It may come as no surprise to WWE fans that the match rated the best of the bunch from WWE’s Backlash 2017 pay-per-view was AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens. The two WWE SmackDown Live stars competed over Owens’ WWE United States Championship in a singles bout which had been set in motion ahead of the Payback pay-per-view. Both WWE superstars brought their best performance to the ring and despite an unsatisfying finish for some, it still kept the feud going as well as Owens’ persona as one of SmackDown’s top heel performers now.
As reported by WWE Leaks, the Styles vs. Owens match was awarded three and three-quarters stars out of five by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. That made it the highest-rated match of Backlash 2017, edging out the opening bout which featured Shinsuke Nakamura making his main roster debut against “The Showoff” Dolph Ziggler. Surprisingly, that opening match didn’t receive tons of praise from many fans, analysts or journalists, as it seemed a lackluster way to debut “The King of Strong Style.” Nakamura and Ziggler’s match garnered a two and three-quarters star rating by Meltzer in comparison. Both matches clearly beat out the main event in which Jinder Mahal captured the WWE World Championship.
The highest-rated match from the pay-per-view featured two of WWE’s best workers right now in AJ Styles and Kevin Owens. The match went just over 21 minutes in total time, as reported by Wrestling Inc in their Backlashpay-per-view results coverage. During the contest, AJ Styles continued to favor his knee as he was said to have previously hurt it on SmackDown ahead of the PPV. That would come into play later on as Owens targetted the injury. However, Styles got in his fair share of offense too despite Owens dominating quite a bit.
Owens had one moment in the match where he delivered three brutal senton bombs onto Styles. In another spot, he hit a package style neck breaker for a near fall, and then a cannonball onto Styles before locking him into a single leg crab submission. Styles managed to weather the storm of Owens’ attack and even countered an Owens move into a powerbomb from the corner.
At one point, Styles set up for his trademark Phenomenal Forearm, but the bad leg gave out on him. That allowed Owens to hit a DDT for a near fall. After some taunting from Owens, Styles retaliated with his Pele kick. Later, “The Phenomenal” one was able to hit a serious suplex with Owens on the ring apron followed by a flying forearm off the barricade near the timekeeper’s area.
The finish saw Styles attempt to hit the huge spot on the commentators’ table when he set up Owens for the Styles Clash there. However, the crafty champion escaped it and Styles leg somehow got caught in one of the openings on top of the table. Owens got himself back into the ring while Styles found himself unable to get free of all the cables and wires his leg had become tangled in. That caused Styles to be counted out and allowed Kevin Owens to retain his WWE United States Championship. The champion would add further injury by leaving the ring post-match to kick Styles from behind while he was still caught up in the tangled mess.
While fans had been hoping for a big finish inside the ring, the majority of the action in this match is what brought it such a high rating. It probably isn’t a major surprise to most fans who have watched these two superstars perform over their careers as both guys have been known to put on an entertaining match. The fact that these are just two of the six performers in the upcoming 2017 WWE Money in the Bank ladder match probably has plenty of fans giddy over the possible spots coming in that exciting future match.
WWE fans, do you believe that AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens was deserving of the highest-rated match on the WWE Backlash 2017 card, or did another match deserve that honor?
[Featured Image by WWE]