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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Ronda Rousey’s UFC 207 Loss, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

Ronda Rousey, UFC 207By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I find it somewhat odd that I’m commenting on yet another UFC fight, as I’m a pro wrestling guy through and through.

Then again, maybe it’s not so odd. Ronda Rousey changed the world. She’s a bonafide superstar that opened doors for women not just in MMA, but athletics at large. Her impact has been felt more in pro wrestling than most sports. The “women’s revolution” we’ve seen in the last few years didn’t happen because WWE suddenly changed their minds about how to portray their female talent. The popularity of Ronda Rousey opened the door for Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, etc.

Given all this, it was very jarring to see Rousey sustain yet another quick loss at UFC 207. I’ll never claim to be a UFC aficionado. But you don’t have to be one to see she’s looked like a different fighter in there.

Twitter trolls were pretty hard on Ronda that night. There was a lot of talk about Rousey retiring, and even trading in her fighting gloves for pro wrestling tights. There’s been some debate about how much of an attraction she would be now that she’s lost twice. My response to that: Brock Lesnar had sustained losses in the UFC prior to his WWE return. Now he’s arguably the biggest attraction they have. And even after CM Punk’s UFC loss, I don’t doubt they’d kill to have him back. Rest assured, Rousey would do just fine in WWE.

But frankly, I’m hoping Rousey doesn’t retire just yet. Her career has meant too much for her to pack it in after a couple of rough losses. If MMA is something she’s still passionate about, she’s earned the right to stay in the octagon. And I know there are plenty of people who’d still pay money to see her.

Don’t listen to the haters, Ronda. Go out on your own terms.

WWE Raw, January 2, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Stephanie McMahon announces Chris Jericho will challenge Roman Reigns for the United States Title in the main event. Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins is made, with the loser being banned from ringside in the main event. Toward the end of this segment, Steph mentioned how Smackdown beat Raw in the ratings last week, and that Raw has a ratings war to win. I wouldn’t exactly call more Owens/Reigns/Rollins/Jericho a winning strategy. It feels like we’ve been watching the same matches for months. In fact, this same title match took place on Raw a month ago.

Meanwhile, Mick Foley had yet another verbal gaff during this match. Oh Mick…

Seth Rollins def. Kevin Owens via disqualification. Owens is banned from the main event. It’s a shame Rollins does’t have more momentum as a babyface. He’s so damn athletic. What a horrible missed opportunity it was to not bring him back as a babyface last year.

Karl Anderson def. Cesaro. As soon as Gallows and Anderson’s music hit, I figured they were dropping the fall here. When they announced Anderson was in the match, it was virtually a guarantee. And then low and behold, Karl Anderson pins Cesaro. Imagine my shock. Great looking neckbreaker off the top rope. But spoiler alert: Gallows and Anderson ain’t gettin’ the tag belts.

Braun Strowman, Sami Zayn, WWE Raw, January 2, 2017Braun Strowman def. Sami Zayn in a Last Man Standing Match. I wish they’d saved this for the main event, or at least the top of the third hour. You could have built the entire show around this match. It’s a great David vs. Goliath story. Loved the backstage brawling. It’s been refreshing to see them get back to that in recent weeks.

I wish we’d seen a match like this earlier in Zayn’s main roster run. It would have done wonders to establish his character.

WWE hypes the premiere of Bring It to the TableThis actually looks pretty good. One of the questions they hyped for it was about whether Hulk Hogan would ever return to WWE. The fact that they even said that on television means he’s coming back, most likely around Wrestlemania.

Titus O’Neil auditions to be a member of the New Day, loses to Xavier Woods. I liked this audition segment. Titus got to be entertaining and show off his personality. He took his share of criticism in 2016. But he’s better than a lot of people give him credit for.

Stephanie McMahon tells Bayley she never wanted her on RawI don’t say this about Steph’s segments very often, but I loved this. It fit her character perfectly. And you can potentially pay it off down the road with a Bayley/Stephanie match. I’d love to see more.

Drew Gulak, Cedric Alexander, WWE Raw, January 2, 2017Drew Gulak def. Cedric Alexander. There wasn’t much to this one. I can only assume Alicia Fox will eventually turn on Cedric and go with Noam Dar.

Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho to retain the United States Championship. I couldn’t help but tune out of this one a bit. That’s no reflection on the talent these two have. But we’ve seen them wrestle so many times that the novelty has just worn off. Still, seeing Reigns smack the ring post on that attempted Drive By was cool.

Interesting that Jericho did that Eddie Guerrero spot with the implied strike with the title belt. He’s obviously supposed to be a heel. But longtime fans have happy memories of Eddie doing that.

TJ Perkins def. Brian Kendrick. I was legit surprised Perkins won. I feel like it’s been months since he got a win on television. I guess statistically it had to happen.

Rusev and Jinder Mahal def. Big Cass in a Handicap Match. It’s nice to see Jinder has something to do as Rusev’s run-in buddy. Dude’s looking jacked these days, to the point where people were making wellness policy jokes. I won’t go that far. Innocent until proven guilty, folks.

Nia Jax, Bayley, WWE Raw, January 2, 2016Bayley def. Nia Jax to earn a Raw Women’s Title Match at the Royal Rumble. What is Nia Jax’s bodysuit made out of? Is it actual leather? Is that a stupid question?

@TheMarkySmark on Twitter posted something funny when Sasha Banks came out to post Nia the match: “Watch out Nia Jaxx, a 90lb woman is coming after you!” (sic) She makes a good point.

The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels announced for Raw next week. I got goosebumps when they announced ‘Taker would be appearing in New Orleans for the first time since the Streak ended at Wrestlemania XXX. This feels like a big announcement. Could it even be the announcement that Wrestlemania XXXIII will be his last go-around? I hate to even put that out there, considering we’ve been speculating about that for 17 years. But it gets more likely every year…

Bill Goldberg appears on the inaugural edition of the Kevin Owens Show. Goldberg and Roman Reigns hit a double-spear on Braun Strowman. Chris Jericho threw his name in the hat for the Royal Rumble Match. Given the likelihood of an Owens/Jericho match at Wrestlemania, does he actually have a shot at winning?

Braun Strowman should have a strong presence in the Rumble Match. I’m curious to see where he goes as we get closer to Wrestlemania.

Roman Reigns, Goldberg, WWE Raw, January 2, 2017Nice to see Goldberg and Kevin Owens share a ring. The presence Owens has out there matches well with Goldberg’s superhero aura. Seeing Goldberg and Jericho out there together also bring back interesting memories. I doubt we’ll see Reigns and Goldberg wrestle, but there’s obvious intrigue there.

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A WWE: Then. Now. Forever. #1 Review – A Labor of Love

WWE: Then Now Forever #1, Seth Rollins, CoverTITLE: WWE: Then Now Forever #1
AUTHOR: Dennis Hopeless, Ross Thibodeaux, Rob Schamberger, Derek Fridolfs, Daniel Bayliss.
PENCILLERS: Dan Mora, Rob Guillory, Schamberger, Fridolfs, Bayliss. Cover by Mora.
PUBLISHER: BOOM! Studios
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: $3.99

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Wouldn’t be much of a pro wrestling/comic book web site if I didn’t talk about this one. While most WWE/comic book crossovers are fairly cringeworthy, this one is pretty damn good. It may be the best one that’s ever been done, save the epically campy Ultimate Warrior book from the ’90s.

Usually, licensed WWE comic books try to make the characters work outside their own environment. In 2010, Titan Comics started publishing WWE stories involving immortals, cultists, time travel, etc. Papercutz also published strange crime-noirish stories involving WWE stars in the fictitious “Titan City.” Then of course, you had the stuff Chaos Comics put out in the early 2000s. Now that was weird.

BOOM! Studios does venture into the outlandish and bizarre. But our main story is character driven, and very grounded…at least by WWE comic book standards. It also does something that, to my knowledge, has never been done before. It’s in-continuity with WWE television.

WWE Then Now Forever #1, 2016Written by Dennis Hopeless, the story takes place in the days prior to the Shield breaking up. Our main character is Seth Rollins, who WWE fans know will turn on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. We look at the brotherly dynamic between the three as they have a high-stakes confrontation with the Wyatt Family. But this brotherly bond will soon come to an end, as Rollins strikes out on his own at the expense of his Shield brothers.

What impressed me the most about this issue was how Hopeless handled Dean Ambrose. He’s not the main character, but the authenticity in his voice gives credibility to the story. Ambrose is an interesting blend of coolness and instability, with just a touch of goofiness. If you go overboard with any one of those, it’s not Dean Ambrose. For the most part, Hopeless nails it. Some of the dialogue is shaky, but it’s still some of the best I’ve seen in a wrestling comic book.

Dan Mora’s art is very expressive and animated. Very fitting for a world like this, with characters this flamboyant and colorful. Not to harp on Ambrose, but there’s a shot of Ambrose’s face right after Seth’s betrayal that actually tugs at the heartstrings. It’s all pretty highly muscled, but that’s hardly a sin.

We’ve got a lot of back up content here. First up is a story about the New Day using their time machine (Remember that?) to “bring hope and cheer to those cynical and despairing times” in WWE history. This is the kind of stuff I expected. As a five-page back up, it’s harmless enough. But if this had been the main story, I wouldn’t have brought this one home. Not my thing.

WWE Then Now Forever #1, Rob Schamberger, Eddie Guerrero, Sasha BanksWWE artist Rob Schamberger has a four-pager showing us a young Sasha Banks watching Eddie Guerrero on television, and then flashing forward to some of her career highlights. We play up the idea of her being a role model for girls, and her being a part of Eddie’s legacy, as Mick Foley mentioned a few weeks ago. In many ways, these are beautiful pages. Especially as someone who watched Eddie when he was alive.

We then go to a two-page cartoon featuring ’80s stars Tugboat and Earthquake. It looks very “Steamboat Willie” inspired. An unexpected, and very creative surprise.

The issue closes with some one-page tributes to stars like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, and Dusty Rhodes, courtesy of Daniel Bayliss. Not a huge fan of how ‘Taker was rendered. But most of this is good stuff.

WWE is in good hands with Dennis Hopeless and the crew at BOOM! Studios. This feels like a labor of love, whereas before it often felt like a labor of…obligation. This could be a lot of fun.

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Dusty Rhodes, Brock Lesnar, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Dusty RhodesBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Obviously, Dusty Rhodes is on everybody’s mind this week, and rightfully so. In an industry where words like “legend” and “icon” are thrown around far too loosely, Dusty was truly both. His mic work was some of the best ever, and his matches with the likes of Ric Flair are forever etched into the annals of wrestling history.

Thanks for the memories, Dream. What a life, what a man.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE Battleground 2015, Seth Rollins, Brock LesnarBrock Lesnar returns, will face Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship at Battleground. Battleground, huh? They’re making this match for Battleground? That’s an odd move, in my book. The inevitable match between Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar seemed tailor-made for Summerslam. I can only assume they’re getting the initial encounter out of the way at Battleground so they can make the Summerslam rematch bigger. Cage match, maybe? In a perfect world, it’d be Hell in a Cell, but they can’t necessarily do that because of the Hell in a Cell pay per view in October.

Either way, it’s great to see Lesnar back, even if he didn’t do anything but stand there. I’m pleased they didn’t have Paul Heyman say anything this week. This way we can build the anticipation for whatever he’s going to say next week. But even if the build up is lackluster, I imagine the match will be spectacular, even if it does involve some sort of BS finish to get us to Summerslam.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, Kevin OwensKevin Owens beats Dolph Ziggler in an open challenge, later powerbombs Machine Gun Kelly off the stage. I was worried about Owens coming off like a babyface earlier in the show when he threw out that open challenge. But he pulled a great heel move by slipping in that it wasn’t for the NXT Championship. But then he leaned babyface again when he attacked Machine Gun Kelly. Yes, I know that’s technically a heel move. But let’s be honest: Nobody likes musical performances on Raw. It never works. So Owens doing that stunt with MGK did more to raise his popularity than hurt it.

So here’s what I’m thinking: Owens loses the NXT Championship to Finn Balor at the big Japan show in July. Then he goes on to win the United States Title from John Cena at Battleground, and essentially take the torch. It seems like the most logical thing to do from here. Then again, WWE hasn’t always been big on logic…

WWE Raw, June 14, 2015, Bray WyattBray Wyatt costs Roman Reigns the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, cuts a promo with a photo of his daughter on Raw. I was wondering why they showed that awful Fatherhood.gov commercial with Roman Reigns, the Samoan Bad Ass, singing “I’m a Little Tea Pot.”

But in light of what we saw with Bray, it makes a little more sense. If they are indeed doing an angle with Reigns’ daughter, it could go a long way in terms of allowing the fans to build a more personal connection with him. On the other hand, it could turn into a lot of hokey, stupid crap. Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr. had some awesome matches in the mid 2000s. But that whole storyline about Eddie trying to get custory of Rey’s son was awful. Lots of bad acting, lots of contrived storytelling. It was just bad. So just let’s hope this ends up helping Reigns instead of hurting him.

Randy Orton mixes it up with Sheamus and Kane. Yeah, I switched to the NHL play offs during the Orton/Kane match. How many times have we seen these guys wrestle over the years? No thanks.

WWE Raw, June 15, 2015, SheamusI found myself phasing out when Orton attacked Sheamus too. I just feel like I’ve seen all this stuff. Coming out of Money in the Bank, I actually would have preferred they put Sheamus with Roman Reigns, and Randy Orton with Bray Wyatt. Those are two programs I could have sunk my teeth into. At least at first glance.

On the subject of Kane, I’m still surprised they haven’t put the mask back on him and turned him babyface for a match against Rollins.. It seemed like that was the direction they were going in.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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