Thursday, July 24, 2014

Through the Years: Backlash 2002

Backlash 2002
April 21st, 2002 – Kemper Memorial Arena in Kansas City, Missouri

Coming off of WrestleMania X8 the WWF held a Draft. Raw and Smackdown would be split because Ric Flair and Vince McMahon's egos were too big. Triple H, being the new Undisputed Champion was exempt as he would defend the belt against both shows. The fans wanted Hulkamania and it was running wild as red and yellow was back and in the title match at this show. This is the first Pay-Per-View after the Draft and both shows were represented as the Brand Exclusive Pay-Per-Views didn't start for about another year.

We get a nice video package where Hulk Hogan talks about how the crowd led him back to being Hulkamania Hogan instead of Hollywood while Triple H says that he loves seeing Hogan back but it's sad because he's going to have to kill some of childhood and beat Hogan tonight. It's basically the “best of all time” against the “best right now”. Solid stuff.

WWF Cruiserweight Championship
Billy Kidman (c) vs. Tajiri w/ Torrie Wilson

Torrie Wilson was with Tajiri on TV, but with Billy Kidman in real life. Kidman still has his great WCW theme. Torrie is dressed in a kimono because Tajiri was being a controlling boyfriend. Shoving match to start and Tajiri kicks up once he goes down. Quick offense that goes too fast to report it all, but it's a good start. An arm drag takes Tajiri into the corner. He blocks a hurricanrana and goes for a slingshot, but Kidman lands on the second rope and gets a dropkick. A “Torrie” chant starts. Tajiri hits a nice spot on the guardrail before going back in. With Kidman draped on the bottom rope, Tajiri hits a stiff kick and applies a headlock inside. The crowd is really into this for it being a Cruiserweight Title match. Kidman fights out and snaps off a hurricanrana before taking a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Kidman gets hung up in the tree of (Joey Lawrence) woe for a baseball slide. Backbreaker from Tajiri that he holds onto for a submission. Bill breaks out but Tajiri is still in control. TARANTULA! Tajiri goes for the handspring elbow but Kidman dropkicks him in the back of the head to a nice pop. The Japanese Buzzsaw reverses a back drop and hits a spinning heel kick. He gets a German with a beautiful bridge for two. He ducks a clothesline and nearly kicks Kidman's head off. Kidman does his favorite spot by countering the powerbomb into a facebuster. He misses the Shooting Star Press and gets buzzsaw kicked but kicks out. Everyone is into this as a “Kidman” chant starts. Up top, Kidman hits a powerbomb variation for a near fall. Kidman goes for a powerbomb but gets sprayed with red mist and Tajiri wins.

Winner and New Cruiserweight Champion: Tajiri in 9:08
Kidman and Tajiri were like “we're gonna try and steal the show” and they might have. Really good opener that the crowd was very hot for. It's a shame what happened to this division. ***3/4

Michael Cole tries to interview Tajiri like an idiot. He doesn't speak English. This has been established. Backstage, the APA meet up and miss each other since they were split. The nWo theme hits as Bradshaw faces a member next.

Bradshaw vs. Scott Hall w/ X-Pac
Scott Hall goes from facing Steve Austin at WrestleMania, albeit in the mid-card, to facing Bradshaw. X-Pac is wearing Kane's mask. They try to surround Bradshaw, which brings out Faarooq to back him up. Their reunion after just two weeks apart gets a good reaction. Hall throws his toothpick at Bradshaw and gets lit up by the Texan for it. Bradshaw gets sent off the ropes and hits a big club to the back. “X-Pac sucks” chants. Hall rolls outside but bumps into Faarooq, who lays him out in front of the referee, but there's no DQ or ejection. Lawler wisely calls JR out for not saying anything about Faarooq cheating and JR ignores it. More punches from Bradshaw until Hall gets a thumb to the eyes. More slugging from both men and Hall hits a clothesline in the corner. Hall pounds away on Bradshaw in the corner, but he comes out with a shoulder block. Big clothesline from Bradshaw in the corner before the Clothesline from Hell. X-Pac puts Hall's foot on the bottom rope and Faarooq chases him around the ring. The distraction lets Hall get a low blow and rollup with a handful of tights. 

Winner: Scott Hall in 5:45
So many punches and kicks in this match and the nWo looked weak. It's what I expected though. *

Vince McMahon is power walking in the back as he barges into Ric Flair's office. DOUBLE A IS THERE! Vince wants to know why Flair decided to referee the Austin/Undertaker match later tonight. It's rather useless

Women's Championship
Jazz (c) vs. Trish Stratus

Molly Holly, who lost a number one contender's match to Trish Stratus, comes to ringside. Molly was gold in her “wholesome” gimmick. Molly levels Trish, throws her out of the ring and into the steps. Jazz arrives and is all like “I'll take it.” She hits a side slam inside for two. Jazz hits the Green Bay Plunge and shouts at Trish. They do a nice leap frog/roll spot and Trish hits the Chick Kick with the left leg for two. Trish sets Jazz up on the top but gets pushed off and does her handstand hurricanrana. Multiple clotheslines and neckbreaker gets her a near fall. She takes a kick to the face and a sitout powerbomb but kicks out. The Champion misses a splash and Trish rolls her up for two. Stratusfaction gets reversed into a back suplex for two. Lots of near falls for a short Divas match. Jazz does a dragon screw and puts on a Boston crab. She gets near the ropes, but is pulled away. Jazz changes to an STF that looks A MILLION TIMES BETTER THAN JOHN CENAS. Trish is forced to tap.

Winner and Still Women's Champion: Jazz in 4:27
Good little women's match. Jazz was doing good as the dominant chick in the division and Trish has improved leaps and bounds since her first title just six months earlier. **

Video is shown of Paul Heyman being incredibly creepy with Lita and sniffing her panties. Heyman tried to bribe her for Matt Hardy's safety. She refused him of course, so Brock Lesnar basically kills Matt with an F-5 on the stage.

Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman vs. Jeff Hardy w/ Lita
Brock doesn't have his theme yet so it's some generic stuff. This is Brock's first match and Jeff starts by attacking him before the bell. It doesn't faze Brock who sends him outside. He followed and Jeff dropkicks him off the apron before sending him into the post. Jeff nails a cross body for two, so Brock gets mad and destroys him with shoulder thrusts. Brock throws Jeff like he's Hornswoggle. Three backbreakers in a row and the crowd is kind of in awe at Brock. Jeff is selling like he's being broken in half. Heyman keeps yelling that it's all Lita's fault. Jeff fights back but it's a futile effort. Jeff breaks out whisper in the wind and hits a jawbreaker that Brock sells well. Jeff connects with the Swanton and people believed it was over, but Brock powers out at two. Jeff gets a chair but Brock ducks, lifts him up and hits the F-5. Heyman says not to pin Jeff, to hurt him. Double powerbomb from Brock and the impact is insane. More powerbombs from Brock as Teddy Long calls for the bell.

Winner: Brock Lesnar in 5:32
Brock beat the hell out of Jeff Hardy here but that's what it was supposed to be. Jeff getting a near fall was a nice touch but it was never in doubt. **1/2

A video package airs for the upcoming match where Kurt Angle talks about being better than anyone on any roster. Then he lost to Edge and started to target him. This was the feud where Edge brings out the old photos of Kurt with the writing on the back. Great stuff. 

Edge vs. Kurt Angle
Angle sporting white boots looks awesome. Shoulder block takes Edge down before Edge reels off some shots. Big elbow from Angle but then he gets dropkicked and flapjacked. Edge uses Angle's momentum to throw him out of the ring. Back inside Edge hits a spinning heel kick but gets German suplexed out of his boots nearly. It baffles me that Kurt was stuck in the upper mid-card until late 2002. Edge tries to get momentum but Angle comes at him with a belly to belly for two. Vertical suplex from Angle and then it's rest hold time. They do the raise the arm three times spot, which I like and Edge fights out. It's useless as he then takes a German. Angle goes for another but Edge fights out and hits a belly to belly of his own! Flying forearm from Edge and a back body drop as the crowd is firmly behind him. Sitout DDT nets him a two. Facebuster earns Edge another near fall. Edge climbs to the top but Angle quickly runs up and belly to belly suplexes him off which gets a near fall. Rolling Germans get Angle two and he sets up for the Angle Slam. Edge gets out and drops Angle on his head with a German. Not good. Both men are slow to their feet but Angle charges Edge, who back body drops him to the outside. Diving cross body to the outside and both guys are hurt again. Missile dropkick back inside but Edge can't earn the three. He now calls for his finisher but Angle counters and gets the Angle Slam! Edge kicks out and Angle is pissed. Ankle Lock time and Edge is in the middle of the ring. He gets close but is pulled away, so he rolls through into a pin for a very close two. Angle grabs a chair but misses, it rebounds off the top and he hits himself. Edge-o-matic follows and somehow only gets a near fall. Edge calls for the Spear but Angle kicks him in the face and a second Angle Slam finishes him off.

Winner: Kurt Angle in 13:26
Great match and the first that really made people realize that Edge was the future. Kurt Angle continues to just put on really good matches and this was one of my favorite feuds of 2002.****1/4

Chris Jericho, who was just the Undisputed Champion, comes out to complain that he's not on the show. That's good booking. He's so mad that he is leaving. Cutting to the back, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are backstage discussing the Number One Contender's match when The Undertaker shows up and stares him down. That's all he does. Intimidation, like in the Little Giants.

Intercontinental Championship
Rob Van Dam (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero

Ah, it's been a while since I've been able to review some Eddie Guerrero. Part of this feud is that in Eddie's mind, RVD stole the Frog Splash from him. JR informs Lawler that the first guy in the WWF to use the Frog Splash was, in fact, D-Lo Brown. Quick start and RVD has to taunt. Big monkey flip followed by a spinning heel kick gets RVD two. Eddie blocks a kick and we get a gross looking dragon screw. They trade offense for a bit with RVD botching a floatover suplex. He then blocks a superplex and brings Eddie down on the top rope. The ridiculous cartwheel moonsault earns him a near fall. Small package from Eddie but no win. Eddie reverses a suplex into another rollup for two. Baseball slide sends Eddie to the rail and RVD hits a moonsault off the apron. Spinning leg drop is next as Eddie has barely had an offense. But he uses defense to block Rolling Thunder and get in the driver's seat. “Mullet” chants from this capacity crowd. Latino Heat locks on a surfboard stretch as he gets RVD bent in weird ways. GORY STRETCH! RVD doesn't tap so he takes a slingshot senton before Eddie shows off his athleticism with a hurricanrana. BRAINBUSTAAA! Only gets two so he goes for the Frog Splash, but RVD kicks him to stop. He goes for a superplex but Eddie counters with a sunset flip bomb that might have killed RVD. But it only earns him two. After getting kicked, Eddie gets the belt, but RVD snatches it form him and hits the referee by mistake. Neckbreaker on the belt and Frog Splash allows a new Champion.

Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Eddie Guerrero in 11:42
Two really good performers put on a good match. It wasn't as good as the Ladder match they would have after this, but still good. Eddie can still go. ***1/4

Number One Contender's Match
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker

Two of the greatest of all time, who had some pretty disappointing matches against each other. I can remember two that I liked and that was SummerSlam 1998 and A Cold Day in Hell. A whole lot of nothing happens for the first five or so minutes. Seriously. Things then get taken into the crowd where they do what they do best and they brawl for a while. For some odd reason, the nWo arrive on the scene. Undertaker tosses Austin into the steel steps and he hurts his leg. This allows Taker to target the leg for a while. We get some slow offense as REST HOLD TIME hits and we get a leg lock and chinlock from the Deadman. Taker goes from the leg to other body parts which is weird. Austin fights back to wake up the crowd but eats a flying clothesline for two. After a double clothesline, Austin stomps a mudhole as the crowd chants “what” with each kick. Flair gets knocked out by accident just before Austin hits the Stunner. Of course the timing is perfect. Low blow from Booger Red and a Chokeslam as Flair gets to his feet. Flair is counting pretty slow, but it's consistent. Taker gets a chair but as Flair disarms him, Austin goes low. Taker no sells that and hits a big boot for two. Taker blocks another Stunner and Flair goes down again. Taker nails Austin with the chair for two. He signals for the Last Ride but it gets blocked. Austin tries to use Taker's dragon sleeper finisher but it gets stopped. Taker misses with the chair, though this makes no sense if he wants to earn a title shot. Mudhole gets stomped. Big boot into the chair gets the three even though Austin gets his foot on the rope.

Winner: The Undertaker in 27:00
Who the hell thought this should go nearly a half hour? The brawling parts were good but the wrestling was rough. That was not a strong point of Taker's game at this point of his career. **

Austin is in sore loser mode as he hits Undertaker with a Stunner. In the back, Jonathan Coachman shows Ric Flair Austin's foot being on the ropes and Flair is all like “aww shit”

WWF Tag Team Championship
Billy & Chuck (c) w/ Rico vs. Al Snow & Maven

Oh, the poor tag team division. Billy and Chuck beat on Maven because, well, he's Maven. “Rico's gay” chants break out. Maven pulls an enziguri from his small bag of tricks and tags his trainer. Al Snow comes in to no pop and takes down both of the Champions. Double team effort puts the Champs back in control. Now Snow is the good guy in trouble as the champs work him over with some boring offense. Billy misses a splash in the corner and Snow drop toe holds Chuck into Billy's crotch. Because they're gay. That's the joke. Maven gets the “hot” tag but ends up getting hit with a Fameasser. Snow pulls Maven out to break the count but eats a superkick. Rico tries to interfere but fails as he hits Chuck. Maven gets a near fall with a cross body but takes a superkick and that's all.

Winners and Still WWF Tag Team Champions: Billy and Chuck in 6:02
Boring and senseless. There were hot tags that went nowhere and failed interference that went nowhere. Weird match. 3/4*

WWF Undisputed Championship
Triple H (c) vs. Hulk Hogan

This was wisely billed as the “best of all-time” against the “best right now.” Hogan's WWE Network generic theme is terrible. The Undisputed Title design was one of my all-time favorites. HHH and Hogan trade battles of who is stronger as they shove each other. HHH heels up a bit when he yells at Hogan for listening to the fans. Test of strength comes with Hogan winning for a bit until HHH regains the advantage. Hogan comes back but eats an elbow from the champion before he applies a wrist lock. Ten punches from Hogan in the corner and then he backdrops Hunter over and out. They brawl outside for a bit and Hogan hits a suplex. HHH is back on the offensive as he whips Hogan into the corner hard. He goes for a Pedigree but Hogan counters and catapults him into the corner. Schoolboy gets Hogan two. Back to back clotheslines and Hogan has the balls to pull out a Diamond Cutter/Ace Crusher/RKO. I've never seen him do that. It earns him a near fall. HHH targets the knee a few times to boos from the fans. It was probably around here that HHH realized he needed to turn heel. We get leg work for the next like seven or eight minutes as this is slow as hell. Hunter applies a figure four and continues to be heel like as he uses the ropes for leverage. Hogan turns it over and HHH breaks it. And from that we go to Triple H putting on a sleeper hold. Do we really need a rest hold now? Hogan “Hulks Up” to break out of it and hits a back suplex. Chris Jericho shows up and lays out Hogan with a chair. HHH notices this and is a face again as he takes out Jericho. Time for more Hulking Up and the fans are pumped. He misses the leg drop and Triple H nails the Pedigree. The referee slowly goes to count but The Undertaker runs out and strikes him. Undertaker now levels Hunter with a chair and I have no idea why all of this is happening. I guess Taker is like “well, Hogan will be easier to beat.” Hogan doesn't want the help and takes out Undertaker. Then he wants the help and drops the leg to win.

Winner and New WWF Undisputed Champion: Hulk Hogan in 22:06
The fans go nuts even though this is the WWF doing what they used to mock WCW for doing and that's putting the belt on a guy like Hogan over their guy Triple H. Whatever. The match was boring but I have to commend Triple H for trying his best. *1/4

Overall: 6.5/10; Above Average. Before the final three matches, this had potential to be one of the better shows. The opener was awesome, Brock beat the hell out of Jeff Hardy, the Divas match was solid, Edge and Angle stole the steal and the Intercontinental Title match was very good. Then Austin and Undertaker had a disappointing brawl, and the final two matches were crap. If you ignore the final three matches, you get an awesome show.

Top Ten Thursday: Best SummerSlam Matches

It's that time of the year again as SummerSlam is right around the corner. In honor of SummerSlam coming up, this week's top ten is going to focus on the best matches in the 25 year history of the Pay-Per-View. Now before we dive into the top ten, I want to give a shout out to some honorable mentions. In a history as deep as SummerSlam has, there are bound to be more than 10 really good matches. First, I want to mention Randy Orton and Chris Benoit from SummerSlam 2004. This is one of my personal favorites but it's not top ten material. It's often overlooked due to the Benoit situation. Also, some of the better ones would be Rock vs. Brock in 2002, Undertaker vs. Mankind in the Boiler Room Brawl, Triple H and the Rock's Ladder match, Test vs. Shane from 1999 and The Hart Foundation vs. Demolition from 1990. Tag Team wrestling at it's finest right there. Let's jump into the actual list.

10. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena

After a World Heavyweight Title run in 2012 ended in an 18 second loss to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII, everyone figured that Daniel Bryan would fall to the mid-card and stay there. He got a few WWE Title shots but ended up in a surprisingly entertaining tag team with Kane. He was becoming incredibly popular and after the team split, he wanted to prove that he wasn't a weak link. He beat Randy Orton in a great street fight and had all of the momentum in the world. When John Cena was allowed to hand pick his opponent at SummerSlam, he went with the fans' choice, and chose Daniel Bryan. What followed was a match that he me on the edge of my seat. I wanted my guy since his indy days, to beat the WWE's mega star. In a grueling match, Bryan and Cena were both on their game and Bryan won with a running knee in about 27 minutes. Even if the celebration was short lived, the moment and match were both special.

9. Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker

So, 1997 is probably the best year in the history of the WWE and I've always enjoyed that year's SummerSlam. The main reason why, is the main event. The Undertaker was on fire in 1997, in the midst of a very underrated title run. Bret Hart was also coming off of his excellent feud with Steve Austin. Shawn Michaels was the guest referee as he's hated Bret for a while and was about to get into a huge feud with The Undertaker. 28 minutes of action all came to a head when Michaels questioned the chair in the ring, so Bret despicably spit in his face. Shawn swung the chair, but Bret ducked and he took out the Undertaker. Bret covered and Shawn counted the three, but he was clearly upset about it.

8. Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog

Widely considered as one of the best matches of all time, Bret Hart went toe to toe with his brother in-law the British Bulldog at the 1992 SummerSlam. A few things really made this special. One, this was done in front of the largest crowd in SummerSlam history as over 80,000 fans attended the event in Wembley Stadium in England. It also divided Bret's sister and Bulldog's wife Diana and lastly, it was the only time the Intercontinental Title ever main evented a SummerSlam. I don't consider this the all-time great that some people do, but it's an amazing contest. The crowd was hot for the Bulldog and they got 25 minutes of back and forth action. The end was done right as Bulldog won with a rollup, keeping Bret strong and the family bond intact.

7. Tables, Ladders and Chairs

WrestleMania 2000 hosted the Triangle Ladder Match and WrestleMania X-Seven featured TLC II. The forgotten match sometimes is the original TLC match from SummerSlam 2000, smack dab in the middle. Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz one upped themselves from the Triangle Ladder Match and it was great. This is one of my favorite matches of all time and it had some of the best bumps in TLC history. Whether it's Bubba Ray going through four tables or Lita taking a vicious Spear from Edge, everything was exciting and not a moment was wasted. This is a 19 minute thrill ride that you should check out for sure as Edge and Christian won another TLC.

6. Edge vs. The Undertaker

The 2008 SummerSlam was an interesting one. The WWE and World Heavyweight Title matches were in the mid-card as CM Punk vs. JBL and Triple H vs. The Great Khali did not fit the main event feel. Instead, John Cena met Batista for the first time ever in a huge match but even that couldn't go on last. Instead, fans were sent home happy after the final one on one bout in the long rivalry between Edge and The Undertaker. The first Hell in a Cell to ever be held in the PG era, but it was the one that also made the most sense. This was a bitter feud that went back for months and involved the World Title at times. Even with the PG restrictions, they put on a classic and no Hell in a Cell since then has bested it. A 26 minute war between two of the best of all time and Undertaker sent Edge to hell to finish it.

5. CM Punk vs. John Cena

Money in the Bank 2011 was one of the best Pay-Per-Views in WWE history, and it was headlined by the dramatic bout between CM Punk and John Cena. The WWE Championship and John Cena's job were on the line, as well as the threat of CM Punk taking the title and leaving. Punk did just that, forcing the WWE to hold a tournament to determine a new champion. Of course, John Cena got his job back and challenged the tournament winner, Rey Mysterio. He knocked off Rey but his celebration was cut short by "Cult of Personality". CM Punk had returned and there were now "two WWE Champions." Much like every other match these two had, this was a great contest, that went for about 24 minutes. Triple H was the special referee and he missed Cena's foot on the ropes as he counted the three for Punk. 

4. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart

Bret and Owen are two of my favorite wrestlers in history and their clash to open WrestleMania X is a five star classic in my opinion. As things got even more personal between them, they would get locked inside of a Steel Cage with the WWF Championship on the line at the 1994 SummerSlam. What followed were the greatest 32 minutes ever held in a steel cage as far as I've seen. The cage served the purpose of keeping out the large Hart Family and it was used brilliantly here. Bret would win via escaping the cage as Owen got tangled up in the cage. I still say we should have gotten a third match at Survivor Series to break the tie but that doesn't effect it's rating here.

3. Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk

Since his return in 2012, Brock Lesnar has had some disappointing matches. His match with John Cena was brutal but ended in a dumb way. His bouts with Triple H were underwhelming to say the least. His match with Big Show was laughable and his WrestleMania contest against The Undertaker wasn't very good, but did provide shock value. However, for one night at SummerSlam 2013, everything came together perfectly. This was a complete war for 25 minutes. Brock beat the hell out of Punk, but the "Best in the World" was fearless as he wouldn't give up at all. He even nailed the Go to Sleep and this was what a Brock match should be. The fact that we didn't get rematches and instead were forced to see Punk against Rybaxel is upsetting.

2. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H

In 1998, Shawn Michaels suffered a career-ending back injury and would have to retire. However, in 2002, he returned to the ring to face his former best friend and now bitter rival, Triple H. Everyone wondered if the same HBK would be back. Would he still be the Showstopper? The Main Event? The Icon? In the best match on the best SummerSlam in history, he proved that he wasn't just back as good as he used to be, he was back better than ever. Both men bled and were battered after 27 minutes but Shawn was able to score the pinfall with a rollup. Their feud would continue and Shawn would win the World Title at that year's Survivor Series.

1. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect

As a kid, I used to rent SummerSlam 1991, along with shows from 1992, a lot from my local video store. To be fair, my mom used to love the Macho Man/Miss Elizabeth wedding, but I was all about this Intercontinental Title match. Mr. Perfect was hurting coming into this match but he sold like a champ as it was time for Bret to begin his singles push. Everything was perfect. The arena was Madison Square Garden, we had two of the best workers in history and Bret's legendary parents were in the crowd. This 18 minute contest is in my top five favorite matches of all time. Bret, who could be called Mr. SummerSlam, won with the best looking Sharpshooter in history and the rest was also history.

There you have it, the top ten matches in SummerSlam history. Next week, we'll have a look at the 10 worst SummerSlam matches, which should be fun.

Until next time, follow me on Twitter @the_kevstaaa