TJR Retro: WWE Backlash 2003 Review (Goldberg vs. The Rock)

TJR Retro: WWE Backlash 2003 Review (Goldberg vs. The Rock)

The WWE Backlash pay-per-view was built around a major match for the first time ever. The Rock was coming off one of the biggest wins of his career at WrestleMania 19 when he defeated Steve Austin and then on the Raw after WrestleMania, Bill Goldberg made his WWE debut. Goldberg delivered a Spear to The Rock, much to the delight of the WWE fans that were booing The Rock since he was a heel and also cheering Goldberg making his first appearance in WWE. That would set up this PPV main event with Goldberg facing The Rock.

This show did a solid number on pay-per-view with a reported 345,000 PPV buys. It was 105,000 less than No Way Out two months earlier (a show with Steve Austin’s return and a Rock/Hogan rematch), but it did better than most of the non-major PPVs that year. There was some interest in Rock vs. Goldberg for sure. The rest of the card wasn’t that strong, though.

This is a review that I wrote live in April 2003. I remember writing most PPVs live that year because I used WWE.com’s streaming service that cost something like $14.95, which was about half price or more compared to ordering on TV. I had totally forgotten that I had written this review until I checked deep into my archives and found it along with other 2003 reviews. What I’ll do is include most of the play-by-play and analysis that I wrote at the time in 2003 while also adding some updated 2021 thoughts in blue font as well. I’ll try to format it like most of my PPV reviews. It’s also worth pointing out that my writing style was a bit different back then. I used the present tense when writing so it was like “wrestler A tags in wrestler B” whereas now I always use the past tense so it would “wrestler A tagged in wrestler B” so that’s a difference you might notice.

This show followed WrestleMania 19.

Here is the synopsis on WWE Network:

“This historic night of action features the first ever battle between The Rock and Goldberg. Brock Lesnar defends WWE Championship vs John Cena. The Big Show vs Rey Mysterio. Huge six-man tag team match with Triple H, Ric Flair and Chris Jericho challenging Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Booker T. Rob Van Dam, Kane, and much more.”  14+ (D,L,S,V)

The DVD looks like this:

Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Let’s get to the show.

WWE Backlash
From Worcester Centrum in Worcester, Massachusetts
April 27, 2003

The opening video package featured some highlights of The Rock vs. Goldberg. Castrol GTX presents Backlash.

The pyro went off in the arena. Jonathon Coachman and Jerry Lawler were the Raw announce team for this show. They sent things down to Smackdown’s Michael Cole & Tazz at ringside to call the first match.

(Jim Ross was off commentary because he quit before Eric Bischoff could fire him. Ross was back in early May. It was just a storyline to give JR a break for about one month.)

Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas come out first with a portrait of Kurt Angle. Shelton’s got a tripod, which is where Charlie puts the picture. Here come Eddy & Chavo in matching red tights.  The Angle picture sits on the outside in the corner by Team Angle. They are dedicating this match to Kurt.

(Angle was out of action with a neck injury. He missed a few months after having neck surgery. I was spelling Eddy’s name that way at this point because that was his legal name, but I remember going with “Eddie” later in his WWE run because that was how WWE spelled it.)

WWE Tag Team Championships: Team Angle (Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin) vs. Los Guerreros (Eddy & Chavo Guerrero)

Pre-match notes: This was a Smackdown match. Team Angle were the heel champions while Los Guerreros were the faces.

Good choice for the first match. Armbar by Charlie on Eddy. Front headlock by Eddy. Quick rollup, Eddy kicks out. Side headlock by Eddy takes Charlie down. Shoulderblock by two. Snapmare for two. Rollup for two. Eddy smiles, some people in the crowd cheers. Eddy tags in Chavo to take on Charlie. The Guerrero’s are showboating. Charlie brings in Shelton. Leg takedown by Chavo for two. Sweep takedown by Shelton for two. Armbar by Chavo, tags in Eddy for an elbow to the arm. Eddy gets an uppercut for two. Armbar, brings in Chavo. Double ax on the arm, snapmare and a leg grapevine, but Shelton gets to the ropes. Shelton shoots him in, Charlie gets a knee to the back. Bodyslam by Shelton. Chavo up, Shelton in the ropes and Eddy knees him. The Guerreros cheat as the ref yells at Charlie. They choke Shelton with the tag rope. Another blind tag. Crowd likes it. Chavo tosses him to the outside, Eddy punches and chops the shit out of him. Eddy with a senton splash from the outside for two. This match is VERY slow at this point. High angle back suplex for Eddy. Shelton brings in Charlie, back body drop on Eddy. Brings him into the corner, now Shelton chokes Eddy. No tag, but Shelton comes in. Suplex by Shelton gets two. He throws Eddy out, Charlie runs him back first into the apron. Pin for two. The story so far is that they are stealing eachother’s moves. Team Angle does the great move where Charlie props up the guy’s head on the apron, Shelton runs off and leapfrogs onto Eddy’s back. Still no name for it. That gets two. Charlie goes to a reverse chinlock. “Eddy” chant starts up. Back Suplex by Eddy. Charlie gets a double edge takedown. In comes Shelton without a tag, and he hits the chinlock. Eddy tries to tag, but Shelton has him in a leg grapevine. Shelton reverses a whip into a spinning powerslam for two. ANOTHER chinlock for Shelton. This is like the third time. Here comes Charlie with some stomps followed by a backbreaker. He keeps Eddy in the backbreaker while pushing down on his knee and head. Eddy fights out with knees, then turns a pickup into a headscissors. Eddy runs and tags in Chavo.

Chavo was on fire and takes Team Angle down. Back bodydrop on Haas. Punches on Shelton. Charlie misses a splash, Chavo dropkicks them both. Long suplex by Chavo on Charlie gets two. Shelton powerbombs Chavo. Eddy with a missile dropkick. Rolling suplexes by Eddy, three of them. Chavo crawls over for two. Punch to Shelton on the apron. In the ropes, Charlie throws him up, but Chavo turns it into a dropkick. Illegally, Eddy hits a frog splash on Charlie. Chavo with the cover for two as Shelton saves his partner. Back suplex by Chavo near the ropes, but Shelton holds his leg. Charlie falls on top for the pinfall as Shelton holds the legs of Chavo and that’s enough to win at 15:03.

Winners by pinfall: Team Angle (Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin)

Analysis ***1/4 It was a pretty good tag team match. They’ve had better matches. It was a bit disappointing considering what these guys are capable of. It was great in the last three or four minutes, but the first ten minutes were a bit too slow and I think more action in the opening match would have been better for the show overall.

(I think that rating was fair. The last few minutes were awesome. It was too slow-paced before that.)

Post match, Team Angle hugs Kurt’s picture and as they do that Eddy jumps on them with a splash over the top. The picture is down and the Guerreros steal the belts all the way to the back.

Backstage, the Guerreros jump into a green Low Rider that just happens to have keys in it. They honk the horn and “La Cucaracha” plays. They do it three times.

(Good song choice.)

Backstage, Torrie Wilson is talking to Test. She tells Test to stop calling her. She says don’t talk to her anymore because Stacy is her friend. Test calls her a tease. She says to leave her alone and that she wants nothing to do with him. He grabs her by the arm and forces a kiss on her. Torrie walks away and as she does, we see Sable looking on without Torrie seeing her there.

(Here’s a kind of segment that would never be booked in today’s wrestling with a man forcing a kiss on a woman. The idea was that Sable, who just returned to WWE, was causing problems for Torrie.)

Roddy Piper’s music hits so Sean O’Haire is in action up next. Piper comes out to the ring with a basket that has coconuts in it. Gotta love those storylines that are 20 years old, eh? He says he has a lovely bunch of coconuts. Piper introduces Sean O’Haire. Rikishi is on his own.

Sean O’Haire (w/Roddy Piper) vs. Rikishi

Pre-match notes: Sean O’Haire was a heel with Roddy Piper as his mentor. Rikishi was a face. They were on Smackdown.

Rikishi starts out as a house of fire. The sound is still fucked up! I need to take a bathroom break. I missed about two minutes. O’Haire is in control with some clothesline. O’Haire gets two. O’Haire gets a head vice with his left hand at the top of his hand while his right hand is around the chin. Kick to the back. Crowd is looking around, booing at something. They are not paying attention. Now they cheer. Probably some chick showing her boobs. I wish I could see them. Crowd is reacting to this person more than the match. Rikishi gets a charge in the corner, back first. O’Haire goes down in the stinkface position, but he kicks Rikishi in the butt. Cole has never seen that before. O’Haire is the first guy to kick Rikishi during the stinkface. I guess he is a genius. They get a kick at the same time, then get a ten count. Roddy Piper walks in the ring with a coconut is his hand, Rikishi punches him and cracks the coconut on his head. Rikishi does the Superfly symbol. O’Haire does the finisher where he puts the guy over his shoulders and drops them back first. No name for it. O’Haire wins at 4:52.

Winner by pinfall: Sean O’Haire

Analysis: 3/4* This sucked. A very boring match. They were smart to keep it short, but even doing a short match didn’t help them at all.

(It was really bad. O’Haire winning as the younger guy made a lot of sense. This angle with him and Piper just didn’t work that well.)

In the catering area, Stacy meets Sable. Sable says that Torrie is after her boyfriend (Test) and that Torrie not Stacy’s friend. Sable says Torrie left him messages and that she saw Torrie kiss Test. Stacy does her “shocked’ reaction, then throws her small plate of veggies down.

(Bad acting by pretty women.)

Backstage, RVD tells Kane that he likes having the tag titles. He says that Chief Morley is the referee of the match. He asks Kane what they are going to do. Kane says that if the Dudleys think they’re going to take RVD/Kane down, then RVD/Kane are going to take the Dudleys down with them.

The World Tag Team Titles were next. Dudleyz out first followed by RVD & Kane and Kane does the pyro on the ring posts.

World Tag Team Championships: Rob Van Dam & Kane vs. The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley)

Pre-match notes: RVD and Kane were babyface champions while The Dudleys were heels.

Chief Morley (Val Venis) is the special ref. Bubba starts off pounding on RVD. Stomps, kicks, elbows. Into the ropes, RVD gets a leg lace takedown, misses a splash, reverses a suplex and they have a staredown. Clothesline by Bubba after the thumb point, then he does one of his own. Kicks to the gut by Rob, into the ropes and spinning wheel kick. Clothesline by Bubba again. Tags in D’Von, he punches on the left shoulder of RVD. Whip in, RVD, flips over, spin kick, spinning legdrop. Arm bar, tag to Kane, who kicks the arm. Three arm wringers, leg drop on the left arm. Into the ropes, back elbow and elbow drop. Armbar, D’Von gets thumbs to the eye, punches and Kane no-sells all of them. Missed clothesline, into the ropes and D’Von eats boot for two. D’Von gets his own leaping clothesline for two. Bubba in, three clotheslines for him. There’s been more than enough clotheslines thus far. D’Von saves Bubba by dropping his neck on the top. Bubba covers for two. Chops to Kane, Bubba into the ropes and spinebuster gets two. Morley is counting at normal speed so far. Tag in to RVD, who works over Bubba in the corner. Backflip, followed by a seated dropkick. Cool move. Into the other corner, spin kick and a split-legged moonsault or two. Coach doesn’t even call it. Tumble into the corner, but Bubba reverses and does a powerslam. Bubba punches Kane, D’Von gets the Wassup drop. Elbows by D’Von for two. Chinlock. Bubba comes in for an illegal seated dropkick, kinda, for two. Tags in Bubba. He goes to the head vice that O’Haire did before. It’s still a shitty rest hold. The evil faces aren’t helping, Bubba. RVD elbows out, but Bubba pulls the hair down. Reverse kick by RVD, they’re both down for the count. Here comes Kane & D’Von. Kane is a house of fire. Clotheslines all around. Sidewalk slam on D’Von, but Bubba breaks it at two. Double team on Kane, but D’Von eats boot and clothesline on Bubba. RVD tagged in, kick off the top to D’Von. Missed enziguri, spinkick on Bubba and then a rolling thunder. D’Von gets the reverse neckbreaker off the middle rope that he does to RVD every time they wrestle. Kane gets a clothesline off the top. Chokeslam coming, but Morley low blows Kane to big heat. Clothesline by Bubba, Coach says this is a gonna do it. A clothesline? That gets two. Kane goes out, Chief misses a clothesline on RVD and he hits Bubba. D’Von yells at Chief, then punches him in the head. Lance Storm comes in and gives D’Von a shoulder block. Bubba clotheslines RVD. Chief fights Bubba, D’Von gets up for the 3D that sets Morley outside. Kane back in, kicks D’Von and chokeslams Bubba. He throws D’Von out of the ring. Frog splash off the top by RVD, and in comes a referee for the three count at 13:01.

Winners by pinfall: Rob Van Dam & Kane

Analysis: **1/2 An average match that seems to be like every Raw tag title match lately. It was overbooked, very spotty and nothing that we haven’t seen many times before. Oh, and too many clotheslines. There were about 15 of them in the entire match and even Coach was selling the clothesline as a capable finisher.

(It really was just an average match. Too chaotic by the end of it. I did enjoy RVD & Kane as a team while it lasted. Kane was unmasked about two months after this.)

Stacy goes into the women’s locker room and talks to Torrie. Torrie tells Stacy that Test kissed her. Stacy throws her into the door. All the women on the roster are there to break it up even though they aren’t even on the show.

The Women’s Championship match was next. Theodore Long comes out to say that Jazz is going to win tonight. Jazz says the bitch is back.

WWE Women’s Championship: Trish Stratus vs. Jazz (w/Theodore Long)

Pre-match notes: Trish was the babyface champion while Jazz was the heel. This was a Raw match.

Jazz starts with an armbar. Coach says that Trish shouldn’t be wrestling due to her bad ribs. Jazz goes to the ribs. By the way, Trish is in a lovely leather black outfit with pink trim. Very nice. Hey, Teddy’s in a pink suit. I guess real men wear pink, playa. Back to the match, Trish gets a clothesline for two. Jazz goes to the ribs with the move where she lifts her up using the back of her arms. Trish gets a spinning slam for two. Back body drop is blocked into a head toss. Jazz does a splash on the ribs. She goes to the middle turnbuckle and takes it off. Backslide for Trish gets two. Rollup by Jazz for two. Trish runs into the boot. Jazz up top, Trish goes for her leg scissors spot. Jazz reverses it, takes one leg and jumps down holding the leg in a single leg Boston Crab. Really cool spot. Trish reverses for two. Trish gets a Boston Crab, then an STF before Jazz gets to the ropes. Chops for my girl Trish. Into the ropes, punch ducked, chick kick for Trish for two. Jazz gets a jawbreaker and a sweet standing dropkick. Jazz is great. That gets two. Back suplex reversed, headlock and Stratusfaction, but Teddy throws his shoe into the ring to break up the count. Trish throws it at him. Small package by Jazz, kick out. Jazz gets a pinning combo, sitting on Trish and holds the ring rope as the ref doesn’t see it. Jazz gets the three count using the ropes at 5:50.

Winner by pinfall AND NEW WWE Women’s Champion: Jazz

Analysis: ** Too short to be anything really good, but I did like what they did in the time they were given. They’ve had better matches against eachother. I liked the spot with Jazz reversing the hurricanrana into a single-leg takedown. This result didn’t surprise me because Trish had a decent title reign and they needed to put the title on Jazz at some point.

(This rivalry was good for Trish. Since Jazz was known as a no-nonsense tougher kind of heel, she helped to elevate Trish to become a better performer in the ring.)

Backstage, Booker T., Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash say they are ready. Nash says to make sure that Triple H is left for him. Battle of the exploding legs!

(The “exploding legs” line was in reference to Nash and Triple H each suffering torn quads in the previous two years.)

Big Show comes out first for his match. He has his angry face on. Rey comes out on the side ramp in a special section designed for his entrance. Rey takes his time to get in the ring.

Big Show vs. Rey Mysterio

Pre-match notes: Big Show was the heel while Rey was the face. This was a Smackdown match.

Rey charges Show in the corner twice, punches him both times. One more time, but Show drops him on the top turnbuckle. Into the turnbuckle, Rey slides to the floor. Show picks him up by the top of the head, Rey drops him neck first on the top rope. Springboard crossbody gets caught in a backbreaker. Turnbuckle whip. Show stands on Rey. Gorilla press, he drops him but Rey lands on his feet. Rey kicks him, punches and other stuff but Show chops Rey outside the ring. Rey gets a chair, the ref gets hit by Show’s arm and Rey smacks Show in the head. Top rope, flying senton gets two. Rey gets a 619 to the stomach, to the butt and to the head. Tazz calls it an 1857. Rey goes for a West Coast Pop, but Show catches him and hits him with the Chokeslam to win at 3:48.

Winner by pinfall: Big Show

Analysis: *1/2 It was what I expected with Show winning in a dominant fashion. It was done this way to make Show look like a beast again because they apparently want to have him challenge Brock Lesnar next month. Rey got in a bit of offense, but not a lot.

Post match, the EMT’s come out to tend to Rey, but it’s obviously a work. They are saying he hurt his neck. If it really was that, they’d put a neckbrace on him and they don’t even do that. Way to seem real, boys. Big Show comes back out to major heat. He picks up Rey on the board, and throws him board first into the ring post. Show walks back with the mean face. Rey gets carted out while coughing a lot.

Rey Mysterio vs. Big Show: Backlash 2003

Analysis: The post match angle was done to put more heel heat on Show. It worked since the fans booed him a lot and it made Show look like a heartless bully for attacking a man that was on a stretcher board.

(It was all about putting over Show in a big way to get him ready as Brock Lesnar’s next title challenger. Since Show was a loser at WrestleMania 19, they needed to book him strong here and that’s what they did here.)

Backstage, Lillian Garcia stands with Triple H, Ric Flair & Chris Jericho. Jericho says they are one of the greatest teams ever. Yeah, sure you are. Jericho says that he stole the show with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania. He’s damn right. Jericho talks about HBK, Flair talks about Booker and Hunter says that Nash will find out what it will feel like to face off against The Game.

They plug Judgment Day on May 18th. That means there were only three weeks until that show.

Backstage, Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler have a “brawl” around the backstage area. Stacy goes back first into something. Scott Steiner comes out, picks up Stacy and then runs into Test. Test yells at him, Steiner yells back and the segment ends. Tazz and Cole say it’s all Sable’s fault. No, it’s the writer’s fault for poisoning us with this horrendously bad acting.

(I was definitely right about the bad acting line.)

It was time for the WWE Title match. The video package aired featuring the champion Brock Lesnar and the challenger John Cena. They had a tournament where Cena beat Chris Benoit in the finals to earn the title shot.

John Cena comes out first for a rap. I love his theme song. He’s got on Yankees gear to get heel heat from the Massachusetts crowd even though he’s from there. He says names like Sammartino, Iron Sheik and says he’s losing his mind like Mankind who pulls socks from his asscrack. He says if you don’t like what he’s saying you can suck his….blank. “Yankees Suck” chants start up. Cena rules. This guy is the future of the business. Here comes WWE Champion Brock Lesnar with a bandage on his forehead and a nice ovation from the crowd.

(It was pretty obvious by this point that Cena was the future of the business. It wasn’t a bold statement by me in April 2003. I think most of us could tell Cena was going to be a huge star. Lesnar was already there as the WWE Champion and the guy that headlined WrestleMania one month earlier.)

WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena

Pre-match notes: Brock Lesnar was the babyface WWE Champion. John Cena was the heel challenger. Both guys were 25 years old with Lesnar becoming the youngest WWE Champion ever in August 2002.

Cena opens up with shoulder tackles in the corner. Brock fights back, catches him and gives him two backbreakers followed by a fallaway slam. Suplex by Brock and another one for two. Front facelock by Lesnar on the mat. Release fisherman suplex by Lesnar followed by stomps in the corner. Gorilla press slam and a clothesline. The sound being five seconds behind is really annoying because you see a move, then you hear the sound several seconds later. Lesnar throws him back first into the announce table and throws him back in. Into the ropes, Cena holds on and rolls to the floor. He goes for a chair, Brock follows and clubs him down. Knees to the face. Brock goes for a whip, Cena reverses and Lesnar goes head first into the ring steps. Cena throws his head off the steps a couple of times. Back in the ring, Cena gets two. Back suplex for two. Brock’s cut is open and he’s all bloody now. Cena drops some elbows for two. Into the ropes, back elbow gets two. The crowd is pretty quiet. Brock into the turnbuckle, Cena charges and eats an elbow. Back in the middle, he gets a shoulder charge that sends Brock on the apron and he drapes his neck over the middle rope. Off the second rope, he gets a legdrop to the back of the neck. On the floor, he tosses him into the steel post. Back in the ring for two. The crowd did not even make a noise for it. Cena goes to chinlock, Brock fights it off after about 30 seconds. Snapmare by Brock, but Cena kicks him in the forehead and nails a DDT for two. He steps back, charges and is met by a spinebuster. Lesnar gets some knees, Cena blocks one and hits a jawbreaker into a clothesline for two. Some of the crowd chants “TWO” like a good Canadian crowd would. Nice job people. Chinlock and a leg vice by Cena. This sound thing is really starting to bug me. The crowd is chanting “Let’s Go Cena” because he’s from the area. This chinlock goes about two whole minutes, which is way too long for my tastes. Brock gets up to his feet in a piggyback position, charges into a corner and does it three times before crumbling to the mat. Brock blocks a clothesline and gets three of his own. One of them actually missed pretty badly. Powerslam gets two. Shoulderblocks in the corner. Whip, reversed, powerslam gets two for Brock again. Into the corner, Cena goes to throw Brock into the ref, but he stops. Low blow by Cena gets two on a rollup. Good nearfall that time. The crowd bought it. Off the ropes, leaping neckbreaker similar to the Blockbuster gets two. Brock picks him up and drives him to the corner. Cena’s got the chain on his fist, throws a punch but the ref blocks it. Brock catches him and hits the F5. That’s it. Lesnar wins it at 15:14.

Winner by pinfall: Brock Lesnar

Analysis: **3/4 It was okay for a WWE Title match. It was a very predictable outcome. One of the main problems was that Cena didn’t get any nearfalls aside from the low blow rollup. They should have at least let Cena get a few nearfalls to make it look like he had chance. The match was pretty good, though, considering they are both young guys that were early in their careers. Cena did a good job in his first big match setting while Lesnar was his usual self.

(It’s an interesting match to look back on nearly 20 years later considering they went on to become two of the most successful WWE superstars ever. It’s interesting to note that Dave Meltzer rated this match only *1/4 in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and I think that was far too low. What hurt the match is that it was so obvious that Lesnar was going to win since he won the WWE Title at WrestleMania and we knew he was going to have a long title reign. Cena was a guy on the rise that was there to lose, but also look credible while doing so.)

There was a video package for the six-man tag team match from Raw. Kevin Nash returned to WWE to save Shawn Michaels from an attack. Triple H wanted Nash to work with him, but Diesel chose to side with Michaels instead. It would lead to this six man tag team match.

Here’s how they come out. Chris Jericho comes first followed by Ric Flair and Triple H. The faces come out with Booker first followed by Shawn and at his usual slow pace comes Kevin Nash. It says “Big Daddy” on Nash’s ring attire. Coach says that all six guys have been at the top even though Booker has never been a World Champion in WWE because Hunter convinced his fiancée and father-in-law not to put it on him. Of course, Coach didn’t’ say that. After seven minutes of entrances, the match begins.

(A lot of fans were upset about Booker failing to win the World Title at WrestleMania 19. I was too. I think WWE booked it the way they did with Hunter having a long title reign before losing to Goldberg. I still think they could have had Booker win the title, hold it for a few months and then go back to Hunter before Goldberg, but WWE felt differently.)

Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels, Booker T. vs. Triple H, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair

Pre-match notes: The team of Nash, Michaels and Booker were the faces while Triple H, Jericho and Flair were the heels. Hunter was the World Champion at this point. This was a Raw match.

HBK and Jericho start. Shawn is the most over guy on his team. I love these two in the ring. Give me a rematch next month, please. Shoulderblock by HBK, waist lock, back elbows by Jericho, and knees to the gut. Suplex reversed into a rollup for two, Jericho for two, HBK for two, Jericho for two, bridge by Shawn, backslide for two. That sequence was better than anything on this show already. By far. Jericho goes for the Walls, but HBK kicks out of it. Arm wringer, tags in Nash to a decent pop and Nash throws Jericho over the top, knocks down Flair. Then Nash tells HHH to come in, he teases it, but then Jericho comes in. Thanks Chris! I don’t need to be punished. Into the ropes, Jericho skins the cat, turns around and eats a shitty big boot. Tag to Booker, sidekick misses. Spinebuster gets two. Chops blocked, elbow and a faceplant on Jericho. Jericho pushes him to the corner, here comes Hunter. Sidekick gets two. Into the ropes leads to a jumping knee smash by HHH, chops in the corner. They exchange punches, HHH buries a knee and his partners can’t hold Booker down. Into the ropes, HHH gets a spinning spinebuster. Here comes Flair, misses an elbow. HBK gets tagged in. Yes, HBK vs. Flair. I love this. All the heels run in, Shawn cleans house. Flying forearm on Flair, nip up and a superkick on Flair. HHH comes in, kicks him in the gut and eats a Pedigree. They lie on the mat for the long count until Jericho gets tagged in to work over Shawn. A couple of elbows get two.

I missed about a minute of action, but when I came back Jericho was still working on HBK. He brings in HHH, who whips Shawn’s knee into the ringpost two times. HHH works over Shawn’s knee some more, then tags in Flair. He does the usual stomps on the left knee. Chops by Flair, punches by Shawn, Flair picks him up and drops Shawn’s knee onto his leg in a kneebreaker. Enziguri by HBK. Into the ropes, shoulder tackle gets a couple of two counts for HBK. HHH tagged in and Shawn gets Nash in there. This is the “confrontation we’ve been waiting for” according to King. Who was waiting for it? Not me. Nash comes in with punches, bodyslams, clotheslines and shitty forearms. Jericho eats boot because he’s a Vanilla Midget. Snakeyes by Nash, side slam gets two as Flair breaks it up. The crowd didn’t even react. Then Flair chops Nash and they react by yelling WHOO. Nash goes for Snakeyes on Jericho, but it’s blocked. Facecrusher by Jericho reversed into a slam by Nash. He’s in there with Hunter, reverses a Pedigree. Powerbomb coming, Jericho gets a dropkick on him. Booker’s in now, forearm for Jericho. Whip in, knee to the gut and an axe kick. Everybody is down but Booker, so he does a Spinneroonie to a nice pop. Sidekick misses on Jericho, he throws him out. Booker and Jericho brawl on the floor because neither of them can beat HHH and are thus unimportant. Flair & HBK fight in the ring while Nash & HHH fight in the aisle. Flair to the top, takes the usual slam off the top. Never seen that one before. Sweet Chin Music warming up, but Jericho jumps in from behind for the bulldog Facecrusher. Flair gets the figure four, but Nick Patrick doesn’t count it because he’s illegal. Jericho does the Lionsault onto HBK while he’s in the figure four. Coach calls it just a moonsault. Nice job, chief. Nash sets up the announce table, but he sees HBK in trouble so he saves them with his clotheslines, snake eyes and other junk. They do a really obvious spot that sees Nash throw Flair into the ref, who falls to the floor. HHH capitalizes, gets the sledgehammer, hits Nash in the head and gets the pinfall for the three count at 17:51.

Winners by pinfall: Triple H, Chris Jericho & Ric Flair

Analysis: *** It ended up being a pretty good tag team match. There was a lot of star power here. I thought Nash would pin HHH leading to a match at Judgment Day. Instead, HHH got the pin on Nash to lead to that eventual shitty matchup. Nash was in the match for about four minutes total, which made it more than watchable. Since HBK was in the match most of the time it made it a pretty good match. It would have been nice if they actually gave a shit about those four guys instead of pushing the two guys that worked the less, were the most boring and had the smallest crowd reactions. I mean, seriously, why are Nash & HHH feuding? It’s going to be bad, it’s going to be ugly and I’d rather not see it happen.

FULL MATCH — Nash, Michaels & Booker T vs. Triple H, Flair & Jericho: Backlash 2003

(You can tell I really didn’t care about Triple H feuding with Kevin Nash at this point. Hunter wasn’t having consistently good matches at this point either and his title reign was boring, so that was part of it. It is weird that they had Nash lose here when he was the next challenger for Hunter’s title, but it just shows how little the wins/losses actually matter.)

They go to ringside where Cole & Tazz say we’ll have an update on Rey Mysterio this week on Smackdown. They had to put Big Show over in ANOTHER segment? Why?

(Why? They had to make Big Show look strong, pal. Stupid 2003 me should know better!)

Backstage, Terri interviews The Rock. Rock calls her “giggle panties.” Rock says he ain’t afraid of Goldberg. He makes fun of Goldberg’s yelling. Rock says he’ll avoid the spear, that he beat Goldberg up good at Raw this past week and that only a few people actually think Goldberg can win. Rock says Goldberg is a “Whisker Biscuit Bald Headed Bitch.” I like that. Really like that. The crowd chants “Rocky.” This guy is the best wrestler alive. There’s nothing he can’t do at this point. It’s just a shame that he’s going to be gone for several months after tonight.

(I loved this version of The Rock. He was such an entertaining all around performer. The “several months” line turned into nearly one year. After WrestleMania 2004, it would be another seven years until his next match.)

The Rock makes his entrance to what I’d say is a mixed reaction, but when he gets introduced by Howard Finkel he gets a solid babyface pop. They do the same entrance for Goldberg that WCW had except there was no security with him. Where’s Doug Dillinger? We need him to help Goldberg out because he’s too stupid to find the ring. Goldberg was wearing his usual ring attire, does the usual swinging and yelling down the aisle. As soon as Goldberg gets in the ring, The Rock bails. Rock takes about two minutes to get in the ring. Goldberg must have colored his goatee because there’s no grey in it today. “Rocky” chants start up. There were some “Goldberg” chants, but they aren’t that loud. At least in my very biased ears.

(I did not like Goldberg. I used to like him in his beginning days in 1997 to 1999 or so, but then he kicked Bret Hart with an errant kick to the head to put an end to Bret’s career due to a severe concussion. These days I don’t mind Goldberg. I just don’t think I’d put him on a favorite wrestler list any time in my life.)

The Rock vs. Bill Goldberg

Pre-match notes: The Rock was the cocky heel while Goldberg was the babyface. The Rock was only 30 years old at the time. He still had many more years in his prime, but he chose to focus on his Hollywood career and obviously that was a good choice.

Staredown to start, they talk some trash back and forth. Lockup won by Goldberg and he tosses Rock. Crowd boos. Rock, near the camera, yells “You’re in trouble now.” Love this guy. Rock loses another lockup and this time takes a dive all the way to the floor. Back in, he slaps Goldberg. Punches, knees, shoulder tackle and a clothesline over the top by Goldberg. Well, that’s almost all of his moves. Only four or five of them left. Rock lies on his back on the floor and then he walks back up the aisle. They are obviously stalling because they have no confidence in Goldberg’s wrestling ability. Goldberg tries to get him, Rock drops him neck first on the top and gets a clothesline to a pop. Kick to the chest, and Goldberg gets a Rock Bottom that looked pretty damn stiff. He sets up in the corner for a spear. Charges, Rock moves and Goldberg goes shoulder first into the steel post. Rock is hilarious in the ring as he celebrates that. Man, this guy is so golden. Back in the ring, Rock gets a Sharpshooter while Rock talks trash with people in the crowd. More “Rocky” chants start up. Goldberg crawls to the bottom rope, Earl Hebner makes him break it. Rock tosses Hebner away, and then punches Goldberg in the nuts. Rock gets in the Rock Bottom position, but Goldberg comes out and spears him with the “injured” right shoulder. Yeah, the shoulder that he hurt a few minutes ago and was completely forgotten afterward. They get back up, Goldberg punches back and tries to sell his injury. Shoulderblock with the left shoulder, pick up and powerslam gets two. They show the replay of the shoulder into the post, but from the worst possible angle. Into the corner, Rock punches him. Two clotheslines don’t get Goldberg down. Rock into the ropes, comes back, and gets a double leg takedown that was like a Spear that Coach calls a spinebuster. Rock Bottom by Rock gets two. What a shock. Most of the crowd boos Goldberg kicking out. Coach is definitely not JR when it comes to selling that. Punches by Rock, but Goldberg no sells, and clotheslines Rock to more boos. Goldberg sells the right arm some more. Into the ropes, Rock gets the spinebuster. People’s Elbow by Rock on the right shoulder gets one, two and a kick out. Some people cheer, but most are booing. Hebner starts the ten count while both guys were down. Goldberg up first, he gets the Spear and Rock sells it like he got shot in the stomach. Reason #4,761 why I love the Rock: He’s a great seller. The crowd starts a “Goldberg Sucks” chant. I love these people! Rock is back up, takes a deep breath, turns around and eats another Spear. Goldberg celebrates and most of the fans boo again. Jackhammer gets the pinfall victory for Goldberg at 13:03.

Winner by pinfall: Bill Goldberg

Analysis: ** It was pretty basic. You could tell that Rock was carrying the match, calling the spots and doing everything he possibly could to make Goldberg look great. I guess he did his job well, but Goldberg’s limitations are shining through. Even after a few years of being away, Goldberg has obviously not learned anything new. He just does the basics, sells stuff poorly and generally bores the hell out of me.

FULL MATCH - The Rock vs. Goldberg: Backlash 2003

(It wasn’t a good match at all, but it accomplished the goal of having Goldberg beating a top guy like The Rock in Goldberg’s first WWE PPV match. I think it would have been tough for anybody to get a great match out of Goldberg at this point. The fans chanting “Goldberg sucks” right before the finish was very telling since it shows they were rejecting him even though he was supposed to be the babyface in the match. Dave Meltzer rated it only *1/4 in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, so he hated it.)

Goldberg celebrated the win. Coach and Lawler try to say that Goldberg is getting a standing ovation, but it’s not like that. Compare it to a crowd after an Austin or Rock match when they were faces and this is nothing. In fact, you can clearly see some people booing. Goldberg left while Rock is in the ring and that’s the end of the show.

This event had a runtime of 2:43:03 on WWE Network.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Show rating (out of 10): 4.5 – The bottom part is all written in 2021. I didn’t have much of a conclusion in 2003.

This was a bad show. No matches were above average. The best match was probably the opening tag team match (Team Angle vs. Los Guerreros), the six-man tag team match and Cena/Lesnar, but none of them were that special or memorable in any way. Everything else was average or below. Big Show destroying Rey Mysterio was done to put over Show in a big way while the Jazz/Stratus match was too short, which was common in this era.

I liked the stuff involving Jericho and Michaels interacting in that tag team match. The problem was that it was too short. The Rock was so entertaining from a performance standpoint, but he had no chemistry with Goldberg and the fans turned on Goldberg for part of the main event, so that hurt the match a lot.

Overall, this was a forgettable show. If you’ve never seen it then you really missed nothing. If you’ve seen it then you probably feel bad that you wasted your money and time on this.

 

FIVE STARS

  1. The Rock – I loved his promo and he did well in the match. It was tough to carry Goldberg.
  2. Team Angle
  3. Los Guerreros
  4. Shawn Michaels
  5. Brock Lesnar

 

OPINIONS

Best Match: Team Angle (Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin) vs. Los Guerreros (Eddy & Chavo Guerrero) (***1/4 out of 5)

Worst Match: Sean O’Haire vs. Rikishi (3/4*)

Most Memorable Moment: Bill Goldberg beating The Rock with a Jackhammer. There really was nothing else that stood out.

That’s all for me. Check out the full list of my WWE PPV Review archive right here. Thanks for reading.

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John Canton

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