Sunday night marked the first brand-exclusive pay-per-view of WWE’s new era as SmackDown Live hosted Backlash in Richmond, Virginia. The show was headlined by the WWE World Championship match between Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles with an advertised undercard led by Randy Orton against Bray Wyatt and Dolph Ziggler challenging The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship.
Backlash also saw the crowning of the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions, Heath Slater and Rhyno, as well as the first-ever SmackDown Women’s Champion, Becky Lynch. Slater and Rhyno defeated the newly-turned Usos in the finals of the tag team tournament after Jimmy and Jey got by the Hype Bros. Becky was the last woman standing in the six pack elimination challenge that kicked off the main show.
Had the card played out as originally advertised, the WWE may have pulled off a respectable pay-per-view. However, Randy Orton was pulled from his match with Bray Wyatt because of a concussion he suffered at the hands of Brock Lesnar in the main event of SummerSlam. Orton did appear, however, working a backstage segment with Wyatt where the Eater of Worlds attacked The Viper, inflicting damage on Orton’s ankle and rendering him unable to compete from a storyline perspective.
In a report from Daily Wrestling News, WWE officials were made aware that Orton might not be cleared for the match about a week ago, but still proceeded as if he would be able to wrestle. While there was some argument over whether or not Orton actually had a concussion, it is confirmed that he does. Randy passed several impact concussion tests since the SummerSlam match, but not consistently enough to give WWE doctors enough confidence to give him the green light and potentially cause him further damage.
We previously noted that Orton has a major upper hand over his employer because of this ordeal, to the point that because he worked the angle with Lesnar and came out of it with staples and a concussion, he should have a job for life. The entire Orton family have a lawsuit waiting at any time should the WWE attempt to do anything to Orton that would be considered unprofessional.
The puzzling thing from Backlash, however, is that the WWE still allowed Orton to work the event, and specifically, to hit an RKO on Wyatt during his impromptu match with Kane. If the concussion is in fact, real, as many outlets have confirmed, then it would stand to reason that the company should have held off on Orton appearing in front of the live crowd to hit a move that requires him to leave his feet and take a bump on the mat.
The backstage attack segment may have still been ok, especially since the match was being advertised all the way through the start of the night. It gave the fans an explanation they might not have otherwise gotten as to why Orton would be unable to compete. But, in the big picture, it comes down to false advertising more than anything, because apparently there was always the chance that he couldn’t wrestle after suffering the injury on August 21.
What’s even more interesting now is that Orton’s rematch with Lesnar, scheduled to take place at a WWE live event in Chicago on September 24, is also in jeopardy. Many questioned why the company would book such a high profile match for a non-televised house show in the first place, and now they may be forced to postpone it anyway. Lesnar is only contractually obligated to appear at a select amount of shows, so it will be interesting to see what they do with him for that night if Orton is still not cleared.
Attendance would likely be much higher with Lesnar and Orton on the card, but the backlash could be significant if they’re pulled. In any event, this will extend the Orton-Wyatt rivalry at least another month, assuming Orton is eventually cleared before No Mercy and they don’t have to go in a different direction with Bray.
[Image via WWE]