Sunday, WWE will present its final pre-SummerSlam event of the year when Battleground comes to Philadelphia. The SmackDown superstars will battle it out in what feels almost like a throw away event for some reason. Raw’s latest effort, GBOF, was a loaded card and a great show. There doesn’t seem to be as much enthusiasm for the blue brand’s upcoming performance.
With that said, there are some good matches on the card. There is also a Punjabi Prison match. Let’s take a look at what’s coming up on Sunday.
The Professor’s WWE Backlash Preview and Predictions:
Kickoff Show: The only announced match thus far is Aiden English vs. Tye Dillinger. These are two underutilized talents on the SmackDown roster. For some reason, they only seem to appear on PPV when they face each other. If this match had a stipulation, it would be a “Who Cares?” match. Since Dillinger has more star potential than English, I’ll go with Dillinger here. There’s a chance that a Sami Zayn/Mike Kanellis match could be added to the card, but that would likely be on the main show. (Is Sami Zayn the SmackDown version of Finn Balor? Another top guy who’s sitting out the PPV before SummerSlam.)
Breezango vs. ???: When The Fashion Files first started getting airtime on SmackDown, I was horrified. How could WWE take two talented wrestlers, put them together, then give them a gimmick that makes them look like idiots? Then I remembered The Club, Golden Truth, and The Shining Stars. (Along with a long list of other missteps.) As time went on, I began to enjoy the comedy segments. It looks like WWE is trying to build another New Day – taking a team of talented individuals and giving them a gimmick that might just catch on with the crowd. It seems to be working. Tuesday’s SmackDown indicated that the Fashion Police might finally find out who has been trashing their office. Hopefully, it will result in a match. (And hopefully, we won’t find out it was Breeze all along. WWE is running out of tag teams – they need to stop breaking them up.) It doesn’t really matter who the opponent is, as long as the match is good enough to keep Breezango relevant. Breezango wins over a mystery opponent.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin: This one could steal the show. Corbin has been outstanding for the past couple of months, and he’s the perfect person to hold the Money in the Bank briefcase. His athletic ability and powerful style are a good complement for his surly demeanor. Hopefully, WWE will save his cash in for a big stage, and give him the title. For now, Nakamura is the perfect opponent. He’s flashy where Corbin is not. His entrance is always one of the highlights of the show, and his in-ring style is the best counterpoint to Corbin’s. It doesn’t really matter who wins this one. The match should elevate both men. Nakamura wins a great match, but Corbin beats him down afterward.
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Tamina Snuka vs. Lana vs. Natalya (Five-way elimination match for No. 1 Contendership to the SmackDown Women’s Championship): This match is even more important than it would originally seem to be. The current champion, Naomi, is solid, but not a big enough star to carry a feud on her own. Her reign is suffering due to a lack of competition. The biggest stars in the SmackDown women’s division have spent the last few months fighting each other in multi-woman matches, leaving Naomi to have a few bouts with the super-green Lana. Carmella holds the MiTB briefcase, but would be in the same boat as Naomi if she cashed in on the current champ. She needs time to build her heel persona while carrying the case. Since WWE needs a high-profile winner here, I’ll go with Charlotte. She lost clean, by submission, to Becky Lynch on Tuesday. Lynch is the only other possible winner with enough star power to boost Naomi. Lana has had her chance, Tamina isn’t a big enough star, and Natalya is best as a bitter veteran. The problem is that Lynch, Flair and Naomi are all babyfaces at the moment. Charlotte has a great history as a heel, and she could easily turn to the dark side on Sunday.
The Usos vs. The New Day (SmackDown Tag Team Championship): Both teams are over in a big way right now, and it’s unlikely that this feud will end on Sunday, no matter which team walks away with the belt. I’ll go with New Day here. The Power of Positivity always seems a little stronger when the act is backed up with championship gold. It should be a good bout, and look for the Usos to get their rematch at SummerSlam.
AJ Styles vs. Kevin Owens (US Championship): At first, I thought the outcome of this match would depend on what WWE was going to do with the WWE Championship. If Randy Orton is going to leave Philly as champion, he’ll need a heel contender for SummerSlam. The best heel for the job is Owens, who won’t chase the title if he’s US Champ. Styles wins. If WWE wants to leave the belt on Mahal, he’ll need a high-profile opponent. That means Owens gets the belt, and Styles goes after Jinder. Then I remembered that John Cena is back. That changes everything at the top of the card, as you’ll see moving forward. Styles retains the US Championship, and helps finish what Owens started – making the belt matter again.
John Cena vs. Rusev: Cena took a beating on SmackDown, but never fear. Captain America won’t let us down on Sunday. I don’t see any scenario where Cena loses a flag match in Philadelphia. Rusev got his on Tuesday. He’ll move on to a new feud after Cena bests him Sunday. The bigger news here is that Cena, having restored glory to the flag with a win over Rusev, will need something new to do at SummerSlam. What is an American Hero to do? Why, he takes the WWE Championship from the US-hating Jinder Mahal. That’s what he does.
Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton (Punjabi Prison Match for the WWE Championship): I’ve seen both previous versions of the Punjabi Prison match, and they were both horrible. This one should be much better, since Orton and Mahal are better workers than the previous inmates. The problem is that no one cares about Mahal. They don’t hate him. They don’t love him. They just don’t care about him. It’s not even Jinder’s fault. He’s done a credible job of playing the part they gave him. The problem is that he’s been doing it as champion, instead of in the midcard where he could have worked his way up. WWE needs to do something to make that championship relevant again. Enter John Cena, the only man who moves the ratings needle in today’s WWE. Mahal retains, then goes on an anti-American rant on SmackDown Tuesday. The music hits, and his time is up. Cena’s time is now.
That’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll examine what happened at Battleground and begin our explorations of the road to SummerSlam. I think Sunday’s show will be solid, and a great day for the Cenation.