WWF Backlash 2001 4/29/2001

April 29, 2001
Allstate Arena
Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 17,154
Buy Rate: .94
Announcers: Jim Ross and Paul Heyman

Sunday Night Heat:

1) Jerry Lynn (Jeremy Lynn) defeats Crash Holly (Mike Lockwood) to win WWF Light Heavyweight Title

Fun Fact: Jerry Lynn started his mainstream career in WCW as the masked “Mr. JL”, wrestling preliminary matches. He was fired by Eric Bischoff while injured, and migrated to the place where fired guys of the “big two” went: ECW. Lynn became a star there, most notably during a fantastic feud with Rob Van Dam over the ECW TV Title. He would migrate to the WWF when ECW folded. Crash had defeated Dean Malenko on March 13 to take the title.

2) Lita (Amy Dumas) defeats Molly Holly (Nora Greenwald)

Pay Per View

1) X-Factor defeats the Dudley Boys when X-Pac (Sean Waltman) pins Bubba Ray Dudley (Mark Lomonica) after a double thrust kick at 7:59

Fun Fact: X-Factor started after Wrestlemania, when Albert joined the duo of X-Pac and Justin Credible on February 12, but this is their first match together as a team.

A decent opener to our show tonight, but this was the first real instance of “X-Pac heat.” Once D-Generation X finally ended, X-Pac really became a guy without an identity. So now he’s just become a generic guy with long hair and tights. At least he was given his own posse to run, with Justin Credible and Albert as his charges. Albert just floats along from one heel group to the next. He’s an exceptional talent who can bring a good power game to the ring, but he just goes from one situation to the next. He and Test were a great team as T&A, but then when Trish broke out on her own they lost their hook. So Test turned face and Albert needed another group to hook onto. That group was X-Factor. The match is pretty good and X-Factor wins, but instead of X-Pac getting a much needed win and being done with it, the Dudleys have to knock everybody out and put X-Pac through a table. So instead of getting much need real heel heat, he’s a stupid joke and everyone wants him gone. This was a good match but a lousy, illogical ending. Grade: 2.5

I disagree with Scott in a few spots here, but I will get to them in a moment. This opener was pretty fun and the crowd was digging the majority of it as the Dudleys were just crazy over still. Just when they may have been getting a bit stale, the addition of Spike added a little juice into the group and he bumped all over the place here. The match was a basic six man and X-Factor drew some good heat during their control portion of the bout. The announcers put Albert over big time throughout the match and you could tell he was set for a good push in the future as he dominated when he was in as well. X-Factor picked up a nice win, but the Dudleys get their heat back in the end when they put X-Pac through the table. My first disagreement from above has to do with the term “X-Pac heat”. This is a concept I never really agreed with, dating back to its origins around this time. To me, and I would think most wrestlers, heat is heat. Whether you are booed because people hate you or because they are supposed to, you are still drawing a reaction and people want to see you lose. In the era of true kayfabe, the point of being a heel was to be legitimately hated, and X-Pac was just that during this run. I also think that all of the “X-Pac Sucks” chants also just became crowds imitating other crowds and basically became a catchphrase, no different that the “Angle Sucks” chants that would come in later years. Secondly, while I would normally agree that the finish here was dumb, the crowd here was flat out begging for it, chanting for tables and pulling heartily for the Dudleys from start to finish. I am a believer that on PPV you try and give the crowd what they want, especially in a relatively meaningless mid card match. Here, X-Factor still gets the win, but the crowd sees the hated X-Pac get some wood and I don’t see anything too wrong with that. If they were in line for a major push and made to be fools, then I would take issue, but it was quite harmless. Grade: 2.5

2) Rhyno (Terry Gerin) defeats Raven (Scott Levy) to retain WWF Hardcore Title with a Gore at 8:10

Fun Fact: Rhyno defeated Kane on the 4/19 Smackdown to win the Hardcore Title.

Raven got a huge pop coming out here, and you really wonder if he shouldn’t have been pushed higher up the card instead of being a hardcore flunky. The best part of this match was the fact that both men are ECW alumni, so the violence level is jacked up even more. This match was the perfect example of Paul Heyman’s positive influence on the product. The fact he knows both these men intimately, he actually helped JR out with the normal hardcore cliches by really getting into the emotion of the match and what was in both men’s heads. Garbage cans, road signs, and even that trusty shopping cart were the weapons of choice here. The end of the match really amped the crowd: Rhyno misses the Gore, and goes right into the shopping cart. Raven starts pounding on the man-beast with the kitchen sink. Rhyno kicks out of the two count, then out of nowhere drills Raven with the GORE…GORE…GORE, and Rhyno retains his title. A much better match than I remember, and kudos to Raven for keeping the crowd going, even though he fell short. Grade: 3.5

This was just a tremendous hardcore match and may possibly be the best one they did during this run. The action was stiff and high energy and the crowd was into it the whole way, and Raven was just super over here. In one of the sicker spots of the match, Rhyno leapt off one chair and landed flat on another open chair, crushing it in the process. Rhyno looked quite strong throughout and he brought such energy to the ring as he just moves non stop from bell to bell. The shopping cart bit was sick as well and the false finishes in the closing moments were tremendous as well. As I mentioned before, Raven was big time over, to the point that JR had to keep mentioning the crowd support for him. I really think they have missed a good opportunity to elevate Raven here and you start to wonder if this is the kicking off point where the creative team and Vince decided they would stay their course and stop listening to fan reactions unless it was an overwhelming level of support. A guy like Raven may have gotten a solid push with the reactions he was getting here back in 1998 or 1999 but by this point, Vince was starting to take his foot off the gas a bit and play it safe, so Raven stays in the mid card despite being quite over. Grade: 3.5

3) William Regal (Darren Matthews) defeats Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) in a Duchess of Queensbury match with a steel chair shot at 12:11

Scott: This was a rematch from Jericho’s IC Title win at Wrestlemania and now we have stipulations that don’t really exist. I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish here, other that to dick Jericho around. Really Y2J was ready for bigger and better things than this. Twice he had the match won, only to have that ugly skank with the wig and the bad teeth change the rules at every turn. Eventually Jericho puts the Queen herself into the Walls of Jericho, which really made no sense since it wasn’t her in the match. That leaves him open to a trio of flush chair shots for the win. Jericho really needed to find a storyline with substance, and he would get just that in a few months. The other point to note about this match is Heyman’s “dig” on Jerry Lawler. When The Duchess sits down near the broadcast table, Heyman says “It’s about time there was some legitimate royalty in the WWF!” I’m not sure how JR took that comment, but Vince probably wanted him to say it. The action itself wasn’t bad, but the whole package was a lot of nonsense. Grade: 2

Justin: Heading into this grudge match, nobody was aware of what the rules where. Coach asks the Duchess before the match, but Regal interrupts and we are left in the dark. Regal had cost Jericho the IC title after Wrestlemania and Chris was looking for revenge. Jericho was at a disadvantage going in and that was the basic crux of the story. Regal used his basic offense early on and drew some nice heat off it as he wore Jericho down. Chris would rally and eventually hit a nice top rope huracarrana. But then we get out first swerve of the match. As Jericho has the match sewn up, the bell rings in a funny little moment, signifying the end of round one. Regal would battle back and drill Jericho with a sweet release German. After some more shenanigans, including Jericho’s submission win being nullified, Regal would blast him with a chair and pick up a tainted win. Despite the loss, Jericho still looked strong as he beat Regal clean twice in the match before being screwed. The Duchess stuff wasn’t bad early on, but it got a bit much as the match wore on. Still, the work was solid and stiff and these two had pretty good chemistry together in the ring. Grade: 2.5

4) Chris Benoit defeats Kurt Angle with the Crippler Crossface in overtime of a thirty-minute Iron Man Submission match

Chris Benoit submits to a legbar at 6:34
Kurt Angle submits to a cross armbreaker at 8:03
Chris Benoit submits to the Anklelock at 10:19
Chris Benoit submits to the Crippler Crossface at 11:05
Kurt Angle submits to the one-legged crab at 18:02
Kurt Angle submits to the Anklelock at 27:50
Kurt Angle submits to the Crippler Crossface at 31:31

Scott: I’m torn about this match. Sure it was two excellent technical wrestlers, but the Wrestlemania match was much better than this. The crux of the match is that both men have painful submission finishers. Now this match could have gone two ways. It could have gone the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels route of Wrestlemania XII where it could go scoreless through the thirty minutes and we go to overtime. Or we can go the Triple H/Rock route of Judgment Day 2000 and have a myriad of submissions, then go into overtime. They choose the latter, so we have a total of seven submissions. Now many are critical of someone tapping out to your own finisher. I think it actually puts the finisher over even more, the fact that it’s a painful submission; even the one who executes it the best can’t stand the pain. As usual with matches like this, the heel takes what seems like an insurmountable lead, the babyface battles back to tie, and then it depends on who’s booked to win. In this case, Benoit evens their 2001 PPV series at one match apiece. Some thought the submissions went too quickly, but I thought the pace in between submissions was adequate, as they came between four and nine minutes apart. Yet there was a lot more dead time in the match than you would expect from two guys who could improvise effective action at the drop of a hat. I’ll lean the match better than worse, but it doesn’t come close to their match in Houston. Grade: 3

Justin: I will have to respectfully disagree with Scott here as I actually enjoyed the psychology and build of this match quite a bit. In the weeks leading in, each man had gotten their hold on the other and here they square off over who has the most effective submission hold. The story was simple and the execution was great. The pacing was good early on as the two men trade holds to try and wear each other down. Angle’s shoulder was banged up coming in thanks to the Crossface and Benoit would target it throughout. Despite the injury, Angle would get the first win when Benoit tapped quickly to a leg submission. I liked the quick tap, because it showed Benoit’s intelligence in that he would rather go down a fall early than risk further damage to the knee. That point was brought out nicely by JR and Heyman. Speaking of Heyman, it was matches like this that showed the advantage they gained with him in the booth over Jerry Lawler. Heyman was fantastic in this match, telling the story and psychology of the submission holds as the match wore on. After a couple of more submissions, Angle would gain a 2-1 lead but as time wore on it became a war of attrition: which would break first, Angle’s shoulder or Benoit’s ankle? Benoit would rally late and tie the match and at one point locked in a sick bridging half crab that was reminiscent of Jericho’s WCW Liontamer. As the final seconds ticked away, Angle tried his best to gain the winning fall, but Benoit held on. Angle celebrates like he won, thinking Benoit tapped, but as soon as he realized the match had hit OT, he dives back in the ring and goes on the attack. Benoit would quickly turn the tide and pick up the win with the CCF. I really liked this match and I didn’t think it dragged at all for a submission based thirty minute battle. The story was basic and these two went to town with it. Add in the great commentary and good crowd and you have a winner. Both men looked strong and I think the quick submission made sense due to the type of match they were in. They couldn’t afford to be hurt as they still had a long road ahead. Heyman did a great job of putting over the submissions and pride of both men throughout. His presence definitely improved JR’s game as well. I liked the match a bit more than Wrestlemania, but both were equally good in their own way. It was cool seeing these guys get so much time to just go out and wrestle and they delivered. Grade: 4

5) Shane McMahon defeats Big Show (Paul Wight) in a Last Man Standing match with an elbow off the entrance set at 11:53

Fun Fact: Shane debuts his “Here Comes the Money” theme that he still uses to this day.

For the second straight year, Shane-O Mac and Big Show meet in a PPV match. The previous year the roles were reversed. Shane was the heel who mocked and made fun of the fun-loving Show. This year Show is the hired assassin of Vince McMahon against his WCW-owning son. After Shane’s win at Wrestlemania, he began attempting to recruit WWF superstars to his new WCW. Vince was livid, and told the biggest man on the roster to “not hold back” in taking out his son. The match was choppy, with strange moves like using an ether-soaked rag? I never thought they’d take a gimmick from the Undertaker/Giant Gonzalez match from Wrestlemania IX. The ending is typical Shane, as Test holds Big Show down on a wooden platform, as Shane is on top of the Backlash set. He does the sign of the cross, and dives close to fifty feet down on the Big Show and through the wood. Test lifts Shane up on a camera crane, and he gets the win. An insane ending to an otherwise uninteresting match. Grade: 2

The McMahon family war rages on here as Vince sends the Big Show after his son. Shane had tried to lure Show away, but Vince got in the big guy’s ear and told him he had what it took to be a dominant WWF Champion. Show took the bait and chokeslammed Shane and then vowed to hurt him here. The crowd was behind Shane the whole way through and was also digging Test when he made his appearance mid way through. Shane tried to hit and run early and eventually smothers Show with an ether rag. Vince would show up and break up the hold and knock Shane out. Show would then dominate things until Test showed up and turned the tide. Even though the crowd was into it, the action was choppy throughout and never got into a good flow. In the climax, they battled down the aisle and Test would help put Show down so Shane could leap off of the Backlash set and drop an elbow for the win. The bump was insane and completely unnecessary. The match wasn’t a super hot grudge match or long, brutal brawl and there was no need to take a stupid risk like that for it. I am all for a crazy bump if it makes sense within the match or feud, but death defying stunts for shits and giggles is just dumb. The match was decent, but the crowd heat totally carried it all the way through. Grade: 2

6) Matt Hardy defeats Eddie Guerrero and Christian (Jay Reso) in a triangle match to retain WWF European Title when he pins Christian with the Twist of Fate at 6:52

Fun Fact: Matt defeated Eddie Guerrero on the 4/26 Smackdown to win the European Title.

Fun Fact II:
Following this show, Eddie began hanging out with the Hardys, but it was assumed that he was just trying to get closer to Lita. He showed some chivalry, however, on the 5/7 Raw when he teamed with the Hardys to battle Edge, Christian & Rhyno. At the end of the match, Rhyno went to gore Lita, but Eddie pushed her out of the way and took the hit himself, giving Rhyno the win. Eddie would continue to pal around the Hardys until the end of May, when it became clear that he had a serious addiction to pain killers. WWF management immediately took him off TV and put him into rehab, having him injured by Albert to explain his disappearance. Eddie remained on the WWF payroll through November 9, when he was arrested for drunk driving and finally released. He would bounce around the Indies for a while before he found his way back up north.

A quick match to spell the crowd before the main event. This match probably could have been longer, as all three of these guys could be given more time for a better match. Eddie was having major personal issues at this time, and would be let go shortly after this to clean himself up. Christian was put in if for no other reason than to have another guy to bump around here. Matt & Jeff Hardy were testing the singles waters at this time, as Jeff would soon win gold as well. Not much more to say on this one, but it was entertaining if given more time. Grade: 2

Our next match saw Matt Hardy making his initial European title defense in a three way dance. The match was originally slated to be a one on one rematch for Eddie, but Christian begged Commissioner Regal to add him to the bout and Regal obliged. The match was a basic triple threat outing with some exciting action to start and then slowing down as the match wore on a bit. At one point, Eddie hit a really nice Brainbuster on Hardy for a near fall. Edge would end up interfering and giving Matt a nasty spear on the floor, but thanks to a run in by Jeff, Matt would get the win and keep his title. This would be the last time we see Eddie on PPV for a year as he is released a few weeks later. Other than that, this was nothing too memorable. Grade: 2.5

7) Triple H (Paul Levesque) & Steve Austin (Steve Williams) defeat the Undertaker (Mark Callaway) & Kane (Glen Jacobs) to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Triple H pins Kane after a sledgehammer shot at 27:11; Triple H’s WWF Intercontinental Title and Austin’s WWF World Title were also on the line

Fun Fact: This would be Triple H’s first Tag Team Title, but it would be Austin’s fourth Tag Team Title, with four different partners. His championship partners were Shawn Michaels, Dude Love, Undertaker, and Triple H.

Fun Fact II:
The night after Wrestlemania, Triple H was pissed at Vince that he wasn’t in on the whole agreement with Austin. Vince responded by saying that Austin wanted Vince’s help and Triple H didn’t. Vince then says “guess who won, and guess who lost”. That night Austin was defending the Title against the Rock in a steel cage match when Vince came into the cage and helped Austin work Rock over. The crowd went insane as Triple H came out with sledgehammer in hand. He gets in Austin’s face, and then pastes the sledge into Rock’s head. They beat the People’s Champ into submission, and stand alone in the ring together. Thus would come the name “Two-man Power Trip”. Rock was then suspended by Vince for “insubordination”. In reality, Rock was leaving to film his part in “The Scorpion King”, and would be back in the summer.

Fun Fact III:
Triple H defeated Chris Jericho on the 4/5 Smackdown to win his third Intercontinental Title.

A ridiculously long main event for a secondary PPV that had a lot of stalling and rest holds. The crowd was very hot and anxious for this one, and it’s quite palpable in the beginning. However the middle of the match is dreadfully boring as the psychology of beating on Kane’s injured arm is very tedious. The crowd was excited from the start, but during the slowdown portion of the match the pace really started to slow down. As for the characters, let me make a comment on Austin. As much as everyone wants to criticize and second guess the heel turn, including himself, he really went all out to be as hated a heel as possible. That means doing the things that he never did during his 1997-99 run. He would beg off opponents, beat down women and announcers. Stunning JR in 1997 was one thing, but after a three year relationship with the man, then beat the crap out of him in his hometown while Vince is barking orders is something else entirely. That and the fact he teamed with the most hated guy for the past year and a half, and a man he had a violent feud with, fueled the heel turn even more. I applaud Austin and the writers for doing the best they can to turn a possible negative into a workable positive. Undertaker and Kane were strong at Wrestlemania, and put on a decent enough match here, but once again the pace made them look lazy and unmotivated. The ending was indicative of what was going to be a Triple H face turn, as he gets the pin on Kane to win the Tag Titles while Austin and Taker fought outside. Now in our In Your House #3 review I said I would talk about how Austin/Triple H winning all the titles was different than Shawn Michaels and Diesel winning all the titles. When you’re heels, having all the titles means having all the gold, and the whole point of being a babyface is to chase and succeed. That’s why Austin and Triple H were called the “Two Man Power Trip”. It was all about power. In 1995, it was all about the Clique wanting everything for themselves, and it made a great heel team, Owen and Yokozuna, look like boobs. Owen hiding and using Bulldog as his replacement, then have Bulldog lose anyway? There was no need for HBK and Diesel to have all the gold. It was their own egos at work, whereas here you have too greedy selfish heels wanting all the power, and the faces chasing them. It makes more sense storyline-wise, and logically. Speaking of the Power Trip, as much as there was an “unholy alliance” between the two, they were far from best friends. Austin says before the match, “If Triple H keeps his end of the deal, we’ll be fine.” Obviously he did. The following month planted the seeds for a split and a Triple H face turn, but as we’ll see it will never happen. This match would have been better without a very long stretch of nothing in the middle. Grade: 2.5

Justin: After a controversial heel turn at Wrestlemania, Steve Austin formed an alliance with former arch rival Triple H. While trying to get them a tag title shot, Vince was stronghanded by Linda and agreed to put both the World and IC belts on the line in the match as well. In the weeks leading up to the PPV, Triple H was able to injure Kane’s elbow and that would be the focal point of their attack in the match. The match would start slowly as the TMPT would stall and tease getting into the ring for a few minutes. Once they did, they were dominated for a while by the power offense of Taker and Kane. Taker looked pretty fired up early and was moving well and keeping things interesting. The Power Trip eventually was able to wear him down and take over for a bit for the first heat segment of the match. After Taker was able to tag Kane, the second heat segment kicked in as Austin and Hunter would target the elbow and mercilessly beat him down. I think they could have gone without the initial Taker heat segment as it made the match drag a bit more than it needed to. They could have just worked Kane’s elbow to get the crowd into things from the get go and ran from there. Austin and Hunter showed some pretty good teamwork and hit all of the good heel double team work to draw heat. In a weird spot, Hunter dropped Kane with the Pedigree but tagged Austin in to go for the pin attempt, which was broken up by Taker. Taker would come in and clean house and crush Hunter with a Last Ride that totally woke the crowd up. Unfortunately, he was the illegal man and the pin didn’t count. As Taker and Austin battled through the crowd, Kane would nail Stephanie with a cool boot to the face, but Vince would come in with the sledgehammer and turn the tide. Hunter grabbed the sledge and drilled Kane in the elbow and picked up the win. The match was a war throughout and I thought the heat was really good for the whole thing. I could have done without that initial heat segment, but I actually enjoyed the psychology as a whole. Austin and Hunter pick up a huge win and grab even more gold to add to their waists. Grade: 3

Final Analysis:

Scott: Well the streak of A+ shows ends at two, but this show overall is still pretty good. You had important matches on Heat, as Lita’s win over Molly led to a title match and some pretty good action on the main show. The opener would have been a nice complete package if they let X-Factor revel in the win, instead of giving the Dudleys the last word. The Hardcore match was the most entertaining of the night, as Rhyno and Raven really let it all out and the crowd enjoyed in thoroughly. On the other hand, the Jericho/Regal match had too much fluff and nonsense in it, and it made Jericho look like a dope for blowing the match because he had to put the “Duchess” in the Walls. As for Angle/Benoit, although I enjoyed the match based solely on the talent in the ring, the grappling in between submissions started to tire and took the grade down a bit. Shane McMahon took his life in his own hands again, but this time it saved an otherwise sub-standard match. Besides, in a few months this all becomes moot anyway since father and son flip sides. The European match could have been better with more time, time they could have taken out of the dreadfully long main event. Speaking of the main event, I like all four competitors as I was a big mark for the Two Man Power Trip, but this match could have had more heat and excitement if it was more like fifteen or sixteen minutes rather than twenty-seven minutes. All in all this show was solid, but more of a holdover while Vince continues to prepare for the big storyline of 2001. Grade: B-

Well, I disagree a bit with Scott here as I pretty much enjoyed every match on the card and thought the show flowed seamlessly. It was much better than I remembered it being. I will say that just one month after Wrestlemania, things feel completely different. New angles are in place and, while a lot of the same faces are on top, the flop in roles freshened things up a bit. However, while WWF was rolling along still, there was some controversy in the buildup to this show. Many industry insiders, observers and some within the company thought that it was time to move some fresh blood into the main event. A lot of support went to Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, but the higher ups were afraid to go against the grain and decided to run with Undertaker and Kane, who had been proven commodities. They were quickly proven wrong, as ratings started to dip and fan support waned as the Brothers of Destruction became the top faces in the company. It was around this time that the Austin heel turn really came into question, as it left the promotion without a true top face. Austin was heel and Rock was gone filming movies. The crowd was begging for a Triple H turn, but it wasn’t in the cards just yet, so they turned to old reliable Undertaker. As over as he still was with most fans, a majority of the crowd was bored with him and didn’t want to see his sluggish act clouding up the main events. It would take Vince some time to try and mix things up, but you have to wonder if the direction of the business would have been any different if he had pulled the trigger on some new blood even sooner in the year. Anyway, back to the PPV this featured a slew of good matches and not one dog. The commentary needs mentioning as well, as Heyman and JR were really gelling into a top notch team and Heyman was just fantastic in getting across plot points and match psychology. The crowd stayed hot all the way through and that helped make this show a winner. Grade: B+

MVP: Rhyno & Raven
Runner Up: Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle
Non MVP: Chris Jericho
Runner Up: Big Show

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