LECLAIR’S WWE BACKLASH 2023 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Rhodes vs. Lesnar, Bunny vs. Priest, KO/Sami & Riddle vs. the Bloodline, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor

WWE Backlash 2023 felt like WrestleMania


MAY 6, 2023

Announcers: Michael Cole & Corey Graves

-The sound of waves crashing played over a black screen. The ocean faded into the view and the camera swept over the Puerto Rico shoreline. Bad Bunny narrated an opening video package for the event.

-A drone flew into the arena from just outside the building. It followed the same route it took on last night’s Smackdown. The drone came faded into a shot of ringside. Michael Cole welcomed the crowd to the Coliseo de Puero Rico and introduced his partner, Corey Graves. They tossed to the Spanish announcers desk, positioned adjacent to them at ringside.

-Bianca Belair’s music hit and she skipped to the ring to a strong ovation. Cole noted that, with a victory tonight, she’d become the longest reigning women’s champion of the modern era. Iyo Sky headed to the ring solo. Cole noted that some believe Sky is being “held back” by Bayley. Samantha Irvin provided championship introductions. Both women received strong reactions.

(1) BIANCA BELAIR (c) vs. IYO SKY – Raw Women’s Championship match

Bianca Belair and Iyo Sky stood opposite one another and engaged in a quick lock-up. The crowd broke into a loud “let’s go Iyo” chant. She worked over the champion’s arm. Belair used her strength to power free and scoop Sky up for a body slam. Sky slid down the back. Belair took her challenger down and applied a grounded headlock. The crowd booed her loudly. Sky caught a headlock takeover of her own. Belair transitioned out of it and received massive boos again.

The crowd booed every slight movement from the champion. Sky flipped Belair into the corner. She charged, but Bianca caught her with an elbow. She dropped Iyo with a pair of body slams. She set up for a third, but Sky slid over the top rope and onto the apron. She dragged Belair to the corner by her braid. Iyo climbed the turnbuckle and used the braid to bend Belair over the ropes. The referee forced a break before five. Sky leapt over the apron and stomped Belair’s left arm. Cole and Graves said that the challenger is trying to take away the champion’s power by injuring her arm.

Sky and Belair traded control on the mat. Belair broke the stalemate with another body slam. She tried to shake out the injured arm. Sky returned to her feet, grabbed the arm, and slammed Belair shoulder first into the corner. Bianca continued shaking out the injured left arm. A loud “Iyo” chant drowned out Cole and Graves as the match crossed 5:00. Belair writhed on the mat, cluctching the arm. Sky followed her to the corner and delivered forearms to the back. She charged for a running knee, but Belair moved out of the way.

Belair caught Sky with a quick elbow. She hooked Sky by the arms and lifted her up, but Sky countered into a roll through. Instead of a cover, Sky stomped on Belair’s stomach. Sky pulled Belair up by her braid. The two women traded hard right forearms. Belair got leverage and took control. She shot Sky off the ropes. Sky looked for a tilt-a-whirl, but Bianca caught her and transitioned into a nice looking side back-breaker. Belair hurt her arm in the process. Both women struggled to their feet.

The champion hit a pair of clotheslines, then a big dropkick. She delivered a stalling Suplex, then kipped up. She looked around at the booing crowd and egged them on. Belair charged, driving her shoulder into Sky int the corner. She mounted her for corner punches. The crowd counted in Spanish. Iyo eventually shoved Belair away. Belair and Sky jockeyed for position on the ropes. Belair lifted Sky off the top turnbuckle with one arm. She delivered a military press slam. Sky landed awkwardly on her face. Belair followed up with a quick springboard Moonsault for a cover and near fall just before 10:00.

Iyo ducked more offense from the champion, sending her careening into the turnbuckle, injured arm first. Sky headed to the apron. She caught Belair with a springboard missile dropkick. Bianca rolled out of the ring to the floor. Sky went to the northwest turnbuckle to follow her. Belair shoved her to the mat. Belair attempted a 450 Splash, but Sky got her knees up. She pulled Belair into a Crossface. Belair powered out of it and hoisted Sky up into Powerbomb position. Iyo countered into a big face-buster. Belair rolled to the corner. Sky caught her with double knees. Iyo tried to scoop her up in double underhook position, but Sky rolled through again. Belair hoisted Sky up for the K.O.D., but Sky telegraphed it. She kicked Belair to the outside.

Sky rolled to the outside to meet the champion. Belair rushed her. She leapt over her head, went into a handstand on the apron, and flipped toward Sky. Iyo caught her with a kick. She climbed to the top of the turnbuckle and flew onto Belair with a diving Moonsault to the floor. The challenger slid the champion in the ring quickly and covered her for a near fall at 14:25. Belair retreated to the corner. Sky gave her a pair of shoulders to the sternum. She positioned Belair on the top turnbuckle. Belair managed to dump Sky over the top rope, but Iyo held on. The two got tangled up on the top turnbuckle. Sky went for a top rope ‘rana, but Belair held on. She hit a massive sit-out Powerbomb from the top rope for a cover and near fall.

Both women rolled around on the mat. Bayley and Dakota Kai walked briskly down the ramp, showing concern. Belair went to them. Sky used the distraction to pull the champion in by the braid. Belair caught her with a back elbow. She lifted her into K.O.D. position. Dakota Kai leapt onto the apron. Belair used Sky’s legs to knock Kai down. Sky rolled through the attempt into a cover for a near fall of her own. Bayley went to distract the referee. Iyo tripped Belair into the ropes. Dakota Kai kicked Belair in the face. Bayley rushed over the Belair and grabbed her braid while Sky climbed to the top rope. The referee saw Bayley’s interference and forced her to let go and step back. Sky went for the Moonsault, but Belair rolled away. She grabbed Sky and hit the K.O.D. for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Bianca Belair in 18:00 to retain the Raw Women’s Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: Excellent match. Belair has been knocking it out of the park lately with her title defenses, and this one would stand up to just about any of them. Between the way commentary put Iyo Sky over and sold the idea that she may have wanted to do this own her own, to the absolutely massive star reactions she received from San Juan, this felt like a bit of a coming out party for the challenger. This was also the first time Belair received any sort of adverse reaction from the audience and she seemed to take it in stride, tweaking her offense ever so slightly to further promote her size and strength advantage until Damage CTRL showed up and necessitated her baby face comeback. I don’t think it’s time to consider turning Belair, but her fluidity tonight convinced me that she’ll be great at it when the moment is right.  I thought this worked on just about every level from start to finish. They had a molten hot crowd, two highly motivated and talented performers with great chemistry, and it delivered in spades.)

-Rey Mysterio met up with Bad Bunny backstage. They had a quick discussion in Spanish. Rey eventually brought Savio Vega into the room. The crowd roared. Vega gave Bad Bunny a Kendo Stick with the Puerto Rican flag painted on it.

-Cole and Graves talked about the new rosters for Raw and Smackdown, then explained the tournament for the new World Heavyweight Championship.

-During a scheduled break, they showed hype videos for Seth Rollins and Omos ahead of their match.

-Omos headed to the ring with MVP at his side. Cole noted that Omos is a free agent. Graves said MVP negotiated his status. The crowd rose to their feet in anticipation of Seth Rollins’ entrance, then let out a roar when they heard “burn it down.” Rollins emerged from the corner tunnel entrance dancing and leading the choir. The drone camera swerved back and forth around the floor, eventually catching Rollins as he did the same down the ramp.

When Rollins entered the ring, the lights went black and the music stopped. A single spotlight lit Rollins with his arms out. The crowd serenaded him. Omos attacked him from behind with a massive boot to the head.


Referee Jessika Carr gave Seth Rollins a few seconds to collect himself before ringing the bell. The crowd continued to sing. Omos tossed Rollins from corner to corner, seething. He jawed at the crowd. Omos tossed Rollins to the apron. Seth tried to get going by leaping off the rope, but Omos cut him off with a massive uppercut. Seth crumpled to the mat in a heap. Omos pulled him up by the face and walked him into the turnbuckle. He held a firm grip on Rollins’ head, backing him over the top rope and dumping him to the floor.

MVP mocked Rollins from ringside. Seth dragged himself to his feet, but immediately got scooped by Omos. Seth slid down his back and shoved Omos into the ring post. Seth slid in the ring, got a running start, and hit Omos with a dive through the middle rope. Omos barely moved. Seth went for another one. Omos caught him by the throat and slammed him into the apron. Omos lifted Rollins high above his head and military pressed him into the ring.

Omos stocked Seth in the ring. He scooped him onto his shoulder and looked around at the crowd. He delivered snake eyes into the corner, then a big boot. Omos held out his arms and soaked in the boos. Graves said all of Rollins’ offense has been rendered useless. Omos scooped Rollins again. Seth slipped onto his back and applied a mounted sleeper. Omos shrugged him off. Seth didn’t give up. He leapt to the top rope and delivered a quick knee to the face. Omos stumbled. Seth kicked at his legs repeatedly. Omos dropped to a knee. Seth kicked him in the face. He tried to hook Omos for a Pedigree, but Omos easily flipped him over his back.

Graves was astonished, “Omos just completed a back body drop from his knees.” The giant tossed Rollins to the apron as the match crossed 5:30. Rollins managed to slam Omos’ head into the turnbuckle and knock him down. Seth leapt to the top rope and hit a massive frog splash from a cover and one count. Rollins looked at Carr in disbelief. The crowd began singing as Rollins delivered multiple forearms to the side of Omos’ face. He hit a rolling elbow, then a forearm to the back of the neck from the middle rope. Rollins psyched up the crowd. He went for the stomp, but Omos just didn’t go down. He shot to his feet, grabbed Rollins by the throat and gave him a Chokeslam for a cover and near fall.

Omos taunted the crowd again. He went for another Powerslam, but Rollins turned it into a sleeper. Omos backed him into the corner, but Rollins hung on. He got Omos down to a knee as the match approached 8:30. Omos faded briefly, but managed to ride and detach Rollins’ grip with a side slam. “What does Rollins need to do?” Cole pondered. MVP climbed onto the apron, providing a distraction. He slid Omos his cane. Rollins hit a stomp. He kicked MVP off the apron. He hit a second stomp. Rollins covered for a two count.

Rollins climbed to the top turnbuckle while Omos struggled to his feet. Seth hit a stomp from the top rope and covered Omos with his whole body for a three count.

WINNER: Seth Rollins in 10:30

(LeClair’s Analysis: I thought this was pretty clearly the best match of Omos’ career, and by a considerable margin. Rollins promised he’d deliver Omos’ best match, and he was right. While he was still asked to do relatively little, Omos has caught on to certain elements of the performance that are crucial for a guy his size with limited in-ring ability. When he wasn’t showing vast improvement in the little things between the moves, Omos was aided by Rollins creating a ton of movement for him, which made all of his offense look violent and credible. Seth needed the win here, given his uptick in popularity and positioning on the Raw roster post-draft. It’s concerning, though, that Omos continues to enter into these programs only to lose definitively. I certainly wouldn’t advocate for him beating Rollins, but I also don’t know how you continue to put him in big matches when he just consistently loses. He can only gain so much back by squashing random lower-card guys on Raw.  Perhaps the recent uptick in match quality will assist his longevity as WWE’s new staple giant, because his booking certainly lending him any credibility.)

-Cole talked over a shot of the beautiful shoreline in San Juan. He tossed to a recap of the Backlash press conference, where Damian Priest and Bad Bunny had a physical confrontation.

-Bobby Lashley headed to the ring for the U.S. Championship match. He got a warm reception from the crowd. Bronson Reed headed to the ring next. Graves said he hopes he wins the title and brings it back to Raw. Austin Theory entered last. The camera focused on his championship as he gave it a pat and said “all day.”

(3) AUSTIN THEORY (c) vs. BOBBY LASHLEY vs. BRONSON REED – Triple Threat match for the WWE United States Championship

Austin Theory raced toward Bobby Lashley when the bell rang. Lashley dropped him with a quick shoulder tackle. Bronson Reed tried to attack Lashley, but Bobby backed him into the corner and gave him a quick short-arm clothesline. Theory returned to the fold, but Lashley tossed him to the outside. Bobby went a quick application of the Hurt Lock on Reed. Theory rushed into the ring to break it up before Bobby could lock it in.

Lashley tossed Reed to the floor. He scooped Theory and gave him a stalling Suplex. Reed returned and cut off Lashley’s momentum. He and Theory had a quick discussion and opted to double team Lashley in the corner. Theory threw Bobby to the mat and Reed gave him a big rolling splash. Theory started barking orders. He tossed Lashley to the corner and gave him a quick running clothesline. Reed soured on the partnership quickly, throwing his whole body into the champion. Reed turned around and ate a lifting slam from Lashley. Theory took one too. Reed rolled to the outside. Lashley gave Theory a spear and covered him, but Reed pulled him outside at two.

Bronson Reed climbed back onto the apron, then executed a leaping splash off the middle rope onto a standing Bobby Lashley on the floor. Bobby went down hard. Reed tossed Bobby back in the ring and climbed to the top rope. Theory pulled the ropes down and tripped him up. He leapt into the ring, but immediately got caught in a Hurt Lock. Theory used his feet to climb up the ropes and try to flip over Lashley. He wound up on top of him in a pin. The referee began to count, but Reed splashed Lashley from the top rope to break it up.

Reed and Theory traded punches as the match crossed 6:00. Theory caught Reed with a leaping Blockbuster. He called for A-Town Down and tried to scoop Bronson. Reed collapsed him. He climbed to the top rope and went for a Moonsault on the champion. Theory rolled out of the way. Reed struggled to his feet and got caught with a spear from Lashley. Theory quickly tossed Lashley to the outside and covered Reed for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Austin Theory in 6:51 to retain the WWE United States Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: This was too quick to feel significant, but the minutes we got were a lot of fun. Bronson Reed, in particular, stood out as the impressive big man with great offense. It feels like they’ve done this finish with Theory and Lashley more than once. I didn’t like it the first time, and I didn’t care for it here. There’s a fairly obvious and consistent pattern when it comes to booking Theory matches – “how can we give Theory a cheap win that keeps everything at status quo?” They drew a repeat card tonight. Despite getting a big win over John Cena at WrestleMania, Theory seems no better off. Graves even went out of his way to mention that not much as changed. If anything, we’re regressing back to the first program between Theory and Lashley where WWE seemed too timid to actually commit to anyone definitively winning at any point.)

-After a break, Rhea Ripley headed to the ring in new white gear. She wore a choker with “MAMI” on the throat. Zelina Vega followed, wearing a massive Puerto Rico flag vest. She held it out on her walk down the ramp to a strong ovation. Zelina gave a hug to her mother and step-father at ringside. Samantha Irvin introduced the two women. Vega teared up as her name was announced and the crowd gave her a sustained, big ovation. Ripley received big boos.

(4) RHEA RIPLEY (c) vs. ZELINA VEGA – Smackdown Women’s Championship match

“The emotion on the face of the challenger does not bode her well,” Graves noted as the bell rang. Rhea Ripley had on a stoic game face. She charged at Vega, but Zelina ducked her and jogged in place. Vega leapt to the apron. Ripley tried to spear her, but Zelina dropped to the floor. She went to her mother in the front row and retrieved a flip-flop. Cole said anyone of Puerto Rican heritage will understand the significance. Vega tossed it at Ripley. Rhea was angered. She rushed to the outside. Zelina used her speed to avoid her. The two quickly wound up back in the ring.

Ripley backed Vega into the corner and delivered hard shoulders into the mid-section as the match hit 2:30. Ripley whipped her challenger hard into the northwest turnbuckle, then shook her shoulders to mock the late Eddie Guerrero. The champion whipped Zelina into the corner again, collapsing her a second time. Rhea dragged Vega out of the corner by a leg and dropped her over her knee. She scooped up from the side and bent her over her shoulder, folding Vega in the wrong direction. The drone camera took a quick pass around the ring as Vega slid free of the hold.

The champion tossed Vega into the corner again and charged. Vega jumped out of the way, sending Ripley hard into the ring post. Zelina willed the crowd to life. She delivered a handful of forearms to the face. She hit the ropes and delivered a clothesline, then another. She went for a third, but Ripley cut her off with a violent headbutt. Rhea went for Riptide, but Vega countered it into a DDT. Ripley struggled to pull herself up by the ropes. She wound up draped on the second, in perfect position for Vega to hit a 619. Vega climbed to the middle rope and shook her shoulders, then delivered a nice looking Meteora. She covered Ripley for a two count just after 6:30.

Vega continued to throw rights at the champion. She hit the ropes again, but Ripley cut her off with a punch of her own. Vega staggered backward. Ripley popped up, pulled Vega in and delivered Riptide for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Rhea Ripley in 7:11 to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Zelina received a standing ovation as she rose to her feet. She got emotional again, looking around and soaking it in. She blew a kiss to her family, and then to the crowd as the camera faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I thought this did exactly what it set out to do. Zelina Vega was never going to be a significant threat to Rhea Ripley’s title, but they sold her as a real underdog and feel good story for a crowd that was proud to rally behind her, and it worked. I’ve enjoyed Legado Del Fantasma’s rise to prominence thanks to the pairing with Rey Mysterio, and Vega is not only a good mouthpiece for the group, but a great presence and occasional wrestler, too. Ripley was, as always, impressive in her role. Her offense was crisp, she was fast on her feet when it came to encouraging additional boos from the crowd, and she got a clean, dominating win. This just worked. It was the perfect, market-catered B-level PLE title match.)

-Cole talked over a shot of the San Juan skyline. He tossed to a video package for the first part of the “double main event” – Bad Bunny vs. Damian Priest.

Damian Priest entered first, also adorning new white gear to match his Judgment Day cohort, Rhea Ripley. Cole said his entrance vest is the same he wore two years ago when tagging with Bad Bunny. Graves said that Priest told him earlier that he’s wearing all white because “in this story, he’s the hero.”

Bad Bunny entered to massive ovation. Pyro shot from the lighting rig above the ring. Bunny carried with him the Kendo Stick gifted to him by Savio Vega earlier in the night. He began rounding the corner, then thought better of it. He backed up to unveil a covered shopping cart filled with weapons. The crowd sang along to his entrance song.

(5) DAMIAN PRIEST vs. BAD BUNNY – Street Fight

Damian Priest stepped to the middle of the ring. Bad Bunny stepped back and forth nervously in the corner. He stopped to Corbin in the center of the ring. Priest shoved him to the ground. Bunny collected himself got back in Priest’s face. Damian shoved him into the corner and punched him again. Bunny looked downtrodden for a moment, but fired back with a quick right hand of his own. Bunny flew out of the corner and gave Priest a big body slam. Priest rolled out of the ring, incensed. Bunny rolled outside too. He retrieved a Kendo stick. Bunny slid in the ring to evade Priest and did a little dance. This angered Priest even more. He rushed into the ring and pulled the Kendo stick away from Bunny. He broke it over his knee and tossed Bunny into the corner.

Priest performed an exaggerated “suck it” taunt before grabbing and twisting Bunny’s arm. Bunny threw a punch, but Priest shrugged it off and flexed his arm. Priest threw wild forearms at Bunny’s elbow, dropping him repeatedly. Bunny caught Priest in the eye. “All legal!” Cole exclaimed. Priest snarled. Bunny backed him into the corner and mounted him for punches. After just two, Priest powered him out of the corner and slammed him for a cover and two count.

Damian worked Bunny into the southwest corner of the ring. He hit a leaping body shot, then followed up with South of Heaven for a cover. At two, Priest lifted Bunny’s shoulders off the mat. He smirked at the crowd. Graves said Priest is going to “savor the suffering” of the biggest artist in the world. Priest headed outside to retrieve an axe handle. He slammed it against the steps and twirled it in his fingers. Once he saw Bunny in a heap on the floor, he tossed the weapon to the side. He got a running start, trying to leap off the ropes onto Bunny. Bunny tossed a chair at Priest’s face. Bunny hit rapid fire punches, then pulled Priest in for a nice tornado DDT off the middle rope. Priest stumbled into the ropes. Bunny Clotheslined him up, over, and to the floor just after 6:15.

Bad Bunny looked toward the crowd, then made his way to the top rope. He hit a diving splash into the waiting arms of Damian Priest below. Bunny pounded his chest, riling up the crowd. He retried two trash can lids. He hit Priest from all sides, then pancaked his head. Priest rolled into the ring to escape. Bunny retrieved a Kendo stick and littered Priest with shots. Damian wrestled the stick away, but Bunny pounced on him. He hooked him and delivered a Falcon Arrow for a cover and two count.

Priest rolled to the outside. He checked his mouth and nose for blood and found a trickle. Bunny drew a line with his foot in the ring. Priest begged off. He turned around and began walking up the aisle. Bunny gave chase with a trash can. Priest telegraphed it, spun around and kicked the can right into Bunny’s face. Bunny crawled back to ringside. Priest grabbed Vega’s Kendo stick. He batted the air with it, then cracked it over Bunny’s back. Bunny sold the shot with intensity. Priest tossed Bunny haphazardly into the timekeeper’s area. Cole said Damian is “oozing with confidence.”

Bunny and Priest brawled into the crowd. They traded rights and quick kicks. Priest scooped Bunny onto a road crate in the production area. He climbed atop it. The camera filmed the two from below. Bunny fought back with a couple of punches as the two fought for minimal real estate. Priest pulled Bunny in and delivered a Falcon Arrow off the stacked crates through a number of covered tables below. Priest emerged from the wreckage. Additional officials, agents, and Adam Pearce emerged to check on Bad Bunny. Pearce tried to tell Priest that it’s over.

“He’s not done because I’m not done,” Priest barked at Pearce. He scooped Bunny up from the wreckage and carried him all the way back to ringside. Priest shadowboxed as he waited for Bunny to stand. Priest went for a spinning kick, but Bunny ducked. Priest kicked the ring post hard at 14:30. He slid in the ring, hopping on one leg and asking the referee to check on him. Bunny gave him no reprieve, attacking him with a Kendo stick. Bunny put Priest’s leg on his shoulder and leapt to mat to hyper-extend the knee.

“My knee’s not okay, it’s not okay, man!” Priest frantically told the referee. Bunny pulled Priest’s legs through the ring post and slammed his knee against it repeatedly. Bunny retrieved a chain from the shopping chart. He wrapped it around Damian’s knee and slammed his ankle into the post. Priest pleaded for mercy. Bunny hit the ankle with a steel chair. Priest rolled away from the corner and tried to stand. He quickly collapsed. Bunny told the referee to move out of the way. He lifted the chair over his head. Priest pleaded. He apologized, clutching his knee and ankle. Bunny hesitated. He pulled back the chair. Priest kicked him in the face.

Damian hopped to his feet, grabbing the chair on one good leg. He swung at Bunny, but Benito gave him a low blow. Finn Balor and Dominick Mysterio rushed down the aisle, hitting the ring to beat down Bunny. Before long, Rey Mysterio rushed to Bunny’s aid. Judgment Day had the numbers and quickly overwhelmed Rey. Suddenly, Carlito’s music hit. The crowd came unglued. Carlito emerged from the back wearing an LWO shirt. He rushed to the ring. He dropped Balor, then pulled an apple from his pocket. He took a big bite. Dominick attacked Carlito from behind. Mysterio returned and kicked Dom into the ropes. He gave him a 619. Carlito spit apple in Dom’s face.

Judgment Day began to retreat. They got halfway down the aisle when Savio Vega’s music hit. He blocked Judgement Day’s path to the back. The crowd was in a frenzy. Dom and Finn looked to approach, but Vega put out a hand. He motioned to the back. Legado Del Fantasma joined the party. They pounced on Dom. Balor made it past the fray, but walked right into a trio of chops from Savio Vega. Savio kicked Finn, then chopped Dom. The crowd chanted along happily. The LWO chased Judgment Day to the back.

The camera returned to the ring at 22:22. Bad Bunny walked into an attempted spinning kick from Priest. He ducked it. Priest nearly collapsed from the pain in his leg. Bunny tripped him up and applied the Figure Four. Priest almost got counted down. He eventually broke the hold by grabbing Benito by the throat. He hoisted Bunny up for the Chokeslam, but Bunny rolled through into a cover for two. Priest charged at Bunny, but Bunny moved. Priest went crashing into a chair propped in the corner. Benito followed up with Sliced Bread #2 for a cover and near fall.

Benito grabbed another chair. He hit Priest in the back repeatedly. “I think the chair just went platinum,” Graves joked. Bunny set Priest up and delivered a Bunny Destroyer for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Bad Bunny in 25:04

The LWO, Savio Vega, and Carlito returned to celebrate with Bad Bunny in the ring and around ringside. The camera showed a dejected Damian Priest slumped against the barricade. Bunny slapped hands with fans all the way up the aisle.

(LeClair’s Analysis: An incredibly well-booked, crowd-pleasing spectacle. A love letter in a number of ways to Puerto Rican wrestling heritage, Bunny and Priest had the crowd in the palm of their hands from the opening bell until the predictable plethora of interference as the match drew toward its conclusion. This was a fun fight to begin with, but the electricity of the crowd took it to another level. Bad Bunny is among a growing list of non-wrestlers who exceed even the loftiest of expectations, with the added bonus of being a genuine, mega, world-renowned superstar. WWE excels at this kind of match. Massive credit to Damian Priest, too. He was a great dance partner for Bad Bunny, dastardly in all the right moments, and careful to control the flow of spots to keep the crowd engaged without exhausting them.  This was just unabashed fun., and a style of pro wrestling that can work incredibly well when done right.)

-Michael Cole tossed to a video package for the six man tag team match for those with Peacock Premium Plus.

The Usos headed to the ring first, with Solo Sikoa sauntering slowly behind them. Cole wondered where he stands. Graves said there’s a lot of questions about his relationship with his brothers. He wondered about the “task” given to Solo by Roman Reigns.

Matt Riddle entered next. The crowd gave him a friendly “bro” chant. He stopped just beyond the LED tunnel entrance to be joined by Kevin Owens. They stood waiting for the final member of their trio, Sami Zayn. The crowd began singing along instantly. Zayn unzipped his hoodie to reveal his tag team title belts as the crowd’s singing grew to a roar.

(6) THE BLOODLINE (Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso & Solo Sikoa) vs. SAMI ZAYN & KEVIN OWENS & MATT RIDDLE – Six Man Tag Team match

The crowd continued to serenade Sami Zayn as the bell rang. The Bloodline had a brief chat about their strategy and who would begin the match. Jey took charge. He went for a hand slap with Solo Sikoa, who seemed to accept reluctantly. Jey Uso turned to face Sami Zayn. The two locked up. Jey hit the ropes and dropped Sami with a shoulder tackle. Jey climbed his team’s turnbuckle and threw up a 1. “This is too easy!” Jimmy yelled. Sami let him showboat.

Zayn and Jey locked up again. Jey grabbed another side headlock and dropped to a knee. Sami worked to his feet and sent Jey off the ropes. He caught Uso with a quick clothesline. Jey retreated to his corner and the referee backed Sami off. Jey grabbed his chin. He tagged in Jimmy. Jimmy entered slowly. Sami offered to tag in Kevin Owens. Owens looked around at the crowd. They cheered him on, so he tagged hin. He dropped Jimmy in the corner, then turned to give the Bloodline corner an emphatic “suck it.” He slammed Jimmy to the mat and followed up with a Senton. Owens tagged in Matt Riddle.

Riddle whipped Jimmy to the corner and charged. Jimmy leapfrogged him, but Riddle wasn’t phased. He grabbed Jimmy by the waist hit a nice Gutwrench before tagging Sami Zayn back in. Zayn elbowed Jimmy, who quickly rolled back to the safety of his own corner. Jimmy looked rattled. he grabbed at his sternum, but refused a tag from Jey. Solo Sikoa tagged himself in with a slap to Jimmy’s chest. The Usos looked a little concerned, but gave Solo the floor.

Sikoa backed Zayn into the corner as the match crossed 5:00. He worked Sami to the mat with repeated, violent headbutts. Zayn collapsed. He pulled himself up only to be immediately thrust back to the mat by Solo. Sikoa walked to his corner and offered a tag to Jimmy. “That’s what I’m talking about, Solo,” Jimmy applauded him. He tagged in and continued to beat down Zayn in the corner. Sami blocked a punch by Jimmy and got in a few quick punches. Jimmy powered Sami into the corner. Solo tagged himself in again. Sikoa worked on Sami methodically. He choked him across the middle rope. The referee forced him off. Jimmy kicked Sami in the head behind the official’s back.

Solo tagged Jimmy in. Together, they delivered a split wishbone to Zayn. Jimmy covered him for a two count as the match crossed 8:00. Zayn tried desperately to make a tag. Jimmy dragged him away from the baby face corner. Jimmy kicked Riddle off the apron. Sami leapfrogged Jimmy and dropped him with a clothesline. Zayn crawled toward Owens. Jey tried to cut him off, but Sami tossed him to the floor. Sami continued his crawl. Jey ripped Owens off the apron. He grabbed him by the head and slammed him into the ring steps, repeating the spot from the Royal Rumble.

Jey stalked the worn out Zayn in the ring. Sami delivered punches to Solo and Jimmy on the apron. He reached out for Matt Riddle, but Jey gave him a quick Samoan Drop. Jey tagged in Solo Sikoa. They continued to beat Sami down. Solo cornered the tag champion and asked, “what the hell is wrong with you?” He hoisted Zayn to the top turnbuckle. Sami kicked at Solo’s head wildly. He created enough separation to dive at Riddle and make a tag. Solo tagged out as well.

Matt Riddle went to work. He dropped Jimmy, then Jey, then Jimmy again. He kicked Solo in the head. He delivered a Broton to Jimmy. The Usos and Solo regrouped on the outside. Riddle leapt to the apron, then hit a springboard dive onto all three. Riddle and Jimmy slowly worked their way back to the ring. Jimmy climbed to the top turnbuckle, but Riddle leapt up to greet him with an arm drag off the top. Riddle tagged in Kevin Owens. KO hit the Swanton from the top rope and covered Jimmy for a near fall just before 13:30. Both men rose to their feet. Owens went for a Stunner, but Jimmy blocked it. He went for a Superkick. Owens blocked that and hit one of his own. Jimmy stumbled into the ropes and was tagged out by Jey.

Jimmy threw a Superkick at Owens. KO ducked. Jimmy kicked his brother Jey. Owens kicked Jimmy, then Solo. Jey slid back in the ring, still reeling from the incidental Superkick. Owens dropped him. He climbed to the top turnbuckle and went for another Senton, but Jey got his knees up. The camera pulled back and Cole reset the scene. Back in the ring, KO and Jey traded quick right hands. Owens went for a Stunner, but Jey blocked it. The two began trading Superkicks. Both men were kept upright by the ropes. Owens sprung back at Jey and took him down with a big clothesline. “Everybody down!’ Cole exclaimed.

Sami and Jimmy tagged in simultaneously. Zayn hit the Blue Thunder Bomb for a cover and near fall at 16:35. He climbed the northeast turnbuckle. Jimmy charged and caught him with a kick to the head to sit him down. Jimmy tagged Jey and the two climbed the ropes together. Sami threw forearms at both of them. He cleared them both off the turnbuckle and dove. The Usos caught him with tandem Superkicks for a cover and near fall. Jey shook his head in frustration. He followed Sami to the corner. “I’m tired of you!” he yelled. He told Sami it’s his fault for “breaking the family up.” Jey ripped his shirt off and tossed it in Sami’s face. He backed up and called out. Solo Sikoa tagged himself in with a hard slap to the chest.

Jey reluctantly stepped to the apron. He thought for a moment, then slapped Solo hard in the chest to tag back in. “I’m in here, me!” Jey yelled. Solo stepped outside. Zayn charged at Jey. Uso ducked. Zayn gave Solo a Heluva Kick on the apron. He followed with an Exploder to Jey in the corner. Zayn positioned Uso, ran to the opposing corner, then hauled off for another Heluva Kick. Zayn hooked the leg, but Solo broke up the pin just in time.

Solo rose to his feet, flanked by a fallen Jey and Sami. He looked back and forth, contemplating his next move. He seemed like he was about to go for Jey, but Riddle arrived and gave him a pump knee to the face. Jimmy returned and tossed Riddle to the outside. Owens jumped in and gave Jimmy a Stunner. Solo caught Owens with a kick, then the Samoan Spike. Jey stood up and slapped Solo on the back. Solo spun around and grabbed Jey by the throat. Solo still outstretched the arm and cocked back the thumb. Jey looked on incredulously. He shook Solo’s hand off. Solo snarled at his older brother. “You gonna hit me?” Jey asked repeatedly. Solo motioned toward his reddened chest that Jey slapped earlier.

Zayn attacked Solo from behind, suspending the Bloodline drama. Jey rolled Sami up for a quick two count. Jey gave Sami a Superkick. He quickly climbed to the top turnbuckle, looking for a splash. Sami got his knees up and rolled Jey into a small package for a two count. Both men rolled to their feet. Jey kicked Sami. Zayn stumbled back into his corner, allowing Matt Riddle to tag in. Riddle peppered Jimmy with quick strikes and kicks. Jimmy gave him a Superkick. Riddle shrugged it off and hit another Pump Knee. Jey fell into the ropes. Solo Sikoa tagged himself in. Riddle hit Jey with the Bro-Derek and covered, not realizing Jey was no longer legal. Solo grabbed Riddle and gave him the Samoan Spike for a cover and three count.

WINNERS: The Bloodline in 22:05

Solo Sikoa stood in the center of the ring, watching as the Usos regrouped and tried to assess. Jey joined his younger brother first, throwing up a 1 as Solo stared stoically into the hard camera. Jimmy got in between he and Jey and joined in his twin’s pose. Solo seethed, but eventually threw his arms back in a sign of unity as the camera faded out.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Really good match. These six had the challenge of following a massive, fun, fan-service spectacle and had no problem rising to the occasion. Sami Zayn was smartly booked to be the underdog in desperate need of a tag throughout the early going, giving the crowd time to breathe after the last match and built up their energy and anticipation for the eventual big hot tags. Kevin Owens and Matt Riddle shined when called upon to deliver flurries of offense, but this match was really centered around Zayn and the continued decline in the cohesiveness of the Bloodline. As they so often do, Jey and Jimmy slowed down the pace at will to inject story banter into the match. Their facial expressions and non-verbal communication at key points of the match made their tension with Solo Sikoa, who remained stoic, feel heightened. The teased dissension never led to a full-on breakdown, but they did enough to further the angle and get people excited for Roman Reigns’ return on Friday. Good stuff.)

-After a break, Cole and Graves talked up the main event. Cole tossed to a video package.

-The lights cut out and the familiar introductory line rang out over the speakers. The crowd roared in approval. Cody Rhodes emerged from the tunnel. The crowd greeted him with a massive “woah.” Rhodes hugged fans on the aisle on his way to the ring. Cody dropped to his knees in the ring and kissed the mat. Graves said he’s “in for the fight of a lifetime.” Just then, Brock Lesnar’s music rang out. He jogged into the aisle and pyro exploded from the rafters. Lesnar walked slowly toward the ring, receiving a big star reaction from the ever-energized San Juan crowd. Brock took a slow lap around the ring, stopping the throw his arms up in front of the announcers desk.

Cody Rhodes got a running start and launched himself through the middle rope onto Brock, toppling him into the announcers desks. Lesnar was rocked. Cody grabbed the steel steps and hit Brock in the face three times. He retrieved a steel chair from underneath the ring and wrapped it around Lesnar’s back repeatedly. Brock stood hunched over the base of the steps at ringside. Cody tried to hit him with the chair again, but Brock rolled out of the way and into the ring. Cody Rhodes followed.


Cody Rhodes brought the steel chair into the ring. The referee took it away and called for the bell. Cody immediately hit the ropes and went for a Disaster Kick. He leapt into the waiting clutch of Brock Lesnar, who gave him a huge German Suplex. Cody rolled out to the apron. He caught Brock with a kick to the stomach. Cody climbed to the top rope and dove, looking for a cross-body. Lesnar picked up out of mid-air and delivered a Fallaway Slam.

The crowd broke into a loud “Suplex City” chant. Lesnar smiled. Brock gave Cody a release German Suplex. The crowd cheered. Brock stalked his prey. He grabbed Cody and delivered another. Rhodes bounced into the corner. The crowd cheered Lesnar loudly. The camera zoomed in to show the welts and scratches on Lesnar’s back from Cody’s pre-match attack. Lesnar kicked at Cody’s ribs. He stomped on the back of his knee. He grabbed Rhodes by the waist and gave him a fourth German Suplex at 3:15.

“I think we may be seeing the American Nightmare unravel before our eyes,” Graves surmised. Cody writhed on the mat. Lesnar stood over him, occasionally giving him little kicks. He pulled Rhodes to his feet and gave him a pair of quick vertical Suplexes. Cody crawled to the corner, using the middle rope to help him stand. As Lesnar grabbed Rhodes’ waist, Cody pulled the top turnbuckle padding off trying to block the attempt. Lesnar hit a fifth German Suplex. The turnbuckle pad flew into the crowd.

Lesnar grabbed Rhodes again, this time from the front. He settled into a bear hug. Cody tried to elbow himself free, but Lesnar gave him an overhead belly-to-belly. Cody slumped against the bottom rope. Brock laughed. A “let’s go Cody” chant finally broke out. Lesnar cornered Rhodes and drove his shoulder into his sternum repeatedly. Lesnar tried to charge, but Cody moved. He tripped Lesnar into the exposed turnbuckle. Brock stumbled back, now bleeding heavily from the forehead. Rhodes hit the ropes and connected with a Cody Cutter. He smeared Brock’s blood all over his chest. Rhodes hit a second Cody Cutter.

Rhodes stalked Lesnar. He delivered Cross Rhodes. Cody hung on. He hit Cross Rhodes a second time. Rhodes hooked the leg, but Lesnar kicked out just in time as the match approached 8:00. The canvas was now covered in Brock’s blood. Rhodes set up for a third Cross Rhodes. Lesnar slid free, scooped Cody into the air and delivered an F5. Brock hooked the leg for a near fall of his own. The referee tried to wipe some of the blood up with a towel. Lesnar and Rhodes stalled briefly when rising to their feet. Cody threw a few punches, but Lesnar caught one and pulled him into a Kimura Lock.

Lesnar had the hold on tight. Cody was caught. He tried to position his body to avoid Lesnar being able to snap the arm. Brock gained leverage and started to peel back. Cody, in a last breath of desperation, popped his hips up, forcing Brock onto his back. Cody remained in the hold, but the referee counted to three.

WINNER: Cody Rhodes in 9:42

Lesnar released the hold in shock. Cody immediately rolled to the outside and moved up the aisle quickly, selling the arm that was trapped in the Kimura. The camera cut to a befuddled Lesnar in the ring as he used a towel to wipe the pool of blood from his face. He slumped against the ropes as the crowd sang Cody’s theme in the background and the show faded out to a recap video package.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I liked this, but I found that it felt out of place to close the show. Cody’s win was creative, but it didn’t feel definitive. They told the story that he survived and escaped, and that Lesnar was outsmarted but not beaten. That feels like chapter one of a longer arc, and that’s okay. If that’s the play, though, I think it would’ve been wise to swap its place on the card with Bad Bunny vs. Damian Priest, which felt not only felt definitive, but had the length and crowd connection of true main event. The San Juan crowd didn’t seem like they were overly invested in the story Lesnar and Cody were telling. They weren’t hostile toward Rhodes at all, but they really just wanted to see Lesnar hit a bunch of Suplexes. It wasn’t until Brock started bleeding that the crowd seemed to really latch on to the story being told. The way Rhodes left the ring in a rush, and the camera instead focused on Lesnar in defeat, just felt like a bit of a flat way to close out a show that had really been packed to the brim with excitement from the opening promo. I think this match worked in a vacuum, and I suspect that they’re telling a larger story here where it will make even more sense in hindsight, but I do think its placement was a detraction.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: WWE is brilliant when it comes to booking special market shows. They assemble a card that caters very specifically to the demographic of the live audience and use weekly television to tell the rest of the world why its important. They did it incredibly well with Clash at the Castle last September, and again tonight with Backlash. Despite my qualms with the placement of Rhodes and Lesnar, I thought the card itself more or less delivered top to bottom. In particular, the Raw Women’s title match and Bad Bunny vs. Damian Priest were truly excellent matches (for entirely different reasons) that should hold up to multiple rewatches. Despite being a B-level PLE on the heels a massively successful WrestleMania, Backlash felt special and was bolstered by an incredible, lively, engaged crowd that felt enamored with the product even when they broke away from WWE’s intended dynamics. All around, a really fun, diversified card and excellent atmosphere.

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