As a fairweather fan – at best – these days, I was intrigued to catch up with Backlash on DVD not so much for the greatest hyperbole of all time (“The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”) more for the fact that this was my first wrestling-watching experience in the Covid-era.
So WWE has refined its approach to delivering shows while appearing to essentially just plough on with content.
I found this fascinating – since really what pro-wrestling is about for me, as a spectacle, is the magic combination of not just athleticism an absurdity but also the colour commentary and crowd noise. The interaction and indeed the very interdependence of these factors.
There is still commentary, but there have been cardboard cut-outs and no crowd noise at all and all sorts of weird vibes. Now they have a plexiglass covering protecting a selective audience – trainee wrestlers basically – so we get a bit of crowd noise. It works. But only just. The jeering hardcore fans spitting their venom can’t happen of course. But they’re missed. They really are.
Anyway, I found all that as interesting as the card – but that’s because I’m not super invested in this stuff anymore. It’s just weird throwback stuff for me that I can’t quite kick.
Backlash was one of the better PPV events I’ve seen in a while (and not just because it was my first of 2020 – literally making it the only one I’ve seen in a while I guess). What I liked about it was all of the matches were solid in some way. There were a couple of weaker matches but they had great backstories going in and strong personalities to sell the drama. There were a couple that had very weak pay-offs but there had been great work leading up, enough so to take something away from it. And also this was quality entertainment without overstaying its welcome. The days of four and nearly five hour sprawling double-disc efforts are just beyond me personally. This was about three hours on the button. I barely fast-forwarded a thing!
So, half a dozen matches – a good amount. We opened with Bayley and Sasha Banks in a triple threat for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship. Solid opener. Took a wee while to get going and find its groove but a Triple Threat Championship – either singles or tag – is a no-brainer for opening event match I reckon. And there were enough spots here to get the party started.
Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy managed to transcend the really sad and silly gimmick of Sheamus being angry at Hardy’s return and his lack of self-care. His addictions paraded around and urine tests being splashed in faces – this is WWE at its un-PC best, er worst. But these two can work. And they did. So it was a great match – but Sheamus deserves more. Thankfully he won this. And hopefully can move on (again) now.
Auska vs Nia Jax was probably the dud of – night, in terms of actual matches. They did some okay work but it ended in a double count-out. I should like that since it was a throwback to late-80s/early-90s wrestling. But it just doesn’t play in this day and age at all. It’s nonsensical. And yes, I realise I just called pro-wrestling nonsensical in a way that seems thoroughly lacking in awareness, right? Anyway.
Braun Strowman did the big monster show defeating Miz and Morrison in a 2-on-1 handicap match. It was a shit match but the Miz and Morrison are comedy gold and the match seemed to exist to debut their new song in its entirety. And I’m not mad that happened.
Drew McIntyre retained his WWE Championship against Bobby Lashley and this was good. Lashley has always been awesome looking but never quite delivering. That was not the case here. He’s total package now and McIntyre is a great champ in 2020. Solid-as match.
The silliest thing of the night was The Street Profits vs. The Viking Raiders in a “cinematic” match – out of the arena, pre-recorded and featuring fantasy sequences and flashbacks and ultra absurdities (even for wrestling!) Oh, I loved it. Wrestling fans deserve every chance possible of being reminded that the whole thing is fucking ludicrous. And this was a patience-tester par excellence. Ridiculous. Embarrassing. Cringe-worthy. And therefore superb!
The closer was the alleged Greatest Match Ever – Randy Orton and Edge going at it in an over-hyped contest that threatened to de-throne things like Ric Flair and Steamboat, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels and of course it could never come close.
It was, though, a very good match. Amazing spots, great psychology and storytelling and a really great closer to a solid-enough PPV.
I think – once again – I’m back.
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