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RAW, Goldberg, Billy Gunn, and Even
More From Backlash...
April 28, 2003

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


Let's turn this mother out:
  • In the final analysis, last night's Backlash PPV will probably be remembered as the epitome of Adequate.  Coming off of WrestleMania, when everybody's expecting a let-down, "adequate" ain't so bad.
    As I sit here 12 hours after the PPV, I am hard-pressed to come up with one single match or moment that sticks in my head as exceptionally praise-worthy.  But: I am also just as hard-pressed to come up with a single point from last night when I was bored or displeased with the event.  And I wasn't even drinking!  [One of my friends decided to bring chili and milkshakes to the party; a delicious, if unconventional, combination.  But I figured I'd punished my body enough for one day without assaulting my liver, too!]
    Scanning the ol' in-box, and from those who are tossing criticisms at Backlash, the main one seems to be that there were no surprises, that the show was predictable.  Hmmm...  "predictable," eh?  Looking back to Friday, I see that...  I NAILED 7 OUT OF 8 MATCH OUTCOMES EXACTLY!  And the one I missed (the six-man tag), I was actually thinking along the right lines that the finish should set-up a Nash vs. HHH feud, I just whiffed on the precise details.  You people are right, that WAS too easy!
    Or perhaps, and it pains me to say this, you people have all seen enough wrestling to know what the right move is before it happens sometimes.  I know I like to put the internet wrestling types down, saying we'd all be better served to realize we're just fans, not some kind of expert gurus.  But hey, you watch enough of the same thing over the course of years, and you're bound to catch on to its internal logic.
    So WWE made some good, safe plays last night at Backlash...  you don't necessarily have to like it.  But pardon me if I point out that for every one fans who was disappointed by the lack of Shock and Awe at Backlash, there'd be one ready to take your place, bemoaning the lack of Logic and Congruity, if the Fed had booked some unexpected finishes.  'Tis the nature of the beast.
    Winners for the night at Backlash:  Eddie Guerrero; was probably the #2 or #3 babyface on the card and had the crowd super hot right out of the gate; now more than ever, I'd like to see this thing with Team Angle continue so that we get an Angle vs. Eddie feud when Kurt comes back...  John Cena; I honestly think the babyface treatment he got was in return for five weeks of really entertaining work on TV, and not just a hometown thing...  Rey Mysterio; if there was a signature moment to "Backlash" it was Big Show doing a Barry Bonds impersonation with Rey as his baseball bat; just insane...  Shawn Michaels; the semi-retired guy with the bad back carried the load for his team and easily looked the sharpest of anyone in the six man tag match...  Tazz and Cole; given the chance to match the RAW team segment-for-segment on the same 3-hour show, they displayed, quite clearly, that they're the best thing going, commentary-wise, in the business today.
    Losers for the night:  Goldberg and Lesnar; both guys were booed in favor of their ostensibly heel opponents. Goldberg, maybe some of that was to be expected, since fans wanted to show Rock some appreciation in his last match, but you gotta wonder what this says about Lesnar's long-term marketability...  Sean O'Haire and Rikishi; try as they might, nothing those two did mattered. But when Roddy Piper got involved, there was instant heat; the O'Haire/Piper pairing makes good sense, but maybe Piper has "non-transferable" heat?...  Kevin Nash; the same two moves repeated ad nauseum, complimented by Coach's claims of "See, no ring rust here" do not a convincing return make; unlike others, I LIKED "Diesel" and will give Nash a chance to get re-acclimated though...  Chris Jericho and Booker T; for being in the semi-main event, these two sure did contribute very little to the show.  Blame the necessarily evil of the focus of that match on the Clique-related issues; hopefully both can come back with meaningful feuds starting tonight...  Coach and King; King, to his credit, tried to be more focused.  But he had to be, since Coach's timing just isn't there.  Straying from the events presently happening in the ring, even at relatively key times, Coach made Tazz and Cole's (especially Tazz's) explanations of intra-match psychology and overall storytelling that much more appreciated.
    Possible subconscious repressed criticism of the night: smarks harp on the "it was too predictable" angle because they know full well if they just came out and said, "WAAAAHHH!! Benoit wasn't booked!!  WAAAAHHH!!  And no cruisers, either!  WAAAAHH!!," they'd probably get bitchslapped for being to "smart" for their own good.
    If you missed the show or want additional thoughts/details, you can check out my immediate post-show recap from last night.
  • The confirmation of Rock's plans came last night after the Backlash PPV went off the air...  he told the live crowd in Worcester, MA, that he was leaving WWE for a while.  But, he promised, he would be back.
    Don't know if they'll have Rock around at RAW tonight for a final kiss-off or not.  If they don't, the word is that we've seen the last of the Rock competing in WWE rings for calendar year 2003.  Special appearances may be another matter, but for the most part, you're looking at another 6-8 month hiatus.
    I think the plan is that he gets started on the "Walking Tall" remake this summer; production of that will pause for 3 weeks or so when Rock has to do publicity tours for "Welcome to the Jungle" (when it wouldn't shock me if Rock showed up back on RAW and SD! for a little bit of face time) and then finish up in the fall.  Throw in the requisite month or two of resting and relaxing the Rock took before returning to the ring this year, and we're basically looking at no sooner than Royal Rumble 2004 for the Rock to make another comeback.
    He's been so damned good as a heel this time through that fans haven't been able to help but to cheer for him the past few weeks... after what I thought was a terribly ineffective summer 2002 run for the Rock, I really gotta tip my hat to the man for tweaking his shtick and being the most entertaining performer on TV so far in 2003.  He's leaving a HUGE hole behind, and this time, I can honestly say I'll miss the guy.
  • Tonight's RAW will give us an idea of just how serious Coach was when he said last night marked the start of the "Goldberg Era" in WWE...  based on fan reactions, that might not be an Era many are interested in seeing.
    Although, in fairness to Bill Goldberg, he looked alright last night.  He didn't try a whole lot, but what he did looked good.  And let's face it: he won't have to face the Rock again.  Whoever's next, it'll probably be a heel who WON'T have 80 percent of the crowd cheering for him in appreciation for a superb 3 month run.
    As it stands now, Goldberg is at 1 win, and zero losses.  The question before us is this, "Will WWE try to recreate The Streak?"...  if the answer is "Yes," then the booking logic becomes clear: you have to feed him some a steady diet of mid-carders and ancillary feuds.  Christian?  Sorry pal, but if they go this route, I wouldn't be surprised if you were #2.  And possibly numbers 3 through 14, as well, depending on what kind of house show schedule they've got Goldberg on.
    In short, if they do The Streak, then you have to keep Goldberg away from the World Title and HHH.  As a champ, Goldberg wouldn't have the option of wrestling a ton of resume-building quasi-jobbers...  and given how fans have savaged HHH for his apparent "bullet-proof" status as champ, you can imagine how Goldberg as a streak-building champ would go over.  The Streak worked in WCW because it was built up over time at exactly the same pace as Goldberg got over with fans.  Goldberg, today, is already a phenomenon.  He's already beaten Jerry Flynn 57 times, and those wins were part of the reason why he got over, part of the mystique that developed over the course of a year or so.  But he can't reasonably wrestle and beat Jerry Flynn another 57 times and expect to have it help him at all, now.  That ship has sailed.
    Option the Second: strike while the iron is hot.  This is what they did with Scott Steiner, pushing him immediately into a World Title feud with HHH.  They got what they could out of Big Poppa Pump, milked him for every drop of box office appeal possible, until his performances left fans largely convinced that even a "feud" with Test is too kind for him.  What's the tolerance curve with Goldberg gonna look like?  He got booed last night, just about as badly as Steiner did in his WWE PPV debut... but does that mean anything?  Or was it, as I suggested above, an artifact of the Rock's appeal?
    My instinct is that WWE will pursue option #1, and play to Goldberg's strengths.  Maybe The Streak won't reach 172 wins, or whatever, this time... but at least trying to rekindle the early Goldberg magic will play to the guy's strength: shorter matches, very convincing outcomes, and the built-in storyline that everybody he faces will be looking to deliver that first loss.  Counter-intuitively, most of Goldberg's most memorable moments came during the earlier stages of The Streak; after he won the WCW Title and was wrestling in main events, the magic dissipated because it was suddenly just a foregone conclusion that he'd have to lose it eventually, and probably sooner rather than later given the hot potato nature of wrestling title belts back in 1999.  I think WWE realizes this about Goldberg's past and will play to his strengths.
    So while Goldberg plays with guys like Christian and Nowinski (effective enough heels that they'll get heat, but not so valuable that they can't be sacrificed), HHH gets a reprieve.  I fully expect he'll be feuding with Kevin Nash for the next month. Like I said Friday, they've got house show dates against each other, which usually foretells planned PPV matches.  Instead of giving Nash a pinfall over HHH (a la the Booker T strategy) last night, they have HHH the cheap, dirty, sledge-hammer-assisted win over Nash.  So Nash has reason to be on the chase, now.  I fully expect that he'll start said chase tonight.  And I'm sure that Shawn Michaels will be on the fringes of that feud, as well...  wouldn't mind seeing him and Nash try going after the tag titles, either, depending on how stale things get in that division.  But now I'm getting off target...  Nash/HHH is the focus, I'm guessing, starting tonight.
    As lost as Jericho and Booker both were in the Clique-tastic six-man last night, they are both equally as directionless, now.  Jericho's major issue was with Michaels, and Booker's with HHH; both those opponents are now otherwise-occupied.  I'd like to see Jericho/Goldberg, but maybe down the line a bit; their one-sided Feud That Never Happened in WCW was more than enough to convince me that these two could tear down houses if booked against each other.  Maybe you throw Jericho and Booker against each other for a month just to mark time?
    RAW could really use another top level heel.  Look, you can't replace the Rock, but you probably oughta try to put someone in his slot so that a guys like Booker and Shawn Michaels have to play second fiddle in other guys' feuds.  There's really only HHH and Jericho on the heel side for RAW, now.  They're offset by Goldberg, Michaels, Nash, RVD, Booker, Steiner, and Kane in terms of reasonably marketable babyfaces (and let's not forget that Austin'll be back at some point in the future, too).  They decided not to use my idea (Nash comes back as a heel), so now I think somebody's got to turn.  Steiner's the obvious choice (and not to harp on another of my months-old harebrained schemes, but if Steiner goes heel, then you have a built in from-the-dying-days-of-WCW feud between him and Booker), but one of RVD or Kane would work as well.
    What else tonight on RAW?  I doubt Chief Morley's happy with the Dudley Boyz, nor will the Dudleys be too happy with him; I suspect even Bubba's willingness to be a puppet will be tested tonight, and we might finally move this storyline into End Game...  Steiner/Test, coming soon to a PPV near you? I don't know about going that far, but I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it...  in the mean time, Steiner also has these little sidebar issues with Three Minute Warning and Chris Nowinski to deal with, too...  the Theodore Long Five Minute White Boy Challenge may well continue; as long as it doesn't steal the thunder of the Bill Goldberg Ring Entrance Longer Than The Actual Match Jobbers of All Colors Challenge, anyway...  along similar lines, Teddy Long now manages the women's champ, Jazz, which might end up being the client who gets him more exposure in the long run; I'm sure the main challenge will come from Trish, but in the interim, we'll also get Jazz taking on the Designated Part Time Diva of the Month (I think May is Jackie's month)...  Eric Bischoff's simmering asshole-itude should remain in full effect, too; I don't know the timetable for the Austin thing, but I'd be shocked if Bischoff went a week without mentioning or alluding to it.
    Check out RAW tonight, or come on back to OO tomorrow for the full recap. 
  • The final rating for last week's SmackDown! wound up being a 3.1, which is not very strong.  It's down another two-tenths from the week before, and gave the company little momentum heading into the PPV.
    This contrasts with RAW, which actually DID gain ratings ground last week.

  • Billy Gunn, who just a few months ago was facing the very real possibility of early retirement, is on his way down to OVW for a two week rehab stint.  And from there, it's back to WWE TV as soon as they come up with a creative direction for him.
    Note to WWE creative staff:  how's about we figure out how to get Kanyon back on TV first, and then worry about Mr. Ass later, OK?
    Ah, just kidding...  it'll be nice to have Billy to kick around again, if only because I figure it'll be fun to annoy Lund by treating The Load with something other than the prescribed complete apathy.
    Billy's story is this:  last fall, he badly separated his already-surgically-repaired shoulder at a house show.  The actual structural damage as complicated by the previous surgery, and wound up also causing severe nerve damage.  Dr. James Andrews would not operate on the structural damage until after the nerves were regenerated (if they ever would be, which was the original concern).  A few months ago, the nerve damage was no longer an issue, and a full examination of the structural damage resulted in the determination that only rehab -- and not surgery -- was necessary for Billy. 
    So now he's cleared to wrestle, and is just a few work-outs away from being ready for TV again.  Free idea for the kids working creative:  hold Billy back until Bob Holly is also ready to return, and team them up as The Grumpy Old Men.  You know, a whole lot of "I been in this company for nigh on 12 years, and dagnabbit, it's MY turn to get a push, now!" and stuff like that.  If it gets over, Undertaker can turn heel and join them, as they take out their frustrations on all the young whippersnappers en route to being the most feared faction of all time.  Bring in Matlock to manage them!
    Eh, it's probably best if you just ignore that last paragraph...
  • Kurt Angle was backstage at Backlash last night, and according to WWE.com, was feeling significantly better than he was even earlier in the week when he was at SD! tapings and filmed bits for this past weekend's Confidential.  It is Angle's plan to be at all TV tapings from here on out, and to try to help out the guys currently wrestling as much as he can (especially John Cena, who he's taken under his wing).
    Angle is due for a re-evaluation with Dr. Jho in four weeks. If all goes perfectly, he will be medically cleared to return to action after that appointment.  Also, Kurt said that he already feels good enough that he might do some light work in the ring prior to next week's TV tapings...  sounds promising.
  • Rey Mysterio was apparently hurt for real taking the baseball swing bump last night... not too badly, but there are conflicting reports that either his knee or wrist was injured.  Not by the actual impact with the steel ring post, but by the unprotected fall to the floor that followed.  
    Rey was strapped down, and couldn't move in any fashion to protect himself as he fell front-first.
  • Bill Goldberg had new music last night at Backlash... though obviously "inspired by" his WCW theme, it was lacking a certain spark, and definitely did not effectively recreate the magic of his WCW ring entrances.  As one of my friends noted last night, it sounded like an extended instrumental mix of the "Lothar of the Hill People" theme song from that old recurring SNL skit.  Not very intimidating.
    I can't imagine why the Fed would mess with a proven package, unless it's just as simple as they want to have a piece of music that THEY own (the WCW Goldberg theme was just a random piece licensed from a generic background music CD)...  which is kind of silly.
  • Per the new round of vignettes, it looks like Sylvain Grenier and Rene Dupree will be known as "La Resistance."  Too bad... I liked the "Freedom Connection" idea.  As a proud American, that name would have conjured up images of "Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast"... reminders of the lengths we true Patriots will go to in the name of eliminating the filthy French insurgence.
    Instead, "La Resistance," makes me think of the "South Park" movie.   The only way that'll get any heel heat with me is if Grenier and Dupree fail to deliver the punch and pie that I was led to believe they'd supply.
  • Lex Luger is Mr. America?  Good lord, where are you people reading this stuff?  C'mon, Steiner aside, even the Fed knows better than this.  Unless they WANT the gimmick to tank and be a so-bad-it's-comedy act, that is... 
    If Luger debuts at the tapings tomorrow night, I'll eat a bug.
  • Jeff Hardy in TNA?  Now that one's more reasonable, folks... conditions of his release from WWE aren't fully known, but there's no reason to suspect that he wouldn't have gotten cut free under a situation like Raven or D'Lo Brown did.  In which case, he'd be free to pursue other options, immediately.
    Is Jeff Hardy burnt out on wrestling?  Yeah, that's probably accurate... but does Jeff Hardy actually despise wrestling so much that he'd turn down a healthy paycheck to work a 3 or 4 nights per month schedule?  Hell no.
    If he's legally able, it wouldn't surprise me if Jeff showed up down in TNA.  He could work mostly in the spot-tastic X Division, and not have to worry about much about developing his persona or focusing on intra-match psychology, things that were hampering his attempts to become the prototypical "WWE Style" worker.
  • Alright, I think that's just about enough for today.  See you again on Wednesday with spoilers and news, and then... well, it might be Monday again before you hear from me.  I'm heading out of town Friday through Sunday for my brother's graduation, and while I'd like to have a OOpinion piece in the chute and ready to go on Friday, I make no promises just yet.
    Later, gators...


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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