October 20, 2013
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero
The Place to Be
April 27, 2008
First Mariner Arena
Announcers: Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, Mick Foley, Mike Adamle & Tazz
Miz & Morrison defeated Jimmy Wang Yang (James Yun) & Shannon Moore
Pay Per View
Fun Fact: This is Maryland's fourth PPV, all in Baltimore. It's the first one at First Mariner since No Way Out 2006.
Fun Fact: On the 4/15 ECW, Joey Styles revealed that he was stepping away from the broadcast table to become the main man running WWE.com. He then brought out Mike Adamle, who would take over his slot as lead play-by-play man for Tuesday nights.
Fun Fact II: This is Mick Foley’s debut as Smackdown’s color commentator, taking over the job from Jonathan Coachman. Coachman had held the role since JBL returned to the ring back in January. He left the booth because his contract was expiring and he decided to end his nine-year tenure with WWE and return to the sports world. After an amicable split with WWE in May, Coach was hired by ESPN, where he still works in a prominent role to this day.
1) Matt Hardy defeats MVP (Hassan Assad) to win WWE United States Title with the Twist of Fate at 11:24
Fun Fact: On the 4/1 Smackdown, Matt Hardy made his TV return, defeating MVP in a non-title match. The win earned Hardy a PPV title shot. Two weeks later, MVP interrupted a Matt Hardy interview, kicked Hardy in his bad leg and pasted him in the face with the title belt.
Scott: One of 2007’s hottest feuds continues into 2008. Matt Hardy couldn’t snag the brass ring from MVP on multiple occasions. Then in December Matt suffered a knee injury and was on the shelf. Then he made his shocking return at Wrestlemania when he screwed MVP out of Money in the Bank. MVP’s eleven-month reign has been full of defenses and well-crafted promos. When MVP came on the scene in 2006 he was getting no heat and had pretty much no skill set in the ring. Enter Chris Benoit. Their feud in 2007 gave MVP the credibility he needed to get on track and be a legitimate champion. Then he and Matt Hardy had some great matches both against each other and in the storyline tag team title run. Now the crowd is really hot to see Matt finally end MVP’s reign and be the new US Champ. It’s a nice change of pace seeing Mick Foley in the broadcast booth with Michael Cole. If only Foley was at Wrestlemania. Hardy dictates the pace early on as MVP was not ready for a Matt Hardy with a 100% healthy knee. The Baltimore crowd, always a WWE hotbed had a lot of juice early on and with the card ahead of them they really should stay hot all night. MVP tried to slow things down with an Abdominal Stretch but Hardy hip tosses out of it. Hardy cranks out a Side Effect off the second rope to make a late comeback but MVP almost steals the win with a backslide and feet on the ropes. You can tell the chemistry between these two is solid as the reversals are so fluid and without hesitation. Hardy took more than one kick to the head and upper torso and was pretty punch drunk, but MVP missed the last kick, and after a Twist of Fate out of nowhere, Matt Hardy ends the reign of the “Baller”. This was a great opener and a hot crowd helped the show get off to a pretty good start. Matt Hardy wins his first legitimate singles championship in a great match. Grade: 3
Justin: Our first post-Wrestlemania PPV match reignites a feud and storyline that carried the second half of 2006 on Friday nights. Matt Hardy was knocked out of action by Randy Orton back in January but returned in Orlando and is looking to take MVP’s gold here. I am glad this feud is getting a proper blowoff because it deserves it for sure. MVP’s heel swag at this point was top notch so he was a perfect foil for Hardy, who was pretty much as pure a babyface as there was on the roster at this point. I have always been a Coach fan, but the upgrade to Foley in the booth here is a big one. Foley really immersed himself into the storylines and made sure to put over the little things when it came to the various characters so he was a great addition to Smackdown. MVP went right for the rehabbed knee early as the crowd did its best to rally behind Hardy. Hardy looked pretty good to start, not showing much ring rust and was moving fairly well. Hardy was able to fend off MVP for a moment but crashed onto the champ’s knees with a moonsault attempt. MVP pounced and started to work the midsection, which had been messed up by Orton earlier in the year. MVP actually busted out some new offense to work over hardy, including a pretty cool press slam. Hardy slugged his way back into things, blocked a Playmaker attempt and landed a Side Effect for a good near fall. Hardy kicked it up a notch with a side effect off the middle rope but was too hurt to take advantage. These two have some damn good chemistry both in and out of the ring. That chemistry played a role in the story of the match, as each man knew the other so well that they were able to constantly counter impending moves. One that Hardy couldn’t avoid was a sweet running dropkick to the skull that sent Matt crashing to floor. MVP kept the heat on, continuously kicking Hardy in the head, keeping him rattled. Matt was able to dodge the big one, a running Yakuza kick, drill the Twist of Fate and pick up the big win. Cole and Foley put this over as the biggest singles win of Hardy’s career and I guess I would agree. This was a really fun opener and a much-deserved win for Hardy, who has been so good over the last year. MVP lays down, but looked strong in doing so as well. Grade: 3
2) Kane (Glen Jacobs) defeats Chavo Guerrero to retain ECW Title with a chokeslam at 8:49
Fun Fact: On the 4/1 ECW, Kane teamed with CM Punk to defeat Chavo Guerrero and Shelton Benjamin. The next week, GM Armando Estrada held a Backlash contract signing for a Wrestlemania title rematch. During the segment, Chavo brought out a new bodyguard, Bam Neely. They, along with the Edgeheads, attack3d Kane, put him on the table in the ring and Chavo splashed the champ through it. On 4/22, Kane was a guest on the Cutting Edge, but that again ended in a group beatdown of the Big Red Machine.
Scott: So after getting schooled in record time at Wrestlemania by the Big Red Machine, Chavo looks for revenge and his title here in Baltimore. More changes to the broadcast situation, as Mike Adamle is the new PBP man for ECW. Somehow Mike Adamle and ECW just…don’t really go together, but it will be fun to hear him botch pretty much everything. Why Vince thought this guy would be a great asset to the company just boggles the mind. He should have stuck to American Gladiators. Two matches in and both are for championships, which is nice. Although with three brands there are plenty of titles to go around. I wasn’t sure what to make of this match, as both guys aren’t exactly ECW-types. Then again this ECW hasn’t been what the real ECW was anyway. This Bam Neely character made me laugh because it does come from one of my favorite Bruins as a kid, Cam Neely. Sometimes it’s really bizarre where they get these names. The match is pretty standard as Kane dominated with power stuff until Chavo threw Kane off the top rope to the floor and injured his left knee. Chavo worked the knee over for a good portion of the match. I love how Tazz tries to explain things like countouts and disqualifications as it is unbelievably patronizing and hilarious. We have a nice ending as Kane catches Chavo after a Frog Splash by the throat and hits a chokeslam to regain his title. Kane limps off as the champion in a standard affair. Grade: 2
Justin: After being assaulted from behind and quickly buried by Kane at Wrestlemania, Chavo Guerrero gets his rematch against the Big Red Champ. He has his new bodyguard, Bam Neely, in tow and is still firmly entrenched in Edge’s Familia, reaping the benefits that come along with it. All five of them teamed up to beat Kane down earlier that week, ending with Chavo bashing his knee with a chair. So, not only is Kane outnumbered here, he is also slowed by a bad wheel. I was glad Kane got this reign and chance to be the top dog on ECW as he deserved it after all these years. Of course, the true highlight of this match was getting to enjoy the incomparable Mike Adamle on commentary. The poor guy would go long stretches without speaking at times, leaving the Tazz to do the heavy lifting. Kane started off in control, but his knee hindered him from the get go. He was able to fight through the pain and hoist Chavo up in a sweet hanging neckbreaker. Chavo did what he could to break Kane down, kicking away at the knee while dodging Kane’s heavy blows. Things spilled to the floor, where Kane dominated, slamming Chavo into the ring apron spine-first. Momentum finally swung when Chavo shoved Kane off the top rope and down to the floor. I always liked Chavo, but the crowd didn’t seem to have much heat on him in this role. He was fine as Edge’s lackey, but seeing him positioned as a top guy on the C brand still felt like a stretch. Chavo kept working the knee, also getting an assist from Neely on the floor. Neely had a pretty good look and I think it was smart to give Chavo some muscle. Kane fired back with a vengeance, leveling Chavo with a big boot and sidewalk slam for two. Chavo would get a nice near fall with a tornado DDT but the match edged on. That changed quickly afterwards though, as Kane caught Chavo around the neck as he dove off the top and landed the frog splash, hoisted him up and planted him with a chokeslam for the win. This was actually better than I thought as both guys worked hard and delivered a perfectly acceptable match. It wasn’t a show-stealer or anything, but it was solid enough for sure. Kane remains the man on Tuesdays and we now see if moves on to a new challenger. Grade: 2
3) Big Show (Paul Wight) defeats Great Khali (Dalip Singh) with a chokeslam at 8:05
Fun Fact: On 4/1, Big Show came out and paid a quick, touching tribute to Ric Flair and vowed to once again dominate as the true giant of wrestling. That drew out the Great Khali for a showdown, but Khali walked off before they came to blows. On the 4/11 Smackdown, Khali tried to make a Punjabi peace offering to Show. Show feigned acceptance before dropping Khali with a right hand. The next week, Khali interfered in Show’s match against Mark Henry. Khali tossed Show into the steel steps and then dropped him with a Tree Slam.
Scott: After two pretty good matches to start the show, we have a clash of two big time hosses. Actually, this is more like two super-hosses. We’re talking almost 900 pounds combined. Workrate? Ha, maybe at the local Golden Corral. We’re talking about two guys who are literally going to be throwing their weight around. Wow these chops their throwing at each other would make Ric Flair proud. My P.I.C. enjoys this match but I have to be honest when I saw this come up I was sighing that we’d hit a lull. However, I have to admit at least these guys are moving around and trying to make chicken salad out of chicken. Oh boy, Khali gets the nerve pinch going, ala Yokozuna. Yawn. At least it wasn’t a six minute rest hold. Foley’s talking about Show’s “cultural insensitivity” when Khali was giving him goats and chickens. What? Both guys are really trying to throw each other around and put the power moves over. Out of nowhere Show hits a chokeslam and gets the victory. Ok, so it wasn’t eye-bleeding terrible. It was, standard. Which I guess is a complement. Grade: 2
Justin: While this is a pretty cool matchup when it comes to the stare down, this had huge ugly potential written all over it. I can’t believe that Show didn’t get pushed into something more high profile coming off his great Mania match with Floyd Mayweather. He went from being a mainstream fixture to being buried in a freak show match on the undercard. Alas, like I said, the pre-match staredown was pretty neat and WWE had to have this match at some point just for the imposing photos they could snap. The two giants slugged away at each other, trading right hands, headbutts and chops until Khali finally dropped Show with a clothesline. He kept the attack up, smacking Show around both in and outside the ring. After an attempted crossface by Khali, Show tried to slam him but Khali shifted his weight and both men crashed back to the mat. I’ll say this…they are giving it a go here. Things slowed down a bit with a Khali nervehold but this has been much better than you could ever expect. Khali really emptied out the big man submission hold playbook, working a plethora of them while wearing Show down. Show shook him off and finally was able to slam Khali. Screw it, they sucked me in and I can’t believe it. Khali survived that but Show followed with a chokeslam for the win. I can’t believe how much I enjoyed that battle. These guys really worked hard and had some unique chemistry. I take back what I said before as this was a nice win for Show, mowing through a giant and advancing back up the ranks. Grade: 2
4) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) defeats Batista with Sweet Chin Music at 14:59
Fun Fact: On 3/31, a sullen Shawn Michaels came to the ring to discuss his match from the night before. He said he will forever carry the burden of being the man that forced Ric Flair to retire. That week on Smackdown, Batista confronted Michaels and called him selfish for not laying down for Flair at Mania. A week later on Raw, Michaels and Batista appeared on the Highlight Reel. Chris Jericho claimed not to buy into Shawn’s remorse, because it was clear that Shawn had broken his body and given his all to end Flair’s career. As Shawn continued to apologize, Batista snapped and said that Shawn’s ego led to all this and that he didn’t think Shawn was sorry at all. Batista claimed he would have refused the match, but Shawn said Flair never would have chosen him because Batista didn’t have the nerve to do what Shawn did. Batista said he would never trust Shawn again before walking off. It was later announced that Batista and Michaels would face off at Backlash. On 4/14, Michaels again hit the ring to explain himself, but this time he was interrupted by Jericho. He told Shawn that after a week of reflection, he believes deep down, Shawn thrived on retiring Flair as it helped fuel his ego. He added that he felt Shawn should just admit to the truth and he would earn Batista and everyone else’s respect in doing so. Finally, he stated that he believed Michaels went to Vince McMahon and requested he place the retirement stipulation on Flair. That was enough for Shawn, who finally snapped and dropped Jericho with a Superkick. Later in the show, Jericho asked Regal to add him to the Backlash match, but Regal made him the guest referee for the bout instead. Later that week on Smackdown, Batista joined the Highlight Reel and Jericho prodded him, wondering about what his motive was in all of this. The segment ended with Batista landing a powerbomb. That Monday, Michaels and Batista chatted in the ring, with Shawn asking Batista if the real issue was that Batista wanted the Mania match with Flair. Batista ignored the question and vowed to not absolve Michaels of what happened and told Shawn that he didn’t respect how Shawn advanced in his career. Finally on the 4/25 Smackdown, Michaels cost Batista a World title match against Undertaker.
Scott: This is the one match, next to the main event, that I was the most looking forward to. There are a couple of reasons for this. First off, we have the fact that these two haven’t met in 4 ½ years, Armageddon 2003. That is so long ago, when Batista hadn’t gotten his feet wet in a singles match against someone of that caliber. Now Batista is a former World Champion and a main eventer who’s had top flight matches against the best in this company. Second, is Chris Jericho as the referee. Both guys laid him out with their finishers on the way to this match so the question was where his loyalties would lie. A few minutes into this match and immediately I like what I see. Instead of trying to shoehorn his power moves into the match and ruin the flow, he’s letting Michaels dictate what they should do and he’s going right along with it. Most of the early part of the match is Shawn working over Batista’s arm, which would take out things like the Batistabomb. The Animal tries to fight back but Shawn just goes right back to that arm, eventually hooking the Crossface. I love how Shawn started using that move after the Benoit tragedy happened. Back to Jericho. He really torqued these guys off heading into this match by referring to Ric Flair, which is how this whole thing started. As the match progresses I hope he doesn’t interject to the point where it ruins the match. He doesn’t, but the end of the match was pure genius. Batista was about to hit the powerbomb when Shawn slipped out but apparently landed on his knee wrong. Jericho keeps asking him if he’s ok but Shawn’s writhing on the ground holding his knee. Batista is patiently waiting for something to happen, staying the babyface, until Shawn smacked Sweet Chin Music right into the Animal’s mush out of nowhere. Three seconds later he steals the win. That was interesting. It would be a plot point that leads to so much more for Shawn Michaels in 2008. That was a fun match with a lot of good psychology, and they would get a second chance to shine. Grade: 3
Justin: One of the biggest concerns when deciding who should end Ric Flair’s career centered around how the follow up to Mania would go. Would the man who got the rub be used properly or would this huge storyline chip be wasted. Well, instead of having a young gun get the win, Shawn Michaels was given the opportunity and while many wondered why he was chosen instead of a guy that needed the win to make his career, you at least knew Michaels could deliver an epic angle coming off the match. And that epic angle kicked off immediately as Chris Jericho finally ebbed away from playing the antiseptic face and started to stir the shit between a contrite Michaels and a pissed off Batista. Batista thought Michaels should have rejected Flair’s Mania offer out of respect and Jericho felt that Michaels enjoyed doing the deed, so he poked and prodded where he good. Batista wanted to put Michaels down as payback and GM William Regal inserts Jericho as the referee. This angle was just a few weeks old but it felt fresh, deep, intricate and intriguing already. It also helped that it felt real and had three great, compelling wrestlers involved. Batista was antsy off the bell, but Shawn did his best to slow things down and even stall a bit. Once the match got going, Shawn tried to bust down Batista’s legs but the Animal just overpowered him to control. We actually got a bit of chain wrestling down on the mat, with both men trading holds. Shawn started to focus on the arm of Batista, running him into the ring post after they tumbled to the floor. To this point, Jericho was calling things down the middle, watching as Michaels cranked away at Batista’s left arm. The match had good psychology as it moved along, but it was a much slower pace than I expected from these two. I was also surprised to see Michaels play the heel role in wearing Batista down. The Animal finally struck back, tearing Shawn’s head off with a giant clothesline. Shawn wasn’t down long and was able to hook in a crossface as Batista hung on and refused to tap. Jericho finally got involved as he yanked Michaels out of the hold when Batista reached the ropes. Shawn took a second to voice his displeasure, but that allowed Batista an opening to get back into the match and pick up a few near falls. A few minutes later and Shawn was tuning up the band, but Batista met him with a spinebuster before he could strike. Batista tried to follow with a powerbomb, but Shawn’s knee gave out and he crumpled to the mat. Jericho did his best to ward off Batista as Shawn writhed on the mat in pain. As Batista finally broke through and went to pick up Shawn, Michaels popped up, nailed SCM and picked up the win. So, the question now is…was Shawn really hurt or was he faking to sucker Batista in? I guess time will tell. The match itself was solid and well worked, but I was expecting a bit more out of these two. I understand they focused more on storyline and the flow was different, I just thought it would be a bit hotter and more of a brawl. Grade: 3
5) Beth Phoenix (Elizabeth Carolan), Melina, Jillian Hall, Layla, Victoria (Lisa Marie Varon) & Natalya defeat Mickie James, Maria, Ashley, Michelle McCool, Kelly & Cherry (Kara Drew) when Phoenix pins Ashley with a Fisherman’s Suplex at 6:31
Fun Fact: The daughter of the legendary Anvil, Jim Neidhart, Nattie Neidhart began training for a career in wrestling in 2000, working out with Bruce and Ross Hart in the family Dungeon. After spending some time in Stampede, Nattie branched out and started touring the world in 2005, working in England and Japan. After another run in Stampede, Nattie signed a WWE developmental deal and began working in Deep South Wrestling in January 2007. After spending over a year there, she made her TV debut on the 4/4 Smackdown, assisting Victoria in an attack on Cherry and Michelle McCool.
Fun Fact II: On 4/14, Mickie James defeated Beth Phoenix to win the WWE Women’s title.
Fun Fact III: This show marks the final PPV appearance for Ashley Massaro. She would compete the next night on RAW in a rematch of the two teams and emerge victorious. This would turn out to be her final WWE match. Her last TV appearance was on the 5/5 RAW as one of the lumberjills in a No DQ match between Mickie James and Beth Phoenix, and her final WWE appearance was hosting a house show on May 11th. She would ask for and receive her release on July 9th, stating she wanted to care for her sick seven-year-old daughter. Her lack of appearance prior to her release was mainly attributed to an article in the May 2008 issue of Rolling Stone magazine alleging that she was once employed by an escort agency in Los Angeles that was being investigated by the FBI. Ashley strongly denied this, and another bikini model with the same name surfaced, but Rolling Stone adamantly stuck by their story. Since then, Ashley has mostly stayed out of the spotlight, but recently popped back into wrestling last year with the World Independent Ladies' Division. Her final record is 3-5.
Fun Fact IV: This would also mark both the PPV debut and final PPV appearance for Kara Drew, aka Cherry. She would stick around for a few months, including getting dumped by Deuce and Domino in favor of Maryse. After a brief feud with her, Cherry would then enter a short feud with the debuting Natalya Neidhart. Her last WWE appearance was on the August 8th Smackdown, teaming with Maria and Michelle McCool in a losing effort to Natalya, Victoria, and Maryse. She would be released on August 15th as a part of a two-week talent purge. She would compete in the indies for a little while after her release, but aside from a Twitter account that hasn't been used since July 2010, not much is known about the lovely Cherry following her release.
Scott: As usual, the perfect place to stick a throwaway Divas match is after a long, tense filled singles match. There’s a decent amount of actual workers in this match, but this was put together simply to give all the girls a payday. Mickie shocked Beth in England a couple weeks earlier to win the Women’s Title back, so why not have the rematch here instead of a silly twelve-divas match with a majority of them possessing a thimble of ability? Well there is Cherry, who was easily my favorite diva at the time. We’ve never really seen her in a wrestling capacity so we’ll see if she gets in the bout. We also have the debut of Jim Neidhart’s daughter Natalya, who’s much better looking than her father, and has no pointed beard. She isn’t wearing pink though. Wow this match is much longer than I thought it would be. Victoria did hit that awesome Widows Peak on the Champion. Then all the girls hit one finisher move after another in succession. Beth crushes Ashley to get the win. I didn’t get this at all. They just should have had a Mickie/Beth rematch. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Time to slow things down a bit and spell the crowd before our big double main event. Instead of a title match, we get all of the Divas on the roster in a big tag battle. We have a new champ on top, as Mickie James finally knocked off Beth Phoenix for the strap on Raw. As we enter a new year, we have another Diva overhaul, with some new faces in the mix and others moving into more prominent roles. Michelle McCool is one of those and she kicks off the match against Beth. Also new to the fold was Natalya Neidhart, daughter of the Anvil. She had a lot of underground hype and many fans were excited to see her up in the big time. She would go toe to toe with Mickie during the match, but Mickie would get the best of her for the most part. Things would degenerate into a large brawl on the floor but calmed back down and the match resumed. The champ hit the move of the match with a nasty DDT that spiked Beth into the mat. From there, we got a flurry of finishers, as each Diva got a chance to shine. That all ended when Beth recovered and smashed Ashley with a fisherman’s suplex for the win. This was pretty energetic and the pace was quick enough to keep it interesting the whole way through. The Diva roster was actually pretty solid at this point, with a nice mix of ladies that could work and those that were there as supporting eye candy. Beth gets back on the winning track and is eyeing her gold. Grade: 1.5
6) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Edge (Adam Copeland) to retain World Heavyweight Title with the Hell’s Gate at 18:23
Fun Fact: On 4/4, GM Vickie Guerrero announced that Edge would get his contractually obligated title rematch at Backlash. Vickie also forced Undertaker to wrestle Kane in the main event. As the match wore on, Edge and his Familia hit the ring to end the bout, but things would backfire and the show ended with Undertaker Tombstoning Edge as Kane did the same to Chavo Guerrero. On 4/18, Undertaker defended his title against Batista, but the match ended in a double countout when the Familia got involved. The next week, Edge defeated CM Punk and Undertaker defeated Batista with an assist from Shawn Michaels.
Scott: Ok so after the divas jumped around for a few minutes, back to the business at hand. For the second consecutive year the Undertaker gives the rematch to the man he defeated at Wrestlemania. Last year he defeated Batista in Detroit and then they wrestled to a no-contest at Backlash. This time after defeating Edge last month in Orlando the Rated-R Superstar gets his rematch. As Taker dominates early, Foley just made a great analysis of Taker’s workrate over the years. He said when he was battling Taker in 1996-97, Taker used pure power and psychology. Now he’s streamlined his workrate to add some speed and some submission moves. Coach would have had no idea what Foley was talking about. Edge would take control and try to wear the champion down with a body scissors and strikes. I constantly say this during Edge matches, but I’m still trying to figure out what Edge’s style really is. Think about it. He’s not a striker, he’s not a technician per se, he’s not a power guy, and he’s not as much of a high flyer as he’s gotten older. So, what is he? A hybrid of all of them? Whatever it is, it always seems to work, because Edge rarely puts on a true stinker of a match. Both men booted each other at the same time with great symmetry. I remember when I watched Wrestlemania live the first time I didn’t like the Edge/Taker match. Watching it again recently it aged well and I graded it so. This match has also involved a great story told by two great storytellers. This is one of those Taker matches where they work around some moves and submission holds, then get to the big power moves and very close two counts. Edge has tried to cheat numerous times but couldn’t finish the job. Curt Hawkins smacks Taker with the title belt when the ref was turned around, but Taker kicked out of that too. Then Zack Ryder tried to interfere but Taker threw Edge into him, then when Edge tried to reverse the Last Ride, he slid right into Hell’s Gate, and after waiting and waiting, Edge tapped out, just like Wrestlemania. This match was really good, slightly behind Mania but pretty good. The interference is what knocks it down a bit, but unlike last year’s Backlash drama, Taker left no stone unturned here. The drama continued post-match as Edge was taken off on a stretcher with blood shooting out his mouth and nose. Grade: 3.5
Justin: This feud continues on another month. As his Familia still controls Friday nights, Edge was able to secure a rematch and was sure to spend the weeks leading up to it tormenting the new champion. I was glad they kept Edge up in the title mix as his heel stable was still really entertaining and I wasn’t quite ready for it to end at all. After his reign was quickly cut short by injury a year ago, it was good to the strap back on Undertaker’s waist as he deserved another shot to carry Friday nights. Taker stalked and controlled off the bell as Edge was clearly trying to figure out a way to take the Deadman down. Foley and Cole wondered if Edge could shake off the Mania loss and get into this match here. Taker continued to punish Edge, beating on his back both in and out of the ring. After a long assault, Edge finally got an offensive move in, snapping Taker back to the mat after avoiding a snake eyes. And from there, the attack was on as Edge zeroed right in on the lower back. To this point, this match had the same slow build as their Mania tilt, so I am interested to see if the pace picks up and finishes as strongly as that classic did. Edge continued to wear Taker down, using a camel clutch to work that lower back. Things finally picked up as Taker battled back but this just continued to feel like a mini version of Mania with not much else mixed in. Taker missed an elbow drop off the top rope, allowing Edge an opening that he could not capitalize on. Just as Taker looked to have things wrapped up, Curt Hawkins hit the ring and bashed Taker with the belt, leading to a close near fall. After Zack Ryder also interfered, Edge avoided a Tombstone and tried to roll Taker up, but just like at Mania, Taker hooked on the Hell’s Gate. Edge tried to battle and lasted a little bit before finally tapping out. Taker would keep the hold hooked on after the bell, trying to fulfill his promise to injure Edge. As Taker walked off, Vickie Guerrero and various medics and officials tended to Edge, who was eventually stretchered out of the arena. As he was wheeled out, blood was leaking from his mouth and he clutched his throat as he lay there with a look of shock on his face. Just like Mania, the closing portion really made the match, but it was still a step behind their battle in Orlando. Regardless, these two guys have damn good chemistry and the match had a main event feel throughout. Taker retains and it looks like Edge may be on the sideline for a bit after this brutal finish. Grade: 3.5
7) Triple H (Paul Levesque) defeats Randy Orton, John Cena and John Bradshaw Layfield to win the WWE Championship in a Fatal Four Way Elimination Match when he eliminates Randy Orton at 28:13
John Cena makes JBL submit with the STF at 10:29
Randy Orton pins John Cena after a punt to the head at 10:41
Triple H pins Randy Orton with the Pedigree at 28:13
Fun Fact: On 3/31, Randy Orton strutted to the ring and bragged about his win the night before. His celebration was interrupted by JBL, who requested a title match since he believed John Cena and Triple H did not deserve one. A week later, GM William Regal made it official and announced that JBL would receive the title shot at Backlash. Triple H interrupted the festivities and claimed that Orton didn’t really beat anyone at Mania and requested a rematch. Regal made a triple threat match between JBL, Orton and Hunter, with a slot in the PPV match on the line if Hunter could win the match. Hunter would pun Orton after the Pedigree to win the match. After the bell, John Cena showed up and demanded a slot in the match as well. Regal gave him the same offer, but this time Triple H would be swapped in for Orton and revealed that the match would occur later that night. Cena would win the bout and push the PPV match to a four-way. On 4/14, JBL and Triple H wrestled to a no contest when Orton interfered. The show ended with JBL standing tall after taking both men out. The next week, Orton and JBL teamed with Edge and Chavo Guerrero to defeat Triple H, Cena, Kane and Undertaker
Scott: Our main event is another Wrestlemania rematch with a twist. The match at Wrestlemania was the culmination of what I thought was a convoluted mess of a storyline starting at the Royal Rumble when John Cena won the title shot then used it at No Way Out instead of Wrestlemania. We get Cena another match, throw The Game into the mix and we get a good, but not Wrestlemania-quality match. So, let’s do it again and throw JBL in. He won his match at Wrestlemania and wanted another chance at glory. Now I was prepared for a multi-person match, as most Backlash main events are. Ten years of Backlash and the WWE Title has only changed hands twice: The Rock in 2000 and Hulk Hogan in 2002. The coincidence there? Triple H was the champion in both cases. Here he’s the challenger along with the man who had one of the longest title reigns in history. John Cena’s 2006-07 run is one of the most impressive in recent memory but ended due to injury. He got his stones broken many times for his lack of workrate and cheesy promos but he won match after match after match. Orton was handed the title then escaped with almost every title defense by the skin of his teeth. This match is interesting because unlike most fatal four-ways this one is an elimination match. So pinfalls and submissions are not being broken up by other guys. In fact there’s one moment where Cena had Orton in the STFU and JBL was taunting Orton to quit instead of breaking the hold. Great psychology there. The match was a lot of fun as four great workers went all out to keep the crowd interested. I remember last year’s Backlash four-way didn’t have that same kind of sizzle that this one does. Orton has matured in that time and I think that’s the biggest thing. JBL is eliminated first by Cena’s STFU. Then out of nowhere Orton punts Cena in the head and he’s eliminated. That shocked me. JBL I could see, but not Cena, not that quickly. I was getting excited at the possibility that for the first time in three years, The Game would be champion again. These two had a couple of good matches at No Mercy back in October, and due to that you knew that they would be the last two here. JBL was just another body, and Cena needed to be away from the title for awhile. This is almost a second match after part one ended with those eliminations. Both men are going all out and Orton was pretty much dominating Triple H for the most part. As much as Cena getting hurt sucked, Orton’s title reign was a much needed boost for him. It gave him needed credibility and it did help both his promos and his in-ring work. This really is pretty much a separate match as these two have been going at it for quite a while. After an AA spinebuster, Hunter tries a Pedigree but Orton backdrops him. After a ref bump Orton finally snaps the RKO off but is too far away. Orton finally goes for the pin but Triple H kicks out. After a series of reversals, we finally get the Pedigree, and for the first time since 2005, THE GAME is the Champion. The King of Kings is back on his throne. I’m jumping up and down with my Triple H murse (well not really…). That was a great match and it ended a pretty fun Backlash. Grade: 3.5
Justin: As is usual with Backlash, we get another rehash of the Mania title picture. However, this time around, JBL is added into the mix to round things out. Randy Orton pulled the upset and kept his title reign alive, defeating John Cena and Triple H at Wrestlemania to add further legitimacy to his run. Orton is clearly the marked man here, having bragged endlessly about building his legend through a dominating title reign and multiple major defenses. Hunter gets the biggest pop during the intros and the other three all receive various levels of heat showered upon them. JBL kicks things off by decking Orton as soon as the bell rings and from there all four commence brawling. Cena went right for Orton, but Orton smashed him into the announce table to wipe him out. Back inside, the champ teamed with JBL to work over the Game. Hunter did his best to fight them off as Cena recovered on the floor. After a few more minutes of brawling, Cena finally got back in the ring and again right after Orton, cracking him with a top rope legdrop before hooking him in the STF. JBL came in and taunted Orton, letting him suffer in the hold, but as he did, Hunter came from behind and trapped him in a crossface. JBL reached up and thumbed Cena in the eye, but Orton then returned the favor and refused to help JBL. That was a cute spot. The crowd was just all over Cena here and don’t really seem to be cheering much of anything. The slow brawling continued but things picked up with a superplex from JBL to Orton that included an assist from Cena and Hunter. Cena started working all his comeback spots to loud catcalls from this angry crowd. Hunter wouldn’t go down easy, fighting Cena off and taking back control of the match. Cena would be left alone with JBL and was able to crank up the STF, forcing him to tap out and be eliminated from the bout. As Cena released the hold, Orton ran in and punted Cena into next week, covered and eliminated him to a huge pop from the crowd. That one even caught me off guard, as Cena is gone, leaving us with Orton and Hunter to battle for the strap. The two would mainly brawl on the floor, trading control and near falls. Orton targeted the back of Hunter, using his methodical, precision strikes. He would even turn to his beloved reverse chinlock to wear the game down. It feels like they were working hard to build some sort of epic, but it just isn’t happening and the pacing has slowed way down. I think this would have been better served not being an elimination match as, even though the match was disjointed, it was at least exciting when all four were brawling. By this point, it is just ebbing along, seemingly trying to meet a time quota rather than organically pacing itself. Hunter finally gained an advantage after blocking an RKO attempt, beating Orton inside and outside the ring. I will give the crowd credit in that they have mainly stayed in this thing despite it not being anything too great. Orton recovered enough to try for a piledriver on the steel steps, but Hunter blocked it and swept out Orton’s legs so the champ smashed back first onto the steel. Orton fought back again and finally landed the RKO, but Hunter kicked out. From there, it was all academic, as Hunter finally regains the gold he has been chasing since 2007. He gets a big pop for the Pedigree and the win, so the fans were happy with the result. I got into this more in depth in our Mania review, but if you wanted the belt back on the Game, do it in Orlando instead of dragging it out another month. Once they got here, Orton should have retained and kept his epic reign going. This match was fine, but never really engaged me and felt a bit like they were trying to force an epic that just never got off the ground. Grade: 3
Scott: This was one of the better Backlash shows in history. The undercard was pretty good as all the major feuds going on continued and we had some feel-good moments, like Matt Hardy finally ending MVP’s US Title run, and Shawn Michaels pulling a rabbit out of his hat to defeat Batista. Undertaker defeated Edge in their Wrestlemania rematch as Edge is carted out with blood spewing out of his mouth. The main event was a two-part battle between four main event studs. We had the four way battle for a bit, and then Randy Orton and Triple H pretty much had their own match afterwards. Triple H is back on top, and we’ll see how long he is there and who he can elevate in the process. As for Undertaker, I’m sure there’s at least one more Edge match in the offing. The roster is pretty solid right now with good main eventers, a fairly consistent mid-card, although there is no tag division to speak of. The Divas got their payday, even though that was the wrong thing to do. Overall this was a fun show as throughout history there’s rarely a bad Backlash. The Game and the Deadman are on top, but we’ll see if anyone will be elevated by them. Final Grade: B
Justin: Well, I must admit I was disappointed in this PPV. Coming off a solid Wrestlemania, Backlash is usually a good card as it features all of the hot mania matches without all of the hoopla and filler. However, this time around, things just didn’t really seem to click. Matt Hardy finally returning to knock off MVP was a great moment but from there things just kind of meandered along. We were given solid matches with good back stories, but nothing really stood out. The psychology and angle involved in the Batista/Michaels match was great, but even that ring work was lacking a bit. Undertaker vanquishes Edge in a very good match, the best of the night, as the Deadman continues to rule Fridays. The main event was OK, but didn’t really engage or draw me in. Sadly, the Age of Orton comes crashing to a halt here. If they wanted to end Orton’s title run, it should have been at Mania. If he got out of Orlando with the strap, he should have kept it even longer, building an epic reign to match Cena’s from the year before. Instead, we get a bland match and a forgotten title change on a mediocre show. All in all, this is a pretty tepid and disappointing outing and I hope things pick up next month. Final Grade: C-
MVP: Undertaker & Edge
Runner Up: Matt Hardy
Non MVP: Chavo Guerrero
Runner Up: Great Khali