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KELLER’S WWE WRESTLEMANIA BACKLASH PPV REPORT
MAY 16, 2021
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
Raw Announcers: Adnan Virk, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
-The PPV opening featured Batista narrating and clips aired of his new zombie movie and WWE action.
-They cut to ThunderDome with Virk introducing the show and touted it’s the first non-WrestleMania event to have the word “WrestleMania” in its name. They went to Virk, Saxton, and Graves at ringside as they introduced the event.
(1) RHEA RIPLEY vs. CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs. ASUKA – WWE Raw Title match
Charlotte looked at the ref who dutifully, like a servant rather than an objective authority figure, opened the ropes for her.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s maybe a TOP FIVE DUMB THING that WWE does these days. The ref should look at her and shake his head, not act like he’s her servant or personal assistant.)
Graves explained the rules during ring introduction, which is that a champion can lose the title and not be involved in the finish of the match.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s another TOP FIVE DUMB THING that WWE does. It cheapens the idea of becoming champion if you beat a challenger and not the champion. It should be an elimination match when it’s a three-way, not sudden-victory even if the champ isn’t involved. But that would mean more stars doing jobs, and WWE would rather have ludicrous rules than just establish clean finishes more often and credible champions.)
Charlotte and Ripley knocked Asuka to the floor and then yapped at each other for a while. Charlotte got the better of Ripley, then took it to Asuka. A few minutes later, Charlotte knocked Asuka and Ripley to the floor, then moonsaulted off the top rope. She overshot both women, but of course they both bumped for her after trying to break her fall. (That move just looks awful, especially so here. They replayed it in slo-mo with fast-speed at the end, and it didn’t save it.) Ripley set up a superplex, but Asuka entered and went for a powerbomb. Ripley held her ground. Virk said, “Two is company, three is a crowd.” Ripley and Asuka ended up shifting to superplex Charlotte together.
A minute later, Charlotte landed Natural Selection on both opponents and covered both. They both kicked out since she couldn’t get good leverage on either. Virk said, “She went for two for the price of one.” Charlotte went for a moonsault, but Asuka moved. Charlotte landed on her feet. Asuka gave Charlotte double knees. Ripley came up behind Asuka and went for the Rip Tide. Asuka slipped free and went for an Asuka lock. Ripley blocked it. Charlotte re-entered and gave Ripley a kick to the face. Asuka applied an Asuka lock, but Charlotte slipped free. Ripley re-entered, but Asuka gave her a spin wheel kick to the head. Asuka hit Charlotte with a spinning backfist. Ripley then gave Asuka a Rip Tide for the win.
WINNER: Ripley in 15:00 to retain the WWE Raw Title. (***1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: Even with a few silly spots, including the contrived double Natural Selection, overall good action and exciting counters and drama at the end. Good to see Ripley win since a loss here could define her down as having “failed” already at a top act.) [c]
-They showed Bobby Lashley and MVP arriving at the arena.
-Cole and McAfee appeared on camera to talk about the WWE Title match later.
-Backstage, Miz complained to John Morrison about Damian Priest picking a lumberjack match. He said that means Priest thinks he’d run from him, but he wouldn’t do that. Miz gave Morrison a hard time for losing to Priest, thus giving him the power to pick the stip. Morrison said he planned to talk to the lumberjacks since they should want to see Miz win.
-They replayed an angle where Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler taunted and beat up Dominik Mysterio earlier in the day. Then in the trainers’ room, Dominik wasn’t looking fit to wrestle. Rey kissed his forehead and said they’ll be fine without him.
(2) DOLPH ZIGGLER & ROBERT ROODE vs. REY MYSTERIO – WWE Smackdown Tag Team Title match
Cole asked if Rey is going to go “go it alone.” (It’s not big deal, but that phrase never made any sense to me. What is “go it”? Is that a thing? Maybe “go to it” or “go at it” makes some sense. Also, why should Rey have to wrestle without a partner when Roode & Ziggler attacked his partner illegally? Shouldn’t Rey get to at the very least pick a new partner? This feels contrived and arbitrary that Rey would pay a price and have to wrestle along given the circumstances of the injury, a dumb rule just to create a greater sense of “underdog drama.”)
Sure enough, Rey opened alone. Cole said at least momentarily Rey would be wrestling alone. Rey made a comeback early with a slide splash at ringside on Ziggler. Roode hit Rey from behind to take back control. Cole talked about Rey’s wife and daughter watching live. The heel duo took it to Rey for several minutes. Rey made a comeback and Dominik made his way to the ring. Rey was concerned, opening himself up to a Zig Zag by Dolph for a two count. Roode then gave Rey a lift-and-drop gut-buster over his knee. Rey eventually tagged Dominik in. He charged at Roode, but Roode fired back with a quick spinebuster. Cole said Rey can only watch his son take a beating. Roode berated Dominik and said he should have stayed down and he doesn’t belong there. Dominik fired at Ziggler with a superkick. Ziggler and Dominik both tagged out. Roode intercepted Rey mid-air with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a near fall.
Rey sent Roode into the corner with a head scissors and then landed a 619. He tagged in Dominik, then took out Ziggler at ringside. Dominik landed a top rope frog splash for a three count. Cole yelled, “They did it! You have got to be kidding me!” Rey and Dominik both looked emotional after the win as they celebrated.
WINNERS: Rey & Dominik in 17:00 to capture the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: I like that the injury angle didn’t lead to an excuse for a loss, but instead just stacked the odds against them. The rationale for Rey having to fight alone made no sense, but in the end, they overcame bigger odds as a result. I’m curious if it turns out there’s another reason behind the angle.)
-Kayla Braxton interviewed Rey and Dominik afterward. It was brief, but they were elated. Cole said Rey said a win here would be the highlight of his career. They showed Rey and Dominik leaving together. Rey said, “God is good. God is good. The Mysterios are blessed.”
-Morrison knocked on the door to the locker room where apparently the lumberjacks were, and when he went inside, it was a dozen or so zombies. He looked freaked out and left.
-Jimmy Uso went into Roman Reigns’s locker room, hesitating briefly before entering. He asked Jey what was up and asked, “Where’s the champ, the Head of the Table, the Tribal Chief.” He told Jey the locker room said “Roman Reigns” and doesn’t include Jey. He said they should have a nice locker room with their names on it and they should be tag champs “instead of you carrying Roman’s bags around.” He asked if he’s doing his laundry too. Jey said he doesn’t need to hear that from him now. Roman then walked up to him. Jimmy said he wanted to say good luck to him tonight. He then turned and left.
-Morrison explained to Miz what he found in the lumberjack locker room. He said they were all undead or zombies. Miz asked if this was another of his weird new age motivational tactics. He said whatever he saw is all in his head. They walked away and the Zombies then wandered the back halls.
(Keller’s Analysis: However you feel about zombies as lumberjacks, it’s not as dumb as the referee opening the ropes for Charlotte or the Triple Threat rules in titles matches. But it’s pretty dumb, still.)
-They showed a Tweet from Batista saying he was sorry he couldn’t make it to Backlash, but some of his friends might. Saxton and Graves suspected Batista had something to do with the zombies.
(3) THE MIZ (w/John Morrison) vs. DAMIAN PRIEST – Lumberjack match
Graves said, “No, we’re not relaunching ECW again.” (Zombies are not that closely aligned with ECW. That’s was brief tie-in with Sci-Fi Network.) The zombies acted like zombies and kind of became the center of attention. They had smoke at ringside and changed the ThunderDome screens to show an apocalyptic style vibe. The zombies yanked Priest and Miz out of the the ring a few minutes in. Graves said, “When you survive a zombie apocalypse, it’s generally a bonding experience.” Priest took control back in the ring when Morrison ran out and DISTRACTED Priest. Priest fought him off, but Miz caught Priest with a surprise knee for a near fall. Morrison scooted into the ring to avoid the zombie and then did a flip dive onto three zombies at ringside. He kicked another, then climbed onto the ringside barricade, but two zombies popped up and pulled him down. Priest then caught Miz with a Hit the Lights for the win.
WINNER: Priest in 7:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: For one of the dumbest things WWE has ever done, it was well done. Is that a compliment? There’s a certain level of how far wrestling fans will let reality gets stretched, and when it involves a cash-grab for a movie cross-promotion, I think it crosses into unacceptable territory.)
— Pro Wrestling Torch (@PWTorch) May 17, 2021
-After the match, the zombies crawled into the ring and began feasting on Miz. “A blood-thirsty crowd, perhaps,” said Virk. Graves said this is no time for jokes, clearly concerned for Miz’s well-being. Saxton said, “This is clearly not the scene we expected, not the match we expected.” Graves asked Batista to stop sending his friends to their events.
-Jey confronted Jimmy and said Reigns doesn’t need distractions tonight. Jimmy said maybe the locker room should say, “Roman Reigns and his bitch.” Jey didn’t like that and threw something to the ground in frustration as Jimmy walked away.
(4) BIANCA BELAIR vs. BAYLEY – Smackdown Title match
Belair shoved Bayley to the floor, then rubbed her hands together like it was super-easy and then waved Bayley back in. Belair applied an early armbar. Bayley came back and applied a chinlock. They struggled over a suplex attempt. Belair suplexed Bayley. Bayley went for a small package. They rolled to the floor where Bayley dropped Belair over the ringside steps. Bayley scored a two count back in the ring a minute later after some more offense. She landed a running knee and made the cover. Belair kicked out, sending Bayley out of the ring to the floor. Bayley returned and pummeled Belair with punches. Cole said that embarrassed Bayley. Bayley came back and cackle-laughed at Belair. Belair slapped her and took control. “Now Bianca Belair is fired up!” said Cole. She landed a dropkick and clapped and bobbed her head.
Bayley clipped her leg from behind. Bayley went for a dive, but Belair moved and Bayley crashed to the floor. Belair threw Bayley into the ring and scored a two count. Cole said she didn’t want to win by countout. Bayley raked Belair’s eyes to regain control. Bayley yanked on Belair’s braid and then landed a Bayley-to-Belly for a believable near fall. Bayley used Belair’s braid to try to gain extra leverage for a Rose Plant finisher, but Belair countered into a roll-through for a leverage three count. It appeared Belair was supposed to use her braid to add leverage to the leverage pin, but she lost her grip. Cole pushed the idea that Bayley’s attempt to use the hair braid to her advantage backfired. Bayley pounded the announce desk and asked for a replay that would prove Belair used her hair to wrap up her legs. “Belair is a cheater!” she yelled.
WINNER: Belair in 16:00 to retain the Smackdown Women’s Title. (***1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Solid title match. Both worked hard, most everything looked good. The braid finish was a little sloppy and gimmicky, though.)
-A guy with two first names (Kevin Patrick) asked MVP how he feels about Braun Strowman’s reaction to his business proposition. MVP said Braun lacks the intellectual capacity to hold the most prestigious title in WWE. He said Lashley is at a disadvantage, but he can overcome any obstacle thrown in front of him.
-They showed Drew backstage staring intently.
-A video package aired on the WWE Title situation.
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(5) BOBBY LASHLEY vs. DREW MCINTYRE vs. BRAUN STROWMAN – WWE Title match
Virk talked about the “past history” with Lashley and his opponents (as opposed, I suppose, to his “present history” or “future history”?) Lashley and Drew suplexed Braun together, then turned to fight each other. Drew gave Lashley an overhead suplex. When Lashley rolled to ringside, Braun went after him. Drew gave him a Glasgow Kiss. Lashley yanked Drew to the floor. When he lifted Drew onto his shoulders, Drew slipped free and shoved him into the ringpost. Braun leaped with a flip dive onto both Drew and Lashley at ringside. The announcers sold it big. He chokeslammed Lashley mid-ring and scored a two count. They replayed it in slo-mo. Drew leaped onto both of them with a flying bodypress. Drew scored a two count on Braun after a sling blade.
Lashley took it to Drew in the corner, then tossed him across the ring. He lifted and slammed a charging Braun and scored a two count. Lashley beat up Drew at ringside until Braun hit Lashley with ringside steps. Graves said it’s perfectly legal because Triple Threat matches are no-DQ (which is a TOP FIVE DUMB THING in WWE as there’s no reason to make everything legal just because there’s an extra wrestler in the match).
On the stage, Lashley tried to suplex Drew into the LED entrance wall, but Drew escaped and headbutted Lashley. He then slammed Lashley’s head into the wall. He threw Lashley through part of the wall, and sparks flew and explosions were heard. Graves said the last time that happened, they didn’t see Lashley for weeks. Braun then went after Drew on the stage. He threw him back into the ring and landed a hard forearm to his chest followed by a senton for a two count.
Drew landed a Michinoku Driver for a near fall on Braun a minute later. Both were slow to get up. Braun backdropped Drew over the top rope. Drew gave Braun an overhead suplex at ringside. Braun came back with a powerbomb of Drew through the announce table at ringside. The table collapsed. After 30 seconds, Braun dragged Drew back to the ring. Drew fired back with a Claymore. Lashley snuck back into the ring, threw Drew to the floor, speared Braun, and got the three count.
WINNER: Lashley in 14:00 to retain the WWE Title. (***1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: That was pretty much by the numbers what you’d expect if you were looking at WWE booking patterns and where each of these wrestlers are positioned. Anything else would have been a surprise. The action was good with a lot of power moves. Having Lashley written out of the match for several minutes after crashing through the set worked.)
-A video announced that Hell in a Cell takes place June 20.
-Cole and McAfee reacted to HIAC taking place next month.
-Backstage, Jey cheered on Roman. Roman seemed annoyed. Jey said he’s already in his corner. He asked Jey what he means by “what if?” He said he sounds like his brother, so maybe he should go find him. Roman’s music played. Cole said, “It appears the Head of the Table is going to go it alone tonight.”
(6) ROMAN REIGNS (w/Paul Heyman) vs. CESARO – Universal Title match
Cole said Reigns has a certain aura and a confidence that he will win. McAfee said Reigns believed in himself the day he entered the business. Cole said Cesaro has a jacket that said, “I believe I can.” McAfee said many have believed they can beat Reigns, but this is where Reigns lives and dominates and is most comfortable. He said he’s “the face of the company and the face of the best show in sports entertainment.” McAfee said he thinks Cesaro doesn’t fully grasp what he has signed up for. They did formal ring introductions. Cesaro had a game face on and seemed to be in a more serious mode than maybe ever before. He had it in him, in other words.
Reigns and Cesaro started at a deliberate, methodical pace. Reigns took Cesaro down first and then locked on a side headlock. Cesaro pushed out of it and knocked Reigns down with a shoulder block for a quick two count. Cesaro went for another cover. Reigns rolled to the floor. Heyman, looking concerned, had a few words with him. Cesaro landed a springboard uppercut. Reigns up-kicked to send Cesaro backwards. He threw Cesaro to the floor. Cole noted Cesaro landed on his arm and it could come into play. Reigns took control when Cesaro returned to the ring. He threw Cesaro into the ringpost. After a near fall, Reigns looked at Cesaro with what Cole described as a disdain indicative of feeling Cesaro doesn’t belong in the ring with him. Reigns settled into a mat hold.
Reigns went for a Superman Punch at 10:00, but Cesaro countered with a lift-and-drop European Uppercut. He stomped on Reigns’s legs and applied a Sharpshooter. Reigns grabbed the ropes and dragged himself to the floor. Cesaro went at Reigns at ringside including a running uppercut. Then he landed a top rope crossbody for a near fall back in the ring. McAfee said Cesaro is starting to believe, but noted he has inexperience in World Championship matches. Reigns knocked Cesaro off balance on the top rope, then kicked Cesaro in the head as he held onto his arm draped over the top rope. Reigns slidekicked Cesaro’s shoulder into the post and scored a two count mid-ring.
Reigns stood and smiled. He went back to Cesaro’s battered arm. Reigns told Cesaro, “I love wrestling, it’s fun for me!” He told Cesaro he has a lot of responsibility. He lifted Cesaro by his chin and continued to pelt him with punches and kicks. Cesaro fought back, but grabbed his arm in pain. Cole said Cesaro realizes he might never get another chance at the Universal Title if he doesn’t win here. Cole said this is about being the Face of Smackdown, the Face of Fox, and representing WWE worldwide. Cesaro headbutted Reigns and began to hulk up a bit. He shook out his arm and went on a barrage of offense against Reigns in the corner. The ref backed him away. Cesaro pulled Reigns by his hair and delivered a superplex of Reigns back into the ring for a near fall at 20:00.
Cesaro kicked away at Reigns’s hamstring area, but Cesaro’s sore arm gave out on him. Reigns then applied an armbar. He leaned hard on it as Cesaro yelled in agony. Cesaro leveraged Reigns’s shoulders down for a near fall. Reigns came back with a sudden Superman Punch for a near fall. Reigns locked on a guillotine. Cesaro lifted and slammed Reigns to power out. He scored a two count, then went for a sharpshooter. Reigns went to rake Cesaro’s face, but Cesaro rotated into the full sharpshooter. Cole asked, “Can Cesaro do the unthinkable?” Cesaro shifted into a crossface. “This is the moment Cesaro has been fighting for!” Cole exclaimed. Reigns escaped and elbowed Cesaro in the face a few times. Cole wondered if that was the last gasp for Cesaro. Reigns gave Cesaro a quick powerbomb for a near fall. Reigns applied a guillotine again. Cesaro tried to power out. Reigns cinched it tighter. The ref called for the bell.
WINNER: Reigns in 28:00 to retain the Universal Title. (****1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: I actually really like this, not just because it was a really good match, but because it established a match can end clean with a heel champion beating a babyface challenger even without the storyline going into the match coming into play, in this case Jey and Jimmy Uso. It establishes that a finish can happen in future Reigns matches even before something happens with the Usos.)
-Jey ran out as Reigns began to celebrate. He had a red lei and presented it to Reigns. Reigns lowered his head and Jey placed it around his neck. Then he looked over at Cesaro. Reigns smiled as Jey said, “Let me get ‘im.” Jey then superkicked Cesaro. He mounted Cesaro and punched away at him. Jey dragged him into position and then set up a top rope splash. Seth Rollins’ music played. He walked out in a loud white jacket and shirt, each with a colorful splash of paint. Seth entered the ring and smiled in Reigns’s face in a creepy way. He then attacked Cesaro. He threw him into the ringpost and into the announce table. Seth bashed Cesaro with a chair. Cole went into fake-stuttering mode when he put Cesaro’s arm in the chair and yanked and twisted on the chair before yelling at him about how nobody makes a mockery of him. He bashed the chair, with Cesaro’s arm in it, into the ringpost. Cesaro gasped in pain and collapsed. The ref went to check on him, but Seth gave him a stomp. As Seth struck a pose in center-ring, a “You suck!” chant rang out and the show ended three minutes past the three hour mark.