SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
I’d say my immediate reaction is that WWE Backlash was an extremely solid show from just a wrestling standpoint, but it severely lacked any sort of engaging storytelling. So don’t look at tonight’s RSFS as a gauge for match ring work, but from perspective as to why you, I, or any fan should give a damn about the outcome of these match-ups, because as great as stars like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, A.J. Styles, and Charlotte are, you need stakes or a story to put them on a higher pedestal. Now some may ask how do I not include Nakamura’s debut on the “Rising Star” list? Easy, he went up against Dolph Ziggler, a character who has been portrayed as a loser, through and through. So let’s get to it:
RISING STAR(S) OF BACKLASH: Jinder Mahal
Ew, that promo, but oh that title win. The WWE Championship hasn’t been given its just due in months and, in all actuality, it still hasn’t, but putting it on a (somewhat?) fresh face in Mahal does make a noteworthy moment. As far as that promo goes, some of the facial expressions I’ll give to him, but it felt like Jinder couldn’t remember his highly-scripted lines or that he was too damn nervous (or just void of charisma) to show any lick of personality. I predicted “C.M. Punk” chants two seconds into it and we got them. After tonight, WWE has a lot of work to do in (1) getting Jinder over (don’t be deceived by that show-closing reaction) and (2) re-establishing the WWE Championship. Guess what? It’s all about story-telling…
Breezango: Talk about getting your hokey WWE gimmick over, Breezango did it tonight by mixing the ludicrous with good ring work and team dynamic. Although Fandango had his fair share of shtick, he played the Dean Martin to Breeze’s Jerry Lewis in what I would argue was a successful formula in (*gasp* do I say) establishing a credible tag team? Credible may be a bit of an exaggeration at this point, but keep them going like this without having the “Fashion Police” jump the shark (c’mon, in WWE’s hands it’s gonna jump the shark) and you’ll have an act that injects some personality into an otherwise vanilla division. Also, the “Rising Stars” of this week have a mid-card gimmick and lost, so keep that in mind as you read the rest of this.
Sami Zayn: Pretty damn surprised by this outcome as I pictured Vince McMahon picturing that Zayn was the perfect underdog to feed to the Lone Wolf and, in all honesty, he really is, and that’s coming from a huge Zayniac (very awful, I know). The performance of both him and Corbin tonight even furthered that point home as Zayn made Corbin’s $100 Grand look like a million bucks. I’d like to think this win is an indication as a firmer belief in Zayn’s headline potential. but it’s more likely WWE’s lazy way of furthering a feud (can’t we just get a win and move on?) We’ll see Corbin get a clean W against Zayn within two weeks to “even stevens” it all out.
FADING STAR OF THE WEEK: Becky Lynch
Babyface tap outs are just about as commonplace as no-selling DDTs or super kicks, but it still doesn’t make it an appropriate finish. In no capacity should a Bayley or Becky submit, but they do and then we’re supposed to invest in them more after they quit straight up? Bass ackwards. If Charlotte wasn’t on Smackdown, the women’s division might as well not exist on this show.
Randy Orton: After his newsworthy Twitter rants this week. Randy needed to come out hot tonight and, to my surprise, he did. His quick jump on Jinder before the bell rang as well as his attacks on the Singh brothers seemed to have a little more extra zing to them, and he was pretty well over with the Chi-town crowd, but where in the blue hell does Randy go from here? His title run was stale at best, but now what does he do without the belt and, seemingly, without a purpose.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: RISING STARS & FADING STARS: Goldust, Breezango, Jinder Mahal, Cesaro & Sheamus, Shinsuke Nakamura, Braun Strowman