WWE ThunderDome, Tampa, Florida
One month removed from a rain soaked WrestleMania and a welcome return of the WWE Universe, the company returned to the ThunderDome for their latest PPV. With the new name of WrestleMania Backlash (instead of just Backlash), the event signalled the fallout from the show of shows. Were fans ready for another PPV or is wrestling fatigue hitting hard? Our wrestling editor, Andy Spoors, provides the lowdown…
Is PPV Fatigue Kicking In?
One of the most hotly debated topics in wrestling inevitably rears its head in the weeks following WrestleMania. Should WWE have an off-season? From January through to April, the company ramps up. Superstars perform on a higher level, the writing is (generally) tighter and the anticipation levels skyrocket through the roof.
However, when the curtain closes on the annual extravaganza that is Mania, a switch seems to turn off within wrestling fans. Ratings fall, criticism grows. Shows become increasingly formulaic and PPVs lack consequence. Which brings us to WrestleMania Backlash.
Talent And Talking Points At WrestleMania Backlash
On paper, the matches look as good as any PPV before or after a Mania. Six out of the seven bouts featured championships on the line, with the seventh providing the end of a long running feud. It speaks volumes when the talent without a match is just as strong as the ones that are on the card.
No Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, New Day, Big E, Shinsuke Nakamura, Seth Rollins, Usos, Daniel Bryan (currently out of contract) or Randy Orton. But was the event itself worth a watch? Sure, there were plenty of talking points but the PPV itself had little in the way of consequence in the wider sense of results (none of the world titles, male or female, changed hands).
Army Of The Dead Bring Backlash Alive
Let’s first address the biggest topic that had social media up in arms. WWE have often used sponsors for PPVs, filming special adverts plugging Snickers, mobile phone networks or insurance companies. But Wrestlemania Backlash offered something a little more…unorthodox.
Zack Snyder’s upcoming movie, Army Of The Dead, already has strong ties with the wrestling world in the shape of WWE Hall Of Famer, Dave Bautista. But those ties were solidified by sponsoring this event. Rather than the aforementioned traditional style of advertising, some of the ‘stars’ of the movie acted as lumberjacks for the Damien Priest vs Miz match.
In one of the most outlandish sights in wrestling history (and that’s some claim), zombies surrounded the ring to ensure neither Superstar could make a hasty retreat. Zombies. Yes, you read that correctly, zombies. To the credit of both performers, they made the most out of what they had to work with and were certainly one of the biggest takeaways of the night.
It may not be to the taste of many seasoned fans, but the tongue in cheek absurdness of it all was both bewildering and hilarious in equal measure. Let’s not forget The Undertaker was introduced as a zombie-like character, Papa Shango was a voodoo priest of kinds and Kane was the son of funeral parlour owners that was horrifically burnt and mentally scarred for years.
Wrestling has always been silly and serious. Jaw dropping and side splitting at the same time. Nestled in amongst a slew of quality wrestling matches, this was light relief. Great PPVs can’t just constantly build and build as it creates fatigue in fans watching. They need to ebb and flow.
Reigns Reigns Supreme
Speaking of quality matches, the main event saw the highly anticipated championship shot for Cesaro against current WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. As reported previously, Reigns is on top of the world right now. Arguably in the shape of his life and putting on the best matches of his career so far, there are only a handful of wrestlers in the world that elicit a reaction as large as the ‘Head Of The Table’ right now.
He may not be the best technically, but the aura created with just a few modifications and a new entrance theme should be applauded. Any shortcomings in the ring are easily disguised by putting him in matches with Superstars as gifted as Cesaro.
The Swiss has always been considered by fans as underrated by WWE and they’ve long pushed for him to hold a world title. On this night, few may have fully believed he would walk away with the title but by the end of the match his star reached new heights…even without the gold.
The biggest surprise was Reigns’ ability to claim victory with no outside interference from his cousins in some shape or form. After a valiant effort, Cesaro fell victim to the lethal guillotine submission, passing out before suffering the indignation of tapping out.
Post-match attacks from both Jey Uso and Seth Rollins not only ensured Cesaro will remain relevant but teased that the latter of the two will one day soon challenge his former Shield team-mate. They may have met before but with Reigns and Rollins finding themselves in very different personas and positions in the company, the WWE Universe will be in for a treat when the trigger is finally pulled.
WWE WrestleMania Backlash Results
United States Champion Sheamus def. Ricochet (Kickoff Match)
Raw Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley def. Asuka and Charlotte Flair in a Triple Threat Match
Rey & Dominik Mysterio def. Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode to become the new SmackDown Tag Team Champions
Damian Priest def. The Miz in a Lumberjack Match
SmackDown Women’s Champion Bianca Belair def. Bayley
WWE Champion Bobby Lashley def. Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre in a Triple Threat Match
Universal Champion Roman Reigns def. Cesaro