Sunday, April 21, 2002

The World's Greatest WWF Backlash 2002 Preview

Well, the mighty split has come and gone. What's been called the most important angle in WWF history (forgetting the last twelve times they've said that) has yielded... slightly discouraging results. Instead of two rosters spilling over the brim with hungry young talent and refreshing new angles, we've only been given an extra helping of the same old names and faces. Surely, some grapplers are bucking that trend through sheer willpower alone, but on the whole things aren't really that different. Still, despite yet another disappointing payoff, the card doesn't really look half bad on paper. You've got Eddy Guerrero, making his overly, overly roided return in what should be a killer against RVD. The Cruiserweight belt is flirting once again with the curtain, as Kidman and Tajiri are giving us what everyone hopes is a taste of things to come. And Chris Jericho is... well, let's just overlook Y2J. The WWF has.

Kidman vs. Tajiri (with Torrie)
Cruiserweight Championship

The WWF appears ready to launch another kiss and run experiment with the Cruisers, and if they bring in the guys they're rumored to have called up, I don't see how it could really fail. Then again, the division wasn't failing two years ago to the day, when Dean Malenko beat Scotty 2 Hotty in one of the hottest one-on-one matches of the year at Backlash... and his division promptly disappeared without a trace. The bookers have taken a "can't miss" division time and time again, and managed to miss with it.. so you'll excuse me if I'm not jumping through hoops this time around. Still, keeping that in mind I don't think Kidman and Tajiri will be taking any shortcuts later tonight. I'm digging Tajiri's unexpected heel turn, and think Kidman could play the perfect foil to his new character. It's going to be an interesting mix of styles here, with Kidman taking to the air more often and Tajiri staying on the floor with his kicks. My money's on the buzzsaw, taking the spotlight he needs to showcase his ECW personality.
Winner: Tajiri

Jazz vs. Trish Stratus
Women's Championship

About all I'd like to say here is... "remember when the women's division looked promising?" Really, that's not fair, because I'm honestly very interested in Molly's heel turn and Jazz as a champion. But why does Trish always wind up either with the title shots or title defenses? Sure she's easier on the eyes than a Jackie, Ivory or Lita, but isn't there something to be said for freshness, as well? I'm sicker of Trish right now than I am of Lawler's catcalls every time something with breasts struts down the ramp, and giving her the title isn't really going to hold back my feelings on that matter. Unfortunately, I can't see this going anywhere else. Trish takes the gold back (somehow), and goes on to defend against Molly, who really should've been in the hunt long before now.
Winner: Trish

Rob Van Dam vs. Eddy Guerrero
Intercontinental Championship

Hell yeah, this is what I was looking for. For all the heat he's taken in the past for his overly spotty nature and reckless nature in the ring, RVD has taken some massive steps forward. While it wasn't the textbook definition of a quality match, his encounter with the Undertaker on RAW a few weeks back was without question the brightest of the night. Add to that the fact that these two were going full throttle last week in their tag match and you've got a shining gold beacon that stands out even more on a potentially dysmal card. Both Eddy and RVD appear to have something to prove here, and nobody's going to benefit more than the fans. With Guerrero sliding right back into his signature heel role and Van Dam soaking in more fan appreciation, this is about as close as you're going to get to a clean cut heel / face match in the WWF today. I'd be willing to bet this one's gonna stretch over the course of a couple PPVs, and keeping that in mind I'm going with Eddy. And, for the record, his frog splash is the better of the two.
Winner: Eddy Guerrero

Brock Lesnar vs. Matt Hardy

Talk about a nice build. They don't really make words strong enough to accurately describe the anticipation I have for this match. I don't know why, but there's just something about Lesnar that's overly interesting. Maybe it's his mouthpiece, maybe it's his sudden rise to stardom. I can't really put my finger on what it is, but it's definately there. Of course, the young man has also built some awfully large expectations for his "first" WWF match, and I'm not completely sure he can meet all of them. The bookers did right here in pairing him with one of the Hardy Boyz, as they both know how to make just about anybody look like a million bucks... and that's just what Matt's going to need to do here. Bids have already started on Brock / Jeff next month.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Edge vs. Kurt Angle

Angle's tear continues. He's been at his very best lately, alongside Chris Jericho backstage and renewing his vigor every night in the ring. He's even managed to lend some of his heat and charisma to the deeply lagging Edge lately. That's the sign of a true legend, when instead of letting a poorly received character drag him down, he does just the opposite and gives the audience a reason to care about someone they'd just as soon have pissed on one week before. We've said it time and time again, and it's never held truer than it does here; Edge needs a springboard. He needs that one breakthrough match, that moment's worth of recognition. A King of the Ring '98 Hell in a Cell Match, a Wrestlemania 13 Street Fight. Who knows, with Angle on the other end of the ring, it might just be his lucky night. I'm still a little leery of this one, but I'm willing to put my money on the Olympian and call it a match with potential. Edge comes through after help from Jericho backfires.
Winner: Edge

Billy & Chuck vs. Al Snow & Maven
Tag Team Championship

Hey, where did all the interest in Billy & Chuck go? I guess it's hard to keep yourselves fresh in the fans' minds if you have a division with ONE FUCKING TEAM!! The WWF's Tag Team division is in the worst state it's ever seen, with the draft doing nothing to help matters. With the federation's first couple the only solid, experienced duo on Smackdown, it looks like we've got several months' worth of "built to order" opponents on PPV. Poor Al Snow's never recovered from the dropping of his feud with the Rock years ago, and Maven's heat and a dropkick can only carry him so far.
Winners: Billy & Chuck

Bradshaw vs. Scott Hall

Damn, it didn't take them long to kill the nWo, did it? Or was it planned all along, that two months after their debut, only one of the original three would be active in the black and white? And that even he would be opposed by Brad F'n Shaw? I'm a bit confused as to who came to the revelation that the former Blackjack was nearing main event status, but whoever he (or she.. I run an equality-based show here) is, I hope they take a long walk off a short bridge somewhere in the near future. Without Faarooq in his corner to shake things up with some occasional tough offense, Bradshaw looks even more like a lame duck. Adding Scott Hall to the equation doesn't exactly help matters. Hall's been nothing but a shell of his former self in the ring since midway through his WCW run, and it's become almost sad to watch him go through all the old motions in the ring without the same fire lit behind his eyes. This one will be lacking emotion, sincerity and worth... so I suppose that's my way of saying I don't approve. Hall needs to win. Bradshaw doesn't. That's the bottom line.
Winner: Scott Hall

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Undertaker
No. 1 Contenders' Match with Special Referee Ric Flair

How silly was this buildup? It's probably been the definition of what's wrong in the WWF thus far.. a compilation of several factors; long, misdrected promos, storylines left unexplained or forgotten, an extra helping of Titan Tron intros with little action in the ring, and the same old players doing the same old thing at the top of the card. Remember Backlash 2001? Remember the main event? It should look familiar. Now, remember when the WWF could be counted on to surprise us 95% of the time? Is it any wonder the product's in serious trouble? Austin's been slowing down lately, with his fans relentlessly hounding us with an ongoing chorus of "WHAT!!", so it's little wonder my reactions have been stone dead to Stone Cold. The Undertaker, admittedly, plays a solid heel. But his work in the squared circle still leaves a lot to be desired, and his selling remains atrocious. We're gonna see a street fight here, with two guys pretending to punch one another and neither one making an effort to give us the illusion they're even feeling the impact. It could get ugly. Flair's getting involved somehow, but if they turn him heel and align him with the Taker, they're even dumber than I gave them credit for. The Taker wins it, through questionable means.
Winner: The Undertaker

Triple H vs. HHHogan
Undisputed World Wrestling Federation Championship

I'm not really sure what's prompted this resurgence in popularity, but I am sure of one thing; it can't last long. I'm confident the Dub Dub Eff higher ups recognize this as well, which is why they've struck while the iron's hot and booked the dual HHH matchup for all the gold right here. Hogan / Rock was surprisingly good, if just for the intense audience interaction, but I'm not so sure that will hold true for Hogan / Helmsley. It's an intriguing match, if nothing else, but the build has shown just how much HHH needs to be a heel for his character to work. Otherwise, he just falls back on the sexual innuendo that made him dull as the leader of DX. It wouldn't be out of line to see a turn by the champ here, and I'm hoping to see something a little deeper; like perhaps a reunion with a certain group of friends. Hogan will not carry the WWF Title again, but they'll do their best to convince you otherwise. Helmsley hands Hogan another loss. This is not good.
Winner: Triple H. The one who came into the match carrying the gold. The younger one. That Triple H.


Damn, I picked a heel in almost every match on this card. Guess we know who won't be going for another perfect performance here... anyway. This card leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not sure why, either, as there remain a respectable amount of matches that could be good to great. It's probably got something to do with my confusion over whether Bradshaw is being elevated or Scott Hall is being punished for something. This will not doubt be one of Hogan's last main events, so it'll be special if just for that, and who's to say we won't look back on this card and say "god, was I wrong" years from now? Things just look gray to me, though I wish I could say otherwise.
until next time, i remain