Tonight's Backlash pay-per-view is being headlined by what WWE is billing as the "Greatest Match Ever."
WWE has used that tagline for Edge vs. Randy Orton, which was announced last month after Orton challenged Edge to face him in a straight-up wrestling match. Edge defeated Orton in their last man standing match at WrestleMania, but Orton has tried to make Edge doubt himself by saying that Edge hasn't actually had a traditional match since being forced to retire due to injury in 2011.
Six title matches have also been announced for tonight. Five of those will take place on the main card: Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship, Asuka vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women's Championship, Braun Strowman vs. The Miz & John Morrison in a handicap match for the Universal Championship, Bayley & Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. The IIconics for the Women's Tag Team titles, and The Street Profits vs. The Viking Raiders for the Raw Tag Team titles.
Apollo Crews vs. Andrade for the United States title will also take place on tonight's pre-show.
Plus, tonight's PPV will feature a grudge match between Jeff Hardy and Sheamus.
Show Recap --
Charly Caruso interviewed Ric Flair and Christian early in the pre-show. Flair talked about how great Orton is. Christian said Orton was the most talented person he has ever stepped in the ring with but he still always looked for the path of least resistance. Christian said Edge wasn’t on vacation for nine years — he scratched and clawed to get back and had the grit to win.
Apollo Crews defeated Andrade (w/Zelina Vega & Angel Garza) to retain the US Championship (7:23)
Apollo Crews has new music. Kevin Owens came out to join commentary. He wore a tie with his sleeveless shirt. Byron Saxton complimented him on the tie and Owens thanked him for letting him borrow it. Owens was out there to make sure Garza didn’t screw things up for Crews.
Crews gave Andrade a back body drop onto the ramp early in the match. Later on, Crews gave him an overhead belly-to-belly suplex into the turnbuckles (Andrade’s legs hit the buckles, so it wasn’t like a buckle bomb). Crews followed with a spinebuster for two. Andrade followed later with a nice DDT for two.
Crews hit a press slam, standing moonsault and standing shooting star, but Garza got on the apron and this distracted the referee for some reason.
Owens gave Garza a stunner as Crews looked on. Andrade tried to attack from behind but Crews countered into a spinning sit-out powerbomb for the pinfall win. Crews retains. Good match for the time they got but nothing special.
Sheamus cut a promo backstage, speaking to the camera. Basically, he called Jeff Hardy a fraud who would show his true colours. Sheamus threatened to kick him back into obscurity.
BACKLASH MAIN SHOW
Triple threat tag team match: SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley & Sasha Banks defeated Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross and The IIconics to retain the Tag Team Championships (8:50)
Corey Graves and Michael Cole did commentary for this match. Cole said tonight’s winners would defend the titles on Wednesday’s NXT against Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox.
Kayla Braxton interviewed the champs backstage before the match. Bayley called them the greatest tag champs ever. Braxton asked if their friendship would be over if they lost the belts tonight. They were offended by the question and Banks said their friendship was unstoppable.
One of the big spots in the match was Peyton Royce doing a dive effectively onto everyone. Bliss gave Royce a Twisted Bliss but before she could go for a cover, Banks caught her in a rollup for the pinfall win. Banks and Bayley retain.
This match was fine and a bit shorter than I would’ve expected. They also must have set a record for the highest number of camera cuts ever in a match.
Braun Strowman was shown arriving in his Plymouth Grand National.
Sheamus defeated Jeff Hardy (16:48)
Hardy teased using the steel steps but thought better of it. Sheamus dropped him over the top turnbuckle which caused Hardy’s leg to slam against the top of the ring post. Sheamus had control for a while until Hardy hit a Whisper in the Wind.
Hardy ducked a Brogue Kick and hit a slingblade. He was on the top rope but Sheamus tripped him off and they sort of fell on top of each other. Sheamus followed with White Noise for two. Sheamus applied a Texas Cloverleaf but Hardy got a rope break.
After what felt like a long time, Hardy tossed Sheamus shoulder-first into the post, hit a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb, but Sheamus got his foot on the rope. Sheamus rolled outside, so Hardy ran around the barricade and tried a dive but Sheamus gave him a Brogue Kick. Sheamus followed with another Brogue Kick for the pinfall win. Graves said Hardy let everyone down.
This match was going along well for the first few minutes but it went way too long and got clumsier the longer it went.
Braxton interviewed The Miz and John Morrison. Miz said they didn’t have time for her. Braxton had news for them: if one of them pinned Strowman, that person would become the champion (as opposed to co-champions). They seemed surprised but acted like they were fine with this development. Otis and Mandy Rose appeared. Otis teased cashing in on them if they won.
Raw Women’s Championship: Asuka vs. Nia Jax ended in a double countout (8:27)
Asuka applied an octopus hold but Jax got out of it and took over. Asuka applied a guillotine but Jax countered into what looked like a jackhammer. Jax talked trash about Kairi Sane so Asuka came back with strikes and a shining wizard for two. Asuka followed with a dropkick and a running hip attack for two.
Asuka used Yes kicks but Jax caught one (late) and hit a sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall. Jax ran into the post so Asuka went to the top. Jax went after her but Asuka applied an armbar. This led to Jax falling out of the ring, which didn’t look good.
Asuka applied an armbar on the outside but Jax sort of slung her into the barricade. Asuka kicked her in the head but the referee counted to ten before she could get back in the ring. The match ended in a double countout. Asuka retained. Asuka was stunned. She gave Jax a running hip attack on the outside before leaving.
This match was a massive struggle and the finish obviously sucked.
MVP was on the phone ordering champagne. Lana interrupted him and talked about her importance to Bobby Lashley’s success. MVP informed her that he wasn’t the one telling Lashley to keep Lana backstage for his matches. MVP left to get ready for his championship celebration.
2-on-1 handicap match: Braun Strowman defeated The Miz & John Morrison to retain the Universal Championship (7:20)
Miz and Morrison made their entrance and showed their dumb music video until Strowman interrupted it. Cole explained that Miz and Morrison have to tag in and out of the match.
Morrison was kicking away at Strowman but Strowman ducked the last one. However, he still sold being down and Morrison seemed confused. He tagged Miz but they missed each others’ hands. Miz entered the ring anyway.
Miz and Morrison hit a double team Skull Crushing Finale/double foot stomp combo. Morrison went for the cover but Miz yanked him off. Morrison looked surprised and Miz acted upset, like he made a mistake. Miz put Morrison back on top of Strowman but he kicked out easily.
Strowman gave Miz a chokeslam and gave Morrison a powerslam for the pinfall win.
They recapped AJ Styles beating Daniel Bryan to win the Intercontinental title on Smackdown. Cole called the match an instant classic. Braxton interviewed Styles who said there would be a big championship celebration on Smackdown. Everyone was invited including Bryan because he had the most to learn. Styles called Bryan one of the best ever but he wasn’t phenomenal.
Drew McIntyre defeated Bobby Lashley (w/MVP) to retain the WWE Championship (13:14)
McIntyre got in MVP’s face during his entrance then Lashley applied the full nelson and wouldn’t let go. Referees ran down to try to break it up. Lashley eventually let go after a while. McIntyre was down but gave the okay to the referee to start the match.
Lashley attacked McIntyre and gave him a suplex. McIntyre still had his sleeveless jacket on until Lashley ripped it off. McIntyre clotheslined Lashley over the top and drove him into the barricade. McIntyre got distracted by MVP so Lashley picked him up and just sorta dropped him. Another clumsy spot tonight. Lashley then drove him into the ring post.
Lashley tried a spear on the outside but McIntyre launched him into the barricade and followed with a vertical suplex. McIntyre came back with clotheslines, a flying clothesline and spinebuster for two. Lashley followed with a spinebuster of his own for two. Lashley used an ugly-looking flatliner for a one count.
Lashley tried the full nelson but McIntyre managed to fight it off and hit an impressive-looking reverse Alabama Slam. McIntyre came off the top but Lashley blocked and applied a crossface. McIntyre fought out and attempted a piledriver but Lashley countered into an ankle lock. Lashley went for a spear but McIntyre countered into a kimura until Lashley got the rope.
McIntyre hit a superplex and went for a Claymore Kick but Lashley hit a spear instead for a nearfall. Lana chose this moment to saunter out. McIntyre pushed Lashley into Lana who fell into MVP. McIntyre then hit a Claymore Kick for the pinfall win.
The finish was bad but the bulk of this match was pretty good.
The Street Profits / Viking Raiders segment
The announcers were about to introduce the Raw tag team title match but they cut to the parking lot where the Street Profits brawled with the Viking Raiders. I thought they were friendly? Montez Ford chucked Erik on top of Strowman’s car. They all freaked out and ran away.
The brawl continued in the back where they teased using instruments from their previous segments (golf clubs and bowling balls). They stopped fighting when Ford noted how crazy this all was.
They all dropped their weapons. Ford used a reference from the Chappelle Show and asked Angelo Dawkins, “what did the five fingers say to the face?” They each slapped Erik and Ivar, who didn’t get the reference.
Dawkins and Erik fought off-screen. Ivar saw his bowling ball and had a flashback to bowling — which we, the audience, could see. Ivar then bowled the ball into Ford’s nuts. As Ivar checked on Erik, Dawkins speared him through a glass window. Ivar had another flashback that we, the audience, could see.
Each team argued and Dawkins said this escalated too quickly. Ivar said they should take this outside. Everyone else noted that they were already outside.
They readied for another brawl when seven people on motorcycles appeared. One of them took off his helmet to reveal it was Akira Tozawa. He offered a challenge in Japanese.
The Raiders and Profits huddled up. Dawkins noted that they were up against Ninjas, so they agreed to fight together. A graphic popped on the screen dubbing them the Viking Profits. They teamed up to beat up the Ninjas together, which looked about as good as the fight scene in Dolemite is My Name.
Tozawa then called upon a big, tall masked friend of his. Ivar called for a turkey leg the way Thor calls for his hammer. The big guy pulled out a sword. Erik was about to fight him but the Profits held him back and they all ran away.
They argued again, this time on top of a transport truck. Dawkins gave Erik a bulldog off the truck into a dumpster. Ivar pushed Ford into the dumpster, then dove into it. Ivar had another flashback that we, the audience, could see. Referee Jessika Carr appeared and asked them what the heck they were doing. She then said Ivar was cute but Erik wasn’t.
A strange noise started and some sort of tail (like a Godzilla tail) could be seen. They scrambled to get out of the dumpster.
Tom Phillips said the match isn’t happening tonight.
Phillips said it wouldn’t be fair for Orton and Edge to perform without a live audience. Saxton said the match would be an event like we haven’t seen before — WWE would enhance the viewing experience using a variety of production devices including “unique camera angles” and “amplified audio.”
Randy Orton defeated Edge (44:47)
Charles Robinson was the referee and wore an old referee’s outfit — a powder blue shirt and bowtie. Edge’s entrance appeared to have fake crowd noise added — or they turned up the existing noise from the live audience. Whatever the technique was, they used it throughout the match.
They used old audio of Howard Finkel introducing each guy with an old MSG mic hanging above the ring, which was cool.
As the opening bell rang, Phillips yelled, “this is the greatest wrestling match ever!”
About ten minutes into the match, Edge headbutted Orton off the ropes to the apron and Orton was busted open. The audience chanted, “this is awesome.” Edge used a Russian leg sweep and applied a crossface but Orton got a rope break. Edge avoided an RKO and tried for the head-and-arm choke but Orton again got to the ropes.
Orton used a neckbreaker, which Edge sold big, to take over. Orton repeatedly ran Edge into the plexiglass, barricade and steel steps. Orton also gave Edge a back suplex onto the announce table and covered him in the ring for two.
Edge fought out of a chinlock but Orton pushed him neck-first into the buckle. Orton went for the three amigos suplexes but only landed two before Edge countered and hit the three vertical suplexes. The announcers acknowledged Eddie Guerrero.
They traded chops which Edge got the better of but Orton came right back with a dropkick. Orton shoved Edge into the post and followed later with a superplex for two. Orton used uppercuts until each guy collided with crossbody attempts.
Orton tried a draping DDT off the top buckle but Edge countered into the Edgecution DDT for two. The audience chanted, “this is awesome” again. Edge followed with running knees and a running elbow strike for two. Edge then hit a flying high cross for two.
Orton used a schoolboy for two before Edge applied a crossface. Orton countered into a cover for two, then followed with an Angle Slam for two. Orton went for a dropkick but Edge countered into a powerbomb for two.
Orton sent Edge to the outside then hit a draping DDT in the ring. Edge avoided an RKO and went for an Unprettier but Orton slipped out and Edge used an Edge-O-Matic for a nearfall. Orton avoided a spear but Edge hit an Unprettier for two. The audience chanted, “this is awesome” again.
Orton dropped Edge over the top rope and hit a Pedigree for a nearfall. Orton and Saxton were stunned. Edge followed with a Rock Bottom for a nearfall. Another “this is awesome” chant. Edge went for a Sharpshooter but Orton kicked him off. Edge used a backslide for two, then Orton hit an uppercut. Edge came back with a series of rollups for two.
Orton then nailed an RKO for a nearfall. Orton set up for the punt but Edge hit a spear. Edge hit another spear but Orton kicked out. Edge tried something off the ropes but Orton countered into an RKO for a nearfall.
Edge applied the head-and-arm choke (which they’re calling the “anti-venom”) but Orton kicked out of it. The announcers said Orton might have kicked him low but you couldn’t tell. Edge was dazed so Orton punted him for the pinfall win.
After the match, Orton got in Edge’s face and told him to go home. A stretcher was brought out for Edge but he brushed them off. Orton looked on as the show ended.
This was an excellent match. I was skeptical they would come close to the Bryan-Styles match from Smackdown but they did.
Hat tip to Edge for being able to pull this off after being off for so long.
I didn’t notice where Edge might have injured himself. He landed awkwardly less than half-way through the match when they collided with crossbody attempts, but I doubt that was it. Just a random observation.
The “amplified” crowd noise sounded good when the crowd was cheering but didn’t sound good when they were booing. I’m guessing they turn up the noise when the live audience cheers, but since they rarely boo within the match, they need to add the fake booing.
This was a bad show outside of the main event.
They ditched the big in-ring introductions for title matches on this show.