The brand split was a good idea in theory, but in execution has left a lot to be desired. WWE’s roster probably wasn’t quite deep enough to warrant it, especially considering WWE’s rather atrocious booking of its stars, but I will say that RAW has fared better in contracting star power. I expect this show to be better than Backlash was, but RAW likes to outdo itself through underperformance. One thing is for sure: there’s no need to draw this thing out. We’ve got seven matches; let’s get to them, give them enough time (but not too much time) and put this show to bed.
It looks like Nia Jax beat Alicia Fox in the pre-show. Not a surprise.
Match 1: WWE Tag Team Championship Match: Big E and Kofi Kingston vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
Remember how exciting it was when WWE signed Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows? I’d understand if you didn’t; WWE has butchered them so badly since that time, they are mere shells of what they were a mere few months ago. I have very little interest in this match (if any at all), and even The New Day are far past their prime. Hopefully the two teams will prove me wrong and get the show off on the right foot.
As bad as the comedy sketches have been featuring Gallows and Anderson. I still know how good they can be. New Day’s reign has grown stale and it’s time for the titles to switch hands. RAW’s tag division is weak as hell.
The match starts off quick as Anderson hits Kofi Kingston with a running Liger Bomb and Gallows destroys both Big E and Xavier Woods outside the ring. This is the team that I remember from The Bullet Club. Kingston is getting dominated here as his partners recover on the outside. Once Big E recovers, though, he fires up in the ring. He was going for the aptly-named suicide spear, but it was reversed by Anderson. Regardless, E gets a near fall on Anderson. This is much better than I was expecting. Anderson hits a great boot on E. Gallows does the same with a notably worse boot. The two hit the Boot of Doom, but Kingston breaks up the fall. Xavier Woods is back up with the trombone, but Anderson nails Kingston with a great AA Spinebuster. Excellent action. Kingston and Big E hit Anderson with an awesome Trouble in Paradise to Big Ending combo, but Gallows breaks up the pin. Even so, Xavier hits Anderson with Francesca II which knocks Anderson into The New Day’s finish which Michael Cole calls something about Midnight. First I’ve heard of that name.
Winners: Kofi Kingston and Big E
This is the best I’ve seen New Day look in months. That match was way better than it had any right to be, and is a great reminder that all of the guys involved are great when they aren’t being bogged down in pointless comedy.
My Rating: ***1/2
When we return from commercials, Michael Cole plugs a Ride Along episode featuring him and Byron Saxton. I can’t imagine anything I’d rather not watch.
We get a package hyping tonight’s Cruiserweight Championship match, which could steal the show if the two guys involved can get the crowd into it. That may be possible after the great opener.
Perkins was pretty good in his rather generic promo hyping the match. Somehow that idiot Tom Phillips suggests that Perkins is the underdog going in. That’s bullshit.
Match 2: Cruiserweight Championship Match: TJ Perkins vs. Brian Kendrick
I’m a huge fan of Brian Kendrick. I hate this new idiotic “Wizard of Odd” nickname of his. WWE actually went through the effort of changing the color of the ropes for this match. That is quite unnecessary. Perkins makes an interesting entrance. I’m not sure about the 8-Bit gimmick, but I like the music and Perkins looks hyped. I wish they would’ve introduced him on RAW, but that’s a moot point now.
Perkins goes to shake Kendrick’s hand, which Kendrick declines and instead takes Perkins down to start the match. Perkins reverses with his patented leg scissors offense. The announcers continue to push Kendrick as the favorite despite the fact that he lost the tournament that Perkins won. This is stupid. Perkins should be marketed as unstoppable. Perkins locks in his knee bar on Kendrick to silence from a crowd that has no idea it’s his finish. They do react, however, to Kendrick using the apron skirt to his advantage. This guy is crafty and knows how to draw heat. Perkins continues to administer some unique submission holds, one of which is essentially Austin Aries’ Last Chancery. The guys are drawing intermittent dueling chants; the deeper voices seem to be pulling for Kendrick. Perkins and Kendrick totally botch a reverse RKO spot. This doesn’t seem to phase Perkins and the crowd has been so quiet, they don’t even react. They do react to a dangerous-looking top rope huricanrana from Perkins on Kendrick which sends him flying outside the ring. Kendrick and Perkins get out of each other’s signature submission holds, but then Kendrick hits a Sliced Bread No. 2 for the best near fall of the match. Ultimately, Perkins hits his reverse backstabber kick thing and follows it up with the knee bar for the submission victory.
Winner: TJ Perkins
That wasn’t the best match they could’ve had all things considered. It wasn’t super clean, but it was full of good action. The crowd was more into it by the end, just like on RAW. It’ll take some time.
My Rating: ***1/2
After the match, Kendrick goes to hug Perkins, but then headbutts him, which actually draws a pretty big pop. Kendrick is more over than I thought.
We get a Fallout-esque commercial for WWE 2K17 that I actually like quite a lot. Then we have Tom Phillips interviewing Cesaro who looks quite dapper in a white suit.
Match 3: Cesaro vs. Sheamus
As repetitive as it has been, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this best of seven series. I think it’s elevated both guys, Sheamus in particular who was directionless just a few months ago. Both guys have turned in some great performances and this should be the best one yet.
The match starts with the hard strikes and fast pace that I expected. Then I have some WWE Network issues and have to restart it on my Playstation 4. When I return, Sheamus is beating on Cesaro in the corner. Sheamus has done a good job of targeting Cesaro’s back throughout this tournament, which I have enjoyed. Sheamus hits a unique heel kick on Cesaro in the corner. Never seen that one before. I’m not seeing the urgency from Sheamus that I have on the last few episodes of RAW, which is disappointing. Cesaro hits a 619 on Sheamus which gets a pop from the crowd and announcers. I like his springboard corkscrew uppercut better. Sheamus hits a series of Irish Curse Backbreakers on Cesaro before locking him into the Cloverleaf. Crowd should be buying this as the finish, but they aren’t. Sheamus hits the Celtic Cross Backbreaker which was phenomenal, but again the crowd doesn’t buy it as the finish. They’re either sure Cesaro is going to be the winner, or they don’t care about this match. Cesaro reverses a Brogue Kick into a roll-up and then a Cesaro Swing into the Sharpshooter. Crowd is buying this one, but Sheamus makes it to the ropes, which draws their ire. Cesaro hits a terrifying suicide dive on Sheamus and spikes himself onto the ground ala Lita from RAW in 2004. He may be badly hurt, but Sheamus gets Cesaro into the ring and hits a Brogue Kick which everyone is sure will be the end of the match. But Cesaro somehow kicks out at 2. What a tough son of a bitch. Sheamus is incensed and hits Cesaro with a bunch of knees targeting Cesaro’s now bad neck. Cesaro fires up though and nails Sheamus with some hard strikes and then a Neutralizer. But Sheamus kicks out at 2. This is crazy. I have no idea what’s going to happen. Crowd is thoroughly behind Cesaro. Cesaro attempts to superplex Sheamus outside the ring, Sheamus reverses and goes for a high flying move to the floor. Cesaro catches him with an uppercut. Somehow, Sheamus hits White Noise on the floor. The action spills into the crowd. The doctors check on both men. There’s no count from the ref. The ref calls off the match to some heat from the crowd.
No Winner: Ref stoppage
Crowd chants for Foley to restart the match and then chant “Let Them Fight!” But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen and the crowd boos. Cesaro gets back in the ring and challenges Sheamus to join him, but the doctors drag him kicking to the back. Disappointing.
My Rating: ****
That finish fell flat after we saw much crazier things in the match itself than what happened leading to the finish.
Backstage we see Bayley getting ready in her locker room which draws a pop from the crowd, but then Charlotte shows up and the cheers immediately turn to boos. Charlotte says Bayley doesn’t have a chance. She’s probably right.
Match 4: Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho
It’s great that Sami has a spot on this show after being left off of Summerslam. I think whoever wins here should move into a title program with Kevin Owens, and I’d be ok with either outcome. Jericho comes out looking like he’s totally hammered. He is so great even Sami is trying not to crack a smile as we get set for the match.
Match starts out with punches from both men. Sami could probably lay them in a little harder. The match spills outside where Sami executes a moonsault from the barricade. He appears to totally miss Jericho and we don’t get a replay. The action continues to occur on the outside multiple times. The pace is pretty slow and so far this match is the worst of the show. Everything in this match is sluggish and not as crisp as it usually is except for the most basic of strikes. After a third attempt at the Helluva Kick, Jericho locks Sami in the Walls of Jericho. This looks like it could be it as Sami can’t make it to the ropes, but he eventually rolls up Jericho for a near fall and the best sequence of the match. Sami catches Jericho with a Blue Thunder Bomb which could’ve been the finish, but it isn’t. The crowd starts chanting “This is Awesome,” which is certainly an arguable point. Suddenly, Jericho hits Sami with the Codebreaker for the win.
Winner: Chris Jericho
I’m surprised by this outcome, but not disappointed with it. Jericho has been on a roll, but that match was far from his, or Sami Zayn’s, best.
My Rating: ***
We’re still being treated to that ridiculous KFC promo with Miz and Ziggler.
Backstage, Foley and Stephanie McMahon kiss Kevin Owens’ ass. Owens says Seth Rollins isn’t The Man, he’s The Mistake.
Match 5: Women’s Championship Match: Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte
We get a package of Charlotte absolutely killing Sasha Banks in their last match. Let’s hope they don’t do any of those spots in this match after we’ve already seen Cesaro almost kill himself.
All of these women are some of the greatest of all time, and as far as ring work goes, the champion is probably the worst. But regardless of whether you like her, WWE have succeeded in building Charlotte into a hell of a champion. She’s 11-0 in Championship matches on PPVs. That’s a hell of a statistic.
The match starts out quite chaotically with lots of near falls, as is often the case with these women’s matches. Cool triple dropkick spot. Good action in the early going. Dana Brooke gets involved and momentarily removes Bayley from the match as Charlotte works over Sasha Banks. Great Bret Hart-esque spot where Charlotte wraps Sasha’s bad back across the ring posts, which are large again by the way. Crowd’s not super into this match, but I’m enjoying it. Bayley hits a flying crossbody on both women as she gets back into the match with some great offense in the corners. Sasha tries to hit the mid-rope double knee spot on Bayley and Charlotte, but Charlotte moves out of the way and breaks up the subsequent pin attempt. Sasha hits that brutal double knee attack off the apron to the floor on Bayley and immediately continues the fight with Charlotte. Charlotte is bleeding slightly from the mouth as she goes for the Figure 8, but Sasha sends her flying into the Bayley-to-Belly. She goes for the pin, Sasha reverses, and Charlotte breaks it all up. Nice. Sasha hits a bunch of pretty bad looking slaps to the boobs of Charlotte. Charlotte lays out both Sasha and Bayley and nails them both with a top-rope moonsault. Very nice spot. She hits Bayley with the Natural Selection, but Sasha reverses her pin attempt into the Bank Statement. Bayley breaks it up so Sasha puts her in the Bank Statement, but Charlotte breaks that up. This is crazy. Finally, Charlotte hits a series of boots to Bayley which knocks her into Sasha and allows Charlotte to pick up the win.
That match wasn’t technically perfect, but I loved it. There were a lot of great spots, lots of near falls, an unpredictable finish, and three great young stars. And now Charlotte is 12-0 in PPV Championship matches.
My Rating: ****
We hear from our panel of which Booker T is the star and see clips of what was assuredly a bad match between Nia Jax and Alicia Fox.
Next up: Rusev vs. Reigns for the United States Championship. We get a lengthy package building it up featuring bad comedy from Roman Reigns and hilarious comedy from Rusev. Can’t say I’m super excited for this match.
Match 6: United States Championship Match: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
Very boring start to this match. Lots of plodding action and strikes. Crowd chants for “CM Punk.” Seems to be never-ending. Roman hits a Superman punch for a 2-count. Rusev gets a near fall and then throws a hilarious temper tantrum. Roman hits a Spear and goes for the pin, but Lana pulls out the ref. She gets ejected. Rusev puts Reigns in The Accolade which looks like the finish, but Reigns powers out and hits the Spear for the win.
Winner: Roman Reigns
The was easily the worst match of the show. It picked up by the end and Rusev was glorious with his facials, but Reigns got the victory, which was probably the right decision.
My Rating: **1/2
Match of the Night – Main Event: Universal Championship Match: Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens
We get the typical package to hype up the match. It seems to focus much more on Rollins vs. Stephanie McMahon rather than Rollins vs. Owens. Remember when Stephanie said the show wouldn’t be about her going into the brand split? Yeah.
Great action in this match. Both guys’ offense has been on point. Owens absolutely spiked Rollins with a DDT for a near fall. Rollins is selling his knee and Owens goes right after it. Owens is talking smack all through this match. He even references Rollins’ ROH persona at one point. I bet the marks loved that one. Rollins tears up the Spanish announce table, but nothing comes of it for the time being. He goes for a Pedigree on Owens, but Owen reverses into the cannonball. The men exchange some great kicks and knees until both end up on the canvas. Owens reverses an attempted springboard knee with a brutal neckbreaker across his knee. Near fall. Owens hits a huge gutbuster from the top rope and follows it up with a frog splash for another two count. Owens tells the ref to suck it as he attempts a senton on Rollins through the Spanish announce table, but Rollins evaded the impact. Crowd chants “This is Awesome!” Back in the ring, Rollins hits Owens with the knee off the top rope, then goes to the opposite turnbuckle and hits a Frog Splash of his own for a near fall. Suddenly Jericho shows up to distract Rollins, Owens hits him with a unique move, but doesn’t get the victory. Rollins throws Owens into Jericho, hits him with a knee, tells him to suck it, and then Pedigrees him. Jericho puts Owens foot on the bottom rope just before the three. Chaos ensues, the ref gets bumped, and Rollins amazingly reverses the Pop-up Powerbomb into a second Pedigree. He gets a 20-count from the crowd, but it doesn’t matter as the ref is still down. Jericho brawls with Rollins, and Rollins jumps through the ropes on Jericho, then gets in the ring and jumps on Owens on the opposite side of the ring. Steph finally sends out another ref just as Owens hits Rollins with a Pop-up Powerbomb for the win.
Winner: Kevin Owens
The match got crazy chaotic, but it was never overbearing for me. Rollins kicked ass, as did Owens. It sucks that the finish was all about Stephanie McMahon, but the match itself was very much deserving of being the main event.
My Rating: ****
Overall, this was an excellent show and absolutely blew Backlash out of the water.