G’day Lords of Pain. They say better late than never and due to some personal stuff that popped up in my real life I had to delay my Backlash winners and losers column one night. However even on the roughest cards I enjoy these columns too much so never fear, I endured the show and your column is now here!
So, who flew as high as the opening match and who crashed as hard as the main event? (Just in case you need a preview of what’s coming.) Find out here and let me know in the comments below if I missed someone you think should have made the Backlash black list.
Seth Rollins & The Miz
In a night that wasn’t exactly flush with bright spots these two stood head, shoulders, torso and stomach above the rest of the roster, kicking off Backlash with one of the best matches we’ve seen in the WWE so far this year.
In the modern WWE there is a tendency for matches that touch the highest levels to be divided between being ‘workrate classics’ as demonstrated by Gargano v Almas at TakeOver Philadelphia and ‘story matches’ such as Rollins v Triple H last year. However last night, spurred on by the ironclad will to succeed of Rollins and The Miz’s determination to prove himself, these two managed to simultaneously pull off a workrate classic and an amazing character and story performance on their way to the clear match of the night.
Seth Rollins is currently peaking as a performer in a way that I think we will look back on in years to come as something very special. The crowd was into every single thing he did in the ring and the brilliant usage of the turnbuckle and Seth’s old knee injury put legitimate doubt into a match that really should have been a foregone conclusion given The Miz’s drafting to Smackdown. Rollins has carved himself out the perfect niche as the Intercontinental Champion and is getting more popular with every performance. There are even whispers that given his form and burgeoning popularity he may be the one that finally dethrones Lesnar, a move that would have been laughed off if it was suggested in most parts only four months ago.
Regular readers of my Winners & Losers pieces will know I don’t love including losers in the winners section but I would be insane to not include The Miz alongside Rollins today. While Rollins sheer force of will allowed him to survive two of Miz’s Skull Crushing Finales Miz well and truly cemented the audience respect he has built up over the last year and goes to Smackdown with yet another reason he should be sitting right at the top of the card.
Sure it wasn’t a match that will make any best of collections but last night Daniel Bryan won his first singles PPV match since making his return a month and a half ago and did it against one of the WWE’s pet projects as well.
As ever Bryan went into this match the underdog of the story with a decent contingent of fans (including this one) expecting him to bite the dust to his much larger opponent but those predictions were for naught as Bryan managed to absorb all the punishment Big Cass could throw at him and take the win with the Yes Lock.
Bryan originally got hot by coming up short over and over again so those predictions were not without precedent (just check out my new YES Relived series for all the details on that) however it seems the WWE has different plans for him in his second run at least at the moment. While the return to the ring at Wrestlemania was the start of the second chapter of Bryan’s career, last night’s win was a clear kickoff point for his singles run, giving him momentum that will hopefully send him all the way to the Smackdown main event.
Cups ‘R’ Us
It’s slim picking for winners tonight but after the performance of both AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura in the WWE Championship match, one group of people that will be smiling all the way to the bank are cup suppliers in any town Smackdown happens to be visiting in the next few months.
Scrotal area attacks have become the go to move for number one contender Shinsuke Nakamura and as of last night the urge has seemingly been caught by WWE champion AJ Styles as well. With the effectiveness of this new finishing move on clear display in their match I can only imagine it is a matter of time before copycat contenders also adopt the move as their own. From there, the only end results I can foresee as we travel down this painful road is the humble cup, or as us Australian’s call them boxes, becoming the must have piece of equipment in the Smackdown locker room.
How do you win clean in the main event of a PPV but still end up on the losers list? Well there is a first time for everything and camera shots of people leaving the arena while the crowd chanted ‘beat the traffic’ during the supposed most important match of the night tell a pretty compelling story of how Roman Reigns ended up down here.
By now it is painfully (and I mean painfully) obvious that Reigns was meant to win the Universal Title at Wrestlemania. Despite the negative fan sentiment that accompanies his every move reigns spent the best part of three years being built up to beat Brock Lesnar, he has had a vice like grip on the main event spot at Wrestlemania every year since 2015 and he even got the main event slot tonight where a Universal Title match should have taken place despite not having any championship title on the line. The fact the WWE suddenly changed course just as his story was nearing its climax does not speak well for the stability of his character and tonight’s performance will certainly not help his cause.
To throw in my two cents, the WWE just wants Roman Reigns to be too many things. They want him to be as badass as Samoa Joe, as unstoppable as Brock Lesnar, as good in the ring as Seth Rollins, as much of an underdog as Daniel Bryan and as popular with the fans as John Cena. That is basically anyone but Roman Reigns and until that changes he will continue to struggle and will continue to draw the ire of the crowd. He has matches and feuds that justify his lofty position in the company but right now he is really struggling to gain any traction.
Whether another match that absolutely stunk out the arena actually effects Reigns overall trajectory remains to be seen but in the last month The Big Dog has had three huge swings and recorded three huge strikes. He’s just lucky this isn’t baseball.
Roman Reigns was not alone in the ring tonight and as much as I like him, Samoa Joe was equally culpable for the disastrous main event.
Joe is an experienced campaigner who has wrestled all over the world and quite honestly, should have known better than to put on a match so reliant on rest and submission holds when the card was crying out for a blow out brawl from these two heavyweights with a score to settle.
The silver lining for Joe is he now gets to leave the toxic Raw main event scene behind him however he leaves having lost his three feuds on the main roster against Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar and now Roman Reigns. For a someone who calls himself The Destroyer he has some ground to make up before he lives up to that kind of a nickname.
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Boy does 2016 when Owens and Zayn were embroiled in one of the hottest feuds on the show feel like a long time ago now.
The end of 2017 and start of 2018 saw these two stuck in a monotonous groundhog feud that had them at odds with Shane McMahon, squabbling amongst themselves and making back up over and over again. A change to Raw felt like it could be a clean break for these very talented guys but after only a few weeks on the show they are once again at odds with an authority figure while not being able to work out if they are actually friends or not.
When these two first teamed together last year their familiarity with one another inside the ring and bond outside of it could have made them one of the most dangerous tag teams going around. However in 2018, seven months after originally making up, there was not one person who thought they would have a chance against Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley.
Those predictions turned only too true and two of the more talented wrestlers in the company were made to look like bit players against two men that will now be forming cornerstones in the Raw heavyweight main event scene.
Big things were expected of Big Cass and his big singles comeback at Backlash. It’s not a big stretch to think that the WWE has big plans for him, he is just so big, so much bigger than Daniel Bryan, just ask his big mouth.
Unfortunately last night his big slaps, big strikes, big elbow, big trash talk and big boot couldn’t get it done against the not so big guy he called ‘short stuff.’ With his big body, big hair, big beard and a big rocking theme song it is hard to imagine the WWE giving up on him in a big way this soon but there is no doubt that last night was a big disappointment for Big Cass and thus he ends up here on my list as a big ol’ loser.
But over to you LOP, who did you think were the biggest winners and losers at Backlash? Let me know in the comments below and make sure you check back in on Saturday as I continue my series YES Relived where I’m looking back on a week by week basis at the rise of Daniel Bryan and the Yes Movement.