WWE BACKLASH FRANCE
MAY 4, 2024
LDLC ARENA
DÉCINES-CHARPIEU, LYON, FRANCE

Watch: Peacock

MEET YOUR REVIEWER:

Suit Williams: You can read Suit’s long-form previews and reviews of wrestling from around the world here at Voices of Wrestling. You can also find his weekly reviews of AEW Collision over at F4WOnline. Check out his brand-new wrestling blog Williams Watches Wrestling, where he’ll engage in watch projects and review requests. Follow Suit on all social media platforms @SuitWilliams.

The story of this show was the energy coming from the sold-out crowd in Lyon, a crowd energized by the first live PLE *ugh* ever in the country. WWE is making a habit of using these hot international crowds to their advantage, with their next (non-Saudi) big show being for Clash at the Castle in Scotland. In fact, WWE doesn’t run a PLE *ugh* in the US until Summerslam in Cleveland. As someone who has to watch these shows, I’ll take it. Some of those B-shows I watched last year were absolute slogs to get through, and while this show was only marginally better as far as the in-ring goes, the energy made the show far more palatable. The hot crowd plus the largest gate for any arena show in company history made this, at least in the short-term, a winning combination for WWE.

STREET FIGHT
The Bloodline (SOLO SIKOA & TAMA TONGA) DEF. KEVIN OWENS & RANDY ORTON

This was listed as a straight tag match, but a brawl before the bell brought Nick Aldis out to make this a street fight. This was Tama Tonga’s debut match, as Michael Cole listed his credentials as a former NEVER Openweight Champion and his matches with Karl Anderson, EVIL, and “Shinto.” I assume he means Shingo Takagi, but I’ll admit that I fell off of New Japan during the pandemic.

This was your Bloodline special, a big arena brawl with interference at the end. There were “We Want Roman” chants during the intros for the Bloodline, keeping him warm while Solo takes a leadership role for now. This was a garden variety walk-and-brawl, albeit with a much hotter crowd. Orton hit Sikoa with an RKO on the announce table, leading to Owens putting Tama Tonga through a set of chairs. That looked to be the finish, but – wait a minute Corey, THAT’S TANGA LOA. Rejoice New Japan fans, Tanga Loa has joined his brother in the WWE. He pulled the referee out of the ring – a bit late – and hit both Owens and Orton with the stairs, allowing Sikoa to hit the Thumb of Doom and score his first win of any kind on any WWE show since November. Solo Sikoa and the Guerrillas of Destiny are the top heel unit in WWE, proving right the notion that you can do literally anything when you’re hot. **1/2

WWE WOMEN’S TITLE – TRIPLE THREAT MATCH
BAYLEY © DEF. NAOMI, TIFFANY STRATTON

This was a triple threat Women’s Title match, won by Bayley in 13:10. I don’t have much else to say on these matches, as my eyes glaze over in multi-man matches in any promotion. It takes some real innovation to get me into a triple threat or a four-way, and this wasn’t moving my needle much. Stratton ran wild toward the end of this match, tipping me off that she would be imminently taken out. Naomi and Bayley avoided the Prettiest Moonsault Ever and hit a 3-D to prove me right. Bayley won with a flash pin. This match was a bit sloppy to start but rounded out to fine by the end. **

WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
DAMIAN PRIEST © (W/ JD MCDONAUGH & FINN BALOR) DEF. JEY USO

There’s no bigger demarcation of how you feel about WWE than how you feel about Jey Uso. If you’re into him, you’re into all the Bloodline stuff which makes you into the WWE. If you aren’t into him, you most likely aren’t into what’s going on in this company. You know which side of the ledger I’m on if you’ve read my reviews, as it confuses me how he’s become A Thing that I have to care about.

With Roman Reigns on another break – although I’m sure some would still give him credit for drawing this house – the World Title melodrama has shifted to The Judgment Day, as McDonaugh and Balor interfered on Priest’s behalf despite his clear instruction to stay uninvolved. They’re going to turn on him at some point, which interests me because he’s never given the feeling of a top guy in this promotion. The top babyface on Raw is Jey Uso though, so maybe the bar isn’t as high as I believe it is. After Uso took out the invaders on the floor, Priest won with a South of Heaven chokeslam off the top rope. **

It was after this match where the in-ring announcement of this show breaking the all-time arena gate record took place. The crowd popped for it, which was odd to me. “Yay, you charged us a lot of money! Charge us more! Charge us more!” There were only 11,000 people in the building, not to say that’s a number to sneeze at, but to note how hard they milked this fanbase for this show. It’s impressive if you can get away with it.

WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
BIANCA BELAIR & JADE CARGILL DEF. THE KABUKI WARRIORS (ASUKA & KAIRI SANE) ©

This match was moving along fine until a spot midway through where it fell apart. Jade and Kairi were working when the ref told Kairi that she wasn’t legal. The match stalled out as the spot they were going for got interrupted and no one had a clue what to do. Kairi tagged Asuka, but Asuka worked as if she was legal, leading to the Kabuki Warriors having the wrong legal person in for the rest of the match. I wouldn’t care normally as I’m not Jim Ross, but it being pointed out by the ref made it something I noticed.

I want to bring up a point about Jade here. This show happened on May 4th. In the preceding year, Jade Cargill had wrestled as many televised matches for AEW as she had for WWE, and she signed with WWE in October. It is wild how the conversation around Jade was that WWE would present her like a star in a way that only they can, when the reality is that AEW presented her just as well as WWE has. Her WWE presentation is the exact same as her AEW presentation, down to a soundalike of her AEW theme, and AEW put her in the ring and on-screen far more often when rolling her out. Hell, WWE didn’t even put Jade in the ring on house shows, only starting those after Wrestlemania. If WWE wanted Jade to be a marquee player, they failed themselves by not getting her the reps she’s always needed. She didn’t even get the pin here, as after Jade caught Kairi with Jaded, Bianca hit the KOD on Asuka on top of Kairi for the win. They got the match back on track once they got back to their spots, but the complete inability to improvise made for a rough middle portion of the match. *1/2

This is also where the crowd started to get on my nerves. As a veteran viewer of the European wrestling scene, I’m used to the footy-type chants at wrestling shows. But every time there was a nearfall on this show, the crowd would go “1-2-Simplement Deux” then chant Simplement Deux. This is a gimmick that the French announce team does, with Simplement Deux meaning Only Two. It was a nice little quirk early, but it began to grate two hours in after every single nearfall.




UNDISPUTED WWE CHAMPIONSHIP
CODY RHODES © DEF. AJ STYLES

An actual fun fact brought up by Garrett Kidney is that AJ Styles became the first person to ever wrestle both Dusty and Cody Rhodes for World Titles, with AJ having defended the NWA Title against Dusty at a TNA weekly PPV in 2003. He wore gear in the same colorway in this match against Cody in the main event of this show.

Huh, a main event match for the actual World Title without the fear of shenanigans, interference, or melodrama. They can do that? The crowd was hot here, but this is where they were at their most self-indulgent, spending a good chunk of the match doing a soccer chant for Styles regardless of the action in the ring. A little too Progress for my liking.

The match was fine, with Styles working on the arm and shoulder of Rhodes until they got to the bomb-throwing section of the match after Rhodes put Styles through a table. Styles ran through his big offense, landing a springboard 450 for a nearfall but never hitting either of his true finishers in the Phenomenal Forearm or the Styles Clash. He did hit Rhodes with a Burning Hammer, but Cody kicked out at one and went on a rally that ended with a Cody Cutter nearfall. Cody hit a double jump Cody Cutter before winning with the Cross Rhodes to log his first successful defense of the title. ***1/2