Will Jinder be unhindered? Well, as it turned out, no, as WWE’s latest project of plucking someone from the depths of Superstars and turning them into a champion blossomed.
Aiden English vs. Tye Dillinger
Since Simon Gotch left, Aiden English has repackaged himself as an amateur dramatic of sorts, who’s sort-of singing himself to the ring. Oh, and seems to have a few parts of his persona that some are taking as digs at a recently-departed commentator. Meanwhile, Tye Dillinger’s move from NXT to SmackDown has seen him dangerously close to forgotten man territory. Tye’s brought his Velociraptor gear with him, and the LEDs from Chris Jericho’s old jacket, which is quite the look.
Once we’d done the pose-off at the start, Aiden grabs at Dillinger’s pony-tail to prevent an Irish whip… before Tye did the same as they made a point of showing… we’ve still got some! I wish I had… a back elbow rocks Tye, who gets pulled into the top rope as Aiden looked to take as many shortcuts as possible.
After the obligatory pre-show commercial, we return to see English booting away at Tye in the corner, before he grabbed a chinlock and took the opportunity to harmonise. Tye mounts a comeback with stinging chops, before launching in with forearms as a set-up for the “ten” mounted punches. Of which there weren’t ten.
English powered to the outside as Tye looked to set up for a Tye-breaker, only to get dragged across the top rope. Aiden’s quickly cut-off with a press slam off the top rope, before Tye misses a big splash and falls into a full nelson facebuster for a near-fall. That was the cue for AIden to “get emotional”, as he goes up top again for a senton bomb… but he misses as Tye picked him up for the Tye-Breaker – which has changed from an ushigoroshi into a TKO-onto-the-knee – for the win. Not bad for a pre-show match, but it felt very by-the-numbers. **½
Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
We’re starting off with Shinsuke Nakamura’s main roster debut. Yes, they just kept him off TV sporadically to make sure they didn’t flinch and throw him in against, ooh, Aiden English for the fun of it.
So the narrative here was that “Nakamura’s finally hit the big leagues”… which I kinda get, but at the same time, this is a guy who’s wrestled in front of huge crowds against opponents much higher profile than Dolph “it’s that time of year for a push” Ziggler. Dolph tries to win it early as he sticks to a more straight wrestling style, reacting to Nakamura’s rather trolling antics by ending a game of cat and mouse with a neckbreaker through the ropes.
A big dropkick gets Ziggler a near-fall as the former World Heavyweight Champion – which is weird as hell to type in 2017 – looked to be firmly in control, believing he had the measure of his “hyped up” opponent. Of course, that was the impetus for Nakamura to launch back into things, leaping into Dolph with a knee to the midsection as he was placed across the turnbuckles, before catching Ziggler with an armbar after a roll-up looked to have shocked the debutant.
An attempt at the Kinshasa’s avoided as Ziggler followed up with a roll-up, then a Famouser for some near-falls, before Dolph starts a-stomping for a superkick… but Nakamura can only avoid it and take a Zig Zag instead for another near-fall. Nakamura again tries to mount a comeback, but Dolph escapes a reverse Exploder and lands that superkick before eventually crawling over to score a two-count.
Nakamura takes a spit to the face after he blocked one of Dolph’s kicks, which prompts Shinsuke to unload with a series of knees to the ribs then a knee to the head as Dolph was leaning through the ropes. Another Kinshasa off the top misses, but Nakamura’s able to rebound with the reverse Exploder, before finally finishing off Dolph with the Kinshasa to pick up his first win. Not bad, but this didn’t feel like the explosive win that some would have preferred. But hey, if they’re going for the slow burn, then that’s always better than winning a belt on day one and falling from there. ***¼
WWE SmackDown Live Tag Team Championship: Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango) vs. The Usos (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso) (c)
We started out with comedy as Tyler Breeze – dressed as a janitor – mopped the ring, which led to “one of the Usos” getting tripped by the mop. Hey, if Tom Phillips isn’t trying, why should we?!
Jey Uso snapped the mop after getting fed up of the tomfoolery and looked to end it early with a big splash off the top, but Breeze kept rolling out of harms way. For whatever reason, Jey just kept going to the corners rather than try something different… When Fandango tagged in, things quickly turned around – but Tyler Breeze ended up returning as… a Stunt Granny?! That brought in chants of “let’s go Grandma” as Jey kicked away the walking stick, but of course, this granny could fly… and bust a bronco! Jey quickly ends that offence with a shotgun dropkick and a diving dropkick into the corner, before Jimmy threw in a hip attack into the corner.
They show a replay of Tyler’s dress being thrown into the crowd… and land square in JBL’s face before Fandango tagged in and enjoyed a brief resurgence, hitting a tornado DDT out of the corner for a near-fall. Breeze returns but quickly takes a backbreaker/elbow drop combo for a near-fall, before the Usos gave each other a Cheeky Nando’s… but whilst Breeze capitalised with an Unprettier, he could only get a two-count out of all of that!
Things go from bad to worse for Breeze when he gets launched into the front row, before Fandango was caught on the top rope with a superkick for the win. This was quite something to see – if you take away the comedy, there was hardly the bare bones of a match behind this, with what felt like a rushed ending to boot. **¾
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
The early going here was Sami largely restraining or avoiding Corbin, featuring a nice springboard backflip off the top rope as he aborted a dive to the outside.
Unfortunately, that was the cue for Corbin to return to the ring and introduce Zayn to the turnbuckles, before Zayn landed a popped-up dropkick to take the match outside for a spell…, but Corbin took over after they returned to the ring. This is giving me flashbacks to their match last year where Zayn “won” because he lasted the time limit… such is the patterning here. A bear hug keeps Zayn on the back foot, but Zayn fights free and low bridges a charging Corbin to the outside… only for Baron to return with a big spinebuster for a near-fall. Zayn rebounds and almost got the win with a step-up crossbody off the top rope, but Corbin played a brief game of cat and mouse as a precursor to an obliterating clothesline.
Corbin starts upping the ante, landing a uranage backbreaker for a near-fall, but Zayn responds with a sunset bomb off the top rope after blocking a superplex attempt. We get some blocks as Corbin avoids a tornado DDT and an Exploder into the corner, before Zayn succeeded with a crucifix… only to get blasted with the Deep Six as the momentum continued to shift. Zayn again throws Corbin outside as he went for a dive, and this time continued the pressure with a Helluva Kick.. which was enough for the shock win! This was very much a “Zayn outlasted Corbin” match, and whilst the story was told well, the pacing felt very deliberate, almost like this’d come from a WWF match 25-30 years ago! **¾
Jinder Mahal’s stretch limo was shown arriving – with the Singh Brothers ahead of them with what I guess they were trying to tell us was a prayer mat. Instead of a red carpet, see? Way to play up to stereotypes! Mahal then cut a promo about “Chicago being full of haters… people who mate me for who you think I am”. Good to see they’re recycling unused material from Muhammed Hassan!
James Ellsworth is still employed? They’re trying new catchphrases on him, as he’s still fawning over Carmella…
Carmella, Tamina & Natalya vs. Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair & Naomi
The curse of “cutting to crowd shots live” gave us… a child yawning for Becky Lynch’s entrance. Whoops! Sadly, Naomi doesn’t have a glowing belt. Yet.
Tamina starts by powering Becky into the corner from the opening tie-up, before a sunset flip was cut-off and turned into a headbutt. We segue into Natalya and Charlotte, with the latter dishing out chops before flat-out booting Natalya through the ropes. A distraction from Carmella turns things around as Charlotte’s trapped in the corner for a series of stomps as the “Welcoming Committee” cycled through tags and stomps. More distractions allow for Carmella to beat down on Naomi, scoring a couple of near-falls in the process, before Tamina had her turn. Eventually Carmella missed a bronco buster as Natalya sent her into the corner, but Natalya cleared the apron as Naomi fought to get out of the ring… only to fail as Becky gets pulled off the apron just as she was about to make that tag.
Finally Becky makes the hot tag as she cleared house en route to a Bexploder on Natalya, which led to a Dis-arm-her… but Carmella breaks that up before Tamina dropped Charlotte and Naomi with headbutts. An O’Connor roll nearly wins it for Natalya, but after more interference from Tamina, Nattie gets a Sharpshooter on Becky for the win. Well, it’s going to continue the story of Becky trusting and being betrayed, I guess, but this crowd was silent for a lot of this. **¼
WWE United States Championship: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens (c)
If you’re of the mindset that this show has been underwhelming so far… this match should turn that around! There’s a nice touch in Kevin Owens’ entrance, where he refuses to walk on the image of his face that’s on the entrance ramp.
We’ve got a split crowd as the pair start with a rather deliberate pace rather than shooting out of the blocks. Owens does a good job of restraining AJ early, pulling him off the turnbuckles as he went for a springboard, before grounding Styles with punches and stomps. When a back senton didn’t do the trick, Owens went back to a chinlock, but AJ escaped it and landed an enziguiri to get himself a little bit of breathing space.
Just like that, AJ turned up the tempo with some strikes and a backfist, before diving in with a forearm to collect a near-fall. An atomic drop into a facebuster gets a similar results, before AJ landed an ushigoroshi as an attempted Styles Clash was escaped out of. It continued at a similar pace, with Owens landing a brutal over-the-knee brainbuster before AJ teases a Styles Clash on the apron.
Of course, that didn’t happen, and Owens countered by throwing AJ’s leg into the ring post, before throwing the same knee into the ring steps as he started to wear over the bad wheel. A cannonball in the corner just inflicted more damage, before Owens gets an ankle lock to force AJ into the ropes. The high impact stuff continued with a sunset bomb out of the corner by AJ, but the bad leg meant that his Phenomenal forearm was cut short as AJ crashed and burned badly.
Owens capitalised with a double-arm DDT for a near-fall, before responding with a Pele overhead kick. AJ tries for a superplex but gets abruptly cut-off with a swinging Fisherman’s superplex, before he rolled to the outside to avoid a frog splash. Unfortunately that just put him in the line of fire as he tries a suplex on the apron, but AJ reversed it and caught Owens on the edge of the ring. AJ flies in from the timekeeper’s area with a Phenomenal Forearm after Owens’d thrown him there, before an attempt at a Styles Clash on the German announce table was halted when Owens shoved AJ’s foot into a hole in the table… thus trapping him for long enough for Owens to return to the ring for the count-out victory. A rather flat ending, but a really good match that sets up for a much bigger match down the road… perhaps in a tables-less match?! ***¾
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan
With Bray Wyatt now on Raw, this is the obligatory match between the forgotten Wyatt Family members. Erick’s now gone from being an expert wine maker to a creepy guy with a sheep mask that has a hose tied to it for some reason…
It’s Rowan who pushes the issue to begin with, charging at Harper, who replied with some chops before going up top and getting shoved to the floor. A baseball dropkick from Rowan sends Harper into the crowd barriers, and right now this is a crowd that’s struggling to care unfortunately.
Rowan grinds his fists into Harper’s temples, before coming in with an avalanche and a dropkick as this crowd continued to prove… you can’t just throw two big guys out there and expect people to want to see it. A pumphandle backbreaker keeps the pressure up, but a missed big splash off the top rope opened the door for Harper to get back in, where he throws Rowan into the crowd barriers as a set-up for a tope to wedge Rowan between announce tables.
Harper returned to the ring with a slingshot senton for a near-fall as some of the crowd woke up from their slumber, but Rowan’s leg lariat and powerbomb quickly turned things back the other way. They trade chops and right hands for a spell, before Harper ‘ranas out of a powerbomb and connects with a superkick. Rowan leans over to his mask… for reasons… but despite that psyching himself up, he quickly falls to a discus lariat as Harper took the win. This wasn’t horrid, but the storyline (or attempt at one) meant that the crowd struggled to care. *½
WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton (c)
For all of the hype and bluster around the Jinder Mahal push, this really is just yet-another iteration of “All American babyface versus foreign heel”. Except with the hope that this’ll spark business in India. Fortunately, Jinder’s ditched the “I come in peace” gimmick he had on Superstars all of six months ago.
Orton decided he wasn’t coming in peace, and so jumped Jinder during the ring introductions. There’s a lone “Orton fears Ospreay” sign in the crowd as Randy made Mahal dive over the announce table, and apparently the match hasn’t even started yet… Jinder agrees to continue and we get going with Orton on top again, before Jinder started to take over using an armbar as Orton was left on his rear end.
Incredibly, the crowd was pro/anti-Jinder – with barely a word for Randy Orton – even when the pair were battling for a backslide that ended up turning into an armbreaker for Jinder. From there, Randy frees himself of an armbar and launches Jinder back to the outside, where he takes a back suplex onto the announce table, but Mahal was still able to rebound and return to a chinlock back in the ring.
Orton fights up and manages to sidestep a charge from Mahal, who becomes the latest wrestler on this show to make that metallic sound as his shoulder met the XXL ring post, and this is where the match yet again slows down to a snail’s pace as Orton took his time for a superplex. From there, Orton manages to get off a scoop slam then a fallaway slam – despite Mahal having worked over his arm throughout the match… After taking a neckbreaker, Orton drops Mahal with a backbreaker, then a rope-hung DDT after his challenger had rolled onto the apron, before Mahal again rolled to the outside to avoid an RKO.
That’s where things got scary as Randy went after the Singh brothers, which opened the door for Mahal to shove Randy shoulder-first into the ring post twice. Despite that, Jinder ran straight into an RKO, but the Singhs pulled out Jinder… and earned themselves a pair of back suplexes onto the announce tables – the latter of which was a vertical dead drop as Sunil was recklessly launched into the air.
Orton keeps his sights on the Singhs as he gives them a pair of rope hung DDTs at the same time, but Mahal slipped back in with a cobra clutch slam… and yes, we have a new champion! Perhaps not quite as shocking a result as it should have been, but if you look beyond the last six weeks… yes, it is ridiculous that Jinder’s gone from jobbing on Main Event to winning the WWE title with barely any “rehab” inbetween. As for the match, it was fine for what it was – it told the story it needed to, but aside from the result and that head drop, you’re not going to be remembering much about this. **
So… Backlash was a show that fans will probably remember for two good matches and one polarising result. Was it worth your time? Well, it was definitely the weaker of the two WWE shows that weekend, and isn’t one you’ll be going back to re-watch anytime soon.