The Oxford English Dictionary defines backlash as “a strong negative reaction by a large number of people, especially to a social or political development, e.g. the WWE Universe’s reaction to the irrepressible push of Roman Reigns.” It actually says that!
Backlash is also a WWE pay per view (which is a moot term for them at this point), that was once upon a time exclusive to Raw. But, this year’s brand split has left everything a ruddy, buggering mess, and here we are, a few days out from the first Backlash in 7 years, exclusive to Smackdown. SMACKDOWN!?
Backlash 2016 will see intolerable cool-guy pastiche, Dean Ambrose, defend his WWE World Championship against the new face that runs the place, AJ Styles. I’ll be sure to guide you through the events on Monday morning, writing through a hangover haze, attempting to string together words that fully capture the majesty of the moment when AJ Styles Clashed Ambrose’s stupid idiot face off and became the new champ, which will definitely happen.
But I’ll leave that topic of conversation ‘til Monday morning. This article is actually a list of great matches from Backlash’s history that you should absolutely seek out, lovingly prepared for you by the talented Vulture Hound / Steelchair writers, and Raw reviewer Bradley Tiernan, who is the writing equivalent of John Cena’s rap career.
Traditionally, Backlash hasn’t been the greatest PPV of all time – lest we forget the match up of Vince and Shane McMahon Vs. Shawn Michaels and GOD. Yeah. HBK teamed with a beam of light that had its own entrance music and everything. At one point, the chairman of the board challenged God to a dance off. I’m not a religious man, but even I was a bit offended. Vince won, obviously.
But I don’t want to let one bad apple spoil the bunch (though it will ensure Vince McMahon’s swift passage to Hell upon his demise) – Backlash has also been home to some momentous occasions, such as the in ring debut of Brock Lesnar (Backlash 2002), in which he defeated Jeff Hardy (who actually put up a far better fight than many) by knockout.
And since we’re talking about the brothers Hardy…
Jeff Hardy Vs. Matt Hardy – Backlash 2009
Those Hardy Boyz are currently in the midst of an unexpected career renaissance due to striking gold with “The Final Deletion”. An earlier deletion, however, took place in the form of an “I Quit” match at Backlash 2009. In fact, in the lead up to the event, Matt even said “I have to erase you from the WWE,” though unfortunately, the assistance of Vanguard-1 and Skarsgard, the dilapidated boat, was possibly cut for time.
About 10 minutes of the match was taken up with submission holds and the referee constantly shoving a microphone in the participant’s faces, demanding to know if they quit. But, with this being the Hardys, we all knew a spotfest was abrewing.
After a Twist of Fate and two Swanton Bombs, Jeff finally brought the no DQ rule into play with the addition of a table to the equation.
After another Twist of Fate, this time on the outside, Jeff duct taped Matt’s limbs together, tied him to the table in some weird S&M torture board way and proceeded to climb the ladder. In a last ditch attempt to save himself, Matt heelishly reneged on everything he’s said to Jeff over the past few weeks. He even went as far as to quote HBK’s immortal last whispers to Ric Flair. After invoking the wills of their deceased mother got him nowhere, Matt proclaimed that he quit, lest he be table-murdered. In a poor show of sportsmanship, Jeff leapfrogged over the ladder and crashed through his brother and the table anyway, leaving behind a truly #BrokenMattHardy.
Shane McMahon Vs. Big Show – Backlash 2001
Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that Backlash 2001 sticks out in the minds of fans is the Last Man Standing Match between Shane McMahon and Big Show. After Shane bought WCW right out from under his father and went onto defeat Vince at Wrestlemania X-Seven, Big Show set out to prove his loyalty to WWE by battling Shane-O-Mac.
The match itself was everything that WWE fans would expect from a Last Man Standing Match; it was brutal, it was carnage and both competitors pulled out all the stops. With Shane and Show brawling towards the TitanTron, after receiving help from Test, the Big Show was taken out.
With encouragement from Test, Shane-o scaled the giant screen. When this happened everyone expected Big Show to somehow come round; find something a way to drag Shane down. Instead what happened next was possibly the most memorable bump of all time.
The Boy Wonder crossed himself and proceeded to leap from the 50 ft high metal staging, dropping an elbow on Big Show. Test helped an unconscious (but somewhat fearless) Shane to his feet, proceeded to hang him over at camera and ensured that he left with a victory.
Edge Vs. The Undertaker – Backlash 2008
A rivalry that spanned over late 2007 and throughout 2008, Edge vs the Undertaker was a clash of two distinctive generations. After losing the World Heavyweight Championship to the Undertaker at WrestleMania 24, Edge was granted his rematch by Smackdown General Manager and on-screen love interest Vickie Guerrero. The most loathed heel in the WWE faced “The Deadman” in a 20-minute calculated bout of wear and tear. The “Ultimate Opportunist” targets Taker’s (kayfabe) injured back, and the Undertaker proves that some things just get better with age – he adds unprecedented swiftness to his power and psychological prowess by implementing ‘Hell’s Gate’ (a variation on the gogoplata that has since become a fundamental part of his repertoire), a submission manoeuvre that reasserted the deadliness of “The Phenom”. The Undertaker is defiant, retaining his title despite the many setbacks and interferences, and Edge cements his stardom, as he is stretchered out of the arena.
Chris Jericho Vs. Chris Benoit – Backlash 2000
Backlash 2000 was the second ever instalment of the PPV and is almost certainly the most bizarre of all the Backlashes. As well featuring some of the best matches Backlash has to offer there was also some rather strange ones. They’re worth a watch if you can find them (perhaps on the WWE Network for the low, low price of £9.99 a month, as the condescending signs tell us). The tag team of Big Boss Man and Bull Buchanan beat the formidable Acolytes; Big Show, early on in his WWF career, completely dominated Kurt Angle while dressed as Hulk Hogan – seriously, he even called himself the “Showster”.
Despite the weirdness there was one match that really stood out amongst the rest. Chris Jericho Vs. Chris Benoit saw two of the greatest Canadian wrestlers ever to be called Chris go toe to toe for Benoit’s Intercontinental Championship.
This match had all the makings of a modern day classic, featuring many different types of wrestling styles from both men. There was technical, high flying and a little bit of strong style, making this one of the greatest ever Backlash matches.
After leaving the sinking WCW ship, Jericho was gaining huge popularity in the WWF, but it was Benoit, or “Ben-oit” as Jericho insisted on calling him, who claimed the victory by disqualification. It was a disappointing finish to an otherwise brilliant 15 minutes of wrestling, but it was an early indication of why Jericho would go on to become the G.O.A.T.
Eddie Guerrero Vs. Rob Van Dam – Backlash 2002
One of the most memorable bouts in the history of Backlash is the Intercontinental Championship match between Eddie Guerrero and Rob Van Dam in 2002.
At a time when the cruiserweight division is back on the rise, it’s great to look back at these two athletes and see how they influenced the next generation, through their use of compelling story work and raw talent.
Straight out the gate these two go hell for leather and the pace of the match is incredible – real “blink and you’ll miss it” stuff. Guerrero was always one of the best sellers in WWE and this was on display, taking a number of hard kicks to the head from RVD.
What made this match so compelling to watch was the amount of back and forth between the pair. There was no real dominance from either party and it culminated in a way that made fans unsure of whether to cheer or boo.
In true “Latino Heat” style, Guerrero planted the champion with a neck breaker on the belt (which, of course, the referee was unaware of) before hitting a spectacular frog splash to pick up the 1-2-3.
Kurt Angle Vs. Chris Benoit – Backlash 2001
This Ultimate Submission Match was a thirty-minute-plus barnstormer. Expertly and intelligently booked, these two world-class grapplers were capable and eager to take each other to the very limit of their respective abilities. Amazingly, it took place in, not the AJPW of the 90s, but the WWF of 2001. Ultimately, Benoit landed the win over the Olympian, with a score of 4 to 3. Please do yourself a favour and watch this match.
The Two Man Power Trip Vs. The Brothers of Destruction – Backlash 2001
It’s a story that grew from one of the most perplexing heel turns in history. “Stone Cold has sold his soul to the devil himself,” are the eternal words uttered by Jim Ross after Austin aligned with Vince McMahon to win the WWF Championship at WrestleMania X-7. He would later be joined by Triple H – whom would go on to capture the Intercontinental Championship – and the two men proclaimed themselves to be the most dominant duo in the company. The Brothers of Destruction looked to halt their cause. With the WWF, Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships on the line, and in a 32-minute star-studded brawl, The Two Man Power Trip escaped with every major WWF title. Some might argue it was overkill, oversaturating the main event with names and gold. However, the match can’t be argued with; everything from working Kane’s injury, to the Sledgehammer finish, is in one word, iconic.
Chris Benoit Vs. Shawn Michaels Vs. Triple H – Backlash 2004
The victor and current champ, Chris Benoit, was professional wrestling distilled into its purest form. He was an old fashioned technician. Not much of a talker, but a hell of a performer. He was a guy who made all moves – both by and against him – look legit. It was his time, his pat on the back for a job well done. The venue was his hometown of Montreal.
His opponents were Triple H, the most hated man in sports entertainment, and Shawn Michaels, an icon looking for redemption. Their triple threat at the grandaddy of them all is legendary, but this somehow topped it. Hard fought and desperate are the words that come to mind. All three men had to endure finishers, submissions and shots to the head. Slowly escalating the violence that demonstrated the desire each man had to be champion, to be the best.
In the last match, the first man to blink would be The Game. Creating a tragic symmetry, this time around it would be Shawn Michaels tapping to Benoit’s Sharpshooter, a submission that the Canadian crowd had been waiting seven years to see. It was a fantastic continuation to Benoit’s story. He wasn’t a one hit wonder – he belonged right there, in the spotlight.
So, you’ve got some homework to do. Hopefully watching these bonafide beauties from Backlashes passed can get you hyped for the 2016 instalment, because honestly, it needs a bit of a leg up doesn’t it?