The Backlash go-home show saw a number of rivals cross paths and some good growth of animosity, but Tyler Breeze and Fandango’s snark and banter stole the show.
Ahead of Sunday’s pay-per-view, Jinder Mahal didn’t impress, even when pitted against the in-ring wizard that is AJ Styles. The Welcoming Committee made their match with their babyface rivals official via a contract signing. Randy Orton and Baron Corbin closed Tuesday’s show with a slugfest.
Which of these stories most resonated? Which matches and moments hyped fans up for Backlash? Let’s dive into those questions, beginning with Kevin Owens taking the reins as a talk show host.
The following is a breakdown of the night’s action, complete with highlights and letter grades.
The Highlight Reel with Kevin Owens
Owens told fans he was taking over The Highlight Reel because Chris Jericho would never be around again. He gloated about injuring his former best friend.
After Styles emerged, KO promised to beat him at Backlash; The Phenomenal One said he would bring back the U.S. title to America.
Mahal stepped out to make his proclamations, including projecting a WWE title win on Sunday.
Owens’ current persona has a distinct 2008-Jericho air about it, and that’s a good thing. It’s going to be fun seeing him methodically verbally tear his foes apart. This wasn’t a great example of that, though.
This was instead a brief setup for the opening match and WWE trying to hurry from the Jericho-Owens rivalry to KO’s current story.
Styles and Owens’ issues haven’t had time to fester before Backlash. It won’t be until after Backlash that their narrative really gains momentum.
As for Mahal, he was solid here. The Singh Brothers, though, remain the flattest of characters. We don’t know anything about them, their motivations or why they are aligned with Mahal.
AJ Styles vs. Jinder Mahal
Owens sat in on commentary as Mahal overpowered Styles.
The Maharajah blasted his foe with a methodical offense. When Styles started to mount a comeback, The Singh Brothers distracted him long enough for Mahal to regain control.
Styles battled back and looked to be closing in on victory when Owens cracked him in the knee with the U.S. title. That opened the door for Mahal to finish off Styles.
Mahal wins via pinfall.
This was meant to be a showcase of Mahal’s viciousness but turned out to be a mostly one-sided bout that dragged. It’s hard not to produce something more electric opposite Styles.
The announcers (Owens included) did a good job in selling the narrative that Mahal has caught fire of late, that he’s discovered something within himself to become a more formidable force.
And the Owens attack added an intriguing element moving forward. Not only does Styles have more reason to want to take down the champ, there will be extra drama thanks to his bad wheel.
The Fashion Files
Tyler Breeze revealed himself as a janitor in disguise. Breezango then rattled off the fashion violations among the SmackDown roster.
They talked of facing The Usos before doing a “freeze frame” pose.
Memorable Moments and Quotes
- “Baron Corbin. Three shirts. All wolves.”—Breeze.
- Vince McMahon’s mug shot is on the bulletin board.
Breezango is finding its footing with these segments. This was the funniest one thus far. A number of sight gags in the background combined with several rapid-fire one-liners made for a quick, effective scene.
Breeze and Fandango are getting to show their personality and are running with the opportunity. There is a touch of Edge and Christian to their act right now.
WWE really needs to continue to highlight the duo whether they win or lose at Backlash.
The Colons vs. Breezango
The Colons started off strong, battering Breeze in their corner. Fandango charged in and steamrolled over his foes.
A Falcon Arrow was enough for a quick pin.
The Usos stepped on to the entrance ramp to talk trash. They showed off their championship titles before berating their enemies.
Breezango win via pinfall.
It’s smart of WWE to show us Breeze suffering as much as he did here. Breezango’s face turn was hurried. Showing The King of Cuteville’s vulnerability makes him easier to root for.
The match was nothing special, however.
It’s the post-bout promo that stood out. The Usos came off as nasty and unsettling here. They were compellingly aggressive, even a touch bloodthirsty.
The more The Usos walk down this road, the more dangerous they will seem.
Contract Signing for Six-Woman Tag Team Match
SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon talked up the women’s division before introducing the six women set to compete at Backlash.
The Welcoming Committee stared down Naomi, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch as they entered the ring. Natalya derided them before signing the contract. Lynch and Naomi threatened the heels.
Flair made it clear that she was going after the women’s title after this match.
Ellsworth told the babyfaces they had no chance with him. McMahon tried to prevent the brawl that nearly exploded. He booked a bout between Naomi and Carmella.
The pace of this segment wasn’t great with all the entrances and McMahon’s bit, but it did its job.
There is a bit more bad blood between the teams. The tension felt close to overflowing toward the end.
Plus, Flair teased her next move, likely reverting back to heel status.
Ellsworth plays a grating jerk well. His animosity with Lynch is something WWE should explore. A bout between the two, something Lynch has lobbied for online, is the way to go.
Carmella vs. Naomi
Naomi chased down Carmella as both women’s allies stood at ringside. The champion pounded her foe in a dominating performance.
Ellsworth tried to protect The Princess of Staten Island, but the referee tossed him.
Carmella used the distraction of her posse to take control. She slowed the match down and tried to ground Naomi.
The referee soon ejected Tamina and Natalya, too. They refused to leave, however, slugging it with Flair and Lynch outside the ring.
In the midst of the chaos, Carmella rolled up Naomi for the win.
Carmella wins via pinfall.
Naomi has good energy and is a fun performer, but we really need to see her tested more. The eventual resumption of her feud with Flair is going to allow her to reach her ceiling.
This was a solid match, one filled with all kinds of shenanigans outside the ring.
Carmella gained some momentum here with the pin. The Welcoming Committee came off looking like the more cohesive unit. That will help set the stage for Backlash.
Randy Orton vs. Baron Corbin
In a backstage interview, Sami Zayn announced he would be facing Corbin at Backlash. The Lone Wolf ambushed him, leaving him lying on the floor.
In the ring, Orton outwrestled Corbin early on. A series of headlock takedowns flustered the big man.
Eventually, Corbin took over, blasting The Viper with a flurry of power moves and strikes.
Orton recovered. Corbin was able to avoid one RKO, but not the second.
After the bell, Mahal talked trash as The Singh Brothers pounced on Orton. The heels battered The Viper to cap off the show.
Orton wins via pinfall.
Memorable Moments and Quotes
- “You should really learn to stay down.”—Corbin to Zayn.
- Corbin clocks Orton with a big-time running clothesline.
- “This is a hell of a match between two heavyweights.”—JBL.
- “How you feel now, Randy?”—Corbin.
- “Savor your victory and relish your time with the WWE Championship.”—Mahal.
The match featured good chemistry between the two foes. It had a slower pace than some fans will like, but it suited each man’s style. This was a bruising, physical affair.
Corbin looked like a star here regardless of the result.
Mahal’s attack was a strong lasting image to leave fans with ahead of Backlash. WWE continues to craft visuals of him looking dominant to help erase memories of his jobber days. It couldn’t transform the perception of Mahal completely, but the overall build has helped Mahal look like a more legit threat