Roman Reigns may have beaten Samoa Joe, but there were no winners in another main event the crowd rejected.
The WWE continues to book Reigns like he is Hulk Hogan or John Cena in their heyday. He is the baby face that is pummeled early to the point he can barely stand, only to rally and pull a win out in the end against everyone but Brock Lesnar.
We continue to see the same story and physical match style on a regular basis with Reigns and did again Sunday during Backlash at Prudential Center. Joe threw Reigns through an announce table and over two others before the bell rung for a slow grinding match.
It was another Reigns match booed out of the building. At WrestleMania against Lesnar it was, “This is awful.” The New Jersey crowd was even more critical, booing and chanting, “This is boring” and, “Beat the traffic” among other things. They got into the clash slightly late, when Joe made attempts to put Reigns away.
Boos were back after Reigns appeared out in the Coquina Clutch before one final tap from the referee woke him up. The Big Dog eventually won after countering the Muscle Buster and hitting a spear. Joe, who could be headed for a WWE championship feud, just saw his momentum halted.
Some of this is not Reigns’ fault. His most recent feuds have been against bruisers Braun Strowman, Joe and Lesnar. He can only work the matches put in front of him. It’s time to work Reigns with a fellow babyface or more technical worker if WWE doesn’t want the rejection of Reigns’ matches, not just him, to continue.
In another ball-breaker of a finish, literally and figuratively, AJ Styles kept the WWE championship. He and Shinsuke Nakamura couldn’t answer the referee’s count of 10 after the two simultaneously kicked each other in the you-know-where. It’s the second non-finish in their three matches.
After Styles answered Nakamura’s low blow with one of his own, he got the biggest pop of the match, but the finish inspired boos from the crowd.
While the feud will continue, the ending spoiled a match based on one-upmanship that was just starting to pick up. It also included Styles getting a cut on his cheek when a chair he threw at Nakamura rebounded off his face. Even so, the duo has yet to deliver a classic.
One person who is producing amazing matches on a regular basis is Seth Rollins. That didn’t change Sunday.
Rollins continues to shows the mix of athleticism and power that is making his matches a must-watch and echoes back to his WWE championship run. The distance and height of Rollins’ Frog Slash was something to see.
He even showed some true babyface resiliency by breaking The Miz’s Figure Four after banging his knee on the ring post. Rollins also kicked out of the Skull Crushing Finale twice. You are seeing Rollins, who won with a Curb Stomp, being built back into a main-eventer.
While that was one of the matches that went as expected, the biggest shocker of the night was Carmella pinning Charlotte Flair (after the Queen hurt her knee on a moonsault attempt) to retain her SmackDown women’s title. Having Carmella pin Flair without outside interference is a big vote of confidence to the job she’s done since winning the belt.
The match, outside of some antics of Carmella trying to leave early that worked to set up the finish, was tough on the eyes until the final few minutes. When Carmella hit the Code of Silence submission, you knew business was about to pick up.
How long they can sustain this rivalry remains to be seen, but Carmella’s win over Flair will keep fans from dismissing her beating anyone from here on out.
On a lighter note, New Day, Rusev Day, No Way Jose, Titus Worldwide and Breezango interrupting Elias’ musical performance was an important feature. It opens up the possibility of non-advertised talent appearing on the new co-branded pay-per-views.
It all set up a Glorious DDT from Bobby Roode to Elias and more dancing. Unfortunately for WWE, the Backlash main event didn’t produce the same goodwill from the crowd.
Nia Jax over Alexa Bliss to retain the Raw women’s title
The match was not as good as their WrestleMania clash, despite a few fun spots — Jax flipping Bliss by her two hands off the top rope — and some added physicality.
Despite the two performers’ excellent efforts to paint Bliss as the bully in the buildup to the match and Jax’s post-match, cliché-filled PSA to champion those who have been put down, this particular crowd didn’t fully embrace it the way WWE would hope.
Bliss, who according to WWE.com hurt her shoulder during the match, and Jax kept the size difference believable. But again, it seems to be getting harder to buy Jax as the babyface. While the angle and message around her is noble, continuing it has its challenges.
Jeff Hardy over Randy Orton to retain the United States championship
Give these veterans an A for effort. I don’t think I’ve seen Orton get as high as he did for a drop kick of a leaping Hardy that connected above the top rope.
Hardy’s high flying and Orton’s power made for a passable match. It was better then Hardy’s clunker with Jinder Mahal at The Greatest Royal Rumble.