WWE Backlash 2017: The Jinder Mahal Era and Top Takeaways from Latest PPV Event
Jinder Mahal is the new WWE champion.
While fans are aware that anything can happen in the WWE, that did not prevent the shock waves that vibrated online after Backlash ended. Why did the company do it? Why was Mahal given such an enormous responsibility yet he's such an undeserving talent?
Those are just some of the questions being asked, and it's likely not going to stop any time soon. But while fans digest the events that occurred on May 21, it's clear that several things stand out besides the main event.
The women of SmackDown Live had an entertaining match as Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Naomi took on the team of Natalya, Carmella and Tamina. Though Naomi's SmackDown Women's Championship was not on the line, her top contenders were all on hand so fans could see her potential future matchups.
Luke Harper defeated Erick Rowan in a match that was personal for both men. Harper and Rowan were the cornerstones of The Wyatt Family, but they couldn't be further away from each other now. However, they will probably always be linked throughout their WWE careers, thanks to their past with Bray Wyatt.
Sami Zayn surprisingly defeated Baron Corbin. That win now has many fans wondering if Zayn will be in line for a WWE title shot at some point, which would, of course, be a great thing for his career. Corbin has been booked as a top star, and now Zayn has bragging rights over him.
Aiden English suffered a loss at the hands of Tye Dillinger. The Perfect 10 delivered on his nickname and had a good showing against the former Vaudevillain.
But while those four matches had a little something for everyone, it's the other four that still have people talking. When it comes to being memorable, these four definitely fit the bill. They also provide some important takeaways for fans who can't stop talking about what they saw at Backlash.
Nakamura Showed Respect to Dolph Ziggler and the WWE
Shinsuke Nakamura finally made his main-roster debut, and for many, it was a long time coming.
The King of Strong Style's debut on SmackDown Live was one of the most anticipated moments in recent memory. Nakamura's time in NXT prepped the WWE faithful, who couldn't wait to see him on prime-time TV.
Nakamura took on Dolph Ziggler at Backlash, in a match that saw The Showoff go down in a losing effort. But it's about much more than just the loss itself. The most important part of this match was the level of competition between them.
Ziggler was not a pushover, and no one expected him to be. But they perhaps did not expect him to dominate the match the way he did.
Ziggler did what he did best, and he did it while in full control of the bout. This was far from a squash match, and it was in no way a grand debut for Nakamura. It could be said that Nakamura was fighting for his life in this one.
It's a great example of a guy who chose to show respect not only to his opponent, but to his company.
Ziggler has worked his entire WWE career to get over, and he deserves recognition for being one of the best hands in the business today. Nakamura surely recognized that, and he took the backseat in the match so Ziggler could be the driver.
New Japan was Nakamura's playground, but he's in the WWE now. Had he come in and taken control of this match as if Ziggler was nothing more than an enhancement talent, he would surely not have made any friends in Vince McMahon's company. Nakamura vs. Ziggler may not have been a five-star match to some, but it was a definite sign of respect from a veteran who is only just getting started in the WWE.
Breezango Is Getting over
When Tyler Breeze and Fandango began tagging together on SmackDown Live, many fans groaned.
They groaned because once again two guys with little in common were thrown together in a tag team with no purpose. The WWE has made that move for years. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. In the case of Breezango, it seemed to be the latter.
But that's not the case anymore.
Breeze and Fandango are getting over, and their match with The Usos at Backlash is proof positive of that. The intensity and attitude shown by The Usos was in stark contrast to the comedy act of Breezango during the bout.
Of course, comedy is not for every pro wrestling fan, so there will be some who likely won't be too happy with what they saw.
But Breeze's quick-change antics aside, the fact is the crowd loved the match. They could have turned on Breezango and booed them out of the building at any point, but that did not happen. Jimmy and Jey Uso played along and made it all look good, which is what they should have done.
The Usos' purpose as heels is not necessarily to get over, but to get their opponents over.
There's no denying that's precisely what they're doing for Breezango. Fandango and Breeze may not last forever as a team. They may or may not become SmackDown Live tag team champions. But they are entertaining, they're fun and they're steadily getting over.
Fans may not be groaning for much longer.
Aj Styles vs. Kevin Owens Is Not over Yet
Fans expected AJ Styles and Kevin Owens to be the best match of the night, and it arguably was. But their feud is likely not over yet.
KO and AJ match up so well together because they're so similar. Each man came up on the independent scene, and each man is considered to be among the best in the business. They learned their craft outside of the WWE, but they're both achieving their highest level of fame now.
The fact that they're doing it together makes it even more important.
Styles and Owens are not holding back, and fans knew that would be the case. Every time the two have faced each other, the match was top-notch, and the same was true of Backlash. Owens and Styles were made for moments like that one, and there should be many more to come.
That's true not only because of how great their chemistry is, but also because of how their match ended.
AJ was trapped outside the ring, unable to beat the 10-count. KO won the match, but he did not pin The Phenomenal One, which means it's not over yet. Owens is a heel and will take any shortcut to ensure he leaves with the United States Championship.
But that title will surely be going to Styles sooner or later.
The WWE has a main event rivalry on its hands, and the proper time should be taken for it to grow. Owens and Styles deserve time to tell their story, which means one match won't get the job done. KO's title is at stake, and AJ's ego says he has to win.
That combination is a great one for fans who can't wait to see these two face off again.
Jinder Mahal Now Has to Prove Himself
Once the fan frenzy subsides, one thing will become clear about Jinder Mahal's win over Randy Orton at Backlash; he now has to prove himself.
Many believed he had not done that before Backlash, and they're right. Mahal took a role that was given to him, and he made the best of it. He got into character, and he did so with a lot of intensity. He had to be a menacing brute, and he did just that.
But he did little to prove he deserved the opportunity. That part comes now.
Mahal got the spot, he made it look good, and now he has the belt. But there's no time for him to rest on his accomplishments, because now the real work begins. Mahal has to earn what he's been given, and he also has to earn respect.
He must find a way to be the hungry heel yet bring respect to the WWE Championship as well. The only way to do that is by getting in the ring and turning in a great match. He will need the right opponents to do that of course, so much of the work now falls to WWE's booking.
If the booking is right, then Mahal will be right as well.
Oftentimes a Superstar's road to the top is his proving ground. But Mahal didn't have a road to the top, so he must use the time he has now to show what he can do. If the WWE made a mistake or overestimated his ability to wear the championship convincingly, then all of this was a waste of time.
But if Mahal steps up and begins impressing fans, then he will earn his place among the elite of the company. Fans may not like the WWE's move to put him there, but he's in it now. The onus is on him to prove he should be.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at BoinkStudios.com