Whatever form each of the previous 13 Backlash-branded events have taken, they've certainly had no shortage of classic matches. Perhaps the momentum from WrestleMania is so strong that it carries over into the subsequent show on the calendar, some leftover pixie dust blowing in to keep the magic alive. Whatever the case may be, quite a few Backlash events (2000, 2004, 2007, and 2009 chiefly) deserve to be ranked among the 50 greatest pay per views in WWE history, with 2000 possibly in the neighbourhood of the top 10.
As we get ready for this year's rendition of Joey Styles' least-favourite pay per view, let's look back at the 10 best matches that the event has provided us...
10. Dean Malenko Vs. Scotty 2 Hotty (2000)
Before WWE absorbed WCW's Cruiserweight championship, they had their own strap for junior-heavyweight grapplers, and it didn't get very much respect. The fact that the Light Heavyweight belt spent more than a year around the waist of the mostly-absent Gillberg shows you just how much WWE thought of the title.
But the belt did have its moments, chiefly when Dean Malenko joined his fellow Radicalz in their collective WWE asylum-seeking. Malenko reigned with the belt for most of 2000, winning it for the second time from the master of The Worm here. The match was Malenko's sadistic nature pitted against Scotty's valiant babyface fire, beautifully done and capped off with a hellacious finish, in which Malenko counters a Superplex in mid-air into a DDT. Now *that* was an ending.
9. Dean Ambrose Vs. AJ Styles (2016)
Putting Backlash in the month of September was a pretty devastating blow to my own personal OCD. I imagine I wasn't alone in thinking the event was out of place on the calendar, since Backlash was returned to the spring the following year. No matter, the first "split" pay per view of the second brand extension felt a little threadbare due to a thinner SmackDown roster, but it did give us a winning main event.
Styles captured the WWE Championship eight months after signing with the company, ending Ambrose's sadly-forgettable reign with a low blow (how ironic) and a Styles Clash. Before then, the match was 25 minutes of scintillating action, arguably Ambrose's best singles output with the company.
8. Kurt Angle Vs. Edge (2002)
The Edge singles push began in earnest the previous year, but to this point, it hadn't quite taken. The fact that the previous month at WrestleMania saw Edge and Booker T's bout revolve around a Japanese shampoo commercial wasn't exactly using the future "Rated-R Superstar" to his optimum potential.
Soon after, Edge fell into a feud with former ally Angle, and it was there that Edge's singles potential revealed itself. While their hair-vs-hair match at Judgment Day the next month was subjectively better and more dramatic, their more plainly-competitive bout at Backlash was excellent in its own right. The false-finish-filled match only seemed to instil WWE's faith in Edge as a true commodity, as a pair of revenge wins over Angle (the hair-vs-hair match, and a steel cage match on free TV) established his push for good.
7. John Cena Vs. Edge (2009)
The World Heavyweight title bout pitting Cena and Edge in a Last Man Standing match marked the sixth time (out of a possible eight instances) that either of the company's World titles changed hands in a 2009 pay per view match to that point. Even Vince Russo would be like, "Bro, that's excessive."
Frequent title changes or not, the brawl in and of itself was excellent, going as deep into the Attitude Era playbook as possible without resorting to a single drop of blood. From the Attitude Adjustment onto the planted fans, to The Big Show Chokeslamming Cena through the spotlight, there was enough inspired chaos to make the match quite fun to watch, and a worthwhile pay per view ender. The only blemish was one of the paramedics trying to drag Cena by his neck brace, which I'm told isn't a wise thing to do.
6. The Undertaker Vs. Batista (2007)
There have certainly been an abundance of Last Man Standing matches on post-WrestleMania cards, haven't there? Chris Benoit vs. Edge from 2005 just barely missed this cut, but at least the gimmick is well-represented in the top 10 otherwise. And this one truly earned its place as Undertaker and Batista enthralled viewers throughout 2007 with their surprisingly-fluid chemistry together.
The two followed up their WrestleMania skirmish with an equally-intense fight to the near-death at Backlash that comparatively rivalled their 'Mania match. The double-knockout finish may have been an irksome point for some, but it didn't detract from the body of the match, which would several cuts above most of the sluggishly-paced matches of its kind. While the long periods of referee counting can hurt these types of matches, Undertaker and Batista countered that with convincing fury.
5. John Cena Vs. Edge Vs. Randy Orton Vs. Shawn Michaels (2007)
If the match's goal was to top the hour-long classic that Cena and Michaels had had in London six nights earlier, then the mission was not accomplished. To be fair, few WWE matches from this millennium could've endeavoured to equal or surpass that gruelling marathon match. Instead, this Fatal 4-Way for Cena's WWE Championship had to settle for a rating of "excellently awesome" instead.
Across its 20-minute frame, there's little time to catch one's breath as the established feuds and billowing angst (especially among Orton and Edge) kept rearing themselves all the way to the heart-stopping finish, in which Cena barely escapes with the gold. I believe that's what they call "all killer, no filler".
4. John Cena Vs. Edge Vs. Triple H (2006)
Backlash is known in some circles as "the show in which John Cena and Edge invariably end up in the same match". Considering that this is the third entry of theirs that makes the cut, that's not a bad thing. This was a WrestleMania rematch with Edge wedged in to give Cena more odds to overcome (add sarcastic trombone sound here), and it's a bout that's sadly lost in the shuffle of history.
If you like bloodbaths, be sure to check out Triple H's horrifying predicament in which he looks like he was bobbing for apples in a tub of red paint. Like the 2007 mainer, this was another match that hardly ever took a moment to breathe. Bonus fact: this is also the last time Triple H worked a pay per view as an official heel for more than seven years.
3. The Rock Vs. Triple H (2000)
In sports, it's known as a "make-up call". That's when a referee exercises poor judgment, and later makes a favourable call for the side he'd inadvertently screwed over. It's the rare instance of two wrongs making a right, so to speak. In WWE's world, the ending of WrestleMania 2000 (Rock not winning the belt) stuck in the craw of the fanbase, and a make-up call was needed. It didn't require a second "wrong" to mend the fence, either.
*This* should have been the WrestleMania main event - Rock fighting like hell against unfair corporate odds to try and win back the WWE Championship that he'd been without for more than a year. When Steve Austin's trademark glass-breaking signal blares throughout the venue, it's a pop like you've never heard before. The fans got to go home happy after one wild main event, which is a big reason why Backlash 2000 is so fondly remembered.
2. Randy Orton Vs. Mick Foley (2004)
By the time Backlash 2004 rolled around, Orton's heavily-sustained push was earning him a little more respect. To some, he still came off as a generic dude with a crisp appearance that was only getting said push for that aesthetic, but that would soon change. This would be the night that justified Orton's main event residence for years to come.
Nobody expected a well-protected developmental grad to take a Foley-esque bump onto thumbtacks, but that's exactly what "The Legend Killer" did, with nothing whatsoever to protect his flesh from such a painful landing. Orton earned every stripe throughout the lengthy beatdown, before dishing out emboldened violence in return. Foley's the selfless sort that sees helping make a new star as a noble challenge. His helping to launch Orton is quite possibly his masterstroke.
1. Chris Benoit Vs. Triple H Vs. Shawn Michaels (2004)
Understandably, this match is a little more heartbreaking to view, even just several years after the fact. The show was in Benoit's once-stated hometown of Edmonton, and his family was seated front row, occasionally spotlighted in an attempt to add a deeply-human dimension to Benoit's overall profile. It's hard to watch this match today without comparing these images to later events.
If you can judge the match with a sense of detachment, you will find that it's comparable to the WrestleMania XX match between the three, even if it lacks the drama of wanting to see Benoit actually win the belt. The bit with Earl Hebner running in to shadow-act the Montreal Screwjob finish earned some beautiful heat, and the Canadian crowd was happy to see Michaels submitting to the Sharpshooter. Viewed on artistic merit, it's a classic match, but one understands if you find it tainted.