WWE Backlash is coming up on Sunday. The card is set, and three titles will be defended in Chicago. However, the biggest draw on this card is the debut match of Shinsuke Nakamura. If WWE wasn’t unveiling the King of Strong Style on this show, it would be one of those “Oh, there’s a show on Sunday” kind of PPVs.
Here’s my Backlash preview and predictions. On a side note, it was pointed out to me that my predictions often look more like fantasy booking than actual predictions. I plead guilty. I guess I always hope against hope that WWE will show some vision and creativity in its approach. Can’t blame a guy for trying. For this piece, I’ll post my opinion of what should happen, and then predict what WWE will actually do.
WWE Backlash Preview and Predictions
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (Kickoff Show) – It’s tough for anyone to shine on the pre-show. Usually, the matches are too short to tell any kind of important story. Both men here are solid workers, and it’s the first actual feud for Dillinger since his call-up to the main roster. The results here will be telling. If Dillinger wins, he’ll be 3-0 vs. English, and possibly on his way to a spot on the upper mid-card this summer. If English wins, both men are probably stuck in pre-show purgatory for the foreseeable future. What Should Happen: Dillinger wins clean, English goes into histrionics (again), and Tye eventually works his way into contending for the U.S. Title, while English eventually recedes into the place where careers go to die – Curtis Axel’s basement. What Will Probably Happen: Part of me thinks that English is only on the roster to make sure nobody thinks he’s being punished for the behavior of his former tag partner, Simon Gotch. He’ll lose to Dillinger in decisive fashion, then disappear quietly.
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan – I really want this match to mean something. Both of these giants are surprisingly agile in the ring, and both know how to tell a story. Speaking of stories, there’s not much here. It seems that Rowan came back to avenge Bray Wyatt after Harper turned on the Eater of Worlds prior to WrestleMania. Then, Wyatt was sent to Raw, and Rowan would seem to have no direction. What Should Happen: Harper needs to win here, or the “feud” is already over. I’d love to see some scenario where these two are put on the card after the tag team title match, and while the champions are celebrating in the ring, Harper and Rowan come down the ramp and destroy everyone in sight. I think these two men are both worthy of singles pushes in the future, but I think a run as a dominant tag team would make that more likely. It would certainly make a breakup angle between them more relevant than it is right now. What Will Probably Happen: It doesn’t seem like much thought has gone into this feud up to this point, and that probably won’t change Sunday. Harper wins, keeping the feud alive, and Rowan becomes more unhinged than ever before.
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin – WWE seems intent on making Zayn an annoying dweeb, no matter how much the fans love him. He seems to be in the Dolph Ziggler zone where WWE thinks that losses don’t hurt Zayn, as long as he looks good in the process. They need to be careful. Now, fans have a hard time taking Ziggler seriously, no matter how good his work is. Zayn could easily slip into that same slot. The problem is that Corbin has been booked as a monster, and monsters can’t lose, lest they become less monstrous. What Should Happen: Zayn needs the win more than Corbin. Corbin should beat Zayn all around the ring, but lose when Zayn nails a Helluva Kick (out of nowhere, of course). Corbin gets his heat back by pummeling Zayn, the ring announcer, and Aiden English, who is crying backstage because he can’t find the exit. What Will Probably Happen: Zayn will put up a good fight, and eventually succumb to the bigger, badder, Corbin.
Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Carmella, Tamina and Natalya (with James Ellsworth) – To me, this signals that WWE doesn’t have much faith in Naomi as the Smackdown Women’s Champion. Otherwise, Charlotte would have remained the best heel in the business instead of becoming a middling babyface, and the two would have squared off. Instead, since none of the heels here are legitimate contenders, we have the three biggest stars in the division facing off against the three heels. What Should Happen: Lynch, Naomi and Charlotte win. Charlotte gets the pin over Carmella, while Lynch taps Natalya out with the Disarm(h)er. Outside the ring, Naomi does her “rump shaker” move on James Ellsworth until his head flies off, bouncing up the ramp and off into the darkness, never to be seen again. When the champ enters the ring to celebrate, Charlotte floors her with a kick and drops the title over her prone body. What Will Probably Happen: Given the relative status of the six performers, I think the babyfaces win the day. I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlotte really does turn heel here, though.
The Usos vs. The Fashion Police (Smackdown Tag Team Championship) – There are no words to adequately describe how much I hate the Fashion Police gimmick. WWE caught lightning in a bottle with the New Day, and has been trying to repeat the “stupid gimmick catches on” formula ever since. It’s hard to take the challengers seriously when they look like two low-rent male strippers. The Usos have done some of the best work of their careers since turning heel. What Should Happen: Breeze and Fandango put up a great fight, but eventually bow to the Usos, who cheat to win. After the match, the Usos embark on a beatdown, only to be interrupted by the return of the New Day. That will be the tag team feud to take Smackdown through to SummerSlam. What Will Probably Happen: I think the Usos win here after a good match. The Fashion Police have to put up a good fight, or the tag division will suffer from a lack of believable contenders. I can’t’ believe I’m saying this, but the New Day can’t return soon enough.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler – Nakamura is already over, and hasn’t wrestled a main roster match. WWE couldn’t have picked a better first opponent for Shinsuke. Ziggler is the best seller in the company, and he’ll have plenty to work with against the King of Strong Style. What Should Happen: There is no way Nakamura loses this match. Given the predictable outcome, these two still have a chance to steal the show. With Ziggler’s selling and Nakamura’s charisma, this could be a classic. What Will Probably Happen: No way WWE screws this up. Nakamura comes out to a huge pop, wins, leaves to a huge pop, and starts his rise to the top of the Smackdown heap. Shinsuke will be right next to AJ Styles as the biggest stars on Smackdown headed into the new year.
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles – It’s odd that Styles is in a feud for the US title while Jinder Mahal is challenging for the WWE Championship. That said, it’s good for the belt to have top-level workers like Owens and Styles fighting over it. This could do more to elevate the United States Championship than John Cena’s open challenges last year. What Should Happen: Styles has reached the elite level in WWE. That means that the booking team thinks that he doesn’t need a belt to be relevant. They’re probably right. Owens is great. He’s my favorite performer in WWE right now. He still hasn’t reached that level, though I think he will. Owens needs to keep his “New Face of America” gimmick going, and can’t do it without the belt. Somehow, he finds a crooked way to keep it. Styles moves on to feud for the WWE Championship. What Will Probably Happen: I think WWE is behind the Owens gimmick. As long as he wins dirty, it doesn’t hurt Styles, so I think KO goes over here.
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal (WWE Championship) – I get it. WWE wants to increase viewership in India. I don’t think Jinder Mahal is the way to do it. They tried a similar approach with the Great Khali about a decade ago. That didn’t work either. Mahal is a better worker than Khali. (My pillowcase is also a better worker than Khali, so that doesn’t say much.) The problem is that no one cares about his character. WWE needs to realize that simply putting someone of a particular cultural background on TV doesn’t mean that everyone of that background will root for them. They don’t do that with white guys, so why should it work with any other ethnicity? The crowd dies when Mahal comes in. That’s what matters. What Should Happen: Mahal and Orton battle in a physical match, and the Singh Brothers continually try to interfere, only to be held off by Orton. Eventually, the tiny action figures are banished from ringside, and Orton hits an RKO and sends Mahal back to the midcard. What Will Probably Happen: I have to think that the powers that be in WWE can hear the (lack of) crowd reactions for Mahal. Somehow, I’m still a little afraid that they’re going to allow Jinder to win with interference from his mini-me minions. I won’t predict it here, but it wouldn’t shock me.
All in all, it could be a solid to very good show for WWE. The booking has to be done carefully, or storylines going forward could get very muddy. If booked poorly, there’s a strong chance that NXT’s Takeover: Chicago will be the best show of the weekend.