Sasha Banks (C) and Bayley (C) def. The IIconics and Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships
Predicable opening with a predictable finish. THere was no way Sash and Bayley would already lose the tag titles, and it’s clear that they want to stretch out Sasha and Bayley’s discension as long as possible.
Regardless of such, isn’t this match featuring the only tag teams in the division? Just something to consider because I think it’s time to consider retiring the titles altogether. Anyways, the match itself was fine and there was some good drama throughout. Between the false pin attempts and taking advantage of certain opportunities, the match did keep itself moving quite alone. Basically a warm-up for the rest of the night, and I didn’t hate it. **3/4
Sheamus def. Jeff Hardy
If there’s one thing Jeff Hardy knows what to do very well, it’s wrestle the Jeff Hardy style match. Sometimes, when it’s good, it’s very good. And I thought this match was better than I was expecting. Of course, it wasn’t outwardly amazing or anything like that, but it had great energy, some great near-falls and an intensity that sustained throughout.
I was expecting Sheamus to pick up the win here because I don’t expect anyone to have piss (well, apple juice or colored water) thrown on you and then lose two days later. That would make you look like a total geek if you ask me.
It will be interesting to see how this will correlate to Jeff Hardy’s redemption story and if something even bigger will be on the horizon as a result of this loss, and while the feud has been relatively silly and way over the top, I will say this match did impress me. ***1/2
Asuka (C) vs. Nia Jax – RAW Women’s Championship (No Contest)
Yuck. If there is one thing I absolutely detest, it’s a no contest on PPV, especially since we know this match is only going to lead to a rematch at a future PPV. And what’s the next PPV? Extreme Rules. So you’re basically using a PPV match to build to a future PPV match. News flash. If you can’t think of doing a match that would have a decisive outcome for the sake of protecting both superstars, then maybe, I don’t know, DON’T DO THE MATCH?!
The actual match itself was kind of lousy too. It’s already documented that NIa Jax has become a relatively unsafe worker, but she’s also just not a good worker either. Seeing Asuka do things like hit the armbar on the outside only showed me that she was trying to carry this into something watchable, but that’s a tall task for anyone. So between the boring match and the lousy finish, this one’s a stinker in my book. *
Braun Strowman (C) def. The Miz and John Morrison – Universal Championship (Handicap Match)
I think we all knew there was no possibility of Braun losing here, especially since it was announced there wouldn’t be a co-Universal Champion. Between the goofy way this feud was booked to the actual match, this just showed why I hate handicap matches. The tag team division is already anemic enough as it is. The last thing we need is one of your top tag teams looking like a bunch of dorks fighting over a pinfall.
In addition, I found it hilarious when the announcers were saying the stakes have never been higher for Braun Strowman and it was the biggest challenge he had even though Braun literally was in a one on three handicap match that he lost at Elimination Chamber.
The match was what it was and everything I expected. Kind of boring, but not overtly offensive. Just a brief little event to pass the time before The Fiend comes back. **
Drew McIntyre (C) def. Bobby Lashley – WWE Championship
Definitely unreasonable to have Drew lose the title this early into his title reign, but I wouldn’t have preferred Lashley attacking Drew before the match if the plan was for him to lose. You can’t build someone up like that.
I actually liked this match a lot, especially when the two started to get into the submission holds. It was appropriately physical, and they did build up drama suggesting that Bobby was capable of pulling off the upset.
This will probably continue the fact that Lana is practically useless for Lashley will probably lead to her being cut off. If this leads to future things for Lashley and Drew, I’d be highly interested in it, because I think these two could put on an even better match in a more physical capacity. ***3/4
Randy Orton def. Edge – “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”
Okay, so here’s the background for what I thought coming into this match. WWE dealt Randy and Edge a bad hand by dubbing this the “greatest wrestling match ever”. At first, I thought that this was just a bad ad-lib by Charly Caruso at the end of a segment, but then it wasn’t until they started riding along with this in weeks after that this was the real deal.
After their polarizing WrestleMania match, this was one of the last things that you wanted to do which is put such an unreasonable expectation that a 46 year old Edge and a slow, methodical Randy Orton could put on better performances than Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker and so many other classics from other wrestling promotions.
What tempered the expectations for this match for me was the fact that I knew nothing these two would have done would have resulted in the greatest wrestling match we’ve ever seen off the atmosphere alone. While the crowd doesn’t affect the actual contents of the match itself, they do affect how it’s remembered and its perception, and that’s ultimately what “the greatest wrestling match ever” is. A perception. An opinion. You can’t really do that in a crowd filled with WWE Performance Center plants. You could technically put on a five star wrestling match in the ring, but if there’s no hot crowd, it kind of goes back to the “if a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound” deal.
Now, to the actual match. First, I will commend WWE for (perhaps foolishly) trying to sell the atmosphere and make the match have a “greatest match ever” feel. The Howard Finkel sound bites, the official wearing an old-school attire, and giving it an overall big-fight feel given the circumstances. That being said, I drew the line with the pumped in, artificial sound noise.
It’s one thing to make the fight feel larger than it actually is, but you’ll have a hard time having me suspend my belief that much to believe that an audience filled with less than 30 people actually have thousands chanting in the back. The audio syncing also just made it feel blatantly obvious that it was fake. That also disqualified this from being ever in the conversation of being the greatest match ever. If it’s the greatest, there’s no need to edit anything.
Getting to the actual match, I will first say that it was exponentially better than the WrestleMania outing. That largely had to do with the stipulation. I’m normally not a fan of Last Man Standing matches because of the large gaps in action due to the referee counting after EVERY damn suplex, and this was accentuated with Orton’s slow brawling. The counting alone gave the match 20 extra minutes of fluff. With this match, it was just straight action, and that already puts this match at a higher plane.
I also happened to notice that Orton had an extra pep in his step and moved faster than he normally does, which shows that he was ready to bring his wrestling boots for this one. And Edge was already motivated and determined to follow up on his WrestleMania endurance. First things first. The length. This match DID NOT need to be 45 minutes long, which I think was actually longer than their WrestleMania match. WWE needs to stop operating with the mindset that longer matches equal better matches. I assure you if this match had 15-20 minutes taken off, you could have had an equal, or maybe better result.
Next, as for the actual wrestling and moves done in the match, I actually loved it a lot. There was great pyschology, great counters, intense energy and great near-falls at the end. I will say, though, that the endless supply of finishers at the end started to get a little ridiculous. I can deal with Orton and Edge kicking out of RKO’s and Spears, but then they started bringing in Pedigrees, Rock Bottoms, Unprettiers and more. The call-backs were appreciated, but I do think it was needlessly saturated and didn’t elevate the match much.
All that being said, the effort was phenomenal and the execution was pretty spot on. For Randy Orton, this was his best match in quite a while. I’m not even sure the last time I remember him wrestling a match (a straight wrestling match) that was at least four starts worthy. This was also a great showing by Edge, because his facial expressions, character work and ambition here really carried things along rather nicely.
I also loved the finish tremendously. Orton realizes that nothing he’s doing on Edge is working so he has to take the easy way out, and low blow him, ultimately hitting the punt kick (which I haven’t seen him connect with in a while). And the scene of Orton trash talking Edge and telling him to go home while Edge has a blank stare on his face, looking completely distraught and shaken at the hands of his defeat was flawless storytelling. Orton contended that Edge winning at WrestleMania didn’t prove he was back because anyone can win a straight brawl with weapons, but what about actually wrestling?
At first, I thought they were doing the feud in reverse, but in hindsight, Orton’s critiques about Edge’s return was valid. While I don’t think Edge losing a match means he isn’t ready to come back, it was a direct assault to his pride, and he may have questions about whether or not he can do this effectively. Now, it’s worth mentioning that according to reports, Edge unfortunately tore his triceps in this match, and realistically, he’s probably done wrestling for the year. This can probably be used to further his feud and maybe continue his return story. Orton can say that he forced Edge to go home and maybe move on to the WWE Title feud while Edge falls into a deep depression and self-doubt when he’s actually rehabbing for an injury to make a proper comeback in front of (hopefully) live audiences when WWE can fill arenas once again.
As you can say, there’s a lot I have to say about this match, as there was hyperbole in the hype given for this match, and the match was 45 minutes long, so I wanted to make sure I left no stone unturned. Is this the greatest wrestling match ever? Certainly not. Was it better than their WrestleMania match? Certainly. Was it a great match? I do believe so, and I do think both men have to be commended for their efforts and I do think they delivered one of the best pure matches we’ve seen in a while. People may be disturbed by the length and the endless succession of finishers, but I think I’ll look back at this match fondly despite the ridiculous hashtag behind this match that gave it no favors. I truly believe if WWE didn’t even bother giving this match this kind of hype, it would have been better received since that kind of pressure was no longer applied. Regardless, kudos to both men for an outstanding effort. ****1/2
I think I can recommend Backlash off the surface, even though I think the only things worth watching (at least highlights of anyway), are the WWE Title match and the main event. “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” will ultimately be one of the craziest things WWE has ever done, but this was par for the course based on things they’ve done in the past. Edge and Orton gave a very commendable effort, the WWE Title match was well done, and all the other stuff wasn’t offensively bad, if dull. Even the Hardy/Sheaus match was a surprisingly good bout. So I’ll say thumbs slightly up for Backlash. Get well soon, Edge.