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RAW presents WWE Backlash
April 18, 2004

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


For seven years, it's been kind of cute.  But on a night where we got ourselves a potentially career-making match and a killer main event, the fact that Canada can't forget the Montreal Screwjob is kind of starting to get lame.

With a ton of cool stuff happening in the ring and with what may well have been the best of the brand-specific PPVs over the past year, Earl Hebner still seemed like the biggest heel on the show.  His surrogate was Shawn Michaels, who seems well on his way to a heel turn.  At least, in Canada.  

Similarly, Bret Hart seemed the night's biggest babyface, though he was 100% absent from the proceedings.  His surrogate was Chris Benoit, who was massively over with his hometown crowd as he emerged victorious in the night's main event.

After a show as good as this one, berating the crowd for living in the past is probably a minor gripe...  someday, Bret Hart will appear on WWE TV, and it will be awesome.  But I don't want the could'ves and should'ves to overshadow what WAS tonight.

An aside: for reasons that maybe I'll explain in tomorrow's OO, I wound up watching this show at a local Hooters.  This means two things for you and this recap: (1) I enjoyed several adult beverages, and (2) I couldn't hear a damn thing.  If you notice a dearth of precision and insight as compared to past PPV recaps, those will be the reasons why.

And now, the full results of the just-completed WWE Backlash pay-per-view (with editorial thoughts tacked on in red italics):

  • I'm not sure what happened on Heat, yet.  Apparently, Hooters Girls aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer and can't be trusted with remote controls, so we were stuck with the Free For All, instead of Heat.  Changing channels is so complicated!
  • PPV opened with the usual stuff: video package covering the main event, some pyro, a welcome from the announcers, a visit with the Spanish Announce Team, and lots of shots of the jam-packed arena.
  • Shelton Benjamin defeated Ric Flair.  Shelton got out of the gates quick, but a few minutes in, Flair used his Veteran Craftiness to attack the knee/leg by distracting the ref.  From there on out, Flair softened up Benjamin for the Figure Four, and finally applied the hold at about the 7-8 minute mark.  Shelton started the big comeback by reversing the Fig. 4, and rallied strong for a couple minutes.  Then Flair regained the edge, and decided he needed to use a pair of brass knucks to put Benjamin away.  But while Flair was fumbling with the knucks, Benjamin hit him with the Stinger Splash in the corner, and the followed up with a top rope clothesline to get the clean pinfall.  About 10 minutes.  [Real solid opener.  A little bit by-the-books, maybe, with a not-very-climactic finish, but well worked by two guys with enough charisma and appeal to pull off a formulaic match....]
  • Backstage: the New Guy interviewed Randy Orton.  I couldn't really hear it.  The gist seemed to be that we'd see a New Side of Randy, and that he'd put Mick out of his misery once and for all.  
  • Jonathan Coachman defeated Tajiri.  In a bona fide "What the Frick?" moment, Coach started this one out with some chain wrestling.  And looked halfway-decent at it.  Still, Tajiri out-classed him, and took over quickly enough.  But then, outside the ring, Coach ducked a kick, and Tajiri's leg hit the steel ring post.  That opened the door for a several-minutes-long onslaught by Coach, attacking Tajiri's leg.  Again, I was pretty surprised by the wrestlinginess of it all, and the lack of comedy/shenanigans.  Coach got cocky about five minutes in, and went to the top rope.  He got crotched, and Tajiri wound up manuevering Coach into a sweet-ass Dropkick of Woe (which wound up being one of the Hooters' crowd's three or four biggest pops of the night).  Tajiri continued the attack, leading up to a Tarantula a few minutes later.  The ref eventually broke the hold, but while he was checking on Coach, Garrison Cade ran out and punched Tajiri in the face.  Then Coach rolled up Tajiri for the pin.  Whaaaa?  Did I miss something on Heat?  [Surprisingly quite palatable as a wrestling match for the 7-8 minutes it lasted.  I thought it'd be comedy, some interference from Snow, and then the finish, but they actually wrestled here.  What I don't get is Cade figuring in the finish and asking Tajiri to drop the match.  Wrong for so many reasons, many of which I already outlined in the Backlash Preview...]
  • Chris Jericho defeated Christian/Trish Stratus.  Jericho was pre-occupied early on with getting his hands on Trish, which opened the door for Christian to seize the advantage.  They went back-and-forth a bit, but Christian managed to keep things in control for the most part.  About 6 minutes in, they did the first of the spots with Trish tagging in, hitting a quick spot, and then frantically scurrying away when Jericho showed signs of life.  Couldn't tell for sure, but it seemed like the crowd was really perked up for this one ("Y2J" and "Slut" chants is what it sounded like to me).  After a few more teases with Trish, they finally hit the Big Spot about 8-9 minutes in: Jericho recovered and caught her, and instead of hitting her or slamming her, he administered a firm spanking to her even firmer rump.  Another one of the Hooters' crowd's favorite moments of the night.  Just as I was turning to a friend to make a supposedly-insightful comment about how it was interesting that Jericho couldn't bring himself to actually brutalize Trish, but just humiliate her with the spanking, Christian got back involved, and in the 3-way brawling, Jericho took Trish's head off with a clothesline, and she sold it like a champ.  So much for my little Jericho-still-digs-Trish fantasy.  Anyway, that left Jericho and Christian to mop up with some pretty sweet back and forth action and near falls for a couple minutes.  Just as Trish finally got conscious again, they hit the End Game:  Jericho slingshotted Christian into Trish, knocking her from the ring, and leaving Christian woozy.  Jericho followed up with the Ghetto Blaster (or Standing Shining Wizard or whatever you think it should be called), and got the clean pinfall win at the 12-14 minute mark.  [Very entertaining affair, exactly along the lines I thought it would be.  Jericho and Christian did some solid ringwork between the two of them, and Trish's involvement was very...  I dunno, maybe "satisfying" is the right word.  She was in and out, got in a few frustrating highspots, then got her comeuppance.  Added to the drama and story of the match in a very amusing way.  And the way they played it, it felt like we might have still more chapters to tell in this story, as well...  Trish seemed mighty put out by the loss, at least...]
  • Backstage: Eugene walked into the women's locker room and frightened a be-brassiered Gail Kim.  Then he spooked a be-buzzcut Molly Holly.  Then William Regal showed up and broke things up.  I wish I knew exactly what was said/done, but again: the sound at Hooters was not so good.
  • Hometown Boy: they put together a package of Chris Benoit highlights from the last week or so in Edmonton.  Then they showed Benoit's friends and family at ringside.  I felt like a giant dork when I was about the only person in the place who recognized "Woman."  Or at least, I was the only one in earshot who felt the need to opine "Hey, that's Woman.  You know, I was never really a fan, or anything, but she's holding up real nice."
  • Victoria defeated Lita.  Back and forthy to start, and I had no way of being able to tell who the crowd was pulling for here...  seemed like maybe Victoria was trying to play a cocky heel thing, but I wasn't sure.  About 3 minutes in, they did a cool spot of about a half-dozen near falls and reversals, and instead of breaking that for the Show of Mutual Respect, Victoria immediately followed up with a cocky Hey Look At My Butt move and a standing moonsault.  Victoria controlled the next few minutes until she went up top for a more conventional moonsault (gorgeous, plenty of elevation, unlike the heart-stopping line-drive stylings of another certain diva who shall not be named but was also in this match) but missed.  Lita rallied, had a nice extended heat sequence culminating in a Twist of Fate.  But Victoria kicked out, and then out of left field managed to lock Lita into a roll-up for a quick pinfall.  About 8 minutes.  After the match Molly Holly (with a wig) and Gail Kim ran out and brutally beat both women.  [Pretty good action, I gotta say.  I'm also pleased to see that the title stays on Victoria and that Molly's seemingly back in the picture.  And with her trusted henchwoman from late last year, to boot.  It's not as cool as the scenario I outlined where Molly would be all crazy and keep her head shaved till she got revenge on Victoria, but I'll take it.  The wig/comic relief aspect still strikes me as a wrong note, but adding Gail back into the mix is a solid idea.]
  • Randy Orton beat Cactus Jack to retain the IC Title.  This was a make-or-break match for Randy; I've talked about it, a lot of you realized it on your own, and I think it is pretty obvious after tonight that Orton knew it, too.  Am I convinced he's the second coming of the Rock?  Nah, not yet.  But after tonight, I've finally seen enough of a spark that I'll lay off the "Next Lex Luger" for a while.  Orton brought a trash can full of plunder to the ring; Cactus brought only his barbed wire baseball bat.  Early on, Orton seemed out of his element as Foley attacked with the bat, but about 3-4 minutes in, Orton drew the fight up the ramp, and gained the advantage with a suplex on the steel ramp.  The Foley Agony Magnification Factor was in full effect tonight, as I was cringing after after unnecessary unprotected trashcan shot to the head and every bump on the steel and everything....  Mick eventually regained the edge with a kick to the balls.  And the testicle-related offense was just getting started.  In the Spot of the Night, Foley laid the barbed wire bat down between Orton's legs and stomped it.  Hooters EXPLODED for that spot.  There was also something very satisfying about the sheer horror on the faces of the Hooters Girls who stopped mid-order-taking to turn to co-workers and marvel at what the ugly mountain man did to the handsome young studly guy.  Foley then decided to ramp it up even further: he went under the ring and got a can of gas, and made to light the barbed wire bat on fire.  Eric Bischoff came out and put an end to that, saying if Foley lit anything on fire, the authorities would shut the show down, and Mick didn't want to be responsible for that.  So Mick went to Plan B:  he went back under the ring again and pulled out a  4' x 6' bed of barbed wire, and set it up in the ring...  of course, this was not destined to end well for Mick, who wound up getting back-dropped into the barbed wire himself after Orton went into his Box of Tricks and dusted Foley's eyes with a mysterious powder.  Now in control, Randy used the bed of barbed wire for a few more spots before going into his Box again:  and this time, he brought out a bag full of thumb tacks.  He tossed the tacks all over the canvas on one side of the ring.  As a friend turned to me to pre-commiserate over Foley going into the tacks, I was posed the question, "I mean, there's no way Orton's gonna fall in the thumb tacks, is there?"...  I responded, and this is a quote, "If he ever wants the fans to actually respect him, he will."  But even as I said it, I didn't really believe it was gonna happen.  Then, five seconds later, Foley reversed a move, and shirtless Randy Orton was back-dropped into a huge pile of thumb tacks.  Whoa.  The production crew was all over: they knew a money shot when they saw one, and got plenty of close ups of the tacks stuck in Orton's flesh over the next several minutes.  Foley really took it to Orton, and Orton's only thought seemed to be to get out of dodge.  So Orton retreated up the ramp.  But Foley followed, and after more brawling, they went to another high spot: Foley tossed Orton off the stage and through a wooden platform on the floor.  Then, after officials failed to hold him back, Foley followed up by diving off the stage to land a big elbow drop on Orton.  Still, it was only good for a two count (remember, falls counted anywhere).  Foley decided to take it back to the ring, where he administered a few more moves...  one was a double-arm DDT (and if Orton REALLY wanted our respect, he'd have taken THAT ONE in the tacks!), but still only a two count.  So Foley decided to go to the Mandible Claw.  But Orton used a low blow to escape that,  Then he hit an RKO.  Too groggy to cover immediately, Orton only got a two count on the first one.  But he followed up by hitting a second RKO, this time, with Foley's face landing on the barbed wire bat.  That time, Foley stayed down for the three count.  Orton celebrated as Batista and Ric Flair came down to ringside to assist him.  Very excellent 25 minute brawl.  [In all honesty, Orton did more than I thought, here...  but I wasn't exactly the only one who saw through all the fluff and pegged this as his make-or-break match.  And with that many people all looking on with that kind of critical eye, who's to say whether Randy did enough, afterall?  I say he did: he showed me tonight that he WANTS to be a wrestler, that he's willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.  That's something I never really got off Lex Luger, who was a million dollar look, a million dollar push, and seemingly ten cents worth of interest in the wrestling business beyond what it could do for him.  This is not a match that will make Orton's future bumbling promos any better, nor add to the sizzle of his in-ring work.  But I think this was a match that'll make most of us care a little bit more about paying attention to those promos and matches.  And that's not an unremarkable achievement.  Fun brawl, and if his career amounts to anything, a historic night for young Randy Orton.  Way to go, Mick, your work here is done.  The rest is up to The Kid.] 
  • Hurricane and Rosey beat La Resistance.  Five beers into the night, I needed to hit the head.  I was not the only one who picked this match for that purpose, and as such, there was a freaking line.  I missed maybe 3 minutes, I was told, but nothing important.  I get back, and La Resistance is in control of this impromptu match.  Then, as you might expect, Eugene made a grand entrance (and got a good pop from the Hooters' crowd), and started messing around at ringside.  Match was still going on as Eugene played with the Quebec flags and stuff.  Match kept on going as Eugene decided to hop in the ring and start running the ropes.  He just kept going back and forth and back and forth as Hurricane went about his business.  Eventually, one of La Resistance was distracted by Eugene's antics, and got caught by Hurricane, who hit the Slop Drop/Elbow Drop combo ("Eye of the Hurricane" maybe?) for the pinfall win.  [I guess six or so minutes of my life that I'll never get back...  but mostly harmless.  I tell ya, Eugene may not jelly my muffin, but the Fed might have something there.  Folks seem to perk up when he shows up, and even if I wasn't the only one who picked this match for a bathroom break, the crowd was interested by the time the finish rolled around.]
  • Edge beat Kane.  Earl Hebner made his first appearance of the night, and was the only thing resembling a heel in this match.  On a night when I was having trouble making out any of the audio, it was pretty clear that the crowd was lustily chanting "You Screwed Bret" at him.   After a back and forth opening, Kane dominated, focusing mostly on Edge's injured left hand.  That lasted for about five minutes, until Edge started a comeback, and came at Kane with a Spear attempt.  Kane dodged, and in so doing, ref Hebner was knocked from the ring (big pop!).  With the ref regaining his senses, Edge took the chance to use his cast to wallop Kane in the skull.  Then he hit a spear.  Then Hebner came back around and got in the ring to count three.  Maybe six minutes, tops.  [Wow.  This one could not have been more forgettable, which is not what you want when Edge is supposedly making his big comeback and push for main event status.  Not to sound like I'm bitter just because all my predictions were off base tonight, but this was definitely a deal where Edge could have won more by losing the match.  A cheap, anti-climactic win over Kane does nothing for either guy.  A bogus loss -- maybe due to Johnny Nitro -- gives Edge something to be pissy about and gives Kane something that's not Yet Another PPV Loss.]
  • Chris Benoit defeated Shawn Michaels and Triple H to retain the World Title.  Although Michaels is a babyface on TV, he was a heel tonight.  Chris Benoit, in his hometown, was the only guy getting cheers in this match.  At the onset, Benoit and Michaels briefly teamed up against HHH, but it didn't last.   HHH kind of powdered out a bit, leaving Benoit and Michaels to do some work, with HHH only occasionally chiming in to make sure Benoit stayed on defense before Michaels would take him down.  Benoit made a mini-superman-comeback about 10 minutes in, but Michaels ended that by shoving him off the top rope to the floor.  That signalled the change-over to a mostly Michaels/HHH segment.  When Benoit tried to get back involved, Michaels came at him with a dive, but Benoit dodged, and HBK took out the ref (Mike Chioda).  Benoit and HHH went back and forth for a bit, with Benoit locking in a Sharpshooter.  But Michaels broke that up.  So Benoit responded by locking Michaels in a Crippler Crossface.  But there's still no ref, so Benoit eventually released the hold to go check on Chioda.  Bad move.  Evil American Earl Hebner picked that moment to run out and take over the match, so Benoit got back in the ring, only to be surprised by a rejuvenated Michaels locking in a Sharpshooter of his own!  Awesome spot, as the entire nation of Canada collectively shat itself as Hebner adopted the "I'm gonna call for the bell stance."  But he didn't call for it.  Benoit didn't tap, and Hebner didn't screw him...  but the crowd again fired up a deafening "You Screwed Bret" chant.  Michaels tried to take it for himself, as he looked pissed at the chant, even though it was meant for Earl.  Michaels, now full-on heel as far as anyone in Edmonton was concerned, went back and forth with Benoit for a few more minutes.  When HHH was ready to rejoin the fight, he pretty much did so as an ally of Michaels and an enemy of Benoit.  The three-way brawling led to a spot outside the ring, where Michaels thought he'd do a plancha onto both Benoit and HHH, but instead, they ducked, and Michaels crashed through the Spanish Announce Table (which had been de-monitored and prepped during an aborted sport in the Kane/Edge match).  That gave Michaels his first real breather of the match, as HHH and Benoit got back in the ring and tore it up for a bit. HHH dominated until Benoit was able to reverse a move in the turnbuckle into a stiff-looking Snake Eyes move.  Benoit's rally was hitting a fevered pitch, as he hit the Hat Trick of Germans and went up top for the swandive headbutt.  But HHH moved, and followed that up with a Pedigree.  But before HHH could get the pinfall, Michaels finally got back in the match, and broke up the fall. Michaels put both men down, and seemed in control.  He focused on Benoit, leaving HHH to root around outside the ring, where he found his trusty sledgehammer.  HHH took the sledge and used it to lay into Michaels for a couple shots.  WWE Triple Threat rules are basically pinfall/submission only, so no harm, no foul, I guess.  With Michaels "written out" again, HHH and Benoit brawled to the outside, where HHH was poised to win with a Pedigree on the steel ring steps. But at the last second, Benoit reversed and slingshotted HHH into the ringpost.  That was the end of HHH's night.  Benoit got back in the ring to face off with Michaels, who had recovered a bit and was getting ready to Tune Up The Band.  But Benoit avoided the Chin Music, and eventually managed to lock in the Sharpshooter on Michaels.  Shawn almost got to the ropes once, but Benoit dragged him back to the center.  Just as it looked like HHH was revived enough to get back in the ring, Michaels had no choice left but to tap out.  Benoit is your winner via submission after an excellent 30 minute match.  [I may have my issues with what the live crowd was concerned about as three guys were in the ring busting their asses, but I've got nothing but praise for the actual work here.  Pretty much on par with WM, if you ask me, and that means another possible Match of the Year contender.  The added intangible of Benoit winning in his hometown is another aspect you can't ignore: WM might have been his breakthrough match, but tonight might be the one where he convinced more folks that he's actually for real.  Tremendous main event.]

You had two awesome matches -- the IC and World Title ones -- and a couple of other very solid affairs (in Shelton/Flair and Jericho/Christian/Trish, especially).  The noticeable pre-main event lull (La Resistance/HurriRosey and Kane/Edge) was the only part of the night where I was fully and truly digging the action.

Easy Thumbs Up call.  More thoughts/fall-out tomorrow in OO.


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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