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WWF Backlash

April 21, 2002

by Samoa Rowe

-Follow me on Twitter: @SamoaRowe

-From Kansas City, MO. Our hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

-It’s worth noting that this is the first WWF pay-per-view of the “Brand Extension” era, so the entire company is in the midst of a big transition. A lot of fresh faces were popping up, while some familiar stars were being put into unusual storylines.

Cruiserweight Championship:
Billy Kidman © vs. Tajiri (with Torrie Wilson)

Tajiri had been treating Torrie badly during this time and she’s forced to wear a kimono. Tajiri is showing a new mean streak and takes control in the early stages. This is a grounded contest, nothing like the high-flying contests that the WCW cruiserweight division was famous for. Kidman absorbs the Tarantula and finally begins mounting a comeback. Tajiri retaliates with a stiff kick to the head for a near fall. Kidman counters with a face buster for a 2 count. Kidman’s Shooting Star Press misses, which Tajiri capitalizes with a head kick for a severely close near fall. That false finish woke the crowd up. Kidman counters with a power bomb off the turnbuckles! Tajiri sprays red mist in Kidman’s eyes to steal the pinfall at 9:07. This needed a few more minutes to really get their story across, but they were able to win over the fans in attendance, **½.
Winner and new Cruiserweight Champion: Tajiri

-Michael Cole interviews Tajiri at ringside. Tajiri goes on a sinister sounding rant in his native Japanese before dragging Torrie up the aisle by the wrist.

-Farooq and Bradshaw catch up with each other backstage. They’ve been separated by the brand split but they’re still pals.

Scott Hall (with X-Pac) vs. Bradshaw

Hall and X-Pac want to double team Bradshaw, but Farooq shows up to even the odds. Hall flicks his toothpick and has a good laugh until Bradshaw starts clubbing away at him. Hall rolls to the floor, where Farooq is waiting for an attack. The referee is feeling lenient as Bradshaw continues to dominate with a fall away slam. Hall punches his way into a comeback. Bradshaw absorbs some stomps and explodes with a shoulder tackle. The Clothesline From Hell connects, but X-Pac puts Hall’s foot on the rope. Farooq drives X-Pac into the ring post, but Hall uses a low blow to finish Bradshaw at 5:42. This felt much longer than six minutes, with repetitive action and a dead crowd, ½*.
Winner: Scott Hall

-Vince McMahon barges into Ric Flair’s office to play some mind games. Arn Anderson has Flair’s back as McMahon gloats that Flair is learning the hard way how difficult it is to be in charge at the WWF. Flair tells Vince off and refuses a handshake.

-Trish Stratus comes to the ring for her match, but she’s interrupted by Molly Holly, who cuts a promo tearing her apart. Molly cheap shots Trish and tosses her through the ropes. Molly sends Trish into the ring steps as Jazz shows up to pick up the pieces.

Women’s Championship:
Jazz © vs. Trish Stratus

Trish is hurt from Molly’s attack and Jazz tries to score an easy victory. Trish fights back but Jazz rolls her off her shoulders. Jazz throws some jabs, but Trish nails a high kick to start building momentum. Trish scores a head scissors takedown off the turnbuckle and almost wins it with a neck breaker. Jazz turns it around with a sit-out power bomb. Jazz counters Stratusfaction and looks for a submission with a Boston crab and STF. Trish has to tap out at 4:27. This was short, but they packed a lot of action into it, **.
Winner and still Women’s Champion: Jazz

-Jazz refuses a ringside interview and storms to the back.

-We get a recap of Paul Heyman bothering Lita in her locker room, twirling her underwear around in his hand. Heyman seems to want a special favor from Lita in exchange of Brock Lesnar sparing her boyfriend. Lita slaps him and orders him out. Later, Heyman interrupted a Hardy Boyz match by showing up on the stage with a bag full of Lita’s thongs. This set up a Lesnar ambush, and Matt takes the F-5 on the stage! Jeff was too late to make the save and Lita is devastated.

-Paul Heyman pumps Brock Lesnar up in the locker room. Lesnar is making his official in-ring debut tonight and is ordered to hurt Jeff Hardy in a manner that makes what he did to Matt seem like nothing.

Jeff Hardy (with Lita) vs. Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman)

Jeff takes the fight right to the Lesnar, and manages to drop-kick him off the apron. Lesnar catches Jeff on a dive and but gets driven into the ring post. Lesnar regains his composure and the slaughter begins. Lesnar dishes out a series of power moves, but Jeff still comes back with a flurry of desperate punches. Lesnar no-sells the attack but gets caught by the Whisper of the Wind. Jeff nails the Swanton Bomb for a 2 count! Jeff misses a chair shot and Lesnar nails the F-5 onto the weapon! Brock follows up with a series of power bombs and the referee stops the match at 5:29. This was much more competitive than I was expecting. Lesnar looked downright monstrous here, **.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Kurt Angle vs. Edge

This feud is pretty much based around two former friends getting sick of each other. They collide and a rather sloppy flapjack from Edge sends Angle to ringside for a breather. Angle turns up the aggression with a German suplex. Edge fights back but eats a belly to belly suplex. Angle throws another suplex and applies a chinlock. Edge escapes and takes another German. Edge blocks and nails a suplex of his own. Edge builds some momentum but can’t seem to put Angle away. Angle counters with a superplex! Edge blocks the Ankle Lock but gets caught in the rolling German suplexes. Edge fires back with a release overhead belly to back suplex! Edge follows up with a flying cross body to the floor. Missile drop-kick by Edge only gets 2. Angle surprises with the Olympic Slam, but Edge kicks out! Edge counters the Ankle Lock but Angle’s clothesline keeps him down. Angle grabs a chair but clocks himself when it hits the ropes. Edge gets a painfully close cover and then Angle counters the spear with a punt. Angle nails the Olympic Slam for the win at 13:18. This was a hard-hitting, nasty, back and forth encounter that set out to steal the show and succeeded, ****.
Winner: Kurt Angle

-Tazz is hosting the festivities at WWF New York. Fans give their predictions for the Hogan/Triple H match, and most of them come across as surprisingly intelligent.

-Chris Jericho comes to the ring to complain about not having a match tonight, especially in light that he was Undisputed Champion only a month ago. Since he’s not good enough to be in a Backlash match, he’s just a lowly spectator like all the jackasses in the crowd. Even Maven has a match tonight and that hurts Y2J’s feelings. Jericho says that even on the worse day of his career, he’s still better than all the fans and Hulk Hogan. This was a fiery, whiny promo, that was likely more of a shoot than a work.

-Ric Flair is ready to play guest referee when The Undertaker storms in to stare him down. That is all.

Intercontinental Championship:
Rob Van Dam © vs. Eddie Guerrero

Eddie was in the midst of a big comeback after defeating some personal demons. RVD has Eddie’s number in the early going, unloading his bag of tricks. Guerrero counters in the turnbuckles and dishes out a series of strikes. RVD shakes it off and continues to roll with a standing Moonsault. RVD nails a suplex but Eddie trips him on the ropes. RVD counters back, hanging Guerrero on the ropes. Eddie sneaks in some pin attempts but RVD fires back with a baseball slide and standing moonsault off the apron. Van Dam nails a leg drop across the barricade! Eddie counters Rolling Thunder and viciously takes control of the match, focusing on the back. Guerrero’s offense is flashy, but he’s just nasty enough in the delivery that the fans don’t embrace him. RVD blocks a Frog Splash, but Eddie counters with a sunset flip power bomb! RVD continues to fight back, prompting Eddie to grab the IC title. The ref gets hit in the chaos. Eddie takes advantage with a neck breaker onto the belt. The Frog Splash finishes it at 11:41. Guerrero made quite a statement with this match, more or less putting on a one man show while RVD bumped for him, ***.
Winner and new Intercontinental Champion: Eddie Guerrero

#1 Contender Match:
Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker (Guest Referee: Ric Flair)

They start with a MAIN EVENT STAREDOWN so this must be serious. Undertaker scores a shoulder block, which seems to really hurt Austin, who needs as breather. The match restarts and Undertaker no-sells Austin’s shoulder tackle. Austin, the baby face, continues stalling with pushups. They hit the ropes for spurts of action between standing around. Austin busts out some technical wrestling chops, going after the wrist. Undertaker turns it around, also going after the wrist. Lou Thesz press by Austin, who soon sends Taker to the floor for the obligatory time-filling brawl. Scott Hall and X-Pac show up to watch as Austin and Taker sleep-walk through a punch-fest. They wander back into the ring, with Undertaker wearing Austin down with methodical (er, sleep-inducing) offense. Austin shows signs of life occasionally, though I’m guessing his neck was hurting as he seems to be moving in slow motion. Undertaker exposes a turnbuckle, which comes back to haunt him when Austin reverses an Irish whip. Both men go down after double clothesline attempts. Austin turns up the aggression, stomping Taker into the corner. Austin throws Taker into Flair, who takes a bump as if he was a regular schmuck referee. Flair misses Austin making the cover on Undertaker, which won’t help their relationship. Undertaker hits a blind low blow, though it seems to me that Flair saw it. Chokeslam by Undertaker, but Austin kicks out (all of Flair’s counts have been slow). They exchange near falls but Taker shoves Austin into Flair, who takes another bump. Taker delivers a chair shot to the head for a 2 count. Taker misses another chair shot and Austin stomps him yet again. Flair takes the chair away from Austin, but Undertaker kicks it into his head. Flair counts the pinfall for Undertaker, even though Austin has his foot on the rope at 27:18. That’s right, TWENTY SEVEN MINUTES of this tedious, heatless, mess that seemed to indicate that both Austin and Undertaker had overstayed their welcome at the top of WWF cards, *.
Winner: The Undertaker

-Austin puts Undertaker down with a Stunner for good measure. I guess we were supposed to be excited at the notion of more matches between these two.

-Jonathan Coachman shows Ric Flair a replay of the finish to the match. Flair utters “Oh, shit” and storms off. That about sums up the previous match. I don’t even want to finish this review now.

WWF Tag Team Championship:
Billy and Chuck © (with Rico) vs. Al Snow and Maven

The champions attack the challengers before the bell can ring, but get quickly dumped to the floor. Maven gets tossed back into the ring and is immediately isolated. Snow gets knocked off the apron as Maven hits a DDT on Billy. Maven gets stuck again in Billy and Chuck territory. Snow gets what is supposed to be a hot tag and cleans house. The comeback gets cut off by a blind attack from Chuck, and it’s Al’s turn to take a beating. Al turns it around with a drop toe hold on Chuck into Billy’s groin. Maven gets a tag but suffers a Fame-asser. Snow saves Maven but takes a super kick from Chuck. Rico interferes and accidentally hits a spin kick on Billy. Maven gets a flying cross body for 2! Snow chases Rico from the ring, but Chuck ambushes Maven, setting up Billy’s cover for the win at 5:57. Short and inoffensive filler, *½.
Winners and still WWF Tag Team Champions: Billy and Chuck

Undisputed WWF Championship:
Triple H © vs. Hulk Hogan

The crowd is really hot at the opening bell, as this would truly prove to be a once in a lifetime dream match of sorts (at least on paper). They lock up and it doesn’t take long for the fans to side with Hogan against Triple H. They engage in a test of strength, with HHH emerging in control of the wrist. So far they’re doing a good job keeping the crowd engaged with low impact action. Triple H slaps the face and turns up the ruthlessness with a series of shots. Hogan counters with a back body drop and throws a series of clotheslines. Hogan pummels in the corner and drops HHH to the floor. Hogan seems to hurt himself delivering a suplex at ringside. Hogan counters the Pedigree with a catapult into the turnbuckles. Hogan surprises with a neck breaker. HHH attacks the back of the knee and shifts the momentum. The crowd boos Triple H as he continues targeting the knee. Triple H heels it up by grabbing the ropes for leverage in a Figure Four. Hogan manages to reverse the Figure Four but gets caught in a Sleeper. Hulk counters with a suplex and makes a classic Hogan comeback. Hogan nails the Leg Drop, but Chris Jericho runs in and pulls the referee to the floor. Jericho cracks a chair over Hogan’s skull and wakes the ref up. Triple H attacks Jericho and clotheslines him out. Hogan “hulks up” but misses the Leg Drop! Triple H hits the Pedigree but The Undertaker runs in and attacks the referee! Undertaker puts HHH down with a chair shot and tries to put Hogan on him. Hogan dumps Undertaker to the floor and hits the Leg Drop for the win and title at 21:59. The crowd approves of this result. I enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting to, but the match would have benefited from editing out about 5-7 minutes of fat from the middle. They worked hard though and when I say this is **½, I mean that in the nicest way possible.
Winner and new Undisputed WWF Champion: Hulk Hogan

-A bloody, angry Triple H mans up and hands the title to Hogan. We’ll never forget the epic 1 month reign you just had, Hunter. Hogan celebrates with the fans in typical Hulk fashion.

Final Thoughts: It’s easy to see why I thought WWF was turning into WCW during this time. The main eventers were suffering from a painful mixture of injuries, age, ego, and staleness, while retaining their spots at the top while the workhorses of the company were tearing it up in the midcard. There’s some really good stuff on this show, most notably the Angle/Edge encounter, Eddie Guerrero’s big win, and the emergence of Brock Lesnar, but that 27 minute Austin/Undertaker stink fest sort of dragged the show as a whole down with it. Call this one thumbs in the middle.

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