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1991 Called...  and it Wants its 
WWF Title Feud Back!
April 21, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


I misspoke on Friday, when I used the headline "1987 All Over Again."  Turns out, the WWF was going for a wholly different sort of vibe.

More a 1991 vibe.

On the heels of the just-completed WWF Backlash pay-per-view, the wrestling world is now bracing for a WWF Title feud between new champion Hulk Hogan and #1 Contender, the Undertaker.  Hogan shocked everyone by pinning Triple H to win his sixth-ever WWF Title (and his first since 1993), while Taker pinned Steve Austin to step up as Hogan's first PPV challenger.  You might recall that the two swapped the title back and forth back at Survivor Series 1991 and the subsequent "emergency" PPV, This Tuesday in Texas (which wound up necessitating the the vacating of the title so that Ric Flair could win it at the Royal Rumble 1992).

With conventional wisdom seemingly pointing to a Triple H title win, setting up a feud for him with the new #1 Contender while Hogan got shunted into a feud with Chris Jericho, the turn of events at Backlash certainly counts as shocking.  But it just might pay big dividends.  The main event was like a few other matches on the show:  it had a surprising result that just might end up bolstering interest and ratings in coming weeks and months.

Other finishes that met that criteria included Eddie Guerrero scoring a clean pinfall win over Rob Van Dam to win the InterContinental Title, the Undertaker's win over Steve Austin in the #1 Contenders match, and even Tajiri's victory in the Cruiserweight Title match.  It was a night when a lot of heels seemed to come out on top, which means that continuing story arcs can have babyfaces trying to gain revenge.  To me, this is a wise way to do business (even if it was awkward to see so many heels coming out on top in one given night).

Here are complete results from Sunday night's WWF Backlash pay-per-view:

-  In a match shown on Sunday Night Heat, the Big Show defeated both Justin Credible and Steven Richards in a handicap match.

-  The PPV opener saw Tajiri regain the WWF Cruiserweight Title from Billy Kidman in a very strong match.  Lots of fast-paced back and forth action to start, though Tajiri eventually gained a slight edge when he starting hitting some of his kicks and even locked on a Tarantula at one point.  He even busted out the good ol' Dropkick of Woe (a personal favorite of mine).  But Tajiri forgot the golden rule:  You Can't Powerbomb Kidman!  Kidman managed a late match rally, and was even looking to put Tajiri away with a powerbomb of his own... but while Tajiri was hoisted up in the ready position, he unleashed the burning Red Mist on Kidman, and followed up by rolling Kidman up into a pinning combination for the win.  After the match, Tajiri rambled briefly in Japanese, and then escorted Torrie Wilson (who was otherwise a non-factor) rather brusquely from ringside.  Like I said, a really good opener. 

-  Scott Hall scored the nWo's first really major victory since their comeback, pinning Bradshaw in their singles match.  Early on, it was obvious that Bradshaw was going to be the victim of non-stop 2-on-1 attacks, as Hall was seconded by X-Pac.  So Faarooq came to his old partner's aid, and the two Acolytes were briefly re-united for the first time since the roster split.  While Faarooq did a decent job preventing X-Pac from directly screwing with Bradshaw, he couldn't stop X-Pac from being a distraction and a nuisance.  Bradshaw had things under control (even hitting the Clothesline from Hell), but a distraction from X-Pac opened the door for Hall to hit a lowblow and roll Bradshaw up into a small package for the cheap win.  Nothing special here, but an entertaining affair that told the necessary story and helped to keep the nWo on the map now that Nash is MIA.

-  A backstage segment saw Vince McMahon confront Ric Flair about the fact that Flair now has to deal with ingrate employees like Steve Austin.  Vince made it sound like Flair was "becoming like Vince," though Flair made it clear that he would never emulate Vince's ownership style.

-  Jazz made Trish Stratus tap out to a cross face to retain the WWF Women's Title.  Before their title match got underway, Trish was confronted by Molly Holly, who also got a few licks in on Trish, softening her up for when Jazz finally made her entrance.  This was short and relatively tight.  Nothing to complain about, anyway...

-  Brock Lesnar decimated Jeff Hardy, and got a win by referee's decision.  As a wrestling match to be rated on the smark's five star scale, I'm sure this probably sucked.  But screw that.  As a showcase for Lesnar, it was very entertaining.  Jeff Hardy bumped around like a ping pong ball, and made everything Lesnar did look like a million bucks.  Jeff, of course, did get a handful of "hope" spots, but was always grounded before too long by Lesnar.  The finish came when Lesnar starting smashing Jeff with powerbomb after powerbomb, forcing the referee to call for the bell to save poor young Jeff from further punishment.  Not a totally satisfying finish (one or two particularly devastating moves would have made the ref's decision seem more reasonable), but one that will probably set up a Lesnar vs. Hardys handicap match for the next PPV, which should also be an effective way to keep getting Lesnar more and more over.

-  Kurt Angle beat Edge in their grudge match.  Really good action from the start, but it picked up even more late in the contest, when both men starting hitting potential finishers to get near falls. Edge kicked out of the first Olympic Slam he took, and also escaped from an Ankle Lock.  But just when he rallied and was ready to hit a Spear, Angle countered with a boot to the face and a second Olympic Slam to get the clean pinfall win.  The night's second really good match.

-  Chris Jericho hit the ring for an unscheduled promo.  The gist of his speech was that it was ridiculous for him to have gone from main eventing WrestleMania to not even having a match at Backlash, while a has been like Hulk Hogan gets a title shot. Jericho promised that he'd make sure that Hogan would not win the title later in the night.

-  Eddie Guerrero pinned Rob Van Dam to not only continue the night's domination by heels, but also to prolong what is promising to be an outstanding extended feud between the two masters of the Frog Splash.  Eddie actually controlled a significant portion of this match, as RVD is simply tremendous at selling his opponent's offense.  One highlight saw Eddie hit a vicious sunset flip from the top rope on Van Dam.  Late in the match, Eddie tried to bring the IC Title belt into play, and eventually did succeed in hitting a neckbreaker on RVD, onto the belt.  Guerrero followed up with his own Frog Splash (Six Stars, anyone?), to get the pinfall win.  Maybe a bit shorter than I'd envisioned it, but damn fine.  And obviously, it sets up rematches, now...  get these two men a ladder, I say!

-  The Undertaker defeated Steve Austin when special ref Ric Flair counted three (even though Austin's foot was clearly on the ropes)...  this broke the string of two really good matches, as it was conducted in a more methodical, old school style.  It also never hit its stride as a brawl, nor did it seem to pay off on the potentially dramatic storyline issues that were present...  for instance, the matter of Ric Flair's allegiance didn't really come into play until the very, very end.  And the nWo made a bizarre appearance at ringside, but wound up doing nothing but standing there for the final 10 minutes or so of the match.  What was the point?  Though a bit on the slow side for the first 15 minutes, things picked up towards the finish, as a pair of ref bumps built up the tension.  The first time Flair got KO'ed by accident, Austin hit a Stunner on Taker and had him pinned for several seconds (but to no avail).  It was on the second Flair ref bump that Taker was able to waste Austin with a chairshot;  Flair recovered slowly, and eventually eased over to make the three count, failing to take note of the fact that Austin had draped a foot over the bottom rope.  Taker thusly became the new #1 Contender.  This was not necessarily "bad" in the way that Hulk Hogan throwing shitty clotheslines is "bad," but it was certainly bordering on boring, and probably a bit over long.

-  Backstage, Jonathan Coachman cornered Flair, and showed him footage of the finish of the just-completed match, where Austin's foot was clearly on the ropes.  Flair's response was simple:  "Ah, shit."

-  Billy and Chuck retained the WWF Tag Team Titles with a win over Al Snow and Maven.  Pretty formulaic little affair, with Maven briefly playing the Ricky Morton role, and the heels controlling much of the match.  The finish saw Rico supplying just enough of a distraction to allow Billy and Chuck to double team Maven while Snow was otherwise occupied. Billy pinned Maven for the win.  Nothing to remember here, but as a necessary palate cleanser between two marquee matches, it did not offend the sense, either.  Of note:  at this point, the heels were 8 for 8 on the night!

-  Hulk Hogan pinned Triple H to win the WWF Title in the Backlash main event.  From the get-go, Hogan was clearly the fan favorite, though HHH solidified his standing as the de facto heel by bitch-slapping Hogan in the corner at one early point in the match.  I couldn't believe my eyes when these two started dragging out the cheesy 80s "test of strength" spots early on, and was even more incredulous when the crowd bit on every single one.  Things got a lot more interesting when actual ACTION took center stage, in the form of HHH clearly targeting Hogan's left knee.  This also served the purpose of further establishing HHH as a heel, when he viciously focused on Hogan's leg.  This led up to Hogan getting trapped in a Figure Four, with HHH using the ropes (illegally) for extra leverage.  Hogan eventually managed to turn the hold over and escape, but HHH just followed up with a sleeper.  After the requisite two arm droppings, Hogan did a mini-Hulk Up, culminating in a Leg Drop o' Doom.  But out of nowhere, Chris Jericho ran in to break up the count by yoinking the ref out of the ring.  Jericho also managed to whack Hogan with a chairshot... but HHH, instead of capitalizing on Jericho's handiwork, decided to put a beat-down on Jericho.  Jericho powdered out, and Hogan was still woozy enough that he essentially walked right into a Pedigree.  But before the ref could count three, the Undertaker ran out and broke up the count.  Taker then followed up by whacking HHH with a chairshot; and this time, it was Hogan's turn to fend off the interloper rather than capitalize on the interference.  Hogan dispatched Taker, and only then turned his attention back to HHH.  Hogan quickly managed to hit the Leg Drop o' Doom once again, and this time, the ref recovered in time to make the dramatic three count.  After the match, a bloodied HHH did offer Hogan the Handshake of Mutual Respect (though I must admit the cynic in my was cheering for a full-fledged heel turn, instead!).  This one actually DID border on "bad" (as defined above) in a few spots, but for the most part, it was pretty tightly worked, and unlike Austin/Taker, it was ALWAYS entertaining and dramatic, even if the in-ring action including things like the dreaded Greco-Roman Knucklelock test of strength spot.  The shock of seeing Hogan once again win the WWF Title, and the even bigger shock of watching reasonable, logical fans cheering the win wildly make this a satisfying and memorable climax to the Backlash PPV.

Time will tell whether my concerns over the shelf life of Hulkamania are well-founded or not... but on this night, it was clear that fans were clearly behind Hulk Hogan, and have no problem with him holding the WWF Title for the first time since he dropped the strap ignominiously to Yokozuna back in June, 1993, right here in Dayton, OH.  And ultimately, that's what really matters:  not the speculation of an internet wise guy, but the reaction of the fanbase at large.

It's hard to say, but this might even go down as Hogan's best, most entertaining WWF Title win.  Surely, it beats the socks off of his first and fifth wins (over the Iron Sheik and Yokozuna, respectively), at least.

But with the Undertaker looming as Hogan's next challenger, it's gonna be interesting to see if Hogan can keep up this string of solid PPV matches.  If nothing else, the Fed is now four weeks away from promoting the Highest Combined Age Ever in a WWF Title Match, which is either an oddly inspiring bit of trivia, or a depressing turn of events given a roster loaded with younger, more capable talents.

The historical significance and entertainment value of the main event, combined with three very good matches on the undercard make Backlash a pretty solid Thumbs Up.  Austin/Taker was overlong and a bit of a bore, and some of the other undercard contests were fairly forgettable, but there was enough good here to make it a quality night veg-ing out in front of a TV.

Come on back to OnlineOnslaught.com on Monday for further Backlash fall-out, including Scott Keith's PPV Rant and more...   


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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