Jeff Hardy beat Randy Orton at WWE Backlash Sunday night in Newark, New Jersey, to retain the United States Championship.
Orton looked to be in control after hitting a draping DDT on Hardy. But the champion regained his senses and surprised Orton with a Twist of Fate. That set up the Swanton Bomb for the victory:
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Bryan Alvarez thought Hardy and Orton delivered a solid back-and-forth affair:
Aubrey Sitterson and the Miami Herald's Scott Fishman thought the matchup itself was a bit of a throwback:
The U.S. title scene has taken several twists and turns in recent weeks, and it began when Jinder Mahal won a Fatal 4-Way at WrestleMania 34, which resulted in Orton dropping the championship.
Mahal's reign was short-lived, however, as Hardy beat him on the Superstar Shake-up edition of Raw. Hardy was then moved to SmackDown Live, and he brought the United States Championship with him.
The Modern Day Maharaja had a chance to win the title back at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but Hardy retained and ensured that the title would remain part of the blue brand.
Since Orton won a Triple Threat match for the No. 1 contendership while Mahal was still champion, he quickly became Hardy's chief rival.
Upon Hardy's arrival to SmackDown, the veteran Superstars engaged in a game of one-upmanship.
After Hardy interrupted Orton's attempt to accept a challenge from Shelton Benjamin, the tables were turned the following week.
Orton and Hardy then teamed up on the go-home edition of SmackDown to face Benjamin and The Miz, and while they came out on top, it was clear that they weren't on the same page.
After letting Hardy pick up the win with a Swanton Bomb, The Viper took full advantage of the situation by laying him out with an RKO.
Orton and Hardy each entered Backlash as fan favorites, and while it didn't initially appear that they had any problems with each other, that changed when WWE's Apex Predator struck.
The future Hall of Famers had faced each other on several occasions prior to Sunday, but they hadn't locked horns in more than 10 years because Hardy had a lengthy hiatus from WWE.
Despite that, they didn't seem to miss a beat at Backlash, as they put on a solid match that effectively told the story of the U.S. title's importance.
Hardy's win suggests he will be the midcard anchor on SmackDown moving forward, while Orton will be free to move further up the card provided the creative team has more substantial plans for him.
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