WWE Backlash 2018 Review

Newark, New Jersey hosts this co-branded pay-per-view event, carrying us into the new season of WWE’s landscape. But I want you to keep this phrase in mind as you read this review: “No consequence.” Here’s what went down.

All photos by WWE.com

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz

After losing the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania, and being ousted by his own Miz-tourage, The Miz looks to regain the IC title, which would tie him with Chris Jericho with 9 title reigns. Although Rollins and Miz were the curtain jerkers here, these two elevated the bar for the rest of the evening – easily being the best match of the night.

This was probably the loudest the crowd was for the entire show, as well. The Miz was in full heel form, garnering a significantly split percentage of cheers and boos throughout. Rollins, who has since taken on a very successful babyface run since his 65-minute match in February, had a large share of the audience on his side, as well. After various Figure Four, Falcon Arrow, and Skull Crushing Finale counters, Rollins retains with The Stomp (formerly known as The Curbstomp).

WWE Raw Women’s Championship – Nia Jax (c) vs. Alexa Bliss

After defeating Alexa Bliss to become the new Raw Women’s Champion at WrestleMania, Nia Jax has to defend the title in this granted rematch. Jax and Bliss’s “bully” storyline is hitting its narrative summation. These two could only feud over the subject for a finite amount of time, but the psychology behind this particular match was interesting.

Whereas their WrestleMania match was a glorified Jax-on-Bliss squash, this match, at times, had the echoes of a Bret Hart versus Yokozuna or Bret Hart vs. Diesel pay-per-view strategy match. Jax dominated Bliss for a huge chunk of this match, only for Bliss to find moments to out-maneuver or use ring awareness to try and overcome Jax’s size. The crowd wasn’t particularly invested in this contest following the stellar Rollins/Miz opening. Jax retains and cuts a by-the-numbers babyface promo that draws boos from the Newark crowd. Not a good look.

WWE United States Championship – Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Randy Orton

Continuing the “No Consequences” theme, newly-minted United States Champion Jeff Hardy defends his title against Randy Orton in a sleep-inducing contest. There’s something to be said when two Grand Slam champions, Jeff Hardy being only one-of-two Double Grand Slam champions (Chris Jericho being the other), can’t bring a Newark crowd to care what’s happening in the ring.

“We want to walk with Elias!”

Elias is easily one of the most over characters in the WWE landscape today. His appearances draw huge crowd responses, whether they’re boos or cheers, so his presence can’t be denied on any given WWE show. Elias even elicited the “Yay!” / “Boo!” spot just by stepping toward and away from his bar stool in the ring. That’s how much command Elias has over a captive audience, at this point.

With Backlash implementing the co-branded pay-per-view formats, this segment provided a fun opportunity to bring together some dynamic characters once a month. Elias is continuously interrupted by the inane taunts and actions of The New Day, Rusev Day, and No Way Jose’s party entourage in hilarious succession, only to eat a Glorious DDT from Bobby Roode to close the segment.

Considering the snoozefests we witnessed before this bit, this was a very welcome segment on an otherwise boring show.

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

If you want to give a character some immediate heat, have them go after the most beloved babyface on the roster. Enter Big Cass, returning from his knee injury, assaulting Daniel Bryan every chance he can get.

Big Cass was kinda doomed here from the get-go, storyline wise. Daniel Bryan, who is still one of the most popular characters in the WWE, was not going to lose to someone like Big Cass. The crowd knew this. Outside of Bryan’s spots, the Newark crowd invested in few moments here. Cass taps to Daniel Bryan and it’s like this match never happened. No consequence.

WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship – Carmella (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Roughly a month ago, Charlotte ended Asuka’s undefeated streak to much aplomb. Now, she’s getting rolled up by Carmella and losing. Who would have known? There’s nothing of merit here, unfortunately. No consequence.

No Disqualification Match for WWE Championship – AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Nakamura is going through a brilliant heel run right now. Beginning at WrestleMania, Nakamura delivered a low blow to his one-time friend and current rival AJ Styles. And ever since, Nakamura has taken to nailing Styles below-the-belt every single week – sarcastically remarking “Sorry, no speak English” in explaining his disdain for Styles. With legit heat between them, Styles and Nakamura have to make up for the no contest ending from Greatest Royal Rumble a week prior.

Much like their WrestleMania match, this was an interesting match to watch, but something still wasn’t clicking. The match gets some “sizzle”, as Jim Ross would say, when AJ Styles uses a chair to block Nakamura’s Kinshasa, only to have the chair bounce back into his face and cut him open. The match ends in a no contest after Styles and Nakamura kick each other in the nether-regions and can’t meet the referee’s 10 count. Say it with me now:  “No consequence.”

Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

I feel sorry for anybody that has to share a ring with Bobby Lashley. He’s got the personality and presence of a 2×4 and it really shows here. Braun mows down Kevin Owens in a fun spot, but this match beared… no consequence.

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe

Reigns, after taking two defeats from Brock Lesnar in the past month, is in an invulnerable position. And Samoa Joe has been poking at him all along, cutting a string of great promos leading into this grudge match. This has the makings of being a great main event, but all the aggression and interest anybody had going into this match quickly evaporated into thin air.

Before the bell rings, Joe violently slams Roman Reigns through the Spanish announcer’s table to the delight of the Newark crowd. Joe’s staked his claim and he isn’t messing around. When the bell rings and the match begins, everything turns into a rote, uninspired mid card-level WWE match. A lot of long, overused restholds lead to the crowd turning on the match. Joe locks in a few Coquina Clutches, but Roman overpowers and overcomes Joe to win. By the time Reigns started making his comeback, the crowd had already lost interest.

 

No consequence. See what I mean? Backlash suffers from the plodding the comes from creative booking sometimes. There are no major twists or turns in any narrative, and everything is basically the same as it was before the show. If the WWE wants to keep viewers invested in the now-co-branded, four-hour pay-per-views, they’re gonna have to make some creative changes very soon.