Takeaways From WWE's 2021 WrestleMania Backlash

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WrestleMania Backlash delivered one of the more entertaining pay-per-views of the pandemic era.

A year removed from “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever," the focus at this year’s event was Roman Reigns and his ongoing friction with Jimmy and Jey Uso—as well as a fantastic match against Cesaro. For the second straight year, Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley met at Backlash. A lot has changed in a year, as Lashley is now the champ and McIntyre is the one chasing the belt. Their meeting this year was a triple threat that also included Braun Strowman, and just like last year, the champ retained.

Another highlight was Bianca Belair’s victory against Bayley. Following an iconic match against Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 37, Belair is starting her SmackDown title reign in the right manner working with Belair, and the chemistry between the two of them is apparent.

The show also featured the voice of Dave Bautista, who narrated the opening video.

Here are the results from Backlash:

—United States champion Sheamus defeated Ricochet on the pre-show

—Rhea Ripley successfully defended the Raw women’s title in a triple threat against Asuka and Charlotte Flair

—Rey and Dominik Mysterio defeated Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Lashley to win the SmackDown tag titles

—Damian Priest defeated The Miz in a lumberjack match

—SmackDown women’s champion Bianca Belair defeated Bayley

—WWE Champion Bobby Lashley defeated Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman in a triple threat match

—Universal Champion Roman Reigns defeated Cesaro

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And here are my takeaways:

The first piece to sustaining a run in the main event is making the most of that opportunity, which is exactly what Cesaro did in his Universal title match against Reigns.

There was a lot to like here. Reigns controlled the action, injuring Cesaro’s right arm and limiting his offense. Even when Cesaro had a small window of momentum, he was unable to capitalize, like when he tried to hit the neutralizer but could not because of the weakened arm. There was consistency due to the injury, as Cesaro needed to switch to his left hand when he had the sharpshooter locked on Reigns, and then switched to a crossface.

In addition to a great showing from Cesaro, viewers again saw why Reigns has thrived in the empty arena, pandemic-era of pro wrestling. His in-match monologues and trash talk, which would be different in front of a live crowd, are critical moments of his matches. He continues to find new ways to show off his charisma, and he makes a compelling argument every time he steps in the ring that there is no one better in the world at his craft.

The match also showcased Cesaro’s power, but he ran out of strength after a second guillotine lock from Reigns. The referee called for the bell, finishing an outstanding match, one without interference, for the Universal title.

****

Bianca Belair’s victory against Bayley served two purposes: Belair showed resourcefulness by again using her hair to help win the match, as well as provided Bayley—who controlled the latter half of the match—with a way to lose while still extending the title program.

Bayley is the perfect opponent for Belair. She is believable, charismatic and shines a brighter light on Belair as a babyface through her own villainous actions. Especially with Belair just starting her title reign, it is so pivotal that this feud plays out just right.

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Bobby Lashley retained the WWE title in a triple threat against Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman.

Lashley pinned Strowman following a spear, which protects McIntyre, who remains the most likely candidate to dethrone Lashley. They showed off a lot of creativity and serves as an example of a match that would have had a live crowd on their feet. McIntyre somehow hit a Michinoku Driver on Strowman, which was outrageous, and Strowman’s powerbomb of McIntyre onto the announce table was also a fantastic spot.

Lashley was taken out of the match after McIntyre sent him through the video board. Once he recovered, which WWE could have done a better job of capturing on camera, he re-emerged to capitalize on a weakened Strowman for the win.

This was a solid, entertaining bout among three outstanding heavyweights. I still wish Finn Balor was brought back to Raw following WrestleMania 37. He is the type of talent that would enhance the work of Lashley, McIntyre and Strowman, bringing a different dimension to the program, as well as adding another layer moving forward. But this was a really solid presentation of the WWE title and keeps Lashley looking sharp, strong, and intelligent as champ.

****

Rhea Ripley opened the show by defending the Raw women’s championship in a triple threat match, defeating Asuka and Charlotte Flair. Ripley pinned Asuka after hitting her with a Riptide, a move that was set up by a Flair kick from the apron. Flair did not break up the pin and instead watched Ripley get the win.

This sets up a singles match pitting Flair against Ripley. Hopefully, there are bigger plans for Asuka than simply having her play a role in enhancing their feud. Ripley is still establishing herself as champion, and a convincing win against Flair could play a big role in accomplishing that.

After losing the NXT title to Flair a year ago, and never finding retribution, this is a massively important program for Ripley.

****

Rey and Dominik Mysterio are the new SmackDown tag champions.

The backstory saw Dominik Mysterio get attacked earlier in the day by Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. Since he was unable to compete, Rey Mysterio defended his son’s honor and wrestled against both Ziggler and Roode—which also allowed him to carry the action. Incredibly, Mysterio is still so fluid and smooth at the age of 46, and he looked great sharing the ring with Ziggler and Roode. The handicap match turned into a tag when Dominik made his way to the ring, providing a chance for him to showcase his offense.

Selling his injured ribs, Dominik helped lead the father-son duo to the title victory. He dropped a picturesque five-star frog splash on Roode for the win, and Rey and Dominik now become the first father and son to team together as WWE tag champs. And wouldn’t you know it, but WWE’s next pay-per-view, Hell in a Cell, takes place on Father’s Day.

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In addition to seeing a father-son team win the tag titles, viewers were also treated to another first: a lumberjack match pitting The Miz against Damian Priest with zombies serving as the lumberjacks.

This was a co-promotion for Dave Bautista’s Army of the Dead film on Netflix. Why not just have Bautista do an interview highlighting the film? Perhaps by design, the outside shenanigans completely overshadowed the match.

****

Following Reigns’s win, Jey Uso came to the ring and presented Reigns with his ceremonial attire, then laid a beating on Cesaro.

Seth Rollins then appeared, had a brief stare-off with Reigns, then closed the show with his attack on Cesaro. Instead of ending the show with Reigns in the ring, the focus unexpectedly shifted to Rollins, whose feud with Cesaro is now reignited.

The next pay-per-view is in June, which, surprisingly, will be Hell in a Cell instead of Money in the Bank. Will we see The Usos meet in the Cell? A singles match pitting Jimmy against Jey, with Reigns in the middle of the story, would present the Usos in an entirely new light, and could even main-event the show.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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