WWE Backlash 2017 REVIEW: Jinder Mahal Is Your New WWE Champion
The Jinderella story reached its beautiful conclusion at Backlash last night.
LIVE from Chicago, Ill. with a purported sold-out crowd.
Announce team is JBL, Phillips and Byron Saxton.
Aiden English vs. Tye Dillinger
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English makes his way to the ring singing, taking potshots at his home crowd of Chicago as I wonder just how much of Jericho’s gimmick he’s going to steal. Before he can give the crowd an encore, Tye makes his entrance with his GIANT COLLAR OF LIGHTS AND GIMMICKRY. English’s tights look like a print from Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which reminds me I still have yet to see this week’s Doctor Who. English starts out on top before Tye does the single shittiest cartwheel I have seen out of an adult and does a 10 chant. Interesting cutoff by English, snapping Tye’s face into the ropes by pulling his arm. I remember Flair smashing his mouth on the bottom rope one time, and thinking that someone should use it more as a blunt instrument than just to choke someone. English takes a bow as we go to a commercial. On a PPV. Because WWE.
We come back and English sings while holding a chinlock. “You can’t heeeelp hiiiiim”, he sings. Tye gets a rollup for two and chops away before hitting some strikes for a comeback sequence. A ten count punch in the corner to let the crowd chant and English takes a powder when Tye drops the kneepad. English drops his throat over the top and goes up, but Tye slams him down and misses a splash. English gets two off a move I can’t name, goes up and misses something before getting caught by Tye for his finisher and that’s it.
Winner: Tye Dillinger
It was there. Decent warm up between two guys they have no earthly idea what to do with.
BACKLASH Main Card
And we start with Ziggler vs. Nakamura? Holy shit.
DOLPH ZIGGLER VS SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
The Chicago crowd goes predictably bananas for Nakamura, as he makes his entrance like the star that he is, weirdly getting the timing off on his big falling down thing. We start off with some technical wrestling, which I’m sure will win over casual fans who want to know why everyone likes him so much. JBL notes that he is in the “Big Leagues” now after Phillips rattles off his NJPW accomplishments in an effort to remind everyone, again, that the only wrestling that matters has a W on the screen somewhere.
Nakamura takes over after a few taunts I recognize from various wrestling video games and Dolph takes a powder. Nakamura chases and gets caught coming in by Ziggler hitting a backbreaker. Dolph’s American flag tights are a nice touch for a heel. Ziggler goes for the chinlock, which lets the crowd get some cheering out of their system, including a dueling Let’s Go Ziggler/Ziggler Sucks chant, leading me to believe there are FAR more marks in the crowd than predicted for Chicago. Ziggler hits a dropkick that Nakamura sells like his teeth got knocked loose in his mouth guard and Ziggler hits the 20 foot jumping elbow drop after letting his hair down. Nakamura is getting handled far too much against a JTTS here. Nakamura with a spinning wheel kick for a comeback and everybody lays down for a bit. Nakamura with some kicks and then the knee strike while Ziggler is laying across the top rope, which gets two. Ziggler with a rollup for two, but Nakamura catches a triangle choke out of it. Ziggler gets to the ropes and Nakamura tries a suplex that Ziggler reverses into a DDT. I am shocked at how they have their best bumper in the ring with the guy they are pushing like Jesus and they are giving him so much offence.
Nakamura catches Ziggler with a knee coming in and goes for the finish but Ziggler ducks out and hits a Fameasser. Ziggler gets two which leads to another reversal of kicks sequence that ends with a Zig Zag and another two. Ziggler sets up for a powerbomb and even does the Nash cigarette taunt, but Nakamura reverses and hits an axe kick that looks like it hurt A LOT. Nakamura tries a reverse exploder, but Ziggler lands on his feet and hits a superkick to the back of his head. Pinfall attempt gets two. Some back and forth leads Nakamura to catching Ziggler with a knee hanging through the ropes. Nakamura on offence goes to the Exploder suplex and a Kinshasa that gets the three count that Nakamura should have gotten about 10 minutes ago. Nakamura dances as JBL calls it one of the most impressive debuts he’s ever seen. C’mon, man, you were there when Owens beat Cena. And AJ.
It got Nakamura in the ring, finally, but it made him look far weaker than I would think they would want, considering he was facing Ziggler.
FASHION POLICE VS THE USOS (WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match)
A Fashion Police segment precedes the tag match, much to my delight, a replay of this week’s Smackdown version. Breeze even comes out in the Janitor outfit from the segment. He mops the floor in character for an absurdly long time as I am just loving this. Is that Moppy’s son? The world may never know, but I’m just going to call it Moppy Jr.
The Usos come out in their immediately ridiculed hoodies, with both guys looking considerably larger than normal. Breeze continuing to mop on the apron is aces. Just aces. JBL is still not convinced that this mystery man isn’t in fact Breeze, which is funny until they run it into the ground, which I am sure they will do. We start with Fandango getting some shine on the fatter of the two Usos before tagging out to the janitor, who brings the mop into the ring and continues to mop. Oh my god, this is the best thing all year. Some cute spots with the mop, all while JBL complains about the “loaded mop” is great. Jey Uso in now and he snaps Moppy Jr. in half before going up top, but Janitor Breeze rolls away. So Jey goes to the other buckle and Breeze slowly rolls away again. They repeat this a few times and I am dying laughing at this before Jey gets fed up with it, goes for a pickup and catches an enziguri for two.
Tag to Fandango immediately backfires as the Usos take back over and Jimmy gets tagged back in. Some chops lead to the Rude dance from Fandango and a legdrop off a sunset flip attempt. Breeze, who was knocked off the apron, comes back onto it in a grandma outfit and I AM DYING. JBL is screaming for security and calling it a mixed tag now. A Let’s Go Grandma chant as Chicago is FEELING it.
“Moolah is back from the dead!” –JBL.
Some dropkicks from Grandma Breeze and it looks like Mama Harper from Mama’s Family is in there. The Usos take back over as I join the announcers in trying very hard to concentrate while laughing and the heat is back on after the buttsmash in the corner. Jimmy throws the Grandma dress out and it lands on JBL’s head to much hilarity. A missed splash sees Jimmy hit his head on the LED post and a replay shows the dress tag Bradshaw right on the head and he gets pissed about it. Fandango in and he gets two off a spinning wheel kick. More chops and another post shot leads to an ugly spinning DDT by Fandango for two. Double team is reversed as JBL claims Breeze has entered the match for the first time tonight. Uso double team Breeze with a modified Rocket Launcher for two. Breeze gets an Unprettier for two as the crowd bought the finish.
Breeze tries a dive off the apron onto the Usos outside and gets caught and dumped into the front row, to which Fandango dives and catches them both. He tosses an Uso in and goes up but the other Uso holds his leg as he catches a superkick and that’s the finish as the Usos survive the funniest tag match I’ve seen in WWE in a long, long time. Fashion Police are MONEY.
Winner: The Usos
Great comedy, fast pace, no wasted motion. It felt like a wacky NorCal Indie main event in all the right ways. The Fashion Police can ride this gimmick into their 50 year old indie tour days if they want, and it might end up getting them a title run at some point soon. Usos looked good playing off them and being flustered and mean. Very pleasant surprise.
SAMI ZAYN vs. BARON CORBIN
We start out with some chain wrestling by Zayn that goes nowhere. Corbin knees him in the ropes and goes on offence but Zayn with some fancy rope work, and we are back to Corbin slowing things down with brawling. JBL talks about flips and flops not mattering, despite his entire singles career being defined by Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio beating him. Corbin goes outside and drags Zayn out. This is a no win situation as both guys really need wins to get SOMETHING going with their careers. Zayn with a moonsault off the barricade, which Corbin still gets up first from and back into the ring after. If Corbin wasn’t going bald and had six pack abs, I am pretty sure Vince would have him against Orton instead of Mahal tonight. And going over, at that. Corbin with a backbreaker as Zayn starts to do what he does best; sell his ass off. Just moments after calling him a person that ‘just beats people up’, JBL calls Corbin a ‘thinking man’s fighter’. We get a bearhug as the story now shifts completely to Zayn selling his back.
Zayn escapes, runs the ropes holding his back, and ends up in a second bearhug, which might be a record for bearhugs with no Big Show or Mark Henry for any match since ’89. Zayn catches Corbin coming and pull the top rope down, sending Corbin out. Zayn up top, but Corbin gets back in, Zayn misses his dive, but rolls through and gets hit with a spinebuster. The crowd is slowly losing all heat as the show is now ground to a halt. Ole chant as Corbin slows things down by yelling a lot. Zayn with the over-selling as Corbin poses and punches, which is around about his movesets limits. Corbin goes for something off the rope and Zayn jumps up with a clothesline. Another as Zayn builds momentum and he goes up to the top for a crossbody that gets two. Corbin hits a clothesline for two after doing his baseball slide out and back in spot. Corbin back to working on the back as Zayn sells like he’s being shot.
Corbin for a backdrop, but Zayn flips out and gets hit with a gorgeous chokeslam-backbreaker. That gets two. Corbin puts him on top and sets up for a superplex, but Zayn fights out and hits the sunset powerbomb. That gets two. Sami chant as the crowd isn’t completely gone yet and Sami tries to front facelock Cobin up. Zayn with the spinning DDT out of the corner but Corbin stopped it, so Zayn tries the exploder into the corner and he reverses that too. Zayn with a crucifix pin but that gets two and Corbin with the Deep Six which also gets two. Corbin is unhappy with that not being a finish, and kicks, what looked to be, about two inches from Zayn’s side, that he still sold like a punch from a 20 year old Tyson. Corbin with more beating down as JBL thinks the ref is going to stop the match. Zayn ducks Corbin, sending him out of the ring and as he comes back in, hits the Helluva Kick and it gets the three.
Winner: Sami Zayn
They tried really, really hard, but Corbin is very limited and Zayn oversells everything to the point that it’s hard to believe him anymore. That said, Corbin was crisp when he did stuff and Zayn got the crowd back after losing them early. Nothing that couldn’t have main evented Smackdown.
Mahal cuts an old school WWF Foreign Heel promo backstage as he gets out of his limo, then does the Muhammad Hassan gimmick of speaking in another language. Everything from the camera angle to Mahal’s hilariously cartoonish facial expressions screams Vince McMahon just off-camera salivating at having a new Iron Sheik to play with.
The Welcoming Committee (Tamina, Nattie and Carmella) vs. Charlotte, Becky and Naomi
Jimmy Dream, er, Ellesworth cuts a promo calling the Chicagoans sausages and compares himself to Jordan. I love that this guy is still around. He proves that sometimes Vince just finds someone funny and keeps them around to amuse himself. He (intentionally) botches some nicknames for himself and brings out Carmella, who gets far less of a reaction than Ellsworth did. The two of them do look like that occasional episode of COPS where a kinda hot trailer park chick won’t leave her abusive meth-head redneck boyfriend. So that’s something. Tamina is out to join them and then Nattie rounds off the Welcoming Committee. She gets a pop, because geriatrics like me can’t NOT pop for the guitar riff that began Bret’s music.
Becky is sporting a sweet braided Mohawk thing that I think I’ll steal for myself, and Charlotte looks like a mega star next to the two of them. Par for the course there. I see that they are using her last name now that she’s a babyface. Interesting. We start out with Becky and Tamina as Tamina does a brute gimmick, a brute gimmick that is far less effective now that the company has Nia Jax. Nattie in but a rollup gets two. Becky tags out to Charlotte, sending the arena into woos. Phillips notes the past between Charlotte and Nattie and JBL notes the Sting Fallacy for Becky. “You ever notice that everyone turns on her eventually? Maybe it’s her fault.” Might as well paint her face and have her join the Horse(wo)men, I guess.
Nattie takes over with a shot to Charlotte on the apron and they tag around so everyone can beat on Charlotte in the corner. Carmella in with some really bad offence. Carmella is waaaaaaay out of her league with this group and it shows. Everyone else is a wrestler and Carmella is someone’s girlfriend pretending to wrestle. That’s how it looks. Charlotte tags Naomi who does her kick thing and Carmella sells it in the absolute worst, and most hilarious way I have ever seen. Seriously, go watch it, it’s worth the laugh. Carmella takes over and I wonder why in God’s name they are torturing me, and Chicago, with this. Is it punishment for CM Punk? A Bronco Buster gets two and she thankfully tags to Tamina.
Tamina speeds things up with a chinlock, and Naomi fights back, only to catch a rough looking clothesline. Carmella back in, because God is dead, and gets a kick in before tagging Nattie. Nattie Irish Whips Carmella in for a Bronco buster but Naomi moves and Nattie takes Charlotte off the apron as Carmella sells her ass(?) outside. Naomi goes for the tag as Tamina comes in but Carmella proves useful and pulls Becky off the apron before Naomi can tag her and she walks into a Samoan Drop for two. Nattie back in, but Naomi reverses into a hurricanrana and tags in Becky for the hot tag. She takes out everyone and dishes out an exploder to Nattie. A Straight Fire gets two.
Becky goes up but Tamina takes her off, and gets dumped. Nattie goes for the sharpshooter, but Becky gets the Disarmer. Carmella breaks it up and Charlotte dumps her before getting a superkick from Tamina, who then headbutts Naomi. Becky rolls up Nattie and gets two before stopping Tamina coming in. Nattie catches her coming back and locks in the Sharpshooter for the tapout.
Winners: The Welcoming Committee (Nattie over Becky via tapout)
It was there. Mostly for storyline advancement as the eventual betrayal by Charlotte on Becky inches closer by the day and Carmella’s excuse to use Ellsworth character got to do something useful.
AJ Styles VS. Kevin Owens (WWE United States Championship Match)
Crowd is amped for this one, and we get the Super Special Introduction for the title match. My Network App goes bananas and I come back to a headlock. AJ gets two on a roll-up and back to a headlock which Owens gets out of and we are chaining this headlock for the story of AJ being a better “wrestler”. Owens gets his own headlock and the crowd are entertained chanting at each other. Owens bails on a do-see-do sequence and comes back in when AJ goes after him. This is good heel work. Nothing illegal, he’s just being a dick and avoiding fighting.
Owens with some brawling to take over and avoids a dropkick to further the pounding. He goes to the ropes and AJ hits the dropkick, however, and AJ hits some chops to return the receipt. AJ with a headscissors takedown and Owens is visibly calling spots. AJ catches a clothesline to the throat and Owens gets two off it. Owens now pounding and posing before locking on a chinlock. The chinlock takes, approximately, a hundred years, and Owens hits a DDT when AJ fights back. It gets two, so Owens hits a couple sentons. Make that three of them. That also gets two. Owens is so mad that he hits another chinlock.
AJ fights back but Owens takes him down by the hair. He picks him up for a powerslam and catches a jumping enziguri for it. Owens goes after AJ who hits some forearms before starting his strike sequence. Seated diving forearm gets two. HARD right by AJ and a clothesline in the corner, before a sitout facebuster gets two. AJ is impressively strong. AJ goes for the clash but Owens escapes, so he hits the fireman’s carry neckbreaker for another two count. AJ shakes out his right leg, which was hurt on Smackdown, and Owens backdrops out of a Clash attempt. AJ with a middle rope moonsault reversed into a superkick and a Fisherman’s Neckbreaker by Owens. That gets two. Jesus, that Fisherman looked mean.
Owens tosses him into the ropes for the pop-up powerbomb, but AJ fights back and gets a stun gun for his efforts. AJ is out on the floor and Owens goes up top? AJ is up and he stops Owens, setting up for a Styles Clash off the apron, which I can only imagine how they would do safely. Owens gets out of it and hits the leg onto the post before tossing AJ into the stairs and back in. Owens with the Cannonball, then he wraps AJ’s leg in the buckle and Cannonball’s it. Pretty inventive there.
Owens with a single leg crab into an anklelock as they really work the leg of AJ here. AJ reaches the rope for the break. AJ rolls onto the apron, so Owens goes over the rope to grab him and sets up for a Fireman’s Buster off the middle, but AJ reverses into a sunset powerbomb. Owens hit hard on that one. AJ getting up for his Phenomenal Forearm, but he falls down because his leg is busted and gets caught with a double underhook DDT. That gets two. AJ is selling well here, and Owens is game as usual. Owens slaps AJ around a bit while screaming at him, which gets him a Pele Kick for his troubles. Owens is hurt, but AJ can’t capitalize and Owens reverses a superplex into a Fisherman’s Bomb. God, I love that move.
Owens gets two as the crowd bought it. Owens sets AJ up for a frogsplash but AJ goes outside to the apron. Owens descends and goes for a suplex off the apron, but AJ HITS A SUPLEX ON THE APRON! Christ that looked painful. Well deserved Holy Shit chant from the Chicago crowd. AJ breaks the count and gets sent into the timekeeper’s area when he comes back out. Styles out of the sky itself with a Phenomenal Forearm and sets up for a Styles Clash on the table, which Owens escapes, causing AJ to fall through a conveniently placed hole in the desk and gets his leg tangled in cords. Someone cue Mathews “IAMTHETABLE” gimmick. And AJ gets counted out? Really?
Winner: Kevin Owens by count-out.
Post-match, Owens cheapshots him and escapes with his belt as the announcers try to smooth over the bullshittiest bullshit finish to ever bullshit.
I’d go higher, but the rest holds and shitty finish taint it quite a bit. It was a great match that served as storyline enhancement as I guess these two will continue for the foreseeable future.
A review of the pre-show match notes that Tye will be on Talking Smack tonight along with Sami and Owens.
LUKE HARPER VS ERIcK ROWAN
Announcers hype the fact that the following is a family squabble and Rowan wanders out in his new mask and zero reaction from the crowd. Looks like this is the piss-break for a lot of people, which is sad considering Harper is an amazing big man and reminds me a ton of Brody. A review of Talking Smack with Rowan challenging for this match is shown, and I gotta say, I like Rowan as an indignant crazy redneck vs. the silent weirdo redneck he has been.
Rowan starts out in a heat segment from the top as the crowd is so silent I think I can hear urinals being flushed. Harper takes a nasty looking bump off the stairs to the outside and Rowan goes after him with a sliding dropkick. Harper looks like he’s about a thousand scars on his forehead from being on the cover of Apter mags in my childhood. A chinlock as ANOTHER cameraman pops into frame. They must have some new guys or local guys on tonight. Another Fire Bradshaw chant as Rowan keeps building heat on Harper. A dropkick by Rowan which is impressive in and of itself, and we are back to another chinlock. Matches like this really need plunder to make them work. A couple powerslams by Rowan lead to a pumphandle backbreaker and a clothesline for two. Rowan tries a splash off the top and misses and is apparently using his mask like Al Snow’s Head. Not the worst gimmick to rip off since it’s been like 20 years. Harper with the dive through the middle ropes to the outside, which should make people’s head explode, except he does it way too much. Big boot gets two. Side slam gets another two and Harper tries a powerbomb and gets hit with a spin kick and a powerbomb from Rowan instead. That gets two.
Rowan mounts and throws some forearms, because apparently crazy people worry about being DQ’d for closed fists too, and Harper can’t even stand to take another powerbomb. But no, he played giant possum and gets a two off a roll up. Slug out spot now as they toss fists and chops to a meager response as the crowd begins to maybe care a little. Another powerbomb attempt ends with Harper hitting a Hurricanrana?! Superkick leads to a spinning forearm to the throat of Rowan and Harper gets the three. Not sure if that was the planned finish or if they went home early because no one cared. Either way, Harper gets a clean win and some momentum that I am sure they will waste.
Winner: Luke Harper
They tried really hard, and took some big bumps, but no one cared and both guys really need smaller guys to work off of or their size doesn’t really matter and just makes them look slow and clumsy. Rowan is getting better at his gimmick though, which is good to see.
Extreme Rules comes at us in two weeks and good lord, how many events are they running a month now? Including house shows, they have to be running 40 shows a month, with like 20 of them being on TV or the Network. That’s an insane workload.
Another xenophobia-driven Jinder promo. Foreigners who wear funny stuff on their heads are all hyper sensitive about it, see? And they think all white people hate them for their skin or religion, but it’s really that they are just untalented assholes! That’s what they want us to believe anyway.
God I hope they put Jinder over, just to fuck with people here.
RANDY ORTON VS. JINDER MAHAL (WWE World Championship Match)
Mahal out first, and he looks like he’s found all of Hulk Hogan’s “Vitamins” in a storage locker in Florida somewhere and took them all over a 24 hour period. JBL goes into another history lesson of the Orton family as Randy makes his decidedly dive-less entrance. Even Orton’s entrance is slow and kinda lazy. I’ll give Mahal this: he looks like a champion. And considering Orton got a couple title reigns with a good dropkick, an enthusiastic chinlock and a cool finisher, I say Mahal is a good finish away from a title himself.
Super Special Entrances are interrupted as Orton, the babyface here, attacks Mahal in the middle of it and he tosses Mahal before chasing off his goons. Mahal over the announce desk, scattering the Usual Dummies, and continues to get his shine on as the crowd really wakes up and we go back inside. The back-ne on Mahal is pretty nasty. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t do many flat-back bumps? The bell rings and we are officially on as Orton goes for an RKO early and Mahal scarpers. Orton just chases and clotheslines him outside and they are making Mahal look way out of his element. Mahal slams Orton into the LED board to finally show some life.
Back in and Mahal goes for a rest hold already and Orton tries to fight back. The story is now concentrating on Orton’s shoulder as Jinder goes back to locking him in holds to work the shoulder. The crowd gets loud in dueling chants, which seems to baffle the announcers into silence. Orton cuts Jinder off and works off kinks in his shoulder before doing some Garvin Stomping. Which JBL calls, to the shock of none. Backslide spot as this match continues to slow down even further. Armbreaker by Mahal and a running kneedrop get two. Mahal back to an armbar and a weird botched ropes running sequence sees them go back outside. A release twisting backdrop onto the table by Orton sends Mahal into the announce chairs, which he hilariously gets caught up in. JBL writing off Orton being a heel tonight by saying he’s worried Jinder is a threat. Yeah, that’s it. It’s not that Orton, as has been established for the last 15 years, is an asshole.
Jinder back on top with another armbar/chinlock. It’s like he evolved from both moves into one! More posing with mean faces in the middle as I wonder why they didn’t close with the tag match at this point. Saxton opines that Orton is in trouble because of the armbar, which has gone on for an eternity now. It’s almost like they are trolling us to the absolute max in this match. Those stupid indie guys and their dives, we’ll have a great match with 60% chinlocks! Mahal goes diving (duck!) into the post and now EVERYBODY’S SHOULDER HURTS! Chad Patton is going to have to make sure he doesn’t pull something counting the three tonight.
Orton takes Mahal up for a superplex, which Philips notes is a Orton Family thing in a nice nod that somehow JBL didn’t pick up on. Mahal fights it off but Orton is JUST TOO MUCH VIPER and goes back up and hits it anyway. Pinfall gets 2. Slugfest ends predictably well for Mahal and a powerslam puts him down again. Orton with a fallaway slam that kinda looked like a fucked up T-bone suplex for two. Throat thrust and a neckbreaker by Mahal gets 2 and Mahal has issues with the count speed.
Orton reverses an Irish whip into a backbreaker and Mahal goes to the apron. Orton signals for the rope-assisted DDT and hits it, getting a “Vintage Orton” from JBL since Cole isn’t around to do it. Orton calling for the RKO and Mahal bails. Orton takes out the Singh brothers like they were children and he was an abusive drunken stepfather and Mahal tosses him into the post a few times on the hurt shoulder before tossing him in. Mahal comes in and gets an RKOOUTTANOWHERE and the Singhs pull him out of the ring before Orton can cover. Byron is INCENSED by this travesty. Orton again goes after the little guys and about kills them both with release back suplexes on the announce tables. I swear, the second one landed ON his head. Orton helpfully picks him up and drags him into the ring and his brother charges to help. That gets them both a rope-DDT in stereo. Mahal from behind with the full nelson slam and GETS THE THREE! HOLY SHIT!
Winner: Jinder Mahal!
— ImArya (@ImAryaWwe) 22 May 2017
The match was boring as hell until the finish, but it’s the right finish for a brand that NEEDED to do something weird and take a risk to pay off this “Land of Opportunity” gimmick. Plus, Christ, anyone but Orton, and Mahal at least is trying hard.
They took a shot with Mahal, and I hope it works. Nakamura’s debut was decidedly underwhelming, but Owens-AJ was good (despite the finish) and the tag match was great comedy. I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if it was something worth really tracking down outside of highlights.
GRADE: C, leaning to C+, just for the tag match and Mahal’s historic win.