Monday, 19 April 2004

WWE Backlash Review

It's been a while since I've done an in-depth review of a WWE pay-per-view, so now it's time once again to review, live (on videotape), from Edmonton, Canada, BACKLASH!!!

SHELTON BENJAMIN v "THE NATURE BOY" RIC FLAIR
A battle of the generations here as Raw's newest and hottest young star goes up against Fin Martin's all-time favourite wrestler.

This was a good way of opening the show. Flair has had his critics in the past couple of years, but put him in with an athlete like Shelton, and he can still pull off a good match. It may be a little slower than most of today's wrestling fans are accustomed to, but it was still entertaining nonetheless.

Shelton won after a clothesline from the top rope. Since coming to Raw he has been on a roll, getting better with each and every week. I wouldn't be surprised if he's challenging for the Intercontinental title sometime soon.

TAJIRI v JONATHAN COACHMAN
Coach has been one of the most entertaining things on Raw since his heel turn last year. Even so, this match never promised to be a mat classic.

But if you take this match for what it is, then it succeeded. A match pitting a non-wrestler against a wrestler like Tajiri could have stunk up the arena, but ti did what it set out to do. Coach probably surprised many with his show of skill here.

Coach won the match with the help of Garrison Cade. After nearly pinning Tajiri with a roll-up and his feet on the ropes, Tajiri almost took him down with the Tarantula, and was about to knock Coach for six when Cade came out and clobbered the buzz saw. Coach had gained the upset victory, even though it was tainted.

CHRIS JERICHO v CHRISTIAN & TRISH STRATUS
Trish's heel turn has been played to perfection over the last few weeks. It's added spice to a feud between two men who seemed to be a perfect match for each other inside the ring.

Both Jericho and Christian once again put on a hell of a match, even if it wasn't as good as their Wrestlemania performance. Trish played her part well, even though at times she was little more than a proverbial punching bag, often getting caught in the middle of the two fellas.

Jericho won the match after a running enziguri, after a good exchange of moves, with Jericho countering Christian's second Un-Prettier attempt with a Walls Of Jericho attempt. A good match, and I expect to see more of this feud soon.

WWE Women's Championship
VICTORIA (c) v LITA
I've been very disappointed with Lita's performances since her return from her neck injury, and when she was paired with Victoria, possibly the best female wrestler in America at the moment, I had high hopes.

While the champion once again excelled with her performance, Lita's performance at times seemed very strained. She would perform a move, but instead of going for the follow-up move almost instantly, she often hesitated, making things seem very sloppy at times.

Victoria won the bout with a roll-up, and just afterwards, super-bitches Gail Kim and Molly Holly came down to the ring and attacked both Lita and Victoria. Not the best of matches here, and it's obvious that Lita needs to do something to improve her performances.

WWE Intercontinental Championship - No Holds Barred
RANDY ORTON (c) v MICK FOLEY
This match has been building up for months now, and was possibly one of the most anticipated matches on the Backlash card.

Foley, in his best ring shape for over ten years, and the young lion Randy Orton went at it tooth and nail in one of the best WWE pay-per-view matches so far this year. With thumbtacks, barb-wire, trash cans, crazy bumps, and both men putting on the performance of a lifetime, this made for compelling viewing. It was just one of those matches you couldn't take your eye off.

After what seemed like an eternity, Orton pinned Foley after unleashing the RKO on Foley's trusted barbed-wire baseball bat. I really can't speak too highly of this match, and of the performances of both men in this contest. Hardcore wrestling at it's finest here.

LA RESISTANCE v THE HURRICANE & ROSEY
Having to follow the Foley/Orton match would be a difficult task for anybody, but this encounter won't be remembered for the fact that La Resistance are now being billed from Quebec, or that the Hurricane pinned Rob Conway after his Eye of the Hurricane move. It will be remembered because of the appearance of the WWE's most controversial character at the moment, Eugene.

Eugene came down to the ring halfway through the match and began playing with Grenier and Conway's Quebec flags. Then, getting into the ring, he began to run the ropes as the Hurricane finished off Conway.

If this match was put on just so Eugene could come into the ring and do his thing, then it worked. To say that the crowd seemed a little annoyed with Eugene's appearance would be something of an understatement. It totally detracted from the match, which is a shame in my opinion.

EDGE v KANE
Edge's first appearance in a WWE ring for over a year possibly suffered, like the match before, because it was staged after the Foley/Orton encounter. Edge looked good on his in-ring return, despite the fact he was still suffering from his hand/wrist injury.

For a return match it was okay, but it was nothing special. Kane now seems to be at something of a cross-roads again, in need of a lift after his major transformation last year. The unstoppable monster is looking stoppable again, and the fact that a guy who hasn't had a major match in over a year was able to pin him in under ten minutes hasn't done anything for Kane's career.

Still, it was good to see Edge back in action.

World Heavyweight Championship
CHRIS BENOIT (c) v TRIPLE H v "THE HEARTBREAK KID" SHAWN MICHAELS
What's the best way to get a crowd animated again? By giving them a top-notch world title match involving their hometown hero.

Nothing will ever compare to the effort these three put in in the main event of Wrestlemania. That encounter will probably be remembered for being the best triple threat match in history. But as a "final encounter" between these three, it was a fitting end, and once again, Chris Benoit emerged victorious, when many had predicted the beginning of another title reign for Triple H.

This match will not only be remembered for the great wrestling action, but also for the rabid response both Shawn Michaels and referee Earl Hebner received. Canadian fans can be very unforgiving, but then again, out of all the crowds I've seen over the past few years, Canadian fans are probably the most rabid and most vocal as well.

Benoit won the match as Michaels tapped to the Sharpshooter. Quite fitting that Benoit should win with such a hold. Benoit has now beaten the top two guys on the Raw brand in triple threat encounters, and has proven to be a deserving champion.

In conclusion - it's always very difficult for the WWE to follow a great Wrestlemania pay-per-view with another great pay-per-view. Backlash delivered, even though it was left wanting in some respects. Seven out of ten for this one.

Match of the night, well it's got to be Foley v Orton. If you're looking for a perfect example of ring psychology, look no further than this one.