SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
KELLER’S WWE BACKLASH PPV REPORT
JUNE 14, 2020
ORLANDO, FLA. AT THE PERFORMANCE CENTER
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
(A) APOLLO CREWS vs. ANDRADE (w/Zelina Vega, Angel Garza) – U.S. Title match
Kevin Owens came out right before the bell wearing a t-shirt and a tie. KO cheered Crews early, then gave the Phillips a hard time for having to do his job. They fought to the floor where Crews backdropped Andrade onto the ramp. Crews flipped onto Andrade at ringside next, then threw him into the ring. Crews suplexed Andrade and scored a two count at 3:00. KO said he was once the Face of America, so he’d be lying if he said he didn’t want to be U.S. Champion again. He said he’s held the title three times. Andrade came back with running double knees, but he missed a double stomp off the ropes, then overhead tossed him into the corner. Crews drove Andrade hard into the corner.
Andrade took over and scored some near falls. Crews came back with a press off the top rope and two standing moonsaults. When Garza jumped onto the ring apron, KO yanked him down and gave him a Stunner. Crews watched. When he turned around, Andrade attacked him, but Crews fended him off and landed a toss powerbomb for the three count. Crews and KO slapped hands afterward and smiled.
WINNER: Crews in 8:00 to retain the U.S. Title. (**)
(Keller’s Analysis: Good standard match. What you’d expect from these two with eight minutes to work with.)
-A video package aired on the Randy Orton vs. Edge match, tripling down on it being the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.
-Cole introduced the show.
(1) SASHA BANKS & BAYLEY vs. NIKKI CROSS & ALEXA BLISS vs. THE IICONICS (Peyton Royce & Billie Kaye) – WWE Tag Team Title match
During Cross and Bliss making their entrance, they showed various social media posts from wrestlers in the match firing shots at each other. As the IIconics came out, Graves said the IIconics represent Raw, but if they win, they’d go to Smackdown and make Smackdown more IIconic. Cole said the winners will face Tegan Nox & Shotzi Blackheart in a title defense on Wednesday night.
They cut backstage to Kayla Braxton interviewing Bayley and Sasha. Bayley interrupted her question and complimented Banks as “The Boss, The Blueprint, The Standard.” She said her name is Bayley Dos Straps. Kayla asked if they lose the tag titles, will it affect their friendship. Sasha took the question and said their friendship is unstoppable. Sasha walked away. Bayley stayed around and told Kayla she should look in the mirror and realize how dumb her question was. She said they are unstoppable, then told Kayla to get out of the way.
Cole wondered how a loss would affect Sasha and Bayley. Graves said he beat the drum for several years about the Bayley-Sasha dynamic, and it took him a while to accept it, but they will be friends to the end. As with a match like this, a lot of near falls with a third wrestler breaking up the cover. In the end, Bliss landed Twisted Bliss on Royce, but Sasha stole the cover and got the three count. Bayley called the booing audience “stupid idiots” and told them to admit they’re the best.
WINNERS: Bayley & Sasha in 10:00 to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles. (*1/2)
-Braun Strowman drove up in an old black Buick. Cole explained that if Miz scores the pin or submission, he’s the champion; if Morrison scores the pin or submission, he becomes champion.
-A commercial aired for WWE Extreme Rules on July 19.
-A video package aired on Sheamus and Jeff Hardy.
(2) SHEAMUS vs. JEFF HARDY
They fought at ringside early. Hardy came out of the battle selling a knee injury.
Cole said Sheamus is in the best shape of his life and looking better than ever. Sheamus took control early for a while. Hardy came back and took a running leap off the ringside steps into Sheamus. He bashed him into the top of the announce desk. Cole backed away like there’s a worldwide pandemic. Sheamus took over again and settled into some chinlocks and mat work. Hardy made a comeback, but when he climbed to the top rope, Sheamus met him there and knocked him off balance. Hardy knocked Sheamus off the top rope, but Sheamus then got up and knocked Hardy of the top rope. It looked awkward. Sheamus hit White Noise for a believable near fall.
Sheamus grounded Hardy and applied a Texas Cloverleaf. Hardy reached the bottom rope to force a break. Sheamus stomped away at Hardy. Graves said Hardy’s got a feel good story, but the reality for Hardy now doesn’t feel good. Cole said Hardy looks battered, beaten, and exhausted.
Hardy came back again and landed the Swanton for a near fall. Sheamus put his foot on the bottom rope right before three. Graves said this has to be crushing and disheartening since that is his signature move. Hardy took a running leap off the ringside barricade, but Sheamus landed a Brogue Kick to knock him out of mid-air. Back in the ring, he hit another Brogue kick for the win. Graves said, “One more time, Hardy lets everyone down.” Cole said Sheamus has exorcized his demons with this win. He said Hardy put on a valiant effort. Graves said Hardy is ashamed of himself, “and he should be.”
WINNER: Sheamus in 17:00. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match. Not sure what the next chapter is, but that’s hardly the ending fans want who have bought into WWE’s story of this being a redemption story for Hardy. Keeping Sheamus strong seems like a better priority than sacrificing him to Hardy at this point, all things considered.)
-Kayla interviewed Miz and Morrison about the rule that only one of them can win the title tonight; they can’t be co-champions. They were at first shocked, then said they were okay with it. Morrison said he’d rather Miz be champion than Braun. Otis and Mandy Rose walked in. Mandy said if one of them wins the Universal Title, they might not be champion for long.
-A video package aired on the Asuka-Nia Jax build.
(3) ASUKA vs. NIA JAX – WWE Raw Women’s Tag Team Title match
Jax came out first. The trainees and wrestlers in the audience did the Asuka dance during her entrance as Jax stared ominously from the ring. Jax took sustained control shortly into the match including some near falls. Asuka eventually made a comeback with a basement dropkick. Both were slow to get up. Asuka stood and threw a barrage of kicks and eventually scored a near fall of her own. Jax came back with a sitout powerbomb led to another near fall. Asuka climbed to the top rope a minute late. Jax went after her up there, but Asuka used her legs to power her to the ground. They fought at ringside and were counted out.
Asuka dove onto Jax on the floor and went looking for her belt. The referee presented it to her and she clutched it and returned to the back.
WINNER: Double Countout in 8:00 so Asuka retained the Raw Title. (**1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s not a particularly satisfying finish. I hope WWE doesn’t do that much. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they rematch them on Raw on Monday to try to get a ratings boost in the first post-Paul Heyman era episode. It also could lead to a no contour match at Extreme Rules. Whatever PPV precedes Extreme Rules, be on the lookout for non-finishes and match outcomes that call for stipulation-laden rematches.)
-MVP was on the phone when Lana walked up to him. She told MVP that she has been successful because of her and this is the biggest night of his career. MVP interrupted her and said she should talk with Bobby, because it’s her husband who said she has to stay backstage during his matches. MVP said she won’t talk to him because she’s scared of the answer he’d give.
-Graves thanked Green Day for “Oh Yeah,” the theme of Backlash.
-A video package aired on the Braun Strowman vs. Mia and Morrison match up next.
(4) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. MIZ and MORRISON – Two-on-One match for the WWE Universal Title
Miz and Morrison have to tag in and out, and whoever scores the deciding fall is champion; there will be no co-champions. When Miz and Morrison entered the ring, Graves said they are the greatest tag team of the 21st Century.
Miz and Morrison did some talking before the bell. They threw to their music video. About 20 seconds into it, they put on their sunglasses. Then Morrison played a grand piano in a nice house while Miz snapped his fingers. Morrison and Miz took turns singing insults about Braun. “Hey hey ho ho, the Universal Champion needs to go!” They took a shot at Braun wearing Crocs. Braun interrupted again as his entrance cut off the video about three minutes in. Graves said he just interrupted the biggest music video premiere since “Thriller.” Graves said “Hey hey ho ho” is in his head like an ear worm. Cole compared Miz and Morrison to Billy Ocean in the music video.
Miz and Morrison double-teamed Braun early. At 2:00, Braun came back and tossed them out of the ring. He went after them with his charge at ringside, but they re-entered the ring. Morrison then flip dove onto Braun. Graves said it’s been an “excellently crafted strategy” by Miz and Morrison from the start. Morrison powered out of Miz’s cover at one. Miz quickly reapplied a chinlock. Morrison springboarded off the middle rope with a flying roundkick. Braun ducked a running knee (or sold it too early). Miz tagged in and hit Braun with double axe handles. Then Morrison tagged in and stomped Braun from behind as Miz executed a Skull Crushing Finale. Morrison made the cover, but Miz yanked him off. Morrison glared at Miz. Miz apologized and told Morrison to try for another cover. He did, but Braun kicked out. Braun then chokeslammed Miz and punched Morrison out of mid-air followed by his running powerslam for the 1-2-3.
WINNER: Strowman in 7:00 to retain the Universal Title.
(Keller’s Analysis: So it appeared after the tandem Skull Crushing Finale, Morrison would have gotten the three count if not for Miz. That might be a story after this, or they might brush it off quickly as a momentary lapse of judgment by Miz that Morrison forgives him for, and then everyone moves on, and the finish was just an attempt to get out of the match with Braun with the belt, but Miz and Morrison with a small claim that they had it won at one point.)
-They went to Cole and Graves who threw to a video package on the Intercontinental Title match on Smackdown on Friday. Cole called it an instant classic.
-Kayla interviewed A.J. Styles. He said he could have taken the night off, and he certainly earned it, but he has a special invitation. He said this Friday night on Smackdown, he wants to have the greatest championship presentation because he’s the greatest champion in WWE ever. He said Daniel Bryan should be there to learn how to become champion. He said he lives in the real world and knows how to become champion, whereas Bryan just isn’t phenomenal.
-A video package aired on the build to Drew McIntyre vs. Bobby Lashley.
(5) DREW MCINTYRE vs. BOBBY LASHLEY (w/MVP) – WWE Championship match
Lashley came out first. Then Drew. Before the bell, Lashley attacked Drew from behind and applied a full nelson. Three referees ran out and eventually Lashley released the hold. Drew clutched his shoulder. The ref checked with Drew who approved the referee ringing the bell. Drew didn’t even have his robe off. (That felt ridiculous; the ref should have insisted Drew had more time to recover and at the very least remove his robe.)
Lashley landed a suplex for an early one count. They showed Lana smiling and nodding backstage while watching on a monitor. Joe said this is the most trouble Drew has been in during his reign. Lashley stayed aggressive on offense with knees to Drew’s back before settling into a chinlock. Drew made a comeback and beat up Lashley at ringside. MVP got too close to Drew, so Drew gave him a dirty look. Lashley lifted Drew, but lost his balance and dropped Drew on his head. Drew tucked just enough to avoid a more dangerous harmful landing. Lashley picked him up again on his shoulders and rammed him into the ringpost. Lashley returned to the ring to break the count as Drew struggled at ringside. Lashley charged at Drew, but Drew grabbed him and turned his momentum into the ringside barricade. Drew landed a leaping vertical suplex on Lashley at ringside. They returned to the ring and battled back and forth with near falls. Lashley landed a spinebuster, but Drew kicked out at one. Graves called the kickout “astounding.” Lashley went for a full nelson, but Drew struggled and blocked it. Lashley instead shoved Drew’s head into the top turnbuckle. Lashley stood behind Drew, but Drew lifted him onto his shoulders and flapjack catapulted him face-first onto the mat like a reverse Alabama Jam. Drew leaped off the top rope, but Lashley side-stepped him and put him into a side headlock. Drew liftedhim and set up a tombstone, but Lashley slipped free and applied an anklelock mid-ring. Drew powered out with a kick. He went for a spear, but Drew applied a kimura armbar. Lashley reached the bottom rope to reach the bottom rope.
They battled to the top rope where Drew landed a superplex. Drew kipped up and played to the audience. He set up the Claymore, but Lashley speared him instead for a believable near fall. Lana marched to the ring. MVP asked what she was doing there. She stepped onto the ring apron and complained to the referee that Drew was cheating. Lashley almost bumped into her. Drew headbutted Lashley, sending him into Lana. Lana went flying onto MVP. Drew then hit a Claymore Kick for a three count. Lashley gave Lana a dirty look before walking past her to the back.
WINNER: McIntyre in 13:00 to retain the WWE Title. (***1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: There were some ambitious sequences that were a little clunky, but this was an ambitious match for these two in the sense that they set out to have a really good title match. And they did. That was two heavyweights fighting hard to win with believable near falls and sequences out of character for their usual ring styles.)
-They went to the announcers at ringside. Phillips was about to throw to a video package when he got word on his headset that the Street Profits and Viking Raiders were fighting in the parking lot. Montez Ford dropped Erik onto the windshield of Braun’s car. The alarm went off. The two teams fled and brawled in the back. They had music in the background. If this was happening *now*, it is so fake to have a “score” in the background; whatever it adds to the production is offset by how phony it all feels. The two teams brawled into a backstage tent area where the Raiders came at them with shields, an axe, and a bowling ball. There were impossible camera angles of close-ups that required camera men between them, which wide shots showed were not there. The Profits had golf clubs. They called a truce and set their weapons down. Ford said, “What did the five fingers say to the face?” Angelo Dawkins and Ford attacked them with punches. The brawl continued. Ivar sat up and had a bowling ball in his lap. We were suddenly able to see images in his head remembering the bowling competition. He then bowled the ball toward Ford who was sitting with his legs split. It hit him in the balls. He gasped as Ivar yelled, “Strike!”
Ivar found Erik down outside. He asked what happened. Dawkins speared Ivar through a glass door. We went to more images from inside the heads of the Raiders, recalling a turkey leg in the bowling ball retriever. Ivar said, “Anything you can do, we can do better.” They stood and asked why they are doing these things to each other. Dawkins said, “This is escalating so quickly!” Ivar said, “Let’s take it outside.” Dawkins said they already are outside. Ford gave Dawkins a pep talk. Suddenly motorcycles showed up. It was seven men in helmets. One unmasked and revealed himself to be Akira Tozawa. He said in Japanese that anything they can do, they can do better. He tossed them their motorcycle helmet. The Raiders and Profits huddled. They said they’re ninjas, so they have to do this together. Ford and Dawkins produced their red cups and the Raiders produced turkey legs. The graphic said they are the Street Vikings. Or was the Profit Raiders? Six other ninjas ran up and attacked the Raiders and Profits. A giant ninja showed up as Tozawa just smiled. Ivar took a bite out of a turkey leg. Erik said he had this and was going to charge, but the Profits and Ivar stopped him. They ran onto the roof of a trailer in the lot. Ivar was exhausted and couldn’t keep up. They jumped ahead in time as Profits and Raiders discussed the situation. Then the Raiders attacked the Profits. They fought off the root of the trailer and into a dumpster. Ivar flip dove onto the other three. They showed an aerial view of them all struggling to move on top of trash cans. We could then see Ivar’s thoughts again as he remembered the women hitting on him and saying he is cute. The lady ref told the wrestlers their match is next. She smiled and said Ivar is cute, but Erik “not so much.” Ford then sang she wants the smoke. They suddenly heard monster noises under them. They panicked and out popped a serpent or alligator tail. They tried to flee.
(Keller’s Analysis: And Edge and Orton thought they had a tough hill to climb having their match called the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever for weeks, but now they have to follow that? I think that debacle should have killed off cinematic matches forever. I am sure some people got a kick out of it, but this seemed like the moment overly produced, overly cute, completely unrealistic Cinematic matches jumped the shark… or should I say serpent? This type of thing just unwinds any narrative structure and pro wrestling canons that binds everything together otherwise.)
-An Extreme Rules ad aired again.
-Phillips thanked Panic! at the Disco for “The Greatest Disco” theme song for Backlash.
-Phillips said Edge vs. Randy Orton should take place in front of thousands of fans. Saxton said WWE is using special techniques to enhance their viewing experience “including unique camera angles and amplified audio.” Phillips welcomed viewers to what they believe will be the greatest wrestling match ever.
-A video package aired on the Orton-Edge rivalry.
(6) RANDY ORTON vs. EDGE
When Orton made his ring entrance, nothing felt different other than post-produced “enhanced” crowd noise for his entrance. When Edge’s entrance took place, they added a big crowd pop. They cut away to the usual audience of a dozen or so cheering and jumping up and down, though. Phillips said the moment has come. The lights went out and when they came back on, they utilized Howard Finkle’s voice introducing Orton with a darkened arena background and an old MSG mic dropping from the ceiling. There was background music as Finkle also introduced Edge. They piped in crowd noise. Ref Charles Robinson was shown giving the rules. They showed an overhead shot of the wrestlers as they were about to lock up. There was a camera angle of the lock-up from underneath, which was impossible without post-production.
The pace early suggested they were going long. Orton went for a superplex to the floor, but Edge blocked it and headbutted Orton to the ring apron. Edge then leaped off the second turnbuckle with a flying clothesline. Orton came up bleeding from his forehead with a sinister smile. A “This is awesome!” broke out. They showed audience members clapping and chanting “This is awesome!” in sync with then post-produced chants. Back in the ring, Edge applied a Crossface mid-ring. Orton crawled toward the bottom rope and put a foot on the bottom rope to force a break. Loud boos broke out. Orton threw Edge around ringside into the barricade and plexglass, then over to the announce table. Orton rolled in and out of the ring to reset the count. Then Orton threw Edge’s head into the back of the stairs a few times. The “crowd” erupted in boos. Orton dropped Edge on the announce table, then whispered in his ear.
Back in the ring, Orton grounded Edge. It couldn’t be the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever without the Obligatory Mid-match Chinlock from Orton. Edge yelled out in agony, selling the pressure. They eventually stood and exchanged hard chops. Orton landed a standing dropkick. Saxton compared it to a Ricky Steamboat dropkick. A few minutes later Orton landed a superplex. They had a camera in the ring to capture the impact and zoom in on the wrestlers. Orton crawled over and made a cover for a two count at 24:00. They cut to audience reactions. Edge climbed to the top rope, but Orton met him and knocked him off balance. Edge countered an Orton draping DDT with the Edgecution DDT for a near fall. A “This is awesome!” chant broke out. Again, they cut to the audience chanting to convey the chant wasn’t manufactured, but was merely “enhanced.” Edge landed a running knee to Orton’s skull.
Edge climbed to the top rope and landed a top rope crossbody for a two count at 30:00. Saxton said they were seeing the grit of Edge on display. Joe said it’ll take more than grit to outlast Orton. Orton hit the draping DDT at 33:00. Orton sat up and pounded the mat, signalling for his RKO. Joe said he is stalking Edge. He went for the RKO, but Edge pushed him off and set up a backslide. Orton leapfrogged over him, but when he went for an RKO, Edge landed the Edge-o-Matic for a near fall. Edge leaned into the corner and got wide-eyed. Joe said the fire has lit in Edge. Edge waited for Orton to stand, then charged with a spear. Orton leapfrogged. Edge avoided a powerslam and landed the Unprettier for a near fall at 35:00. Another “enhanced” chant of “This is awesome!” broke out. Orton dropped Edge ribs-first over the top rope. Orton then hit a Pedigree for a near fall. Orton looked up at the referee with three fingers raised, and the ref confirmed it wasn’t three. Edge checked his teeth. Edge then surprised Orton with a Rock Bottom for a near fall. Saxton said Edge countered Triple H’s signature move with one from Triple H’s greatest rivals, The Rock. A loud enhanced “This is awesome!” chant broke out again.
They battled back to their feet. Edge went for a backslide. Orton came back and snapped Edge’s neck over the top rope. Edge went into a series of roll-up attempts for near falls. Orton hit Edge with a sudden RKO. Edge kicked out. Orton took issued with the ref as Edge caught his breath. Orton backed into the corner got a certain look. Edge caught Orton coming his way with a spear. Edge stood and got his own special look. He then speared Orton for a very near fall. Jake Atlas was among those they cutaway to reacting with surprise. An enhanced “holy shit!” chant broke out. Orton caught Edge leaping off the middle rope with a mid-air RKO for a near fall. Orton looked up at the ref disheartened. Orton bent down and grabbed Edge’s hair and said some words to him. Edge then locked on a sleeper, but Orton used a low blow to break out. Then he nailed him with a punt for the three count.
WINNER: Orton in 45:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: I think people are largely going to be split on whether the “enhancements” of crowd noise and additional camera angles were more of a distraction than a benefit, but if you strip away external factors and just judge the execution and do your best to absorb the atmosphere and not dwell on it being manufactured in many ways, that was a match both of those veterans can be proud of. In a usual circumstance, it’d be considered a great WWE PPV match. It’s hard to judge by usual standards because it felt like a movie production and you couldn’t shake that feeling most of the way. Still, all that said, I enjoyed the drama and appreciated the story that was told.)
If you have questions or comments about WWE Backlash for tonight’s Wade Keller Hotline for VIP members, send to email@example.com.
Sooo…. the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever ended with a low blow and a punt to the head.
WWE branding it the “Greatest Match Ever” was so stupid. Had they just let Edge and Randy do the program exactly as they did, without the stupid marketing line, I think everyone is praising their efforts today. WWE created this impossible expectation, though. They, of all people, should know how important atmosphere is to a match. When you have no crowd, you’re already behind the 8 Ball when trying to top some matches of the past. Sometimes less can be more.