On June 23rd 2016, it will have been twenty years since the King of the Ring tournament where Stone Cold Steve Austin first uttered the phrases “Austin 3:16” and “And that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold Said so.” This event would kick-start the rise of Steve Austin and over the next few months, the WWF would move into edgier and more adult-orientated storylines that would form the backbone of the Attitude Era. That was almost twenty years ago, but ten years ago it was a different era entirely. Ten years ago, we had just had WrestleMania 22. John Cena had just turned 29 and he was only in his second title reign. The Rock and Steve Austin had left the company years ago, just after the WWF became the WWE. It was the handover from one generation to another and the Era has been titled “The Ruthless Aggression Era” by Vince McMahon himself.
Ruthless Aggression was a time when the roster was so huge and so varied that the WWE had no way of continuing storylines each week on their two main shows – RAW and Smackdown – and so they created the draft where wrestlers and announcers would be drafted onto either one of the two shows. Smackdown wrestlers would not (usually) be able to appear on Raw or interact with Raw wrestlers and vice versa.
Ten years ago, on April 30, 2006, the PPV Backlash aired. It was a Raw event and the calibre of matches and their content are drastically different to what we have now. Personally, it came at a time where I had grown weary with professional wrestling, confused by the sheer number of wrestlers and unwilling to spend so much time per week watching hours of footage and trawling through shows, replays, promos and matches. I simply watched the PPVs and I remember this one well. Over the next four weeks, I will review this PPV from the perspectives of a fan looking back at it after a decade as well as my original thoughts as a younger man watching it at the time.
WWE Backlash 2006
Long Live The King
The tagline is a reference to Triiiiiiple H, who also features on the poster. Trips is in a Triiiiiple Threat Match with Rated-R Superstar Edge and my boy, Prototype John Cena. The Main Event is set to be fantastic in one way or another and the photo that they used of Trips is one where he is looking huge and very intimidating. As a Cena fan, I remember looking at this thinking that there was no way Cena was getting out of this alive.
(Note: Before the PPV began, there was a match that was shown on Sunday Night Heat that served as a pre-show match to build up hype for the PPV and get more PPV buys in. The match was Goldust vs. Rob Conway, which is a shame for Goldie because he is a fantastic talent and far better used on the main roster. His inclusion here mirrors how the Fed are treating him now – putting him in Battle Royales and pre-show or dark matches instead of putting him on the main card where he would be better served. To add insult to injury, the preshow match lasted minutes.)
We have the lovely little intro package showing the wrestlers throughout time performing, starting with some grainy footage, through to Andre the Giant, the first WrestleMania, Hulkamania (runnin’ wiiiiild, brother!), Mankind’s jump off Hell in the Cell, Shawn Michaels’ jump off the ladder, Ric Flair, The Rock, Stone Cold, working the whole way up to recent wrestlers that spin by too fast for us to see.
The show starts with a great shot of Vince, covered in blood, his eyes just peeking over the tip of the mat, his evil laugh echoing. He threatens Shawn Michaels, saying he will, “unleash the apocalypse” on him. Vince states that it will Shawn and God against Vince and “the product of my semen, my son, Shane.” How is it that Vince finds a way to alienate one section of the audience with potential blasphemy and then double down by talking about how Shane is a product of his semen? I am not entirely offended by this now because I know more about the product and know that Vince, in Mick Foley’s books, has stated that he will “do anything for a pop,” but I, personally, have a great respect for any religion that doesn’t charge entry and I know that Shawn was/is a Born-Again Christian and must have signed off on this type of thing before the match. Either way, bad taste in my mouth to start this PPV off. Lots of God puns being used. Vince talking about how Shawn broke his commandments, Shawn giving Vince his own personal hell, Vince saying how Shawn should worship at his feet, ending with a big, “Hallelujah!” from Vinnie Mac himself.
The Fed’s Spinny Championship is shown and we see Cena, Edge and Motorhead fan Trips with his Lemmy moustache. Every one of them make vague threats about what is happening at Backlash. John Cena calls them both bitches. This is a far better promo than the McMahon one.
Raw presents a bunch of cogs spinning around. Backlash begins and my God, the crowd are hyped. Everywhere you look, there are signs. People are on their feet, photos are flashing. It is the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. We have 14,000 people in attendance with almost twenty times that watching at home (273,000 PPV buys for this event, apparently beating the amount set at Backlash 2005, but the numbers differ depending on where you look with most websites saying Backlash 2005 had 320,000 buys and Backlash 2006 had 220,000. The Wikipedia page does not give numbers for 2005 but says that 2006 was higher. Make of that what you will.)
Our announcing team is the legendary and iconic Jumping Jim “JR” Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Jim is wearing a suit and tie and Jerry is wearing what seems to be a matafor outfit. Behind them, a woman who does not know how to dress to a WWE PPV, fixes her boobs.
Good girl yourself. Be careful Sgt. Slaughter doesn’t pop over the barrier with a towel and knock you out, love. Our Spanish announcers and “Most Likely To Lose Their Table” award winners are Hugo Savinovich and Carlos Cabrera.
Straight-up shoot fact: Savinovich was married to Wendy Richter, who was involved in the Original Screwjob with notable sex-trafficker and horrible person, The Fabulous Moolah.
The Spanish announcers are interrupted to cut to Chris Masters’ titantron video. He gets hella heat for his flexing and general douchiness. The announcers say nothing for ages, allowing the crowd to say it all. Masters looks great, but he has this smug face that makes you want to punch him. Roidy Magoo, by the way. We see how this feud started with Carlito spitting apples in people’s faces and Masters taking umbrage to being attacked from behind. Masters hits Carlito with the Masterlock, which is supposed to knock him out even though it doesn’t touch his throat at all. JR quips that the Masterlock is “unbreakable… seemingly.”
Jerry says, “So it’s come to this, has it?” JR calls him, “somewhat vain.” Masters is only 23 and he looks fantastic. Carlito comes out in his “Do you spit or swallow?” t-shirt, eating an apple and having a chat with the crowd. Little heat on Carlito. Close-up on a sign that says, “My Providence Students Are Cool!” with a picture of an apple… with attitude. Some guy behind him is taping the whole thing to sell on bootleg later, no doubt.
Carlito def. Chris Masters via pinfall in 09:58
So the match gets started before Carlito can even remove his t-shirt and Masters does it for him, choking him with it before Carlito takes control and goes for a quick pin but only gets one count. Jerry and JR aren’t even talking about the match. They’re talking about the fact that God is Shawn Michaels’ partner. Masters hits Carlito with a high back body drop that looks like it hurts like hell. Masters follows Carlito about the ring, smacking him each time. Master goes for the gorilla press but Carlito escapes it and hits Masters with the Masterlock. Masters breaks it and JR quips that no one has been able to break the Masterlock thus far. And here, two minutes into a match, Masters does it to little fanfare. They really could have made that more exciting.
Masters goes over the top rope, Carlito spits on him and then hits the suicide dive over the top rope. Referee Mike Chioda starts counting the lads out and the crowd counts along with him. It is clear that they could not give a damn about this match and who can blame them? It has no tension. It’s two men who are arguing over an apple, essentially. Even JR is bored, reminding folks at home that this match is only for one fall. No point in worrying. It will be over soon. The crowd chant something that I cannot understand and Jerry tells us that, “The fans here are voicing their opinion and they think this match sucks.” It is a nice change from announcers these days who cover up the chants from the crowd.
Near fall, leg drop, near fall and Masters drags Carlito about the ring by the hair. He gets Carlito into a neck lock and Carlito fights back and is knocked to the ground for it. More neck locks. JR tries to sell Masters’ repeated use of neck locks and attacks to the head as a “precursor to the Masterlock,” but we’re not getting it. Masters goes for the Masterlock and Carlito escapes, turns it into a roll-up for a two-count. Carlito tries a springboard elbow onto Masters and the two men are reeling. Carlito fights back, builds up momentum, hits a lovely dropkick to Masters’ kneecap. Carlito goes for the pin and the referee hits one, two… he goes for the three and Masters doesn’t kick out. The referee stops for a whole second, looks at Masters and then and only then does the hulking idiot kick out. I know that he’s 23 and young, but surely to God the man can count to three?
The crowd aren’t happy with that. Carlito just wants the match to end and as Masters goes to backdrop Carlito from the top turnbuckle, Carlito turns it into a moonsault that Masters takes the hit from a whole foot ahead of Carlito.
Carlito goes for the pin and gets a two-count. JR says that “Carlito hit the moonsault. Don’t know how much of it he got. Masters never met a mirror he didn’t like.”
Carlito goes for the Backcracker, the pin and lifts his legs onto the ropes to get the pin in 09:58.
This match was the drizzling shits. They could have made Masters the furious powerhouse and had him dominate Carlito for five minutes, unfazed by his attacks, hitting the wee man with a bunch of semi-powerful moves, playing with him before Carlito makes the comeback. That’s what we wanted here. What we got was a slow-paced match where both men were gassed within minutes and in the end, Carlito had to cheat to win. That’s fine, but give him a reason to cheat. By the end, he had complete control of Masters. The legs on the rope were unnecessary.
I live in Ireland so watching this live would have meant that I was awake at 2AM. Well, it’s good to know that I can get a few minutes of sleeping in before the real PPV starts.
The crowd is bored as we see some replays of the last few minutes. Shot outside beautiful Kentucky. JR says that it is the “Horse capital of the world” and neatly segues into, “Here’s a handsome young filly, Maria.”
Cut to our girl Maria, who starts off by saying, “What an exciting night here at Backlash! Some of you may not have been too happy with Masters’ victory over Carlito, but let’s hear what you had to say about who’s going to leave Lexington, Kentucky the WWE Champion.”
Maria, for fuck’s sake, girl.
I don’t know if this interview was pre-taped or not, but you’d like to think that the guys backstage would at least cut the first ten seconds out so it makes sense. If it was live, then… Maria is dumb as shit, I guess.
Maria says the names of the three guys in the main event match, doesn’t wait long enough for the crowd to react and then the video package of kids and men reading off cue cards. A military man (thank you for your service) says it’s his birthday. Fair play to them. Back to Maria and Lita comes in to snap Maria’s bra. Lita slags off Kentucky. Lita says that the crowd have been calling her a ho and that she has kept her mouth shut-
Maria interrupts to tell Lita that she’s heard Lita’s mouth is kept pretty wide open. Ohhhh snaaap! Lita asks Maria, “Want me to knock you out? No? So shut up.” She then doubles-down by saying that her and Edge are going have sex and the crowd is a bunch of no-sex, sexless no-sexxers. Very mature, Lita, and with God in attendance as well.
Back to the ring, Armando Alejandro Estrada, a Palestinian man playing a Cuban manager, speaking in the worst Cuban and in English with the worst Cuban accent ever. He presents Umaga, who walks out in his slightly racist Samoan gimmick. Umaga is actually Samoan (and unlike The Rock, is actually a cousin of Roman Reigns and uncle to the Usos and brother to Rikishi, though none of those things are worth boasting about) so you can assume that he signed off on this gimmick and allowed it to happen understanding that it was not very sensitive to Samoans.
Straight-up shoot fact: Armando Alejandro Estrada is really name Hazem Ali, is legitimately Palestinian and used to be known as Osama in OVW. There, he was a bodyguard for Muhammad Hassan, the 100% Italian man who was really named Mark Copani from Syracuse, New York. It’s funny how wrestling changes ethnicities to play to stereotypes.
Umaga comes to the ring, huge and scary. We see promos showing Umaga really manhandling Ric Flair who, at the time, was 57 years old. Umaga is not wearing shoes and that is just fine. Ric Flair’s music hits and the crowd pops for him. Flair is not wearing elbow pads or knee pads because he is fucking insane. Umaga runs to meet him on the ramp and beats Flair down, rolls him into the ring and the referee hits the bell to start the match officially.
Umaga def. Ric Flair via pinfall in 03:29
You can see by the timing that this match is going to be a squash. Surely Umaga can get more props and heat from defeating an able opponent? Ric Flair is a fine wrestler, no one is arguing that fact, but he was not an active competitor in the ring and was wheeled out once every couple of months to shout, “Wooooo!” and jog about the place in his pants. Umaga is essentially bullying a man who will likely have pugilistic dementia in a few years.
Flair is supposed to be the face here and he rakes Umaga’s eyes and hits him with a low blow to gain control. Lots of Flair chops and Umaga fights back, knocking him down with a throat shot. The fight rolls onto the floor and they repeat the chops again. Flair has control and goes for the figure four but Umaga reverses it, gets Flair into the tree of woe and headbutts him. Umaga does an old Rikishi arse-attack and hits him in the throat with his thumb, pinning Flair for the pin in three and a half minutes.
Umaga is actually dead now, he passed away three years after this match and Ric Flair is still alive. It’s nice to know that he got matches in with someone like Flair, even if they were God-awful.
Armando Alejandro Estrada has a wicked face on him and the biggest cigar I have ever seen sticking from his mouth. They both stand around Flair, celebrating despite the fact that Flair got little offense in other than a couple of slaps. Jerry says that Estrada won’t be at Raw because of “one of those illegal work stoppages.” Nice one, King. Very classy. JR reminds everyone that Umaga will be there.
Cut to Vince showing off his guns. Vince is three years older than Flair and looks about twenty times better, though he has been in the ring far less than Ric and loves his steroids a lot more. Vince reminds Shane that the match is Shane and Vince versus Michaels and God. Vince says, “You leave God to me,” to which Shane nonchalantly replies, “Oh, He’s all yours.” Vince says that there is nothing God can do that Vince cannot. To show this, he pours water on the floor and stamps in it. He asks Shane what he just saw and Shane replies, “You making a mess.” Vince, happily exclaims, “I’m walkin’ on water!”
Vince has another trick for Shane, who seems embarrassed by this whole thing. Vince then mumbles his way through his next bit: the bread and the fish. He chucks the fish away and does the same to the bread. Shane tries to hurry him along, “Okay, you ready to go?” Vince tells him to wait and then says, “Now!”
A bunch of stagehands start throwing bread and fish at the McMahons as Vince proclaims, “It’s bountiful! It’s bountiful!” followed by, “Holy mackerel!” The camera pans to Shane, who takes a sip of his water which is now wine. He walks offstage. End crappy promo. JR asks, “can it get any more bizarre?” Jerry replies, “Now Vince can forgive his own sins.” There is a moment where the two men wonder and what their lives have become before moving on.
JR introduces the next match: The WWE Women’s Championship match featuring a super-JPG of a completely mental looking Mickie James and Trish Stratus. The graphic looks like it was made in a mid-2000s Tony Hawk game and I’m surprised it isn’t followed by the words XTREME and RADICAL. We see WrestleMania 22 and how Trish lost her belt with Mickie grabbing Trish between the legs. Very firm grab it was too. JR says that the two ladies are dressing alike and Jerry, a man who knows his way around being creepy, states that Mickie became Trish’s stalker.
Mickie, who is the champ, comes out first, which is a bit silly. I know that Trish will get the bigger pop but still, she’s not the champ. Trish is over as fuck, coming out with a top that barely covers her… anything. JR says that Mickie “is in desperate need of some psychotherapy,” pauses for a moment before saying, “wouldn’t hurt any of us, quite frankly, but, be that as it may, Mickie’s a little manic and very unpredictable.” I would love it if JR kept this up every few PPVs, giving fatherly advice to the crowd. “See a doctor,” he might say, “If you’re coughing for more than a week, I’d get that looked at,” or, “Have you had an apple today?” Or even if he would gradually start giving advice as if he’s seeing a therapist himself, sometimes even asking Jerry about his father or something.
Of course, Jerry ruins it by saying, “I could volunteer… sessions.” I can tell this cunt is going to be absolutely awful to listen to this match although JR makes it worse by saying, “Couch time?” and Jerry says, “Couch time, of course.” Come on, boys, you’re making us look bad.
Mickie is really hamming up the fear of Trish here, slowly entering the ring and keeping her distance. The referee rings the bell as JR says that Trish is, “Toronto’s most beautiful gift to the WWE.”
WWE Women’s Championship match: Trish Stratus def. Mickie James (c) via disqualification in 04:03
Another short match, this one to please the gentlemen in the crowd. Having listened to Mickie James on Colt Cobana’s podcast and having met her when she was in Edinburgh for a match, I know that she was young and foolish at this time, wanting to be over but not really knowing how (the crotch-grab on Trish had gotten her in hot water with Vince who had called it “crass”) and this led to her being a bit more cautious this time around.
The ladies circle each other for a bit while the announcers make mental-health jokes. Keep it up, boys, you haven’t offended every minority yet. The ladies lock up and some great chain wrestling follows. Trish blows Mickie a kiss and dodges a clothesline by falling backwards, Bray Wyatt style.
This segues into a hand-stand to head-scissors combo that sends Mickie to the canvas. Some brawling to a dropkick and the two trade blows for a bit. Mickie is outside and Trish is on her, rolling her back into the ring, going to a pin.
Trish goes up for the 10-punch and gets three. I think this is the second time there has been a 10-punch this PPV. Trish falls badly and there is a lot of chat about Trish being a right-handed competitor, which seems to be a way for Jerry to get some simple raunchy chat in but doesn’t. Lots of near-falls as Trish deals with her sore arm.
Straight-up shoot fact: Trish actually suffered a legitimate dislocated shoulder after that bump and it would require rehab for six weeks, though she would still appear on screen.
Mickie is smart to jump on Trish and choke her, thus giving Trish the win, though she does not win the belt as it cannot change hands on a DQ.
Solid match and at just over four minutes, it was far better than the shite that the Fed put on most days, which is painful. Those four minutes were superior to anything the Bellas, Eva Marie, Summer Rae or Rosa Mendes have ever been in. Sad but true.
Both the women were looking great, but by 2006, the world had found out that porn existed on the internet and came to watch women’s wrestling for the wrestling rather than the women. Still, good match.
It’s sad that the match that most fans would ignore was the best of the bunch. As Mickie runs into the back, Trish calls for the rematch. We have a replay of the fall and as Trish is knocked over, we see her hand shoot out to stop her fall and jar on the apron. Poor girl.
Cut to Maria. Let’s see if she fucks up her promo…
No, she actually apologises for her mistake and moves swiftly on to bring out our man Shawn Michaels. She asks if God will turn up tonight. Michaels says that he does not shove his Christianity down everyone’s neck (which is a change from Hulk Hogan’s “Say Your Prayers” and Jake “The Snake” quoting the Bible) but says that the Lord is with him always. The rest of the promo is about how it really is a handicap match because Vince can’t “hang” with HBK. Shawn says that he’s going to kick Vince’s ass and then slides off screen like a cartoon character with a hook around his neck. Weh-weh-waaaaah.
As Lillian is about to introduce the Winner Take All match between RVD and Shelton Benjamin, we will take our leave for this week. Next week, we will be looking at that match and the Big Show vs. Kane match. See you then!
On the Card will return on May 8th with the second part of Backlash 2006.