Did ‘The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever’ live up to its hype? Takeaways from WWE’s Backlash

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WWE promised “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” at Backlash. Despite some massive obstacles placed in their way, Randy Orton and Edge delivered an instant classic in the main event, with Orton pulling off a surprise victory.

This was one of the more highly anticipated matches in the past half-decade for Orton, and it was remarkably better than their match at WrestleMania 36. The 44-minute affair was extraordinary, allowing two wrestling legends a chance to apply their trade uninterrupted.

In addition to a live audience of wrestlers at the Performance Center, WWE did more harm than good by attempting to add to the pomp and circumstance of the moment. In particular, the canned crowd noise came off as disingenuous to the two wrestlers legitimately putting their bodies on the line in the ring.

There were more highlights and lowlights from Backlash, with bright spots that included Drew McIntyre’s successful defense of the WWE Championship against Bobby Lashley and an excellent triple threat match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship. The low points were Asuka and Nia Jax wrestling to a double count-out in a match that should have been a defining moment for Asuka, and a regrettable segment between the Street Profits and Viking Raiders that was a complete misuse of four very talented wrestlers.

Here are the results from Backlash:

-- United States Champion Apollo Crews defeated Andrade on the pre-show

-- Bayley and Sasha Banks successfully defended the Women’s Tag Team Championship

-- Sheamus defeated Jeff Hardy

-- Raw Women’s Champion Asuka and Nia Jax ended in a double count-out

-- Universal Champion Braun Strowman defeated The Miz and John Morrison in a 2-on-1 handicap match

-- WWE Champion Drew McIntyre defeated Bobby Lashley

-- The Street Profits and Viking Raiders ended in a no contest

-- Randy Orton defeated Edge

And here are my takeaways:

****

Randy Orton and Edge produced a great wrestling match by being allowed to do what they do best: tell a story inside the ring.

The problems with the match were all ancillary.

Orton and Edge were introduced with a recording of the late Howard Finkel, and the match was officiated by longtime official Charles Robinson in an old-school referee outfit complete with a bowtie.

The audience detracted from the match, with the forced cheering and chants giving off a vibe that was nothing short of inauthentic. At times, the production team used canned crowd noise to amplify the sound. It couldn’t have been designed that way, but it came off as an insult to the two performers in the ring.

As first reported by Fightful, Edge also tore his triceps in the match, a massive setback after finally returning to the ring.

Despite those additional challenges, the match was entertaining. Commentary did a nice job connecting the match to moments from the past, which included a throwback to Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle and The Rock, as well as callbacks to the legendary work between Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair.

Timing hasn’t benefited Orton and Edge. Their “Last Man Standing” match at WrestleMania took place in the infancy of the empty arena era, and it was hurt by going too long. Had that match taken place as scheduled in front of a packed crowd at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the place would have erupted as soon as Edge made his way to the ring. Backlash was hurt by having a crowd that felt more like actors than spectators, but the match itself was excellent.

Orton and Edge were physical but took the time necessary to tell a story with an easily definable protagonist and villain. There was creativity in the moveset, but each took pieces from their past–Edge using Christian’s Killswitch and Orton hitting Triple H’s pedigree, harkening back to his time in Evolution and The Authority–and the facial expressions from both wrestlers, particularly Edge’s eyes, only added to the intensity and significance of the match. This was Orton’s best performance since his match against Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 30 and immediately belongs on a list of Edge’s greatest hits.

****

Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley worked a physical match for the WWE Championship.

Thanks to a distraction from MVP before the bell, Lashley locked his full nelson onto McIntyre. That set up a solid structure for the match that saw McIntyre constantly overcome Lashley’s strength and power. And MVP did an outstanding job in Lashley’s corner, showing how much a manager can add to a wrestling match.

The near-falls were compelling, and it appeared Lashley was on his way to victory until Lana arrived. Though her intent was to help Lashley, she opened a brief window for McIntyre to hit a Claymore and steal the win.

That finish continues an exhausting, tried-and-true WWE theme of women getting in the way. But there was a lot to like here, as Lashley was presented as a legitimate threat. McIntyre is massive, so it is tough for him to be positioned as an underdog, but he was able to successfully paint that picture against the monstrous Lashley.

McIntyre defeated Seth Rollins in an outstanding match at last month’s pay-per-view, and he is slowly building a solid resume as WWE Champion.

****

Asuka and Nia Jax ended in a double count-out.

The match was good, but the finish lacked any sort of creativity. If this was the best possible ending, then Asuka should have wrestled someone else.

Asuka won the belt by proxy of winning the women’s Money in the Bank match. Becky Lynch, who announced that she was giving up the title due to her pregnancy, crowned her as champion the following night on Raw. Considering Asuka did not actually win the Raw Women’s title, it is extremely important for her to be positioned in an elite manner.

That has yet to happen.

Asuka lost to Charlotte Flair this past Monday on Raw, which had a lot to do with interference from Jax, but this should have been a night that helped build Asuka. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

****

Braun Strowman wrecked The Miz and John Morrison in a handicap match for the Universal Championship.

Losing a two-on-one match is rarely a good look for the losers, and it wasn’t here, either. But the program was designed for younger fans looking for Strowman to enact revenge on Miz and Morrison.

Following head games with Bray Wyatt and shenanigans with Miz and Morrison, Strowman needs a more serious opponent for his belt. Sheamus makes sense in that role, and he is someone that offers enough size to be a credible opponent for Strowman.

As for Miz and Morrison, where do you go next with these two? The two unveiled their music video at Backlash (Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield it was not), but splitting the two and turning Morrison babyface could be an interesting use of these two talents. Morrison is a talent that could emerge as a main event babyface, especially if a feud with Miz is executed correctly.

****

In a head-scratching finish, Sheamus defeated Jeff Hardy.

Their rivalry has included Sheamus mocking Hardy’s issues with substance abuse addiction. Hardy enacted some revenge by tossing a glass of urine in Sheamus’ face this past Friday on SmackDown (yes, you read that correctly), but Sheamus surprisingly won the match at Backlash.

The result makes more sense if Sheamus is moved into a Universal title program with Braun Strowman. In order to rebuild Sheamus into a title contender, he needed to win this match.

Strowman rarely faces a physical specimen as intimidating as himself, but Sheamus certainly gives him a run for his money. The best-case scenario for Hardy is to work his way into that program. If not, he would be a welcome addition to the AJ Styles-Daniel Bryan tug-of-war over the Intercontinental title.

Either way, hopefully WWE refocuses on Hardy’s wrestling instead of storylines about his demons.

****

Bayley and Sasha Banks retained the Women’s Tag Team titles in a fantastic opening match to the show.

Bayley and Banks won a triple threat against two sets of former tag champs, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross and The IIconics. The match showcased six of the most talented women in wrestling, as well as strengthened the slow build to a match pitting Bayley against Banks.

Banks rolled up Bliss after a Twisted Bliss had appeared to signal a title change, and this was a perfect way to open the card. Bayley and Banks will appear on NXT this Wednesday, bringing some additional star power to a show fighting for ratings against AEW, when they defend the belts against Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox.

****

If you like background music, flashbacks, and bowling balls, then the Street Profits and Vikings Raiders put on a match you won’t soon forget.

This match did nothing to enhance the legacy of WWE’s tag titles. It ended with the two teams joining together to form the Viking Profits, fighting off Akira Tozawa and his group of ninjas. And yes, it was worse than it sounds.

Tozawa introduced a giant-sized samurai, which Ivar briefly considered fighting off with confidence and courage found from his long-lost turkey leg. The two teams ran away from the giant, climbed atop a trailer, then resumed fighting each other, ultimately tossing each other into a dumpster. Naturally, the giant samurai never reappeared.

In case all of that wasn’t bad enough, some sort of animal–it had a tail–began growling at all four men in the dumpster.

This marked the absolute low-point of WWE programming thus far in 2020.

****

There was a lot to dislike at Backlash, but the good outweighed the bad.

The Edge-Randy Orton match elevated Orton back into the title picture with a vengeance. Even with an injury, Edge was incredible, and his return coincides with taking the world title from Orton.

For now, the championship remains in Drew McIntyre’s grasp. McIntyre and Lashley are destined to have a rematch, and hopefully, Lashley is still presented as a monster even if he does not win the title.

Bayley and Banks continued their story, which has the potential to main-event any pay-per-view once the singles clash finally occurs, but Asuka is still looking for her moment as champ. And Braun Strowman likely has a new opponent in Sheamus, with Jeff Hardy never too far removed.

While we did not witness the greatest wrestling match ever, Orton and Edge were nothing short of spectacular, somehow surpassing the hype despite not meeting the promised tagline.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.