Backlash 2007 was the first review I did for Wrestling 101, and so, with this review of Backlash 2008, we come full-circle and complete the WWE’s 2007-2008 official year.
Running Time: 169mins
- WWE United States Championship Match – MVP v Matt Hardy
- Eve Torres Interviews Matt Hardy
- ECW Championship Match – Kane v Chavo Guerrero
- Todd Grisham Interviews Randy Orton
- Big Show v The Great Khali
- Randy Orton Taunts John Cena
- Shawn Michaels v Batista – Special Guest Referee: Chris Jericho
- Randy Orton Taunts Triple H
- 12-Diva Tag Team Match – Mickie James, Maria, Ashley, Michelle McCool, Cherry & Kelly Kelly v Beth Phoenix, Melina, Jillian, Victoria, Natalya & Layla
- World Heavyweight Championship Match – Undertaker v Edge
- CM Punk Wishes Randy Orton Good Luck
- Fatal Four-Way Elimination Match for the WWE Championship – Randy Orton v John Cena v Triple H v JBL
- Todd Grisham Interviews Triple H
- Aftermatch of WWE Championship Match Between Triple H & Randy Orton
Almost every show has been above-average at worst, with the majority of the PPV events covering the period April ’07 (Backlash 2007) to March ’08 (Wrestlemania XXIV) being very well received. With that in mind, the big question going into this event was can WWE keep up the good form going into the 2008-2009 wrestling year? With Summerslam just around the corner (as of the time of writing), I can say that this year has, so far, continued to impress for the most part.
Backlash 2008 (the tenth edition) was the starting point, and the show opens with a montage of Wrestlemania XXIV highlights (which is hardly surprising; Backlash has long been the PPV to feature the ‘Mania aftermath) that remind us both how great that show was, but also why the majority of the contests are taking place. It’s another very well produced video that really does a fantastic job of hyping the main matches (Batista/HBK, WWE & World Championships) as something worth watching.
The show opens with the announcers introducing themselves as well as Michael Cole introducing Mick Foley as the replacement for JBL before Justin Roberts (the best ring-announcer in the company today) announcing the opening match; Matt Hardy v MVP for the United States Championship.
This was a really good match, hyped by a recap of the feud (including the Twist of Fate at Wrestlemania), but it was far less than the preceding nine-plus months deserved. A nice touch, that was prevalent in all the title matches on the card, was having all the wrestlers in the ring before introducing them. It makes the title matches more of a big deal and helps get the live crowd hyped for the show.
Full credit to both men for carving out an exciting 12min contest, but the feud deserved a more high-profile ending and as such, seemed to be a wasted opportunity. The reactions of both men, however, really sell the title as an important accolade to achieve.
Following a generic interview backstage where Matt Hardy, struggling to catch his breath, tells Eve how it feels to win the US belt, it’s on to the second of four title matches as the ECW Champion, Kane, takes on the former champion in Chavo Guerrero.
The ECW Championship rematch isn’t a great match, but it isn’t a disaster either. I guess, to sum it up, it could be classed as a non-event that is okay to watch, but wouldn’t be missed if it was left off the card. I didn’t like Kane no-selling the frog-splash though, as it really weakened Chavo’s finish.
Orton cuts a pretty pointless interview backstage about the main-event that is as generic as they come, but it does, at least, let Randy utter his “Age of Orton” line once more.
The next contest is a real Marmite affair; Big Show v The Great Khali. It’s either a waste of time with two no-talent bums in the ring or it’s a spectacle as two of the largest men in the business go face-to-face. I fall into the latter category, in case you’re wondering. The production staff also deserve credit for the low-angled shot of both men and the referee at the opening bell; it really gives a sense of scale as to how massive these guys actually are.
Not the most technically sound contest you’re likely to see, the match between the two giants was better than anticipated. The exchange of massive chops, punches and headbutts is nicely done and a short-arm clothesline on Big Show looks fantastic (due to the bumping of Show). Khali also applies a decent crossface variation, seemingly to silence the “You Can’t Wrestle” chants that ring out. An awesome bodyslam and a frankly stunning chokeslam on Khali by Big Show are the main highlights of the bout.
After this match, we go backstage and find that John Cena is discussing country-music artists with Jimmy Wang Yang for some reason before Orton comes across to tell Cena that he isn’t going to win the match tonight. It really is the most basic of dialogue and could be so much more if the wrestlers were allowed off the leash now and again.
Possibly the most emotional contest of the night is the grudge-match between HBK and Batista. It seemed like a real grudge, which adds to the aura surrounding the bout. Also adding to the hype is another stunning video from the WWE Production team that gives the viewer a complete history from the superkick that ended Flair’s career (or so it was meant to until Flair quit the WWE in August) to the superkick Michaels landed on “Big Dave” the Smackdown before the PPV.
The bout is marred slightly by the special referee. Not a slight on Jericho, but whenever you have a special referee, you’re slightly distracted by what the ref may do to screw one or the other wrestler. Similar to when Steve Austin was the guest zebra at Cyber Sunday, he does nothing that a normal referee wouldn’t do and as such, seems a waste.
In-ring, the action is to a high standard, especially after Batista’s poor showing against Umaga the month prior. The fans are really into it (always a bonus) and both men work to their strengths. The finish is infamous now, as it led to the “fake knee injury” angle and the stunning heel-turn of Jericho that is bearing fruit today. My one criticism is that with HBK also using the crossface, it comes across as too many guys using a hold (Khali attempted it tonight and HHH uses it on JBL and also against Orton on the next night’s RAW) that isn’t part of their usual moveset. The “Sweet Chin Music” looks awesomely stiff though, which is always nice.
Orton and HHH have a little discussion backstage, but it seems Randy is distracted by something in the distance for his second segment in a row. I don’t know if there’s a cue-card for him to read or a naked Diva, but young RKO can’t seem to look at Hunter when he’s talking to him.
The women of WWE get a rare treat, with pretty much the entire female roster getting to wrestle on the PPV. A nice touch (as well as a great time-saver) is having all the heels coming out with Beth and all the faces coming out with Mickie. It really adds to the “team” aspect of the match… not to mention, it’s not the hardest job in the world to watch six good-looking women walk the aisle at the same time.
With there being twelve people in the match, there is obviously not a lot of time for everyone to get some moves in. “Stone Cold” Michelle McCool (thanks to Jimmy Redman for the nickname) starts it out with Beth Phoenix, but the tags come quickly as Melina work over, in my opinion, the most over-pushed female in recent memory. This doesn’t last long though, as McCool “toughs it out” to make a tag to the WWE Women’s Champion, Mickie James. Melina tags in Natalie Neidhart and then the tags come thick and fast.
There are some nice spots, but with so many people, the match doesn’t get a chance to get into a rhythm and suffers for it. The finishing sequence, with all the finishers being hit was very well done though and is the highlight of the match (with Beth showing some amazing strength in the process).
Before the World Heavyweight Championship match, we are shown a highlight video of what has happened with Undertaker and Edge in the weeks between Wrestlemania and Backlash. While the deposed champion is getting massages and beauty-spa treatments, Undertaker is put into matches against Kane (also to soften him up for Chavo), Festus (where Undertaker did a great job of putting the big guy over) and Batista (two weeks in a row, the second of which was ended when HBK superkicked Batista just after Dave landed a vicious looking spinebuster onto the steel steps). It was all great in establishing Edge as the heel who would do anything to get his belt back while at the same time pushing Undertaker as a fighting champion.
The match itself is not as good as their ‘Mania encounter, but seeing as how that was a MOTY candidate, that isn’t surprising and shouldn’t be used to diminish how good this match is. Mick Foley does a fantastic job on commentary during this match (almost out-doing JBL), especially with how he manages to put Undertaker’s gogoplata submission over better in one match than any other announcer has bone in the preceding months.
Undertaker mouthing “I’m going to hurt you” to Edge was brilliant (and full credit to the production staff for catching it in close-up) and really set the tone that this was going to be revenge for the last month of brutality he had to suffer through.
The bout shows how far Edge has come and also shows why Undertaker deserves his position on the card; it’s that good. Highlights are plentiful (including a personal favourite of mine, the “Yay-Boo Punch Trade” and a nice chokeslam off the top rope to Edge) and the two guys work their asses off to give the fans their money’s worth. A special thanks needs to go to the live crowd who were into this contest from the opening bell to the (rather awesome) final exchange. To sum up, this was a near twenty-minute masterclass in pro-wrestling at the highest level.
The main-event, as usual, has a fantastic hype video (with a great shot of HHH taking Orton’s “Punt of Doom” at ‘Mania) preceding it. Special kudos to whoever chose ‘In Time’ by Mark Collie from ‘The Punisher’ soundtrack (it was sung by Mark in the movie; he played Harry Heck), as it is one of my favourite tunes.
The first thing that strikes me is Orton’s music and how much better ‘Burn in My Light’ is compared to his current theme (‘Voices’). In the introductions, only Triple H gets a positive reaction (and not that great, truth be told), with Cena getting a negative reaction that threatens to out-strip Orton’s.
The first big bump of the match has Cena being knocked from the apron into the announce table (pity he telegraphed it too much) and, from there, the match follows the standard formula for multi-man matches. There is a nice sequence where Orton ends up trapped in an STFU and JBL taunts him to tap out… until HHH appears and latches on the aforementioned crossface. JBL rakes Cena’s eyes to help Orton escape the STFU, only to see Orton then taunt him to tap out.
The “Yay-Boo Punch Trade” makes a return (which is only fitting as it was Triple H v Cena were it made its debut on the big stage), which is always a good thing, and the first two eliminations come within seconds as JBL taps to the STFU and Orton takes advantage of Cena being wide open and lands the “Punt of Doom” to Mr. Chain Gang’s flat-topped dome for the three-count.
This leaves Triple H v Randy Orton in a fight to the finish for the WWE Title, a situation that both men have been in on more than one occasion, although they have been far enough apart not to seem old news. For a further SEVENTEEN MINUTES, the two men keep the live crowd and the fans watching at home on the edge of their seats with a fantastic contest that has an intense last three-to-four minutes. In fact, you almost get two matches for the price of one with this half-hour main-event; a twelve-minute four-way and a seventeen-minute singles bout.
This was a fitting end to a great pay-per-view event.
There are two extras on the disc. The first is a short interview with Triple H after the event has gone off the air. It comes across as a semi-worked shoot, with Trips giving credit to his opponents (especially Orton), telling everyone how important the title is and how much it means to come back from his injured quad.
The second extra is the more interesting of the two. For those who were watching RAW, you may remember that William Regal killed the feed for the show. This extra shows us what happened after the show went off the air as Regal comes out and just ends the match for no reason other than because he can. It is an interesting piece of footage that comes across as spontaneous in the reactions of Orton, Hunter, the announcers (who also tell Triple H about Regal shutting the broadcast down as well) and Mike Chioda.
William Regal was onto something with this aspect of his character, with the heat he receives being very hot indeed. With that in mind, it really is a shame that he went and got himself suspended.
It’s nice that WWE seem to be getting away from the “Nu-Metal” craze for soundtracking PPVs, and Backlash continues the trend with Kid Rock and ‘All Summer Long’ as the official theme. This, as well as some of the tracks used to soundtrack the hype videos, is a nice change and one I hope continues for a long time.
Backlash 2008 keeps up the tradition of the April PPV being the biggest and best of the “B” level events, with top-notch matches between HBK & Batista, Edge & Undertaker and the Fatal Four-way main event being the highlights of the night.
Big Show v Khali is a lot better than should be expected, as is the Divas match. The only real disappointment is MVP v Matt Hardy because of how flat it feels after all the work put into making the feud work initially.
This is one of the better shows of the year, and it really seems that WWE have been on a roll of great supershows for over a year at this point in time.
Long may it continue.