Jinder Mahal, a man who was let go from the company in 2014 after spending 2 years in 3MB, is now WWE World Champion. As Renee Young said on “Talking Smack” after the show, Jinder Mahal’s name will forever be linked as a WWE World Champion. Backlash 2017 will always be known as the night the Maharaja shocked the world.
Some fans clearly don’t feel Jinder should be in the position he is, while others are loving the fact that WWE is trying something new, something a little out-of-the-box. For the most part, fans who are in favour of what went down Sunday night, seem to enjoy the “Land of Opportunity” feel that Smackdown has developed. In the span of just a few months, 2 superstars have won their first ever world championships on the brand, first Bray Wyatt and now Jinder Mahal.
Smackdown’s roster was in tough Sunday night. The Chicago crowd is always a difficult one to win over. Making things even more difficult was that many in the crowd at Backlash would have witnessed a fantastic NXT TakeOver show the night before. It was going to take a great show to live up to the standard the NXT roster set, but they pulled it off, as most reports so far are giving the show a positive review.
Here are 10 things WWE got wrong at Backlash, and another 10 they got right.
20. Got Right: Sami Zayn Gets His 2nd PPV Win
In reality, Sami Zayn is a very good wrestler. In storyline, he is terrible. This was just Sami Zayn’s 2nd win on a PPV, his first coming almost a year ago when he beat Kevin Owens at Battleground 2016. It was his 12th PPV appearance in WWE, so not a great win/loss record for Sami.
This is of course all part of WWE trying to build him up as “the Ultimate Underdog”. There comes a point however, when his losing doesn’t make sense from a storyline perspective. If this guy loses all the time then why is he on the roster?
WWE may have finally realized they need to actually feed the guy some wins from time to time. He took a pounding throughout the match to keep Corbin looking strong, but Sami Zayn finally came away with WWE PPV victory #2 at Backlash 2017.
19. Got Wrong: James Ellsworth Promo Time
There’s nothing wrong with James Ellsworth being Carmella’s valet. Why he was chosen as the only person to get promo time before the 6-woman tag match however, is a question that probably won’t ever receive a satisfactory answer.
Ellsworth only spoke for a few minutes, but it was a few minutes too many. He referred to himself as the Michael Jordan of Sports Entertainment and then introduced Carmella.
Other options would have been to have Charlotte come out and talk about how she was going to get revenge on the Welcoming Committee for attacking her. Natalya could have cut a promo, warning Charlotte and others that this was her show. The women’s champion, Naomi, could have just bounced around the ring as she felt “the GLOW”…
18. Got Right: Nakamura’s Face on all the Posters
While Backlash 2017 may go down in history as the night Jinder Mahal shocked the world, heading into the event most of the marketing was centered around Shinsuke Nakamura.
This wasn’t a new strategy for WWE of course. Backlash has often been a PPV which features debuting superstars. In 2002, Brock Lesnar’s first ever PPV match in WWE was at Backlash. Goldberg wrestled in his first ever WWE PPV match when he defeated the Rock at Backlash in 2003. In 2017, Nakamura made his WWE main-roster debut at Backlash, and WWE made sure the significance wasn’t lost on anyone, at least not while looking at the poster.
Shinsuke Nakamura is going to be a big star in WWE. Provided he stays healthy, the guy has a star-quality to him that should make him a focal point of Smackdown’s storytelling for as long as he is on the show.
17. Got Wrong: Why Care About the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal? Mojo Not on the Show
The last PPV for which the Smackdown roster played a role was WrestleMania. That night, Mojo Rawley won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, seemingly jump-starting his career in the process.
The only problem is after he won the Andre the Giant trophy, WWE chose not to follow it up much. Mojo wasn’t given a storyline or a rivalry, and as such never even got so much as a backstage interview at Backlash.
In comparison, Jinder Mahal was the last person Mojo Rawley eliminated from the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal that night, showing WWE has really diverted from their original planned course for after WrestleMania this year.
16. Got Right: Tye Dillinger Beats Aiden English
You had to check out the Kickoff show to have seen this one, but Tye Dillinger and Aiden English had a fairly decent match to start the show. The bout also saw Tye Dillinger continue his winning streak on the main roster.
So far, since being called up to Smackdown during the Superstar Shakeup, Dillinger has wrestled 4 times on TV or PPV, and he has won all 3 times. Granted, 3 of those victories were against Aiden English, and the other against Curt Hawkins, but it’s a winning streak all the same.
The 36-year old Dillinger is a 15 year professional. He was signed by WWE from 2006-09, only cracking the main roster briefly as Shawn Spears in the revamped ECW brand. Dillinger kept pushing however, and was signed again to WWE in 2013. After 4 years in developmental and NXT, he is finally getting his big break now.
15. Got Wrong: Camera Shots of Individual Fans
First there was “Miz Girl”, whose pouting after Miz won the world championship in 2010 went viral. Then there was “Shocked Undertaker Guy” at WrestleMania XXX, who evidently had a real hard time processing that The Undertaker’s streak was over.
Now for every match WWE cameras are scouring for the next “Miz Girl” or “Shocked Undertaker Guy”. In any given match there are multiple camera cuts to shots of individual fans.
Could they not just film those fans and only show us the clips later if they reacted in a way the least bit entertaining?
What exactly is WWE’s rate of success on this anyway? 2 successful viral fan reactions every few billion attempts?
14. Got Right: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens Match
Some fans may be upset that the ending of this match was somewhat anti-climactic. Instead of finding out who was the better superstar on this night, Owens retained his title in a rather cheap and unfulfilling way.
Owens had attacked Styles’ knee the previous week on Smackdown, and again focussed on it during the match at Backlash. While on the outside, AJ’s injured leg fell through a hole in the announce table, he got caught in a series of cords and was counted out.
Critics will say this was a cheap finish, but that’s exactly what justifies another match between the two! Normally when WWE wants someone to retain in a cheap manner, they have them get intentionally disqualified, but this is a step up from that. Owens can legitimately claim he beat Styles, even though fans know it was a tainted victory.
13. Got Wrong: Only One Women’s Match
Sometimes the result of the “women’s revolution” doesn’t feel a lot different to how things were before. Before WWE started this epic and game-changing approach to women’s wrestling we used to only get 1 women’s match per show. Now, thanks to the hard work from all the revolutionaries involved, we get… still only 1 women’s match per show.
At least give us a mid-card and main event women’s program on each show. They have the talent to do it, but for whatever reason they just aren’t going that direction. With 1 women’s match on each episode of Smackdown, and 1 at the PPV, that’s only 5 women’s matches on TV a month for the brand. There are only a handful of women on each show that are ever featured. How are fans supposed to treat the division as important when it’s given less attention than the cruiserweights get on Raw?
12. Got Right: Kevin Owens Doesn’t Walk Over His Own Face
Granted, this is not the most important thing that happened on the show, but it bares some mention. Since becoming the new “Face of America”, Kevin Owens has had to take a less direct route to the ring.
During Owens’ entrance his face is plastered on pretty much every screen WWE has in the arena. His face is most prominently displayed on the stage area however, which puts Owens in a difficult position. Ever since starting the angle, Owens has made a point of never walking over his own face during his entrance.
There always seem to be these little aspects of Kevin Owens’ storylines that are so subtle that the announce team usually misses it, or chooses to ignore it for the sake of letting fans discover it on their own.
11. Got Wrong: Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan in the “Death Spot”
The “Death Spot” is the match which takes place directly after a particularly exciting bout and directly before the main event. The purpose of this match is to give the fans a bit of a chance to rest after an exciting match. This way they have energy for the main event.
Harper and Rowan landed in the death spot at Backlash, and it didn’t work out well for them.
The two looked pretty tired by the end of the match as well, and things started to look a little sloppy. Harper, who has shown he can have good matches, executed perhaps the laziest looking hurricanrana on Rowan near the bout’s finish. Perhaps planning to do a move as difficult as that so late in the match was a poor idea.
10. Got Right: Erick Rowan Wandering Onto the Kickoff Panel
That Luke Harper and Erick Rowan didn’t survive being placed in the Death Spot is not their fault. Trish Stratus once didn’t survive the Death Spot while defending the women’s championship at WrestleMania in her hometown. Granted, Trish had to follow the Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan, but still.
WWE is giving Erick Rowan a mild push and a storyline which could get interesting if they follow up on it.
During the Kickoff panel show, Rowan just wandered on stage while Booker T, Renee Young and Peter Rosenberg were talking. It seemed un-planned, or at least the panel crew seemed startled by it. Rowan just sat down, put his sack of goat masks on the table and eventually left.
9. Got Wrong: No American Alpha
We couldn’t get an American Alpha match anywhere on this show?
WWE’s tag team divisions offers suffers from the same problem the women’s divisions do: not enough matches. If you aren’t in the tag team title picture your matches are usually relegated to Main Event, dark matches, or non-existent.
In May, WWE will have produced 2 PPVs and an NXT: Takeover event. That is 8.5 hours of PPV level wrestling matches, but there were no spots available for an American Alpha match.
Jason Jordan and Chad Gable were on fire in NXT, and the fans treated them as superstars when they were first called up to the main roster. Now, a 142 matches with the Usos later, they aren’t even cracking PPV lineups.
8. Got Right: Raucous Chicago Crowd
Chicago is a fantastic wrestling city. The fanbase has been a touch peeved since hometown icon, CM Punk, left WWE under less-than-amicable circumstances however.
WWE has had to be very careful on how to handle this crowd for fear of shows being hijacked with “CM Punk” chants. While some scattered Punk chants were heard at Takeover, they actually seemed to be directed in support of Ruby Riot. For the most part, this Chicago crowd was into the show, and seemed to leave Punk out of it.
While the majority of the credit for this goes to the Chicago wrestling fans, some if it goes to the opening 2 matches on the card as well. Fans loved Dillinger and went crazy for Nakamura. After that, it was as if WWE had earned the crowd’s respect for the remainder of the night.
7. Got Wrong: The Usos in a Comedy Match
Tyler Breeze pulled off the near impossible at Backlash, when he managed to get over his dressing as a janitor and elderly woman in the tag-team title match. Both members of Breezeango pulled off some comedy spots which the live crowd enjoyed as well.
One has to wonder if this was the match to feature such comedy in however. There is a lot of buzz around the Usos currently, as their promos have taken on a gritty and un-scripted feel.
It seems like now would be a good time to feature the Usos prominently on Smackdown, and move the entire division up the scale of importance in the WWE hierarchy. Instead, they were the butts of a few jokes in their comedy match with Breezeango at Backlash.
6. Got Right: Shinsuke Nakamura Defeating Dolph Ziggler
It was the 2nd longest match on the show, but it never dragged for one second. When the opening match is one of the longest, it usually means WWE wanted to start off the show with a bang to get the crowd into it. Knowing they must tread carefully with a Chicago audience, putting Nakamura vs. Ziggler in the spot they did was a stroke of genius.
You could tell Ziggler saw this as an important match for him. He used the majority of his offensive arsenal, including: a fame-asser, high-angle DDT, Jerry Lawler’s least favourite elbow drop, and the Zig Zag.
Nakamura however, spent a good portion of the match selling Ziggler’s moves. By the time he made his comeback, the fans were clamouring for it. He hit the Kinshasa for the win, and kicked off the PPV on an exciting note.
5. Got Wrong: Baron Corbin’s Pants and Losing Streak
There are two things regarding WWE’s treatment of Baron Corbin that are concerning. The first, is that since winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, WWE has done little at all with him. The 2nd is that his pants are a little too funky. All the weird angled patches on those things seem more “hipster” than “lone wolf”.
Corbin’s match for the intercontinental championship against Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 33 didn’t even crack the main show, and he lost to boot. Now he’s dropped his 2nd straight on PPV, this time to Sami Zayn, who barely wins at all.
Whatever WWE thought they had in Baron Corbin, they have clearly given up on. Otherwise they wouldn’t job him out in 2 straight less-than-important matches. Although Jinder Mahal is now WWE world champion, so perhaps anything is possible.
4. Got Right: Natalya Getting the Spotlight
Natalya, like Sami Zayn, had not won a match on PPV since the Battleground 2016 PPV last July.
Despite being one of the best workers on the roster, Natalya wins precious few matches. This is usually because one of her great strengths is making other people look good. That’s why Natalya is often put up against the likes of Nikki Bella when WWE needs a good and safe match for her to look strong in.
Now it seems WWE is looking to push Natalya to the top of Smackdown’s women’s division. That’s why she picked up the win here. This win could set up a program with Becky Lynch, who she made tap to the Sharpshooter, or a title program with Naomi. Either way, WWE should be able to get a good quality rivalry, something which usually occurs when Natalya is involved.
3. Got Wrong: Catching Orton’s “Oh Geez” Face After Destroying a Singh Brother
Were you wondering when this article would get to the main event? Oh don’t worry, there is plenty to say about that match.
WWE’s camera crew could have perhaps picked a better time to focus in on Orton’s face…
Near the end of the main event, Orton was flipping around the Singh brothers across the announce table when one of them appeared to land headfirst. The camera zoomed in on Orton who said nothing verbally, but his face screamed “Oh man, I may have just killed that guy..”.
Both Singh brothers were fine though. As Orton walked away the referee checked on him and signalled to Orton it was safe to keep beating on him, so that’s what he did.
2. Got Right: Jinder Mahal is Your New WWE Champion
Some people will disagree with this, but there can be no doubt that Jinder Mahal winning the WWE championship has created a strong buzz throughout the WWE Universe. Vince McMahon is probably hoping that buzz is felt most strongly in India, where the company is hoping to increase their exposure.
Some are saying it feels too rushed, but others seem to enjoy that aspect of the story. Here is a character that a month ago nobody expected to be in the position he is now. From WrestleMania to Backlash, Jinder Mahal went from after-thought to WWE Champion.
The quick execution of his push is so unlike what is normally done on WWE programming, that it has fans talking, and that’s a good thing. If it gets a lot of fans talking in India, even better.
1. Got Wrong: Orton Didn’t Dive
It would have been so perfect, but for whatever reason WWE chose not to go this route.
Last week Randy Orton angered some fans on Twitter, when he belittled wrestlers who do a lot of high-spots and dives. While some say there were subtle references to this in a couple of matches throughout the weekend, it didn’t factor into the finish of Backlash’s main event.
If they wanted Orton to look strong, but also wanted Jinder to win, the perfect scenario was available. Orton could have hit Jinder with the RKO, but instead of the Singh brothers helping the challenger out of the ring, what if Orton decided to troll his haters by going to the top rope?
He wouldn’t have to actually dive, just have him take his time climbing the ropes as he revels in the opportunity to silence his critics. Then Jinder could just jump up, knock him down, give him his finish and pin him. Jinder gets the title, and Orton only loses because he lost sight of his priorities.
Ah well, it didn’t “Hinder Jinder” any…
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