Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: Backlash 2008

Montel Vontavious Porter vs. Matt Hardy for the United States Championship

We now come out of Wrestlemania XXIV and head straight on into Backlash, and one of the big things that came out of WM was the huge return of Matt Hardy as he would end up costing MVP the Money in the Bank ladder match. After being on the shelf since last fall thanks to MVP and also in part to Randy Orton, the pop that Hardy got when he came out was pretty big and he seemed prime to finally have a great run in the midcard after not really doing much since coming back in 2005. On the flip side, MVP was nearing one year as US Champion and has had a great run, but it was going to be interesting to see if Hardy was finally going to be the one to end the reign and pay off their great run from 2007 or if MVP’s run was going to continue.

On the 4/4 Smackdown, Hardy defeated MVP in a non-title match and on the 4/11 Smackdown, Hardy defeated Chuck Palumbo as MVP did commentary and he would challenge Hardy to another non-title match the next week. On the 4/18 Smackdown, MVP defeated Tommy Dreamer as it was announced that Hardy would receive a title shot here, and on the 4/25 Smackdown Hardy cut a promo which MVP interrupted and he offered Hardy a chance to back out of the match though Hardy refused and MVP hit him in the head with the belt. The build was pretty basic as they just in essence picked up from where they left off in 2007, but this was a pretty hyped up match as these two had a good feud going in 2007 and now they finally get to pay it off here.

Hardy gets a big pop from the crowd while MVP was pretty hot as a heel, and this was a good choice to have open the show. The two men lock up to start with MVP backing Hardy into the corner and they jockey for position until MVP grabs the leg, but Hardy kicks MVP away and MVP trips Hardy up only for Hardy to kick him away again and he avoids a dive from MVP. MVP gets a kick in and pounds on Hardy as he rams him into the buckle only for Hardy to reverse a whip into the other corner, and MVP leaps over Hardy only for Hardy to duck a shot and he pounds on MVP who holds the ropes on a whip and rolls outside to regroup. Hardy goes outside and nails MVP before throwing him back into the ring and he hits a hiptoss for a two count, and he hits a back elbow on MVP and drops an elbow on him for a two count for a two count before taking him to the mat with a headlock. MVP gets to his feet and backs Hardy into the corner as he gets a kick in and he whips Hardy into the other corner, but Hardy catches him with a boot to the face and goes up to the middle rope as he drives the elbow into the back of MVP’s head for a two count. MVP escapes a slam attempt and gets a shot in before hitting a back suplex on Hardy for a two count, and he puts Hardy on the top rope and pounds on him before going up himself only for Hardy to knock him to the mat. He sets himself on the top rope only for MVP to get his knees up on a moonsault for a two count and he stomps on Hardy, and he hits a snapmare on Hardy and drops a knee on him for a two count before hooking a submission on. Hardy fights to his feet and breaks the hold only for MVP to yank him to the mat by his hair and he rams the knee into his ribs repeatedly, and he hooks an abdominal stretch on Hardy and uses the ropes for leverage until Hardy hoists him up and escapes the hold with a Samoan drop for a two count. He pounds on MVP who catches him in a sloppy belly-to-belly suplex for a two count and he drops a trio of elbows on Hardy for a two count, and he hoists Hardy onto his shoulders and drops him face first on the mat only for Hardy to catch him with a clothesline. The two men trade blows with Hardy taking control and he hits a clothesline before whipping MVP into the corner, and he splashes MVP and hits a running bulldog for a two count only for MVP to block the Side Effect and he hotshots Hardy on the top rope. Hardy escapes the Playmaker and hits the Side Effect on MVP for a two count before going up top, but MVP crotches Hardy on the top rope and pounds on him as he goes up himself only for Hardy to battle back and he hits the Side Effect off the middle rope for a two count. MVP escapes a Twist of Fate and hooks a backslide while using the ropes for leverage for a two count as the ref catches him, and MVP argues with the ref and Hardy rolls him up for a two count as he ducks a shot and gets a kick in only for MVP to ram him into the corner. He stomps on Hardy and rams the knee into his ribs before hitting the running kick as Hardy falls outside to the floor, and Hardy barely beats the count back into the ring as MVP kicks at Hardy repeatedly and stomps on him. He kicks Hardy in the head again and sets him up only for Hardy to avoid the running boot and he hits the Twist of Fate which gets the three and we have a new champion.

The match itself was really good as both men worked hard and put on a fun title match. These two men had developed some great chemistry over the last year without facing each other in the ring that often, and it showed here as they put on a good match to open the show and they had just the right amount of time in 12 minutes. While it would’ve been nice to see MVP reach the year mark for his title reign, this was a great win for Hardy and well-deserved as it pays off everything that MVP had done to him including putting him on the shelf and this was easily his biggest win since coming back in 2005. The question now is what becomes of MVP as he has had a tremendous reign as US Champion and it seemed like he was ready to potentially take the next step to the main event scene, and it would also be interesting to see how Hardy does as champion after being a chaser for so long. The crowd was into the match and popped big for Hardy when he won. Hardy gets the win over MVP and is the new US Champion as both men finally move on.

Final Grade: ***1/2