Backlash 2018 sucked. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s analyze why Backlash is considered the worst WWE supershow of the year so far (and whether it truly ranks amongst the company’s worst PPV offerings) by reliving the whole show here on DVD.
On paper, the first post-WrestleMania PPV, coming right after a Superstar Shake-Up which refreshed the RAW and SmackDown rosters, should have been a can’t-miss card. But with Universal Champion Brock Lesnar beginning his 73rd hiatus from the ring, coming right after the abruptly-announced Greatest Royal Rumble which included Brock as well as other major stars like John Cena, The Undertaker, Triple H, Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho (none of whom wrestled here), and with a line-up that didn’t create much in the way of excitement before the show took place, Backlash had lost a lot of the appeal it could have cultivated by the time May 6 rolled around.
Still, that doesn’t completely explain why the card was so disappointing to so many people, and as a result, it’s time for us to dissect things, match-by-match. Let’s go!(UK)
Intercontinental Championship Match
Seth Rollins (C) vs. The Miz
The show actually starts with a bang. This clash between Seth Rollins and The Miz is excellent, and a genuine contender for being WWE’s best match of 2018 so far. Rollins deserves much of the credit, coming in the midst of what has arguably been a career year from a performance standpoint, but Miz keeps up with him every step of the way in what is probably the greatest match that he has ever had. A tremendous opener, but things take a downward slide from there.
RAW Women’s Championship Match
Nia Jax (C) vs. Alexa Bliss
There are some decent spots here, but due to the dynamic involved, this probably should have been a quick squash win for the defending champion (then again, the same could have been said for their WrestleMania match). Nia’s post-match promo to promote the fight against bullying should have been a positive moment, but it sounded a little too corporate in line with the Be a STAR campaign and, paradoxically, it leads to more boos than cheers in the aftermath.
United States Championship Match
Jeff Hardy (C) vs. Randy Orton
Held a few years earlier, and in front of a non-smark crowd such as New Jersey, this may not have seemed too bad; in fact, held on free television, it may have come across well. Here, though, it feels lethargic and phoned-in, especially from Orton, who seems to have two levels as a babyface: highly motivated (see his work against Christian), and not motivated at all (e.g. this bout). Thankfully, Orton has recently returned as a heel, which has already freshened up what looks to be a long-term rivalry against Hardy.
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
After a lengthy segment involving Elias, The New Day, Rusev Day and No Way Jose, we get this contest involving the since-fired Big Cass. It isn’t particularly good, and it ends somewhat unexpectedly. There would have been a backlash (no pun intended) had the seven-footer defeated the super-popular Bryan here, but even as it is, it’s a forgettable match at best. This being Daniel’s first singles match on PPV since 2015 was criticized by many, and added to the negative feedback of this card.
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Carmella (C) vs. Charlotte Flair
To me, this is where Backlash fell off a cliff. Carmella’s gimmick is that she is inferior to her babyface opponents in every way, and has to use every trick in the book to win. That has worked many times in the past, though it’s harder to push that philosophy during the Women’s Revolution era where the in-ring standards have never been higher. In spite of all that, though, Carmella pinning Charlotte CLEAN is just bizarre, and coming after a bout which is pretty poor, it was a head-scratcher for most viewers. It’s one of those deals where anything besides Charlotte regaining the title would have attracted criticism, but the way this plays out is just awful.
WWE Championship No Disqualification Match
AJ Styles (C) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Prior to the finish, AJ and Shinsuke put on their best match yet in a WWE ring. Then comes the no-contest ending (after both whacked each other with simultaneous boots to the balls), which didn’t go down well at all. Had they not fought to a double countout at the Greatest Royal Rumble, this ending may have seemed more effective, because it’s a common tool used to extend a feud. But two draws inside nine days felt like really lazy booking, and to a lot of viewers it negated the hard work that had gone into the match itself.
Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
This match may have worked on RAW, and with Owens and Zayn (who fall out prior to the conclusion of the match) spinning off into a feud. But coming over three hours into an already-struggling PPV event, and with strange psychology that does little to make the babyfaces seem sympathetic and likeable, it’s a skippable match that one had forgotten about by the time that the show had ended. Plus, while I understand that KO and Sami have feuded often enough that putting the resumption of their rivalry on hold may be a wise decision, it would have made more sense to just let Braun and Bobby win in the usual, traditional manner, and let Owens and Zayn have a quiet divorce. Instead, what plays out here feels like a waste of PPV time, and does nothing to help anybody involved.
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe
A fast opening few minutes slows down to a snail’s pace, and at that point, the Newark crowd switches off entirely. Indeed, whoever laid out this match didn’t consider that fans who already didn’t want to show support of Roman Reigns do not enjoy watching him fight from a position of vulnerability, and especially in a slow, drawn-out manner in the main event spot of an overly long card. By the time that Reigns picks up the win, fans are leaving the arena in droves, which ends a flawed show on a very bad note. It’s strange that Roman and Joe had several thrilling matches on RAW, yet their supershow collision ended up being their weakest bout yet. How much of that was down to the booking and how much was down to the fans ignoring the action depends on how you look at things. Either way, a poor way to end the night.
Kickoff Show Match
Bayley vs. Ruby Riott
This is one of the better matches of the whole night. It feels like a RAW match at best, since there are no stakes and it is just another entry in the Bayley/Sasha vs. Riott Squad rivalry. The two ladies put forth a good performance, though, and it’s Ruby who picks up a big win over Bayley, even if it was forgotten by the time that RAW aired the next night (which could be used to describe much of this show).
Having watched the show again bell-to-bell, I don’t think that it quite breaks into the group of WWE’s all-time worst PPVs. It has one superb match, another really good bout (before the no-contest finish), and some of the other bouts have a slight piece of redeeming value. It’s more than could be said for the likes of King of the Ring 1995, In Your House 4, Judgment Day 2004, The Great American Bash 2004, ECW December to Dismember 2006, Unforgiven 2007 and even Battleground from last year, all of which are memorable for the wrong reasons but which have literally zero value for repeat viewing, aside from locating content for future WrestleCrap inductees. This also makes me realize how much wrestling has progressed; as poor as Backlash was, any card featuring a Match of the Year candidate would have been considered a success during the 1990s and 2000s, regardless of what else took place that night.
That all being said, it can’t be denied that Backlash 2018 is not a good PPV event, and much of that comes down to the booking. Once you get past the opener, we have an infomercial for Be a STAR, a weirdly clean win for Carmella over Charlotte, the second draw in as many supershows involving the WWE Championship, an odd piece of storytelling in Strowman/Lashley vs. Owens/Zayn, and a snore-inducingly slow pace for a main event that has a predictable finish. The other big problems with the show are that several matches are purely filler in terms of execution and significance, the card unnecessarily lasting over three hours, and the fact that a non-title Roman Reigns match main evented over a WWE Championship bout (even if the latter did not have a conclusive winner, which is how WWE will justify putting Roman vs. Joe on last).
But here’s the big issue when watching it on DVD, and when considering whether a home video purchase should be recommended. The top match, Rollins vs. Miz, will inevitably appear on the Best PPV Matches 2018 DVD, which will be released after the year is done. And once you remove that match from the show, it is barely worth watching. So, while some of the criticism was a little over-the-top, Backlash 2018 was definitely not a good card, and one that I wouldn’t suggest you checking out on DVD. If you really want to see Seth vs. Miz, you’re best waiting for Best PPV Matches 2018.
Get hold of WWE’s BACKLASH 2018 DVD and add it to your collection…
– United States: NOW! Get your copy of the new Backlash 2018 DVD here on Amazon.com.
– Australia: NOW! Get a copy of the new Backlash 2018 DVD now at Madman.com.au.
– UK/Europe: NOW! Get your copy of the new Backlash 2018 DVD now via Amazon.co.uk.