I got this done quicker than I expected so I’m uploading this today and will upload Part Three around the weekend. ECW Hardcore TV from 2000 will be up as usual on Wednesday.
Back with some more Backlash Main Event’s, as we cover 2004 to 2008 today. There’s actually a shedload of multi-man matches on this one, which I think was owing to WWE not really knowing what to do post-Mania, so they decided to just throw some people together into Triple Threat and Fatal Four Way matches so that they didn’t have to do an outright WrestleMania rematch (Although the 2004 Main Event is a rematch of a multi-person match)
Anyway, there’s lots of good stuff to enjoy this time, so let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!
Champ: Chris Benoit Vs Triple H Vs Shawn Michaels
Benoit won the Title at WrestleMania XX by making Triple H tap out in a Triple Threat match also including Shawn Michaels, so here’s the rematch. The extra twist this time is that the show is in Chris Benoit’s hometown of Edmonton, meaning that he is massively over but also has extra pressure riding on his shoulders. The video package closes with Michaels and Benoit staring at one another whilst Triple H rises up between them like some sort of movie monster. It’s very well put together. Blog of Doom head honcho Mr. Scott Keith (No relation to Toby) was actually in attendance for this and it’s worth finding his review because his seats were right behind Shane McMahon so he has plenty of good “Shane McMahon reaction” notes. It’s great stuff.
Being that the show is Canada, Shawn is roundly booed during his entrance. WWE would eventually just embrace that the following year in Montreal when Shawn cut one of the all-time best heel promos on Hulk Hogan whilst the crowd fumed along. There are plenty of shots of Benoit’s family at ringside and that’s suitably soul crushing because of how things all turned out. Benoit mugs with the belt in front of both challengers to start, getting big pops as a result. The Our Lady Peace version of Benoit’s entrance theme really is fantastic, one of the best entrance theme remixes I think.
This is like most Triple Threat matches, as two men fight inside whilst the other sells outside, although it benefits from the great atmosphere of the home crowd being into Benoit and hating on the two challengers (Shawn especially). All three men are good workers, so the wrestling is all executed well, with Shawn and Benoit both bumping and selling to a high standard. Triple H is ludicrously swollen here, to the point that it was really effecting his movement inside the ring. Thankfully he would lean up a bit once he returned from a second quad tear in 2007 and it no doubt helped extend his career as a result.
Mike Chioda ends up taking a bump when Shawn catches him with a forearm by mistake, which allows WWE to do their regular trolling of the Canadian fans by sending down Earl Hebner to replace him. I love how WWE likes to complain about how Canadian fans just won’t let Montreal go, yet they always crowbar a Montreal reference into their shows when they actually run Canada. Maybe if you didn’t rub it in their faces all the time then they might not be so pent up about it? It’s not like they reference One Night Only every time they come here to the UK is it? Anyway, Hebner showing up sours the crowd on the match somewhat, and it takes a while to get them focused again due to WWE’s usual goading.
The action in the ring intensifies, with both Triple H and Benoit taking spills to the outside, leading to Shawn climbing to the top rope and trying to dive onto them, only for them both to dodge and Shawn go clattering through the Spanish announce table in a big bump. It never really looked like Shawn was going to actually connect with them even if they hadn’t moved, but it was still a very impressive bump for him to take. Triple H works Benoit over in the ring following that, whilst the crowd lets him know what they think of him. Jerry Lawler’s heel commentator act, which used to be funny in the 90’s, was getting pretty old hat by 2004 and it gets tiresome as the match progresses.
Benoit sells Triple H’s heat segment well before making the comeback with some German suplexes. Benoit tries coming off the top with the diving head butt, but Triple H is able to dodge and there’s no water in the pool. Pedigree follows, but Triple H is too hurt to cover right away, which allows Shawn to break up the pin at two. Shawn takes Triple H down with the running forearm and then kips up to a surge of boo’s, before heading to the top rope for an elbow drop. That means it’s TIME TO TUNE UP THE BAND, but he decides to get Benoit instead of Triple H, which allows Triple H to hit him right in the Hickenbotthom’s for two.
Triple H grabs his trusty sledgehammer following that and drills Shawn with it, but Benoit drags him outside of the ring before he can finish Shawn off, only to take a face first trip into the ring steps for his troubles. Triple H tries to Pedigree Benoit on the steps, but Benoit counters that by catapulting him into the ring post, which sends Triple H careening over the barricades into the front row. Shawn tries to catch Benoit with some chin music back inside, but Benoit counters that into a Sharpshooter and Shawn eventually taps out whilst Triple H desperately tries to crawl in to break up the hold in a great finish.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: CHRIS BENOIT
Another excellent match between these three, as Benoit gets to tap out Shawn to go alongside his tap out victory over Triple H the previous month. This was the peak of Benoit’s WWE career, as he got to Main Event a pay per view event in his hometown and defeat two of the most entrenched top stars in WWE history. It didn’t quite have the same drama as the Mania match to me, but it was still an expertly worked bit of pro wrestling and holds up very well as a match even today.
Champ: Batista Vs Triple H w/ Ric Flair
Batista defeated Triple H for the belt at WrestleMania 21, but Triple H never managed to deliver the Pedigree in that one, so his belief was that if he could get it in the rematch then he’d win the belt back. A good example of simple storytelling that gives Batista something to overcome and gives Triple H a trump card that could help him reverse the result from Mania. Of course Triple H has to actually get him with the move first though.
Ric Flair gets his own entrance so that he can give Triple H a grand introduction prior to the match. Thankfully Flair’s time as on screen lackey for Triple H would be over by the time autumn came around and he’d actually even get to beat Triple H in a cage match at one stage too. At this point though he was still willingly playing the Smithers to Triple H’s Mr. Burns. Indeed, as soon as the match starts he provides a distraction for Batista, which allows Triple H to try the Pedigree right away.
Batista manages to fend him off however and the tries a Demon Bomb in reply, but Triple H is able to fight that off and things settle into a more traditional 70’s styled power match. The fight spills outside, where Triple H gets an unpleasant looking spine buster to Batista onto the barricades before clotheslining him into the front row. They’ve not really given Batista much of a shine there I must say. I’ve never got the WWE’s fascination with taking these big powerful looking guys and forcing them to sell so much when they are babyfaces. It worked with Hogan so they’ve stuck with it ever since, trying it with everyone from Diesel to Batista to Goldberg to Roman Reigns. Funnily enough most of the Bruno Sammartino stuff I’ve seen would suggest he wasn’t that sort of babyface though, as it usually featured him destroying his heel rival for the majority of the match, with his opponent getting some stomps in before summarily getting battered again.
Anyway, Triple H slowly works Batista over, whilst the crowd mostly watches on quietly. Flair gets the odd occasion to cheat as well, throwing Batista into a table at one point before sending him back inside for a Triple H spine buster, which gets two from the ref. Batista does finally get some offence in by throwing Triple H into the ring steps outside the ring, before following up with a power slam back inside the ring. It actually sounds like there are some boo’s from the crowd as he makes his comeback. Flair throws the belt in and distracts the ref, which allows Triple H to get a sly shot with the belt for two. Crowd popped for the kick out at least.
Triple H tries the Pedigree next, but Batista counters out of it once again and goes for a clothesline, but Triple H ducks and the ref gets it instead. Triple H finally gets the Pedigree following that, but the ref is now knocked out and can’t count. This is such a strangely booked match, as Triple H has pretty much dominated the babyface Champ for the majority of it, only to then be outright robbed when he hit his finish clean in the middle but the ref was knocked out. A new ref runs down, just in time for Batista to get a spine buster for two.
Batista gets some clotheslines in the corner, as it again sounds like some fans are booing him, but Triple H kicks the ref low so that Flair can come in and help out. Batista takes care of Naitch, but this allows Triple H to recover and blast him right in the Leviathan’s before going to a ten punch in the corner. This is of course a stupid thing to do when your opponent’s finisher is a power bomb, and Batista promptly Demon Bombs Triple H from that position to pick up the three count from the revived original referee.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: BATISTA
I remembered this one being both pretty dull and also strangely structured, and I was proven correct on this most recent viewing. Batista got over thanks to being a butt kicking enforcer of a heel stable, but as soon as they tried turning him into a top babyface they stripped most of that away from him and made him a guy who sold a bunch who just managed to squeak by in Title defences. Thankfully they essentially rebooted Batista by having him defeat Triple H in a Hell in a Cell match at the next Raw pay per view and then moving him over to Smackdown, where he was booked more as a dominant face who wellied people rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Triple H is furious to have lost and shoves down Flair before spiking the referee with a Pedigree. One could argue that he has every right to be angry following that, as he kind of got robbed. This was to tease dissension between Flair and Triple H, but it ended up all being a SWERVE as Flair and Triple H would eventually put the boots to Batista to set up the feud ending Hell in a Cell match.
Champ: John Cena Vs Edge w/ Lita Vs Triple H
John Cena defeated Triple H at WrestleMania 22, but Triple H wanted another shot. However, Edge was fresh off defeating Mick Foley on the same show and wanted a Title shot too, so a Triple Threat match was booked. It did lead to funny promo segment where Triple H and Edge tore strips off one another whilst Cena looked on amused. In the build-up they did a stupid thing where they kept having handicap matches that ended with one guy standing tall over the other two, which didn’t really add anything to the build and kind of made all three guys look like chumps.
Edge steps out of the ring to start and encourages the other two to fight, which they dutifully do like a pair of idiots. Even Jerry Lawler points out commentary how silly it is for them to just to go at it like that whilst a fresh Edge watches on. Edge even comes in to break up pins, only to then roll out and tell the other two guys to keep fighting, WHICH THEY DO. What a bunch of muppets! Finally Cena and Triple H get it through their thick skulls that they should probably attack the guy whose hanging around outside, which leads to them playing a game of tennis between them with Edges bonce, followed by a game of one-upmanship where they ram Edge’s face into the American announce table.
That alliance quickly dissolves and things turn into a standard Triple Threat match, with two guys going at it whilst another sells on the floor. That makes a sense at least though as the other guy is supposed to be hurt and isn’t just sitting back all fresh whilst the other two go at it like a pair of lemons. Lita gets involved by low bridging Cena when he tries the Five Knuckle Shuffle, which allows Triple H to fling him into the steps for good measure. He recovers to try a double F-U on his opponents, but Edge slips out and Spears him whilst he still has Triple H on his shoulders for a triple down.
Edge recovers the quickest after that and fights with Triple H outside, giving him a catapult into the ring post to bloody him up. Edge adds an implant DDT onto the Spanish announce table following that, which leads to a gory visual of Triple H’s blood going all over the table and chairs. That was absolutely gruesome. Edge takes it to Cena next inside the ring following that, whilst Triple H sells the DDT outside the ring. Cena and Edge had worked together quite a bit by this stage and they were starting to get some chemistry going together, so the action is good.
Cena manages to get Edge in the STFU and Edge looks set to tap, but Triple H stops that by grabbing Edge’s hand, before hitting Cena with a microphone to break the hold. Triple H adds a chair shot to Edge to leave him strewn outside the ring, but gets put into the STFU as soon as he gets back in, bleeding all over Cena’s fingers and arms in another gory visual. Goodness me, did Triple H eat a bucket of Aspirin before this match or something? Triple H does manage to make the ropes after a gutsy struggle, but Cena manages to counter a Pedigree attempt back into the hold, meaning that Edge has to come back in to rescue The Game.
The ref takes a bump in the confusion, which leads to a Tower of Doom spot where Triple H powerbombs the other two down for another triple down. Lita brings a chair into the ring and goes to brain Triple H, but he sees it coming and catches her with a spine buster. Triple H contemplates using the chair, but instead heads outside for his trusty sledgehammer instead, getting a big pop from the crowd in response. Edge gives him a Spear before he can use it though, before grabbing the hammer himself. Cena manages to stop Edge using the hammer, but this allows Triple H to hit him right in the Thuganomics before going for the Pedigree. Cena counters that into a roll up though and that’s enough for the three count.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPION: JOHN CENA
This was really good fun, with non-stop action and a super gory blade job from Triple H really adding to the drama. Triple H decides to be a sore loser and beats the crap out of everyone with the sledgehammer before doing some crotch chops to tease the upcoming DX reunion that would be coming later in the year. This is the sort of match you’d very rarely see in WWE these days due to the banning of the blade, but it really added to the match here, as well done blood often does. You shouldn’t overdo it, but when it’s done well it’s a fantastic dramatic tool.
Champ: John Cena Vs Randy Orton Vs Edge Vs Shawn Michaels
Cena had retained his Title at WrestleMania 23 against Shawn, whilst Edge and Orton had been part of the annual Money in the Bank match. Cena and Shawn had also been doing an angle where they were wacky mismatched Tag Team Champions who couldn’t get along, but they’d ditched that idea not too long after Mania and given the belts to the reunited Hardy Boyz instead. Edge and Orton had been a heel tandem and also Champs prior to Cena and Shawn winning the belts, but they were starting to grow apart by this stage and had been scheduled to wrestle one another on the previous episode of Raw until Cena and Shawn wrestled for an hour in a great match, causing the Main Event to be cancelled.
As far as I can remember, the backstory here was basically “We need a Main Event for Backlash and all four of these guys have been interacting with one another in a number of different ways for a few months so we might as well put them all together in a multi-man match for lack of any better idea”
Edge was back on his own here due to Lita leaving the company in the autumn of 2006, but he’d have some backup again by the years end. Orton was still using “Burn In My Light” as entrance music at this point, which I believe he always hated but I always thought it suited his cocky heel gimmick. I understand why they eventually ditched it once he started going all psycho though. Edge and Orton both try and form alliances with the babyfaces out the gate, but Cena and Shawn send them out of the ring before resuming where they left off on the previous episode of Raw.
Orton and Edge rally to send them packing though, before going at it themselves as Rated RKO EXPLODES!!! Sadly Lita isn’t around to play a trashier version of Elizabeth. Things quickly break down, with all four men brawling with one another both inside and outside the ring, and it’s really entertaining stuff. One of the highlights is Shawn doing a moonsault from the top rope out onto all three of his opponents outside the ring, with the three other guys catching him perfectly. Hey, when Shawn Michaels dives onto you, you best make sure you catch him!
What makes this match so good is that any of the four men could conceivably win it, due to all of them being big stars and all of them being capable of carrying the belt, so it adds extra drama to all the big near falls because the match truly has an anyone can win feel to it. Edge does eventually manage to talk Orton around to helping him, and they get some heat on Shawn, which works great because Shawn Michaels is possibly the greatest seller in the history of the game. At one point they give Shawn a double back body drop and he gets some serious air on it. That looked fabulous!
Cena eventually rescues Shawn when the heels have him in a double crab, before making the comeback on all three of his opponents and delivering the Five Knuckle Shuffle to Edge. However, Shawn and Orton drag him out of the ring before he can capitalise and fling him into the ring post, only for Shawn to immediately betray Orton and try to put him through the Raw announce table. Edge rescues Orton by hitting Shawn with a chair, but then hits Orton with the chair as well, like the great despicable heel he is.
Cena manages to catch Edge in the STFU back inside, which Edge sells big before managing to drag himself to the ropes to force a break. Orton is next to feel the wrath of Cena’s submission hold, but Shawn comes in to break that up and then gets a cheeky roll up for two. Shawn now gets to run wild on everyone, soup canning Orton and Edge before coming off the top rope with an elbow drop onto Cena. Shawn TUNES UP THE BAND, but Edge intervenes, so Shawn gives him an elbow drop too. One looks to follow for Orton, but Cena stops that, leading to a Tower of Doom out of the corner from Rated RKO for the quadruple down.
Cena and Edge recover first, and do a nifty reversal sequence, which leads to everyone hitting big moves on another. Wait a second *checks watch*, ah yes, I do believe its FINISHER MADNESS. Please collect your FINISHER MADNESS coupons in order to win a free steak dinner and an all-expenses paid trip to Scunthorpe. I hear it’s lovely this time of year. Anyway, everyone takes turns hitting their finishing moves, which leads to Shawn playing Cena some Sweet Chin Music. However, this causes Cena to collapse onto an already knocked out Randy Orton, thus leading to the referee counting three to give Cena an improbable victory!
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: JOHN CENA
This match was all kinds of fun, as it was non-stop action from start to beginning, with some great wrestling and some exciting big spots. It’s one of those matches that a simple written review doesn’t really do justice to. If you’ve never seen this match and you have a WWE Network sub then I strongly suggest you give it a watch, as it’s an absolute belter. I also love how they didn’t make Cena look like Superman here either. He held his own and then essentially got lucky in a match where everyone was so even that something had to eventually give.
Shawn is clearly unhappy following all of that, as his kick essentially gave Cena the victory, and he chews Cena out before leaving. You’d think that would set up a big pay per view blow off between the two, but they instead moved Shawn into a feud with Orton, whilst having Cena work a couple of surprisingly good matches with Great Khali.
Four Corners Elimination Match
Champ: Randy Orton Vs JBL Vs John Cena Vs Triple H
Orton had successfully defended his Title at WrestleMania XXIV against both Cena and Triple H to usher in “The Age of Orton”, but he did it in slightly screwy fashion so both men wanted rematches. JBL had defeated Finlay at Mania and was set for a late spring/early summer feud with John Cena, so he was crammed in here to plant the seeds for that. This was actually a period where Cena was out of the Main Event scene for a while, as his matches with JBL were usually lower on the card and he ended up getting injured at Summer Slam against Batista before coming back in the autumn.
Interestingly in a pre-match poll 48% of the fans think Cena is going to win, with JBL getting just a paltry 4% by comparison. I’m not sure why they went for elimination rules over the standard Fatal Four Way. Maybe they just wanted to mix it up a bit? The pre-match video package is very dramatic, with a good choice of a sombre country song playing over it, but it doesn’t really explain why the match is happening.
Orton quickly bails to the floor straight after the opening bell courtesy of a JBL punch, leaving the other three going at it. Cena eventually clocks on that Orton is taking the pish though and throws him back inside, only to get knocked off the apron onto the Raw table. Orton and JBL appear to have a gentleman’s agreement of sort to work together as they double up on Triple H, but he manages to fend them off. Triple H is looking notably leaner in this match compared to how he was at the start of the review, and you can tell that he’s moving better and just looks generally healthier for it. He’s still in impeccable shape of course.
In a funny spot, Cena gets Orton in the STFU back inside the ring and JBL looks like he’s going to help, only to then stop himself because it’s an elimination match and it’s within his interests to let Orton tap out. I like how they managed to eventually program the AI on wrestling games to do that too, as elimination matches on the earlier Smackdown games especially could be incredibly annoying due to the computer controlled wrestlers breaking up pins all the time when they had no need to. JBL stops to taunt Orton, which allows Triple H to catch him in a cross face. Haha, I love it!
Both heels eventually manage to get out of their respective submission holds and then go at it with one another, which is one of the few times I think Bradshaw and Orton ever really worked together. I’m sure Triple H worked with Layfield during the 90’s at some point, but don’t hold me to that. Of course we get the Tower of Doom spot again due to it being a multi-man match. Man, remember when that spot first happened in TNA and it was really cool and different? Now it’s almost blasé. Following that Cena and Triple H go at it, and it’s the usual good match between the two, as Cena takes direction well and Triple H knows how to get the best out of a guy like Cena.
Cena eventually manages to send Triple H to the floor and locks JBL in the STFU to eliminate him. However, he holds onto the move for too long after JBL taps, which allows Orton to give him the Soccer Kick of DOOM to eliminate him also. Thus JBL can now be all angry that Cena eliminated him and we can go to that feud, whilst Orton and Triple H can settle their score dating back to when Orton won the belt from Triple H in the process. Simple booking that makes sense, but it’s kind of a waste of Cena to have him eliminated so early, all for the sake of a mid-card feud with JBL.
I actually quite enjoy Triple H Vs Randy Orton matches for the most part, provided that Triple H plays the babyface and the crowd is actually invested in the match itself. Thankfully that’s the situation here in both cases, so this is quite good as the fans like Triple H and hate Orton, so they’re into the action and the wrestling itself is well executed because both these men are mechanically sound. Orton works Triple H over a bit by catapulting him into the front row before following up with a suplex on the floor, as the crowd chants for the remaining challenger.
Orton methodically targets Triple H’s mid-section back inside the ring, doing his usual deliberate heel act whilst Triple H sells the beat down well. Orton tries to end things with the RKO, but Triple H is able to block it and throw Orton down to the mat for a double down. Triple H gets a customary high knee following that and then follows up with a knee smasher for two. Triple H Vs Jun Akiyama in the battle of the knees would have been interesting. I always felt Triple H had a sort of style that might translate well to Kings Road.
The fight heads outside again, where Orton tries a piledriver on the ring steps, but Triple H fights him off and sweeps his legs so that the Champs bangs the back of his head off the steps. Spine buster follows inside the ring and Triple H tries the Pedigree, only for Orton to counter it with a back body drop. The referee ends up getting squished in the corner, but it only momentarily stuns him, whilst Orton drops Triple H with an RKO for two. In a nice touch, Orton sold for a bit before making the cover, so as to protect the move. Orton decides to go for the Soccer Kick of DOOM, but Triple H dodges it and follows up with the Pedigree to win the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: TRIPLE H
Solid match there. It wasn’t a classic or anything, but it told a decent enough story and the wrestling itself was on point. Triple H hadn’t had a proper run with the belt since 2005 at this stage, so it was probably only fair that he got another go with it, especially as he’d been legitimately one of the bigger stars in the company since returning from his quad injury in 2007. I still don’t think it really needed Cena and JBL, and it felt like the match started “for real” once those two were out of it, but they had some more Orton and Triple H on the docket coming up, so they probably wanted to add the other two so it wasn’t just another Orton Vs Triple H singles match.
2005 aside, everything was good this time out. I think that’s it for multi-person matches now, as all the matches in Part Three will be singles matches. There’s lots of good stuff up and down the card on most of these shows actually, with Backlash 2007 in particular being a really strong event that’s well worth a watch if you’ve never seen it.