First off, before I go into this week’s edition, I would like to apologize to you for the late posting of last week’s draft predictions. Man, did I look like an idiot having my predictions posted the day after they occurred huh? Well, due to technical difficulties that’s what happened. I pray this does not happen again, seeing as it will be a very long time before I predict the outcomes of anything coming from Monday Night Raw again. Pay-per-views are another story and that will come in due time.
Until then, let’s dive into this week’s ?Reality?.
?Lightning in a Bottle?
That is what seemed to be the tagline for WWE’s 2004 edition of Backlash emanating from Edmonton, Alberta. The professional wrestling world was somewhat fresh from the heels of Wrestlemania XX from Madison Square Garden because we had been given ample enough time to regroup; it had been over a month since the grand event. Reminiscing about WM20 and Backlash ?04 was a very difficult topic for me to select for this for the many obvious reasons stemming from both of their main events. This selection was unavoidable though, as I believe this was the best edition of Backlash WWE had ever assembled.
Give WWE credit, it is tremendously difficult to put together a card after what is considered your Super Bowl in NFL terms. Some would consider it a Pro Bowl of sorts. In 2004 though, WWE thoroughly succeeded in producing a great show while at the same time not overshadowing what had occurred a month prior. It definitely remains to be seen if the same can be accomplished this year, but after the many reviews written regarding Wrestlemania 25 and my own terminology (?The Silver Buzzkill?), it may not be as hard as it sounds. In some angry enthusiasts? eyes, WWE could focus in on a jar of mayonnaise for three hours and it would still be as fulfilling.
It almost seemed prophetic in how everything played out into WWE’s hands when it came to the outcome of WM20’s main event pouring into the locale for the sequential pay-per-view. A no-brainer: a rematch for the WWE Title in the same fashion with the same performers but with a different opponent falling victim to the victor. More to the point, have the victim be a performer who is the proverbial lightning rod for all of Canada’s hatred. If the performer is not a long enough conduit, why not let it be the referee that allowed the lightning to strike the house of Canada?
What also makes the 2004 edition of Backlash stand out above all others is a professional wrestling baptism of sorts. It is not very often that you see the christening of a performer; an ascension from mid-card status to main event. Many will argue that it was his claiming of the WWE Title at Summerslam later in the year, but Backlash was Randy Orton’s crossing of the main event threshold. Amazingly enough, this pay-per-view was a Raw specific show? and still turned out to be a very entertaining one.
So this week, I give for your consideration a very emotional and heart-churning retro/introspection of Backlash ?04. Chew each morsel delicately and savor the flavor.
Match #1 ? Shelton Benjamin defeats Ric Flair ? After Shelton’s switch to Raw from Smackdown, he would quickly get two quick victories over former WWE Title holder Triple H. On Triple H’s behalf, Flair opted to teach Shelton a lesson in respect? by losing to the then-young upstart. Five years later, Shelton has been a consummate title contender/holder whether it is Intercontinental or United States. His performances in past Money-in-the-Bank matches at Wrestlemania have certainly been highlight worthy and more often have the set the standards for what the MITB match should be every year. Springboarding from the ropes to an upright ladder? using the ropes to keep from falling from a tipped ladder? or falling from the top of the ladder, Shelton’s ?Gold Standard? moniker refers to more than just his hair.
We don?t need to really touch on Flair do we? His retirement was legendary, his cameo appearance at WM25 was unnecessary to some, and he just can?t seem to get the need to be part of the industry out of his system now appearing with Ring of Honor. Many believe Chris Jericho’s words to be true about Ric Flair and his comparisons to Mickey Rourke’s character in ?The Wrestler?: Constantly craving the spotlight, still trying to grasp for something that his body can?t achieve. So what if Flair is old. Big deal if Flair isn?t physically capable of doing what is expected of him in the ring. It’s Ric Flair, dammit? he can do whatever the hell he wants because he IS Ric Flair! That is the only reason you need and it is the only reason that matter and trumps all logic.
Match #2 ? Jonathon Coachman defeats Tajiri ? With the help of Garrison Cade? or Lance Cade? or whatever the hell his name is this year, Coach ended up pinning the Japanese Buzzsaw. To see Coach on ESPNEWS is very odd. Not in the sense that he is no longer involved in professional wrestling, but in the sense that he is garnering respect and credibility with the personalities he interviews in actual professional sports despite being part of the stage of the grand male soap opera.
Back in the fall of 1998, I attended an ECW house show from Concord, North Carolina. The second match on the card was Super Crazy matched up against a clean-shaven, blue tights garbed Yoshihiro Tajiri. Since that October night, anything involving Tajiri, I was all for. From his slow bastardization to American culture through mannerisms like shooting the bird to his descent into the tired and true Great Muta stereotype of Japanese professional wrestlers in America. If you are Japanese and in the industry, you must spew green mist, utilize kicks as to be referenced as ?martial arts?, and show an impression of mystique and oriental complexity. Why Tajiri could not use his Dragon Suplex as a finisher instead of the ?kick to the head? is beyond me. Good to see him enjoying the good life back in his mother country? watching baseball and getting paid for it.
Match #3 ? Handicap Match ? Chris Jericho defeats Christian and Trish Stratus. Ah, the revenge match for Jericho after his bitchslap at WM20 from Trish ?I have boobies and can wrestle? Stratus. Amazing to see Y2J and Christian back in the same company after their collective hiatuses, whilst Ms. Stratus enjoys her life teaching yoga while still having boobies.
Match #4 ? Women’s Championship ? Victoria retains over Lita. Victoria should have left this industry with a lot more grace and a ton more fanfare. We can now say that Mickie James is probably the last great female talent in WWE. I cannot say this about Natalya because quite frankly I have not seen enough of her to know otherwise. Melina does not count? anytime more concentration is placed on your feathered wings and jazz hands than your actual work in the ring discounts you from this list. In fact, any female that spends more time dancing, gyrating, or posing than actual fisticuffs in the ring should never be counted as a women’s wrestler. I could watch Mickie and Phoenix wrestle all night long? but all others I would only want to see wearing lingerie and wrestle in mud? and we know that will never happen. Thanks for making WWE PG again.
Match #5 ? Intercontinental Championship ? Hardcore Rules ? Randy Orton retains over Mick Foley. Jerry Lawler said it perfectly during this contest. This was ?The Passion of Randy Orton?. More to the point, this was his baptism to elite status. The past times where performers in WWE took a thumbtack bump were while wearing a shirt? seeing Randy’s young early-twenties body take the punishment it did was definitely a sight to behold.
What sold Randy Orton during this match was not just the bloodletting and the physical carnage he would endure, it was his awareness of the cameras at all times. If you are able to view this match online or through your library, look for this spot:
Foley has grabbed the barbed wire bat and has nailed Orton causing the juice? blood slowly flowing from Orton’s forehead. Orton scrambles from the far side turnbuckle to the second rope immediately in front of the wide-angle ring camera (the shot showing the entire ring). Orton sprawled over the second rope looks up and into the lens. He stretches his hand and arm out, grasping at nothing, as if begging and pleading for mercy from some benevolent soul sitting on the couch viewing the program. In his eyes is nothing but pure, unimaginable fear. His bottom lip trembling like he has gone through complete shock from the trauma his body has been dealt. Mere seconds later, you realize the look on his face and grasping for help was prophetic, as Foley appears behind him grinding the barbed wire deep into the gash above his innocent eyes.
This moment, I truly believe, is what catapulted this young man’s career. If you do not agree with me, please give me some other timeless Orton moments that you believe would outdo this one. But bear in mind that I am not merely talking about entire matches, I?m talking about moments. Like Dwayne Johnson’s first cocking of the eyebrow, Orton’s ?look of fear? immediately pushed him to stratospheric heights in the hierarchy of WWE talent.
Match #6 ? The Hurricane and Rosey defeat La Resistance ? I truly felt sorry for all four of these performers. Not because they had to follow the brilliant performance before them, but that they had to introduce Eugene to the world. With William Regal in tow, Eugene would distract the French guys and cause them to lose. Um? that’s pretty much it. You see, that’s what happens when you have such a great performance in the middle of a pay-per-view, the expectation level is set way too high for anyone to compete with, unless you are in the main event, which we will get to in a moment.
Match #7 ? Edge defeats Kane ? This would be Edge’s return from his 234th injury and using an arm cast and a low blow to defeat the ?heel? Kane while the referee was down. Edge returning as a face sounds tremendously foreign nowadays, doesn?t it? People used to like Edge? I thought all wrestling fans despised him because he had whiter teeth than them or had a more eloquent vocabulary. I know I am not talking about you, the wrestling enthusiast, though. You have been a fan of his since teaming with Christian and putting on all of the infamous TLC matches. You miss the camera poses. You miss the kazoo-rendition of Kurt Angle’s entrance as performed by the Canadians.
What you are not missing though is the workhorse mentality? Edge has been one of the federation’s true performers. You can always count on him to put on a great show and make the crowd jeer and revile him at the turn of his head or the s$%t-eating grin that can emerge.
I truly wish the same could be said about Kane but it seems that WWE never really knows what to do with him. They?ve tried title shots, they?ve given him horror movies, they?ve given him everything in their power to make him seem destructive or monstrous? but he just seems to have the charisma of a beige room. No matter how much red you put in the room with him, I?m still not terrified. I don?t care how often he needs to jumpstart Shane McMahon’s man-marbles with an Everlast, I?m not going to lose sleep the following night.
Bring back the Kane that just attacked people for no reason whatsoever. Stop making him care. Bringing back his mask would not solve anything, it would just make me hope he will bring back the voice box and sound like he had been smoking a carton of Lucky Strikes. Either go entirely old school or change his persona entirely before he retires? we all know the day is coming soon.
Match #8 ? WWE Championship ? Triple Threat Match ? Chris Benoit retains against Triple-H and Shawn Michaels. The only time I am going to spend on Benoit is regarding this event taking place in his hometown. His wife and son were in the crowd, they came into the ring after his victory. It will always be one of the toughest matches for me to watch and I sure as hell should never need to validate that for you. What I will elaborate on, though, is what quite possibly made this entire match: The crowd itself.
With Triple-H submitting at WM20, it was Shawn Michaels? turn, and what better way then to have it occur in front of a crowd who absolutely despises him for his past appearances. Canada will never let it go and WWE prays they never do. If it wasn?t Shawn Michaels that made the crowd erupt with hostility, then it was the referee who would replace Mike Chioda’s injury-prone departure: Earl Hebner. Of course! Have the referee who caused the debacle back in 1998 make a cameo appearance!
?I think the crowd has collectively wet themselves!? Lawler exclaims after Hebner’s appearance as the new referee and nearly counting the pinfall of Benoit from Michaels. You would never have thought Triple-H was in this match at all because the crowd was solely focused on their love for Benoit and their hatred for Michaels. That’s a first, huh?
So imagine this, a main event involving Triple-H but him not being a factor at all, the ascension of ?The Future?, and the return of a champion to his home country. Makes for a great show huh? That’s why the 2004 edition of Backlash is the best of all of them. Don?t agree with me? Think I?m still reeling from my horrid predictions regarding the draft last week? Or just want to agree with me so you can be acknowledged? feel free to reply back! I?m all for negating you otherwise.
Until next time, Mouth-breathers!