WWE held their Backlash pay-per-view last night from the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. While it was expected to be a throwaway event, we ended up getting two title changes, one being the WWE Championship. The thing that surprised me the most about the event was that it featured all clean finishes. Whether or not this is indicative of the changes that Vince McMahon told WWE talent about last Monday on Raw – I don’t know, however, every match had a clean winner.
The pay-per-view featured the debut of Mick Foley as a color commentator for SmackDown, replacing Jonathan Coachman. While I feel like Foley has more potential than Coachman, his debut was shaky and probably would have been better on an episode of SmackDown. Foley has great knowledge and personality but there were times where he would talk over Michael Cole during key points of the match. Foley would also make a good point and instead of letting it rest he would get diarrhea mouth and just keep going on and on and on until you just wanted to tell him to shut up. Mick should get his timing down in practice but I feel that they should have just let Coachman finish up at Backlash.
Below are my match by match thoughts in the order in which they occurred not in order of match rating.
Matt Hardy winning the United States Championship against MVP was a fine opener but I feel with the title change that this had to be a blow-off match. Whether or not WWE plans to end the feud between Hardy and MVP remains to be seen, however, I do not think that there is anything left and a rematch would be pointless. WWE made Matt Hardy look like a big jobber in his post-match interview where he told Eve this was the best night of his life and the high point of his career. Excuse me; winning a title that no one cares about is the high point of your career? Matt has had tons of breathtaking matches in WWE that got him and Jeff over more than nearly any tag team in wrestling history and he is going to say that a basic singles match for the US Title was the high point of his career? While I understand why WWE wanted to make the moment special given Hardy’s extended program with MVP, the choice of words was bad.
Chavo Guerrero and Kane had a mediocre match for the ECW Championship that ended with a predictable clean pinfall win for Kane to retain. WWE tried to make it look like Chavo had a chance but realistically Chavo should never be booked in a program against Kane. Chavo is too small to look competitive and as a result this match did not appear to be of pay-per-view quality. Bam Neeley’s involvement was limited and there were no outstanding spots. Both worked hard but in the end it was a title defense that Kane could have easily had as the main event on WWE TV. As for Mike Adamle, he is still terrible but it was funny how they ribbed him throughout the show, almost making it his gimmick that all of the announcers were acknowledging his faults. One of the most annoying things that Adamle did was roll his Rs a couple of times when saying the Guerrero name which he should have never done. He also did not know what a chop was and called some moves late. He didn’t do as bad as he could have although he didn’t get a whole lot of time to mess up.
Big Show vs. The Great Khali. Need I say more? I could have written my thoughts on this match before it even happened. Show did his best to try to make this work but it was a snooze fest and they lost the crowd within a minute. Big Show slammed Khali and hit him a chokeslam as it looked like Khali did not offer much help in either one. The bottom line is The Great Khali has phenomenal size but just because he has phenomenal size does not mean that he is worthy of being a WWE superstar. There are too many guys underutilized in WWE for someone like Khali to get pay-per-view time. I am sorry for the two or three Khali fans out there but the guy is not a good worker and never well be.
The silliest thing of the night was Chris Jericho being the special guest referee of Shawn Michaels vs. Batista. I asked one of my sources in WWE on Friday what the plans were for Jericho in the match and they told me they did not have a clue. Apparently nobody did as Jericho came out dressed just like any other referee with the ear piece and all and did a very good job. He had absolutely no impact on the match and looked just like Mike Chioda. After reading Jericho’s book, he probably was determined to be the best referee on the show since he had no involvement in the direction of the match. As for the match itself between Batista and Shawn Michaels, it was pretty much what you would expect. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of fun at certain parts, but there was nothing that made it a five star match. Michaels did a great job of selling his knee because it really did look like it buckled at the end. The finish was abrupt and out-of-the blue but it worked. This would have been a lot more entertaining if Jericho had of turned on Michaels and started a program. Nonetheless the match was of pay-per-view quality and is worth watching.
The 12-Diva Tag Team match was your normal WWE Women’s contest which featured a bunch of women in bright color costumes, getting some spots in so the company can promote that they have a women’s division. Beth Phoenix looked good as always and Mickie got her spots in to still look like a above average worker. Other than that, there was not much to it. Natalya did not get much time to shine as did either of the other divas other than some brief exchanges involving Michelle McCool. I just wanted to also note that Ashley Massaro needs to put on some weight. She looks too thin to compete with anyone at where she is right now.
Undertaker vs. Edge was another dandy. If there were two people that really knew how to work against one another it would be Edge and Undertaker. They knew that they had big shoes to fill with their WrestleMania XXIV main event and they provided a contest that was different from last month but at the same time still had the edge needed to make it seem very realistic. It started slow but progressed nicely. Undertaker did not hit a lot of vintage spots but used a more realistic approach with an MMA type fighting stance and of course the Gogoplata choke. WWE kept Edge a good heel by involving Hawkins and Ryder but at the same time not ripping off the match by letting it end in disqualification. The finish was brilliant as it looked like Edge had beaten the odds with a backslide into a rollup only for him to get caught in the Gogoplata and being forced to tap. The ending with Edge being taken out on a backboard with Vickie Guerrero coming out was great and not only made Edge still look credible but made Undertaker look like the monster that he needs to be.
The Fatal Four Way Elimination match was good but I did not enjoy it as much as Undertaker vs. Edge. I am more of a traditionalist and I feel that if you are going to do a title change, it needs to be in a pure, no BS wrestling match. Hardcore stipulations are fine for matches that advance angles or blow them off but they just don’t work for me in title situations. John Cena had some very good spots as did JBL before they were eliminated around the twelve minute mark. Hunter and Randy Orton worked very well together and proved even further why the match should have been a singles bout. The finish was fun but slightly overbooked with Triple H ending it with a Pedigree and the three count. It’ll be interesting to see what WWE does with Triple H as I know they’re going to want to do programs with him and JBL as well as him and Cena. I guess I have been spoiled with the singles greatness of Edge/Undertaker as well as the tremendous build TNA did with Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle. I just feel that the WWE Championship should be considered ‘larger than life’ and a bout involving four people with hardcore stipulations makes it look too gimmicky for my taste. The match itself was very good.
All and all this was not a bad pay-per-view and featured enough good things that you will probably want to watch it. MVP vs. Matt Hardy, Batista vs. Michaels, Undertaker vs. Edge, and the Fatal Four Way matches are all worth seeing. The rest of the undercard was solid in that it featured clean finishes and not a lot of BS. Order the replay at your own discretion as you may just want to save and wait for the DVD to come out. Remember to leave me your thoughts as I look forward to hearing from you.
Richard can be contacted at richard [at] grayinternet.com
Richard Gray is a professional wrestling journalist and frequent contributor to Rajah.com. He has been covering the world of professional wrestling since 1999 and has had the opportunity to cover ground breaking stories such as the demise of ECW, the WCW buyout, the Benoit tragedy, Bobby Lashley leaving WWE, and more. For more on Richard check out his web site, Wrestling News World.