WWE’s first major show since WrestleMania featured two excellent championship matches: Roman Reigns retained his Universal championship against Cesaro, and Bobby Lashley held off Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre to keep the WWE championship wrapped around his waist at WrestleMania Backlash.
The two main events were well done and Bianca Belair had a strong showing in her “SmackDown” women’s championship match against Bayley.
But the show was far from perfect and it took a strange turn when zombies got involved in Damien Priest’s lumberjack match against The Miz. It was a shameless plug for the Netflix movie “Army of the Dead,” one that everyone could have done without.
Here’s how it all went down Sunday night:
Rhea Ripley def. Charlotte and Asuka to retain ‘WWE Raw’ women’s championship
Charlotte’s insertion into this feud made the finish feel inevitable. It was expected that Asuka would eat the pin while the feud between Ripley and Charlotte reignited.
For whatever reason, it feels as if Charlotte being slotted into a feud takes it down a bit because she’s rarely the one to put someone over. And that’s exactly what happened here.
The match felt disjointed early with both Charlotte and Rhea seemingly waiting to hit their spots. The far smoother Asuka was the glue that held things together.
The match smoothed itself out midway through during a striking exchange between the trio. Ripley got the better of it and hit the usual notes of a triple threat match. A frantic closing sequence filled with reversals and transitions salvaged this solid, but unspectacular, affair. The end came when Asuka ran into a boot from Charlotte, who was on the outside, and Ripley hit the Riptide for the pinfall before Charlotte could get back into the ring.
Was it a bad match? No. It just lacked the fire that the matches between Ripley and Asuka have had over the past month.
Rey and Dominik Mysterio def. Dirty Dawgs for ‘SmackDown’ tag team championships
You already knew how this was going to end because WWE absolutely wanted to make history with the first father-and-son tag team champions. And that would have been fine if it had felt believable. Unfortunately, Dominik’s work between the ropes is still rough around the edges and the story of the match wasn’t very interesting.
It was revealed prior to the show that Ziggler and Roode attacked Dominik Mysterio and took him out of the match. Why? It didn’t make much sense considering he’s the least experienced individual in the match. Wouldn’t it have been smarter to take out the living legend? Nevertheless, Rey inexplicably decided to go it alone. Eventually, he hurt his leg and the deck was really stacked against him.
For the most part, it was total domination by Roode and Ziggler with Mysterio getting in a little offense.
There was an entertaining spot when Roode slid Mysterio to the outside and into a Ziggler superkick. Of course, Dominik made his way back to the ring and eventually got the hot tag but was met by a Roode spinebuster. After what felt like an eternity of domination, Rey hit the 619 on Roode and then tagged in his son. Dominik then hit the frog splash for the victory.
It’ll be great for the highlight reels, but the match itself just wasn’t very good.
Damien Priest def. The Miz in a zombie lumberjack match
Oh, boy, this was bad.
WWE has a tie-in with the Netflix movie “Army of the Dead,” and it decided to use that tie-in during this match where zombies were the lumberjacks.
You have to feel for Priest because this is the kind of match that will kill any momentum he gained after tag-teaming with Bad Bunny at WrestleMania, which could have been a disaster. How do you take him seriously after this? It’s certainly not his fault because he worked with what he had. As for The Miz, he can pretty much do anything and be fine.
But the match itself was pretty awful and only a prop to promote the film.
This was a run-of-the-mill bout until the zombies dragged Miz and Priest to the outside. Rather than fight each other, they attacked the zombies. John Morrison came in and tried to fight off the zombies as well until he was overwhelmed by the walking dead people.
Priest got some breathing room to hit his finisher for the pin.
We really could have done without this, but make your money, WWE.
Bianca Belair def. Bayley to retain the ‘SmackDown’ women’s championship
Bayley’s unraveling over the past few weeks has been a subtle, yet interesting, wrinkle; each week, it appears her hair is getting more and more unkempt. If we’re witnessing a descent into madness, then it could end up being one of the more fun storylines for Bayley over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Belair continues to improve in the ring with her explosive power moves and remarkable athleticism. But it was her cunning that helped her pull off the win against another opponent who attempted to undermine the champion by calling her a rookie.
Belair and Bayley have solid chemistry and this turned into a fine match. Bayley tried to outsmart the champion but was cut off at every turn by Belair’s natural ability.
Bayley became desperate as the match progressed and resorted to underhanded tactics out of frustration. The former champion attempted to use the ropes on a couple of pinfall attempts; when that didn’t work, she raked Belair’s eyes.
Bayley then used Belair’s braid for a ripcord into the Bayley to Belly suplex for a near fall. A flustered Bayley attempted to use the braid again on Belair for a reverse DDT, but the champion countered for a rollup using the braid and got the three-count.
This was a perfectly fine first title defense for Belair, but it’ll be interesting to see how Bayley’s character is handled moving forward.
Bobby Lashley def. Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman to retain WWE championship
This match was expected to be three freight trains on one track repeatedly colliding into each other. It went was exactly as advertised.
And that’s a good thing.
All three competitors wowed as they tossed each other around in ways that others could not. This wasn’t necessarily a wrestling match so much as it was a display of power with things that we’ve never seen before from the musclebound athletes.
Business started to pick up when Strowman hit a 300-plus-pound suicide dive to the outside. McIntyre clobbered Strowman with a Claymore Kick that sent the monster over the barricade and out of the match. McIntyre and Lashley then brawled up the ramp until “The Scottish Psychopath” tossed Lashley through an entrance ramp wall.
With Lashley out of the match, Strowman reappeared and mowed down McIntyre with a shoulder tackle down the ramp. Once back inside, McIntyre impressed with an incredible Michinoku drive to Strowman. The two battled on the outside and Strowman powerbombed Lashley through the announce table.
The end came when McIntyre collected himself and nailed Strowman with a Claymore. But before he could go for the pin, Lashley appeared, tossed McIntyre aside, hit Strowman with the spear and stole the victory to retain the title.
You couldn’t have asked for much more. It wasn’t a technical match, but who the heck would have wanted that? It was a monster movie come to life inside a wrestling ring.
Roman Reigns def. Cesaro to retain the Universal championship
This was a fantastic match between one of the most well-developed heels in the business and arguably the most underrated talent on the entire roster, who finally got his chance to main-event for the championship.
You probably can’t build a better pure wrestler than Cesaro, just like you couldn’t create a better sports entertainer today than Reigns. Their clash Sunday was a mesh of styles and storylines that was an absolute joy to watch.
Cesaro’s unique combination of remarkable strength, technical wrestling and athleticism made him the perfect foil for the champion.
The main story of the match was Cesaro injuring his shoulder early on when he was tossed outside and Reigns repeatedly targeting the arm to ensure that his challenger would be compromised. The secondary narrative was the internal conflict between Jimmy and Jey Uso and Reigns. Jimmy hasn’t been fond of Reigns since returning a few weeks ago and Jey has tried to convince his brother that Reigns is deserving of being at the head of the table.
Rather than interfere, the Usos stayed away and allowed Reigns to take on Cesaro alone to see if he could defeat the “Swiss Superman.”
This was a brilliantly paced showdown. Cesaro repeatedly battled back while Reigns mocked his damaged opponent throughout. Reigns would seemingly get the upper hand but Cesaro repeatedly found ways to turn the tide, whether that be with a corkscrew suicide dive, a lariat with his uninjured arm or one of his brutal European uppercuts. He always had an answer for Reigns.
So much has to be said about Roman Reigns’ character work. Not only is his wrestling on point, but also the way he carries himself. He has a unique aura that is reminiscent of when Dwayne Johnson went from Rocky Maivia to The Rock with a distinct personality change that eventually made him a Hollywood megastar. Reigns could be on his way there himself if he keeps this up.
Cesaro is a talent that you don’t come across very often and it’s almost criminal that it took this long for him to get his shot at a major WWE title. But he made the most of it and turned in a performance that will keep him in the main event picture.
The end came with Cesaro aiming to overcome his injured arm by putting Reigns into a sharpshooter and transitioning into a crossface. Reigns powered out and crushed Cesaro with a powerbomb for a near fall. Reigns then used a front face lock to roll into a guillotine choke. Cesaro initially powered out with a slam but that only caused Reigns to cinch in the hold even tighter until Cesaro passed out.
Jey Uso attacked Cesaro after the match, and then Seth Rollins emerged to join in the beatdown and get revenge on Cesaro for beating him at WrestleMania. So it seems as if Cesaro will go back to his feud with Rollins while Reigns awaits the next challenge for his title. Could it be Jimmy Uso?