This Sunday night in Newark, New Jersey, World Wrestling Entertainment presents Backlash on WWE Network. It’s the third major WWE event in the last month following WrestleMania on April 8 and the Greatest Royal Rumble event from Saudi Arabia on April 27th.
There are no more Raw-only or Smackdown-only pay-per-view events. All PPVs feature both main roster brands now. A few weeks ago, they also did the Superstar Shake-up that saw Raw and Smackdown talents switch brands. There’s been a lot of WWE content of late even for the most hardcore fans out there.
Backlash is hurting in star power because there’s no Universal Championship match with Brock Lesnar, while Ronda Rousey isn’t advertised to be a part of it. Rousey is set to take part in her first WWE live events this month when she wrestles Mickie James in singles matches on the upcoming European tour, but those matches will not be televised.
There are nine championships on the main roster, but only five of them are advertised as being a part of Backlash. Three of the five title matches are rematches for the champions who recently lost their titles, so there’s a lot of repetitiveness on this show.
In terms of building to the matches, there’s really one match with a good build to it and that’s Styles vs. Nakamura for the WWE Title. The reason that one has been good is the heel turn of Nakamura. Every other match has either had very little build or bad storytelling to set up the matches. I think the main reason for that is because there was so much attention on the Greatest Royal Rumble event last week that WWE finally remembered they have a Backlash show to promote too.
Here’s the full lineup:
** WWE Championship No Disqualification: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
** Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe
** Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins vs. The Miz
** Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
** Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
** United States Championship: Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
** Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair
** Raw Women’s Championship: Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss
That’s the full lineup with a possibility that something gets added to the Kickoff Show as well.
10. Nia Jax beating Alexa Bliss will the be the shortest match on the show
This is the match I care about the least. Alexa Bliss got some “cosmetic surgery” done recently that may or not have been breast implants related, so she hasn’t been in a match that required bumping since WrestleMania four weeks ago. The story of this match is Bliss has been running away from Jax. Thrilling? No. At least Alexa’s “Moment of Bliss” videos about Jax being a bully have been funny.
I don’t really like Nia Jax as a face. As a heel, she was fine because she’s bigger than everybody else, so fans were in awe of her size difference and power. When she’s in the role of the good girl, it’s tough to make her opponents look good because if she’s selling for five minutes it looks bad.
I think Jax wins this match in under 10 minutes (the shorter it is, the better) and moves on to a feud with… The Riott Squad? I’m not sure. There just aren’t a lot of good heels on the Raw brand, considering Jax has beat up Bliss and her buddy Mickie James so easily. I don’t see how we’re supposed to be excited about Jax vs. Ruby Riott or whatever is next for her. Meanwhile, Bliss and James will probably be a part of a tag team feud with Natalya and Ronda Rousey, which should be interesting.
9. Carmella will prove she is capable of being Smackdown Women’s Champion
“Carmella can’t wrestle!” – every single twitter troll. 🤣🤣 I haven’t had a singles match on a PPV since Dec 2016. I’ve been putting in work since then. Can’t wait to prove y’all wrong at #WWEBacklash. Just don’t jump on the bandwagon bc I DONT need your support. 💋💋💋💋💋
— Smackdown Womens Champion (@CarmellaWWE) April 25, 2018
This is Carmella’s first singles PPV match since December 2016. We know that because Carmella tweeted about it.
That’s a long time to go without WWE management having faith in somebody to have a singles match. To Carmella’s credit, she has worked hard, improved a lot and is now holding the Smackdown Women’s Championship for a match against the former champion, Charlotte Flair. We all know that Charlotte is the “chosen one,” so to speak, among the women wrestlers in WWE. Yes, she is very good and has earned all that she has, but she’s also pushed the most and it’s rare to see her lose a match.
It’s possible that Carmella may be a bust in her first PPV singles match as champion. I have faith in her, though. Her personality has carried her, but she’s also improved in the ring as well. This match could be surprisingly good.
8. Carmella will retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship due to an “Iiconic” assist
When Carmella won the SD Women’s Championship from Charlotte a few weeks ago, it was due to some help. The Iiconics duo of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay attacked Charlotte, which led to Carmella cashing in the Money in the Bank contract to win the title. Since then, Carmella has bragged about how she did it on her own (heels lie!). Earlier this week, Carmella teamed up with Royce and Kay to lose to Charlotte, Asuka and Becky Lynch in a tag team match, so that could mean Carmella gets some help from Royce and Kay.
While I’m sure Charlotte will get back the Women’s Title at some point later this year or early next year, there’s no reason to do it now. Give Carmella a decent run as champion. My prediction is that Royce and Kay attack Charlotte leading to Carmella getting a cheap win to retain the title while moving on to the next challenger.
The good thing about Carmella as champion is that if she can get by Charlotte, there’s Asuka, Becky Lynch and Naomi out there as potential challengers. Lynch could use a heel turn as much as anybody on Smackdown, though.
7. Jeff Hardy’s victory over Randy Orton may set up Orton’s heel turn
The US Title match is a face vs. face match featuring two guys that had a very memorable feud in late 2007/early 2008. Back then, Orton was in the heel role and Hardy was on the best run of his career. This time, Hardy is in his early 40s and Orton’s in his late 30s, so they’re a lot older and wiser, but there isn’t much of storyline at all.
You may notice that I went with a “may” there instead of “will” regarding the prediction. That’s because I’m hopeful that this match involves more than just two good guys having a match for 12 minutes, Jeff goes over clean and it’s over. What I think should happen is after Jeff gets the win, Orton needs to do a cheap attack or at least tease it because he is mad about the loss.
If there’s one thing we know about Orton, it’s that he has always been better as the heel and it seems like every few years, there’s a turn with him. Since Smackdown has some good faces right now with Styles, Bryan (a familiar foe for Orton) and Hardy, it may be the right time to have Orton hear those “voices” to become a villain again. I’m not confident in it enough to officially predict, but I think it’s a possibility.
6. Braun Strowman’s positive momentum will continue with a tag team victory
This team of Strowman and Lashley beat Owens and Zayn two weeks ago on Raw, then they beat them in a six-man tag on this past Monday and here we go again. There’s no storyline. It’s just a way to get some popular guys on the card. If Owens and Zayn lose, it means they lost at WrestleMania, two weeks in a row on Raw, and at Backlash. It’s hard to build up credible heels when you do that.
The reason I’m going against Owens and Zayn is due to Strowman’s involvement. Braun has been building momentum by winning nearly every match he has ,including last week’s 50-man Royal Rumble, where he was dominant from the moment he got in there. Since WWE hasn’t put the Universal Title on Roman Reigns, it’s possible that the plan has changed to put the title on Strowman. That’s certainly fine with me. With that in mind, it seems unlikely that Strowman would be a part of the losing team if the Universal Title is in his future.
I hope this prediction is wrong and that Owens/Zayn win by beating Lashley. I just don’t expect it to happen that way.
5. Big Cass will attack Daniel Bryan after Bryan beats him
Daniel Bryan’s first PPV singles match in over three years is against Big Cass. That’s not the name most fans were expecting to face off with Bryan in a PPV match, but here we are. I assume that WWE is doing that because they want to save Bryan vs. The Miz for a big match at SummerSlam or at least a more important show than this one.
The way this has been set up, what makes the most sense is Bryan gets his revenge for Cass attacking him by giving Bryan the win. That’s what I think is going to happen, although it would be surprise me if Bryan makes Cass tap out to the Yes Lock. The finish will probably be more of a crafty win for the veteran Bryan where he does an inside cradle or rollup to win the match.
After the match is over, Cass will get his heat back by attacking Bryan with a big boot and whatever he is using as a finishing move now that he’s back in action. Bryan should get the win, but WWE will want Cass to look strong even in defeat. A cheap attack after the match is over is the best way to do that.
It’s the biggest match of Big Cass’ career. There’s a lot of pressure on him because if you can’t have a good match with an elite worker like Daniel Bryan, then good luck wrestling the rest of the roster.
4. The Miztourage will try to help The Miz beat Rollins…and they will fail
The Miz is going for his record-tying (with Chris Jericho) ninth Intercontinental Title reign. Seth Rollins won the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania last month and he successfully defended it in a great Ladder Match at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. This past Monday, Rollins also had an outstanding match with Finn Balor where Rollins was able to retain the title again.
The Superstar Shake-up saw The Miz move from Smackdown to Raw. What we don’t know is if Miz wins the IC Title, does it come with him to Smackdown or would he go back to Raw? The assumption is that Miz would take the title to Smackdown, but we know Rollins would get a rematch for it, so maybe they could do a title change here and get it back on Rollins. I don’t know if that is happening. I don’t think they should.
What I see happening is the Miztourage duo of Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas may try to help Miz win the title back because ever since Miz left Raw, Axel and Dallas have been trying to find their way without him. It would be a nice way to have a false finish with Miz nearly winning due to their help. Ultimately, I see Rollins keeping the title and having a long reign as a great IC Champion because Rollins is performing at a very high level right now.
As I mentioned earlier, Miz vs. Bryan is the money feud on Smackdown. Pencil it in for a SummerSlam match. Their matches on this show are just being done to keep them busy doing other things until then.
3. Roman Reigns will beat Samoa Joe in the longest match of the night
It’s another show where I’m picking Roman Reigns to win. That did not go well for me at WrestleMania and Greatest Royal Rumble when he failed to beat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title, even though that felt like the obvious outcome. What’s the end game? No idea. I think Lesnar’s reign has been boring and maybe WWE will want Braun Strowman to beat him. I’m not sure if that’s the plan, though.
The build to this match has been poor because it’s just Joe doing promos about how Reigns can’t beat Lesnar. Joe is a part of Smackdown now while Reigns is still on Raw. So unless something changes, this will be their last TV match until the next Superstar Shake-up next year. We’ve seen Reigns vs. Joe plenty of times, so it doesn’t feel like a big match at all either.
Joe can lose this match and be a part of the WWE Title feud on Smackdown. I don’t think a loss would hurt Joe that much at all. This will be the longest match of the night at over 20 minutes.
2. AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura will be the match of the night
The story here is that Styles beat Nakamura clean at WrestleMania in what was a good match, but not the wrestling classic most of us expected.
After the WrestleMania loss, Nakamura was a sore loser because he hit Styles with a low blow uppercut. In the weeks that followed, Nakamura was a jerk about it by hitting Styles with more low blows and when he would get asked about it, Nakamura replied with a smartass answer: “No speak English.” The heel turn has worked well for Nakamura.
At the Greatest Royal Rumble event, I predicted Styles would remain WWE Champion “after a controversial finish.” I was on the right track because they had a double-countout finish that led to this bout becoming a No Disqualification match. It would have made more sense if Styles lost that match by disqualification to set up No DQ, but in today’s WWE they don’t seem to build up to the matches the right way anymore.
I think making this a No DQ match was smart because they’ll be able to stand out from everything else on the card by using weapons, breaking tables and brawling around the arena. There’s no need to slap on a chinlock to kill two minutes. It needs to be more of a fight and I think that’s going to make it an outstanding match.
1. AJ Styles will retain the WWE Championship
I mentioned Nakamura’s penchant for throwing low blows at Styles. It has happened for the past month with Styles doing nothing to really retaliate. That’s why I think something clever is in store in this match with Styles blocking the low blow by wearing a protective cup to cover up his family jewels. When Nakamura goes for the low blow, Styles will no-sell it and Nakamura will sell an arm injury. Styles will pull the protective cup out, fans cheer when they realize what happened and Styles hits the Styles Clash to win.
If it doesn’t happen that way, then Styles looks like a fool for taking repeated low blows without doing anything about it.
This pick is far from a sure thing. I’m honestly 50/50 on this match in terms of my prediction.
When Nakamura turned heel, my immediate thought at that time was that WWE did it because they wanted to put the title him on as a bad guy. I’m not so sure anymore. With Samoa Joe waiting in the wings as a potential opponent for Styles, that makes a lot more sense and Joe could be the one who is the next WWE Champion.
My interest level is high to see how good of a match they can have and what kind of creative direction there will be for the meeting.
This feels like an average show with only Styles vs. Nakamura sticking out as a well-built feud that should lead to an awesome match. The rest of the card should produce some good matches because the current WWE roster has a lot of talent, but Backlash does not feel like a major show at all. I think the Money in the Bank PPV next month will be a lot better.
You can watch WWE Backlash on Sunday, May 6th at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on WWE Network. There’s also a one-hour Backlash Kickoff show starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT as well. If you miss it live, you can watch it on demand at your own convenience. I’ll be back on Monday for a review of the event.