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Lackluster Backlash leaves pro wrestling fans frustrated

Aaron Oster
Contact ReporterFor The Baltimore Sun

Backlash is an awkward pay-per-view.

Let's just acknowledge that going in. The first PPV after WrestleMania is always a little bit awkward. Generally it's about wrapping up any WrestleMania feuds that need to be wrapped up, or it's about establishing something for the new wrestling year. That makes it very difficult for anything major to happen, as WWE is not likely to reverse anything from Wrestlemania, or it's the very beginning of a longer feud.

Even taking that into account, Backlash on Sunday night was a disappointment for fans. After a superb opener that featured Seth Rollins successfully defending his Intercontinental title against The Miz, everything went downhill. Nothing of importance really happened in the show — no title changes, no meaningful story moments. While that can be salvaged with a good show overall, it's hard to say that happened with Backlash.

The one other overall good match on the card, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles, was marred by an unfathomable booking decision. After a strong outing from the two that really allowed Nakamura to show off what he can do as a heel, the match ended when neither of them could beat a 10-count after they simultaneously kicked each other in the groin. In a bubble, a no-contest isn't horrendous.

However, this comes just nine days after another no-contest because of a double count-out at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Because in storyline the no-contest was so unsatisfying, this match was made No DQ. To have them not be able to get up sent the crowd into a frenzy, and not the type of frenzy the WWE wants. Boos and shouts of legitimate anger came from the crowd who wanted to see some sort of payoff one way or another, and instead got another nonfinish. While perhaps logical in the storyline, really what it did was just allow the storyline to advance another week without anything happening. Which really is a microcosm of Sunday's show as a whole.

The return to co-branded pay-per-views was hyped before as a way to make every show important and get the biggest matches on the card. For one night at least, the show couldn't have been much less important.

The rest of Backlash:

» While people hated the finish of the WWE title match, what first raised fans' ire was the fact that it wasn't the main event of the night. Instead, that went to Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe. While the match started hot, with Joe attacking Reigns before the bell, that fire quickly went away as the middle of the match devolved into long headlocks and other rest holds. The fans, who already weren't pleased with the match, completely lost interest, and despite a frenetic finish that ended with a Reigns comeback win, they never got the crowd back.

» Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley beat Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. This match ended with Zayn, afraid of the bigger man, leaving Owens out to dry. Zayn even rolled Owens back in an attempt to escape the faces. He did get his comeuppance after the match, though as Strowman got his hands on him and delivered a power slam.

» Carmella beat Charlotte fairly cleanly. Charlotte started to sell a leg injury midway through the match, and then missed a moonsault, landing on that bad leg. Carmella took advantage of the injury and got the pin to retain the title.

» Daniel Bryan forced Big Cass to tap out to the Yes Lock, getting his first singles win on a PPV in four years. However, after the match, Big Cass attacked him, leaving him lying.

» Jeff Hardy successfully retained the U.S. title against Randy Orton. The finish came when Hardy blocked an RKO and was able to hit a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb of his own.

» Nia Jax beat Alexa Bliss in a bit of an awkward match to retain the Raw Women's Title. Alexa got in a lot more offense than she did at WrestleMania, which almost at times positioned her as an underdog trying to chop down the giant Nia. Nia is doing a good job at creating sympathy for her character in nonwrestling segments, but it's becoming tricky for her to stay as a face in the ring.

» In the preshow, Ruby Riott beat Bayley with help from the Riott Squad. Earlier in the night Sasha refused to come down to ringside with Bayley.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout

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