This Sunday is the first split-brand PPV of The New Era, as the Smackdown crew presents Backlash. Fans of the original Backlash series must be pleased as punch that the Backlash name has been revived (even though there was nothing inherently unique about the Backlash PPVs of old).
This show on paper appears to be the opposite of what the last several WWE PPVs have been. In other words I don't expect this show to be an exhausting, unnecessarily stretched 3.5 hours or more. This PPV only has six matches (Smackdown's roster is so thin I dunno how they'd manage any more than that), and they all have a purpose. So let's dive in....
***I currently lead Dan 36/54 to 32/54***
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler
Yeah I know, we've seen this match literally a billion times (No, I mean that. LITERALLY ONE BILLION.), but the difference this time is The Miz is red-hot thanks to the killer promo he cut a few weeks ago on Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan. Because it appeared on the Smackdown post-show Miz didn't have to adhere to a poorly written script and was able to actually imbue his character with real emotion and menace. Bryan retaliated by siccing Ziggles on him. Dolph wasn't exactly a threat at SummerSlam against WWE Champ Dean Ambrose but against the vulnerable IC Champ he just might be.
Justin's pick: Nah, not really. Miz is gonna retain. Taking the belt off him right now would be madness.
Dan's pick: I'm digging this version of the Miz. He MUST retain.
Tag Team Tournament Final Qualifier: The Usos vs. The Hype Bros
I don't get it. Only two teams in this tournament had any business being the inaugural Smackdown Tag Champs (We need a better name for those belts, btw) - The Usos and American Alpha. So rather than pit them against each other in the finals, WWE had them cross paths in the semis and booked the match to end after 30 seconds, then had The Usos turn heel (This I like) and injure AA to take them out of the tournament. So now Jimmy & Jey have to fight Mojo and Zack (who were also beaten in the semis) for a slot against Rhyno & Heath Slater. Well that's one way to swerve everyone.
Justin's pick: The Usos. No way in hell The Hype Bros make it to the finals
Dan's pick: I agree.
Tag Team Tournament Final: Rhyno & Slater vs. ???
I have to think WWE doesn't book the same match in the finals that we just saw in the semis. So it's gotta be The Usos taking out Rhyno & Slater, and then American Alpha chases them for the belts. Of course shouldn't Rhyno & Slater have to be pinned twice since they've gone 2-0 and The Usos will be 2-1 at this point? I suppose a final tourney record of 3-1 is better than 2-1.
Justin's pick: The Usos have to win this
Dan's pick: I disagree. GO ONE MAN BAND!!!
Women's Championship Six-Pack Challenge: Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Nikki Bella vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella
Sadly SD's women's division ain't nearly as strong as RAW's. Becky and Nattie are the real deal, Naomi is deceptively good, and Nikki's improved a lot over the past two years. Alexa is green but has potential, and Carmella got called up way too early. This match comes down to either Becky, Nattie or Nikki.
Justin's pick: I'd say Carmella and Nikki cancel each other out since they're feuding, and giving this to Nattie would be too similar to Charlotte having the RAW belt. So Becky wins here and becomes the face of the division.
Dan's pick: I don't really know who is who here. So...Carmella.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
This match certainly has potential from a psychology standpoint. Both these guys are character wrestlers who are excellent at emoting and telling a story in the ring. Both these guys also desperately need a win, so this is a tough one to pick. Wyatt hasn't been relevant in a long time due to losing almost every feud since he crossed paths with John Cena two years ago, and Orton just got a raincheck beaten into him by Brock Lesnar while allowing The Beast to legit break his face open.
Justin's pick: I'm guessing the company thinks they owe Orton one and he'll get the win here. Plus it sets him up as a potential World Title challenger.
Dan's pick: I have zero interest in Bray as a character at this point. He talks about being a God and the shadows of the powers he has. He's just a creepier Ultimate Warrior, without the wins. Viper for the win.
WWE Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles
This is the one I'm looking forward to. AJ has had arguably the best year of anyone in WWE thus far, delivering multiple Match of the Year contenders with a varied slate of opponents, most prominently last month against John Cena. We all had our doubts whether AJ could transition into a full-blown WWE Superstar, and he's passed that test with flying colors. Now is the time to reward this incredible athlete with a Title run, particularly since Ambrose's Championship heat has fizzled somewhat. There are more potential top matchups with a heel champ anyway.
Justin's pick: AJ wins the belt
Dan's pick: It's AJ's time. They've done dick with Dean as the champ.
And that's your Backlash lineup. Should hopefully be an understated but compelling and compact night of wrestling, which we desperately need after the marathon that was SummerSlam. See you again in two weeks for the Clash of Champions preview!