WWE Backlash 2003 4/27/2003
April 27, 2003
Buy Rate: .67
Announcers: Jonathan Coachman, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole & Tazz
Fun Fact: On the April 7 Raw, Eric Bischoff came out and had words with Jim Ross. JR had been ripping Bischoff on commentary over the past few shows. Before Eric could fire him, JR quit as lead Raw announcer. He walked out and Jonathan Coachman took over his seat.
1) Team Angle defeats Los Guerreros to retain WWE Tag Team Titles when Charlie Haas pins Chavo Guerrero while Shelton Benjamin holds Chavo’s feet at 15:03
Fun Fact: Shelton Benjamin pinned Chavo Guerrero on the 4/24 Smackdown.
Scott: A great choice to start this show off. With every show Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas have become not only better wrestlers but as heels they’ve done a superb job of dictating tempo in these frenetic-paced matches. Then there’s Eddie & Chavo who always bring their A game. Considering most of the matches on the card were pretty average, this was a good match to put at the top of the card to immediately get the crowd going. Shelton & Haas come out with a picture of their leader, the rehabilitating Kurt Angle, for inspiration. However after their chicanery led to them retaining their titles, Los Guerreros do what they do best. Chavo planchas over the top rope onto Team Angle and their picture, while Eddie quietly swipes the title belts and the brothers bolt. Eddie’s popularity grows with every show, and even in defeat, this match showed that. Grade: 2.5
Justin: Despite losing their leader to major neck surgery, Team Angle marches on as tag team champions. They drew some pretty good heat here, as they bring out a framed picture of Kurt to ringside for support. The crowd was kind of split here, actually booing both teams throughout the match. They would taper off and actually get pretty quiet as these two teams started off with some basic mat work. Eddie and Chavo were crisp on offense, as always and they just made each move look so effective. As much as the heel/heel dynamic hurt the crowd, it was fun watching both teams try to out heel each other as the match wore on. Team Angle showed great poise for being so young. They worked their formula to perfection and to their credit, they were able to the crowd back into it. Eddie would pick up a really good near fall on a frog splash, but the champs fought on and would end up stealing the win to retain the belts. The Guerreros would attack after the bell and end up stealing the belts away and escaping. As a whole, the match was quite solid, however the heel/heel dynamic prevented the crowd from getting into it and in the regard it really failed as an opener. I will say that both teams worked hard and presented some smooth offense. Team Angle are still on top of the tag division, but their gold is now missing. Grade: 2.5
*** Backstage, Test hits on Torrie Wilson. She tries to avoid him but he forces her to kiss him. The newly returned Sable sees the kiss and walks off. ***
Fun Fact: Sable returned on the April 3 Smackdown. She had left the WWF in 1999 and promptly filed a large lawsuit against the company alleging sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. The two sides settled out of court after WWF countersued over the use of her name. Sable bounced around a bit, making a one time appearance on Nitro as well as appearing as the CEO of the fledgling XWF in late 2001. In her return, she interrupted Torrie as she celebrated the release of her Playboy cover.
2) Sean O’Haire defeats Rikishi (Solofa Fatu) with a spinebuster at 4:52
Fun Fact: In January 2003 vignettes started to appear on Smackdown showing Sean O’Haire in a new gimmick. In the promos, he played a devil’s advocate character where he urged people to commit various sins such as adultery and also encouraged them to break the law, not pay taxes, and not go to church. Each vignette ended with the line “I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know”. Finally, O’Haire returned to the main Smackdown roster, telling various superstars to perform various indecent acts. He also had a new look that included a long black trench coat he wore to the ring and tights and tattoos that featured spiders. O’Haire eventually hooked up with Roddy Piper as the goal was to use Piper’s heat to get O’Haire over as a major player.
Fun Fact II: On the April 3 Smackdown, Vince McMahon brought out Hulk Hogan to seemingly bury the hatchet. After they shook hands, Vince changed gears and announced that he was sending Hogan home. He announced that he wanted him gone and that he would gladly pay him to sit on the sidelines. Hogan left without confrontation. The next week saw the official return of Piper’s Pit. Piper had Vince as his guest and they did their usual back and forth, landing little cheap shots here and there. During the Pit, Rikishi emerged, carrying a coconut. He was looking for revenge on Piper for his actions on Jimmy Snuka back in the day. Before he could hit Piper, Sean O’Haire came from the back and took out Rikishi. Piper then grabbed the coconut and smashed Rikishi with it. A week later, Snuka made an appearance but he and Rikishi got beat down again. Piper announced that O’Haire was now his protégé so they could act evil together. Finally, on the 4/24 Smackdown, Piper and Rikishi squared off in a match. Rikishi had Piper lined up for the Stinkface, but O’Haire attacked to draw the DQ.
Scott: Rikishi hasn’t been on PPV in quite a while, and now we know why. The match is awful as both guys are slow and plodding. The addition of Roddy Piper doesn’t really help matters as he’s still recovering from surgery, which is the reason he was quite bloated, and wasn’t moving around that much. Sean O’Haire was a good looking wrestler and I kind of dug the whole “strange preacher” gimmick, but he really wasn’t more than an average wrestler and yes I know this match was supposedly to continue the “Piper antagonizes Samoans with coconuts” storyline, but the match itself really wasn’t much. Piper will be in something a little more interesting from this, but this was boring and slow. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Our second match featured a hot new heel taking on a stale face. Roddy Piper introduces his new charge as Vince was looking to have Piper’s heat transferred to O’Haire. O’Haire had a good gimmick going on and had the look, so it seemed like he was set to finally break out. His opponent, on the other hand, seemed like a relic lingering on from the Attitude Era. Rikishi’s gimmick was stale and he didn’t seem very motivated at this point. Piper as O’Haire’s mouthpiece was a really good idea, but it was a fine line to walk to ensure he didn’t overshadow Sean. The bout was a basic power match with the only highlights being O’Haire’s effective strikes. The whole thing was disjointed and there wasn’t much chemistry at all. O’Haire needed a decisive win, but ends up winning after some Piper interference. I don’t get why Rikishi needed to be protected in this match as O’Haire really could have benefited from a clean, overpowering win. Rikishi gets some heat back after anyway when he pastes Piper with the coconut. This was a decent match, but not the start O’Haire needed for this mega push. Grade: 1.5
*** Backstage, Sable finds Stacy and tells her that Torrie wants Test and that she saw them kissing. ***
3) Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) and Kane (Glen Jacobs) defeat the Dudley Boys to retain World Tag Team Titles when Van Dam pins Bubba Ray (Mark Lomonica) after a Frog Splash at 13:01
Fun Fact: Kane & Rob Van Dam won the World Tag Team Championships by defeating Chief Morley & Lance Storm and the Dudley Boys on the 3/31 Raw. If RVD & Kane had lost, they would have had to join Team Bischoff.
Fun Fact II: After Wrestlemania, Chief Morley continued to put pressure on the Dudleys to do his bidding, holding their jobs over their heads. He had them added to RVD & Kane’s tag title match on 3/31 to serve as protection for his tag titles. During the match, D-Von would take a chair from Morley to prevent him from using it, but would get nailed with a Van Daminator and eliminated. RVD & Kane would go on to defeat Storm & Morley to win the belts. A week later, Kane was forced to battle the Dudleys in a handicap match. The Dudleys would win and, with the help of Storm, would beat down the champions with chairs. On the 4/14 Raw, Storm & Morley got their rematch. The Dudleys interfered but D-Von’s conscience got to him again and refused to help out. RVD & Kane would retain the belts. Morley granted his reluctant charges a match here and named himself special guest referee.
Scott: This is a decent match as the Team Bischoff saga continues. I liked Sean Morley in this role as Bischoff’s lackey as he needed a change after being the towel-wielding porn star for three years. With the end of the Attitude Era Val was probably out of place with all these new guys and more serious feuds. So make him a good heel and piss boy for Easy E. The Dudleys are continuing to go down my list of characters I like to watch. Their gimmick is awfully stale but in their defense there’s really nothing else you can do with them. They tried to change D-Von’s gimmick and nobody cared. What the hell are you going to do with Bubba Ray? They tried a simple solo run on Raw in 2002 and just like D-Von on Smackdown, nobody cared. Just like Billy Gunn’s failed solo run in 1999. Some wrestlers are just meant to be great tag team specialists. Unfortunately for the Dudleys they can’t really do anything with their characters. So they just plod along and bore me. D-Von’s had enough of being Bischoff’s bitches, which allows RVD and Kane to retain their titles. Not a bad match, but nothing great. Grade: 2
Justin: The Dudley Boys reenter the tag team championship picture but this time around they are being blackmailed by Chief Morley and GM Bischoff. Morley had threatened to fire the Dudleys if they didn’t back him up, so they are forced to do his dirty work. Bubba was pretty fired up here and hit some super stiff clotheslines to set a tone early. RVD and Kane were still really over and they worked hard in this match, keeping the fans active in the match. The whole match kept a nice little pace as neither team dominated for any lengthy stretch of time. The finish was hot as Morley tries to help but takes out Bubba by accident. D-Von finally gives in and wipes Morley out, forgetting about their fragile job security. Lance Storm comes out to aid his buddy Morley, but also gets wiped out. RVD and Kane retain the belts, but the Dudleys end up dropping Morley with a 3D to finally break free of his control. This was a basic tag match that was punctuated by a hot finish. My main beef is that the champions almost seemed ancillary to the match, as it was dominated by the Morley storyline. Still, the very over team of RVD and Kane continue to roll on as champs. Grade: 2
*** Stacy and Torrie brawl backstage after Stacy confronted Torrie over Sable’s rumors. ***
4) Jazz (Carlene Begnaud) defeats Trish Stratus (Patricia Stratigias) to win WWE Women’s Championship with a sunset flip while holding the ropes at 5:50
Fun Fact: In late 2002, D-Lo Brown turned heel due to his feeling he was being prejudiced against due to his race. On the 1/20 Raw, D-Lo came to the ring along with referee Teddy Long. Only, Teddy was no longer a referee. He asked why D-Lo was being held down due to his race and it was revealed that Teddy would now be managing him. On the 2/16 Heat, Teddy fired Brown from the newly titled Thuggin & Buggin Enterprises. D-Lo had actually been released earlier that week and Teddy brought out Rodney Mack to be his new charge on the 2/17 Raw. Mack was last seen in a brief cameo as John Cena’s running buddy earlier in the year. On the 4/7 Raw, Jazz officially joined Long’s group as well. A week later, Jazz picked up a submission win on Trish in a tag match. A week later, Long and Jazz put one final beatdown on Trish before the PPV.
Scott: This is a very good feud between two women who give their all in the ring. I like this little faction Teddy Long has put together. They’re all good wrestlers who can get a rise out of the crowd. Trish has developed a good repertoire herself, and this match is pretty good…for only six minutes. Again the crowd is kind of flat, and this match could have used a little sizzle from the crowd to help them out. Jazz cheats, and regains the Women’s Title. This has been a pretty good feud that’s percolated over the past year and it will continue. Grade: 2
Justin: Trish heads into the title defense a bit banged up after Jazz assaulted her the week before. Jazz is now part of Teddy Long’s brigade of angry black wrestlers and that decision has paid off. She shows good strength here as she just overpowers Trish. These two actually have pretty good chemistry and work in some neat reversals. Teddy makes his presence known by throwing his shoe to break up a near fall. Jazz takes advantage of the distraction and steals the belt from Trish. Another solid match for these two as this show keeps chugging along through a sea of mediocrity. Grade: 2.5
5) Big Show (Paul Wight) defeats Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez) with a chokeslam at 3:47
Fun Fact: On the 4/17 Smackdown, Mysterio and Tajiri lost a match to Big Show and A-Train. After the match, Rey nailed Show with a 619 around the ring post, pissing Show off. A week later, Show caught Tajiri and Funaki watching the clip and destroyed the TV and VCR. Later that night, Rey would cost Show a match with Tajiri when he pushed him into the ring post and caused him to get counted out. Show was given a chance for revenge here.
Scott: Another match seemingly created out of nowhere as the feud basically stemmed from Rey just getting under the giant’s skin. Big Show cruised through that Undertaker feud and now seemingly with nothing to do he wrestles a guy who probably weighs about the size of his legs. The match is quick and painless and there were a few moments when Rey could legitimately have taken the match, but Show clearly was set for his title rematch he never got after Armageddon so he takes Rey out with a chokeslam and gets the win. What happens next I think was probably unnecessary. Rey was being put on a stretcher after the match, but Big Show decides to head back down the ramp, pushes the EMTs out of the way and grabs the stretcher board with Rey strapped on it. He then swings the board like a bat onto the steel post and Rey hits the ground face first without being able to protect his head from the landing impact. As much as it looked good on TV, it wasn’t very safe as Rey could have suffered a concussion or worse. Sure it makes Big Show look like a monster but something else could have been done much safer. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Our next match is an interesting battle between two very different men. Both Rey and Show have kind of been floating aimlessly over the past month and this feud was basically whipped up just two weeks before the PPV. Rey tries to duck and move to start but Show just overpowered him and beat him down. The match is a quick one as Rey gets a few hope spots, but not much else. Show crushes him with a stiff chokeslam and Rey is left unconscious from it. The trainers and referees come out and strap Rey to a gurney, which leads to one of the stupidest, most pointless and dangerous stunts I have ever seen. Show comes back and swats the officials away. He grabs the gurney, with Rey strapped to it, and swings it into the ring post. Now, that part looked cool and wasn’t bad. But, the egregious part comes when Show just lets the gurney go so Rey lands hard on the ground face first. His head nails the mat and the whole thing just looked ugly. It was a useless spot in a stupid feud that could have seriously injured Rey since he couldn’t protect himself as he fell head first to the floor. It was just sloppy. The match was fun while it lasted but that post match nonsense really put a damper on it for me. Grade: 1.5
6) Brock Lesnar defeats John Cena to retain WWE Championship with an F-5 at 15:14
Fun Fact: On the April 3 Smackdown, Stephanie McMahon announced that there would an eight man tournament held to determine who would take on Brock Lesnar at the PPV. In first round action that week, Undertaker defeated Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit defeated A-Train, John Cena defeated Eddie Guerrero and Rhyno beat Big Show. During the show, Cena cut a rap promo on Undertaker. Unfortunately, Taker was preoccupied with ongoing issues with the Full Blooded Italians. We will delve further into the FBI in our next review. A week later, Benoit knocked off Rhyno and, in an upset, Cena beat Undertaker, thanks to some help from the FBI. The following week, Brock came out for an interview. He talked a bit about Wrestlemania before Cena interrupted and demanded respect be paid. He also questioned the legitimacy of Brock’s Wrestlemania concussion because someone would need a brain in order to get one. Chris Benoit then showed up and told Cena that he had to beat him first. Cena agreed with the logic, but then laid out Benoit after he turned around. Later that night, Cena picked up another big win, defeating Benoit and advancing to Backlash. Finally, on the 4/24 Smackdown, Cena interfered in Brock’s match with A-Train and left him laying to head into this match with some momentum.
Scott: In my opinion this is the surprise highlight of the show. Since this entire PPV was pretty much based around Rock/Goldberg, creative decided to just throw harmless stuff together as filler leading to that match. So they use the perfect way to come up with a #1 contender quickly: a tournament. So they have the tournament, and the upstart Doctor of Thuganomics upsets both Undertaker and Chris Benoit to become said #1 contender and will face the champion at Backlash. John Cena of course is still very raw and very young here but he actually puts on a really good match with Lesnar, who after a year quickly settled into the role of main eventer nicely. Whether I like him as a babyface I still can’t figure out, but this match gets pretty violent and the crowd really gets into it. To be honest except for the main event this seems to me the only match the crowd really does get into. In fact after getting cracked with Cena’s chain I thought there was going to be a big upset, but no. After a big time F-5 Lesnar retains the title. In my opinion this is the best match of the night and one that shows Cena does indeed have a future with WWE. Grade: 2.5
Justin: Less than a year ago, John Cena was a bland plucky underdog babyface floundering on Smackdown. Thanks to a throwaway Halloween costume and gimmick, he is now in a WWE Championship match on PPV. Since November, Cena has been carving up opponents with blistering freestyle raps. He had even challenged rappers Jay-Z and Fabolous to a battle rap at Wrestlemania. When they declined, he brought out cardboard cutouts of them and ripped them up. Now, he enters into his home state wearing a Yankee jersey and ripping apart the Champion to build some extra heat before the match. Well, when Brock arrived, he took revenge early as he just punished Cena with his powerful offense. Cena would fight his way back into it by ripping over Brock’s bandaged cut. It was here that Cena really impressed as he was aggressive and fierce in attacking the cut. The match was slow in the middle, but overall it had a good flow and was well worked. The crowd was actually split here and Brock was getting some backlash from the fans, no pun intended. In the end, Cena was vanquished and Brock picked up a nice PPV title defense, which always helps solidify a title reign. Cena’s brush with the main events was brief here, but you could tell by his charisma that he was far from done. Grade: 2.5
7) World Heavyweight Champion Triple H (Paul Levesque), Ric Flair (Richard Fliehr) & Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) defeat Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom), & Booker T (Booker Huffman) when Triple H pins Nash with a sledgehammer shot at 17:51
Fun Fact: The night after Wrestlemania, Chris Jericho and Booker T. squared off in a match. Just over two minutes in, Ric Flair interfered in the match and Triple H was right behind him. Jericho, Hunter and Flair beat down Booker until Shawn Michaels made the save. The following week, Hunter and Jericho teamed up to take on Booker and Michaels. After Booker pinned Hunter to win the match, the heels attacked a big beatdown occurred. The Hurricane tried to make the save, but he was quickly swatted away. Just when all looked lost, Kevin Nash made a surprise return and lumbered down to the ring to run off the heels. It became a running joke on the internet about how long it took Nash to walk to the ring and how the heels had to basically hang in the ring until he finally got there. The next week, Nash came out and complained about the turmoil in the Clique. Michaels and Hunter came out and each made their case to convince Nash to choose a side. The segment ended without Nash making a decision. Later that night, Booker and Hurricane defeated Triple H and Flair when Hurricane pinned the Game thanks to an assist from Michaels. Nash would come out to help Michaels but they ended up hitting each other by accident, leading to some tension as the show ended. Finally, a week later, Booker took on Hunter in a World Title match with Michaels as the special guest referee. Flair and Jericho would interfere to end the match in a schmozz. The show would end with Hunter, Michaels and Nash arguing in the ring before Hunter nailed Nash from behind to finally end the Clique soap opera.
Fun Fact II: Kevin Nash was last seen on the July 8 Raw. That is when he tore his quad running during a tag match. He was forced to the sidelines and has been rehabbing since. On the April 7 Raw, Nash made his return to the ring and was set for a major push as a top face on Raw. Rumors had swirled that Nash would be dying his hair black and returning under the Diesel moniker, but those rumors were proven to be false.
Scott: This was definitely a filler match, and not a great one at that. This was done to avoid having a throwaway title match for Triple H, so give him a throwaway 6-man tag team match. I did like the storyline of Big Sexy coming back and who’s allegiance is he with. I did like how Triple H said that if he chose Shawn Michaels it would be just like the 90’s where Shawn would steal everyone’s thunder. Eventually Triple H would make the decision for him, and now we’re here. The match itself is fine, but to be honest it just felt like a Raw match that was twice as long. Nobody did anything special, and the result really wasn’t anything special either. Again its hard to really enjoy any of these undercard matches when the show was clearly being carried by our next match, so you feel that the rest of the show was all gloried Raw and Smackdown matches. Triple H’s team wins to put his record at 3-1 through 4 PPV matches in 2003. His next title feud begins here, and the rest of the guys pretty much just settle into other feuds. Not much more to say, just another holdover. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Taking a break from PPV title defenses, Triple H hooks up with Flair and Jericho to participate in an old school six man tag. I will admit that I like the concept. I firmly believe that you don’t need to have the major titles defended every month and that matches like this can help drive feuds. In the weeks following Wrestlemania, Kevin Nash finally returned from injury and was set for a big push. After teasing joining up with Triple H, Nash wiped him out and chose to stand with his old boss and close friend, Michaels. There were actually rumors that he was coming back as Diesel. Well, he did have a version of the music, but he ended up coming back as himself. The match was really just a basic six man tag with a long heat segment on Michaels carrying the bout. Flair was way over here and was even out popping Nash and Booker. The crowd was especially quiet for Nash, even when he drops Jericho with the Jackknife. At this point, maybe they should have realized that Nash wasn’t really meant to be a top level face. The final few moments were solid, but the finish was pretty weak. I am not sure why Triple H needed to win here, especially since they were setting Nash up for a series of title matches. It would have made sense for him to pick up a win here. I guess they were still going with the Horsemen concept of the Champion escaping with the belt at the last minute. Booker and Jericho were basically window dressing at this point and neither man was a legit title threat any more. Flair and Michaels almost seemed like the legends of the match while Triple H and Nash were clearly the focal points. Nash shakes off the loss and moves on to challenge for the belt over the following months. Grade: 2.5
8) Goldberg defeats The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) with a Jackhammer at 13:03
Fun Fact: After finally defeating Steve Austin at Wrestlemania, the Rock decided to hold Rock Appreciation Night on Raw. At the end of the show, Rock came out and aired a video tribute to himself. He then declared that he no longer had any challenges left in wrestling and was calling it a career. Before he can officially retire, Goldberg made his long awaited WWE debut. He hit the ring, told Rock he was next and dropped him with a spear. The next week, after Rock defeated Jeff Hardy in a match, he called Goldberg out to the ring. Rock decreed that a match between Goldberg and himself would be the biggest of all time, but he was declining the offer. Christian then jumped Goldberg from behind but Goldberg took him out. Rock tried to attack as well but Goldberg fought him off as well. Rock had recently endorsed Christian as his favorite superstar and Christian vowed to change his career around. On the 4/14 Raw, Goldberg competed in first WWE match, defeating Christian by disqualification. Finally, on the 4/21 Raw, Rock decided to hold the Rock Concert II. The Rock would sing some songs and even bring out the legendary Gillberg for a quick laugh. The real Goldberg then arrived on the scene to set things straight. The Rock called out security to protect him and Gillberg, who Rock says must be in trouble for impersonating Goldberg all these years. Goldberg took out security, so Rock quickly takes off. Goldberg then attacked the security guards and Gillberg, but Rock snuck in and took him out with the Rock Bottom to fire the final salvo before the match.
Fun Fact II: Bill Goldberg was a former professional football player that was gobbled up by WCW and sent to the Power Plant after being cut in 1995. Goldberg debuted in late 1997 and drew many comparisons to Steve Austin due to his look. Goldberg kept racking up wins and doing so in impressive fashion. He would quickly squash his foes and put them away with his spear and Jackhammer combination. Soon, the announcers began hyping his undefeated streak and the fans really started buying into this mercurial star. Goldberg first struck gold by defeating Raven for the US Title on the 4/20/98 Nitro. Goldberg continued to roll and eventually earned a Heavyweight Championship match with Hollywood Hogan on the 7/6/98 Nitro, which emanated live from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Goldberg would take out Hogan, take the title and keep the winning streak alive. The Georgia Dome fans popped big time for the win and many pundits wondered why the match wasn’t saved for PPV and some consider decisions like this a major part of WCW’s eventual downfall. Despite being the most popular star in the promotion and its top Champion, Goldberg’s title feuds were often playing second fiddle to Hogan’s antics. Finally, at Starrcade, booker Kevin Nash defeated Goldberg to end the streak and take the title. Things would never be the same. On the infamous 1/4/99 Nitro, Goldberg was supposed to receive a rematch, but a convoluted angle with the NWO and Miss Elizabeth unfolded and Bill was taken to jail. Later that night, Nash laid down for Hogan and handed over the Championship after the now legendary “Fingerpoke of Doom”. Goldberg’s momentum really slowed up and he ended bouncing from feud to feud throughout 1999. At the end of the year, he took on Bret Hart at Starrcade. During the match, he nailed Hart with a stiff superkick, tearing a hole in Hart’s neck and giving him the concussion that ended the Hitman’s career. A few weeks later, Goldberg was also on the shelf as he punched out the window of a limo and sliced up his forearm in a nasty injury. Goldberg returned in late May but by that point, WCW was nearing its end. New booker Vince Russo had Goldberg do an ill advised heel turn that nobody wanted to see. That was quickly aborted and Goldberg turned face to feud with Russo. Vince told him he needed to start a new undefeated streak and that if he lost a match, he would be fired. His streak and career ended at the Sin PPV when he and his trainer Dwayne Bruce lost a tag team match to Lex Luger and Buff Bagwell. The idea was for Goldberg to take time off and have minor shoulder surgery before returning with a huge push. Unfortunately, when he was on the sidelines, WCW closed up shop. His contract was not picked up by the WWF, so he was left to sit on the sidelines until the contract ended. During his time in WCW, Goldberg only lost six matches: three to Bret Hart, one to Kevin Nash, one to Scott Steiner and one to Booker T. Throughout 2002 and early 2003, Goldberg had some success in Japan before deciding to finally give WWE a shot. The Rock had been campaigning to bring Goldberg in and offered to put him over before leaving the promotion. The first Goldberg vignette aired at Wrestlemania and his first live appearance was the next night on Raw.
Fun Fact III: After Backlash, the Rock finally hung up the boots as a part time competitor. The lure of Hollywood was too much and it was clear that Rock was quickly becoming a major movie star that could command massive salaries. He will pop up from time to time and he will compete in one final match in 2004, but for now, this is officially the swan song for the People’s Champion. And, true to form, the selfless star was sure to look up at the lights one final time. Many consider this 2003 run as the finest run of his short career and it is hard to debate that, at least from a creativity standpoint. 2000 was his biggest year overall in the business, as he was the top dog in the promotion’s most visible year since 1985. It was his dominance that year that led to the movie deals and mainstream notoriety. Rock’s career was an interesting one as he was lauded as a blue chip can’t miss prospect upon his debut, but he quickly looked to be a bust by early 1997. An injury and heel turn saved his career and the Rock was officially born. He rose from there and never looked back. The Rock made millions for the promotion and, despite a relatively short run on top he is considered one of the greatest stars in WWF history. He now transitions that success to Hollywood and to many fans, this was the end of an era. The Great One has left a gaping hole in WWE that has never truly been filled.
Scott: Finally we get to the match this show was totally built around. Once again Rock is put in the spot against the superstar you never thought you’d see him face. The Rock was best in these roles because the fans can easily turn on him (or he can be heel) and the other guy could be totally over in either role. Rock was a babyface against Hogan and Brock Lesnar, then turned heel to face Hogan again and Austin. Now with the one guy WCW can really hang their hat on, Rock takes the pleasure of jobbing to him. Unfortunately the crowd gave creative the answer it was looking for. The crowd eventually turned on Goldberg and went with Rock, just like they turned on Rock and went with Brock Lesnar at Summerslam 2002. So really all the build they gave for this match and all the hype and the big in-ring debut of Goldberg and two minutes into this match the crowd is booing him. I think a lot of it is that when it comes to brass tax, Goldberg is WCW. He always will be. This is almost like if there was a WWE vs. WCW card in some sort of a real Invasion and this would be the main event. Or maybe Austin vs. Goldberg would probably be better, but you’d be guaranteed that Goldberg would be booed. Here you’re of course trying to get him over as the big thing right now, and obviously someone that would be a legitimate Triple H opponent for later in the year, the reason the Steiner feud was rushed and Booker T lost at Wrestlemania, and now the crowd is cheering the heel Rock, at least until the end when Goldberg hits the spear/jackhammer and wins the match, then he gets the big pop from the crowd. There’s a touching extra on the DVD where after the match Rock stays a heel to a certain point, but he tells the fans that he is leaving and the crowd half booed him, but most realized that his time in the WWE is pretty much over. The product is passing him by and just like Austin he is a clear example of the past Attitude Era. Goldberg’s WWE run begins with a big win over a future WWE Hall of Famer. The match itself is pretty standard as Goldberg’s repertoire is pretty small and when Rock isn’t really challenged he brings a basic game. No matter, the crowd was excited as WCW’s poster child wins his first WWE match. Grade: 2
Justin: Well, it’s another PPV and another dream match. Two years after WCW folded, Goldberg was finally lured to Stamford and one of the reasons was a big money match with Rock before Rock headed out into the sunset. Rock was so dominant and awesome at this point, it was hard to believe that he was about to walk away for good. Hollywood was beckoning and Rock could no longer risk the monster paydays by stepping into the ring on a weekly basis. After a fantastic and selfless heel run in 2003, he had one last job to do: put over Goldberg. Rock’s facials and interaction with the fans during his entrance were pretty sweet and quite effective. Goldberg gets a good pop for his entrance, but things would go downhill for him from there. He tossed Rock around early but Rock would slow things down with a lot of stalling. The match broke down from there as Rock just got too much offense and Goldberg wasn’t nearly dominant enough to really make the concept work. Goldberg needed to overpower and decimate the Rock to really make a huge statement. Rock was leaving anyway, and a decisive win over him would have really shot Goldberg up a level right out of the gate. The crowd was actually split and began booing Goldberg as the match wore on. He would finally put Rock away, but it was far too late to matter as much. Goldberg desperately needed a squash win that got the crowd fired up, not some nutty 50/50 booking that turned fans against him. He still had plenty of time to recover, but this was a serious blow to his chances of a legendary run just one month into his run. Grade: 2
Scott: After a surprisingly good Wrestlemania, this show is dreadfully boring. The show was completely built around the Rock/Goldberg main event, and clearly creative didn’t care about the rest of the card so they just slapped together some holdover matches to fill the other two hours and twenty five minutes. The only thing that came off on camera well was the Brock Lesnar/John Cena match. I really liked that match because the tournament came off well and a young, fairly inexperienced John Cena came off very well on the big stage and held his own with the massive WWE Champion. He’ll get his chance again. Raw’s matches, other than the main event, came off as boring and plain. This whole show seemed like a glorified free TV show that happened to have a big time main event at the end. In most circumstances I wouldn’t totally crap on a show like this but after a very well put together Wrestlemania with great feuds and really good matches this seems like such a lazy downer. Next month they seem to sharpen stuff up again but I’m really disappointed that after a great underrated Wrestlemania creative seemed to take the month off. Final Grade: D+
Justin: Our first post Wrestlemania PPV is an average, blasé effort. The whole show just felt bland and every match was just sort of there. Everyone worked hard, but nothing seemed to really click or elicit too much of a reaction from the crowd. The fans were pretty much flat throughout the show, and even ended up turning on the man that was brought in to carry Raw for the rest of 2003 and beyond. Both sets of tag champions escaped with their titles in tow, as did Brock Lesnar. Triple H made his mark and picked up another tainted win, but it was clear that he is on a collision course with his former running buddy, Kevin Nash. It was cool seeing some new talent like O’Haire and Cena playing important roles, but neither man was really made to look strong. You can feel the lack of Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle bolstering the card here as well. I won’t say anything else about the Big Show nonsense as I feel like I got it all out above. Everyone tried to make up for it, but it just wasn’t happening on this night. Brock Lesnar and Triple H are both dominating their respective brands but both are bland and don’t elicit much of a reaction from the crowds at this point. Time will tell if Goldberg can step up and carry the promotion through the summer and eventually into the future. Final Grade: C-
MVP: Team Angle
Runner Up: Brock Lesnar
Non MVP: Big Show
Runner Up: Goldberg & Rock