WrestleMania Backlash was a surprisingly great show. It wasn’t without flaw, in particular the main event having zero stakes, but featured several matches worth going out of your way to see. In the end, Roman Reigns and The Usos stood tall after defeating Drew McIntyre and RK-Bro.
What does that mean for Reigns going forward? It appeared that WWE was setting up a future WWE Universal Championship match between Reigns and McIntyre, which you would think would mean McIntyre wins the non-title tag match at WrestleMania Backlash. That didn’t happen, as Reigns got the W by pinning Riddle. Maybe McIntyre isn’t the next challenger after all.
The big news from the night is that Ronda Rousey is the new SmackDown Women’s Champion. After unsuccessfully gunning for the title at WrestleMania, she managed to make Charlotte Flair say “I Quit” at WrestleMania Backlash. Elsewhere, Rhea Ripley helped Edge defeat AJ Styles, and Cody Rhodes beat Seth Rollins in another oustanding match.
Roman Reigns and The Usos beat Drew McIntyre and RK-Bro
This match had no stakes and a puzzling finish, but was extremely fun. If you can forgive the titles not being on the line, this was a terrific main event.
The first part saw The Bloodline work over Riddle. It set a slow pace, but that picked up once Reigns and McIntyre got in the ring. The crowd was very into their showdown, which was ultimately won by McIntyre. McIntyre set up for a Claymore Kick but was interrupted by Jimmy Uso, which allowed Reigns to take out McIntyre with a Superman Punch. Reigns took time to gloat, taunting Orton and giving a cheap shot to Riddle, which allowed McIntyre to catch him with a Claymore.
Orton then tagged in as Reigns tagged Jimmy. This began a sequence which led to Orton hitting one of his best RKOs in months. He got a hot tag into the match, planting Jimmy Uso with the middle rope DDT and setting him up for an RKO. Jey Uso tried to break it up, but Orton threw him out. Reigns then flew into frame with a Superman Punch, but Orton caught him with a sick RKO. Jey Uso then Superkicked Orton, who fought through the pain to deliver another RKO. The nearfall was broken up by Jey.
Reigns would get his revenge on Orton. Later Orton was battling with Jey Uso on the outside, setting up to slam him on the announcer’s table. Reigns exploded onto the screen, launching off the ringside steps to blitz Orton with a Superman Punch. McIntyre then attacked Reigns, attempting a powerbomb on The Big Dog but was interrupted by The Usos. Reigns then broke McIntyre through the table with a big Rock Bottom-esque Uranage.
Jimmy Uso and Reigns were then laid out by Riddle, who crashed into them with a springboard moonsault. Jey Uso then hit Riddle with a Suicide Dive and threw him back into the ring. In there, they exchanged huge strikes: Uso hit an Enziguri, Riddle a flying knee and then Uso a big Superkick. Jey climbed the ropes, but Riddle hopped up and landed a top-rope RKO.
Unfortunately for Riddle, Reigns tagged Uso just before the RKO. Reigns then snuck in the ring and sliced Riddle in half with a Spear for the win.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Great from start to finish. The main issue is with booking rather than the action: If WWE are preparing a title match between Reigns and McIntyre, why have Reigns pin Riddle? It would make far more sense if Reigns were pinned — or at least for McIntyre to get a win.
Reigns is the biggest, most protected star in the company. People need to be convinced that his championship reign is in jeoardy, and this did the opposite of that.
Madcap Moss beats Happy Corbin
This was an A-to-B match. Very simple, not particularly effective. Madcapp Moss beat Happy Corbin by pinning him with a sunset flip roll up.
Corbin took the whole match, with limited Moss offense throughout. The commentators talked up Moss’ incredible explosivity, but we only got to see flashes of it. There wasn’t really even a sustained, impressive comeback. It was evidently meant to come off as an upset victory, which means Madcap Moss won but didn’t necessarily get put over.
Rating: 2 stars. Hopefully Moss moves on to more exciting prospects.
Ronda Rousey wins SmackDown Women’s Championship
Ronda Rousey is women’s champ again. She made Charlotte Flair yell “I Quit” when she wrapped a chair around Flair’s shoulder and put her in an armbar.
After an opening flurry by Rousey, Flair got control when she planted Rousey with a German Suplex. From there she barraged Rousey with chops (woo!), taking her to the outside. With Rousey slumped on the barridace, Flair chopped her and demanded the ref ask her if she quits. Rousey said no, and that Flair “slaps like a bitch”.
Rousey pushed Flair into the turnbuckle post outside, then sent her flying over the barricade. Charlotte fought back, but immediately ran away when Rousey secured herself a Kendo Stick. Charlotte ran to the back, then came out with two Kendo Sticks. The two then battled with Kendo Sticks, Star Wars style, with Rousey getting the better of Flair. Rousey blitzed Flair with several Kendo Stick shots, and the ref asked if she wanted to quit.
Rousey beat Flair into the crowd, but her offense was improbably stopped when Flair threw water in Rousey’s face. This stunned Rousey, for whatever reason, and Flair took the advantage. They brawled through the crowd, with Rousey at various points refusing to quit. The crowd chanted “We want tables!”
Back at ringside, Flair went to the top rope and began to go for a Moonsault outside. Rousey interrupted, and pulled Flair down into an armbar, with Flair’s legs caught on the top rope. Flair did an outstanding job selling, shrieking with convincing terror, but refused to quit.
Flair then retook control when she smashed a chair into Rousey’s leg. On the inside, she slammed Rousey’s face into the chair with a Natural Selection. Flair put Rousey in a Figure Eight, but Rousey broke it up by grabbing the chair and hitting Flair in the hip with it. The crowd chants “We want tables!”
Flair set up a chair in the middle of the ring and grabs the mic. With sinister intent, she wished Ronda a “happy Mother’s Day.” Ronda then snatched Flair’s arm through the chair, so that it was clamped over her shoulder, and locked in the armbar. Flair squeeled that she quits, and Rousey is the new SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Rating: 4 stars. Very intense, very good. There were no tables, but the crowd still popped big for the finish.
Edge makes AJ Styles pass out
Damian Priest was barred from the ringside for this WrestleMania rematch. It ended with, surprise, Damian Priest coming out anyway. That wouldn’t be the only distraction: Rhea Ripley cost AJ Styles the match at the end, pushing Styles from the top rope at a crucial moment. That allowed Edge to lock in the Crossface and make Styles pass out.
The story going into this match is that AJ has a damaged shoulder following an attack from Edge and Priest on Raw a couple weeks back. That attack has also left him an angry man, which is why he began with a set of big offense, including an explosive sliding dropkick to the outside and a beautiful springboard moonsault. But when he went for a Phenomenal Forearm, Edge cut him off with a big boot.
Edge slowed the pace down massively, methodically working over AJ and his injured arm. Edge eventually got Styles in the Crossface, but Styles countered into a Calf Crusher. From there it was a great series of counters and back and forth moves.
AJ pressed Edge front-first into the turnbuckle and German Suplexed him, but as he was thrown Edge ripped the middle turnbuckled padding off. Styles then threw Edge face-first into the exposed buckle and rolled him up for a nearfall. Then Edge cut Styles down with a big Spear, again for a two count. (This Spear happened as the replay for the turnbuckle spot happened, which was awkward.)
Edge attempted another Spear, but AJ caught him with a V-Trigger knee. AJ then hit a great Styles Clash when he hung Edge on the top ropes then hoisted him up from there for another false finish.
Styles began to setup another Phenomenal Forearm, but his bum shoulder wouldn’t allow him to springboard. So he scaled the turnbuckle to the top rope, but before he could launch Damian Priest walked down the ramp. Styles protested to the ref, saying Priest was barred from ringside, but Priest said he was on the ramp and not the ringside. Very cheap getaround here.
As Styles was distracted by Priest, Finn Balor attacked Priest from behind and got him out of the way. But as the ref was distracted, a hooded stranger pushed Styles off the top rope. Edge then got Styles in the crossface and Styles passed out.
After the match the hooded stranger revealed herself to be Rhea Ripley, who joins Edge’s demonic faction.
Rating: 4 stars. More fun to watch than their WrestleMania match. It was shaping up to be an outstanding bout, but the cheap finish brought it down. It’s not that Rhea joined the faction, which is a welcome use of her. It’s that Priest was banned from ringside but came out anyway, which made the whole finishing sequence feel hard to take seriously. Stipulations should matter, and it’s hard to not roll your eyes when they’re broken in such a brazen fashion.
Still, Edge and AJ did a great job here. AJ in particular shined. His offense was tight and explosive, and his selling of the injured shoulder was tremendous too.
Omos beats Bobby Lashley
Watching Omos wrestle Bobby Lashley is novel for about a minute, then increasingly underwhelming as the bout drags on. These two fought for 10 minutes and, other than the finish, there’s really not much to say about it.
After 10 minutes of mostly generic brawling, Omos threw Lashley into the turnbuckle, making his shoulder crash into the post between the top and middle rope. As the ref was busy keeping Omos off Lashley, MVP smashed Lashley in the face with his cane. Omos then gave a dazed Lashley a two-handed chokeslam for the win.
At one point in the match Lashley put the Hurt Lock on Omos, but Omos, after nearly passing out, managed to break free. Later, Lashley was able to plant Omos with a spinebuster. Other than these spots, there’s little to say about this match.
Rating: 1 star.
Cody Rhodes pins Seth Rollins
The American Nightmare’s return WrestleMania match against Seth Rollins kicked off Backlash. It ended with Cody, surely on the road to a WWE Universal Championship match against Roman Reigns, rolling up Seth for the win.
The match was much different to their WrestleMania encounter. Whereas that was an exchange of big moves, this had more storytelling to it. For the first half of the match, Rollins was one step ahead of Rhodes. It’s not just that Rollins got heat on Rhodes, but that Rollins had a counter for all of Rhode’s attempted offense. The commentators did a good job at explaining that Rollins had clearly watched tape on Rhodes and had prepared for his moves.
Halfway through, Rhodes gave Rollins a big slap and it turned into a slugfest. Rhodes got the better of Rollins, which began his comeback. Cody got some offense in, countered a Suicide Dive and landed a Cody Cutter for a two count — getting the first “This is awesome!” chant of the night.
The two then brawled on the outside. Rhodes threw Rollins into the ring and attempted a Moonsault from the top rope, but Rollins moved out of the way and then planted Rhodes with a Pedigree for a two count.
Rollins yelled that Cody can’t lace his boots, and then taunted him by doing Dusty Rhodes’ punching combination. Rhodes countered, yanking Rollins into a Cross Rhodes. He tried to roll into a second one, but Rollins caught Rhodes with a knee. Rollins attempted a roll up, pulling on Rhodes tights, but Rhodes reversed the roll up into one of this own and, with a fistful of Rollins tights, got the three count.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Fantastic match. These two had the match of WrestleMania, and this was better. It’s hard to communicate this in a recap, but Rollins and Rhodes work super well together. Everything they do is smooth — they’re fun to watch. As noted, this bout had a greater storytelling element to it than their original clash, which to me made it easier to get invested in.