By DAVE AND GAVIN HILLHOUSE – Slam Wrestling
This will be, guaranteed, the greatest PPV review ever.
From the WWE’s Performance Centre in Orlando, FL, this year’s Backlash features grudge matches, championship battles, and a decent match put on by Edge and Randy Orton that mainly suffered from being so overhyped you’d think Mojo Rawley ran promotion.
For this review, Dave Hillhouse will be working with his son Gavin for a first-time tag-team review.
Pre-Show Match: Andrade (w/ Zelina Vega & Angel Garza) VS. Apollo Crews (Champion) for the United States Championship
Dave: As the bell is set to ring, Kevin Owens’ music hits and out he comes, sporting a tie over his KO shirt. He joins the commentary team, immediately cheering for Crews. A four-man commentary crew is going to be a mess.
Gavin: It’s a snappy tie. Not a fan of the Backlash logo colour scheme for this year. All-red makes it too dark and I’m missing the blue. I expect that Crews will shove Andrade around pretty easily in this match.
Dave: Probably. As Andrade locks a side headlock on Crews, Owens says that he’s here to keep an eye on Garza. The fight spills outside and Crews backdrops Andrade onto the ramp. Tom Phillips calls it a diamond plate?
Gavin: I just looked it up. It is a diamond plate loading ramp. Andrade hits his double knees into a slumped Crews in the corner. Owens seems to be joining Chris Jericho in the ranks of Canadian wrestlers who are surprisingly good at commentary.
Dave: So far, agreed. “I was just going to say that’s dangerous and I was correct” is a good line from him as Crews fails at setting up a top rope superplex, with Andrade instead pulling Crews’ legs out from underneath him and crotching him on the top turnbuckle. Vega spent much of the match looking worried, seemingly even when Andrade is doing well, but she looks satisfied now. Andrade has a nice run culminating in a leaping DDT from the apron onto Crews who was leaning into the ring. Crews fights back, though, and hits two standing moonsaults on the challenger.
Gavin: Owens just said “Excuse me” and has left the commentator’s table. Garza was up on the apron, distracting the ref from making a pinfall count on Andrade. Owens grabs Garza off the apron and gives him a Stunner, and Crews follows with a toss powerbomb onto Andrade for the win.
Winner via pinfall and still United States Champion: Apollo Crews
Match Rating: Dave: 3/5, Gavin: 3.5/5
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross VS. The IIconics VS. Bayley & Sasha Banks (Champions) – Triple Threat Match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship
Gavin: As Bayley and Banks make their entrances, we are reminded how the champs aren’t really a tag-team, as they lack a team entrance theme. I’m also glad to see that Billie Kay’s tradition of cosplaying as Maleficent for seemingly every pay-per-view won’t be stopping anytime soon.
Dave: There are unusual and sensible tagging rules here. There will be a member of each team in the ring at the same time, and you can only tag your own partner. It matches the format for a single competitors’ triple threat match. There’s some good double-teaming shown by Bayley and Banks, although the IIconics are the purest team in this match. Banks actually has the most impressive singles performance, taking on Royce and Bliss in turn when in the ring, and later laying out Royce and Bliss again from the outside.
Gavin: I would say that Peyton Royce has been the most singularly formidable wrestler. Her seamless pinning attempts and her clean spinning heel kick have impressed me greatly so far. And Kay screaming nonsense with her thick Australian accent has me very amused. Cross delivers a nice clothesline and bulldog combo on both Kay and Bayley.
Dave: Bayley takes a dropkick from Bliss and goes hard face-first into the middle rope. Looked like it really surprised her. In a comically staged spot, Royce goes bowling after hitting a cross-body through the ropes on Banks and Bliss, and they all tumble to the mat onto a waiting Bayley and Kay. The planted crowd chants this is awesome. Don’t mind them.
Gavin: Kay and Cross are both taken out when they punch each other out at ringside. Bliss hits Twisted Bliss on Royce but Banks sneaks in to pin Bliss in a cradle for the win.
Winners via pinfall and still Women’s Tag Team Champions: Bayley & Sasha Banks
Match Rating: Dave: 3/5, Gavin: 3.5/5
Jeff Hardy VS. Sheamus
Dave: First things first; I’m starting to think that this angle isn’t as distasteful as I thought at first. Maybe because there was hardly any time to question whether or not Hardy was responsible for Elias’ injury. Also, I think the urine sample gag won me over in the great tradition of selling the move: I really liked how Sheamus had his mouth wide open when Hardy splashed him. Why, Sheamus?
Gavin: Also, why is Sheamus even doing this to Hardy? The Irishman is out hard and fast from the opening, wiping off Hardy’s face paint with his forearm and using power moves to keep Hardy off his game. Sheamus also rips up Hardy’s fishnet shirt, leading me to believe that Sheamus’s only real problem with Hardy is how he dresses.
Dave: In WWE commentary parlance, everything that Sheamus is doing is “high impact”: hard strikes to the head, solid elbows to the back. Hardy takes a hard landing on the top turnbuckle – actually, he lands past the turnbuckle and almost straddles the cable to the ringpost. Sheamus follows with two Irish Curse backbreakers and a really solid bicycle knee to Hardy’s head.
Gavin: I can’t quite understand why that knee isn’t his finisher, it looks way more convincing than the Brogue Kick. Sheamus hits a brutal clothesline, and it looks like Hardy is here for target practice. I must also note that Sheamus’ knees look silly all bunched up in his kneepads. Like a muffin-top for the knee.
Dave: A Whisper in the Wind starts a slow comeback for Hardy, and though he wants to climb to the top for a Swanton Bomb, he gets caught. He manages to shove Sheamus away and sets up again for his Swanton, but Sheamus knocks out a leg for a nasty tumble down the turnbuckles, on top of Sheamus who was also falling. Sheamus recovers quickly and thinks he has the match won with White Noise, but Hardy kicks out. As Michael Cole questions how much Hardy has left, Corey Graves utters an awfully ironic line considering the storyline: “Jeff Hardy has never quit before in his life, he’s not going to start tonight”.
Gavin: Sheamus locks in a Texas Cloverleaf, but Hardy gets to the ropes. With a surge of energy, Hardy hits a Twist of Fate and follows quickly with a Swanton Bomb. Unfortunately for Hardy, Sheamus gets his foot on the rope to escape the pinning predicament. Hardy goes for broke and chases Sheamus outside the ring, running on the barricade, sidling alongside the plexiglass. He jumps towards Sheamus but is met with a Brogue Kick. Sheamus brings Hardy into the ring for another Brogue Kick and pins him for the 1-2-3.
Winner via pinfall: Sheamus
Match Rating: Dave & Gavin: 3/5
Dave: Before the next match, The Miz and John Morrison are given the news that if one of them pins Strowman in their match tonight, whoever gets the pin will be the champion. There’s no such thing as co-champions. They play it off like they’re cool with that. Otis and Mandy Rose pop in to remind them that he may just be lurking around after the match to cash in. The briefcase, I’ve got to say, looks like a lunchbox in Otis’ hands.
Nia Jax VS. Asuka (Champion) for the Raw Women’s Championship
Dave: Right from the outset, Asuka is almost playing the spunky challenger, despite being the champ, while Jax plays the dominant giant. Asuka tries striking and running, but Jax takes the blows and waits until she can get close enough to land some simple offense: a shove, a punch, another shove.
Gavin: As Jax misses what looked to be a clothesline, Asuka locks in the Octopus Stretch and really wrenches Jax’s right arm, but Jax still manages to use her power advantage to swing her out of position. She then plants Asuka with something of a half-chokeslam. Jax talks a little smack about Kairi Sane, which fires Asuka up. She blasts Jax with a few Aja Kong-style backfists, which rattles the Irresistible Force.
Dave: Actually, she only asked “Where’s Kairi?”, so she could have been being polite. Jax misses a charge and runs her shoulder into the ringpost, which creates an opening for the champ. Asuka is still slow to capitalize, though, and Jax grabs her on the top rope before she can launch an attack. Asuka wrangles Jax over the ropes first to the apron, and then to the floor. She locks an arm-bar on Jax on the outside, which Jax escapes by rolling into the barricade. They continue to fight to a count-out.
Gavin: After the double count-out was announced, the ref was waiting in the ring with Asuka’s belt. Asuka, however, took it upon herself to hit Jax with a parting hip attack off the apron to the floor. She then went to the timekeeper area to get her belt. The poor timekeeper had to explain it wasn’t there and incur Asuka’s wrath for a bit until the ref brought her the belt. She snatched it violently away from him, as I imagine she was feeling quite bamboozled.
Match Result: Double Count-Out. Still Raw Women’s Champion: Asuka
Match Rating: Dave: 2/5, Gavin: 3/5
The Miz & John Morrison VS. Braun Strowman (Champion) 2-on-1 Handicap Match for the Universal Championship
Dave: Something occurred to me while watching the lead-up to the match: is it still a big deal when Strowman tips over a vehicle? Especially when he’s previously tipped over a bigger vehicle? Actually, two things occurred to me: Hey! Hey Hey is awesome.
Gavin: I sincerely hope that The Miz and Morrison continue to make music, and I also hope that the song titles will always be various combinations of the words hey and ho.
Dave: It’s so nice of Morrison to share his slow-mo. To your point earlier about tag team entrances, Gavin, even the two wrestlers that are technically fighting each other for the title made a better team entrance than Bayley and Banks. Mathematically, this match should last twice as long as Strowman versus Goldberg from WrestleMania.
Gavin: The Miz and Morrison must tag each other in, and they do so very efficiently. Although, at first Strowman is tossing them both around at will, to the point that Morrison refuses a tag. In one strong sequence, however, The Miz hits a dropkick, Morrison lands a tornillo plancha, and they come together for a double DDT on the champ. Surprisingly, they seem to be doing a number on Strowman. I suppose when you wear matching colours, anything is possible.
Dave: Well, on a night of hyperbole, Cole does call The Miz & Morrison “one of the great all-time tag teams”. Strowman falls to a Skull-Crushing Finale with an assist from Morrison who springboards a double-stomp onto the falling Strowman’s back. But The Miz pulls Morrison away from the pin before the ref can count to three!
Gavin: The Miz immediately realizes his mistake and gets Morrison to pin Strowman again without performing another move. This predictably results in an emphatic kick-out by Strowman, causing Morrison to fall to ringside. Strowman hits The Miz with a chokeslam, and catches the springboarding Morrison with an uppercut. The champ then hits a running powerslam on Morrison for the win.
Winner via pinfall and still Universal Champion: Braun Strowman
Match Rating: Dave: 2.5/5, Gavin: 3.5/5
Bobby Lashley (w/ MVP) VS. Drew McIntyre (Champion) for the WWE Championship
Gavin: McIntyre has to fight through the opening moments of the match still wearing his jacket since Lashley was just too impatient, locking in a solid full nelson before the match even starts. Lashley looks dominant to begin with, and the commentators attribute much of this to MVP’s managerial skills. As McIntyre catches his breath and re-groups, he lands a bridging northern lights suplex, but it’s countered almost immediately with a neckbreaker by Lashley.
Dave: The pace is good so far. Both big men are moving quickly. McIntyre gets another breather after clotheslining Lashley over the ropes, and then follows up by going to the floor and “plexiglassing” him. The Goon would have called that “boarding”. Lashley fights back and, frankly, almost kills McIntyre while trying to run him into the ringpost after hoisting him up on his shoulders. Lashley’s momentum carries him too far and he spikes the champ head first onto the floor. Coming away from that was lucky for McIntyre, who had no good way to protect himself.
Gavin: Back in the ring, they trade blows in the very middle of the canvas. Slaps, chops, and punches. Then, a big spinebuster by McIntyre, after which Lashley slams him down in return with a kind of one-handed body slam. The champ is almost caught in the full nelson, but escapes and lands a reverse Alabama slam. Lashley then catches a leaping McIntyre into an armbar.
Dave: The action is fast and the reversals are well done. McIntyre lifts Lashley up into position for a … Tombstone Piledriver? We’ll never know, as Lashley escapes. So, instead, the champ applies a kimura lock. How many other people’s finishers does McIntyre have in his pocket? That’s three already (don’t forget to count The Goon’s).
Gavin: A big superplex by McIntyre. The champ starts his countdown, and, believe it or not, Lashley knows that it’s coming and counters with a sloppy spear.
Dave: Lana finally arrives, and it’s obvious that she would have arrived earlier if she didn’t have such darn complicated shoes. She gets on the apron, which she should recognize as a bad idea from her days with Rusev, of course. McIntyre delivers a Glasgow Kiss to Lashley, who bumps Lana into MVP. Lashley gets hit with a Claymore (one with no countdown), and is pinned by McIntyre.
Winner and still WWE Champion: Drew McIntyre
Match Rating: Dave: 3.5/5 Gavin: 4/5
The Viking Raiders (Erik & Ivar) VS. The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) (Champions) for the Raw Tag Team Championships
Dave: This was a last-minute addition to the card. As the announce team is prepping us for the match, they get word that there’s a fight in the parking lot. It’s the Street Profits and the Viking Raiders. Why are they outside? Erik is slammed into a car windshield. Oh no: it’s Strowman’s car.
Gavin: They bring the fight inside and backstage. The Profits grab golf clubs, The Raiders grab shields, an axe, and Ivar holds up a bowling ball. Ford calms everything down and turns it into a simple fist fight.
Dave: Oh, this is a spontaneous cinematic match! Ivar picks up the bowling ball and remembers bowling with the Street Profits – seriously, he has a flashback – then bowls a strike into a seated Ford’s groin. With, I believe, a nutcracker sound effect.
Gavin: When did the Viking Raiders become a comedy team?
Dave: Probably when the WWE lost Gallows and Anderson.
Gavin: Guess they always have to have someone with former NJPW success to bury beyond recognition, huh? Back outside near the parking lot, Dawkins runs Ivar through a glass door. Ford and Erik help their partners up and they all announce intentions to finish this once and for all. But a gang of motorbike ninjas arrive, led by Akira Tozawa. The Profits and Raiders come together and decide to team up because “those are ninjas”.
Dave: So, we get a “Viking Profits” parking lot fight against the ninjas, in which Strowman’s car takes even more damage.
Gavin: It’s gotten so silly. I don’t know if I like it. Tozawa calls in one more helper: a big, masked, sword-wielding ninja, so off the Viking Profits run to the top of a production truck. They end up fighting each other again and all land in a garbage bin.
Dave: Channeling some kind of Death Star storytelling, they realize there’s a creature in the garbage with them and all scramble to get out. The end. As is custom in WWE, these efforts are either sublime or ridiculous, depending on what kind of mood you’re in. I haven’t decided how I feel about it yet.
Gavin: Nope, I’ve decided, I definitely don’t like it. Not that I don’t like the Raiders or the Profits, but it simply wasn’t funny.
Randy Orton VS. Edge
Dave: Part of the reason for having a cinematic match before this, it seems, was to slightly redecorate the set. There’s a classic MSG microphone apparatus hanging above the ring, Charles Robinson is in an old-school ref uniform, and the wrestlers are introduced by the voice of the late Howard Finkel. Still, as with everything in this match, what could be a nice touch feels ridiculous because of the concept of the match. Everything about it feels forced to convince us that this is the greatest wrestling match ever. Byron Saxton even tells us that, in order to deliver the atmosphere that a match like this deserves, there will be dynamic camera angles and amplified sound. That means crowd cheering.
Gavin: Samoa Joe is the voice of reason and says that whether it will be the greatest remains to be seen. Why not let them put on a good or maybe great match and let the reviews roll in? The more the match is hyped up, the higher our expectations will be, and the easier it is for us to be let down. Orton is quicker than Edge in the beginning, dodging and ducking Edge’s attacks. This feeling out period takes its time, but the next step in selling this as a great match comes as Edge gets up on the top turnbuckle and headbutts Orton to the apron. Edge follows with a leaping attack and, as Orton rolls to the floor, he’s bleeding from above his right eye. It seems clear that it’s a purposeful bleeding, which is very uncommon in the WWE these days.
Dave: Back in the ring, Edge locks in a crossface, but Orton soon makes it to the ropes. They head outside again, and Orton mercilessly runs Edge into the plexiglass, the barricade, and the announcer’s table in quick succession. He even whispers something (profane?) in Edge’s ear and brings him in to the ring with a headlock. Orton does creepy well, I’ll always give him that.
Gavin: I liked seeing one of the plants in the crowd chanting both “Let’s go Orton” and “Let’s go Edge”. Orton tries to pull off Three Amigos but is blocked after two. Edge does it instead and gets all three to great cheers. Orton superplexes Edge, who plays up the damage he’s feeling in his neck. The camera operator really bounced while filming the superplex. They both cross body each other for a break. Soon after, Edge uses Christian’s middle-rope swinging kick thing. Edge is caught on the top rope before he can attack, but escapes Orton’s attempt at a leveraged DDT.
Dave: Edge gives Orton an Edgecution and gets a 2-count, followed by an elbow “right to the heart”. He applies another crossface that turns into a choke, but Orton escapes and pulls off an Olympic Slam before trying to cue up his greatest hits. First, Orton hits his rope-hung DDT. A sequence of escapes sees Edge dodge an RKO, Orton slipping away from an Unprettier, a second RKO escape by Edge, then a successful Edge-o-Matic for 2.
Gavin: The rest of the match moves along pretty quickly, and it’s filled with finishing moves and kick-outs. Orton dodges a spear, Edge escapes yet another RKO, and hits the Unprettier for a 2-count. We hear the second “This is awesome” chant. Orton sets up a Pedigree and hits it for 2. Now Edge tries a Rock Bottom and also gets 2.
Dave: There’s the third “This is awesome” chant. Finally, an RKO – followed by a kick-out. Finishers don’t really matter anymore, do they? Orton is thinking about a punt, but Edge thinks spear and catches Orton mid-run. He hits a second spear, but it still can’t get him the pinfall.
Gavin: There’s a second “Fight forever” chant from the crowd. Edge tries leaping off the middle rope for an attack, and lands in an RKO. Kick out. Edge locks in his Anti-Venom, but Orton counters with a low-blow that the ref doesn’t see. He charges with a punt, and that’s finally enough for a pin.
Winner via pinfall: Randy Orton
Dave: After the match, Edge refuses the stretcher treatment, although as word had leaked out somewhere between the taping and broadcast of this match that Edge had suffered an injury during the contest, we will await confirmation and word on what this means for the rest of his 2020 plans.
Gavin: Now before you either A: write this match off as a complete let down, or B: say that the hype was right and that this match is definitively and unquestionably the greatest match of all time, remember something: wrestling taste is completely subjective. For some people, this may be the greatest match of all time. But some people prefer the classics, so they may think that Randy Savage VS. Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III is the greatest match ever. For hardcore fans, maybe a Jon Moxley CZW match might be their greatest match ever. For Japanese wrestling fans, it might be Kenny Omega VS. Kazuchika Okada at Dominion 6.9. The point is, everyone likes different things, so you can’t bill a match beforehand as “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” because some people may not like the type of match. It may be an incredible match, but someone may just prefer something else. As for this match: was it an OK match? Of course it was, Randy Orton and Edge are incredibly talented performers. Should it have been billed as the best ever? Definitely not. Maybe if it wasn’t hyped up as much as it was, I would’ve liked it more, but then again, I’m not that big of an Orton fan in the first place. See? Personal preference.
Match Rating: Dave: 3/5, Gavin: 3.5/5
WWE Backlash 2020
WWE Performance Centre, Orlando, FL
A solid effort overall, but nothing that will linger in your mind for too long.