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Can’t Knock The Hustle: WWE Backlash France Review


The Smackdown crowd in Lyon, France was absolutely on fire. From the videos I’ve seen of the Backlash crowd before the show got underway, it looks like that will continue here. At this rate, I’m not expecting to see the United States hosting very many WWE pay-per-view events moving forward. These international crowds are making the American fans look awful.

I’m not sure what to expect here. On paper, all five matches look like they’ll be good. At the same time, a lot of people are looking at this like a glorified house show with matches that will be fun, but that have relatively obvious outcomes. Time will tell.

 

Kevin Owens & Randy Orton vs Solo Sikoa & Tama Tonga

Sure enough, this crowd is incredible. There’s just over 11,500 people in the building, but it sounds like at least triple that number. They’re LOUD AS HELL as they sing along to Orton’s entrance music.

The match hasn’t even gotten underway, and all four men are brawling at ringside. They’re continuing the fight from Smackdown. All sorts of Referees and Officials are out to break things up. This brings Nick Aldis out to announce that the match is now a Street Fight. Good call. The opening bell is heard, and we have ourselves an official match now.

The entire match has been happening in the crowd to this point, and the fans are eating it up. They’re almost literally popping for every strike and move.

The majority of the first several minutes were the faces beating the piss out of the heels. Then, the tide changed, and guess what? Now the heels are beating the piss out of the faces. This has been a physical, physical match. Tama has welts and scratches all over his back and arms from kendo stick shots. They’re all going to be feeling miserable on the plane ride home.

What I just said? Make that triple for Tama now. He took a half dozen chair shots to the back, then took a Brainbuster from the top turnbuckle through four chairs. Jesus Herbert Christ.

Tanga Loa makes his return to the company for the first time in a decade! Tama Tonga’s brother used to wrestle as Donny Marlow in FCW when that was WWE’s developmental territory and closed his chapter with the company as Camacho. He helps Solo and Tama get the win, and The Bloodline grows even stronger. It wasn’t the Jacob Fatu debut that a lot of people were hoping for, but I enjoyed it. Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa have won 12 titles together, and are immediately a threat to dominate the tag scene on Smackdown.

This match was so much fun to watch. They got about 20 minutes to work with, and they all beat the hell out of each other for every second of that time, in front of a very appreciative crowd. 4.25 Stars

 

Bayley vs Tiffany Stratton vs Naomi – Triple Threat Match for the WWE Women’s Title

After all of that craziness in the opening match, the crowd is still going out of their minds. They were loud for all three entrances here, and have been loud for the start of the match, as well.

Lots of clunky spots so far, with almost all of them being the fault of Naomi and Tiffany. Call it nerves or whatever else you want, but it hasn’t been smooth sailing so far.

Maybe it was just a case of nerves, as both Naomi and Tiffany were able to bounce back with strong performances after that awkward first few minutes. The match, as a whole, got better the longer it went on. If it had a few more minutes to work with, I think we could’ve had something really fun. As it was, I think I’m going with score of 3.25 Stars.

As expected, Bayley retains her title. I have no doubt that it will be “Tiffy Time” sooner than later, but not today.

 

Damian Priest vs Jey Uso – World Heavyweight Title Match

As a side note, it appears to be hot as all hell in the arena. People have been sweating their asses off from the beginning of the show. During a backstage segment before this match, Paul Heyman was shown looking like he was fresh out of the sauna, with his spray tan running all down his cheeks and neck.

Jey Uso’s entrance is already a bit of a spectacle, but with this crowd? THE ENTIRE ARENA is waving their arms with Jey, with their cell phone lights shining, as they sing along to his entrance music. Jeez.

More Judgment Day drama! JD McDonagh and his big ass head come out to interfere in the match, drawing the ire of Priest, who continues to tell his teammates that he doesn’t need their help.

I like that the match is picking up the pace and building momentum as it goes on. Those types of matches can be a ton of fun.

Now Finn Balor runs out, although his interference attempt was thwarted immediately by Jey. Priest isn’t going to be happy about this at all.

More interference from McDonagh, putting Priest’s foot on the bottom rope to break up a pin attempt from Jey. Now we’re getting a “fuck you, JD” chant. Deserved.

The champion retains his title after a ton of assistance from his Judgment Day boys. After the match, Balor and McDonagh attack Jey, but Priest breaks it up. Very interesting. The crowd seemed like they were waiting for an official face turn, but it didn’t happen. Priest ordered Balor and McDonagh to simply stand next to him so that he could pose with his title.

Pretty good match. It didn’t reach “great” status, but not everything needs to do so. 3.75 Stars. Too much interference and shenaniganery for my liking, keeping it from being rated higher.

 

Asuka & Kairi Sane vs Bianca Belair & Jade Cargill – WWE Women’s Tag Team Title Match

This has been an interesting match to prognosticate for. Obviously, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have Jade Cargill get pinned or submitted here, and Bianca Belair rarely loses at all. From the 2022 Royal Rumble until today… a span of over 27 months… Bianca has been on the losing end of a total of ten matches on television or pay-per-view. One of those matches was by count-out, two of those matches were Royal Rumbles, and one of those matches was of the tag variety and it was her partner who was pinned.

With all that said, though, it seems like the “popular” pick is for the champions to leave France with their titles. Dakota Kai is in the building, so is a disqualification in our near future?

WWE has done a really good job of protecting Jade Cargill so far. She hasn’t done much in her matches, but she hasn’t needed to. I don’t think anyone was expecting her to be working 30-minute singles bouts at this stage, but everything she does is meaningful, and live crowds love every minute of it.

Very awkward moments with Kairi going for a pin, only to be told by the Referee that she isn’t the legal member of her team. Then Kairi goes for a submission… only to be told again that she isn’t the legal member of her team. Then Kairi and Jade just continue wrestling as Asuka stands on the apron.

You know, folks, I don’t think Jade Cargill is a human being. The power moves that she pulled off here were incredible, throwing her opponents around as if they were toddlers.

We didn’t get a disqualification. We also aren’t getting a glorified house show here, either, because we have brand new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. The match was sloppy. There were a ton of timing issues, with someone missing a spot, not breaking up a pin in time, and so on. That really hurts the overall score, which is a shame, as the rest of what we got was entertaining. 3 Stars

 

Cody Rhodes vs AJ Styles – Undisputed WWE Title Match

Everyone in Def Rebel should be in jail for what they’ve done to so many of these WWE entrance themes. They’re awful. Just awful, cookie cutter bullshit with the names and catchphrases sprinkled in.

What isn’t awful is the first round of the King Of The Ring tournament. We’ve been given four matches on the Raw side of things, and they are…

– Kofi Kingston vs Rey Mysterio

– Drew McIntyre vs Finn Balor

– Ricochet vs Ilja Dragunov

– Sheamus vs Gunther

That’s quite the lineup, and it’s just the first round on one side of the bracket!

I don’t have a fucking clue what they were saying, but the crowd was singing something during the ring introduction of AJ Styles, and the camera was BOUNCING up and down because of how raucous they were. Not just shaking a little bit. BOUNCING. The shot of AJ’s face was rocking so much that I had to look away because it felt like I was getting motion sickness.

Almost on cue, Corey Graves says that the song the crowd is singing is a celebratory tune involving the word “Phenomenal,” which is why they’re singing it for AJ. Makes sense.

I don’t give a flying fuck about how often I’m mentioning the crowd. This is one of the best crowds in the history of the business, and they’re making a strong case for being THE best crowd. They continue to be red hot for everything on the show, and they’re chanting and cheering as if this was the opening match, like they haven’t been going nuts for the last three-plus hours.

Cody and AJ are treating this like it’s a pay-per-view main event for the biggest title in the industry. They’re really laying their offense in. This has been very physical so far.

Kudos to both men. They started the match off strong, and neither of them took their foot off the pedal for over 25 minutes. To the surprise of approximately zero people, Cody retains here, but both men deserve their flowers. This was great. 4.5 Stars

 

A really strong showing for WWE here. Two great matches bookend a show that featured nothing skip-worthy. We got a (character) debut, a title change, and perhaps the best crowd that the sport has ever seen. Lots to like here. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already done so.



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