Backstage is back, ALL RIGHT!♫
WrestleMania is coming and WWE Backstage won’t stay down any longer! What will Renee Young and Booker T have in store before Mania Weekend?
Renee is here via video call!
WWE Backstage has to take a different format, but hopefully everyone else is snug and safe in their homes, too. Renee introduces the other hosts available via video chat, it’s Booker T, Mark Henry and Paige! It is GOODT to see everyone, even at a distance. And huge news for this already “too big for one night” WrestleMania! Fox Sports is teaming with the WWE to bring the world the WrestleMania Preshow at 6 PM Eastern this Saturday and Sunday! And on Fox Sports PPV as well as the WWE Network, of course, will be THE WrestleMania event from 7 PM Eastern.
But with just days left, it was Paul Heyman who had the last words on the last Raw before WrestleMania Weekend! Heyman promises that this year, Drew McIntyre walks into WrestleMania special, but walks out “Just like everybody else: nothing more than Brock’s bi*ch.” How fired up is everyone for this WWE World Championship match now? Paige says McIntyre’s journey is very inspiring. From Vince’s Chosen One to the Three Man Band, to being released from the WWE to returning via NXT. Then McIntyre moves to Raw, wins the Men’s Royal Rumble and chooses to go after Brock Lesnar! “That’s huge for him!” Paige is VERY excited, and Heyman’s promo tearing McIntyre down actually builds him up as the star he is.
Renee knows that’s “Promo 101” as the panel has said for Promo School. You build up the opponent just so you can bring him down. Booker’s thoughts on Paige bringing up 3MB, that made him think of Jermaine Jackson’s “Let’s Get Serious.” Lesnar VS McIntyre is getting there, and both guys better take this unique WrestleMania serious. This is a moment because the focus has to be very different than ever before. Renee says having McIntyre on Backstage, talking about that focus, McIntyre said he never takes days off. McIntyre finds ways to keep moving forward, so how does Henry see Mania going?
Henry says this will bring out the true performer in everyone on the show, not just Lesnar and McIntyre. Everyone now has to project to the audience at home. The cameras are now the eyes of the fans that you need to play to. A lot of people take that for granted, being able to play to the audience just by showing up. But that’s not the case this year. There is no crowd to feed off of, the talent now has to almost overwork themselves for the sake of the people at home. Paige knows the feeling of starting with very small crowds to then very large crowds, but absolutely no crowd is crazy. But she also feels the talent in the WWE today has what it takes to adapt and do well. Booker adds that is the subtle beauty of this year’s WrestleMania.
Renee turns things to Edge turning Randy Orton’s words against him. The Rated R Superstar told The Viper that he dug himself a new hole. This time, Edge won’t help Orton out of it. Edge vows to bury Orton so far down that hole, he’ll never get out! Christian provides his thoughts with a video message. The Backstage Buddha speaks on the Orton VS Edge build, specifically the great promos back and forth. The word that pops into Christian’s mind: Passion. Having no audience has actually helped enhance the passion behind the promos for both men. It shows the talent of both men to give promos that still get us to hang on every word. “Grit” has also been thrown around, and Christian likes that both men have different definitions of that word.
Christian notes that Edge said exactly what everyone on Backstage has been saying: This IS the best work from Randy Orton ever, and it really did take Edge to bring it out of him. The feud is personal and it is money. Orton and Edge have built something. Sometimes, a match can be bigger than any title and this is one of those times. Christian can’t wait and is sure we can’t, either. So be sure to stay in, stay safe, and watch both nights of WrestleMania Weekend!
Back to the panel, Henry notes Edge’s promo was great. Edge has always been one of the best cerebral performers, and can find ways to reach you with just talking. Now Edge has proven he still has it. He was gone just long enough that people don’t remember, or maybe never saw Edge before period, and surely not the way we’re seeing him now. Edge is better than ever, and this is an eye-opening moment for fans that another major player is back. Edge can put Orton in check, and it’s been some time since that’s happened. Renee agrees, fans new to Edge are in for a treat. Booker wants to quickly point out Christian had an entire wall of pictures, of himself. Did anyone else see that?
Renee moves the talk to another killer promo in The Undertaker finally responding to AJ Styles. “You stepped in something now that there’s no coming back from.” Styles will pay the price for disrespecting Michelle, and he will Rest In Peace. What does Booker say to Taker’s list of greats including him? Booker admits he’s been around. But that Taker promo wasn’t the Dead Man per se, but just a man talking to another man about what’s coming. This time is bringing the best out of everyone, and Styles and Taker are going to bring the best out of each other for another moment that we all remember for the rest of our lives. Styles may not remember this Mania being all that good, and Booker admits to knowing what that’s like, too. But in the end, this is one for the ages to have.
Paige speaks on how personal this has gotten. To take a page out of Samoa Joe’s book there, making things personal is very relatable. But to speak on the promos themselves, Paige knows for herself that doing a promo, whether in front of people or just the camera, digging deep to get that emotion out is so hard. But Taker, Edge, Orton, Styles, they all do it so well! Renee agrees, even going so far as to included Seth Rollins, and how it’s those really tight, close-up shots or going backstage. Everyone has adapted really well this past week, it’s great stuff. Henry adds that Styles will see the inside of a coffin, just like he once did. The future is not bright for Styles, but very dark and quiet. Styles also will receive an eye-opening moment.
Henry has faced legend after legend, but Taker was so different. Being even just a few feet away, you couldn’t hear anything because of the thunderous crowd. Like an airplane engine! It rattles you. If you don’t weather the storm early, it gets you. This match might go quicker than we think. Well someone who doesn’t get rattled is Charlotte Flair, who will also join Backstage via video, after the break.
WWE Backstage returns with The Queen!
Charlotte Flair joins Renee and Paige in discussing her path back to WrestleMania. Looking back at last year, what are some lasting moments from that historic Women’s Triple Threat Winner Takes All, the first women’s main event of a WrestleMania? Charlotte says it’s crazy that it’s already been a year. The one thing going through her mind all day was, “This is what it feels like to say you’re going to do something and do it.” Thinking of the performance, she stuck to her game plan that got her there. The pressure of the main event might make someone else do more, but Charlotte knows who she is and just sets out to do things her way. The moment was bigger than just Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey, it sent a message worldwide. That is Charlotte’s main takeaway.
Paige says she has chills just listening to Charlotte right now. She is so proud of the Queen, because of how they both came up in FCW, and how Charlotte mistook eye cream for foundation. They’ve come so far. But WrestleMania was big last year, but that wasn’t Charlotte’s only Mania Moment. What would Charlotte say is her biggest Mania Moment so far? Her first one? The one where she realized eye cream isn’t foundation? Charlotte says her match with Asuka was probably even bigger. Sure, WrestleMania 32 was a success, and WrestleMania 33 was special because it was the same stadium that Ric Flair retired in. But WM34, title VS streak, that was something Charlotte had to prove. Asuka is accomplished around the world, and Charlotte was “a good performer,” but that night put her on that next level.
Renee talks about performances and brings up the promos with no crowds. How does that lack of crowd change Charlotte’s approach? Charlotte agrees with Henry from earlier that it’s about playing to the home audience. If you can’t feed off an audience, you have to take the opportunity to show everyone that you have that reserve. If you can’t pull from your own emotions, that’s a problem. Paige agrees and loves it. Paige also turns the topic to how WrestleMania really is a weekend, never been done before! Does Charlotte think that changes Mania much?
Charlotte admits that sometimes Mania feels like two days anyway. But this will be a great opportunity, too. More people will be able to be on the main card, and it might just give the talent more time for their matches. There’s more room to breathe as opposed to cramming story and match. There are stories that need to be told, ended or even new ones started, and giving Mania two days only helps everyone. And it shows how big Mania has become because it has to be two days. Unbelievable and historic, indeed, and every exciting to see how WWE adapts to the times.
Speaking of adapting, the rise of NXT that Charlotte helped build has reached even greater heights! The NXT Women’s Championship on Mania, Rhea Ripley defending against Charlotte, what can we expect? Charlotte says that thinking of NXT, she thinks back to watching the first ever TakeOver, and watching Paige VS Emma. She remembers wanting to pick up from that match and taking the lead. Charlotte feels like Rhea challenging Charlotte to challenge her is a way of saying, “Hey, NXT is THE third brand and we’re all equal.” Credit where credit is due, that takes a lot of confidence to do. This is a huge opportunity for NXT. NXT took Survivor Series so this is another opportunity for NXT to show how big it really is and show it deserves the same respect.
Charlotte coming full circle to compete for the NXT Women’s Championship blows her mind, and Paige’s. Plus, the NXT Women’s Championship on Mania is made even more historic because it involves the Women’s Rumble winner in Charlotte Flair. That’s the real mind-blowing part, because for decades, a Rumble winner has chosen Raw or SmackDown. Now it’s NXT. That just shows how big WWE has gotten, and how big the brand that was once FCW has become. Renee notes the magnitude of how big that is, for the company, the brand, the title and for Rhea and Charlotte themselves, it’s no wonder those two are going to “beat the hell out of each other.” Paige can’t even fathom how to prepare for that. Rhea is a star but Charlotte will elevate her even higher.
Charlotte says this is how crazy it is for Rhea. When NXT UK opened up just last year, Charlotte went there to speak to the talent. It was Charlotte, Finn Balor and Triple H who visited. Rhea was in the crowd and Charlotte called her out when she said, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” And here Rhea is a year later, walking into Mania as the NXT Women’s Champion. Charlotte went back and looked over Rhea’s career. The Mae Young Classic, the NXT UK Women’s Championship and now the NXT Women’s Championship, Rhea performs very well under pressure. And that pressure is something Rhea should want, just as Charlotte does. That pressure is what pushed Charlotte to the next level, so hopefully the pressure propels Rhea, too. Renee wishes Charlotte best of luck, but will Charlotte become 11-time women’s champion when she rides the Riptide?
WWE Backstage returns with a WrestleMania Watch With!
Mark Henry and Booker are back, and join Renee in reliving the third part of the Stone Cold VS The Rock WrestleMania trilogy! This is WrestleMania XIX, aka WM19, all the way back in 2003! Ready, set, roll film!
What Henry and Booker remember of the build was that Booker got to main event that night and was a bit too busy to watch. The crowd is electric for just the entrances, and making entrances in that environment is so different. Taker told Booker that sometimes, you gotta stop and feel that moment. The Rock knows that from experience, so it surely felt great for him, too. Renee has heard that advice a lot, too. What was the moment to revel in for each of them? Henry says his was getting his gear out and just realizing he is living a moment that will never come again. Being part of Mania isn’t a promise. You have to live in the moment of that one. So Henry was grateful to even have had one moment.
The glass breaks and everyone enjoys Stone Cold’s entrance. Booker was always jealous of the entrance because it pumps you up. Fan or wrestler, you wanted to be like Austin. Renee instantly perks up when she hears that glass break, too. Henry says that Austin is someone you can’t help but like, even when he’s being the baddest guy in the ring. The glass gives you the chills and you fire up. Booker says that both Stone Cold and The Rock, WM19 is a hard match because they’re two of the most iconic men in the WWE ever. Fans are divided because you want to vote for both. This is poetry in motion. And to think WM19 is the final entrance for Austin as an active WWE wrestler. Watching Austin move, you can see the trouble he has moving from nerve issues and pain in the knees.
The bell rings on the match and the two icons stare down. And then they start throwing hands! Booker knew Austin down in Texas as “the ultimate technician,” a truly incredible pure wrestler. Austin obviously evolved as he throws hands on The Rock against the ropes, as the “badass ass kicker” we all know and love. Booker says that was by necessity as Austin whips but The Rock reverses to swing a clothesline. Austin kicks low but The Rock denies a Stunner and bails out. Austin pursues and clotheslines him at the ramp! Henry likes that “Uh oh moment” where The Rock narrowly avoided the Stunner. Austin brings The Rock over and bumps him off railing right in front of the fans, then CHOPS him.
Booker loves the fans being so fired up as Austin bumps The Rock off steel steps. Austin CHOPS The Rock more. No one did it better than Austin, even with all the damage he took. Austin drags Rock to snake eyes him on the barriers, then CLOBBER him over the announce desk! Commentary clears out as Henry notes that no wrestler wants to show fans they’re other than what they are. Henry says Booker is much the same, and knows Booker’s still got it. Austin pursues The Rock and keeps him out of the ring to snake eyes him on more barriers! And then the steel steps!
Henry admits that when he got to a point where he couldn’t do what he used to do, he started to doubt. But Austin never did, and was still Stone Cold. But even Austin knew he wouldn’t look this good a year or two down the road, so that is when he started the transition. Austin puts The Rock in the ring and stomps away on him! Renee asks Booker and Henry about The Rock and being behind the scenes. Austin chokes The Rock as Booker notes that working with Rock “was an experience.” You get in there and realize you need to take it up another notch. Austin back suplexes The Rock high and hard! Cover, TWO! Booker remembers the stories about MC Hammer, being told to tone it down and responding with, “No, I gotta pump it up!”
Austin brings Rock up and whips him corner to corner as Booker notes going against icons like those two, you have no choice but to bring your A Game. Just look back at Austin VS Booker in the grocery story. Austin whips The Rock corner to corner again, then again. The Rock reverses but Austin comes out to LARIAT! Henry notes this was also a time of transition for The Rock. The Rock was going Hollywood and filming Walking Tall. Austin chokes The Rock on the ropes but the ref backs him off. Austin argues with the ref, but The Rock chop blocks Austin’s legs! Renee sends WWE Backstage to break, but promises there will be more WrestleMania watch-along when we return.
WrestleMania Watch With continues!
The Rock now has Austin on the defensive, and he gives him another chop block! Henry points out the attack on the legs. That’s smart strategy given Austin’s bad knees. The Rock puts Austin on the desk to SMASH the knee on the monitors! Booker says that’s the “Bobby Bowden clip.” The Rock stomps Austin around the way. Renee asks how working matches in a feud, what are some of the psychological tips for a third match like this? Booker says the first thing is, “We’ve been here before.” The Rock stomps away on Austin’s legs as Booker says that the familiarity already tells both wrestlers what they need to do the next time.
Again, The Rock and Stone Cold know the business, they know just about every aspect to this, and the key is to go and “create pandemonium.” The key is to instill a feeling fans haven’t felt before. The Rock slams Austin’s legs against the apron! He drags Austin to the post and brings it up the middle! Booker notes that The Rock can make a spit-punch into something so big, that’s the sign of a true puppet master. Renee notes how the fans are turning on The Rock because of how he’s playing the Heel. Henry says another thing that people might not realize, but Jim Ross was perhaps at his best calling this match and telling the story. Austin rallies back with haymaker after haymaker and then a whip. The Rock kicks back then kicks the bad leg out!
The story telling in this match is incredible. JR deserves as much credit and respect for this match as the two men in the ring. The Rock smashes Austin’s knee and then puts on his version of the Sharpshooter! Renee notes how much JBL helped Booker with his commentary chops to help propel stories forward. Booker agrees, it takes a multitude of guys to pull things like this off. But The Rock making his transition, he is still the most beloved wrestler in this business. And still being able to flip a switch and get people to dislike him is truly what makes the business. Austin gets the ropebreak and The Rock undoes the Sharpshooter, only to drag Austin out to the apron and throw hands. The Rock drags Austin to a corner as the ref reprimands. The Rock scares the ref off with a show of the backhand!
Renee notes that the same kind of turn is notable in Austin VS Bret Hart. What does that feel like to mentally prepare yourself for when the crowd turns? Booker loved it, being both good guy and bad guy. But there is of course a huge difference in the two roles, though obviously the Face gets more praise. The Rock takes it to a new level as he grabs Austin’s vest and puts it on. But if you’re the ultimate Heel, you revel in it, and The Rock was able to do that. The Rock shows so by dumping a bunch of water on his head and then splashing everyone around him.
The Rock struts to the ring but Austin is on him with haymakers! Henry says that’s what makes The Rock The Rock. He could poke fun at himself just as much as the other wrestlers. Austin whips but The Rock reverses, only for Austin to dodge and lariat back! Henry points that exchange out as both men are down, this is a well disguised breather break for them. This is the halfway point, give or take, so you need the break to make it the rest of the way. Booker loves that The Rock still has the vest on. The Rock throws hands but Austin counter punches! Austin whips to swing a back hand but The Rock dodges, only to run into Austin’s Thesz Press! Booker says that is the art of being a great worker, and no one else did it like those two. Henry can’t help but agree.
Austin runs to drop his double dirty bird elbow! Cover, TWO!! Henry notes that this match here, Austin VS The Rock at WM19, stacks up against all the other great matches in Mania history. And that includes Andre VS Hogan at WM3, as much as it did for WrestleMania as an event. This match, though, is just as pivotal because of two undeniable Mount Rushmore of Wrestling members going head to head. Booker agrees with that. Austin stomps a mudhole, flips off the ref and then stomps some more. Austin whips The Rock but The Rock dodges and ducks to LEAPING LARIAT! And kips up! Fans fire up and Booker again says this is truly what the business is. The Rock fires up but turns around into Austin stealing The Rock Bottom! Cover, TWO!!
Henry loves that the gap between stealing the move and going for the pin, Austin sells his knees. This is just masterful, all the nuances and subtleties. Henry could watch this match over and over and find new things in it. Austin waits for The Rock to stand, but The Rock blocks the Stunner to STEAL the Stunner!! And everyone loves that the fans go wild. The Rock crawls to the cover, TWO!! “A thing of beauty.” And this is already about 20 minutes. Both men are on adrenaline and the fans’ reaction. It’s like extra oxygen or gas. The Rock throws those signature haymakers, then gives double dirty birds, only to swing into the STUNNER! The Rock really sells, too! Henry says The Rock was always the best at that. Renee says Byron Saxton from a couple weeks ago is pretty good.
Austin rises first and looms over The Rock. The ref argues with him, but Austin pushes the ref away. This allows The Rock to LOW BLOW! The Rock knows the fans saw it but it doesn’t matter what they saw! And now The Rock stands over Austin and he prepares the most electrifying move in pro-wrestling! The People’s Elbow MISSES! Austin wants a Stunner but is denied, to a SPINE BUSTER! Off comes the vest, and the other elbow pad, to another try… PEOPLE’S ELBOW! Cover, TWO!!! Booker knows fans knew this wasn’t the end yet still felt it might have been. You set the hook and bait the fish in! Henry says the one thing different about this year’s Mania, the false finish(es) really only work when fans can fall for it. The Rock hits the ROCK BOTTOM! Cover, TWO!! Another example right there.
The Rock waits for Austin to rise. Booker notes that a lot of the crowd excitement is from being conflicted. The fans don’t want Austin to win, and they don’t want The Rock to lose, badum tsh. But Renee says it really is magical when you don’t know how to feel. Austin slowly gets up, The Rock intensely glares all around, and fans reach a fever pitch. Austin fights off the Rock Bottom, but then turns around INTO A ROCK BOTTOM! Cover, TWO!!! “Look at his eyes!” Booker knows the wrestling part is one thing, but the theatrics is another. You need to take the fans on a ride they will remember forever. That is this match!
The Rock waits for Austin to rise again, and it takes a bit longer than before. The Rock grabs Austin, takes a dramatic pause, and then hits ANOTHER ROCK BOTTOM! Cover, The Rock wins! Again, masterful story telling from two living legends. And The Rock was forever thankful for Austin giving that final match. In fact, The Rock reflected and posted an Instagram video about it! “This was his last match, Stone Cold Steve Austin. And when I mean his last match, I mean literally his last match.” The very last match of Austin’s career. No one but they knew it, and it still gives The Rock goosebumps. “I hit him with three Rock Bottoms,” and that was the appropriate level needed to win against The Texas Rattlesnake.
Rock remembers whispering, “I thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. I love you.” Austin replied with, “I love you, too.” Rock gave Austin a slap on the chest and left the ring. Austin retired that night, and it was truly unforgettable. Renee says WM19 was a great match and an end of an ear, so to speak. But this is not the end of WWE Backstage! Another icon steps back into the ring this WrestleMania Weekend! Is John Cena in for the fight of his career?
WWE Backstage returns with the full panel!
Paige returns, and Renee notes Cena’s return to SmackDown this Friday and WrestleMania this weekend. What does everyone want to see out of the 16-time world champion when he faces The Fiend? Henry says he isn’t sure what we’ll see, but he also knows this is the first-ever Firefly Fun House match. He is very curious as to what that will be. Booker adds that, as JBL used to put it, “Big Match John” Cena is going to show up and perform. And who better to face than Bray Wyatt right now? The Fiend character is something people are already comparing to The Undertaker, in that we’ll be watching for years to come.
Becky VS Shayna is also happening for the Raw Women’s Championship, how does that one look? Paige loves Shayna and promises to keep this short and sweet. Paige thinks Shayna takes the title! The Glampire apologizes to her buddy, Becky, but it’s time for a change! Booker is still on the fence as far as Shayna, but he’s ready for Shayna to prove him wrong! Henry tops it off by saying he also wants to see the title change hands. And with that, Backstage wraps, ready for anything and everything this two-night WrestleMania will bring!
First, just because this article is publishing on April Fool’s Day doesn’t mean this is a joke. There really was a new WWE Backstage episode during these troubled times. Being via video was fine for the panel of hosts, but why was most of the video recaps in the same Skype call quality? Just an odd thing to note. But it was great to have Charlotte on to speak to her Mania matches, and I figured she’d go with her match against Asuka as her personal number one moment. And I like that even Backstage was consistent with the other live WWE programming in replaying a classic match to fill time.
I myself never got to watch the days of The Rock VS Stone Cold growing up, and just haven’t had/taken the time to go back through those classic moments. Maybe I should. But seeing it for the first time, even as part of that watch party with Renee, Booker and Henry, obviously it’s an amazing match. I appreciate the panel being optimistic for WM36 with it being split up, but also can tell it’s them sticking to the WWE marketing line. Mania wasn’t so big that it had to be two nights, it had to be two nights because of the global concerns. But Charlotte’s point about more time for matches and stories to breathe is still valid, so that instead of a crammed slog of 7 hours, we get two manageable 3+ hours. I think just on that pacing, this Mania will feel very strong as compared to other years.