by Luke Raven (@ravenluke)
(Photo courtesy of WWE.com)
This Sunday the first brand specific pay-per-view of the New Era is coming to the WWE Network. With Smackdown being the guinea pig for the New Era they have arguably been putting on a better show with less time and fewer stars. There are six matches lined up with two filling vacant championships. Let’s take a look at what is in store for us with Backlash!
Uso’s vs. Hype Bros. (Tag Team Championship Semi Finals)
The tag team tournament had been underwhelming and predictable until last Tuesday. After a loss to American Alpha, the Uso’s broke their normal happy-go-lucky “What’s good, Uce!” demeanor then injured the leg of Chad Gable. This somehow gave them and the Hype Bros. a second chance in the tag team tournament.
At this point you should try not to think too much about how the Hype Bros. AND The Uso’s were somehow rewarded for their dastardly attack on Gable instead of being punished. No, it doesn’t make sense. Let’s all just move on.
What will be an interesting mesh of styles between two teams with brighter colors than a pair of 1980’s Zubazz pants, I do fully expect the Uso’s to win here by once again cheating. It makes sense. No reason to have an attitude change for the Uso’s to have them lose in their second chance match.
Women’s Six Pack Elimination Match
A jam packed match with Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Naomi, Natalya, and Becky Lynch will set the tone for the Smackdown Women’s division. Each of these competitors is fighting for a chance to be the first ever Smackdown Women’s Champion. Carmella has been gunning for Nikki Bella as of late while everybody else seems to be focused on the brand’s first drafted woman, Becky Lynch.
I am VERY excited for this match. Aside from the LSD trip we’ll all have watching Naomi’s entrance, they’ve put together a very athletic group of wrestlers. If given enough time, which it should have because there’s only six announced matches, this will show off each person in a positive light. The elimination style should help accentuate each of their strengths. Or….
They’re given 10 minutes and it’ll be a clusterf*** of people trying to get their s**t in most reminiscent of the Divas era. If for some awful reason they don’t feel this group can carry 20+ minutes then be ready for Twitter to explode.
Prediction: Nikki Bella
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt recently set his sights on The Viper. The rational Wyatt has given us is that he is the top predator on Smackdown Live. He has decided to make The Apex Predator his prey. A volley of tough words has gone back and forth between the two which will be settled (probably) at Backlash.
This match will be 20 minutes with 18 minutes going toward entrances. I expect this to be a very slow, methodical match between two multi-generational wrestlers. I also expect to be bored. Sorry. I really like both guys, but neither has the ability to make this match or feud interesting to me. A few years ago Wyatt burst onto the scene and I couldn’t get enough of him. His matches were interesting and his promos were fire. Now each time he speaks the words are different, yet the promo is the same. I also haven’t been interested in a good guy Randy Orton match since Evolution turned on him. This match could headline a pay-per-view called Things Luke Doesn’t Care About.
Prediction: I don’t know. Orton, probably.
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship
Coming off of a heat seeking promo cut on Daniel Bryan from Talking Smack, Miz and Maryse came to the ring on Smackdown Live to defend his actions. Not long after declaring the Intercontinental Title the most prestigious title Dolph Ziggler came to the ring and challenged Miz to a fight. Needless to say the cowardly Miz backed down. Eventually Smackdown Live GM, Daniel Bryan, made the match for this Sunday.
Have we seen Miz vs. Ziggler before? Yes, hundreds of times. Have we seen it for a secondary title such as the Intercontinental or United States championship? Yup, dozens of times. Do I care about this one? YES. I haven’t been this interested in Miz since……well, ever! Lately, he’s somewhat dropped the movie star persona to at least a secondary personality trait. I’m fine with this since it hadn’t been interesting since Mizdow left.
Dolph’s new found intensity has me caught up too. He seems to be a man on a mission of redemption. Proving to everyone, including himself, that he CAN win the big one. (Side note: No, competing for a title he’s won before on a brand specific show may not be “the big one,” but let’s all enjoy what’ll surely be a good match.)
Prediction: Miz retains
Uso’s vs. Slater/Rhyno for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship
Heath Slater was the only person not drafted during the brand split. He went back and forth between both Raw and Smackdown trying to earn a spot on a roster. What seemed to initially be a throwaway reason to have Heath consistently lose on both show turned into something completely different; people LOVED him. Put this man in a category with Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow as being someone who can turn chicken s**t into chicken salad. He was finally given a chance by Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon. If he could find a partner they would be placed into the tag team tournament. If they win, Slater gets a Smackdown Live contract. Heath had trouble finding a partner at first (even asking Arn Anderson at one point), but then enter the Man Beast, Rhyno.
These two have to be one of the best oddball pairings of the last decade. Not at Team Hell No level, but miles ahead of Santino and Koslov. Everything they’ve done has entertained me. Heath is a good wrestler, can talk, he’s able to be sympathetic when needed, or be an oblivious jerk. Keep giving this man minutes on my television.
However, being the sympathetic good guy fighting for a contract to keep his family fed works even better when going up against a new antagonist. Here the Uso’s turn will be even more cemented. Right when we truly believe that Rhyno and Slater have the titles and a contract in their hands the Uso’s will cheat to win. Hopefully with the new attitude comes new ring gear and no face paint. Without opposing paint the twins are hard to identify. I expect the ol’ switcheroo to happen for the Uso’s to sneak the win leaving Slater without titles or a contract but even more fan support.
Prediction: The Uso’s
Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles for the WWE World Champinoship
Dean Ambrose was the first Smackdown Live draftee followed immediately by AJ Styles. At Summerslam, Ambrose had an underwhelming match against Dolph Ziggler. AJ Styles, however, had a terrific match against John Cena and beat him clean. We haven’t seen Cena since that night. AJ has been wearing around Cena’s armband (which is actually a headband, but Cena’s biceps are that freaking huge), as a trophy. Styles has since declared himself the Face that Runs the Place. Ambrose looked right at Styles and told him he can keep all the trophies he wants, but the only one that he won’t have is the WWE World Title.
If you read my reaction to the Pro Wrestling Illustrated 500 (and if you haven’t shame on you) then you know how I feel about both of these guys. AJ Styles is the best wrestler in the world right now. He’s grown on the mic and his matches always deliver. Ambrose has been consistent yet his matches lack fire. If there is one man who can bring the fire out of anyone that is The Phenomenal One. This is going to be an epic match between the quintessential brawler and the wrestler’s wrestler.
Dammit if I don’t want AJ to walk away with the title here. He’s been on a roll. He has the Midas touch and the WWE would be silly to slow him down. HOWEVER! Dean Ambrose is their chosen hero for the brand. He’s the merchandise seller. He’s younger. He’s been around WWE longer. And Survivor Series is just around the corner which is a dual brand show. That will be the time to crown AJ as champion.
Prediciton: Dean Ambrose