WWE's Backlash pay-per-view had two world championship bouts, but the show was really about one match: Edge versus Randy Orton. It was literally billed as The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever which, as far as promises go, is about as close to impossible to live up to you can get. And of course, Edge and Orton didn't live up to that tagline. How could they? The good news is that they still put on an outstanding show.
Elsewhere, both Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre successfully defended their world championships. Asuka and Nia Jax fought to a double countout, a real bummer, while The Street Profits and The Viking Raiders ended up battling ninjas in the Performance Center carpark. Really.
Scroll below for full results and analysis from Backlash.
Randy Orton beats Edge
This was The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever™ but, it goes without saying, was not the greatest match ever.
OK, to get the good stuff out of the way. This was a fantastic match. It was Randy Orton's best match in yonks, probably since his 2011 fued with Christian. It was long, but felt epic.
But it was let down in a few ways. Firstly, obviously, the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever tagline made it hard to watch without an air of incredulity. It opened the match up to a degree of scrutiny that was always going to end up hurting it. Second, WWE added piped-in crowd noise, as Tom Phillips told us they would just before it began. In one sense, it was nice to hear the ambiance of a stadium audience. On the other, it made everything feel so artificial and forced. "This is awesome," loud boos, sudden cheers, it just made the match feel overproduced.
It goes without saying that this would have been better in front of a real crowd, but it also probably would have been better in front of the NXT wrestlers that have formed makeshift crowds for the past few weeks.
But again, this was fantastic. It was incredibly long, at 50 minutes. But, though there were certainly slow spots, that time was ultimately well spent. The two integrated finishers and moves from legends, from Edge hitting Eddie Guerrero's Three Amigos, Orton nailing a pedigree and Edge using a Rock Bottom. Orton also kicked out of two spears, while Edge survived two RKOs.
Ultimately, Orton scored the W when, as Edge had a head-and-arm choke locked in, Orton got a low blow and then brought out the punt kick to knock Edge out.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Surprising no one, the match was let down by its hyperbolic marketing. It was not the greatest wrestling match of all time. You can't complain too much though, because it was still an excellent one.
Viking Raiders vs. Street Profits
The Raw Tag Team Championship match was the cinematic segment of the night, of the same ilk as the Undetaker versus AJ Styles at WrestleMania and The Money in the Bank race to the top from last month's pay-per-view.
This was maybe the strangest and definitely the least fun, though it had its moments. It began with the four brawling in the parking lot where, after they slammed each other on Braun Strowman's car, they then fled to the backstage area. The four then get weapons from the skits they've been doing on Raw -- a bowling ball, a golf club, a piece of meat, so on -- and faceoff, but agree to lay down their weapons.
They end up out in the parking area again where they're accosted by Akira Tozawa and a crew on ninjas. Really. They then all work together, as The Viking Profits, and fight waves of ninjas, kung-fu movie style. Tozawa then brings out a 7-foot tall ninja, so the four flee. They climb atop the production trucks, but all fall off into a nearby garbage dump where -- and I'm not making this up -- they're scared off by a tentacled monster lying beneath the garbage. The segment ends, with no winner.
Again, I cannot stress this enough. I made up none of this.
Drew McIntyre pins Bobby Lashley
Drew McIntyre defeated Bobby Lashley with a Claymore Kick. This match was fine, but the psychology behind the ending was counterproductive.
After a competitive match, Lashley hit a spear on McIntyre for a two count. Lana then comes to the ring and nips up to the ring apron. McIntyre headbutts Lashley, who then barrels into Lana. Off the distraction, McIntyre scored the Claymore and victory. The problem? It now looks like McIntyre, the hero, only won because Lashley got distracted.
That would be acceptable if the payoff was something worthy, but what are the odds the Lashley-Lana storyline ends up being more important than the credibility of Raw's current top star? It also feels inconsistent. McIntyre beat Brock Lesnar clean at WrestleMania. How come he needs a lucky distraction to get a win over Bobby Lashley?
Up until the finish, the match was decent. It began with Lashley, working off a distraction from MVP, locking in the Full Nelson before the bell rang. The two then worked very hard up until the finish -- there was a section where Lashley and McIntyre traded submission holds that was particularly strong. Like like the Universal Championship match,however, it was hurt because it was difficult to accept Lashley as a real challenger.
Rating: 2.5 stars.
Braun Strowman retains his Universal Championship
Strowman's handicap match against The Miz and John Morrison was surprisingly fun, mostly because it's cool seeing John Morrison's constant springboard kicks and gymnastic offense. In the end, the tag team had Strowman beat after a double-team Skull Crushing Finale but Miz broke up Morrison's pinfall, since a three count would have made Morrison the champion.
Miz, having second thoughts, threw Morrison back on, but Strowman kicked out. Strowman then chokeslammed Miz and powerslammed Morrison to retain the championship. Huge points to this match for not making the tag team look super weak. Still, the match had little gravitas since the idea that Strowman would have lost it was borderline inconcievable.
Rating: 3 stars.
Asuka ties with Nia Jax
The Raw Women's Championship match ends up with a double countout. Asuka put an armbar on Nia Jax on the outside, leading to Jax powering out by slamming Asuka in the barricade. The two roused themselves up and Asuka hit Jax with a high kick -- just as the referee counted 10.
The match was a little sloppy and points, but mostly good up until the weak finish. Asuka went for submission after submission to neutralize Jax's size advantage. Jax, for her part, would fight out of submissions and steamroll Asuka. After the double count out, Asuka hit a flying hip attack on Jax to leave her laying.
The bad news is that the ending was lackluster. The good news is that Asuka is still champion.
Rating: 2 stars. A decent match let down by a poor finish.
Sheamus defeats Jeff Hardy.
This match was long and sometimes slow, but ended up being strong. Sheamus beat the hell out of Jeff Hardy in this match, and ended up getting the win following a Brogue Kick.
Sheamus took the overwhelming majority of the bout, laying an extensive beatdown on ol' Jeff. (Literally old, Michael Cole noted how Hardy is getting old and can't recover like he used to -- which is a weird thing to say.) Hardy would mount brief comebacks before being cut right off by Seamus.
Eventually Hardy hit a surprise Twist of Fate and then a Swanton Bomb, which looked like the end. But Sheamus got his legs on the ropes, a nice false finish. On the outside, Hardy tried to jump off the barricade onto Sheamus but was hit by a Brogue Kick. One more Brogue Kick in the center of the ring led to the 1-2-3.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Solid.
Sasha Banks and Bayley retain Women's Tag Team Titles
Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross and The IIconics in a triple-threat match to open the show. After a chaotic match, Banks rolled up Bliss for the three count.
All six women worked hard in his chaotic match, though it's clear how Banks is head and shoulders above the rest. That said, The IIconics have improved a lot and, though there was some clunkiness that's hard to avoid in a match with six people, there were no noticeable botches or slip ups throughout the bout.
There were three women in the ring at any time, one from each team. The story of the match was that it was a scramble, with energetic pinfall attempts and ad-hoc tag team moves throughout. A decent open.
Rating: 2.5 stars.
Apollo Crews retained the US Championship by defeating Andrade.