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For years Backlash was traditionally the PPV, I mean Premium Live Event (I will keep doing that!), that followed WrestleMania, so it make sense we are now calling it WrestleMania Backlash, as it always has been a kind of re-run of some of Mania’s moments, in fact sometimes it has been a chance to improve on WM failings. Think back to Backlash 2009 (a better show than WM itself) or Backlash 1999. Dare we hope for such heights from this year’s show, especially in spite of pretty piss poor build up due to heavy post-Mania blues. Well, let’s see shall we?
The opening video package dwells on the whole, “let’s play it back” idea.
1. Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins vs. Cody Rhodes
No doubt about it, since his amazing WrestleMania return, Cody Rhodes has been on fire and it has all been handled beautifully. And after they both turned in a blinder of a match at the show, continuing this feud was not only wise, it was damn near essential. As proved by their firecracker of an opener here, which wagons shows Rhodes is back and better than ever as “The American Nightmare” and that Seth Rollins is one of the greatest performers of his generation. This was a well matched showcase of a pro wrestling match, with near falls, the slickest of moves and just one hell of an atmosphere! Even the ending was great, which saw Seth attempt to pull the tights and get a win, only for Rhodes to turn the tables and use his tactics against him for the win. See you both for the next go around guys!
2. Omos w/ MVP vs. Bobby Lashley
After their ok WrestleMania clash, few anticipated this rivalry would continue but with MVP shockingly turning on the All Mighty Bobby Lashley in favour of the Nigerian Giant Omos, this has actually played out quite well. Yet, when it comes down to the ring action, Omos is still a bit green but this match showed us all, he is very much improving. Ok, so this was not technical masterclass, but who on earth expected it to be? This was a battle of power houses, with Lashley helping make Omos look monstrous, while the booking protected Lashley’s image too. Both guys put in a lot of hard work here for what is undoubtedly Omos’ longest singles match yet and he showed a lot of promise. I enjoyed this and MVP’s interference led to Omos picking up a required win, without squashing the ever dominant Lashley. Good match this!
3. Damian Priest Banned From Ringside
Edge vs. AJ Styles
The third straight WrestleMania rematch on the show and the second straight improved one, and this coming from someone who loved the methodical match they had last month on Night #2. Expectations are always high with Edge and AJ Styles and I think they are meeting them. Where their first match was slow building, this was faster paced, tighter plotted and developed the brilliant The Judgment Day storyline that has been developing on Raw, as Edge’s new faction is looking like a brilliant modern day reinvention of The Brood and The Ministry of Darkness. His music is badass, as is his presentation, and here he was the opportunist to the weakened warrior AJ and their match never let up. The ending was great too, with Damian Priest appearing on the ramp until Styles’ friend Finn Balor evened the odds, but a hooded figure ran the interference, giving Edge the chance to lock in his submission for an unexpected technical submission win. Afterwards, the assailant was revealed as none other than Rhea Ripley!! She will fit right in here, in what is already one of WWE’s best angles.
4. “I Quit Match” for the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ronda Rousey
After a rather underwhelming and cliche booked match at WrestleMania, this rematch between Ronda Rousey and champion for what seems like an eternity Charlotte Flair (she’s giving Triple H’s reign of terror a run for its money) had some making up to do. Thankfully, these two knew precisely what they had to do here and this “I Quit” match was arguably the best match of the show. In a no rules environment, these two flourished, finally delivering on what the ending of their match at Survivor Series 2018 promised. In fact this match even referenced that, as well as taking a page out of Bret/Austin’s arena brawling book and even a nod to Star Wars duelling! This was a bruising affair with weapons and scrapping, and the two exchanging draining submissions. In the end though, it was Charlotte who uttered those words when she took things too far with a her bragging and Rousey was only too happy to lock her into a steel chair armour for the win. We finally have a new champion! Oh and on a side not, Pat McAffee you are a god among men for that The Fiend reference made, regarding a kid dressed as the much missed character in the front row!
5. Madcap Moss vs. Happy Corbin
The dissolution of Madcap Moss and Happy Corbin’s friendship came sooner than expected and I have warmed to Moss in recent weeks. That being said, this was always going to be a match that struggled to keep interest, and as such it really did, especially coming off of such a consistent flow of quality so far. It was fine, and Corbin dished out some fresh moves – much to McAffee and Michael Cole’s shock (they are a dynamite commentary duo) – but until Moss got his win, people were disinterested. Once again, the Corbin feud blues strike again. Very forgettable stuff really.
6. The Bloodline (The Usos and Roman Reigns) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Drew McIntyre and RK-Bro (Randy Orton and Riddle)
Getting to this was quite the oddity. Initially Raw Tag Champs RK-Bro and Smackdown Tag Champs The Usos were set to have a title unification match here, until Undisputed Champ Roman Reigns stepped in and Drew McIntyre got involved and here we are. Whatever the case, Smackdown is pretty much The Bloodline TV at this point and while this six-man tag was good from a wrestling standpoint, and a star-studded, fast moving affair, I must confess I am growing a bit bored of it really. In the end Reigns nailed Riddle with the spear for the win and once again got his big win, as the match didn’t really accomplish anything. No sock value, no real building towards the future and at this point there is no conceivable threat to Roman and his championships. An odd watch, it had to main event, and yet as a main event had nothing to offer for anything going forward.
Overall, WrestleMania Backlash far overdelivered on the tame build up. Cody/Rollins was phenomenal again, Omos/Lashley, Edge/AJ and Rousey/Flair each were rematches that far exceeded their previous WrestleMania matches, and the main event was well wrestled…if drab. In fact the last third of the show really was what dragged the event down to be honest. And as we had for Hell in a Cell next (a show that in recent years has done work in diminishing the match types legacy and reputation) lets hope, WWE actually has a pathway for their main champions and challengers because at the minute The Bloodline are pretty much duty managers with sod all to do and no one even being allowed to elevate to their level.