A WWE Backlash 2016 Preview – The Return of “Brand Specific” Pay Per Views

WWE Backlash 2016, promo artBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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.

The Usos, WWE Raw, February 1, 2016SMACKDOWN TAG TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS:
Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos/The Hype Bros.

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

WWE Backlash 2016, The Miz, Dolph ZigglerWWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

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

WWE Backlash 2016, Women's Title MatchSIX-PACK CHALLENGE TO CROWN WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPION:
Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella vs. Alexa Bliss

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

WWE Backlash 2016, Randy Orton, Bray WyattRandy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt

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

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:AJ Styles, Dean Ambose, WWE Backlash 2016
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles

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

A WWE Summerslam 2016 Preview – Are You There, Goldberg? It’s Us…

WWE Wrestlemania XX, Bill Goldberg, Steve AustinBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The publicity train is really rolling this weekend, and Bill Goldberg may as well be the engineer.

Fans have been speculating about the return of Goldberg since the WWE 2K17 trailer hit, with the image of the former WWE star looking at a “Suplex City” sign. Now, both Goldberg and Brock have been having some fun at the press events for both WWE 2K17 and Summerslam.

Goldberg calls out BrockBrock talks about Goldberg going to Suplex CityGoldberg calls out Seth Rollins. Yeesh. Slow down! I’m trying to keep up.

This all but confirms that Brock Lesnar/Bill Goldberg II is taking place at some point. I’d bet on it for Wrestlemania XXXIII. The only match that might be bigger than that would be Brock against the Rock. And I don’t doubt we’ll get that at some point as well.

But will all this jaw-jacking going on, who’s set to fire the first shot? And where?

Well, Brock just happens to be in the main event of WWE’s second-biggest show of the year. Seems like that might be a good time…

Moving on to predictions, in the wake of Eva Marie’s suspension (more on those when I review Raw), I’m leaving out the women’s tag team match that was booked on Smackdown, because I assume it’s going to change. I assume they’ll either fill her spot with someone else, or make it to a traditional two-on-two match.

WWE Summerslam 2016, big tag team matchPRE-SHOW MATCH:
American Alpha, The Usos & The Hype Bros vs. Fandango & Tyler Breeze, The Vaudevillians, & The Ascension.

Apparently WWE wants to remind us that Smackdown has a tag team division, likely in preparation for the show getting its own set of tag belts. They had this exact same match on Smackdown this week, and the babyfaces won. I’ll give it to them again, for no other reason than American Alpha is on that team, and they’re being built up right now. As they should be.

PREDICTION: American Alpha, The Usos, & The Hype Bros

WWE Summerslam 2016, Sami Zayn, Neville, The Dudley BoyzThe Dudley Boyz vs. Sami Zayn & Neville

The Dudleys are breaking up. At lest that’s my assumption. Bubba’s been giving D-Von frustrated stares after their losses on Raw these past few weeks. They haven’t been doing anything with the Dudleys these last few months, so it makes sense. This match keeps the angle going by having Zayn and Neville, another throw-together team, beat them. Simple as that.

PREDICTION: Sami Zayn & Neville

WWE Summerslam 2016, Sheamus vs. CesaroPRE-SHOW MATCH:
BEST OF SEVEN SERIES, MATCH ONE:
Sheamus (c) vs. Cesaro

What we have here is an obvious attempt to create the kind of magic Chris Benoit and Booker T had when they did this in WCW. I don’t have high hopes, but I won’t put it past them either.

My question is, what’s at stake here? What does the winner of this series get? A shot at the Universal Title seems like a good answer.

We’ve established on Raw these last few weeks that Cesaro has Sheamus’ number. I say we keep that trend alive here with a Cesaro win. Then, if I had the book, I’d have Sheamus find some way to injure Cesaro in the second match, allowing him to pick up a bunch of consecutive victories. Thus, our Swiss Superman can fight from underneath and hopefully be victorious in the end.

If this is done well, it could really benefit two guys who could really use some extra shine right now. Best of luck, gentlemen.

PREDICTION: Cesaro

Enzo & Cass vs. Jericho & Owens, WWE Summerslam 2016Enzo & Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens. 

This match really needs to go on first. Enzo & Cass in front of a Brooklyn crowd? That‘s the kind of pop you open Summerslam with.

I don’t see why the hometown boys shouldn’t win here. As great as Jericho and Owens are together, a win for them would hurt Enzo & Cass more than anything else. Plus, my guess is they were just thrown together to give Enzo & Cass a pair of great heels to go against.

I had originally pegged Summerslam as the night for Enzo & Cass to win the tag titles. But it looks like they’re playing the long game. Nothing wrong with that at all. These guys both cut their teeth in Orlando, which happens to be where Wrestlemania is next year…

PREDICTION: Enzo & Cass

WWE Summerslam 2016, The Miz, Apollo CrewsWWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
The Miz (c) vs. Apollo Crews

Simply put: I don’t think Apollo Crews deserves the Intercontinental Title yet. Yes, he’s incredibly explosive and dynamic in the ring, and you can argue the IC Title doesn’t mean much nowadays anyway. But as a character, I don’t think he’s ready. Plus, while I may be in the minority here, I like the Intercontinental Title on Miz. Maryse has breathed a whole new life into his career. He’s worthy of the title. I’d like to see him weasel his way out of at least one more title defense. Crews can afford to chase for another month.

PREDICTION: The Miz

New Day vs. Gallows & Anderson, WWE Summerslam 2016WWE TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

It’s time. The New Day won the belts at Summerslam last year, now they drop them at Summerslam this year. It’s a nice circle. Plus, Gallows and Anderson have been ready for a couple of months now.

I can only assume Big E. will be back for this match. You never know just how much a guy brings to an act until he’s not there. His energy is sorely missed, as are his dance moves.

PREDICTION: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

WWE Summerslam 2016, Rusev, Roman ReignsWWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Roman Reigns

Prior to Monday, I’d have given this match to Roman. But they had him pin Rusev in the main event that night. Why go ahead and do that unless Rusev were somehow walking out of Summerslam with the belt? Then again, that’s logical thinking. Logic isn’t always WWE’s strong point…

But why even do that match as the Raw main event? Because they didn’t have any better ideas? Maybe. But from a booking standpoint, what does pinning Rusev do? It keeps Roman looking strong. We all know how much they love that. So even if Rusev somehow gets out with the title via a disqualification, as I think he will, he still doesn’t pin Roman. That way Roman can move on to bigger things without losing any face, and Rusev gets a little but of a rub from having worked a pay per view match with Roman. Everybody wins…kinda.

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns via disqualification

WWE Summerslam 2016, Sasha Banks vs. CharlotteWWE WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Sasha Banks (c) vs. Charlotte

I told somebody on Twitter recently that I don’t see this match topping what Sasha and Charlotte did on Raw last month. I can’t imagine they’ll have as much time on this show. Plus, they really had lightning in a bottle that night, and we had the thrill of Sasha winning the belt for the first time. In a way, this match feels like an afterthought.

But it never pays to underestimate any of the “Four Horsewomen” of NXT (the others being Becky Lynch and Bayley). So I’ll be interested to see what they pull out of the hat. Either way, I see Sasha continuing on as champ, and Charlotte moving on to other things.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks

WWE, Summerslam 2016, John Cena, AJ StylesJohn Cena vs. AJ Styles

I’m surprised a one-on-one rematch took this long. These two wrestled at Money in the Bank, so it’s been about two months. I’m amazed WWE waited this long to do it. Not a bad thing, just a surprise.

This one’s a toss-up, really. It’s more about the performance than who wins. Cena has very little to gain by beating Styles at this point. But I can see WWE wanting him to get a win at one of their biggest shows of the year. So how much does Styles have to lose? Well, he lost to Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania, and he lost both of his matches to Roman Reigns in the spring. And yet, here he is. Whether they go back for a third match or not, both men are winners here.

PREDICTION: John Cena

Dean Ambrose, WWE Summerslam, 2016, Dolph ZigglerWWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

I smell a heel turn.

So you’re Dolph Ziggler. You finally get a shot at the WWE Title after years of toiling in the midcard, and you lose. You blew it. Dean Ambrose was right. You’re not as good as you say you are. So what do you do as your reality comes crashing down around you? You snap. You throw the rules out the window and you attack the champion with no mercy (which happens to be the name of an upcoming pay per view). What was a feud about professional pride has become very, very personal.

WWE is in need of strong heels right now. And Ziggler’s been a babyface for a long time now. Just saying.

PREDICTION: Dean Ambrose

Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, WWE Summerslam 2016MATCH TO CROWN FIRST WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPION:
Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

Well that didn’t take long, did it? Finn Balor has been on the main roster about a month, and he’s already in the semi-main event of Summerslam. In a heavyweight title match, no less.

There’s a good chance these guys steal the show, much like Rollins did with John Cena last year. As for who wins, I say we go for it. Put the belt on Balor. With the roster now split, this company needs more stars. Finn Balor hasn’t been a product of start and stop pushes, or 50/50 booking, or anything that’s plagued guys like Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, Sheamus, the Miz, Rusev, and so many others. He’s a fresh face. A fresh face who can wrestle like the dickens, and has this “Demon King” persona that’s sports entertainment personified. So I say let’s go for it. Place him in a role of significance from the start, so people know he’s a big deal. Raw has needed a shake-up for a long time. And this could be the start of a big shake-up. Let’s do this.

PREDICTION: Finn Balor

WWE Summerslam 2016, Brock Lesnar, Randy OrtonBrock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton

Of course this is the main event. Why wouldn’t it be? Brock Lesnar is one of two genuine megastars they have on that roster, and he only wrestles a few times a year. Plus, Brock is in the news right now for the doping scandal. I’m really intrigued as to how the New York crowd will react to him. The build for this match has been underwhelming. But hopefully the end product will be worth it.

Brock said it himself: “Randy Orton isn’t the guy to beat Brock Lesnar.” Orton is a star, and this is very much a marquee match. But Brock hasn’t been pinned or made to submit since Wrestlemania XXIX. (Last year’s Summerslam finish doesn’t count. He passed out.) The man who broke The Undertaker’s streak has a little streak of his own going. Randy Orton isn’t ending that streak.

On the subject of streaks, does Bill Goldberg have any big plans next spring? Just curious.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

John Cena, the Anti-Main Event, and Other Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I don’t get to watch Smackdown as often as I’d like, so this was a rare treat for me. This show is often a lot easier to digest than Raw. In an era where there’s so much content, since the brand split this show has left a lot of fans wanting more.

That wasn’t the case with this show. We had a recycled vignette from Raw and John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio as the main event. Go figure. I picked an off week to tune in.

Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Smackdown, August 16, 2016Dolph Ziggler lands a super kick on Dean Ambrose when the two meet on Miz TV. “…kick your head right off your face!” It’s live, folks. What can I say?

Ambrose has come off consistently strong in these talking segments with Dolph. He almost seems dismissive. This was a good line: “You don’t want it bad enough. You’ve never wanted it bad enough. And you’re never going to get it.”

And of course, Ziggler responded with a surprise kick to the face. A page out of the book of (Who else?) Shawn Michaels. These two are the dark horse to steal the show at Summerslam. But I don’t see Ziggler winning. More likely he loses, then goes heel.

American Alpha, The Usos, & The Hype Bros def. The Vaudevillians, The Ascension, & Fandango & Tyler Breeze. A decent time killer. Of course, American Alpha is emphasized as the team to beat. But to their credit, the Hype Bros have an awesome finish.

Eva Marie’s Smackdown in-ring debut is “delayed due to traffic.” Damn. That’s a hell of an entrance for Naomi. Psychedelic. Not sure how much I dig that ring attire once the lights come back on, though.

On the subject of ring attire, I was hoping for another wardrobe malfunction for Eva Marie. What can I say? In the absence of talent, I’ll take pure smut.

Randy Orton, Heath Slater, WWE Smackdown, August 16, 2016A vignette airs for the return of Curt Hawkins. For his sake, I hope his comeback goes better than Jinder Mahal’s has thus far.

Heath Slater def. Randy Orton via disqualifiation, is nearly given a Smackdown contract. I really wish we’d gotten a contract signing between Lesnar and Orton. Let Randy talk, let Brock talk, let Heyman talk. They actually got some decent heat when they traded finishers. Now let them add to that instead of just talking about one another on different shows. I’m still confused as to why Lesnar and Orton were drafted to different shows in the first place.

Heath Slater is really on the map this week. I maintain that segment on Raw was the best thing he’s ever done. The authority figures are almost heels at this point for not giving him a contract. I imagine he’ll get quite a pop when he finally does get it. Solid storytelling.

Dean Ambrose def. Eric Rowan. Nice win for the WWE Champion heading into Summerslam. The symbolism of Bray Wyatt leaving that mask on his rocking chair after the match was nice. Is this the end of the Wyatt Family? It may as well be. It’s not looking like much of a family these days. And Bray has been ready for a babyface turn for years. Literally, years.

Becky Lynch & Carmella def. Natalya & Alexa Bliss. After an appearance by Eva Marie and Naomi, a six-woman tag is announced for SummerslamOf course. They were saving Eva Marie’s debut for Summerslam.

Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton, Summerslam 2016The Brock Lesnar/Randy Orton video package that aired last week on Raw airs this week on Smackdown. Little things like this add to Smackdown‘s reputation as the B-show. If this had been a new vignette, that’d be one thing. But this was recycled material from Raw. It was good recycled material, but recycled nonetheless.

John Cena def. Alberto Del Rio. AJ Styles ambushes him with the Phenomenal Forearm. Xena returns the favor with an Attitude Adjustment on the announce table. This was like an anti-main event for yours truly. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from their WWE Title program a few years ago. From a personality standpoint, these two just don’t have a lot of chemistry. I take nothing away from their wrestling skills. But they’re usually very one-dimensional. So why would I be interested in seeing them fight?

I read awhile back that Del Rio is looking to leave WWE again. If he can find an out, he needs to take it. He got stuck with that bizarre Mex-America thing last year, then he moved into a dud stable, and now they’ve got nothing for him to do. To cap it all off, they drafted he and his girlfriend to different shows. It’s like he’s the real-life Heath Slater. Run, Del Rio! Run!

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