John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Backlash preview featuring the Smackdown Live brand. The show this place this Sunday, May 21 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago (Rosemont), Illinois.
For this preview, we’ll talk about every match while offering up our predictions as usual. In addition to that, we have also added five quick questions about things like what match we care about the most, the least and our excitement level.
Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matthew J. Douglas and Mike Holland.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (Kickoff Show)
Kurt: I’m not exactly feeling all warm and fuzzy about Dillinger’s role on the Smackdown roster if he can only make the kickoff show in the first brand PPV since WrestleMania. Although, we live in a world where AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are going for the secondary title and Jinder Mahal is going for the World Title. So who knows where exactly Dillinger fits in that world. Hopefully after this match he can get a storyline to sink his teeth into.
Prediction: Tye Dillinger
Mike: Sometimes the jump from NXT to the main roster works really, really well. Sometimes, however, the company loses those little things that made someone special during the shift. Think of it like leaving something behind when packing your suitcase. Nowhere is there a better example of this issue than poor Aiden English, who had a highly effective heel persona absolutely killing it at WWE’s feeder program before his callup removed all vestiges of originality. Now he cries when losing matches. Has that gimmick EVER worked for anyone?
Tye Dillinger, on the other hand, is exactly what he was down on the farm: A guy with a great look and a big upside who the crowd is generally infatuated with. He’s got a catchy nickname and a gimmick built on crowd participation. I have my doubts about whether Dillinger can run with just those points for any real length of time, but it’s working for him so far. This match’s real build is that Dillinger has bested English both times they have squared off thus far, and it’s for that simple reason that I don’t see the third time being the charm. Can Aiden get back to singing his intro please?
Winner: Aiden English
Matthew: I’m a fan of Tye Dillinger and I’m happy he gets to be on the main roster doing his thing… I just feel like he probably had some unfinished business on NXT, and that being elevated to the main roster for this, is indicative of NXT to Raw/Smackdown Pipeline. On NXT, he could have theoretically continued a rivalry with SAnitY, had Roddy Strong turn on him at some point for that feud to go for a bit, culminating in him finally getting one up on Bobby Roode before being called up. The truth is, what is there to say in preview of this match?
I could try to force intrigue by talking about how Tye’s beaten Aiden English twice already, and that maybe Aiden wins this match on the Kickoff show to make the rivalry competitive, but at the end of the day, does any of that matter? We can hope for the best match possible, and in all likelihood it will be fine, but that’s the issue with the WWE right now for me. Fine is the worst thing you can be in entertainment. Be great or be a trainwreck. The forgettable in-between is the worst place to reside.
Winner: Tye Dillinger (but it doesn’t much matter at the end of the day)
John: There’s not much of a story here other than Dillinger has beat English twice, so English is trying to find a way to beat him. Both guys could use the win and I really want to pick English, but I think it’s smarter to have the face wrestler with the “10” chants to go over to fire up the crowd at the start of the show. Hopefully both guys can have meaningful feuds soon that allow them to move up the food chain a bit.
Also, I want to see English mention that he’s from Chicago and do more of his singing gimmick. It would be cool if he got to show off his skills a bit more in his hometown. Their other matches were about three minutes. Give them some more time on the Kickoff Show.
Winner: Tye Dillinger
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan
Kurt: Smackdown Live has lost almost one million viewers since the Shakeup occurred (3.105 million to 2.175 million). Some would point towards who is being pushed right now and the roster not being as strong as it was pre-Shakeup. I would actually point to one man, Luke Harper. The Smackdown writers whiffed so hard on Harper that had it been on Raw, the internet would’ve melted. But most, myself included, just assumed Smackdown would get it right because they had gotten everything else right. They didn’t, though.
Harper was red hot as a new babyface and desperately needed a spot at WrestleMania. His matches with AJ Styles and Randy Orton were some of the best in WWE thus far and it looked like he finally cracked that glass ceiling. However, when he desperately needed a top spot at WrestleMania…he didn’t get one. Wyatt and Orton proceeded to do what they did and now Smackdown seemingly can’t wash the stench off. Harper needs to be a primetime player and it needs to be NOW. It may be too late, though.
Prediction: Luke Harper
Mike: There always appears to be some combination of past, present, and future members of the Wyatt Family fighting each other on WWE shows, so why should Backlash 2017 be any different? Now that Bray has moved over to Monday nights, it leaves Luke Harper and Erick Rowan to do battle for…well, nothing really. The most unfortunate element of this is that Harper’s hot streak riding into WrestleMania has stalled completely. Remember when he was being given a chance to get some meaningful time as a thorn in Bray’s side leading into the big dance? The noise had almost reached the point where he was being given serious consideration to be placed into the WWE Title picture. But you’d never do that with a midcarder, right Jinder?
Harper’s rehashing feuds of the past with Rowan, and it’s not doing much of anything for the guy. I’m especially irked about it because Harper has done a great job with whatever he’s been given and is a solid performer in the squared circle. No offense to Rowan, but he’s much less interesting to me and comes across like Braun Strowman light. Rowan won before, so 50/50 booking says it’s Luke’s turn.
Winner: Luke Harper
Matthew: This is another match that really doesn’t do much for me, because I don’t really know or care why they are battling each other. The history is there, I get that, but it really isn’t being presented in any kind of compelling way for us, the viewers. It’s not as though they’ve been setting this feud up for months, or have given something interesting or meaningful to wage war over. They’re just two guys that were at one point part of a faction, now fighting. I guess we’re supposed to fill in the blanks for our entertainment?
You should imagine that in Bray’s absence, both men are primarily doing battle to see which one of the two of them needs to bend the knee and serve the other. They are battling to see who gets to control what’s left of “The Wyatts”. In all seriousness, I do think there’s still some gas left in the tank for these guys as a tag team. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where this ends up.
Winner: Luke Harper (because Rowan won the first match. Rubber match determines the leader of the team… I expect Rowan to bend the knee before all is said and done)
John: I’m on the same page as everybody else in our group here by thinking that Luke Harper should get the win since Erick Rowan won their last match. I also think Harper is the better performer that should be used better, so he really needs to get the win here. I’m not sure if Harper will ever get a serious push as a singles guy, but I’d welcome it. He’s much better and more deserving than the guy challenging for the WWE Title on this show, for example.
Winner: Luke Harper
Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch & Naomi vs. Natalya, Carmella & Tamina
Kurt: I feel bad for Natalya. I always have. Any time she seemingly gets something designed for her, it either ultimately ends up just her being a placeholder for someone else, or it falls flat and they abandon plans quickly. This time around, even though she was designed to be the leader of the Welcoming Committee, it’s now turned into the Carmella and Ellsworth act and Natalya is an afterthought. On a side note, does Tamina talk? I’m convinced all she knows how to do is look half cocky, half confused and then shrug randomly.
If Carmella vs. Naomi is the next plan for the title, which I have no problems with, then I hope this match is designed to start a program between Charlotte and Natalya. These ladies had an absolute gold mine of a match in NXT when Charlotte was just getting established three years ago and we’ve yet to see that type of action between these two on the main roster. I would love to see more of that now. Charlotte is so good, it’s scary. I can’t wait to see how much better this face run goes than her initial one.
Prediction: Natalya, Carmella, & Tamina (Heels have to win to set up future programs)
Mike: The swapping around of the roster hasn’t really done Charlotte any favors thus far, and making her a face at the expense of the awfully-named Welcoming Committee has run this ship even further aground. Charlotte had some issues on Raw, but her heel persona was extremely solid and she’s always been able to step up and put on one whale of a match when the time comes. If you were simply going to balance the scales with another face, wouldn’t Sasha Banks have been the choice? Charlotte’s presence in this match just adds to the countdown of the inevitable that ends with her blasting Women’s Champion Naomi and kicking off a summer feud.
While I’m at it, while I appreciate that binding together Natalya, Carmella, and the returning Tamina allows them to have a three-woman tag (four if you count Ellsworth), it’s ridiculous to put this on rather than a title match and continues Daniel Bryan’s “booking” of dumping every woman on the roster into a match against all the others. That’s not how you build a division. Interest in this is at an all-time low and that’s unfortunate for Naomi and Lynch, who deserve better.
Winners: Natalya, Carmella & Tamina
Matthew: They’ve given these ladies a lot of time to set this up, with several matches and talking segments, and yet I don’t really care. Seeing the whole division aligned like this really weakens my interest in it. Half the division is one side, half the division is the other side, and this match is important because… reasons.
I hate to beat the drum of, why does any of this matter, but I have to beat the drum. The match will be pretty damn good I’m hoping. Most of the women in this match are great workers and competitors. That doesn’t change the fact that there is literally nothing here to capture my imagination or my attention.
Winners: Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch & Naomi (because that finish can kill both teams and actually set up a series of stories instead of lumping all the women into one program)
John: The build for this match has been pretty good. I know some people frown on the fact that there’s only six women in the division right now, but they are utilizing all of them unlike what Raw does. When Charlotte Flair joined Smackdown one month ago she was a heel, then they turned her and if you listen to the crowd, the turn worked. I also like that Charlotte is still acting like a heel in some ways because it suggests that maybe she will not get along with Naomi. That’s something the announcers can harp on when trying to tell the story of the match.
The heel trio of Natalya, Carmella & Tamina have had the advantage during most of the interactions between these ladies, so that makes me think the faces will win. Specifically, I’m going with Charlotte Flair getting the pin for her team in what could be a good match if they got time.
Winners: Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair & Naomi
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
Kurt: Corbin has been my favorite thing going on Smackdown and now that Strowman is hurt for whatever amount of time it will be and until Zack Ryder returns, he’s my favorite thing going in all of WWE. The rumors are persistent that he’s going to get the top heel push sooner than later. If that’s the case then I’d really like to avoid more clean losses to Randy Orton like the one we had this past Tuesday.
Zayn, despite what was a much-needed move to Smackdown, is seemingly stuck in the same spot on Raw. He’s 4th in the pecking order of babyfaces and as everything stands right now, I don’t see any big programs for him coming up. They don’t need to go back to the Owens/Zayn well yet. So ultimately, I think he’s just going to keep coming up short in big matches. Maybe he eventually snaps and does an “enough is enough” type of heel turn like Owen Hart did.
Prediction: Baron Corbin
Mike: The reboot has meant largely much ado about nothing for our plucky and intrepid friend Sami Zayn, who seems to occupy exactly the same space on the blue brand that he did on the red–serving as a launching pad and punching bag for the best and baddest the locker room has to offer. The unfortunate truth is that Zayn is so over with a large portion of the crowd that he doesn’t actually have to ever win any matches. Maybe we need to start booing him out of the building to convince the powers that be in the WWE to give him not only a solid feud, but a win or two.
As for Corbin, it seems he’s been on the cusp of the mega-push since forever. I was surprised when he didn’t knock off Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania, but it wasn’t in the cards for him due to the Intercontinental/United States swap they were itching to pull the trigger on since the split. He has consistently gotten big wins without being placed in a role of big responsibility. It would make sense for Zayn to win if this feud was continuing, but this is treading water to me.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Matthew: The first match I’m seeing that has me a little excited. Baron Corbin has been pretty good for a while, and I do appreciate that they are taking their time as they elevate him. It’s pretty refreshing to see them take their time with something and slowly prepare it until it’s ready to occupy the spot they hope to elevate him to some day. I probably jinxed it by the way, and he’ll win Money in the Bank in a month or so.
As far as the slow elevation is concerned, Sami is a great rival to give him. Sami is masterful at making heels look like absolute jerks and making crowds hate them and cheer for him. He’s also a great worker for Corbin to work with to elevate his own skills. I just think this a really great pairing and they should put on a pretty damn good match.
Winner: Sami Zayn (because this keeps the feud rolling, and if Corbin is about to win MITB, this loss helps to throw us off the scent)
John: There’s a perception that Corbin is pushed hard by WWE, but he’s really not. He’s lost his last three matches at PPV events and he just lost clean to Orton on Smackdown. I think Corbin’s about to get on a hot streak with this win followed by Money in the Bank next month.
If I was booking this show, Zayn would win this match and he’d win Money in the Bank. Leading into SummerSlam, I would have Zayn challenge Shinsuke Nakamura to a match at that show while referencing their match of the year in NXT during WrestleMania 32 weekend last year.
If they get 15+ minutes they should have a very good match. I just don’t know if they will get that much time or if the crowd will care enough because the story hasn’t been strong for them.
Winner: Baron Corbin
Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) vs. Breezango (Tyler Breeze & Fandango)
Kurt: First off, thumbs up on The Fashion Files. There’s so much gold in those segments. “What is Day One Is H?” had me laughing far harder than it had any business to. It’s good to see these guys in a babyface role where they can let their charisma shine through. The work they did on Southpaw Regional Wrestling just screamed out how underutilized they were. The Usos on the other hand, where have these guys been all along? They’re right up there with The Miz on top promo guys.
This is the hardest match to call for me because it’s too soon for The Usos to lose the titles, but you can’t just have Breezango lose cleanly already. I would have Breezango throw everything but the kitchen sink at The Usos and have some really good nearfalls and finally The Usos feeling the titles slip, get disqualified. We need more of this program and we need more of these two teams together.
Prediction: Breezango by Disqualification (The Usos retain)
Mike: It should give you some idea of the challenges of the tag team division on Smackdown Live when these two teams are doing battle for the gold. Raw’s side is extremely deep at the expense of Tuesday’s show, but it has at least added another dimension to the Usos’ surprisingly effective heel persona with their entertaining conspiracy theories and allowed the hilariously-named Breezango a chance to sow their wild oats at a bigger audience. It’s been one heck of a hot minute so far.
I mentioned in the build-up to John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse that absurdly entertaining vignettes are no way to win an actual match. If this was Star Search (or America’s Got Talent, depending on your age and YouTube access), Breezango would be a lock to win this weekend. It isn’t, though, and they have little to no chance of being the ones to end the Usos. That spot is being kept nice and warm for The New Day, who will swoop in and claim gold as soon as Kofi heals up. That will begin a nice long run for them before talk of an inevitable breakup seeps in. Oh, we did that already? Whoops.
Winners (and STILL Smackdown Tag Team Champions): The Usos
Matthew: I really love what The Usos are giving us right now. They have been cutting promos with an intensity and fire that is borderline goofy, but has allowed them to show more personality through speech than they ever had before. I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it.
Now the Fashion Police stuff… not quite my cup of tea. I get that it’s really wacky and sometimes funny, but I personally believe their entire shtick would actually be funnier if they just played it straight. The police outfits and all the overly produced accoutrement just feels extraneous to me. At the core, the story of a pair of kinda dumb, pretty/hunky guys works on its own and is actually more versatile comedically.
Then again, if they weren’t the fashion police, you wouldn’t have the whole law enforcement vs. savage Samoan thugs undertones. That said, given the political climate these days, that might be a bit of an undertone they are hoping nobody notices.
Winners and Still Smackdown Tag Team Champions: The Usos (because seriously, Breezango?)
John: I like that Breezango has received enough of a push that they’ve earned a title shot. Do I think they are going to win here? Nope. I think The Usos vs. New Day will be a big time summer feud for the tag titles, which is fine with me. I’m glad that Breezango will get a chance to show people how great they are and I hope it’s an awesome match. I just think the champs are walking away with the titles, which is cool with me because I enjoy the heel Usos a lot.
Winners: The Usos
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler
Kurt: The entire promotional campaign behind this show revolves around Nakamura’s in ring debut for Smackdown, which ultimately makes it the most predictable match on the card. It’s a strange dynamic as I appreciate Smackdown trying to make Nakamura an attraction and feel special by not having him on every week, but with the declining ratings and his mass appeal, it may be time to rethink that logic.
Dolph is in a strange spot here because it’s a reward for him to face Nakamura in his first match. They trust Dolph, they know he can have a badass match with Nakamura and he’s carried this program in the promo department. However, once this match ends and he ultimately loses, where does he go from here? A participant in Money in the Bank perhaps? He’s not winning that, so then what? You can tell Dolph really wants this heel turn to work, but even though it’s a reward now, there doesn’t seem to be any reward on the flip side to go with it.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
Mike: Now we’re getting to the good stuff. If you’re one of the few who neither saw Shinsuke Nakamura on the international stage nor caught his tremendous work in NXT, you might have been a little confused with his very untraditional arrival onto SD Live. For most of us, though, it was the payoff to an amazing run that saw someone transcend both language and nationality and occupy that very rarified air of stardom. Nakamura looks, acts, and most importantly works like a rock star, because he essentially is one. He’s different and dangerous and a ball full of the absurdly-entertaining-to-watch strong style, and he’s going to kick major ass (literally) all over the Smackdown side of things. This is not just someone that lives up to the hype, but is undersold by the hype.
Give WWE credit that for Nakamura’s first major feud they counter with Dolph Ziggler, Smackdown’s forgotten man. Ziggler is the perfect foil for Nakamura: good on the microphone, full of himself, and capable of delivering a five-star match on any given night. If the point of Backlash is to establish Nakamura as a big-time player in the WWE, Dolph is a great option even though he hasn’t gotten a very consistent push since reclaiming #heel status. Ziggler is the best kind of cannon fodder, in that sometimes you forget he’s actually cannon fodder at all with how crazy talented he is.
All of that said, the shrapnel is coming. Ziggler has no chance of beating Nakamura in his first WWE PPV match, and that’s the simple state of affairs. This will be a real treat for the viewing audience, though, and so it really matters not. Both guys will do their job and put on a clinic that will rival anything on a Raw event.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Matthew: The single match I’m most looking forward to. I am watching this show solely for this match, and one other. Shinsuke Nakamura is my favorite performer in the WWE, and to finally see him do battle on the main roster has me pretty excited. They have been a little hit or miss with him during this build, but for the most part I’m pleased.
I’m very happy that he is essentially the face of the advertising for Backlash. The commercials for the event are essentially Nakamura sizzle reels. I’m also happy that he hasn’t wrestled on TV yet and that his first opponent is going to be Dolph Ziggler. Now the Ziggler promo that spent the whole thing comparing him to Michael Jackson, pretty weak stuff. I’m also not really into this “The Artist Known As…” stuff they’re pushing. It just seems overly produced and unnecessary.
Regardless of all of the build, the good and the bad, what matter is this match. If Nakamura and Dolph go out there Sunday and tear the house down like they can, Shinsuke will officially have arrived on the main roster and captured the imaginations of every single person that doesn’t get it yet. The character is very much about setting an expectation, and defying said expectation within minutes of an actual fight. I’m so very excited for him to finish his introduction to those who still don’t understand.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura (because he’s the greatest)
John: We all know the outcome of this. Backlash has been built around Nakamura making his PPV debut, which is smart because he’s a big deal. I think they’ll have a great match because of all the live event matches they’ve had. Hopefully it’s in the 15-20 minute range rather than an easy 12 minute win for Nakamura. Give them more time to tell a story and that should help the match quality.
I think WWE kept Nakamura in NXT too long. He was signed in January 2016. He should have been called up by last year’s SummerSlam at the latest and should have been in a featured WrestleMania match. Instead, it’s May 2017 and we are finally able to see him on a main roster PPV.
This match should be the main event of the show and I think WWE is smart enough to know that. If it’s not then Owens/Styles will be last.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
United States Championship: Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles
Kurt: The perfect match to have in front of a rabid Chicago crowd. Let the chants of “fight forever” rain down on them as they have a 20-25 minute classic. I could spend 200 words talking about this match, but we all know how great both of these guys are. Owens is finally the heel he needed to be and Styles is finally the babyface he needed to be. You don’t need a reason to watch this match and I even suspect some of you reading will feel this is the ONLY match worth watching.
I hope this will be a series of matches, ultimately culminating at SummerSlam. I could see both men in Money in the Bank, but I could also see them leaving these two out to be able to showcase others and giving these guys their own platform on the show. I think it’s too soon for a title change, but I see Owens needing nefarious ways to get the job done to lend to a rematch.
Prediction: Kevin Owens retains
Mike: In another match that has the potential to blow the lid off the building, United States champion Kevin Owens and his brilliant “Face of America” gimmick has pushed former partner Chris Jericho off to tour and is now staring down Smackdown’s MVP, AJ Styles. These two guys have carried the mail for their respective brands for the better part of 2016 and now the (fairly) new year, and expectations for this one should be high. If either of these guys are capable of laying an egg, I’ve not been to that henhouse.
Styles really needs to be kept busy while Randy Orton is WWE Champion, so this feud makes sense as it can go a while and still feel fresh. It also says something about the quality of Owens as a wrestler and a champion that his United States feuds always feel way bigger than larger, more “important” title matches on any given card. I wouldn’t mind if these two exchanged back and forths for a couple of months before pressing the reset button, because they are two of the finest talents on WWE’s roster at the moment.
As for Sunday? KO has never been above giving in to his cheating ways, and there’s absolutely no reason to think he plays clean here. Styles having a championship is always a welcome sight, but he doesn’t really need it right now and he’s probably better off chasing anyway. Eventually he’ll square back into the WWE Title picture, but there’s no need to rush it. He and Owens will deliver another excellent performance, and we’ll be the better for watching it. If Owens is truly the face of America, the country is looking pretty damn good right now.
Winner (and STILL United States Champion): Kevin Owens
Matthew: I just spent some time gushing about Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler as one of the matches I was most excited about seeing. Kevin Owens and AJ Styles is right up there with that. This is a two match card, but I expect both those matches to deliver the goods and be worth the price of admission.
It’s easy to annoyed that AJ Styles is going to be wrestling for the United States Title instead of the WWE Championship, but look at who he gets to work with and tell me that this isn’t the more exciting route? We know AJ isn’t out of the World Title Picture. He’ll be back there soon enough. This is a fun detour, with a stellar opponent, and you know they’re going to go all out to try to be the match of the night, especially because they know they have stiff competition for that honor.
To me the title doesn’t much matter (and maybe that is a weakness), all that matters is getting to watch Kevin Owens and AJ Styles battle it out in a high profile match.
Winner and Still United States Champion: Kevin Owens (likely via some trickery, cheating or by DQ)
John: This should be the best match of the night. It’s AJ Styles on pay-per-view. He doesn’t let us down. Kevin Owens always has good matches when he gets a lot of time as well and I fully expect them to get over 20 minutes in this match. There’s very little chance that this match will disappoint us. What could have been done better is the build to the match because Styles has barely said a word about wanting to win the US Title. It could have been built up better, that’s for sure.
I’m going with an Owens win. I think this is just a one PPV type of feud and that Styles will be a key name in the Money in the Bank match next month. It feels like Owens is going to have a significant US Title run since the “Face of America” thing is interesting. Plus, Chris Jericho is going to be back in July or August, so it makes sense for Jericho to return while Owens still has the title. I don’t expect a clean finish, but I think Owens will still be the champion after the match is over.
Winner: Kevin Owens
WWE Championship: Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal
Kurt: Don’t Hinder Jinder people! John may think Jinder is boring, but I’m a fan of the push and of him as a character. I really hope Vince or anyone overseeing this match doesn’t do a kneejerk reaction to the ratings and has Orton easily dispatch of Jinder and have him go back to what he was. This type of push has happened before with JBL and Jack Swagger. One worked and the other didn’t. Both had time to come to that conclusion, though.
It’s only been a couple weeks for Jinder so far. Fans clamor for something new and when we get it, we say that’s not what we wanted. We can’t have it both ways. Let Jinder work the through the kinks because I’m sure that as much of an adjustment it is for us watching, it’s even more so for him in the ring. I’d like to see the Singh Brothers do their role well as Jinder’s heaters and either get Jinder accidentally disqualified or distracts him to allow Orton to hit the RKO from outta nowhere. Just do something that lends to Jinder logically being able to get a rematch.
Prediction: Randy Orton retains
Mike: Really good feuds and matches in wrestling allow you to reach a temporary state of disbelief regarding the outcome. You know the fat man might not actually be squeezing down your chimney this December, but it doesn’t ruin the surprise of what’s wrapped in those boxes. Do I think Jinder Mahal will be claiming gold because of the absurdly strong way he’s been booked the last month and a half? Not even for a scintilla of a sliver of a moment.
People are really worked up over Mahal getting the big rub here, but it’s much ado about nothing. Titles mean less and less at this stage of pro wrestling history, so other than the prime spot on the card it’s not really as big a deal as it’s cracked up to be. Does Mahal deserve it? Probably not, but who cares. Plenty of heels ride a wave of irritation into some pretty big matches, and it even works out okay in the end on occasion. Is he capable of delivering a great match against Orton? Probably not, but Orton’s matches lately have been boring me to tears anyway. Look on the bright side, people: At least it’s not a House of Horrors match.
Whether you think Mahal’s trajectory is more due to his heritage or his hard work is up to you, but the truth is Orton hasn’t done much to distinguish himself as champ during this run either. WWE’s creative team has used outside advantages and chicanery to allow Jinder to get the drop on the Viper on more than one occasion, but the pipe dream ends here. Orton overcomes the odds and gets himself a measure of revenge while we all await something better to do. The prospect of Nakamura as SD champ awaits. Happy thoughts.
Winner (and STILL WWE Champion): Randy Orton
Matthew: I don’t have much to say about this one. I expect the match to be pretty mechanical and boring. Randy, in my opinion, is currently miscast as a hero, when he should almost certainly be a villain. Also, occupying that role would make this entire feud work better (minus Mahal obviously).
Imagine Randy as a villain smirking when someone unexpected was able to become the number one contender (let’s say someone like a Tye Dillinger). Randy torments them and tells them they don’t belong in the main event, garnering sympathy and support for the unexpected underdog. At Backlash that superstar gives Orton a run for his money but comes up just short. That’s a fun little story to tell. As it stands, who cares about this match. Nobody cares about and evil underdog rising up out of nowhere.
Who knows, maybe they put the belt on Jinder. The last we saw him on Raw, he was feuding with Rusev who has made his claim on a title match for Money in the Bank in June… just saying.
Winner and Still WWE Champion: Randy Orton (because expansion to India be damned, I will not accept a Jinder Mahal WWE Title run)
John: It’s not a match that excites me too much. Mahal bored me in televised matches against great workers like AJ Styles and Sami Zayn. I don’t expect this to be better than either of those matches, but they could surprise us.
The WWE Creative team rushed this Mahal push and they didn’t have to. They should have planned this out better so that they were giving him some decent midcard wins in the last two or three months. Instead, they threw him into a #1 Contender match, had him win that and have basically hit us over the head as if to say “accept him” while we sit here wondering how a guy with one career PPV win (in a tag match) is getting a WWE Title shot at a PPV. It just feels weird and it was not planned out very well. I don’t think people hate Mahal. They just hate how the push has happened.
The more I’ve thought about this, the more I think they might have Mahal win by disqualification or countout or something like that. Perhaps the Singh Brothers try to use a chair, Orton gets it from them, Orton hits Mahal and the ref sees it, which leads to a disqualification. That kind of thing would lead to another title match at Money in the Bank between them. It was also copy the Eddie Guerrero/JBL program from 2004 because their first match had a chair finish leading to the disqualification. I’m going with Orton, but Mahal by disqualification might happen too.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t think this should be the main event. Put Nakamura/Ziggler on last or Styles/Owens. Both are better options than this match as the show ender.
Winner: Randy Orton
Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most
Kurt: Owens/Styles is too easy so I’ll say Breezango vs. The Usos because both have been highly entertaining leading to this match.
Mike: Without question, it’s Nakamura/Ziggler. Nakamura’s first real WWE PPV test is a big one, and I am giddy with anticipation. Ziggler might not get much respect from his employer, but this is a very important spot for him.
Matthew: Easily Nakamura/Ziggler.
John: Any time AJ Styles has a PPV match that’s usually going to be my pick, but Nakamura’s first televised match on the main roster is very intriguing. I’m going Nakamura/Ziggler for this.
Match I Care About The Least
Kurt: Harper/Rowan just because we’ve seen it before and my point above about how they botched Harper’s push.
Mike: Far too many options here, but I’ll go the six-women tag. The solution of dumping all available talent into one match instead of telling a couple viable and unique stories is an unfortunate one, and all too common. They deserve better.
Matthew: Dillinger/English unfortunately has the least intrigue by any metric.
John: It’s Harper/Rowan because WWE didn’t even care to tell a story. At least show some effort.
Mike: Owens/Styles would make the most sense. Both guys can go a good long while, and both need a long time to tell a really good story. Should be a clinic.
Matthew: AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens.
John: Styles vs. Owens should go 25+ minutes. I feel safe in predicting that match for this choice.
Kurt: Harper/Rowan, but I could see a scenario where Orton/Mahal is the shortest.
Mike: I’m hoping it’s Orton/Mahal, but I’ll go Harper/Rowan. I feel like we’ve seen it seventeen times and it’s all been the same.
Matthew: Orton vs. Mahal (at least I hope so).
John: I think it will be Dillinger vs. English even though I want them to get more time.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Kurt: Smackdown PPV’s naturally get me excited and there are some good matches on here to look forward to, so a solid 7.5 for me.
Mike: I’ll be generous and say 5, purely due to Shinsuke. This card is as bland as I’ve seen.
Matthew: About a 6. My excitement for Shinsuke/Dolph and Owens/Styles is at 10, but everything else is at about a 2. Evens out to 6.
John: The Smackdown brand has been hurting a bit in the last month since the Superstar Shake-up, but getting matches like Owens/Styles and Nakamura/Ziggler on the show is a positive. I’ll go with a 7 here.
John: It’s a pretty basic show with no stipulation matches and if you look at our predictions, most of us are thinking the same results for the matches. I think the strength of the card is the Owens/Styles and Nakamura/Ziggler matches. If they get time they will make a lot of fans happy and we’ll remember Backlash as a great show regardless of everything else. If the other matches exceed expectations then this show will surprise people. I’m going into it with an optimist outlook and feel like the Chicago crowd is going to provide a boost that the Smackdown brand needs.
I will write a live review of WWE Backlash this Sunday night during the show, so check out TJRWrestling.net during the show or after it’s over for my thoughts on everything.
Kurt – @KTankTMB
Mike – @DharmanRockwell
Matthew – @MJDP_GSE
John – @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org as well. Thanks for reading.