Though this might be a kneejerk reaction to an astonishingly bad show, I genuinely feel that Backlash has established the past six months or so as the most nonsensical and narratively unsatisfying period in WWE history.
I’m not saying that this is the worst WWE has ever been – God knows that the depths of the early-nineties dark ages may never again be plumbed. What I am saying is that the storytelling has become so bad that even the great matches we regularly get ultimately feel meaningless. Character motivations (when they’re even established) change on a whim and without explanation. Storylines shamble between stupid and shoddy plot points and rarely come to gratifying conclusions. The messaging has become so muddled that audiences often don’t seem to know what to make of it – and when they do, their reactions are frequently the opposite of what was intended.
My question is not who or what is responsible for this – your inbox is probably stuffed to the brim already with hot takes on that particular query. What I’d like to know is A) whether the company’s storytelling has ever been this bad before, and B) if it even matters whether anything WWE does makes any goddamn sense. You’ve remarked on several occasions that the company’s current business model makes it basically unsinkable, but is there a limit to that? How long does this stretch of total baffling garbage have to continue before it starts affecting the bottom line?
The thing is that Saudi Arabia’s oil money basically guarantees cash on hand for years, so really it matters less than ever what quality of programming they’re putting out. Stuff like the Nia Jax “anti-bully” speech after her match are really tone deaf, though, because who in their right mind buys 120 pound Alexa Bliss as a bully against 300 pound Nia Jax?
Anyway, the thing that really bugged me was the layout of the Superstar Shakeup, because it rendered two different PPVs completely meaningless. So the Bar moves to Smackdown, and then challenges for the RAW tag titles? Gee, I wonder who’s winning that one? Samoa Joe challenges Roman Reigns to a Universal title match, then gets moved to Smackdown, and then Roman fails to win the title anyway, but the match still main events? WHAT? What is the issue even supposed to be? And then of course you have the US title situation, where Ziggler vacates it for no particular reason, then Roode wins the tournament, drops it to Orton right away, then Jinder wins it at Wrestlemania in a multi-man match, then immediately moves to RAW and loses it to Jeff Hardy there, and then Jeff immediately moves to Smackdown and defends it against Jinder. None of it makes any sense as a storyline or puts any heat on the matches. It’s just a bunch of stuff that happens to fill time. Like, what even was the Elias segment from the PPV? He tries to sing a song and Bobby Roode somehow arranges for a million people to come out and annoy him so that he can hit one DDT and then dance away? That’s the payoff for Elias trying to end his career on RAW?
Hopefully having a few weeks until Money in the Bank will give them some focus, but god help us if Big Cass ends up with the briefcase or something.