WWE Backlash France 2024 results, grades and analysis: Cody Rhodes defeats A.J. Styles in first title defense

The Lyon, France crowd was electric start-to-finish in WWE's first major event since WrestleMania 40

LYON, FRANCE - MAY 4: Solo Sikoa Samoan Spike's Kevin Owens during Backlash France at LDLC Arena on May 4, 2024 in Lyon, France. (Photo by WWE/Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - MAY 4: Solo Sikoa Samoan Spike's Kevin Owens during Backlash France at LDLC Arena on May 4, 2024 in Lyon, France. (Photo by WWE/Getty Images)

Backlash, WWE's first premium live event since WrestleMania 40, took place on Saturday at the LDLC Arena in Lyon, France. It was the first time in history that a major WWE event (PLE/PPV) has taken place in France.

While four championships were on the line in the historic event, only one changed hands — the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship — as Jade Cargill and Bianca Belair defeated The Kabuki Warriors. Despite a relative lack of major changes, it was an overall strong show, with seemingly every match delivering at a high level.

The biggest takeaway was that for the second year in a row, WWE Backlash went to a unique location and drew one of the hottest crowds ever. Last year's crowd in Puerto Rico set a high bar that the electric atmosphere in Lyon matched, if not exceeded.

The Bloodline def. Kevin Owens and Randy Orton in 21 minutes.

  • Grade: B+

  • Best spot: Owens' Avalanche Brainbuster on Sikoa/Tanga Loa's interference

  • Analysis: Excellent move making this match a street fight, allowing the full viciousness of The Bloodline to come through and the surprise arrival of Tanga Loa to not result in a disqualification. The Bloodline story now continues, going in a more violent direction that left even Paul Heyman concerned — a moment that was hammered home later on in the night before Jey Uso's match.

Bayley def. Naomi and Tiffany Stratton in 13:40 to retain the WWE Women's Championship.

  • Grade: B+

  • Best spot: Stratton's double Alabama Slam into a 3D from Bayley and Naomi

  • Analysis: Bayley retained in close fashion, scoring a pin over Naomi despite not hitting her with a finisher. Stratton was impressive at times and remains a threat in the women's division since she didn't take the pin. This was a solid match that showcased the talents of all three women involved. Bayley's reign should continue and a singles program with Stratton is likely on the table, with the latter also being a potential Money in the Bank winner in the future.

Damian Priest def. Jey Uso in 15:48 to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.

  • Grade: A

  • Best spot: Uso kicking out after South of Heaven

  • Analysis: Uso's match at WrestleMania against his brother was disappointing, but we can forget all about that after his stellar performance against Damian Priest at Backlash. Uso and Priest put on a main event-worthy match and — because of the interference from the Judgment Day — it seems as if the story between these two isn't over. The big takeaway here is the continued friction between Priest and the other members of the Judgment Day. There's no shortage of challengers for Priest moving forward, but Uso should certainly remain in the mix.

Bianca Belair and Jade Cargill def. The Kabuki Warriors in 17:25 to win the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships.

  • Grade: A-

  • Best spot: Jade Cargill landing Jaded on Kairi Sane

  • Analysis: Jade Cargill is a monster star in the making. Look no further than the entrances in Lyon — with former champions like Asuka, Belair and Sane in the match, Cargill drew the biggest ovation from the crowd. The lone championship change at Backlash, Cargill and Belair can continue to elevate the tag team titles while The Kabuki Warriors and Damage CTRL figure out what's next having completely fallen apart over the past two premium live events.

Cody Rhodes def. A.J. Styles in 27:21 to retain the WWE Undisputed Championship.

  • Grade: A

  • Best spot: Cody Rhodes' entrance

  • Analysis: It's kind of cheating by not actually picking a spot from the match, but the crowd really shined through during this match. Fans were fully behind both men at different times in the match and Rhodes' first televised championship defense delivered at every turn. Styles and Rhodes told an excellent story, with the challenger showing a newfound aggression and the champion doing everything possible to stay on top. While the finish may have never truly been in doubt, the first meeting between the former Bullet Club members was worthy of its slot at the top of the card.

  • WWE Undisputed Championship match: Cody Rhodes (c.) vs. A.J. Styles

    A.J. Styles was first to enter for the main event match, drawing yet another mixed reaction from the Lyon crowd. Styles is such a talented performer across the board that it'll be hard for him to ever draw significant heat from fans, even if working heel like he was during this match.

    Cody Rhodes, like he has been for more than two years now, was welcomed by the entire arena singing his entrance music, "Kingdom." If it wasn't clear already, between WrestleMania 40 and now this entrance, Rhodes is by far the biggest star WWE has on its roster. Even after the music stopped, the sold out Lyon crowd continued to sing.

    The crowd was so amped up before the match that as Samantha Irvin made her introductions, the hard cam shook. Jessika Carr, the referee, became the first woman to officiate a main event match for the WWE championship.

    The match started with a few lockups between Rhodes and Styles, with neither gaining an early upper hand, instead opting for trading headlocks and takedowns. Styles escalated the tensions with a shove of Rhodes near the turnbuckle, which the champion answered with a hard slap of his own.

    After an impressive dropkick, Rhodes did a cartwheel and taunted Styles, a callback to his days as Stardust. Styles turned the tides again with a big dropkick of his own, but was hit with a huge back-body drop. Rhodes went for a pin, but Styles kicked out at one.

    Rhodes shook off his failed pinning attempt into a standing suplex. While Rhodes had momentum, Styles pulled off a quick counter and focused on Rhodes' shoulder, which Cole and Graves hinted that the champion injured in a match with Carmelo Hayes last month.

    Styles was sent outside the ring and Rhodes attempted to capitalize with a dive through the ropes but was met with a forearm. Styles' assault continued as he slammed Rhodes' head into the U.S. announce table and then cleared out the French announce table, looking for a high-impact maneuver. Rhodes countered, sending Styles into the steel steps.

    As Rhodes went for a standing Superplex, Styles escaped and pulled Rhodes down the mat. Rhodes sold a back injury and Styles immediately swept in to hit an Electric Chair on Rhodes. As Styles went for a springboard moonsault, Rhodes got his knees up for a desperation counter.

    As the two men exchanged blows, Rhodes eventually gained an edge with a scoop powerslam and Disaster Kick on Styles. Rhodes went for another pin but Styles kicked out at two.

    In a frenzied moment, Rhodes went for a second Disaster Kick, Styles countered into an Electric Chair and then Rhodes reversed it into a roll-up pin for a near fall. This was followed by more back-and-forth offense between the two men, culminating in Styles landing a Brainbuster on Rhodes onto the ring apron and Rhodes putting Styles through the French announce table with a Powerbomb.

    Both men beat the 10-count back into the ring and went toe-to-toe again, exchanging blows and knocking each other out with a pair of simultaneous kicks. The two ran it back before Rhodes scored a near-fall after a Bionic Elbow.

    Styles regained control with a counter of the Disaster Kick and a snap suplex into the turnbuckle and set Rhodes up for a springboard 450 splash. Styles went for the pin but Rhodes kicked out, frustrating the challenger. Styles would follow up with a Burning Hammer and pin, but Rhodes kicked out at one and rallied for a Cody Cutter and another near-fall, drawing "fight forever" chants from the enthralled crowd.

    Rhodes went for a CrossRhodes but Styles countered into a Pele Kick and set the champion up for a Phenomenal Forearm. Styles' finisher attempt was met with a Rhodes Superkick and a Kimora Lock. Styles eventually powered out and went for several Styles Clash finishers before Rhodes would hit a massive Cody Cutter off the top rope.

    That ending sequence set up the finish, a CrossRhodes and pin for a victory in Rhodes' first televised title defense.

    Cody Rhodes def. A.J. Styles in 27:21 to retain the WWE Undisputed Championship.

  • WWE Women's Tag Team Championship match: The Kabuki Warriors (c.) vs. Jade Cargill and Bianca Belair

    Asuka and Kairi Sane, The Kabuki Warriors, entered first. Although initially accompanied by Dakota Kai, much like during Iyo Sky's championship match at WrestleMania 40, the additional Damage CTRL member did not stay ringside.

    Bianca Belair was next to enter, and Michael Cole and Corey Graves explained the big week she had as the No. 1 overall pick in the recent WWE Draft. Somewhat surprisingly considering the other star power in this match, Jade Cargill drew the biggest reaction from the Lyon crowd as she entered.

    The action began with Asuka and Belair in the ring, a showdown of former women's champions. Asuka utilized her speed to gain an upper hand before Belair turned things around and both teams made tags to bring in Cargill and Sane. Sane went for two spears but Cargill shook her off and showcased her power with a pair of Backbreakers.

    Belair tagged in and pulled off some tandem offense with Cargill. Belair kept up momentum with a standing moonsault, series of turnbuckle punches and went for a crossbody on Sane outside the ring. Belair missed and took a kick to the head from Asuka. With the challenger stunned, Sane hit a crossbody of her own from the top rope to the floor, giving the Kabuki Warriors the upper hand.

    Asuka and Sane controlled the next portion of the match, isolating Belair from Cargill and continuing their punishment. Sane thwarted another tag attempt with a flying forearm off the top rope. Asuka's attempt to pull off a high-flying move of her own was met with a counter and Belair built momentum for the hot tag to Cargill. Before she could actually tag in her partner, Sane launched herself off Belair to take out Cargill.

    Belair continued to fight, kicking out of a near-fall after even more tandem offense from the champions. As Asuka locked in a submission, Belair attempted to power out but was overwhelmed by the double-team. Finally, as Sane tried to leverage Belair's hair, the challenger managed to make the hot tag to Cargill.

    Cargill entered with a double springboard cross body and a series of Stinger Splashes before nearly pinning Sane for the win. Cargill continued her offensive with a military press on Sane. Asuka and Sane took Cargill down with a series of elbows and kicks. There was a bit of confusion shortly after about who was legal in the match, but eventually that was sorted and the match got back on track.

    Sane and Asuka locked Belair and Cargill in Armbars, but the challengers were able to power out and slam down the champions. As all four women eventually recomposed themselves, Belair tagged in she and Cargill hit an impressive move on Sane for a near-fall. The Kabuki Warriors would hit a tandem finisher themselves, as Sane landed her InSane Elbow but Cargill saved the match.

    The closing sequence came as Sane went for another high-risk move on Cargill, but was caught in mid-air for a Jaded finisher. Belair followed up with a Kiss of Death on Asuka and pinned Sane to secure their first tag team championships.

    Bianca Belair and Jade Cargill def. The Kabuki Warriors in 17:25 to win the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships.

  • WWE announces an arena show record

    WWE's trip to France yielded major success, as the company announced during the show that WWE Backlash France represents the largest gate for an arena show in WWE history.

  • World Heavyweight Championship match: Damian Priest (c.) vs. Jey Uso

    Before the match began, we saw Jey Uso getting ready backstage. There were no words exchanged in the segment, but Solo Sikoa, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa stared down the former Bloodline member. Shortly after, a concerned Paul Heyman walked by and shot a worried glance at Uso.

    Uso, the challenger, was the first to enter and made his way through the crowd, which turned the celebration up to 11. The French fans began using their cellphone flashlights this week to add a new element to the popular star's entrance.

    Damian Priest entered to a mixed reaction from the crowd. It was his first televised championship defense since cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 40.

    Once the bell rang, Uso showed how over he was with his "Yeet" celebration and started fast with counters and punches. The early stages of the match showcased a clash of styles with Uso being faster and high-flying while Priest was deliberate and powerful.

    Priest scored the first near-fall after laying out Uso with a punch and slowed down the pace with a submission hold and some martial arts kicks. Priest went for a spinning clothesline but Uso ducked and hit a side slam to regain momentum.

    After a flurry of offense, Uso again played to the crowd before picking up a near-fall of his own with a crossbody off the top rope. Priest rolled out of the ring and Uso hit a dive through the ropes to take out the champion. As Uso sent Priest back into the ring, Judgment Day member JD McDonagh got involved, using the ropes to deliver a low blow to Uso.

    Priest, who did not want help from his faction, argued with McDonagh and Uso hit the two with a pair of Superkicks and picked up yet another near-fall with an Uso Splash. The two men exchanged massive punches and kicks in the center of the ring, drawing applause from the crowd.

    The next near-fall came when Priest hit Uso with the Razor's Edge. After the two-count, Priest set Uso up for his South of Heaven finisher, but Uso countered quickly into a spear and nearly ended the match right there.

    As Uso went to capitalize with another Uso Splash, Finn Balor ran interference and Priest was able to land a clothesline, South of Heaven chokeslam and go for the win. Surprisingly, Uso kicked out at two and sparked "this is awesome" chants from the French crowd.

    Clearly in control, Priest landed two spinning kicks and was going for a third before Uso countered into a trio of Superkicks, a spear and an Uso Splash. As the referee counted, McDonagh again got involved by putting Priest's foot on the ropes and breaking the pin.

    Uso, frustrated by the Judgment Day, took out McDonagh and Balor. The distraction allowed Priest to recover, counter an Uso Splash attempt into a South of Heaven chokeslam from the top rope and pick up the win.

    Damian Priest def. Jey Uso in 15:48 to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.

    After the match, Balor and McDonagh began to beat down Uso, drawing the ire of Priest, who shoved them off and showed continued fractures in the Judgment Day.

  • WWE Women's Championship match: Bayley (c.) vs. Naomi vs. Tiffany Stratton

    The first championship match of the night was the triple-threat contest for the WWE Women's Championship.

    Tiffany Stratton, the wrestler with the least experience in the match, entered first. She was the primary heel in this match and came out to boos from the Lyon crowd.

    Naomi entered next and the fans' cell phone lit up the arena for her neon green, blacklight entrance.

    Lastly, the champion, Bayley made her way to the ring. Bayley fired up the crowd as the pre-match introductions were made by Samantha Irvin. Predictably, the crowd started the classic Bayley "are you gonna be my girl chant."

    The action began with a series of arm drags and pinning combinations, with none of the three competitors able to gain an upper hand early. Stratton would be the first to seize momentum with a combination of turnbuckle splashes, drop kicks and knees. She would force Naomi out of the ring and would focus on Bayley one-on-one in the ring.

    Bayley attempted to turn things around with a counter of Stratton's splash, but the challenger kept momentum with an Alabama Slam for a near-fall. Naomi, who broke up the pin on Bayley, and Stratton began to fight outside the ring. Stratton sent Naomi into the timekeeper's area and while she was gloating, Bayley hit her with a dive through the ropes.

    Naomi took out the champion with a Neckbreaker off the barricade and turned her attention to Stratton, hitting her with a Split-legged Moonsault for a near-fall that was broken up by Bayley. Naomi kept momentum, hitting Stratton with a modified Powerbomb and locking her into a submission hold. Bayley forced a breakup with a Big Elbow from the top rope and pick up another near-fall on Naomi.

    Bayley would take out Naomi with a Sunset Flip into the turnbuckle and Stratton with a Bayley-to-Belly but was unable to get the three-count.

    Stratton regained momentum and brought the action outside, hitting Naomi and Bayley with Alabama Slams on the announce table and set up the women for her Prettiest Moonsault Ever. Naomi and Bayley rolled out of the way and hit Stratton with a 3D. Bayley and Naomi would fight for a short period in the ring and reverse a pin on Naomi for the win.

    Bayley def. Naomi and Tiffany Stratton in 13:40 to retain the WWE Women's Championship.

  • Kevin Owens and Randy Orton vs. The Bloodline

    Kevin Owens and Randy Orton vs. The Bloodline, the lone non-title match on today's five-match card, kicks off the show.

    Owens was the first to enter, igniting a raucous Lyon crowd. Owens paused about halfway to the ring, absorbing the absolutely electric atmosphere, stopping to mingle with fans along the barriers. As Orton's music hit, the French crowd erupted again and sang along with theme music "Voices" — language barrier be damned.

    As The Bloodline entered, Lyon rained down boos. It was a much faster entrance for the heel team, but the energy was still there, even as the crowd appeared to chant "we want Roman."

    Both teams immediately began brawling in the ring before the bell. All four men spilled out to the floor in a frantic start. Additional referees, WWE officials and (storyline) security tried to break up the chaos. As Owens stunned security, SmackDown GM Nick Aldis came out and made the match a street fight and the bell rang.

    Sikoa and Orton made their way through the crowd while Owens and Tonga brawled in the announcers' area. Shortly after, Owens and Tonga also went into the audience and the babyfaces built momentum. With Tonga taken out, Owens turned his focus to Sikoa and Orton moved back to the ringside area.

    With both Bloodline members taken out, Owens hit a splash on Tonga from the barricade and Orton dropped the debuting star on top of both announce tables. While this went down, Owens tossed Sikoa into the steel steps and hit him with a DDT on the steps as well.

    Owens and Orton fed into the crowd, bringing out garbage cans and kendo sticks to continue to deliver punishment on the Bloodline, garnering "ECW" chants from fans. Finally, the pair brought out tables — the most popular weapon for WWE fans.

    Owens set up a table ringside and hit a Frogsplash on Tonga, shattering the table. Back in the ring, as Orton set up Sikoa with his own table, the Bloodline member turned the tides and put the Viper through the table with a Samoan Drop. Sikoa kept up his momentum with a massive clothesline to take out Owens.

    The heel team took control as Tonga delivered a series of headbutts to Owens and they beat Owens down with a kendo stick and garbage can lids. Owens tried to rally, but the numbers game was too much.

    The Bloodline briefly drew some cheers from the crowd as Tonga brought a table into the ring. Sikoa went to run Owens through a table set up in the corner, but Owens reversed it. The momentum was short-lived however as Tonga rallied and introduced a steel chair into the equation.

    Orton, recovered, re-entered the ring and stared down Tonga. Orton ducked a chair shot and then it was vintage Orton with a series of clotheslines, a Powerslam, DDT through the ropes and an RKO. The first pinfall of the match was broken up at two by Sikoa.

    Solo cleared off Michael Cole and Corey Graves' announce table, setting Orton up for a Samoan Spike, but Orton reversed quickly for an RKO on the table, which didn't actually break.

    Back in the ring, Owens battered Tonga with steel chairs and set up four of them for a Frogsplash on Tonga. Tonga avoided, rallied and tried to Superplex Owens through the chairs. Instead, Owens his an Avalanche Brainbuster on Tonga through the tables, seemingly ending the match. As the referee counted to three, Tonga's brother, Tanga Loa made a surprise appearance, pulled the referee out of the ring and turned the tides.

    With Owens and Orton incapacitated, Sikoa hit Owens with an Ura Nage onto steel chairs and a Samoan Spike to score the pinfall.

    The Bloodline def. Kevin Owens and Randy Orton in 21 minutes.

  • France embraces WWE

    Saturday marks the first time WWE has held a premium live event in France, and the fans there have shown out in droves. Here are a few of the louder moments from last night's SmackDown and more:

  • Catch up on the rivalries

    In case you missed a few episodes of Raw or SmackDown — or just simply want to relive the build to Backlash France, here are a few of the WWE video montages promoting the champonship matches on today's card.

  • Backlash France predictions

    It's a relatively light card in terms of the number of matches Saturday in Lyon, France, but the stakes are high with four out of the five contests being for championships. Here's how I see everything shaking out:

    WWE Undisputed Championship — Cody Rhodes (c.) vs. A.J. Styles — Will this match be an absolute banger? Yes. Will Cody Rhodes' reign end after four week? No. It's really that simple — there's no way Rhodes doesn't leave France with the WWE Undisputed Championship. Grab your popcorn, enjoy the show and watch two of the best in WWE go toe-to-toe in the main event. Prediction: Cody Rhodes def. A.J. Styles to retain the WWE Undisputed Championship

    World Heavyweight Championship — Damian Priest (c.) vs. Jey Uso — Jey Uso winning here would ignite the Lyon crowd, but I don't see it happening, particularly with Rhea Ripley's injury delivering a significant blow to the status of Judgment Day. Priest should get a long run as World Heavyweight Champion and there may be a time for Jey Uso to ultimately dethrone him, it's not going to come weeks after the Archer of Infamy stunned the wrestling world at WrestleMania 40. Prediction: Damian Priest def. Jey Uso to retain the World Heavyweight Championship

    WWE Women's Championship — Bayley (c.) vs. Naomi vs. Tiffany Stratton — While there's always the possibility of protecting Bayley in a championship change here, I don't think she loses this quickly after having one of the more memorable WrestleMania moments from last month's event. The most likely outcome here is Bayley scores the win over Naomi while Stratton looks strong and sets up a longer program between the two. Prediction: Bayley def. Naomi and Tiffany Stratton to retain the WWE Women's Championship

    WWE Women's Tag Team Championship — The Kabuki Warriors (c.) vs. Jade Cargill and Bianca Belair — In what could be the end of Damage CTRL, the right move here is for Cargill and Belair to walk out of France as the Women's Tag Team Champions. They already scored a victory over Damage CTRL at WrestleMania 40 (alongside Naomi), and can continue to elevate the championships on SmackDown moving forward. Prediction: Jade Cargill and Bianca Belair def. The Kabuki Warriors to win the Women's Tag Team Championship

    Randy Orton and Kevin Owens vs. The Bloodline (Solo Sikoa and Tama Tonga) — You could make a case for either side winning here, but I think Sikoa and Tonga coming out on top is what makes the most sense. Building Solo into the new Bloodline leader and Tonga effectively taking his role sets up a potential showdown with Roman Reigns down the line and keeps the faction as a significant threat moving forward. It's possible that the finish here isn't clean, but either way Solo and Tonga should walk out as winners. Prediction: The Bloodline def. Kevin Owens and Randy Orton