WWE Backlash 2017 results, grades: Jinder Mahal wins title, Owens-Styles rocks
In a stunning finish, Jinder Mahal became the new WWE champion by beating Randy Orton
It wasn't Shinsuke Nakamura's main roster debut or an epic United States championship match between Kevin Owens and AJ Styles that stole the headlines from Sunday's WWE Backlash card. No, this one was all about Jinder Mahal.
In a finish that left a vocal and electric Chicago crowd at the Allstate Arena stunned in silence, Mahal completed his rapid rise from enhancement talent to WWE champion in what felt played out as a legitimate upset of Randy Orton in the main event.
Just months removed from his role as a glorified jobber, Mahal's push to the top of the card culminated in a match that exceeded the low expectations coming in (thanks to help from his sidekicks, the Singh Brothers). Mahal also sold the surprise ending with perfect heel panache, posing with the belt in triumph for what seemed like forever atop the turnbuckle.
Mahal's victory capped an up-and-down SmackDown exclusive pay-per-view, which was highlighted from an in-ring perspective by the fireworks from Owens and Styles.
Check out results, highlights and grades from WWE Backlash below.
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WWE Backlash 2017 results
Tye Dillinger def. Aiden English via pinfall (Kickoff Show): After a heel promo tearing apart his own hometown Chicago fans, English got off to a hot start in the ring. Dillinger rallied with a 10 count of punches in the corner but missed a splash off the top rope. But after English could only get a count of two following a suplex, he continued his character's recent trend of crying. Dillinger then hit his Tye Breaker finisher to get the pin. Decent match in which the crowd gave more energy for than it deserved. Grade: C-
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Dolph Ziggler via pinfall: Nakamura's long-awaited main roster debut largely proved worth the wait. It wasn't an instant classic, but with a hot crowd praising his every move, Nakamura showed good chemistry opposite Ziggler and set a nice foundation to where this feud can go. The match featured a strong mix of varying styles, including amateur mat wrestling early from Ziggler and stiff, MMA-inspired striking from both late. In between, Ziggler went on a run of near falls, connecting with his Famouser and ZigZag. In the end, Nakamura rallied back from a super kick to the back of his head and set Ziggler up for the finish with a series of knees to the midsection. Next came his trademark Kinsasha for the pin. Grade: B+
SmackDown Tag Team Championship -- The Usos (c) def. Breezango via pinfall to retain the titles: Talk about energy. This high-flying and physical match really heated up late after an early reliance on painfully silly comedy that the crowd ate up. Tyler Breeze reprised the janitor costume he wore on Fashion Files this week and took a beating for his troubles (along with having his mop snapped in half). He returned to the apron dressed as an elderly woman and was met with the same fate. After a series of believable near falls raised the intensity, The Usos threw Breeze over the ringside barrier to set up the best spot: a perfect Tope Con Hilo from Fandango outside the ring. But after Fandango climbed to the top rope, he was tripped by one Uso and instantly ate a super kick to the face from the other to set up the pin. Grade: B-
Sami Zayn def. Baron Corbin via pinfall: Booked consistently in recent months as a jobber to the stars, Zayn pulled off a much-needed upset win. The gutsy way in which he clinched it was consistent with his character. Relying on heart and an ability to shake off punishment, Zayn kicked out of a late Deep Six attempt to keep fighting. He then caught a running Corbin with a boot to the face in the center of the ring. That set up a stiff Helluva Kick for the pin. Grade: C
Backstage -- Jinder Mahal arrives: A black SUV and white limo pulled up backstage. The Singh Brothers departed the SUV and pulled out a rug, placing it by the door to the limo. Mahal stepped out in a finely tailored suit and cut a promo on Chicago and the WWE Universe in what was obviously pre-taped, saying he will turn haters into believers. He said he is going to take that hatred and turn it into something positive, spiritual and "almost" holy. "I am truly a peaceful man but once I become provoked, I become an animal," Mahal said.
The Welcoming Committee def. Becky Lynch, Naomi & Charlotte Flair via submission: The Welcoming Committee succeeded in its attempt to create chaos in the division for SmackDown's top women. What doesn't make sense from a storyline standpoint is why WWE went in this direction in the first place, burying its top three women and moving on from Naomi-Charlotte Flair so quickly. While this six-woman match wasn't terrible, the inevitable wait for a heel turn or swerve finish never came, leaving an open void that's hard to ignore. After predictable chaos broke out late, with Tamina clearing out Charlotte and Naomi with a super kick and head butt, respectively, Natalya forced Lynch to tap out with a Sharpshooter. Grade: D+
United States Championship -- Kevin Owens (c) def. AJ Styles via countout: In what had the makings for match of the year consideration after an impressive build, WWE used a surprising finish to leave fans wanting more as the feud progresses. For as long as it lasted, Owens and Styles put forth one hell of a physical match featuring a sensational inverted superplex from Owens and a snap suplex from Styles on the ring apron. They also told a great story as Styles fought through an injured right leg that Owens repeatedly targeted. Late in the match, Styles responded to being thrown into the timekeeper area by emerging with a Phenomenal Forearm. But after setting up Owens on the announce table for a Styles Clash, Styles tripped as Owens rolled away, getting his leg caught in a hole on the table that houses a monitor. Styles was counted out as he hung by his leg from the table. Owens delivered a superkick to the back of his head after the match for insult to injury. Can't wait until they reboot this one a second time. Grade: A-
Luke Harper def. Erick Rowan via pinfall: The former Wyatt Family henchmen were in a tough spot as the popcorn match following an incredible Owens-Styles bout. But the two big men did their best to stand out thanks to a strong use of physicality. Rowan, who made a pair of creepy appearances during the kickoff show at the announce desk, continued to put over his bag of masks and even set one down in the corner as a source of inspiration. Harper ultimately went over thanks to a pair of super kicks and a discus clothesline for the pin. Grade: C+
WWE Championship -- Jinder Mahal def. Randy Orton (c) to win the title: Let the era of "The Maharaja" begin. Mahal's improbable dream of a rise from the lower mid-card to the top of the company (in record time, too) became complete on Sunday. And guess what ... it wasn't half bad. Mahal and Orton told a decent story focused on Orton's injured left shoulder and the Singh Brothers' well-timed interferences helped along the finish. Orton was forced to fight off all three opponents late in the match and spent a bit too much of his focus disposing of Jinder's sidekicks. Mahal snuck up from behind in the center of the ring after Orton hit a double elevated DDT on the Singhs landed his Cobra Clutch Slam (now known as Khallas) to get the 1-2-3. Mahal performed fairly well in the match, kicking out of both Orton's superplex and his RKO. Credit both Singh Brothers for taking some horrific suplex bumps on the announce table from Orton. Grade: B
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