WWE Backlash 2017 Predictions – Can Jinder Mahal Strike Gold?

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much of note coming out of Smackdown this week. They filled out the Backlash card a bit, and Baron Corbin sustained yet another loss to Randy Orton. But other than that, this was fairly week considering it’s the go-home show for a pay per view.

So let’s not waste any time, shall we? Let’s get right to Backlash predictions…

PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

I’m surprised Dillinger hasn’t been more prominently featured since his main roster debut. That’s not to say he should be at Nakamura’s level. But people are definitely into the whole Perfect 10 thing. Maybe creative is still feeling him out? Either way, he’s picking up a win here.

PREDICTION: Tye Dillinger

Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan

These two didn’t exactly light the world on fire last week. They’re obviously being brought in to kill time.

My gut tells me Rowan gets this one, as he did last week. Could it be that Erick Rowan is actually a higher priority for WWE than Luke Harper? To that I simply say, why? Because he has a scary mask? It just seems odd that they’d put Rowan over at the expense of Harper, who showed a lot of promise earlier this year. Not that it matters much, anyway. These two have no heat at all right now.

PREDICTION: Erick Rowan

Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin. 

Rumor has it Corbin is one of WWE’s big projects right now, but you wouldn’t know it considering his win/loss record in singles matches lately. He lost to Dean Ambrose on the Wrestlemania pre-show, and this week he dropped yet another clean loss to Randy Orton. The story seems to be that Corbin has a lot of raw talent and rage, but is unrefined. Thus, he’s susceptible to being outworked by more experienced wrestlers. That doesn’t seem like it’s too far from the truth, actually.

Zayn should be able to get a pretty good match out of Corbin, just as he did with Braun Strowman earlier this year. Ultimately, the outcome should be the same. Corbin needs a big win. Sami can come back and beat him later if they want to keep this going. But let’s give the guy some of his momentum back.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

Naomi, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina.

I don’t like this as a pay per view match. I admit, Six-Person Tags have to overachieve for me to enjoy them. But this feels like it belongs at the midway point of a Smackdown.

They can salvage this a little bit by having Charlotte reassert herself as a heel and attack her teammates, presumably costing her team the match. I don’t think it’s time for babyface Charlotte yet. They can get some more mileage out of her working with Naomi, and then reviving her feud with Becky Lynch. Granted, that thins out the babyface side of the Smackdown Women’s Division. But they’ve only got two hours to fill. They can make it work for a little while.

PREDICTION: Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Usos (c) vs. Breezango

This has worked out much better than I thought it would. That’s a credit to WWE creative making good use of Tyler Breeze and Fandango, and those two men capitalizing on their opportunity. They’ve both been criminally underrated for quite some time. Fandango in particular, who was never adequately positioned to capitalize on that “Fandangoing” buzz he got a few years ago.

That being said, right now the Usos are as hot as they’ve ever been. Any time you put a mic in their hands, it’s money. So I say keep the belts on them for now. But I wouldn’t be at all opposed to this thing with Breezango continuing. The Usos need a good team to play off of right now. Depending on how the chips fall, Tyler Breeze and Fandango could be that team.

PREDICTION: The Usos

Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

This match could easily steal the show, depending on how competitive they let Ziggler be. As I’ve said previously, Nakamura couldn’t have a better first opponent than Ziggler. He’ll bump around and sell for him so much that anyone who isn’t already sold on him will be after this match.

The outcome here isn’t really in doubt. Nakamura wins in his debut. The fact that they’ve made him the centerpiece of the advertising for Backlash is very encouraging in terms of WWE’s willingness to push him despite his limited English. This match could go a long way in determining Nakamura’s immediate future.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. AJ Styles

If Nakamura/Ziggler doesn’t steal the show, this one will. Hell, they could easily have these two main event the show, and have Orton/Mahal open it. They did that when Styles, Dean Ambrose, and John Cena opened No Mercy back in October.

I don’t really see the need to put the US Title on AJ Styles. The world is clamoring for him to compete for the WWE Title. So I see Owens winning with some sort of screwball finish. For my money, the draw here isn’t the chemistry these two have as rivals, but the quality of match they’ll end up having. Here’s hoping they live up to the hype.

PREDICTION: Kevin Owens

WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal

Don’t laugh, folks. Jinder Mahal has a chance here.

I keep coming back to the JBL/Eddie Guerrero program from 2004. No one thought JBL had a chance. But he ended up getting a sort of fluke win from Eddie in their second outing. They could easily do the same thing with Jinder here. Especially when you consider that Orton being champ has been met with a resounding “meh” from fans.

Here’s what it comes down to for me: Jinder needs to be built up more. He won the Six-Pack Challenge. He pinned Sami Zayn. He pinned Orton in a tag match. This week, he even got to pin AJ Styles, albeit with some help. That’s all well and good. But he needs more credibility if they want to put the title on him. So I say give this one to Orton. If the plan is to actually give Jinder the belt, then they can do a disputed finish, or even a DQ finish involving the Singh Brothers, and come back again at Money in the Bank. 

Question: You think the fans will be chanting for Bully Ray during this match? Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

PREDICTION: Randy Orton

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Randy Orton’s Twitter Drama, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Oh Twitter. Your petty wonders continue to amaze.

Randy Orton and Bully Ray/Bubba Ray Dudley made a couple of headlines this week after the former posted a photo (shown right) of him diving off the top rope at an ROH show. Seemed innocent enough.

Orton would subsequently tweet: “Lol there is a difference between a young hungry talent diving and an old outta shape ‘vet’ …….falling”

That tweet would catch ire from many a fan, and even Bully’s wife, who Impact Wrestling fans know as Velvet Sky. Orton later posted a little statement, talking about making five million dollars over the course of 11 shows overseas. He added, among other things: “I know to some that doesn’t equate to a standing room only crowd of 15 people paying $8 at an armory somewhere…but in the big boy world that’s called putting asses in seats. So enjoy your flips, dives, and 20 superkicks per match.”

I admit, I chuckled a little bit. The current wrestling landscape is littered with meaningless dives, way too many super kicks, among other stupid trends. And to be fair, Orton was sort of piggybacking on what one of his trainers, Rip Rogers, had tweeted previously.

Still, Orton’s point was overshadowed by the abrasive way he made it. It came off very disrespectful toward Bully Ray. Especially when you consider how many opportunities Orton has had compared to most of his peers. He hasn’t had to do all those dives and flips because, as Bob Orton Jr’s son, he’s never had to fight for attention the way most of those indy guys have. Randy Orton is wrestling royalty. But he came off like Prince William shaming a window washer because he missed a spot.

Of course, the good news for Orton is that he doesn’t give a damn what most of us think.

Ponderings From Raw:

Kurt Angle announces a Fatal Five-Way Match for Extreme Rules to decide the top contender for the Universal Title: Roman Reigns vs. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe. The participants emerge, a brawl ensues. I can’t help but cringe every time someone says “Fatal Five-Way.” I’ve been saying Fatal Four-Way for so many years that it just sounds weird. Tell you what, how about Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe have a big match, and the winner gets a spot in a Fatal Four-Way Match at the pay per view? On the plus side, Joe is in his first WWE pay per view main event.

Angle mentioned Braun Strowman here, and how surgery revealed his elbow is shattered, and may require up to six months recovery time. That’s a heartbreaker. Strowman is one of the only things on this show that has real momentum as of late. They’ve done such a fantastic job building him. A Brock Lesnar/Braun Strowman match would have been money. It looked like they were setting it up for June or July. Now we may not even get it until 2018, if then. Damn…

Jeff Hardy def. Sheamus. Sheamus and Cesaro get another shot at the tag belts at Extreme Rules. The smart bet is they make this a Ladder Match or something.

I don’t know if this is what they’re going for, but I’m starting to get the itch for another Jeff Hardy singles run.

Alicia Fox def. Sasha Banks. Yup. You read that right. Yuck. I get it, as these two had a disputed finish last week. But damn. That hurts.

It almost feels like we’ve been in Bizarro World for the past month. Alicia gets a clean win over Sasha. Breezango is challenging for tag team gold. And the top contender for the WWE Championship? Jinder Mahal.

The Miz def. Dean Ambrose in an Intercontinental Title Match via disqualification. Ambrose keeps the title. Pretty good outing for Ambrose and Miz, which later set up a rematch for Extreme Rules. Ambrose almost seems conspicuous by his absence in the Universal Title picture. I understand why he’s not there, as he’s obviously the IC Champ. Plus, it’s not necessarily time to have the three Shield guys sharing a ring yet. But it feels like he should be there…

Bayley interrupts Alexa Bliss to announce she’s invoking her rematch clause at Extreme RulesA fight breaks out. Alexa attacks Bayley with a kendo stick. A Kendo Stick on a Pole Match is made for the pay per view. Alexa Bliss has gotten so good at ad-libbing. That “If you’re a failure, say what!” line was great.

Despite how hokey this talk about Bayley “getting extreme” is, the hardcore stipulation at Extreme Rules could be good for her. She’s gotten by on charm, and obviously raw talent as well. But this could be a chance for her to show some fire. Now if only they hadn’t felt the need to revive the “on a pole” stipulation.

Neville and TJP def. Austin Aries and Jack Gallagher. Fairly cold match. The idea is for these matches to draw people to 205 Live, right? Viewership for that show is reportedly down. I wonder why…

Also, why is TJP a better name than TJ Perkins?

Roman Reigns def. Finn Balor. Good match. Despite the loss, Balor is regaining some valuable steam. Corey Graves mentioned during Balor’s entrance that his best friends are Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. That’s not the first time Graves has connected the former cohorts…

The announcers always act so surprised when someone kicks out of the Superman Punch. Booker T even said it’s “normally the knock-out punch.” Um…no it’s not. How many of those does Reigns usually hit in a given match?

Goldust turns on R-Truth before their match. As I said last week, Goldust deserves to be in a higher profile role. How long has it been since he’s been a heel? Getting the fans to boo him might be an uphill battle. But the change could be good for him.

Big Cass def. Titus O’Neil. Titus mocking Enzo on the way to the ring was funny as hell. He even got a little personality out of Apollo Crews. It’s a little early, but this Titus/Apollo experiment may be working.

Seth Rollins def. Bray Wyatt via disqualification. Predictable Samoa Joe interference at the end. Reigns and Balor really should have had the main event. Both those guys are more over than Rollins is. Crowd was sitting on their hands. Granted, we were at the tail end of hour three. But by the time they got into the overrun, I was begging for this one to be over.

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Jon Stewart Takes a Plunge, A Night of Returns, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

John Cena, Jon Stewart, WWE Summerslam 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I wasn’t disappointed with Summerslam, despite what many deem to be poor finishes to both Rollins vs. Cena, and Brock vs. Undertaker. The broadcast had a big fight feel to it, which is something most WWE pay per views have been lacking over the last several years. Over the last decade, perhaps. So I can’t complain.

We’ll get to some of those controversial finishes in a bit. But we’ve got no shortage of things to talk about here…

After costing John Cena his match at Summerslam, Jon Stewart gets an Attitude Adjustment. As far as publicity grabs go, it’s hard to top this one. You’ve probably got to go all the way back to the Mike Tyson stuff at Wrestlemania XIV to see WWE get celebrity involvement this good. Arguably the most culturally relevant talk show host in the last 20 years, Jon Stewart, gets physical with their biggest marquee talent, John Cena.

WWE Raw, August 24, 2015, Jon Stewart, Jon CenaSome fans balked at Stewart costing Cena the match at Summerslam. I say boo hoo, get over it. It’s pro wrestling. What did you expect?

Nice move by WWE pulling the Ric Flair card with Stewart’s motivation. This is something they can run with for quite awhile, and make that 16th title win actually mean something. And of course, they got Flair to trot out there and endorse Cena, which we knew was coming. In a perfect world, a heel Flair would take on a protege (Dolph Ziggler, perhaps?), and have him feud with Cena. That way, Cena has a road block in his way for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of heel moves, I really wish Flair hasn’t said that “God’s in the house tonight,” line. He used to talk like that in TNA, didn’t he? He was on the show as a babyface. But referring to yourself as God is pretty much the biggest heel move in the book.

The Dudley Boyz return and attack The New Day. Before we get into the Dudleys, it has to be said: That trombone entrance was classic. A comedy bit on Raw that was actually funny. Who’da thunk it? It’s no wonder these guys are hearing some cheers nowadays. They even got a “That was awesome!” chant.

The Dudley Boyz, Raw, August 24, 2015But of course, The Dudley Boyz returning from out of nowhere stole the segment, and perhaps the entire show. It’s tough to believe we haven’t seen these guys on WWE TV in about 10 years. As a longtime fan, it’s really gratifying to see they’re getting one last run on the big stage. I only wished Titus O’Neil would have kept his mouth shut during their big entrance. JBL was actually doing a decent job hyping them up, but Titus kept trying to talk over him.

I can only assume the reason it’s taken so long to get the Dudleys back after Bubba’s appearance in the Royal Rumble match had to do with them getting a deal that was right for them. The Dudleys are a legendary team with some nice Attitude Era name value. So I imagine WWE will get their money’s worth.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bubba Ray and D-Von evolve the act after all these years. Obviously Bubba, the former Bully Ray in TNA, has upped his game quite a bit since WWE fans last saw him. When they put a mic in his hands, things could get really interesting.

WWE Raw, August 24, 2015, StingSting surprises The Authority during Seth Rollins statue unveiling. Better late than never, I suppose. Did Summerslam need Sting? Not really. Would it have been cool to see him involved in the match with the Wyatts, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose? Absolutely. But at least this way, he’ll presumably get to main event a WWE pay per view against Rollins.

So it looks like it’s Sting vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship at Night of Champions. Naturally, Rollins isn’t going to lose the title to Sting. So that means Sting has to lose…again. Not to be presumptuous, but from a win/loss perspective, this guy just can’t catch a break. He makes his big debut against Triple H at Summerslam, and he loses. So now he gets a follow up match against Seth Rollins, and he’s presumably going to lose. At some point, Sting has to beat somebody, doesn’t he?

Hey, what about Bo Dallas? He seems like easy pickings these days…

After controversial Summerslam finish, Brock Lesnar takes Bo Dallas to “Suplex City.” Paul Heyman is probably one of the few performers on the planet who could come out at the top of the show every week and do that 20 minute promo spot without anyone getting tired of it.

WWE Raw, August 24, 2015, Brock Lesnar, Bo DallasDespite what WWE would have you believe, The Undertaker has tapped before. As I recall, there was a Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker match that ended in a simultaneous pinfall/submission finish. Angle had ‘Taker in a triangle choke, but his shoulders were down. As the ref counted three, ‘Taker tapped out.

This obviously isn’t the route many of us thought they’d go. Another Undertaker loss would have naturally led us to ‘Taker getting one last chance at Wrestlemania XXXII. But of course, now it’s the rubber match. Hell, Heyman kinda/sorta laid down the challenge tonight. I’m curious to see who Brock wrestles before we head to Dallas next Spring. One thing’s for sure, it won’t be Bo Dallas. His body bounced on that first suplex…

Paige, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch appear on Miz TV. This segment came off heavily scripted. It seemed like the girls were reciting memorized dialogue. Although Paige’s stuff about this being “the era of the female athlete” was decent. I wish we could have heard from Becky a bit more. She didn’t get to say much, but she came off quirky.

Sadly, I had to mute the TV when the Bellas showed up. As I’ve said before, when the Bellas are on the mic, they get X-Pac heat from me.

PCB, WWE Raw, August 24, 2015Incidentally, Charlotte’s line about The Four Horsemen being “the greatest faction in WWE history” was a stinker. You’d think she, of all people, would know the Horsemen were an NWA/WCW group, as opposed to a WWE one. Is that nitpicking? Yes. Is she at fault? Not necessarily. But that still stuck out like a sore thumb.

Braun Stowman debuts on Raw as a member of The Wyatt Family. Who is Braun Stowman? Full disclosure: I have no idea. But he’s got the right look for The Wyatt Family, that’s for sure. It’s like he has the body of a fully grown man, but the face of a wide-eyed little boy. But what, if anything, does his appearance means for Erick Rowan’s future?

After the loss to Neville & Stephen Amell at Summerslam, Stardust attacks King Barrett before dodging a Red Arrow from Neville. Damn. Barret takes the pin at Summerslam, then gets beat up by his partner the next night. If Bo Dallas isn’t available, Barrett would be another sure fire victory for Sting. Nothing personal, but this guy has turned into one of WWE’s biggest losers.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Too. Much. Talking. Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE Raw, June 8, 2015, John Cena, Kevin OwensBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

After the first 30 minutes, this show fell apart. It was just awful. The disadvantages of the three-hour format have never been more obvious than they were this week. WAY too much talking done by guys who shouldn’t be forced to talk so much to begin with. And this was the go-home show for a pay per view…

But let’s start on a high note…

Kevin Owens def. Neville in an NXT Championship open challenge. After defeating Zack Ryder in a similar match on Smackdown, Owens issued another open challenge this week to start the show. Not surprisingly, this was the best match of the night. This Kevin Owens/John Cena program is the best thing happening in the company right now, mostly because of the desperately-needed freshness that Owens has injected into the show. I’ll never discount Cena for the role he’s played in things. But let’s be honest: This week he went out there and said what he always says. Owens is a compelling new character, who comes off very genuine and believable. What’s more, he’s a great wrestler. For the time being, his segments are must-watch.

WWE Raw, June 8, 2015, Joey Mercury, Seth RollinsJ&J Security def. Seth Rollins in the handicap match main event. The sad thing is that after such a bad show, even Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins looked tarnished. So does this mean they’re breaking Seth Rollins away from Mercury and Noble? Probably not. Otherwise, what do you do with these two guys that just beat your champion? Take them off TV? It seems more likely Rollins will settle things by beating them up down the line.

Byron Saxton takes Booker T’s place on commentary this week. With Booker allegedly off doing Tough Enough stuff, Byron Saxton was back on Raw this week. This poor guy just can’t catch a break. After they did the angle with Lesnar beating up the commentators in April, they shoved this poor guy out there on his own to get eaten alive. This week, they put him with Michael Cole and JBL and was obviously the third wheel. If Booker was legitimately gone somewhere, why not just let JBL and Cole do the show themselves? It’s not like they’re inexperienced in that regard.

Roman Reigns, Kane, R-Truth and others involved in a 10-minute talking segment at the top of hour two. WWE usually does segments like this whenever there’s a big, multi-man match on pay per view. This was brutal, and so obviously scripted to fill time. Kane in particular just seemed to be deliberately drawing things out. They desperately need to have somebody else writing his stuff.

WWE Raw, June 8, 2015, Dolph Ziggler, Roman ReignsOkay, so R-Truth was brought out to do a comedy thing, right? He thinks he’s in the match, but he’s not. But he was brought out before The New Day, Sheamus, and Randy Orton. So the pattern hadn’t been established yet. Had he come out, say, after Sheamus, that actually might have been funny. But what ended up happening was just odd. It actually seemed like Truth was being added to the match, as another warm body to do floppy ladder moves. But nope, yet another waste of time.

Ryback gives “Shell Shocked” to The Big Show during “Miz TV” segment. This segment actually started out okay. Miz and Ryback seemed to be having fun out there. Then, of course, the talking went on too long and things became boring. I was really surprised to see Ryback hit Shell Shocked on The Big Show on free TV. One would think that’d be the big drawing element of a pay per view match between the two. Can this notoriously strong dude manhandle the world’s largest athlete? In theory, we were waiting for Money in the Bank to find out. Not anymore, I suppose. They gave away the finish on Raw.

Randy Orton vs. Sheamus ends in a brawl. Whenever these two wrestle, I always think of the night after Wrestlemania XXVIII, when the crowd essentially hijacked their match with random chants. That’s the most memorable match they’ve ever had. Seriously.

WWE Raw, June 8, 2015, Luke Harper, Erick RowanLuke Harper and Erick Rowan hit a 3D to finish a match. Either WWE is setting up with The Dudley Boyz by having Harper and Rowan use their old finish, or more likely, they’re hoping we all forget the Dudleys ever used that move. Bubba Ray/Bully Ray actually called WWE out on Twitter for it. Remember, he was in the Royal Rumble this year. So a match like this isn’t out of the question. But it’s sadly unlikely.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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