Roman Reigns, Ronda Rousey shine

Every now and again one of these less-heralded WWE pay-per-views sneaks up on you to completely overdeliver, and WrestleMania Backlash did just that.

Given a little more time to work and a little more story, the WrestleMania rematches on the card outshined what we got on the grandest stage of them all and the six-man-tag main event more than lived up to its potential. You can nitpick some of the storyline decisions and finishes but there was a ton of good wrestling on this show from the Dunkin ‘Donuts Center in Providence, RI. It is a joy to see from WWE and these smaller shows should stick to the less matches, three-hour format. Here are five takeaways from WrestleMania Backlash:

Can’t Touch This

WWE isn’t ready to let Roman Reigns lose at anything. In what seemed like the perfect time to put a little dent in The Bloodline, the Samoans were again left to stand tall to end another pay-per-view. Reigns, who hasn’t lost a pay-per-view match of any kind since King Corbin beat him at TLC on Dec. 15, 2019, did eat a Claymore and an RKO. But ultimately got his team the victory with a spear on Riddle, who had just RKO’d Jey Uso from the top rope. The Tribal Chief feels even more untouchable now.

While this shouldn’t hinder WWE from still getting to Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre and The Usos vs. RKO-Bro, it only seems to further the feeling the results are inevitable in those matches – and maybe that ends up being a good thing. There is also a chance WWE could have laid the seed for Reigns vs. Randy Orton for the WWE championship at some point, especially with the reaction his RKO countering a Superman Punch got.

This match already had a strike against it because it negated a potential tag team title unification bout, but these are six of WWE’s most talented performers and they delivered something special. Early on it was the story of Reigns trying to avoid a confrontation with McIntyre before being forced into it by making a tag-in mistake. What followed was the match flipping from methodical to a fast-paced style encounter you see more often in AEW and the indies that made for a high-energy finish to the night even with the end result.

A Tights Situation

Cody Rhodes has a long way to go to catch Reigns, but he still hasn’t lost since returning to WWE. He did, however, take some liberties to get it done. After Seth Rollins tried to pull the American Nightmare’s tights to secure the pin, Rhodes quickly returned the favor to get the 1-2-3 himself. While I’m not a fan of such a big babyface like Cody going to that so early in his run, it did effectively let him win the match, one up Rollins and give his nemesis a reason to try to complete the trilogy at Hell in a Cell.

Cody Rhodes defeated Seth Rollins at WrestleMania Backlash.

What was beautiful about this match – and probably a lot of what Rhodes will bring to WWE – is it had such an old-school wrestling feel and a very clear story. Rollins countered all of Rhodes’ signature moves early now that he could prepare. Rhodes was the babyface in peril for most of the match and then things climaxed with a few false finishes, a foot on the rope and each man trying to dig deep to put the other away. The crowd was into this one from start to finish as the opening match and the fans are clearly behind Rhodes. The son of “The American Dream” may be on his way to quite a push to start his WWE return if he is to beat Seth Rollins in three straight pay-per-view match. This is a prime candidate for a Hell in a Cell match.

Back on Top

Ronda Rousey is again a world champion in WWE and it will likely be a while before we see Charlotte Flair on TV again. Flair, who is reportedly set to marry her fiancé Andrade soon, was diagnosed with a broken arm as part of the storyline after Rousey worked the limb all match and put a little something extra on an arm bar through chair that finally made the Queen say ‘ I quit ”. It earned Rousey the SmackDown women’s championship for the first time in her career. With Rousey’s daughter being such a big part of the promos in this story, it felt fitting that she put the winning submission on after Flair wished her a “Happy Mother’s Day.”

This, unlike their WrestleMania encounter, felt like the all-out match this feud has been building towards since their Survivor Series clash in 2019. The “I Quit” stipulation allowed them to have more of a brawl filled with kendo sticks, a camera throw , fighting in the stands and a few badass submissions. Rousey at one point put the arm bar on Flair –whaling in pain selling – while hanging off the ring post. The fans didn’t get the tables they were chanting for, but they did get Rousey’s best match since returning and a reminder that Flair always delivers in a big spot. I’d love for Bayley, if healthy, to return to be Rousey’s next big feud through the summer.

Rip ‘Tide Turner

The rumors of Rhea Ripley joining Edge’s Judgment Day faction proved to be true, but the execution could have been a little better. She revealed herself to be the hooded attacker that cost AJ Styles the match against her new leader Edge. Damian Priest, sans a hood, did something similar to thwart Styles at WrestleMania, so it felt a little rinse and repeat unless this is going to be the way all new members debut. This moment, with a little more build and reasoning outside of the purple light behind Ripley during the promo, may have been better suited for a “Monday Night Raw.”

Adding even more of an edge (pun intended) to Ripley’s character does feel needed and so does WWE having a super-rare inter-gender faction. It likely sets up a six-person match against Styles, Balor and Liv Morgan. A heel Ripley with some backing is also a perfect potential foil for Raw women’s champion Bianca Belair. Here is hoping Edge adds a at least one more person to break WWE’s cycle of having no more than three people in a faction.

Styles and Edge had a fine match centered around the Hall of Famer injuring the arm Styles uses to deliver the Phenomenal Forearm. Styles still looked pretty strong even in defeat, fighting to the end before passing out in the crossface submission. It feels like they are saving the forearm as the move that will finally earn Styles a win at some point since he has yet to hit in in two matches.

The Real MVP

This was another example of the rematch outshining the WrestleMania original. We got to see a lot more of Omos’ athleticism, selling and his ability to tell a story with his facial expression. Lashley’s unreal power was on display, especially on a modified, one-armed spinebuster. That being said, this match was correctly about the benefits of Omos having MVP as his manager this time around. Omos listened to his advice to get out of jams and MVP hit Lashley with his cane to help set up this client’s win. This doesn’t feel over, but let’s keep building up Omos if it does.

Other Matches

Madcap Moss over Happy Corbin

If there is one match that felt like it did not belong it was this one. Corbin is hated enough that the crowd was behind Moss. Both men showed off their power, with Moss winning with a sunset flip. This felt like a TV match and don’t be surprised if we get a WrestleMania Backlash rematch on SmackDown this week.

Biggest Winner: Cody Rhodes, Ronda Rousey

Biggest Losers: Drew McIntyre and RK-Bro

Best match: Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins

Predictions: 3-3

Grade: A-


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