I recently got furloughed, which means I’ll have a slight bit more free time on my hands in the coming weeks. Thankfully I’m still getting some of my wages and I live on my own, so I should hopefully be able to maintain paying bills and living costs. I hope everyone is keeping safe out there in the strange world we currently inhabit. It sure would be nice if they find that illusive vaccine wouldn’t it? Then we could all get some semblance of normality back.
On the bright side though, being stuck at home more means it’s been a lot easier keeping up with all my writing, so I’ll look to maybe post a bit more than my usual two reviews a week. I’ll try not to flood the Blog though, and maybe just add in additional reviews here and there. I’ve been thinking of reviewing some classic 90’s Japanese wrestling, and maybe even reviewing some classic World of Sport as well, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy. Keep an eye out for the usual Hardcore TV reviews every Wednesday, along with more Main Event reviews around the weekends. Slamboree is next on the docket, as we’re finishing off Backlash today.
Anyway, that’s enough chatter, let’s watching some chuffing wrestling!
Last Man Standing
Champ: John Cena Vs Edge
This was the final blow off to the over three year rivalry between Edge and Cena, as Cena had won the Title from Edge and Big Show at WrestleMania 25 in an often overlooked good match. Losing the belt essentially sent Edge into a full on mental breakdown, as he ranted about how much he hated Cena and how much he wanted to finally get him out of his life. The video package beforehand is great, as it really rams home just how big a feud this was. You could make an argument that it’s the best rivalry of the entire Ruthless Aggression Era.
Edge actually had a really cool shirt out at this time, which showed a metal hand holding a heart. I always wanted that one but never got around to buying it. Edge actually dominates in the early going, knocking Cena down for numerous ten count teases. However, none of them are especially big moves, so Cena keeps getting back to his feet on each occasion. Seeing as both men have wrestled one another many times, the execution of everything is good and the two display their usual good chemistry as opponents.
Edge tries putting Cena out with a sleeper for his next tactic, but Cena makes it back up at 7 and makes the comeback with the usual shoulder tackles before going for the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Edge blocks that with a kick to the head however and then goes to a Sharpshooter, resting his head on the turnbuckle pads to stop Cena getting out of it, not unlike how Stan Hansen did when he defeated Rick Martel to win the AWA Title. Cena still manages to get up, so Edge knocks him off the apron onto the announce table, which leads to a 7 count from the ref.
Cena manages to dodge a Spear outside the ring and Edge runs into the ring steps as a result, but he’s up at 6. The brawl continues around ringside, with both men getting knocked down on different occasions but managing to break the count. They are making every move count here, as something as simple as an Irish whip into the ring steps will be a count out tease, meaning basic stuff has more importance because they are treating it as such. It’s good drama but it also gives the match a very stop-start feel that I reckon some wouldn’t enjoy.
A good spot in the ring is both men throwing punches until they collapse for a double down, which matches the epic feud ending feel they are going for. Edge recovers first and goes for his own Five Knuckle, but Cena counters that into an STFU, which gets a 8 count from the ref. Edge replies with a Spear, but Cena manages to make it back up at 7. I like how they’ve been building up to all the bigger moves, and both men’s selling has been on point. Edge strangely decides to head up top, and not surprisingly it goes bad for him as Cena F-U’s him down for a 9 count with Edge just barely making it up.
Cena then decides to head up, which ends badly for him as well as he gets caught with a Spear on the way down, which gets 8 from the ref, but he tumbles out of the ring just after getting back up. Edge decides to prep the announce table for all kinds of nastiness, but Cena fights him off and then FU’s Edge right into the crowd, where I’m guessing a bunch of plants were sitting, owing to the fact the only two adult males in the whole building wearing Cena shirts just happened to be sitting in that exact spot.
Edge manages to get up following that and flees into the crowd, with Cena giving chase. Eventually they brawl all the way over to the entrance area, where Cena gives Edge a bulldog onto a crate for a 7 count. The two men fight up onto the entrance stage itself, where Edge gives Cena a DDT on the metal floor. That isn’t enough to finish things, so Edge scampers backstage to grab himself a chair. Con-Chair-To follows after that, and that looks to be all, as Edge props himself up against the entrance way whilst the ref counts.
Amazingly Cena is able to get back up following that and looks to deliver an F-U off the stage to Edge, but Big Show decides to come down and cost the Cena the match by flinging him through a nearby spotlight. Not surprisingly that’s all she wrote and Cena stays down for ten to give Edge the win and the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: EDGE
So add John Cena to Matt Hardy when it comes to babyfaces that Edge ultimately won a feud against. It’s funny how Triple H tends to get reamed for that sort of thing but Edge seems to get a free pass for it. This led to Edge moving on to Jeff Hardy whilst Cena and Big Show had an interminable feud matched only by the one they had in 2012.
The match itself was well worked, with both men building up to the bigger moves and count out teases as the match progressed. You got a real sense that this was a climactic battle between two hated rivals and the finish was a good way of having Edge win the feud whilst also giving Cena an out because he had it won until Big Show got involved. This isn’t a classic in my mind, but it is a good solid bout with some good storytelling. Some people might not enjoy the pacing though as they milk every count out tease for everything they can, and I can see some people finding that a tad boring.
Champ: Dean Ambrose Vs AJ Styles
Dean had won the belt at Money in the Bank and had been trying to be the top star on the Smackdown brand. However, it wasn’t really working for him in the role, for reasons that were not entirely his fault. As we’ve seen in AEW, Jon Moxley can be a viable Main Event guy provided you let him be a serious character and don’t crowbar in a lot of comedy material for him to do, but this was way before he made the move over to Jacksonville to ply his trade there. AJ meanwhile was hot off a big win over John Cena at Summer Slam, even going as far as to carry around Cena’s armband as a kind of trophy.
An important thing to make note of from the video package is that AJ kicks Dean low on the go home show, something that would be a recurring gag when it came to a large chunk of AJ’s WWE run. AJ gets to show off in the opening exchanges, talking smack whilst he does it, but Dean gets to shine on him soon after with arm drags and the like. You can tell that AJ has his fans in the house, as some fans were rejecting Dean at this stage. AJ is eventually able to cut Dean off by low bridging him so that his throat hits the bottom rope when Dean preps for a dive, which gives us our heat segment.
AJ stays on the throat and neck, with Dean selling it well, and also talks some more trash for good measure. AJ was really getting into his heel grove by this stage in his WWE run, a grove which had served him well during his time in New Japan as well. AJ’s journey from being a Cruiserweight in WCW all the way up to being a fully formed Main Event calibre guy in WWE is such an interesting thing to have paid witness to. He really is a fantastic professional wrestler.
AJ eventually misses a Stinger Splash in the corner, which allows Dean to deliver a super back drop from the top rope for a double down. Dean makes the comeback following that and gets a modified Gun Slinger/Backbreaker styled move for two. AJ tries to bail to buy himself some time, but Dean isn’t having any of that and dives out onto him from the top rope. Dean adds a double chicken wing face buster back inside for two, but AJ replies by giving him a snap suplex into the turnbuckle for another double down.
Phenomenal Forearm looks to be next, but Dean ducks that, only for AJ to catch his leg and stomp it down to the mat. AJ targets the leg following that, as Dean can barely stand and sells the pain of it all very well. This has been a good smartly worked match, it’s just missing that certain special ingredient to turn it into an excellent one. AJ locks in the Calf Slicer to make the leg attack count, but Dean is able to drag himself to the ropes to break the hold. AJ locks it right back on again though, so Dean fights his way out by grabbing AJ around the throat and then bouncing his head off the canvas.
Styles Clash looks to come next, but Dean uses the ropes to counter out of it, which leads to both men fighting on the apron. AJ goes for a piledriver out there, but Dean blocks that and then catapults AJ into the ring post. That was a fantastic bump from AJ, as he just flung himself at the post before falling down to the floor. Dean looks to pounce on the advantage back inside with a La Magistral, but AJ is able to kick out at two.
This has been a strong finishing sequence, with some good near falls and submission teases. Both men are clearly talented and have put together a good match that makes sense. AJ looks to end things with a 450 splash, but Dean is able to kick out. I don’t mind that as kick out, as AJ still has the Styles Clash and Forearm in reserve, so the 450 works well as big move that someone can kick out of without killing your main finishing moves.
Dean fights back with punches and knees, to some audible boos, and then knocks AJ out of the ring for a big suicide dive to the outside. The only downside is that he’s seemingly forgotten all the leg work from earlier, which becomes clear when he clambers up the announce table with ease before running along the tables and diving out onto AJ in the crowd. Great spot, but would it have killed Dean to limp a bit whilst doing the run just so all the previous work wasn’t ignored?
Big lariat turns AJ inside out back inside, to more boos from the crowd, and Dirty Deeds looks to end things. However, AJ powers Dean into the corner, momentarily stunning the referee, which allows him to kick Dean right in the Khan’s before following up with the Styles Clash for the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: AJ STYLES
Would have been a bit higher if Dean hadn’t just completely forgotten all the punishing leg work once the match called for him to do cool stuff. The stuff was cool though, that I’ll happily admit. Aside from that this was a very good match that was worked well and told a good story, with some strong execution throughout. Putting the belt on AJ was the right decision I think, as Dean was starting to flounder a bit due to the booking whilst AJ was thriving. I enjoyed it at the time and I still dig it now.
Champ: Randy Orton Vs Jinder Mahal w/ The Singh’s
Oh yes, it’s THAT match. For those not au fait regarding this period in WWE history, WWE had booked a tour of India for the winter of 2017 and wanted to get a Desi wrestler into a prominent position in order to take advantage of it. Thus Jinder got the nod. However, the problem was that Jinder had essentially been enhancement talent for months, rummaging around at the bottom of cards and doing nothing especially impressive. That didn’t mean that any push would have zero chance of working though. Provided they took their time and gradually started building him up with some wins over a reasonable period of time, then he could have had a chance of getting over.
However, WWE decided that he had to not only get pushed right away but he had to be in the Main Event right away as well, so they randomly made him the #1 contender to Orton’s belt and gave him a monster push out of nowhere. Simply put, it was impossible for a guy to go from enhancement talent to a genuine Main Event level guy in a handful of weeks. If Jinder had been extremely charismatic and a super worker then it might, might, have had a chance of working, but sadly Jinder did not have those qualities. Bless the guy, he worked as hard as he could, but it just wasn’t going to happen for him.
WWE are nothing but stubborn though, and they decided to go all in with Jinder, even going so far as to give him some lackeys in the form of Sunil and Samir Singh. Thus we have this match, where Jinder after a few weeks of not getting beaten like a drum every week was all of a sudden supposed to be able to carry his end of a Main Event with one of the company’s big names. To this day I really don’t understand why they didn’t just slow their roll a little bit and actually try giving Jinder a few months’ worth of wins before trying this. You can argue that it’s not very different to what they did with Bradshaw in 2004, but the key difference to me was that the APA were never really treated as jobbers. They were treated as tough guys who could hold their own. Jinder lost to everyone and looked like a lemon in doing so. It was a BIG jump in credibility for him to suddenly be in this position. I still don’t get why they couldn’t just delay it till something like Summer Slam so that he would have had a genuine fair crack at getting over.
Orton starts this one quick, jumping Jinder during introductions and taking the fight outside right away. I do like how Jinder and The Singh’s are colour coded in teal here. That’s extra commitment to lackey work to make sure you have the same colour scheme going on as your boss. The ref manages to get between the two and makes sure Jinder is able to go before officially starting the match. Orton tries the RKO right from the official kick off, but Jinder bails to avoid that, only for Orton to follow him out and continue the onslaught.
Jinder eventually manages to send Orton into one of the LED apron boards before taking him back in and working over the arm. Jinder actually gets some chants from the crowd, which is either a testament to how terrible a job Orton was doing as Champ or just the case of them wanting to be in attendance for something wacky like a Jinder Title win. Jinder’s heat segment is hardly riveting stuff, but it’s technically fine. There’s just no escaping that he’s a bit of a middling worker sadly, which would be okay if he was working in the mid card for the US Title or something but doesn’t really cut the mustard in the Main Event scene.
Orton manages to recover from Jinder’s mid card offence and takes him outside, where he flings him onto the American announce table, only for Jinder to catch him with stomps and knees when they get back inside. The story they are telling here seems to be that Orton is more interested in hurting Jinder rather than just defeating him due to Jinder getting him all riled up with a bunch of previous attacks, which makes sense as a story and I like that they aren’t trying to ram that home on commentary either.
Orton manages to dodge a shoulder tackle attempt from Jinder, sending Jinder shoulder first into the ring post, and then tries to follow up with a superplex. Jinder fights that off at first, but Orton refuses to give it up and gets it on a second attempt for a two count. Orton at least delayed before making the cover due to selling, thus meaning the move wasn’t completely killed due to the kick out. Orton decides he’s had enough of this mother loving challenger in this Monday to Friday Main Event, and makes the comeback, getting a nice blockbuster slam for two.
Jinder fights back with a modified neck breaker for two, as the crowd is kind of flat considering we’re getting into the home stretch now, especially as a vocal group of them actually seems to want Jinder to win. Orton gets the hanging DDT and preps for the RKO, but Jinder bails once again. The Singh’s try to stop Orton from coming after their boss, so Orton knocks them down, which allows Jinder to fling Orton into the ring post a couple of times before rolling him back inside. Orton catches Jinder with the RKO OUTTA NOWHERE, back inside, but Jinder rolls towards the ropes and The Singh’s quite literally reach in and drag him to the floor so he can’t be pinned.
Sorry, but that’s a blatant DQ and it was in full view of the ref. In fact, watching this at the time, I thought that was going to be the finish so that Orton and Jinder could do a rematch. But no, the ref just tells The Singh’s off and leaves it at that, even though people not involved in the match dragged an actual participant out of the ring right in front of him. I hate it when they make referees look stupid like that. Orton decides that The Singh’s have blighted this bout one time too many and proceeds to seemingly try to murder them by dropping them head first onto the announce tables. That was utterly terrifying.
Thankfully The Singh’s seemed to survive that, as Orton then DDT’s them back inside the ring for good measure. However, this leaves Orton distracted and it allows Jinder to sneak in with a Cobra Clutch Slam to pick up the three count. Hey, it was high time the Flock Finish made its return to mainstream professional wrestling.
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPION: JINDER MAHAL
I actually gave this *** back in my original review, but it didn’t hold up as well in a repeat viewing, mainly because of the blatant DQ that wasn’t given. Aside from that, the finishing sequence was good, with The Singh’s practically giving their very lives so that Jinder could catch Orton with the one move he had in his arsenal that would actually allow him to pull off the upset. That’s Smithers level lackey work right there! I’m also a sucker for a good Flock Finish, and it would pretty much be the main way that Jinder would retain his belt in Title matches from now on.
Samoa Joe Vs Roman Reigns
I honestly have no idea why this was the Main Event, but it was likely due to Brock Lesnar taking one of his many vacations as Raw Champ, so they needed to put a non-Title Reigns match on last. Say, here’s an idea, if Reigns is going to close shows for you, then how about you make actually make him the Champ and have him defend the belt regularly rather than giving it to a guy whose hardly ever there? You know what, scratch that. Having the actual Champion as a regular part of the show? That’s crazy talk!!
It’s still kind of trippy for me seeing Samoa Joe in main roster WWE, as I honestly thought we’d never see it, especially as he essentially came into WWE fully formed already after years working in ROH and TNA. Joe jumps Reigns right from the off, leading to them brawling on the outside where Joe puts Reigns through a table with a Uranage. Shockingly this doesn’t cause the crowd sympathise with Reigns but rather think Joe is even cooler than they already thought he was, which just happened to be very cool indeed.
Joe works Reigns over back inside, mostly using strikes and rest holds. It’s functional and executed correctly, but it’s not exactly the sort of stuff that’s going to excite a crowd who have already watched 3 hours of pay per view plus however long the pre-show was. Reigns gets the odd flurry here or there to show that he’s still in the match, but Joe always cuts him off again and goes back to his exciting array of rest holds whilst the crowd makes it clear that they are finding this boring. They’re not wrong to be fair.
Joe wakes everyone up momentarily by giving Reigns a suicide dive, which gets him a two back inside, but things remain slow and functional back inside. This is such a weird match for a Main Event. It feels like one of those MSG matches from the 70’s where they’d send someone out after the Bruno/Pedro/Graham Main Event to just wrestle until curfew. Reigns does finally manage to fight out of one of Joe’s many boring rest holds and sends Joe outside with a boot before following him out there with a Drive By kick.
Reigns continues to take it to Joe inside with clotheslines, but Joe replies with a running big boot and a jumping back senton splash for two. Joe tries another Uranage, but Reigns fights him off and gets a spine buster for two. The crowd could honestly care less by this stage, it’s like they’ve all had a heavy meal followed by a nice warm glass of milk. Joe gets a nice counter to the Superman Punch by trying to turn it into a choke, but Reigns fights him off and then goes for a Drive By again. Joe catches him and goes for another choke from that, but Reigns counters that attempt into a roll up for two.
Reigns goes for the Spear, but Joe counters it into a kick, only for Reigns to get it on a second attempt for two when Joe gets his foot on the ropes. Joe blocks another Spear attempt and finally gets the choke applied, but Reigns rolls backward for a two count. Reigns foolishly goes for an O’Connor Roll though and that allows Joe to finally lock the choke in properly. Reigns teases that he’s going to go out but manages to recover and makes his way to the ropes to audible boos from the crowd.
Joe does his usual good psycho heel facial expressions and then looks to end things with the Muscle Buster. Reigns fights that off however and leaps over Joe before clattering him with another Spear to pick up the three count.
This was super dull and completely the wrong match for this crowd. They teased that they might do a fun wild brawl in the opening moments, but it soon devolved into Joe doing a vast array of chin locks whilst the crowd looked on bored. Not an auspicious way to end the Backlash reviews.
Well, the first two were good at least. It always surprises me that a company loaded with so many great workers as WWE is these days seemingly struggles so much to deliver good Main Events. I honestly think a big part of it is just how long a normal show from them is these days. In the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras the shows were normally 2 and half hours at most and usually closed out with a hot Main Event that the crowd was waiting for. These days the shows are bloated and overly long, with everyone essentially wrestling the same style, so by the time the Main Event comes around the crowd are just done and want to go home. It certainly seemed the case in that last match anyway.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week for WCW Slamboree Main Events.