Then the ratings for this week’s TV shows came out and egads it’s clear that I’m not the only one thinking this way. This week’s audience and ratings were both down, with Monday’s numbers being the lowest of the year on both counts. These were major drops all around and the question then became what happened. While I would put a lot of stock into the fact that there’s little reason to care about the next few weeks as it’s little more than Money in the Bank qualifying matches and then matches pitting the participants against each other, there’s one more big elephant in the room.
That would of course be Backlash, which was one of the worst shows WWE has put on in a long time. I have yet to find anyone who liked the show as a whole, with just a few positive reactions coming to a handful of moments. The majority of the reaction has been terribly negative, with fans not being interested in what they were seeing and were not pleased with what they were being given by WWE. Throw that in with a long build towards Money in the Bank (And a lack of Brock Lesnar. Again.) and there wasn’t much to go on earlier this week.
While I didn’t like Backlash, I didn’t think it was as bad as some people did, but maybe I was just so numb to the whole thing that I gave it more credit than it deserved. Therefore this week I’m going to look at it with a few days clear and a little more time to let the whole thing sink in. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as people said it was or maybe I gave it too much praise (despite saying it was nearly a complete failure).
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick with chronological order.
The Kickoff Show match, while not great, was fine for a storyline development match. The idea here is really clear: neither Bayley nor Sasha Banks can beat the Riott Squad on their own so despite the issues they have between themselves, they’re going to have to work together to fight the team off. That’s all you need for a story like this and in theory, everything should work out fine in the end, especially if Banks gets the help she needs and turns on Bayley anyway. This was fine.
Unfortunately, the Kickoff Show doesn’t mean anything in relation to the regular show.
As luck would have it though, we’re starting off the main show with the best part of the night (funny how that tends to be the case so often). Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins continued his incredible roll by successfully defending the title against the Miz. This was some great back and forth work that I think I underrated a bit. Rollins can seemingly do no wrong at the moment and it’s awesome to see him go out there and tear the house down against anyone. Miz more than held up his end as well though, making this easily the best thing on the show.
And now, it’s all downhill from there.
Nia Jax successfully defended the Raw Women’s Title against Alexa Bliss in a near copy of their WrestleMania 34 match. Bliss slowed the bigger Jax down and wasn’t able to hold her own until she was overwhelmed by the size and power. This wasn’t interesting in New Orleans and it’s not interesting here either. There comes a point where Jax needs to just run Bliss over and defeat her soundly rather than struggle to beat her in about ten minutes. It defeats the point of being a giant and treats Jax like anyone else. What’s the point in that?
It was made even worse/more awkward after the match when Jax said that was for everyone who has ever been bullied. So in WWE logic, the way to deal with a bully is to grow to twice their size and beat them up, because the solution to a bully is to be violent. I’m not sure that’s how the BE A STAR campaign should go but that’s what WWE felt the point was.
While the first part of the show wasn’t great, it was the next match where things started to go downhill. Jeff Hardy successfully defended his United States Title against Randy Orton and it was pretty clear that the challenger wasn’t interested in showing much effort. I’ve seen a lot of Orton matches over the years and you can tell when his heart is in there. This was Orton going through the motions and offering no effort whatsoever.
I know he’s been looking to work a lighter schedule but at the end of the day, he should be trying when he’s actually on pay per view. This was unacceptable and I was more relieved than anything else when it was over. The point here was to get Hardy over as a big deal and while a win over Orton can get him there, this wasn’t the way to go about doing it. Orton wasn’t motivated here and that made the match a disaster, which stuck out rather horribly on a card full of bad stuff.
Since the wrestling hadn’t been much so far, we’ll shift over to COMEDY. This time around it was a fifteen minute comedy segment with Elias trying to sing a song and being cut off time after time. First it was New Day (with their own instruments), then it was Rusev Day, then it was No Way Jose, complete with conga line (including Titus Worldwide and Breezango), then it was Bobby Roode to give Elias a Glorious DDT.
So was this all Roode’s big scheme to mess with Elias, who he’s only kind of feuding with? Was he just hoping that Elias would try to perform and would apparently be given as long as he wanted to do it? Then he got ten wrestlers to go along with this big scheme for the sake of hitting Elias once? He couldn’t just sneak up on him when the lights were out? Roode really needed the big production? That’s what the story says, but since that’s too stupid, let’s look at the actual reason.
They needed to fill in time. Instead of having another match, like say for the SmackDown Tag Team Titles or Cruiserweight Title, the solution was this big comedy segment for a thirty second payoff. That’s the best they could come up with because these new shows MUST go longer because….well because quantity equals quality around here. It’s pure filler and that’s not the way you want to go about these shows. This was amusing at times, but on a show that already felt long, this was just adding something that didn’t need to be there.
Daniel Bryan had his first singles match since 2015 when he defeated Big Cass. Despite being a match that could have been in the first hour of any given SmackDown Live, this was in the top half of the matches on the show. Cass hit Bryan with his big power offense and Bryan pulled him down into the YES Lock to win. They got in, they got out, they didn’t do anything too badly and they were done. Well Cass beat him up after the match but that was it. This was acceptable, albeit completely forgettable, which is better than a lot of things on this show.
Then came the next match that sent the show flying off a cliff. On the SmackDown Live after WrestleMania 34, Carmella cashed in her Money in the Bank contract to defeat Charlotte and become the new SmackDown Women’s Champion. It was one heck of an upset and the question was when would Charlotte (or someone) beat the heck out of the Honky Tonk Woman once and for all.
Then Carmella beat Charlotte clean by avoiding the moonsault, kicking Charlotte in the leg and rolling her up for a pin. There was no interference, there was no cheating, and there was no reason to believe that Carmella, who was little more than a midcarder for weeks, could beat Charlotte, who might be the best female wrestler of all time. This threw logic out the window and means we’ll be seeing a lot more of Carmella, but more importantly hearing much more of her. This didn’t make sense and sucked even more life out of the building. Let Carmella cheat or have the Iconics interfere, but don’t go with the clean finish like that.
Now we’re a good chunk of the way into the show at this point, but there was still hope for fixing things. The main event could be a heck of a fight and if Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns had a fun match, it could work well enough to get a passing grade. Then this happened and there was no turning back.
In the WWE Championship match, AJ Styles went to a draw with Shinsuke Nakamura when they hit stereo low blows and neither could answer the ten count. The problem (not the big problem though) was that this was the third match of their feud and the second of those that ended in a draw. That could work on its own, but Styles has already pinned Nakamura clean on the biggest stage of them all. What sense does it make to have this match go to a draw, save for stretching it out for no apparent reason?
The match was good, but there was a big problem: it wasn’t the main event. For reasons of “the other match has Roman Reigns”, this match, a WORLD TITLE MATCH, didn’t main event the show. It defeats the purpose of having a title match, especially when the match that would close the show was far from a big time grudge.
No, the other match closed the show because it included Reigns. It’s not a World Title match, it’s not for a future title shot, and it’s not part of any big blood feud. The fans, who already aren’t interested in Reigns, are being told that the other big match on the show, isn’t as big as anything Reigns is doing. The show as lost, and there was no way to come back from it at this point.
Next up was Braun Strowman/Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens in a rematch from a few weeks ago on Monday Night Raw. That being said, it was also pretty much the same match as the monsters destroyed Owens and Zayn, who got in an argument over who had to fight Strowman. It was nothing special, but for some reason it went after the WWE Title match. Could it be because it’s a Raw match? I mean, is that too much of a stretch?
Finally, we have the main event of Reigns vs. Samoa Joe. Now picture any match these two have ever had where they beat the heck out of each other with one power move after another. Then cut the levels of interest and energy in….oh half at least and that’s what you had here. This was a lifeless match that felt like it was at the end of a house show where everyone just wanted to get to a restaurant and then the hotel. If the fans are chanting DO SOMETHING during the main event, there’s something wrong. That was the case here, and it was the final straw on an already bad show.
Just look at that show and tell me what was supposed to be positive. Reigns gets a win to make himself feel better after losing to Brock Lesnar twice in a few weeks? The women were allowed on the show for a change? We get to see Nakamura vs. Styles do the same result that we saw last time? That’s what we sat there for three and a half hours to see? This show was horrible and WWE should be ashamed that they offered it to us.
So yeah, just by saying this show wasn’t a failure (D-), I was being too kind. Aside from the opener and the World Title match (which was far from great), this was a completely worthless and skippable show with a big lesson to the fans that it’s about what WWE wants instead of what they want. There’s going to be a backlash over this, and WWE’s solution is going to be to give us more Reigns, because that’s how things works around here.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 26 wrestling books. His latest book is the WWE Grab Bag.
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