Much like the chronology of any long-standing wrestling event, Backlash is an integral part of the long-standing history of the WWE. The show itself spawned in the Spring of 1999 under the ‘In Your House’ banner which WWE had produced to give out countless classic shows that live in the hearts of any fan who had watched the product during that period and for many marked the end of an era, being the last official event under the banner itself.
WWE has long been known for its ‘Big 4’; Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam & Survivor Series, which for the majority of us are the marquee events under the wrestling calendar, at least for those following the mainstream, American industry. As a result, we’ve often forgotten the impact lesser-known events have had on the business, this would be the case of Backlash. Generally, these shows are incredibly relevant, bouncing off the annual WrestleMania event and occasionally, like this year, the WWE ‘Superstar Shake-Up’ and can provide some intriguing previews of the product over the next 12 months or so.
With the event approaching in under 24 hours, I feel there is no better time for WWE fans to check out these 5 classics that have occurred over the last 2 decades at the post-WrestleMania event in preparation for what will hopefully be an incredible show.
5. John Cena vs Randy Orton vs Shawn Michaels vs Edge – Backlash 2007
There is no better example of the WWE’s 2007 product than this match. Cena, Michaels, Edge & Orton ruled much of the landscape throughout the year of 2007, being the centre piece of most major storylines, angles & the years best matches without question.
Both Cena & Michaels were hot off the heels of not just an extremely underrated Wrestlemania 23 encounter (which everyone should also check out), but a near 60-minute war in London, England which to this day remains one of the best free-TV matches to have ever been produced across any wrestling company you can think of. Edge & Orton meanwhile were on the verge of implosion as their Rated-RKO tandem was reaching its end, all of these elements combined lead to a classic.
The match itself played off every character’s strengths & weaknesses to a key, utilizing the tensions between the friends turned bitter enemies and crafting a contest filled with gripping near-falls and some of the tensest moments you could imagine. Few saw the current champion Cena actually losing the title on this day, but predictability doesn’t detract from a fantastic main event with one of the most sudden and out-of-nowhere endings I can remember seeing which I will avoid spoiling to maintain that excitement for those who are yet to see this incredible display of storytelling.
4. Triple H vs The Rock – Backlash 2000
In this writer’s humble opinion, wrestling is at its peak when its at its highest levels of insanity. While your standard, bell-to-bell matches have given us countless classics, sometimes a good old-fashioned fight is what every fan wants, which is what may have made the Attitude Era as special as it was. Elements such as these are the reason the likes of Triple & The Rock had the level of chemistry that was on display every time they stepped foot in a ring together.
Backlash 2000 is widely regarded as one of the best PPV’s of all time, much of this is attribute to the quality of the shows main event, a match many felt should have headlined Wrestlemania 2000 just weeks prior. Main events at this time always featured overbooking and some bizarre antics, sometimes these interferences affect the flow of a match, but it worked to perfection with this excellent main event.
A combination of ringside chaos, interference from the McMahons & the incredible return of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin sent the crowd into overdrive, almost shattering the roof of the arena with the amount of cheers this booking process received. If there is also no better time, the announcers team should receive credit for the incredible job they did on selling the amount of chaos that ensued, truly something I admire considering the absolute state this match left the arena in. If you’re a fan of the bizarreness in professional wrestling, look no further.
3. The Two-Man Power Trip (Triple H & Steve Austin) vs Undertaker & Kane – Backlash 2001
Arguably the most stacked tag team contest that the WWE has ever put on paper, at least in terms of the gold that was at stake for these two teams. 2001 was the turning point of the wrestling business, while many have mixed feelings regarding the likes of Steve Austin’s infamous heel turn, it wasn’t without its positives.
Placing 4 men with the star-power and talent of the ones in this match is almost impossible not to enjoy and this main event certainly never left fans wanting more than the brilliance we got. Not only did they have the task of following up Wrestlemania X-Seven, one of the best professional wrestling shows of all time, but the task of following up one of the biggest angles the company had ever done while 4 separate titles were all up for grabs.
The match ran a near towards the near 30-minute mark, combining the use of some great wrestling technique with a fair use of foreign objects before the matches inevitable ending. Not only does this mark one of the longest matches in the shows chronology, but a firm reminder to the fans that re-watch this of just how lucky we were to be graced by a main event of this magnitude.
2. John Cena vs Edge – Backlash 2009
The long-storied rivalry between Edge & John Cena is something that will live on regardless of our time period. Over a decade removed from the inception of this classic feud and we still use it as a comparison to how a modern wrestling rivalry should be panned out and delivered to audiences, something only a select few individuals have managed to accomplish.
Going through their rivalry the two-waged war in the likes of a Steel Cage, TLC & Triple Threat Matches, with more than one altercation being held around the Elimination Chamber. For myself personally, none of their prior contests rivalled their Last Man Standing match at 2009’s Backlash event. It served as the final frontier for a near 4-Year rivalry, building up all previous aggression between the two fierce competitors and bottling it into one brutal, gruelling main event.
In another near 30-minute classic, both Cena & Edge threw everything they had at one another, from signature moves to steel steps, with neither man backing down for the dreaded 10-count. It was the matches ending however that solidifies it as one of my favourite matches in the Backlash chronology. I don’t feel like giving it away via a simple sentence is the smartest way of emphasizing its impact on the match and its brutality on this already classic rivalry, either way this is another must see especially for those growing up in the modern-era.
1. Randy Orton vs Cactus Jack – Backlash 2004
This match is certainly not for the faint of heart and is certainly one the WWE’s current target demographic wouldn’t be very used to in terms of overall style.
The story behind this one was the traditional passing of the torch from old-time legend to one of the company’s more modern talents, in this case that of ‘The Viper’ Randy Orton, who at that point had branded himself ‘The Legend Killer’. Following months of constant beatdowns & defeats at the hands of the young up & comer, the former Mick Foley decided there was no other solution than to bring out his violent alter ego, Cactus Jack and for him to finally gain retribution in his signature match, a Hardcore Rules match.
Violence in professional wrestling is still a subject debated to this very day, matches like this however emphasize its importance from a storytelling perspective. The levels of blood & brutality that ensued in this match may be too much for some but was key in shaping a younger star such as Randy Orton from the arrogant rookie he had been portraying, to the true warrior he came out of this match looking like after 30 minutes of utter carnage.
Using barbwire, steel chairs & even the support structure of the event stage, both Randy Orton & Cactus Jack created the closest thing to a perfect match anyone could imagine. More than just a violent spot-fest, this was a match of passion, resilience & desperation and to most people is the contest that shaped Randy Orton into the man that steps foot onto our television that we see on a weekly basis. This isn’t just the finest match in the history of the Backlash event as a whole, but one of the finest in WWE history, period.