because there will definitely be at least one rematch in the coming weeks
– Luke Harper vs Erick Rowan: whilst I am super glad that both of these guys were on the PPV, this match was not good. They are still building something with Rowan and his new mask/gimmick, but Harper is too good to be Rowan’s test dummy. Rowan should be squashing jobbers, and Harper should be in at least the mid-card title scene. “Disappointing” is the theme of the night, apparently
> I really, really hate the obligatory ‘welcome to the big leagues, kid!’ stuff they do with “”new”” signings. Hearing JBL spout some bullshit about Nakamura had never done anything important until this event made me visibly mad
Should you watch this event: This was a frustrating show full of ups and downs. There was only a few surprises, with most matches falling a bit flat, but Owens/Styles, Mahal/Orton and the tag title match are at least worth a watch, and I am really upset that Ziggler/Nakamura was such a poor showing. Seek the positives listed above out, but don’t bother watching the rest.