Whether it goes by Backlash, Payback, Extreme Rules or the Joey Jojo Shabadoo Show, the pay-per-view after WrestleMania doesn’t always get a lot of respect, which isn’t really fair. Sure, sometimes the show is just a bunch of WrestleMania rematches in front of a smaller crowd, but often it’s the start of a new chapter. Or a make-up after ‘Mania plans go awry. Fact is, the WrestleMania follow-up pay-per-view shows up The Showcase of the Immortals more often than you might think.
This year, Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles certainly has a good shot at stealing the show at Payback. I mean, it would be difficult to not top Reigns vs. Triple H. So, here are a few other shows that proved being the follow-up doesn’t mean you have to be second best…
In Your House 7 (Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel)
What It One-Upped: WrestleMania XII (Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels)
Starting on a controversial note right off the bat! Yes, the Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels Iron Man match from WrestleMania XII is an influential classic, but like a lot of Bret’s stuff, I feel like it’s more admirable than actually fun or exciting. It’s impeccably constructed and executed, but frankly a lot of it drags pretty bad.
I much prefer the wild, ridiculous Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel No Holds Barred match from the follow-up In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies. It’s more heated and emotional than Bret/Shawn, and it’s an example of Michaels at his elite worker best, as he drags the typically mediocre Kevin Nash to a near five-star battle. The match has a unique feel, with everything being done with a sense of urgency. Big spots aren’t set up or teased forever, and not a lot of time is spent selling. These dudes are too damn mad to sell. At one point Nash sends Michaels through the announce table without bothering to clean it off, burying him in debris and TV monitors. Seconds later, Michaels is getting to his feet, because in a legit fight, if you can still go at all, you get up.
Of course, Michaels/Diesel ends with maybe the best spot in hardcore match history, when Diesel steals Mad Dog Vachon’s prosthetic leg to use as a weapon. Whaaat? Michaels manages to grab the leg and shamelessly blasts Diesel with it to win the match despite being the nominal babyface, because hey, HBK will never truly be a good guy. It’s a finish that perfectly encapsulates why ’90s Michaels was so great, and ends Diesel’s big WWF run on the an ideal note.
Backlash 1999 (Steve Austin vs. The Rock)
What It One-Upped: WrestleMania XV (The Rock vs. Steve Austin)