WWE Backlash has been a staple of the pay-per-view calendar for the majority of recent WWE history. The show debuted in 1999 as the unofficial sequel to WrestleMania and as the name suggests, it deals with the fallout of WWE’s biggest show of the year.
This approach has hindered Backlash at times, as WWE has heavily leaned on WrestleMania rematches for many of the cards. WWE even briefly renamed the event WrestleMania Backlash, which only strengthened the feeling that Backlash was essentially a repeat of WrestleMania. Thankfully, the event regained its original name in 2023.
Despite some of the downsides of the show, Backlash’s place in WWE history is undeniable. Major title bouts and other key moments have happened at the event, and following perhaps the most successful edition yet, it’s time to reflect on the top matches in Backlash history.
Over the years, WWE Backlash has been the host of a number of memorable matches, and we can’t include them all. To make the cut, the bouts on this list were analyzed on several factors, including the quality of the storyline and the match itself, as well as the historical significance.
Damian Priest vs. Bad Bunny (2023)
Pardon the recency bias, but the San Juan Street Fight between Bad Bunny and Damian Priest can already be considered one of the greatest matches in WWE Backlash history. The crowd in Puerto Rico was absolutely electric, and Bad Bunny got an incredible pop when he came to the ring. The former tag team partners waged war in a wild match, and to quote Jim Ross, business picked up when Rey Mysterio, the LWO, Dominik Mysterio, Finn Balor, and Savio Vega got involved.
The crowd delivered another amazing pop when Carlito made his surprise return and helped level the playing field. The atmosphere was special, to say the least, and Carlito’s appearance was a welcome surprise. Plus, Bad Bunny proved that his impressive showing at WrestleMania 38 was no fluke. He and Priest more than lived up to the pressure of the high-profile match and helped made Backlash one of the most fun shows in recent memory.
Edge vs. Randy Orton (2020)
2020 was a strange time, as the COVID-19 pandemic turned the wrestling world on its head. The bitter rivalry between former Rated RKO partners Randy Orton and Edge was one of the key highlights of the early pandemic era, as both veterans brought the best version of themselves with their promos every week. They told a personal story that resonated on a number of levels, particularly as it came on the heels of Edge’s amazing return at WWE Royal Rumble 2020.
Edge beat Orton in a lengthy, and somewhat plodding, Last Man Standing Match at WrestleMania 36. The two foes clashed again at WWE Backlash, but this time, Orton wanted to prove that he was the better wrestler. WWE billed the bout as “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” going into the show, which was an unfortunate misstep, as it placed far too much pressure on the men involved. However, WWE generated plenty of buzz with this approach, and the excitement came at a time when the wrestling world desperately needed it.
Edge and Orton delivered a thrilling contest in which they used each other’s finishers and paid tribute to other legends as well. Orton ultimately won the match with his sinister punt kick. Edge suffered a torn triceps during the match, so his miraculous comeback was put on the shelf until he later returned at the following Royal Rumble.
Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley (2004)
Randy Orton was on the cusp of his breakout run in 2004. He was featured as a member of Evolution, but working alongside Triple H and Ric Flair boosted his profile. However, he hadn’t had a signature moment that truly cemented his status yet. Enter Mick Foley, one of the most beloved legends from the Attitude Era. Orton and Foley’s feud began when the veteran eliminated the young star from the Royal Rumble match. They clashed in a tag team match at WrestleMania XX, where Orton scored a major win as he pinned the former world champion.
Foley then challenged Orton to step into his element by facing him in a Hardcore Match at WWE Backlash, and the bout did exactly what it needed to do; it showed the WWE Universe that Orton was capable of being a top star, and a tough one at that. Foley, competing as Cactus Jack, brutalized Orton, as he used a barbed wire back and dumped Orton onto thumbtacks. This moment alone elevated Orton in the eyes of the fans, and his win moved up further up the ladder. Within months, he won his first world title. Overall, he came a 14-time world champion, and this match played a significant part in his rise to the top.
Edge vs. John Cena (2009)
Cena and Edge were two of the top stars of their generation, and they feuded at different points throughout Cena’s run as the face of the company. Their rivalry heated up in 2009, as they clashed in a Triple Threat Match that featured The Big Show at WWE WrestleMania 25. By the time Backlash came around, there was plenty of bad blood between the two, and they battled it out in a chaotic Last Man Standing Match with the WWE World Heavyweight title on the line.
The bout was full of moments that were worthy of the highlight reel, as Cena sent Edge into the crowd with an Attitude Adjustment. However, the major moment came when the Big Show came out and shockingly chokeslammed Cena through a spotlight on the stage. The giant’s interference helped Edge clinch the win, and the explosive finish clinched the match’s place in WWE history.
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal – WWE Championship (2017)
Orton and Mahal’s match wasn’t necessarily one of the greatest matches in WWE Backlash history; it wasn’t a five-star classic. However, it delivered one of the most stunning moments in recent memory. Mahal, who had been released in 2014. He returned to WWE in 2016 and established himself as a featured member of the roster. He quickly moved up the card and feuded with Randy Orton, and they clashed at Backlash 2016. It’s fair to say no one expected the former 3MB member to win the world title, especially when a top-level star like Orton was his opponent. But that’s exactly what happened.
The Singh brothers got involved and Mahal capitalized as he hit Orton with the Khallas to win the gold. In doing so, he became the first WWE Champion of Indian descent. Mahal’s victory shocked the crowd in attendance and the fans watching at home. It served as a reminder that anything can happen in WWE. Even though Mahal’s title reign was quite underwhelming, his win will go down in WWE history regardless.
The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (1999)
The Rock and Steve Austin were bitter rivals throughout the Attitude Era. Their WrestleMania matches get the spotlight, but they competed at several other pay-per-views as well.
Their battle at Backlash 1999 was a showcase of the Attitude Era at its best. This was a No Holds Barred Match for the WWF title. Shane McMahon was also the special referee, and Vince McMahon himself took his son out with a belt shot. The match concluded with another ref bump, another yet shot, and a final Stunner from Austin. The two foes and the McMahons made a fun combination. As a bonus, the show ended with the classic scene where The Undertaker was revealed as the driver of a car that had apparently abducted Stephanie McMahon.
Goldberg vs. The Rock (2003)
For years, fans dreamt of a match between Goldberg and The Rock. Goldberg’s arrival in WWE was delayed since he sat out The Invasion and didn’t debut until 2003. By the time he joined the company, The Rock was doing some of his best work as a heel. WWE put Goldberg with The Rock right away, clearly in an attempt to establish him as a main player.
The match was nothing to write home about, but it was significant for the buzz alone. Plus, it marked The Rock’s last match until WrestleMania XX, as he left the company to focus on acting.
WWE Backlash often gets slept on compared to WWE’s other premium live events. Admittedly, some of the cards in recent years have been lackluster. But the show has an impressive history, dating back to the classic Rock vs. Austin on the first show. A number of other unforgettable matches have taken place at Backlash, ranging from Mahal’s upset win to Bad Bunny’s acclaimed bout with Priest in San Juan. These are all important parts of WWE history, one way or another, and it’ll be interesting to see how future shows continue to raise the bar.
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