Reading Sunday’s newspapers proved an interesting exercise for me this week, especially when I turned to the TV guide and read its listing for WWE Backlash. The main event, it claimed, was the tag team match pitting Vince and Shane McMahon against Shawn Michaels and “God”. Yes, they used inverted commas to describe “The Heartbreak Kid’s” tag-team partner, perhaps to suggest that it was unlikely that the Divine himself would step into the square circle on this particular evening. I guess Vince McMahon was the only one who wasn’t sceptical.

The show began with one of the WWE’s classic promotional packages, outlining this match, but also the WWE Championship bout, with champion John Cena defending against Triple-H and Edge. Remarkably, Jim Ross was back in the commentary booth, and with no explanation for his return. The mis-fitting Joey Styles was relegated to Heat, and (thankfully) The Coach was nowhere to be found.

Match #1 – “The Masterpiece” Chris Masters vs Carlito

Masters received a nice heel reaction on his way to the ring, which is a good thing, because it means that people know who is supposed to be the babyface in his feud with Carlito. When the angle took place on RAW several weeks ago, it certainly wasn’t so clear, and Ross alluded to this, pointing out each is likely to play as dirty as the other.

This was quite a good opening match, although Carlito’s babyface comebacks require improvement as they are often disjointed, inevitably costing the match its heat. He did hit some lovely manoeuvres, however, including a plancha and a springboard back-elbow. Even Masters got in on the act, executing a nasty-looking powerbomb into the turnbuckle.

The finish came when Carlito hit the Back-Cracker, before putting his feet on the ropes to grab a tainted pinfall.

Winner – Carlito
Rating: 6.5/10

Match #2 – Umaga vs Ric Flair

As Armando Alejandro Estrada introduced his charge Umaga to the crowd, there simply must have been other people who equated Estrada’s Cuban accent with that of Razor Ramon.

But while in reality this is 2006, and Razor Ramon’s peak was sometime in the mid-’90s, you could have been forgiven for thinking that this was 1975, as the now 57-year-old Ric Flair came up against the nostalgia-inducing Samoan.

Unfortunately, the match itself had little to offer, except to suggest that the WWE are serious about strongly pushing Umaga, such was the ease of his victory here. After he caught the “Nature Boy” with a knee to the head –- as Flair lay prone against the bottom turnbuckle –- he jabbed Flair in the throat with his taped thumb for the three count.

This bout was reminiscent of the Wrestlemania VII Jimmy Snuka vs The Undertaker squash. The loss seems to suggest that any glimmering hope of Flair having a last run with a title is now well and truly gone.

Winner – Umaga
Rating: 6/10

We were next whisked back to Vince’s office, where he claimed that “There’s nothing God can do, that I can’t do.” Proving his point, Vince re-enacted several biblical occurrences, including spilling water on the floor before “walking” on it. The segment dragged, and was hardly the best lead-in for the proceeding match.

Match #3 – WWE Women’s Championship: Mickie James ( c ) vs Trish Stratus

Jim Ross and “The King” made a big point of how, after their various escapades recently, Mickie looked like Mickie and Trish looked like Trish. Well that’s that cleared up then.

The match itself started out promisingly, and there was a stunning bump on the outside when Stratus caught James with a Thesz press from the apron to the floor. She even threw in the Steve Austin punches for good measure.

Back in the ring, however, as Stratus was on the second turnbuckle connecting with punches, James shoved her over the top rope, causing a nasty fall, with Stratus landing badly on her right arm. It was later confirmed that she had dislocated her shoulder, which might explain the perplexing finish where James choked Stratus for more than a count of five, causing the staggeringly cheap disqualification.

Winner – Trish Stratus (by disqualification)
Rating: 3/10

Match #4 – WWE Intercontinental Championship/Money In The Bank rights: Shelton Benjamin vs Rob Van Dam

Although she is not currently expected back on television, Lawler brought up how Shelton’s mama had to have surgery, much like Dr. McMahon apparently performed on JR. Ross’ sarcastic comment “Was that good television, or what?” rang home very, very true.

This was an odd bout in that -– especially considering the talents of the two combatants -– it began as a plodding match with a couple of tremendous highspots. The first was Shelton’s sunset flip into a powerbomb, from the apron to the floor, and the second was when he leapt from the canvas to the top rope, seamlessly into a superplex. Despite these jaw-dropping displays of athleticism, it was only when RVD hit a split-legged moonsault and then missed a 5-Star Frog Splash, that the match really began to sizzle.

In the end, frustrated in his attempts to put Van Dam away, Benjamin grabbed the Money In The Bank briefcase and brought it into the ring. He was soon disarmed by RVD however, and with the referee distracted he used it for a Van Daminator for the pinfall and the Intercontinental title.

Winner – RVD-
Rating: 7/10

Match #5 – Kane vs Big Show

Apparently not wanting to be anywhere near Kane following his RAW attack of a couple of weeks ago, Lillian Garcia made the announcements for this match from outside of the ring. Either that, or she knew that this was going to be so bad that she didn’t want to be any more associated with it than she had to be.

This truly was a very bad match, worse than I have seen these two have before, and that’s saying something. Furthermore, there was very little heat, and not even a “May 19th” chant that was so popular on the recent European tour.

After a badly botched DDT by Kane coming out of an attempted Big Show chokeslam, a red hue descended on the ring and voices over the PA system tortured Kane that “It’s happening again, you can’t stop it”, in reference to the mystical date. Only when Big Show cracked him with a chair did the torture –- and it wasn’t only for Kane, believe me -– end. Afterwards, Ross claimed that perhaps Show had walloped Kane for his own good. Brilliant deduction, Watson!

Winner – No contest
Rating: 1/10

After a segment in which Vince’s hands “healed” Candice of a chest complaint, causing her body to virtually overdose on pleasure, it was time for the tag team match. Clearly, as Candice writhed around in bliss on Vince’s floor, he wasn’t happy about having to remove his healing hands from her to go to the ring.

Match #6 – Vince & Shane McMahon vs Shawn Michaels and “God”

What did you think of Backlash?
Thumbs up – 8%
Thumbs down – 24%
Thumbs in the middle – 16%
I didn’t see it – 52%

You may not believe me when I tell you this, but as “God” -– literally, a spotlight -– made his way towards the ring, he was admonished by Vince for not having more pizzazz in his entrance. The elder McMahon then even had the referee check “God” for foreign objects, before retracting the order, announcing that this would be a no-holds-barred match.

This was a good bout, with some fantastic highspots and the rather nice feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next. In the early going, having made their way up to the top of the rampway, Shane went for a piledriver on the steel, but took a backdrop instead, after which Michaels crossbody-blocked Vince down through a part of the staging area for a spectacular pop.

Upon making his way back up from the pit, though, Shane caught Michaels with a nasty swinging chair shot, which in the words of Jim Ross, “literally split him from ear to ear”. Please excuse me if I don’t quite believe you, Jim.

Miraculously –- although perhaps that is a poor choice of words -– Vince recovered enough that, when the action returned to the ring, he was able to assault Michaels with his belt, before grabbing the mic and insinuating that “God” was walking out on his partner.

Michaels soon rebounded, however, and Shane accidently cracked his father with a chair, and soon thereafter Michaels hit two Sweet Chin Music kicks, one for each McMahon. Much like the Wrestlemania singles contest, Michaels seemed uninterested in gaining a quick pinfall victory, and set Vince and Shane up on separate tables, before finding a huge ladder underneath the ring. But as he was about to leap onto the prone McMahon males, the Spirit Squad arrived, and instead Michaels dove from the ladder onto them. Despite that moment of superiority, Michaels got caught in what was basically a 7-on-1, and indeed it was he who was smashed through the table, with the High Spirits, for the pinfall.

Winners – Vince & Shane McMahon
Rating: 7.5/10

Prior to the WWE Championship match, Matt Striker arrived with a virtual classroom awaiting him inside the ring, including a desk and a blackboard, on which he wrote his name. Striker said he was going to invite a Kentuckyian to the ring, and immediately dreams of a return for Jim Cornette sprang to mind. Unfortunately “God” was still making his way out of the arena and didn’t have a chance to answer these prayers, so we got Eugene instead. An entertaining segment finished when Striker berated Eugene for wanting to eat a booger, before being subjected to that himself, and also being Stone Cold Stunned to a nice pop.

Match #7 – WWE Championship: John Cena ( c ) vs Triple-H vs Edge

There is no question about it, from the fans’ perspective, Triple-H was the star of this bout. And it was he who garnered most of the cheers whilst John Cena was booed strongly once again. On this ocassion, it seemed that a good 60% of the crowd were anti-Cena.

In the beginning, Edge allowed the Wrestlemania opponents to go at it, only interfering to stop potential pinfalls. Triple-H and Cena soon got wise to this, and double-teamed him. This continued at ringside, with both men trying to crack Edge’s head on the announce table as hard as they could.

Once he recovered, Edge caught Triple-H and slingshot him into the ringspot, and the former ten-time champion gushed blood badly, so much so that when he was DDT’d onto the Spanish announce table by Edge (it didn’t break), pools of blood were visible around him.

When all three returned to the ring, Cena caught Edge as he was on the top rope, and went for the FU. This prompted Triple-H to move underneath Cena, dropping him back in a Samoan Drop as Edge crashed from the champion’s shoulders.

The finish came when Triple-H recovered his sledgehammer from underneath the ring, only to be tackled be Edge before he could use it. As Edge himself tried to use it on Cena, he was hoisted for the FU, but Triple-H nailed Cena with a low-blow, before setting him up for the Pedigree. Countering, Cena instead took Triple-H down to his back, rolling through whilst hooking his legs for the pinfall. After the match, Triple-H destroyed everyone –- including the referee -– with the sledgehammer.

Winner – John Cena
Rating: 7.5/10

Backlash 2006 looked to be heading for complete disaster, until it was saved by two entertaining bouts in the tag team match, and the Triple Threat Match. These bouts just about took away my disgust at the Kane vs Big Show bout, and while the Women’s championship bout started promisingly, the ending was beyond bad for a pay-per-view match.

Those who watched Backlash in the UK had the “pleasure” of watching the event for free on satellite TV. Those who paid pay-per-view dollars will not be amused.

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