WrestleMania Backlash is as notable for its familiar feel to parts of WrestleMania 37 as it is for its dramatic departures from that card.
The Universal championship match between Roman Reigns and Cesaro is about as different from the triple threat match between Reigns, Edge and Daniel Bryan that we saw at Raymond James as it could be. It rests squarely in the middle of Bryan’s departure after losing a last-chance match that banished him from SmackDown, and the lingering threat that Edge will return to seek his revenge. In between, Jimmy Uso has returned to sprinkle additional family drama into the equation.
The Raw women’s championship and WWE championship have gone in the other direction, as previous one-on-one matches from WrestleMania 37 have become triple threats. Charlotte Flair has been added to the Rhea Ripley-Asuka conflict, and Braun Strowman has made an emphatic statement in getting himself involved with Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre.
With Sasha Banks out of the picture for now, Bayley has stepped in as a worthy first challenger for Bianca Belair’s newly won SmackDown women’s championship. And in the lone tag team match scheduled for the card, Dominik and Rey Mysterio look to become the first father-son combination to win WWE tag team gold against Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode.
Rounding out the card, Damian Priest looks to put the finishing touches on his first major rivalry in WWE as he takes on The Miz in a lumberjack match.
Follow along live throughout the night as Tim Fiorvanti breaks down the action going down inside the WWE Thunderdome.
Match in progress: SmackDown women’s championship: Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley
WWE has made some shameless money grabs in its history, but the “lumberjack match” between Damian Priest and The Miz will likely go down in the company’s history as one of the most short-sighted and questionable moves they ever made.
Less a match and more a confusing hybrid of a commercial and a Z-level zombie movie, pay-per-view sponsor, the upcoming “Army of the Dead” movie led to the lumberjacks being zombies.
Miz, Damian Priest and John Morrison spent more time fighting the zombies than each other, and the match concluded with Priest hitting his finishing move, pinning Miz and then zombies consuming both Miz and Morrison as Priest fled the scene. It was a fever dream that strained the suspension of disbelief that wrestling fans engage in to enjoy the show, and stopped the momentum of a fairly strong pay-per-view dead in its tracks.
— WWE (@WWE) May 17, 2021
What’s next: If we get zombie Miz and Morrison on Monday… I mean, who are we kidding, we’re probably going to get zombie Miz and Morrison on Monday.
Professional wrestling has been a generational affair since the very start, and WWE has a rich history of leaning into it. But for all of the father/son, father/daughter and every other familial bond, simultaneous success has been incredibly rare.
At WrestleMania Backlash, Rey Mysterio and his son Dominik made history, becoming the first father-son combination to ever win WWE tag team gold together. They defeated Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler despite the odds being stacked against them from the outset.
During the kickoff show, Ziggler and Roode took out Dominik backstage. For the first half of the match, Rey fought it out alone, having moments of success between brutal double-team maneuvers from Ziggler and Roode. They made a particular impact with an assisted Famouser from Ziggler as Roode elevated his body into the air, and again when Roode slid Rey’s body underneath the bottom rope and directly into a superkick from Ziggler on the outside.
Rey reversed a double suplex attempt into a double DDT on both Roode and Ziggler, and then Dominik limped out for the save. But the tag team champions wouldn’t go quietly. They regained control, and as they beat up Dominik in tandem, Roode shouted “you should’ve stayed down.”
Ziggler lined Dominik up for a Superkick, but Dominik beat him to the punch with one of his own. The match, which started strong but had begun to drag due to its length, picked back up in a hurry. Rey connected on a 619 to Roode, and then slid under the bottom rope to neutralize Ziggler with a Sunset Flip Powerbomb into the barricade. With a frog splash on Roode, Dominik secured the pinfall victory, and the title win.
What’s next: A rematch seems fairly certain, especially with the uncertainty of the tag team landscape on SmackDown at the moment. Beyond that, Rey and Dominik have a lot of options moving forward.
— WWE (@WWE) May 17, 2021
Rhea Ripley’s first true challenge since becoming Raw women’s champion at WrestleMania 37 saw her persevere over Charlotte Flair and Asuka — but it was a close enough call that her next step is abundantly clear.
We saw the best that the Raw women’s division has to offer across the board on Sunday, as all three women showed out in the opening match of the WrestleMania Backlash card. But a slip off the ring apron by Flair, after delivering a kick directly to Asuka’s head, was just enough room for Ripley to pick Asuka up and hit Riptide for the three count.
Asuka and Ripley cooperated for the majority of the match, although it was simply a matter of taking out their frustration on Flair in between spurts of battering each other. The match was a mix of chaotic energy with bodies flying everywhere. Every early opportunity at victory was stifled, until Asuka locked in a deep armbar on Flair, only for Ripley to break it up to save her title.
Several pinfall attempts were similarly short-circuited, leading up to Flair’s signature blind moonsault spot from the top rope to the outside, which took out both Ripley and Asuka at once.
But as Flair climbed the top rope again, Ripley thwarted her efforts at another high-flying maneuver. An attempt at a Superplex was initially blocked just long enough for Asuka to join the fray — setting up another double-team opportunity, a double Superplex by Asuka and Ripley to Flair.
The pace picked up even more in the final moments of the match. A late scramble ensued as Ripley and Asuka tried to double Suplex Flair again on the ground, only for Flair to flip out of it, hit a double chop block and finish the sequence with a double Natural Selection. An attempt to pin both of her opponents only got a two-count.
A missed Flair moonsault led directly into a Codebreaker by Asuka, and Flair stumbled to the outside. Ripley caught Asuka by the ropes, but her initial Riptide attempt failed. Both Flair and Asuka missed each other with kicks, but hit Ripley instead. Finally, a successful Flair boot to Asuka through the ropes was a pyrrhic victory, and set Ripley up to retain her title.
What’s next: Flair fell just short of victory, and saw the title slip through her fingers. But Ripley’s taunts post-match, Flair pointing to the belt as Ripley taunted her, and the fact that Flair didn’t factor in the pinfall set the stage for Ripley and Flair battling into the summer. With their history, it should be good.
The match was impromptu, and Sheamus’ United States championship wasn’t on the line. It was physical and fun, and an opportunity to question where Ricochet and a handful of other hyper-talented stars (paging Keith Lee?) have been in recent months.
Sheamus earned a definitive victory, but in a haphazard post-match scrap, Ricochet stole Sheamus’ jacket and hat and antagonized him, which will almost certainly lead to some sort of follow-up on Monday and beyond.
Moonsaults EVERYWHERE 🤩
— WWE (@WWE) May 16, 2021
What’s next: A United States championship match that Sheamus seems unlikely to lose.
Still to come: