8 Backlash matches you won't believe happened
Backlash may not have the cultural cachet of a SummerSlam or a Survivor Series, but the event, which traces its roots back to 1999, has had more than its share of unique and memorable encounters. It's the night when AJ Styles won his first WWE Championship, and where Goldberg had his WWE debut match (more about that later). Across 13 events — 14 goes down Sunday, May 6, 2018, on WWE Network, by the way — Backlash has played host to landmark moments and historical curiosities that have earned it a unique charm. It’s a night where anything can happen, and, as these eight matches will show you, has happened. Presented by Hulu.
Undertaker vs. Ken Shamrock: Backlash 1999
One of those great collisions of styles, The Undertaker's 1999 run-in with MMA icon Ken Shamrock is a seriously underrated outing in The Deadman's oeuvre. Then the devilish leader of The Ministry of Darkness, Undertaker dominated his rivals with a mixed of demented mind games and power which seemed to have been granted to him by the devil himself. This match was a little different, though.
Shamrock was either too tough or too dumb to be intimidated by The Deadman, and he controlled the contest early with his MMA-based attacks. Shockingly, Undertaker grinded his way back into the fight by countering Shamrock’s submissions and busting out a few of his own. The sight of The Deadman trading holds with a former UFC Champion was undeniably cool — and a sign of things to come — and yet another reminder that The Undertaker always has more tricks up his sleeve.
WWE Champion Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena: Backlash 2003
In 2003, John Cena earned his first opportunity to challenge for the WWE Championship. Since his debut on SmackDown against Kurt Angle, Cena proved he had the ruthless aggression and drive to become a champion in the future. At Backlash that year, though, he faced off with another young Superstar who enjoyed a meteoric rise to the pinnacle of WWE — Brock Lesnar.
The first-ever meeting between Cena and The Anomaly was just as intense as their 2012 confrontation at Extreme Rules. The Cenation leader was still in the process of establishing his reputation and threw caution to the wind against Lesnar. They battled in and out of the ring and engaged in a brutal brawl that only foreshadowed their future collisions. Unlike their match nearly a decade later, it was Brock Lesnar who emerged victorious and retained the WWE Championship.
WWE Champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin & Intercontinental Champion Triple H vs. World Tag Team Champions Brothers of Destruction: Backlash 2001
In 2001, WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Intercontinental Champion Triple H forged a powerful and dominate alliance known as The Two-Man Power Trip. At the top of their class in singles competition, Austin and The Game set their sights on the WWE Tag Team Champions — The Brothers of Destruction, Kane and The Undertaker.
The duos collided at Backlash 2001 with the WWE Tag Team Titles at stake. Austin and Triple H also put their titles on the line, however, so if one of them was pinned, they would lose their respective title. The bout undoubtedly stole the show as The Two-Man Power Trip emerged victorious after The Game took out The Big Red Monster with a sledgehammer. As a result, The Texas Rattlesnake and The Cerebral Assassin became only the second pairing ever to hold — what at the time were — WWE’s three major championships.
Mankind vs. Big Show - Boiler Room Brawl: Backlash 1999
The inaugural Backlash featured a WrestleMania rematch between The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but it wasn’t the only Show of Shows repeat of the evening. At WrestleMania XV, Mankind defeated Big Show by disqualification to become the special referee of the main event between Rock and Austin. The animosity between Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy and The World’s Largest Athlete did not subside and they once again battled the next month.
With the rivalry intensified, however, the bout took place on Mankind’s turf — the boiler room. In only the second Boiler Room Brawl featured on pay-per-view, Mick Foley’s deranged alter-ego used the underground environment to his advantage against his giant opponent. The brutal and dangerous contest ended after a stack of pipes fell on The World’s Largest Athlete, allowing Mankind to escape.
ECW Champion Bobby Lashley vs. Mr. McMahon, Shane McMahon and Umaga - Handicap Match: Backlash 2007
If it weren’t for this Backlash 2007 brawl, we’d never have the visual of a swaggering Mr. McMahon clad from head to toe in black with the ECW Title around his waist and a du-rag on his head. Yes, the impossible reality of the WWE Chairman becoming the top dog of Extreme Championship Wrestling — albeit a zombie ECW — came to fruition because of this lopsided battle that pitted Bobby Lashley against Mr. McMahon, Shane McMahon, and the mighty Umaga.
Lashley — then just beginning to break out as a potential star — more than held his own against the triumvirate, but the numbers game eventually got the better of him. And after Umaga did the dirty work, Mr. McMahon tagged himself in to pin the prone Lashley and ink his name in the hardcore history books alongside guys like The Sandman and Sabu as ECW Champions. Who'da thunk it?
Shane McMahon vs. Big Show - Last Man Standing Match: Backlash 2001
Backlash 2001 will long be remembered for the Last Man Standing Match between Shane McMahon and Big Show. After Shane McMahon purchased WCW and defeated his father at WrestleMania X-Seven, Big Show set out to prove his loyalty to WWE by battling Shane-O-Mac.
The match itself was everything the WWE Universe expected from a Last Man Standing Match, it was brutal and both competitors pulled out all the stops. As they brawled toward the TitanTron, though, Test assisted Shane and knocked out Big Show. At the encouragement of Test, McMahon scaled the giant screen and proceeded to leap off, dropping an elbow on Big Show from more than 50 feet in the air. Test helped an unconscious Shane to his feet to ensure the victory, but the giant leap of faith remains a testament to McMahon’s fearlessness.
Intercontinental Champion Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack - Hardcore Match: Backlash 2004
At WrestleMania XX, Mick Foley and The Rock teamed up for the final time to battle Evolution’s Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista. Foley was particularly a target of Orton who was in the midst of establishing himself as “The Legend Killer.” After The Show of Shows, Foley challenged The Viper to a Hardcore Match for Orton’s Intercontinental Champion. Although WWE’s Apex Predator accepted the challenge, he didn’t realize he would have to face Foley’s alter-ego Cactus Jack.
The battle at Backlash 2004 was anything but a typical match. It was brutal and gave Orton a taste of the type of extreme contests where Foley established his reputation. The Viper was introduced to Cactus Jack’s unorthodox style and use of thumbtacks, tables, chairs and various other foreign objects. Nonetheless, Orton persevered and added Cactus Jack to his list of defeated Legends.
The Rock vs. Goldberg: Backlash 2003
The night after The Rock defeated “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIX, The Great One didn’t think there was anyone left for him to challenge. That changed at the end of Raw when former WCW Champion Goldberg made his WWE debut by informing The Rock, “You’re next!”
A certifiable dream match between two of the biggest stars of the fabled Monday Night War occurred at Backlash 2003. In a battle the WWE Universe could only imagine, Goldberg immediately made an impact in WWE and proved his dominance by defeating The People’s Champ and unceremoniously sending him off to Hollywood.