SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Fifteen previous WWE Backlash PPVs were not sufficient to drive home the idea that the “backlash” in the name of the PPV referred to backlash stemming from the events that occurred at the previous month’s WrestleMania. Thankfully the ever-mindful WWE rebranded the sixteenth iteration of the event, WrestleMania Backlash. It will take place in the WWE Thunderdome at the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida. Several titles will be defended as Roman Reigns, Bianca Belair, and the Dirty Dawgs, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, all defend their titles from new challengers while Bobby Lashley and Rhea Ripley must hold off two challengers in triple threat matches to hold on to their gold. Before I forget, thank you Vince McMahon for the Thunderdome as it sees its last days as things slowly get back to a semblance of normalcy. It will hold a special place in all of our hearts for generations to come.
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Cesaro – WWE Universal Championship Match
Story in a nutshell: Cesaro defeated his rival Seth Rollins to earn a shot at Roman Reigns’s title thanks to an inadvertent assist by a returning Jimmy Uso.
Roman Reigns, claiming that no one could stand up to him following his dominant win at WrestleMania, was confronted by Cesaro who was promptly dismissed by Reigns. Cesaro requested a non-title match with Reigns to prove himself but was greeted by Jey Uso instead. The match ended when Seth Rollins, who Cesaro thought he was done with when he defeated him at WrestleMania, attacked Cesaro. Meanwhile, Reigns turned his attention to Daniel Bryan whom he offered a title vs. (Smackdown) career match so he could forever be rid of someone he considers a pest while Cesaro would face Seth for a shot at the Universal Champion. Reigns finished Bryan sending out of Smackdown (and possibly the WWE). When Seth and Cesaro faced off, Jey and a returning Jimmy Uso showed up to “handle” Reigns’s business. Seth, not happy with the Uso’s involvement became physical with the Usos and was taken out by Jimmy for it leading to a Cesaro win. This brought the division between Reigns’s family and the headstrong Jimmy Uso to the forefront. Can Cesaro take advantage of Reigns’s distraction to win the title?
Analysis and predictions: No. No, he can’t. Reigns will retain, but I suspect interference, more Uso strife, and a setup for and Extreme Rules rematch where Cesaro will (hopefully) have a bigger spotlighted role in a story that has been mostly focused on the Reigns family drama.
Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley – WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship Match
Story in a nutshell: Bayley, frustrated with not really being involved at WrestleMania, was the first person to challenge Bianca Belair for her WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship by taking advantage of what Bayley believes is Belair’s naïveté.
Bayley “cheerfully” teased Bianca Belair by laughing at the idea of Belair as champion, eventually working her way to getting a title shot. Belair shot back at Bayley accusing her of being jealous when instead of main-eventing WrestleMania, Bayley was being thrown down the ramp by the Bella twins. This attack seemed to hit home, so Bayley dropped the faux cheerful, over-the-top-heel façade she wears to get real with Belair, telling Belair that Belair reminded Bayley of her arrival in the WWE. Bayley was seeking attention and ultimately it cost her and she was going visit that reality upon Belair’s fairy tale dreams to end them.
Analysis and predictions: With one promo, Bayley went from being a transitional challenger in my eyes – only there to buy time for Belair and Sasha Banks to rekindle their feud – to the likely winner of the match. The Bayley and Bianca feud can stretch to Summer Slam with Belair losing the title and going back on the chase. A match with a stipulation at Extreme Rules followed by a blow-off at Summer Slam sounds like a good deal to me.
Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman – WWE Championship Match
Story in a nutshell: Drew McIntyre won the opportunity to challenge Bobby Lashley for his title, only friction between Drew and Braun Strowman ended with Strowman getting added to the match.
Drew McIntyre wanted another rematch with Bobby Lashley after losing to him at WrestleMania since Drew only lost because he says he was distracted by a loud noise. Then both Braun Strowman and Randy Orton appeared to make their case to be the next challengers. Strowman had proven he wasn’t stupid by beating Shane McMahon in a cage at WrestleMania. Randy Orton claimed that deserves the shot for defying all conventional writing logic by beating, with an RKO, an entity he set on fire thus avoiding the comeuppance due to him, denying the, what, five fans still engaged in the Fiend storyline, of achieving any sense of catharsis thanks to the ultimate decision makers who seem hellbent on not only ruining the craft of storytelling but salting the earth in their wake to make sure nothing fertile ever grows in that ground again and… wait where was I? (Not that I’m bitter over the Fiend storyline or anything.)
A three-way match to determine the next challenger was set. Vowing to never be distracted in a match again, McIntyre won. There was some mostly irrelevant absolute garbage involving the remnants of Retribution leading the heightening of the friction between Strowman and McIntyre. Strowman challenged McIntyre to a match so he can get added to the title match at WrestleMania Backlash. Strowman won when McIntyre, who promised to never be distracted again, was distracted DESPITE receiving help from MVP and Lashley. MVP and Lashley didn’t want to have to deal with a triple threat having recently lost the US Title in a triple threat where Lashley wasn’t pinned. After the match was set, there was a series of singles matches between the competitors, one of which McIntyre had already won the match but didn’t complete the pin because he was distracted. At least McIntyre didn’t lose the match since it ended in a no contest when Strowman took out both McIntyre and Lashley looking strong at the end.
Analysis and predictions: And since Strowman looked dominant as the go-home show went off the air, there is no way he wins. If McIntyre wins, everyone involved in the booking of McIntyre need to be fired – preferably into the sun. There is no rational mind that would have McIntyre lose at WrestleMania where he could have won in front of a rabid crowd in the first match with fans in attendance since the shutdown only to then have him win in an empty arena. Lashley needs to win by pinning Strowman if you want to salvage any potential superstardom (small “s”) Drew McIntyre has left. Damn, I didn’t realize how bitter I still am over this year’s WrestleMania.
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair – WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match
Story in a nutshell: After a rematch between Asuka and Rhea Ripley that ended in a no contest due to Charlotte Flair’s actions was rescheduled for WrestleMania Backlash, Flair convinced Sonya Deville to make the match a triple threat instead.
Charlotte Flair returned after missing WrestleMania and attacked Asuka during her rematch with Rhea Ripley for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship resulting in a no-contest. A follow-up Asuka and Flair match ended with Asuka winning thanks to Rhea Ripley’s interference. An incensed Charlotte Flair took her frustrations out on the referee. For this she was indefinitely suspended by Adam Pearce only to have his decision soon overturned by Sonya Deville. The Asuka and Ripley rematch was rescheduled for WrestleMania Backlash, but Flair convinced Deville (with possible influence from Alexa Bliss and “Lily”) to turn the match into a triple threat. During a six-woman match between the team of Flair, Nia Jax, and Shayna Baszler and the team of Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, and Asuka, Alexa Bliss and her “friend” the doll Lily made their presence felt, seemingly taking out Baszler’s knee though magic. Bliss and Flair made the most eye contact.
Analysis and predictions: Given that Flair is involved and that I don’t think the WWE knows what to do with Ripley, coupled with Bliss’s presence felt twice in moments involving Flair, I think Charlotte Flair wins (pinning Asuka to protect Ripley) and begins a feud with Alexa Bliss and “Lily”.
Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode (c) vs. Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio – WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match
Story in a nutshell: Rey and Dominick Mysterio seek to become the first ever father and son tag team to capture the Tag Team Titles.
The Dirty Dawgs, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, have focused their verbal assaults on Dominik Mysterio believing him to be the weak link of the team due to his inexperience as a wrestler. This hasn’t seemed to matter to the Mysterios as both Dominik and Rey Mysterio have scored pin falls on Dolph Ziggler in singles matches.
Analysis and predictions: With Ziggler getting pinned twice, the Dawgs retain here. It will be short lived since the Mysterios will be champions, likely capturing the titles at Extreme Rules. If the Mysterios do win at Backlash, the only reason why is that Ziggler or Roode have heat backstage, which explains Ziggler taking so many loses in a row.
Damien Priest vs. The Miz, Lumberjack Match
Story in a nutshell: Damien Priest defeated John Morrison for the right to choose the stipulation for this match and so he chose a lumberjack match since Priest is tired of the Miz slipping away from him as their feud continues.
As I said above only that there seems to be… issues… between John Morrison and The Miz. At times Miz seems to obviously be taking John Morrison for granted but Morrison has mostly been oblivious to it, and Morrison has been, how can I say this… writing checks Miz’s ass has to cash, putting Miz in compromised situations, like this lumber jack match.
Analysis and predictions: I can’t tell what the aforementioned dynamic between Miz and Morrison means, whether it’s just their dysfunctional relationship at work or a sign of thing to come. In any case, I expect that Priest wins this one handily. Then we may get the dissolution of Miz and Morrison. And hey, there is a certain “huera loca” down in NXT that can be brought up for a Miz and Maryse feud with John Morrison and Taya Valkyrie down the line. (Yeah, I know she’s “Franky Monet” now, just let me finish grieving “Taya”.)