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After a strangely acclaimed but I felt disappointingly 50/50 WrestleMania (Night #1 was awesome, Night #2 eek), the fans’ next return is looking to loom at the biggest party of the summer SummerSlam, until then we are back in a new Thunderdome, and that’s not the only thing that is back. Backlash for years was the Mania follow-up event from 1999 to 2009, until it was shelved for a few years and reborn in 2016, since then the event has jumped around the summer and autumn seasons. Now, the event is back where it belongs and has been renamed WrestleMania Backlash. But – barring the highly intriguing Universal title picture with Roman Reigns, Cesaro and Roman’s at loggerheads cousins Jey and a returning Jimmy Uso – the build up was pretty dire, with Raw especially needing a desperate jolt of energy. In spite of this, the card looked solid from a wrestling standpoint, so was this another Backlash to remember or a further extension of this year’s Mania letdown?
Here is what went down last night at WrestleMania Backlash…
1. Open Challenge (Kick-Off Show)
Sheamus vs. Ricochet
Sheamus’ non-title open challenges have been fun enough and I think we all expected Humberto Carillo or Mansoor here, so I was pleased as punch that the ever great Ricochet answered the call. The match made the best use of its short but ok duration, and Ricochet kept up with the US Champ blow for blow, coming within a whisker of victory, until a tooth rattling knee kept him down for the 3 count. Though afterwards, the defiant former US Champion would blindside Sheamus and dance around in his hat and coat much to the Irishman’s chagrin. Hey, if this gets Ricochet in a proper main show feud, I’m all for it. Hopefully this goes somewhere.
The show opened with a video package narrated by Batista which was pretty cool and oddly inter-cut with clips of his latest film, Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead on Netflix and in select cinemas, wonder if that’s the start of some big promotion for that movie later in the show…
2. WWE Raw Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Asuke vs. Charlotte Flair
Charlotte Flair entering in Cruella De Vil gear was a very nice touch (Cruella is out very soon), say what you like but her revived heel persona has been effective and we all genuinely weren’t counting her out for winning this one. Thankfully champion Rhea Ripley was able to extend her reign on this evening in a fun triple threat title bout that could have been even better considering the talents here but it was still pretty darn good and picked up well, being a good choice for the show’s opener. All the ladies got their licks in and the closing sequence was well done, as Charlotte kicked Asuke straight into Rhea’s finisher for the title-retaining victory. A stare down afterwards suggests The Queen is not finished hunting Rhea’s title just yet.
Backstage, John Morrison assures The Miz he’ll talk with the lumberjacks for his match and sway them in the A-lister’s favour.
3. WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match
The Dirty Dawgs (Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode) vs. Dominik and Rey Mysterio
In Extreme Rules 2018 Team Hell No vs. Bludgeon Brothers fashion, the heels Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode took out one half of their opponents prior (on the kick-off show), when they attacked Dominik Mysterio and tipped what looked like a heavy sofa on him. Meaning daddy Rey Mysterio had to go it alone here and he pulled out some great resilient fight in this 2-on-1 battle. Ziggler and Roode were outstanding as the nasty heels here, and Rey put in a performance reminiscent of his underdog gut checks of old. The Dawgs just could not keep him down and eventually Dominik made his way out to compete (bad ribs and all), with Rey begrudgingly tagging out and the Mysterio lads taking the fight back. The baddie champs nearly pulled it off but the Mysterio family would not be denied and Rey took out Dolph on the outside, leaving his son open to hit a frogsplash (Eddie Guerrero would be smiling) for the win. First ever father and son tag champs crowned and history made. Personally I’d have saved this for a crowd, as it was a really cool feel good moment and a tremendously told story, a match given great time and everyone had tip top chemistry together. So I would be happy to see all four go again. Very good stuff.
Backstage John Morrison walks into the lumberjacks’ locker room and finds a horde of zombies…oh boy! Here we go.
Also backstage, Jimmy and Jey Uso are debating about family loyalties, before Jimmy wishes Roman luck tonight, Reigns looks annoyed to say the least.
Morrison tries to convince Miz he saw the undead as they head to the ring, followed nearby by the legions of said zombies, well, this should be something shouldn’t it?
4. “Zombie” Lumberjack Match
Damian Priest vs. The Miz w/ John Morrison
Well, lets face it, this was always going to be the shenanigans match on the card. I expected anything from a “on a pole” stipulation to the revival of the Crybaby match (google it kids) but they went with a Lumberjack match, which was surprisingly bland. Or so we thought! Even the most experienced of wrestling fans couldn’t have prepared for zombies on the card. It was clear as day many would detest this idea over on social media but as stupid as it was, I’ve seen far far worse and the visual of the undead surrounding the ring in plumes of mist was a neat enough way to promote Army of the Dead. Plus I laughed at Corey Graves saying, “no, we’re not rebooting ECW again”, well played sir. It was what it was, a bloody ridiculous movie branded match, and the wildest movie/wrestling mash-up since Robocop joined forces with Sting or Chucky cut a promo back in WCW, but in some way it was worth it just to see John Morrison parkouring his butt off and flattening a few zombies. Match was overshadowed completely by the silliness, with Damian Priest thankfully winning and hopefully moving on to better things now. Oh, the aftermath saw the undead breach the ring and “eat” the fallen Miz too…in gore-free PG manner of course.
5. WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley
As many have already said, these two already had the unenviable task of keeping the Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks show stealing WrestleMania momentum going, let alone following zombies, so it was a tough tough spot for anyone to be in. I’ll admit, this one may be a match that fares better on a re-visit but on the night, it didn’t seem to quite click for me sadly. The action was fine and Bayley remains an ace heel but the energy didn’t feel quite as electric as it should and it didn’t help that the hair-assisted quick pinfall ending, that saw Bianca turn the tables on Bayley for the win, was a tad botched. One hopes that the next time these two meet, they get a bit of a better showing and..you know…don’t have to follow dinosaurs or something.
6. WWE Championship Triple Threat Match
Lashley (c) w/MVP vs. Braun Strowman vs. Drew McIntyre
Despite some iffy build, this beefy triple threat match had the potential to be a destruction derby and thankfully it was booked as such. Lashley, Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman clobbered each other with big high impact moves and eventually – thankfully – took the action to the outside where things really started getting good. Braun put in a particularly good performance, hitting a ring dive and catching McIntyre in mid air for a nice announcer’s table spot, while Lashley took a nicely delivered LED board crash (not for the first time in his career) as McIntyre threw him through the stage. McIntyre almost got the win in fact, as he clocked Braun with a Claymore, but Lashley recovered, tossed Drew out and hit a spear to retain the gold. Good decision and hopefully Lashley gets a good programme going into the newly announced moved up Hell in a Cell PPV in June.
7. WWE Universal Championship Match
Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Cesaro
Jimmy and Jey are on different sides when it comes to following Roman’s lead, the latter embraces being the right hand man and acknowledging the Tribal Chief, the former “ain’t nobody’s bitch” and believes he and Jey don’t need Roman to be top guys, this dynamic has only added intrigue to an already tantalising Cesaro push against the nigh on unbeatable champ Roman. Given nearly 30 minutes to work with here, and with Jey kept in the back, Roman and Cesaro had a slow burning cracker of a main event, and undoubtedly the match of the show. Coming out swinging, the Swiss Superman fell prey to a gnarly looking (and beautifully sold) arm injury, as the arrogant champ was in his dominant element. Cesaro though would not stay down and kept on fighting through the pain, countering choke outs and submissions skilfully and keeping Roman on the ropes at points. There were times you thought it was really finally happening, as Cesaro did not seem able to lose, for that matter neither did Roman, who pulled out some incredible wrestling and is really widening his moveset and nailing this badass villain character (loving his new theme music too). In the end, refreshingly, Roman got the clean win, as he worse down Cesaro with a chokehold after what seemed like minutes to finally retain his belt. Cesaro came too after looking slightly dazed, as Jey Uso came out to attack the weakened Swiss superstar, until Seth Rollins’ music hit, as the former messiah went straight for his rival Cesaro and beat him down to bring the show to a close. Utterly fantastic stuff, with a result that made both guys look like gold, leaving Roman open to a compelling family feud heading back to Hell in a Cell, while planting the seeds for Cesaro to continue his Rollins rivalry before his inevitable comeback to the title picture. Surely SummerSlam in front of a live crowd is the time to pull that long overdue trigger!!
Overall, this was an odd show really, the wrestling was good as expected and despite zombies being on the card, nothing really happened of any groundbreaking impact. Other than a terrific main event and in spite of some consistent action, chances are this show will likely sadly get overshadowed by zombies running amok. I enjoyed it but do feel WWE needs more than just one compelling feud going because they are getting routinely into spots where the PPV matches deliver but people are worn down by the weekly shows and build up. It was pretty decent, a selection of good matches and some less so, not much in way of mind blowing developments but fun. Anyway, onto satan’s structure we go, a lot earlier than any of us expected! Let’s hope we get some fires started on weekly WWE TV.
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