A series here at Joe Montana’s Right Arm offers a weekly pick for viewers of the new WWE Network.
After a rollicking ride with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the company’s star from 1998 to the fall of 1999, the WWE ran into a sizable problem.
Back at SummerSlam 1997, Austin suffered a serious neck injury following a piledriver from the late Owen Hart during a match. Austin’s neck issues finally culminated in late ’99, with the Texas Rattlesnake opting for surgery that sidelined him from full-time activity for nearly a year.
Austin’s departure left a void at the top of the company. Who would replace Austin as the company’s top dog? The answer wasn’t exactly a slam dunk.
Triple H developed into the company’s top heel prior to Austin’s departure. Entrenched as champion, the cocksure Hunter Hearst Helmsley was in need of a foil.
Enter The Rock.
Since dropping the world title to Austin at WrestleMania XV in March of ’99, The Rock rapidly developed into one of the company’s top babyfaces.
As WrestleMania 2000 came around, it appeared that The Rock and Triple H would be on some sort of collision course for the WWE title.
However, there were plenty of cooks in the kitchen to spoil a potentially pleasing brew. The WWE opted for a star-filled, four-way elimination main event for the title rather than a one-on-one battle between the rising stars.
To further convolute matters, a member of the McMahon family was placed in the corner of each star.
Thus, the WrestleMania main event featured Triple H (as champion with on-screen wife and off-screen love interest Stephanie McMahon in his corner) vs. The Rock (with a returning Vince McMahon) vs. The Big Show (with Shane McMahon) vs. Mick Foley (with Linda McMahon).
As one would have suspected, the end came with McMahons running amuck but with an unlikely finish. Triple H became the first bad guy to win a WrestleMania main event when he pinned The Rock.
Alas, upon The Rock’s defeat, the McMahon family caravan reunited on screen with Shane, Vince, and Stephanie being on the same page and in essence, leaving the deck stacked against the company’s most popular star.
The only silver lining in the finish was that it effectively set the stage for the WWF’s next pay-per-view.
Backlash 2000 – April 30, 2000 – Washington, D.C.
The Skinny: The Rock’s championship chase spanned over a year by late April of 2000 and would make a stop in the nation’s capital. However, the inventor of the People’s Elbow would face a sizable obstacle. While he received a match for the WWE title against Triple H, The Rock would have to hurdle three-fourths of the McMahon family (and a few friends) to win the strap.
Other major matches included Chris Jericho vs. The Wrestler Who Shall Not Be Named for the Intercontinental title…The Big Show vs. Kurt Angle…and Edge & Christian defending the world tag team titles against Degeneration X.
Best Match: Triple H vs. The Rock
The classic WWE angle over the last 20 years is to take nearly every obstacle possible to throw at the company’s top babyface during a title run. This match followed that pattern to a tee.
Shane McMahon was inserted as special guest referee while Vince and Stephanie McMahon also joined Triple H ringside. The match even featured cameo appearances by known McMahon loyalists Jerry Brisco and Pat Patterson.
The match itself was a quality end to end effort by Triple H and The Rock, who seemed to always perform well together when the spotlight was on.
From The Rock’s epic double Rock Bottom of H and Shane McMahon through a table to the raucous ending with Stone Cold Steve Austin, it’s one of the more underrated main event matches of the Attitude Era.
Worst Match: Sunday Night Heat.
Before the days of online pay-per-view preshows, the WWE used to have a USA show called Sunday Night Heat. When PPVs rolled around, SNH emanated from the pay-per-view in order to drum up more buys.
The Backlash version of SNH wasn’t exactly the WWE’s finest hour. Take a look at this rundown:
- D-Lo Brown defeated Al Snow by DQ
- Steve Blackman beat Val Venis
- The Godfather and Kaientai toppled Steven Richards and The Headbangers
Luckily for the WWE, nothing on the PPV was truly awful.
Best Moment: The glass finally breaks.
With all due respect to The Big Show doing a Hulk Hogan impersonation and actually donning the yellow and red for his match against Kurt Angle, there is one moment that stands tall.
In the weeks prior to the main event, Stone Cold Steve Austin was billed as appearing in The Rock’s corner in his title bout against Triple H.
Outside of a token appearance on Smackdown leading up to Backlash, Austin hadn’t been seen in a WWE ring since Survivor Series ’99 in November.
Once the match started, Austin was nowhere to be found. Finally, with The Rock trapped in the clutches of the McMahon-Helmsley Regime, the glass shattered and all hell broke loose.
Several chair shots and a People’s Elbow later, The Rock was finally WWE champion.
Historical Significance: The Rock’s championship win solidified his spot atop the active roster as “The Man.” Meanwhile, Triple H’s title run came to an end but he stayed in the WWE title picture throughout 2000 and managed to regain the title from The Rock a month later. Once he dropped the strap to The Rock again in June, Triple H wouldn’t hold the WWE title again until a WrestleMania X-8 win over Chris Jericho in 2002.
As for The Rock, he helped carry the company along with Triple H until Austin’s full-time return in the fall of 2000.
Upon Austin’s return he engaged in a feud with the Cerebral Assassin throughout late-2000 into 2001 over H’s involvement with the Texas Rattlesnake getting run over by a car at Survivor Series ’99. His feud with Triple H would eventually set the stage for what fans sensed was coming…another inevitable clash with The People’s Champ at WrestleMania X-7.
The rest of show displayed the WWE’s deep talent roster, which was near its apex in 2000.
Jericho. Benoit. Edge & Christian. Guerrero. The Hardys. The Dudleys. Kurt Angle. Big Show.
Backlash 2000 gets a hardy thumbs up in my book.
Categories: WWE Network