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Backlash Preview: A Vision of 
Things to Come?
April 25, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


This Sunday, WWE presents Backlash on pay-per-view...  and I won't sit here and for even one second try to kid you that this card has got the same sizzle that WrestleMania 19 did.  So here, four weeks later, most fans probably feel some sense of let down.

Hey, fair enough: no Hogan, no Austin, no Vince, no matches with years of backstory... and basically none of the electricity that comes with those things.  You're certainly entitled to feel like the Fed took the foot off the accelerator this month. 

But you know what we've got this weekend that WrestleMania lacked?  We've got a line-up that is forward-looking, instead of nostalgia-based.  We're taking a look at the future of WWE at Backlash... if they deliver on Sunday, we feel good about the upcoming months.  If things tank, well, the internet's really good at finding faults, so I guess I need say no more along those lines.

Consider:  Goldberg is wrestling his WWE debut match.  He's expected to be a headline act, a major draw and a strong performer.  Does he bring his working boots on Sunday?  If so, we not only get a very entertaining main event, but we also walk away feeling like maybe this Goldberg is a different one who never particularly impressed during many of his WCW outings.

Consider:  the SD! main event features two guys who were wrestling each other in OVW matches just one year ago.  Now they are battling for the WWE Title on PPV.  Lesnar and Cena are guys who have plenty of years ahead of them, and who seem like they've got the tools to succeed.  But is this too soon?  Or can they go out there, kick ass, grab us by the collars and say, "The future is NOW, punks"?

Consider:  Kevin Nash is working his first match back from injury.  The first match of what is widely regarded as his final run with the company.  Will it be a final run where we're treated to "Diesel" caliber outings from one of the business' best big men?  Or will Nash find himself being used for target practice by the smarks after a tepid offering on Sunday?

So what WrestleMania was for fans who like to put the smart hat aside, at least once a year, and just relax and enjoy the damned show for once, it seems to me that Backlash is for fans who want to over-analyze every element of a show.  This is kind of a make or break show for WWE:  we'll be getting our first looks at some guys, and our first looks at some other guys in their new positions on the card, too.  Will we like what we see?  And what will it mean for the Fed's foreseeable future?

Those won't be questions we'll be able to answer till Sunday night... so for now, let's get you started pondering the issues by running down the as-announced card for Sunday night's WWE Backlash PPV:


Goldberg, a staple of WCW pretty much from the waning of their glory days in 1997 through the company's demise in 2001, made his WWE debut the night after WrestleMania.  And he immediately determined that the Rock was Next.

The story is pretty simple: Rock got started flapping his gums about how he had -- with his defeat of Austin at WM19 -- beaten everybody in the industry, and was intimating that it was now time for him to leave and go make another movie.  Then Goldberg hits the scene... someone the Rock clearly has not beaten.  Or even faced.

Rock has spent most of the past four weeks running away from confrontation with Goldberg, sometimes throwing a sacrificial lamb (poor Christian) in the way so he could beat his hasty retreat.  But he was finally goaded into accepting this PPV match, and on the final RAW before the showdown, got in a few good licks on Goldberg with a chair.

What can we expect Sunday?  Well, look, neither of these guys is Benoit in terms of moveset...  but the Rock is a guy who always gets the most out of every move and gesture he makes in the ring.  And Goldberg brings a power arsenal that should give fans a chance to "oohhh" and "ahhhh" a bit.  These two guys have a relationship outside the ring, and in fact, Goldberg openly admits that the Rock's campaigning is the main reason why he decided to sign a WWE contract... so you can also look at it this way: if there is one guy with whom Goldberg will be motivated to work well with, to construct a memorable match with, it's the Rock.

I've made the comparisons, but frankly, it's that familiarity that should keep this match from being a debacle on the order of DUDZilla's PPV debut.  Actually, I have no idea what sort of condition Goldberg's really gonna be in, but I would hope that he's sharpened up enough in his handful of Japan matches to be able to go more than 5 minutes before blowing up.  Combine that with the fact that he and the Rock have a working relationship that's gotta be tighter than what HHH and Steiner had going into their match, and we should have some synergy here.  The kind of match that could end up being greater than the sum of its parts.  Hopefully.

Prediction:  Well, the Rock's supposed to be heading out soon.  Production on his next movie has been pushed back to mid-summer, but I gather the guy wouldn't mind a little vacation before moving on to that.  But even if he were to stick around for another couple weeks, it doesn't change the fact that Goldberg is being looked to as the top RAW-brand babyface for the foreseeable future.  And that means he gets the win over the Rock on Sunday.


An interesting match on many fronts, this is probably the one contest on the Backlash card that I'm able to say -- unconditionally -- that I am really fired up for.  You've got probably the best overall -- ringwork and mic work -- talent on the RAW roster (Jericho), you've got a guy who has firmly re-established himself as a top worker even if it is on an infrequent basis (Michaels), you've got a highly popular but underappreciated babyface (Booker), you've got a returning star who'll have to show us what he's made of (Nash), you've got the World Champ who has been trying, as of late, to show us he's still got the touch (HHH), and you've got The Man.  Hey, Flair is Flair, what can I say?

Overriding this feud in the three weeks since Nash returned has been the idea that Nash wanted to make peace between his two friends, HHH and Michaels, to reform the mighty Clique (the backstage faction of 1995-ish, and not the "Kliq" which was a WWF marketing department name for Michaels' fans, circa 1996).  His fence riding made for some tenuous situations among the babyfaces... but those matters seemed to resolve themselves on Monday, when HHH gave a big ol' "Fuck You" to Nash by clipping his knee as he tried to be the go-between between HHH and Michaels.  Earlier in the night, Michaels cemented his relationship with Booker (which had also been on rocky ground) by superkicking HHH and, as special ref, trying to count Booker to victory afterwards.

So everything looks rosy, now.  Nash must, by now, be through with the idea of trying to ally with HHH.  He and Michaels are tight.  Michaels and Booker have settled their problems, I'd guess.  And by the Transitive Theory of Pro Wrestling Alliances, that means there shouldn't be any trouble between Nash and Booker, either.

I think we can look for some teases, perhaps, that the Clique is not quite sanguine about pounding on each other... but at the end of the day, we should be treated to just a flat out good wrestling match, here.  Jericho and Booker are just both really good.  And the Clique trio, much like Goldberg and Rock above, should take be extra motivated by the prospect of working with trusted friends.  Flair won't steal the show, but I'm sure he'll be able to keep up, too.

Prediction: the babyface side wins.  I think maybe you go with Nash over HHH... the two are slated to headline house shows in the next month, which could be a sign that they want to squeeze a PPV title feud out of the two before bringing Goldberg up to that level.


This little spat all got started in February, when Lesnar was pre-occupied with Kurt Angle and his WWE Title shot at WrestleMania.  Lesnar faced Cena in little more than a glorified tune-up match on SmackDown, and beat him in what was a very good, tightly contested match.  Afterwards, Lesnar tried to goad Angle out to the ring, and when Angle wouldn't play ball, Lesnar picked up Cena, and F-5'ed him into the ring post.  Cena spent the next month out of action with a leg injury.

But the whole time, he was sending in pre-taped weekly freestyle raps, promising revenge on Lesnar.  They had the purpose of not only setting up Lesnar's first post-WM feud... but they also put Cena's gimmick over the top.  His mic work has made him a viable heel, and I honestly have been finding him one of the most all-around entertaining guys on TV lately.

Cena's best shots at Lesnar have all been verbal ones... until last night, anyway.  That's when Cena pasted Lesnar with his heavy-gauge chain, drawing blood.  It was the perfect way to send this feud into the PPV; fans have seemingly already bought into Cena as a heel capable of carrying a show with his mic work.  But now, they have to entertain the possibility that he'll play dirty enough to actually take Lesnar's title.

Alright, so maybe I exaggerate.  It's not really much of a possibility.  But this still has a very good chance of being a stellar wrestling match.  These two have faced each other twice on WWE TV: the aforementioned contest from February, and then a match last summer in which Cena was the babyface and Lesnar still a heel.  Both were very good, and, by Lesnar's TV standards, were lengthy, competitive bouts, too.  On Sunday, they'll be asked to go at least twice as long as they had, though...  but I find myself optimistic that they'll be able to handle it.  Again, like a broken record, I can point to potential synergy between guys who have a really sound working relationship: Cena and Lesnar worked and trained together in OVW, and know each other better than almost anyone else on the roster.  I think they'll do well.

Prediction: they don't have the balls to put the title on Cena.  Yet.  And for Lesnar's sake, he shouldn't be booked to lose the strap after just a month, anyway.  Lesnar wins.


OK, so I could try to convince you that this is gonna be interesting because it's another "Glimpse into the Future," in keeping with my introductory theme.  Afterall, Sean O'Haire has all the tools to be a major player down the line... 

And while a match against Rikishi -- a talented big man who could really make O'Haire look good by selling his power arsenal -- is probably as good a showcase for O'Haire that I could think of, let's face it: this is interesting because Roddy Piper is involved.

Rikishi confronted Piper a few weeks back, looking for revenge with 20 years worth of interest for what Piper did to his cousin/uncle, Jimmy Snuka... but it was O'Haire to the rescue that week, and the Piper/O'Haire relationship was born.  A week later, the duo got the better of Rikishi AND a returning Snuka.  Last night, Piper took a beating from Rikishi in his own comeback match, but with O'Haire's help, got the last laugh, again.

I look for a good enough in-ring effort there... but I also look for the real fireworks to come from extracurricular activities.  Piper will assuredly be present... and if I know my wrestling (and most who know me grant that it's one of the two or maybe three things in this life that I actually do know), Jimmy Snuka will also be on hand to even the odds.  Cold be fun.

Prediction:  O'Haire gets the win... but I'd wager that somehow, Piper winds up taking a Stinkface.


This is exactly the sort of match where I'm thinking you could take a guess at what I'm gonna write before I even write it...  great workers, under-appreciated, sleeper match, possible match of the night contender, blah, blah, blah.... so can we just take it as read that I've said those things?

Cuz actually, I'm not THAT fired up, here.  All the predictable things I could say could very well be true on any given night.  But recent WWE PPV booking practices seem to preclude any of them from actually being borne out.  This is, afterall, a 2/3rds rehash of a WM19 match that I thought had **** written all over it... instead, they gave the guys in that match about 6 minutes to wrestle a match that would have been disappointing on an average Thursday night.

It's not the sort of thing that makes me want to predict great things on Sunday... and like I said, this IS a rehash.  Although it's seemed like April has been kind of a break out month for Eddie Guerrero (he's getting way over as a babyface, it seems) with some quality mic work complimenting his always-outstanding ring work, I don't necessarily see the fans getting too into this, either, since they've seen this before.  That usually takes away some of the atmosphere that you want to have for a really good match.

Bottom line: the talent is here, and no matter how short the Time Management Monkeys make this, it won't suck.  But I'm through going out on a limb, trying to fire people up for sleeper matches that never have a chance to fully develop.

Prediction:  I picked Team Angle at WM19 because I figured they needed the titles if they were to remain a viable tandem without their "Captain," Kurt Angle.  Well, Kurt's still gone out for another month or so... which leaves me with little choice but to re-apply the same logic.  I'll say TA goes over, but I'm not making any serious wagers to that effect.  You know what'd be cool?  Kurt, even though he can't wrestle for another month, makes a surprise appearance to help his boys snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (you keep the Guerreros/Team Angle thing alive, and when Kurt comes back, you can feed him Eddie as his first feud, which would be tremendous).  Also, there continue to be more potential babyface tag challengers (Benoit/Rhyno, Rey/Tajiri spring to mind) than heel ones, so that's another reason for keeping the heels on top.


The dissension between RVD and Kane seemed ready to break the team up for good... Kane was increasingly frustrated with RVD's attitude and was ready to return to his singles agenda when Rob got them one last tag title shot.  And they won the belts from Lance Storm and Chief Morley.  BAM!  Instant end to the dissension.

Morley has had the Duds on a short leash in the last month, too, making them do his dirty work in exchange for them keeping their jobs.  At the PPV, he's siccing them on the team that relieved him of his tag title... and desire for that gold is just about the only thing Bubba and D-Von are agreeing on these days.  Bubba has no problem doing heinous things to keep his job; D-Von does not like being Morley's evil lap dog, however.

That interplay might provide for a little bit of intrigue on Sunday night... and hopefully the fans will buy into the Duds (or at least, Bubba) as heels so that we get some good crowd heat going, too.  The ringwork should be solid, but if we don't get some of those intangibles rolling, we might be looking at something that smacks of the 9pm hour of RAW more than of a PPV.

Prediction:  I'm sure Morley will try to intervene, but I see RVD and Kane going over to retain the belts.  That way, we can do an angle where Morley gets upset at the Duds for failing him and they have their blow-up and end the indentured servitude gimmick.


Two weeks ago, Big Show and A-Train teamed up to soundly defeat Rey and Tajiri... but after the match, Rey one-upped the Big Show by hitting a 619 at ringside, leaving Show flat on his ass.  Show was embarrassed, and immediately demanded this PPV match.  Then last night, Show wound up on his ass again, this time in a count-out loss to Tajiri after Rey caused a distraction.  He's not a happy giant, I'm sure.

I don't know what to say:  this'll be classic big man vs. little man.  Show stand to look like a million bucks on Sunday, though it'll be mostly Rey's doing.  I mean, he'll bump around like a Happy Fun Ball, and Show should be able to do some nasty-looking things just by virtue of Rey's (lack of) size.  Should be some spot-tastic fun.

Prediction: if they hadn't done the Tajiri count-out win last night, I'd say this was setting up for Rey pulling the giant-killer act.  Now, I'm reversing fields, with my thinking being that Show won't be made to look bad in two consecutive matches.  Show gets the win after Rey puts forth one hell of an effort.

TRISH STRATUS vs. JAZZ (Women's Title)

You could trace this one back a year or so, when Jazz's real life knee injury was attributed to Trish in storylines.  When Jazz came back earlier this year, her agenda was two fold: get revenge on Trish, and get her women's title (then held by Victoria) back.  Now that Trish hold the belt, her agenda is simplified... if she can beat Trish, she'll accomplish both her goals.

As has been the case lately, there's absolutely no reason to think that we'll have to qualify our reviews of this match with statements like "It was good.... for a women's match."  Trish is good at what she does, and Jazz is as credible, physical a challenger as there is on the roster.  If they click, this'll be just plain good.

Prediction:  gotta go with Jazz.  Trish, I think, is better on the chase, and plus, you've got Theodore Long in Jazz's corner, now.  This is his chance to be a difference maker instead of just a corner-warmer for Rodney Mack on Heat.  Plus, I think Jazz can inspire fans to cheer her babyface challengers more than Trish can help a random heel challenger get booed.  Which, given the women's rosters relative thinness, is a something I can see the Fed pursuing.

That's it... eight matches -- four from each brand -- which is about right.  I'm sure they'll be a bonus match on Heat (maybe something to further the Test/Stacy problems? or that furthers Nowinski/Steiner?  something else entirely?  who knows?), but for once, I don't see much room to expand on the as-announced PPV card.

Trivia note: it seems a lock that Jerry Lawler and Jonathan Coachman will be working the RAW side of the commentary desk (which looks to include both the top two matches, at least from the perspective of which are the biggest draws... even if they slip Cena/Lesnar in between them for pacing purposes)....  and that means this'll be the first PPV since 1999's version of Backlash that Jim Ross has not commentated on.  It was a hell of a four year run, but when I guess when the Steve Austin Gets Fired storyline calls, you gotta accept the charges.

I'll be back here on Sunday night, sometime before midnight, with an immediate post-show recap of Backlash... then Monday, come on back to OO again for further analysis and fall-out from the show!   


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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