So will the age of Orton continue, or will a new (or old) age be ushered in? And is that a re-vamped version of Werewolves of London I hear? Hopefully these questions will be answered as WWE presents the tenth annual Backlash, which will also give me my first chance to see what Mike Adamle is really like, and to see if new Smackdown announcer Mick Foley has improved since the first One Night Stand.
The show begins with title action, as MVP defends the US title against Matt Hardy, in what some have termed as the most important match of his career, and one that I was particularly looking forward to. It certainly is a good way to start the show as the two storied rivals go all out in a very good opener. The first ten minutes were particularly interesting as neither man was able to keep the advantage for a moment or so. But as the match moved on, MVP focused his attack on Hardy’s mid-section, with Hardy playing the part of the injured soul very well. In the end, a new champion was crowned, with MVP missing the big boot as Hardy moved out of the corner, and the challenger taking the champion out with the Twist of Fate to win the title. A very good way to start the show, and I wouldn’t mind seeing these two on pay-per-view again. Ladder match at One Night Stand anyone? And the early rating for the new boy’s commentary - Foley is good!
More title action follows, as Chavo Guerrero, alongside some big bald dude, challenges Kane for the ECW title, and given the way that Kane squashed Chavo at Wrestlemania, it was pretty obvious what was going to happen here. This is also my first chance to see if Mike Adamle is really as bad as I’ve heard. It’s more or less a squash match with Kane dominating Chavo, with the former champion having his moments as he tried to focus his attack on Kane’s previously injured knee. It’s not a bad match, but it’s let down by the poor commentary, as Adamle, who couldn’t tell the difference between a kick and a punch and couldn’t even get the referee’s name right, dragged Taz down to his level (and I never thought I’d be saying that.) So, poor commentary aside, David couldn’t slay Goliath as Kane retained the gold, countering Chavo’s frog splash attempt with the big choke slam.
And speaking of Goliaths, it’s the battle of the big men next with the Great Khali taking on the Big Show. Well, this should be good! (In case you didn’t realise I was being sarcastic then.) In the past the Big Show has had some good matches with some of the top stars in the history of the wrestling business. Sadly, this wasn’t one of them, and it’s just another example of how poor a worker Khali really is. The finish came when Big Show broke out of Khali’s choke bomb attempt to take the big Indian down with a choke slam. Hopefully this is the last time we’ll see these two in the ring with each other, although given Vinny Mac’s fascination with big guys beating the crap out of each other we’ll probably see this one time and time again.
Thankfully, normal service is resumed straight away, as Chris Jericho officiates the grudge match between Shawn Michaels and Batista, as the animal seeks retribution against the man who ended his mentor’s career. This was just what the doctor ordered after the previous fiasco, a match showcasing the talents of two of the best in WWE at the moment. It was your classic big man v small man battle, well thought out and well plotted, with great action and great storytelling throughout. One particular good moment was when, while still in a Michaels short arm scissors, Batista lifted him with just one arm before dropping him on the mat. But then again, this isn’t a new spot in a Michaels match. (Think back to when Michaels first won the Intercontinental title from Davey Boy Smith shortly before the 1992 Survivor Series.) Chris Jericho also proved to be a good referee, although as he didn’t really play that much of a part in the match it kind of negated the effect of having a special referee for this match in the first place. So with each man having countered each other’s major moves, Michaels apparently injured his left knee countering a Batista bomb attempt, but had enough strength and power to take the big guy out with sweet chin music, getting the winning pin but still favouring his left knee. A very good match here, with Michaels having to be helped backstage because of the injury.
Filler material follows, with a twelve woman tag match featuring Beth Phoenix, Melina, Victoria, Jillian Hall, Natalya (aka Nattie Neidhart) and Layla against Mickie James, Maria, Michelle McCool, Ashley, Cherry and Kelly Kelly. One question presents itself here - where was Katie Lea? At least that particular Diva can actually wrestle with the best of them. Well, I suppose this one had it’s moments, with the most entertaining part being the segment towards the end that saw the Divas take each other out with some flashy moves, before Beth and Ashley got back into the ring, with the Glamazon taking her foe down with the fisherwoman’s suplex. Okay I suppose, but the match did seem a little overloaded with Divas for this writer’s liking.
Main event #1, as the Undertaker defends his World Heavyweight title against former champion Edge. This was another of the matches I was looking forward to, wondering if it would prove to be a fitting sequel to their Wrestlemania bout. It did. Slow and methodical at times, it was a perfect advertisement for the skills of both wrestlers who seemed perfectly suited to each other, with the main part of the match seeing Edge working over the previously injured back of the Undertaker with a couple of body scissors and his version of the camel clutch, before the dead man came back strongly with some of his signature moves. So what we had here was a gripping contest, with Edge almost getting the win after his running buddy Kurt Hawkins clobbered the Undertaker with the title belt while the referee’s back was turned. Zack Ryder then tried to interfere, but that failed, and after Edge countered the Undertaker’s power bomb attempt with a sunset flip, the Undertaker countered that with his new submission hold. Edge held out for a while, but eventually he tapped, with the champion keeping the hold on a but longer after the final bell, which brought Edge’s girlfriend down to the ring, and it wasn’t long before the former champion was carted away on a stretcher. An extremely good match here, a fitting sequel.
Main event #2, with Randy Orton defending his WWE title against former champions John Cena, Triple H and John Bradshaw Layfield in a four way elimination match. It’s basically every man for himself, and anything goes. Now these matches can either be messy or very good. Thankfully it was the latter. Some good action throughout this one, with the STFU/crossface moment raising a smile on this writer’s face. We had two quick eliminations in this one. JBL was the first to go, tapping out to Cena’s STFU, with Orton immediately kicking Cena in the head while he still had the hold applied, getting the pin seconds later, leaving Orton alone with Triple H, and this was when it got even better, with the former Evolution running buddies literally beating the crap out of each other. Orton dominated for the most part, working over Triple H’s mid-section, which involved him catapulting his challenger into the security wall, followed by some good solid wrestling from both men. But when it looked like Orton was about to go for the kill, Triple H countered the RKO attempt, and that was when the fight back began, with Triple H throwing Orton across the ECW announce table (a shame he didn’t hit Adamle), and countered Orton’s attempt to piledrive him on the steel ring steps. We then got the obligatory ref hit as the Game countered another RKO attempt, before Orton finally scored with his signature move while the ref recovered his senses. But it wasn’t enough to get the pin though. Then after Triple H countered Orton’s punt attempt, and another RKO attempt, he took the champion out with the pedigree to get the title winning pin, winning the WWE title and apparently ending the so-called age of Orton. A tremendous main event contest, and a match of two contests as it were, good when it was a four way, but even better when it got down to Orton and Triple H.
In conclusion - the battle of the giants and the ineptness of Mike Adamle aside, Backlash proved to be a great show, with the WWE title match clearly the highlight of the show. This will probably go down as one of the best pay-per-views of the year, and rightfully so. Well done to Vince McMahon and his band of merry men and women. Just please don’t put the Big Show and the Great Khali in the same ring again. Mind you, please don’t put Khali in the ring again, ever!