WWE WrestleMania Backlash Continues The Tradition Of Rematches Galore
Lashley vs. McIntyre isn't the first, and it won't be the last
The mere name "WrestleMania Backlash" feels a little more ostentatious than your typical pay-per-view handle.
It'd be just like brand-conscious WWE to affix "WrestleMania" to anything to get it to sell, much like the merchandising scene in Spaceballs ("Spaceballs: The Coloring Book! Spaceballs: The Pro Wrestling Tees Store! Spaceballs: The NFT, whatever the hell that is!").
A veteran wrestling fan could tell you that while the name may sound superfluous, it's not all that ill-fitting.
There's this myth that WrestleMania is supposed to be the end all/be all, the final blow-off, to the biggest grudges of the year, and that's never exactly been the case. Even going back to the Hulkamania years, when Hogan vanquished Randy Savage and Sgt. Slaughter at Manias 5 and 7, he still spent months after the fact turning back their challenges throughout the house show loop. And in both cases, the feuds may have been dead horses by August, but that didn't stop WWE from dragging those hooves across the line into SummerSlam (albeit as part of a tag team match in each case).
When Backlash debuted at 1999, the name was apropos. See, WWE had been shuffling out 12 pay-per-views a year for going on four years at that point. With that kind of schedule, it'd be rather wasteful to produce 12 very different World title matches a year, because that burns through too many possibilities far too quickly.
With WWE maintaining the PPV-a-month formula, some two-match and three-match series are warranted, even if the impatient audience may want something fresher each time out.
And sure, there is something to say about the sometimes-glacial pace, and overreliance on the same performers, that WWE is certainly guilty of. But to the prior point, fans have been conditioned to expect rematches month-to-month, and Backlash has generally been a designated battleground for those sorts of return bouts.
And it *is* logical - big ticket matches at WrestleMania should have some air of freshness to them going in, which is what makes WrestleMania a desirable event: you're *finally* going to see certain stars face off. And since WrestleMania's the most purchased event of the year, can you blame WWE for running sequels four weeks-or-so later?
Backlash has always been "WrestleMania Backlash" to an extent, because that's what it's been - the backlash to the major fallout of WrestleMania. So earth-shaking were the occurrences on the grandest stage, that the big egos seek revenge and/or closure.
The three April In Your Houses from 1996 to 1998 preceding Backlash all had their own WrestleMania rematches (Bodydonnas vs. Godwinns, Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, Undertaker vs. Kane, et al), but naming the April card Backlash called the event for what it was. As if the kayfabe powers-that-be knew that there'd be hard feelings coming out of an emotionally-charged event like WrestleMania, and set up Backlash as a means of settling them.
Across the eleven Backlashes from 1999 through 2009, 37 different matches were rematches (or forms of rematches) from the just-passed WrestleMania.
To put it another way, Drew McIntyre getting another shot at WWE champion Bobby Lashley at "WrestleMania Backlash" is hardly a novel development, no matter how loudly one might groan, "We just SAW that!"
Let's take a look at those Backlashes throughout that decade, and see how heavily WWE leaned on the rematch crutch, shall we?
(NOTE: for the upcoming shorthand, "partial" means the participants were involved in a match with more combatants at WrestleMania (like Money in the Bank), while "modified" means the rematch *included* more participants)
1999 (3): Al Snow vs. Hardcore Holly (partial), Big Show vs. Mankind, Steve Austin vs. The Rock
Snow and Holly had battled in a triple threat at WrestleMania 15 with Billy Gunn. Show vs. Mankind was a Boiler Room Brawl this time around. Rock getting a rematch made sense, especially after he tried to kill Austin by throwing him off a bridge. They're friends now.
2000 (3): Hardcore title six-way (partial), Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit (partial), The Rock vs. Triple H (partial)
Credit where it's due, Backlash 2000 was not only a massive upgrade over the disappointing WrestleMania 2000, but the card itself was mostly fresh. The Hardcore title six way featured three of the same participants from the 13-man Mania mishmash. Rock/HHH is what should've ended WrestleMania, complete with Austin's return to a nuclear reaction
2001 (4): William Regal vs. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle, Matt Hardy vs. Christian vs. Eddie Guerrero (partial), Undertaker and Kane vs. Steve Austin and Triple H (modified)
The triple threat's kind of a cheat, since it's two of the TLC participants in a European title bout, with Guerrero tossed in. Undertaker and Triple H, of course, warred at WrestleMania in the famed "Chioda Coma" match. The other two matches, though, were bringing the post-Mania pay-per-view closer to its true destiny: a show of WrestleMania rematches that are gimmick bouts. The Duchess of Queensbury Rules match and the submissions-only Iron Man match marked the wave of post-Mania future.
2002 (1): Jazz vs. Trish Stratus (partial)
Talk about a new direction. Following the brand split in between pay-per-views, Backlash 2002 featured a lot of fresh match-ups, with the only Mania retread being Stratus vying once more for Jazz's Women's title (the WrestleMania match included Lita for a triple threat).
2003 (4): World's Greatest Tag Team vs. Los Guerreros (partial), Jazz vs. Trish Stratus (partial), Triple H/Ric Flair/Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Nash/Shawn Michaels/Booker T (two WM matches)
The former two bouts were condensed versions of WrestleMania triple threats. The six-man fused HHH/Booker, Michaels/Jericho, and Nash's return into one meal, like one of those coronary-inducing bowls of everything you can get at Moe's Southwest Grill.
2004 (3): Chris Jericho vs. Christian and Trish Stratus (modified), Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley (partial), Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
This is where I iterate that rematches aren't always a bad thing, because Backlash 2004 was an excellent card, with these three matches as proof. The handicap match was fun, Orton's win over Foley was legend-making, and the World Title triple threat was almost on par with the WrestleMania 20 bout.
2005 (3): Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho (partial), Chris Benoit vs. Edge (partial), Triple H vs. Batista
Pretty straightforward, as the two former matches included participants in the first-ever Money in the Bank match, while the main event was just the continuation of the World title feud (that stretched into late June)
2006 (4): Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James, Rob Van Dam vs. Shelton Benjamin (partial), Vince and Shane McMahon vs. Shawn Michaels and "God" (modified), John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Edge (modified)
Another very good pay-per-view on the strength of strong WrestleMania outings having enough legs to continue for another month. Though I'm not sure that God being booked on a secondary show instead of WrestleMania speaks highly of the almighty's perceived drawing power.
2007 (3): Chris Benoit vs. MVP, Undertaker vs. Batista, John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton (one direct rematch, one partial)
Another one with few complaints, as Backlash 2007 exists in the higher tier of secondary PPVs for a reason. The latter two bouts were World Title matches comparable to their WrestleMania counterparts.
2008 (4): Kane vs. Chavo Guerrero, 12-woman tag (modified), Undertaker vs. Edge, Randy Orton vs. Triple H vs. John Cena vs. JBL (modified)
The 12-woman tag was an expanded version of the WrestleMania lumberjill match (with eight more active participants). It feels a little odd to see the WWE title triple threat from WrestleMania 24 get rematched, with JBL just thrown in for the hell of it.
2009 (5): Chris Jericho vs. Ricky Steamboat (partial), Kane vs. CM Punk (partial), Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy, Triple H/Shane McMahon/Batista vs. Legacy (modified), Edge vs. John Cena (partial)
A brand new record with five! Must be said that if you took the Backlash card and put Shawn vs. Undertaker from Mania 25 on it, it'd have made a far superior WrestleMania than what we got. Alas.
Of course, Backlash begat Extreme Rules, which followed WrestleMania from 2010 to 2015, and was basically, "Backlash with a built-in excuse to assign gimmick stips in cavalier fashion to the WrestleMania rematches". And how did those fare?
2010 (6): Tag Team Turmoil (modified), CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio (Punk's hair on the line), Sheamus vs. Triple H (street fight), Beth Phoenix vs. Michelle McCool (partial, Extreme Makeover), Edge vs. Chris Jericho (steel cage), John Cena vs. Batista (last man standing)
Holy WrestleMania overload! Wouldn't a WrestleMania 26 replay have been more economical? Four direct rematches, plus a Turmoil match that included ShoMiz squaring off with Mania opponents John Morrison and R-Truth, plus Phoenix and McCool meeting outside the ten woman tag. Let's just be grateful they didn't run Bret vs. Vince again.
2011 (5): Randy Orton vs. CM Punk (last man standing), Michael Cole and Jack Swagger vs. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (modified, whipping match), Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes (falls count anywhere), Big Show and Kane vs. The Corre (partial, lumberjack), The Miz vs. John Cena vs. John Morrison (modified, steel cage)
Five of the eight WrestleMania 27 matches get reheated and re-served in four weeks time, and this doesn't even include Christian playing the role of Edge against WrestleMania opponent Alberto Del Rio. Eh well, it was still better than Mania, by a pretty safe distance.
2012 (4): Randy Orton vs. Kane (falls count anywhere), Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show (table), Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan (two out of three falls), CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho (street fight)
Four direct rematches of the eight Mania bouts, but with "stips" to settle the score once and for all. By now, you're surely realizing that Lashley vs. McIntyre: Twice in a 2021 isn't some radical change from the norm.
2013 (3): Chris Jericho vs. Fandango, Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger (I Quit), Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H (steel cage)
Far tamer than what we've seen, which actually makes sense in an era increasingly dependent on part-timers. Their opponents do need somebody else to work with at the secondary events.
2014 (1): Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena (steel cage)
No wonder the period following Daniel Bryan's big win and The Shield's face turn felt so especially fresh and vital: they weren't warming over WrestleMania for every penny it was worth. Granted, the cage match had a non-sensical ending, but still: take victories where you can get 'em.
2015 (2): Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper (partial, street fight), John Cena vs. Rusev (Russian chain)
Again, the part-timer era limits what could be done twice. No Brock, no Taker, no Triple H, no Sting to be had on this show, and AJ Lee retired in between shows.
In the years, since, follow-ups like Payback (2016-17), a dusted-off Backlash (2018), and Money in the Bank (2019-20) have all gone to the rematch well to differing degrees, with 2017 (five forms of rematch across the card) being the most excessive.
In most years, WWE tries to strike a balance between ferrying WrestleMania fallout into the next month, and moving on with fresh angles elsewhere on the card. Clearly, around a decade ago, Extreme Rules was viewed as an excuse to run Wrestlemania: The Sequel, but with gadgets and props galore as the shiny new hook. Other times, we've gotten follow-up cards that look nothing like the preceding WrestleMania at all.
In other words, it's certainly run the gamut across the past two decades. Thus, Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre once again, at the appropriately-named "WrestleMania Backlash" is hardly an exercise in immoderation.
But if we get Braun Strowman and Shane McMahon in a whipping match, you're free to raise a brow.