Unfortunately for fans who stayed up late to watch the nearly four-hour WWE Backlash on Sunday, a combination of lackluster matches and mind-boggling storytelling took a toll on a show that was built with a decent card, including a couple of highly anticipated matches. Backlash was WWE's second special network event since WrestleMania 34 and the first co-branded non-major pay-per-view since the brand split two years ago.
Combined with the Greatest Royal Rumble and a title match on Raw, WWE has seen no title changes in 12 championship matches since WrestleMania, and Backlash ultimately served as a clear space-filler on WWE's calendar as opposed to an event that moved storylines forward on the company's trek toward Money in the Bank and SummerSlam.
Check out full results and grades from WWE Backlash below along with full highlights from the show at the bottom of this story.
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WWE Backlash results, grades
The Miztourage rebuffs The Miz (Kickoff Show): Backstage, Miz told Miztourage how proud he has been of them messing with Rollins and Balor over the last couple of weeks. He then said he was glad the "band was back together." However, Miztourage refused to follow him out of the locker room with Bo Dallas saying they would no longer be "supporting cast."
Sasha Banks and Bayley meet up (Kickoff Show): Bayley asked Banks to be in her corner for her match after suggesting they squash their beef. Banks reacted negatively, saying Bayley hasn't spoken to her in weeks and hung her out to dry against the Riott Squad on Raw. Bayley said she was just trying to extend an olive branch, but Banks refused again, saying her former best friend was on her own tonight.
Ruby Riott def. Bayley via pinfall (Kickoff Show): Banks watched from a monitor backstage but never ran out, even as Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan constantly interfered. The match was a bit sloppy at times including back-to-back botches. Riott did pop the crowd for a unique move when she caught a running Bayley in the corner with a head scissors and slammed her head into the turnbuckle. Morgan's distraction on the ring apron set up the finish as Bayley was reversed into her and Riott landed her Riott Kick for the 1-2-3. Grade: C-
Intercontinental Championship -- Seth Rollins (c) def. The Miz via pinfall to retain the title: Good luck to anyone trying to follow this one. This was main event quality in the opening match as Rollins continued his incredible streak of recent matches as the hottest superstar in the company. The crowd also provided an incredible soundtrack of explosive pops as Rollins and Miz showcased their strong chemistry to produce a number of dramatic near falls over the second half. The Miz was denied a ninth IC title reign, which would've put him into a tie with Chris Jericho for the most in company history. But what both superstars proved in this match is that they are worthy for runs at the top title in their respective brands.
While Rollins was the typical workhorse with an array of suicide dives and an incredible frog splash across three quarters of the ring, Miz was no slouch when it came to psychology. Rollins perfectly sold a left knee injury over the final quarter of the match, which opened up doors in the storyline for Miz to rally. The biggest pops came when Miz twice took advantage of that knee by reversing Rollins into his Skull-Crushing Finale finisher, only for The Architect to somehow kick out. After twice missing his Stomp (including once from the second rope), Rollins finally hit it late to defend his title. Grade: A
Raw Women's Championship -- Nia Jax (c) def. Alexa Bliss via pinfall to retain the title: Jax made the first defense of the title she won at WrestleMania in a match that continued to play up the story of Bliss' bullying against her former friend. The match was a physical affair with Bliss landing stiff head kicks and a DDT into the ring steps outside as Jax was unable to convert multiple second-rope Samoan Drops. But coming off the hot opener, the match also failed to truly connect with the crowd. The finish came when Jax caught a Twisted Bliss attempt and turned it into a Samoan Drop for the 1-2-3. During a post-match interview, Jax dedicated the victory to anyone who has ever been bullied, telling fans they are not alone and it's OK to be different. "Who wants to be ordinary?" Jax said. "Be extraordinary. Your uniqueness is what makes you special and that is beautiful." Jax closed by reminding everyone that "in the end, a bully always gets her ass kicked." While Jax's message was certainly positive, WWE used the moment to gratuitously flaunt the company's anti-bullying efforts. Grade: C
Samoa Joe makes a proclamation: Asked if he believed Reigns was rattled, Joe agreed and said Reigns has completely lost his confidence. "Most importantly, tonight, he's a man who loses to me," Joe added before promising that Reigns would feel immense pain before the night is through.
United States Championship -- Jeff Hardy (c) def. Randy Orton via pinfall to retain the title: The lack of a compelling storyline coming in robbed from what could've been a good piece of business between babyfaces and future Hall of Famers. Instead, the crowd never truly connected with this relatively short match until the finish. The action picked up when Orton hit his DDT from the second rope and began to set up for the RKO. But Hardy countered the finishing move with a roll up attempt and then hit his Twist of Fame. He followed with a Swanton Bomb for the pin in what felt like an abrupt finish considering Orton's reputation and the fact that Hardy went over so clean. Grade: C+
Elias' concert never gets started: Elias hit the ring by himself to start, but after taunting the crowd a little, New Day came out and suggested a concert. After New Day played as a marching band for a minute, Elias demanded his intro start over. Just as that was happening, English came out and sang while introducing Rusev Day. Elias demanded another intro from JoJo, which was interrupted by No Way Jose and his conga line ... including Titus Worldwide and Breezango. Elias called for one more restart, and just as it was happening, Bobby Roode appeared in the middle of the ring with a Glorious DDT.
Daniel Bryan def. Big Cass via submission: For all of the talk delivered from Big Cass after working his way within the storyline into Bryan's first feud after WrestleMania, the way in which he succumbed to defeat was rather weak. Luckily for Cass, in terms of his longterm chances of succeeding as a viable heel, his post match response was anything but. Cass tapped out to the Yes Lock following a brief and rather pedestrian match. But after Bryan celebrated the victory on the second turnbuckle, Cass viciously attacked from behind by flipping him over the top rope and onto the floor. Cass followed by tossing Bryan around by his hair before laying him out with a big boot inside the ring. Cass, who maniacally punched himself in the face during the melee, stood over Bryan with his fist held high amid a showering of boos. While Cass hasn't yet proved he's worthy of an elite push after his tag team breakup from Enzo Amore, it's hard to disregard just how angry he makes the crowd as a pure heel. Grade: C+
SmackDown Women's Championship -- Carmella (c) def. Charlotte Flair to retain the title: This felt like anything but a title match as the dead crowd was never given much of a reason to heat up. Carmella and Flair largely worked in front of absolute silence, trading long rest holds for far too long in the first half. The finish fell equally flat as Flair missed a moonsault from the top rope and landed on her feet, selling a left knee injury after he legs buckled. Carmella kicked her in the knee from behind and stole the pinfall. For all of the goodwill Carmella earned in recent weeks for her microphone work on SmackDown Live, this performance was a step back for the believability of her title reign. The match also did Charlotte zero favors, less than a month after she ended Asuka's vaunted unbeaten streak at WrestleMania. Grade: D+
WWE Championship (No Disqualification) -- AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura ends in a draw: For the second straight week, WWE presented a PPV in which the WWE championship wasn't contested in the main event. Even worse, both times it ended without a clean finish. Styles and Nakamura, whose WWE feud was received as nothing short of a dream for fans who watched them compete in Japan, certainly deserved better by both the placement and unsatisfying finish. At the very least, WWE appears to be building toward what one can only hope is a strong conclusion as Styles and Nakamura bested their initial WrestleMania clash for the second straight week in a physical and intense match.
The in-ring styles of both were properly represented in this one as an angry Styles dominated the early going by moving at a quick pace. Nakamura then showcased his "strong style" with a long and deliberate beating. Yet despite the no-DQ stipulation, the only foreign object used was a chair, which Styles used to accidentally cut open his left cheek after he threw it at Nakamura's knee to block a Kinsasha (causing it to deflect into his face). The theme of Nakamura constantly targeting low blows on Styles was once again the centerpiece. Depending upon your viewpoint, it came across as either comedic or disrespectful for the skills and standing of both. Nakamura countered a Pele kick late with a punch to the groin, but Styles gained instant retribution by landing one of his own. After a count was administered, both reached their feet. The finish came shortly after when both landed kicks to the crotch simultaneously and neither was able to beat the 10 count by getting off the canvas. Considering the double countout finish one week earlier, the ending fell flat in what had been a strong match. Grade: B-
Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley def. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn via pinfall: This one was relegated to popcorn status between the WWE championship match and the main event. Because of the lack of compelling storyline, it didn't seem to matter. Strowman repeated the same spots he has used on Owens and Zayn in recent weeks on Raw by landing clotheslines and running shoulder blocks outside. The only development came from the two heels turning on each other again as Owens and Zayn exchanged blows on the apron. Zayn went on to push Owens back into the ring and refused to help out. Lashley hit Owens with his hold and release suplex for the 1-2-3 as Zayn watched from outside. After the match, Strowman threw Owens back into the ring and hit a running powerslam. He then chased down Zayn and hit another one. It's clear that WWE has nothing for Strowman at the moment as he awaits a deserved chance at the universal championship. But considering how over he is, it's time to come up with something. While watching him land his finishing move on everyone he comes across is fun, it's ultimately meaningless without a title shot. Grade: C-
Roman Reigns def. Samoa Joe via pinfall: If you thought the idea to book this non-title match as the main event was a questionable decision -- especially considering Reigns is fresh off an incomplete program with Brock Lesnar -- the way it was booked welcomes nothing but justifiable criticism. WWE once again went back to the well in booking the despised Reigns as a heroic babyface able to overcame all odds. What it left was a main event that was largely ignored by the Newark crowd, producing chants of "CM Punk," "Rusev Day" and "beat the traffic" as fans exited the arena before the finish. This is no longer an indictment on WWE for not turning Reigns heel. Instead, this has escalated to the point where the psychology and storyline simply makes no sense in ways that can't be good for business. It's difficult to blame Reigns and Joe in this case as, save for an unforgivably long stretch of rest holds midway through that brought the early momentum to a halt, both worked hard in a physical match. It's just impossible to ignore how poorly WWE continues to treat its own fanbase.
Joe attacked Reigns before the match even started, setting an electric tone by landing a Uranage through the announce table. Joe then used a series of chinlocks and power moves to wear down Reigns' neck for his finishing move, the Coquina Clutch. Twice, Reigns was barely able to break the hold by reaching the ropes. The third time nearly produced a finish as the eyes rolled back in Reigns' head just as referee John Cone leaned in. But this is where the frustrating finish came in. Despite being beaten down for nearly the entire match, Reigns hulked up and worked his way to the ropes once more. After Joe set him onto the second rope in hopes of landing a Muscle Buster, a move he has not hit since joining the main roster, Reigns leaped off and then hit a spear for the pin.
While Styles-Nakamura had a questionable finish of its own, at least the result played into the storyline in a way that made sense. All this did was create more negativity and not the kind that leads to money. WWE has backed itself into a deep enough corner where only a Reigns heel turn can fix this. Grade: D+
WWE Backlash highlights
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