WrestleMania Backlash 2021 was a professional wrestling pay-per-view and WWE Network event produced by WWE for their Raw and SmackDown brand divisions. It took place on May 16, 2021 from the WWE ThunderDome, hosted at the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida. It was the 16th event in the Backlash chronology and was WWE's first pay-per-view to present the ThunderDome from the Yuengling Center during the COVID-19 pandemic following a four-month residency at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Backlash is a recurring pay-per-view (PPV) and WWE Network event that was established by WWE in 1999 (then known as the World Wrestling Federation). The event continued annually as the post-WrestleMania event until 2009, which was the final event until 2016. It was brought back that year following the reintroduction of the brand extension, where WWE again split its roster between the Raw and SmackDown brands where wrestlers are exclusively assigned to perform; the 2016 event also ended its previous tradition of being the post-WrestleMania pay-per-view. The event then continued annually until 2018 when it was replaced by Stomping Grounds the following year, but was reinstated in 2020. The 16th event in the Backlash chronology, the 2021 event will take place on June 20 and feature wrestlers from the Raw and SmackDown brands.
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, WWE had to present the majority of its programming for Raw and SmackDown from a behind closed doors set at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida beginning mid-March 2020, although in late May, the promotion began using Performance Center trainees to serve as the live audience, which was further expanded to friends and family members of the wrestlers in mid-June. On August 17, WWE announced that all future shows and pay-per-views would be held at Orlando's Amway Center for the "foreseeable future," beginning with the August 21 episode of SmackDown. Furthermore, the shows now feature a new fan viewing experience called the "ThunderDome," which utilizes drones, lasers, pyro, smoke, and projections. Approximately 1,000 LED boards were installed to allow fans to virtually attend the events for free and be seen on the rows and rows of LED boards. Arena audio is also mixed with that of the virtual fans so that chants from the fans can be heard. After their contract with the Amway Center expired, WWE relocated the ThunderDome to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida in December. The ThunderDome was then relocated to the Yuengling Center, located on the campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa, beginning with the April 12 episode of Raw.
The show included matches that resulted from scripted storylines where wrestlers portrayed heroes, villains or less distinguishable characters in scripted events that build tension and culminate in a wrestling match or series of matches. Results are predetermined by WWE's writers on the Raw and SmackDown brands, while storylines are produced on WWE's weekly television shows, Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown.
At WrestleMania 37, Bobby Lashley defeated Drew McIntyre to retain the WWE Championship. On the following night's Raw, Lashley's manager MVP declared that no one could defeat Lashley. McIntyre interrupted and wanted another opportunity at Lashley, claiming that he would have defeated him if MVP had not distracted him and prevented him from performing the Claymore Kick on Lashley. Braun Strowman and Randy Orton then interrupted and stated their respective cases to challenge for the title. WWE official Adam Pearce then scheduled a triple threat match between McIntyre, Strowman, and Orton with the winner facing Lashley for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania Backlash, which was won by McIntyre. On the April 26 episode, Strowman challenged McIntyre to a match with the added stipulation that if Strowman won, he would be added to the championship match at WrestleMania Backlash. Strowman defeated McIntyre thus the championship match became a triple threat match.
At WrestleMania 37, Bianca Belair won the SmackDown Women's Championship. On the following episode of SmackDown, The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford, the latter of whom is Belair's real-life husband) threw Belair a championship celebration. Later, Bayley challenged Belair for the title. The following week, the championship match was scheduled for WrestleMania Backlash.
At WrestleMania 37, Rhea Ripley defeated Asuka to win the Raw Women's Championship. The two had a rematch the following night on Raw, however, the match ended in a no-contest after interference from a returning Charlotte Flair, who attacked Asuka. Prior to the match, Flair, who had been off TV for the past month, returned that night after missing her first WrestleMania since WrestleMania 32 in 2016. The following week, Flair lost to Asuka thanks to a distraction from Ripley. Following the match, an irate Flair attacked the referee. Adam Pearce subsequently suspended Flair, however, fellow WWE official Sonya Deville, who primarily appears on SmackDown, reinstated Flair the following week after Flair made a public apology on Raw. On the May 3 episode, another rematch between Ripley and Asuka for the Raw Women's Championship was scheduled for WrestleMania Backlash. However, Deville allowed Flair a chance to present a proposal and after hearing Flair's case, Deville added Flair to the championship match to make it a triple threat match.
On the April 16 episode of SmackDown, Universal Champion Roman Reigns, along with Paul Heyman and Jey Uso, boasted about retaining his championship at WrestleMania 37. Reigns was then interrupted by Cesaro, but before he could speak, Reigns, Jey, and Heyman left the ring and departed backstage. Later, Cesaro confronted Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville about facing Reigns that night, even as a non-title match. However, instead of Reigns, Cesaro faced Jey in the main event, which ended by disqualification when Seth Rollins, who Cesaro had defeated at WrestleMania, interfered and attacked Cesaro, proclaiming that their rivalry was not over. On the special Throwback SmackDown on May 7, Cesaro was scheduled to face Rollins with the added stipulation that if Cesaro won, he would earn a Universal Championship match at WrestleMania Backlash. Cesaro defeated Rollins once again, securing the championship match. Also that episode, Jey's brother Jimmy returned from injury, last appearing at Hell in a Cell in October 2020, and although conflicted at first, particularly because of what Reigns did to them at Hell in a Cell, Jimmy also eventually aligned with Reigns.
The actual pay-per-view opened with Rhea Ripley defending the Raw Women's Championship against Charlotte Flair and Asuka. In the closing moments, after an evenly competitive match between the three, Ripley performed the Riptide on Asuka to retain the title.
Next, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode defended the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio. Earlier in the night, Dominik was attacked by Ziggler and Roode, and medical personnel ruled Dominik unable to compete. During the match, Ziggler and Roode dominated Rey. About mid-way though, Dominik eventually entered the match. In the end, Rey performed a 619 on Roode and tagged in Dominik, who then performed a Frog Splash on Roode to win the title, thus becoming the first-ever father and son team to hold a tag team championship in WWE.
After that, Damian Priest faced The Miz (accompanied by John Morrison) in a lumberjack match. The ring was surrounded by zombies as a promotional tie-in for the film Army of the Dead, which stars former WWE wrestler Batista. During the match, Priest and Miz teamed to fend off the zombies. In the end, Morrison was "devoured" by the zombies which distracted Miz. Priest performed Hit the Lights on Miz to win the match. Following the match, several zombies entered the ring and "devoured" Miz.
In the next match, Bianca Belair defended the SmackDown Women's Championship against Bayley. Belair won the match after using her braided hair to gain leverage during a pinfall.
In the penultimate match, Bobby Lashley (accompanied by MVP) defended the WWE Championship against Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman. During the match, Lashley and McIntyre fought their way up the entrance ramp where McIntyre threw Lashley through an LED board. Back in the ring, McIntyre and Strowman continued the match. In the end, as McIntyre performed a Claymore Kick on Strowman, Lashley appeared, threw McIntyre out of the ring and performed a Spear on Strowman to retain the title.
In the main event, Roman Reigns (accompanied by Paul Heyman) defended the Universal Championship against Cesaro. Throughout the match, Reigns targeted Cesaro's right arm, thus preventing Cesaro from doing his upper cuts and not being able to fully apply other maneuvers. In the climax, Reigns applied the Guillotine Choke submission on Cesaro, who passed out, thus Reigns retained the title via technical submission. After the match, Cesaro was attacked by Jey Uso. Seth Rollins then came out. After a stare down with Reigns, Rollins attacked Cesaro and smashed his right arm in a steel chair.
The following night on Raw, WWE Champion Bobby Lashley issued an open challenge. Drew McIntyre came out to accept as he was not pinned in the triple threat match, however, MVP stated that it was open to anyone except McIntyre and Braun Strowman. Later in the main event, it was revealed that the open challenge was just to face Lashley rather than a title match. The New Day's Kofi Kingston answered the challenge and defeated Lashley thanks to McIntyre's distraction.
Also on Raw, Charlotte Flair confronted WWE officials Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville, demanding another opportunity at Rhea Ripley for the Raw Women's Championship as Flair did not take the pin in the triple threat match. Pearce and Deville stated that if Flair won her match against Asuka, they would consider it. However, Flair lost the match thanks to a distraction from Ripley.
|Damian Priest vs. The Miz||Preview|
|Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode vs. Dominik Mysterio & Rey Mysterio||Preview|
|Bianca Belair vs. Bayley||Preview|
|Rhea Ripley vs. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair||Preview|
|Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro||Preview|
|Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman||Preview|
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Pre-Show: Sheamus defeated Ricochet (7:10)
- Rhea Ripley (c) defeated Asuka and Charlotte Flair in a Triple Threat Match to retain the WWE Raw Women's Championship (15:22)
- Dominik Mysterio & Rey Mysterio defeated Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode (c) to win the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship (17:00)
- Damian Priest defeated The Miz (w/ John Morrison) in a Lumberjack Match (6:55)
- Bianca Belair (c) defeated Bayley to retain the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship (16:04)
- Bobby Lashley (c) (w/ MVP) defeated Drew McIntyre and Braun Strowman in a Triple Threat Match to retain the WWE Championship (14:16)
- Roman Reigns (c) (w/ Paul Heyman) defeated Cesaro by Referee Stoppage to retain the WWE Universal Championship (27:30)
Other on-screen talent
- WrestleMania Backlash 2021 Official Website
- WrestleMania Backlash 2021 Kickoff Show on WWE Network
- WrestleMania Backlash 2021 on WWE Network
- WrestleMania Backlash 2021 Pre Show at CAGEMATCH.net
- WrestleMania Backlash 2021 at CAGEMATCH.net
|WrestleMania Backlash 2021 previews|
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|2021 World Wrestling Entertainment pay-per-views|
Royal Rumble • TakeOver: Vengeance Day • Elimination Chamber • Fastlane • TakeOver: Stand & Deliver • WrestleMania 37 • WrestleMania Backlash • In Your House • Hell in a Cell • Money in the Bank • SummerSlam • TakeOver Dublin •