John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE WrestleMania Backlash preview. Do we really need to call it WrestleMania Backlash? No, we don’t, but WWE felt the need to add “WrestleMania” to the Backlash name that they have been using since 1999. I think it’s dumb and completely unnecessary. I guess WWE’s logical reason for is it that it might entice some casual fan to be more interested if they see “WrestleMania” in the name, but really it’s just a Backlash pay-per-view. It’s still not as bad as “The Horror Show at Extreme Rules” title that they did for a PPV last year. I’m just saying keep the titles simple. You don’t need to overdo it.
There are six advertised matches as we sit here on Saturday morning. I think WWE is content with running these PPVs at three hours or less, so they don’t want to overload it with too many matches. It might be a 2.5-hour show with six matches, which is certainly fine with me. I think all of them will get a decent amount of time, especially the two major men’s title matches. Some of it is good and other stuff is less interesting.
Joining me for the preview are Alex Podgorski and Lance Augustine. Here are some thoughts from Alex and then we’ll get to the preview.
Alex: John Canton isn’t the only one that thinks this show’s name is horrendous. When I first read the words ‘WrestleMania Backlash’, I thought that there was some news story about hostile fan reaction to something at WrestleMania (which didn’t happen but wouldn’t’ve surprised me in the slightest). Instead, WWE hopes more people will tune into this show because it has the word ‘WrestleMania’ in it. You can put a fresh coat of paint on a Honda but that doesn’t make it a Maserati.
Dumb name aside, this show looks, well, pretty underwhelming. The stories and angles to build up this show have been largely disappointing and in some cases straight up silly. And yet, there are at least two semi-promising matches scheduled and one that has the potential to be great if given enough time and goes in the right direction. I’m going into this show trying to be optimistic, but WWE isn’t giving me much to work with here.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.)
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode (c) vs. Rey & Dominik Mysterio
Alex: It’s a sad state of affairs but if you had asked me who the SmackDown tag champions were before I started this review, I would’ve had to guess. I had no idea Roode and Ziggler (who are apparently going by the team name ‘The Dirty Dawgs’) were the champions. And I was just as surprised to learn that they’ve been champions since early January this year.
As such, I think it’s time for a title change. Roode and Ziggler are two guys that I think will never break beyond the midcard and are doomed to tread water forever. The same cannot be said for Mysterio and his son. There’s something special in Rey and it’s incredibly rare for a father-and-son team to be in the position they’re in right now. Dominik has been solid as a rookie so far and Rey is basically a god among cruiserweights. Together, I think they’ll pull off some incredible double-team moves that will get them the win. And from there, I think they’ll go on to have a very interesting run as a father-and-son champion duo which, to my knowledge, is the only thing that hasn’t been done in WWE yet.
Winners and NEW SmackDown Tag Team Champions: Rey & Dominik Mysterio
Lance: The first thought that ran through my head when this match got announced was; why should be care about The Smackdown Tag Team Titles when the company clearly doesn’t? I love Ziggler and Roode as a team, but they weren’t even on WrestleMania to defend the titles. They were on the Smackdown before, but no matter how you slice it, it isn’t the same. At least they are on one show with “WrestleMania” in the title. I also think it is awesome that Rey gets to team with his son doing something they both love to do. As far as the match goes, I do think that WWE is looking to kind of push The Mysterio’s, and I don’t think it would do huge damage to Ziggler and Roode losing. They are both veterans that can go after the titles over the next couple of months. It might be time for a title switch.
Winner(s) and NEW Smackdown Tag Team Champions: Rey & Dominik Mysterio
John: This should be a pretty good match with three experienced guys and the young guy in Dominik, who has wrestling in his blood. The heels will likely work over Rey or Dominik for most of it and lead to an exciting hot tag sequence. I have written many times that I think Rey & Dominik should win the titles when the fans are back. Why rush it? This is the first time ever that a father-son team can win the titles. Save it for when they can get that big pop instead of the fake pop in the Thunderdome. Since Ziggler lost singles matches to Dominik and Rey in back-to-back weeks, I wonder how they are going to book this. Maybe they go with the story that Ziggler/Roode lose, Ziggler gets beat and Roode attacks Ziggler to put an end to the team. However, I think Ziggler/Roode have value as a veteran heel team that are two guys in their 40s with a lot of experience. My opinion is that The Usos should win the titles from Ziggler/Roode soon (since they are both heel teams then it can be during a multi-team match) and then you have The Usos drop the titles to Rey/Dominik at SummerSlam or some other PPV later in the year. If Rey/Dominik win here, I certainly won’t complain. I just think it can be saved for a few months down the line.
Winners: Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode
Lumberjack Match: Damian Priest vs. The Miz
Alex: Logically, this match shouldn’t last very long. After all, Miz was pinned by Bad Bunny, a ‘celebrity’ whose wrestling training lasted all of three months. So Priest should have an easy time against the Miz, but that’s probably not going to be the case because common sense concepts like that seem to escape this company more often than not.
I don’t see any reason why Priest should lose here. He’s another guy WWE has been trying to elevate, so winning here makes the most sense. I predict that Miz will try some kind of shenanigans to get the lumberjacks to gang up on Priest several times throughout the match to garner sympathy for Priest. But all that will accomplish is that it’ll anger Priest to the point that he’ll maul Miz and land a decisive finisher on him.
Winner: Damian Priest
Lance: Damian Priest seems like he is getting a decent push, which isn’t a bad thing. I think he has a cool character and has the potential to do some good things on the main roster. I actually read a story that Priest was told “not to screw up” at WrestleMania or he might have a short run. I don’t know how true that story is, but damn, what a position to put a new guy in. Luckily, the match with Bad Bunny vs. The Miz and Morrison was actually pretty solid, so good for him. The Miz is more interested in being on reality TV now, but he still has chops in the ring and can go when the time calls. I don’t care about this match that much and it doesn’t matter if you have a bunch of job guys out there with them, it won’t make it any better. I think Priest picks up the win and continues his forward momentum.
Winner: Damian Priest
John: These guys have been feuding for about four months going back to the Royal Rumble. Since then, Priest has won every match he’s had except a handicap match against Miz and Morrison, who cheated to win. Priest shouldn’t lose here and if he does, I’d be very surprised by that result. I think WWE really wants to get behind Priest. If he’s in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match next month then he might be my pick to win it. Something to keep an eye on is if there are issues between The Miz and Morrison since the last two weeks on Raw, Morrison had Priest beat while Miz was distracting the referee. If they have another issue here then the split is probably coming, which would be great for Morrison because he is booked poorly as The Miz’s lackey. Anyway, Priest should win this match in around ten minutes.
Winner: Damian Priest
Raw Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair
Alex: This match exists because of a very dumb storyline involving Charlotte, Sonya Deville, and a referee. WWE’s attempt at justifying Charlotte being added to this rivalry was threadbare at best. And personally, I’m tired of seeing Charlotte in title matches just because of her last name. But at least her addition here makes the match more predictable. Ripley is the new champion that WWE wants to build up and Charlotte is the established name that gets more protection than KFC’s secret recipe. That leaves Asuka, who unfortunately will take the fall in this match, despite being arguably the best actual wrestler of the three.
This will be a chaotic triple threat match that will probably go just under twenty minutes. There will be lots of close pins that’ll be broken up by one woman or another. But the match will end with Ripley not only standing tall, but looking stronger than ever. In fact, I predict that at one point, Asuka will lock Ripley in a crossface chickenwing while Charlotte puts her in the Figure-8. But instead of tapping, Ripley will power out of both submission holds and fight her way to victory. After all, both Asuka and Charlotte have won many big matches via submission. So what better way to really elevate a newcomer than by having them power out of both holds at once?
Winner and STILL RAW Women’s Champion: Rhea Ripley
Lance: I will start by saying that having Asuka lose clean as a whistle during the buildup of this match is a disgrace. She has been one of the best-booked talents in the company, yet, they find it imperative that she is taking TV losses more often than she should lately. Now that I have that off my chest, I am really looking forward to this one. Rhea Ripley’s ascent to the top of the card has been fun to watch, including scoring a win over Asuka herself to win the title. Charlotte Flair took some extended time off, but is now back, and better than ever. She has been at the pinnacle of Women’s wrestling for the last couple of years, and I don’t expect her work to take much of a dip.
This match will have a lot of twists and turns and I feel like has the potential to be the match of the night. Since Ripley won the title at WrestleMania, I can’t see her losing it here, and picking up a win over women of this caliber is special. Just because it is predictable, doesn’t mean I think the quality will suffer. This should be a good one.
Winner and STILL Raw Women’s Champion: Rhea Ripley
John: This should be a very good match. Ripley has beaten Asuka clean twice going back to WrestleMania and recently on Raw. Is Asuka going to get beat by Ripley again here? Probably. It sucks for Asuka, who is such an outstanding wrestler, but Asuka was also the Raw Women’s Champion for most of the last year. That’s what happens after somebody loses a title. In order to build up Ripley, beating Asuka multiple times makes Ripley look more believable because the fans know how good Asuka has been.
Any time Charlotte Flair is in a title match, there’s always a chance that she is going to win since WWE likely wants her to break every title record in company history. I just don’t think she’s going to win here. I think Ripley will beat Asuka, then Charlotte will whine about it saying she didn’t get beat in the title match and that should lead to Ripley vs. Flair as a singles match.
Winner: Rhea Ripley
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley
Alex: Bayley was not in a match at WrestleMania for whatever reason, but apparently getting humiliated by the Bellas makes you worthy to challenge for the title. Terrific logic at play here.
Sarcasm aside, I think this match will be pretty good. Bayley can wrestle well when she wants to and Belair has impressed me thus far. But let’s not kid ourselves here; there is no way Belair is losing the title so early into her reign. The company has spent so much time and effort building her up and she had her big title win a month ago. And Belair isn’t one of those people that are better at chasing a title than defending it. She is made to be a dominant champion that defends her prize against all comers, and that’s exactly what she’ll do here. I expect Bayley to try to cut corners several times throughout the match, but ultimately she’ll fall to Belair’s power advantage which will lead to a clean win for Belair.
Winner and STILL SmackDown Women’s champion: Bianca Belair
Lance: Bianca Belair’s championship win came at WrestleMania when she and Sasha Banks had a very good match to close out night one. It seems like WWE is all in on Belair, and I love it. She is a great athlete and I think can be on the level of a Charlotte Flair down the road. Bayley has been on fire over the last year and had a very respectable Smackdown Women’s Title run throughout most of the year. Bayley is also a versatile worker and can work with anyone which obviously raises her stock in most matches. We give WWE crap a lot of times for their booking, justifiably so, but one thing you can’t say is that their Women’s division isn’t absolutely loaded.
This should be a good match that, if given a good bit of time, has the chance to be really good. Look for Belair to have a lot of power offense and showcase what she can do on another big show. Bayley will have a nice fire and, for me, I want to see them get 10-12 minutes. I do think Belair retains and that she is a dominant force throughout the rest of the year.
Winner and STILL Smackdown Women’s Champion: Bianca Belair
John: I don’t like how they set this match up. Basically, what WWE is saying is Bayley gets the title shot since she was a former champion before Sasha Banks beat her last October. So where is Banks in the last month anyway? They don’t even try to tell us. What they should have done is have Bayley win some sort of number one contender’s match like a triple threat or a 4-way or something that makes Bayley earn the title match. Instead, like Alex said above, Bayley is just put in the match even though she did nothing at WrestleMania except getting humiliated by the freakin’ Bella Twins. Please WWE creative team, try harder. It’s not that difficult to put in some effort to tell a story.
I think this match has the most obvious outcome on the show. Belair is likely going to be a long-term champion unless she loses it in a cheap manner to whoever is the Money in the Bank winner. That’s for down the road, though. I just don’t see why they would have Bayley win the title when WWE spent so much time building up Belair from Royal Rumble to the WrestleMania main event. Bayley is a talented heel that sells well, is capable of good matches with anybody and even after she loses, she’ll still have a lot of credibility. Belair will show off her power throughout the match, make the big babyface comeback and then Belair should hit her KOD slam for the win. I think this will go around 12 to 15 minutes. It shouldn’t be longer than that. I think between Belair and Ripley, Belair is more likely to have a very long title reign, but I think both women are going to do very well this year.
Winner: Bianca Belair
WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman
Alex: I have no idea why McIntyre thinks he deserves to be in this match. He claimed that if MVP hadn’t distracted him, he’d have won the match. But all that statement proves is that McIntyre is an idiot for letting himself get distracted like that in the first place. Then again, WWE babyfaces being stupid is about as par for the course as matches ending via ~ROLLUP OF DEATH~! Anyway, McIntyre won a triple threat match to win a shot at Lashley, and then soon afterwards Strowman beat McIntyre to get added to the match. Yeah, this makes total sense.
Unfortunately, I don’t have high hopes for this match. Neither Strowman nor McIntyre do anything for me at all at this point. The McIntyre experiment has lost its luster in my eyes and Strowman hasn’t been exciting since 2018. It also doesn’t help that his presentation gets worse with each passing week with his new ‘train’ gimmick. Personally, I’d rather see Lashley beat both of them relatively cleanly and move on to a new challenger. There’s much more excitement to be had in seeing an up-and-comer that has absolutely no chance of winning fight his hardest against a monster Lashley and hope for the best. But until then, expect Lashley to submit either McIntyre or Strowman with one of the most boring submission holds in the world.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: Bobby Lashley
Lance: Bobby Lashley being WWE Champion is long overdue and it seems like WWE thinks so too. I was afraid they were going to have him win the title and just lose it to McIntyre, but thankfully they didn’t do that. McIntyre was a great champion and they got a lot of solid stuff out of him while he was on top, but I don’t think I am clamoring for a third run just yet. It will be interesting to see who comes out of this and where the RAW main event scene goes from here. Strowman being in this match has absolutely no effect on me, and I don’t mean to spoil it, but he isn’t winning this match and may be here just to take the fall. The focus will be on McIntyre and Lashley.
This will have all the power spots in the world and I think it can be a very good big man match. I think I would have just preferred a Lashley vs. McIntyre single here. I do think Lashley comes out on top after some battling, and I kind of hope, at least for now, his feud with McIntyre goes on the backburner.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: Bobby Lashley
John: They are three of the biggest guys on the roster, which is a nice reminder that Vince McMahon is always going to watch the big guy. I’m not complaining since Lashley is as good as ever at 44 years old, McIntyre was my pick as WWE’s Best Male Wrestler last year and Strowman…is okay for a big guy that yells a lot. Lashley and McIntyre are capable of good matches with eachother as we saw at WrestleMania. Strowman’s best run was in 2017 when he was having awesome matches with guys like Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar while the fans supported him a lot. I think doing two triple threat matches on the same card is a mistake as well, but WWE loves triple threat matches since we saw one of them main event WrestleMania night two as well.
From the moment this match was set up, I felt like the reason they did it was because they wanted Lashley to beat Strowman to prevent McIntyre from being pinned at two straight PPV events. I assume WWE will want to go back to Lashley vs. McIntyre as a PPV singles match whether that’s at Money in the Bank in June, Extreme Rules in July or SummerSlam in August. I’m not sure what babyfaces there are on Raw after McIntyre that could be used as a WWE Title challenger. Maybe Keith Lee whenever he’s able to return. They could go with Riddle or Randy Orton, who is apparently a face now, but they are a tag team. Damian Priest is another option, but maybe it’s too soon to put him against Lashley. That’s why they need to keep McIntyre strong. Anyway, I thought McIntyre would win at WrestleMania to get his big win in front of the crowd, but that didn’t happen. Lashley’s reign should continue.
Winner: Bobby Lashley
WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. Cesaro
Alex: This is the only reason I will watch this show. I have long been a huge fan of Cesaro and like many of you, I have wanted him to achieve greater success. And this might be his chance. Now, in storyline, Cesaro has a major challenge ahead of him in Roman Reigns. Reigns has steamrolled over everyone on SmackDown and looks to be unstoppable. But now Reigns has a fresh challenger that he might not be fully prepared for. There’s another factor at play that might work in Cesaro’s favor here: loyalty. Cesaro recently signed a contract extension and has been in WWE for over ten years. Yes, he has been vastly underutilized, but WWE has this strange way of rewarding their most loyal wrestlers. Both Kane and Mark Henry are two noted examples of longtime wrestlers whose loyalty was rewarded with World Title reigns. And that might be a catalyst in Cesaro winning the big one. It would be a much-needed and refreshing change of scenery for SmackDown and it would help bring some much-needed curiosity for Smackdown.
I know this scenario is extremely unlikely, but what is certain is that this match will steal the show and be highly competitive. I wouldn’t be surprised if it went over twenty minutes and came down to the wire with intense nearfalls towards the end. And since Cesaro is awesome, there’s a good chance he might pull a career performance out of Reigns here.
Winner and NEW WWE Universal Champion: Cesaro
Lance: I want Cesaro to have a Universal Title reign. I think a lot of my peers agree with me and he has earned it throughout the years. This is just a classic wrong place, wrong time scenario. It would figure that WWE would decide to push Cesaro whenever they are in the middle of one of the top heel runs in the last couple of years. Reigns has been on fire since returning last summer. He dominantly won at WrestleMania in his match against Edge and Daniel Bryan after stacking them both up like they were nothing. He has the best mouthpiece in wrestling in Paul Heyman, but more importantly, he has been booked like a champion should be since winning the belt. That seems to be a lost art these days. I have really enjoyed his work, and I thought I would never say that for someone like Reigns. When someone beats him, it will be something special and elevate them to the next level. Unfortunately, I don’t think Cesaro is that guy. This will be a competitive match with Cesaro grabbing a lot of close calls, but I believe 2021 will be the year of Reigns.
Winner and STILL Universal Champion: Roman Reigns
John: This match will be great. I’m so happy for Cesaro getting elevated to this spot. Cesaro signed a new long-term deal with WWE earlier this year and now WWE is finally using him the right way as a babyface that the fans can rally behind because they have seen him grow as a superstar over the last decade. Reigns has had awesome Universal Title matches with Daniel Bryan, Edge, Kevin Owens and Jey Uso, so I have no doubt that Cesaro is going to be able to do just as well or better than those guys. I rated the last Reigns/Bryan match from April 30 at ****1/2 out of five and they went nearly 30 minutes on Smackdown. They could reach that level here and if they did, it would probably be Cesaro’s best match as a singles wrestler in WWE since he hasn’t gotten this kind of push before. That Cesaro match with Seth Rollins at WrestleMania was great, but it was also shorter than I would have liked. This match is going to get plenty of time and go over 20 minutes like most of Roman’s PPV matches (except the quickie with Daniel Bryan at Elimination Chamber).
I think the storyline involving Reigns and cousins Jimmy/Jey Uso is intriguing. We know that Jey has been around to help Reigns keep the title multiple times in the last seven months including at WrestleMania. However, Jimmy came back two weeks ago, he has been defiant against Reigns even wearing a “Nobody’s Bitch” shirt and that has led to Cesaro getting the upper hand on Reigns/Usos for the last two weeks. The question becomes, is it all a swerve to set up Cesaro and have Jimmy actually help Reigns win? I think that’s where it might be headed. I just don’t know if that’s going to happen at this PPV or the next one. At some point in the next few months, I think Reigns will have the support of Jimmy/Jey to make Roman look even more dominant and tough to beat.
Reigns will likely retain the title and I think they’re going to book a finish that allows them to have another match at the next PPV, Money in the Bank. Perhaps there will be a stipulation in that match to prevent interference because I think Cesaro will lose here because Jimmy/Jey Uso get involved somehow. They could even book it where Jimmy doesn’t intentionally try to cost Cesaro, but he ends up doing it and then Jimmy’s issues can continue. Anyway, I’m probably rambling now. There are a lot of options. I don’t expect a clean win necessarily, but I think Reigns is going to keep the title in what should be an outstanding match.
Winner: Roman Reigns
The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most
Alex: Reigns vs. Cesaro. It features SmackDown’s most interesting champion against arguably its best in-ring wrestler. I just really hope I’m right with how this match plays out.
Lance: Triple Threat Raw Women’s Title Match.
John: Reigns vs. Cesaro for sure. Some other matches should be pretty good, but this will be the best.
The Match I Care About The Least
Alex: Damian Priest vs. The Miz. The story behind this match sucks. I will probably mute this match or skip it altogether.
Lance: Damian Priest vs The Miz.
John: It’s Damian Priest vs. The Miz. Hopefully the end of this rivalry that has gone on too long.
Alex: Reigns vs. Cesaro. This is the biggest match of Cesaro’s WWE career and he’s against Reigns. I wouldn’t be surprised if this match went 25-30 minutes.
Lance: I am going to go with the WWE Title match, but I could see one of the Women’s matches getting extended time as well.
John: Most of the Roman Reigns PPV title matches have gone over 20 minutes and I expect that to be the case here. I can see Reigns/Cesaro going around 25 minutes.
Alex: Roode & Ziggler vs. Rey & Dominik Mysterio. This will probably go around 10-12 minutes simply because Rey, as awesome as he is, can’t have much longer matches at this point in his career.
Lance: Priest vs Miz or the Smackdown Tag Title Match.
John: I think Priest vs. Miz will go around ten minutes and will be the shortest match of the night.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Alex: 4 – I wish I was more excited for this show, but I’m not. I only really care about Reigns vs. Cesaro and the rest of the card doesn’t look that impressive to me. I think the matches on this show will be in the good-to-great range, but nothing will be earth-shatteringly awesome, unfortunately. If you want to see what earth-shatteringly awesome wrestling matches look like, check out my 5-star and Almost-5-star match reviews series. A classic Cesaro match from NXT will be posted this weekend before WrestleMania Backlash takes place, so please check it out!
Lance: 6.5 – This show has some potential to be really good, but the booking seems a little too predictable. Either way, I will keep an open mind and hope the show delivers.
John: 7 – I think the match quality will be very good to great for most of the card, so that’s why I can’t be too hard on the show. With that said, I don’t think there’s a hot storyline or feud going into the show. My favorite part about WrestleMania Backlash is that Cesaro is in the Universal Title match. Other than that, there are some things to get excited while nothing on the show is likely going to be that bad. A lot of it depends on the timing of the matches. When you have six matches in three hours then ideally, you’re going to give everybody more than 10 minutes and maybe a few matches over 20 minutes, which should lead to some great in-ring action. That’s why I’m optimistic about some things about the show. I just wish the storylines were better, especially on the Raw side. Bring on Money in the Bank next month. That’s always a favorite of mine.
John: I’ll be back with a review of WWE WrestleMania Backlash on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday night. It will be live, so check that out during the show or after it’s over.
You can also tweet me @johnreport or Lance @Collectiveheel with any comments as well.
If you want to send an email, send it to me at [email protected] as well. Thanks for reading.