The WWE Backlash 2023 Reaction

wwe backlash bad bunny

Welcome to the WWE Backlash Reaction, where I offer my take on the 2023 edition emanating from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

As always, you can check out John’s full in-depth report here.

Bad Bunny narrates the opener before the WWE Drone swoops into the arena, similar to what they did on Smackdown in the same arena. The crowd was hot and should be just as insane as Smackdown’s. Like at Smackdown, the Spanish Announce Team was at ringside.

Our opening contest has Bianca Belair defending the Raw Women’s Championship against IYO SKY from Damage CTRL. SKY was out there by herself to begin this one. SKY had tremendous support from the Puerto Rican crowd, harkening back to her days in NXT. The crowd started to turn on Belair and rain down boos on her. That was interesting to see. That’ll be something to watch in the coming weeks if it becomes permanent or just a one off because of her opponent. The match was fantastic and showed just how good SKY can be. Belair showed off some toughness too. Damage CTRL finally sticks their noses in the match and that eventually costs SKY the match. I think based on the ending sequence and SKY’s reaction, Damage CTRL’s days are numbered as a team. Also, congrats to Belair for setting her record as the longest-reigning women’s champion in the modern era. It’ll just be a shame how the reign is going to end because of the draft.

Bad Bunny is shown backstage with Rey Mysterio before Puerto Rican legend Savio Vega gifts Bunny a Puerto Rico flag-adorned kendo stick for his San Juan Street Fight later tonight.

After graphics are shown of the new rosters coming out of the draft, Omos comes out to take on Seth Rollins. The super enthusiastic crowd sings along to Seth’s entrance music. Omos jumps Rollins while the crowd was still singing his song while he was in the ring to start the match. Rollins was able to get a good match out of Omos before needing a top rope stomp to put the big man away. Rollins is likely a favorite, if not the favorite, for winning the new World Heavyweight Championship.

Austin Theory defends the United States Championship against Bobby Lashley and Bronson Reed in a triple threat match. This match was surprisingly shorter than I would have expected it to be. It was fast paced so you didn’t realize it was the shortest match of the night. Reed looked great in this one, getting him a little more over for bigger things to come. Reed’s moonsault was impressive to see coming from the big man. The finish was the exact same from Survivor Series with Theory stealing the pin after Lashley wiped out Reed. Couldn’t we have had a different finish at least?

rhea ripley wwe backlash

Rhea Ripley defends her Smackdown Women’s Championship against Zelina Vega next. Vega’s family is of Puerto Rican heritage and that played into her gear for this match. She gets the biggest pop of her career when she comes out. Cole talked about how she was dedicating the match her late father, who passed away during 9/11. That almost made you think that they were going to do the smart thing and have Vega win the title to take it back to Smackdown so we can get Ripley/Belair at Night of Champions for the Raw Women’s title which Ripley would take back to Raw. Instead, this just meant the Vega wasn’t going to get squashed in under three minutes, like if they were in any other arena except maybe The Garden. Anyway, the match was very competitive with Ripley needing to capitalize on a mistake by Vega to retain her title. After the match, the crowd gave an emotional Vega a huge ovation. It was well deserved too.

bad bunny wwe backlash damian priest

The first match of our “double” main event is next and it is the San Juan Street Fight between Damien Priest and Bad Bunny. The crowd went absolutely insane when Bunny’s music hit, like glass shattering in 2000. Bunny brings a shopping cart of weapons to the ring with him. Priest and Bunny grew up in the same little town on the island, which was a nice fun fact. Bunny shows that he is just as legit of a wrestler as Logan Paul is. Bunny hit some really impressive moves on Priest throughout the match. Judgment Day would eventually show up to give Priest and Bunny a rest break before the LWO’s Rey Mysterio, in a different mask, runs down to help. Odd that Mysterio would come down by himself since we had seen the entire LWO on Smackdown. Rey gets double teamed by Balor and Dominik, setting up the run in face save by the LWO’s newest recruit, Carlito! Epic pop for him as he runs to the ring. Carlito clears the ring of people who don’t want to be cool and spits the apple in Dominik’s face. Balor and Dominik bail and run into the rest of the LWO, lead by Savio Vega, and they chase Judgment Day to the back. Back to our regularly scheduled match, the rest break is over and Bunny pours it on to Priest, trying to make him tap out to the figure four leglock before dropping Priest with a Bunny (Canadian) Destroyer. After the match, the LWO, minus Vega, return to the ring to celebrate with Bad Bunny. This was the match of the night and an early contender for match of the year. Both Priest and Bunny made each other look like a million bucks. Bigger and better things should come for both out of this match.

If you stopped watching at this point, you would have been very satisfied with the event. That would have been the perfect main event to close the show with. However, there are still two matches left and good luck following that up.

The six man tag team match with Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Matt Riddle taking on The Bloodline, The Usos and Solo Sikoa. Owens/Zayn and The Usos have really great chemistry together and it showed again in this match. It wasn’t their best match together but it was still really good. I would have thought this match would have played more into the cracking of The Bloodline, but there wasn’t a major development in my opinion. Sure, Solo about spiked Jey. But, Solo came through for his team in the end and hit Riddle with the Samoan Spike for the win. With the draft sending Riddle to Raw, I’m guessing he won’t get any revenge on Solo for putting him out of action. Solo continues to look super strong and that might come back to hurt him in the long run.

cody rhodes wwe backlash brock lesnar

Our other main event is up, pitting Cody Rhodes against Brock Lesnar. Rhodes actually started off smart by attacking Lesnar before the bell, as a measure of revenge for the Raw attack. The match was good and fit the story. Lesnar got busted open after a shot to an exposed turnbuckle and got all crimson masked. The match then seemed to rush to an improvised finish that just fell flat. Rhodes countered a kimura lock and pinned Lesnar’s shoulders to the mat. Same thing happens a lot with Shayna Baszler with her submission move. The match left the door open for a rematch and we’ll likely see it at Night of Champions, with Rhodes getting the definitive win there. After the show went off the air, the crowd gave Lesnar a solid two minute ovation.

John rated this event at an 8. I think a lot of people were surprised by how good Backlash actually was. This was the first PLE in San Juan since New Year’s Revolution in 2005. The show was promoted as a really big deal and it really delivered. I know the WWE goes back every few years to run a house show but I think they should get another PLE. I’ve heard there isn’t a stadium that is large enough to meet the WWE stadium show standards, but I think another major show on the island would be well deserved. The crowd was fantastic and took you back to the crowds of the Attitude Era. I’m going to have to give Backlash a 9.25. I’m probably being a bit too generous but the overall crowd atmosphere made the event just better in presentation.

Let’s take a look at the highs and lows.

The Highs

The Puerto Rican crowd was just on fire all night. They gave you flashbacks to the Attitude Era with how loud they got. Easily the loudest WWE crowd in the last 10 years.

It was a really good showing for the LWO members tonight. Vega had a really good competitive match with Ripley and Bunny had an awesome street fight with Priest. The street fight was the proper ending (for now) to the Judgment Day/LWO feud since both will be going forward on different brands as a result of the draft.

IYO SKY had a stand out performance tonight and showed that she’s been wasted in Damage CTRL. I’m hoping she splits from Damage CTRL real soon and gets a proper singles run. She had the best match of the three Damage CTRL ladies against Belair too. Maybe a rematch soon?

The Lows

I get why Rhodes/Lesnar went on last but Bunny/Priest should have closed the show out. Rhodes is your main event star, but the LWO celebration at the end would have been a really nice way to send the fans home happy. I’m sure that people didn’t think that Bunny/Priest was going to be that awesome and Rhodes/Lesnar was not going to be what we actually got. The whole Backlash event seemed to be built around the fact that Puerto Rico was finally getting a PLE and Bad Bunny was the face of it all.


You can catch me on Facebook or Twitter (@ciscowebwiz76) with any feedback or discussion. That’s all I’ve got, until next time.