With the biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania, firmly in the rear-view mirror WWE offered up the first PPVs for both Raw and Smackdown of the post-Undertaker era. Backlash and Payback were both built around a combination of new and returning stars having their first programmes on their respective brands, and the spill over of feuds that weren't quite settled at Wrestlemania. However, as with the two February PPVs, given the sheer number of big shows WWE produce of the course of the year the two post-Mania shows have been packaged together as a DVD bundle for the UK release.
The first Raw branded show after Wrestlemania was a strange one, considering it also featured a match that featured the WWE champion in a non-title match, and did not feature a match for Raw's world title (the Universal title). It's an odd situation brought about by the circumstances of the post-Wrestlemania "Superstar shake-up", which essentially functioned as a miniature talent swap for the two brands. When people look back on this show, while it was a fine show, it will mostly be remembered for the now-infamous House of Horrors match between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. Watching again removed from the hoopla and outrage, the actual match is not as terrible as first thought. The brawl in the house isn't great, is full of plot holes, and probably could have been something a bit better executed, but it was a silly, fun match that in an odd way I really enjoyed. The brawl between the two back at the arena is fine for what it was, and the finish certainly switches Orton's attention to his feud with Jinder Mahal on Smackdown, and their match at Backlash, so it made plenty of sense for this to play out the way it did. However, I would say Wyatt looked pretty silly for being willing to go through such an elaborately laid out match concept without having it be for the WWE title he lost, a rematch in kayfabe terms he would have been entitled to. Still, not as bad as I recalled.
Outside of the House of Horrors, Payback is a fine, if not especially memorable show. Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho was an enjoyable clash, although I preferred their bout at Wrestlemania; The Hardys vs Sheamus and Cesaro was a passable tag match, with a fart more interesting post-match. Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman was a cracking brawl, and a worthy main event, and it certainly made Strowman look like a monster, however it wasn't super memorable compared to their ambulance match at Great balls of Fire. Bayley vs Alexa Bliss was an odd affair, with a very surprising ending especially in Bayley’s home town, which when combined with the pre-recorded nature of much of the House of Horrors match, seemed to let the air out of the crowd somewhat, which hampered much of the latter part of the show. Equally I would say that Neville vs Austin Aries was a cracking match up to the finish, and Samoa Joe vs Seth Rollins was a really good, hard-hitting contest. As such, it is very much a thumbs in the middle sort of show for me, but certainly not as bad as some would have you believe.
Backlash, was more of an odd show. Over the past year, Smackdown has been a show that has given opportunities to talent who were perhaps underutilised prior to the brand split. However, since having some of its biggest talent moved to Raw in the shakeup the brand has struggled, and as such the blue brand was forced to try and create some new stars, hence Jinder Mahal getting a WWE title shot, the big push, and a very surprising win over Randy Orton on this show for the big belt. The match itself was fairly average, and if I'm honest it loses quite a lot of the intrigue and novelty value on second watch. However, the undercard for this show is very good, so that certainly compensates for a less than stellar main. Kevin Owens vs AJ Styles was a really good match up until the finish, which while cheap was one I certainly understand the logic behind and has helped continue the feud between Styles and Owens. Baron Corbin vs Sami Zayn was a good match, although Zayn getting the win seemed a strange move given Corbin is clearly the company’s priority for the future. The Welcoming Committee vs Charlotte, Naomi, and Becky Lynch was a surprisingly straight forward affair given the teases of tension between the babyfaces in the build-up, and Luke Harper vs Erick Rowan was essentially a time filler.
There were two stand-out moments for me on this show, however. Firstly, The Fashion Police AKA Breezango had a really fun comedy match with The Usos. Well, I say a comedy match and it was for Breezango, while The Usos came across as tough-as-nails heel bad-asses. Secondly, Shinsuke Nakamura vs Dolph Ziggler was a fine opener, and Nakamura's entrance felt like a really big deal opening the show. The match perhaps wasn’t everything it could have been, and perhaps Ziggler had a little too much offence for my liking, but it was a nice opener and achieved the aim of making Nakamura seem like a big deal.
These two shows are very much a mixed bag, and individually neither is a particularly blow-away show, but combined in one release you certainly get enough top-drawer action and story development to make this worth a watch, and while I feel this release is more aimed at completists it is certainly good value for money based on the action on offer.
EXTRAS: The extras here are, as expected mostly comprised of the two respective kick-off shows hyping the events. For Payback that included a segment with The Miz hosting Finn Balor on Miz TV which was fairly pointless and went absolutely nowhere and a tag match featuring Enzo & Big Cass against Gallows & Anderson. For Backlash, the main feature on the kick-off features Tye Dillinger vs Aiden English in an utterly forgettable affair. Not a lot to see here, but nothing offensively bad either.