WWE Backlash 2004 4/18/2004

April 18, 2004
Rexall Place
Edmonton, Alberta
Attendance: 13,000
Buy Rate: .55
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler

Fun Fact: On the March 22 Raw, WWE held a random draft lottery to mix up the rosters. Once the draft ended, there was an open period for trades to occur. Here are the draft results: Rene Dupree (Smackdown), Shelton Benjamin (Raw), Mark Jindrak (Smackdown), Nidia (Raw), Triple H (Smackdown), Rhyno (Raw), Rob Van Dam (Smackdown), Tajiri (Raw), Theodore Long (Smackdown), Edge (Raw), Spike Dudley (Smackdown) and Paul Heyman (Raw). As soon as he was drafted, Heyman quit as Smackdown GM and would leave TV to concentrate on his backstage duties. Vince McMahon announced that the newly appointed GM would handle the trades with Eric Bischoff. Later that night on WWE.com, the following trades were announced. Triple H, who had strong-handed Bischoff into trading him back to Raw, was indeed traded back. In return, Booker T. and the Dudley Boys were sent to Smackdown. Also, A-Train and Chuck Palumbo were traded to Raw in exchange for Rico and Miss Jackie. On the 3/25 Smackdown, it was revealed that Kurt Angle had been named as the new GM to replace Heyman. We will expound further on this announcement in our next review.

Fun Fact II:
On April 17, it was announced on WWE.com that Steve Austin could not agree on a contract and that he was parting was with the company. Austin would be gone from TV for a year as he worked on his movie career and began to further distance himself from the business. On TV, Eric Bischoff was now back in sole control of Raw.

Sunday Night Heat

Val Venis defeats Matt Hardy with the Money Shot at 7:58

Pay Per View

1) Shelton Benjamin defeats Ric Flair (Richard Fleihr) with a top rope clothesline at 9:29

Fun Fact: On 3/22, Shelton Benjamin was drafted to Raw and would bid farewell to his long time partner, Charlie Haas. Also that night, Ric Flair & Batista defeated Booker T. & Rob Van Dam to regain the Tag Team titles. On 3/29, Shelton was welcomed to Raw with an Evolution beatdown. Later on that night, Sheriff Austin suggested that Shelton challenge to Triple H to make a name for himself. Shelton would indeed challenge the Game in that night’s main event. After nearly twenty minutes, and a brief assist from Chris Benoit, Benjamin picked up the biggest win of his young career, defeating Hunter with a Stinger Splash. A week later, Shelton would win a rematch by countout. This time, though, victory came with a price as Evolution attacked and left Shelton bloodied. On 4/12, Ric Flair would deny Shelton’s victories and said he would prove that Shelton was on a fluky streak at Backlash.

A pretty solid opener as the Edmonton crowd is completely jacked with the pending appearance of their World Heavyweight Champion. First we have the guy who beat Triple H on Raw two weeks in a row against the greatest ever. I was hating Flair’s greasy unkempt hair and miss his poofy quaffed doo. Benjamin was drafted to Raw and made an immediate impact as he beat the best to offer in his first two matches. Here he actually helps Ric make this match much better then it may have looked on paper. A awkward ending that saw Shelton win with a clumsy clothesline off the top rope and gets the win. Grade: 2.5

Justin: With Wrestlemania behind us, a lot of change was in the air. Two weeks after the big show in MSG, WWE held a Draft to shake up the rosters. One wrestler that was switched in order to kick-start a big singles push was Shelton Benjamin. After a great tag team run over the past year, Shelton was pegged as a break-out star in 2004. He got two big wins on Triple H during a time that one victory was rare. Here, he fights Hunter’s mentor, the Nature Boy. As Evolution’s elder statesman, Flair wanted to put Shelton in his place, but as a wrestling legend, Flair wanted to help get Shelton over with a big PPV win. The match told a nice story that was explained well on commentary, as it was Shelton’s youth and athleticism against Flair’s wisdom and experience. There was a unique blend of quick paced mat wrestled mixed with some high flying offense by Shelton. Shelton really looked great here, outworking Flair early to frustrate him. JR did his best to put him over as an emerging star as well. Flair would take over with his classic offense, punishing the leg, but Shelton would withstand the figure four and pick up the huge win over Flair. This was really just a fun, well-worked old school match with a hot crowd that got this PPV off to a good start. Grade: 2.5

2) Jonathan Coachman defeats Tajiri with a roll up at 6:26

Fun Fact: On 3/29, Garrison Cade and La Resistance hazed Raw newcomer Tajiri by setting him up to spray the next person to walk through the door with his mist. Well, the poor victim was the Coach, who did an awesome job selling the deadly spew. On 4/5, Coach distracted Tajiri, causing him to lose a match to Christian. The next week, Coach had Tajiri face a mysterious ninja. Tajiri would win the match and unmask the ninja to reveal Al Snow, Coach’s old buddy.

Scott: This is following one of the funniest Raw moments ever when Coach went to high-five Tajiri and instead got misted, which lead to this. Not offensive, as clearly Coach has been learning some moves from somebody and even better learned to sell Tajiri’s moves just as much. Coach actually hooked some type of ankle lock maneuver and looked good doing it. No this isn’t Flair/Steamboat but there have been worse matches involving announcers. Last year’s tag match with JR and Lawler is such an example. Tajiri was about to put Coach out with a kick when youngster Garrison Cade gets a cheap shot in and Coach gets a rollup and the upset win. Grade: 1.5

Justin: Our next match is an interesting little fight between Tajiri and the ever-improving Coach. Since turning heel at Summerslam, Coach has really refined his heel character and is starting to become formidable in the ring. The match chugged along at a slow pace as Coach worked the leg with basic offense. Tajiri turned it around and hit a sick dropkick to the back of Coach’s head as he hung in the Tree of Woe. It was nasty and he just drilled him right in the skull. Coach would somehow continue and pick up the win after Garrison Cade interfered and cost Tajiri the match. Coach gets the upset win, but it was a bad loss for Tajiri just weeks after coming to Raw. This was a decent little brawl that continues a lower card feud. Grade: 1.5

3) Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) defeats Christian (Jay Reso) & Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) in a handicap match when he pins Christian with an enziguri at 11:14

Fun Fact: On the 3/15 Raw, Christian and Trish attacked Spike Dudley and then hopped in the ring to explain their Wrestlemania actions. Trish told Jericho that she never forgave him for the bet and that she was interested in a real man, like Christian. On 3/29, Trish was a guest on Jericho’s Highlight Reel. She belittled his manhood some more, but Jericho lit her up with a vicious insult laden rant that send her back to Christian in a foul mood. Following the show, a handicap match between the three was set for the PPV. On 4/12, the three got into a brawl during a Trish/Lita match that ended with Jericho being laid out.

Scott: The continuation of the Wrestlemania swerve was mostly histrionics with Trish and Jericho/Christian doing really all of the work. The meat & potatoes of the match is slightly down from their Wrestlemania match with all the Trish stuff. Really this was done to get Jericho his heat back. Christian continued to really impress with his promos and in-ring work but unfortunately the writers wouldn’t give him more than this. Jericho spanks Trish, then kicks out of the Unprettier, clotheslines Trish and gets double clotheslined with Christian in one thirty second sequence. Christian actually spikes the grade by pulling out a swank Texas Cloverleaf, but that doesn’t end the match as Jericho reverses and eventually kicks out of a roll up. At this point the match probably went a little longer than it needed to, but Jericho hits an Enziguiri and wins the match. It was ok, but too much Trish posturing chopped up the flow and it could have been a few minutes shorter. Grade: 2.5

Justin: I was pretty against the Trish heel turn prior to Wrestlemania, but I quickly changed my mind on it when I saw hot smoking hot heel Trish was. Christian and Trish had some good heat on them here as this feud had really done a good job of solidifying Christian as an effective heel and Jericho as a sympathetic face. Jericho would dominate out of the gate as he just tossed Christian all around the ring. Things would turn when Jericho accidentally bumped Trish and showed a moment of compassion, allowing Christian to gain control. Even though her promos were still shaky, Trish was becoming a really good heel and played her role here quite well. The closing segment was a lot of fun as Jericho out maneuvered Christian and Trish and picked up the pin on his former partner. The match was well worked and it was a nice win for Jericho, something he really needed. I also liked it because he didn’t quite get revenge on Trish yet, leaving room for a continuation of a hot feud. I would say this one was on par with their Wrestlemania match, just with a different dynamic. Grade: 3

4) Victoria (Lisa Marie Varon) defeats Lita (Amy Dumas) to retain WWE Women’s Championship with an inside cradle at 7:24

Fun Fact: On the 4/5 Raw, Lita won a battle royal to earn this title match.

Scott: At this point Lita was like a female version of Jeff Hardy the year before. Her in-ring work was really sloppy and disjointed. At one point here she attempts to bridge out of a maneuver and is taking forever to do it. Victoria’s on a roll here both in the ring and with the crowd so she pretty much helps Lita along here in a watchable match. Lita was flexible and fearless during her initial run in 2000-01 but coming back from injury she really still needed to get some of the rust out. The match did pick up somewhat and eventually Victoria would escape with a victory thanks to a small package. Heels Gail Kim and Molly would attack the faces after the match. Overall its ok but nothing great. Grade: 2

Justin: After being absent from the title picture since 2003, Lita gets back in the thick of things by winning a Battle Royal on Raw. The two ladies would show some sportsmanship and respect prior to the match and started off with some mat based action. Overall it was pretty bland, outside of a nice standing moonsault by Victoria. The champ gets a nice win and the match was hard fought, but they just never really got the pace going. Molly and Gail would attack after the bell as the women’s division continues to feature an interesting mix with no dominant Diva on top of it. Grade: 1

5) Randy Orton defeats Mick Foley to retain WWE Intercontinental Championship in a Hardcore match with an RKO at 23:03

Fun Fact: On 3/15, Mick Foley attacked Randy Orton, effectively showing him that he wasn’t yet done with this feud. On 3/29, the two had a confrontation and agreed upon this match and the stipulations, including the fact that Evolution would be banned from ringside. On 4/5, Foley cut an awe-inspiring promo on Orton from a rocking chair in a dark room. He had a box that he opened to real his barbed wire wrapped baseball bat. Foley destroyed the set and all the a/v equipment in the room. On 4/12, Foley revealed that Cactus Jack would be showing up at Backlash to bring an end to Orton’s career.

Scott: The first fifteen minutes of this match is pure unadulterated one-sided violence. Foley uses everthing possible to beat, maim and tear the Intercontinental Champ to shreds. Mostly he beats him with “Barby”, otherwise known as the barbed wire bat. Orton gets busted open, and the crowd is eating it up. Orton then gets an opening with some powder to the eyes and Foley is slammed into a huge board covered with barbed wire and his arm is ripped open. More brutality, then the moment that legitimized Randy Orton as a future superstar. He pulls out a bag to thumb tacks, which we expected would be where Foley would make a big bump. However unexpectedly Foley would throw Orton into the pile and Orton would have hundreds of thumbtacks sticking out of his back and arms. It proved that Orton was ready to take that next step to be a player in this business. The next big moment was when Orton was thrown off the stage into a wooden platform, then Foley would do his diving elbow right on top of him. The crowd was all over this match and again Mick Foley did exactly what he was asked to do. Just like he did for Steve Austin in 1998, Rock in 1999, and Triple H in 2000. Orton would hit two RKOs, the second on “Barby”, and the Intercontinental Champion escaped, barely, with his title, as both men brutalized each other for the good of the business. Big win for the Legend Killer, and a five star match for the third straight month. One of my favorites. Grade: 5

Justin: After picking up the biggest win of his career at Wrestlemania, Randy Orton gets a chance to top it against the legendary Mick Foley in his own type of match. Oh, and this wasn’t just Mick Foley…this was Mick Foley channeling the sadistic Cactus Jack. This was a stiff believable brawl and it started with a great fight over the barbed wire bat. Both men sold tremendously and Orton immediately hit a nasty blade job. Foley just took his time torturing Randy, who sold the beating like death through some great facial expressions. Foley looked to really put Orton away when he threatened to light the bat on fire, but Eric Bischoff came out and warned Foley to stop or else the fire marshal would shut the show down. Foley ignored the GM, but Foley was thwarted before he could use it. Orton finally gained control with a sick powerslam onto a barbed wire board. That control was fleeting though, when Foley shoved Orton off during an RKO and sent him flying into a pile of thumbtacks. It was a nasty spot and Orton definitely proved himself as a tough son of a bitch with that one. The visual of tacks sticking in Orton’s bare skin was tough to watch, but it definitely added to the burgeoning legend of Randy Orton. Foley continued the sick beating by haphazardly tossing Orton off the stage through a pair of tables. Foley topped that by diving off the stage with a flying elbow. By this point the match was off the charts as both men delivered some sick beatings. After good near fall on an RKO, Orton was able to finally pick up the win with an RKO on the barbed wire bat. This was really an awesome war that officially put Orton on the map as a legit star that would do anything to get a match over. Foley was tremendous as always, putting Orton over and making him look like a champion. After the match, Flair and Batista came out to help Orton to the back and I couldn’t help but laugh at Flair’s celebration as the bloodied Orton was draped over him. This is definitely in the running for the title of greatest WWE hardcore match of all time. Grade: 5

6) The Hurricane & Rosey defeat La Resistance when Hurricane (Gregory Helms) pins Rob Conway with the Eye of the Hurricane at 5:03

Fun Fact: On the 4/5 Raw, we were introduced to a new and very unique character named Eugene. Eugene was the special nephew of Eric Bischoff. But there was one catch; he was a lifelong wrestling fan and a savant in the ring. Longtime developmental wrestler Nick Dinsmore portrayed Eugene. Dinsmore made his pro debut in 1997 and after a handful of appearances in WCW and some time in Music City Wrestling, he quickly signed a deal to join Ohio Valley Wrestling. He hooked up with Rob Conway and together they won the tag team titles ten times. He was also an eight time OVW Heavyweight Champion. Dinsmore was always considered to be a talent that was ready for the big time, but never seemed to get that call. In 2004, he was finally given the chance, but it was one that would take a lot of hard work to succeed and many feared it would end up ruining his career in the long run as he would be typecast in the role. Upon Eugene’s debut, Bischoff put his lackey William Regal in charge of watching his nephew for him. Bischoff only gave Eugene a job because he owed a favor. The next week, Eugene had a pair of run-ins with La Resistance. First, he got yelled at for playing with their flag and then Rob Conway upset him by tearing up an Easter bunny stuffed animal that Eugene had given him. The distraction allowed Hurricane the chance to pin Sylvan Grenier, setting up this match tonight, which was added on Sunday Night Heat before the show.

Scott: This is a good choice to spell the crowd before the main event after the brutality of the last match. La Rez was much better with Conway in there over Sylvan Grenier. This match also shows the appearance of Eugene, GM Eric Bischoff’s special needs nephew. He’s actually OVW wrestler Nick Dinsmore, from Norwalk, CT. We saw him earlier in the show walk into the women’s locker room. Eugene gets in the ring and hits the ropes ala Ultimate Warrior over and over, causing unknown distraction. Hurricane hits his finisher and he and his “SHIT” win the match. Grade: 1.5

Justin: This was a pure time filler match just here to showcase the newest member of the Raw roster: Eugene. Eugene was an interesting and risqué character as they had to be careful with the portrayal of a special wrestler. I liked the original concept, with Eugene being a wrestling savant that could mimic moves he had seen in the past. It would eventually degenerate a bit from there, but early on it was entertaining stuff. While this was just a basic tag match, I actually thought Conway showed some good charisma, and you could tell he was much more polished than his partner at this point. Hurricane and Rosey were really gelling well as a team and had created some good double-team maneuvers and cohesive teamwork overall. All four men worked hard out there and it was a decent outing, but they were just a backdrop to Eugene’s antics. Grade: 1.5

7) Edge (Adam Copeland) defeats Kane (Glen Jacobs) with a spear at 6:26

Fun Fact: After spending over twelve months on the sidelines with a neck injury, Edge made his return to Raw on 3/22 when Eric Bischoff picked his name during the draft lottery. Edge appeared and speared his new boss into the turnbuckle in an awkward spot. The next week, Bischoff booked Edge against Kane for the PPV as revenge. The next week, Edge appeared with a cast on his hand, due to a broken hand, and nailed Kane with it, leaving him out cold. Finally, on 4/12, Bischoff’s assistant Johnny Nitro told Edge that if he used the cast on the PPV, he would be suspended. Edge didn’t care for that announcement and dropped Nitro with a spear.

Fun Fact II:
On the 3/1 Raw, Eric Bischoff introduced his new assistant: Johnny Blaze. John Hennigan, one of the co-winners of Tough Enough III, portrayed Blaze. After spending time in developmental, Hennigan made a few random appearances on TV before becoming Eric’s right hand man. A week after his debut, Blaze changed his name to Johnny Spade. It stayed that way for three weeks until he changed it to Johnny Nitro, an homage to Bischoff’s old WCW brainchild. He even began using the old Nitro theme as his entrance music. Nitro would remain in this role through June.

First match back for Edge after being out for over a year and he faces the Big Red Monster. Edge looked a little bigger than he did when he left the previous February, so we wonder if he was “medicinally enhanced” during his healing. The match itself is average as Edge is still getting his legs under him, and Kane can only do so much. Edge will get better in the ring, however his character will also go through changes. Grade: 2

Justin: It seems like it has been an eternity since we last saw Edge. He was last in action in February 2003 and so much has changed since that time. He returns as a face to Raw but seemed to be lacking any sort of direction. They had him attack Eric Bischoff and positioned him as a thorn in the GM’s side, so he sticks him in the ring with Kane. Edge was ripped upon his return, but all the weight lifting in the world couldn’t keep him healthy, as he immediately broke his hand upon returning. That injury led to the Johnny Nitro stipulation here as Edge was banned from using the cast. Kane showed some nice power offense here and the match was based around him working over Edge’s cast. It was a basic story and well worked, but the crowd was flat and was just waiting for the main event at this point. Edge would end up using the cast anyway as the referee got taken out during the match. He takes advantage of the woozy Kane and takes him out with a spear for his first PPV win since Armageddon 2002. The match was decent enough and Edge rolls on, trying to regain his lost momentum. Grade: 2

8) Chris Benoit defeats Triple H (Paul Levesque) and Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) to retain World Heavyweight Championship when he forces Michaels to submit to the Sharpshooter at 30:09

Fun Fact: On 3/15, Chris Benoit and Triple H had a confrontation in the ring that ended with Benoit hitting Hunter with the belt and leaving him on the mat. Later that night, Benoit teamed with Shawn Michaels to defeat Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista. The next week, Michaels petitioned to get traded to Smackdown, but Bischoff dissuaded him by granting him a title match with Benoit at Backlash. The next week, Bischoff added Triple H to the match, giving us a Wrestlemania rematch in Benoit’s hometown. Later that night, Benoit would cost Triple H a match with Shelton Benjamin. On 4/5, Michaels told Benoit that he had his back until the PPV. However, he couldn’t save him later that night as Benoit ate some steel after a Pedigree on a chair.

Our Wrestlemania rematch is full of electricity and excitement as Chris Benoit returns to his hometown the triumphant World Champion faces his MSG opponents. The match is laid out a little diffferently than the previous month’s war, as this time Benoit’s the one who could get screwed, losing the title without getting pinned. The surreal point of the match was when Shawn Michaels puts Benoit into the Sharpshooter, and then, due to Mike Chioda getting knocked out, Earl Hebner comes into the ring. Sound familiar? Oh the crowd was on to the antics, and the “You Screwed Breat” chants shook the Rexall Place. Triple H wouldn’t be spared from the “You Tapped Out” and “Asshole” chants from the emotional Edmonton crowd. Michaels takes himself out by missing a top rope elbow onto the Spanish announce table. So Triple H and Benoit go at it alone for a good five minutes and their chemistry is pretty solid. Jerry Lawler was back to a good heel groove at this show as he was full on board the Triple H bandwagon. HBK gets back in the match by breaking up a Triple H pin attempt. This pace is slower than their first match, more stalling and more times when all three guys are out of it. That keeps it from being five stars, but it still is up there as a 2004 MOY candidate. I also noticed that Triple H was still looking a little puffy as he got off the sauce. Finally with Triple H out of the equation after going face first into the post, Benoit ratchets the Sharpshooter on Michaels, and retains his World Title. Awesome match, but the longer duration than at Wrestlemania created some dead spots that took away from the flow. Benoit sends his hometown fans away with a big victory, and he’s no one hit wonder. Grade: 4

Justin: After smashing through the glass ceiling last month, Chris Benoit returns home as a conquering hero. And while Benoit was given the hero’s welcome, his opponents were booed out of the building, especially Shawn Michaels, who was still quite hated in Canada. Benoit’s entrance was just a wrestling moment as he was finally on top of the world and his hometown fans showered him with adoration. Just like Wrestlemania, he and Michaels teamed up early in the match to work over the Game. The crowd was red hot as the three men worked an awesome pace in an attempt to equal their outing the previous month. Benoit was energetic and manic in the ring and it led to a great segment where he bounced from the Sharpshooter on Triple H to the Crossface on Michaels. The ref would get taken out and that would temporarily cost Benoit the match. It did deliver another great spot though. While Mike Chioda was out cold, Michaels hooked Benoit in the Sharpshooter and the crowd nearly had an aneurysm. And that aneurysm almost came to pass when Earl Hebner came charging down to the ring. It was a fun spot, and one of the few Montreal callbacks that actually worked. As the boos started to come at him more loudly, Michaels started to heel it up a bit more in the ring as well. After he took himself out diving into the table. Benoit and Hunter delivered a solid one-on-one match, with Benoit showing some great selling and absorbing a good beating. It slowed the match down a bit but things quickly picked back up. And just at Wrestlemania, Hunter was able to hit the Pedigree, but this time it was on Benoit and Michaels made the save at the last second. The crowd started to tense up a bit, wondering if Benoit would be jobbed out in his hometown, but that tension was all for naught as Benoit survived and picked up a win, forcing Michaels to tap out. Benoit looked very strong early and was resilient in the end, as his Championship run continued to be booked strongly. Over the last two months, Benoit had delivered two top-notch PPV matches and forced both Triple H and Shawn Michaels to tap out cleanly. This match is a slight notch below their Wrestlemania outing, but that had more to do with the importance of the moment and the overall atmosphere than anything to do with the actual match, outside of a few slow spots. Benoit rolls on as Champion, but his reign was about to slow down over the coming months. Grade: 4.5

Final Analysis

Scott: The show had a great double main event, with two stellar matches between legends and newcomers. Chris Benoit legitimizes himself as all-time great with his second straight win over Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Randy Orton gets the nod as wrestler of the night with his unbelievable performance against Mick Foley, including taking a bump preserved for only the craziest guys: a Thumb Tack dive. The rest of the card was average, although I liked the Flair/Benjamin opener. Raw is a complete 180 from 2003. We have good wrestlers, compelling stories and no lazy bastards clogging things up. Smackdown’s up next month, and unfortunately they have Raw’s 2003 problem: a lack of solid in-ring workers. Raw prepares for the final chapter of this decade’s greatest feud. Final Grade: B-

Justin: The WWE PPV hot streak continues here as we get another well booked show that featured well built matches, solid in ring work and good, strong finishes. This was a two match card, but those two matches more than delivered the goods. Those matches also continued to make big time stars out of the two Raw singles Champions. Randy Orton has been legitimized as a star and Chris Benoit has been legitimized as a big time player in the WWE landscape. The rest of the show was solid as well with no bad matches and a lot of storyline development sprinkled in. The crowd was hot here as well, especially for Benoit’s homecoming. After a sluggish 2003, Raw has come into 2004 firing on all cylinders. And next month, we will see if Smackdown can continue that PPV hot streak. This show can be hidden in the giant shadow of Wrestlemania, but it definitely worth a watch as it carried over that breath of fresh air that was ushered in at Madison Square Garden. Final Grade: B+

MVP: Mick Foley & Randy Orton
Runner Up: Chris Benoit, Triple H & Shawn Michaels
Non MVP: Tajiri
Runner Up: Lita & Victoria

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