After enjoying New Japan’s Wrestling Dontaku shows, I was quite looking forward to WWE Backlash. The card looks decent, if a bit overpacked and the post-‘Mania shows tend to be quite good. So, I sat down with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and loaded up the WWE Network..

Seth Rollins vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship was a good choice for opener and a fine match (4/5) I’ve never been the biggest fan of Seth Rollins, but his recent run as ‘hardworking face workhorse’ suits him and highlights his greatest strength – his athleticism. This was a fast, back and forth match with some great false falls and a red hot crowd who were completely into Rollins. The Miz was good here too – he’s never a stand out in ring, but he rarely disappoints. A great start to the show.

Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss for the  Raw Women’s Championship was better than their ‘Mania and better than I thought it would be truthfully (3/5) Sure, there were a few ropey moments (there was a point mid mach where it felt like they were tussling on the top turnbuckle for an eternity) but this had some good spots and the right result. I’m not sure where Nia goes from here though…

The United States Championship title match between Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton wasn’t that long a match but it really dragged (2.5/5) Orton was in control for most of the match and his methodical style made me pretty tired to be honest. As mentioned previously, I’m not really a fan of Jeff Hardy either, so his flippy offence didn’t do much for me either. Nothing technically wrong with this one, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

The segment after this (with Elias, The New Day etc) went on for what felt like a week…it’s pretty awful comedy (bad man with musical gimmick is interrupted and attacked by good people and their music). I watched this with a combination of horror and tiredness, drifting in and out of consciousness…combine this with the Orton  -Hardy match and that’s a loooong half an hour….

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass was a revelation to me – I was expecting Cass to win here as I still suspect that WWE don’t really see anything in Bryan. The fact Bryan was immediately matched up with bland 7ft Cass immediately set my ‘Hoss’ alarm bell ringing…the WWE will always push giants, regardless of ability and you simply have to accept this and deal with it if you follow the product. Imagine my shock when Bryan simply ran through Cass like a freight train and made him submit with the Yes Lock. It was a good performance from Bryan, who looks like he hasn’t missed a step and Cass was alright here too, to be fair. Cass’ post match beatdown didn’t inspire me – I don’t really want this feud to continue, I want Bryan to move on to Miz, Nakamura and Styles. Still, a win for Bryan is no bad thing and I did enjoy this one. 3.5/5 and easily Cass’ best match since he and Enzo took on The Revival at NXT Takeover: London.

Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship won me over in the end (3/5). It didn’t start well, with a big boot hitting air, but it was a fair effort and I found myself getting drawn into the match as it went on I liked the story of Carmella trying to force submissions and keep Charlotte grounded, to avoid being overwhelmed. The ending felt a bit odd though – surely jarring your knee on a moonsault and a kick to said knee wouldn’t be enough for a three count? I’m not sure where Carmella is going as champ either – is she going to somehow retain against Charlotte, Asuaka, Becky Lynch and Naomi for months on end? I think Asuaka beats her in the next month or two.

Could third time be the charm for AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and the search for a match as good as their Wrestle Kingdom match? I didn’t think so…I thought the match started slowly and then, much like their match at Greatest Royal Rumble, the match ended just as it was getting going. The finish was ridiculous – the whole point of booking a No DQ match is to ensure there is a winner! A double groin shot as the finish is just silly. I’ll go 3/5 for this – like their other matches, it was good in places but overall it was a disappointment. My concern is that we’ve had three Styles – Nakamura matches and they’ve all been OK and nothing more. Considering Styles has had great matches with a range of guys (Ambrose, Cena, Reigns, Balor) I’m looking at Nakamura here. I personally think he peaked on his debut, a great match against Sami Zayn. I guess we’ll be getting a fourth match at some point…

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley was in the buffer spot before the main event, which in my opinion is a waste of the popular Strowman and the talented Owens and Zayn. Strowman is on fire at the moment and looks like a breakout star…in my opinion, he’s the best pick to dethrone Lesnar. Zayn and Owens have been misused in my opinion, with their shaky alliance not really benefiting either man. A shame as both are quality, in and out of the ring.

This match annoyed me to be honest (2/5)…it was more of an angle, where Owens and Zayn lost because of bickering and ended up being humiliated, like a pair of comedy characters. Strowman powerslamming both men after the bell didn’t really make sense…nor does his team with Lashley. It’s not exactly a grand return for Lashley either, being the weak link in a face tag team. To be honest, I haven’t been impressed with Lashley since his return – I can’t comment on the past ten years as I haven’t seen his TNA run, but I feel like he hasn’t improved since he left WWE. He’s pretty much the same guy –  power moves (some botched), lots of smiling, same black trunks and boots…it didn’t work out for Lashley ten years ago, how is it going to go now, when you have arguably the most talented WWE roster of all time?

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe was in the main event spot. It was the opposite of Styles vs. Nakamura – fast start before the bell, then slowing right down into rest holds. The action did pick up after the lull though, with Joe looking for the Coquina Clutch. It was a good match, but again the unpopular Reigns won against the odds. The crowd aren’t into Reigns at all and I wish WWE would realize this and make a change. Still, a decent match, though it wasn’t really worthy of being a main event…I settled on 3.5/5 for it, based on Joe’s performance. Joe has been great since joining the WWE system in 2016 and I wish WWE would do something with him, whether it be a title reign or a run in the main events. Whether by design or coincidence (his schedule is pretty gruelling to be fair) I thought this was a flat performance by Reigns, but again I don’t really blame him. He’s stale and overpushed, a dangerous combination….

Overall – 3.06/5.00 for a very up and down show. Some really good stuff (Miz vs Rollins, a surprisingly dominant Daniel Bryan performance, Joe looking good in the main event, two decent Women’s matches) and some skippable stuff (Strowman/Lashley vs Owens/Zayn, Orton vs Hardy, that Elias segment)

Next up for me is New Japan’s Best of The Super Juniors tournament, staring in a week or so. One of the reasons I write about wrestling is to try and keep up with the various companies and I am terrible with wrestling tournaments…I tend to lose interest a few stages in and drop out. I’m determined not to do that this year and I need to practice for New Japan’s G1 tournament, a tournament I struggle with so much, I end up missing half of it and not watching the month afterwards either. I’m not sure how I’m going to cover Best of The Super Juniors, but I will endeavor to watch as much of it as possible.

Unless New Japan put an Elias/New Day/No Way Jose segment in every show…then I’m boycotting it 🙂