WWE Wrestlemania Backlash 2021 (Cert 12)
1 DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 176 minutes approx.
Release Date: July 5th
Why Wrestlemania Backlash and not just Backlash? Who knows? I suppose it was felt a more tangible hook was needed to entice fans our maybe it was designed to capitalise on the fact Wrestlemania 37 was held in front of fans and they wanted to ride the buzz. Of course, the name would imply that the matches would be inspired by the fallout from Wrestlemania 37 but this was only partially true.
Traditionally, Wrestlemania was the pivotal point of the year, ending one set of feuds and beginning new programmes in its wake. But with the advent of monthly PPVs and the slow death of house shows as a means to draw money, the focus of which has now been switched to TV, that fulcrum no longer exists and the post-Mania PPV has usually seen WM rematches that new matches.
In the instances of its year’s iteration, the show is a mixed bag – new challenges for some, more of the same for others, with two Mania re-matches given the big twist of being made triple threat matches! Whoo! It also features an early Worst Match of the Year contender so there is that as well.
Held on May 16th at the WWE Thunderdome located inside the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida. Commentary is provided by Michael Cole and Pat McAfee for SD and Adnan Vink, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton for RAW.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers but plenty of opinion and backstories!
RAW Women’s Title Triple Threat Match – Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair
Rhea defeated Asuka at Wrestlemania 37 for the title and the rematch happened the next night on RAW but was ruined a returning Charlotte who cut her usual whiny promo about being the centre of the universe, blah, blah, blah. She and Asuka faced off the following week to determine the next challenger which Asuka won, causing Charlotte to attack the ref, receiving a suspension except Sonya Deville reinstated Charlotte the next week after she apologised then added her to this match just like that.
Classic trolling by Vince there who either ignored the fan backlash about Charlotte being handed title matches for no reason or has mistaken it for genuine heel heat – my money is on the former since he is clearly insane these days. Fortunately, the match was great, a stonking, fast paced start to the show, in which all three got to shine and it didn’t just rely on the “one person sells whilst the others fight” formula. You can guess who got the most from it though…
SD Tag Title Match – Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Rey & Dominik Mysterio
Not much to the story behind this other than Rey and Dominik are vying to become the first ever father-son combo to be tag champs in the WWE. I know that Larry “The Axe” Hennig and his son Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig held a regional NWA tag titles together, and no doubt this happened in Mexico too, but this would be the first time in WWE.
To add some drama to the match, Dominik was attacked backstage by the heels, leaving Rey to work the match alone, well, for the first 10 minutes at least. One can see what they were hoping to achieve here and it essence it worked, but the match went too long for the story being told. Fine for what it was, but the lack of a real crowd dampened the significance of the moment.
Lumberjack Match – Damien Priest vs. The Miz
After teaming with rapper Bad Bunny at WM 37 and scoring the victory, Miz wasn’t done with Priest and the feud continued, with Damien beating John Morrison to earn the right to choose the stip for this match. A Lumberjack Match sounded a bit lame in isolation but it wasn’t until the show started that it all made sense – sort of…
You see, WWE Alumni Dave Batista was starring in a Netflix zombie film and by way of cross-promotion, Netflix threw a seven figure cheque in Vince’s direction and sent him some zombies to use – as lumberjacks! An interesting visual to say the last and probably would have worked had this been Halloween and announced in advance but it wasn’t, so eye rolled hard when the undead lumberjacks shuffled out to ringside.
The match was kept short but still stupid on a number of levels, which not only resulted in Morrison being eaten by zombies but Miz tore his ACL during the match before he too became zombie dinner. I can see how some might have fun with this but in the grand scheme of things, this was pure Wrestlecrap.
SD Women’s Title Match – Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley
Having lost the title to Bianca at WM 37, Sasha Banks went off to sulk which is a cover for her filming new episodes for Star Wars spin-off TV show The Mandalorian. Therefore, Bianca is the only champion on this show facing a new challenger in Bayley, though the build up was uninspired – Bayley attacked Bianca and laughed at her maniacally.
Strong first defence for Bianca, maybe not as dramatic as her match with Sasha but that was expected. However, both certainly put in the work and had a damn fine bout, with Bayley showing why she is so underrated in her understanding of ring psychology and timing, carrying that side of the match whilst Bianca met her on the physical and athletic aspect.
WWE Title Triple Threat Match – Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman
I imagine many people were surprised that Drew didn’t dethrone Lashley at WM 37 to give him the big crowning moment before the fans he was denied the year before, but instead it seems The Almighty is the current pet project for Vince. Inevitably, Drew wanted a rematch but he was forced to earn it by winning a triple threat on RAW, going over Randy Orton and Strowman.
The following week, Braun challenged Drew with the stip he was added to the title match if he won which, surprise surprise, he did. At least we know who was going to take the pinfall here. A big hoss fight with the odd big spot distraction, such as the exploding LED boards and broken tables to keep people down. Maybe a bit long but served its purpose although for Strowman it would end up being his swan song as he was released from WWE alongside others from all ends of the roster.
WWE Universal Title Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Cesaro
WM 37 night 2 closed with the visual of Roman pining both Edge and Daniel Bryan at the same time to retain the Universal title but whilst Edge stropped off again, Daniel Bryan continued to pester Roman but succumbed to a Title vs. Career match on SD. Having been championed by Bryan (backstage and on TV) Cesaro stepped up to face Roman, earning his shot by beating Seth Rollins again.
Adding some intrigue to this match was the return of Jimmy Uso as a babyface, in a show long storyline where he and brother Jey are at odds over Jey’s playing lackey to Roman. Will it impact the match? Well, I can tell you that after a slow start Cesaro did step up to show Vince where he could stick his brass ring and give Roman a heck of a fight in the process.
Running close to 30 minutes, it naturally involved some shenanigans and McBooking but it gave Cesaro the showcase he has long been denied and let’s hope it is not the last main event match for him.
On paper there wasn’t much about this show that screamed “watch me” but as is often the case with WWE PPVs, these are the ones that tend to over deliver and prove quite enjoyable. The appended title of Wrestlemania Backlash may have been a ploy to create some interest in what is traditionally a flat show but it really wasn’t necessary.
Action wise this is decent show, bookended by two great matches with a solid mid-section although hat people will remember most about it is the one thing we should all try and forget – the zombies. Like I said earlier, it would have worked under different circumstances but was a nice payday for WWE and I doubt Vince cares what we think with the company coffers getting a handsome boost for 10 minutes work.
Part of the problem is that whist Wrestlemania 37 was decent show, it wasn’t an epoch making one in the sense of heralding a fresh and new direction for the company could begin with this event. But sometimes, hard work and logical booking can compensate for the lack of hype – well, logical booking is like moon dust these days – although that about sums up the state of play in WWE in general over the past decade.
The only real change was backstage as the dreaded post-Mania roster cuts took place – attributed to budget cuts – which saw names like Samoa Joe, The Iiconics, Mickie James, Kalisto, and announcer Tom Phillips receive their pink slips. Incidentally, a week after this show aired the new RAW announcer Adnan Vink was fired after just seven weeks in the role, making this his one and only PPV appearance.
Let’s hope the future has something brighter to offer.
Best match – Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro
Kickoff Show Match – US Title Match – Sheamus (c) vs. Ricochet
Rating – ***
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