Emanating from the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico, WWE Backlash 2023 had an energy unlike any other company event.
From the opening to the main event, Superstars received major reactions from the crowd.
The fans chose to build some new talent up with raucous reactions for Zelina Vega and Iyo Sky, but no one got more from the crowd than Bad Bunny.
Omos had the best match of his career to date against Seth Rollins. The Visionary made him look like a beast.
The Bloodline were featured in perhaps the least memorable match of the night.
Cody Rhodes and Brock Lesnar felt out of place in the main event of this show and were not quite able to sell this as the most important match of the night.
Overall, Backlash was special, and certain names took serious advantage to become defining winners on the night. Others left San Juan in less impressive fashion, though.
Going into her match with Bianca Belair, few expected Iyo Sky to take the win.
The EST of WWE was ready to become the longest reigning Raw women’s champion in company history, and The Genius of the Sky could barely win a match.
Despite all this, the crowd went wild for Sky even before the bell. It was clear the fans in San Juan wanted a surprise title change.
Feeding off that reaction, The Genius of the Sky put on her best match in WWE to date. She pushed Belair to stay in WrestleMania mode for another fantastic Raw women’s title match.
While the dream was not realized, the ending sold how close Sky was to winning. Damage CTRL, especially Bayley, could not get on the same page with her, and that cost her a stunning victory.
WWE has a star-in-the-making with Sky. If she does break away from The Role Model, WWE should consider giving her a rematch with Belair and, this time, giving her the win.
The second match of the night also delivered a career performance.
Omos found his perfect opponent, as Seth Rollins forced him to exceed his limitations and made him look like a monster heel.
This is the contest The Nigerian Giant needed. Even though he lost, he pushed the likely next WWE world heavyweight champion to his limit. He made Rollins go deep into his bag of tricks to pull out a super finisher.
It is likely The Visionary can have a good match with anyone, but it always takes two to tango. Omos needs more bouts like this where his opponent plays to his strengths.
The Nigerian Giant can quickly rebound from this loss, leaning into how much it took for The Visionary to beat him. This may even be a match to revisit one day…with gold on the line.
Once again, it wasn’t the winner of the match who got the big moment. Zelina Vega had the contest of her career against Rhea Ripley, who is performing at her absolute highest level..
While it was never truly in question whether The Eradicator would retain, her challenger did have the entire crowd behind her as she fought from underneath.
Her underdog comeback, complete with a 619 and second-rope meteora, made an impression. However, nothing was more special than the ovation Vega received after the match.
Latino World Order is a stable that has just begun to build momentum. If the blue brand fully commits to the group in 2023, Vega could find herself in another SmackDown Women’s Championship match in the future.
If she does pull off the big win in that second opportunity, everything will come back to this moment. Vega has never been a bigger star than this night.
As the first of what WWE labelled the “double main event,” Bad Bunny and Damian Priest had a match for the ages, the ultimate crowd-pleaser in San Juan.
It was a spectacular display from the best celebrity performer in WWE’s history. Bad Bunny was the biggest star in the world in that arena on Saturday night. His entrance alone was an impromptu concert.
While he needed to win, he did everything to make Priest look special. He put over his rival better than anyone has in WWE.
It was only because The Archer of Infamy repeatedly decided to inflict more punishment rather than win that he did not pick up a clear and dominant victory.
The contest got so much time and attention that the overbooking madness including LWO, Carlito and Savio Vega never took away from the complete match between these two Puerto Rican stars. Hopefully, Priest can carry this forward into a massive 2023.
Meanwhile, Bad Bunny never needs to wrestle again, but he would be welcomed back at any time.
For the first time in years, The Usos were not in a top angle at a WWE PPV.
Arguably, this was the lowest point The Bloodline story has landed on a premium live event as the six-man tag team match was a cooldown between the two main contests.
Roman Reigns was severely missed on this show. The crowd made that clear with a noticeable “We want Roman” chant starting during the slow period of this match.
While the crowd was on fire for Sami Zayn, the rest of the talent needed to work hard to get the fans involved. It was a shocking turnaround for what has been WWE’s hottest angle for so long.
This story will heat back up when Reigns returns, but this was the first strong indication that The Bloodline may not be the biggest story in WWE for much longer.
On paper, Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar was the biggest match at Backlash, but neither man could sell this as worthy of the spotlight it was given as the “double main event” next to Bad Bunny vs. Damian Priest.
It was a fast-moving basic brawl that used a surprise blood spot as an attempt to amplify the action. Instead, it distracted from what should have been a triumphant return to form for The American Nightmare.
While Rhodes was certainly over with the crowd, this was a cheap end to an exciting show. He did not even get a chance to celebrate, running out while Lesnar looked shocked at his end to the night.
This was one of the weakest matches Rhodes has had on the main roster, especially at a PPV. He worked like a heel at a time when he should be an underdog babyface fighting from underneath to find victory.
It would have been a fine middle-of-the-show contest to set a future rematch, but it looked out of place as a main event on a night of special moments.