Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: Backlash 2002

The recent Vintage Vaults have consisted of Scott and Justin discussing how transitional 2002 feels overall as a standalone year within WWF/ (about to be WWE). Nostalgia was beginning to be embraced more with fabulous video packages and old veterans like Hogan, Nash, Hall, and Flair returning to the fold. In addition, Backlash 2002 features the debut of a new prospect named Brock Lesnar that the company had high hopes for. All of this transition makes it interesting to me in retrospect to examine to individuals that the company had done things with in the past but still had high expectations for the future. Conveniently, Kurt Angle and Edge were embattled in a feud around this point sprawling over the next two PPV’s.  This will lead to the Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing doing its first back-to-back match up over the next two shows.

Kurt has tremendous heat coming out.  The “You Suck” chants have surfaced and he looks massive in the ring spinning around to a chorus of boos. Edge gets a nice pop as well and already feels more composed and a bigger deal than when we last saw him at SummerSlam. The narrative of the match is established right away as JR on commentary discusses the pressure Edge is feeling for the match and whether he can prove himself against a known commodity like Angle. Opening up the match is a series of reversals and the pace is relentless.  We see flying forearms, flapjacks, and overall Edge is gaining the advantage and frustrating Kurt. A clothesline to the outside gives the first reset of the match and Kurt takes the opportunity to drag Edge out as well.

The next transition is a good one as Edge throws Kurt into the ring first and gets a little overzealous as Kurt is able to the then kick Edge when he enters. They teased this only being a short burst of offense from Kurt as Edge gets a spinning back kick quickly afterwards, but an amazing german suplex following a reverse from Kurt a few seconds later puts him firmly back into control of the match. The next sequence really personifies some of the problems I have with Kurt as an overall performer. He just has gained the advantage in this match up but instead of focusing on a body part or really working over Edge he uses his dominant position in the match to do some random kicks, chops, and punches. Nothing seems very desperate and there is interaction with the referee or the audience after every maneuver. From one standpoint I understand that this is Kurt playing up his cocky persona and exuding overconfidence. From my perspective, it feels like when a basketball center wants to develop a 3-point shot. We know Kurt is an Olympic Gold Medalist in wrestling and superior than anyone on the roster in that regard. Why doesn’t he utilize that advantage? Again the only logical answer I can come up with is overconfidence leading to stupidity and that is a failure in character design. Heels like Ric Flair and Arn Anderson were extremely confident in their abilities but when push came to shove, they resorted back into their wheelhouse of what they knew would work.

There are a few instances during this sequence where Edge gets a few punches in before Kurt regains control. On one occasion, he delivers a belly-to-belly suplex, in the second instance he gives the garden variety to Edge for a nearfall. Kurt locks in a chinlock. For someone who was constantly interacting with individuals outside of a submission attempt, Kurt does absolutely nothing to make this chinlock feel interesting or dangerous and essentially takes a little nap. Edge also doesn’t get high marks here as a sympathetic babyface as he is only able to manage a few meager arm movements to get the fans behind him.

Edge fights out of the chinlock and we get my favorite spot of the match up to this point as Angle again is able to use a suplex to thwart a flurry from Edge.  However, Edge has paid attention and hits a belly to belly of his own as a reversal of fortune spot. Cool stuff there and JR picks it right up on commentary for the audience. Edge has his big comeback but due the duality of him not exactly selling the damage all that well and more so Kurt’s inability to stay focused and create a storyline besides “use a suplex when the opponent shows any sign of life”, it feels rushed. A flapjack DDT gets a nearfall. Angle gets a huge pop from the crowd after his running up the ropes suplex spot. He goes for the anklelock for the first time in the match, but Edge reverses.

Angle gets a trio of germans and seems to be in control but when he goes for the Angle slam, which is reversed by Edge into a nasty looking german that drops Kurt right on top of his dome. Angle is sent to the outside and Edge hits a crossbody from the top hitting Kurt right in the head. A missile dropkick from the outside gets a close nearfall and a good pop from the crowd. Angle slam is hit for another nearfall this time with Kurt on top. I am unsure of how protected the Angle Slam was at this point but it felt like Edge probably shouldn’t have kicked out of this move and it would have played into the overall theme of the match of Angle hitting a high impact move to regain control. Ankle lock is applied to some more pops from the crowd. Edge gets a smooth looking rollup for a nearfall out of the ankle-lock. Any goodwill is quickly erased as we get two dumbfounded things from Kurt. One, he grabs a chair to presumably get himself DQ’d. I understand that he is frustrated but this doesn’t make much sense to me because he doesn’t have a title to protect. We then get the “chair bounces off the top rope and hits me in the head spot” which never looks natural and didn’t here. This did at least allow Edge to get a Edgecutioner for a real close nearfall. Edge sets up the spear but gets a swift kick in the head. One more Angle Slam and Kurt gains victory to a standing ovation from Lawler.

Reviews of this match are generally glowing. As you might have suspected, I had some major issues with it. I never got a great sense of an overall story-arch to really gain my investment in the match. Edge did some things well as a face with his rollup flash pin off the first ankle lock and him selling the leg in the late stages of the match. However, he also had some faults like that lifeless chinlock in the middle that served no purpose overall and him running across the ring for the spear near seconds after selling being severely damaged by the ankle-lock. I am a sucker for consistent selling and that was not it. I explained my beef with Kurt throughout this match but it was a match that screamed for him to be the general and build up his opponent but instead it felt like the Kurt show and all the narratives depended on him and his frustration. For positives, the match carried a good pace and the ending made sense with Kurt using his arsenal of “bomb” moves to gain the overall victory in clean fashion. Match is fine as a mid-card snapshot on a PPV, but I don’t see it as a lost classic in any sense.

Final Grade: **1/2