Randy Orton defends the WWE Championship against Jinder Mahal, as the Face of America, Kevin Owens, looks to extend his run as WWE United States Champion against A.J. Styles. Shinsuke Nakamura makes his long-awaited WWE pay-per-view debut.
(Winner via pinfall: Shinsuke Nakamura)
Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso (C)
Tyler Breeze & Fandango
WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship
(Winners via pinfall: Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso)
(Winner via pinfall: Sami Zayn)
Natalya, Tamina Snuka & Carmella (with James Ellsworth) (“The Welcoming Committee”)
Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch & Naomi
(Winners via submission: Natalya, Snuka & Carmella)
Kevin Owens (C)
WWE United States Championship
(Winner via countout: Kevin Owens)
(Winner via pinfall)
Jinder Mahal (with The Singh Brothers)
(Winner by pinfall, and NEW champion: Jinder Mahal)
I never quite understood the buildup to Shinsuke Nakamura’s supposed “debut.” We had seen him wrestle for a year in NXT, and even headline that brand as its champion, so it felt like WWE were genuinely trying to act as though NXT didn’t exist. I get that NXT has a much smaller audience than Smackdown Live, but hyping up the “long-awaited” in-ring debut of Shinsuke Nakamura just seems daft when those same viewers could just go watch 12 months worth of his matches on WWE Network. Anyway, I’m digressing.
His match with Dolph Ziggler was about as good as I’d expected it to be. I’ve never been absolutely sold on Nakamura’s in-ring work in WWE, and am reasonably sure the love for him largely comes from peoples affinity with his entrance, so I wasn’t surprised to see he and Ziggler not tear the house down (although Ziggler is capable of doing that every night of the week, on his part). That said, there were some good sequences here, and I loved the super kick to the back of Nakamura’s head, which should have ended the match. Nakamura eventually won, which was no surprise, but it will be interesting to see if this feud goes any further.
The WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship match was absolutely silly, but a great watch. MVP here was Tyler Breeze, who spent the majority of the match wrestling as either an undercover janitor, or a grandma. I’m not quite sure why he was doing that, but it was hilarious, as was the Uso’s reaction to it. Some people will feel it had too much comedy for a PPV, and there’s a fair argument to make that this belonged on a house show, but the crowd were into it and so was I. Besides all of the comedy, there was some quality wrestling, and the Uso’s winning after a super kick to Fandango’s head (whilst he was on the turnbuckles) was a lovely finish. Fandango and Breeze are finally over with the crowd, and I hope WWE don’t let it fizzle out like they did with Heath Slater and Rhyno at the end of 2016.
As a massive Sami Zayn fan, I was of course delighted when he was moved to Smackdown in April 2017. His match with Baron Corbin, here at Backlash 2017, did however present me with a fear that he was going to be used to elevate his opponent, as Corbin is certainly headed toward the main event scene. Thankfully, those fears were misplaced, and Zayn got a surprise victory over the Lone Wolf. Both men put on a good match, as expected, and Sami played the underdog babyface as well as he always does. A win for him seemed so unlikely here, which made it even sweeter, but I can’t see this rivalry ending without Corbin striking back on the next Smackdown.
I could write a whole article about the absolute disgrace it is to modern women’s wrestling that Naomi is currently a champion in WWE, but I won’t let myself be dragged into that right now. I liked the idea of the 6-woman tag match, and it shows that Smackdown really does have a better grasp on how to stretch out their feuds, storytelling, and championship reigns. I’m less keen on Charlotte Flair having switched to a babyface role, as I thought a heel Charlotte could have lit up Smackdown, but it is what it is.
The women’s match was a good little bout, which was given good time, and let every woman shine. Carmella held her own in the ring with clearly much better wrestlers, and her gimmick continues to entertain. Flair belongs in title matches, but I suspect we may see her in some non-title PPV matches for a while yet, as they pad out Naomi’s championship run. Annoyingly, I agree that the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship needs to have a long run with someone now, I just wish it wasn’t Naomi.
Natalya’s submission victory over Becky Lynch showed just where their momentum is right now. Natalya is on fire right now, whereas Lynch has been lost in the shuffle the past few months. Also, what is with her hair? I miss her look from before Wrestlemania 33.
Kevin Owens in a suit, calling himself “The Face of America,” is damn good viewing. Owens has a look that makes you want to see him get punched, and it’s amazing how much stronger that feeling becomes when he’s in a tie and blazer. Here’s hoping he debuts a new WWE United States Championship soon.
His match with A.J. Styles was probably the most anticipated one, going into the show. It certainly was a competitive contest, although a much more grounded and slow affair that I had expected going into it. It was a slow burner, picking up more in its latter stages, which probably meant it wasn’t the spotfest that mainstream fans would get excited about, but this wrestling fan enjoyed it at least.
The finish, with AJ’s foot getting stuck in the announce table, protected both men, which was probably the right thing to do. You don’t wan to see Styles getting pinned too often, and a title change wouldn’t have been ideal for Owens, so a count out finish keeps both men looking strong and provides a reason for a rematch, should WWE want to go that way. I think both men can put on a better match than they did here, so there’s definitely excitement on my end for a rematch, but I think it would be better either non-title, or for a certain world title, where neither man suffers from taking a loss in a mid-card title match.
Please WWE, let Erik Rowan and Luke Harper have singles careers where they don’t battle each other out of some sort of sibling rivalry due to their previous relationship in the Wyatt Family. This is the second time we’ve seen this feud now, and I genuinely don’t think Rowan has a single feud under his belt that wasn’t against Harper? Decent match at Backlash 2017 mind, but time to move on, gents.
The main event had a big fight feel to it, if only because some people felt so passionately that Jinder Mahal should not win the WWE Championship that they got more and more behind current champion Randy Orton. The match itself was of good quality, and I felt that the Singh Brothers added a lot to things, and watching Orton deal with them time after time was humorous. I loved Orton’s attack on Mahal prior to the bell ringing to start the match too.
It’s safe to say that Orton would have won the match had Mahal not been rolled out of the ring by the Singh Brothers, following being on the receiving end of an RKO. That missed opportunity for Orton helped it feel even more as though his title had been stolen from him, when Mahal eventually attacked from behind to put him away for the three count. The crowd were stunned, as were a lot of viewers I imagine, but Mahal looks a million bucks and doesn’t look out of place with the WWE Championship in his hands. I would have preferred to see him built up a bit more before this win came his way, but I’m not about to complain about WWE creating another main event star, something we apparently are always pleading for them to do, but then bitch if they don’t do it with the person we want them too.
WWE Backlash 2017 was an entertaining show to watch, and has kept numerous storylines going, as Smackdown Live heads into the summer. Mahal as champion sets up some interesting possibilities, and I’m interested in seeing where they take it. Another short WWE Championship reign would be a disaster for that belt (it’s changed hands at every PPV in 2017 – that’s five champions in five months), so I hope they don’t hot shot it off him, but with people like Orton, Nakamura and Styles on the brand, it’s going to be hard to see how Mahal keeps this championship for long.
Certainly worth a watch if you’re a WWE fan, but it doesn’t come anywhere near th superb NXT TakeOver: Chicago which aired the day prior to this.
Match of the Night
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal
WWE Backlash 2017 Rating