by Frank Lucci
Backlash is upon us, and SmackDown Live’s first crack at a Pay-Per-View after WrestleMania has been a roller coaster of emotions for fans even before it began. We saw several key members of the SmackDown roster get sent to Raw, a House of Horrors match over at Payback, and roughly half the card put together in the final week before the show.
It is telling that WWE had me on the hook before Payback when they announced A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens, then lost my interest once the rest of the card filled out. Due to lackluster writing, I am now again looking forward to a match on another card, the Fatal Five Way Match for the WWE Universal Championship number one contender status at Extreme Rules.
WWE should stop announcing main events of the next PPV before the last one has even air.
Throw in a random NXT TakeOver and Backlash could very easily be lost to time almost as soon as it is over. I’m Spaceman Frank, and here are my WWE Backlash predictions.
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (Preshow Hoopla Funtime Carnival)
He may be The Perfect Ten, but with WWE Creative continuing their habit of calling up talent with no real purpose for them, this is the best Mr. Dillinger can hope for.
Dillinger showed up on SmackDown with some decent momentum, but since then has just been responsible for filling time as SmackDown slowly becomes more and more like Raw with every passing week. He is going up against Aiden English, one of the many guys WWE has recently chosen to randomly push just to see what happens. English is now without a partner and back to singing (which I guess is a step forward from not being booked at all?).
Dillinger will get the win because English has less momentum and we cannot have all the random heels plucked from obscurity get the win.
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan
This next match is one that has already happened repeatedly, but is now getting (some of) the attention it deserves. With no Bray Wyatt to add mystery and Randy Orton moving on from his crazy teenage goth days of 2016, this feud pretty much boils down to the two going “Well, I guess we should fight each other now.”
Rowan is wearing clown masks and giggling, which sure is something to behold. Is it better than the genius guitar player/wine expert he was before? We shall see. Meanwhile, Harper has been meandering around looking vaguely confused, and since he is forever my boy, I hope WWE figures out what they want to do with the talented big man (maybe give him a tweener role/mercenary roll similar to King Cuerno in Lucha Underground minus the deer headgear so he can feud with a variety of people in need of a quality opponent?).
Rowan has the fresh gimmick, but Harper gets the nod because, hey, it was a few weeks ago that he was rumored to be added to the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Remember those days? Good times…(cries into Luke Harper body pillow).
Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn
Another “Hey, you two, go slug it out for a bit” feud that came about for reasons unknown (I swear after the Superstar Shake-Up SmackDown’s creative team made up a dart board with people’s faces on it and drew up future plans based on which faces each dart hit the most).
Due to his size and look, Corbin seems destined to reach the main event scene, so taking on Zayn to get some heat makes a micron of sense. Zayn has been rudderless when not being beaten up by Braun Stroman, so I do not have much faith in him here (when was the last time he won a PPV match anyway?). Corbin wins to keep hating on internet dweebs and potentially join the ranks of suddenly elevated midcarders along with Jinder Mahal and Rusev.
Naomi, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch vs. The Welcoming Committee (with James Ellsworth)
For whatever reason we can’t get a Women’s Championship match on Backlash, so instead we get a thrown together “meh” match featuring the (mostly) female response to the Social Outcasts.
On the flipside, this at least gives Ellsworth something to do, and him being the cocky d-bag on the fringe of the women’s division is better than seeing him waste a main eventer’s time in the WWE title picture.
The big story of this match is the dissension among the champ’s teammates, as Charlotte is still gunning for the belt and Becky Lynch has briefly teasing turning to the dark side.
My prediction is that Ellsworth interferes when the Lass Kicker is on a roll, with Lynch thinking Charlotte was the one who messed her up, leading to a big brawl. Thus, the Welcoming Committee steals a win and everyone gets the bathroom break they deserve.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler
Oh, Dolph. You try so hard.
What everyone assumed would be The Miz vs. Nakamura is now being filled with Ziggler doing his best Miz impression (Seriously, does anyone really think Ziggler wins here?).
My Prediction: This.
Nakamura steamrolls Dolph and moves on to steamrolling others until SummerSlam, where he wins the John Cena lottery and faces off against The Face That Runs the Place.
The Usos (c) vs. Breezango (aka The Fashion Police) (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match)
Tyler Breeze and Fandango have been responsible for the best segments on SmackDown in the past few weeks, and between The Fashion Files and Southpaw Regional Wrestling, these guys own WWE’s Youtube content.
It’s hard not to love these goofballs, and they are faces in all but name. However, they are still treated like jokes, so I do not have hope they will win against the Usos. Jimmy (shouldn’t he be James now? No good heel is named Jimmy) and Jey are much better heels then doofus good guys, and really deserve more of a focus than they are getting.
Are Breezy and ‘Dango the new Heath Slater and Rhyno? Maybe, but not now. Usos win.
Kevin Owens (c) vs. A.J. Styles (United States Championship Match)
The match that hands down will be the best on the card sees two of the internet’s favorites clash for SmackDown’s secondary title.
Owens has regressed with his “Face of America” gimmick, and with him, Mahal and potentially Rusev all trying to get heat by speaking different languages is lazy writing and even lazier booking (remember when SmackDown was the watchable show? NXT quickly took that title back, and now we get audiences booing a Canadian for speaking French despite being on the friendliest of terms with our northern neighbors).
Meanwhile, Styles can still do no wrong, so at least this match will be excellent to watch. I just wish he was getting the main event push again rather than propping up the midcard. Owens recently traded the title back and forth with Jericho, so I see him winning here since he still needs them after the Goldberg debacle.
Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal (WWE Championship Match)
The main event is so hyped up that I have to remind my roommates what the main event of Backlash is roughly every three days.
There are many theories for why Mahal is getting a sudden main event push, from the WWE expanding into India to Vince McMahon loving his intensely muscled body.
To be fair, Jinder has done well with what WWE has given him, and barring the xenophobic “Boo me because I am speaking my native language” schtick he is playing the part well. After a few months of not being a joke instead of WWE’s usual “few weeks heel” build, I can believe him staying in the midcard.
Meanwhile, Orton is back to “zero effs given mode,” and I do not see him putting in any effort to get Jinder over as a legit threat considering he wouldn’t do it for Wyatt (Is Orton still supposed to be a good guy? I have zero interest in cheering him, and I think he is the most overrated superstar of the modern era. He does one move a year to remind you he is a good athlete, then coasts for the rest of the year). It would be great if WWE would just the belt off him and have him fart around away from the title picture forever, but not quite yet. Wait until Styles gets back into the title picture (or maybe even Rusev, the man more deserving of the Jinder push).
Orton wins and the crowd has a 50/50 chance of turning on this match.