Considering the lack of real care and attention that appears to have gone into the build-up for the show, WrestleMania Backlash surpassed expectations. At a lean six matches and coming in concisely at just under three hours, the show was more focussed on action and less on shenanigans and nonsense. Was the show an all-time classic? No. But it was solid, entertaining and concise, all adjectives that in recent times I haven’t been able to apply to WWE supercards. It was perhaps not as good as WrestleMania night one, but it was certainly better than WrestleMania night two and it did make me wish that WWE would do this more often. When they focus on the wrestling, they prove that they do still have something to offer.
Let’s take a look at the 5 big talking points that came out of the show.
1. Cody Rhodes Is Being Positioned as a Major Player
When he rejoined WWE, Cody made it clear that money was a big part of the reason. But it seems clear that he has unresolved issues and unfinished business when it comes to WWE. In his heart, I think Cody knows that he believes he belongs in WWE, where he always desired to be a main event star.
And so far, it looks like WWE agrees with him. Part of that is Cody’s doing. Not only did he arguably have the best match of the night, beating Seth Rollins in a fast-paced game of wrestling chess, with each man knowing the other’s moves, he really seems to have the WWE Universe behind him (showing that the fears of the crowd losing interest quickly have proved to be unfounded for now).
So, WWE is behind Cody in the booking, giving him a big win here. But there were other clear signs at Backlash that ‘The American Nightmare’ is set for a big push. The gesturing for a belt around his waist at the end of the match was one thing, but then Cody was also heavily featured in a promo video later in the night for this year’s Money in the Bank. Could the rumour that Cody has been selected to win the Money in the Bank match this year and go on to face Roman Reigns in a title match be true? This certainly gives me some hope.
Talking of Money in the Bank…
2. This Year’s Money in the Bank Winners Won’t Cash In But Will Go to WrestleMania Instead
The promo video for this year’s Money in the Bank show gave us a curious reveal for WWE’s future plans. As you know, the winner of the Money in the Bank match is usually able to cash their briefcase in for a title match at any time. This can be pretty exciting, as the Champion can find themselves challenged at the least expected moment.
However, the promo video for the show gave us the revelation that this year’s briefcase winners will face the Champion at WrestleMania instead. This does raise several questions. There’s going to be a seven-month (at least) wait for the match to actually occur. How is WWE going to keep that on the boil and not feel arbitrary when it comes time to have the big match? Not only that but what does that mean for next year’s Royal Rumble winners? It’s been a tradition that the winners of the Rumble match go on to face the World Champions at WrestleMania. Now, I don’t necessarily think that Rumble to ‘Mania format is stale per se, but it will be interesting to see if this will freshen the Rumble up in some way.
I’ll be watching this one closely.
3. AJ Style and Edge Had a Better Match Than Their WrestleMania Encounter
If you read my talking points from WrestleMania, then you’ll know how excited I was for AJ Styles and Edge, and how disappointed I was at the match we got. It was slow, it was tentative and it didn’t live up to what we know both men are capable of.
Well, I’m happy to say their WrestleMania Backlash collision was much better. Again, not the classic we could have had if both men had faced each other in their primes, but then it’s not really fair to hold them to those exacting standards when both men are clearly in the latter ends of their careers. It was a solid effort and I appreciated it.
The big difference here was there was genuine heat, as Edge had made it his mission to hurt AJ and put him out of action while threatening AJ’s family at the same time. AJ did not take that lying down, throwing big hands at Edge, assaulting him at ringside, moonsaulting onto Edge on the outside and nailing a big hurricarana from the top turnbuckle for a near-fall. Edge returned fire by smashing Styles’ shoulder into the ring post and nailing a sudden spear. That didn’t do the job though, and neither did the Styles Clash.
It looked, however, that Styles might get his win back from WrestleMania when Damien Priest made his way to ringside, only for Priest to be attacked by Finn Balor, which distracted the ref. And this leads us onto our fourth talking point…
4. Rhea Ripley Joins Forces With Edge
While AJ and the ref were distracted, a masked figure entered the ring and pushed AJ off the top rope, causing him to land across the top rope with his throat. Edge applied the choke and the ref called it. Edge was your winner—but who was the masked figure?
Edge pulled the mask away, and…RHEA RIPLEY! It was a great choice, to be honest. Rhea is a great talent who works much better as a heel than a face. Working with Edge and Damian Preist in a dark, Brood-style faction will work well for all concerned. If nothing else, it’s definitely a step in the right direction for Rhea.
5. Rhonda Rousey Finally Gets Her Groove Back
One of the criticism against Rhonda Rousey since her return to the WWE has been that Rhonda hasn’t seemed 100% committed, especially struggling to serve up emotionally investing, convincing promos that have engaged the audience.
Here, though, she let her fists do the talking and it worked a treat. If Rhonda Rousey knows how to do one thing, it’s fight, and while their WrestleMania match was a little underwhelming, an I Quit match played right to Rousey’s strengths and as such, Flair and Rhonda put on a hard-hitting, heated and completely compelling battle that saw Rousey return to form. The right woman won, and it gives Charlotte a reason to be written off TV to take time away to get married.
Who challenges Rousey next is another matter, but now that the feud with Charlotte is over and done with, hopefully a re-engaged Rousey will be provided with some stiff competition to keep her motivated.