PPV REVIEW: WWE Backlash 2003

WWE Backlash 2003 - Event poster
April 27, 2003, 
Worcester Centrum, Worcester, Massachusetts

The weeks leading into WWE Backlash 2003 saw three major names make their presence felt in World Wrestling Entertainment.

First, Rowdy Roddy Piper had put in a cameo appearance at Wrestlemania 19 and was now back working for the company for the first time since 1996, this time as a manager. 

Then, on the first post-'Mania Smackdown, Sable had returned to the company despite having filed a lawsuit against them following her exit during the Attitude Era.

Really though, the biggest debut of them all was Bill Goldberg.

One of WCW's best home-grown superstars, the man who had been famous for his undefeated streak, limited matches, and awesome entrance hadn't been seen since WCW Sin in 2001, but now that his Turner contract had finally expired, he was back in professional wrestling.

Tonight, here at Backlash, it was Goldberg's in-ring debut.

Would he be able to recapture the magic of his WCW days? 

Let's head down to Worcester, Massachusets to find out.

Goldberg Has Done Nothing

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - King and Coach called the action

Our opening video focused on tonight’s main event match between The Rock and Goldberg.

On one side, we had clips of Bill running rampant in WCW during his undefeated streak with commentary soundbites from Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan.

On the other side, we had The Rock dismissing the streak, and Goldberg himself, by saying that the former WCW champion had done nothing while he, The Rock, had done it all.

The video package was well done, sure, but I can’t help but feel like repeatedly telling there world that “Bill Goldberg has done nothing” wasn’t the best way to make him seem like a credible challenger for Rock.

Still, it was really cool to hear Schiavone and Heenan again.

Anyway, with the video over, we got the usual pyro followed by a brief introduction from announcers Jonathan Coachman and Jerry “The King” Lawler.

The duo then sent it to Smackdown announce team Michael Cole and Tazz for our opening contest.

WWE Tag Team Championship
WWE Tag Team Champions Team Angle (Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas) vs. Los Guerreros (Eddie & Chavo Guerrero)

With their fearless leader, Kurt Angle, currently out of action due to having neck surgery, Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas paid tribute to the Olympic Gold Medalist by carrying his portrait -adorned with gold medals- down to the ring and dedicating the whole match to him.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Charlie Haas puts a hurting on Eddie Guerrero

Unsurprisingly, the duo did Angle proud with a great match against challengers Eddie Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero Jr.

While it wasn’t the greatest tag match of all time or even the best match we’d ever see between these two teams, it was still a solid effort that only got better the longer the match went on.

After a very enjoyable opener, Chavo went to suplex Charlie, only for Shelton to hook the challenger’s leg on the outside.

Haas fell on top of his opponent, Benjamin held the leg down, and Team Angle continued to reign supreme.
Your Winners and Still WWE Tag Team Champions: Team Angle

Post-match, the tag champs embraced Kurt’s portrait, only for Chavo to launch himself over the ropes -with an assist from Uncle Eddie- and onto the champs.

The Guerreros then stole the title belts and made their way backstage where they escaped the arena in a pimped-out green lowrider.

From the opening bell it the match to the moment Eddie and Chavo left the venue, this whole thing was a lot of fun.

Test is a Creep

Backstage, Torrie Wilson warned pervy sex pest Test to stop calling her and trying to hook up with her, reminding him that she was friends with his girlfriend, Stacy Kiebler.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Torrie Wilson is unhappy with Test's flirting

Blinded by his own arrogance, the star claimed that Torrie’s Playboy shoot told him that she wanted him.

The blonde beauty then tried to leave, but in a moment that aged really badly, Test grabbed his arm and forced a kiss on her because sexual assault equals entertainment apparently.

Ouch, that was uncomfortable to watch.

Anyway, as Torrie freed herself from the clutches of Test, the recently-returned Sable appeared in a doorway and smirked, her plan to cause problems for Wilson apparently paying off big time.

For those keeping score of these kind of things, this was Sable’s first PPV appearance since No Mercy UK in 1999.

Sean O’Haire (w/ Rowdy Roddy Piper) vs. Rikishi

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Rowdy Roddy Piper & Sean O' Haire

Rowdy Roddy Piper had returned at Wrestlemania 19, getting involved in the Hulk Hogan/Vince McMahon match.

Since then, he’d taken Sean O’Haire under his wing as the two entered into a feud with Rikishi.

The story was built around Piper planting ‘Kishi with a coconut, a throwback to the time he did the same thing in that legendary angle with Superfly Jimmy Snuka.

Before the bell, Piper came out solo carrying a basket of coconuts and greeted the crowd before introducing his protege who, in this writer’s opinion, looked like a legit badass.

The majority of the match was inoffensive but also uninteresting, and I was ready to write it off altogether until both combatants took each other out with big kicks.

This gave Piper -who had been trying to get involved from the opening bell- a chance to get in the ring ready to coconut-blast (not a euphemism) the Samoan for a second time.

Unfortunately, he failed.

Big ‘Kish got hold of the coconut and took out Piper, much to the delight of the live audience, but then succumbed to O’Haire’s finish.

The first part of the match was nothing, but the finish was at least reasonably entertaining.
Your Winner: Sean O’Haire.

Out in the back, sh*t-stirrer Sable told Stacy Kiebler that she had seen Torrie Wilson kissing Test.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Sable tells Stacy Keibler about Test

An irate Stacy stormed off as cameras cut to World Tag Team Champions Kane and Rob Van Dam.

The usually calm RVD was fraught with worry about Chief Morley appointing himself as the special referee for their title defence against The Dudleyz and didn’t see how he and Kane could possibly win with Morley calling the shots.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Kane & Rob Van Dam

Thankfully, The Big Red Machine had a solution.

No, he didn’t suggest Rob go roll one up and chill out. Instead, he merely insisted that if the duo were going down, they were going to take Morley and The Dudleyz with them.

WWE World Tag Team Championship
WWE World Tag Team Champions Kane & Rob Van Dam vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D’Von Dudley)

As the participants made their way to the ring, Coach told us that Morley had made himself the official because he didn’t trust Bubba Ray & D’Von to get the job done due to the challengers having some dissension between them.

This was despite the fact that the duo had only reunited five months earlier at Survivor Series 2002.

The match got underway and was solid if unspectacular until Morley inevitably began getting involved in the action.

He low-blowed Kane, but when he went to clothesline RVD, he accidentally struck Bubba Ray instead.

Naturally, this raised the ire of D’Von, who proceeded to lay waste to the former Val Venis until Lance Storm randomly ran in.

Storm did nothing but get his ass handed to him and chaos reigned supreme until the champs took out the Dudleyz and a second official ran in to count the fall.

The ending was bedlam, but the rest of the match was nothing out of the ordinary.
Your Winners and Still World Tag Team Champions: Kane & RVD

Backstage, Stacy Kiebler confronted Torrie Wilson about her kissing Test and proceeded to attack her. The entire women’s roster tried to break up the attack and a cat randomly ran across the screen.

I’ve never seen the TV shows from around this time. Did one of the female wrestlers have a cat as part of their gimmick or what?

It also strikes me as silly that the whole Test/Torrie incident was recorded and it would have taken two seconds for somebody to say “Hey, Stacy, watch this!” But then I guess that would be too logical for a pro wrestling show.

WWE Women’s Championship
WWE Women’s Champion Trish Stratus vs. Jazz (w/ Theodore Long)

Prior to the bell, Jazz’s new manager, Theodore Long, took to the microphone to proclaim that tonight was all about vindication for Jazz and that she would undoubtedly become the next women’s champion.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Teddy Long and Jazz

True to Teddy’s word, the challenger emerged triumphant after a decent match.

Arguably better than their last PPV bout at the 2002 Royal Rumble, this wasn’t the most amazing thing you’ll ever see, but both women performed well and it certainly didn’t suck.

After a good effort, Jazz caught the champion off guard with a roll-up to capture the title.
Your Winner and New WWE Women’s Champion: Jazz

Backstage, former nWo teammates Shawn Michaels, Booker T, and Kevin Nash reassured one another that they were all ready to take on their opponents in tonight’s triple threat match.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Kevin Nash, Booker T, and Shawn Michaels prepare for their upcoming match

In a cool nod to his earlier run with the company, Nash had the words “Big Daddy” emblazoned on his top in Diesel-style writing.

The Big Show vs. Rey Mysterio

Rey Mysterio had recently embarrassed The Big Show on a number of occasions leading to tonight’s match.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Rey Mysterio faced The Big Show

A short but entertaining game of cat and mouse, this one saw Mysterio use his speed, cunning, and a well-placed chair shot to constantly get the better of his much larger opponent.

The former Cruiserweight champion even took down his rival with a trio of 619s, first to the gut, then the legs, then finally to the noggin.

However, when he attempted a West Coast Pop, the angry giant caught his opponent in mid-air and chokeslammed him straight to the seventh dimension of Hades.

It was only a couple of minutes long, if that, but these two one-time WCW stars told a good story and entertained the best they could.
Your Winner: The Big Show

Afterwards, they sold the brutality of the match-winning clothesline by having EMTs come out and place Mysterio on a stretcher.

Before he could be carted off though, Show returned, picked up the board that Rey was strapped to, and swung it at the ring post like he was a professional baseball player swinging for a home run.

It was a cool, unexpected moment that put Show over as a monster while also giving us a unique visual.

The Boys are Ready

Backstage, Lillian Garcia interviewed the trio of Chris Jericho, Nature Boy Ric Flair, and World Heavyweight Champion Triple H.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Lillian Garcia interviews Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, and Triple H

The three team mates discussed their upcoming match with HBK, Nash, and Booker, with each man addressing a particular opponent.

Jericho was ready to make Michaels tap to the Walls of Jericho following their classic outing at ‘Mania ‘19, 16 time champion Ric Flair had a problem with Booker boasting about being a five-time, five-time, five-time dubya see dubya champion while The Game had his sights set on rival Kevin Nash.

This was a compelling promo which got this fan excited about the upcoming six man.

Across the way, Torrie Wilson threw Stacy into a wall causing a big box to fall and land on the leggy diva’s head.

This prompted Scott Steiner to appear and show a rare moment of compassion as he picked up Stacy and began carrying her towards the medical room.

Before he could get there, however, the two were interrupted by Test, who was irate at seeing Stacy and Big Poppa Pump together.

Hmm, I wonder if a feud was a-brewin’?

WWE Championship
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena

It’s interesting to see these two go at it for the title so early in their career given the kind of megastar status the two would enjoy a decade later.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena

John Cena was still a fully-fledged heel here and, to prove it, he declared that he would be a better champion than Bruno Sammartino while also wearing a New York Yankees shirt because, in his words, his home state of Massachusetts sucked.

It was effective work from The Doctor of Thuganomics, really making the crowd hate him to the point that they were ready to see babyface champion Brock Lesnar kick his ass all the way back to New York.

Despite being the next big superstar, it was clear that John Cena’s time wasn’t now and the ending of this match was never in doubt.

While the predictable outcome did put a slight dampener on things, this was nonetheless a good effort from both me , with the challenger taking the fight to his larger opponent and proving that he belonged in the upper echelons of the WWE hierarchy.

Sure, this wasn’t the greatest match of all time. It wasn’t even the best match Cena and Lesnar would have together, but the two young stars gave a good account of themselves before a battered and bloody Brock put his opponent away with a single F5.

Honestly, I like that finish a lot.

As we moved further and further into an era when finishing moves have become meaningless given how many times every one kicks out of them, it was nice to see that just one F5 was enough to put away a man who had really seemed to take Lesnar to his limits
Your Winner and Still WWE Champion: Brock Lesnar

Prior to the next match, we got a look back at Kevin Nash returning to action and saving Shawn Michaels from a beat down at the hands of Triple H, Ric Flair, and Chris Jericho.

The Game had told Nash that he needed to choose between aligning with him or HBK.

Naturally, Nash sided with his former Two Dudes With Attitudes partner which gave us the build up to tonight’s six man.

Six-Man Tag
Chris Jericho, Nature Boy Ric Flair, and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H vs. Booker T, Shawn Michaels, and Kevin Nash

I won’t lie, Big Daddy Cool Diesel was my hero when I was 11 years-old while HHH, HBK, and Y2J have since become my three all-time favourites, so I was more than a little excited to see them all in one match, especially when Big Kev came out wearing that Big Daddy top with a theme that sounded like a rocked-up version of the classic Diesel theme found on WWF Full Metal.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Booker T, Shawn Michaels, and Kevin Nash vs. Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, and Triple H

That theme was certainly better than the lame rehashed theme that Booker would come out to tonight.

What was wrong with the Harlem Heat theme? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

All that aside, this was a fantastic match which was helped in no small part by the fact that the two most consistently capable performers, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho, seemed to do most of the work for their respective teams.

That’s not to say that the others didn’t play a part, but it was definitely the two men who stole the show at WM19 who did the same thing here in this match.

After a lengthy match which never once felt boring, all hell broke loose, with Nash and Hunter brawling on the outside while Flair put Michaels in the figure four as Jericho hit his rival with a lionsault.

The King of the World then locked the Heartbreak Kid in a Walls of Jericho, only for Big Sexy to abandon his plans of putting HHH through a table and run to the rescue.

Retro Pro Wrestling’s favourite referee, Nick Patrick, then took a tumble, allowing The Game to take out Nash with a sledgehammer.

Hunter made the cover, Patrick made a miraculous comeback, and one three-count later, this very enjoyable match came to a close.
Your Winners: Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, and Triple H

Prior to the main event, The Rock gave an interview to the lady he called “Giggle Panties,” better known to you and me as Terri Runnels.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - Terri Runnels interviews The Rock

As he had been since his recent-ish return, Hollywood Rock was positioned as a heel in his feud with Goldberg, but his promo was so damn captivating and entertaining that the crowd couldn’t help but love him.

The Rock vs. Goldberg

Regular readers will know that I’m usually pretty generous with my reviews, but even I can’t deny that this was absolutely dreadful.

WWE Backlash 2003 Review - The Rock vs. Bill Goldberg

In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that this was one of the worst main events of all time.

The Rock came out brimming from ear to ear, a smile of cockiness and arrogance that told you he had no doubt about his ability to overthrow a man the commentary team had done their best to burry before he even came out.

Goldberg finally made his arrival using his same entrance routine from WCW, albeit without Doug Dillinger and his ever-present entourage of rent-a-cops.

Big Bill’s entrance was genuinely cool, but that was the last good thing in the entire match.

For the first few minutes, The Rock stalled, stalled and stalled some more before finally staring down his opponent.

As all this was going on, Jerry Lawler gave us the line of the night:

I used to be the president of the Bill Goldberg Fan Club but I resigned due to loneliness.

Yeah, I know I just complained about the announcers burying the former WCW star, but that line made me laugh out loud.

The Rock was as entertaining as he could be too, but even his innate charisma and natural talent couldn’t stop this match from absolutely sucking.

It was so dull and so painfully bad that I simply tuned out half way through while the live crowd turned on the babyface Goldberg and began actively booing his every move.

Towards the finish, the “Goldberg Sucks!” Chants became deafening, and though I’ve never thought Bill was as bad as everyone says (wrestling certainly has a place for performers like him), I can’t deny that they were right on this occasion.

Goldberg sucked, and so did this match.

After the better part of 15 minutes, two spears and what Jonathan Coachman called a “Jackhammer Slam,” earned Bill the win and even more boos.
Your Winner: Bill Goldberg

As the show went off the air, The Rock lay dazed and confused in the middle of the ring, perhaps bewildered at how his last match for almost a year had disintegrated into such an absolute shit show.

Honestly, it boggles the mind how the very same company that gave us one of the greatest Wrestlemanias of all time only a few weeks earlier could then go on to deliver such a lackluster PPV at Backlash 2003.

The opening tag match was solid and the six man was better than most people give it credit for, but the rest of the undercard never got better than being decent and that main event was truly one of the most disappointing matches of all time.

Not the worst PPV ever then, but certainly not something you should go out of your way to watch.

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