Assorted April PPV Countdown: Backlash 2003

The SmarK Rant for Backlash 2003

“As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. And really, that’s all this is, except that instead of sucking water, I’m sucking life. I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don’t know what that would do to you, so let’s just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity, so… be honest. How do you feel?”?

Sometimes a show just leaves you with no choice but to quote The Princess Bride. (2012 Scott sez:  One of those movies where I’m compelled to drop everything and watch it if it’s on TV.  Thankfully I haven’t checked if it’s on Netflix because otherwise I’d never get any work done.)  – As most of you have probably figured out or read by now, when I do PPVs, I watch them live with friends the first time through, and then take the tape home and watch it alone for the actual rant. (Those of you who have noted about my differing reactions to live and delayed shows will understand the logic behind this method, I’m sure.)  This was one of those shows where I wasn’t looking forward to watching it and once I had watched it, I wasn’t looking forward to watching it again. Why? Well, first and foremost it wasn’t a card that held promise in either direction for my best work – I’m most proficient with shows that are either uniformly terrible or uniformly great, and the bland buildup and dull card for this one didn’t exactly foreshadow either outcome. (Sound familiar?) Second, a bunch of guys I like watching, like Benoit, Rhyno and Matt Hardy to name three, were absent from the card for absolutely no reason other than the writers being unable to think of any way to make them fit.  (Sound familiar? Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, etc.)  Third, the issues developed in a couple of matches aren’t leading anywhere I have any interest in seeing, and what’s worse, they’re the matches that are supposed to headline the next PPV. This is a company that’s supposed to have the deepest talent pool in history, so deep they needed to split into two separate brands because gosh darnit there’s just so much talent, and what’s the next programs to carry the company? Brock-Big Show in a program that didn’t draw the first two times we saw it (which was only two months ago), and Nash-HHH in a program that’s being booked to amuse basically five guys while entire crowds sit on their hands.  (Good thing they’d be smart enough to avoid going that route in 2011.  Oh, wait.)  Why the fuck am I supposed to be excited about either one of those? Or Nathan Jones & Undertaker v. The FBI, for that matter. Or Hulk Hogan limping to the ring as Mr. America. Are there actually people (i.e. Vince) who are sitting there and thinking this stuff is INTERESTING? There used to be a time when TSN pre-empting RAW for hockey would piss me off for days, now I’m more curious about whether Anaheim can go up 3-0 on Dallas than I am about whether Nash & HHH will reconcile.  (Anaheim made it to the Stanley Cup finals that year, in fact, but lost to New Jersey.  In case you’re curious.)  And when were Nash & HHH ever FRIENDS in the storylines, to begin with? It’s all the little things like that which annoy me the most, and the overall product is boring me to tears right now, which is why you’re reading this rant as late as you are, because I can’t be bothered to stay up until 2AM recapping the same crap month after month if they can’t be bothered to give me something I’m entertained by. – Update: Although I typed the above up at 12:00, I was still so unmotivated to watch the show that I decided to take a walk and pick up some groceries first, just so I could formulate some more thoughts. – Live from Worcester, MA. – Your hosts are Coach, King, Cole & Tazz. – Weird thing about the opening video package is that they use the numbers from Goldberg’s WCW winning streak to hype the match, but they never really ACKNOWLEDGE that streak or his past history on RAW while building up to the match. – Opening match, Smackdown tag titles: Team Angle v. Los Guerreros. Team Angle has a very classy portrait of Kurt Angle with them for inspiration, which you’d think would fall under the Birthday Cake Rule. Eddie jockeys with Haas to start and takes him down, but Haas floats over for two. Eddie works on a headlock and overpowers him for two. Small package gets two as Eddie goes for the quick win, and Haas backs off. Why the Guerreros are cool: Because Chavo actually uses the tag rope, although to be fair, so does Benjamin. Speaking of which, they tag in and Chavo gets caught in a wristlock, but gets an awkward legbar takedown for two, which Benjamin reverses for two. Chavo goes for the arm and Eddie helps out on it and pounds Benjamin with forearms for two. Chavo stays on the arm with a cross armlock, but Benjamin makes the ropes. Speaking of which, Undertaker was at the UFC on Friday night, presumably teaching all the kids how to do a proper triangle choke. (I’d like to see him coaching on Ultimate Fighter and teaching sledgehammer defense while applying a gogoplata.)  A little cheating by the Guerreros keeps Shelton in the Latino corner, and ref distraction allows Chavo to choke him out with the tag rope. Good man, although Cole justifies it with “Turnabout is fair play”, which is not only trite, but incorrect, since Team Angle hasn’t cheated yet.  (Also, if turnabout is fair play, then how come two wrongs don’t make a right?)  Chavo tosses him and Eddie pounds him on the floor, and Chavo hits a backdrop suplex for two. Eddie comes in with the hilo dive for two. Another backdrop suplex seems to shake up Benjamin, and he tags out to Haas and sits in the corner for a while. Haas gets a backdrop and Benjamin recovers with some choking of his own, and a suplex for two. Leapfrog choke gets two for Haas. Haas stomps away with malice for two, and hits the chinlock. Eddie suplexes out with the nastiest backdrop in wrestling, but Haas does a nice takedown to cut off the tag. Team Angle switches off without a tag (Sure, I can see how the ref would mix them up…) and Benjamin cuts off the tag again with a leglock. I would have popped huge if he had locked in the heelhook like Minoru Tanaka. Powerslam gets two, and he hits the chinlock, wearing Eddie down into a pinning predicament for two. Haas comes in and stomps away again, into a backbreaker submission move. Haas tries a gutwrench, but Eddie reverses to a flying headscissors, and then dives into the hot tag to Chavo. He cleans house with dropkicks and backdrops and all that fun stuff, and Team Angle collides in the corner. Suplex gets two on Haas. Benjamin kills him dead with a powerbomb, but Eddie comes off the top with a missile dropkick and then starts with the rolling vertical suplexes on Haas. Chavo crawls over for two. He gets another dropkick and Eddie comes in uninvited with a frog splash, thus earning him a trip back to the apron again. Chavo gets two regardless, but Benjamin pulls him off at two. Chavo suplexes Haas, but Benjamin trips him up and hangs on to give Haas the pin at 15:03. Chavo dives onto the celebrating champions, but the picture survives the attack, and Los Guerreros steal the titles to add another cliché to the mix. Good match, although nothing you haven’t seen on Smackdown a million times. ***  (The Guerreros eventually did regain the belts on the same show as the Brock-Angle iron man match, although by then there were much bigger plans for Eddie in the works anyway.  And I feel like this was underrated by me.)  – Meanwhile, Test forces himself on Torrie. – Sean O’Haire v. Rikishi. O’Haire meets the stairs right away as they brawl outside, and Rikishi gets a pair of clotheslines back in and a samoan drop. Piper tries to interfere and gets caught, allowing O’Haire to get a superkick and take over. That whole sequence was really poorly done. Piper gets some lame shots in, and O’Haire hits him with a corner clothesline and a lariat for two. Crowd completely loses interest as he goes to a neck vice. Why they completely forced O’Haire to change his high-flying style to this lumbering heavyweight WWE style is beyond me, but it’s not for the better. The crowd gets annoyed by security taking a beach ball away and O’Haire gets two. Why does security take beach balls away, anyway? I mean, god forbid people have fun at a show they’re paying $50-$100 to see. (Only WWE Approved Fun is allowed, carried out with precision so as to meet TV taping guidelines and remain within standards set by the network sponsors.  All rights reserved.) They exchange missed kicks and Rikishi splashes him in the corner twice to set up a Stinkface, which O’Haire blocks. Piper comes in loaded for bear with a coconut, as Rikishi & O’Haire kick each other into unconsciousness. Yeah, that’s what this match needed, a spot where both guys are out. Piper comes in again with the coconut, obviously missing his cue the first time, and Rikishi hits him with it, but falls prey to O’Haire’s spinebuster for the pin at 4:52. You know, with Jeff Hardy off to make “music” and sulk for a living, the swanton bomb is free again. Piper blades off the coconut shot, and the physics of that elude me, unless it’s a REALLY abrasive shell. This doesn’t bode well for O’Haire. -*1/2  (To say the least.  What a disaster that character change turned out to be.)  – Meanwhile, Torrie rats out Test to Stacy. I’ll save you the 15 minutes of character development that these segments entailed and just summarize the main points: Test is a lying fuckhead and Sable is a conniving bitch. – RAW tag titles: Kane & RVD v. The Dudley Boyz. Chief Morley is YOUR special guest referee. I don’t know how they’ve managed to take a feud with 10 different things going on at once and make it so boring, but they have. Sign in the front row: We Miss Regal. I guess HHH is making the signs now, too. Bubba hammers RVD to start and they do an awkward reversal sequence that goes nowhere. Bubba clotheslines him, but Rob gets a leg lariat for two. He walks into a lariat, allowing Bubba to bring in D-Von, but Rob catches him with the legdrop for two. Kane comes in and works the arm, and drops an elbow, then no-sells some offense from D-Von. They mess up a simple irish whip reversal spot and Kane gets a boot for two. D-Von clotheslines him for two. Bubba comes in and Kane controls him with clotheslines and pounds away in the corner, but D-Von cheapshots him and Bubba bulldogs him for two. Kane comes back with a MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER for two. Rob comes in and gets the moonsault for two. Bubba blocks the monkey flip with a sideslam, and the Dudleyz get the Whazzup Drop. D-Von gets the spinning elbow for two, and he hits the chinlock. Bubba comes in with his own. I’ve had warm milk and antihistamine smoothies that were less effective at putting me to sleep than this match. Finally Kane gets the hot tag and hits his usual stuff, then fights off the Dudleyz’s double team attempt. RVD tags in with a missile dropkick on D-Von and hits Bubba with Rolling Thunder. D-Von hits him with the neckbreaker out of the corner, but Kane clotheslines him off the top. Morley decides to go low on Kane and gives Bubba two. With that plan having failed, he tosses Kane and charges RVD, but hits Bubba by mistake. D-Von goes after him to get revenge, but Lance Storm charges in and gets disposed of. Morley starts pounding Bubba, but gets 3D’d out of the match, leaving us without a ref. You’d think that would be a DQ at the very least. Kane cleans house and RVD finishes Bubba with a frog splash as another ref comes in to count the pin at 13:01. Boring match with an overbooked finish that’ll probably result in some form of Dusty Finish tonight on RAW. *1/2  (I think the Duds ended up with the belts, but I can’t be bothered to care enough to check.)  – Meanwhile, Stacy confronts Torrie in the women’s locker room, where not only are a bunch of girls who aren’t even on the card hanging out, but Ivory is there wearing a towel. Did she just decide to have a shower for the hell of it?  (These days they’d be dressed in bathing suits from the Depression.)  – Women’s title: Trish Stratus v. Jazz. Jazz works a hammerlock to start, but Trish takes her down with La Majestral for two. Jazz hammers her on the back and gets a backbreaker, but Trish gets a clothesline for two. Jazz pounds her down again into the double chickenwing, and she stays on the back. Trish reverses a backbreaker into a gutwrench suplex that gets two, but Jazz takes her down again and buttdrops her. Trish gets a backslide, but the ref is distracted with Long and it only gets two. Jazz rolls her up for two, and starts slugging away, but Trish fires back. Trish charges and hits boot, and then the handstand rana is reversed to a Boston Crab by Jazz. Trish powers out and gets two, but Jazz reverses for one. Trish goes for the Crab herself, and then turns it into the STF in a nice touch. Jazz makes the ropes with Teddy’s help. Trish starts slugging away again and kicks her down for two. Jazz comes back with a jawbreaker and a dropkick for two. Trish escapes a suplex and hits the bulldog, but Teddy “Random Task” Long breaks up the pin by throwing his shoe at her, and then blames Whitie. Who throws a shoe? Honestly. Jazz cradles for two, and then blocks a sunset flip by holding the ropes and gets the pin and the title at 5:50. That’s probably as good as the women’s division is getting these days. **1/2 – Rey Mysterio v. Big Show. (Why would you bring in Mysterio and then immediately stick him in there against the biggest guy on the roster instead of protecting him?)  Sign in crowd: Big Show Loves Cher. Even this crowd’s SIGNS suck. Rey evades Show to start, and then dropkicks him coming in and pounds away in the corner. Show tosses him around, however, and Rey bails. Back in, Show catches him with a backbreaker. Show whips him into the corner and chokes away. I think this match came about because Vince visualized Rey doing all the “big man/little man” spots and bumping for Show, not caring about the damage it does to expose Rey like this. Show smacks him out of the ring, so Rey grabs a chair and nails Show behind the ref’s back. Back in with a Bombs Away that gets two. Rey gets three 619s to bring Show down, but he no-sells all of it and chokeslams Rey to finish the squash at 3:45, drawing no reaction for the win. Thus you’ve killed Rey’s finisher, made him look like a jobber, and annoyed the fans with regards to a guy who’s supposed to be challenging for the title next month. Rey does a stretcher job that no one buys, and Show then reappears and smashes the prone and helpless Rey into the post, dropping him on his head and nearly killing him in the process. I still can’t believe there are people who are paid to sit around and think of stuff like this as actual good ideas towards getting ANYONE over. DUD Further, you can’t even call this PPV caliber – there’s no reason why they couldn’t have this on Smackdown.  (Rey ended up doing OK for himself, obviously, but talk about counterproductive booking.)  – The backstage drama ends with Steiner yet again saving Stacy from Test. Who in their right mind would consider Scott Steiner, who openly brags about his sexual escapades as part of his pre-match spiel, to be a better choice of boyfriend than Test? Does anyone stop and consider the characters these people play before they write this stuff?  (Oh man, the Test-Steiner feud…good times.)  – Smackdown World title: Brock Lesnar v. John Cena. Cena busts what we from the hood call a “weak rhyme” before the match, and he attacks to start. Brock hammers him with knees and gets his triple backbreaker into a blockbuster slam. Vertical suplexes get two, and Brock goes to a facelock. You start throwing knees from that position and it’s over. Wrestling people don’t think that way, but I just wanted to point that out. He turns that into a fisherman’s suplex and then gorilla presses Cena before clotheslining him to the floor. Back in, Cena bails again, but gets pounded outside. Brock meets the stairs, however, and Cena takes over as a result. Brock starts bleeding, and they head back where Cena gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two, and Cena chokes him down. Elbow gets two. Reverse elbow gets two. He shoulderblocks Brock to the apron and chokes him on the ropes, then guillotines him with a legdrop to put him out again. Brock hits the post and they head back in, where Cena gets two. The excitement by Cole & Tazz isn’t shared by the crowd or anyone else. Cena hits the chinlock as I stop to ask this question: Why is it that a match like Hogan v. Vince, with two guys who don’t need the heat or the help, are given multiple ref bumps, table breaking, ladders and Roddy Piper in every effort to make it into a *** match by hook or by crook and entertain the fans, but two guys like Brock & Cena, who NEED to get over by any means in order to ensure the survival of the company, are left out here to die with a dull main event style match worked by two guys who aren’t ready to carry a main event on their own?  (Yeah, that John Cena, he needs all the help he can get to make it to main event level!) Brock escapes the chinlock, but Cena DDTs him for two. Clothesline gets two. Back to the chinlock and he gets the hooks in. Let’s go back to that point again, as you can even consider something like Test-Shane from Summerslam 99. It’s obvious they KNOW how to book show-stealing matches that make stars, and if ever there was a time to do so, it’s now. Trying to retrain fans to like wrestling is one thing, but there’s no “wrestling” here, it’s just the usual kick-and-punch offense that we’ve seen millions of times before. If you have nothing new to say with the match, it’s not going to say anything new. That seems obvious, sure, but that’s what they’re attempting to do – train guys in the homogenized WWE Main Event style until everyone is the same bland muscular mat-wrestler and then throw them out there together in interchangeable matches that the fans don’t care about. (And that’s what we have today.)  Brock makes the comeback and gets a powerslam for two, as the fans start to turn on him. They do a ref-bump fakeout and Cena goes low for two. Cena gets the somersault neckbreaker (Which we’ll call the Broken Record for lack of anything better from the announcers) for two, and Brock powers him into the corner. Cena grabs the chain, but the ref stops him, and Brock finishes with the F5 at 15:11. Throwing them out there for 15 minutes was suicide and it totally exposed both guys as not being ready. Even an 8-minute match would have fine, or throwing Benoit in there to make it a three-way and letting them both learn from him. The match, such as it was, had no real storyline to it, no psychology for the fans to follow and the finish was anticlimactic. *1/2 (Hopefully their rematch 9 years later will be better.)  – Chris Jericho, HHH & Ric Flair v. Shawn Michaels, Booker T & Kevin Nash. The total non-reaction to Nash’s entrance is both sad for someone making as much as he does, and funny for the same reason. All the excuses that apply to everyone else squashed by HHH over the past year – Can’t work, isn’t over, gets hurt too often – apply to Nash in SPADES and yet he’s shot to the top again with his buddy despite no justifiable reason to do so. That, my friends, is WCW logic. Speaking of WCW logic, Coach & Lawler stop and talk about the Clique as though fans at large know what they’re talking about, and then Coach notes that it was a long time ago and now they’re enemies. But since they’ve never even crossed paths in WWE canon, then logically you’d either have to conclude that they’re still friends behind the scenes (going by what those people who know about the Clique would know today) or else they were never friends to begin with (going by what those people who don’t read the internet would know). You can’t bring in a storyline point known by only 0.5% of the viewing audience and then act like it’s a big deal when HHH turns on Nash and expect it to draw money. That’s the same thing that happened to Vince Russo, with many of the same people oddly enough, and it’s crazy thinking. (2003 was not a strong year for WWE Creative in the least.)  Nash starts with HHH, but they both tag out to Michaels & Jericho without making contact. That fits with Nash’s usual workrate. Shawn jockeys with Jericho and neither guy can get their suplex, but Shawn rolls him up for two and Jericho reverses for two. Another round of that and they go into the Flair pinfall reversal sequence until Jericho slugs him down. Jericho goes for the Walls, but Shawn reverses out of it and brings in Big Poochie. Nash tosses Jericho, but stops to have an exciting jaw session with HHH and gets attacked from behind by Y2J. He boots Jericho down, however, and Booker comes in with a whiplash slam on Jericho that gets two. He chops away, but a charge hits elbow. He comes back with a flapjack for two, but gets caught in the heel corner. HHH comes in, but Booker kicks him down for two. HHH comes back with a facecrusher and chops away, but Booker slugs back. Flair and Jericho try working him over, but Booker fights out, only to walk into a MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER from HHH. Booker brings in Shawn, however, and he goes after Flair and atomic drops HHH. Forearm for Flair sets up the superkick, but HHH Pedigrees him to prevent a pinfall. Jericho comes in and gets two off that. Shawn & HHH slug it out, and HHH USES THE KNEE for two. Flair’s figure-four attempt is reversed for two. Shawn slugs Flair down, but Ric hangs onto the leg and allows Jericho to come back in with a backdrop suplex on Shawn. We hit the chinlock and Shawn powers out, but Jericho clotheslines him down again. HHH starts working the leg now, which sets up Flair’s usual efforts en route to the figure-four. They exchange chops and Shawn gets an enzuigiri. The sad thing is that you’ve got these six guys, and the match I’m curious to see now is Shawn v. Flair.  (I’d have to wait a while for that one.)  Shawn tackles him down for two. Shawn makes the “hot” tag to Nash, which the crowd seems to be less than thrilled about, and Big Lazy cleans house with slams as everyone jumps into his arms and bumps for him. Big boot for Jericho and Snake Eyes for HHH (who audibly calls “sideslam” on the way down) and indeed that follows as Nash gets two. Jericho tries hammering on the Nash Machine in the corner, but he too falls victim to the Mighty Sideslam. Nash powers out of the Pedigree using Prell Power, but Jericho breaks up the powerbomb with a missile dropkick. That’s the first time in the match that Nash has left his feet. Booker hammers on Jericho to set up the axe kick, and he superkicks Flair and Spinaroonies. Jericho gets dumped and Booker follows him out while Nash & HHH discuss hair-care secrets in the aisle under the pretext of fighting. Shawn slams Flair in the ring and goes for another superkick, but Jericho breaks it up with a bulldog and Flair gets the figure-four. Nash starts dissembling the ringside table, but decides not to powerbomb HHH onto it and inside takes on both Jericho & Flair in the ring. The ref is bumped in a contrived spot that takes 10 minutes to set up, and Nash powerbombs Jericho, but falls victim to HHH’s trusty sledgehammer and gets pinned at 17:52. My theory behind the pinfall: The sledgehammer, with the added force of HHH’s hand in front of it and Nash’s own hands clearly in front of his face, totalled the equivalent of a sledgehammer blow PLUS three punches. This was pretty dull stuff overall. **1/2 And how does it build up a title match when HHH has already pinned his challenger?  (Because he clearly…hey, LOOK OVER THERE!) Maybe they can go right to the Hairbrush on a Pole match. – The Rock v. Goldberg. Being that this is the WWE braintrust, the first thing they do is change Goldberg’s music, having not learned the lesson taught by WCW in 1999. It sounds like something off the original Terminator soundtrack, actually. They pay a guy X million dollars a year because he was a big star in WCW, but don’t want him to be associated with WCW any longer. Figure that one out. (I think the actual reason was that they didn’t want to shell out for the WCW music because they figured that they are WWE and infallible and thus fans wouldn’t tell the difference.)  Clearly ignoring JR’s exhortations over the years that this ain’t ballet, Goldberg does leg stretches in the corner to warm up. Rock is clearly the crowd favorite here, thanks to being more entertaining, a better worker, and a WWE product. Very long stall session to start and Goldberg overpowers Rock with the LOCKUP OF DEATH. You know, just because Hulk Hogan got that over 15 YEARS AGO doesn’t mean we still need it today. Another one and Rock bails. Back in, they exchange shots and Goldberg overpowers him again and dumps him. Rock takes a long count to waste more time. WCW was at least smart enough to limit Goldberg to 5 minutes or less. More stalling as Rock waits around outside, and then he catches him with a necksnap and a lariat. Crowd eats that up. Rock slugs away, but gets hit with Goldberg’s version of the Rock Bottom. That’s the first wrestling move from Goldberg in this match. Rock sells it FOREVER and Goldberg tries a spear, but misses and lands on the floor. Yeah, take an indestructible superman character and make him SELL, great plan. Rock gets the Scorpion King Deathlock and holds it for a long time, thus making Goldberg look even weaker, but he makes the ropes. Lawler correctly points out that he took the coward’s way out. There’s no excuse for silly mistakes like that – Goldberg should have powered out. Rock goes low, but Goldberg gets a fluke spear (move #2 on the match) and both guys are out. Goldberg makes the comeback and powerslams him (move #3) and gets two. Goldberg no-sells a couple of clotheslines, but Rock hits him with a spinebuster and kips up, thus turning himself babyface by making Goldberg look like a chump. Rock Bottom gets two. I love Rock like the son I never intend to have, (Although I did have a daughter.)  but this is so manipulative on his part that he’s going to kill Goldberg out of the chute. (Other things did that, but it sure didn’t help.)  Goldberg clotheslines him to cut off the spit-punch (drawing boos), but Rock hits him with a People’s Elbow for two. That spot is just BEGGING for Goldberg to pop up and spear him. Both guys crawl around as the match drags on, and Goldberg spears him. The crowd now totally turns on Goldberg, chanting “Goldberg sucks” while Rock slowly climbs to his feet and gets speared again. Jackhammer (move #4) finishes at 13:04. The only way this could have been ANY worse was if Rock had gone over, and for a minute there I was thinking they might do that, too. This just totally exposed Goldberg as a shitty worker with a limited moveset who’s out there for the paycheque and nothing more. Not that it’s a huge shock, but you can forget him carrying the company over the summer now. 1/2*  (Yup.  I was just watching Goldberg v. Raven and Goldberg v. Hogan today, and it’s night and day how much better the WCW agents were able to lay out the matches to play to Bill’s strengths.  They were short, explosive and didn’t make Goldberg do stuff he couldn’t do.)  The Bottom Line: The post-Wrestlemania suckitude has now set in en force, with the worst PPV of the year so far and worst since Unforgiven. And now that they’ve screwed up all the can’t-miss WCW retreads and still need to fill a three-hour PPV every month, it’s only gonna get worse. Think about THAT and be afraid.  (This was such a forgettable and crappy year for WWE.)  Thumbs down.