WWE Backlash 2006 Review feat. John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Edge

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WWE Backlash 2006

Over the years, the WWF/WWE has done many controversial things, but it arguably reached a peak (or a low, depending on your perspective) when Vince McMahon and Shane McMahon battled the team of Shawn Michaels and “God”, and worse still, the McMahons won! Let me explain as we relive WWE Backlash 2006, the first WWE PPV event after WrestleMania 22.

Carlito vs. Chris Masters

Kicking things off, we had former team-mates colliding as recently-new babyface Carlito took on The Masterpiece. In hindsight, Masters had entered his decline here, following what proved to be a relatively brief period as a major heel from the summer of 2005 to the spring of 2006, and though his WWE days were far from numbered, he never approached the main event scene again. Carlito, on the other hand, was definitely on the rise here after turning face four weeks earlier, and his performance here was very impressive, showing off agility and skills which fans had previously not been privy to from Mr. Caribbean Cool. Although he was now a good guy, though, Carlito still retained his wily sense of bending the rules somewhat, as evidenced by him using the ropes when pinning Chris for the win. Carlito seemed to be moving up the card here, and it wasn’t unfathomable to believe that he would one day enter the headline scene as a credible face. That didn’t materialise unfortunately, and for Carlito, that wasn’t cool.

Umaga vs. Ric Flair

Umaga was making his PPV debut here, or rather Edward Fatu was making his first PPV appearance with the Umaga character. The Samoan Bulldozer gimmick debuted on the April 3 2006 Raw, as Umaga (led by his manager Armando Alejandro Estrada, a modern-day Harvey Whippleman but with more charisma and a larger frame) pounded the Nature Boy himself, Ric Flair (supposedly Mick Foley was originally supposed to take the beating). Here, Flair was out for revenge, but despite being a living legend, he was still a smaller and much older man going up against a savage monster, so the result was unsurprising, as Flair took a Samoan Spike to the throat to give Umaga the win. Unlike Carlito, Umaga’s career ceiling would ultimately be smashed by him enjoying a fruitful run in this role.

WWE Women’s Championship Match
Mickie James (C) vs. Trish Stratus

Mickie had captured the Women’s Title from Trish at WrestleMania after a long build-up, but their storyline was not over just yet, as the continuation of their television quarrels demonstrated, with Mickie dressing up as Trish and Trish dressing up as Mickie. It all led to this rematch, which sadly was unable to live up to expectations due to Stratus suffering a broken arm early into the contest. Calling an audible, Mickie got herself disqualified to lose the bout but retain her championship, and Trish faced a couple of months on the shelf. As it turned out, once she returned, it would be on borrowed time, as Trish would retire at Unforgiven 2006.

WWE Intercontinental Championship vs. Money In The Bank Briefcase Match
Shelton Benjamin (C) vs. Rob Van Dam

We had an intriguing collision next, as two of the most acrobatic and exciting performers clashed with their singular prizes both on the line: Benjamin’s IC Title that he had held since February, and RVD’s MITB briefcase which he had captured at WrestleMania. They received plenty of time, and there were some noteworthy high spots to make this worth checking out; that being said, I can accept that it was a bit underwhelming, and not quite the potential Match Of The Year contender that it could have been (whether that was because Benjamin was losing enthusiasm by this stage or because RVD was still slightly rusty following a year-long injury lay-off, or perhaps neither, depends on your opinion). In the end, Shelton took a Five-Star Frog Splash to earn Van Dam another IC Title reign as well as retaining his MITB case, which he would cash in at ECW One Night Stand just six weeks later in unforgettable fashion.

Kane vs. Big Show

These two behemoths seem to have been joined at the hip throughout their careers, and here they were at odds once again. Kane had become psychologically tormented over the date “May 19” (my birthday, which means I liked this storyline), and though it clearly linked to the release of his movie See No Evil that very date, there also seemed to be a further dark explanation. Show had tried to reason with Kane, but instead The Big Red Machine had attempted to gouge his eye out, leading to this match between the former and future Tag Team Champions. The match was basic and uneventful, and it ended in ridiculous fashion: the lights suddenly went out as we could hear the voices in Kane’s head (think about that), and to try and help a brother out, Show whacked Kane with a steel chair, causing the second DQ of the night. There’s one for the scientists to note down: if somebody is hearing strange voices, twat them with a steel chair and they’ll be fine. This would lead to Kane eventually revealing that May 19 was the date of the infamous funeral home fire from his back-story, though it would also lead to an imposter Kane showing up (which we’ll discuss when I review Vengeance 2006).

Shawn Michaels & “God” vs. Vince McMahon & Shane McMahon

Now, we come to the most infamous match of the night, and one of the most infamous matches in history. Shawn had beaten Vince at WrestleMania having overcome numerous odds, but an injured Vince insisted that the religious Michaels had received divine intervention, so to counter this, he and Shane would be facing Shawn and God himself (or herself). Over the next few weeks, Vince taunted the entire Christian faith by mockingly spitting out holy water a la Triple H in a church and announcing the creation of his own religion called McMahonism. At one point, Vince was almost struck by pyro, which was said to have come from a higher power (and I don’t mean Vince himself). Oh, and earlier in the night, Vince “healed” Candice Michelle from a cold which resulted in her feigning an orgasm. You know, people insist that they want the modern WWE product to return to being TV-14, but you do realise that if they did, scenes like this would reappear, don’t you?

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary saw through the facade, emphasising that what it really meant was: Shawn had to face the McMahons in a handicap match, with his faith being mocked along the way. That didn’t stop shenanigans on the night, though, as “God” was introduced with seemingly-appropriate music and a spotlight, before Vince tried to defeat him/her in a dance contest. I am not joking. The match progressed as a typical two-on-one affair, and Shawn was outnumbered to the point that he was busted wide open. In the meantime, Vince implied that “God” was leaving Shawn behind, suggesting that even the Holy Father couldn’t save Michaels now. Shawn (who somehow agreed to all of this, despite making it clear upon his 2002 return that he would not participate in any storylines that compromised his religious beliefs) fought back valiantly, but then came The Spirit Squad – all five of them, with the World Tag Team Titles in their possession – and they all threw Michaels high up into the air to slam him through a table. This spot and Shawn’s previous dive onto the Squad (who were off-camera and unseen by viewers at that stage) were both cool moments, but neither could justify this booking, nor Vince then pinning Shawn to win, meaning that he and Shane had not only beaten Michaels, but also “God”. Jim Ross on commentary as the match ended: “that’s bullshit!” Amen, JR. Oops. Thankfully, the religious aspect was dropped, and instead Shawn would soon reform DX with Triple H, which was far better than what we had to endure here and in the preceding four weeks.

Before the last match, we had a segment of Matt Striker’s “Classroom” which culminated in Eugene picking his nose and putting the output in Striker’s gob. Moving on.

WWE Championship Triple Threat Match
John Cena (C) vs. Triple H vs. Edge

Going back to HHH, he was in the main event (of course), as both he and Edge – who was attempting to establish himself as a regular headliner following his brief WWE Title reign in January 2006 – battled John Cena, who at the time was still trying to combat the boos in a way that would end any hostility towards him, rather than it becoming a staple of his career and of almost all top-line WWE babyfaces moving forward. Because of the Vince vs. “God” thing, this match is overlooked, which is a shame because it was set up by some fantastic promo square-offs, and the match itself is very entertaining. Cena was the WWE Champion who was trying to lock himself into being the company’s top dog, HHH was the established guy who was always a feasible threat for championship gold, and Edge was the wild card, the guy who might just sneak in there and take the belt for himself. This is an awesome main event that is well worth watching again. HHH bled to a ridiculous degree just before the finish, and despite what the cynics might have expected, it was he who took the pin off of a roll-up by Cena. Post-match, though, The Game whacked both of his opponents with sledgehammer shots and did the crotch chop to big cheers, emphasising that a babyface turn and a DX reunion were just around the corner, following numerous teases from both he and Shawn at Mania 22 and in the subsequent four weeks.

Indeed, HHH would relinquish his long-held role as the top heel in WWE, and by the time that the next Raw PPV event Vengeance rolled around, he was a babyface for the first time since 2002, and back in DX colours alongside Michaels. Edge would enter a short yet memorable anti-ECW crusade with Mick Foley, and Cena would be targeted by RVD ahead of a WWE Title match at ECW One Night Stand 2006. We’ll review that in the future, but needless to say that Cena lost the gold and restarted his feud proper with Edge there, leading to a rivalry that is now remembered as one of the best of the entire Ruthless Aggression period.

WWE Backlash 2006 has a great main event, two other good matches, two further decent bouts, another clash disrupted by injury, and a contest that ranks amongst the worst of 2006. Yet the show will always be remembered solely for the night that Vince McMahon battled and defeated “God”. That’s sad because, as noted, the main event is definitely worth a look, and spread across the rest of the show, there is some fun in-ring action to be had. Still, it’s hard to look at most other things on a wrestling show when it features Vince triumphing in arguably his greatest battle yet, one which still angers people to this day.