WWE Backlash 2004 Review

April 18, 2004
Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 
WWE Backlash 2004 was the first (and until 2023, only) Backlash event to take place in Canada. This was incredibly convinient, given that Edmonton's own Chris Benoit had recently captured the World Heavyweight Championship a month earlier and was riding a wave of momentum that could serve as a solid catalyst for a compelling story: 
That of the local boy returning home a hero after a valiant, near 20-year hunt for glory, and being celebrated by his fellow Canadians in the process. 

The Mayor of Edmonton had even gotten in on proceedings, officially declaring April 18, 2004 to be "Chris Benoit Day," a move which, with hindsight, he probably regrets. 
The good news, is that while the show was built around a man who, quite rightly, has become posthumously persona non grata in the world of professional wrestling, it would be most fondly remembered after the fact for a different star entirely. 

Ready to see a Legend Killer become a Legend?

Let's head down to the Rexall Place arena for Backlash '04.

Lightning Won’t (or Will) Strike Twice 

In the early 2000s, I took a several-year break from regularly watching pro wrestling.

When I returned from my sabbatical, one of the strangest adjustments I had to get used to was WWE’s new booking policy of running the exact same main matches across multiple consecutive PPVs.

I suppose that’s something I’ll have to get used to, especially as if all starts here, with the backlash from Wrestlemania XX meaning that we had another Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H. vs. Chris Benoit match on our hands tonight.

In our opening video, Chris Benoit insisted that he’d spent 18 long years chasing a world championship, conveniently ignoring the time he previously won the big one at WCW Souled Out 2000 and then left the company the following day.

All the lightning metaphors then came into play as Benoit referred to his title win as capturing lightning in a bottle while HBK insisted that even though lightning didn’t strike twice, he would, or something.

I don’t know, that doesn’t make much sense to me given that Shawn lost the previous match, but let’s not get too busy bogged down in over-analyzing a two-minute PPV intro.
WWE Backlash 2004 Review - Jim Ross & Jerry 'The King' Lawler


Once said video ended, we got crowd shots galore and am enthusiastic welcome from Jim Ross and his broadcast partner, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler.

Naturally, the two were hyped for this Raw-only broadcast, even if they did have to sit all the way back near the entrance to call it.

Shelton Benjamin vs. WWE Tag Team Champion Nature Boy Ric Flair 

The World’s Greatest Tag Team had been broken up in the 2004 draft, with Shelton Benjamin heading to Raw.
WWE Backlash '04 Review - Shelton Benjamin vs. Ric Flair


There, he quickly made a name for himself with two upset victories over uber heel main eventer, Triple H.

That had ticked off H’s stablemate, Ric Flair, and thus we had tonight’s opening contest.

It was a good one too.

Flair may not have been in his physical prime, but he certainly had enough tricks up his sleeve to make this one work, the crafty veteran using old-school dirty heel tactics to counter the youth, speed, and agility of his opponent.

All the while, Shelton just looked thrilled to be in the ring with the legendary Nature Boy.

At one point early in the match, he slapped him across the face, prompting Slick Ric to drop to the mat with his trademark Flair Flop.

Watching his rival go face-first into the canvas elicited a huge smile from the former tag team champion, as if he were merely delighted to have the best seat in the house for The Ric Flair show.

Of course, Naitch bounced back from that and seized the advantage, eventually grinding his opponent down for the figure four.

When that wasn’t enough, he pulled out a pair of brass knuckles, but before he could get to use them, Benjamin squashed Flair in the corner, then hit him with a flying clothesline for the three count.
Your Winner: Shelton Benjamin 

Backstage, Todd Grisham stood by for an interview with Randy Orton.

The Intercontinental Champion didn’t seem too concerned with Shelton Benjamin’s recent hot steak, nor with Benjamin’s victory over Flair.
WWE Backlash 2004 - Todd Grisham interviews Randy Orton


Rather, he was concerned with putting Mick Foley out of his misery like he would an old dog and retiring the Hardcore Legend once and for all.

You know, another thing I recall from when I started watching wrestling again is how monumentally boring I originally found Randy Orton as a main eventer.

However, now that I’m watching his early years with the company, I’m absolutely starting to see what everyone else saw (or still sees) in The Legend Killer.

Much like his promo at ‘Mania 20, Orton was both compelling and believable here.

What was less believable was how well Jonathan Coachman faired in our next contest.

Jonathan Coachman vs. Tajiri

Heading to the ring looking like a dollar store version of Homicide with his cut-off t-shirt, bandana, and glasses, Coach immediately looked to prove that he was worthy of being in the ring by getting the better of two collar-and-elbow attempts, first with a surprisingly competent arm drag, the second with a simple go-behind.
WWE Backlash 2004 - Jonathan Coachman


As the match continued, Coach continued to prove that he at least enough rudimentary ring prowess not to embarrass himself, displaying a certain natural aptitude to the point that I wouldn’t have been too shocked had he decided to wrestle full-time.

The problem was that, in playing an arrogantly deluded heel, Coachman had never really been presented as a legitimate threat to anyone, so suspension of disbelief became increasingly challenging the more he held his own against a wrestler like Tajiri.

I’m not saying this was a bad match. Ok, so it wasn’t great, but it was by no means horrible either, just difficult to believe.

Towards the end, logic looked like it would prevail with a win for the Japanese Buzzsaw until Garrison Cade came down to cost him the match by interfering on Coach’s behalf.
Your Winner: Jonathan Coachman 

Prior to the next contest, we flashed back to a clip from that night’s episode of Sunday Night Heat as Triple H, arrived at the arena.

The Game was here, ladies and gentlemen, and I don’t have anything more to say about that because the show quickly moved on from it.

Handicap Match
Chris Jericho vs. Christian & Trish Stratus 

If you read my Wrestlemania XX review, you’ll recall that Trish Stratus had turned heel by joining forces with Christian at the end of his tremendous match with Chris Jericho.
WWE Backlash '04 - Chris Jericho vs. Christian & Trish Stratus


This match was very different from that one but in many ways equally as enjoyable.

Things started off a little lackluster as the three tried to find their groove, but once they’d found it, things developed into a riveting match that combined drama, storytelling, and solid wrestling into one complete package.

Towards the finish, Christian planted Jericho with the Unprettier, yet neither he nor Trish could successfully get the fall.
WWE Backlash '04 Review - Christian & Trish Stratus


Moments later, Jericho battled back, keeping Stratus in the corner and catapulting Christian right splat into her.

As a groggy Captain Charisma turned around, Y2J blasted him with a running enzuguri, finally avenging his Wrestlemania loss.
Your Winner: Chris Jericho 

Out in the back, the recently debuted Eugene made his first WWE PPV appearance as he walked backstage reading a magazine about the WWE divas.
WWE Backlash 2004 - Eugene reads the Diva's magazine


The wrestling savant was so absorbed on his reading material that he absentmindedly walked into the women’s Locker room, where he proceeded to give poor Gail Kim the fright of her life.

Of course, Eugene didn’t realize she was freaking out, so he joined her in jumping up and down and screaming in a moment that I shamefully found far funnier than I would like to admit.

Molly Holly tried intervene, but Eugene himself freaked out over her bald head, causing the former women’s champion to also start screaming as she reached for a blonde wig.

Finally, William Regal stopped by to usher Eugene away before letching after Kim himself.

WWE Women’s Championship
WWE Women’s Champion Victoria vs. Lita

Lita and Victoria we’re both babyfaces, the former earning her shot at the latter’s women’s championship by way of a battle royal victory on Raw.


Both girls also happened to be two of the strongest in-ring competitors on the women’s roster at that time, but given that WWE fans had been conditioned to view the entire roster as eye candy, it took the audience a fair while to warm up to them.

That’s not to say the crowd were sleeping on a classic or anything. This was competently performed at best, but you could tell both champ and challenger were giving it their all, unrelenting with their back-and-forth until they finally won the fans over and got them invested in the match.

Then, just as the crowd were warming up, Victoria countered an attempted move by Lita and rolled her opponent up for the three count.
Your Winner and Still Women’s Champion: Victoria 

Almost as soon as the bell rang, Gail Kim and Molly Holly hit the ring, the latter sporting a ridiculously oversized blonde wig after getting her head shaved by Victoria back at Wrestlemania.

The heels laid out the faces and left in a blaze of belligerent glory, Holly yelling that the women’s championship was rightfully hers.

With the women gone, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler led us into an excellent video package for our next title match which included one of Mick Foley’s best promos in years.

Sat upon a rocking wooden throne, the undisputed king of hardcore channelled the kind of energy that made Cactus Jack such a compelling character in the early-mid 90s as he reflected on his motivation for, and love of, inflicting extreme punishment on his opponents.

It was great stuff. Go watch it if you can. 

No Holds Barred Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
WWE Intercontinental Champion Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley
Evolution Banned From Ringside 


I had a good feeling I was going to enjoy this match, but I never anticipated I would find it so absolutely captivating to the point that I think I’m going to add it to my list of all-time favorite matches.
WWE Backlash 2004 - Mick Foley and Randy Orton battle over a barbed-wire baseball bat


Adorned in complete Cactus Jack garb, Mick Foley rushed to the ring, swinging a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat overhead with violent glee.

Randy Orton successfully defended himself with a trash can, but after a struggle over the bat on the outside, it was the Hardcore Legend who took the early advantage.

From there, the two bitter rivals waged a bloody and brutal war on one another.

Foley bust Orton open with his trust barbed-wire bat, Orton retailiated by power slamming Foley into a bed of barbed wire that the challenger himself had brought into play.

The match didn’t move at a tremendous pace, but that was the beauty of it. Moving slower allowed every vicious act to really sink in, especially when Orton, already drenched in his own blood and dead on his feet, took a nasty bump into thumbtacks and sold it like an absolute superstar.

For this writer, it was precisely that kind of amazing selling from the Intercontinental Chanpion that made this contest so good.

Yes, the veteran Mick Foley had his best match in at least five years here, but it was the young star-on-the-rise Randy Orton who really put in a career making performance. Partly, this was by being utterly convincing in his role of Almost Dead Guy Who Just Got Savagely Mauled by a Mad Man. 
WWE Backlash 2004 Review - Mick Foley and Randy Orton


However, by continuing to kick out of his opponent’s sadistic offense (including Foley throwing him off the stage, tossing a few referees aside, and following after Orton with a big-time flying elbow drop) and continuing to come back for more punishment, The Legend Killer proved himself to be a Legend in the Making.

Not long after said elbow drop, Foley doused his barbed wire bat in gasoline and threatened to light it, only to be interrupted by Eric Bischoff.

The Raw General Manager warned Mick that if he lit the bat, he (Bischoff) would be forced to shut down the show.

The former WWE Champion didn’t seem to have a problem with that, and neither did the fans. 

Alas, the lengthy distraction gave a wounded and weary Orton to recover and strike back before the barbed wire could be set ablaze.

One RKO later, and a star was born.
Your Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: Randy Orton 

Lifeless and bloody, the reigning champion was carried to the back by Evolution team mates Ric Flair and Batista, while Foley sat in the ring, soaking in the respect of the fans. 

Word Life 

As something of a pallet cleanser, we cut to a commercial in which John Cena rapped about his new DVD, Word Life, which included bonus matches and highlights such as the Doctor of Thuganomics slapping Stephanie McMahon’s booty.

Back in the arena, Evolution’s music continued to bore through the PA while an incensed Jerry Lawler expressed his outrage that Jim Ross wasn’t showering The Legend Killer with praise.
WWE Backlash 2004 Review - Evolution


Meanwhile, backstage, Triple H showed up to congratulate his young prodigy on his victory.

As Flair and Batista helped their battle-worn colleague to the trainers room, The Game headed off in the opposite direction, where he was stopped by Todd Grisham for thoughts on his match later on tonight.

The Game warned Grisham not to bet against him, insisting that there would be nothing sweeter than to beat hometown hero Chris Benoit on a day the Mayor of Edmonton had declared to be ‘Chris Benoit Day.’

La Resistance (Rob Conway & Sylvan Grenier) vs The Hurricane & Rosey 

No wonder the crowd were happy to have Eric Bischoff shut down the show if they knew this was the next match they’d see.

I kid, of course.
WWE Backlash '04 Review - The Hurricane


Despite the goofy gimmick, The Hurricane was still a very polished wrestler who served as the linchpin that held this entire match together. The problem was that everything he, his partner, and his opponents did played out to near silence.

In fact, it wasn’t until Eugene put in a cameo that the crowd came to life again.

No longer freaking out the women, Eric Bischoff’s nephew first fooled around with the Quebec flags belonging to La Resistance before hitting the ring, not doing anybody any harm but simply running the ropes back and forth.

In the middle of such chaos, The Hurricane picked up the win for his team, but all eyes were on Eugene as William Regal came to wrangle him to the back.
Your Winners: The Hurricane & Rosey

Up next, JR and King recapped the recent return of Edge, who had been on the shelf with an injury for 13 whole months.

Honestly, this surprised me as it really does not seem that long since I reviewed his last appearance at No Way Out 2003.

Anyway, Edge had returned and attacked Eric Bischoff then turned his attentions to Kane for some reason, though not before breaking his hand in training.

The break required him to wear a cast, which he had been informed by Johnny Nitro (on behalf of Nitro’s boss Eric Bischoff), he was t allowed to use as a weapon in this next match against Kane.

If he did, Edge would immediately disqualified and suspended on the spot.

Kane vs. Edge 

As with most of tonight’s matches, story took precedent over action with this one.

The story was obviously very simple:
WWE Backlash '04 Review - Kane vs. Edge


With his broken hand in a cast and the threat of suspension looming over him, Edge was clearly disadvantaged and tried to fight one handed, only to be overpowered by The Big Red Machine.

Gaining control of the match, Kane focused his assault on his opponent’s injured hand, but the resilient Edge refused to lose and eventually used his cast anyway after referee Earl Hebner had conviniently dived out of the ring to avoid getting accidentally speared.

The two men told the story reasonably well, but not well enough to make their match stand out as anything worth raving about. 

After a decent but unspectacular contest, a kick to the bollocks and that cast to the face was enough to give Edge the victory.
Your Winner: Edge 

Prior to the main event, a video package aired for our next Smackdown brand PPV, Judgement Day, which would see Eddie Guerrero defending his WWE title against JBL.

This was followed by an even better video package for this:

Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels

Chris Benoit wasn’t exactly known for being the smiling babyface type, but tonight he came through the curtain boasting the biggest and most seemingly genuine of smiles as his hometown crowd greeted him with a rapturous hero’s welcome.
WWE Backlash 2004 - Shawn Michaels uses the Sharpshooter on Chris Benoit in Canada


In the midst of this jubilant entrance, the cameras cut to the champion’s wife and children in the front row, sending a legitimate cold shiver rushing along this writer’s spine.

If you’re interested in taking a little detour right now, I recently shared my thoughts on the Benoit tragedy and how it affects the way I review his matches here on Retro Pro Wrestling.

Ultimately, it sums up how, as much as I’m troubled by saying anything positive about a murdering piece of s**t, I try to remain objective and view his matches on their own merit, partly out of respect for Benoit’s opponents, but mostly to avoid becoming so wrapped up in an ethical and moral dilemma that I never actually get anything done.

That’s why, despite the very uncomfortable undertones of watching Benoit wrestle in front of his family, I can still say that this was a damn fine match.

On a par with -though not necessarily surpassing their Wrestlemania effort- the match succeeded thanks not just to the champion, but also his two challengers, all three of them working together to keep the crowd on their feet.

The early part of the match was good as you’d expect from three men of the caliber of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Chris Benoit, but it was only after referee Mike Chioda got bumped that things really went up by several levels.

First, Benoit slapped Hunter in a sharpshooter, much to the crowd’s delight. When Shawn Michaels tried to break it up, he was placed in a crossface for his troubles, a move that may have cost him the match if only there’d been a referee.

Realizing he needed an official if he was ever going to officially win, The Rabid Wolverine went outside to check on Chioda, only to be taken down by HBK on his return to the ring.

Then it happened.

Michaels, who so far had been treated relatively kindly by the Canadians, went full asshole and placed Chris Benoit in a sharpshooter.

In Canada.

Just to make things more interesting, a replacement official finally made it to the ring and it was, you guessed it, Earl Hebner.

Cue a homage to Survivor Series 1997, only this time with the Triple H breaking the hold and the Canadian hero fighting back.

Rattled by a loud “you screwed Bret!” chant, Michaels soon found himself back on the defense as Benoit began dishing out cross faces and the match went into overdrive.

From there on in, every moment, every move, built towards the perfect finish.

Following a lengthy, dramatic, and supremely excellent match, Michaels attempted sweet chin music, only for the champion to catch him by the foot, throw him to the mat, and apply a sharpshooter of his own.

Michaels held on for dear life, and even had a brief Jack & Rose moment with Triple H as The Game struggled with every last ounce of energy to break up the hold.

But it was no use.

With Earl Hebner as the referee, Shawn Michaels tapped out to the sharpshooter in front of a hot Canadian audience who promptly lost their minds in celebration.

Poetic justice had been served and the Canadian Hero had prevailed.
Your Winner and Still World Heavyweight Champion: Chris Benoit

Afterwards, Benoit celebrated with his hometown fans as the cameras repeatedly cut to Nancy and the kids, an editorial choice which, hindsight being what it is, now leaves an uncomfortable end to what was otherwise a tremendous show.


Few shows ever truly showcased the storytelling aspect of pro wrestling quite like WWE Backlash 2004.

From the rise of a Legend Killer into a Legend to Montreal Revisited, via the love triangle storyline and Edge overcoming a disadvantage, tonight was all about telling stories, and it made for very enjoyable viewing from start to finish.

Only Coach/Tajiri didn’t really work for me, and even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I could have gladly done without the La Resistance tag match too, though the sheer randomness of Eugene running the ropes did give me a chuckle.

Those two things as side, this was one of WWE’s best brand-exclusive Pay Per Views and is well worth a watch.

More 2004 Pro Wrestling Reviews: 

More Backlash reviews:
 Be the first to catch the latest Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following on FacebookInstagram, or Threads.

Post a Comment