So what happened to Backlash the lame duck pay-per-view? You know, the one where nothing really happens while it begins the bridge-building between Wrestlemania and Summerslam? Backlash 2008 certainly offered some happenings, perhaps in reverence to the marking of 10 years for this PPV.

At least one member of the audience in the theatre I attended for the show would not seem to be interested in the history of the event — or the history of wrestling in general. As the WWE’s traditional opening montage begins, a voice calls out from the back: “Andre the Giant sucks!” Hmmm … maybe he was thinking of Giant Gonzalez…

There are no giants in the Raw main event featuring a Fatal Four-way for Randy Orton’s WWE Championship, though. However, Orton, John Cena, Triple H, and JBL all qualify as figurative giants with “former champion” on their resume. All four take a moment to stare each other down before the champ tries to get an edge by charging JBL with the title belt.

JBL sees it coming, though, and levels Orton with a kick before knocking him out to the floor. In the ring, JBL works over Cena for a moment before Triple H turns things around by suplexing JBL. Cena tries to intervene with a corner whip on Triple H, but it’s reversed and Cena ends up outside the ring as well. While Triple H and JBL renew hostilities, Cena makes a bee-line for Orton, ramming him from the side before tossing him back into the ring.

As Cena tries to rejoin the party, he is knocked off the apron and sent headfirst onto J.R. and Jerry Lawler’s announce table (with three brands — there’s seemingly no room for a Spanish table). JBL and Orton form a quick unholy alliance and double-team Triple H until The Game turns it around on them with a double-clothesline off the ropes. JBL ends up rolling to the outside leaving Triple H and Orton to work out any remaining Evolution issues for a bit.

Triple H, prone in a corner, dodges Orton’s charge and lets the champ dive shoulder-first through the ropes and into the ring post. Before Triple H can capitalize, he’s pulled outside by JBL, but JBL is promptly thrown into the steel steps by Triple H. Sensing an opportunity, The Game sets up JBL for a pedigree on the ramp, but it’s reversed and Triple H ends up being backflipped onto the ramp himself (with a rather solid contact to the back of his head).

Back in the ring, Orton’s bad luck continues as he misses a corner charge on Cena, who then comes off the top rope with a leg drop on the champ. Before you can say WTF Cena applies the STFU on Orton. JBL races into the ring to break the hold but quickly comes to his senses, and instead just puts the bad mouth on Orton while the champ writhes in pain. In comes Triple H and traps JBL in a cross-face chicken-wing and JBL, intentionally or otherwise, pokes Cena in the eye saving Orton. A moment later Cena knocks Orton into Triple H, breaking his submission hold as well.

Orton quickly, and emphatically, launches Cena over the top rope, but then finds himself in a corner being pummeled by JBL. JBL whips him to the other corner and Triple H tries to follow the champ in, but Orton gets a foot up and knocks The Game down. Orton then levels JBL with a clothesline and stands still for a moment surveying all the fallen combatants.

Orton climbs to the top rope, but JBL yanks on the rope and drops Orton onto his crotch. JBL follows with a big kick to Orton’s head and sets up for a superplex. He gets it, sort of, as Cena and Triple H team up to pull both JBL and Orton to the ground. Both Triple H and Cena get a two count on their downed opponents before starting a slugfest between each other. Cena pulls out a suplex on Triple H followed by a shoulder-block and has Triple H lined up for the Five-Knuckle Shuffle. The Game leaps to his feet as Cena comes off the ropes, however, and counters with a spinebuster.

In a fast-moving chain of events, Triple H gets Cena in position for a Pedigree and narrowly ducks an oncoming Clothesline From Hell. Cena almost turns it around with an FU on Triple H, but Hunter counters with another near Pedigree. Cena escapes and locks the STFU on JBL, who taps out, but immediately afterwards Orton delivers a kick to Cena’s head and quickly pins him.

JBL going out first was no surprise (I like him, but in this match he reminded me of the Sesame Street song One of these things is not like the other), but Cena’s relatively early outing obviously puts this match into the home stretch.

Orton and Triple H start what is essentially their second match with a slugfest with The Game getting the upper hand. He hits a suplex and a knee drop and gets a two-count before ramming Orton’s head onto the Raw announce table. Triple H tries to whip Orton into the steps as he did JBL earlier, but Orton reverses it and follows by sending Triple H into the barricade with a slingshot.

With Triple H nursing his midsection, Orton rolls him back into the ring and pulls out his arsenal of kicks, punches and knee drives. The champ delivers a nasty looking knee to The Game’s midsection and stops a Triple H rally short with an inverted backbreaker. Orton locks on a chokehold enhanced by a body scissors, but Triple H gets to his knees, then his feet, then launches into the ropes only to be met with a lightning-fast powerslam.

Orton, sensing the end, begins his familiar stalk in preparation for the RKO. He nearly gets it, but Triple H tosses Orton away in mid-air, and moments later delivers a high knee to the champ (as tough as Triple H is, by the way, I’ve always thought that he delivers a somewhat pansy knee). The Game chases that with a face-buster and gets another two-count. Triple H clotheslines Orton over the top and runs the champ into the ECW announce table.

Orton manages to run Triple H into the barrier again, though, and has designs on piledriving the challenger on top of the steel steps. Orton almost gets Triple H up before it’s reversed and the champ goes back and head first onto the steps himself. Orton clambers back into the ring where an exchange of near-pedigrees and RKOs ends up with Triple H accidentally knocking the referee Mike Chiota woozy.

While Chiota gets his bearings, Orton nails an RKO but can’t cover Triple H fast enough. Orton thinks of his football kick to finish The Game, but it’s dodged and turned into a Pedigree for the win and Triple H’s 12th World Heavyweight Championship.

In a surprise to nobody who follows the SLAM! Wrestling News & Rumours page, Mick Foley is introduced as the newest announcer for the SmackDown! team. In the background, Backlash’s theme song is playing and so far I can only tell that it’s a rip-off of Sweet Home Alabama.

Match One – U.S. Title Match. Matt Hardy vs MVP (C)

MVP shows some immediate good sense by focusing on Hardy’s rehabilitated knee, but Hardy is just as quick to do a little dance to insinuate that the knee is fine. After a little cat and mouse with Hardy chasing MVP out of and back into the ring, Hardy delivers a hip-toss, elbow, and plants a chin-lock on the champ.

As Foley instantly sounds at home on the mic, Hardy hits an elbow onto MVP’s neck from the second rope. MVP changes his strategy and starts attacking Hardy’s back, hitting a suplex and getting a two-count. He tries to set Hardy up for a superplex, but the challenger knocks MVP to the mat and goes for a moonsault. The champ sees it coming, though, and gets his knees up.

Thereafter, MVP switches his focus again to Hardy’s midsection, holding tight with an abdominal stretch. Hardy escapes with a sort of Samoan Drop on the champ, but MVP grabs Hardy coming off the ropes and tosses him over his head. MVP follows by hoisting Hardy up and delivering a press slam. Hardy quickly counters with a series of clotheslines and a smart-looking bulldog to score a two-count.

Back on the offensive, though, MVP nearly gets the Playmaker before it’s turned just as quickly into the Side-Effect. Hardy scales the turnbuckle, but MVP smartly dropkicks the ropes and brings Hardy down jewels-first on the top rope. While MVP prepares for a superplex, Hardy counters with a Side Effect off the second rope that takes as much out of Hardy as it does MVP.

The champ manages to take control with a series of kicks to Hardy’s head, at one point knocking Hardy out of the ring to a count of nine before the challenger barely gets back in. Just as shades of a previous Summerslam match against Edge are surfacing, where Hardy lost when the ref stopped the match, Hardy uses one last bit of energy to dodge a charging MVP and deliver the Twist of Fate for the pinfall, the victory, and the U.S. Championship!

Winner via pinfall: Matt Hardy (NEW U.S. Champion)

Match rating: 7/10

A lot of good strategy in this one from both wrestlers, and few will deny the feel-good aspect of Hardy’s title victory. Immediately after the match, Hardy delivers what sounded like a rather heartfelt speech — but I couldn’t hear it because the guy that thought Andre the Giant sucked also didn’t think much of Matt Hardy…

Match Two – ECW Championship Match. Chavo Guerrero (w/ Bam Neely) vs Kane (C)

What did you think of WWE Backlash?
It was great – 19%
It was okay – 21%
It sucked – 14%
Didn’t see it – 47%

Three things come to mind at the beginning of the match. The first is that poor old SD Jones has lost his slice of immortality as he won’t be mentioned in the stat of shortest Wrestlemania match in history any more. The second is that, after taking great care to set up Kane’s beating by Chavo leading up to tonight’s match, Kane marches to the ring without any noticeable limp at all. Lastly, it seems to me that Kane really is the perfect champ for Vince’s ECW.

As soon as the match is on, Chavo is ducking and running, and taking shots at Kane’s supposedly injured left leg. It looks like Kane is gunning for a short night again as he pummels Chavo in the corner before delivering a low dropkick to the grounded challenger. He then hoists Chavo up into the air, bracing him on his back in a nasty looking chokehold. He finishes the onslaught with a press slam on the challenger and tosses Chavo over the ropes.

Just when it looks like it’s time for the next match, though, Chavo gets Kane to chase him outside the ring, and delivers a dropkick to the champ as he’s getting back in. Chavo’s follow-up fails, though, as Kane catches him leaping from the ring and drives him back-first into the apron. After Kane sends the challenger back into the ring, though, Chavo again knocks Kane to the ground and renews his attack on Kane’s left leg.

Chavo drives the champ’s leg into the apron, the ringpost, and applies a series of submission holds finally exposing the fact that Kane’s leg is less than a hundred percent. Chavo takes a moment to distract the ref while Bam works Kane’s leg into the ringpost for further damage.

As Chavo tries another submission hold on Kane, though, the champ gets to a standing position with Chavo hoisted on top of him. He drops the challenger to the ground and follows with a kick, clothesline, and sidewalk slam for a near-fall. As it appears that Kane is readying Chavo for a Tombstone Piledriver, Chavo barely escapes only to be slammed hard to the mat, followed by Kane launching a shot off the top rope.

Chavo, getting desperate, climbs to the top rope, only to be caught by Kane. The challenger thinks fast, though, and turns his predicament into a swinging DDT. Chavo then briefly makes an ill-advised attempt to start the Three Amigos, but can’t lift Kane off the ground. Instead, he knocks the champ down, scales the ropes, and delivers the Frog Splash, only to have Kane grab him by the throat as he lands. The champ gets on his feet, delivers the Choke Slam and gets the pin.

Winner via pinfall: Kane (still ECW Champion).

Match rating: 6/10

These two clearly have more to offer than they were able to show at Wrestlemania, and Guerrero did well to look like he had a real shot at the victory.

Randy Orton is interviewed backstage and looks really, really serious.

Match Three: Big Show vs The Great Khali

In a match being touted as the biggest in WWE history (though my mind drifts back to Andre and Big John Studd, among others), the coverage begins with a great camera angle looking up at these two squaring off. It is admittedly cool to see someone finally look eye to eye with Khali. However, even Khali’s ring-talk must be in broken English, because Big Show looks confused at what Khali is gesturing about.

No matter, it soon turns into a festival of punch, punch, head-butt, head-butt, and chops. Where have I seen this match before? Oh yeah, when I play a wrestling video game and don’t know any of the moves yet.

Big Show is the first to go down after a clothesline, and the announcers dutifully note that they’ve never seen the Big Show manhandled like this. After some more clothesline/kick combos, leaving Show woozy, Khali takes a moment to pander to the crowd. Big Show tries to turn things around by attempting a slam, but he buckles under the weight of The Great Khali (didn’t Kane bodyslam Khali last year?).

Khali clotheslines Show out of the ring and runs him into the ring-post. Back in the ring, Khali drops a solid elbow onto Show’s back and applies a chin-lock. Big Show gets to his feet and tries another slam, but this time falls with Khali landing on top of him for a near-fall.

Khali locks in a nerve pinch and Mick Foley turns into Gorilla Monsoon for a moment as he talks us through Big Show anatomy under the strain of Khali’s hold. Show fights out of it and delivers a head-butt, but takes a chop to the head as he charges off the ropes. After Show backs Khali into a corner he gets the body slam he wanted. Khali fails to execute the Khali-Bomb and Show delivers a choke-slam for the win.

Winner via pinfall: Big Show

Match rating: 4/10

Oddly enough, Big Show comes out of it as the lesser giant. So what’s the story here? Mike Adamle has the best line to sum it up, looking at Big Show: “That is not the look of a winner.”

Backstage, Orton interrupts Cena having a jovial chat with Jimmy Wang Yang to tell him that he will lose tonight. Cena disagrees, and leaves Orton to apparently wander the halls looking for opponents to trash talk.

Match Four: Batista vs Shawn Michaels (Guest Referee: Chris Jericho)

Before we start, we get a reminder that HBK cost Batista the title against Undertaker on SmackDown! and that has Batista really mad. My question would be: why did HBK do that instead of helping Batista win and thereby getting a title shot?

A few scattered boos rain down for HBK upon his entrance, soon to be edited out by a WWE DVD release near you. Michaels starts by getting a quick tie-up on Batista from behind but is easily tossed aside by the big man. There’s a quick attempt at Sweet Chin Music as well as a Batista Bomb, but instead HBK delivers a couple of stiff kicks before Batista launches him into the corner.

Jericho inserts himself right away by driving Batista away from the corner before he really gave him much time to do so himself. Batista resumes his attack and sends Michaels into the opposite corner, following with a clothesline. Batista tries the same trick again but Michaels counters with a kick and a chop-block before placing an arm-lock onto Batista.

Batista powers out of the hold by lifting HBK up while still attached to his arm, and they both go tumbling over the top rope to the outside. HBK rams Batista’s arm into the ring-post and re-applies his arm-lock, eventually applying an innovative maneuver by applying a scissor-lock on Batista’s arm while draping himself over the top rope.

HBK must release the hold as he’s over the ropes, but follows quickly with a double-axe handle off the top rope onto Batista’s back. He tries to lock in The Animal’s arm again, but Batista counters with a quick Samoan Drop. Batista can’t follow up, though, and Michaels seems to have been given the mantle of carrying on Flair’s chops.

Batista sends Michaels across the ring, and HBK nearly flips over the ropes only to return for a hard clothesline. The Batista Bomb is reversed into the Cross-Face Chicken Wing, but Batista makes the ropes after a couple of attempts. HBK can’t re-apply the hold and Batista nails a sidewalk slam. HBK, though, is getting pumped up. He hits a flying forearm and nips up, but Batista was ready and spears Michaels as soon as he gets to his feet.

Batista tries to set HBK up on the top rope but Jericho pulls him back. Batista is then knocked down by Michaels who follows with a flying elbow. Michaels misses Sweet Chin Music and is hoisted for the Batista Bomb, but falls off Batista apparently injuring his knee. As Batista tries to get past Jericho to finish the job, Michaels pops out of the corner with a super-kick, knocking Batista down for the pinfall.

Winner via pinfall: Shawn Michaels.

Match rating: 7/10

Michaels makes a good match with Batista up until a confusing ending, especially as Michaels continued to sell the hurt leg. So … he wasn’t playing possum? How did he hit the superkick, then? We’re also left with the image of Jericho helping Michaels get out of the ring, which is not what most of us would have expected.

Orton finds Triple H to talk some smack — sort of. Triple H apparently confuses Orton by using his powers of invisibility, and Orton cannot look Triple H in the eye while he speaks to him. Once he hears Triple H’s voice coming from beside him, Orton must have got creeped out because he left right afterwards.

Match Five: 12-Diva Tag Match (Natalya, Jillian Hall, Melina, Victoria, Layla, and Beth Phoenix vs Ashley, Michelle McCool, Maria, Cherry, Kelly Kelly and Mickie James (C))

I’ll state the obvious and the infuriating: the obvious is that the WWE is trying for quantity rather than quality here, figuring 12 so-so wrestlers are better than 3-4 decent ones. The infuriating part is that there are good wrestlers in this group.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, The Glamazon starts off with Michelle McCool and shoves her around before McCool retaliates with a drop-kick and an uppercut. Phoenix trash talks McCool a bit before tagging in Melina. She executes a sunset flip in McCool, who gets out of the pin and counters with another drop-kick.

Mickie James enters and tries to mount a defense against Melina’s painful shrieks. Melina tags in Natalya who quickly drops Mickie James and tags in Victoria. She tries a moonsault on James but the champ rolls out of the way and follows with an enziguiri.

Apparently there was a little too much wrestling going on at this point because the match quickly dissolves into a fight outside the ring amongst all contestants with Ashley and Jillian somehow ending up in the ring together. Phoenix enters and applies a chin-lock on Ashley, who knocks the former champ back into her own corner but can’t make the tag herself.

James enters, enraged after receiving a cheap shot, and knocks down Victoria; Victoria delivers a Widow’s Peak and … okay, I lost track here. Suffice it to say, every single diva enters the ring illegally and delivers some kind of finishing move to whomever happens to be in there at the time.

At the end of it all, Phoenix hits Ashley with a Fisherwoman’s Suplex (that is what I heard the announcers call it, right?) for the pinfall.

Winner by pinfall: Phoenix, Natalya, Jillian Hall, Melina, Victoria, and Layla.

Match rating: 2/10.

So where was Natalya’s moment? Also, for the record, the guy that thinks Andre sucks? He loved this match.

Match Six: World Heavyweight Championship Match. Edge vs The Undertaker (C)

At Wrestlemania Edge and Undertaker had to work very hard to win back the crowd after following Floyd Mayweather/Big Show. Now they get to follow a 12-Diva Tag Match, so it doesn’t get any easier.

Edge starts off by flat-out running in circles, trying to stay away from the Undertaker, but he’s quickly brought down with a shoulder block. Undertaker lays a heavy choke on Edge while on the ground, and I feel I have to say once again how well Foley is doing.

After working on Edge’s shoulder, Undertaker looks to go Old School, but Edge picks up right where he left off at Wrestlemania and counters with a clothesline, sending Taker over the top rope. The Dead Man lands on his feet, though, so Edge delivers a baseball slide kick, knocking Undertaker back into the barricade.

Edge tries to follow up with a leap over the top rope, but he’s caught and rammed into the barricade himself. Undertaker drops Edge neck first across the barrier, then drops a huge leg on the challenger’s neck while Edge lays helpless on the apron.

All of that punishment only gets a two-count for the champion, though, and Edge starts building some momentum again with a spear to Undertaker’s back, followed by a leg scissor-grip that Undertaker struggles to escape from.

The champ finally gets out with a series of punches to Edge, but Edge ducks a clothesline and responds with a dropkick, another baseball slide kick, and finally settling a near-Camel Clutch maneuver on the champion. After nearly escaping once, Undertaker powers out of the submission move and the two hit each other with a clothesline at the same time.

Neither is out for long, though, and soon they’re hitting each other with a high kick at the same time too. After struggling to their feet again, Taker starts a slugfest that he handily wins. He whips Edge into the corner and follows in with a clothesline, and although Edge dodges the Undertaker’s second attempt at the same maneuver, Taker still boots Edge to the ground and drops an elbow for a two-count.

Taker tries Old School again but Edge counters again, trying to set up a superplex that Undertaker almost turns into a Last Ride off the second rope. Instead, Edge is knocked down and Undertaker misses a huge elbow drop off the top rope as Edge rolls away.

For a moment, Edge loses his composure and goes outside to grab the belt. He drops it before he re-enters, though, and barely blocks a choke-slam, reversing a second attempt into a neckbreaker. Edge takes his turn climbing the ropes but is slammed off by the champion for a nearfall with Edge barely getting his foot on the ropes.

The Undertaker gets serious by calling for the Tombstone, but Edge hangs onto a turnbuckle pad for dear life, eventually ripping it off. As the ref tries to fix it, Hawkins arrives and levels the champion with his own belt behind the ref’s back.

Edge can’t follow up, though, as a spear is blocked and turned into a DDT for a two-count. Taker readies a chokeslam, but when Ryder jumps onto the apron, Taker shoves his opponent right into his own groupie. The Undertaker tries for a Tombstone but Edge turns it into a sunset flip, but before he can finish the pin he finds himself locked up in The Undertaker’s triangle choke-hold.

Edge puts up a good fight, lasting a long time before submitting to the maneuver with a good amount of blood coming from his nose. Undertaker’s victory is downplayed as Edge is carried out, shaking, on a stretcher, to the desperate wails of Vickie Guerrero.

Winner via submission: Undertaker (still World Heavyweight Champion)

Match rating: 8/10.

Another engaging match between these two, but I actually hope that Edge moves on to something else before they run their story dry.

Finally, backstage, Orton can’t find JBL to finish his tour of bad mouthing, but CM Punk does wish Orton good luck and reminds him that he’s holding onto a briefcase.

It’s also announced that Kid Rock is providing the song for Backlash — so now the Sweet Home Alabama riff makes sense.

Match Seven: Fatal Four Way for the WWE Championship (JBL, Triple H, John Cena, and Randy Orton (C))

Winner via pinfall and NEW World Heavyweight Champion: Triple H

Match rating: 6/10 in a Tale of Two Matches. Triple H and Orton put on a good show, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just have the whole match to themselves. Chiota getting bumped was oddly uneventful, too, as it didn’t lead to anything.

Event rating: 6/10

The next WWE pay-per-view is Judgment Day on May 18.