WWE: The Best of Backlash Original Match-Ups

The concept of the rematch has been one that has been done to death in WWE. With programming running year-round it is inevitable that a program will run through various shows. This is something that we always see with the PLE Backlash.

Backlash has usually followed Wrestlemania, even adopting the name as part of its PLE identification. This has meant that most matches on the card are straight-up rematches from Wrestlemania or variations of those Grandest Stage encounters. These rematches have been the lasting impression of the PLE.

It is a shame that only rematches are looked back on when discussing Backlash. A shame because there have been some notable original matches sprinkled on the card. Matches that are overshadowed by Wrestlemania rematches. Below we will look at some of these matches.

The Undertaker v Ken Shamrock (Backlash 1999)

It is a travesty that there wasn’t a longer program between these two men. The Undertaker was deep in his cult leader phase in April of 1999. He was interested in making “sacrifices” and before too long he set his sights on Kens younger sister Ryan. It instantly pushed Shamrock over the edge and set up a tight little match from Backlash. Shamrock wrestled a different style to those of Undertakers past. His technical prowess was second to none.

This forced The Undertaker to wrestle a different match which brought something new out of the Deadman. ‘Taker used his power sure, but it was surprising to see him match Shamrock with some impressive technical moves.

The contrasting styles was exactly what this match needed. It showed chemistry between the two men. A chemistry that the crowd, eventually, came around to and one that should have given this feud more legs. Alas, Shamrock was just a steppingstone to larger things for The Undertaker but at least we got this hidden gem in a sea of rematches.

Triple H v Hulk Hogan (Backlash 2002)

Hulk Hogan was the big story coming out of Wrestlemania 18. The returning Hulkster wowed the Toronto audience and produced an incredibly memorable moment for the world. This result also skyrocketed him to the top of the card, and he soon got a shot at Undisputed Champion Triple H.

 Triple H has just put an exclamation mark on his fantastic return, but a date with the former WWE flag bearer was inevitable. Triple H and Hogan presented a face-face dynamic, so the program had the wrong vibe to it. Triple H as a heel would have been a better foil for Hogan, especially considering the outcome.

No one in their right mind thought Hogan should have been going over in this contest. Triple H was at the top of his game and a month championship reign, it was an insult to the work he had put in. Alas, WWE went with the hot hand and Hogan won the championship for his sixth reign.

This match and program left much to be desired by many, but the two men provided a great original match for Backlash. It was the first, and only, time that Triple H and Hulk Hogan would stand across from each other. Two icons of the different era’s preparing to do battle for one of the biggest championships in the game.

The Big Show v Shane McMahon (Backlash 2001)

The eldest McMahon was head of the much-maligned Invasion angle that dominated most of 2001. The potential was there for greatness, but a lot got bungled along the way. One of the things that didn’t suffer was match quality. There were some darn good contests during the angle and this Last Man Standing match was one of them. This was exactly what a WWE-booked match can showcase when they hit gold.

McMahon and Big Show put on a car wreck of a contest. It was violent, fast-paced and included some creative ways in which to inflict harm on one’s opponent. This is precisely what the fans wanted, and it provided one of the best matches on a stacked card.

Shane was always going to be an attraction in WWE. His wrestling skill was not there so matches needed to have as many bells and whistles as humanly possible. Sometimes it didn’t work that well but it in this case it was spectacular. A particularly great spot was Shane jumping off the structure surrounding the entrance. It was a huge spot and one that pushed this match over the top.

Brock Lesnar v John Cena (Backlash 2003)

These two men were consistently linked to one another after Brock made his huge return in 2012, but it was at Backlash 9 years earlier when they first locked horns.

Brock was coming off his massive WWE Championship win against Kurt Angle and Cena was just growing into his rapper gimmick. Lesnar and Cena playing different roles during this match was interesting.

With his years of being the ultimate babyface seeing Cena play a heel was a cool switch. He used more underhanded tactics than any of us are used to seeing. Exploiting the head injury to Lesnar and using weapons to do so was very unlike Cena.

Cena controlling the match was an odd sight. Due to the recency bias it was interesting to see a heel Cena working Lesnar down and controlling most of the match. It was also interesting to see a greener Cena in the ring. His work was not as crisp as we are used to, but this worked in his favour. It added to his heel work and made the fans turn against him.

Naturally, Lesnar was able to use his tremendous power to retain the championship, but the seeds were planted. Two men who would become cornerstones of an era locked horns for the first time on that night. It was the beginning of a long history between The Beast and Big Match John.

Shawn Michaels v Batista (Backlash 2008)

HBK retiring Ric Flair at Wrestlemania 24 was one of the most emotional matches in WWE history. The ending was heartbreaking, pun intended, and led to an incredibly personal match between HBK and Batista the next month. Batista learned much in his time with Ric Flair and when Michaels retired the Nature Boy Batista took it personally. This led to a first-time match being booked between the two men at Backlash.

The dynamic of the match was fascinating. HBK had played the face since his return but with the result of Wrestlemania 24 he was pushed into the heel role. It was one he played effectively early on in his career, so the transition wasn’t that hard.

There wasn’t much to the match. It was as one would expect until they hit a great finish. Faking a knee injury HBK lured Batista in and hit him with a Sweet Chin Music to win. It shocked fans and commentators alike as there seemed to be something to Batista’s claim that HBK was selfish.

The finish greyed HBK’s character beautifully and led to special referee, Chris Jericho, questioning his allegiance to HBK. A question that would lead to one of the best feuds of the last 20 years.

Roman Reigns v Cesaro (Wrestlemania Backlash 2021)

Reigns was months into his current championship reign when he went up against the Swiss Superman. Cesaro had been on a tear, winning a huge Wrestlemania and Smackdown over Seth Rollins to earn his shot at Roman.

Cesaro was one of the most over men in the company. He had consistently got huge pops and fans were salivating over the possibility of his winning of the world title. Alas, this didn’t happen but that shouldn’t take away from the match.

Cesaro was well known for his devastating uppercuts, and this put a target on his arms for the contest. Reigns used every means possible to weaken the arm of Cesaro before eventually passing him out in the guillotine choke. It was a genius move and one that brought out the heely side of Reigns.

It is a real shame that Cesaro wasn’t long for the company at this point. He and Reigns had tremendous chemistry and their physical styles meshed well together. It was a feud that could have gotten some great length. At the least, we got to see this main event of Wrestlemania Backlash.

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