May 6, 2023
We’re in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico for Backlash in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Honestly, a great idea to do a PPV in another country. American crowds can be hit and miss. Puerto Rico is a guaranteed good time. Hosts are Michael Cole and Corey Graves.
I’m here because I did enjoy most of WrestleMania. Especially N1 but the standard was up there. We’re not quite on the same level here but the show is only 3 hours long.
WWE RAW Women’s Championship
Bianca Belair (c) vs. Iyo Sky
I’m still having trouble with the spelling on Io Shirai’s WWE gimmick name so I might get it wrong in here.
The crowd is hot here and in Io’s corner. They want to see a title switch. They have a fairly major issue where Bianca is having so much fun working with Io that she breaks character and is smiling when she takes spots. Hey, I get it! It’s Io. The other major issue is WWE’s insistence on too many cuts. Just, linger on the action so I can watch it. They do an arm match with Io working the left arm of Bianca. Belair does a great job on the selling. At one point going to grab the ropes and being unable to.
If anything the inconsistency leans toward overselling. She can’t hold Io up for a press slam and Io has to hold herself up there and ends up dropping on her face. Is this what happens when I complain about limb work? We suddenly get great limb work?
Io does a great job in the match of mixing up her offence with counters of Bianca’s power and high flying antics, plus technical solidity. Sky has everything and it feels like a genuine challenge to Belair’s dominance. She’s being asked questions. The match is great until Bayley and Dakota come out here. The match doesn’t need the bullshit. Io has been sensational on her own. The bullshit hurts Io’s chances in the match as well as the quality overall and Bianca wins clean. I loved this until the finish, which took quite a bit of steam off the match. Io needs a big run on top of this company. ****
Video Control takes us backstage where Savio Vega drops by to wish Bad Bunny good fortune and holy shit, the pop he gets. Wow.
Omos vs Seth Rollins
This is a very WWE thing to do. One of their workers thinks he’s King Shit and can carry anyone. Oh yeah, anyone? So, they put him in with the biggest stiff in the company.
So, here’s the question…can Omos get something worthwhile out of this stiff? I’m kidding, of course, and Rollins is fine. He thinks he’s better than he is. The issue with Omos is he’s so big, it’s hard to have a conventional match with him. To the point where you can’t see him ever getting a massive push because how would you run a main event with him?
Seeing as I get a little bored during the match, I end up asking AI to show me “Seth Rollins eating cheese”. Enjoy! Oh, Seth won with a stomp off the top. Meh. The only point to this was to polish the ego of Seth Rollins. Who presumably will now be googling “Seth Rollins broomstick Omos” and I hope, sincerely, this pollutes the search for him.
WWE United States Championship
Austin Theory (c) vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Bronson Reed
Austin Theory is so weird. Normally when people leave the Indies and go straight into WWE keeping their name people like them. But nobody liked him on the Indies in the first place. Corey calls Theory “a big guy” here, which shows how standards have slipped in WWE. He’s barely over six foot tall and 220lbs. That’s traditionally small for WWE. As is evidenced when Reed runs him over every now and again. This match feels like they were told they’d lost half their time right before they went out and tried to squeeze 15 minutes of work into 7 minutes. It feels super rushed and completely out of place in WWE. Just a bunch of fucking spots thrown together at a million miles an hour. Would have been more at home on Lucha Underground.
WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Zelina Vega
Zelina, a Puerto Rican, comes out in more flag than I am comfortable with. The flag shagger gear is enough for me. The reaction for Zelina is ridiculous, to the point where Zelina is in tears. It’s all emotion vs no emotion as Ripley is a gigantic Australian killing machine. She does a SWANK~! Powerbomb. A fine tribute to Dean Rasmussen. Thank you, Rhea. Zelina has this incredible emotional storyline where her dad died in 9/11 and she’s out here trying to win a title for his memory, plus it’s in front of her own family and countrymen.
WWE really frustrate here. Deciding to do a long weird dolly shot off their wired cam while Zelina is doing a bunch of ‘help me’ selling to the crowd. It’s just typically awful production choices. They desperately need to get that hack Kevin Dunn out of the vision mixing area. It’s a pity the production doesn’t help the wrestlers, who tell a very good yet basic story. Ripley’s comedic heel overselling is vital to the hometown pop business. Obviously, Zelina Vega isn’t good enough to win the title, so Rhea gets pissed off and kills her with Riptide. The crowd isn’t impressed, but what can you do? I thought they did really well with the time they had here, compared to the mess of the last match. Not good enough for a recommendation but I’m all in on Rhea Ripley being the new ace of the women’s division.
Zelina leaves still mega over with the Puerto Rico fans. I don’t think she’s any closer to getting a title run.
Video Control gives us a recap of the Judgement Day stable storyline and they do a better job of it here than at WrestleMania, where I had no idea what was happening.
To better understand the musical artist Bad Bunny, I decided to listen to “Soy Peor”, which I’m led to believe was one of his big breakthrough tracks. I now look forward to YouTube music throwing it into my playlist somewhere between “Super-connected” by Belly and “Plush” by the Stone Temple Pilots. My take on it? His voice is deeper than I expected but my taste in Latin rap goes more the way of Control Machete. I like my Latin rappers angry and with a female vocalist to break up the chorus. Anyway, now we’ve got around my musical tastes let’s get into the match.
San Juan Street Fight
Damien Priest vs. Bad Bunny
To say Bunny is over would be an understatement. Priest is from Puerto Rico but holy shit, the reaction for Bunny when he walks out here is insane.
His music gets the reaction by itself but he’s all, hey, let’s go Hardcore here, Raven shopping trolley style. Fair play to Bad Bunny, he wants to be a wrestler and he wants to have a good match here. Especially as he’s in front of his home crowd. He throws himself into stuff with reckless abandon. It’s all a bit of a mess but they get by on crowd heat and Bunny’s bumping. He has certain ragdoll qualities. Bunny even works a body part, going after Priest’s leg after Damien roundhouses the ring post. Priest gets his leg absolutely destroyed. Ring post, chain, chair shots. The works.
With one of the two workers down we get the start of the run ins. After the obvious Judgement Day and Rey Mysterio ones, in comes CARLITO CARIBBEAN COOL. Oh ffs, please don’t rehire him because he’s over in Puerto Rico.
Not content with that out comes Savio Vega to cut off the retreat of the heels.
Savio Vega’s last active appearance on WWF TV was in BRAWL FOR ALL.
Anyway, back to the action and Bunny attempts some increasingly worrying spots including a Sliced Bread #2, where he lands on his own head. Bunny finishes with the Canadian Destroyer. This kind of sloppy, heavily booked match is not my thing. At all. Anyone who knows me, knows this is the case. I was never going to like this. Points for effort with Bunny putting a lot of effort into having a match he doesn’t need to have. He just wants it. I appreciate the passion. I do. I just don’t like the match.
The Bloodline (Usos & Solo Sikoa) vs. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & Matt Riddle
Owens and Zayn were so likeable, so WWE had to stick Riddle with them.
WWE seem intent on dragging the Bloodline story on as long as they can so Roman can start knocking off ridiculous long title reigns of past years. Next up; Pedro Morales! Anyway, this match doesn’t have any of the energy of the WrestleMania stuff because the faces already won and tonight the face (Bunny) already won. There’s no chemistry here, there’s no intensity and there’s no point.
The storyline now hinges on ‘what will Solo do?’ The trouble with Sikoa is that he’s not an interesting wrestler. He’s a silent bodyguard type. Both the Usos developed their character through the Bloodline but they were good wrestlers to start with. It’s so weird to watch a feud that was so hot a month ago and now there’s nothing there.
It’s Riddle that picks the pace up and then Owens on top of that, as it gets more heated down the stretch. If you need to throw out false finishes to get over, that’s worrying. The trouble with resorting to Usos vs Kevin & Sami is it’s just a re-tread of the better Mania match.
The “drama” that I’ve been hearing so much about come spilling out as Jimmy and Solo have issues. This feels like the logical end point so they naturally just keep going. Sikoa tags himself in, as he did throughout the match, and blindsides Riddle with the spike for the win. I was bored for half of this. The other half felt like a budget version of Mania. They could have done this storyline without the need for a long pointless ambling match beforehand.
Brock Lesnar vs. Cody Rhodes
“Lesnar has never explained why he attacked Cody”. That’s because he doesn’t know lads. My theory is Lesnar was always meant to attack Cody on RAW but it was initially because he couldn’t get a title shot at Roman. So if Cody won the title, Lesnar could challenge again. Cody is such a nerd that I don’t see him on Brock’s level, which is probably why they never strapped him up to start with.
Cody does try to outsmart Lesnar, by attacking him before the bell and whatnot. However, once we’re properly underway, it’s a massacre. That is until Lesnar gets tripped into the exposed turnbuckle and gets busted open. It looks hardway.
It’s funny that the WWE obsession with blood being ‘illegal’ means, even though the cut is accidental, they deliberately select the dumbest, most dreadful camera angles. Show me the blood, cowards! Brock gets a kimura and Cody leans into it to get the pin. This was a pretty great sprint. Lesnar is better positioned in shorter matches where he dominates. Here with Cody picking up a lucky pinfall. The colour really added to it. ***¼
I heard good things about this show and there are good things about it. The crowd is raucous and WWE need to think more about exploring their overseas options for PPV (or premium lives events or whatever). Go places that don’t usually get good shows or even get guys like Reigns or Lesnar at all. The better matches on the card were somewhat ruined by WWE’s WWE-ness. The need for interference in the opener was irritating. The booking heavy nature of Bunny’s match. The rushed matches in between. Personally, I’m jazzed the show came in at 3 hours and found it fairly watchable. However, they have serious production issues they need to address. There are an insane number of cuts and their director stinks. At least Cody didn’t even the show surrounded by rubber chickens though.
Here’s what AI thinks Cody would look like if he and the rubber chicken got melded together like Jeff Goldblum in the Fly: