The abysmal house-show better known as the Greatest Royal Rumble is finally in the rear-view mirror. The champions weren’t in any danger in Saudi Arabia, but with Backlash looming closer, we could see a new champion or two by the next broadcast of Raw and SmackDown. Let’s see how the championship scene played out this week.
The Universal Title
Oh my God, will it ever end? Universal Champion Brock Lesnar retained his title in controversial fashion at the GRR, so naturally Roman Reigns bitched about it. Jinder Mahal, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens all came out separately to challenge “The Big Dog” that night, and each man was cheered whilst Roman was booed. That’s right, even Jinder was cheered; that just shows how badly Roman is received – in Bizarro World at least.
As is the way in WWE things went haywire, and soon enough, Roman was getting battered by the heels. Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman made the save, and a six-man tag match was made for later in the evening. Oh joy.
The match was saved by the crowd reactions. Montreal cheered for just about everything Owens and Zayn did, and booed whenever Roman moved a muscle. The babyfaces wrapped things up with a Powerslam from Strowman to “The Prize Fighter.”
Much like previous weeks, the Universal Title section of this column hasn’t revolved around the champion at all. With the controversy surrounding the Universal title match, it looks like Roman and Lesnar have unfinished business. When and where they’ll finish it is anyone’s guess for now, though.
The Intercontinental Title
They say the IC Championship is the worker’s title, and Seth Rollins really proved that it is this week. After Bálor narrowly missed out on becoming champion at the GRR, he interrupted Seth’s promo to ask for a title shot that very night.
Before the champ could answer, Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas came down to the ring to try and form a stable one more time with Bálor and Rollins. The jobbers failed in recruiting Finn and Seth into the new Four Horsemen, but they gave it a good go and gave us a laugh in the process. “The Architect” and “The Demon” cleared Dallas & Axel from the ring, and then Bálor took out the IC Champ from behind for good measure. It was a nice borderline heel move from the Irish superstar, and gave us food for thought going into the championship match later in the night.
What more can be said about Rollins vs. Bálor that hasn’t already said. They put on the match of the night yet again, and considering that jetlag could have been a factor, it makes it even more incredible. There were a lot of great spots; Bálor reversing a Falcon’s Arrow from Rollins into one of his own being a particular favourite highlight of mine. The match ended with a Super Kick followed by a Stomp from Rollins to retain the title.
Raw was definitely Monday Night Rollins this week. Seth’s dedication to putting on a fantastic show is something to be admired. There wasn’t much going on to make fans excited for Backlash because it feels like we’ve already seen the best IC title match this week, but there’s no doubt the champ and The Miz are going to steal the show come Sunday.
The Raw Women’s Title
Alexa Bliss was back with another Moment of Bliss this week. She regaled us with a tale from her visit to Disney World with her former best buddy and current Raw Women’s Champion, Nia Jax.
Alexa cut a great promo, and the story was actually funny. She was telling the WWE Universe about how Nia teased Bliss for being small, asking staff if she was tall enough to go on the rides (such as the Teacups), and getting her a kids menu at lunch. WWE got all of this part right, but when “The Goddess” started talking about Nia’s eating habits again, it stopped being funny. Having Bliss unintentionally take the piss out of herself is gold, but actually bullying someone ain’t that fun to watch.
Later on, Bliss was at ringside for Mickie James’ match against Natalya (accompanied by Ronda Rousey). An interference from the former champion led to Natalya getting the win over Mickie, and Nia came out to confront Bliss post-match. “Little Miss Bliss” wanted nothing to do with “The Irresistible Force” though, and scampered off through the crowd. It seemed more like a pointless use of Jax than anything, but she took a bow in the ring with Natalya and Rousey, so that’s nice, I guess.
Overall, I’m not very excited about the match between Jax and Bliss for the title, but if WWE do the right thing and have Jax squash Bliss in two minutes, then I guess the redemption story comes full circle, and we can move on to something better.
The Raw Tag Team Titles
After becoming the new Raw Tag Team Champions at the GRR, Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt cut a promo this week that transcended time and space.
It was WONDERFUL that The Deleters of Worlds took the time to remind us how they were there for so many key moments in history. I completely forgot Matt & Bray greeted Neil Armstrong when he walked on the moon. A delightful promo, yeeees.
It was a fun segment, but it looks as though the champs will be giving Backlash a miss. If only I was capable of having a preemoneeshon, then I’d be able to tell you who the next challengers will be.
The Cruiserweight Title
Cedric Alexander and Kalisto put on the match of the night at the Greatest Royal Rumble, but there was one man on the 205 Live roster that certainly didn’t care for the match; Buddy Murphy.
Murphy made his return to the cruiserweight division after making the 205lb weight limit again, and to celebrate, he absolutely destroyed a local jobber. The ref put an end to the bout for the poor man’s safety, meaning Buddy won by default. This was an excellent way of bringing the Aussie back into the fold. He came across as incredibly dangerous, and it showed his emotions at being stripped of his chance to challenge for the title in the first place.
After the bout, the Cruiserweight Champion and Murphy went at it on the ramp. Cedric got the better of the exchange, forcing Buddy to make a retreat.
It’s always great to see superstars booked right, and the former NXT Tag Team Champion is definitely going in the right direction. As of late, Murphy just has that ‘it’ factor, and pairing him up against such a talented and charismatic champion like Cedric has done wonders for the division. It doesn’t look like these two will square off at Backlash, but that’s probably for the best. Their feud is the one to watch right now, and by the time the next PPV comes round, there should be so much animosity between them that we could be in for another 5 star match.
The WWE Title
The match for the WWE Title in Jeddah ended inconclusively, so on SmackDown this week, Paige announced AJ Styles will defend the title in a no DQ match against Shinsuke Nakamura.
To build up hype for the match, Styles was interviewed in the ring by Renee Young. Styles said he was happy for the no DQ stipulation, because now he can break the rules, too. Then out came Samoa Joe to a huge pop. He told the WWE Champ that no matter who wins at Backlash, he will be coming for the title, and whoever Joe chases after, it’s a guarantee we’re in for a great feud for the belt after the PPV.
Taking advantage of the situation, Nakamura’s music hit, and Joe squared up for a fight. But Shinsuke was after one thing; AJ’s ball sack. In the ring, we cut to the Japanese superstar arm-deep in the champion’s nether regions, and then Shinsuke clobbered “The Phenomenal One” with a Kinshasa for good measure. The segment ended with the challenger holding the title above his head.
Much like his feud for the US Title with Kevin Owens, AJ/Nakamura has been really disappointing from an in-ring perspective. I still have high hopes for a 5 star match because I know it’s perfectly possible. The bout is now tailor-made for Shinsuke, so if he doesn’t win, he loses a lot of credibility as a main eventer. In a perfect world, “The King of Strong Style” will become champion, and AJ and Samoa Joe will chase Nakamura for the belt all the way to SummerSlam.
The US Title
The Miz had two very special guests on Miz TV this week: US Champion Jeff Hardy, and his challenger at Backlash, Randy Orton.
As per usual, Miz did a fantastic job of being the little weasel trying to get Randy fired up enough to strike Jeff. However, Orton played things cool, and “The A-Lister” looked more likely to receive an RKO than the champ. Watching the segment back, you realise just how good The Miz is in it; his facial expressions, the way he slyly puts distance between himself and Orton, the passion in his voice.
The pleasantries between the champion and challenger were too much for Shelton Benjamin, so he made his way to the ring to tell everyone he should be the one to receive a shot at the US Championship.
People just can’t discuss things in WWE, can they? The heated exchange led to a brawl between the four superstars, and a tag match was made pitting The Miz and Shelton Benjamin against Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton.
This was a really good match where everyone knew their place. Benjamin again put on a solid performance, showing his worth in the title scene, Hardy took bumps, Orton got pops, and Miz was dastardly. Every gelled well. The bout ended with Shelton taking an RKO/Swanton Bomb combo to give Jeff and Randy the win. Seconds later, “The Viper” hit “The Charismatic Enigma” with an RKO, too.
This match was a great go-home bout for Backlash, and it was the only match at all this week that had that effect. Jeff and Randy will put on a decent match on Sunday, but the real story is who’s going to be the next in contention. Shelton Benjamin and The Miz are definitely worthy, but will they get the shot they deserve?
The SmackDown Women’s Title
I predicted a couple of weeks ago that Asuka, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair would face Carmella and The IIconics in a six-woman tag match. I didn’t want it, I hated the idea of it, I begged God to make sure it didn’t happen, but by golly, it happened this week. And in a surprising twist, it was really, really good.
Much like the US Title tag match, everyone knew their role in this bout. Carmella and The IIconics are great as comedy acts who take beatings and can dish it out too. Then you have the pure talent of Asuka, Becky, and Charlotte directing traffic to put on a clinic.
Charlotte took out Carmella and Billie Kay with a Moonsault, leaving Peyton Royce to the mercy of Asuka. The Japanese superstar got the submission victory for the babyfaces, and we saw Carmella crawl up the ramp clutching at her title.
I feel like it would have made more sense for “The Queen” to pick up the three-count to make her look in even more ready for the title match, but a win’s a win. It looks like Carmella is going to have to let Charlotte take control of the bout this Sunday as she’s still not quite up to scratch, but the build up has been really good, so I’m happy for this one going into Backlash.
The SmackDown Tag Team Titles
There was no mention of the champions this week, and it looks like they’re off the card at Backlash. Not much more to say really. Let’s hope the champions are back next week, and in tip-top shape for a fight.
From the looks of things, even the champions are missing out on spots on the PPV card. Four titles won’t be up for grabs at Backlash, and in particular, the tag title scene is completely barren.
Either way, there were some good segments and matches this week. At the very least, Backlash should be better than the Greatest Royal Rumble; check back next week for all the championship fallout.