Whew boy. We’re back here again, aren’t we? A Smackdown-only pay per view…
History doesn’t look kindly on “brand specific’ pay per views, specifically the Smackdown shows. They’re notorious for being either one-match shows, or altogether bad. For instance, at WWE Armageddon 2004 we got an awesome fatal fourway match for the WWE Title. It was JBL defending against The Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero, and Booker T. But in the hours leading up to it, we got such thrilling bouts as Spike Dudley vs. Funaki, Dawn Marie vs. Jackie Gayda, and Kurt Angle against Santa Claus. Seriously. Look it up.
Why were these shows so bad? To quote Paul Heyman: “Smackdown is the b**ch of WWE,” meaning it’s the perpetual B-show. Smackdown would be fed just enough to be kept alive, while Raw took priority. That’s still the case today. It’s why Raw has three hours and Smackdown has two. It’s why Raw has been called “the flagship” broadcast for so many years. Raw is the show that rocketed WWE to new heights in the late ’90s, while Smackdown is just “the other show.”
But per USA Network, Smackdown has now taken on a renewed importance. In many ways, Backlash will serve as a progress report for WWE’s efforts to make the show a true commodity. But they’re fighting an uphill battle. Not only is John Cena missing from the card, but this roster split is still fairly fresh. Newer, younger stars like Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews aren’t true commodities yet. Thus, roster depth is an issue. At only six matches, the card is also a little light.
Smackdown needs to overachieve with Backlash, lest history repeat itself.
So the winner of The Usos vs. The Hype Bros. advances to face Heath Slater & Rhyno in the tournament finals. If Slater’s team wins, he gets a Smackdown contract, and is no longer desperate for a job. Slater & Rhyno have a chance to be the first Smackdown Tag Team Champions. Who’da thunk it?
But he Smackdown tag team division is all about making American Alpha at this point. And how do you make a good babyface tag team? You give them good heels to feud with. In this case, the Usos. Jimmy and Jey are due for a change, and they’re already getting heat for their association with Roman Reigns. What better way to keep those boos coming than by having them not only injure Chad Gable (as they did this week on Smackdown), but cheat Heath Slater out of a WWE contract? What’s more, the Usos are already a decorated team, very much worthy of being called the first Smackdown tag champs. This night belongs to them.
PREDICTION: The Usos
When I talked about Summerslam last month, I talked about how Miz had to retain over Apollo Crews, as the latter wasn’t worthy of the title yet. This month, it’s more about Miz. Between the length of his title run and the epic promo he cut on Daniel Bryan, Miz deserves the win here. This is arguably the most momentum he’s had since he was WWE Champion, and they have yet to follow up on what he did with Bryan in any meaningful way. Now isn’t the time to take the belt from him.
Plus, after what happened at Summerslam, babyface Dolph Ziggler is officially a loser. Ambrose said he’d prove Ziggler wasn’t as good as he thought he was. Then he pinned him clean. The guy needs a heel turn, and badly. If I had my way, this match would be the next step in that direction.
PREDICTION: The Miz
You know who really deserves to win this belt? Becky Lynch. She’s the personification of “always a bride’s maid, never a bride.” She’s the only one of the “Four Horsewomen” (the others being Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Bayley) to never win the NXT Women’s Title. She’s also been in multiple matches for the Raw Women’s Title, but has yet to win it. All this, despite being a legit star. She’s got a great look, she’s great on the mic, and more than knows her way around a wrestling ring.
But let’s be honest, this is probably Nikki Bella’s night. Why? Because…well, they love her, that’s why. That’s not to discount everything she went through with her neck surgery, and her drive to come back. I’m not even saying she doesn’t have wrestling talent. But I find myself longing for a new face at the top. This is supposed to be the new era, right? Apparently WWE’s fascination with the Bellas never changes…
PREDICTION: Nikki Bella
Bray Wyatt hasn’t had a great year. He’s been plagued by injuries to the point that he’s been of most of the major shows. Backlash is a chance for him to build up some steam again. I maintain Bray should be a babyface. He could be one of the biggest fan-favorites the company has. But that’s a battle for another day. Right now I just want him to win a damn match.
But I don’t see that happening here. Randy took a hell of a beating from Brock Lesnar last month, and the smart bet is they’ll want him in a pay per view title match soon. So a win here would boost him back into title contention. Also, they may just want to see if Bray can stay injury free for awhile before they do something of real significance with him.
PREDICTION: Randy Orton
Some have soured on Dean Ambrose as the WWE Champion. I’m still into him, especially after his mic work this past week on Smackdown.
But I get it. It’s AJ’s time. He’s more than proved his worth in the short time he’s been with the company. He’s stolen the show with Roman Reigns and John Cena, proved he can hang on the microphone, and all in all become one of WWE’s best assets. Styles is in a position to become Smackdown‘s franchise player. As a fan, I’d happily tune in each week to see what he pulls out of the hat next.
As recently as a year ago, I couldn’t imagine myself saying this. But here goes: AJ Styles is going to win the WWE Championship. The former heart and soul of TNA is set to claim WWE’s richest prize. Frankly, the sheer joyous outpour from the fans may be enough to turn him babyface. Ambrose, on the other hand, may be looking at a turn to the dark side.
PREDICTION: AJ Styles