It was always going to be impossible for Edge and Randy Orton to live up to the hype of a match labeled "The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever." But the pair put on a performance Sunday night that should draw no complaints from any wrestling fan, tearing down the house in the main event of the Backlash pay-per-view and giving performances that rank near the top of both of their legendary careers.
In a lengthy match, Orton and Edge drew on decades of combined experience to throw everything in their arsenal at each other in something that felt like the culmination of "WWE style" wrestling. It was not "old school," instead focusing on high impact moves and transition segments. Orton utilized Kurt Angle's Angle Slam and Triple H's Pedigree, Edge hit Christian's Unprettier and The Rock's Rock Bottom, both throwing acknowledgement to superstars who defined the eras in which they'd made their names.
Orton would ultimately win out, landing a punt to the head of Edge after two RKOs failed to get the job done. After the win, which avenged Orton's Last Man Standing loss at WrestleMania, Orton whispered to Edge to go home and be with his family. Though, it's hard to imagine things between these two are anywhere near done.
The rest of the card was uneven, though there were some solid highlights. Among the other standout matches was the WWE championship match, which saw Drew McIntyre outlast Bobby Lashley in a high-impact battle of big men. The match turned when Lana, banned from ringside for weeks by Lashley and MVP, made her way to ringside and provided accidental distraction that allowed McIntyre to hit a Claymore and retain his championship. No titles changed hands on the night, including universal champion Braun Strowman outlasting Miz and John Morrison in a handicap match and Asuka battling Nia Jax to a double countout.
Check out results, analysis, grades and highlights from 2020 WWE Backlash below.
2020 WWE Backlash results, grades
United States Championship -- Apollo Crews (c) vs. Andrade (Kickoff Show): Kevin Owens made his way to ringside to work commentary, while Angel Garza and Zelina Vega were out with Andrade. Crews and Andrade have built some solid chemistry in recent months and played off their history with some interesting counters. Both hit some big moves for near falls, but Crews eventually hit the press slam into a standing moonsault and a standing shooting star press. Garza climbed onto the ring apron and Owens left the commentary table to hit Garza with a stunner. Crews hit Andrade with the sit-down spinning powerbomb for the pinfall to successfully retain the title in a solid match. As is the case many times with kickoff matches, 5 more minutes could have helped the match feel more complete. Apollo Crews def. Andrade via pinfall to retain the title -- Grade: B-
Women's Tag Team Championship -- Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) vs. The IIconics vs. Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss: Before the match, Kayla Braxton asked Banks and Bayley if their friendship would end if they lose the tag titles, which both women brushed off as a stupid question. Bayley then reiterated that in a solo promo as Banks made her way to the ring. The match had a really good opening stretch with a lot of pin attempts, counters and break-ups before all six women entered the ring and things broke down into a brawl. With three women legal at all times, the pace stayed really high and the IIconics really impressed in showing off in-ring improvements beyond what they've displayed since returning. Bliss hit Twisted Bliss on Peyton Royce, but Banks swooped into the ring and pinned Bliss for the three count to retain the titles in a really fun and well-paced opening match. Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) def. Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss [via pinfall] and The IIconics to retain the titles -- Grade: B
Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus: Sheamus came out fast, throwing Hardy to the mat and immediately grinding his forearm into Hardy's face, rubbing off Hardy's face paint in the process. Hardy made his comeback, jumping off the stairs with a body block and then stopped himself from using the stairs as a weapon and risking a disqualification. The hesitation allowed Sheamus to take back over and dump Hardy over the turnbuckle and onto the ring post. The move took a lot of steam out of Hardy and Sheamus began to dominate, but no matter the move, Hardy kept finding a way to kick out. Hardy, bludgeoned and with clothes tattered and face paint all but gone, made his comeback with classic moves like the Whisper in the Wind, but was unable to score the pin before being knocked off the top rope into an awkward fall. Hardy continued to hang in the match after White Noise and eventually hit the Swanton Bomb, but Sheamus got his foot on the rope. Moments later, Sheamus hit a Brogue Kick on the outside of the ring as Hardy took a risk and ran the barricade, and he added another finisher in the ring to score the pin. Another solid match as the show has started well. They told a solid story of Hardy having the guts to fight back again and again before a high risk move allowed Sheamus to finally power his way to a win. Sheamus def. Jeff Hardy via pinfall -- Grade: B+
Raw Women's Championship -- Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax: Asuka locked Jax in the octopus hold early in the match but was tossed off and leveled with a clothesline. The Jax power game dominated the early portion of the match as she tossed Asuka around with ease, culminating in an awkward looking Jackhammer. Jax asked, "Where's Kairi?" leading Asuka to fire back up and throw a series of strikes at the challenger before Jax caught one and used it to hit a powerbomb. There were a lot of sloppy moments throughout the match before an awkward ending where both women were counted out while brawling outside the ring. Asuka hit one final hip attack on Jax, diving off the ring apron before taking her title and walking to the back. Asuka is one of the best wrestlers on the roster and this match didn't allow her to show it because Jax just has not improved at the rate you would hope. Asuka vs. Nia Jax ended in a double countout -- Grade: C-
Universal Championship -- Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison: Earlier in the show, Miz and Morrison were caught off-guard by the news that if one of them pinned Strowman, only that man would be universal champion. (There would be no "co-champions.") Otis also interrupted the duo backstage and let them know he might try to cash in the Money in the Bank contract on anyone who wins the match. Miz and Morrison tried to keep the fast-paced, quick-tag offense going but Strowman shrugged off their strikes until the team were able to hit a series of big dives to finally put Strowman fully on the defensive. After Strowman seemed fully down and out, Miz hit a Skull-Crushing Finale assisted by a Morrison kick. Miz broke up Morrison's pin attempt, however, and that allowed Strowman to roar back and hit a running powerslam on Morrison for the win. There wasn't much drama in how this would end once the "no co-champs" rule was announced. Braun Strowman (c) def. Miz & John Morrison via pinfall to retain the title -- Grade: C
WWE Championship -- Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bobby Lashley: Before the match started, McIntyre walked toward MVP, and Lashley locked the champion in a full nelson. Lashley fell backward,with his legs locked around McIntyre's waist, torquing on the hold before finally letting go. McIntyre took a moment to recover before the match officially started with Lashley tossing him around and going for quick pins. McIntyre tried to fire back but continually had his offense cut off as he was still trying to recover. Lashley continued his attack outside the ring, but when he tried to run in for a splash against the barricade, McIntyre countered and started to pick up some momentum. Lashley cut off the champion with some more big power moves and a Flatliner but only drew a one count. Lashley set up for another full nelson but McIntyre was able to keep him from locking his fingers. McIntyre countered a crossface into an attempt at a tombstone piledriver, but that was countered into an ankle lock. Similarly, McIntyre countered a spear into a rolling attempt at a kimura as the big men continued to go hold-for-hold down the stretch.
Lashley countered a Claymore by hitting a spear for a near fall, at which point Lana made her way to ringside. Lashley accused the ref of cheating, distracting Lashley before a Glasgow Kiss knocked Lashley into Lana, who fell on MVP. McIntyre then hit Claymore to score the pin and end what had been a very good match between powerhouses. After the match, MVP and Lashley looked at Lana with disgust and left her on the floor at ringside. Drew McIntyre (c) def. Bobby Lashley via pinfall to retain the title -- Grade: B+
The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders brawl across the Performance Center: Before the match, the Profits and Raiders were found battling in the parking lot before they were thrown onto the hood of Braun Strowman's car and ran away in a panic, continuing the brawl inside the building. The Profits grabbed golf clubs, so Erik grabbed an axe and a shield while Ivar had a shield and a bowling ball. Montez Ford suggested they all put down their weapons and and "fight like men." The teams continued to fight before Ivar hit Ford in the crotch with a bowling ball. Angelo Dawkins then speared Ivar through a glass door at the front of the PC, and the teams took a break. The groups were interrupted by an Akira Tozawa-led motorcycle ninja gang. Tozawa said anything they could do, his group could do better. The Profits and Raiders then became the "Viking Profits," and they fought off the motorcycle ninjas. Tozawa then introduced a giant ninja, who pulled a sword after Ivar called a turkey leg like Thor calls Mjolnir. The teams then ran away from the giant sword-wielding ninja and began to brawl with each other again before all four ended up in a dumpster. A female referee then interrupted and asked what they were doing because their match is supposed to be up next. This just didn't really have a consistent tone and the jokes didn't really land. Some of the action was interesting enough, even if it was largely unnecessary to go this direction rather than finally just having a straight wrestling match. But this is the "cinematic era" at its most unnecessarily indulgent. Grade: C-
The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever -- Edge vs. Randy Orton: The match was presented with "enhanced camera angles" and "amplified audio." That meant some unique camera shots and attempts to replicate stadium crowd noise, which was slightly distracting when you see the actual crowd in the WWE Performance Center. There were other small touches, though, with recorded introductions from the late Howard Finkel and referee Charles Robinson in old school blue shirt and bow tie referee gear. The match itself was fantastic with an old school, patient build that perfectly straddled a slow build with nasty offensive work from both men. Orton was busted open early in the contest, bleeding near his right eye. As the intensity built, there was a very solid mix of high impact moves and rest holds at exactly the right moments. Unprettiers, Angle Slams, Edge-O-Matics, Pedigrees, Rock Bottoms the depth of moves which were broken out over the match really helped build the story of the lengths both men were willing to go and the places they'd been through their careers that led to this point.
After breaking out big moves from throughout WWE history, Orton managed to hit Edge with an RKO, but Edge kicked out. Orton was slow to follow up and Edge unloaded with two spears to draw a near fall in return. Edge hit a springboard in the corner but jumped right into another RKO for a two count. With his primary weapon failing to get the finish, Orton went to the well with a low blow and drilled Edge to the head with a punt to score the win. You can debate how much a match like this "counts" when talking about the best matches of the year, era or all-time, given the pre-recorded nature. But from a pure entertainment standpoint, it delivered wonderfully. Randy Orton def. Edge via pinfall -- Grade: A+
2020 WWE Backlash highlights