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2023 Backlash Reviews

Reverse Hipster's Reviews

Bianca vs. Io Sky Raw Women's Title 9/10 A-

This match was action-packed and smart. The crowd was white hot for this match. However, for the first time in a long time, the crowd was rooting against Bianca Belair. To Bianca's credit, she was not thrown off by the crowd's response, and she adjusted her offense to be less cute/showy and more physical. Once the crowd made their position known, Bianca didn't try to pander to them. Instead, she just put her head down and became the longest-reigning Women's Champion of the modern era in front of a hostile crowd. Bianca had some truly amazing spots in this match. She lifted, held, and threw Iyo with one arm. It was remarkable. She also sit-down power bombed Iyo from the top rope.

Iyo was by no means run over in this match. She took the crowd's energy and ran with it. She worked Bianca's arm all match with an innovative offense. She almost beat Biance with a Yes Lock and a roll-up after interference from Damage Control. Iyo was fearless. Bianca destroyed her at times, and she kept kicking out and getting back. She threw caution to the wind and put her body on the line with moves like the backflip from the top rope to the outside on Belair. Iyo seemed to have a counter for most of Bianca's offense. In the end, Iyo's high-risk offense missed, and she got knocked out for three with a KOD. However, you have to wonder if that's the full story. If Damage Control doesn't come out, would IYO have won? She didn't need them to come out, and you could argue that Bayley getting caught holding Bianca's hair was the misstep that caused Iyo the match. I know I would have liked to see what these two would have done without interference.

Seth Rollins vs. Omos 8/10 B-

This match had a good story. Seth Rollins was presented as the superior wrestler as he should be as a grand slam champion, but Omos was presented as having otherworldy strength. Seth Rollins would outwrestle Omos and hit two finishing moves on Omos, and Omos would kick out. Seth Rollins hits a frog splash, and Omos kicks out at one. Seth goes for a stomp, and Omos ignores him as if he didn't even feel the attempt. Seth was throwing out his best shots, but Omos just kept powering out of everything until Seth Rollins did a stomp from the top rope. It was a shocking move, and it is highly responsible for the grade of this match. This an Andre vs. Hulk match where the whole match leads to one climatic spot like Hulk Slamming Andre. In this instance, it was the Super Curbstump.

I believe this is the highest grade I have given an Omo's match.

Seth Rollins has clearly proven he can have a great match with anyone, but it's not just him. Omos has gotten better, and I'm starting to believe in the potential of Omos.

Austin Theory vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Bronson Reed United States Title 8.3/10 B

The takeaway from this match is that these guys are strong as hell. Bronson Reed did a Vader Bomb from the apron to the outside on Bobby, and I don't know how Bobby's should is still attached to his body. Then later in the match, Reed Flattened Bobby again with a splash of the ropes. Bobby Lashley nearly launched Austin Theory out of the arena ceiling and then slammed him to hell in the next moment. Bobby even got the winning move of the match when he speared Bronsen Reed in half. However, Austin Theory is slippery and strong too. He powered out of the Hurtlock and flipped it into a pin. He picked up Bronson Reed for an ATown Down. But in the end, strength didn't win him the match. It was his slipperiness. He threw Bobby out of the ring after his spear, capitalized on Bobby's work, and won the match.

Zelina Vega vs. Rhea Ripley SmackDown Women's Championship 7.3/10 C

Going into this match, everyone thought Rhea was going to win. However, then Zelina came out with a huge Puerto Rican Flag Crying in the ring as she got the biggest ovation of her career from her people. I didn't care about the logic or long-term plans at that moment. I was just rooting for Zelina. Rhea immediately stomped out Zelina's fire, but then Zelina made a comeback with a tornado DDT, 619, and Meteora leading to a two count. However, that would be the match's highlight because soon after that, Rhea hit the Riptide and won. The finish came too soon and felt too abrupt. It just didn't seem like that finish honored the emotionally charged match they were having. They should have taken some notes from Omos vs. Seth and let Zelina show some surprising resilience before ultimately being put down.

Damian Priest vs. Bad Bunny Street Fight 8.99/10 A-

This match started slow, but it was still impressive that Bad Bunny was pulling out Drivers and lifting Damien Preist. Still, it was established early on that Damian could have ended this match very early if he wanted to. He hit South of Heaven, and the only reason Bunny was in the match after that was that Damian lifted him up before the three count. But Pride comes before the fall. This time it was a literal fall when Damian slammed Bad Bunny through a table off a pillar in the crowd. It's insane how generous Bad Bunny is with his body. He is out there taking real bumps as a guest star. We have not seen anything like this since Shane, and this is still more impressive when you consider how outside of WWE Bunny is.

The match kicked it up a notch more when Judgement Day came to help Priest and Rey ran out, and then CARLITO CAME OUT! I spat in the face of my screen when that happened; it was so cool. Then when Balor and Dominique thought they got away, Savio Vega and Legado came out and beat Judgment Day Down. I love the idea that the LWO has the numbers advantage in Puerto Rico.

When the match refocused on Bunny and Priest, it seemed like Bad Bunny would make Damian Priest tap to a beautifully applied Figure Four. However, putting Priest Down would take a lot more than that. Bunny delivered a Slice Bread and numerous chair shots before hitting Damian with the move that made him famous the Canadian Destroyer. Bad Bunny got a feel-good win, and the crowd exploded, and rightfully so. Bad Bunny and Priest were asked to do a lot in that match, and they completely delivered. The only reason the match isn't rated higher is that without all the interference, I wouldn't have put this match in the A range despite the heroics of Bad Bunny and Damian.

Sami, Kevin Owesn & Riddle vs. The Bloodline's Solo & The Usos 8/10 B-

This match just didn't move the needle much. Maybe it was because they were in a dead spot after the Bad Bunny match. This match had a lot going against it going in. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have yet to really establish themselves as champions, and they need to defend the titles on PPV. Sami and Ko have only ever beaten one team with the titles on the line. Also, Ko and Sami started tagging together to bring down the Bloodline, but the Bloodline is still standing, which puts Kevin and Sami in a weird spot. Then there was the fact that Roman wasn't involved in the match at all, making it feel even more unimportant. Plus, Riddle, as good as he is, has very little to do with the current Bloodline story or, at the very least, feels out of place.

Plus, the drama between the Bloodline overshadowed Riddle, Sami, and Ko. The Bloodline won, but the only thing I can say about this match is that everybody got their stuff in, and the Bloodline story slightly progressed.

Brock Lesnar vs. Cody Rhodes 8.8/10 B+

Cody and Brock didn't have a match. They had a war. Corey Graves compared it to Doom and Superman, and he wasn't far off. Cody is no fool; before the match even started, he attacked Brock Lesnar. Cody hit him with steel steps, suicide dives, chairs, and pieces of the announce table. Brock still took Cody to Suplex City when the match actually started. Imagine what would have happened if Cody hadn't attacked him before the match. Cody isn't the largest wrestler, but he still got decent size on him, and Brock threw him around like he was nothing.

Cody hit Brock with Disaster kicks, Cody Cutters, Multiple Crossroads, and busted Brock's head open with an exposed turnbuckle, but it still wasn't enough to put Brock away. Brock suplexed Cody 8 times in all different positions without a care in the world for how he landed, and Brock hit him with an f5, but it still wasn't enough to put Cody away. However, Brock still had an ace up his sleeve. Brock pulled out the Kimura lock, and there was nowhere for Cody to go. We have seen Brock break people's arms with that lock, and they were in the middle of the ring. Cody had a little leverage stopping Brock from locking it all the way in, but it's like standing in place with your shoulder out of place. You can't avoid the pain. You can only delay it. However, just when it seemed like it was over, Cody pushed forward, turning the Kimura into a pin, and he won. I love this finish because it keeps Brock strong because he wasn't knocked out or submitted, but it makes Cody look great because he busted Brock open and he beat Brock. Cody outsmarted Brock and was truly the better man that day.

Rob’s Reviews

Bianca Belair vs. Iyo Sky (Raw Women’s Championship)

Two of the newest stars drafted to SmackDown battled over the Raw Women’s Championship to open the show. The crowd was white hot, carrying over from SmackDown the day prior. I suspected Iyo Sky may be slightly favored by the hardcore crowd, but I didn’t expect it to be by a landslide to the point they were booing Belair. This match reminded me that Sky is very, very good and has been basically holding back, arguably even running at 50%, during her Damage CTRL run so far. Belair’s strength was the perfect dancing partner for Sky’s technical high-flying style. Sky was so smooth on the ropes and on the mat, and Belair kept coming back with a new feat of strength. Belair dumping Sky on her face was brutal, probably unintentional, but the brutality of the spot added to the match. The story of the match was that Sky probably could have beaten Belair straight up, but Damage CTRL got too involved and cost Sky the match. It sort of worked with the crowd’s reaction and love for Sky. By the end, I almost wanted to see Sky win to hear the pop. Belair was the right choice to win, and she can hold a new accolade- the longest reigning women’s champion of the modern era, well earned from the EST.

Final Grade: 9/10 Amazing

Seth Rollins vs. Omos

The hardcore Puerto Rico crowd continued their love for fan favorite Seth Rollins. I hate to admit it, but these Omo's matches are growing on me. They are unique from anything else on the card, and Omos works well enough to put on a spectacle-style match with big WWE stars. The spot with Omos blocking the stomp and Rollins’s super stomp was awesome. Rollins had to win this and has to be considered the frontrunner for the new World Heavyweight Championship. However, Omos needs to pile some impressive wins together, or these David vs. Goliath matches will ultimately be meaningless, even if fun.

Final Grade: 7/10 Good

Austin Theory vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Bronson Reed (United States Championship)

This match wasn’t nearly as memorable as the first two, but the competitors still did good. The direction and result of this match were kind of obvious going in. The ride was still fun enough, and there were still cool spots like Bronson Reed’s high-flying moves. Austin Theory is the right guy to keep holding the championship.

Final Grade: 5/10 Average

Rhea Ripley vs. Zelina Vega (SmackDown Women’s Championship)

For the second time tonight, WWE gave an opportunity to the women, and they absolutely shined. I have always felt like Zelina Vega was underrated and underutilized, and she absolutely shined here in front of her home crowd. This time, Rhea Ripley was playing the role of power, and Vega was playing the role of small highflyer/technician. While the match wasn’t technically as impressive, Vega got one of the best responses of the night. Ripley just had her career-defining victory at WrestleMania, so she had to win here. Even in defeat, Vega got her moment tonight, and the standing ovation at the end of the match got me emotional too.

Final Grade: 7/10 Good

Bad Bunny vs. Damian Priest (San Juan Street Fight)

The co-main event maybe should have been the sole main event. Bad Bunny coming out in Puerto Rico while the entire crowd sang along to his song is maybe one of the top five entrances of all time. Damian Priest owned Bad Bunny for a period of time before Bad Bunny started making an underdog-style comeback. By the middle of the match, Bad Bunny had control, and Judgment Day came out to try to save Priest. Occasionally, WWE has segments that feel like a fever dream. What came next was a Carlito return to an insane reaction, a huge pop for Savio Vega, and LWO coming out to handle Judgment Day. In the end, Bad Bunny got Priest one on one and hit the Canadian Destroyer for the win. It was easy to forget throughout this that Bad Bunny is the top streaming artist in the world, and it was only his third time in the ring in front of a crowd. He was incredible, and I would love to see more of him in WWE. Priest and Judgment Day played their part perfectly. I hope WWE sees that Legado del Fantasma/LWO isn’t just a fad and they can have great success outside of Puerto Rico too. The only thing wrong with this segment is it should have been the main event.

Final Grade: 8/10 Great

Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Riddle vs. the Bloodline

Going into this match, I felt like these six had already matched up so many times. I honestly wasn’t that excited to see it. Of course, when you get these six together, the in-ring work is dynamic. I expected the babyfaces to win to put the exclamation point on winning the tag team championships. Instead, a new story emerged as the Bloodline won, but with a lot of issues between Solo Sikoa and the Usos. Sikoa has been booked like a monster, and it’s clear he thinks he is ready to be let loose, while the Bloodline is mainly using him for their own gain. This will be an interesting story to watch, though I think it should happen away from Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Riddle while they move on to new feuds.

Final Grade: 6/10 Above Average

Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar

For me, maybe the worst match of the night was the main event. Brock Lesnar is officially more of a spectacle than a wrestler at this point. Cody Rhodes has carried the feud. The commentators admitted in the entrance they still don’t know why Lesnar attacked Rhodes, and Rhodes has been left alone to cut lengthy promos and speculate to build this match. I like that Rhodes went after Lesnar aggressively, and Lesnar was still good enough to counter Rhodes. After losing the biggest match of his WWE career, Rhodes needed this win, and he got it. But WWE was unwilling to give it to him in a valiant fashion. Rhodes had to attack Lesnar before the match, hit him with multiple finishers, get him bleeding on the turnbuckle, and still had to win with a rollup. Again, Lesnar is a spectacle, and Rhodes at least narrowly won to keep some momentum.

Final Grade: 5/10 Average

Reverse Hipster’s Final Grade 8.3/10 B

This is what all the good WWE premium live events are like these days. The cards may not look stacked, and the feuds may not even be all that either. However, there is a buzz in the air and the promise that at least one match will be special. This year every PPV was special. The crowd supercharged every match, and both the performances and the booking worked in concert to create an incredible show.

Rob’s Final Thoughts

Have a premium live event in Puerto Rico every year. The crowd was white hot, and it likely raised every match grade by at least one point. Wrestling is so much more fun when the crowd is completely invested in the story and reacting to everything the wrestlers are doing. This card was kind of underbuilt going into the night, but you wouldn’t know it based on the execution and crowd response. I think everyone put in an above-and-beyond effort to make this card work, WWE gave a chance to some of its underutilized stars, and the result was darn good.

Overall Grade: 8/10 Great

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