It’s hard to book a wrestling show perfectly, but WWE some how came dam near close at Backlash for what it needed to be.
The show didn’t include any seismic shifts or title changes but didn’t have any booking mistakes, left everyone looking better than they came, delivered fun matches and was perfectly toned for their return to Puerto Rico — where the crowd was unreal.
Bad Bunny’s match absolutely stole the show, Bianca Belair and Iyo Sky put out a match of the year candidate and Cody Rhodes left Coliseo de Puerto Rico Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan with the dream of finishing the story intact in front of an announced crowd of 17,000-plus on Saturday night.
WWE has done a good job of using local talent to the advantage lately and this was the case here.
Here are five takeaways from Backlash.
Bunny Pop Party
Bad Bunny, Damian Priest, and WWE put on a spectacle and match that will be talked about for a long time and couldn’t have gone better.
Bunny, who got a special Puerto Rico kendo stick from legend Savio Vega, got a superstar reaction during his entrance.
Priest made it pretty obvious that regular offense wasn’t going to work by fighting it back.
He pulled Bunny back up after a South of Heaven finisher to get the weapons and that opened the door for some Bunny offense with a top-rope DDT, a top-rope splash to the outside, an attack with two trash can lids, and a kendo stick.
Priest at one point tried to walk away — suckering Bunny into an attack.
Bunny really sold getting hit with a lid and Vega’s special kendo stick.
The match got brought into the stands and Bunny took a Broken Arrow off a road case through tables before Priest dragged him back into the ring.
A mistake led to a leg “injury” to Priest that opened the door for Bunny, who then targeted the knee with multiple attacks.
Priest even pleaded with Bunny as he used a chain to slam his leg against the ring post.
The pleading finally made Bunny hesitate with a chair in the ring and Priest, who is his real-life friend and former WrestleMania partner, delivered a boot to the face.
But the Grammy winner went to a low blow.
That brought The Judgement Day’s Finn Balor and Dominik Mysterio out.
Rey Mysterio followed to even the odds and then a surprise appearances by Puerto Rican legends Carlito and Vega — who was joined by the rest of the LWO — followed.
Vega beat up both men and the crowd ate it up.
Back in the ring, Priest missed a kick and fell on the bad leg and Bunny slapped on the Figure Four.
It finally took Bunny/Puerto Rican Destroyer to get San Benito the win to end a super fun match.
He was lifted up on the LWO’s shoulders and the party was on.
Cody Rhodes versus Brock Lesnar was what it needed to and laid the foundation for their next chapter – possibly at Night of Champions.
Rhodes took a page out of Lesnar’s book attacked him before the bell, but The Beast eventually took him to Suplex City.
Lesnar busted his head open — the hard way — on the turnbuckle he exposed and was gushing blood all over his face and his opponents.
Rhodes capitalized and hit two Disaster Kicks and a Cross Rhodes but it wasn’t enough as Lesnar kicked out.
Lesnar then mustered up enough strength to deliver an F5, but this time Rhodes got his shoulder up.
Lesnar was able to slap the kimura lock on this opponent, but with Rhodes close to tapping, he leveraged Lesnar’s shoulders to the mat and was able to escape with a stunning win.
With Lesnar still having yet to reveal why he attacked Rhodes in the first place, that finish was a tremendous way to get Rhodes a win, protect the former UFC heavyweight champion and possibly leave him even angrier than he came in.
Expect Lesnar to cost Rhodes is world heavyweight championship tournament match if he gets one.
Getting a win over Lesnar, not matter how you get it is a notable feat.
A Brothers’ Bond Tested
The six-man-tag story centered on the bond and trust between The Usos and younger brother Solo Sikoa — even with each tag attempt.
After a good start and the domination of Sami Zayn, Jey eventually mistakenly kicked Jimmy.
Jey at one point told Zayn it’s your fault for causing these problems in my family.
Then with Jey about to attack Zayn, Solo tagged himself in and Jey tagged himself back in.
Jey would duck a Helluva Kick that connected on Sikoa instead.
Sikoa would delivered a Samoan Spike to Kevin Owens and then nearly delivered one to Jey, who had come from behind on him.
It angered his brother, but the trio was able to win.
Matt Riddle hit a Bro Derrick but not on the legal man.
Sikoa hit him with the spike for the win, but will it be enough for Roman Reigns on Friday?
Champ and Chump
Iyo Sky was oh so close to ending Bianca Belair’s championship reign, but predictably and correctly it was Bayley trying to help too much that likely cost her Damage CTRL partner.
Damage CTRL had distracted the ref enough, after Dakota Kai punched Belair, to set Sky up for a win.
But as Sky climbed the top rope for her signature moonsault, Bayley was caught by the ref holding Belair’s braid down from the outside.
It allowed Belair the split second she needed to collect herself to set Sky up for a KOD to win it.
This should all widened the rift that has already begun in Damage CTRL and Sky and Kai will likely cut ties with Bayley eventually.
In some of the best action, Belair military pressed Sky from the top until her “injured” arm gave out and she kind of dumped the challenger on her face.
Sky then went back to work on Belair’s arm.
The champ regained control but Sky got her knees up on 450 splash.
Belair’s top-rope power bomb brought Damage CTRL out and Sky came within a half-count of winning things for their initial distraction — but never closer.
WWE is saying it makes the Raw women’s champion — soon to be SmackDown women’s champ after she was drafted to the blue brand, the longest-reigning champion of the modern era.
But Trish Stratus has a run longer than hers in 2005.
Oh course Seth Rollins would give Omos his best match in WWE in clash that had very little build.
Just put the world heavyweight championship on Rollins already.
Rollins, after getting manhandled by Omos early in the match, tried everything to get the giant down — a frog splash, a sleeper hold, and then two Stomps and none of it did the trick.
Omos kicked out at one on the frog splash.
It finally took a leaping Stomp from the top rope to get it done. Rollins made Omos look like a true giant and as good as he ever had with a top guy.
Rollins gets some momentum into the title tournament.
Rhea Ripley over Zelina Vega to retain the SmackDown women’s champions
Vega, with a full sequence Puerto Rican flag coming out from her shoulders, had a very emotional entrance — fighting back tears in the ring after embracing her family ringside.
She even threw a clanca blue sandal from her mom at Ripley to a big pop.
They played a bit of David vs. Goliath with Vega, who has deep Puerto Rican heritage, chopping Riley down with clotheslines, then a 619 and a top-rope meteora after an Eddie Guerrero shake.
Ripley, who is heading to Raw, was able to kick out.
The champ put an end to that momentum in a flash, kicking a running Vega and then delivering an empathic Riptide for a pin and a win.
Vega arose to a loud standing ovation from the crowd after a match that probably deserved a touch more time and drama.
Austin Theory over Bronson Reed and Bobby Lashley to retain the United States championship
I called it. In my predictions, I said Austin Theory would sneak in for a win after Bobby Lashley hit Bronson Reed with a spear and that’s exactly how he retained his United State championship to bring it with him to SmackDown.
The match itself was sold, with Theory and Reed going from loose friends to enemies, plenty of power moves from Lashley and Reed — who looked like he belong with the two more established stars — and few late false finishes.
Biggest Winner: Cody Rhodes, Bad Bunny
Biggest Losers: Matt Riddle, Bronson Reed
Best Match: Bianca Belair vs. Iyo Sky