After the bizarre spectacle that was the Greatest Royal Rumble, the championship landscape heading into Backlash is, more or less, the same that it was heading out of WrestleMania weekend. What was essentially a glorified house show sans Women’s Revolution in the Saudi capital has totally stolen the thunder away from any potential hype that could have been allowed to manifest in the run-up to the first proper PPV since WrestleMania. Nevertheless, the first co-branded Backlash since 2009 promises to be a card with some wrestling matches on it. Which means it needs predicting, of course, a dubious honour that this year falls to me.
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Joining Cass and Bryan on the ‘How Did We Get Here?’ storyline conveyor belt is this absolute weirdo. The conclusion, like so many on this card, is apparently forgone. I can’t see this match doing any favours for anyone; part of Strowman’s appeal surely is that he does what he wants, when he wants? If they were that keen to put Braun over (and they are), they should have made it a handicap match.
Lashley requires a few decent singles wins, and it makes no sense that his first pay-per-view win should come as part of a tag team. He was clearly good enough to stand solo on his first run, and why WWE hasn’t picked up where it left off with Lashley is totally beyond me. As for Sami and Kevin, they can afford to take a loss, but my sentiment towards their story is like my sentiment towards this card. I don’t know, and right now WWE is doing little to make me care.
Prediction: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
Poor old Big Cass. Two years ago, Colin and Eric were on top of the world and tipped for greatness. Then, Eric happened. Now, we find ourselves watching the remnants of the Enzo and Cass hype train buried for the sake of one returning Daniel Bryan.
I honestly can’t blame the WWE for using Cass presumably as some sort of stepping stone for Bryan to cross over onto a much deeper, ingrained feud. Cass is another one of the seemingly myriad gimmick-empty guys on the roster with no discernible traits apart from being slightly grumpier; a massive shame, because I think he handled his brief time in world title contention well. Nevertheless, I predict this loss to be another landmark moment in Colin Cassady’s slide to the lower mid-card, because I’ll be damned if anything is stopping the D-Bry hype train right now. Dark matches for the next five years? Yes, yes, yes.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan
Intercontinental Championship Match
Seth Rollins (C) vs The Miz
This should be the best match on the card from a storytelling perspective. The triple threat at WrestleMania was a great way to spice up the Intercontinental Title picture; but to be frank, I see a repeat of the WrestleMania match in terms of the result. As much of a fan of The Miz as I am, I can’t see any storyline sense in playing hot potato with the belt. Seth is a decent champion and a good worker and the two – if allowed creative freedom – could develop a feud far more compelling than the current title pictures. Let Seth keep the title until the advent of the unending and glorious Miz Comeback Comeback Intercontinental Title World Tour.
Prediction: Seth Rollins
United States Championship Match
Jeff Hardy (C) vs. Randy Orton
Could the United States title feud be any more confusing at boring at the same time? Here we have two superstars who are somewhat past their primes, and whilst there are no doubts that this match will be chock full of RKOs and Swanton Bombs, this feels like a contest that would have been great ten, even five years ago.
I cannot see this match setting the wrestling world alight in 2018. I think the biggest problem here is gimmicks; the simple fact is that both men are aimless right now. Jeff could be forgiven for feeling a bit forgotten by creative, given the ascendance that Broken Matt is enjoying with Bray Wyatt. Randy, on the other hand, is a main event quality superstar without any discernible qualities at present. The RKO isn’t the weapon it once was, and the young man once bristling with vitriol has retreated into a somewhat quieter figure. He could win the United States Title. But would anyone care?
Prediction: Jeff Hardy
Raw Women’s Championship Match
Nia Jax (C) vs. Alexa Bliss
Another title match, another open-and-shut prediction. Another feud hanging by a thread. Jax kicked Bliss from pillar to post at WrestleMania and once again, I expect a similar result here. Nia has been a decent champion and will likely run with this title until a new challenger steps up. It again makes very little sense to put the title back on Bliss; Nia still needs character work and needs the belt a lot more than Alexa. Hopefully a successful retention and a decent match will give Nia the swagger of a champion that she so desperately needs.
Prediction: Nia Jax
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Carmella (C) vs. Charlotte Flair
Undoubtedly the A-Side of the women’s title picture, I’m going with this match to be surprise of the night. Both women can talk the talk, and both have proven themselves to be competitors. Carmella, in a way, is almost a natural successor to heel Charlotte Flair. Entitled and consistently wielding more power than she arguably deserves, she portrays a fine image of what Charlotte used to be. However, I would argue that Carmella has the potential to be a far more effective heel than Charlotte Flair ever could have been, owing to her superb wrestling skill and hallowed family name. Carmella has that touch of nastiness and the palpable spite of a spoiled brat needed to construct a truly despicable heel. The longer she keeps this title, the better.
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe
If Roman buries Joe, I quit.
Prediction: Samoa Joe, obviously.
WWE Championship Match
AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
I’m not exactly shaking with excitement about Shinsuke Nakamura’s new designated heel persona. Call me old fashioned, but a good heel must be able to talk; take my hero and forever Intercontinental Champion of my heart, The Miz. The problem with Nakkers, of course, is that he’s Japanese, and therefore exhibits none of the English-language, off-the-cuff flashes of genuine anger that make a good heel, or at least that communicates them.
This, of course, can’t much be helped. In my view, the narrative going into this match has been totally screwed, and what could have been a double-face ‘dream-match’, an advert for wrestling, has had its head bowed and submitted to the wrath of a story that just hasn’t been communicated well enough. No DQ will be an interesting stipulation, and I presume they will communicate Nakamura’s new persona during this match more than in previous weeks.
Furthermore, both Styles and Nakamura are just too good at wrestling to be considered as heels. Which is why this match feels like such a waste, and the result, until Nakamura can truly become a heel worthy of our contempt, is a formality.
Prediction: AJ Styles
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