WWE Backlash has historically been a night when any lingering tensions and rivalries from WrestleMania are put to bed. While Money in the Bank slid in between WrestleMania 36 and Backlash in 2020, there was still one major score to settle -- the presupposed "Greatest Match Ever" between Edge and Randy Orton.
All four top singles champions were in action Sunday at the WWE Performance Center in Winter Park, Florida. Drew McIntyre put his WWE championship on the line against Bobby Lashley, Braun Strowman defended against The Miz & John Morrison for the Universal title and Nia Jax challenged for Asuka's Raw women's champion. SmackDown women's champion Bayley defended her other title, as she and Sasha Banks put their newly won women's tag team titles on the line against both The IIconics and Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross.
The United States championship (Apollo Crews vs. Andrade) and Raw tag titles (Street Profits vs. Viking Raiders) were also on the line, with Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus rounding out the card.
Tim Fiorvanti and Sean Coyle broke down all the action as it happened, with Coyle rating each match on his personalized scale of 0-5.
The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever: Randy Orton def. Edge
The expectations couldn't have been higher, that's for sure. Dubbing a match "The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever" almost ensures that it will underachieve. Having said that, Edge and Randy Orton are in the midst of, arguably, the best pro wrestling rivalry of 2020 and they are unquestionably all-time greats. If any two performers in the WWE have the ability to produce a match that approaches the conversation of "The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever," it's these two accomplished storytellers.
For nearly 45 minutes, they accomplished their goal and put on a truly memorable match.
Prior to the bout beginning, commentator Tom Phillips said that some unique production techniques and camera angles would be used during the match to add to the experience. One of the techniques that stood out immediately was amplified crowd noise, which continued throughout the match. In addition to that, there was the classic Madison Square Garden microphone used during the first WrestleMania, and the late Howard Finkel's voice was used for the introductions. Referee Charles Robinson also sported the classic light blue referee shirt with a bowtie. All these small details played perfectly into how Edge and Orton would try to create a classic match by pulling in pieces of other classic wrestling moments.
Edge and Orton traded advantages throughout the early sequences. Edge connected with some Ricky Steamboat-esque deep arm drags and Orton played some mind games to gain the advantage. Edge reversed the roles and baited Orton to the outside of the ring, then delivered a big boot to the face.
A few sequences later, Edge head-butted Orton and connected with a clothesline off the middle rope. The head-butt opened Orton up and blood dripped down his face. Edge was in the driver's seat at this point, but there was a long way to go.
Back in the ring, Orton withstood a crossface, breaking the hold by reaching the ropes. He shifted the match in his favor by using his patented reverse neck/back-breaker on Edge's neck, which remained his target throughout the remainder of the match.
Edge began to make his comeback when Orton attempted Eddie Guerrero's "Three Amigos," a set of triple vertical suplexes. However, after the second suplex, Edge countered and delivered three of his own. The two proceeded to swing, strike and chop each other until Orton hit a dropkick.
Orton continued to work the neck, with Edge brilliantly conveying the pain through his facial expressions. The pain continued after a superplex by Orton, who followed that up by attempting a draping DDT off the top rope. Edge managed to reverse it into a DDT of his own, his Edgecution version.
A revived Edge attempted a spear, but Orton leapfrogged over it. Edge quickly caught him with Christian's killswitch, which was good for a two-count. Shortly after, Orton connected with Triple H's Pedigree, but Edge kicked out. The move-borrowing continued when Edge hit a Rock Bottom, which still wasn't enough to put Orton away.
After a series of roll-up attempts, Orton hit an RKO out of nowhere, but Edge got his shoulder up just before three. Orton pondered for a bit after the kickout and set up for a punt to Edge's head, but Edge hopped up and speared Orton. He speared him a second time, but couldn't keep him down for the count of three.
The kickouts continued after Orton hit another RKO, catching Edge midair after a springboard off of the middle turnbuckle.
Edge responded by locking in his Anti-Venom choke submission, but Orton hit a low blow with his knee -- which was missed by the official -- to break the hold. Orton then hit a vicious-looking punt to finally seal the deal and win the match.
After the exceptional bout, Orton got down on his knees and told Edge to go home and be with his family.
What's next: The series is tied, so a rubber match at Extreme Rules next month seems like the likeliest of scenarios.
WWE championship: Drew McIntyre def. Bobby Lashley
It had been well over a decade since Bobby Lashley had challenged for the WWE championship, and Sunday night's match against Drew McIntyre showed just how much Lashley has improved over that stretch.
During his first run in WWE, many dismissed Lashley for being a stereotypical musclebound wrestler with limited mobility and depth of personality. But everything Lashley showed against McIntyre proved he's so much more.
Sure, Lana's involvement ultimately cost Lashley the WWE championship, and anyone could see it coming from miles away, but working with MVP and the spotlight of a world title rivalry has proved that Lashley belongs in the discussion as a legitimate world title contender going forward.
Lashley put the pressure on McIntyre from out of the gate, as a distraction from MVP allowed Lashley to lock in a full nelson and bring it to the ground with a body scissors before the bell even rang. Lashley finally released the hold when a cavalcade of referees stormed the ring, and the match ultimately started with McIntyre still wearing his ring jacket.
Lashley maintained the edge for most of the match, starting with a release vertical suplex, which got him a two-count -- but that wouldn't happen often in this match.
Despite a brief respite when McIntyre hit a bridging Northern Lights suplex, Lashley worked on McIntyre's neck and back persistently. MVP's presence was felt throughout, as every time McIntyre grabbed a slight advantage, a distraction tilted the scales back in the other direction.
Barricade shots turned the tide back to McIntyre, followed by a top-rope axe hammer and a spinebuster, but Lashley kept popping right back up. A standing-release spinebuster by Lashley earned only a one-count, though, and both Mcintyre and Lashley projected an indestructible nature as neither would give.
McIntyre and Lashley unexpectedly flexed some submission skills beyond their normal repertoires, as Lashley locked in a crossface and an ankle lock and, after teasing a piledriver midmatch, McIntyre turned a Lashley spear attempt into a kimura lock.
McIntyre hit a superplex and kipped up, only to run a Claymore attempt directly into a spear -- but that still got Lashley only a two-count. Lana inserted herself into the situation and confronted the referee, and Lashley held up to avoid running into his wife, who was standing on the ring apron. McIntyre's head-butt then sent Lashley crashing into Lana, who fell into MVP, and the chaos opened the door to a Claymore and a three-count.
What's next: McIntyre could find his way into a fresh challenge, while Lashley deals with some trouble between his team of MVP and Lana, or perhaps offer one more opportunity to what was a very game Lashley. I, for one, would love to see what McIntyre and Lashley could do in a sequel.
Universal championship: Braun Strowman def. The Miz & John Morrison
Braun Strowman has reigned supreme on SmackDown since he defeated Goldberg for the Universal championship at WrestleMania. After another big win over Bray Wyatt at Money in the Bank, he found himself in an unlikely rivalry for the title tonight in a handicap scenario against The Miz and John Morrison. The former tag champs have played pranks on Strowman on recent weeks, angering the big man, and while him dropping the title Sunday would be a highly unlikely outcome, there's no reason it couldn't be a fun matchup, right?
Miz and Morrison used their speed and numbers advantage in the early stages of the match. They made quick tags, quick strikes and utilized aerial offense, including a nice-looking corkscrew moonsault by Morrison over the top rope to the outside onto Strowman.
However, after a double-team version of the skull-crushing finale, Miz pulled his partner off the champ, breaking what could have been championship victory, as he wanted to be the one to complete the pinfall and win the title.
That opened the door for Strowman to rebound. He choke-slammed Miz and connected with a running power slam onto Morrison for the victory.
What's next: Perhaps Miz costing Morrison a championship victory could create some tension between the duo. As for this rivalry, this should be the end of it, and we'll likely see someone new step up to the plate to take on Strowman.
Since Asuka unwittingly won the Raw women's championship by grabbing the briefcase in the women's Money in the Bank ladder match, she's had four matches. Asuka lost to Charlotte Flair by countount, won a tag team match with Flair as her teammate, only for Flair to attack her postmatch, and then Asuka lost to Flair in a great main event on Raw.
In the shadow of a yearlong reign by Becky Lynch, Asuka badly needed a definitive win over Nia Jax at Backlash to establish the foundation of her title reign -- to start building her up as the type of dominant champion she was in NXT.
That's far from what she got on Sunday night. In what was a competitive match that occasionally succeeded in elevating both women, a pay-per-view world title match instead ended in an utterly unsatisfying double countout.
Asuka threw almost every submission in the book in Jax's direction, but never managed to lock in her signature Asuka lock or put Jax in any serious peril. As impressive as the standing Octopus and standing guillotine looked, the match dragged at points when Jax started to impose her will and strength.
Jax flashed some highlights along the way, including a Sit-out Powerbomb and a falling Jackhammer, but the chemistry never quite jelled.
The match sputtered to an end when Jax was haphazardly dragged over the top rope to the outside, and Asuka hit a flying armbar to Jax on the floor as the official counted loudly. Jax sloppily slammed Asuka against the ring barrier with plenty of time to bring the action back into the ring, but overdramatically stumbled to make sure the match ended in a double countout.
Asuka hit a flying hip attack for a goodbye, but there was little cause for excitement.
What's next: Likely another match between these two, and potentially including Flair who, as previously mentioned, defeated Asuka on Raw.
Sheamus def. Jeff Hardy
The storyline surrounding Sunday's encounter between Jeff Hardy and Sheamus is not for everyone. The subject could be perceived in poor taste as it revolved around Sheamus' attempts to draw on Hardy's previous real-life substance and alcohol abuse issues and the suggestion that he's reverted to his old ways.
On the other side, the story reminds us of the demons Hardy has overcome in his life to reach this stage of his career, leading to what could be one more significant run in the WWE.
Sheamus was aggressive early and to counter that, Hardy frequently targeted Sheamus' knee to slow the big man down. Unfortunately, Sheamus used that same tactic when he slammed Hardy's knee onto the top of the steel ring posts. With Hardy struggling to stand, Sheamus dominated.
The resilient Hardy fought back, and after a successful whisper in the wind, he was back in the match. He proceeded to duck a Brogue Kick attempt and connect with a sling blade, but it simply wasn't enough. When Hardy ascended the top rope for a Swanton Bomb attempt, Sheamus knocked him down, executed his patented white noise and then locked in a Texas cloverleaf.
An exhausted Hardy had one last gasp. He dodged a charging Sheamus, who ran shoulder-first into the ring post, then finally hit his Swanton Bomb, but Sheamus was able to get his foot on the rope to break the count.
The match came to its conclusion when Sheamus connected with a Brogue Kick to Hardy on the outside of the ring as Hardy jumped off the barricade. He nailed him with a second Brogue Kick inside the ring and picked up the victory.
What's next: Something tells me this rivalry isn't over. It wouldn't be surprising to see Hardy continue to seek retribution on Sheamus for the mental anguish.
Women's tag team championships: Sasha Banks & Bayley def. IIconics and Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
Anyone who predicted the fall of Sasha Banks and Bayley at Backlash was, at the very least, premature in their prognostication.
The newly crowned women's tag team champions successfully defended their tag team titles against both The IIconics and Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross on Sunday night in a match that was packed with frenetic energy.
The decision to have one member of all three teams in the ring at once left the match with very few moments of downtime. The pinfall exchanges were many, and the momentum swings went in every direction.
Everyone had a moment to shine, but the match kicked into high gear once Banks bounced Peyton Royce out of the ring to break up a double-team attempt. Cross hit a double takedown on Bayley and Billie Kay. Bliss hit everyone moving with Thesz presses, punches and forearms.
Royce took everyone out with a crossbody through the ropes, which knocked Banks and Bliss off the apron and onto their tag team partners on the outside. It appeared The IIconics had everything lined up for a moment with their twist on the Magic Killer, but then Bliss and Cross hit a double-team DDT, set up like a 3D, that put Bliss in position to hit Twisted Bliss on Royce.
She did so successfully, but Banks slid in and rolled up Bliss to retain the titles.
What's next: Banks and Bayley will defend their titles again on Wednesday against Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart on NXT. From there, The IIconics could have a claim to another shot, having not been pinned. And while they could stay aligned, singles feuds could very well be in the mix for Bliss and Cross going forward.
United States championship: Apollo Crews def. Andrade
Apollo Crews is enjoying the finest run of his WWE career. A few weeks ago on Raw, Crews defeated his Sunday opponent, Andrade, to become the United States champion and earn his first WWE title. But Andrade had his sights on a second reign and earned Sunday's opportunity by winning a triple-threat match against Kevin Owens and an ally of his, Angel Garza, this past Monday night.
Andrade was accompanied by Zelina Vega and Garza, while Owens emerged to lend his voice to commentary and ultimately lend a hand to Crews if need be. To nobody's surprise, it would be needed.
The first big spot of the match occurred after the two made their way to the outside of the ring and Crews back dropped Andrade onto the steel entrance ramp. He followed that up with a beautiful moonsault off the side of the ring. A few sequences later, back inside the ring, Crews connected with a belly-to-belly suplex, sending Andrade into the turnbuckle, and followed with a Stinger splash.
Andrade battled back and began to shift the tide in his favor when he hit a springboard/draping DDT on the champ inside the ring. But even that wasn't enough.
Crews initially appeared primed for a victory after connecting with a gorilla press slam/standing moonsault/standing shooting star press combo, but Garza distracted the referee from the ensuing pinfall attempt. Owens stepped in and delivered a stunner to Garza on the outside of the ring. That allowed Crews to catch Andrade with his patented twisting sit-down power bomb for the win.
What's next: While Crews defeated Andrade on Sunday, I'd expect Garza, and even Owens, who assisted him, to remain in the United States championship picture.