Preview: WWE Backlash (5/6/18)

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Newark, New Jersey – Dubbed as “The Best of Both Worlds,” the WWE prior to WrestleMania had decided that every pay per view going forward will be dual branded promotions. Backlash, in it’s 14th installment and it’s first since 2009 to be a dual branded show, at the time of writing has nine matches confirmed on the card, four of those being a part of Smackdown Live, three of those being a part of Monday Night Raw and two inter promotional bout featuring four of the brightest talents on either brand. On paper (without any additional matches) this card looks pretty balanced. Despite this card being given a week after The Greatest Royal Rumble, this card has its fair share of solid matches, crowd pleasing match ups and storylines that make sense with each of those matchups as well.

Bayley vs. Ruby Riott

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Ruby Riott fresh from a victory against Sasha Banks on the 30th of April edition of Raw is showing the reason why she was highly touted prior to coming into WWE. Riott defeated a former NXT Women’s and Raw Women’s Champion puts her in a place where she can be considered a top contender. At this point and juncture, Riot is most likely the next heel to be pushed into the Women’s Championship picture and what a way to prove that with a victory against anther former champion in Bayley. The reason for this match existing seems to be more of a “one-upmanship” for Bayley and Bayley winning surely proves that she does “one up” Sasha Banks. However, with the Riott Squad lurking and Bayley’s problems against Banks, this match is bound to have Riott win. It doesn’t really matter who of the aforementioned names interfere, it just makes the most sense that Riott wins via distraction by either Sasha or the remaining members of The Riott Squad. This could enhance the feud for Bayley and Sasha moving forward if Sasha cost Bayley the match, but all in all this should be Riott’s to win

Winner: Ruby Riott

United States Championship: Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Randy Orton

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Randy Orton is owed a rematch for his United States Championship and he has made it clear that this is the case. Orton without saying a word has made it clear that it didn’t matter who came out of The Greatest Royal Rumble as U.S. Champion, he was next up. Orton has been scoping out Jeff Hardy since Hardy made his return on the 17th of April edition of Smackdown as “The Charismatic Enigma” cut in line answering an open challenge made by Shelton Benjamin. A week later, Randy Orton would do the same thing which is fair play due. If you remember, Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton had a pretty solid rivalry in late 2007-early 2008 for the WWE Championship prior to Royal Rumble 2008. Despite this being their first major pay per view match against each over in 10 years, both men should be able to give the WWE Universe a solid paced match. Randy’s methodical and slow paced style vs. Hardy’s hard hitting, fast paced, unorthodox style will complement each other well. The United States Championship picture right now is pretty exciting. Randy Orton as one of the challengers, in addition to Shelton Benjamin and potentially The Miz. The mid card on Smackdown Live is really the best it’s been since the 2016 Draft. With the way the depth of the division right now, it’s a possibility that this match may NOT have a conclusive winner because of the fact there’s outliers in The Miz and Shelton Benjamin in the picture.

Winner: No Contest via Shelton Benjamin interference

The reason why this is the case is due to the fact that Shelton is a major part of the Orton/Hardy feud. He has faced both men and storyline wise, he should feel like a huge part of this rivalry even happening again because, he was in the middle of it. Shelton could interfere and set up a triple threat rivalry for the next pay per view or Smackdown Live and throw a wrench in the United States Championship picture.

WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Nia Jax (c) vs. Alexa Bliss

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These two at WrestleMania put on a match that was pretty entertaining. For a lot of people, this match did a lot better than expectations. Their rivalry has been based on this idea about Nia being the “bully,” where Alexa’s delusional character is trying to convince the WWE Universe that Nia is truly the bully in this situation, despite Alexa’s constant fat jokes, passive aggressive racist comments towards Asuka, calling Bayley a nerd and so on. This match is a tricky one to predict due to the fact that Nia justy  won the title nearly a month ago, but the X-Factor (no pun intended) is outside interference. Indeed, Mickie James plays a huge role in this match because of her being the right hand woman to Alexa. It is inevitable that some shenanigans could come into play. However, with the key addition of Ronda Rousey coming into the fray. Rousey could very well match the odds due to her beef with Mickie James attacking her friend Natalya, but attacking Ronda as well. Ronda was a vital part of making sure that Alexa Bliss didn’t interfere by chasing her away from ringside.  At this point, despite the lack of strong heels on Raw, it is still too early to take the title off of Nia at this point.

Winner: Nia Jax

Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz

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Although, a severe lack of shock value to the championship reign, Seth Rollins has been a great champion so far. Rollins successfully defended the Intercontinental Championship in a fatal four way ladder match at Greatest Royal Rumble and a few days later on Raw live in the Bell Centre of Montreal against Finn Balor in a great television match , worthy of a pay per view. The Miz is owed a rematch for the Intercontinental Championship after him losing the title at WrestleMania. Despite being on Smackdown Live, Miz has been in the mix of multiple storylines in his short return so far. He’s involved with Daniel Bryan, he’s in the picture for the United States Championship and with the Intercontinental Championship on the line, The Miz is on the verge of being tied with Chris Jericho for the most Intercontinental Championship reigns at nine. With Miz being involved in many storylines right now on Smackdown, Miz in unlikely to win the title at this point. He’s already invested on multiple (potential) storylines and him winning the title against Seth Rollins who just won the title, doesn’t make the most sense. Miz holding the title is great because of how depleted the Raw mid card really is and since it’s more babyface heavy, the “Red Brand” could give a babyface the rub if Miz wins the title. However, with the circumstances that be for Smackdown Live and Miz’s future, Rollins retaining is the likely outcome.

Winner: Seth Rollins

Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

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On paper, this match shouldn’t really take longer than it needs to. After seeing these four in action in various multi man matches, this shouldn’t be anymore than a squash. Although this match doesn’t do any of these four men any favors, this should be a quick, fun and entertaining match that will put over both Strowman and Lashley.

Winner: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley

Big Cass vs. Daniel Bryan

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Daniel Bryan’s first pay per view as an Smackdown Live competitor. Yes, this is the first match as a competitor because his WrestleMania match, he was still General Manager. This match is deeply based on jealousy, a severe lack of attention that Big Cass is calling out the WWE Universe on. On the 24th of April edition of MizTV, instead of Daniel Bryan being the guest on a long awaited confrontation with The Miz. Big Cass crashed the interview, elaborating that Bryan getting all of this attention coincidentally at the same time that he returned bothered him. He states that he knows what its like to be like Daniel Bryan, saying that he was similar in size and he was bullied and beaten until he grew to be 7’ Feet tall (and you can’t teach that). Bryan being that reminder of who he used to be is a vital part of why Cass’ disdain of Bryan seems genuine. Cass would attack Bryan every chance he get, even eliminating him at The Greatest Royal Rumble, as their feud continues to grow and develop. As for the match, this is going to be a solid dynamic between the two. The hard hitting and hidden athleticism of Big Cass going up against an equally hard hitting, but very technically sound Daniel Bryan. The criticism of this match is that why Bryan is being wasted against the likes of Big Cass? The answer is to develop heat for a talent that is a great talker. Cass isn’t bad in the ring, he can hold up against main event level talent (see the 29th of August 2016 edition of Raw, fatal four way match for the vacant Universal Championship). Cass is not a bad competitor at all and going up against Bryan either in a win or lose does him a great favor to really put himself on the map as a solid heel for the “Blue Brand.” However, with Bryan’s momentum being an up and down one, Bryan winning makes the least sense at this point. Cass could use this win to build positive momentum and despite where Daniel is right now, he’s not hurt by this loss one bit. It’s about building stars and Bryan could really give Cass the proper rub that is needed and build him up in a way where he can be added to a main event match and it makes sense to have him there. In addition, Cass winning continues the rivalry as well and it makes the anticipation of Bryan and Miz even more sweet because of this side feud.

Winner: Big Cass

Smackdown Live Women’s Championship: Carmella (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

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After being attacked by The IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce) two days after ending the undefeated streak of Asuka, Carmella after 287 days of waiting and teasing, she wins her 1st Women’s Championship pinning Charlotte Flair in the middle of the ring via Superkick. Since then, her ego has been inflated and continues to rub it in the WWE Universe’s face with video package after video package. Carmella after a long time coming, finally got the heat that she needed to be considered a top heel of her brand. Carmella is a great talker, she’s always been a great talker and she’s one of the few that really gets into her character effortlessly. In the ring, she’s solid. She’s not a technically sound as Becky Lynch, Peyton Royce, Natalya or Asuka. She’s not as flashy as a Ember Moon, Naomi or her opponent Charlotte. But she is good at her mannerisms, getting a reaction and maintaining that annoying heel aspect with her screeching voice that rivals the likes of Melina Perez. Charlotte is a great talent, a confident talker and a great presence in the ring. Charlotte is the “Randy Orton” of the women’s division. To further elaborate, she is if you built the “perfect” WWE Superstar from scratch on the women’s side, Charlotte Flair is that. Charlotte’s chase for the title should extender longer to establish Carmella as a champion the fans love to hate in addition to when the moment is right. The key of this match is the involvement of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay. From the beginning, they’ve had beef against the former champion an they want to see her get demolished. It would make sense to have them interfere, then Asuka an Lynch helps which with distract the challenger and giving Mella the win.

Winner: Carmella

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe

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There’s a lot of truth to what Samoa Joe said about Roman Reigns. Every opportunity that Reigns has gotten, unfortunately he has failed when it mattered the most. He “lost” both of his opportunities against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania and The Greatest Royal Rumble. Joe continues to elaborate that Reigns is all talk and that his talking results in nothing. This rivalry is based on Joe making a name for himself against the likes of Reigns. It’s also about trying to build Reigns and put him in the winning side since Reigns momentum died after a disappointing WrestleMania event and a screwy finish at The Greatest Royal Rumble. Neither one of these men are hurt with a loss because this is a one off and both will be going on to bigger and better things post-Backlash. This match will be hard hitting and it will be entertaining as a whole seeing two men with main event caliber going against each other. Samoa Joe’s experience and versatility and Roman Reigns fast-paced and intense hard hitting style is one that could very well steal the show all together with Reigns winning with a Spear to Samoa Joe.

Winner: Roman Reigns

WWE Championship: A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

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The third installment of the Shinsuke Nakamura/A.J. Styles saga and with the recent turn of Nakamura at WrestleMania, has been an amazing ride seeing the greatness of Nakamura’s character as a heel. It’s subtle in vocal presentation, it’s all action and dirty tactic, in addition to a new theme song gives Smackdown Live a top heel in the making. Although their matches have been less than expectation due to the a good chunk of the fan base seeing their Wrestle Kingdom 10 match, their matches are solid and consistent.

Styles at the point of writing this is at 178 days as WWE Champion, which is pretty good with the competition that he defended the title against (Mahal, Ziggler, Owens, Zayn, Cena, Corbin & Nakamura). Styles in his two WWE Championship reigns should be remember as some of the best in recent memory. Styles losing the championship is more beneficial to Nakamura than a massive loss for Styles. The WWE has proven that they trust Styles with the title that had the likes of John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, the late Bruno Sammartino and Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, each member of The Shield (Rollins, Reigns and Dean Ambrose), Randy Orton, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and CM Punk. The point is that Styles holding the title twice proves that he can very well hold it again. So Styles losing the title doesn’t feel like the end of the world for fans.

As for Nakamura, the WWE’s writers blew it with him in the past (i.e. Summerslam & Hell in a Cell). His debut to the main roster was lack luster and with Backlash being exactly one year from the first match as a member of the main roster, this would be the best full circle story that the WWE has given us. Nakamura as champion gives the fans fresh match ups as the heel champion and he could very well continue his growth as the top heel of Smackdown. Nakamura losing only hurt him because all of the build-up leading to this with a loss is just a rough go to get out of. Nakamura winning and in a similar fashion that Styles did at Backlash 2016 when Styles defeated Dean Ambrose for the title would be a great full circle storyline with Nakamura finally getting into the position that everyone expected him to be in.

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

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