The Live Wire - By Tony Cottam

TLW: WWE Backlash 2004 Review

Well, hello. Here we go with another post-PPV roundup from The Live Wire – the column that likes to wear only black shirts on Tuesdays. That’s one of those cryptic messages, I think… I don’t know, I can’t work it out. HA! Anyway – Backlash has been and gone, and I did indeed fork out to watch the event. Honestly, it was Coach vs. Tajiri that put me over the edge and made me want to see it live. Oh yeah…

Well, hello. Here we go with another post-PPV roundup from The Live Wire – the column that likes to wear only black shirts on Tuesdays. That’s one of those cryptic messages, I think… I don’t know, I can’t work it out. HA! Anyway – Backlash has been and gone, and I did indeed fork out to watch the event. Honestly, it was Coach vs. Tajiri that put me over the edge  and made me want to see it live. Oh yeah.

For the most part, in my opinion, Raw only PPVs have sucked. Big time. I wasn’t expecting a lot out of this one, to be honest. What I got was the age old theory that a hot main event can paper over the cracks earlier in the show… and this one did just that. Not just a hot main event, but a hot secondary match too… but we’ll get to those later. Why? Just because I can.

The minute the show started and already, there was a huge disappointment – the Swinging Hooks Of Aluminium Pain weren’t there – how can we have backlash without those? Damn the WWE! Damn the set builders! Damn Vince McMahon! Damn Triple H, it was probably his fault, everything else seems to be these days…

First match up, and we have what I think is new music for Shelton Benjamin, although I couldn’t really make it out as I was deafened by those WACKY Canadians and their face-booing antics. Gosh, they’re so hip! Actually, to be fair, Benjamin was on a hiding to nothing – he was facing Ric Flair, hell, I would cheer for Flair! Role reversal aside, Flair tried his damnedest to hang with the young ‘un, and Benjamin did his damnedest to make this match a winner.

Despite a few dodgy moments (what the hell was going on with Flair and the brass knucks? Twice he dropped them, and I’m really not sure HE knew what was going on) I think they managed to pull it off. I really expected BIG DAVE~~! to get involved in this one somehow, but we got a clean finish, and another notch on Benjamin’s growing reputation. A solid enough opener, and an OK match.

Well, I expected THIS match to rival the Women’s match for stinker of the night, and how wrong I was. The Coach actually impressed me with his basic wrestling skills… and if you ever tell anyone I said that, I’ll deny it. While he’s not the next coming of Benoit, he did a hell of a lot more than I thought he would, and he did it a hell of a lot better. I expected the run-in screwjob finish… but I didn’t expect Garrison Cade. I don’t totally understand why, but I guess we’ll have that explained in Calgary tonight.

Could The Coach be building a little stable as a manager? That wouldn’t be too bad, as Coach can get heat, don’t ask me how. I bet Tajiri is SO glad he’s on Raw now though : “Yes, Tajiri, you have a match on PPV, but you’ll be losing to the commentator of Heat, thanks to a run in from a career jobber.” Lovely welcome to Raw for him. Good match, not the worst of the night by a long shot.

The first ‘name’ match of the night was next, and the Canadian Mafia involved in the match got the crowd really fired up for the first time. Christian and Trish apparently cut a promo that the viewers at home didn’t see running down Edmonton to cement their heel status… and boy, did it work. Trish took the brunt of the chants, and to her credit, she reacted perfectly to them.

The match itself was very good, Trish’s involvement didn’t drag it down at all, and she did actually add to the story being told in the match. Jericho was on fire, probably the best I’ve seen him since last year’s WrestleMania match with HBK. Christian likewise was on top form, and the two again really gelled well together. Jericho took the win, and I would think that this probably ends the Jericho-Christian-Trish angle… for now. Great match, IMO, better than the WrestleMania encounter.

Now, as Tazz would say, ‘Here Comes The Pain’. Victoria is a damned fine wrestler, but for whatever reason, she just doesn’t click with the crowd as a face. Lita, however, is insanely over, for reasons that I just don’t comprehend. She is a horrible, horrible wrestler… put it this way, she is the Nathan Jones of the women’s division, yet she pops the crowd. Go figure.

This match was the proverbial train wreck… it was that bad, you had to watch to see what would happen next. I just don’t understand how Lita still has a job. I understand even less why SHE gets a push, while Matt is left on the sidelines. Really, this whole match was a blight on the wrestling industry, and I don’t hold out much hope for any tag match that involves Gail Kim going against Lita in the future… dearie me. Worst match of the night, possibly the year.

I suffered the Women’s match, and I was rewarded with the next encounter – Cactus Jack vs. Randy Orton. I thought that Lillian screwed up the entrances by announcing Mick Foley rather than Cactus Jack, but hey, that’s my only complaint with the whole match. In my books, Orton had yet to put on a really GOOD performance since his IC title win, and this was where he had to stand up and be counted… which was exactly what he did.

No doubt Foley will get a LOT of the credit for putting Orton over, and scripting out this match, and hey, I’m not taking anything away from him, he deserves it… but Orton put a lot into this match too. Orton turned it from a good match, into a GREAT match. The bump onto the thumb tacks, with no shirt? Sick, sick, stuff; The bump off the stage, then to have Foley fly through the air and land on him? Superb.

To cap it all off, Orton’s mannerisms during the match were spot on. He showed fear, he showed smarts, he came back at the right time and acted like he meant business, and he really proved that he does have what it take to be in that ring with someone like Mick Foley. On any other night, this would have been match of the night… but we’ll cover that later.

Yeah, and how do we follow something like that? You give the crowd some downtime, and a chance to hit the toilets… or kitchen, in my case. Sadly, I can still see the TV from my kitchen, so I didn’t miss any of this crap-fest. The Seven Words Of Doom – “A match made on Sunday Night Heat” – didn’t bode well for this one.

When the ‘high spot’ of the match is Eugene and Regal getting involved, then you pretty much know that the match is pointless. Hurricane has no purpose on Raw, and the Hurricane gimmick, fun as it is, is played out now. Bring back ‘Sugar’ Shane Helms! Lose Rosey! Lose Grenier! Keep Conway! The only high point of the match was the swinging neckbreaker from the top rope that Conway pulled off. This, peeps, sucked. Really.

For Edge’s ‘big’ return, I didn’t think the crowd reaction was as big as the WWE were expecting. To be honest, I don’t think anybody gave a damn. Maybe it’s the fact that Edge is stuck in a timewarp – his image hasn’t changed since he left, and his character is stuck in Hulk Hogan’s era – all that jumping about like a madman at the top of the stage… meh, does nothing for me anyway.

This match was not a good indication to Edge’s main event hopes. Kane looks like he doesn’t give a damn either way anymore, and quite frankly, who can blame him, so the choice of opponent didn’t help… neither did the string of injuries Edge has suffered in training, and the commentary didn’t do him any favours either. Winning with the aid of a cast? Makes him look a bit desperate, no? Six minutes of hell that did nothing for either man, or the crowd.

It was a good job the main event delivered, and delivered in spades. I timed it at over thirty minutes, and not for one second did it drag. All three men made this match the blockbuster it was built up to be, and the Edmonton crowd also chipped in. The sheer hatred for Michaels, and later Earl Hebner that dripped from the crowd was incredible… when Michaels locked the Sharpshooter on Benoit, and Hebner ran out, I really do believe Edmonton would have exploded had the match ended there. Michaels played up to the heat he was drawing perfectly, and if there’s to be a heel turn, it needs to happen tonight in Calgary – it’s perfectly set up for it.

Enough of my ramblings, back to the match. This was really booked to perfection – I don’t think you’ll see a main event match anywhere in the world this year that works as well as this one did. The crowd were drawn into it, the commentators were spot on for this one – JRs “Make no mistake – Chris Benoit is the real deal” call could do for Benoit what the Hell In The Cell commentary did for Mick Foley – and the three guys in the match were working together beautifully.

The finish was superb, and I think that could well be Vince’s final reference to the Montreal fiasco… although if you asked me to put money on it, I wouldn’t. Having HBK tap out – locked in the Sharpshooter – just seemed so right on so many levels. It was the perfect end to near enough the perfect match. As good as the WrestleMania match was, and as emotional as it was, this match, this crowd, this finish was better. This is your match of the year folks, barring something special down the line.

One horrendous match, two bad matches, two average matches, one great match and one absolutely incredible match all adds up to the best Raw only PPV yet. Backlash was a good show made great by two matches, and a hell of a main event. The tide has turned. For months, I’ve said Smackdown is the better show. Raw has been on fire for the past few weeks, with a few down points – this is the show that puts it ahead of Smackdown. It’s now up to Smackdown and Judgment Day to try and pull themselves back from the brink.

Until next time… have fun, go mad.

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