2021 WWE WrestleMania Backlash results, recap, grades: Match of the Year contender closes strong show – CBSSports.com
WWE held WrestleMania Backlash on Sunday night, a show that suggested continued fallout from April’s massive two-night WrestleMania extravaganza. Rather than anything related to WrestleMania, it was the main event clash between Roman Reigns and Cesaro that stole the show, with both men putting in an incredible effort to create an instant Match of the Year contender.
While the majority of the show delivered quality action, the show wasn’t without a huge low point, with a crossover marketing effort with the upcoming Netflix film Army of the Dead leading to a zombie invasion on a key midcard match. As great as Reigns vs. Cesaro was, the zombie-infused clash between Damian Priest and The Miz was one of the lowest points for WWE in the past decade.
All told, only one title changed hands in the five championship bouts that made up the majority of the night’s action, but the company’s top champions are now solidified as the promotion moves forward to Hell in a Cell, which was announced as being June’s pay-per-view event.
CBS Sports was with you the whole way through the event, providing updates and highlights as the action went down in the live blog below.
2021 WWE WrestleMania Backlash results, grades
Sheamus vs. Ricochet (Kickoff Match): Sheamus again said his open challenge would not include putting his United States championship on the line, saying title shots are earned, not given. Ricochet answered the challenge, much as he had when Drew McIntyre was looking for a fight ahead of WrestleMania. Sheamus dominated the match until Ricochet was able fire up with some elbows and a springboard clothesline before a standing shooting star and springboard moonsault for a two count. Ricochet scored another near fall after a springboard 450 splash. After missing a second 450, Ricochet was caught by a running knee from Sheamus for the three count. Ricochet attacked Sheamus after the match, stealing Sheamus’ hat and Jacket before running off. Unsurprisingly, this was a solid kickoff match between two consistent performers, though Sheamus’ repetitive refusal to defend his title is going to run out of steam quickly. Sheamus def. Ricochet via pinfall. Grade: B
Raw Women’s Championship — Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair: Flair and Ripley squared off early before Asuka was able to give the champion the assist in trying to eliminate Flair from the equation, but Flair came right back to take Ripley down after some chaos outside the ring. Flair then got a bit too frisky with Asuka, eating a flurry of strikes before being locked in a deep armbar. Ripley got right back in the mix, using strikes to go on a nice run and put both challengers on the defensive. It was then Asuka’s turn for an offensive run, drilling Ripley and Flair with kicks as momentum passed from woman to woman. A Flair moonsault to the outside on both Asuka and Ripley was met by the two teaming up to hit a double superplex on Flair.
Flair went on to hit Natural Selection on both Asuka and Ripley simultaneously, trying to pin both but having to settle for a near fall. Ripley tried to hit Asuka with Riptide and Asuka countered into an Asuka Lock attempt. Moments later Ripley did manage to hit Asuka with Riptide to retain her championship in a very good, fast-paced opener. Rhea Ripley (c) def. Asuka and Charlotte Flair via pinfall to retain the title. Grade: B+
SmackDown Tag Team Championship — Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Rey & Dominik Mysterio: Roode and Ziggler attacked and injured Dominik backstage during the Kickoff. Before the match, Rey and Dominik were in the trainer’s room, with Dominik unable to compete in the match. This left Rey to get dominated, with only brief flashes of a comeback before the numbers game would catch up again. Roode and Ziggler focused their attack on Mysterio’s left leg, trying to ground the high flyer. Roode and Ziggler’s dominance continued with an assisted Fameasser and then Roode throwing Mysterio from the ring into a Ziggler superkick outside the ring. Mysterio managed to beat the 10-count and hit both men with a double DDT before going on a run of offense.
Unsurprisingly, Dominik made his way to the ring in the final stretch, holding his ribs and climbing onto the ring apron to cheer on his dad as Mysterio kicked out of a Zig Zag. Rey hit a top rope bulldog and hesitated to tag Dominik in, but Dominik took the initiative to tag himself in against his father’s wishes. Things did not work out well for Dominik as he was on the receiving end of a beating until laying out Ziggler with a superkick and making the hot tag to Rey. Rey hit Roode with a 619 and made the tag to Dominik, who finished things off with a frog splash. Rey and Dominik are the first father and son duo to hold tag team gold. Rey is a generational talent, which allowed him to really carry the match until the very predictable entrance from Dominik for a fun final stretch ahead of the history-making finish. Rey & Dominik Mysterio def. Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler (c) via pinfall to win the titles. Grade: B
Damian Priest vs. The Miz (Lumberjack Match): Before the match, John Morrison went to the locker room where the lumberjacks were waiting. When Morrison opened the door, he found that the lumberjacks were zombies. This bit of crossover marketing for Netflix’s upcoming Army of the Dead movie would go on to dominate the match as the zombies did serve as the lumberjacks, leading to Priest and Miz alternating between fighting the zombies and each other. Morrison attempted to interfere but was pulled away by the zombies. Priest won after using Hit the Lights to score the pinfall. Miz was then eaten by zombies as Priest posed and an Army of the Dead graphic appeared in one of WWE’s lowest moments in the past decade, if not longer. Damian Priest def. The Miz via pinfall. Grade: F-
SmackDown Women’s Championship — Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley: Bayley had some early struggles dealing with the strength and speed of Belair. Bayley tried to take a shortcut by grabbing Belair’s hair, but Belair nearly used her braid to whip the challenger. As things continued to snowball, Bayley eventually had to slide out of the ring to try to slow down Belair’s momentum. Even that did not work as Belair followed her to ringside, hit a shoulder tackle and threw Bayley back into the ring before hitting a moonsault for a near fall. Bayley finally was able to slow Belair down, using a rear-chin lock to try and ground Belair and take the match to an area where the two were on somewhat even footing.
With the action again going to the outside, Bayley finally found significant success, dropping Belair on the ring steps and suplexing her onto the ground to set up a two count. Bayley kept up the pressure, alternating between attacking and taunting the “rookie.” This only served to fire Belair up and momentum began to swing wildly before Bayley amped up the heel tactics, trying pins with her feet on the ropes and then clawing at the champion’s eyes. Bayley followed up by using Belair’s braid as a ripcord to pull her into a Bayley-to-belly for a near fall. The finish came with an awkward sequence where Belair wrapped her braid around Bayley’s leg to aid with the pin. Unfortunately, Belair lost her grip on the hair and the pin didn’t look as good as it should have. Still, this was a very solid wrestling match between two talented women with completely different styles, and a welcome palate cleanser after the zombie nonsense. Bianca Belair (c) def. Bayley via pinfall to retain the title. Grade: B+
WWE Championship — Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman: Strowman went at both opponents immediately, leading McIntyre and Lashley to form a brief alliance to try and shut the biggest man in the match down, even working together to suplex Strowman. That alliance would not last long before Lashley and McIntyre began to brawl, leading to Strowman hitting a dive off the ring apron onto both men. Strowman would take advantage of the lack of disqualifications in triple threat matches to take out Lashley using the ring steps. McIntyre and Lashley eventually battled up the entrance ramp before McIntyre threw Lashley through the LED boards.
As Strowman and McIntyre battled back in the ring, McIntyre hit Strowman with a massive Michinoku driver for a near fall in possibly the most impressive feat of strength in the match. McIntyre tried to hit a Claymore outside of the ring but was caught by Strowman, who delivered a powerbomb through the announce table. Back in the ring, McIntyre hit Strowman with a Claymore, but before he could capitalize, Lashley ran back in and threw McIntyre from the ring and hit Strowman with a spear to score the win. This was better than expected. Pure chaos with big men doing big man things and showcasing some serious power. Bobby Lashley (c) def. Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman via pinfall to retain the title. Grade: A-
Universal Championship — Roman Reigns (c) vs. Cesaro: Reigns had issues throughout the show with both Jimmy and Jey Uso, even taking issue with Jey as Jey continued to have his back despite Jimmy’s pleas that he step out of Reigns’ shadow. Cesaro frustrated Reigns early with some slick wrestling, scoring multiple early pinfall attempts before Reigns finally bailed from the ring and retreated to Paul Heyman to regroup. Reigns tried to fire up but was met by a European uppercut and then was nearly put in the Cesaro Swing. After throwing Cesaro from the ring and damaging the challenger’s arm, Reigns went on a run of dominance that seemed to put some doubt in Cesaro’s mind.
Cesaro eventually fired back with a series of uppercuts and a big boot for a near fall before starting to soften up Reigns’ legs and locking in the sharpshooter, which Reigns escaped quickly by grabbing the ropes. Cesaro kept up the pressure with a big dive and a flurry of offense before a crossbody off the top rope for a near fall. Reigns tried to continue going at Cesaro’s bad arm, with the challenger trying desperately to fight back as Reigns kept up the pressure. Despite the bad arm, Cesaro began to unload with clotheslines and uppercuts, putting Reigns back on the defensive before hitting a huge superplex for another near fall.
Cesaro’s injured arm gave out on a Neutralizer attempt and an attempt at a springboard uppercut was met by a Superman punch from Reigns for another near fall. A spear attempt was met by an uppercut, but an attempt at a pop-up uppercut to follow failed when Cesaro’s arm gave out again. Reigns locked in a guillotine choke, but Cesaro countered with a slam and locked in the sharpshooter again, which he transitioned to a crossface when Reigns managed to escape before a powerbomb. Reigns again locked in the guillotine and Cesaro nearly slammed his way out again but got pulled right back in. Cesaro continued to fight but eventually was choked out cold. This was a roller coaster of a match that really showcased the absolute best of two of the greatest in-ring talents in the world. After the match, Jey Uso ran to the ring and continued the attack on Cesaro. Seth Rollins’ music then hit and he made his way to the ring to join in, throwing Cesaro around ringside and attacking his injured arm before hitting Cesaro with a chair and ending the show celebrating in the center of the ring. Roman Reigns (c) def. Cesaro via submission to retain the title. Grade: A+