Date: May 6, 2018
Location: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
Commentators: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, Jonathan Coachman, Tom Phillips
Yes it’s another big show as we’re closing in on the end of the longest month in WWE history. This is the third part of the Wrestlemania and Greatest Royal Rumble trilogy, meaning it’s time to redeem Roman Reigns. Again. Other than that we have AJ Styles defending the Smackdown World Title against Shinsuke Nakamura for the third time this month. Let’s get to it.
Kickoff Sow: Ruby Riott vs. Bayley
The Riott Squad is in Ruby’s corner and there’s no Sasha Banks, despite Bayley asking her to be here. They fight over a headlock to start but Bayley takes him down, only to miss an elbow. A Sarah Logan distraction lets Ruby get in an STO and we take a break. Back with Ruby dropping a knee and grabbing a chinlock. Logan offers another distraction to cut off a comeback, followed by Riott sending Bayley face first into the middle buckle.
It’s off to a cravate for a bit until Bayley manages a double springboard crossbody (which only kind of hits) for two. Bayley slides outside for a hurricanrana on Logan and snaps Ruby’s throat across the ropes. The top rope elbow gets two but Liv Morgan gets on the apron, allowing Ruby to hit the Riott Kick for the pin at 10:07.
Rating: C-. This was a story advancing match and that’s fine for what they had here. They basically had a Raw match and made it clear that Bayley needs Sasha around to help win this fight, even if they don’t get along. That was accomplished in about ten minutes and the crowd is warmed up rather than doing two battle royals and a title match over the course of an hour and a half. See how much better that is?
The opening video asks what Backlash is, which transitions into a discussion about how everything changes tonight with the shows being co-branded. You know, unlike Wrestlemania and Greatest Royal Rumble, which totally weren’t co-branded.
Intercontinental Title: Seth Rollins vs. The Miz
Miz is challenging and this is Raw vs. Smackdown. Cole already makes me scratch my head by saying the last person to switch brands with the title was Rob Van Dam in 2002. By what I can find, there have been about five such instances in between, including Dean Ambrose last year and MIZ the year before that. They fight over a wristlock to start with Rollins getting the better of it but getting kicked off the top to the floor.
Miz sends him face first into the announcers’ table and it’s chinlock time. A knee to the ribs sets up a DDT for two on Seth and it’s almost all Miz early on. Miz hits a running crotch attack to the back but Rollins sends him into the corner. A suicide dive has Miz in even more trouble and a rollup gets two. The Blockbuster gets the same and Rollins is rolling until Miz pulls him face first into the apron.
Not that it matters as Rollins kicks him down and scores with the frog splash for two. Another suicide dive is broken up with a forearm so it’s time for a slugout on the apron. The ripcord knee hits the post though (sick thud) and Miz grabs the Figure Four. With the announcers guaranteeing a new champion, Rollins turns it over for a bit but is turned back over, sending him straight to the ropes for the break. The Skull Crushing Finale is broken up and Rollins nails the enziguri.
Rollins tweaks the knee though and now the Finale connects for a close two. The corner clothesline connects but Rollins is able to hit the superplex. The knee gives out on the Falcon Arrow attempt though and a second Skull Crushing Finale gets…two in a nice surprise. Of course that’s canceled out as the Finale now looks rather lame but how else are you supposed to make someone look tough other than having them kick out of finishers? A super Stomp misses but Rollins escapes the Finale, setting up the Stomp for a delayed pin to retain the title at 20:34.
Rating: B-. They were going for the big epic match here and that went flying out the window as soon as the Skull Crushing Finale didn’t work. At that point you knew Rollins wasn’t losing here (you could argue that was the case as soon as this was announced as brand vs. brand) and the rest was just Rollins limping between doing all of his usual stuff while WWE talked about how amazing he was. It was still good enough but nowhere near what WWE is going to present it as being.
We recap Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss. Nia won the title at Wrestlemania after dealing with Alexa bullying her for months. This turned into Bliss saying that Nia was the real bully, including some hilarious PSA style vignettes of Bliss talking about Nia being a horrible person. Tonight is the rematch with Bliss trying to get the title back.
Raw Women’s Title: Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax
Nia is defending. Bliss goes straight for the knee (she must have been watching the previous match) and tries a quickly broken sleeper. Nia bends the arm back and throws Bliss around but a kick to the head puts the champ down. A little trash talk gets Bliss in trouble as Nia puts her on her shoulders (and calls a ton of spots) until Bliss rakes the eyes.
Nia is still able to toss her off the top and then throws her from corner to corner three straight times. Egads at least don’t look like you’re stalling. Bliss shoves her off the top to break up a Vader Bomb though and a DDT on the steps knocks the champ silly. Back in and Nia tries the super Samoan drop but gets kicked in the leg to give Alexa two more. Twisted Bliss takes too long though and the Samoan drop retains Nia’s title at 10:37.
Rating: D. I get that they have to fill in time but my goodness they couldn’t miss the point with this feud any more if they tried. The two matches have combined to be about twenty minutes and they should have been about a tenth of that. Bliss shouldn’t be any sort of a physical threat to Nia but they had her get close to beating Nia multiple times, which is as dumb as you could get. The fans weren’t into this and I can’t blame them a bit as I wasn’t either. Nia isn’t an interesting champion but we’ll stick with her holding the title for now because….something about bullying.
Post match Nia says that was for everyone who has been bullied. So the solution to bullying is to grow to twice the bully’s size and beat them up?
We look at Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar in the cage match at Greatest Royal Rumble.
Samoa Joe says he’ll beat Reigns tonight.
US Title: Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy
Orton is challenging after winning a triple threat match a few weeks back. Jeff gets elbowed in the face to start and a shoulder puts him down for an early two. Back up and Jeff sends him outside for the clothesline from the apron, only to get dropkicked for two back inside. Orton sends him into the Tree of Woe and stomps away as the “methodical” pace continues. They head outside with Jeff hitting Poetry In Motion off the steps and there goes the shirt.
Back in and Orton dropkicks him outside again, setting up three straight drops onto the barricade. Inside again and this time Orton drops him onto the top rope to change the pace a bit. We hit the chinlock and the announcers bring up Orton losing the Smackdown World Title to Jinder Mahal at this show last year. In case the match wasn’t dull enough you see. The RUSEV DAY chants begin so I’m guessing you can pencil him in to lose in two minutes on Tuesday.
Jeff finally fights up and hits a basement dropkick to set up Whisper in the Wind (with Orton standing there and staring at him even as Jeff was climbing the ropes). The Twist of Fate and RKO are both countered so Orton settles for two off the powerslam. Jeff misses the slingshot dropkick in the corner (the Hardiac Arrest, which I kind of like) and Orton gets to stand there a bit longer. The hanging DDT connects but the RKO is countered into a Twist of Fate. Jeff drops the Swanton to retain at 12:02.
Rating: D. Nope. I’ve seen Orton put in more effort at a house show. This was a match I’d send back to the cook and ask him to actually try this time. It was clear that they weren’t even trying here and that makes for a very long match when there’s not much of a story in the first place. And yet, somehow this was better than the original idea of Orton vs. Mahal.
Here’s Elias for a song. Before he starts though, he talks about being friends with Bruce Springsteen, who calls him the boss and regrets being from New Jersey. Elias told Bruce to tune in tonight because Bruce is going to like his song. The fans keep applauding to prevent Elias from singing. He gets up and teases leaving over and over to draw some BOO/YAY chants until New Day cuts him off with Big E. carrying a marching band drum.
Elias: “You guys want some autographs or something?” New Day wants to walk with Elias but that means a solo performance. Elias tells Jojo to introduce him again but here’s Aiden English to cut them off with a song about how New Day needs to stick with the merchandise and Elias plays a nice guitar but today is Rusev Day.
Rusev says this isn’t about the bootleg Bob Dylan but Elias says this is his night and tells Jojo to introduce him again. Now it’s No Way Jose interrupting with a conga line, including Titus Worldwide and Breezango. Elias looks like he wants to shoot himself (I feel for you buddy) and even Graves is feeling sorry for him. Elias says cut the music and Jojo does her intro for the fourth time. This time Bobby Roode interrupts with a Glorious DDT and everyone leaves in the conga line. Well except English who Rusev cuts off.
By the way, it’s about 9:30pm EST and we have five matches left. This show is on the east coast so yes, they’re really expected to just be in the arena until after midnight on a Sunday night.
We recap Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass. Bryan is back in the ring and Cass came over to Smackdown in the Superstar Shakeup. Cass is a bully to someone Bryan’s size and wants to show him how a superstar should be. For reasons unclear, Cass isn’t Miz’s new bodyguard yet.
Big Cass vs. Daniel Bryan
Bryan kicks at the knee to start (this is the second match of four tonight to focus on bullying and the third of four to include someone working on the knee) and tries the YES Kicks until Cass spinebusts him. Due to reasons of being rather horrible people with no taste in wrestling (or life in general), the fans want Enzo.
Cass stops to pose before hitting a loud chop up against the ropes. Bryan slips out of an over the shoulder powerbomb and kicks away in the corner but gets sent up into the air for a big crash. A running clothesline turns Bryan inside out for two but Cass misses the big boot. That’s enough to set up the big kick to the head and Bryan takes him down, hammers at the side of the head, and grabs the YES Lock for the very fast tap at 7:57.
Rating: D+. Yes that’s really it for Bryan’s single return on pay per view: a TV match with Bryan pretty easily dispatching of someone he should have pretty easily dispatched of. I’m as shocked as you are, but remember that they had to come up with something to make up for the time that was spent on the HILARIOUS segment that came between the matches.
Post match Cass beats Bryan up even more and hits the big boot.
We recap the Smackdown Women’s Title match. Carmella cashed in Money in the Bank to take the title from Charlotte on the Smackdown after Wrestlemania and Charlotte is trying to win the title back from the less talented champion. The Iconics have been running around tormenting Charlotte as well.
Smackdown Women’s Title: Carmella vs. Charlotte
Carmella is defending and they trade struts to start. Charlotte misses a big boot so badly that I had to rewind to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. That sends Carmella to the floor (presumably with the wind knocking her down) and she tries to leave with the title, only to be sent back inside. Charlotte sends her outside but gets caught with a superkick for two. We hit the chinlock with Carmella telling the referee to ask her. She’s not Canadian enough for that.
A lot of screeching ensues, followed by Carmella cranking on both arms at once. Charlotte kicks her away but gets slammed head first onto the apron to cut her off again. Back in and Carmella tries the Staten Island Shuffle but gets speared in half. Carmella is right back with the Code of Silence (the leg Crossface) but Charlotte powers out. Charlotte goes up top for the moonsault, tweaks her knee, gets kicked in said knee, and gets rolled up for the pin at 10:00.
Rating: D. That would be four out of five matches involving a knee injury. Carmella winning clean helps a bit but every day she has the title is another day that someone like Becky Lynch doesn’t, which is rather irritating. She’s a very good character, but I’m over the “this person could be beaten at anytime” champion. The match was as tolerable as it was going to be, and that’s about as much praise as I can give the thing.
We recap the Smackdown World Title. AJ Styles beat Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the title at Wrestlemania but Nakamura turned heel and has abused Styles’ groin ever since. Tonight is No DQ with Styles wanting revenge.
And yes, this means Reigns is headlining. Again.
Smackdown World Title: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Styles is defending, there are no disqualifications, and this is the third time they’ve had a big match in four weeks, making it a recurring dream match. Nakamura channels his inner Kevin Owens and bails to the floor at the bell. AJ will have none of that and sends him into the barricade, followed by kicks to the back inside. They fight to the floor again with Styles sending him face and ribs first into the barricade.
Nakamura comes back by GOING AFTER THE KNEE (take a freaking shot) and hits some running knees to the head as the fans are split again. The pace slows and Nakamura gets two off a knee drop. A hard kick to the head drops AJ again and it’s off to a front facelock. The No DQ rule has only been a factor for a little bit so far and hasn’t meant anything since they’ve been back inside. The hold is let go and Nakamura kicks him to the floor. AJ starts a comeback until another shot to the knee cuts him off, followed by a dragon sleeper back inside.
That’s escaped as well and Nakamura hits a running knee in the corner. The jumping middle rope knee gets two on AJ and it’s time for a chair. AJ knocks it away but gets kicked in the head for his efforts. The reverse exploder onto the chair gets two but AJ chucks the chair at Nakamura’s knee (with the chair bouncing back into AJ’s face, drawing blood from his knee). The Calf Crusher goes on but Nakamura reverses into a triangle choke.
AJ powers up and hits a running forearm to the back of Nakamura’s head for two. There’s the low blow but AJ hits one of his own to even things out. They fight to their feet and stereo low blows take both guys down. The referee gets to ten and that’s a double knockout, meaning AJ retains at 21:12.
Rating: B-. This is where the Greatest Royal Rumble hurts things. That finish would be fine in the second match of a feud but it’s the second draw in nine days. There was zero reason to not give Nakamura the title here and now we probably have to wait for Money in the Bank for the big blowoff. The No DQ thing wasn’t much of a factor here, but that’s to be expected in something like this. I enjoyed what I saw but egads stop stretching things for the sake of stretching things.
Bobby Lashley/Braun Strowman vs. Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens
Fallout from some recent tag matches, including the first match between these teams a few weeks ago on Raw. Sami hides from Lashley to start before headlocking him for little success. Owens comes in, gets suplexed, and hands it back to Sami who gets sent into the announcers’ table. A dropkick knocks Lashley off the apron and the beating begins, including Sami’s chinlock. Lashley comes back with a Downward Spiral but Owens breaks up a hot tag attempt.
The actual hot tag comes in a few seconds later and it’s Strowman coming in to clean house. The chase is on with Strowman running Owens over, catching Sami to throw him into the barricade, and then running Owens over again to continue the rather running (ahem) gag. Sami loads up a Helluva Kick but opts to walk out instead. Owens talks him back into staying, but Sami throws Owens back in to face Strowman. Sami tries his luck and bails again, leaving Owens to take a spinebuster from Lashley. The delayed vertical suplex pins (the illegal) Owens at 8:20.
Rating: D. Yes, this got time on pay per view, and yes a former World Champion just got pinned by a vertical suplex. Somehow this felt even less interesting than I was expecting it to, even if it was about the same thing they did on Raw a few weeks ago. That’s this show in a nutshell though: we’ve seen it before and it’s not as interesting this time around.
Post match Sami yells as Owens takes a running powerslam.
We recap Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe. In short, Roman is all sad because he can’t beat Brock Lesnar so Joe is going to choke him out of his misery.
Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns
Joe jumps him before the bell, drawing even stronger cheers than he had earlier. They fight to the floor and Joe Rock Bottoms him through the table before the match actually starts. Reigns gets thrown over two announcers’ tables but makes it into the ring, saying he can go. The bell rings and Joe hammers away in the corner, followed by a knee drop. Cole’s analysis: Reigns doesn’t want to lose tonight. We hit the neck crank with Joe saying Reigns just has to go away. So Joe is the new voice of the voiceless.
Reigns fights up but eats an enziguri in the corner for two. It’s off to another chinlock as the BORING chants start up. Joe sends him outside for the suicide elbow and we hit the armbar because this hasn’t felt long enough already. The fans try a THIS IS BORING chant before just going with the booing. Reigns fights up and hits a big boot, followed by the apron dropkick. Some clotheslines (running and corner variety) have Joe in trouble but he knocks Reigns down and gets two off the backsplash. Fans: “PLEASE DO SOMETHING!”
A spinebuster gives Reigns two but a second apron dropkick is countered into a choke. That’s broken up as well and Reigns gets two off the Superman Punch. The Rusev Day chants are cut off as Joe cuts off a spear with a kick to the head. The spear hits a few seconds later with Joe getting his foot on the ropes for two.
Another spear is blocked with another spear and the Koquina Clutch goes on. Reigns stacks him up into a rollup for two but an O’Connor Roll is countered into another Clutch. Reigns is almost out but fights up, which is enough to make Joe let the hold go for whatever reason. Back up and the spear ends Joe at 18:08.
Rating: D-. Reigns wins. Why? Because F*** YOU that’s why! This was a wreck with a huge chunk of the match being spent laying around in holds, possibly for the sake of being able to blame the bad match on Joe (Would that really shock you?) and then HAHA SPEAR FOR THE PIN. Reigns gets his win to make himself feel better while Joe loses again because who cares about Joe (or so says WWE). Totally terrible main event with the wrong ending in the wrong spot on the card in front of a crowd that did not care at all.
Overall Rating: D-. I wanted to call this a failure but the Intercontinental Title and Smackdown World Title matches just barely keep it afloat. The problem here wasn’t about the wrestling, which while bad, has been done far worse before. This was a combination of nothing happening (no title changes, little angle advancement, and AJ vs. Nakamura is continuing) and feeling like the company putting it together had never done a major show. There was never a point where I was excited or interested in what was going on here and the show felt like it was never going to be over.
Nine days ago, the Greatest Royal Rumble ran over five hours but this show felt longer. It really was so uneventful and so boring that I was trying desperately to find anything to care about by the end. I don’t know if creative is out of ideas (REALLY bad sign this close to Wrestlemania) or if the wrestlers are just spent but we’re right back where we were before Greatest Royal Rumble started. Other than Matt and Wyatt being Tag Team Champions, what has changed since then? We really are just going in a circle at this point and I’m not sure why Money in the Bank is going to make things any better.
This show was far from the worst thing I’ve ever seen but it was one of the biggest wrecks I’ve ever seen. There’s no flow to the show, there’s little logic in the booking, there’s very little that interests me, and now we’ll have to wait for Reigns to get his smile back or whatever it is that he’s doing while waiting on Lesnar’s next title match to be set up. There are some nice moments on here, but my goodness these people look like they just need a vacation soon. Let us have a nice break or change something up, because I haven’t seen them running on empty like this in a LONG time.