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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Backlash 2018


And just like that, we're back to co-branded pay-per-views.

The last time we had one (that wasn't any of the Big Four events) was right before the WWE Draft in 2016, but that technically wasn't under the brand split system. So the last time we did co-branded PPVs was years ago, and where they didn't make creative sense then, they still don't make creative sense now.

This year's Backlash, positioned after WrestleMania once again like in the last decade, was another exercise on Vince McMahon's part of doing things just because he can. As a result, the show went over four hours (we already have an hour-long kickoff show before each PPV) because they tried to cram as many people in from both shows as they can. And it still didn't feel like the people who needed the airtime got it.

The deep rosters on both brands can't afford to have their big culminating events share space with the other, just because attendance and interest are lagging. It's on Vince and his creative team to start finding a way that works, instead of punishing the roster and the fans for their own shortcomings. Cut the fluff out and spare your fandom. Don't do co-branded PPVs; go back to the schedule of yesteryear and space out single-brand PPVs instead of forcing two shows on your audience every month. Start writing stories that are compelling and building internal logic that's actually logical. Soon, your shows will be must-see and you won't have to worry about single-brand events not doing well.

Look at NXT and recently, 205 Live. This isn't hard to do.


While we're talking about compulsion, Backlash doesn't do much in providing any urgency. The overhyping of the Greatest Royal Rumble event last week left WWE fans with oversaturation of the WrestleMania cycle—they backed themselves in a corner where they should do things, but ended up chugging along on the same track. Greatest Royal Rumble already didn't mean a lot, so Backlash not changing anything already made the show mere background noise as the moves in this year's Superstar Shakeup get finalized.

As it stands, Backlash is just a largely pointless speed bump, always promising some sort of retribution but never really sticking to it. It's just another cog in the PPV machine, and it can't even be a top-to-bottom brand-changing occasion because both shows have to share now. Because it's not a WrestleMania or a SummerSlam or even a Money in the Bank, things don't get to happen. The wrestling isn't terrible, but it doesn't mean too much. WWE is just celebrating itself.

Backlash Final Grade: B-

Match of the Night



I was almost about to give the WWE Championship match these honors if it weren't for the anti-climactic finish, so the Intercontinental Championship match takes it. It's a bygone conclusion just because Miz is already on SmackDown, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's just perfect from top-to-bottom. If they're making a solid case for the title being RAW's top singles championship, then it's bouts like these that help it. I hope RAW makes the most robust scene with all the pieces they have.

Other observations

  • Is Mike Mizanin low-key the WWE's best bout machine? Is that why he's dressing up as Naruto now?
  • Hoping Alexa Bliss recovers from her injury just fine.
  • Daniel Bryan going over Big Cass as clean as a mountain spring only for Cass to destroy him afterward is so wishy-washy. Pick one route and go with it already—Bryan isn't going to look any lesser for having fallen to a guy more than twice his size. If you need to build Cass up, build him up and have him go over the fan favorite. Bryan can get his win back later, no problem.
  • There's just no reason for this Elias segment with everyone. It's one of the many ways Vince is telling everyone to suck it, because it's his company. This is the biggest piece of fluff that made the show go overtime.
  • The double countout functions more as a KO than a disqualification, so I get that it could happen in this match. It's just that KO counts don't get enforced consistently, leading the viewers to feel confused about the device. I won't deny that it's a good way to keep building up the stakes in the Styles/Nakamura feud, but thanks to a similar finish back at Greatest Royal Rumble this just feels superfluous. Nakamura should have won, plain and simple. WWE's backing themselves more and more into a corner where they have no choice left; if they don't pull the trigger at all, they might irrevocably damage one of their biggest acquisitions of this era.
  • HOLY FUCK that chair to the knee spot and the chair rebounding to AJ's cheek.
  • So we're back to Sami and Kevin teasing a breakup, just when their heel dynamic is getting so good? Or are they just a toxic, abusive couple now?
  • Joe should've won. Send Roman into an existential crisis if you're really sending him into another hero's journey on the way to beat Brock Lesnar... if that's still happening.
  • I don't believe the members of the audience were leaving because Roman won, given the enthusiastic reaction to his victory. (Watch the finish again.) It seems like they really were just ready to leave after a long night, not expecting the main show to go well past three hours. It is just a Backlash, after all.

Photo from WWE

*****

Romeo Moran (@roiswar) is the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his CuriousCat account.

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