The first PPV of this “Starting Over” series that I have never seen in full. Was I right not to bother? Lets find out. It’s the 21st of April 2002 and we’re in the Kemper Arena of Kansas City, Missouri for WWF Backlash! Your main event tonight: Triple H defends the WWF Undisputed Championship against Hollywood Hulk Hogan!
Video package recaps the Hogan/Rock match at Wrestlemania, and Triple H’s desire to prove himself against Hogan. The challenger calls this the biggest night of his life, take that Andre. He needs the belt to etch his legacy, but HHH says there’s nobody higher than him and he won’t let his Mania win be for nothing. Bit of a nothing package really, real half-assed from the team that can usually do a lot better.
“Young Grow Old”by Creed, swinging scythe set, pyro and JR and King welcome us to Kansas City, where the audio is imbalanced so you can barely hear the crowd. The Kemper Arena and WWF New York are packed. Let’s get right to it.
Billy Kidman (c) vs Tajiri w/Torrie Wilson (WWF Crusierweight Championship)
“Tajiri has not been the ideal boyfriend the last couple of weeks” and I wonder if Tajiri ever imagined that being a line of commentary when he came to the Fed. Little reaction for Kidman. JR reminds us that we’re in the same place where, last year, Tajiri beat Kidman for the title. History! No mention tonight of the other bit of WWF/Kemper Arnea history, it being the place where Owen Hart died in 1998: this is their first show back. You’d think they’d say something. Lock-up, Tajiri thrown back, Kidman dodges a heel kick, hip-tosses exchanged and Tajiri takes the advantage off a drop toe-hold in the corner. Kidman back with strikes and chops, looking for a rana, but countered into a catapult, only for Kidman to land on the top rope and come back with a missile drop-kick for two. They keep going back to this “Nobody knows who Kidman is” idea, which doesn’t fly with me.
We end up on the outside where Kidman gets thrown into the barricade, before Tajiri jaws with Wilson a bit. Back in, Scoop Slam, knee drop that comes with an amazing high-pitched scream, that’s so powerful it sucks the life out of the crowd. Rope choke, kick to the head but it’s not the Buzzsaw so no finish just yet. Snapmare and into a resthold for a replay of that last kick. Crowd rallies briefly for Kidman, he’s out of it, now hits a rana, but then runs into a Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreaker. Kidman put into a Tree of Woe, as Tajiri tells the crowd to “SHUUUT UP” like he’s channeling Vince. Sliding kick leaves Kidman prone, then he gets stretched around the ringpost. Vicious Tajiri is nice to see, his heel character needs more than berating Torrie.
Beatdown, backbreaker into a sort of kneeling rack submission. Kidman back with a knee for two, but Tajiri on top again quickly with strikes and steps onto a prone Kidman. The Champ coming back again briefly, almost walks into the Tarantula, out of it but only briefly again as Tajiri lures him back into it, like some kind…carnivorous arachnid. Looking for the Buzzsaw (JR calls it the “knock-out”), Kidman ducks and hits a drop-kick to counter a handstand elbow, two. Tajiri out of a reverse suplex and hits a spinning heel kick to the back of the head, always a bit dodgy when they try that. Bridging German gets two for the challenger, dodges a clothesline and nails a superkick for two. Tajiri getting frustrated, goes for a powerbomb but it’s countered into a facebuster, but only two. Getting good this one.
Kidman looking for the Shooting Star, but nobody home. Buzzsaw, but not a finisher just yet so Kidman kicks out. That gets “Kidman” chants. Tajiri sets him up on the top, follows up, but Kidman back with a sit-out powerbomb, but only two to the crowds shock. This is NXT-like suddenly, and I’m loving it. Kidman looking for another powerbomb, but Green Mist! The ref missed it, roll-up and that’s the 1, 2, 3 in just over nine.
Winner (and the neeeeeeewwww WWF Cruiserweight Champion): SHUTTTTT UP
Verdict: Good opener, two guys looking to put themselves into the shop window for more TV time. Right winner. Has been a simple, but enjoyable feud. This one will continue.
Cole, in a white suit, grabs Tajiri as he leaves the ring to ask about his recent personality change. He gets angry Japanese in response, before the new Champ stalks off with an unhappy looking Wilson. I presume Kidman is going to be playing white knight soon.
Backstage, Bradshaw greets Faarooq like they haven’t seen each other in years, when its really been two weeks. “You look great on Smackdown!” says Bradshaw of Simmons. He does? The nWo music hits in the background, and Faarooq wishes Bradshaw luck in his match.
Scott Hall w/X-Pac vs Bradshaw
What a fall this is. Two months ago the nWo’s return was the entire basis for No Way Out, a month ago they were in Mania matches with the biggest stars in the company, now they’re on the second match of the card against a guy starting a singles run. Pac still wearing the Kane mask, but before you get your hopes up for some fire I believe Kane is dealing with an arm injury so we won’t see him tonight. Before that, we’ll have to be happy with the Battle of the Fallaway Slams.
Big “X-Pac Sucks” chants before the bell, X-Pac in the ring when the APA music hits again and out comes Faarooq to back Bradshaw up. I’d half-suspect a heel turn for Simmons if I didn’t know how the nWo stuff goes after this. Hall throws the toothpick and takes a clubbing shot for his trouble. Bradshaw laying on the rights, then an awkward looking DDT for two. Hall takes a powder, runs into Faarooq, and with Bradshaw distracting the ref he’s able to get in a shot and then floor X-Pac. Who are the heels here? Back in, Bradshaw with a big boot, shots, suplex, two. More shots, Hall floored, two.
Hall finally gets in some offence after a poke to the eye, but it’s just strikes. Crowd has gotten deader and deader as we go along. Rope choke, X-Pac gets in a shot with the ref looking the other way, more strikes, yawn. Corner clothesline, stomps, “APA” chants show you what the crowd thinks. Bradshaw back with a shoulder tackle, more strikes, an elbow block, another big boot, can we change this up a bit? The slowest Irish Whip reversal I’ve ever seen from Hall, but Bradshaw dodges a corner charge to hit the Clothesline From Hell. Pac puts Hall’s foot on the rope, gets chased off by Faarooq, Hall gets in a low-blow when the ref is jawing with the interferers, and puts in worthless looking roll-up for the win in just over six-and-a-half.
Winner: Scott Hall, which comes as a genuine shock to me.
Verdict: Terrible, as it was always going to be. I suppose the nWo could do with the win, but this seems largely meaningless. I don’t think Scott Hall performed a single wrestling move. The feud was pretty worthless too.
The nWo celebrates on the ramp and Faarooq consoles Bradshaw. What a great success.
Backstage, Vince is looking happy and decides to drop in on Ric Flair in his “office”, which is clearly a dressing room. He gloats about the nWo’s victory and wonders if Flair is beginning to feel the heat as an owner. He doesn’t get why Flair has put himself into the Austin/Taker match, but is starting to relate to Flair. Flair strongly disagrees, and says he will never be like Vince. McMahon offers a hand, but Ric isn’t interested. Not sure what the point of this was, we could do with way less of Vince and Flair on-screen together. Vince’s sole appearance tonight too.
Jazz (c) vs Trish Stratus (WWF Womens Championship)
Highlights of Trish’s win over Molly last Monday as Trish hits the ring, and lo and behold out Holly comes ahead of Jazz. She hits the ring and grabs a mike as Lawler asks if she’s from the Virgin Islands. Man, that’s weak. Holly says the fans don’t want to see a cheater compete for the title, they want someone pure and wholesome to hold the belt. A cheap shot to Trish and Stratus gets dumped out. Only now does Jazz come out, as Holly puts in a beatdown on Stratus at ringside. Jazz chucks Trish in to start things properly.
Big Sidewalk Slam gets two. A rolling slam after a few Trish shots, but off a leapfrog Stratus gets a clothesline. Hair yank from Jazz, some lefts, Trish blocks a right and comes back. Misses a head kick, but not a second, gets two. Some not so great looking chops from the challenger, Jazz backed into the corner, set-up and gets that handstand rana. Trish on fire, shots, neckbreaker, two. Jazz gets in a kick of her own, and lands a big sit-out powerbomb for two. Rope choke because Jazz genuinely hasn’t been playing heel enough in this one.
Trish dodges what will be the most telegraphed corner splash of the night and gets a roll-up for two. Looking for the Stratusfaction off the ropes but nice counter into a reverse suplex, almost a proto-Blue Thunder Bomb. Takedown in the corner off Trish putting a boot up, nice, and then a Boston Crab that Ross proclaims “The kind of crab where no lotion will make it better”, what? Trish trying to make it to the ropes, Jazz transitions into a crossface and Trish taps in just over four-and-a-half.
Winner (and still WWF Womens Champion): Jazz, worse than Molly at playing heel.
Verdict: Was fine, good to see it get a bit of time. Once you tune out Lawler it’s much more enjoyable. Jazz winning clean was a little odd. Feud has been sort of one-sided with Jazz not being around, so the result is a little surprising. Room for a re-match.
Jazz keeps the crossface locked in for a little bit before taking the title and stalking off, ignoring a ramp interview attempt. At commentary we transition quick into talk of one Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, and we get a cringy exchange where King says he won’t comment too much on Heyman’s fondling of Lita’s underwear because “I’ve fondled a thong or two in my time” before remembering the last vestiges of decency and adding “But what Heyman did was sick”. Can’t wait for the PPV’s to have duel commentary teams. We get a recap of that segment from Monday with melodramatic violin music playing over it, then the subsequent destruction of Matt Hardy.
Backstage, Heyman is hyping Lesnar up. Jeff is Matt’s substitute tonight, and Heyman wants Lesnar to annihilate Hardy. He blames Lita for this, and wants Brock to show her how rough he can play. Why are we introducing this creepy misogynistic angle to all this? Powerhouse Brock was enough.
Jeff Hardy w/Lita vs Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman
Can’t believe this is Lesnar’s first proper match: is this the longest between the first sight of someone and their first match? Rousey maybe? Also can’t believe he still has that rubbish theme music. Jeff attacks the moment Lesnar is in the ring, but Lesnar quickly on top. Jeff chucked out of the ring, Brock follows, Jeff back in and drop-kicks Lesnar off the apron. Attempts a springboard crossbody, caught, but out of an effort to throw him into the ringpost, Lesnar sent instead. Back in, another crossbody off the top gets two. Lesnar able to charge Hardy into the corner, big belly-to-belly suplex. Heyman screaming at Lita saying this is all her fault, as Lesnar hits another belly-to-belly. Big backbreaker, another, a third, and this is officially just a squash now.
Jeff trying to come back with kicks and strikes, but cut off by a hard whip into the corner. Another, but when Lesnar goes for a third Hardy able to counter into a Whisper In The Wind. Jawbreaker, heel drop, to the top, Swanton, but Lesnar out at two, and you can feel the crowd deflate. Jeff’s a good sport to let his finisher get buried like this. Hardy grabs a chair, Lesnar dodges a big shot, and hits a big F-5. Heyman encourages Brock to break Hardy in half, and Lesnar obliges with a double powerbomb, stiff looking moves. Lesnar takes a brief break, then picks Jeff up for another big powerbomb and Teddy Long calls it in just over five-and-a-half.
Winner (by ref stoppage of all things): Brock Lesnar, 1-0
Verdict: Extended squash where the point of getting Lesnar across as an unstoppable monster was undercut by the stupid inclusion of this Heyman/Lita stuff. Hardy flung himself around nicely, he is one of the best sellers on the roster right now. Lesnar obviously heading to bigger things quickly, but suspect Matt will get a go first.
Replays of what we just saw as JR plays up Lesnar is apocalyptic tones.
Up next, it’s the potential showstealer of Edge and Angle. Video recap of their feud, focusing on Edge’s unexpected win a few weeks ago, Angle’s retribution, Edge’s photo prank (kind of undercutting the mood a tad) and Angle’s second retribution. Package does a good job of playing up the two as being on each others level, which is good for Edge: this isn’t his first singles feud by any means, but as its with a main eventer it’s an important one for him.
Kurt Angle vs Edge
Lock-up, Angle with a shoulder charge but his momentum is stalled by looking at the crowd who are serenading him. Leapfrog chain, Edge sends Angle down with a hard strike, Angle back with an elbow on a charge but then walks into a drop-kick. Flapjack and Angle clotheslined out. Crowd as loud as they have been all night. Edge out, exchanging shots, Edge on top but then stomped as he goes back in. Kurt really does have the best stomps in the business, they feel super vicious. Edge back with a spinning heel kick, but Angle back up to hit a German straight away. Pause again as the “Angle Sucks” chants get very loud.
Stomps in the corner, big chops, Edge come back with his own, boot off a charge but then Edge walks into a belly-to-belly suplex. Good back-and-forth feel to this one, Edge as the perhaps too eager youngster getting frequently ambushed. Angle with a regular suplex for two, then into a rest-hold. Edge fading, arm drop spot, but keeps it up at three. To his feet, out of the hold, but again Angle back with a German. Edge fights out of an attempt at another, and now Angle is the one who walks into a belly-to-belly. Dueling strikes, Edge with a flying forearm, clothesline, then a back body-drop. Edgeacution, but only two, isn’t that Edge’s finisher? They don’t treat it like that here. Edge out of a back body-drop, hits the Edge-O-Matic, two. Edge to the top, intercepted and Angle lands an enormous belly-to-belly throw, amazing air. Only two though.
Angle looking for the Ankle Lock, Edge pushes out, Angle looking for a German, Edge elbows out, but he misses a clothesline himself and now Angle hits three Germans in succession, the last with a bridge for two. Angle sizing Edge up, looking for the Angle Slam but Edge out to hit his own German, but this one looks a tad ugly, Kurt somersaulted and looked like he landed on his head. Angle body-dropped out of the ring on a charge, Edge to the top, and lands a bit of a messy-looking crossbody (“I’m not so sure who got the worse end of the deal” is tonight’s “Didn’t get all of it” it seems). Back in, Edge back up top, missile drop-kick, two. Genuine shock in the crowd with that one, don’t know why. Looking for the Edgeacution again, Angle out of it and hits the Angle Slam for two. Fair is fair I suppose. The straps come off and the Ankle Lock is put in. Edge to the ropes, pulled back, countered into a roll-up for two. The crowd certainly thought it was over.
Angle hits a clothesline for some room, looks pissed, and heads outside to grab a chair. The ref begs off when threatened, Angle goes for a shot, Edge dodges and the chair bounces off the ropes and into Angle’s face. Modified neckbreaker, gets a very near fall, the crowd thought that was it again. Edge with a kick to the face as the ref removes the chair, looking for the Spear, but Angle catches Edge with a knee to the head. Angle Slam with huge air and that’s the 1, 2, 3 in just under 13-and-a-half.
Winner: Angle, celebrating like he’s won another medal.
Verdict: Great encounter, had a nice energy and told a good in-ring story. These two are perfectly matched. Still, a few dodgy spots from Edge, and the finish, with Angle winning clean, seems like it doesn’t fit with the feud to continue. Good feud though, and it’s heading to a good place. Regardless, Edge showed he could go with one of the Fed’s traditional main eventers, and that was important.
Angle takes his leave quick as JR insists “these two will meet again”. King literally on his feet clapping.
After a break, Chris Jericho is coming out, despite not being on the card. He’s on the mike to wonder why he’s gone from being in the main event of Wrestlemania to not even being on the card a month later. Fair question, though the inhabitants of “this filthy little town” not terribly interested. Jericho doesn’t want to be a spectator, like “each and everyone of you jackasses”. “Even Maven has a match”, way to bury the new guy. Y2J’s feelings are hurt, not that anyone cares. But he’s still better than anyone in the crowd, and better than that has-been Hogan. He deserves the main event spot more than Hogan, and predicts defeat for Hollywood in the main event. Is this heading to a point soon? Jericho thinks he’s not welcome in Kansas City, and he’s just going to leave right now. He heads to the back, and that’s it. What was the point of this? Was someone late for the next match or something? You kept waiting for someone to come out and beat Jericho up, maybe set something up for next Thursday, but nothing. I suppose he’ll be out during the main event.
Backstage. Ric Flair is in his ref gettup with Arn Anderson. He insists he’s going to call it as he sees it, and in walks Taker. He stares Ric down, and then walks off. OK then. Flair will be keeping his eye on Taker.
Rob Van Dam (c) vs Eddie Guerrero (WWF Intercontinental Championship)
The battle of the Frog Splashes! Another potential showstealer here, but no video package treatment. Big response for RVD from the crowd. Eddie attacks early, some nice chains to start and Guerrero floored off a heel kick. Corner flip, running heel kick, two. Latino Heat back with a takedown, shots in the corner, RVD back with corner spears, Guerrero back with shots, Van Dam back with a spinning kick, two. Very enjoyable rhythm to this, so of course the crowd dies.
Van Dam hits an awkward delay suplex into a floatover pin for two, Eddie’s feet hit the ground first and hard. Vam Dam to the top but crotched, Guerrero clambers up, looking for a superplex but Van Dam pushes Eddie off so he lands face first on the rope, but Van Dam drops to the outside at the same time. Pretty sure that’s a botch. RVD back up quick to hit that top rope kick, handstand moonsault, two. Looking for a suplex, countered into an inside cradle for two, looking for the suplex again, countered into a roll-up for two, odd to basically do the same spot twice. Guerrero out, Van Dam with a Baseball Slide, then a springboard moonsault, a thing of beauty, Eddie hung up on the barricade, and Van Dam hits a spinning let drop from the apron, very nice.
Back in, two, as King posits that Latino Heat needs “a mamacita” at ringside. I suppose you did kind of get used to seeing him with Chyna. Van Dam looking for the Rolling Thunder but the challenger gets the legs up. Guerrero with a Tilt-A-Whirl Backbreaker, reverse suplex, two. Drop toe-hold, and after a moment of trying Guerrero puts in a modified Surfboard/Dragon Suplex thing, looks cool, could be a finisher. Follows up with a modified Torture Rack/Gory Stretch, another glorious looking submission, Guerrero really was an all-rounder wasn’t he? Van Dam counters into a roll-up for two, then floored off a hard right. Eddie follows up with a savate kick, springboard senton, two. Amazing hand-lock into a top rope rana, good God Guerrero is really pulling out all the stops here.
Suplex, transition into a reverse suplex, two. Van Dam prone, Guerrero to the top, but Van Dam up and intercepts with head kicks. Follows Eddie up, but Guerrero counters into a vicious looking Sunset Flip Bomb, Van Dam slammed into the mat very hard and at speed. Only two though. The match just Eddie launching huge moves while the crowd chants “Eddie Sucks” at this point. Van Dam out of a powerbomb, stepover heel kick and Eddie sent out. Grabs the title belt, back in, looking for a shot, Van Dam stops him with a kick but then accidentally nails Tim White with the title when he grabs it off Guerrero. Eddie hits a neckbreaker on the belt, to the top, takes the time to show off, hits the Frog Splash and that’s it in just over 11-and-a-half.
Winner (and new WWF Intercontinental Champion): Eddie Guerrero, who deserves it with the high-intensity stuff he was pulling off here.
Verdict: Good match that deserved a better crowd reaction. Can’t get over how good Guerrero looked here, basic stuff, submissions, top-rope, he was doing it all. Van Dam subdued in comparison. Dirty finish leaves things open for a continuation, but Eddie looks in the kind of form where he could legit take on anyone and look good. 22 months to him becoming World Champion.
As Guerrero celebrates, JR plays up Haku Machente: The Scorpion King Story, which he is taking in for the second time this weekend, I’m sure. It’s the highest grossing April release ever, which seems like not that great of an accomplishment. It was alright.
Video package for Taker/Austin follows. Flair keeps getting beaten up by Austin and Taker, hence why he’s reffing the #1 contenders match between the two of them. It just doesn’t work: why is Flair putting himself into this match if he has equal reason to dislike both men? Why not just put someone else in the #1 contenders match, rather than fining people chump change for assaulting him? Unless this is building to a heel turn, which I doubt.
The Undertaker vs Stone Cold Steve Austin (#1 Contenders Match For The WWF Undisputed Championship) (Special Guest Referee: Ric Flair)
Non-stop “what” chants herald the start of this one, and all three guys take the time to soak in the suddenly red-hot atmosphere in Kansas City. Circling, staredown, jawing, circling again, lock-up, headlock from Taker, then a shoulder block off an Austin push. Austin takes a break on the outside, eventually back in. Circling, lock-up, now Austin with the headlock, then a shoulder charge off a Taker push, but Taker doesn’t go down. Staring at each other again, and this one is taking a while to get started. Now Austin just starts doing push-ups to the delight of the crowd. “Texas mind games by Dr Austin” says Ross, yeah OK.
Lock-up again, shoulder block from Taker again, then Austin with a stiff right to send Taker down. Middle finger for the Deadman, more circling. Austin offers a test of strength but than transitions into another middle finger, to Undertaker’s annoyance. Now it picks, up, whip chain, big hip toss from Austin, drop toe hold and Austin puts on a prone armlock, then into a sort of prone half-nelson. Both men back to their feet, and Taker out of it with a rake to the eyes. Clubbing shots in the corner, Austin out of it to hit a series of chops, hard whip into the opposite corner but then Taker with a big boot and a big clothesline for two. Shoulder block, then an elbow lock. Taker to the top, and hits the Old School for just one. First time Flair has done anything of consequence with a slightly slow count.
Austin reverses a whip, Lou Thesz, elbow, two. Austin follows up by clotheslining Undertaker out, then gets dragged out himself. Ringside brawling with the Deadman on top, then back in. That sequence didn’t help the match. Now Taker clotheslined out again, more ringside brawling only now it’s Austin in charge. Taker’s head slammed on the Spanish announce table a few times, sends Taker back in, but then eats a boot and thrown off the apron when he tries to follow. More brawling, and after a minute of inconsequential exchanges they end up in the crowd. Flair isn’t counting by the way. Austin choking Undertaker by the barricade, back to ringside, Taker sent into the ringpost which he barely sells, now Austin maybe looking for a piledriver but he gets back body-dropped instead. Elbow drop, mounted shots, and then Austin dragged to the ramp where Undertaker slams his head into his bike for some reason. All very dull, just strikes and more strikes.
Oh, but here come the nWo down the ramp to liven things up, maybe. Taker a tad distracted allowing Austin to lay in some shots, but Taker back quick enough to send him into the ringsteps. More brawling and the crowd is only livened up for “X-Pac Sucks” chants. Austin set-up on the apron to take some knees and then a leg-drop, over Flair’s impotent objections. Finally they are both back in the ring, where Undertaker maintains the beatdown, focusing now on the left leg with elbow drops, stomps and a few locks. The nWo still just watching from the ramp. Austin gets to the ropes, Taker breaks at the count for four, and now Austin tries to rally a comeback, only to take a really sloppy looking lariat that gets two. Resthold time, and these two don’t really deserve the break, this has been shocking so far.
This one lasts a while, Austin eventually out of it and latches on a sleeper, but Taker counters into a reverse suplex fast enough. Slow count from Flair gets two, and I mean slow as in “Flair is incapable of counting faster”. Another resthold, and the crowd is a corpse. Austin out of it, hits some shots, looks for the Stunner, pushed out of it and Taker hits a clothesline for two. Forearm rubs to a prone Austin, shots in the corner, and this could do with a finish anytime soon. Austin with strikes, whips Taker hard but the Deadman with that jumping clothesline for two. Crowd dying every time the comeback fails. Now Mean Mark taking a turnbuckle off, which Flair doesn’t notice. Jokes on Taker, as Austin reverses a whip into said turnbuckle, then a double clothesline sends both men down.
I swear I can hear a quiet “This match sucks” chant. Both men back up, Austin with strikes, Taker beaten down in the corner, lots of stomps. Gets an elbow on a charge, looking for the Snake Eyes maybe, Austin out, and whips Taker into Flair, who sells this mild bump like he’s been hit by a sledgehammer. Stunner, cover, but of course no ref. Austin tries to revive Flair, but before he can succeed he gets a low blow from the Deadman. Taker calling for the Chokeslam, hits it, but only two off a slow count. Taker out to grab a chair, theme of the night it feels like, into the ring, and Flair takes it off him. As he does so Austin gets in a low blow of his own but Taker no-sells it for some reason and comes back with a big boot for two. Please, a finish soon.
Austin hits a spinebuster off a reverse whip for two. Austin signalling for another Stunner, Taker pushes out of it and Flair gets another mild bump to knock him out. Taker has the chair, big head shot, cover and Flair has enough wherewithal to get a slow count, but only two. Thumb across the neck, looking for some kind of chokehold, but Austin counters into a clothesline for two. Austin trying the same hold, a sort of standing Dragon Lock, Taker out of it, has the chair again but Austin dodges another head shot. Undertaker stomped down in the corner, now Austin has the chair, Flair trying to take it off him, Austin resists, and gets a boot to the head through the chair. Cover, Austin has his foot on the rope, Flair doesn’t see it, and that’s the three in an incredible 27 minutes and change.
Winner (and new #1 contender for the WWF Undisputed Championship): Mean Mark, looking as bad as I have ever seen him.
Verdict: Astonishingly bad, given these are meant to be two of the top guys in the entire business. Austin looks unbothered, Taker didn’t have any motivation in him. Slow, podding, too much ringside brawling, and it just took forever. Bad feud, bad match.
Flair walks off quick, and the nWo is also gone. What was up with that? Taker and Austin jawing, Austin hits a Stunner to get his heat back. Beers, middle fingers, etc. Worthless stuff. I suppose we might be getting a rematch on TV? Stone Cold looks bereft as a performer.
Backstage, Coach catches up with Flair and asks if he saw Austin’s foot on the rope. He takes Flair to a monitor (putting his hand on his shoulder in a very odd manner ) to show him. Flair looks crestfallen at the footage. “Shit”. He walks off. And it will go on, I guess.
Billy & Chuck (c) w/Rico vs Al Snow & Maven (WWF Tag Team Championships)
The bathroom slot for these guys, which is a shame because it’s a tag title feud that had an actual build. The challengers out to Maven’s crappy stand-in music. Heels attack the moment the challengers are in the ring. JR is disgusted relating that the Champs have missed their favorite show tonight, “Queer As Folk”. Woo, gay panic. Things are a bit chaotic for the first minute until B&C start working Maven over on the outside while the ref stops Snow from getting involved for some reason.
Into the ring, Maven getting worked over by both of the Champs for a bit before he gets the space to hit a DDT on Billy. now had been knocked off the apron so no tag, but it doesn’t stop him coming in to attack Chuck anyway. Weird feeling to this one. Maven remains the face-in-peril, but able to hit Chuck with an enziguri. “Hot” tag to Snow, he clears house, back body-drop to Chuck, elevated punches to Billy in the corner, but then he takes a clothesline from Chuck with the ref distracted by Rico. Neckbreaker from Billy gets two. Chuck in, snapmare, resthold for a bit as the crowd chants “Rico’s gay”, great.
Heels working Snow over, eventually able to dodge a Billy charge, Chuck in but gets drop toe-holded onto Billy’s groin for the cheapest of pops. Hot tag to Maven, he cleans house, Chuck takes that patented drop-kick, but then Billy hits the Famouser. Snow pulls Maven out, but gets annihilated by a stiff clothesline by Chuck. Rico in, ref distracted, but a quick dodge means he hits Chuck with the spinning heel kick instead of Maven. Snow hits Billy with the sit-down powerbomb, Maven to the top, crossbody, but it’s PPV so only two on this occasion. Maven calling for…something, Rico in the ring, Snow chases him off, Chuck nails Maven with a superkick, Billy gets the cover and that’s it in just under six.
Winners (and still WWF Tag Team Champions): Billy, Chuck and Rico “with that hideous attire they’re wearing”. Jim Ross hates “hideous attire”!
Verdict: Forgettable tag, they just skipped the traditional first act. Had a bit of a odd feeling at times, like it was only put together just before they came out. Feud was OK, now Smackdown has a job to do to make new challengers for the Champs.
Straight into the video package for our main event. Greatest hits of the feud with dramatic music added to Triple H’s and Hogan’s seemingly endless promos back-and-forth. It’s quick though, ending with the Game promising to run Hogan down. Not literally in this case. Rikishi isn’t here.
Triple H (c) vs Hollywood Hulk Hogan (WWF Undisputed Heavyweight Championship)
Looking at the clock and realising with horror that we have 30 minutes left: Hogan simply doesn’t have it in him to go that long. Hard to tell if this crowd is less into Hogan than they were a month ago or if the audio is just mixed poorly. JR insists Hogan is doing this to prove a point, and not for money, and I think I just heard a few smarks’ heads explode. Hogan glaring daggers at Haitch as he goes through the entrance while commentary says this is a battle between young and old lions. Geriatric lion more like. Staredown, crowd pops big now, and away we go.
Circling, lock-up and Hogan shoved back. Circling, lock-up and Hogan shoved back again. Big “Hogan” chants as the Game insists Hogan keep his attention on him. Lock-up and now Triple H flung back hard, so Hogan can do some posing. Test of strength offered, accepted and the two vie with each other for a bit, Hogan winning for a bit, then HHH, and Hogan put down to one knee. Hogan rallying back, to his feet and now Triple H gets in an elbow to start the actual wrestling match. Wrist-lock for a bit, Hogan very slowly battles out of it and puts in a headlock. Hogan pushed out of it and into the ropes, and comes back with a shoulder block. Very slow stuff so far, as expected.
Lock-up, Hogan pushed into the corner, and HHH slaps Hogan when he’s obliged to break the hold. Now the Game back with strikes and stomps, and off goes the bandana. The Champ certainly playing at least a bit heel now, as he puts in a choke. Now Hogan counters a whip and hits a back body-drop, follows up quick with a shoulder block, clothesline, now strikes in the corner. Elevated punches to a count of ten from the crowd, looking for another back body-drop but Triple H back with a knee strike. Goes for a charge, but dropped to ringside for his trouble. HHH put into the ringpost, strikes, then the Game whipped into the barricade. Haitch with a rake to the eyes, looking for a suplex, but Hogan counters into one of his own “the Game’s backs splattering on the outside”, thanks for that Jim.
Hebner making sure his ten count is a very slow one as the two continue the ringside brawling. Hogan sent into the ringsteps and then both back in. Strikes from the Game, chops in the corner, then a hard whip into the opposing corner that floors Hogan. Looking for the Pedigree, Hogan back with a takedown, then Triple H catapulted into the corner. A cradle gets two, corner clothesline, strikes, a much weaker looking corner clothesline, then Hogan hits a cutter OUTTANOWHERE. Last thing I expected Hogan to do here, JR even namedrops the Diamond Cutter when he does it. Gets two. HHH back by hitting the left leg hard, which draws some significant boos. The Game does it again, then slams the leg off the ring apron a few times, before wrapping it around the ringpost. I just wish he’d go flat-out heel.
Another takedown from the rear to the left leg, and HHH shoves Hebner away when he tires to stop a rope drop onto the knee. Mounted punches, elbow drop on the leg, another, and the ref has to keep stopping Hogan from pulling the Game’s hair. Lengthy leg-lock spot, Triple H looking for the Figure 4, Hogan pushes out and gets another left leg takedown. Another elbow drop on the leg, a second, a third, and another leg-lock. Crowd dying for this section as they await the comeback. Haitch looking for the Figure 4 again, pushed off again. Mounted punches, a choke, and now the Figure 4 is finally put in. The Game wrenching the leg as Hogan struggles to sell, and now we get proper heelery as Triple H uses the ropes for leverage. Weirdly JR agrees with King that Hogan would do the same thing if the roles were reversed.
Anyway, Hogan turns it around and Triple H releases. Now HHH tries a sleeper instead, Hogan drops prone very quick, arm drop #1, #2 but Hogan keeps it raised for #3. Now we’re getting the comeback. Hogan battles to his feet and hits a reverse suplex. Big rights, axe-handle, big boot, drops the leg without it being full-on Atomic, and here come Chris Jericho to big boos. He pulls Hebner out, and when Hogan tries to intervene he gets a huge chair shot to the head. I mean there was a crack. Y2J trying to revive Hebner, and Triple H intervenes to give the knee-facebuster before clotheslining Jericho out. Did this match need this?
Triple H goes back to punching Hogan, but he’s hulking up. Big rights, big boot, Atomic Leg-Drop but nobody home. Triple H ducks a clothesline, hits a Pedigree, slow count but Undertaker is here to give Hebner a strike to the head to stop him. He grabs the chair, and gives Triple H a big ol’ headshot. He pulls Hogan onto the Game, Hogan ain’t happy about this and lays in a few strikes on Taker and gives him the world worst clothesline over the top rope. Atomic Leg-Drop to Triple H, Hebner has recovered, and that’ll be that in 22 on the dot.
Winner (and new WWF Undisputed Champion): Hulkamania, brother.
Verdict: I didn’t hate it I suppose, it was as slow as expected with Hogan as limited as expected, but they did all that they could do with him. The interference spots were needless. Feud was fairly humdrum, and hot potatoing the title like this screams improvisation. Still, it is what it is and it was what it was.
Triple H, bloodied for no good reason, squares up with Hogan in the aftermath, but then offers a hand. Hogan celebrates, poses as JR does his utmost to make this a seminal moment and that will be all.
Best Match: Has to be Edge/Angle, those two go great together, and the thing had a fantastic energy all the way through.
Best Wrestler: Eddie Guerrero wrestled like he had a point to prove against Van Dam, and looked crazy good at times.
Worst Match: Austin and Taker were hopefully embarrassed by the drek they served up.
Worst Wrestler: Not much longer left for Scott Hall, which is for the best.
Overall Verdict: Two great matches, a few good ones, one spectacular dud. I suppose Backlash has to be considered a decent enough show in a general sense, and was a better PPV than the previous month probably deserved. Hogan as champion though, that just screams short term thinking. Raw is in a bit of trouble quality wise with him at the top and an under-motivated Taker/Austin beneath. Prove me wrong Monday nights.
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