Matt Wilansky recaps every match in Sunday's WWE Backlash pay-per-view card, which took place at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. Senior stats analyst Sean Coyle offers ratings worth a maximum of five points. Criteria for ratings is based on storytelling, in-ring execution, match psychology, timing and innovation -- worth up to one point each.
The following was updated in real time.
Jinder Mahal def. Randy Orton (c) via pinfall to win WWE championship
A complete recap of this match can be found here.
Luke Harper def. Erick Rowan via pinfall
Coming off the brutal AJ Styles-Kevin Owens encounter, the match between former Wyatt members Erick Rowan and Luke Harper was a nearly impossible act to follow. Still, the storyline is a decent one, even if the overall intensity of their matches has failed to meet the narrative.
Predictably, this was slow moving at first, but Harper took the battle to the outside, slamming his former friend's head into the announcer's table and then following it up with a running dive through the middle ropes that further planted Rowan into the table.
Rowan recovered and showed some decent in-ring prowess with a nice power bomb, but Harper eventually ended the match with two superkicks and a modified discus clothesline for the three count.
This match was what it was: essentially filler to let fans exhale from Styles-Owens and get ready for the championship match between Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal. Still, it seems as though there is opportunity to build Harper. He's over with the fans, and he's the more athletic of the two former Wyatt members. There was a brief time when creative seemed like it wanted to push Harper, before doing a 180. Harper would do well in the ring against the likes of Dolph Ziggler and even potentially Owens, among others.
Kevin Owens (c) def. AJ Styles via count-out
The egos in this match were almost too large for a big-screen television, but the anticipation between Kevin Owens and AJ Styles was equally off the chart.
From the beginning, before even a first notable move was made, there was a sense this could be something special, that this match could be the beginning of a long-standing storyline between two of the most accomplished champions of the past year and a half.
The "new face of America" peered evilly at the crowd and at Styles as the crowd changed its chant from "AJ Styles" to "stupid idiot," a reminder of Owens' heated battles against former best friend Chris Jericho.
It took a few minutes before the two competitors really began going, each trying to work his way into the match. Owens took an early advantage with a DDT, but Styles countered with a nasty-looking face-buster to Owens, then landed a kick to the back of the heel's head.
Back and forth they went. Owens converted a paralyzing neck-breaker and a little later a cannonball into the corner, before a second one that landed on Styles' right leg, which was twisted in the ropes. Owens continued to work on Styles' leg with a single-leg crab, but Styles refused to tap.
The intensity was picking up, smartly and methodically, until Styles was able to counter and stuck a sunset flip power bomb on Owens, stunning the United States champ. Styles, then looking for a phenomenal forearm, couldn't convert the move as his leg gave way on the rope. He still managed to land a Pele kick on Owens and then set up the move of the match.
Owens caught a weary Styles on the top rope and converted an incredible suplex from the top rope, but Styles countered with apron suplex of his own. The collective grimaces and moans from the crowd was all you need to know about that move. It was a signal that brutality was picking up -- and big time.
From the barricade, Styles landed a Phenomenal Forearm on Owens, but then the heel did what heels do. As Styles was about to put Owens through the table, Owens caused Styles' leg to get stuck in the table, resulting in a count-out.
With Styles' leg caught in the announcer's table, Owens jumped back outside the ring and kicked Styles in the back of the head. In fairness, it seemed like the correct ending. Giving Styles the United States championship doesn't seem fitting, not when he is the most popular wrestler on SmackDown and perhaps the WWE overall. Owens showed that his pernicious behavior hasn't fallen at all since Jericho. He's still a nasty, dirty performer.
Natalya, Carmella and Tamina def. Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Naomi via submission (Natalya def. Lynch)
There was plenty of unity from the more accomplished team of Charlotte Flair, Naomi and Becky Lynch when this six-person tag-team match began. The "woooo" chants by the crowd instilled some energy into a match, which had a bit of a David-Goliath feel. The question, though, was whether the aforementioned unity would last the entire match.
Early on, the smooth tag team work of Natalya, Carmella and Tamina, The Welcome Committee, beat down Charlotte, a four-time champ in the WWE, but a quick tag to current title-holder Naomi changed the direction of the match.
Tamina, who says little and has even less charisma, began to quell Naomi's momentum, highlighted by a Samoan Drop. Natalya then tagged in and began to take her licks at the champ. Eventually, Becky entered the ring and brought "straight fire" on to every member of The Welcome Committee, until Natalya caught her in a sharp shooter, which ended the match very abruptly.
The winning result by the underdogs itself isn't all that surprising. SmackDown has a dearth of name heels on its roster after the loss of Alexa Bliss to Monday Night Raw. The show has to build these three characters. The problem is that the solo acts for these three aren't going to resonate. For now, though, we can say there is a legit faction, which will help carry storylines for the near future. It's just hard to picture The Welcoming Committee being a team worthy of being featured in SummerSlam or high-end pay-per-views.
Sami Zayn def. Baron Corbin via pinfall
The trajectory of Sami Zayn has been a little confusing, to say the least. He debuted in WWE with so much momentum, highlighted by his feud with Owens, which poured over from their NXT days. But of late, Zayn has been relegated to jobber guy, albeit a hugely popular one.
As JBL said in the broadcast, "You do a couple flips, do a couple flops." It's not going to make you a superstar and that sentiment appeared to be true in Zayn's case.
So certainly, there was no chance he was going to get over on Baron Corbin, one of SmackDown's top heels, right?
Corbin has found little time in the main spotlight, perhaps becoming a victim of a build that's been too low for his own good. The match started slow and methodically, with Corbin wearing down his smaller opponent. Bear hugs, right hands and spine-busters took their toll on Zayn.
Out of nowhere, Zayn clobbered Corbin with a clothesline. Corbin countered with a devastating clothesline of his own and then a backbreaker, further inflicting damage to Zayn's back.
Zayn had an initial opportunity in the match when he converted a sunset-flip power bomb. Moments later, after the momentum had shifted, Zayn kicked out of a Deep Six, showing his oversize heart, which has been the centerpiece of his success in the WWE.
When it all looked over and done for Zayn, he found a way. A Helluva Kick knocked the lights out of Corbin, giving Zayn a stunning win.
In a vacuum, this was an entertaining match, but the result was a confusing one, especially as far as building Corbin, who has lost his past two pay-per-view matches in which he was an overwhelming favorite.
What the creative team is trying to do with both Zayn and Corbin is anyone's guess, but the bottom line is that fans love Zayn, and they respect his effort. And they sure as heck loved Sunday's result.
The first question heading into Sunday's tag team title match was whether Breezango's title match could live up to their hilarious "Fashion Files" spoofs.
We were reminded of their levity before the match with a recent promo mocking The Usos: "They're good. They're scary. Their hair is so well-conditioned."
Moments into the match, Tyler Breeze, disguised as a janitor, was inside the ring, mopping it before getting clobbered in the head. Breeze appeared to be doing some rope-a-dope and leaped up to nail Jimmy Uso with a devastating kick.
Eventually, Fandango entered the ring, and when we saw his partner again, on the side of the ring, Breeze was dressed as an old lady and landed a sweet dropkick.
"Let's go, grandma," the crown sang.
They were loving it. The Usos were in shock.
The champs soon regained their composure and nearly pinned Breeze with some high-flying maneuvers off the top rope. They then threw Breeze over the barricade to take him out of the match.
When Fandango, the legal man, went up the top rope after a flurry of offense, Jey Uso struck him with a match-ending superkick.
Amid all the fun, the Usos showed why they are the longest-standing SmackDown Live champions. They work incredibly well as villainous heels, and that is often overlooked in the wrestling universe.
Given their recent rise to prominence, it's likely that Breezango will have another chance at the titles and certainly a run as champs in the near future. They are incredibly over and are incredibly talented, especially for a team that was little more than entertainment value for so long.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Dolph Ziggler via pinfall
We've been waiting for what seems an eternity for Shinsuke Nakamura to debut on the WWE main roster, and when the lights went out and the music hit, the fans at the Allstate Arena yelled and sang with delight as he made his way to the ring.
Nakamura's entrance lasted for at least three minutes, a fitting and anticipated first appearance, but a riveting one nonetheless. The only potential downfall was that there was likely not going to be an entrance that could match this one for the rest of the night.
There was early gamesmanship and taunting. Ziggler was methodical, wearing down Nakamura, including a nasty-looking neck-breaker, soon followed by an explosive dropkick.
Nakamura was able to turn the match around a few moments later, highlighted by a MMA-like triangle submission move. Ziggler, though, countered with a huge superkick that gave him a two-count and then a zig-zag that also led to the near fall. Later, a kick to the back of Namakura's head almost ended the bout.
But this was going to be Nakamura's night, no question about it.
It didn't take long before Nakamura took control for good, and he ultimately nailed Ziggler with his Kinshasa knee strike to finish the match.
It was a fine debut from Nakamura, who finally had a match 47 days after being called up to SmackDown. The two-time NXT star had appeared in only a handful of live promos before Sunday, but they have pretty entertaining, especially given the character juxtaposition with his first opponent.
There's no doubt the Ziggler match was merely the first step for Nakamura, who is going to be a staple in title narratives as long as he is in the WWE. He's different, believable and adored.