Ten Years After: WWE Backlash 2005

Backlash 2005 is most remembered as the show where Hulk Hogan made his in-ring return to WWE after an almost two year absence. This is when Hogan nostalgia really began in earnest. WWE & WCW trying to drum up Hogan nostalgia in the late ’90s/early ’00s is a rare example of wrestling trying to cash in on a pop culture trend a few years too early. I know Hogan got one of the biggest reactions ever at WrestleMania X-8 in ’02 but I don’t think that was nostalgia driven but driven by the fact that a good deal of fans thought we’d never see Hogan at WrestleMania again. When WWE tried to cash in on that huge reaction by putting Hogan back in the red & yellow and inexplicably giving him one last World Title run, it resulted in some of the most dreadful RAWs in WWE history and a lot of empty arenas.

By ’05 thought, ’80s nostalgia was huge and Hogan had a cheesy hit reality show Hogan Knows Best, because having a reality show is always great for the stability of your family life…Anyway, the time was right for Hulk Hogan’s “one last run”. After gradually losing the top stars of the Attitude era (and Brock Lesnar, the guy who was supposed to replace the stars of the Attitude era), WWE needed to look to its past for a special attraction to bolster the card.

RAW Presents WWE Backlash

May 1st, 2005

Live from the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire

Announcers: Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler 

Show opens with a video package dedicated to highlighting the career of Hulk Hogan and the fans’ desire to see him have one more match. Tonight, we will see that “one more match” (*snicker*) as Hulk Hogan teams up with Shawn Michaels in a tag team that we never saw happening! Interesting to note that I don’t think Hulk & HBK’s opponents Muhammad Hassan & Daivari appear in this opening at all. Build to this opening video kind of reminds me of the pre-fight hype for a Mike Tyson fight in his prime where his opponent just seems like an afterthought.

Then we have a video package for our second main event, a rematch of the WrestleMania 21 main event between Triple H & Batista. Triple H wants the title back and he knows Batista has a weakness. He’s never taken the Pedigree from Triple H. The Pedigree has buried beaten many WWE superstars and Triple H hopes it can win him the title back.

We’re live from Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire! I go to ManchVegas once or twice a year. I wasn’t watching during this period but I remember hearing about WWE having a pay per view in New Hampshire and thinking it was a sign of how far they had fallen. Manchester’s gotta be one of the smaller cities WWE has held a pay per view in. Verizon Wireless Arena was fairly new and there’s no state sales tax in NH so I imagine that’s why they held it there.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Shelton Benjamin (c) Vs Chris Jericho

This is a rematch of their underrated gem of a bout at Taboo Tuesday ’04 six months earlier. I’m not sure who the face and who the heel is here. I think Jericho didn’t turn heel until John Cena was traded to RAW a month or two after this but I think Shelton might also be a face. Jericho seems to be wrestling like the aggressor. King mentions the crowd being split 50/50 so definitely Face Vs Face bout. I’d say the crowd is slightly more into Jericho. Shelton gets a bigger reaction than I expected though.

This match is pretty good but doesn’t seem as good as their earlier encounter. Some really good spots here but rhythm feels slightly off. At times, it just feels like just a series of loosely connected spots. Really cool spots though. Great bit where Benjamin fights out of a Walls of Jericho and Jericho tries to slingshot him into the corner, Benjamin springs off the turnbuckle and hits the T Bone Suplex on Jericho. JR says it’s a “Rare T-Bone”. That man loves referencing grilled meats. Match closes with a really neat, wacky pinfall reversal sequence with Benjamin coming out on top with a sunset flip. Fun opener. ***1/2

Benjamin going over Jericho cleanly in several really fun matches seems like it should have been a star making moment but Benjamin really topped out at the Intercontinental Title level. In fact, Jericho is the one who’ll be going on for another run at the main event in a few months.

Jericho brushes off future Friday Night Fights host Todd Grisham in the aisle.

Speaking of ESPN, douchey sunglasses wearing Jonathan Coachman interviews “Mr. Money in the Bank” Edge, who’s facing Chris Benoit tonight in a Last Man Standing match. Last year at Backlash, Benoit was on the top of the world, defending the World Title against Triple H and Shawn Michaels. This year, Edge is gonna make sure he won’t even be standing by the end of the show. I wasn’t watching RAW on a week to week basis during this period but Edge closes out his promo by saying “Bank on that!” and it seems awfully like a failed attempt at a new catchphrase. Maybe not!

Tag Team Turmoil Match for the World Tag Team Championship Titles, featuring; Tajiri and William Regal (c), La Resistance, The Heart Throbs, Simon Dean & Maven, and Rosey & The Hurricane

Tag Team Turmoil is one of my least favorite gimmick matches from this era.  It just seems to signal a clusterfuck that tries to shoo horn in as many undercard guys as possible. The Heart Throbs are first, making their first (and I think last?) PPV appearance. I saw these guys wrestle on the indy circuit a few years before this. Antonio did an MMA tough guy gimmick, which is kind of ironic. I think their gimmick was slightly ahead of time. Heel douchey bro seems more like a late ’00s/early ’10s gimmick than a mid ’00s gimmick. Or wait, they might just be male strippers.

I don’t remember Tajiri and Regal teaming during this era, let alone being Tag Team Champs but again, wasn’t watching on a weekly basis during this era. Heart Throbs Vs Regal  & Tajiri is an odd pairing to start with. I like Regal as a scientific, stoic babyface. He’s such an awesome heel that I forget that he’s a pretty decent good guy too. Tajiri gets the pin on Antonio with a reverse sunset flip.

Ripoff of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” brings out…Simon Dean & Maven! 2005 RAW had some random, half assed tag teams. Lawler calls out JR for still working out to Richard Simmons VHS and not getting with the Simon System. JR: “Richard Simmons. Is he still alive?” That’s the second person I’ve heard ask if Richard Simmons is still on this mortal coil today. I sure hope so. As long as I know there’s chance of another Sweatin’ To The Oldies, I have a reason to wake up in the morning. Regal eliminates Simon Dean & Maven when Regal knees Dean in the head.

La Resistance V. 2 run in, wearing the colors of Quebec to troll the Northern New England crowd. I don’t agree much with the people of New Hampshire (New Hampshirites? New Hampsters?) but we can we agree on a virulent hatred of French-Canadians. La Resistance is another thing I didn’t know was around in 2005. I thought they’d moved onto their unsuccessful singles runs at this point. Rob Conway eliminates Regal with a fistful of tights. We’re gonna have new champions!

The Hurricane & Rosey are the last participants. Yet another team I didn’t think was still around in ’05. The Hurricane wears a chest plate/cape that reminds me of The Warlord’s entrance gear circa ’90-’91. The Hurricane & The S.H.I.T get a big pop from the crowd. Audience has been pretty vocal all night. There’s not much to do in ManchVegas so I’m sure even this marginal WWE action is a huge thrill. Big Rosey just seems like an oaf. JR mentions him never holding the tag team titles. Could have swore 3 Minute Warning had a cup of coffee with the belts but I guess not. Hurricane and The S.H.I.T. win when Hurricane does a dive off of Rosey’s shoulders onto Conway. Hurricane & Rosey celebrate their victory. JR & King seem legit happy about them winning the titles. Average, mediocre Tag Team Turmoil match. *1/2

TrustCompany’s “Stronger” is the theme to Backlash 2005. TrustCompany…another thing I didn’t realize was still around in ’05!

Video package for Edge Vs Chris Benoit. Edge cost Benoit the Money in the Bank briefcase and now Benoit wants revenge. This is not gonna be a wrestling match, it’s gonna be a fight.

Last Man Standing Match: Edge Vs Chris Benoit

I forgot Edge’s heel turn started because he wasn’t voted into getting a World Title shot at Taboo Tuesday ’04. Pretty forgettable start to one of the most memorable heel runs of the past twenty years or so. Benoit jumps Edge to start the match. Guy in a Calgary Hitmen jersey jumps up to join in on the “You Screwed Matt” chants.  This match is kind of tough to watch, knowing now how both guys’ careers ended. Edge beats the hell out of Benoit with some trash can lid shots to the head. *winces*. JR: Benoit may have been concussed by that suicide dive! *winces* Of course since Edge is in the match, we have some spots with a ladder. Benoit misses a diving headbutt off the ladder in a repeat of WrestleMania 21. Benoit does the Rolling German Suplexes. Edge does a Impaler DDT onto the Money in the Bank briefcase. GEE, I WONDER WHY THESE GUYS HAD HEAD/NECK PROBLEMS! Alright, I got to stop sounding like Phil Muschnick here. This match is a pretty good intense brawl but man, is it uncomfortable to watch in retrospect. Edge can’t finish off Benoit with two spears. Edge opens up the Money in the Bank briefcase and dumps the contents. There’s a brick in there! Edge smashes it against the back of Benoit’s head for the win. ***1/2. Kind of a definition of a crossroads match here. Edge was a few months away from starting his main event run and Benoit was a few months removed from it. Really sold Edge as a ruthless opportunist.

As the referees help Benoit to the back, Lawler talks about Benoit being dazed and having far away eyes. *winces*

Backstage, Kane & Lita conspire evily about Kane’s match with Viscera. If Viscera wins, he gets to have sex with Trish Stratus and Lita imagines how gross that would be. Kane *winces* Kane is thoroughly disturbed. He was almost burned alive and seen unspeakable horrors but the thought of King Mabel’s bulbous naked body thrusting on top of Trish. Lita & Kane make out. Yeck.

Jerry “The King” Lawler is in the ring to waste a few minutes of our time. He introduces the RAW Divas who sashay to the ring. Lawler shows us a few photos from the WWE Divas 2005 Magazine. Divas just stand there and fake laugh at Lawler’s cheesy, horndog jokes.

Chris Masters interrupts. I’ve never been so happy to see Chris Masters. He’s making his pay per view debut. I think. Lawler tells all of the Divas to shoo as Masters preens and poses. Masters was swoll here. Jesum Crow. JR’s pissed cause he wanted to see King’s Q&A with the Divas. Masters issues the Masterlock Challenge. If someone can break the Masterlock Challenge, they win $3,000. They can buy a used car for that much! The challenger is Melissa Coates from Manchester, New Hampshire. Masters makes a bunch of hermaphrodite jokes. Masters easily submits Melissa Coates. JR is disgusted! That’s a woman! It’s only OK to beat them if they’re a jezebel who won’t drink a beer with you! This Masters kid is gonna hurt somebody!

Viscera is waiting outside of Trish Stratus’ dressing room. He’s gonna destroy Kane then it’s on like a steamy plate of neckbones. Trish asks what that means and Viscera tells her it’s “a black thing”. Trish says Viscera needs to focus on beating Kane’s ass not getting a piece of Trish’s ass.

Kane (with Lita) Vs Viscera (with Trish Stratus)

Viscera returned in September 2004 but is only making his second pay per view appearance since then (he had a three minute cameo in the Royal Rumble). He’s still doing the outdaterd Ministry of Darkness gimmick but is clearly transitioning into the World’s Largest Love Machine era. He’s wearing an awesome cape to the ring. Another short “We Want Matt” chant breaks out. This is what you’d expect a Kane Vs Viscera match to be. Injured Lita and Trish get the most exciting spot in the match when Trish tries to whack Lita with a chair and Lita deflects it with a grudge. Vis does the tongue flick at Lita. JR’s pissed! That’s Kane’s wife, dammit! (Let’s forget that Kane forced her to marry him! Wait, how did Kane end up turning babyface!?) Kane wins with the Chokeslam. Hrm. *

Trish berates Viscera. Even if he had beat Kane, she’d never sleep with a big fat, CHICKEN EATING LOSER like him. Wow. I didn’t think anything would make me feel more uncomfortable than the Edge-Benoit match earlier but that may have done it. Crowd chants for “Mabel”. Viscera bear hugs Trish and gives her big splash. Viscera hits a hip thrust and heads to the back. I guess that’s his face turn. Trish Stratus gets stretchered out.

Video package for Muhammad Hassan & Daivari. It’s kind of a misconception that Hassan was originally supposed to be a babyface as it’s sort of obvious that they were going for insincere heel. Insincere Arab American heel is mildly problematic but once they blatantly started insinuating that the man was a terrorist—well, then WWE took it to a whole other level of racism. But we’ll get to that in a few months!.

Hassan & Daivari trolled Shawn Michaels for losing to Kurt Angle and then jumped them. He wanted them in a handicap match but Eric Bischoff wouldn’t allow it. Shawn Michaels had to find a partner. Shawn Michaels wants a man who loves America as much as he does—he wants Hulk Hogan back for one. more. match!

Hulk Hogan & Shawn Michaels Vs Muhammad Hassan & Daivari 

Lawler laughs at a “Muhammad Stole My Camel” sign. RACIST! Muhammad Hassan just said he grew up in America, bro! They delay Hogan’s entrance for a while to maximize the pop. It works as he gets a molten hot reaction. This is a standard Hogan & Friend Vs generic heels match. “Hogan Returns!” was enough to sell the match but I’m sure they could have sold it better with stronger opponents. Shawn Michaels & Hulk Hogan Vs Edge & Christian could’ve been a hell of a lot of fun. Structurally, this match reminds me a lot of a legends match on the indy circuit where they do the minimum amount possible to receive the maximum reaction. Finish comes when illegal man Shawn Michaels hits the Sweet Chin Music on Daivari while the ref is trying to break up Hogan & Hassan brawling on the apron. Hogan gets the pin on Daivari. **

Kind of surprised they used HBK’s finisher to end the match and not the Legdrop. I’m guessing it’s either a creative compromise to feed HBK’s ego or Hogan’s hip was already so messed up in ’05 that he couldn’t hit the Legdrop. Hogan & HBK do an extended posedown for the elated crowd. JR says this moment reminds us this is why we do what we do. HBK & Hulk Hogan bring in a pudgy balding fan and rip off his smirt. He has an ugly back tattoo of Hogan. He poses with HBK & Hogan. JR: You’re never gonna see this moment in the NFL or NBA. Only on RAW.

Yes, JR, I would enjoy the NBA more if LeBron James celebrated victories by ripping off fans’ shirts and posing with them.

Todd Grisham is with Triple H. Triple H is confident that he’ll get his title back tonight. Batista can’t handle the Pedigree. Batista had one great night at WrestleMania but Triple H has had great nights ten times and tonight, he’ll be an Eleven Time World Champion. When Triple H gets to the point, he’s a great promo.

Christian & Tyson Tomko saunter out. JR & Lawler want to know what’s going on. Christian can’t believe he wasn’t booked. He tells the crowd that this might be the last time we see him on a RAW pay per view. Later on this month is a draft and no one is exempt. Since he’s a main eventer, he wants to address the other main eventers…in the form of a rap. Christian calls out Batista, Triple H, Ric Flair, JBL, and John Cena. Promo’s a good way to set up Christian’s feud with Cena. “Talks like Snoop Dogg but looks like Corey Haim” is a good dig at Cena.

Video package for Batista/Triple H II.

“Also Sprach Zarathustra” brings out Ric Flair who personally introduces Triple H. Another left field suggestion as to why this pay per view was in Manchester, NH; it’s 20 minutes away from Triple H’s hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire. I forget sometimes that Triple H is a New Hampshire guy since

World Heavyweight Title Match: Batista (c) Vs Triple H (with Ric Flair)

You’d think Triple H would have learned his lesson from three years earlier about going on after a Hulk Hogan comeback match but nope. The crowd, which has been energetic all night, seems a bit deflated after the Hulkster’s  bout.  This match doesn’t really help matters much as it’s a slowed down, less intense version of their WrestleMania 21 match. Which is saying something since the WM match was pretty deliberately paced. Ref bump near the finish. Of course.  Triple H hits the Pedigree and Batista’s knocked down and can’t make the count. Jack Doan runs down, putting on his ref shirt. Put yourself together, man! Lot of low blows in this match. Is Bruce Hart booking this. Finish comes when Triple H goes for some punches in the corner but Batista powers out and hits the Batista Bomb on him. Batista overcomes the odds to retain the World Heavyweight Title. Meh. **  After the match, sore loser Triple H gives the referee the Pedigree.

This show has a pair of really solid undercard matches (Shelton Benjamin/Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit/Edge), a really hot crowd, and a memorable moment in Hulk Hogan’s first match in WWE in almost two years (and first time entering to “Real American”, wearing the red & yellow since ’93, I believe). However, the main events were fairly mediocre and there were a lot of time wasting non wrestling segments. Definitely a Thumbs in the Middle show. It really illustrates RAW’s lack of depth. Upper mid-card/Intercontinental Title level stuff is good, there’s star power in the main event but the action is a mixed bag, and the tag team/undercard stuff feels like a total afterthought. Smackdown! exclusive pay per views weren’t much better but the cards felt more important (despite having less star power than RAW). We’ll see in a few weeks if RAW’s fortunes are changed by the brand extension draft.

Next on Ten Years After: We take a trip down to Orlando to look at what was going down in TNA Wrestling in the first half of 2005. Jeff Jarrett defends the NWA World Title against AJ Styles with special guest referee UFC Star Tito Ortiz! 

Written by Connor McGrath

Connor McGrath is a public access television show host and part-time amateur comedian, who resides in Portland, Maine. He contributes reviews of Northeast independent wrestling promotion, NWA On Fire along with occasional guest articles.

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