I’ll be honest here: I legitimately didn’t realise that Backlash was the next pay-per-view event for the WWE. I honestly thought that we were on the road to SummerSlam but, luckily enough for that event, we have this pit stop to get through before we hit the WWE’s annual summer event.
It seems to me like the WWE is settling into this new way of filming and broadcasting their particular band of entertainment a little too well these days; without a true, live crowd there to give reactions, it frees up Vince McMahon and his creative teams to tell whatever stories they like, portraying wrestlers however they see fit, and there’s no one present to tell them any different. This has led to a series of increasingly weird and off-beat segments where the Viking Raiders and the Street Profits compete in a series of sports…with “hilarious” results…and the feud between Sheamus and Jeff Hardy taking a dark turn when, in the course of one episode, Hardy was framed and arrested for drinking while drunk and then returned to exact revenge on the true perpetrator (…it was Sheamus).
The WWE have started roping in NXT guys and trainees as a pseudo-audience in recent weeks, however; shielded behind giant plastic screens and awkwardly standing behind the barricade around the ring, these guys are surely reacting exactly as they have been directed to but I guess it does help give the shows a little atmosphere that has been sorely lacking. Yet even that can’t really salvage the fact that Friday Night SmackDown has been in a bit of a downward spiral as of yet; compared to Raw, where Drew McIntyre is presented as a kick-ass, smart, dominating, untouchable champion, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Braun Strowman is the Universal Champion as he doesn’t seem to be much of a presence of the Blue Brand.
Still, we’re here so let’s get down to some predictions…
So, after a whole bunch of stop-start pushes, being one and off television, and coming in and out of prominence ever since he first appeared on the main roster, Apollo Crews has finally been given a chance to actually do something in recent weeks when, out of nowhere, he managed to capture the United States Championship.
And who is his first opponent? Well…Andrade, of course! The man who just cannot let the United States Championship go. as sick as I am of seeing Andrade spinning his wheels like this, I have to admire his dedication to that belt and it does make sense to help legitimise Apollo further by having him get another win over Andrade. Hopefully, both guys can move on to new opponents follow this but, as happy as I am to see Apollo finally getting a chance with a main roster championship and an actual push for the first time in what feels like years…I’m not entirely convinced that his reign will be especially long, interesting, or entertaining and expect this match to either be on the kick-off show, the opening match, or that Apollo won’t be featured on Raw much going forward.
My prediction: Apollo Crews by pin fall, championship retained.
As I mentioned in the opening, the WWE have oddly decided to build towards this match through a number of “comedic” skits that show the Viking Raiders losing to the Street Profits in a series of sporting challenges…only to reveal that they let the Street Profits win and that women really love Ivar.
I guess you could argue that, at least, it’s something new but it’s just been ridiculous and painful to watch; the only thing I’ve found remotely interesting about it has been the fact that these two face teams have had a friendly rivalry this whole time and I think that is deliberate so that, after the Street Profits upset their opponents, we’ll see the Viking Raiders snap, turn heel, and lay a beating on the champions to set up a rematch later down the line
My prediction: The Street Profits by pin fall, championship retained.
A big thing on SmackDown recently has been the dominating return of Sheamus and the hype videos telling a story about Jeff Hardy’s “redemption” and comeback story. Unfortunately for the WWE, we’ve seen that already, multiple times, and it doesn’t really sit right with me that they would have Jeff go through reliving some of his worst moments on national television just to set up a nothing feud with Sheamus.
Sheamus has been portrayed as an outspoken, brash bully who is more than happy to criticise and tear down Jeff at any opportunity, while Jeff is trying to make this big, heart-warming return after his recent (and history of) issues but, honestly, I have a hard time investing in Jeff at the best of times, especially now that Matt Hardy is living it up down in AEW. Every time the WWE gets behind Jeff, he drops the ball in some way; either he regresses, has a Wellness violation, or just leaves for other pursuits so I question the decision to get behind him again. Plus, he’s not exactly in the best shape these days and is far from the Jeff Hardy of old but, whenever they push him, it seems like they send him out there with the request to be the high-flying youth he once was when, really, he should be slowing it down and taking care of himself.
My prediction: Sheamus by pin fall.
So, after weeks and weeks of slowly building towards the inevitable split between Sasha Banks and Bayley, the WWE made the predictable decision to have them defeat Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross to randomly become the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions once again. Not only does this mean that Bayley is now a double champion, it also really exposes just how shallow the women’s tag team division is in the WWE and this is taking into account that these particular belts are supposed to be defended on Raw, SmackDown, and NXT…and yet rarely ever make it onto television so, apparently, the only way to get them on TV is to slap them on an existing Women’s Champion and shoehorn them into this building program.
Honestly, having Bayley and Sasha drop the belts so soon after winning them seems like a bad move; I think it’s more likely that they’ll retain here to continue the narrative, appearing to be on the same page, and then some tension and dissension will build over the next few weeks that finally snaps when Bayley, I guess, gets pinned to lose the tag belts and Sasha finally has enough of following her tail.
My prediction: Bayley and Sasha Banks by pin fall, championship retained.
Yeah, so, this match literally happened just because John Morrison and the Miz decided that it was. Literally, they just cut a promo one week and basically said: “We’re your next challengers” right after losing the Tag Team Championships! What did they do to earn it? Nothing. What have they done since? Played pranks on Braun Strowman and pissed him off. Smart.
The last time Strowman was involved in a handicap championship match, he lost because the WWE likes to book Strowman like an idiot leading into WrestleMania. This is their chance to make good on that and have Strowman just toss these two fools around like they’re nothing and stack them both up to pin them at the same time. I would like to see this be a completely one-sided affair in Strowman’s favour; no stupidly running into the ring posts or taking a beating. Just have him decimate them both and get the win and, as he’s celebrating have the Fiend, Bray Wyatt, make a dramatic return and attack Strowman with the Mandible Claw to set up their inevitable match at SummerSlam.
My prediction: Braun Strowman by double pin fall, championship retained.
Christ, and I thought Tamina was bad last month! I dunno what Asuka did to deserve such shoddy opponents since winning/being awarded the Raw Women’s Championship but this is just sad. I can only guess that she’s having to face off with people like Tamina and Nia Jax because the WWE wants to firmly establish her as a kick-ass babyface after her being this sadistic heel for so long for when Shayna Baszler gets back into the title hunt. Either that or they’ll have Charlotte Flair (who thankfully lost the NXT Women’s Championship recently) get involved, again, and start criticising Asuka for not having beaten her or any real, credible opponents since becoming the champion.
My prediction: Asuka by submission, championship retained.
I have to say that I am very surprised and happy to see that Bobby Lashley is finally getting a shot at a World Championship. His entire return to the WWE has been botched, in my opinion, and full of stop-start pushes and weird story angles but, finally, something has come out of it. The WWE is even killing two birds with one stone in the course of this feud by sowing the seeds of dissension between Lashley and Lana (who honestly I don’t see hanging around for much longer since Rusev is gone from the company) and setting up MVP as Lashley’s new mouthpiece and tag partner.
Oddly though, Lashley has been busting out the Full-Nelson during this feud, dusting it off as his new finisher despite the fact that he does a wicked Spear and has the Dominator in his arsenal. I guess the idea is to set up for the cool visual of Drew McIntyre powering out of the hold and putting over his strength but, as fitting as it is for Lashley to use the Full-Nelson, I’ve never taken that particular move serious as a submission manoeuvre. In any case, I think we’ll see Lashley get the win here after kicking too much ass, going too far, or possibly not releasing the Full-Nelson; he won’t win the title but that victory will add another few weeks to the feud and add a bit more heat to their issues. Plus it’s not like there’s anyone else waiting in the wings to challenge Drew at SummerSlam so you may as well keep Lashley on the backburner.
My prediction: Bobby Lashley by disqualification, championship retained.
Oh, boy, where to begin with this. So, Randy Orton randomly decided to pop out a few weeks ago and cast doubt over Edge’s victory over him at WrestleMania; why he’s suddenly decided to bring this up after weeks of not mentioning it I have no idea but the basic premise here is that Edge only won because that match was a street fight and that Edge, who must still have a lot of ring rust and be a step or two behind even a part-timer performer like Orton, could never hope to defeat him in a straight-up wrestling match.
Then, for whatever reason, the WWE decided to make the bold claim that Edge vs. Randy Orton in a traditional, one fall to a finish, honest to Goodness wrestling match could be “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”. First of all: no. just….just no. don’t get me wrong, I love Edge and even enjoy Orton’s work but neither of them have ever had a reputation for putting on solid wrestling clinics yet the WWE is building this match like it’s Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels. Edge is known for high-flying, risk-taking, and underhanded tactics and Orton is known for a slow, methodical, plodding pace and a sudden, impactful finish out of nowhere. Never have either of these two been pushed as being wrestling technicians or proficient in the art of catch-as-catch-can but, suddenly, the build would have you think they’re members of the famed Hart family or something!
Very recently, they started backpedalling a bit and suggesting that the match, and Edge, might not live up to expectations because of Edge’s doubts but I feel that’s a cheap cop-out; just don’t market the match that way in the first place if you don’t think it’ll live up to it and, while I reckon it’ll be a decent enough match, I don’t think any match could live up to the “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” tag line. I reckon we’ll see something resembling a traditional wrestling match until Orton cheap shots Edge, or cheats somehow with a weapon, and then plants him with an RKO and spends the next few weeks mocking Edge for being such a gullible fool to set up their third and final match at SummerSlam (possibly a cage or ladder bout).
My prediction: Randy Orton by pin fall.
Are you excited for this year’s Backlash? Which match are you most looking forward to? Do you think Edge and Randy Orton can put on “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”? Who do you think actually could live up to that tag line? What are your thoughts on the WWE placing people sporadically into the crowd to simulate a live audience? Whatever your thoughts, drop them in the comments and pop back on Monday for my review of the event itself.