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Backlash 2020 had one of the more bizarre builds in WWE PPV history, with the show openly being advertised that Edge vs Randy Orton was going to be the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.” Of course, building a match like that immediately put both men in a no-win situation since there was no way they could really have the GOAT wrestling match at the WWE Performance Center without any real fans in attendance, and on top of that WWE decided to unveil a brand new audio aspect, piping in crowd noise and chants in a failed attempt to give the match a big fight feel.
That being said, both men worked really hard to have the best match they could have under the circumstances. It was probably the highlight of the show, and the last two official matches on Backlash really saved the show because the undercard was very underwhelming. The last two matches were arguably the two best WWE matches of the Covid-19 era, but that was where the highlights really ended.
The show was also mired it what I’d call is “Vince humor” which is stuff that is written into the show to make Vince laugh. That includes a lot of toilet humors, guys getting hit in the balls, food fights and more. It wasn’t just the bizarre Viking Raiders/Street Profits segment either, the build for a world title match was filled with it as well. I suppose that some other people find this kind of stuff funny and entertaining as well, and I know wrestling doesn’t have to be the most sophisticated artistic endeavor, but I’d like it to be a little bit more serious.
Edge vs Randy Orton: **************3/4
Okay, so realistically this match was probably a **** star match. The match based on pure work was pretty good, Edge and Orton are both smart guys that know how to work and they had a back and forth match. It ran a little long for sure, but the work was very solid. The match was hampered by WWE deciding to pipe in crowd noise, which was often distracting, mainly because the company hadn’t done it at all up until this match, so it was new to the viewer. I’ve written in the past that I’m not against using some generic crowd noise piped into the broadcast to help the atmosphere, but I do have an issue when WWE goes overboard with it, piping in “This is Awesome!” chants because they can’t help themselves.
From a pure effort standpoint, this was probably Randy Orton’s best match in a long, long time. Orton has great natural talent but often has mediocre matches. As silly as the “Greatest Match Ever” billing was, there is a realistic argument that it challenged Orton enough to force him to put in more effort and focus into this match, the result was we saw him reach his potential again. Edge deserves a lot of credit for hanging in there for a long time despite not wrestling for nine years until the Royal Rumble. On top of that, Edge reportedly tore his triceps in the match, but I never noticed exactly when that happened, which proves how tough Edge is because I couldn’t even tell when he suffered what should have been a debilitating injury.
Drew McIntyre vs Bobby Lashley: ****
This was a very good match, for a lot of different reasons. For starters, WWE had done a good job getting Lashley ready for Drew McIntyre by having him go over people strong, selling the full nelson as a devastating move, and bringing in MVP as his hype man. Then they had a very good match that played to both men’s strengths. The match was physical, and well-paced, and on top of that, they mixed things up with some different types of moves and ground wrestling that I didn’t expect to see. If this match had been in front of a live crowd I’m sure they would have eaten it up.
The finish with Lana coming out for no reason, getting awkwardly involved in the match and costing Lashley was dumb, but I get why they did it. They can now sell a rematch between Lashley and McIntyre and they have been teasing a Lashley and Lana breakup, as tiresome as it is, on RAW so they did do an angle to further that along.
Braun Strowman vs The Miz and John Morrison: *½
So I’m not a fan of a world title match being contested under handicapped rules, and WWE’s later insistence that the title would be whoever scored the pinfall, essentially turning it into a triple threat just confused matters. The build-up for the match involving a bunch of comedy and Vince humor didn’t help the match, and this felt like a boring, anti-climatic title match.
I understand that they did the match because SmackDown was short on heels that could challenge Strowman. That being said, even if WWE had done something like have Morrison challenge for the title in a singles match, it would have been a big improvement. You could sell Morrison’s credibility because he is a crazy athlete and you could use The Miz as a scheming, Bobby Heenan-like antagonist on the outside. That to me would have been much more preferable than what unfolded tonight.
Asuka vs Nia Jax: *
Nia Jax obviously has a different physical look than any of the other women in WWE, which helps her stand out. Outside of her size though there just isn’t a lot there. You can get by on just size if you are ultra-protected, but after the monster loses a couple of times, the monster needs to show some versatility otherwise they will cease to be an attraction. So of course, WWE has this match end in a double-countout. I know people are sick of seeing Charlotte pushed, but there is no question Charlotte vs Asuka is an infinitely more appealing match than Jax vs Asuka.
Sheamus vs Jeff Hardy: **¾
This was a very solid match; Hardy’s selling was really good as Sheamus ragdolled him around the ring. In a vacuum, I think Hardy has more value to WWE as a babyface that still has some lingering popularity with fans as opposed to Sheamus, who is kind of a generic run-of-the-mill heel. However, SmackDown needs heels that can work with Strowman and Sheamus getting a win gives him more credibility.
One thing that is kind of odd is that WWE built the storyline as being very personal, and typically when they do that kind of build it ends in a street fight or some sort of No Disqualification match. Sheamus frames Hardy for a DUI, insults him and his family, and Hardy comes out and tries to…best him in a test of grappling skill? It just feels kind of backwards to do a really intense, personal angle and then have just a regular match at the PPV.
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs The Iconics vs Bayley and Sasha Banks: **¼
Due to the wide talent disparity between the different people in this match, it was predictably all over the place. Sasha Banks is arguably the best female in-ring worker in WWE history, her timing and the smoothness of her transitions are pitch-perfect, even when in the ring with less experienced workers who would look at lot worse if they weren’t sharing the ring with Banks. The Iconics and Alexa Bliss are not in the same class, so when the match called for those performers to get in a lot of offense, the match kind of fell apart. Thankfully, Banks retained the titles with a nifty roll-up.