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The 7 - Guest Columns - WWF Backlash 2002
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#1 Posted on 15.4.04 1613.39
Reposted on: 15.4.11 1615.40
-I was gonna get this done sooner, but after watching the Undertaker/Austin match I lost the will to live and had to lie down for a coupla days.

-Comin’ atcha liiiiive from Kansas City, MO, it’s WWF Backlash with your hosts Smooth Jimmy Ross and The King. It’s the first pay-per-view after that pesky brand extension, but the last before things went all E-shaped. Truly the end of an era. But also the beginning of an era. Okay, so this one only lasted like three months before everything went loopy again, but still.

-WWF Cruiserweight Title Match-Billy Kidman Vs. Tajiri w/Torrie-The-Geisha: Yes, a cruiserweight championship on PPV that doesn’t involve Rey Mysterio. It’s been a while. Quick catch-up: Tajiri’s kinda feelin’ the rudo love after losing the strap to Kidman two weeks previously, and Torrie’s the one getting the brunt of the hatred. Kidman, bless ‘im, is just the bland two-week love interest that Nora Bing would write out halfway through the book. Usual flip-floppery kicks things off, til Kidman turns a catapult into a second-rope dropkick for a two-count. Tajiri bails off of a headscissors and drags Billy with him, then slams him onto the guardrail. Back inside for some chokery and nasty kicks, and JR and King fawn over poor repressed Torrie. It’s really odd hearing those two gab about the cruiserweights, by the way, so the split’s working it’s mojo in some ways. Kidman fights out of a chinlock and gets a rana, but Tajiri catches him with a backbreaker and hits the Tree Of Woe/baseball slide one-two. The dreaded main-event style rears its ugly head as the pace slows right down and Tajiri starts with some rest holds. Kidman knees his way out of a surfboard for two, but Tajiri stays in control and keeps working the back. JR works his obligatory “Tajiri’s got an economics degree, doncha know” line in there, just to freshen things up. Tarantula, but Kidman escapes and blocks the handspring elbow with a suh-weet dropkick. That gets a nearfall, and Tajiri fires back with a sloppy German suplex for one of his own. Kidman tries his rebound-clothesline spot, but Tajiri dodges and hits a muthafuckin’ AWESOME kick to the face for two. BIG pop for the kick-out. Powerbomb attempt, and Kidman gets the ~FACEJAM~ for two. The Shooting Star Press seems imminent, but Tajiri rolls clear and nails the Kick Of Death...for two. A chant of “Kidman” goes up. Stop, breath, and read that again. How f’ed up is that? Both guys squabble on the top rope, and Billy gets the BK Bomb for a two-count. Crowd was totally buying that as the finish. He sets up a powerbomb of his own, but Tajiri spews forth with the red mist in mid-air, and drops down into a roll-up for his third title at 9:09. It’s matches like this that make me resent the superman booking given to Chavo and Rey-Rey, because there’s so much damn talent suffering because of it which could easily get over if given half a chance. ***1/4 Michael Cole (oh, the indignity of it) interviews the new champ as he heads for the back, which just results in some Crazy Japanese Talk.

-Faarooq and Bradshaw get all macho-huggy after three whole weeks of separation.

-Scott Hall w/X-Pac Vs. FUTURE MAIN EVENTER Bradshaw w/Farooq: Hoo boy. Two months after their glorious debut, and the nWo reduced to this. X-Pac’s wearing Kane’s mask here, from an angle that went nowhere due a severe case of him being fired before Kane returned. The contractually-stipulated toothpick-toss starts proceedings, and Bradshaw gets to some clubberin’ as JR starts blowing his hoss metaphors. The Stock-Market-Crash DDT gets a two. Hall bails but gets some Faarooq right hands for his troubles, and Bradshaw keeps up the pressure with a Portfolio Suplex for a near-fall. He stages a come-back with some weak-ass rights and stomps his man down, but gets caught with the Write-Off. Pac makes the save and Faarooq gives chase, which allows Hall the worst low blow in history and a schoolboy for the three-count at 5:57. ½* The bad guys bail, marking Hall’s last match of any note before being shitcanned two weeks later. Whatta final run!

-SmackDown Owner Vince McMahon takes five minutes out of his day to goad Raw Owner Ric Flair. Truly these were some strange times. Actually this was some nice foreshadowing on the fed’s part as, post-Flair heel turn, they followed it up with a similar segment at Judgement Day. Retarded storyline or no, it’s rare that you see that kind of planning from them today.

-Women’s Title Match-Jazz Vs. Trish Stratus: Molly, at the genesis of her virginal heel phase, interrupts the introductions for a few words. She looks really nasty here-the hair was kinda hovering between peroxide blonde and her now-familiar brown, and it just doesn’t work. She sends Trish into the ringsteps, and Jazz makes her entrance to pick the carcass clean. Sidewalk slam and a rolling Samoan drop keep her firmly in charge, and JR points out the champ’s “Mike Tyson-like” qualities. If I were Rodney Mack I’d hunt him down and KICK HIS ASS. Trish manages a Chick Kick for a near-fall, then hits her stupid turnbuckle rana thingy and a neckbreaker for another. Jazz says “fuck this, let’s kill the bitch” and nails a BOSS sit-out powerbomb for a two-count of her own. Female Batista, baby. She misses a Stinger Splash and gets schoolgirled for a nearfall, then drops Trish off of a Stratusfaction attempt and locks on a Boston crab. That in turn becomes the STF, and that’s all she wrote at 4:30. ** How is this woman not scheduled to beat the snot out of Victoria this Sunday?

-Quickie recap of Lita spurning Paul E., and Brock laying waste to Matt Hardy Version 0.0 in retaliation. Seven different shades of awesome.

-The Next Big Thing’s Debut Match-Jeff Hardy w/Lita Vs. Brock “Who He?” Lesnar w/Paul Heyman: Heyman is sooo old-school swank in a pre-match riling-up of Brock, and I remain firmly convinced that the could’ve stuck anyone from John Cena to Garrison Cade in Brock’s place and gotten similar results thanks to his input. This is one weird-ass match to watch today-the heels are minus the familiar riff of Here Comes The Pain, making their entrance totally anticlimactic; Jeff appears semi-human when compared to his final few months; and, strangest of all, Player’s Club Chairman Theodore Long is calling the shots. B’lee DAT. Jeff manages to send Brock outside to start with, but only get one off of a cross-body inside and it’s all downhill from there. Brock muscles him into the corner and just mauls him, hitting two belly-to-bellies and three backbreakers. Paul just watches from ringside and screams at Lita. Awesome. Jeff musters a little fight-back with a Whisper In The Wind and a swanton, but that only gets two. It’s like Hulk Vs. Yokozuna all over again. He grabs a chair, but Brock casually boots him in the gut and delivers the (unnamed) F5. Double powerbomb AND a spiral bomb, and Teddy calls for the bell at 5:32. * A perfect killer-heel debut outside of the dumb-ass stoppage finish, and thankfully they dropped that little gimmick after a few more victories.

-Kurt Angle Vs. Edge: Angle with hair...curiouser and curiouser. There’s no real issue here, other than “Edge needs some seasoning so we’ll stick him with Kurt”. Things would get a little more personal the following month, however. HUGE “Angle Sucks” chant at the sound of the bell. Edge is a house afire on the early-going, hitting a dropkick and sending Angle to the floor. Kurt gathers his senses as JR and King discuss Edge’s hair. Even more foreshadowing! Beautiful. Back in and Edge gets a Savio-Vegaesque leg lariat, but Angle cuts him off with a nice German suplex. Here, have some more “Angle Sucks”. Chop exchange, and Angle gets a belly-to-belly for two. Suplex gets two. Chinlock, and another German suplex, but Edge manages a belly-to-belly of his own. Both guys fight up, and Edge gets an Edgecution variant for two. The half-nelson faceplant gets two. He goes upstairs, but Angle follows him with the pop-up belly-to-belly for a near-fall of his own. Ankle-lock and Edge escapes, but Angle goes to the rolling Germans for two. Angle slam attempt is thwarted and Edge gets a German of his own, albeit a far nastier-looking one. Both men down AGAIN. They slug it out and Edge sends Angle to the floor, then follows with a top-rope cross-body! That’s a pretty heavy spot to pull out towards the end of a match. They head back to the ring and Edge scores with a missile dropkick for two. Edgecution is blocked into the Angle Slam...for two. Ankle-lock! Edge hangs on and manages a roll-up for two, and a frustrated Kurt pulls a chair from ringside. Edge dodges the swing and gets the Edge-O-Matic for two, then sets up the Spear-but that meets a boot to the head. Angle Slams finishes at 13:58. I’m kinda torn here, because it was a great match and certainly Edge’s best singles contest up til that point, but at the same time it was kinda colorless and without any real in-ring storytelling outside of “two guys hitting move after move”. Still, better than any undercard match of the last six months....****

-Hey, WWF New York! Tazz grabs some soundbites from the rubes concerning tonight’s main event, and the general consensus is that Triple H rules. Funny, that.

-Former WWF Undisputed Champion Chris Jericho hits the ring to bemoan the lack of quality Y2J action, a sentiment shared by 90% of this board, IIRC. He promises to leave before the main event; the crowd, enthralled beyond compare, breaks out the Whats. He should have counted himself lucky-two months later and he was jobbing in the opener.

-WWF Intercontinental Title Match-Rob van Dam Vs. Eddie Guerrero: Now out of these two, who would you have picked to win the WWF title first? Crazy! Eddie’s mullet flowing gloriously upon his entrance, a trait sorely missed today. And, bringing even more nostalgia welling up inside, van Dam actually looks like he gives a crap! Great exchange between JR and King at the bell:

King: “Eddie Guerrero’s upset, JR! Who was the first man to use the frog splash in the WWF?”
JR: “Well....D’Lo Brown.”

Touche. RVD dominates early and nails a heel kick for a near-fall, but Eddie takes over with some forearms and pounds him down in the corner. Van Dam fights back with some kicks and a standing moonsault, then a standing kick to the face for two. Nicely-executed floatover suplex gets two and RVD heads upstairs, but Eddie crotches him and tries for a superplex. Van Dam drops him down into a hangman, however, and hits his top-rope thrust-kick for a nearfall. Eddie cradles for two and they head to the floor, where van Dam gets off a somersault and his guardrail legdrop. That gets another two-count in the ring, and King says the verboten word “Mamacita”, which is met with a wall of silence from his erstwhile colleague. Eddie blocks Rolling Thunder and starts in on the back, hitting one of his compactor-style belly-to-backs for a two-count and going to the Mexican surfboard. RVD breaks free, so Eddie turns to the GORY SPECIAL! Spiffy. Van Dam turns that into a fluke sunset flip for a two-count, and the crowd is starting to get kinda restless at all this non-main-event action. Leg lariat and the slingshot senton get a near-fall for Guerrero. Springboard rana gets two. Brainbuster and a belly-to-back gets two, and Eddie’s feelin’ froggy. Rob is not, however, and cuts things off up top-and Eddie gets the Sunset Death Flip....for two. So totally should’ve been the finish. Hell, it should be the finish to all his matches. Van Dam starts warming up a come-back with his step-over kick, so Eddie takes a breather on the floor and grabs the championship belt. Rob tries to disarm him back in the squared circle, drawing the ire of the referee-and Eddie snaps off a neckbreaker onto the gold. One frog-splash later, and Latino Heat has his second Intercontinental championship at 11:44. Match was really off-kilter-the meat of it was Eddie methodically working on the back and seemed to be building to an RVD comeback, but the non-back-related Guerrero victory was totally out-of-nowhere and not in sync with what had gone before it at all. ***

-If you’re watching this on tape, you might wanna switch off now.

-No.1 Contendership match, Special Referee: Ric Flair-Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs. The Undertaker: Austin looks positively svelte here. Good heat greets the participants. Boy does that change. Crappy feeling-out process, and Austin hits the floor for some stallin’. Austin stalling within two minutes of the bell=not a good sign. More back-and-forth basics, and Austin’s wristwatch tells him to do some push-ups. Criss-cross, and Austin teases a test-of-strength in a comedy bit. That’s kinda dumb booking, considering a large portion of the main event would later revolve around it as a serious spot. More criss-crossing, and now Austin goes to an armbar. Good lord. Taker reverses and goes Old School for a two count, and something vaguely approaching noise ripples through the crowd. Austin comes back with the Thesz Press and an FU elbow for a two-count of his own, but there’s like twenty more minutes to fill so they head outside for some sluggish brawling. And they stay there for a looooong time. Highlights: Austin missing a piledriver for the 11,000th time in his career, and the nWo wandering out and just standing around looking bored. You and everyone else in the building, guys. Taker takes over and hits his apron legdrop, which “X-Pac Sucks”, according to the crowd, and we finally go back into the ring, where Austin’s developed some mysterious knee injury. Kneebar! Aw, fuck, I take it back, let’s go back outside. At least they run into heavy metal things out there. Taker switches things up with a clothesline for two, then hits the chinlock, and that just turns into him kinda gently holding Austin’s head and tilting it a little. Austin sleeper turns the tide, but Taker brings the moveset with a belly-to-back for a near-fall. Phew, back to the loving neck vice. Austin mounts another superhuman comeback, but runs into the flying clothesline for two. Double clothesline! Oh. My. God. Slugfest, and Taker gets sent through Flair, who hits the deck like a crippled Earl Hebner. Flair’s been doing a horrible reffing job, I should add, and I don’t mean kayfabe-wise. Stunner, but Flair is down and out. From a shoulderblock. From the man he fought for TWENTY MINUTES at WrestleMania the month before. A Taker low blow sets a half-assed chokeslam for a two-count, and the Dead man retrieves a chair. Hey, third match of the night! Flair disarms him, so Taker big boots Austin for two. Austin spine-buster gets two. Another Stunner attempt sees Flair take it on the chin AGAIN, and Taker smacks Austin with the chair for a sloooow two count. Finger across the throat....and a dragon sleeper? Bleargh. Austin escapes and tries one for himself, but Taker worms free and, after some uber-contrived shenanigans, boots the chair into Austin’s face for the pin. But, see, his foot was on the ropes. His heat is saved! (27:00) TWENTY-SEVEN MINUTES. Number of wrestling moves: nine. NINE. DUD, and that’s only because negative stars are ridiculous. Amazingly, Taker would top this spectacle of awfulness with his main event against Trips at King Of The Ring. Nothing like a World Title run to get you motivated!

-Face Coach clues in Flair to his refereeing mistake. Flair said “shit”! Call the lawyers!

-WWF Tag Team Title Match-Billy & Chuck w/Rico Vs. Al Snow/Maven:Crowd is DEAD. Oh that wacky WWF card-planning! The faces clear the ring and mock the uber-gay heels, but B&C sneak in some tandem offence on Maven and take charge in the ring. An enzuiguri on Chuck turns the tide and Al tried his luck against the AGD, but he gets clotheslined and neckbreakered for two. Hey, guess what? “Rico’s Gay”! Chuck gets his overhead bell-to-belly variant, and JR still can’t get over that Austin/Undertaker match. I’d say this match probably isn’t the solution to THAT particular ailment. Billy misses his Stinger Splash and Al makes the ice-cold tag, but Maven swiftly chews on a FameAsser. Al saves but gets Jungle Kicked for his troubles, and mistimed Rico kick allows Maven a top-rope cross-body for a nearfall. Chuck gets a second Jungle Kick on Maven, and Billy covers to retain at 6:01. *1/4

-WWF Undisputed Title Match-Triple H Vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan: Hulk is not deserving of having the awesomeness of Voodoo Child as his entrance theme. Despite his waning popularity at the time, Trips’ pop is actually better than his opponent’s. Odd. A series of lock-ups begins the match, and the crowd does a total flip-flop to pro-Hogan and anti-Hunter when the champ gets the better of the situation. They switch to the knuckle-lock test of strength, and they kinda trade the advantage whilst the heat dies a spectacular death. Hunter goes to a wristlock, and a veeery small “Triple H” chant makes the rounds. Hogan fights out and gets a shoulder-block, and King proclaims it a “human chess match”. The comparison is dead-on in terms of spectator excitement. Some more lock-ups, and they pound away on each other in the corner before hitting the floor. Did they even watch the Austin/Taker match? Hogan reverses a suplex on the floor in what would have to be described as a high-spot, then get v-e-r-y gently slammed into the steps. Back inside for some more lighthearted slapping, and Hogan gets two off of a catapult/roll-up combo. Running Diamond Cutter(!) gets two. Trips wiggles free of a slam, however, and goes to work on Hulk’s knee. BIG boos for that. He teases the Figure Four a coupla times, and finally sinks it in after a few minutes, but Hogan rolls over after a comical attempt at selling the agony. Trips breaks and goes to the sleeper, but Hogan “suplexes” his way out. The big boot and leg-drop arrive unexpectedly-but so does Jericho, yanking Earl Hebner outside and smashing Hogan in the face with a chair. Hunter objects to the assistance and casually disposes of the interloper, but Hogan catches him with ANOTHER big boot. Leg-drop misses! Pedigree (mit sad-sack slump sell!), but Hebner remains MIA. And heeeeere’s The Undertaker, taking some chairage to HHH. SMARTEST. MAN. ALIVE. Hulk does the whole “I’m not winning it like THIS” spiel and sends Takie packing, then promptly legdrops the still-unconscious H for the pin at 22:05. Match was booked like Rock-Hogan and played out with one-tenth of the heat. * Hogan celebrates with his sixth-and one would assume last-WWF Title, and a bloody Helmsley offers him the hand of friendship. BOO! The HHH of today would kick his ass and be proud of it.

Final Thought: With the superhot undercard and terrible last hour, this show was like the antithesis of what seems to be the current norm. As a glimpse of a forgotten corridor in the brand-split history it’s a fun enough three hours and, depending on how well Edge’s newly-minted push goes, his match with Angle may become something of a historical curio. But for pure wrestling-which is the only real reason to watch this-there are much better. Recommended, but only if you’ve exhausted your supply of hotter tapes.

(edited by oldschoolhero on 15.4.04 1429)
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#2 Posted on 16.4.04 0719.56
Reposted on: 16.4.11 0723.48
Very good review. Not surprisingly, I had almost completely forgotten about the show, especially the Austin-Undertaker match (didn't even remember he used to be on Raw for a short spell). Virtually the only memory I have of that Backlash is thinking "Ugh! They gave the belt to Hogan???"

Anyways, nice recap.
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