MATTHEW ROBERTS TAKES A LOOK AT THE LATEST RELEASE FROM WWE HOME VIDEO, BACKLASH 2018 TO SEE IF THE DUAL BRAND PPV IS WORTH YOUR HARD EARNED CASH
In theory the return to “dual brand” status for the WWE’s “B” pay-per-view shows would be a good thing to many. I wasn’t so sure. Yes, with both Raw and Smackdown matches on one show there should be “less filler, more killer” in terms of matches and whatever the faults (either accurate or perceived) of the WWE in 2018 there is a stacked roster of talent just waiting to be used to full effect. However, joint shows every month mean less chance to shine for those people who haven’t got the McMahon machine behind them and the possibility that if the WWE bookers don’t facilitate the upwards mobility of “newer” talent better than they have recently, they’ll run out of fresh “main event” matches even quicker.
But that was all conjecture before this show. Even coming hot on the heels of WrestleMania and the Greatest Royal Rumble shows, surely the return to dual brand B-show’s would come with a bang! Ultimately, any notions of that did not last the card.
We started off very well. The Intercontinental Championship match between Seth Rollins and The Miz was both predictably excellent AND the match of the night. Given 20+ minutes to deliver, both men did in what was a compelling back and forth affair which really did give off the vibe that either man could walk out the winner. Unfortunately it was so good that nothing else could follow it.
Especially the Raw Women’s Championship match. Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss weren’t helped by the illogical storyline issues that had plagued the build-up to WrestleMania continuing to here (which got even worse when Jax did a complete about face to challenge Ronda Rousey in the weeks after this show) but they certainly put the effort into what was a reasonable match without ever threatening to be anything more than that. A contrived “inspirational” post-match promo from Nia made no difference either; but then for all the online anger thrown towards Bliss for supposedly not being a very good wrestler (which is totally wrong, but that’s a rant for another time) the real questionable push isn’t Bliss (who you can’t deny is over) but perhaps Jax. But then family connections have always counted for a lot in the WWE…
The United States Championship match between Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton was a by-the-numbers effort that would have been more suited to WWE TV than PPV. It was, again, a reasonable affair albeit one that lacked much drama, intensity or intrigue. But with Hardy’s on-going injury issues and Orton essentially peddling the same tired act he’s done for years, I certainly didn’t expect fireworks from this one. It’s fair to say that few expected fireworks from Daniel Bryan’s singles match return to PPV against Big Cass either. And to think I was upset when Bryan’s return to the ring came alongside Shane McMahon… It was perfectly acceptable for what it was and I’ve actually no issues with Bryan facing Cass, if for no other reason than easing Bryan in saved the “money matches” for later shows. But whilst we got the right result, Cass’ post-match attack meant we were going to see more of the feud that really should have ended here.
The Smackdown Women’s Championship match was predictably poor, even allowing for my sourness that Asuka’s undefeated streak was sacrificed to Charlotte only for Ms Flair to lose the belt to Carmella a few days later. Heat wise, Carmella cashing in on Asuka would have been incendiary, but instead we got something of a fudge. And as much as I admire Carmella’s attempts to improve her in-ring act, this was a dull match, with little-to-no heat and made ten minutes of “action” seem like an hour.
Hopes were high that AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura might put relatively disappointing WrestleMania and Greatest Royal Rumble matches behind them and finally deliver the out and out classic that the WWE had promised us. They didn’t manage that. Again it was a perfectly “fine” bout but one that ultimately failed to live up to the hype and wasn’t helped by yet another non-finish to prolong the feud. And whilst the default position online is to blame the WWE for the feud failing to ignite in the ring, is it becoming ever so slightly obvious that Nakamura doesn’t have the drive he had in New Japan in the land of the WWE?
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn sounded like a Raw TV main event on paper, rather than a must see PPV clash, before we’d started and nothing that happened in the match changed my mind. Even allowing for the fact that I’m not a Lashley fan, as a main event WWE star at least, the fact that THIS was his first proper PPV match back (I’m not counting his Greatest Royal Rumble appearance) after his big return was astonishing. Four weeks in and Bobby was in danger of becoming just another name on the roster.
This just left the main event, pitting Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe. Perhaps due to the non-finish in the Smackdown title match, there was little else that could have conceivably gone on last here, even if that booking decision was sure to inflame the crowd. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but this was yet another decent, but ultimately unmemorable, match on a card full of decent but unmemorable matches. You’ll have your opinion on Reigns one way or the other already; this match won’t change that.
All in all this was a decidedly average show and a very disappointing start to a “new era” of dual brand pay-per-view. Other than the opener, there’s nothing here worth a second look so whilst there have been WWE shows that have been a lot worse than Backlash 2018 over the years there’s very little here to recommend. The only real extra is the Bayley / Ruby Riot kickoff match which was, yes you’ve guessed it, decent but unmemorable in the long term.
Format reviewed: DVD
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Backlash 2018, which is out on DVD NOW. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk now by clicking here