Saturday, April 26, 2003

The World's Greatest WWE Backlash 2003 Preview

We're into month two with the three man rotation, here at the World's Greatest, and I've gotta say it still feels sweet to have John back on the crew. If we hear from the illustrious Sir Spinosa before the week's out, we may actually live up to our promise of an all-admin preview squad, eh? Nice, nice, that'd be nice. Otherwise, I guess we could always do the old Freebird / Triad angle, where there's never a set roster and any two members of the team can defend the titles as they see fit. I'm rambling. It is most certainly nearing the end of April, and once that magical date of 4/27/03 rolls around we'll have yet another WWE pay per view on our hands, in the form of Backlash. Not really an event I've ever been too fond of, myself, as the federation has traditionally dropped all its big bombs at WrestleMania or the RAW just after and is left scrambling to put something together for their next PPV. And, for the most part, that trend seems to have continued this year.

You've got some really, really uninspiring television coming out of the RAW brand, where Chris Jericho was bound to blow off his killer feud with Shawn Michaels and Triple H looked all set to give Booker T a PPV rematch, but the cards shifted at the last second and killed both of the highly anticipated Mania rematches. You've got a tag division that's going nowhere (though I'm eager to see the new French Connection they've been promoting on TV), a women's division that's running out of steam, and the Rock wrestling one more match before he gets the hell out of dodge. Smackdown looks to have fared much better, though its contribution won't be enough to save this show on paper. It's great to see Sean O'Haire back on the big stage, and the John Cena / Brock Lesnar angle has been built very, very well. In all honesty, there really are a lot of variables out there for this one. I'm just not excited by most of them.

WWE Tag Team Titles
Team Angle (c) vs. Los Guerreros

These guys gave us a pretty solid match at 'Mania. I like everybody involved. They've built the feud substantially, over a very long period of time. So why can't I get excited about this any more? On one hand, it's the same match we've seen dozens of times before, on the other... it's a helluva lot better than what we're getting out of RAW. If they could just combine the tag divisions from both RAW and Smackdown, we'd have a semi-competent scene going on, especially with the upcoming introduction of the Frenchmen. As is now, we've just got a couple bland divisions boasting their own unique belt and no crossovers. This is the blowoff, so the Guerreros take it.
Winners: Los Guerreros

Trish Stratus (c) vs. Jazz w/Theodore Long
Women's Championship

The women's division took the plunge after WrestleMania, losing track of the intriguing three-way feud over the gold and settling into another Jazz / Trish one on one series. Not that I should be complaining too loudly, as the end result will be a few solid women's title matches, I'm just overwhelmed by the feeling that we've seen it all before. They're trying to freshen it up a teensy bit, aligning Jazz with Teddy Long, but in the end it's all the same old story. Jazz is bigger than Trish. Trish is spunkier than Jazz. The hit each other, and roll around on the mat with fists full of hair. Refs split them up and simultaneously cop feels. Cue the PPV matchup. I've got Trish retaining, she needs to finally beat a non-injured Jazz in a major singles matchup.
Winner: Trish Stratus

Sean O'Haire w/Roddy Piper vs. Rikishi

On one hand, I'm really enjoying the relationships between Piper & O'Haire and Rikishi & Snuka. It's a relatively cool idea, relating the past with the present in such a manner, and the personalities they've chosen to experiment with are just about perfect for the situation. Rikishi and "Superfly" have the whole bloodline thing going, and Roddy and Sean both work the same intellectual, scheming villain schpeel. It's a dual set of mentoring relationships, and so long as it doesn't lead to a tag match (or worse yet, a singles match between the old timers), it's only going to be beneficial for all involved. The main thing that's holding this thing back is a mix of how dazed and confused poor Snuka looks and how decrepit and out-of-shape Piper's become over the last couple years.

The match isn't in danger of launching anyone into the stratosphere Sunday night. Rikishi's losing a step or two as time goes on, but he can still keep up for the most part and is much more versatile than any other big man on the WWE's roster. O'Haire's always been a sort of diamond in the rough in my eyes, but it's just a matter of getting him in the ring, surrounded by the right kind of vibe, so that the fans can really step back and take notice of him. I doubt this will be the big breakthrough match he needs to take that first step, but it's bound to get here somewhere soon. O'Haire's got more of a future. He goes over. But I'm not telling you anything you don't already...
Winner: Sean O'Haire

Rey Mysterio vs. The Big Show

Oh, man. Why they booked any sort of interaction between these two in the first place was more than enough to blow my mind, now they've taken it a step further and put them opposite one another on pay per view. Remember when WCW released an action figure for the Giant, and where most of their figures came with an accessory (a bat, a trash can, whatever), the Big Show came with a mini Rey Mysterio, Jr? God help me, I almost spent the money on it based on the premise alone. But then I realised I'd be buying an action figure loosely based on the likeness of Paul Wight, and I came to my senses.

Oh, right. The match. This will be very ugly. Mysterio needs to be facing guys with the ability to perform a slow jog without blowing up. His offense is going to look like crap, because nobody's going to buy it. That, and he'll have to handicap himself, to avoid doing anything the Show just isn't physically capable of. I guess a rematch with Matt Hardy was too much to ask. Come to think of it, rematches in general were too much to ask this month.
Winner: The Big Show

RVD & Kane (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
World Tag Team Titles

Well, at least this one should have some heat. The Dudleyz are trying extremely hard to make this angle work, and that's something which should be commended. Unfortunately, it's really time for the whole thing to blow off an move on. RVD is starting to cool down a little bit as he realizes he's stuck in the midcard for another few years, but he's still the biggest money man RAW will have left once Rocky leaves at the end of the week. Even Goldberg hasn't been able to put a dent in RVD's heat, despite the writers' best efforts. Give him another couple weeks teaming with Kane in a dead-end tag team, and maybe that status quo will finally change.

If they can keep Kane out of the ring for most of the match, this should be entertaining to watch. Van Dam and the Dudleys are all relatively sound athletes... they won't be giving us the match of a lifetime, but they won't be sucking out our will to live, either. They wrestle compatible styles; the Dudleys as power-based offense, Rob as a flying, heavyweight-meets-lightweight-meets-martial arts hybrid. All Kane really needs to do is hit the flying clothesline, tease the chokeslam and take a 3-D before rolling out to the floor and staring at the lights for a little bit. The Duds should probably win here, but the Frenchmen need a credible face champion team to face off against, so I'm going with RVD and Kane.
Winners: Kane & Rob Van Dam

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. John Cena
WWE Championship

They built this match better than Brock / Angle. Not that I think Cena has more of a chance at winning this thing than Kurt did at WrestleMania, but the motivation behind their collision is just all around superior to the clash of the amateur champs in Seattle. They didn't muddle things by nonsensically involving Paul Heyman or the Big Show. They didn't bring in John's twin brother to trick the champ. They stuck to two guys who don't like one another, giving each other hell week in and week out. I'm a sucker for that kind of buildup, and it's something they've done well with Lesnar at least twice now; here and with his Summerslam match against the Rock. I'm glad John went over Benoit cleanly (surprised to hear that?), as it really gave him the extra "oomph" he needed to move up from midcarder to legitimate main eventer. This match is a great example of what Smackdown's done correctly in the past month, as opposed to what RAW's done poorly. Instead of screwing fans over and giving them a six man tag in the place of two big matches involving their top stars, Smackdown's developed a whole new star in a very short amount of time.

I'm eager to see how these two match up in the ring Sunday night. They know this is a real "do or die" situation, not only for Cena's future in the company, but for the rest of the young talent waiting for their chance. If these two go in there and steal the show, maybe (just maybe) the higher ups will get the message that there's money in other places than the past. That, done properly, a storyline that doesn't involve multiple twists and turns can draw money. With all that weight on their shoulders, will they carpe diem and kick ass? Or will they choke under the pressure? I'm more interested in that result than the result of the match itself, which is pretty damn predictable.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels & Booker T vs. Triple H, Ric Flair & Chris Jericho

So let's take a closer look here; you had two SURE FIRE barnburners all set up for their rematches at Backlash (Jericho / Michaels II and Hunter / Booker II), and one returning, aged superstar. Where the real logical thing here would have been to play the tension between the "clique" a little longer and deliver the money matches everyone wanted to see, instead they threw it all together into one big, convoluted mess of a RAW main event and said "we're good to go." Ric Flair is a living legend, but he shouldn't even be active as anything more than a speaking talent at this point, let alone wrestling in a major match on pay per view. Keep the shirt on, keep stylin' and profilin', keep strapping guys into the figure four... just stay out of active competition, Ric. On that same side of the coin, Kevin Nash doesn't look like he's in any sort of ring shape either. If it takes a man a full minute and a half to perform a run-in, which is honestly no exhaggeration, that doesn't say much for what his portion of the match is going to look like.

More than anything, I'm just pissed off that the WWE has once again dangled that carrot in front of our faces, only to yank it away at the last second. Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels were setting the place on fire with their feud, before it was mysteriously downplayed for No Way Out. They then managed to salvage the whole thing in time to steal the show at WrestleMania in what was just about the perfect set-up for a big Jericho victory this month, only to have the whole thing scrapped once again. This is the same thing they did with Hunter's feuds with Kurt Angle and Steve Austin in mid 2000 and early 2001. Right when it looked spot-on, like the angle was airtight and unstoppable, the whole thing just disintegrated into thin air. When you lay it all out, here's what the match looks like to me; on one side you've got a crippled guy who's getting up there in the years, a bonafide legend who's reinventing the way he wrestles and an also-ran who just can't get that big victory. On the other, you've got two guys who've always hated each other and an icon who's trying to tarnish his legacy by wrestling years longer than he should. Not something I'm excited about.
Winners: Triple H, Ric Flair, Chris Jericho

Goldberg vs. The Rock

They had me pleased with this one until last week, when it all sort of fell apart. Goldberg doesn't look unstoppable anymore (he just looks like an ass), and Rocky doesn't look like nearly as solid a heel as he did beforehand. As Corey's been alluding to in recent issues of the RAW Review Crew (I'm starting to look like John C here, shilling like there's no tomorrow), the big question here is how the Rock will keep himself the heel and Goldberg the face. Fans are catching on to the fact that Rocky's much more entertaining as a heel... and they're cheering him as a result. If they're like me, they don't really see Goldberg as the machine that he was in WCW, especially after that whole ordeal with the muscle car Monday night. He's lost a lot of the intimidation factor that really defined his character in the old Atlanta promotion. He looks like a lost animal, lashing out at anything that moves, more than a determined warrior.

I think the match should be where the real definition is made in that matter. If Goldberg comes out and he's lost a lot of mass, he wrestles a poor match and he acts like a guy who doesn't belong in the ring, then it's all downhill from here. If he comes out, acts like a professional, and delivers a solid match then there's still a chance for him. I hate to see the Rock lay down again, especially after he finally got the big clean win he needed over Austin at WrestleMania, but there's really no alternative here. Spear, wham, Jackhammer, pin.
Winner: Goldberg

In Closing...

A disappointing card, especially considering how good WrestleMania turned out. It's really silly, for a show that's traditionally been the "rematch card," to feature absolutely no rematches whatsoever from last month. Jericho / Michaels, especially, really wrote itself here and was completely neglected. I'm extremely interested in the kind of response Brock and Cena get for their match, but the rest of the card's just a grey area for me. I don't really care too strongly about any of it. But I've still got hope for next month.. let's just hope it isn't unfounded.
until next time, i remain

No comments: