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Mr. Tito's PHAT WWE Backlash 2017 Pay Per View with Match Ratings and Show Grade
By Mr. Tito
May 21, 2017 - 10:50:36 PM

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Welcome to the WWE Backlash 2017 edition of Mr. Tito "Strikes Back", exclusively here at / Unless you bookmark the website and/or follow @LordsofPain or @TitoWrestling on Twitter, you won't find this content anywhere else.

Now - many of you are asking "where is the NXT Takeover Chicago review???"... Eh, I had a busy day and the last thing that I wanted to do was hunker down and grind through a Pay Per View review (especially because I'm doing one today... I like my weekends). Plus, to be honest here, NXT has somewhat lost me as a viewer. The 2016 Brand Split raided NXT's top talent and as a columnist, I have to watch BOTH RAW and Smackdown. Before 2016, my viewing priority became (1) RAW, (2) NXT, and (3) the mailed in Smackdown. However, after the Brand Split of 2016, it became (1) Smackdown, (2) RAW, and (3) NXT... The past few Takeover Pay Per Views have lost their edge thanks to the depleted talent roster, in my opinion.

But I did watch the 11pm replay after hearing many Internet Fans GUSHING over the NXT Takeover Chicago Pay Per View. Everyone was in love from what I could see on Twitter and the Comments section below the results.

And then I watched it...

Let me say this: if NXT Takeover Chicago was representative of the FUTURE of the WWE, then the WWE Corporation is in deep, deep trouble.

Allow me to make a simple point before I start thrashing this Pay Per View. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin broke his neck during SummerSlam 1997. For the next 2 years, he dealt with that injury and became the top star in the business and put on many "Match of the Year" candidates during 1997-1999. So you tell me how a man with a broken neck can accomplish that?

It's called working... It's called using psychology. It's called playing a character that your consumers believe in and become worried if the heels attack you.

From NXT Takeover Chicago, everybody was hitting stiff kicks, using finishers as regular moves, kicking out of pins following what looked to be a valid finish, and somehow having bursts of energy after being on the receiving end of a dangerous finish. It was basically an extension of the Cruiserweight Classic that WWE Network held... Spotfests with no rhyme or reason that had the same slap kicks that indy promotions have featured for years. Are the teachers in NXT not teaching basic wrestling fundamentals or have the inmates taken over the prison down there in Florida? Which is it because I saw a hybrid of an old ECW show, stiff Japanese wrestling, and something I'd see 2 smaller wrestlers from an Indy promotion putting on.

Out of that entire bunch who wrestled last night, MAYBE Bobby Roode would make it on the WWE Main Roster. The rest, well, I'd worry about them unless the WWE has a role for them on 205 Live. Even then, they'd struggle on the big WWE stage where Vince McMahon will punish them for working that stiffer, spotty style. Don't believe me? Ask the participants of the Cruiserweight Classic and how neutered their division has become on the big WWE stage.

I'm always wondering why Triple H cannot command influence over his father-in-law, Vince McMahon, as EVP of Creative. Well, if you watch this show, you'll see why. Vince McMahon cannot do much with smaller wrestlers who do nothing but spots and stiff kicks for each and every match. While that style might appeal to the LOYAL Internet Fans who are still here (2-3 million of you), overpushing smaller guys with that style doesn't draw in additional fans. What draws in casual fans are wrestlers who are personality driven and that personality bleeds into their match with ease. After you see the same dangerous spot over and over again, you become desensitized. Ditto with these stiff kicks that all of them use. After hitting your opponent with 5-6 hard kicks to the head, shouldn't that end the match? No, the opponent delivers his own stiff kicks and hits a bunch of spots as if nothing has happened.

You'll think that I'm wrong and I'll probably take heat for the paragraphs that I just posted... However, when NXT is unable to replenish the WWE roster in a few years, you'll know that I'm right.

But again - there are many people who enjoy the "sugar high" of two wrestlers beating the physical crap out of each other with high spots, stiff kicks, and having endless amounts of energy. Sounded like the Chicago fanbase is thirsty for that kind of action and will no doubt crap all over WWE Backlash tonight... UNLESS, as I said in my 5/20/17 Column, Randy Orton delivers the match of his lifetime and shows everyone how to work a match. If Orton can convincingly sell Jinder Mahal as a legitimate threat to his WWE title without much effort, that's an indication of how the business works... HOWEVER, Orton is not a generous guy in that ring... He's miserable in matches he is scheduled to lose.

Obviously, heading into WWE Backlash, the focus is on Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal. Jinder was mostly a midcard jobber to the stars for his entire WWE career and had a 17% winning percentage in matches he was involved with before the Smackdown move. However, WWE Corporation wants to make an in-road into the India market by pushing the Canadian-born Jinder Mahal quickly to the top. The end result feels forced especially with Mahal not having much experience cutting promos and working serious matches in excess of 10 minutes at the top of a card. Smackdown's viewership with Randy Orton on top and Jinder Mahal being pushed as a serious contender could really challenge being under 2.0 million sometime. I figure that WWE will "change course" after Backlash to avoid that embarrassment, but pushing the WRONG guy to the top has killed the WWE's viewership and houseshow numbers for the past 7 years. Here's the list again: Miz, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Roman Reigns, and 2014 numbers make a strong case for Seth Rollins.

The undercard, I thought, could be the "saving grace" for WWE Backlash 2017. Obviously AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens will be killer... But can Shinsuke Nakamura and Dolph Ziggler work together? Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin could surprise...

No matter what you put on the undercard, however, it's the World Title that matters for Pay Per Views and that is true in ANY sport (Boxing, UFC). The top title belt on the show is what draws most in and the rest of the show is just gravy. Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal MUST deliver or else this Chicago crowd will crap all over the match. Difficult chore, too, because they really liked the spotfest NXT Takeover Chicago match last night. Good luck!

The below Backlash review was created as the show was happening and posted instantly AFTER the show ended... FYI.


Did not watch the Pre-Game show...

OPENING MATCH was Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and it was excellent... It's an odd pairing because Ziggler is a WWE product and didn't travel the world like Sami Zayn. That's why Zayn worked with Nakamura flawlessly and why I'd imagine rematches between Nakamura and Ziggler would top tonight's effort. That being said, I really enjoyed Ziggler vs. Nakamura. It had nice pacing, good psychology, and didn't have to rely on any high impact moves. Much of the match was fought in the center of the ring and it worked. Chicago fans were heavily behind Nakamura and adored his theme music. That's the kind of style that works in the WWE, folks... Didn't have to rely on hard kicks (though both had some) and high impact moves... They played up hatred for each other and did simple (yet forgotten) things like working on limbs and other weardown moves. Much more effective than anything on the NXT Takeover Chicago event. Nakamura wins the first match although for Ziggler's sake, I hope there are rematches. Good debut for Nakamura in a WWE ring. [ **** ]

Weird stuff with the Fashion Police or Fandango/Tyler Breeze that I can't even comprehend. Hulu must have edited whatever was in the past few Smackdowns because Tyler Breeze is dressed up as a bald janitor. Channeling his inner Jim Duggan from WCW? Will he find a TV title in the trash too?

Next match was Usos vs. Fandango/Tyler Breeze. Based on the way Breeze is dressed up, I already cannot take this match seriously. And I had problems taking jobbers Breeze & Fandango seriously before this match. To start the match, Breeze is seriously mopping in the ring and the referee barely cares that he has a potential foreign object. Oh wait, with the mop into play, do we now have a Janitor Jim Duggan and Mop Loving Perry Saturn hybrid in action? You just KNOW that by the Chicago crowd playing along that Tyler Breeze will be stuck with this janitor gimmick for life. You know it! As Fandango is working in the ring, Tyler Breeze then dresses up as an old lady... I'm not making that up! And to channel Mae Young, Breeze hits a Bronco Buster. I should have taken a hit of LSD to enjoy this match. By the way, this match is for the Smackdown TAG TITLES, right? Tyler Breeze, out of costume, is now getting worked by the Usos until he mounts a nice comeback... Breeze tags in Fandango, but Breeze tries to jump on the Usos on the outside but gets dealt with (eats guardrail). That allows Fandango to be all alone and the Usos finish him following a nice superkick to Fandango as he's on the top rope. Match actually became GOOD once the goofy stuff was over and done with. [ *** ] I guess Breeze is trying something to stand out?

Up next, we have Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin. I'll never figure out why WWE doesn't see "#1 babyface" in Sami Zayn. Guy is full of charisma, personality, and ALWAYS delivers in the ring. Maybe he doesn't look as impressive for action figures? What RAW did to him over the past year with booking damage is going to be difficult to overcome. Meanwhile, I've liked the development of Corbin and working with the likes of Ambrose/Styles has rubbed off on him well. This match was good but nothing special... I think when you're treated like the 4th banana on the card, there's just not as much energy from the wrestlers. That, and who expects Zayn to win? RAW destroyed him and Jinder Mahal beat him recently... Chicago crowd is trying to help Zayn. Oh damn that spinebuster by Corbin! Corbin, to me, seems like a much more aggressive version of Test (Andrew Martin), though not as bulked up and with better clotheslines. Match has solid back and forth but both aren't connecting with the fans... Plus, the match is a little one-sided with Corbin delivering much of the offense. Then, out of no where, Sami Zayn hits his kick to get the win. [ *** 1/2 ] Not a convincing win... For the 10 minutes previous to that win, Zayn got his ass kicked for the most part. And then JBL emphasizes exactly what I said with "Corbin dominated 99% of that match, but it's that 1% that matters at the end". Bingo.

White SUV limo backstage and the 2 flunkies lay down a carpet for Jinder Mahal to step onto. WWE interviewer says "welcome to Chicago" and Mahal immediately starts ripping Chicago and goes into an anti-American speech. Doesn't the WWE usually do this off-camera to get the live crowd pissed off before a match? Of course, because the WWE chose to air this, we get to hear LOUD "What?" chants by those Chicago fans.

In the ring, James Ellsworth enters the ring with microphone in hand. "I'm the Michael Jordan of Sports Entertainment". Pffffft! He introduces the Welcoming Committee which I actually enjoy. It's a stable... Tamina Snuka, Natalya, and Carmella took on Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Naomi... And what on earth is going on with Becky's hair tonight? Come on, girl... The babyface team is quite stacked by comparison with current champion Naomi and NXT's finest with Flair and Lynch, former Women's champions in the past year. The current Women's champion becomes the "face in peril", however... Match improved once that was over but then it abruptly ended when Natalya was able to get Becky Lynch to tap out. Typical Smackdown televised match. [ ** ]

With AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the US Title up next, you know what has become the Main Event. Yikes... This should be the WWE Title match, period. This match was fast paced and very polished... Problem is that we expected it to be. For a good bit of the match at first, it was everything hitting by the numbers... But was it unique from what we've seen from both guys? At least at first... Actually, the match slowed down with Kevin Owens working on the leg of AJ Styles and that paid dividends when Styles fell off the top rope. Owens hit a beautiful inverted Superplex on AJ styles... Thing of beauty! They begin to brawl outside and after hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, AJ Styles tries a Styles Clash on top of the announcers' table. However, Styles falls in one of the monitor holes and gets his leg stuck for Kevin Owens to get the Countout victory. Eh... At the very least, that prompts rematches and I'm OK with that. And in my opinion, they could improve upon this effort. [ *** 3/4 ] Nothing special from this match compared to what both can do and in my opinion, they were struggling to connect the action to the fans. It was just lacking heat and maybe it's due to both guys not wrestling for the WWE Title? US Title doesn't matter as much.

Luke Harper and Erick Rowan get the "piss break" spot before the Main Event. Can I boldly say something? Have we met our quota on wrestlers who look like members of Duck Dynasty with their long beards? Want to shake things up? Change up your look! After all, Duck Dynasty has been limping around in the ratings for the past few years. Additionally, the Wyatt Family is over. Enough about looks, as Harper and Rowan are having a pretty good big man match and it's much better than their Smackdown televised effort. This time around, Luke Harper is moving like he's much smaller than he actually is. Remember when he gave Orton his best match in a long, long time? Loved Rowan's powerbomb on Harper. Rowan tried another but Harper reverses it with a Frankensteiner. 2 Superkicks and then a clothesline later, Luke Harper wins it. In that spot, this match had no right to be as decent as it was. Impressive. [ *** 1/2 ] Just needed more crowd involvement but then again, it's in the "piss break" spot. What, you couldn't save the Women's 6 person match for that?

MAIN EVENT was Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Title. Alright, guys... Put up or shut up time. Let me say this... HD television is impressive and can show details of people quite clearly. Randy Orton goes on the attack early as the announcer is making introductions. Thanks to that well booked start of the match, we get a "Randy, Randy" chant. But of course, Randy lays off and lets Jinder recover before the match starts. Orton almost hits a RKO early but Jinder pushes him off. Man, if they ended this match right there, Chicago fans would have gone home happy! Jinder hides on the outside and prompts Orton to follow... Orton then gets slammed into the LED board that used to be a ring aprin. Jinder then locks Orton into a hold that barely looks like Randy is locked into anything. Huh? I could escape that... Mahal continues to work on that left shoulder... Am I hearing a "Let's Go Jinder, CM Punk" chant? I'm very confused... Jinder misses Orton in the corner and Mahal hurts his shoulder. Damn that LED stuff around the ring! Orton hits a nice superplex as he's done many times before. Crowd is silent right now but at least they aren't troll chanting, so that's good. Both wrestlers are selling their arm injuries, which I appreciate. Orton begins to dominate and as he's trying to do his RKO, Mahal rolls to the outside. Mahal's 2 flunkies interfere and Orton dispatches of him. Mahal, however, attacks and shoves Orton into the LED corner to further injure that shoulder. Back in the ring, however, Orton hits the RKO and before he could pin Mahal, the flunkies pull Mahal out of the ring. Huh? How is that NOT a disqualification, referee? Orton attacks the Singh Brothers and as he's distracted by them in the ring, Jinder Mahal hits his finisher to become the NEW WWE Champion. Woah... They actually pulled the trigger on this guy. Honestly, the match was tolerable and the best effort seen yet by Mahal. [ *** 1/4 ] Just shocked by him winning the WWE Title so early and if Smackdown's ratings tank further, they best make him a transitional champ quickly.

Too early to make Mahal champion, especially since he hasn't proven to be a draw of anything. I stand by that opinion and one decent night doesn't erase that.

LAST WORD: Solid night of wrestling which is welcome considering how BAD the last RAW Pay Per View was. Nothing off-the-charts, but some good wrestling by what appears to be a decent in tact Smackdown roster. As usual with Smackdown, some of the midcard needs work and the Tag Team division needs help and seriousness. Not sure where the Women's division is going... Still, Smackdown proves that they have some over superstars which what RAW doesn't have even with those recent "shake-up" moves. Solid [ B ] show and I'm OK with that. Not sure how well the Mahal Era will do, however...


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