No filler makes for a consistent Backlash
BRIAN ELLIOTT - SLAM! Wrestling
For many fans, the annual WWE Backlash event is one of the premiere
pay-per-view events of the year, given that coming off Wrestlemania, it is
the scene of many re-matches from "The Grand-Daddy of Them All." Well, it
isn't as if Starrcade is in contention for that moniker anymore.
As such, there were two direct copies of Wrestlemania match-making here,
as Chris Benoit faced MVP for the U.S Title, and Batista challenged The
Undertaker for the World Heavyweight Title in a Last Man Standing match. Of
the other bouts, there were two further derivatives of the Ford Field event,
as Bobby Lashley not only defended his ECW Championship against Umaga, but
also against Shane & Vince McMahon (in a handicap match), and John Cena now
defended his WWE Championship against not only Shawn Michaels, but Edge and
Randy Orton (this time, in a Fatal Four-Way encounter).
Speaking of Orton, his future within the company has been the subject of
much conjecture since he was sent home from the European tour, prior to the
Munich, Germany show on April 19th. With SLAM! Wrestling's own Jon Waldman expressing
reservation over the legitimacy of that news -- suggesting that it was all a
ruse to make a shock pass of the WWE Title to Orton -- Backlash would go some
way to proving if he was indeed in the WWE doghouse.
With the usual array of announcers on hand -- Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler for
RAW, Michael Cole & JBL for Smackdown, and Joey Styles & Tazz for ECW --
Backlash 2007 was held in front of a near sell-out crowd at the Philips
Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Match No.1 -- WWE Tag Team Championship: Matt & Jeff Hardy (c) vs.
Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch
Although the show's opening vignette left viewers with the impression
that only three titles would be on the line at Backlash, every bout of the
announced six would in fact be contested over a championship. This WWE Tag
Team Title match was up first, with the Hardy brothers dominating the early
going, using frequent tags and their array of combinations to unsettle the
larger challengers. Jeff even struck an over-the-top-rope version of Poetry
in Motion, taking out Cade & Murdoch on the outside.
It was Jeff's insistence on attacking the man outside of the ring that
was his downfall, however, as Cade brusquely dragged him between the bottom
and middle ropes, forcing him into a bad landing on the floor. At this
point, it was Cade & Murdoch's turn for some nice double-team action, with
the former also hitting a nice nodowa (Rock Bottom) into a sit-down
With Jeff apparently unable to make the tag despite several close calls --
recounting, it seemed, so many great Rock'N'Roll Express bouts -- he finally
made the tag to Matt, who took over on Murdoch with a backdrop and a
bulldog, before Jeff missed a more conventional Poetry in Motion, to
seemingly take him out of the contest. Undeterred, Matt almost scored the
pin on Murdoch with a Side Effect, but Cade came off the top rope to break
up the cover.
Back in control, Murdoch hit a much safer version of the Canadian
Destroyer which had stunned Matt during their singles bout in London,
England, but Hardy was soon able to counter with a Twist of Fate, following
which Jeff landed the Swanton Bomb for the victory.
Winners: ... and still champions ... Matt & Jeff Hardy
Match rating: 7.0 / 10
Backstage, Shane McMahon gave a pep-talk to Umaga, letting the "Samoan
Bulldozer" know that if he followed McMahon instructions, their team would
be victorious against Bobby Lashley. Vince then entered the room, and
declared Shane "The King of Extreme" and the future ECW champion, before
Shane convinced him that it should be Vince to take the win, and the
Match #2 -- WWE Women's Championship: Melina (c) vs. Mickie
Before this match got underway, Jerry Lawler made the seemingly bold
prediction that this encounter could turn into a good wrestling match, and
just a few seconds in, with champion and challenger exchanging arm-wringers
and grounded head-scissors, it seemed that his royal crystal ball hadn't let
Sensing James had the advantage in such a contest, Melina feigned the
loss of a contact lense to work over the challenger, and when James tried to
go to the top rope to retaliate, Melina shoved her to the floor in what was
an awkward-looking landing.
In a surprising display of submission technique, Melina continued the
onslaught by trapping James in a variation of a full nelson, on this
occasion in a seated position, and with her legs forcing James' head and
neck towards the canvas.
The challenger took over after winning a closed fist battle, as both were
grounded in the "splits" position on the canvas, then hit a series of
clotheslines, a Rude Awakening neckbreaker, and a top-rope crossbody for a
near-fall. But the champion wasn't about to let her title slip away that
easily, and when James went to follow up, she was caught with a reverse DDT
for the pinfall.
Winner: ... and still champion ... Melina
Match rating: 7.0 / 10
In an interview segment with Maria and Edge, Mr Kennedy soon interrupted
to let Edge know that if he saw his opportunity to cash in Money in the Bank
tonight, he would do it. Edge, who had proclaimed how confident he was of
taking the title, suddenly wasn't quite so pleased.
Match #3 -- U.S Title: Chris Benoit (c) vs. MVP
A rapturous ovation greeted the entrance of Benoit for his U.S Title
defence, and perhaps this was largely due to the fact that he is billed as
now living in Atlanta, as at least one sign in the crowd proclaimed "Welcome
MVP started this bout off in the style of an Mixed Martial Arts fighter,
throwing leg kicks and attempting a takedown. Benoit was able to sprawl,
however, and when he was unable to complete a Crippler Crossface on the
challenger, he swiftly turned to applying the Sharpshooter, from which MVP
made the ropes to force the break.
MVP took control after whipping Benoit chest-first into the turnbuckle,
and hitting a Magnum T.A-style belly-to-belly suplex. The challenger's main
emphasis was Benoit's neck, and he used several neck-crank holds to disable
"The Crippler," before Benoit struck three German suplexes, a Northern
Lights suplex, and then a further five Germans, until MVP avoided a diving
head butt, and then changed tack to apply a single-leg Boston crab.
When the champion reached the ropes, MVP attempted a vertical suplex,
which was innovatively countered by Benoit, throwing knees from his
upside-down position. This caused the hold to be broken, and although MVP
rolled through a Crossface attempt, Benoit was able to hook him in a small
package for the pinfall.
Winner: ... ... and still champion ... Chris Benoit
Match rating: 7.5 / 10
Backstage again, and Randy Orton interrupted a John Cena promo to try to
convince him to form a pact for the WWE Title match. Cena dismissed him by
suggesting that Orton's words were those of someone confused about their
sexuality, before Ron Simmons compounded matters by exclaiming "Damn!"
Match #4 -- ECW Title Match: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Vince McMahon,
Shane McMahon, and Umaga (Handicap Match)
Lashley began much the stronger in this handicap affair, bouncing Shane
around with a suplex that Alexander Karelin would have been proud of, as
well as a spinebuster. When Umaga was clotheslined over the top rope, Vince
wanted none of the ECW champion, and backed off until Shane pulled down the
top rope on Lashley, causing him to fly out of the ring, at which point
McMahon The Elder laid the boots in.
WHAT YOU THINK
What did you think of Backlash?
It was great - 30%
It was okay - 15%
It was terrible - 9%
Didn't see it - 47%
After being thrown into the ringsteps by the "Samoan Bulldozer,"
Lashley's left arm was the focus of Shane's attention, although the form of
cross-armlock that he applied left a lot technically to be desired. Showing
incredible strength, Lashley powerbombed his way out of the predicament, and
caught Shane with a T-Bone suplex, a Torture Rack into a backbreaker, and a
Davey Boy Smith-esque running powerslam. When Vince made the save, Shane
clocked the champion with his own title belt, and thinking that it was over,
Vince climbed in to make the cover. Lashley kicked out however, and did so a
second time, from a huge splash off the top rope by Umaga. A second,
gravity-defying splash was too much, however, and Vince made the cover to
then be proclaimed the new ECW champion.
Winners: Vince & Shane McMahon, and Umaga ... new ECW champion ... Vince McMahon
Match rating: 6.0 / 10
Match #5 -- World Heavyweight Title, Last Man Standing rules: The
Undertaker (c) vs. Batista
After Mr McMahon had teased the ECW Originals with his success, it was
time for the big Wrestlemania rematch, this time fought under Last Man
Standing rules. Unlike previous similar contests, a pinfall did not have to
be accrued for the ten count to begin.
The Undertaker and Batista went both guns blazing into this bout, much
like they had done in their contest four weeks ago. Undertaker took the
early control, with a big boot, a clothesline, and a series of headbutts,
before Batista caught him with a powerslam for the first unsuccessful
Outside of the ring, The Undertaker went to work on Batista's injured
right hamstring, and then brought the challenger back into the ring with a
thunderous superplex. It wasn't long before the action was back outside,
however, as Undertaker attempted an Irish whip into the crowd barrier, but
it was reversed so that he took the impact. Refusing to stay on defence,
however, Undertaker came back with a modified backbreaker, and a ringsteps
shot to the head which lacerated his opponent. Then, in a move which almost
elicited a ten-count from referee Mickey Henson, Undertaker scaled the crowd
barrier and delivered a legdrop onto Batista, sending him through the
Smackdown announce table.
But there was still plenty of fight in the former Evolution member, as
when the action returned to the ring, he hit three consecutive spinebusters
for a very close nine-count. Likewise proving his resilience, Undertaker
then scored with a chokeslam, before losing the momentum again as Batista
hit a Batista Bomb out of the corner. Frustrated in not being able to get a
ten count, the challenger then retrieved a steel chair, striking The
Undertaker in the head with it, but Undertaker rallied with a Tombstone,
which still was not enough to score the victory.
Both men then made their way outside the ring, and brawled up the ramp,
and towards the stage. Both tried to send the other off the stage, but
eventually Batista scored with a Spear, which sent both men flying off the
stage, through a piece of the set, whereupon part of the rigging seemingly
crashed on top of them. Mickey Henson then counted both down, resulting in a
draw, and The Undertaker retaining the World title.
Winner: Draw ... Undertaker still champion
Match rating: 7.5
Match #6 -- WWE Title, Fatal Four-Way rules: John Cena (c) vs. Shawn
Michaels vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton
After teasing working together, it didn't take long for Cena and Michaels
to expel the ring of Edge and Randy Orton, as if to begin their own match,
within the confines of this Fatal Four-Way. Similarly, Edge and Orton then
cleared the ring of champion and his Wrestlemania challenger, and showed
that they had no qualms about beating up the other, especially when Edge
sent his former Rated-RKO partner into the ringsteps. Michaels then cleaned
everybody out with a spectacular moonsault from the top rope to the floor,
before the heels connived to work him over back in the ring, utilising a
high backdrop and a double single-leg Boston crab.
Realising that his title could change on a fall over Michaels, Cena soon
rushed the ring and hit Edge and Orton with blockbuster bulldogs. He then
struck the "You Can't See Me" fist-drop on Edge, but was dragged outside of
the ring by Michaels and Orton, where he was sent into the ringpost by the
same combination. Momentarily, Jim Ross wondered whether a new pact had been
formed, until Michaels threw Orton into the ringpost as well.
Michaels kept his attention on Orton, and attempted to piledrive him
through the RAW announce table, only for Edge to save the day for his former
partner, striking "The Heartbreak Kid" with a steel chair. But Orton's
respite was again fleeting, as Edge struck him with the chair too, enabling
him to face Cena in the ring alone, although he was caught up in the STFU
before he could garner any offence. When he tried to break the hold, Orton
also got trapped in the STFU, but Michaels was too canny when Cena looked
for the move a third time, and scored a near-fall with a small package. He
then struck Cena with his top-rope elbow, and contemplated Sweet Chin Music,
before being interrupted by Edge, who also was a recipient of a top rope
elbow. Now recovered, Cena looked to end it with an F.U from the second rope
on Michaels, but Edge and Orton created a Tower of Doom drop, from which all
four men were hurt.
When all had recovered, Cena tried on three occasions to strike Edge with
the F.U, only to be thwarted each time. Michaels spotted an opportunity to
finish Cena with Sweet Chin Music, but before he could do so, Orton
blind-sided him with the RKO. Fearing a pinfall, Cena dropped Edge, who then
nailed the champion with an Impaler DDT, after Cena had broken up the pin
attempt on Michaels. As everyone contemplated applying their finishers move
again, Edge inadvertently Speared Orton, and was then F.U'd. But as Cena
turned around, a weary Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music, which caused Cena to
land on top of Orton, capturing the fortuitous pinfall.
After the match, Michaels intimated that it was he who should be wearing
the championship, sewing the seeds of a singles rubber match.
Winner: ... and still champion ... John Cena
Match rating: 7.5
Overall, Backlash 2007 was one of the best, most consistent pay-per-view
events in quite some time. With only six bouts on the card, each contest had
more than adequate time to tell its story, and each did so very effectively.
Hopefully this will be a lesson to the company that previously-unannounced,
filler bouts involving Cryme Tyme and the like, simply will not cut it on
The opening tag team contest was quite the pleasure to watch, simply
because of the great teamwork displayed by both combinations. It might seem
a given that tag team wrestling would involve great teamwork, but in the
rush of the WWE's booking, it so rarely happens. The Women's Title match was
truthfully one of the finest female bouts since Alundra Blayze tangled with
Bull Nakano back in 1994, and it cannot be argued now that Chris Benoit is
bringing out something in MVP which few knew that he had to begin with.
The Undertaker vs. Batista was a very good match indeed, perhaps even
better than their Wrestlemania encounter, although the somewhat gimmicky
finish took away from it. The main event was a superbly executed Four-Way,
and was one of the better matches of its type, even if the finish did seem a
Those are minor criticisms, however, and this was a tremendously
consistent card. That is something that the WWE has not achieved in quite
some time, and hopefully, the standard can be maintained next month at
Brian Elliott is British journalist covering pro wrestling, fight sports,
and soccer. He is the sports editor for Burn magazine, and can be
visited online at http://spaces.msn.com/brianelliott.