John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Backlash preview. The Backlash name has been around going back to 1999, they used it for 11 years, then it went away and returned in 2016. I like the name and the history of the event has a lot of great matches. They have advertised seven matches with the potential to add some more before the show starts on Sunday because they have some feuds brewing on Raw and Smackdown right now. I’m interested to see the length of the show because the last main roster PPV was Money in the Bank last month going 2 hours and 14 minutes. The belief is that WWE management wants shorter shows without fans there, but in the last month, they have added WWE developmental wrestlers in the crowd. I think they might go in the 2 hour, 30 minutes range for this show.
I think the lineup is solid, but not necessarily one of the best cards of the year. Will there anything on this show that’s better than the nearly five star match between AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan on Smackdown? Probably not. I think WWE put that match on Smackdown to get a big match out there on “free” TV and also to not overshadow the Edge vs. Randy Orton match as the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” according to WWE’s promotion. There’s certainly something to that line of thinking, at least in my opinion. I just wish that some of the outstanding wrestlers not wrestling on this show were actually in matches because it would be a better show if some better wrestlers were in matches.
There was also big behind the scenes news this week with Bruce Prichard taking over Paul Heyman’s role running the creative team on Raw (under Vince McMahon) along with Bruce continuing to run Smackdown. Will that change lead to some Heyman guys getting less of a push now? Perhaps. The problem is we don’t know exactly who Paul favored, who Vince may not like as much and who Bruce may like more. We just don’t know even though we can guess and read speculative rumors about it. I like to focus on what’s happening on screen instead of being wrapped up on the rumors. If you care about the rumors too much then you won’t enjoy what you’re watching.
Joining me for the preview are Alex Podgorski and Mike Sanchez. Here are some thoughts from Alex and Mike and then we’ll get to the preview.
Alex: Based on the hype, this is really a one-match show. WWE has tried to tell us they will present the greatest wrestling match of all time. I can think of at least 40 matches more deserving of that honor (check out my 5-star match review series here), and all of them will be better than what WWE has to offer. That isn’t to say that WWE’s wrestlers won’t work hard on this show; they definitely will. But this lack of fans is really allowing WWE’s longstanding issues to bubble to the surface. Stories don’t feel fresh, rivalries are pitifully impersonal and uninspiring, and many feuds look like they were thrown together at the last minute. I’m not trying to dissuade you from watching this show completely; instead, I’m warning you to not get your hopes up. The last WWE PPV had a special gimmick that made it worth watching; this one…honestly doesn’t. Why? You’ll see for yourselves below.
Mike: There’s only one Backlash match that has already been taped (Edge vs. Orton) prior to the creative team changes (Bruce Prichard taking creative control of both Raw and Smackdown). The change provides an ideal opportunity for Prichard to make a big statement, which would likely be a title change or an unexpected outcome of one of the main matches. That being said, perhaps any changes he makes to the creative going forward will be more subtle in nature. I suppose only time will tell. This looks to be one of those PPVs with promise in certain areas, but not overall and I hope the good will outweigh the bad. I’ve had to binge-watch Raw and Smackdown in the last few days due to not being able to catch up through the week. I’ll certainly be watching this event on the WWE Network on Monday morning, as being in the UK, not all of us have the stamina to stay awake until 4am.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.)
United States Championship: Apollo Crews (c) vs. Andrade
Alex: A long time ago, for a website far, far away, I once predicted that Apollo Crews would be the first-ever Black WWE Champion. I thought that, despite being relatively short, he had all the other tools needed to succeed in WWE: a great physique, athleticism, coachability, marketability and youth. Here we are five years later and Crews is like so many other WWE wrestlers from different backgrounds: stuck in a bloated midcard fighting over precious little. But at least he has something to fight for now, instead of being yet another victim of WWE’s ‘appear-for-three-weeks-then-disappear-for-three-months’ booking philosophy. Since he just won the title two weeks ago, having him lose it now wouldn’t do him any favors. I think he and Andrade will have a decently competitive match, provided they get at least twelve minutes.
Winner and STILL United States Champion: Apollo Crews
Mike: I’ve enjoyed watching the stable of Andrade, Garza and Vega in recent weeks. It’s fresh and something that harks back to an older era where a ‘manager’ in Vega watches over the careers of more than one wrestler at the same time. I really like Andrade and think he’s a good performer, especially in the heel role. I don’t see them taking the US Title from Crews here, as he’s not held the belt long, but if Vince wants to shake things up in the company, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it start here. I’ll stick with Crews to retain though, as he needs a run with the belt and also gives him a chance to get more time on screen and show what he can do if utilised every week.
Winner and still US Champion – Apollo Crews
John: It wouldn’t shock me if Crews gets a short title reign, but I feel like he’s going to retain the title here. The reason it might be short is because maybe he was a Paul Heyman guy that Paul wanted to push hard, but now that Paul is out and Bruce is in that spot, things could change. We don’t know, though. It’s all speculation for now.
Andrade didn’t do much as the US Champion when he held it for a few months. Perhaps Aleister Black is a guy to have a solid run with this title. This should be a competitive back and forth match like they have had in the past. I think Andrade winning is possible, but I’m going with Crews to win.
Winner: Apollo Crews
Women’s Tag Team Championships: Bayley and Sasha Banks (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs. The IIconics (Peyton Royce and Billie Kay)
Alex: This match just feels like it was thrown together at the last possible minute. I’m fairly certain we’ve seen this exact combination of women in this exact situation before. But instead of capitalizing on that very likely scenario, this will probably be the same match as before without any nuance, freshness, or even callbacks to those older matches.
As with the US title match, it doesn’t make sense for the new champions to lose their titles so soon. Banks and Bayley are two of the best wrestlers in WWE’s women’s division, and both are at a level above the other four. They’ll likely do something devious like take advantage of some in-ring confusion to leave with their titles via shenanigans. Which will then necessitate a rematch sometime down the road. Whether that’s a good thing or not is entirely up to you.
Winners and STILL Women’s Tag Team Champions: Bayley & Sasha Banks
Mike: I’m just not into the IIconics at all. I’m sure they’re very talented wrestlers who work hard, but their gimmick bores me and I find them irritating. Apologies to their fans out there, but for me, them walking away with the belts is the worst outcome in my opinion. I think Bliss and Cross did more with the titles during their run, and the IIconics held the belts for twice as long as Bliss and Cross did (in their last run as champs, anyway).
I see Bayley and Sasha Banks retaining, but their victory will be a close call and only further fracture the tense partnership they have now. The belts have been used to further the feud between the pair and it’s a shame as Bayley is holding two spots when there are so many more women on the roster who could really do with a Tag Title run. If they retain here, then almost certainly they’ll drop them in the near future when their partnership will implode.
Winners and still Women’s Tag Team Champions – Bayley and Sasha Banks
John: When I wrote my Smackdown review last night I mentioned Bayley and Banks retaining, but I think maybe their title reign is going to be quick with the IIconics winning the titles for the second time. After all, The IIconics are an actual tag team that really don’t have much to do when they’re out of the title hunt. The team of Cross and Bliss work well together as a babyface team that the fans like, but I think they I think Bayley and Banks holding the titles will lead to problems where they screw up somehow in the match and they’ll lose the titles. I think Bayley and Banks losing the titles will lead to their split, which then leads to a big match at SummerSlam between them. Everybody assumes champions aren’t going to have title reigns that only last a week or two, but sometimes there are going to be quick title runs. The IIconics win and the story will be about the Bayley/Banks mistake that costs them the win.
Winners AND NEW Women’s Tag Team Champions: The IIconics (Peyton Royce and Billie Kay)
Raw Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax
Alex: And here I thought Charlotte was the poster child for nepotism in WWE. There are so many other people that Asuka could face for the title, yet WWE chose Nia. That same Nia that injured Asuka’s friend Kairi Sane twice and doesn’t seem to get punished for it. I just don’t get it. The Rock isn’t even affiliated with WWE at all anymore, so why does WWE feel the need to treat his cousin Nia with kid gloves when she makes big mistakes?
Unfortunately, I don’t have high hopes for this contest. Asuka is great, but she really shines when her opponent goes the extra mile to sell her offense. Asuka is stiff as hell, and now she’s going up against a woman that’s supposed to be a monster and ignore pain. Those two forces just don’t go well together, so hopefully Asuka will make quick work of Nia then move on.
Also, I’m predicting that Kairi Sane will make a surprise appearance just to mess with Nia in some way.
Winner and STILL Raw Women’s Champion: Asuka
Mike: I make no apologies for my admiration of Asuka who is fantastic. She’s had a tough job in attempting to fill the Becky Lynch-sized void on Raw, but she’s done great. Give her an opponent of a high calibre and she shines. Her recent three-way tag match on Raw shows how good she can be, when she held her own against multiple opponents. Ideally, I’d love to see her go against Charlotte again, but I think that match is being saved for a bigger stage. My main concern with this match is that she’s up against Nia Jax who seems to be the recipient of continual pushes into title matches. Remember when I said a statement could be made in one of these matches? This could be the one. I sincerely hope it isn’t, but I have a bad feeling about it. If Nia doesn’t injure Asuka during the match, then she may walk away with the belt. I’m sticking with my gut on this and hope that WWE continue to see that Asuka is awesome and should be backed as champ. Asuka is the champion who can weather the storm until things return to relative normality.
Winner and still Raw Women’s Champion – Asuka
John: This will probably be the kind of match where Jax is on offense for about 80% of the time, Asuka makes the big comeback and slaps on the Asuka Lock submission leading to Jax passing out to give Asuka the win. It’s hard for me to ever get excited about a Jax match, but Asuka is probably the best woman in the company to get a decent match out of her. I also know a lot of fans hate Jax due to her unsafe moments with Kairi Sane in the past and it’s understandable why fans feel that way. I also understand why WWE likes Jax due to her size and not just because of who she is related to. Anyway, I expect Asuka to win here and we will probably get a few Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair PPV matches for the Raw Women’s Title in the coming months. Maybe there’s a multi-woman match at some point, but Asuka and Flair will be the main focus.
Universal Championship: Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Miz and John Morrison
Alex: This won’t go more than ten minutes. Despite the questionable booking, Strowman is still a monster than can manhandle multiple opponents at once. Now, some of you might be wondering, ‘But Alex, how can you say that? He lost in a handicap match in February.’ And you’re right. He lost to a man Kevin Owens once called a ‘human horse’ (Cesaro), a devious Canadian with a vicious boot for a finisher (Zayn), and a guy whose knee strikes do more damage to one’s body than a shotgun blast (Nakamura).
Miz and Morrison, whether together or individually, don’t have what it takes to topple Strowman. They might get a few moments of control in the match, but neither man will win. Because if there’s one thing about WWE, it’s that its characters must always show moronic tendencies. I can see Miz and Morrison start arguing with and then shoving each other over pin attempts, only for Strowman to take advantage of this and win.
Man, this company really has to bring back the philosophy that ‘anything can happen in the WWE’.
Winner and STILL WWE Universal Champion: Braun Strowman
Mike: Oh, God. How dreadful has this been? Seriously? WWE can’t find a decent opponent to keep Strowman busy for a few months until Roman Reigns returns? I, like many others, always thought Strowman should be a champion at some point, but since he’s captured the Universal Title, WWE has done nothing to cement his place at the top of the tree. In contrast, Drew McIntyre has thrust himself front and centre at every opportunity and you can see the effort he’s putting in, as he knows he’s in a delicate spot and the office can quickly drop him if he’s not a believable champion. Strowman has done none of that, and this match seems like a throwaway.
I’d be more invested if it was against the Miz with Morrison in his corner, but the one vs. two match seems odd. Regardless, it will be short & sweet with Strowman dominating from the start. Expect Miz and Morrison to sell like champs.
Winner and still Universal Champion – Braun Strowman
John: My interest level in this match is very low. I actually like all three guys and if you would have told me a eight months ago when Morrison was coming to WWE that he would be in a Universal Championship match I would have been happy. However, when you see how this match has been set up it’s disappointing. They have a Handicap Match with two challengers who have been booked like jokes over the last month and they didn’t do anything creatively to make me care. They’ll probably go ten minutes, Strowman will dominate for half, sell for a few minutes and then make the big comeback to win.
I also think Bray Wyatt will show up as The Fiend after the match to restart that feud leading into Extreme Rules and SummerSlam in the summer months. They could also save that for Smackdown.
Winner: Braun Strowman
Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus
Alex: This one’s pretty easy to predict. On one hand, you have a guy whose real-life substance abuse issues have become part of his on-screen persona. This guy has been to the top of WWE and then was let go many times. He’s had demons in the past, both on-screen and real-life, and it’s been suggested that he can’t seem to be in control of his own life. This is concerning, given that WWE’s head honcho is a notorious control freak.
On the other hand, there’s Sheamus, who…MUSCLES!
Still think it’s hard to guess whose gonna win?
Mike: Similar to the Edge/Orton match, this has been a better build with a more personal tone taken in the promos. Jeff Hardy’s personal battles have been well known for many years, but it’s good to see the guy has turned a corner and hopefully will continue to better himself. I think Sheamus is a good choice to help re-establish Hardy as a big player, and will no doubt put Hardy through the wringer in this match. It’s a simple story with simple booking to help develop the feud. Nothing wrong with that. Sheamus is a natural heel and this feud could have legs beyond this match.
Winner – Jeff Hardy
John: This is a match with a storyline with Sheamus disrespecting Jeff for Jeff’s past transgressions as an alcoholic and drug user. Jeff’s doing better now, he’s in recovery, but Sheamus is getting heat for bringing it up all the time. That led to Sheamus setting up Jeff in a car accident even though it’s not like anybody will be charged for it in WWE’s fictional world. They will probably drop the whole thing soon. The angle on Smackdown with Jeff tossing the “urine” on Sheamus was an exact copy of Vince McMahon’s feud with Shawn Michaels in 2006, so clearly Vince thought it was some genius idea. I think it was okay in the sense of Jeff getting revenge.
When they had a match a few weeks ago in the Intercontinental Title tournament, Hardy got the win via a rollup of sorts to make it look like he barely won. It was okay. This match will probably be better and longer. This feels like a match to continue the rivalry while not putting an end to it, so I get the feeling that Sheamus is going to cheat to win. If Jeff wins then that is okay too. I just think Sheamus wins here, then they’ll have a gimmick match next month at Extreme Rules and Jeff will get the win there.
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
Alex: Rumor has it that the Drew McIntyre experiment has failed and that Vince has grown tired of him. On one hand, it would be stupid to blame Drew for bad ratings and poor interest since the entire wrestling industry is still reeling from a global pandemic. On the other hand, this is Vince McMahon we’re talking about, so anything is possible.
I don’t think anything will change here. Drew has been solid as champion and has put on pretty good matches on a consistent basis as champion. So for him to lose to the challenger of the month without any major build would undo all the work they’ve done with Drew up to this point.
Even though Lashley has a good chance of winning (after all, Vince has shifted his focus to giving pushes to guys in their mid-40s and older), that won’t happen here. I think Drew will outlast Lashley and retain in a highly competitive match that’ll go around twenty minutes.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: Drew McIntyre
Mike: I like this match in that McIntyre won’t have it easy and he’s not being fed opponents that he’ll dominate and destroy in a matter of moments. Lashley has been a part of some strange angles over the years, but I think he’s utilised best as a dangerous threat to a popular champion. I think this will be a very physical match that will only serve to elevate both men if done right. If they can drop the silly full nelson shtick, which makes Lashley look like he’s always struggling to put on McIntyre due to the sheer size of the giant Scot, then this could be a very good match.
I don’t see McIntyre dropping the belt anytime soon, and I believe alongside Asuka, Raw has two very good champions in place that can carry the brand for a few months more.
Winner and still WWE Champion – Drew McIntyre
John: This should be a pretty good match. I’ve seen them have some solid matches when they were in Impact Wrestling a few years ago. McIntyre is better now than he was then and McIntyre had the best match at Money in the Bank last month. I think WWE could have booked Lashley stronger going into the show. Yes, Lashley has looked dominant while using the Full Nelson submission as a finisher, but it would have been nice if Lashley won a number one contender’s match or had some significant victory to earn that spot. The addition of MVP to Lashley’s act as a manager or mentor of sorts is also something that has helped Lashley a lot.
The title reign of McIntyre still has a lot of legs and I doubt he’s going to lose the title here. It also is a rivalry that could last two or three PPVs because maybe Lashley will attack after the loss to keep it going. It’s not like Raw has a lot of strong heels lined up for McIntyre right now. I think they will go for like 13 to 18 minutes, McIntyre will kick out at one throughout the match to look strong, they’ll do a nice Full Nelson tease and then McIntyre will find a way to hit a Claymore Kick to win.
Winner: Drew McIntyre
Edge vs. Randy Orton
(Note from John: Here’s what Edge posted on Twitter on Saturday morning. He was joking about the “greatest ever” thing for weeks and you can tell he didn’t love the promotion for it, neither did Orton. It’s not their fault that WWE promoted it as the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.” We also know the match was taped last Sunday while the rest of Backlash is live or close to live.)
— Adam (Edge) Copeland (@EdgeRatedR) June 13, 2020
Alex: This is WWE hyperbole and inconsistency at their finest. They’ve spent so many years trying to make the word ‘wrestling’ an ugly word and have branded themselves as ‘sports entertainment’, yet now they’re trying to call attention to the wrestling matches on their wrestling program. It’s silly, but at least it’s working, because people sure are talking about this.
But let’s not kid ourselves. There’s no way this match will live up to its hype as ‘the greatest wrestling match ever’. Neither of these two men is in a position to be putting on a match worthy of such high praise. Edge hasn’t wrestled a proper singles wrestling match in almost a full decade, and Randy Orton is Randy Orton. To suggest that these two will surpass the wrestling skills of people like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, Daniel Bryan, Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, AJ Styles, Kazuchika Okada, just to name a few, is ridiculously stupid, at best.
I don’t expect any fancy technical holds, chain grappling sequences or clever ring psychology out of these two. Instead, it’ll be a typical WWE main event style match, only with more headlocks from Randy Orton. And since Randy’s the healthier guy out for revenge after losing at WrestleMania, he’ll probably parlay those headlocks into some kind of surprise victory.
Winner: Randy Orton
Mike: The Greatest Match Ever? You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath. This will be Edge’s first regular one vs. one match since returning from injury and promises to be good. On his day, Randy Orton can be fantastic and having this match with Edge hyped up could be a catalyst in unleashing the best he has to offer. What we have here are two veterans who will complement one another and will come up with a good match.
Edge won’t want this match to be easy and will undoubtedly push himself harder than he’s done in the last decade. Orton has the capability to make a good match great, and Edge could be the foil he needs. This one could be a classic or a damp squib. I’m hoping for the former rather than the latter. Edge to win, but expect a hard-hitting, risky, slugfest.
Winner – Edge
John: This is the main event based on the build to the match as Edge’s first regular singles match in nine years. It is billed as the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” and it likely won’t be that. It’s silly to label a match as that before the match takes place, but this is Vince McMahon wanting to draw some attention to the show. Instead of bitching about it, I think fans should remember how happy they were when Edge returned at the Royal Rumble five months ago and try to go into it with an optimistic viewpoint instead of whining about the promotion.
I think they can have a match around the four-star level out of five (or maybe even higher) and that’s very good, but a lot of fans would rather complain about how the company promotes a match. The same fans need to remember WWE has done this sort of thing in the past when they called Rock vs. Cena “Once in a Lifetime” at WrestleMania 28 in 2012 even though WWE knew they were doing it again one year later after Rock won the WWE Title and Cena won the Royal Rumble. It was a plan for three WrestleManias to set it up at WM27 and then do two matches at the following two WrestleManias. That WM28 show got the biggest buyrate ever, so it worked. What’s my point? Don’t let the advertising cause you to overreact. Enjoy it for what it is – a pro wrestling match.
The match quality intrigues me of course, but I’m also curious about the result. I can see Orton winning because I think WWE will probably want him to go after McIntyre for the WWE Title, perhaps at SummerSlam. Edge got the win at WrestleMania, so if he wins again here then that ends the feud and they can both move on to other things with Edge likely being a part of SummerSlam in some way as well. There’s also a chance that this is the second match in a three match series and then they’ll have a third match this year. I’m going to go with Orton due to the possibility that they do have that third match and even if they don’t, I can see him going after McIntyre too. They’ll probably go 20-25 minutes and Orton’s my pick to win. It’s far from a lock. It’s just my hunch.
Winner: Randy Orton
The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most
Alex: The WWE title match because Drew is awesome or Edge vs. Orton because I’m curious to see how badly they fail to live up to the hype.
Mike: McIntyre vs Lashley – I want to see Drew cement his place as the WWE Champ. As a fellow Brit, I obviously want him to do well. Edge vs Orton too.
John: Edge vs. Orton. I’m intrigued to see if they can shut up some of the haters and have a good match. Plus, I think most of the card is predictable, so I want to see how it is booked.
The Match I Care About The Least
Alex: The Women’s Tag Team match. I know I’ve seen this combination of wrestlers before. Repetition aside, the division lacks genuine excitement and real interest in its rivalries.
Mike: Jeff Hardy vs Sheamus – It doesn’t excite me.
John: Braun Strowman vs. The Miz and John Morrison. I like all three guys, but it’s not that interesting for what is supposed to be a major title in WWE.
Alex: Edge vs. Orton. Assuming they actually do some mat wrestling and genuine grappling, they might go thirty minutes, if not longer.
Mike: Edge vs Orton – I’m expecting big things and a match we’ll be talking about for a while after. I just hope Edge doesn’t do anything too dangerous.
John: Edge vs. Orton because I expect it to go 20+ minutes and I don’t think another match on the show will be that long.
Alex: The Universal Title match. It’s Braun Strowman. He just isn’t built to wrestle long matches, especially when his entire shtick is all about destroying people decisively. This’ll probably go around eight minutes.
Mike: Jeff Hardy vs Sheamus.
John: Asuka vs. Nia Jax. Asuka went 26 minutes on Raw with Charlotte Flair. Jax is not the kind of wrestler that should be having long matches like that. Keep it under ten minutes.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Alex: 5 – If it weren’t for all the hype around ‘the greatest wrestling match ever’, I wouldn’t know there was a PPV coming up. The matchups don’t look too exciting, and I genuinely don’t think any titles will change. I’d be more excited if, for example, the great Styles-Bryan match that took place on SmackDown happened on this PPV instead.
Mike: About a 6. Any show with Asuka on the card adds a point or two for me. The good slightly outweighs the bad. Edge/Orton, McIntyre/Lashley and Asuka/Jax are the ones I want to see most.
John: I’ll go with a 6.25 to be the most optimistic one. That’s not a big number, though. I think a lot of the matches are predictable and even if they are booked in the best way, there aren’t that many matches that intrigue me. A lot of great wrestlers are not even booked on the card, so I think that hurts. The Edge/Orton match is the big selling point, so if it sucks then people are going to crap all over the show. Even if it’s good, some of them will complain because it’s not the “greatest wrestling match ever” so the wrestlers are in a tough spot. I think McIntyre/Lashley could surprise a lot of people and hopefully there’s another match or two that gets people excited. The card could be better, so that’s why I’m not that enthusiastic about the whole show.
John: I’ll be back with a review of WWE Backlash on TJRWrestling.net on Sunday, so check that out during the show or after it’s over.
If you want to send an email, send it to me at [email protected] as well. Thanks for reading.