‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Well the World Cup is officially over, as are my studies for the summer which should mean smooth sailing from here on out. In all the craziness of life it’s hard to believe that another PPV cycle has passed too. Lots of positivity for a good deal of the card going into Battleground. There are certainly some interesting matches on show. I think many might be starters before the SummerSlam main courses however. Whatever happens though, I think we might be in for a good summer of wrestling despite a lot of stop-start action over the spring. For more on Battleground however, be sure to check out Maverick’s column which you will find a few lines down from this one in the Lords of Pain columns section. But this particular column, as usual, lives by the philosophy of out with the new, in with the old. So let’s get going with this week’s…
ATTITUDE! Backlash: In Your House (CPR Productions)
By Maz & Mav
Jul 17, 2014 - 6:32:12 PM
Mazza: Last week we found ourselves coming off a WrestleMania that was as huge a commercial success as it was disappointing in terms of quality. After months of terrific television it all seemed to fall off a cliff on the final stretch of the road to Mania 15. That said though, there was plenty to look forward to in the aftermath. Stone Cold was once again WWF champion, Triple H had turned on DX and the Ministry’s evil was gaining momentum. All would make for some interesting TV but there was one question on everybody’s mind. Would we see Bart Gunn again?
Maverick: Erm….I’m not sure if that was the question actually Maz! There were plenty of questions raised by Wrestlemania XV though, most notably about The Big Show appearing to turn face, Triple H turning heel, the future of DX, the future of The Corporation, what was next for Austin vs. McMahon and where the Ministry would turn next in their war against the World Wrestling Federation. With that many balls up in the end, the build to the very first Backlash event and the very last In Your House event (more on which in One To Watch) would be all important. So let’s not waste any time as we bring you...
The Event: Backlash In Your House
The Date: 25 April 1999
The Place: Providence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
Austin’s chase from the night after Breakdown to the Wrestlemania XV has a reputation as one of the greatest chases in wrestling history. As we saw last week, that was not necessarily the case in the immediate run from St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to Wrestlemania, but certainly, the range of obstacles placed in Steve Austin’s path over the months meant that the sense of catharsis in him recapturing the belt from The Rock was strong. The night after ‘Mania, Austin came out to a huge pop to announce that he’d done exactly what he said he would; burn the Smackdown Hotel to the ground! He then put over Rocky’s toughness in a very classy manner, before suddenly announcing that getting the belt back wasn’t worth the aggravation in the end. He said, to the shock of the audience, that he was going to relinquish the belt. A very suspicious McMahon came out, as Stone Cold rolled the footage from Breakdown where Vince ran off with the title belt and from the night after when the boss decided that the Smoking Skull custom made belt was going on his mantelpiece. The Rattlesnake would relinquish the eagle belt because he wanted his signature gold back. And if he didn’t get it, he would beat McMahon’s ass, because his behaviour during the main event constituted enough provocation for Austin to be able to strike his employer without breaching his contract. He gave Vince two hours to come up with the belt, and if he didn’t, it was ass whuppin’ time. As his music hit and he soaked up the crowd’s adulation, the chairman of the board hit a cheap shot with the eagle belt and scurried off.
As for Stone Cold’s ‘Mania opponent, The Rock came out to ringside with Shane, who began acting as his manager. Shane joined the commentary team for Rock vs. Billy Gunn, a hot little match that was a sign of things to come for the Ass Man. Shane then called out Austin to tell him that the Corporate Champ had the skull strap and that he should come get it if he wanted it so badly. Rocky did his usual trashing of Austin on the mic and the Rattlesnake came to get him some, but the entire Corporation came out and beat the champ down until Big Show came down to make the save, with Trips getting a massive choke slam for his trouble.
With Vince busy with the Ministry, Shane became the main conduit for the Corporation’s beef with Austin and he announced the next week that he would be the guest ref at backlash, bearing mind what had happened the last time Shane had refereed an Austin match. The son of the boss then booked Big Show in a revenge handicap match against Rock and Triple H. Trips said that the world had been waiting for him and Rock to team up, while Rock mocked Big Show and promised that two feet would end up in his rectum. Shane showed off to his dad afterwards, but the patriarch of the company wasn’t interested and even told his son not to provoke Austin. It was an interesting little tweener turn for Vince which would develop as the weeks went on. Shane decided he would show a shot of the skull belt around Rock’s waist throughout the broadcast, but Austin warned in an interview with JR hat there would be trouble if Shane over did the taunting. Before the match,Trips parodied his old DX schtick; I particularly enjoyed “For the thousands of nimrods in attendance, you can all suck it.” A subtle change, but a significant one. The actual match was pretty short, as Chyna drew a DQ with low blow and the Corporation beat on him. Austin came out and cleaned house to repay Show for his help the week before. Shane then tempted fate by putting the skull belt back on the tron. Stone Cold’s warning was realised when he got Wight to bring down the Titantron for them to rip it apart! The episode closed with a beer toast between Show and Austin.
In the aftermath of that mini-triumph for the Texas Rattlesnake, he told Shane not try to screw him because if he did, he’d get his ass kicked. Stone Cold decided that two weeks was too long, and gave the Great One an ultimatum; if he didn’t come out, Austin would go find him. Rock, in an iconic moment, then appeared on the tron, standing on a bridge. Unlike Austin with the IC belt back in December ‘97, Rock decided he would not throw it in the water. Instead, he told Austin to come to the bridge and find him. If he wanted that piece of trash, he would have to come get it. The Rattlesnake made it to the bridge but ended up going into the water, with the belt following him. Quite the shocking visual, really. A mock funeral followed the next week, which was hilarious, if in slightly poor taste, before Austin pulled his usual trick of driving an enormous vehicle into the arena, in this case a monster truck, which he used to crush The Rock’s limousine and the hearse they had used in the “funeral”. On the following episode of Heat, Shane responded by making the match no disqualification, though in typical wrestling villain fashion, this stip played to Austin’s kayfabe strengths as much as Rocky’s.
So, we still had Austin vs. McMahon, but it was Shane McMahon. Vince, after the first week of the build, was entirely occupied with the Ministry, effectively turning him into the de facto face in the scenario, something nobody could possibly have seen coming back in January. Stephanie was revealed to be the object of Undertaker’s stalking on Heat before ‘Mania and a sit down interview detailed the envelope full of photos that had been given to Vince and the fact that the burnt teddy had been Steph’s. On that first Raw, ‘Taker led the Ministry out to the ring to get Sable. The Deadman grabbed her by the throat and told McMahon to come out to the ring before he snapped his “meal ticket’s” neck. While the chairman was distracted with this, Steph was kidnapped. This entire episode’s plot was expertly constructed. The search for Steph was led by Ken Shamrock, who made a heartfelt promise to find her. The World’s Most Dangerous Man kept his promise by torturing Christian with the ankle lock and despite suffering a Blood Bath, Shamrock, covered in blood like Patrick Bateman after a heavy night with the axe, he got the information out of the Brood member and went to the boiler room, where he found Stephanie tied up with The Undertaker’s symbol painted on her forehead.
This alarming turn of events led Vince to give Shane the responsibility of running the show while he looked after his daughter, surrounded by police officers. Undertaker responded by announcing that a young woman would be sacrificed. McMahon assumed that would be Steph, but that someone turned out to be Ryan Shamrock, who was left vulnerable after Ken was beaten down by the entire Ministry interrupting a match between he and Viscera. The former MMA man ended up in the back of a truck while his storyline sister ended up hoisted up on the Phenom’s symbol. As you might imagine, this turn of events was deeply upsetting for Ken, who confronted Shane the next week to tell him that he’d been promised a family but no-one had helped him or his sister. McMahon Jr. responded by bringing out Vince and Steph and berating his dad for getting his priorities wrong. He followed that up with a fourth wall shot across the bows of JR, who had returned to commentary duties by then, and by sacking Patterson and Brisco for being “too old”. Shane asked Vince where the famous grapefruits had gone and slapped his old man! The chairman’s warning was that true power and respect had to be earnt. Shamrock left with Vince as a sign of his loyalty to the man who had been a father figure to him since December. The World’s Most Dangerous Man cleared the ring of the Ministry later in the same show with a baseball bat, earning Undertaker’s displeasure, and the next week the mixed martial artist vowed to break the cult leader’s ankle in the match booked for Backlash. Due to Christian’s transgression in telling Ken where Steph was tethered, Undertaker had the rest of his minions beat him, also instructing The Brood to make Christian take on Paul Wight by himself in a total squash. When Shamrock ended up being sacrificed, Christian was supposed to meet the same fate, but he was saved by Gangrel and Edge, who attacked The Acolytes, putting the two tag teams on a collision course for the pay-per-view.
Meanwhile, the other major story from ‘Mania, Triple H’s sensational turn on X Pac and the rest of DX to join The Corporation, was a little strangely booked at first. The former leader of the group only appeared at the end of the show to actually face his former stablemate in a match and after that as part of a Corporate run in, and got no mic time at all to solidify his turn, whereas X Pac got a huge spotlight shone on him, as he gave a brilliant promo reminding the crowd that he came back to the WWF because of a call from a friend, which had led to one hell of a year kicking ass, taking names and telling the world to suck it. At ‘Mania, that had all changed; everyone makes important choices and Hunter had made his. But he and The Outlaws would keep the DX flame alive. He also swore that Hunter would become “the hunted”. The TV match between the two was thrown out after Chyna interference, but Kane came out to stop the two on one to a big pop. This led to a shot at Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart’s tag titles for the odd couple, and X Pac and Kane duly won the tag straps in an excellent TV match. Soon afterwards, a match between Trips and Pac was made official for Backlash in something of a mark out moment for raving Helmsley fan Mazza and raging X Pac fan Maverick!
Those people who have been vociferous in complaining about the recent Shield split where Reigns and Ambrose have barely interacted while Reigns also seems not to care about Rollins’ betrayal would find plenty to dislike about the DX schism too. The Outlaws didn’t associate with X Pac at all, didn’t mention Triple H’s betrayal, and even ended up in a number one contenders feud with Jeff and Owen to for the opportunity to actually wrestle their remaining stable mate. Road Dogg and Billy Gunn reuniting as a tag team as opposed to two singles guys certainly did liven up the shows a fair bit, but their lack of ties to the wider Trips/Pac story was an odd oversight. Road Dogg also lost his Intercontinental Title to Goldust after Blue Meanie, a loss that he didn’t seem to mind at all. It was a very strange month for the Outlaws, but in Jeff and Owen they would at least have some excellent in-ring foils to work with at the pay-per-view.
Instead of giving Roadie a rematch, Goldust ended up in a feud with Godfather, who had a shot at the belt on TV ruined by a double count out. Bossman was the next challenger on the block, but Godfather bought him off with hoes to get himself another go, whereupon he won the belt. The rematch was then booked for the pay-per-view. Meanwhile, in the Hardcore division, Steve Williams, still backed up by JR, had a shot against Hardcore Holly, but Al Snow’s interference gave Bob the victory, meaning that Dr Death got his revenge a week later by taking out both men after Snow’s non-title victory. Despite Williams’ attentions, Holly and Snow managed to keep each other’s attention and they were set to reprise their Mississippi River battle from St.Valentine’s Day Massacre at Backlash.
Strangest of all though was the case of Mankind. We highlighted last time how he was misused on the Road to Wrestlemania despite being the best thing about the entire product, and he was booked in yet another confusing story that did not make the most of his considerable talents. While Big Show made a face turn that seemed half hearted at best and disastrously premature at worst, Mick didn’t even appear on Raw the night after Wrestlemania, and by the time he returned to beat Val Venis, his booking in his signature Boiler Room Brawl match against Show seemed to make very little sense as with the World’s Largest Athlete’s affiliation to The Corporation broken, there was no reason for the two to fight. The company then emphasised this on TV by having Show save Mankind from the Corporation and Mankind save Show from The Ministry. All very odd really.
The only thing left before I hand back to Maz is to breathe a deep sigh of relief as the Jim Ross heel turn was finally dropped two weeks before the PPV. Thank goodness for that. And with that done, it’s time for Mazza to show you...
The Acolytes & Mideon defeated The Brood in 11:38
We start out by watching the fallout from the Brood’s excommunication from the Ministry. The crowd don’t seem to care very much as we have an early feeling out process with some quick tags. Things settle down with the Ministry in control and they use some good heel tactics to keep Edge in peril. A ridiculously loud and spontaneous “Mideon sucks” chant as the pace slows right down. The tag eventually comes and the match breaks down. Christian and Bradshaw both gets close calls on each other in the chaos but then Viscera makes his way to ringside. He squashes Christian into the ring apron which lets Mr Layfield land a Clothesline From Hell for the win. Probably could have done with being a tad shorter here. The face in peril phase went on a bit too long but we did see some nice moves from the Brood with some typically hard hitting action from the Acolytes. Mideon was also there.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
Al Snow (With Head) defeated Hardcore Holly in 15:35 in a Hardcore Match to win the Hardcore Championship
This rather bizarre storyline barely makes it to the outside of the ring before the challenger gets busted open. They fight into the fans with neither man able to retain control for more than a couple of moves. We get hockey sticks and tables yet still things go back and forth before they head to the backstage area. Snow tries to use the kitchen sink but gets sprayed with a hose and they soon find themselves outside with the champ trying to get a pinfall on a dumpster. He can’t get the three however and they begin their long trip back to the ring where it’s frying pan and table time. We get our big spot as Holly superplexes Snow (and himself) through a table. Both men gingerly get to their feet but a shot with Head from Al sees him become the new champion. Not been a fan at all of the hardcore division since it has been set up. Psychology and logic totally put aside in the name of spots, many of which were ridiculous. I understand that you have to suspend belief a little but there are limits.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *½
Backstage The Undertaker gives The Ministry a motivational speech with a nice higher power reference. It’s coming, peeps!
The Godfather defeated Goldust (With Blue Meanie) in 5:12 to retain the Intercontinental Championship
The hotshotting of the IC title post-Mania was insane but it resulted in The Godfather coming to the ring at Backlash packing gold and he would be looking to send Goldust packing. As a side, I will never get tired of watching Godfather’s entrance with the hos. He was ridiculously over by this stage with his catchphrase but Goldie didn’t get an offer of the hos. The former Extreme Fighting Machine bosses the opening exchanges and the challenger teases taking a walk. Not that the crowd care much as they let loose with a very loud “we want hos” chant. The Blue Meanie pays dividends at ringside to turn the tide back in Goldust’s favour. He hands him some white powder but it is the champ that knocks it into Goldie’s face. Blinded, he levels Meanie and even hits Shattered Dreams on his buddy as Godfather encourages the crowd to play along. He eventually goes back on the attack, hitting a Ho Train on his opponent and his blue buddy before finishing the challenger off with a Death Valley Driver. I actually rather enjoyed this. Sure it was farcical but it was well performed and very fun to watch. This is the type of comedy act I like in the middle of a card.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
Al Snow talks to Head backstage in the type of comedy act I don’t like in the middle of a card.
The New Age Outlaws defeated Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett (With Debra) in 10:27 in a Number One Contenders Match
Billy and Roadie’s solo midcard title quests are back off again as the Outlaws ride once more in a bid to become number one contenders to the tag belts. DX is definitely alive and kicking without Trips as the crowd are once again extremely enthusiastic in playing along with catchphrase time. Not quite as enthusiastic as Lawler is about Debra’s outfit however (a skimpy bikini with a jacket over it). Roadie tries to get Debra to show off her assets before the match. She seems happy to oblige but is stopped by Jarrett. Instead Billy flashes his ass which prompts things to get underway. Things start off at a good pace with Billy and Owen but both men soon tag out as the crowd chant “show your puppies”. It’s a good start but soon predictably settles into Road Dogg playing his face in peril routine. Jarrett and Hart work it very well indeed with lots of crisp moves backed up with some nice heel tactics. Owen looks to finish things with a sleeper but James gets his second wind and soon hits the hot tag. Billy comes in like a house on fire and the action soon breaks down. It settles down with Owen putting a Sharpshooter on Roadie whilst Double J tries to hook in a Figure Four on Mr Ass. Gunn kicks him off however and lands a Fameasser on Hart to make the Outlaws Number One Contenders. Billy shows his ass again post match for no apparent reason whilst Roadie dances. One of my favourite Outlaws matches here. It wasn’t often they got time and a good foil on PPV to show off their in ring skills but the stars aligned on this night.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***½
Backstage Cole interviews ref for the main event, Shane McMahon. He shits on Vince and pretty much says he will get the job done and count the three in the name of his grandfather. Kevin Kelly then interviews Vince with Steph. The boss says he hopes Shane won’t make a big mistake tonight.
Mankind defeated The Big Show in 7:50 in a Boiler Room Brawl
We see Show walking around the boiler room and Mankind attacks him from behind to apparently get us underway. Mick tries to shut his opponent in an electricity closet but the giant powers out to take charge. It essentially turns into a hardcore title match as Show uses benches before missing Foley and punching a fridge. Mankind can’t capitalise however and Wight continues to use anything he can get his hands on. Just when it looks like he has everything in hand and tries to leave, the deranged one smashes a sheet of glass over his head. Foley wastes time however climbing a ladder and gets chokeslammed through two tables and some glass. Both men are covered in blood (Mick with a nasty looking cut to the hand) as the war continues. Eventually Mankind manages to break a pipe with steam going into Show’s face. He follows up with a low blow using a pipe and and buries Show in a pile of scaffolding. Mick crawls out of the boiler room leaving a trail of heavy handprints to win the match. He is immediately met by Bossman and Test who beat down on him. Show makes the save and Foley puts the Mandible Claw on Test. A few moments later we see Show getting checked on by the doctor who says he needs stitches and has a dislocated thumb. Mick says he doesn’t want to fight Big Show anymore and he walks us through the carnage of the boiler room explaining what happened. This was fun stuff again. What separates this from the hardcore title match is that it was much more hard hitting. There was also a lot more logic behind the ebb and flow of the encounter.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¼
Triple H (With Chyna) defeated X-Pac in 19:19
Chyna addresses X-Pac saying there is a pecking order and Hunter says he made his ass, now he’s gonna break it. They then hit the ring to what sounds like some very generic early 90s WWF music. It’s cat and mouse in the early running as we see X-Pac’s speed going up against the early days of the Cerebral Assassin. It’s that part of Hunter’s character that puts him in charge as he focuses in on Waltman’s neck. The pace is methodical as Trips dissects his former buddy with Chyna helping when the opportunity arises. JR sells the story brilliantly and he calls for the ref to end the match. The extent of Pac’s offence is pretty much a small package attempt and soon The Game locks in a sleeper. Waltman tries to fight back to no avail. Hunter goes to finish things with a Pedigree but X-Pac manages to counter into a shot south of the border. He then throws his former stablemate into the stairs before we get a ref bump. Waltman hits a facebuster but Chyna hits the ring and lands a low blow of her own. The lights then go out and Kane makes his way to the ring. He chokeslams Trips and Chyna before leaving. Pac comes to and he lands a Bronco Buster on Hunter. He then hits one on Chyna in the opposite corner but he turns around into a Pedigree and that’s all she wrote. When two Kilq members get the chance to face off, the plan is usually to steal the show. No exception here. A nice little blow off to the DX Army run with some brilliant storytelling from the WWF’s midcard anchors.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ****
The Undertaker (With Paul Bearer) defeated Ken Shamrock in 18:53
I really enjoyed the build to this one and Shamrock hits the ring with revenge on his mind. The Deadman quickly cuts him off however and the pace drops. The advantage goes back and forth with ‘Taker using his strikes whilst Ken works the leg. No matter who is controlling however, the match is at crawling pace and the crowd seem to check out. The psychology is top notch but there is very little in the way of excitement as this phase seems to go on forever. The Deadman eventually begins to play Shamrock at his own game working his own submission holds in an early foray into the MMA style. We get to the bitter end and The World’s Most Dangerous Man has his tail up. He teases the Ankle Lock a couple of times but when he finally hooks it on, Bradshaw hits the ring. He causes the distraction but Shamrock isn’t done yet. He nails a belly-to-belly but when he tries to play Taker’s game with a Tombstone, The Deadman reverses it into one of his own and picks up the victory. The leader of the Ministry leaves and lets Bradshaw go to work on Ken with a baseball bat. This was a strange one. Intriguing would be the best word. Boring as hell but laced with strong storytelling. Not easy to settle on a rating.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
THE MAIN EVENT
Steve Austin defeated The Rock in 17:10 in a No Holds Barred Match for the WWF Championship
We actually begin the presentation of the main event with Stephanie being placed in a car by Vince, foreshadowing for the events destined to take place at the end. Shane comes out to the ring in his zebra stripes, looking cocky and confident that he’ll be able to screw Stone Cold, as the No DQ stip has been amended to also state that Austin will be disqualified for any physical contact with the referee. The Rock is his usual confident self, walking to the ring with the Smoking Skull belt over his shoulder, but his good mood is soon broken as Austin sprints to the ring, throwing the eagle belt at the challenger and barreling straight into him for a straight up brawl. The entire feel to proceedings is electric and the characters are rendered perfectly for the storyline they are enacting. Austin is on fire in the early exchanges, knowing exactly how to pop the crowd in this kind of title match scenario. The old Thesz Press/piston-like rights combo gives a sense of energy but Rock’s swinging neckbreaker emphasises his ring smarts, and he tosses Austin contemptuously to the floor in order to initiate the traditional Attitude Era main event outside brawl.
This is certainly up there with the best of those; there’s a great fire extinguisher shot from Rocky that just about cleans Stone Cold’s clock, and he then proceeds to use the stage set to brutal effect. Austin sells this beating well, and I like the fact that the heel is the aggressor here. However, turnabout is fair play, and the People’s Champ ends up thrown into a collapsing stage set himself as Jim Ross intones his concern for what may happen. Austin uses a cable, which Shane tries to break up, but we see that the Acting Chairman has caused himself a problem as it was he who made it no holds barred! In a hilariously innovative move, Stone Cold runs Rock over with a wheeled transport case, but when Austin comes off the top of it, the challenger is ready and he takes the Rattlesnake down. Heading back to the ring, Rock’s advantage proves short lived as a reversal into the barrier proves the third generation star’s undoing. Austin is very much in charge and he earns a slap from Shane, who is desperate for the Texas Rattlesnake to lose, but the distraction is ignored by the champ and the Brahma Bull goes flying over the top rope whereupon Stone Cold hits a flying clothesline off the apron. He then goes for a piledriver on the Spanish Announce Table, but a low blow turns things the other way, and it’s followed by a hellacious table breaking Rock Bottom and The Rock interrupting the Spanish commentators by putting on a headset and making them aware of how Austin is a “living, breathing piece of trash”. Rocky also does some camera work, stealing a camera to film Austin’s prone form, but a sudden Stunner takes out the remaining announce table!
Shane however has something else up his sleeve; he tries to hit Stone Cold with the title belt, but instead nails Rock...but at two, he refuses to count further and runs away, in a homage to the Deadly Game semi-final. Vince is there though and in keeping with his new face character, he clocks his own son with the smoking skull belt! Austin does a brilliant job of looking incredulous, and as Earl Hebner takes over officiating duties, the champ almost loses when he is attacked from behind. However, momentum is not with Rock for long as Stone Cold hits the Stunner- which Rock sells in a 2005 Shawn Michaels style- and a belt shot for the three count.
A brilliant Attitude Era brawl is quickly subsumed into the Ministry storyline though as Steph’s limousine is driven away by The Undertaker and with fantastic horror movie style, the Deadman hams up the reveal by intoning “WHERE TO, STEPHANIE?” Great set up for the following night’s Raw at the end of a thoroughly entertaining main event and feud.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ****
Backlash went a long way to covering up the disappointment of Mania. There was a real nice range of action and a lot of it was very very good. Whilst nothing had you jumping out of your seat screaming “best ever”, almost every match delivered in one way or another. The highlights were the DX blow off, which would essentially kick start Hunter’s run towards the main event, and the main event. It reminded me a great deal of Austin’s match with Dude Love from Over the Edge a year earlier. It was extremely Attitude-esque as we find ourselves at the height of where most of the era’s stereotypes come from.
Yeah the top three matches on this card delivered very well, and the three midcard title matches before that were very strong too. It actually would become something of a theme for Backlash to be stronger than ‘Mania, but more on that later. The important thing was that the stories and matches here were as strong as you like and that the Attitude Era style was represented at its strongest.
Backlash In Your House Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: ***½
MVP - X-PAC
I can almost sense some you calling “fix” here. My fave gets Mania whilst Mav’s fave nabs the Backlash award. It’s seems like a plan but this was just sheer luck of the draw. There were plenty of strong performances at the top end of Backlash. Shamrock and Taker told a good story, Rocky and Austin delivered but the battle of the former DX buddies just about stole the show in the longest match of the night. From there is was a case of who. Hunter did a great job of showing his ruthlessness but X-Pac did what he does best. Sold. He sold like a soldier for him Kliq buddy as he took those steps towards becoming the best heel in the business.
Waltman is by far and away one of the most underrated guys of the past twenty years. He could move like a greyhound, bump like Mr Perfect and get the crowd going with moves like the Bronco Buster that were perfect for Attitude. His performances on TV were stellar throughout ‘98 and he had nice midcard PPV matches with D’Lo and Gangrel, but when finally given 20 minutes in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre tag match and the Backlash singles match covered here, he absolutely nailed a couple of minor classics. In fact, performances like this make you wonder why he never managed to get to the main event proper, aside from a couple of house show matches and a Raw match against The Rock at the back end of 2000. But this is something we will talk about closer to the time of his decline. For now, thank you X Pac for your midcard brilliance, here is a well deserved MVP award for you!
THE ONE TO WATCH
When people talk about the most significant events in the development of the wrestling business, there is one topic of conversation which often ends up being neglected, and that is the development of the In Your House pay-per-view concept.
WWF had of course started with a single blue riband pay-per-view event, Wrestlemania. With the success of the first three editions, the company added Survivor Series in November 1987, followed by Summerslam in August 1988 to coincide with the height of the Mega Powers, and the Royal Rumble moving from a TV special to a pay-per-view in January 1989. This “Big Four” model worked very well for the company until 1995, when a suddenly competitive WCW began to increase the amount of pay-per-view events it aired, whilst WWF had only added King of the Ring in that time frame, back in June 1993. In response to the increased pressure from Atlanta, In Your House was born, a monthly two hour pay-per-view (later going to three hours in September 1997) that took place in any month without a “Big Four” event. The price was cheaper to reflect the shorter broadcast, but there were additional dark matches for the live audience to enjoy that sometimes made it onto VHS releases of the shows. After the first show, each In Your House would receive a subtitle that reflected the storyline or location of the event. Some memorable ones from the New Generation period included: IYH5: Seasons Beatings, which featured a sensational and bloody title match between Bret Hart and The British Bulldog which in some ways bettered their more celebrated effort from Wembley in 1992, IYH 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies which had Diesel’s last PPV match (a classic against Shawn Michaels) for the Fed before heading for WCW and IYH 10: Mind Games, where Mick Foley and HBK brought the house down in a half hour barn burner.
Truthfully, the In Your House shows contained an awful lot of good to great wrestling, and anyone who hasn’t purchased or watched on the Network the superb Best of In Your House compilation from last year should do so at their earliest convenience. It really is a must see. The In Your House brand was critical to the evolution of the early Attitude Era, with Final Four marking the crossover and Revenge of the Taker, Cold Day In Hell, Ground Zero, Badd Blood and D-Generation X solidifying it...you may remember that these were all pay-per-views reviewed for this series. Each of them dispensed with the old In Your House logo, and that branding phrase was moved to the end of the pay-per-view name rather than preceding it, for example, Rock Bottom: In Your House. By the time we reached Backlash: In Your House, the time was ripe for WWF to make their monthly pay-per-views a recognisable brand in and of themselves, and from that point until the advent of gimmick pay-per-views in 2009, each month’s show gained a regular name, some of which had previously been used in the IYH days. So, we got No Way Out (February- shortened from No Way Out Of Texas), Backlash (April), Judgment Day (May), Fully Loaded/Vengeance (July), Unforgiven (September), No Mercy (October), Armageddon/Vengeance (December) with a few others added in the brand extension era, sometimes with names ripped from WCW (The Great American Bash/The Bash). So in a sense, Backlash: In Your House from 1999 was both the beginning and end of an era. And it was a show which had from the start a very strong theme and feel, as Maz is about to explore for you...
Whilst this event marked the end of an era in terms of the In Your House series, it also started a ten year run for Backlash as the post-Mania PPV. It’s a position that made it a much loved event as Mania feuds escalated in addition to fresh exciting feuds starting. In the autumn Mav and I will get to revisit the second edition of the event for this series. If memory serves, Backlash 2000 was another very solid PPV for the WWF that was once again main evented by a match that Shane McMahon would officiate. This time it would be Triple H and The Rock fighting over the title and those two didn’t do bad matches together. There is also a little undercover classic on that card which I look forward to watching again between Dean Malenko and Scotty 2 Hotty.
Backlash 2001 will mark the start of a new series if Maverick and I decide to go down that path. After the huge party that was WrestleMania 17, it wouldn’t be easy for the company to live up to the standards they set themselves by they managed it thanks to four huge words. “Two Man Power Trip” aren’t those words. Sure Austin and Hunter as WWF and IC champ taking on Kane and Taker as tag champs in the main event for all the gold sounds good but there’s better. “Thirty Minute Ultimate Submission” sounds pretty good too but watching Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit tear each other limb from limb for half an hour still aren’t those four words. Backlash 2001 is simply defined by “Duchess of Queensbury Rules”. Not all Backlash PPVs can be a hit of course. The least said about 2002 the better. Creative were all caught up in the wave of Hulkamania coming off WreslteMania 18 and suddenly Hunter’s face run was bizarrely cut short as Hogan became WWF Champion in the damn 00s. On the plus side though the event marked the PPV debut of the next big thing.
By Backlash 2003 Lesnar was simply the big thing and he would defend his WWE title against a young cocky heel by the name of John Cena. It didn’t manage to get main event status though. That went to Bill Goldberg making his WWF PPV debut against Hollywood Rock. That double main was sandwiched by an all star six man pitting Triple H, Ric Flair and Chris Jericho against Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels and Booker T. In 2004 Backlash would become a Raw only event and was headlined by a very good rematch of the Mania XX main event between Hunter, Shawn and Benoit. The show was stolen however by Randy Orton’s coming out party (no, not that kind) as Mick Foley worked his magic in a brutal hardcore match. I am also rather partial to the Christian and Trish vs Jericho handicap match from the card which was part of that brilliant love triangle feud.
2005 would give an intriguing undercard of Benjamin vs Jericho and Edge vs Benoit in a Last Man Standing. It would be main evented by Hunter vs Batista II but will be remember for a partnership between Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels to defeat the evil Mohammad Hassan and Daivari. The final Raw only Backlash saw Shawn with another partner, “God”, to battle Vince and Shane in tag action. There was some good on the card though in the shape of a winner takes all match between IC champ Shelton Benjamin and MITB winner RVD and a very underrated triple threat for the WWE title between Edge, Cena and Triple H.
2007 would essentially be Mania 23 Part 2 as Taker took on Batista in a good, albeit predictable, Last Man Standing draw for the big gold belt. The WWE title was the match that it probably should have been for Mania as Cena and Michaels were joined by Orton and Edge in a fatal four way elimination bout. Not that it mattered. Cena won and we all wanted to riot. Thank God that era’s over, am I right? 2008 would continue the trend of following up Mania as Edge got his rematch against The Deadman whilst JBL was added to the Cena-Orton-Hunter match for the WWE strap. A match that The Game won and I absolutely love (one has no bearing on the other I promise). Backlash ‘08 also gave us the start to the brilliant HBK vs Jericho feud as Y2J was the guest ref who got duped by Shawn’s fake knee injury as he beat Batista.
The final edition of Backlash in 2009 would be an absolutely stacked card that would outperform a disappointing WrestleMania silver. We had Legacy take on Hunter, Batista and Shane with the Game’s strap on the line and finally ending up on the Viper. We had Cena vs Edge in another LMS. The Hardy brothers faced off in an I Quit match in an undercard which also featured Jericho vs Steamboat, Christian vs Swagger and Kane vs Punk. All in all a great end to the PPV that defined April in the Naughties for the WWE. Overall Backlash would be an event that was packed with great matches, rematches and hidden gems. Whilst Extreme Rules has definitely carried on a lot of the tradition, there will just always be something special about Backlash.
Drawing an impressive 1.06, Backlash continued the buzz from a huge Wrestlemania in impressive fashion. With all their stars healthy, a growing midcard and potential for a lot of fresh feuds over the course of 1999, WWF were beginning to look like a company in an almost unassailable position. But how were WCW getting on?
The WWF’s dominance was really beginning to show by this point. A battle of minor PPVs saw Backlash almost double Spring Stampede’s 0.6 buy rate. WCW threw guys at the main event as DDP won the title in a four way involving Flair, Hogan and Sting in addition to the presence of Randy Savage as referee. Problem for Turner and Co was that the WWF were well and truly on a roll and with Backlash ending on Stephanie’s abduction, would you really want to tune into anything else on a Monday? If you want to find out what happens next, be sure to join us next week on ATTITUDE!
You can hear more from Mazza and Maverick on The Right Side of the Pond, part of LoP Radio. New episodes every are out every Friday at 9pm UK time/4pm EST.
On tomorrow’s show the guys preview Battleground.
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