While we’re still trying to process a weird WrestleMania and an even weirder Middle Eastern amalgam of WrestleMania and Royal Rumble, the WWE calendar marches forward toward Backlash. The first co-branded PPV outside the Big 4 since the second brand split in 2016, Backlash features a mix of current brand-specific storylines and vestiges of feuds from before the Superstar Shake-Up. Every main roster singles title is on the line (including, refreshingly the women’s titles), except of course Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship, which we probably won’t see until at least Money in the Bank. Regardless, let’s get into it:
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Owens and Zayn have been a thorn in everybody’s side since convincing Stephanie McMahon to give them jobs on the red brand, and have found themselves in several altercations with Braun Strowman and the newly returned Bobby Lashley. The Sami and Kevin Show are no slouches, but who can possibly take down the Monster Among Men and the Dominator?
Patrick: This is about as throwaway as a PPV matchup can get. Bobby Lashley’s return has confirmed all my worst fears — he’s a bland muscled up good guy who doesn’t say a word and just lets his at-most passable wrestling do the talking for him. I know his work in Impact has been highly regarded, but Lashley hasn’t gotten a chance to show what he’s made of in his WWE return just yet. I would imagine Braun and Strowman easily dispatch of Owens and Zayn and Michael Cole says something along the lines of “Welcome to Raw, guys!”
Winners: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley
Brian: Didn’t we just have a Network event? Are all the PPVs going to be 7+ hours long now? There is so much going on right now, but hey kids! Bobby Lashley’s back! Remember him? No? That’s fine. He’s teaming with Braun Strowman — the most over guy in the company — against two of the best in-ring guys in the game. This is going to be a feel-good, get the crowd happy match. A loss won’t hurt Owens and Zayn, but a win might help Lashley move into the Universal title picture.
Winners: Strowman and Lashley
Losers: IMPACT Wrestling
Jason: Man is it hard to care about this PPV. We just got a long, meaningless event last week, and now I need to watch yet another house-show-ass match with no stakes that exists solely to get the guys people want to see (and Lashley) on the card. This can only really go one of two ways. Either we get the first teases of a Strowman/Lashley feud or the faces straight murder the heels in a crazily one-sided bout that does little for anyone. I’m probably wrong on this one, but I’m pulling for the former.
Winners: KO and Sami Zayn
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
After three long years, Daniel Bryan is able to compete in a WWE ring again. He got the big win at WrestleMania against current punching bags KO and Sami, but a dream match scenario against AJ Styles was spoiled by a jealous Big Cass, who resents all the attention Bryan’s return is getting. Will Bryan be able to exact revenge at Backlash?
Patrick: Think about how cruel WWE is for a second: Daniel Bryan finally returns, and visions of the multiple dream matches we could see dance in fans’ heads. Bryan vs. AJ Styles. Bryan vs. Samoa Joe. Bryan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. Or maybe we finally get the resolution to Bryan vs. The Miz. Instead: NOPE, Big Cass! The most milquetoast, generic wrestler on the roster, especially so now that he can’t use any Enzo Amore catchphrases. It’s honestly hard to imagine a matchup I’d like to see less for Daniel Bryan, but here we are. And the worst part? I wouldn’t put it past WWE to have Bryan lose this one. WWE sees Bryan as the ultimate underdog, which they seem to think means “we can beat this guy all the time and people will still like him.” Big Cass gets a stupid, dirty win, and the mishandling of Daniel Bryan kicks off even faster than I thought it would.
Winner: Big Cass
Brian: We truly are in the worst timeline. I am just about done with 2018 and it’s only May.
Winner: Big Cass
Loser: The audience
Jason: In terms of popularity and in-ring wrestling acumen, this should be a relatively easy win for Daniel Bryan, but given that this is Cass’ first big program as a singles heel, he does need to look like a threat out there. Someone capable of hanging with main eventers like Bryan or Styles. That being said, Vince loves to subvert expectations in the stupidest ways. I say Bryan gets the duke with a roll up only to suffer a post match beat-down from the big man. Sets up an even less satisfying match on SmackDown next week where Cass attacks Bryan on the ramp, all building to a monumentally underwhelming match at Money in the Bank that will hopefully clear Bryan up for the Miz at SummerSlam.
Winner: Daniel Bryan
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe has been out nursing an injury for several months, even missing WrestleMania because of it. The night after on Raw, however, Joe came back and immediately went after the biggest dog in the yard — the Big DogTM in his YardTM. Both Reigns and Joe had title shots at Greatest Royal Rumble, giving the possibility of this matchup becoming a Universal Championship match, an Intercontinental Championship match or a champion vs. champion match, but alas, neither of those titles changed hands in Saudi Arabia. This one’s for bragging rights, and since Joe made the jump to SmackDown Live, brand supremacy.
Patrick: Reigns has lost a lot lately. It certainly seems as if WWE is souring on his mega-push, even if it’s ever-so-slightly. Logic would dictate that Joe needs a win to re-establish himself as a top guy after coming back from injury, and there aren’t many people who’d help make that a more convincing statement than Roman Reigns. However, just like Super Cena in the late aughts/early 2010s, I have decided it’s a fool’s errand to ever bet against Roman Reigns. Big Dog takes it.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Brian: I am perfectly willing to put aside the failed year of attempts to get Roman Reigns a consistently positive crowd reaction against Brock Lesnar. What I’m having a hard time with is when you put Roman in situations where his opponent will be cheered. Roman needs an absolute heel opposite him and he needs to get beat. Badly. Do it again. And again. Let him pick himself up off the floor and work his way back up the ladder. No more freebie title shots. Earn everything from scratch. It will take time, but that’s what it takes to be a mega star. Let’s start on Sunday.
Winner: Samoa Joe
Loser: Anyone who cheers for heels
Jason: Logically speaking, this is the brush off for this feud now that Joe is SmackDown and Roman’s on Raw, so why not let the guy who needs the win take it home? It’s not like Roman will be in any better of a position if he wins, and Joe could use a real signature victory from which to mount his conquest of the blue brand. I don’t see Shinsuke taking the belt off of AJ so lets build to Styles/Joe at SummerSlam in a way that makes the challenger look like a beast.
Winner: Samoa Joe
Carmella (c) vs. Charlotte Flair (SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Carmella held her Money in the Bank briefcase for a record amount of time before finally cashing in on Charlotte Flair on SmackDown Live after the Queen was beaten down by the debuting IIconics, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce. Kay and Royce seem to have aligned themselves with the Princess of Staten Island for the time being, giving Carmella even more insurance going into this match. Is Mella truly Money, or will Charlotte reclaim the throne?
Patrick: Carmella has really come into her own in the past year. A lot of that had to do with James Ellsworth over the course of last summer, but since his release, she hasn’t squandered the momentum he helped create. When she finally cashed in her briefcase, it marked something of a change for the SmackDown women’s division — especially with the addition of the IIconics to the mix. Charlotte mind-numbingly already has the chance this Sunday to tie Trish Stratus for the most WWE women’s championship reigns in history, which they may actually want to make into a bigger moment at SummerSlam or something, as she’d be following in the footsteps of her record-setting dad. There’s too much going against Charlotte right now, and she’s had the title for long enough. Mella is Money.
Brian: The shock of Carmella winning the SDL title was amplified by her treating the fallen Charlotte just as Charlotte once treated her: like a doormat. With the addition of the IIconics, there is a formidable women’s stable on the mic and in the ring to back up the Princess. Charlotte has to climb up a hill to win this one unless Becky and Asuka get involved to combat the shenanigans of the Australians. I’m not sure that this will be the most amazing in-ring feud, but the mic work will be…iconic.
Loser: Becky Lynch for being passed over AGAIN
Jason: What I’d like to happen and what I think will happen are two different things with the same outcome. Mella’s walking out with the belt, but I think it’s going to be a sneaky win, possibly aided by my bae Peyton Royce and her bae Billie Kaye. Now in my dream, Asuka and Becky come out to help her fight off the beat down the heels are laying upon Ms. Flair, and one of them (preferably Asuka, but I’d love to see them do something with Becky) stomps the Queen as she starts to get the upper hand. I don’t imagine Charlotte’s back in the Women’s title picture till the belt is on someone worth the matchup, and since it seems like the only way the IIconics are going to be treated as a threat is as a unit (and all the other female heels are scrubs) turning one of the top women on the brand makes the most sense to me. Still, Cam’s moonwalking home with the belt on Sunday.
Nia Jax (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (Raw Women’s Championship)
Nia exacted revenge on her former best friend Alexa Bliss when Alexa was caught admitting that she doesn’t actually consider Nia a friend and she was only using her by defeating her and taking her Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania. Since then, the bully Bliss, who made fun of Jax for her weight and intelligence for weeks, has turned it around by claiming she’s the one being bullied. Will the mindgames be enough to throw the Irresistible Force off her game, or will Nia reign supreme again?
Patrick: Can we all just agree that the “Moment of Bliss” segments have been some of the best in the company recently? I mean, look at this:
Alexa Bliss is a national treasure. However, she’s also a mean bully and I want to see her get what’s coming to her at Backlash.
Winner: Nia Jax
Brian: Alexa Bliss is one of a very, very small number of actual heels in WWE. It’s her, Ciampa, Nakamura (more on him later), and not many others. She is vicious and cruel and people will pay money to see her get her ass handed to her. I think that somehow Alexa escapes major punishment here so that we eventually get a cage match or something fun between the two. Twisted Bliss off the top of the cage? Yes please.
Loser: Cool heels
Jason: I don’t know about you, reader, but I’m pretty over Alexa Bliss at the top of the card. She cuts a better promo than most of the women’s roster, but her in-ring prowess just doesn’t work for me. Once Nia steamrolls her here, I would love to move on to the next challenger. Maybe Ruby (who will probably also lose to Nia) en route to an eventual match with either Bayley or Sasha — the only women on the Raw roster not named Ronda Rousey that should be giving Nia a run for her money.
Winner: Nia Jax
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Randy Orton (United States Championship)
Try to follow this sequence of events: Jinder Mahal took the United States Championship from Randy Orton, winning a fatal four way match at WrestleMania. Jinder was then drafted to Raw, where he immediately lost the title to Jeff Hardy, a Raw Superstar. The next night, Hardy defected to SmackDown Live and took the United States title with him. So in the span of a month, the US title has belonged to three different champions and switched brands twice. Through all the confusion, Orton is still owed his rematch, even though the man who beat him for the title is no longer champion.
Patrick: I’m not sure I would have wanted to see this match ten years ago, and I certainly don’t want to see it now. I respect the hell out of Randy Orton and recognize his potential value in getting the next generation over. But feuding with a veteran who became a lock for WWE Hall of Famer over a decade ago for a tertiary belt is not really the best use of that potential. My guess is Jeff wins and hopefully moves onto someone a bit more exciting.
Winner: Jeff Hardy
Brian: Why are two vets fighting over this title? Randy hasn’t done much for has last two or three major opponents (Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, and Bray Wyatt). What can we expect coming out of this match? Unless Hardy somehow gets “Woken,” he’ll be in this hunt for a while. Whoever loses the match is going to be lost in the shuffle pretty quickly. I think Jeff gets the win in what will be a generally disappointing match.
Winner: Jeff Hardy
Losers: Matt and Bray who wait for Brother Nero
I haven’t cared about this matchup since 2004 and nothing that has been happening in the interim years has made me care about it any more than the last time these two squared off. I’m assuming this is just the start of the feud, so Hardy takes it while I take a bathroom break.
Winner: Jeff Hardy
Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Championship)
The Miz may have been shipped over to SmackDown Live so that Daniel Bryan can #PunchHisFace, but his main focus is still on the Intercontinental Championship, the title he claims he brought prestige back to. And rightfully so — The Miz has treated the IC title with a reverence it hasn’t enjoyed in years, and is one reign away from tying Chris Jericho for the most number of reigns in WWE history. Will the A-Lister make history Sunday night?
Patrick: This is probably the match I’m most looking forward to on the card. Both men have been absolutely on fire as of late: The Miz is easily doing the best work of his career and absolutely deserves a second crack at the WWE Championship before the year is over, and since dropping Jason Jordan and regaining the Curb Stomp, Rollins has restored much of his former glory after floundering in the mid card for an extended period of time. It’s a shame we won’t really see a proper one-on-one feud between the two as they are on different brands now, but this should still be a good one. Rollins wins for no other reason than SmackDown already has a secondary title.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Brian: The long game pays off. Seth Rollins is one of the top five wrestlers in the world. Fight me. The Miz is a perfect foil for him, bringing a totally different style, but bringing out the best in the ridiculously athletic Rollins. Miz has proven, time and time again, that he is a future Hall of Famer and he deserves, eventually, to tie/surpass Jericho’s record number of title runs and the overall time as IC champ. Just not Sunday. Not yet.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Loser: The Ex-Miztourage who are just really, really sad that they only get to spend one weekend a month with their real dad.
Jason: I don’t think they’re going to move Miz back to Raw and Monday did sort of feel like a Finn Balor heel turn, so I’m going to guess Seth is taking this one. There’s no real logic in Miz winning unless they’re getting impatient about breaking Jericho’s record for most IC title wins. All the drama for this match was lost when Miz got drafted to SmackDown.
Winner: Seth Freakin’ Rollins
AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (No disqualification match for the WWE Championship)
A match that was supposed to be about the spirit of competition and friendly rivalry turned personal at WrestleMania, when an angry Shinsuke Nakamura took out his frustrations on AJ Styles’ manhood after the match. Since then, the Artist has turned into the Cheap Shot Artist, repeatedly threatening AJ’s chances of ever adding another birthdate tattoo to his ribcage. The only question that’s left is if Nakamura’s newfound attitude will be enough to carry him to WWE Championship glory.
Patrick: Shinsuke’s heel turn has been a revelation. Since joining the main roster, he’s been good, not great, and that was a disappointment. Who knew that constantly punching people in the nuts would be enough to turn a man’s career around? The heel turn has given him new levels of swagger, and combined with his absolute banger of a remixed theme song, Nak is now the coolest m----------r on the planet. I’d love to see him win the title here.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Brian: I am legit frightened of Shinsuke Nakamura. I have seen the light and had my eyes opened unto the greatness that is the King of Strong Style. I also think that AJ Styles needs to visit a Dick’s Sporting Goods and buy a protective cup. Bro, if past is prologue, Shinsuke is going to hit you in the nuts and then lift you into the air by them before he knees your head in. Get wise.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Loser: AJ’s Urologist, who won’t be paid for a vasectomy
Jason: As I hinted in the Joe-Ro match, I see Joe being the lead heel on the blue brand, meaning he should have or be chasing the title. As such, I think Styles will be holding the belt for the foreseeable, leading to an epic clash with Smo-Jo that will actually have a lot of people watching it, unlike all of the times they’ve met on the indies or TNA. It’s a shame though, because I’ve really been enjoying dick-punching heel Nak and his new theme, and he deserves to be champ at some point. Alas, I don’t book the matches, and of the three main event heels on SmackDown, I just think Joe’s your top guy.
Winner: AJ Styles
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