-Quick explanation: I know I started with the Backlash columns a little north of where it's legacy began, but that's mainly because my old recaps of those are still buried on /slash somewhere and my opinion prolly hasn't changed that much. They're there for your edification, if you're really desperate.
-Onto last year’s April offering as, despite the first in-ring appearance of Goldberg, the fed managed to put on an even more forgettable show than the previous year. That’s the quality of a truly special company.
-Comin’ atcha liiiiiiiive from Worcester, MA, your hosts are the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and The Coach, who’s somewhere between the three. The show is immediately ruined for me by the total absence of the Swinging Backlash Scythes. Damn crappy set designers.
-WWE Tag Team Title Match-Team Angle w/The Kurt Angle Memorial Portrait Vs. Los Guerreros w/out Low-Rider: That wheelless Guerreros entrance is just so wrong. MC sells the loss of TA’s captain as a major drawback for them, which could have been used a decent angle had Kurt not turned sucky face upon his return. Haas and Eddie start out with the usual touchy-feely stuff, and Eds grabs a coupla quick twos before leading the crowd in a “Chavo” chant. They switch partners and Shelton and Chavito work the mat a little, then Eddie comes back in and goes to town on the arm. A sneaky Haas knee turns the tide a little, but the Guerreros CHEAT TO...uh, retain control, using all the usual unimaginative stuff that you’d think was beneath them. Chavo gets a nearfall off of a nice belly-to-back, as does Eddie form his slingshot senton. Eddie belly-to-back, but Shelton manages to tag Charlie, who hits a backdrop. And then TA run through the exact same cheating routine that the Guerreros did not three minutes previous. Okay, I get the cute booking, but wouldn’t it have been better to book the heels to break the rules first, then have the challengers cheat even better than they do? This way round it’s hard to point the finger at the champs as bad people, as MC rightly points out. Anyhoo, Shelton suplexes Eddie for a two count, and the future WGTT nail their Bangers-like Head-O-Steam double-team. Haas goes to the chinlock, and the crowd is starting to get REALLY restless with the flagging pace. Eddie muscles free and manages another belly-to-back, but Haas cuts him off with a nice spinebuster and brings in Shelton. More Hot Chinlock Action, and a sweet amateur-style powerslam gets two. And back to the chinlock we go. It’s hard to reconcile these two greenies with the well-rounded performers the two have become today. Haas gets a backbreaker and stretches Eds out, but he headscissors his way free and finally makes the hot tag. Chavo tosses the evildoers back and forth and back-breaks Haas for a nearfall, but Shelton cuts him off with brutal powerbomb. Eddie nails him with a missile-dropkick, however, and the Three Amigos puts Charlie down for another two-count. Frog splash, but Shelton makes the save and he and Eddie take their brawl to the floor. Chavo tries for a belly-to-back on Haas in the ring but Shelton grabs his legs, giving Haas the cheap pin at 15:03. A fairly enjoyable opener, but the downtime in the middle (ie. Team Angle running roughshod over Eddie) really exposed the champions’ weaknesses at the time. *** TA share their triumph with the Kurt Angle photo, but Chavo wipes them out with a pescado and those pesky Mexicans high-tail it with the straps.
-Test does some sleazin’ onto Torrie, whilst Sable watches on with her nasty old-lady elbows.
-Sean O’Haire w/Rowdy Roddy Piper w/Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts Vs. Rikishi: I still get a grin out of Piper’s entrance. The same cannot be said of O’Haire’s awful 80s-hair-music packaging. Rikishi gets the better of a brawl on the floor and gets his ultra-loose Samoan drop in the ring, which is an indicator of match-length if ever I saw one. Piper blows a trip but Rikishi sells it anyway, and Sean kicks him in the face and pulls off a nice lariat for a two-count. Neck vice! Whoo. Rikishi makes the Big fat Samoan Comeback, but O’Haire escapes the stinkface and both guys eat boot in an uber-contrived spot. And now Piper’s back in the ring, clutching a coconut and looking mighty confused. This is just sad. Rikishi disarms him and breaks it over his head, but walks straight into O’Haire’s spin-cycle spinebuster for the pin at 4:55. Piper seemed entirely unaware of where he was and O’Haire looked both lost and goofy on offence. But hey, he’s got great-looking kicks, so they obviously missed the boat on him. DUD
-Sable snitches out Torrie to Stacy. Okay, so it’s given that she wouldn’t watch the show on a monitor because nobody ever does, but why in the name of Moses would Stacy suddenly decide to trust proven bitch Sable over old friend Torrie? Oh wait, she’s a valet and obviously mentally deficient.
-World Tag Team Title Match, Special Referee: Chief Morley: RVD/Kane Vs. The Dudley Boyz: Ah, for the heady days of tag-team feuds, no matter how crappy they may be. Bubba nails van Dam as Coach talks up the Dudleys’ face/heel inner turmoil, then the two ECW alumni do the ol’ “fists-up stand-off” to a less-than-stellar reaction. RVD gets a heel kick for a measly one-count and goes for the shoulder-thrusts, but Bubba rips his head off with a clothesline and tags D-Von. That fares badly for the challengers, with van Dam hitting a legdrop for a nearfall and Kane smashing him with a big boot. D-Von gets a flying clothesline for a two of his own and tags Bubba, who hits a facebuster for two. Spinebuster puts the champs back in control, and RVD beats Bubba down in the corner and hits a split-legged moonsault for two. Monkey flip is blocked, however, and Bubba sidewalk slams him, setting up the Wassup headbutt. Are they still using that? I pay so little attention during their matches that I can’t remember. D-Von’s patented corkscrew elbow gets two and goes to the chinlock, which is broken when Bubba kicks van Dam square in the face. Hey, a neck vice! Christ, I could write a book on that move after this week. RVD fights up and hits an inverted enzuiguri, which means it’s hot tag time. All Hell breaks loose with Kane slamming D-Von and van Dam hitting Rolling Thunder on Bubba. D-Von takes him out with his swank-times-infinity second-rope neckbreaker, but walks straight into Kane’s flying lariat. Chokeslam is set up, but Morley finally reveals his true colors with a nutshot on Kane. Bubba covers for two and Morley freaks out, rolling Kane to the floor. A van Dam-aimed lariat is dodged and Morley levels Bubba by accident, sending D-Von into a fit of rage. He pounds the chief into hamburger but gets wiped out by a Lance Storm springboard clothesline, whom in turn stumbles straight into a big ol’ Bubba Bomb. Morley eats a 3D but Bubba walks into a chokeslam, and van Dam finishes with the Five-Star at 13:01. The return to facedom of the Dudleys was really well-handled and the crowd was going insane for the end sequence, but I can’t but feel they missed the boat by not turning Bubba full-on psychopathic heel and giving him a singles push. **½
-Stacy confronts Torrie in the oddly-packed women’s locker room. Victoria seems strangely excited at the prospect of a naughty catfight.
-Women’s Title Match-Trish Vs. Jazz w/Theodore Long: Whoa, deja vu. Teddy raps a little for Worcester playas, if ya feelin’ me. Trish has yet another lame-ass injury/excuse coming in, this time from a Bubba Dudley attack the previous week. She gets a coupla quick two-counts in the early-going but Jazz goes straight for her injured midsection, hitting a backbreaker and her wicked chickenwing drop. A Trish gutwrench gets another two, as does a backslide, and Jazz schoolgirls her for two. “Mike Tyson-like” jabs and Trish fires back with some good-looking forearms, but Jazz blocks the corner-rana into a Boston crab. Trish turns it into a roll-up for two, and Jazz reverses that for two. Trish goes to a crab of her own, then turns it into the STF! Hers is nowhere near as cool as Jazz’s, of course. The challenger makes the ropes, but walks right into the Chick Kick for two. Jazz dropkick for two, and Trish pulls the Stratusfaction out of nowhere, but “Random Task” Teddy throws his shoe at her to break up the count. And then he blames a fan! That’s such a goofy-cool thing to do-we need more managers like Teddy. Jazz capitalises with a roll-up, and grabs the bottom rope to ensure the three-count at 5:49. Not as good as their match the previous year. *1/2
–The babyface team for that big huge six-man RAW match do some awkwardly-scripted interplay. Kevin Nash=CHARISMA.
-The Big Show Vs. Rey Mysterio: Hey, Psycho Show! Maybe April’s his bad month or something. This was such a horrendous idea from the outset, and the finish of this match could hardly have been signposted more by the fact that a)They bill Show as weighing three times as much as Mysterio, and b)The entire rivalry is built not on Rey pinning him at any point, but knocking him on his ass a coupla times. GENIUS. Rey leads Show ‘pon a merry chase around ringside and scores with a baseball slide, but Show catches hold of him in the ring and slaps the crap outta him. Backbreaker, but Rey lands on his feet off of a press slam and goes to work on the legs. Show swats him away like a fly, but doesn’t pay enough attention and takes a chair to the head behind the ref’s back. Top-rope cannonball...for two. Rey Rey keeps up the pressure with three 619s, but Show catches the West Coast Pop attempt and KILLS him with a chokeslam for the win at 3:47. The whole concept was fucking stupid, but Rey’s sick-ass bumping deserves some credit. 3/4* Cole and Tazz talk up Mysterio's X-Pac-like heart as he’s loaded onto a stretcher but Show ruins the party, swinging the bound li’l gipper into the ringpost like a baseball bat. Okay, that was pretty cool, even if it did give Rey a concussion.
-Triple H’s team play Spin The Heel Make The Deal. Flair’s ranting interview is genuinely insane.
-And there’s a wee bit of time for some more Leathery Blond Strippers’ Theatre. In this case the leathery blond is Scott Steiner, rescuing Stacy from a nasty knock with a plastic tray. And Test, wouldntcha know, does not like THAT.
-WWE Title Match-Brock Lesnar Vs. John Cena: Cripes. Remember when heel Cena versus face Lesnar seemed like a good idea? Cena’s pre-match rhyming, reeling off famous former champs, blows away anything he’s done since Christmas. He jumps Brock at the bell but loses control quickly, with Brock mauling him and hitting two backbreakers and a fallaway slam. A pair of vertical suplexes get two, and he works a facelock before turning into a fisherman’s throw. Press slam, and Brock leisurely clotheslines his quarry over the top rope. He tosses Cena around for a while and takes it back inside, but Cena bails and takes over when Brock follows, smashing him into the steps and re-opening a wound from an angle I can’t remember. That was pretty much Cena’s first piece of offence, and we’re like six minutes gone. Belly-to-back gets two in the ring, and he stomps Brock down with some kickin’ and chokin’. Nicely-executed Jerry Lynn-style 2nd-rope legdrop sends Brock sliding out to the floor, and Cena throws him into the post. Back to the ring, and we...wait for it...HIT THE CHINLOCK. Am I just missing their occurrence, or has the number of chinlocks fallen drastically recently? Brock escapes but gets DDTed for two, then spinebusts Cena to put both guys down.
Cena gets the upper hand upon recovery and scores a nearfall off of a clothesline, then takes a page from his foe’s book with a chinlock/grapevine combo. Hey, a Cena chant! Brock battles up and knocks Cena off of his back in the corner, then hits a coupla powerslams for a coupla near falls. He seems really sluggish here for some reason, and not in an “I’m selling, me” way. Maybe that old broken rib was bothering him. Cena scores two with a low blow and a schoolboy-hey, it beat Bradshaw-and the Throwback, but makes the mistake of going for the chain and eats an F5 at 15:14. Putting the ass-backwards face/heel dynamic aside for the moment, the whole match was booked as midcarder versus main-eventer, with Brocky literally killing Cena dead before Cena got in some lucky cheating to retain control for a while. It’s position on the card-sandwiched between the Holy Shit Rey Rey spot and the dual RAW main events-hurt the perception of it as a headline match in it’s own right, and Cena’s inexperience at carrying the meat of a match didn’t help matters, either. What I wouldn’t give to see this one with today’s Cena....**1/4
-Six Man Tag Team Match-Booker T/Shawn Michaels/Kevin Nash Vs. Chris Jericho/Ric Flair/HHH: Speaking of ass-backwards booking...Trips and Nash tease blowing off their epic rivalry at the start of the match, but tag out to Shawn and Jericho without exchanging blows. Good move. Back and forth go the armdrags and such, and Shawn gets a quick sunset flip, which leads to one of those pinfall exchanges that all the kids are talking about. A Jericho forearm stops that and he tries for the Walls, but Shawn spins free and tags Big Sexy Sexerton. He throws Jericho about a bit in his usual charming fashion, then takes a breather and brings in Booker who, SHOCKINGLY, gets a good crowd reaction from the fans. 110th Street Slam gets two, as does a really really bad second-rope flapjack. The tides turn as Booker gets sent to the heel corner, however, and Hunter comes in to pick his WrestleMania bones clean. Booker has other plans, however, hitting a sidekick for two and nailing all three heels. An H spinebuster halts his run, and heeeere’s Naitch. Booker powders out to Shawn, and he beats on Flair a little and disposes of his partners, then looks to finish things with some Suh-Weet Chin Music, but after Ric hits the deck Hunter sneaks in a Pedigree to make it a stalemate. Flair drags himself up first and tags Jericho, who smashes Shawn nicely into the face-in-peril mold. H gets a nearfall off of a high knee, and Flair and Jericho go to work on the knee and back respectively. Brawl with Flair, and Shawn kills him dead with an enzuiguri, then gets a shoulderblock for two. Good thing it wasn’t Undertaker behind that move, or Flair would be out for the count. Hot tags! Hunter! Nash! A dead crowd! Nash slams all three heels and hits Snake Eyes on Trip, then sidewalk slams him for a two count. Flair stops by for some no-sold chops before Booker drags him outside, and Nash blocks a bulldog and sets up a Jacknife on Hunter. Jericho dropkicks him before he can pull it off, however. Booker clears him out with an ax kick and treats us all to the Spinerooni, then retires to the floor and hides his face in shame as the finishing sequence gears up. Nash and H take their fight to the aisle as Flair and Shawn rock it in the ring, and that soon becomes a handicap situation when Jericho stops a second Sweet Chun Music attempt. Flair capitalises with the Figure Four and Jericho rubs salt in the wound with a LionSault, but Nash breaks up the party, sending Flair crashing into the ref in the process. Jacknife on the poor, defenceless Jericho, but Hunter cracks Nash with his sledgehammer for the stupid, stupid pin at 17:52. Oy, where to start. First of all the men with the pen played the “Which side is Nash on?” card far too early in the storyline, using it as mere build-up to this match rather than a selling-point of the bout itself. THEN, despite wanting to establish Nash as the next big challenger for the Big Gold Belt, they book that DUMB-ASS finish for no apparent reason. It’s no wonder the fans shat all over the HHH/Nash program. The match itself was okay for what it was, but the extremely limited mobility of the principal participants resulted in that closing sequence being about half as exciting as it should have been. **½
-Tazz removes his shades to sell the seriousness of the Mysterio situation. Riiight.
-The Rock cuts his now-famous face-as-a-heel promo for the main event. It’s good and all, but if the fans were as into Goldberg as hoped in the first place then it would have had no effect whatsoever. Besides, there is an argument to be made that, with the bulging eyes and nervous tics, Rocky was shooting for “subtle fear” rather than “cocky and proud of it”.
-The Rock Vs. Goldberg: Rock’s Jerry Bruckheimer entrance is the stuff of legend. Time for some Coach wisdom: “Goldberg is a man amongst men!” Indeed. Duelling “Rocky” and “Goldberg” chants greet the opponents. Lock-up, and Goldberg gets the better of it, which somehow turns the entire crowd pro-Rocky. Rock does the moronic thing and slaps ‘Berg, which leads to him being smacked to the floor. And now the crowd plumps for Billy-boy. Weird. Rocky heads for the aisle for some thinly-veiled stallage, then hangs Goldie over the top rope and throws a few rights. Berg cuts him off...with a Rock Bottom! The spear is readied, but Rock does the ol’ “I’ll dodge and you hit the ringpost” trick, with a priceless facial expression to boot. Sharpshooter is applied and Goldberg makes the ropes, shouting “Get him offa me!” in not-very-tough-guy fashion. Low blow and Rocky readies his own Rock Bottom, but he’s shrugged off and cut down with a spear. Powerslam gets two. Rocky throws a few ineffectual clotheslines and a BAD spear, then hits Rock Bottom...for two. That finisher is just so dead now it’s not even funny. Spinebuster and the People’s Elbow gets another heart-in-mouth count, and ‘Berg springs up with crazy-nasty spear! A second is greeted a very vocal “Goldberg Sucks” chant, but that doesn’t stop ‘em counting the three after a Jackhammer at 13:04. Not as bad a match as history labels it, but still south of “good”. *1/4 ‘Berg celebrates with the flip-floppin’ fans, and Coach proclaims it “a new era”. That’s what, fourteen since 2001?
Final Thought: My lord what a colorless show. No great matches, no great angles, and only the first appearance of Goldberg as any real incentive to watch. And even the freakshow value of that has ben negated by the hilarious reactions to his swansong at WrestleMania. The wrestling’s so inoffensive as to be totally forgettable, so unless you’ve got an interest in seeing some badly-botched booking decisions I’d steer clear of this one.
Welcome, everyone, to another EXCLUSIVE, JAM-PACKED edition of Inside The Ropes. I'm Canadian Bulldog, better known to many as Peanut Head. We've got a ton to get to this week (pun not intended!!!), but first, a quick confession: