Written by: Scrooge McSuck
– Presented live on the WWE Network on May 21st, 2017 from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL. Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton, and John “Bradshaw” Layfield are at ringside to call all the action, unless otherwise noted.
Kickoff Match: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English:
They openly acknowledge that Dillinger has already beat English twice, and I doubt there’s going to be a change to that pattern here. English comes out with air-brushed “Starry Night” tights, automatically winning me over. Lockup and English grabs a headlock. He uses a handful of hair to maintain control. Dillinger gives him a taste of his own medicine and cartwheels before flashing 10. English avoids the mounted corner punches and connects with a swinging neck breaker. English with an avalanche elbow as we take a break. 30-seconds later, English is putting the boots to the Perfect 10. Snap mare into a chin-lock. Dillinger fights free and rolls him up for two. He connects with an inverted atomic drop, followed by a diving forearm. He gets the 10 mounted punches and pulls the knee pad down, but English bails. English hangs Dillinger up across the rope, but gets slammed going to the top. Dillinger misses a splash, and English hits a belly-to-back into a face-plant slam for two. He starts teasing losing his composure (cough:he’s crying:cough), but recovers quickly from it. He misses a top rope senton, and Dillinger finishes with the Tye Breaker 2.0 at 7:00 (shown). ** Perfectly acceptable match to get the crowd warmed up.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler:
After coming to the main roster the Smackdown after WrestleMania, Nakamura is finally making his in-ring debut against a guy everyone has gone cold for when it comes to their level of interest. If Dolph hates the entrance so much, why not ruin his moment and attack during it? Ziggler goes for the leg and transitions into a waist-lock. Nakamura sweeps him off his feet, but Dolph avoids a low roundhouse. Ziggler with a pie-face in the corner to earn him a knee to the chest. Dolph counters a wrist-lock with a small package for two. Nakamura with a counter of his own and a pie-face return. Nakamura with a knee drop and Good Vibrations. He follows Ziggler to the floor and gets caught in the ropes with a hangman’s neck breaker. Ziggler slows things down with a chin-lock. Nakamura escapes but runs into a dropkick. Jumping elbow drop gets two. Nakamura comes back with a knee lift and spinning heel kick, connecting on the second rotation. Shinsuke with the running knee to the midsection for two. Ziggler with a school boy, Nakamura counters with a triangle choke, but Ziggler quickly makes it to the ropes.
Ziggler escapes a suplex and connects with the hang-time DDT for two. Famouser for another two count. Nakamura avoids a Super-Kick, but the Zig-Zag connects… for two. Nakamura blocks a piledriver and comes back with strikes. Heel kick to the back of the head. Ziggler lands on his feet to avoid a Reverse Exploder and hits a Super-Kick to the back of the head for two. Dolph keeps targeting the back of the head and spits a loogy in Shinsuke’s face. That ticks him off, and starts laying into him with a flurry of knee strikes. Dolph tries hiding in the ropes, but Shinsuke keeps pounding him with elbows and a stomp to the back of the head. Nakamura with a sliding knee to the face. He misses a flying knee, but recovers quickly, hits the reverse Exploder, and the KINSHASA~! finishes at 15:49, and that one looked REALLY good. ***1/4 It didn’t matter how good the match was going to be (it met my expectations, maybe slightly higher), because the measuring stick remains the debut vs. Sami Zayn, an unfair comparison unless you put Nakamura in the ring with someone at his level, and if he’s willing to go all out. Looking at it from another perspective (“Ziggler should’ve been squashed”), letting Ziggler look good improves his worth after 4 months of awful booking with Kalisto and Apollo Crews, while still putting Nakamura over as a big deal (he kicks out of everything thrown at him and mauls him at the end).
WWE Tag Team Championship Match:
The Usos (c) vs. The Fashion Police:
(Jimmy & Jey Uso vs. Tyler Breeze & Fandango)
The “Fashion Police” a.k.a. Breezango won a Beat the Clock Challenge to earn the spot and spent three weeks doing awesome comedy vignettes to try and generate interest. Breeze comes out in his Janitor disguise. Hmm… I wonder if this is going to be a comedy match? Fandango and Jimmy start. Fandango with a side headlock, followed by a spinning head scissors. Breeze tags in and does some comedy spots with the mop, drawing a “Mop” chant. Jey runs in with an uppercut and snaps the mop in half to the best heel heat of the night… so far. He goes to the top, but Breeze keeps doing a slow roll, back and forth, with Jey trying to go to each corner, unsuccessfully. Breeze from out of nowhere with an enzuigiri for two. Fandango comes off the top with an axe-handle. Fandango blocks a sunset flip with hip gyrations. Jey knocks Breeze off the apron, and it’s a wardrobe change, as he emerges as an old woman, complete with a wig and cane. “Let’s Go Grandma” chant now. Jimmy kicks the cane away and eats a dropkick for it. Breeze flashes Jey to catch him off guard and hits the Mae Young Bronco Buster. The Usos take control with corner hip attacks. Jimmy throws the dress out, and it hits JBL perfectly in the face to a great pop. We even get a replay of his embarrassment! Jimmy meets the post on a failed corner dive. Fandango with the hot tag, unloading with jabs and clotheslines. Spinning heel kick (barely makes contact) for two. Tornado DDT for two. Jimmy with the blind tag and they hit a modified Demolition Decapitation for two. Tyler with the Unprettier on Jimmy for a near fall. The Usos catch Breeze going for a dive and deposit him into the first row. Fandango with a somersault plancha, but the 2-on-1 works against him, and a Super-Kick finishes at 9:18. **1/2 Sue me, but I enjoyed the heck out of this, and to my surprise, the Chicago crowd was into the comedy, too. No surprise with the Usos going over. There’s no need to move the titles off them… yet.
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin:
Corbin attacked Zayn on Talking Smack, leading to the challenge and another attack, to set this one up. They’re playing it up like Sami has zero chance here, and he takes exception to that just because he’s “The Underdog from the Underground.” Lockup to the corner and Corbin with a surprisingly clean break. Whip to the ropes, Sami springs over and takes Corbin over with a spinning head scissors. He teases a dive, but bounces off the ropes. Zayn with a push-off dropkick to send Corbin to the floor again. Zayn with a moonsault off the security barricade. Back inside, Corbin bulldozes Zayn into the corner. Corbin with a back breaker and hard whip to the corner. Zayn fights out of a bear-hug and pulls the ropes down on the charging Corbin. Zayn can’t get anything going from the top and runs into a spine-buster for a two count. Corbin comes off the ropes with rights, trash talking in between. Zayn surprises Corbin with a short clothesline and a flying body press gets two. Corbin does his in-and-out to turn Zayn inside-out with a clothesline. Choke-Slam Back Breaker gets two. Corbin sets up for a Super-Plex, but Sami fights off and counters with a sunset Powerbomb for two. Corbin blocks a Tornado DDT, blocks the Exploder Suplex. Sami with a crucifix cradle for two. Corbin with Deep Six for two. Corbin misses a charge, gets caught with a boot, and Zayn with the Helluva Kick for the upset at 14:38. *** Good match, with a reasonable finish of Zayn finding that one moment and capitalizing on it.
Naomi, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch vs. The Welcoming Committee (w/ James Ellsworth):
This has cluster-f*ck potential. This has been mostly about Charlotte, despite Naomi being the Women’s Champion, so we can see how important her reign as Champion has already turned out to be. First time we’re seeing Tamina in action since returning to action (on TV), and her outfit makes her look like cheap knock-off Nia Jax. Becky (with Tamina’s old hair style) and Tamina start. Becky hops on her with a sleeper, but can’t get a sunset flip. Natalya gets caught in a small package for two. Charlotte tags in and school boys Natalya for two. She unloads with chops and comes off the ropes with a knee drop across the boob. Carmella with a distraction, allowing Natalya to knock Charlotte off the apron with a clothesline. They take turns stomping away until Carmella hooks a chin-lock. Naomi comes in with a springboard body press and her stupid jumping in place kicks. I don’t know what looks worse, the kicks, or Carmella’s attempts to give the impression that they make reasonable contact. Tamina with a distraction, allowing Carmella to take control. She stomps away and hits a Bronco Buster for two. Tamina with a chin-lock. The heels play a game of “prevent the hot tag” by sweeping the illegal partners off the apron. Tamina with a Samoan Drop for two. Naomi with a head scissors on Natalya and hot tag to Becky. Again, the Women’s Champion is presented in a lesser light than her partners. Becky with the forearms and dropkick to Natalya for two. Carmella breaks up the Disarm-Her and it’s time for a bunch of stuff to happen! STUFF! When the dust settles, Natalya sweeps Becky and gets her to tap out to the Sharpshooter at 10:02. I didn’t expect that finish, especially clean. *1/2 This fell below even my low expectations. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good, and the crowd didn’t seem too receptive to any of it.
WWE United States Championship Match:
Kevin Owens � vs. A.J. Styles:
As good as this might be, the build hasn’t done much for me. Styles is the Face That Built Smackdown, Owens is the New Face of America. There you go, filler feud to buy time until we need to worry about SummerSlam. Lockup into the corner, Owens goes for the previously injured leg, but Styles shakes him off. Styles with a victory roll for an early pin attempt. Crisscross and Owens bails. Whip is reversed and Owens hangs back to avoid a dropkick. He hits the ropes again, and this time the dropkick hits the mark. Styles avoids a charge and takes Owens over with a head scissors. Owens sweeps Styles off the ropes and lays him out with a clothesline for two. Styles fights out of a chin-lock, but gets caught with a DDT. Owens with three sentons for a near fall, then goes back to the chin-lock. Styles slips out of a slam and connects with an enzuigiri. He unloads with the Phenomenal Blitz and sliding forearm for two. Styles with a face-plant slam for two. He calls for the Styles Clash, but settles for the Ushigoroshi, getting a near fall.
Owens counters the springboard reverse DDT with a Super-Kick and connects with a fisherman neck breaker for two. He goes for the Powerbomb, but Styles hangs onto the ropes. They trade rights and Owens hangs him up across the top rope. Owens goes to the top rope, but Styles slugs him down. He teases a Styles Clash from the apron, but Owens slams the right leg into the post and throws him into the steps. Back inside, Owens with the Cannonball. He wraps the leg around the rope and hits another Cannonball before turning Styles over with a single-leg Crab, then transitions to an Ankle Lock. Styles fights off the shoulders of Owens and hits a sunset Powerbomb. If only we didn’t see that move two matches ago. He goes for the Phenomenal Forearm, but the leg gives out. Double-Arm DDT from Owens gets two. Owens slaps him around, so Styles responds with the Pele Kick. Styles sets Owens up across the top turnbuckle, but Owens counters with a Super Fisherman Buster for two. Styles with a suplex on the apron for an awkward landing. Styles sets up the announcer’s table, but gets shoved into the timekeeper’s area. He comes back off the barricade with the Phenomenal Forearm. He goes for the Styles Clash on the table, but his leg slips into the opening, and somehow gets tied up in cables for the Count-Out at 21:05. I hate the near-literal slip on banana peel finishes. Post-match, Owens gives him a Super-Kick to the back of the head, just because he can. ***1/2 This started REALLY slow, but picked up nicely and lead to a hot few minutes before hitting the brakes for a cheap finish.
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan:
Popcorn and/or Piss-Break Match! I guess they’re trying to establish Rowan’s creepiness, but he’s still Erick Rowan, so it feels like a waste of time. We said the same about Jinder Mahal, so what do we know? Rowan quickly carries Harper into the corner and unloads with rights and kicks. Harper comes back with chops, but gets knocked to the floor trying to climb the ropes. Back inside, Rowan with a splash for two. Crowd is bored, so they chant “Fire Bradshaw”, because people still care about that, I guess. Rowan with an avalanche and dropkick for two. Rowan continues to dominate, planting Harper with slams and a pump-handle back breaker for another near fall. Harper rolls away from a splash attempt, and it’s time to build momentum. Harper chases Rowan down, connecting with an elbow, followed by a tope suicida, knocking Rowan into the announcer’s tables. Somersault senton and big boot gets two. Harper with a modified Sidewalk Slam for two. Rowan escapes a potential Powerbomb and hits the spinning heel kick. Rowan connects with his own Powerbomb for two. Harper with a leg sweep and rolling cradle for two. They trade blows with Harper getting the better of the exchange. He counters a Powerbomb, hits a pair of Super-Kicks, and finishes with the Discus Clothesline at 8:57. $50 says we get a rubber match on Smackdown Live. ** Perfectly Acceptable Wrestling, if you will.
WWE Championship Match:
Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal (w/ The Singh Brothers):
Seriously can’t believe I’m typing that. Mahal won a Five-Man Contender’s Match, and suddenly has scored victories over Orton, Zayn, and Styles in the weeks leading up to this. All Orton has done as Champion is the abortion known as the House of Horrors Match. Orton attacks during the introductions and throws Mahal over the announcer’s table. He nicely sets JBL’s hat aside to continue pounding away. Mahal’s back acne is ridiculously out of control. Someone check the canvas for peanut oil! Mahal is ready to fight though, almost playing babyface with his determination. Orton goes for an RKO, but Mahal bails. Orton follows, laying him out with a clothesline. Mahal leverage throws Orton into the LED board. Back inside, and we get a CHIN-LOCK. Basement dropkick gets a one count, and now we get the ARM-BAR. “Let’s Go Jinder/Jinder Sucks” chants. Orton comes back with the Garvin Stomp and rakes the eyes with his boot laces. Mahal comes back with a neck breaker and knee drop for two. CHIN-LOCK! To the floor, and Orton with the back suplex across the table. Instead of countless dives, we’ve had countless spots involving those damn tables.
Back inside, Mahal regains control with a series of knee drops. Knee to the back, and our THIRD chin-lock, and we’re only at 5:45 into the match. Orton fights out of another arm-bar and straddles Mahal across the top rope for a bone rattling Super-Plex. They exchange blows, with Mahal constantly targeting the left shoulder. Orton with clotheslines and a snap Power-Slam, but damn if that arm isn’t hurting. Orton with a sloppy fall-away slam for two. Mahal with a shot to the throat and the Regal Neck Breaker for two. Orton with the draping DDT. He teases the RKO, but Mahal bails, again. Orton follows and confronts Singh 2 and Singh 1, only to get shoved shoulder-first into the ring post. Back inside, RKO OUT OF NOWHERE, but the Singh Brothers pull Mahal to the floor. And how is that NOT a Disqualification? Orton goes out again, and this time takes them out with sloppy back suplexes across the tables, dropping them on their heads. You can see Orton grimace at the bad landing, and it’s already my new favorite GIF. Orton with draping DDT’s to J & J Security: India Edition, but MAHAL FROM BEHIND WITH THE KALLAS FOR THREE AT 15:50 TO BECOME THE NEW WWE CHAMPION. Drink it in, man. Yes, they actually went and did it, and you know what? I don’t care. I find it funny, to be honest. ** This was as paint-by-numbers of a match as you could possibly get.
Final Thoughts: I don’t think anybody had high expectations coming in for Backlash, and to be honest, it mostly exceeded, but still didn’t deliver a must-see product. The best match would likely be the same match seen on free TV, and with a cop-out ending to really stick it to fans who paid good money to see it live. Nakamura’s debut wasn’t going to be a show-stealing match, but it worked, and in my opinion helped rebuild Ziggler after a miserable feud with Kalisto and Crews. The undercard didn’t promise much, but everything was at least fine, with only the Women under-delivering. As for the Main Event… let it play out and see where it goes before we completely condemn the idea, but it does feel like another JBL situation, minus a Champion that everyone loves doing the job. Thumbs Down, and no hesitation there.