Mishal takes a look back at WWE Backlash and ranks his Top 5 matches from this underappreciated event.
Backlash, to me, is an unsung hero when it comes to WWE pay-per-views.
With its first show taking place back in 1999 right before the turn of the millennium it has built up quite the reputation over the years for those who have followed the product for quite some time. It’s generally been the show that follows the annual WrestleMania event each year until it was (for some reason or another) replaced by the likes of Extreme Rules or most recently, Money in the Bank.
Backlash, however, above all the other shows that replaced it had a solid reputation in my mind of being the show that followed up all the key feuds from the company’s biggest show or used its platform to present new or returning talent in a favourable light to then position as key players in future major storylines. It’s built up quite the reputation over the years and since this year’s Backlash event is fast approaching, I thought I’d take a look at some of the best matches the show has put on for us over the last two decades.
As with any list, these are my own personal preferences and any suggestions or disagreements are always open!
WWE Backlash Honorable Mentions
- Shawn Michaels vs Batista (Backlash 2008)
- John Cena vs Edge vs Triple H – WWE Championship Match (Backlash 2006)
- Dean Malenko vs Scotty 2 Hotty – Light Heavyweight Championship Match (Backlash 2000)
- John Cena vs Shawn Michaels vs Edge vs Randy Orton – WWE Championship Match (Backlash 2007)
- Dean Ambrose vs AJ Styles – WWE Championship Match (Backlash 2016)
5. Edge vs Kurt Angle (Backlash 2002)
Whenever we glance back at the career of Edge, certain moments always stand out amongst the sea of classics he’s conjured up over the years. Take his epic clashes with John Cena, personal blood-feud with Matt Hardy, the 2008 rivalry with The Undertaker or his early days on the tag team scene in WWE against the likes of The Dudleyz or The Hardy Brothers. For this fan personally, his 2002 feud with Kurt Angle is a consistent standout.
Not only was the feud a ton of fun to be had, but it resulted in so many overlooked matches, with this being the first of them following Edge’s big coming home ceremony at WrestleMania X8. Backlash 2002 was one of the first times Edge had arrived as a star in the WWE, and doing it against one of their biggest & most consistently excellent performers was a statement to be made on an evening like this. Kurt Angle was the perfect opponent for the man to become ‘The Rated-R Superstar’, their opposing styles meshed beautifully, the action was crisp & Angle is such a brilliant, obnoxious heel that stood as the perfect opposition to Edge’s more ‘edgy’ persona.
I’ll admit that some of the matches in the honorable mentions may equal this in quality, but it’s a match that I feel more people should know about. If there’s one thing Edge & Angle succeeded in delivering in spades, it was high-octane, non-stop action in each of their matches and this is the perfect example of that delivery.
4. Seth Rollins vs The Miz – Intercontinental Championship Match (Backlash 2018)
Let’s all be honest, Backlash 2018 was a dumpster fire of a show. Its reputation is mauled by dreadful booking decisions, awkward pacing, a strange structure to the overall card with the wrong headlining match & following a WrestleMania that left many underwhelmed did this no favors either. With it being marketed as the big connecting branch to put an end to brand-exclusive monthly shows was really no way to start of a new phase in the WWE’s latest ‘brand split’.
However, there was one glimmer of hope shoved into all this mess, that being Seth Rollins & The Miz who put on an absolute clinic in the shows very first outing.
Following up a similar, very good opening contest at the WrestleMania event prior to this show, Rollins & Miz displayed their natural in-ring chemistry to perfection in a match that went far longer than I’d imagined it would have. For 20-minutes the two tore the house down in a match that was everything you’d want out of Championship match in professional wrestling. There was great psychology on display, action from bell to bell, the crowd was red hot for everything they did, Miz played his heel persona to perfection & Rollins continued to establish himself as one of this generation very best in-ring performers, a reputation he’d build up quite strongly over the course of the next year. The Miz gets a lot of slack from ‘critics’ for not being one who can stand toe-to-toe with the very best on a wrestling basis, he silenced everyone of those critics with this underrated classic.
On an evening where nothing seemed to stand out, this is the one shining light in a one-match show.
3. The Rock vs Triple H – WWE Championship Match (Backlash 2000)
I recently spoke about how WrestleMania 2000 really wasn’t the event it should be, it was odd, didn’t feel like a WrestleMania & much of that lays on the shoulders of the main event which failed to deliver the satisfying ending fans should have expected.
Backlash 2000, however, was the perfect evening to undoing many of the woes we may have had with that show & delivered the main event that was everything Wrestlemania 2000 should have been originally. The Rock & Triple H were at their very best here and put on an incredible fight in the main event. This was the attitude era personified in all its glory, from the style of wrestling on display to the structure of the match itself, it was more of a brawl than an actual wrestling match, blending in multiple storylines and having the fans make this more than anything. To boot you had the appearance of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin which to this day, is one of the loudest things I’ve ever heard watching wrestling, whether live or at home.
In terms of ‘feel good’ matches or moments, this ranks up there with the very best of them across the business as a whole. It’s a prime example of how overbooking can work when the scenario is set up right & one of the very best things I can think of when I ponder the days of the attitude era. If anything, it’s the WWE at its very peak of quality storytelling
2. Randy Orton vs Mick Foley – Intercontinental Championship Match (Backlash 2004)
As a fan of the original ECW, there are very few things better than a good bloodbath or a good hardcore match. When told with the right story, crowd & characters they can be enthralling to witness. At Backlash 2004, Randy Orton & Mick Foley set out to close off a bitter feud between new & old school, as the rise of the then ‘Legend Killer’ showed no signs of stopping. Orton was fresh off a victory with Evolution over Foley & his partner The Rock at Wrestlemania XX, so the score was to be settled in a Hardcore Match with Orton’s Intercontinental Championship on the line.
The match itself was everything you’d want in a closing chapter to a feud & a star-making performance at the exact same time. It was the match & evening that Randy Orton had arrived as the future of the company, taking one of the very founders of Hardcore wrestling to the very edge in a match made for him to dominate in. Regardless of if it was steel chairs, barbed-wire objects, buckets of blood or the magnificent story of a seasoned veteran testing the up & coming young stud in his own house, it was essentially a perfect professional wrestling story.
There are so many spots & moments to talk about, so many little callbacks to their feud that made this a perfect package in how to tell a story & make both competitors look strong on their way to the finish itself. Randy Orton was made into a star on this night, no matter how he was booked for the remainder of 2004 & it goes down as one of the pinnacle performances in the career of Mick Foley. If you’ve skipped over this match, you’re missing out, big time.
1. Chris Benoit vs Triple H vs Shawn Michaels – World Heavyweight Championship Match (Backlash 2004)
Sadly due to the nature of one of the competitors involved, this isn’t likely to be a match that’s ever recognized in mainstream WWE for the very foreseeable future, and likely ever if we’re being honest with ourselves. But that by no means should result in one of wrestling’s greatest sequels being brushed under the carpet entirely because this deserves the praise it gets to those who’ve read about or seen it.
Benoit, Michaels & Triple H put on what is widely regarded as the best World Championship match in WrestleMania history in 2004. The three put on a match that embodied the story of the underdog while lumping it right into the middle of one of the most brutal, heated feuds in the history of the business between two best friends in Triple H & Shawn Michaels. At WrestleMania XX it was Chris Benoit who against all odds achieved a nearly two-decade journey to earning one of the businesses highest prizes, and with a rematch set just six weeks after the event between the original competitors they had an incredible task in topping a masterpiece that they delivered in Madison Square Garden.
And while it may be controversial, their rematch is dare I say, as good as the initial encounter in every single way. Nothing about it was all that similar to the original match which made it all the more unique in how the story was told. Benoit was once again the underdog in this contest against two bitter rivals, however, they were in his home turf of Edmonton, Canada, a crowd that wanted nothing more than to see their hometown hero come out on top.
Wisely enough they fed off the new environment to perfection and considering the history someone like Shawn Michaels had in Canada at the time made for some of the smartest storytelling I can remember in a match like this, using the Montreal Screwjob, the hometown crowd & Bret Hart of all people to their advantage & created a match that might be the standard-bearer to sequels in the business. Nothing about it ever bored you, the action never broke pace and it was just as physical as their first match at WrestleMania XX but never tried to replicate what that match did to the story.
In today’s wrestling landscape this is a match that is bound to be buried to some degree but it’s worth every minute of your time should you give it a chance. A 5-star classic in every aspect.
NXT Minus 6: A Tale of Two Champions
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Our two new champions could not be more different…
6. Doomsday Saito comes to the ring and gives a painful, cliched promo. Any wrestler in the back could have said those exact words. Train harder and beat people up. He’s angry. We get it. The only thing Saito could do that would interest me is move to RawDown. On the other hand…
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Not gonna lie, that promo was wasn’t even hot garbage. It was cold garbage.]
5. Raquel Gonzalez delivers a genuine, heartfelt promo that only she could give. Tears of joy. It told her story, and it’s exactly why she got the pop and the chant she deserved. The addition of Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair, complete with throwback pic, was icing on the cake. I’m excited for whatever Gonzalez does next. Speaking of…
4. Fantasy booking alert!!! Two weeks ago, Raquel Gonzelez told the world I was the one who believed in her. I was the one who made her a champion. Then Rhea Ripley shows up, and Bianca Belair shows up, and I’m the one sent to the back. How quickly you forget who your real friends are. I was the one who took you to the top, and chicka, I am the one who is going to drag you to the bottom. I used you to get to the top and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I am Dakota Kai.
3. No more Santa Claus Ice Cream Bar. Santos Escobar has earned his name back. His match with KUSHIDA is everything great about NXT. Say it with me. Good things happen when you let wrestlers wrestle! Fast paced. Great action. Surprise ending. I’m going 4.5 stars. Give me a match that good every Tuesday and I’m a happy camper.
2. Right now, I don’t know if any two wrestlers have better chemistry than Swerve Scott and Leon Ruff. Every time they get together, it’s electric, and this week was no different. This is quickly climbing into Rivalry of the Year territory. I thought I was happy to see Swerve pick up the victory and move on. Then Ruff goes insane in the membrane and now I’m excited to watch them fight forever.
1. This week’s That’s Why I Love Wrestling goes to…Roderick Strong. Kayfabe. Work. Shoot. I don’t care. Strong deserved a better goodbye than what he got. He is the Perfection of Performance (shout out to the Hitman). He and Kyle O’Reilly were the best version of the Undisputed Era tag team champions. I always got excited for a Strong match because I knew he’d deliver. Roderick Strong is exactly the kind of wrestler that makes me love wrestling. Until he returns, he will be sorely missed.
Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.
It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!
5. Samoa Joe
A gentle reminder that Samoa Joe is one of the greatest talkers in the game pic.twitter.com/p4TZeZIAV7
— Kenny Majid – A Kenny For Your Thoughts Podcast (@akfytwrestling) April 15, 2021
I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.
In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!
4. Kris Statlander
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) April 15, 2021
AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.
Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.
Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.
Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.
3. Tay Conti
Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.
Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.
This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.
2. Bianca Belair
We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.
You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.
Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.
Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.
1. Darby Allin
Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.
The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.
What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.
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