The first Smackdown Live-exclusive pay-per-view event since WrestleMania 33 is here in the form of Backlash, and the card runs the gamut from yawn-inducing to head-scratching to awesome, with everything in between. The build has been overall decent, and about what you’d expect from the lull between WrestleMania and Summerslam. From a truly oddball main event to the debut of one of the world’s best, there should be at least something for every wrestling fan this Sunday.
However, what should happen and what actually happens in WWE are often two very different things. Let’s take a look.
Pre-Show: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English
Dillinger has been playing his role of fan favorite prelim guy very well. He has something the fans gravitate toward, and his goofy schtick is working everywhere, proving he wasn’t just “Full Sail over.” There were rumors of Aiden English getting something of a push after his former fellow Vaudevillain Simon Gotch was suddenly released, but all we’ve seen from him is crying (literally).
What Should Happen: The artist formerly known as The Artiste gets a chance to sing one of his solos, something that always gets good heat. English controls the match early, Dillinger makes a babyface comeback but English earns his Vaudevillain name, cheating to incite the crowd and pick up the victory, beginning the building process of a new mid-card heel for Smackdown.
What Will Happen: The same thing that’s happened every week since English has been flying solo: he will get half a sentence out of his mouth in a pre-match promo/song, possibly including the word “ten” which gets interrupted by Dillinger’s music. The two have a basic 7 minute WWE TV match with Dillinger picking up the clean victory.
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan
Such a disappointing, lazy feud to put the two of these guys in. They aren’t even on the same show as Bray Wyatt anymore but their feud still consists entirely of “we used to be in the Wyatt Family and are now mad at each other because reasons.” The only thing that makes this even remotely interesting is the surprisingly excellent promo Rowan cut on Talking Smack this week:
What Should Happen: If they aren’t going to pull the trigger on Harper as a singles star yet, at least keep these guys together to bolster the fledgling Smackdown tag division. They had a brief stint a couple years ago as “The Reapers” and even used the 3D as a finisher, something they could start using again now that the Dudley Boyz have left WWE. Involve someone else in the match and have Harper and Rowan reunite, beating down the third member and exerting their dominance.
What Will Happen: Rowan is getting more promo time and more character development despite being the lesser wrestler. I’ll say Rowan wins clean.
Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn
This one is actually hard to call, as both guys would benefit big from winning this match and really, neither will be hurt too much if they lose. Baron has been built as sort of a mini-Strowman over on Smackdown, while Zayn is starting to come into his own as the slightly eccentric overthinker who can still deliver in the ring.
What Should Happen: I’m beginning to get a little worried that WWE’s plan for Sami is to have him lose all the time in a backwards effort to get the crowd behind him because “Hey, it worked for Daniel Bryan.” It seems like the sort of thing WWE would completely misread and not realize Bryan got over despite constantly losing, not because of it. I’d rather Sami win this, even if it’s in a desperation rollup, to help him build some momentum. The Lone Wolf can become incensed by this and take out his frustration in the next match with Zayn or on someone else.
What Will Happen: WWE has sort of booked themselves into a corner with this one. They may actually do what I suggested and have Zayn eke out a victory here.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler
One of the main reasons to be excited about Backlash this year is the main roster WWE debut of Shinsuke Nakamura. Dolph is the perfect guy to have him debut against: A savvy in-ring veteran who can keep up with the King of Strong Style and a name with at least some cachet in the eyes of the WWE Universe.
What Should Happen: Nakamura wins, and fairly easily. This enrages Ziggler and enhances his jaded “you’re taking my spot” character. Even being in the position to fight Nakamura rubs off on Ziggler, so having him attempt a post-match beatdown as the result of a temper tantrum and having Nakamura fend it off successfully could work.
What Will Happen: There is no question Nakamura is winning this match. The only question that remains is will they build a captivating feud for the two out of it? And the answer is almost certainly no.
Charlotte Flair, Naomi, and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Carmella and Tamina
The Queen’s coronation on Smackdown is taking place in the form of this six woman tag match. The “Welcoming Committee” is actually not a bad idea at all, and gives Nattie, Carmella and Tamina something to do in the form of antagonizing Charlotte Flair.
What Should Happen: Charlotte has been teasing a babyface turn since her arrival on the blue brand, but this match should cement her place at the top of the heel food chain. Have her decide she’s above this meaningless match and attack Naomi, making the statement she’s coming after the Women’s Championship. Becky can be involved in the resistance, which helps set up the real money program on Smackdown once Charlotte gets the belt: Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch.
What Will Happen: This is another situation where I think what should happen will happen. I believe Charlotte’s babyface tendencies have not been genuine and the true Queen will come out soon enough. That doesn’t leave much to do for the Welcoming Committee, but I wouldn’t expect much out of the three anyway.
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles
An indie fan circa 2012’s dream match, Kevin Owens and AJ Styles will be battling it out for the United States Championship. It may be something of a demotion for the Phenomenal One as fans clearly buy into him as WWE Championship material, but until the screwball Jinder Mahal push subsides going for the second tier belt against one of the better heels in the company is not a bad place to be.
What Should Happen: Kevin Owens retains through dirty tricks after a reasonably competitive match. Either Owens intentionally gets himself disqualified or wins by via cheating behind the ref’s back.
What Will Happen: One of the easiest ways to tell the future in WWE is to look at the merchandising, and Owens’ shirts and tron graphics suggest we’ll be seeing him as US Champ for the foreseeable future. Owens wins, likely through underhanded tactics.
The Usos vs. Breezango
The Fashion Po Po have been one of the funniest, most refreshing things we’ve seen on WWE television in some time, and both talented wrestlers have been really gaining some momentum lately. Both guys can seriously go in the ring and are entertaining as all hell out of it. Meanwhile, the Usos have never looked more credible, and out of nowhere have started cutting some of the most engaging promos in the company.
What Should Happen: Breezango is absolutely killing it lately, and a run with the tag team titles could really further legitimize them in the eyes of the casual fan and build two guys who should be midcard mainstays. Breezango wins via a confusion rollup.
What Will Happen: As much as I’m pulling for the above to happen, I just don’t see it yet. And that’s not the worst thing in the world–The Usos are putting out career defining work right now. Usos win clean.
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal
The match no one ever thought they’d see or ever wanted to. Will the Maharaja reign supreme? Or will Randy Orton somehow find a way to beat the man who until this month hadn’t won a main roster singles match since September of last year?
What Should Happen: Fuck it, Orton as champion is exceedingly boring right now even by Orton standards, and Mahal has been competent and getting a surprising amount of heat. Give him and the Bollywood Boyz a run with the ball and see if they sink or swim. Maybe the character can evolve past generic anti-Americanism into something more nuanced and interesting.
What Will Happen: Is this even a question? Randy Orton is going to lose to Jinder Mahal? I know wrestling in 2017 is a weird place, but come on. Orton wins clean, and RKO’s both Bollywood Boyz for good measure, possibly at the same time.