The SmarK Rant for Wrestlemania Backlash 2021 – 05.16.21
So, uh, I’ve been getting emails tonight. That’s usually not good.
Live from the award-winning, critically acclaimed THUNDERDOME. Gotta say, after getting crowd reactions at Wrestlemania again and AEW doing bigger shows lately, it’s pretty rough and jarring to go back to the antiseptic fake crowd of the Thunderdome again.
Your hosts are Adnan Virk, Byron Saxton & Corey Graves
RAW Women’s title: Rhea Ripley v. Asuka v. Charlotte Flair
Jesus, Charlotte has gotta stop with the cosmetic surgery, she doesn’t even look like the same person any longer. Charlotte runs away to start, but Asuka and Rhea team up with a double superkick on her and send her to the floor. Asuka rolls up Rhea for one, but Charlotte pulls her out of the ring and gets a suplex on the floor. Back in, Charlotte and Rhea trade shoulderblocks and Charlotte puts the boots to Rhea in the corner, but Asuka pulls Charlotte out and Rhea is left in the ring. Charlotte trips up Rhea on the apron to take her out as well and back in the ring, Charlotte chokes Asuka out to take over. Big boot gets two. I’m getting pretty confused about who is supposed to be heel and babyface here because the “crowd” reactions are programmed to be all over the place, although Charlotte seems to be working as a heel. And I have no idea what Rhea is supposed to be. Asuka takes her down with an armbar, but Charlotte makes the ropes. Rhea returns from the mysterious void of the floor where she had disappeared and runs wild on Charlotte with clotheslines and a northern lights suplex for two. Asuka breaks it up with a kick and everyone is down as this match is just kind of meandering. Asuka makes the comeback with a pair of german suplexes on Charlotte and then hits both women with kicks and gets two on Charlotte. Asuka goes up with a missile dropkick to put Rhea on the floor again, but Charlotte dumps Asuka and hits them both with a moonsault. Well sort of hits. She landed in their vicinity and they fell down at least. Back in, Rhea tries for a superplex but Asuka joins in and everyone is down again. Rhea and Asuka try a double suplex, but Charlotte gets a double Natural Selection for two. But then Rhea dumps Charlotte and tries the Riptide on Asuka. Charlotte saves and Asuka tries the Asuka-lock on her, but Rhea breaks that up and finishes Asuka with the Riptide at 15:20 to retain. I know this is a minor thing at this point, but their fake crowd noise was WAY overdone here and just turned into a droning white noise after a while. Everyone worked hard but it just felt like any other cookie-cutter three way, with the usual “one person gets thrown out and disappears for five minutes” stuff and no actual story being told in the match. ***1/4
Meanwhile, Johnny Drip-Drip reassures Miz that Damian Priest is about to fall “right into their thirst trap”. Miz isn’t sure that Johnny really understands what “thirst” means in that context.
Earlier tonight, the Dirty Dogs drop a giant roll of shrink-wrap on Dominik, which eliminates him from the tag title match tonight.
Smackdown tag team titles: Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode v. Rey Mysterio
So I guess Rey is going solo. Rey quickly rolls up Roode for two and dumps Ziggler, then follows with a sliding splash onto the floor. Roode attacks and Rey runs him into the post and follows with the senton off the apron. Back in, he rolls up Roode for two, but Roode puts him down with a lariat and Ziggler gets two. They work him over in the corner and MOCK his lack of partner, I assume by calling him mean names like “Mr. Doesn’t Have a Partner” or something equally derisive. Roode hangs Rey in the Tree of Woe and stomps away while Kevin Dunn goes nuts on the camera cuts. Ziggler gets two. Again the droning fake crowd noise is mixed way too high and it’s impossible to let the match breathe that way. Ziggler gets the fameasser for two. Has he ever pinned ANYONE with that move in the decade he’s been in the company? Roode throws Rey to the floor, into a kick from Ziggler, which Pat McAfee describes as “throwing him out like a bag of bones”. Is that a reference we’re supposed to relate to? Is this man a serial killer? Back in, that gets two. Rey reverses a double suplex and makes the comeback, throwing both guys into posts, and then they turn down the droning white noise so they can turn it back UP again as Dominik comes down demanding a tag. But Ziggler hits Rey with the Zig Zag for two. Roode with a gutbuster for two. They go to the top for another one, but Rey fights back with a bulldog and makes the hot tag to Dom. I’m not exactly clear on what the injury to Dom is supposed to be, actually. Roode quickly hits him with a spinebuster as Cole speculates that it’s the dreaded internal injury, which of course is the most vague kind. They send Dom into the post and trash talk him, but Dom fights back on Ziggler and dives for the tag to Rey, which is impressive for a guy with vaguely defined internal rib injuries. Roode cuts off Rey’s comeback with a backbreaker for two, however. Rey manages to hit Roode with a 619 and takes out Dolph, leaving Dominik to hit Roode with a frog splash for the pin and the titles at 17:02. Right on the injured ribs, I should point out. So what was even the point of having Dom be “injured” and Rey go it alone for 10 minutes? This was pretty dull for the most part, but fine. **1/2
Meanwhile, Johnny Drip-Drip checks on the lumberjacks, but they’re zombies. Ah. I see. Zombies.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Uso stops by the dressing room to check on Jey and tries to convince him to stop carrying Roman’s bags around and come back to be tag champs again. But then Roman Reigns comes in and Jimmy backs off. THAT’S RIGHT YOU DO.
Meanwhile, Johnny tries to convince Miz that the lumberjacks are zombies. And then the announcers explain that it’s all a tie-in with Army of the Dead.
Lumberjack match: The Miz v. Damian Priest
The announcers remind us again that this match is brought to you by Army of the Dead in case we didn’t get it already. I’m assuming that Priest is shooting red hot pokers with his bow here, if you smell what the Rock is cooking. So then the audience turns to a cityscape and Miz flees from zombies, who are apparently supposed to be actual zombies flown in from the movie they star in, I guess. And this is supposed to be legitimately terrifying for a guy who has literally acted in movies in the past and assumedly would know how movies and acting works. Miz does his corner clothesline and lands on the floor in the process, but has to run away and Priest gets a spinkick for two. So also, with the crowd replaced by a wasteland scene and fog all over the floor, it’s actually really hard to make out what’s going on at times. Priest gets a figure-four and Miz makes the ropes, and then both guys head to the floor and fight with zombies in a truce. And then Johnny Drip Drip returns and he’s in black so you can barely see what HE’S doing, and Miz gets a knee strike on Priest for two. But then Johnny gets kidnapped and eaten by zombies outside, allowing Priest to hit the Reckoning for the pin at 7:00. And then the zombies all devour the Miz in the ring afterwards and everyone seems pretty unconcerned that this is happening. Whatever they were trying for here, they failed completely. DUD But, you know, Blood & Guts set the business back 30 years. Also I feel like this might hurt Miz’s chances to be Johnny Cage in the future, since he apparently doesn’t understand the basic concept of actors playing roles.
Meanwhile, Jimmy continues trying to convince Jey to leave Roman, apparently unaware of the zombie outbreak in the building and not concerned about it.
Smackdown Women’s title: Bianca Belair v. Bayley
Belair dumps Bayley to start and works on the arm back in the ring, but Bayley goes for the hair and Bianca flips out. They trade rollups for two and Belair whips her into the corner a couple of times and Bayley bails to buy some time. Back in, Belair catches her with a handspring moonsault for two. Bayley takes out with a cheapshot and goes to a chinlock, but Bianca fights out with a back suplex for two. Bayley goes up and Belair brings her down to the apron and suplexes her into the ring, but Bayley turns that into a rollup for two. They fight to the floor and Bayley suplexes her onto the stairs, which gets two in the ring. Belair comes back, but Bayley cuts her off with a fireman’s carry into a sideslam for two, and that looked pretty awkward. Running knee in the corner gets two. Bayley decides to stop and laugh at her, so Belair makes the comeback and throws Bayley around, but Bayley clips the knee. Belair gets a spinebuster for two, but Bayley puts her down with a clothesline and goes up and drops the big elbow for two. They head to the floor again and Bayley runs her into the post, but misses a dive and hits the floor. Bianca gives her the Glam Slam on the apron, THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING, and back in for two. Bayley with a backslide for two. Rollup gets two, but they slug it out and Belair wins that. So Bayley rakes the eyes and then uses the hair to pull Belair into the Belly to Bayley for two. But then Belair gets a rollup for the pin to retain at 16:05 in a flat finish. This was pretty unimpressive after all the memorable stuff that Belair did at Wrestlemania, and felt like it was too long, but otherwise it was OK. **1/2
WWE title: Bobby Lashley v. Braun Strowman v. Drew McIntyre
Strowman attacks both guys, but Lashley hits him with a flatliner and they double-team Braun. We get a nice delayed double suplex and Braun disappears into the ether while Bobby and Drew fight on the floor and Bobby gets run into the post. Braun dives onto both of them and gets rid of Drew, and back in for a chokeslam on Lashley that gets two. Lashley tries for the full nelson, but Drew dives back in to break that up and comes off the top with a clothesline on Lashley. Bobby hits both guys with spinebusters and gets two on Strowman, and then takes Drew to the floor and abuses him with shots to the post. Strowman grabs the stairs and smashes Lashley with those, but he gets thrown into the crowd and the other two go fighting up the ramp. Drew runs him into the LED boards and we get the dreaded exploding bulbs to indicate that Lashley has been electrocuted and is probably dead. Hopefully Lashley doesn’t come back as a zombie. I’ve heard that’s a problem tonight. But then Lashley disappears, so Drew is all confused and Strowman attacks and goes after Drew. Senton gets two. Drew manages to slam Strowman out of the corner for two, but they head to the floor again and Strowman does his train deal, only to walk into a suplex. But then Drew tries the Claymore and Brawn catches him and powerbombs him through the table. Back in the ring, Braun tries the powerslam, but Drew gets the Claymore and SURPRISE, Lashley reappears out of nowhere and steals the pin at 14:17 to retain. These are some weak finishes tonight. Match was another one where it went overly long and meandered as a result, but there was some nice power spots and Drew went through a table so I guess it was awesome? *** This was one where it definitely would have benefitted from doing a Heyman sprint where they throw all the big bombs at each other and get out fast.
Universal title: Roman Reigns v. Cesaro
They fight for the lockup to start and Roman takes him down with a headlock and gets one. Cesaro gets a pair of rollups for one while the Pat McAfee simulation cuts in and out. Roman beats on Cesaro in the corner, but Cesaro comes back with the springboard uppercut and goes for the swing already. Roman escapes that and tosses him, injuring Cesaro’s arm in the process, and then he sends Cesaro into the post for good measure. Back in, Roman with a chinlock as the announce table has already been magically reassembled after the last match. Doesn’t it kind of take away from the sense of devastation when you can just unfold the wreckage and make it back into a table again like nothing happened? Cesaro fights back, but is unable build momentum and Roman puts him down to the mat with a cravat. I’m assuming that Chris Hero, master of the cravat, is watching at home while his former partner goes for the title here. Roman with the chinlock and samoan drop for two off that. He goes for the superman punch, but Cesaro counters him with the uppercut for two and stomps him down again and into the Sharpshooter. Roman makes the ropes and bails to escape, so Cesaro dives onto him with a plancha. Roman retreats again so Cesaro hits him with a forearm on the floor and then back in for a crossbody that gets two. Roman retreats again to the apron and Cesaro runs him into the post, but Roman pulls on the bad arm and boots him to the floor. Drive By kick sends Cesaro’s arm into the post, and back in for one. Roman goes to work on the arm and clotheslines him for two. Roman puts the badmouth on him and stomps away in the corner, but Cesaro fights back with a clothesline out of the arm, thus injuring his own arm further. But he keeps fighting and suplexes Roman in from the apron, for two. So he goes for the Sharpshooter again and Roman blocks it, so he tries the Neutralizer instead and Roman fights out of that. Roman takes him down with a Fujiwara armbar and Cesaro rolls him up for two. Roman with the superman punch for two off that. Roman tries the spear and Cesaro blocks with the uppercut, but hurts his arm again and Roman takes him down with the guillotine. Cesaro powers out of that with a slam and goes for another Sharpshooter, finally hooking it this time. Roman goes for the ropes, so he turns it into a crossface, but Roman pummels him to escape. Powerbomb gets two. Cesaro won’t stay down, so Roman pummels him again, but Cesaro throws him off. So Roman goes right into the guillotine. Cesaro powers out again, but Roman re-applies it, cinches it in, and gets the tap at 27:28 to retain. Hell of a battle here and they didn’t even use the Uso run-ins! ****1/2 Afterwards, Jey Uso gives Roman his well-earned necklace, and then Seth Rollins comes down and attacks Cesaro, smashing his arm into the post to end the show on a real up-note. Well that was quite the babyface showing for Cesaro, tapping clean in the middle to the champion’s finish and then getting beat up by Jey Uso and Seth Rollins to end the night. They can really make those babyfaces in WWE, I tells ya.
Anyway, the main event was great and was pretty much the only thing worth going out of your way to see, but I don’t get ending the show on the big heat spot that they could have easily done on Smackdown. The rest was just a normal show. And zombies. Can’t forget the zombies.