WWE Backlash 2008 solidifed my love of professional wrestling.
In every relationship, there’s that one crucial point where the honeymoon phase ends. Here, the passion either continues to burn bright, or it quickly fades away. When it comes to my fandom of WWE, and wrestling itself, this 2008 pay-per-view marked that moment.
I had already been watching WWE for a few short months, and coming off the heels of WrestleMania 24, it seemed like the on-screen product couldn’t get any better than “The Showcase of the Immortals.” The “sequel,” if you will, quickly proved me wrong. Looking back on this show both gives us a chance to take a trip down memory lane and point out some aspects of WWE Backlash 2008 that this year’s event is missing.
A Compelling Grudge Match Between Two Greats
13 years after WWE Backlash 2008, the three main feuds that played ou the card are easy to remember. Sure, part of that argument can be linked to nostaglia. But these three programs all offered genuinely remarkable stories.
Let’s start with the grudge match between “The Heartbreak Kid” and “The Animal.” Backlash, as the name suggests, is meant to deal with the fallout of WrestleMania. Leading into this bout, Batista was bitter about the fact that Shawn Michaels retired his friend and mentor, Ric Flair at WWE WrestleMania 24. Given Batista’s long history with Flair, this natural reaction led to a perfectly logical feud with “The Showstopper.”
The subsequent story was told brilliantly. Batista told Michaels that he had a chance to do the right thing at WrestleMania, he didn’t take it. Meanwhile, Michaels argued that he was doing the best thing for “The Nature Boy,” which happened to be exactly what he wanted.
To add even more heat into the program, Chris Jericho entered the picture. He poured gasoline on the fire by saying that Michaels enjoyed ending Flair’s career. He also stirred the pot by telling Batista that “The Nature Boy” chose Michaels, rather than “The Animal” to be the man who ended his career. All of these story beats, along with the stipulation of having Chris Jericho as the special referee, turned this match into a powder keg before the opening bell.
As for the contest itself, it certainly delivered. Michaels and Batista both played their roles excellently, with Batista conveying his rage with every move and Michaels wisely outwitting “The Animal” at several points. Likewise, Jericho, dressed in an actual referee outfit, was a convincing stand-in for an official, and he also added more drama to the bout by manhandling Michaels at one point.
In the end, Michaels won this round of the rivalry, but the story was far from over. Michaels faced Jericho the next month at WWE Judgement Day, and he also battled Batista in a memorable stretcher match at WWE One Night Stand.
Like another featured match on the card, the clear investment in this storyline, given its length and logical execution, is quite commendable. (That’s especially true when it’s compared to the product WWE presents today.)
Next page: An Utter Blast From The Past Is Filled With Nostalgia