WWE Backlash 2017
May 21, 2017
Allstate Arena
Rosemont, Illinois

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our reviewers:

Garrett Kidney: If Garrett had a penny for every TNA gif he’s ever created he’d have exactly $23.88. That’s not a lot of money. But it is a tonne of gifs! Garrett reviews Impact Wrestling every week RIGHT HERE at Voices of Wrestling. You can also follow him on Twitter @garrettkidney for said TNA gifs as well as geeking out over his Nintendo Switch.

Kelly Harrass: Being behind on most of the companies that he enjoys, Kelly is wondering why he’s carving out time for this show. It must be because he enjoys giving you all his blistering hot takes. Look for Kelly to review some Best of the Super Juniors shows, including tomorrow’s show, and check his Twitter (@comicgeekelly) to see what he thinks of the new Fire Emblem game.

TYE DILLINGER def. AIDEN ENGLISH

Garrett Kidney: Big fan of English’s Van Gogh tights, which reminded me of those really neat Van Gogh levels in New Super Mario Bros U (keeping the Nintendo theme from above going). I’m not sure what Dillinger’s ceiling is on the main roster but I really enjoy him as a midcard gatekeeper. He’s likable and can deliver entirely respectable efforts in that spot with ease. This was a perfectly pleasant pre-show production proving Tye’s potential in that role. Probably went about a minute too long though and lost some momentum toward the end. **3/4

Kelly Harrass: This Drama King gimmick works for me and I’m not entirely sure why. I really hope that at some point Aiden English comes to the ring in full costume as though he’s in Cats. I have no real thoughts on this match. It happened and it didn’t upset me, so that’s good. More than anything, I was shocked that after skipping Smackdown for weeks Renee has completely changed her hair. **

SHINSUKE NAKAMURA def. DOLPH ZIGGLER

Garrett Kidney: I think I’ve worked out why a lot of Nakamura’s WWE matches so far have left me a little cold. When you think of his best past performances, he’s usually working on top. He’s confident, arrogant – usually verging on bullying his opponent. While CHAOS haven’t really been heels for a while now, Nakamura thrives as the antagonist; where he can be a commanding physical presence and leverage every ounce of his charisma. So watching him work the other side, where he never seems to show the right amount of fire to make his comebacks truly pop, he ends up landing in a weird middle ground that lessens the impact of a lot of his matches for me. This was undoubtedly a good match but when you debut somebody in a big competitive match like this you want better than good, you want Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn. And in spite of both men’s best efforts, this wasn’t even in the league of Nak’s NXT debut. ***1/4

Kelly Harrass: This was about a lot more than a single match. This match was about justification. When one of my favorites was taken from New Japan and placed into WWE developmental, I was upset to say the least. Having him down there for over a year felt like overkill, but I hoped that it would all pay off for him and his fans. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wanted this to justify his time in NXT. Honestly, it was an unreasonable request. What I was hoping for was something on par with his match with Zayn in his NXT debut, a performance that he has yet to top, including his performance here. The structure of the match left a lot to be desired and I feel like this comes down to the WWE environment. Nakamura was throwing closed fist punches, a huge moment in New Japan, but an absolutely meaningless moment here. The match didn’t really get going until Nak took control and even then I was left cold. As the baby face, Nakamura is going to be working his way out of the control of his opponent, a situation that doesn’t always work out in his matches. It lacked the viciousness that the best Nakamura matches have. Hopefully they’ll allow him to do what he does best in the future instead of focusing almost solely on his facial expressions. Thankfully, the crowd seems into him so he’ll hopefully have a successful run, even though his best performances are probably behind him. ***1/4

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
THE USOS © def. BREEZANGO

Garrett Kidney: Breeze and Fandango are the kind of guys who can make anything work. Extremely committed to their act and immensely talented – it is yet another one of those instances of accomplished performers turning rubbish into something extremely enjoyable. Like all people who lean on shtick, no matter how entertaining, there is always the question of how long the shelf life is (I’m looking at how insufferable The New Day has become) and whether it will sustain with a more serious edge (I’m looking at you Damien Sandow). For now though, they are a delight. The first half of this match was built around some lovely silly Breeze comedy and then things kicked up a gear resulting in a super fun little tag match breaking out in the end. The Usos have been one of the best teams in the world for a very long time now and Breezango make for perfect foils. They can only go up from here too. ***

Kelly Harrass: Breezango was incredible here. They may not have won, but this was their show. Not only were their jokes funny, but they worked their collective ass off. I know having the Uso brothers retain was the right move, but I would have lost it for an upset. I have a special place in my heart of this kind of ridiculous wrestling and Breezango has cemented themselves as my favorite tag team in WWE following this match. ***1/4

SAMI ZAYN def. BARON CORBIN

Garrett Kidney: I’m so incredibly glad Zayn won here because he worked circles around the lifeless lug that is Corbin in every way imaginable. Corbin is fine. He’s carryable. However Zayn is one of the most dynamic wrestlers on the planet right now. Engaging the audience in every regard, he brings you into the ring. I actually hate when he does matches like this because I’m a dope getting worked and being terrified that Zayn is actually hurt (weirdly the fact that Zayn did hurt himself relatively innocuously once really helps in that regard). He makes you believe and he should be the biggest act in the company, not languishing in midcard oblivion. A one man show. ***

Kelly Harrass: This was pretty much the perfect match for these two. Zayn is obviously at his best when he’s taking a beating and Corbin is at his best when he’s dishing out a beating to a smaller opponent. While I can’t say that this was a classic, it was a fully enjoyable midcard match. Zayn’s come from behind win was well done and Corbin looked like a bruiser here. **3/4

NATALYA, CARMELLA & TAMINA def. NAOMI, CHARLOTTE FLAIR & BECKY LYNCH

Garrett Kidney: This was a very sleepy match. Becky brought some energy toward the very end but otherwise it was all just there, particularly the interminably long heat sequence. These multi-woman matches rarely amount to more than filler and don’t even tend to justify their own existence by being enjoyable in isolation. **

Kelly Harrass: Remember when the diva’s revolution began and we got all those trios matches because creative didn’t know what else to do with them? This is a lot like those matches. Becky and Charlotte are still on the same team and Tamina is still terrible. Natalya won. **

WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP
KEVIN OWENS def. AJ STYLES via countout

Garrett Kidney: What a fascinating, brilliantly layered match. I was wondering what this match was for the first third because it didn’t really have a clear narrative. The key pivot point was Owen segueing to working on Styles’ injured leg. Owens worked with a focus and ferocity that we haven’t seen from him forever and AJ delivered yet another mind blowingly nuanced performance that showcased every bit of why he’s an all time great. Everything he did was a reaction to something Owens did, be it the sunset flip in the corner or the suplex on the apron. He was on the back foot, fighting for everything he could on instinct. His bumping was off the charts, his timing incredible and his selling of the failed Phenomenal Forearm was gorgeous (the various stages of his collapse there was a thing of beauty, accentuated in slow motion). The countout finish and its execution made me want a rematch rather than feel cheated. This was only chapter one of this dispute, their opening salvo – imagine where they can go from here. ****1/4

Kelly Harrass: This could possibly be the best count out finish that I’ve ever seen. Having AJ’s leg fall through the table and then getting his foot stuck on wires was genuinely brilliant. That was only one of the several crazy looking and potentially dangerous bumps that AJ took over the course of the match, showing that he’s one of the best bumpers in the business. The opening segment of the match left me a little worried about the quality of the remaining two thirds, but things picked up as the focus became solely on AJ’s leg and his attempt to deflect attacks away from it. It’s clear that these two weren’t going all out, but that’s okay because there will definitely be more in this feud. This whole match was about escalation and I think things will continue to go up from here. Easily my favorite match of the show up to this point (and I don’t see anything surpassing it). ****

LUKE HARPER def. ERICK ROWAN

Garrett Kidney: Well, you couldn’t fault the effort anyway. They went for a big hoss fight and while Rowan isn’t really good enough to keep up with Harper in that regard, you can’t blame them for trying. The crowd didn’t really care and these two don’t really have anything going for them right now, which is a shame because Harper could really be a thing if they wanted him to be (imagine if he got the push Bray got over the last two years). **

Kelly Harrass: I feel like I really should have enjoyed this match and it never clicked for me. For a hoss fight this was incredibly boring. Harper tried his best to make something out of this, but Rowan didn’t step up to his level. Hopefully this signifies Harper putting the Wyatt Family behind him. *3/4

WWE CHAMPIONSHIP
RANDY ORTON © VS. JINDER MAHAL

Garrett Kidney: I love how both WWE and Impact Wrestling take an anything will do approach to pandering to the Indian market. It doesn’t matter who represents them, it doesn’t matter how good they are – anything will do. This was a bafflingly structured match. They came flying out of the gate, taking advantage of a surprisingly raucous crowd only to grind things to a halt and never get even remotely near the intensity and urgency of the opening exchanges again (with the exception of Orton briefly attempting to murder a man). Orton broadly showed up tonight (barring his utterly rote comeback) but Jinder showed little to suggest his reign is anything but shameless tokenism. It has only taken a year of the brand split to reach the stage where standards slip regarding who should be champion. We are back to the days where Dolph Ziggler or Jack Swagger (two guys who had considerably more upside than Mahal) are given runs with the top title long before they are prepared. Anything will do. **1/2

Kelly Harrass: Jinder probably should have worked his ass off here. Maybe he did, I don’t know. But either way, this match did nothing for me. This felt like the definition of slow and plodding. The high point of the match had to be when Orton almost killed one of the Bollywood Boys. Ultimately, I like the title change. Orton was doing nothing with the title and WWE has money to be made with Jinder in the Indian market. There’s something to be said about the fact that this was Orton’s best match of the past three PPV’s. Good luck, Jinder. **