136Xe + 208Pb and 136Xe + 238U reactions employing the high-resolution Advanced γ -Tracking Array (AGATA) coupled to the magnetic spectrometer PRISMA at the Laboratori Nazionali di Legnaro, Italy, and as an elusive reaction product in the fusion-evaporation reaction 124Sn (11B,p3n) 131Xe employing the High-efficiency Observatory for γ-Ray Unique Spectroscopy (HORUS) γ-ray array coupled to a double-sided silicon strip detector at the University of Cologne, Germany. The level scheme of 131Xe is extended to 5 MeV. A pronounced backbending is observed at ℏω ≈ 0.4 MeV along the negative-parity one-quasiparticle νh 11/2 (α=−1/2) band. The results are compared to the high-spin systematics of the Z = 54 isotopes and the N = 77 isotones. Large-scale shell-model calculations employing the PQM130, SN100PN, GCN50:82, SN100-KTH, and a realistic effective interaction reproduce the experimental findings and provide guidance to elucidate the structure of the high-spin states. Further calculations in 129−132Xe provide insight into the changing nuclear structure along the Xe chain towards the N=82 shell closure. Proton occupancy in the π0h11/2 orbital is found to be decisive for the description of the observed backbending phenomenon.