WWE sure knows how to put a damper on a good thing. WrestleMania Backlash continued a recent string of WWE pay-per-view filled with great matches and compelling stories, but many will remember this...
WWE sure knows how to put a damper on a good thing.
WrestleMania Backlash continued a recent string of WWE pay-per-view filled with great matches and compelling stories, but many will remember this one for the terrible, cheap-plug zombies. Thankfully the actual wrestling was good enough to stop one of the company’s worst ideas from truly dragging the show into the muck.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s show:
Table for Two
Roman Reigns is working at the highest level right now, both in the ring and with his storytelling. The Head of the Table even called out the vanquished Daniel Bryan (“DB”) to the camera at one point. While Reigns retaining the Universal title was pretty much a foregone conclusion, he and Cesaro took the audience on an emotional ride worthy of the main event. Both men left better than they came in, even with Reigns leaving Cesaro passed out in the guillotine submission.
Reigns working Cesaro’s arm throughout the match made the Swiss Superman’s feats of strength later on – a top rope superplex with Reigns on the apron – that much more impressive. It also kept him from delivering a Neutralizer. Cesaro rose to the occasion of his first pay-per-view title match in the main event. Reigns being able to outwrestle someone like him and win without the help of Jey Uso adds another layer of what will it take to finally beat him. He’s a video game boss at this point.
Uso, who continues to be hounded by Jimmy for being Roman’s lackey, attacked Cesaro after the match. Seth Rollins, in another outstanding suit, appeared. Instead of turning on Reigns, he pummeled his rival Cesaro. Rollins put Cesaro’s bad arm in a chair and slammed it to the mat. These two seem to have unfinished business, while Reigns’ family drama will likely continue. Cesaro eventually being the one to beat Reigns, either clean down the road or via Money in the Bank, should be considered. It would be the story of Cesaro refusing to go away until he gets the job done.
Dead Men Walking
Zombie Lumber Jacks. Yes, read that again. WWE turned the lumberjacks for The Miz-Damien Priest match into zombies as basically a big ad for Dave Bautista’s new movie, “Army of the Dead,” which sponsored the show. Kudos to those two and John Morrison for trying to make the most of this absolute disaster. Priest and Miz even teamed up to fight the zombies at one point.
WWE did put the zombies in context by showing a tweet from Bautista saying he couldn’t make it but “some of my friends will.” It all made for one of the worst things WWE has ever done. They even dimmed the lights and filled the ThunderDome video board with spooky house graphics.
Somehow the zombies, which arrived from all around the arena and scared the broadcast team away, knew not to enter the ring during the match. But they made sure to “eat” the Miz in the middle of it following his defeat. WWE even had Priest’s bow-and-arrow routine lead to an ad for the movie after he won. The match felt so secondary. Compromising your creative and product on a pay-per-view that much to promote a movie just leaves a bad taste.
Miz will likely be right back on “Monday Night Raw” this week with some lame excuse for how he survived. Either that or we get a Zombie Miz and Morrison, who was also eaten. Just for due diligence, we have now seen WWE burn a man alive (The Fiend) and have one eaten alive by the blood-thirsty undead in the past six months.
At least the strangely-named WrestleMania Backlash delivered a moment worthy of being on the real thing. WWE told a tremendous underdog story with Rey Mysterio and his real-life son Dominick. (No one does underdog quite like the Mysterios).
SmackDown tag team champions Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode attacked Dominick backstage on the kickoff show, leaving Rey to wrestle a handicap match to start. Rey kicks out of absolutely everything Roode and Ziggler hit him with (four false finishes and a count-out save at nine). It all built a tremendous amount of anticipation. A sluggish Dominick would make his way out to ring and he eventually got the pin after a Frog Splash set up by a 619.
The victory makes the Mysterios the first father-son team to win WWE tag team championships. All of it made for an incredibly emotional and real moment between father and son as they hugged. For Dominick to win it with Eddie Guerrero’s move was sweetly fitting because of how close he was with Rey. Dominick’s first WWE appearance came in 2005 in a storyline where Guerrero was claiming to be his father. This was one a moment you wished fans were there to see.
New Kids in Town
WWE’s reshaping of the main event scene in the women’s division got a boost from excellent matches and storytelling. The new champions, Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair, retained by beating some of the biggest names in the company to solidify their standing.
Ripley, Charlotte Flair (sporting awesome Cruella Deville-themed gear) and Asuka delivered one of the better triple-threat matches you will see for the Raw women’s championship. The quick and sometimes frantic pace made it very different than the men’s match. They told the story early of Ripley and Asuka trying to team up against Flair. Ripley telling Flair to try to knock her down was a fun spot as well. Then there was Flair trying to be like Roman Reigns by covering both opponents after a double Natural Selection.
The series of counters before the finish really added drama. It ended when Flair hit Asuka with a boot from the ring apron that sent the Empress toward Ripley. The champ intercepted her and hit the Riptide for the 1-2-3, much to the disgust of Flair. It continued to put Ripley and Flair on course for their singles rematch from WrestleMania 36.
Over on the SmackDown side, Belair now owns a win over Sasha Banks and has won two of three from Bayley. This match told the story of the veteran savvy of Bayley verse the sheer physical talent of Belair. It made the creative finish even better because it was Belair outsmarting Bayley, who tried some dirty tactics, to win her first title defense. The EST reversed Bayley’s attempt to use her long braid against her and instead used it to further hook Bayley’s leg during the deciding pin. She didn’t hold it for long and Bayley will contest she kicked out in time – something Michael Cole only helped with his call. It likely means we will see Bayley and Belair go at it one more time.
Big Men Doing Big Things
Braun Strowman vs. Drew McIntyre vs. WWE champion Bobby Lashley was everything you could hope for and more. These three large men beat the heck out of each other, which the biggest spectacle coming when McIntrye threw Lashley through one of the stage’s LED boards. They even threw in a few things athletes their size aren’t supposed to do. Strowman came rolling off the apron into his two opponents, later landed a senton right onto McIntyre’s chest. The Scotsman paid him back with a wild michinoku driver before Strowman caught a leaping McIntyre and put him through the announce table. McIntrye eventually hit Strowman with a Claymore only to see Lashley return to throw him out and deliver a spear to the Monster Among Men for the win. The finish keeps McIntyre in line for a singles rematch with Lashley at some point, maybe at Hell in a Cell in June.
Sheamus over Ricochet
Despite being beaten clean in the middle of the ring after a very, very physical match, Ricochet opened the door for this story to continue. He attacked Sheamus, the United States champion, from behind after losing. Ricochet even put on Sheamus’ fedora and jacket. This felt like the opposite scenario of what we are used to from WWE, making it a bit refreshing.
Biggest Winners: Rey and Dominik Mysterio
Biggest Loser: The Miz, John Morrison and Damien Priest
Best match: Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro (Universal Championship)
Grade: Zombies – F, Everything else – A-, Overall — B
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Joseph Staszewski