By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Chris Jericho Interrupted Shawn Michaels
It's funny that Jericho wouldn't officially turn heel for another two months, yet he was still getting vehemently booed whenever he was in the ring chastising Michaels. This was an exceptional encounter between them that served as as a small taste of what they were capable of producing together down the line when they feuded. Speaking of Jericho, what was his role in all of this anyway? I guess he was the one who stirred the pot between Batista and Michaels, but did that justify him being named the special guest referee for their Backlash match? Either way, unlike most talking segments that typically open Raw, this held my interest the entire time.
Santino Marella and Carlito def. Paul London and Brian Kendrick in a No. 1 Contender's Match For the World Tag Team Championship
Marella and Carlito were mostly a makeshift tag team given WWE had zero idea what else to do with the duo at that time, but hey, you can't complain about them having chemistry together as teammates. London and Kendrick can always be counted on for a fun match and that's exactly what this was, but Marella and Carlito were fresher faces in the title picture, so I was glad they won. Plus, the tag team champions Cody Rhodes and Hardcore Holly were babyfaces anyway, so them winning made sense.
Mickie James def. Beth Phoenix to Win the Women's Championship
It's really sad that these two contested a pretty good match but the crowd couldn't have cared less until the shocking title win because they had been conditioned to sit on their hands during the Divas matches. James and Phoenix had always worked well together, though this wasn't their best bout. Nevertheless, the crowd came alive when James won the title. It was a somewhat anticlimactic ending to Phoeinx's dominant title reign, but if nothing else, it breathed new life into the title scene.
JTG def. Trevor Murdoch
Murdoch and his partner Lance Cade were teasing tension around this time, and although Cade appeared to be okay with Murdoch stacking up losses, it would eventually lead to them parting ways two months later. Thus, this match didn't last long and the focus was more on the dissension between Cade and Murdoch than JTG winning. Meanwhile, Cryme Tyme may not have ever been the greatest wrestlers, but they were never not over with the audience, making it all the more shocking that they never held gold in WWE.
WWE Champion Randy Orton def. William Regal (Non-title)
Anyone who has followed me for any stretch of time knows that this was the match that made me a wrestling fan. I had seen several episodes of Raw in the second half of 2007, but it was this match that got me hooked on the product for good. No, not because it was an instant classic (though it was really well-wrestled and Regal had a great showing) but because Regal's character completely captivated me, and his subsequent King of the Ring win kept me coming back for more. This match easily could have gone longer, but with the English crowd solidly behind their hometown hero and Orton and Regal making the most of the time they were allotted, it was an enjoyable effort.
Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho def. Umaga
Jericho's apparent punishment for talking back to Regal during their backstage segment was having to defend his Intercontinental Championship against Umaga. Despite being booed in the opening segment, Jericho was clearly the fan favorite in this match. The crowd didn't know how to respond early on, but they cheered for Jericho as the match progressed. This was a superb match with Jericho playing to Umaga's strengths and even protecting him in defeat by putting his feet on the ropes to retain his title.
Paul Burchill def. "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan
This was right around the time that Burchill was being reintroduced as a credible threat on the roster and was stacking up victories against undercard competitors. I was glad they chose to feature him on his show since, similar to Regal, he was an England native. This wasn't much more than a standard squash, but it was designed to further Burchill's momentum and it did just that. Too bad he wouldn't amount to anything, though.
Triple H def. JBL by Disqualification
I couldn't believe it when Regal announced this as a first time ever matchup. These two had been in the business together for well over a decade, and not once did they collide in singles competition? I'm not saying that was false, but that's amazing to think about. They told a much different story than the previous matches with HHH and JBL doing a ton of brawling, but it worked for them and I liked it. JBL laying out both HHH and Orton afterward sent the message that it was every man for themselves in that Backlash Fatal 4-Way, though the absence of John Cena was puzzling. The crowd even chanted for him, too. Was there a reason why he was left off? Did he have a prior commitment or something?
It was insanely cool watching this show back in its entirety for the first time since it initially aired (seeing the old intro gave me goosebumps) because I don't remember anything about it other than Regal vs. Orton. That's not to say it was a bad show, and if anything, it was actually excellent. The English audience is always a treat, but the matches were equally entertaining and everything seemed to serve a purpose. I look forward to reliving all these episodes of Raw from when I first started watching... and I'll be reviewing all of them going forward!
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