WWE Backlash 2016
September 11, 2016
Richmond Coliseum
Richmond, Virginia

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers

  • Jeff Hawkins: Voices of Wrestling’s Brian Kendrick. Co-host of Shake Them Ropes with the eater of hats. Also does the Smackdown post-show over @Fightful. Ramblings on Twitter @Crapgame13. Still trying to think of a way to get flagship cred. Misses carbs and intense promos.
  • Sean Flynn: Voices of Wrestling’s former weekly Raw Reviewer. Still recuperating from the nervous breakdown that caused. Currently serving as the site’s resident food snob, degenerate gambler, and American women’s wrestling enthusiast. Talk to me about truffles, poker, and SHIMMER on Twitter @spiffie6123.
  • Case Lowe: Voices of Wrestling’s official young boy. Current duties include cooking meals for the other writers, mopping the floor and reviewing Dragon Gate major events. Find him on Open the Voice Gate or on Twitter @_InYourCase.
  • Kelly Harrass: Voices of Wrestling’s resident writer about odd things like Okada playing card games with children on an anime. Ready to drop a star off of the rating for every match if they don’t have the crazy swinging claws as a part of the set for the show. Find him on Twitter @comicgeekelly.

WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz © vs. Dolph Ziggler

Jeff Hawkins: I honestly think the Miz is going to break the Honky Tonk Man’s record. It’s a meaningless statistic to most, so to speak, but Miz is a guy who kind of deserves such recognition. Disappointment aside from the poor follow up to the great Talking Smack confrontation with Daniel Bryan, Miz has gotten a bit of a rub from the publicity, even if it’s only to reinforce that his character is, in fact, a coward. The big question is what to do with a man like Dolph Ziggler. Talented, personable, perhaps not personable enough to be a big character in the WWE circus. He has a Brad Armstrong problem. Personality drives the business in the states, as does America wanting to get behind a winner. Pundits have been clamoring for weeks for a heel turn of some kind. I thought we were getting it when he came out to confront Miz. But all of that is moot, as Dolph is losing here, and the “loser” tag will continue to stick unless the powers that be reboot him. Prediction: The Miz

Sean Flynn: One day I’m going to pull out all the times I spoke highly of Miz in 2014-2015 together into a single document just to show I was ahead of the curve on this one. Miz has been the most consistently entertaining character on WWE tv over the last 3-4 years, and it’s not even like second place is all that close. The I-C belt needs to be the Miz belt for a long time. Every time he barely holds onto the belt, it just adds heat to the next person to take a shot at it. Let it build so that whoever beats Miz for the title gets an Ultimate Warrior over Honky Tonk Man reaction. To waste that on the mid-card treadmill that is Dolph Ziggler would be a terrible way to squander resources. Hopefully another title loss makes Dolph reconsider his life, and turn into ECW heel Cactus Jack who uses nothing but headlocks because flashy moves don’t get you anywhere except a bingo hall. Miz won the belt on April 4, 2016. He shouldn’t lose it until April 2nd or 3rd of 2017. And he won’t lose it on Sunday. Prediction: The Miz

Case Lowe: There is no reason for The Miz to lose this match. Ziggler, at this point, no matter how much rehab they do on him and his character, is just a dork that has had opportunity after opportunity. Miz still feels different. The Talking Smack segment with Daniel Bryan made Miz feel fresh. Putting the title on Ziggler makes the Intercontinental Championship another lame duck title. Prediction: The Miz

Kelly Harrass: The main problem with this match is that I actively don’t want to see Ziggler win. After Miz delivers one of the best promos of the year, he’s put into a nothing feud with Ziggler, who is coming off of two big losses. As long as they don’t give up on it halfway through, this story of Ziggler losing any big match he gets is one that’s worth telling and could eventually culminate in a huge win if they manage to pull it off. Taking the belt off Miz would absolutely be a mistake and would derail both Miz and Ziggler. Miz is on the best run of his career right now and I would love to see him have a long title reign. This is the sleeper match of the card for me. I’m not expecting a MOTYC or anything, but I think that could be pretty good. Prediction: The Miz

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt

Jeff Hawkins: Everything about Randy Orton’s body language when doing the WWE-style “exposition” promos screams that he’s hating every moment of it. In a perfect world, Orton would get annoyed by such rambling promos, show it, hit an RKO and leave to the delight of fans. I like the Bray Wyatt character as a concept, but they never go the extra step. Bray’s a great promo, but there’s not a lot of content within the metaphors. I expect this to be more than a one off, and I think to do so, Eric Rowan or Luke Harper or both get reintroduced back into the fold (retconned as “psychological games” more than likely, when in fact, it was just a lack of outlining a story). Orton will then get to have revenge on the lackeys and a stipulation match against Bray, part and parcel of the playbook of a top babyface. Will there be something supernatural involved? I hope not. Prediction: Bray Wyatt

Sean Flynn: This match has my two most disappointing characters in the company facing off. Randy Orton should be the unstable core of a nuclear reactor; ready to go off at any time and doesn’t care who or what is within the damage zone. Bray Wyatt should be the menacing eater of worlds, spiritual leader of a thousand armed organization of shadows, capable of striking anywhere with no warning. Instead Orton is a generic dude with an over finisher and theme song, and Wyatt is a big beardo with the same two lame friends he’s had since he arrived seemingly a decade ago. The match could be really slow and plodding if it turns into Orton’s usual chinlocks combined with Bray spending a lot of time mumbleshouting random nonsense in between kicks. Worst of all, however this ends is almost certain to lead to more matches between the two. I’m giving this match zero stars before I even see it, to match the number of craps I give about the match. Prediction: Randy Orton

Case Lowe: Why did I agree to do this preview? Is there a match I want to see less in wrestling? Sami Callihan vs. Timothy Thatcher, maybe. This won’t be good. I’m sure they’ll work a “methodical” match full of headlocks and wacky facial expressions that are supposed to count as character development. Hopefully Bray takes a trip to Viperville~! Orton, at this stage in his career, is inoffensive. Bray is still actively bad. Prediction: Randy Orton

Kelly Harrass: What happens when you stick two of the most boring wrestlers on the mic together? You get the most boring feud in the company. I honestly don’t even know what this feud is about, but I suppose when you have Wyatt in the mix it doesn’t really matter because his character works in mysterious ways. Whenever either of these guys launch into a monologue, I tend to tune them out. Wyatt can talk for a long time without saying anything and Orton very clearly shouldn’t be cutting promos like that. The match itself should be interesting because I see both of these guys as ones to step up to the level of their opponent. With that in mind, this match could either be pretty solid or disastrously bad. The winner of this match is pretty easy to pick out. It’s clearly a feud to rehab Orton’s image after getting destroyed by Lesnar. If you can’t beat the monster, see if you can beat the baby monster. Bray won’t lose anything by eating the pin here so there’s no reason not to have Orton win. Prediction: Randy Orton

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Tournament Semifinal
The Usos vs. The Hype Bros

Jeff Hawkins: In my fantasy booking, I’d have the Usos come to the arena in their silk suits and cut an intense promo on the crowd at the beginning of the show as a throwback to their original gimmick, then come out dressed like Roman Reigns, thus giving me homages to the Samoan Gangsta Party and having an actual Samoan Swat Team. I’d also have them absolutely destroy the Hype Bros, much like American Alpha did to them, but lay an absolutely vicious “Paul Jones Army on Jimmy Valiant” style beating on Mojo Rawley that sends him on an existential journey regarding his character and Zack Ryder mad as hell for revenge. Commentary could then play up the new attitude and the fans would fear for the safety of a goofball like Heath Slater and an old veteran who is tough but not indestructible like Rhyno. But this is sports entertainment, it’s going to be the squash that isn’t a squash, with a couple hope spots by the Hype Bros, and an interrupted signature spot to get heat before the pin. Since the Patriots are on Sunday Night Football and its week 1 of the NFL season, I expect no less than 2 lame Rob Gronkowski references by JBL. Prediction: The Usos

Sean Flynn: One team has been involved in main event level angles with guys like John Cena and Roman Reigns. The other team has Zack Ryder as the calm, reasonable and veteran presence of the duo. As much as I would love to see Mojo Rawley get so hyped that he actually vaporizes the Usos with a Hypedouken I have a feeling this match is going to be, in the spirit of the fall produce season, a squash. I had a really elaborate theory working here, but then I remembered the brand split and it all fell apart. So I’m just going with the logical booking choice. God help me. Prediction: The Usos

Case Lowe: Sometimes I hear complaints about road agents having too much input in matches, but this is a match that needs road agents. Arn Anderson needs to script out every single movement, and even if that happens, this could still be a disaster. I’m assuming the Usos are going over – that would make sense, as they’ve been heeling it up, and the adorable Slater/Rhyno team is waiting in the finals, but there’s a chance that all four men trample each other and no team is able to advance. This one could be ugly. Prediction: The Usos

Kelly Harrass: My initial reaction to seeing this match on the card was an audible “oh no.” I can’t possibly imagine anyone being excited for this one. Thankfully, it does seem like the Usos are finally getting a bit of character beyond the paper thin persona they’ve been working with. Ideally, this will be mercifully short with the Uso brothers squashing the Hype Brothers. Prediction: The Usos

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Tournament Final
Usos/Hype Bros Winner vs. Heath Slater & Rhyno

Jeff Hawkins: Heath Slater has gotten himself over by playing comedy earnestly and sincerely. Rhyno is a fantastic straight man. No one doesn’t see the screwjob on Slater coming from the Usos, and then perhaps getting a one on one win on Smackdown to “earn” the contract and pay off the story. The Usos and Slater/Rhyno will need to feud for the 2-4 weeks Chad Gable is “out” and then American Alpha can chase. I think there is a small possibility Slater and Rhyno win, and the Usos do to Slater what they did to Gable, thus paying off the story but never giving him the satisfaction of feeling like a champion, then forcing Shane to do what he doesn’t want: award the titles. Slater in a body cast teaming with Rhyno is buys, but this will probably be straight ahead. Prediction: The Usos

Sean Flynn: What better chance for the newly minted heel Usos to really emphasize their awfulness by denying #HeathsKids a chance to see their father win gold, and the financial stability that comes with it? The match could be fun at least, as PPV crowds tend to play along with the more comic angles like Slater’s struggles, so the near falls on the Usos should get some solid heat, and the inevitable Rhyno hot tag will be poptastic. Potentially a sleeper match if Slater plays full Ricky Morton and the Usos ramp up the heel work. Heath does such a fine job in the match that Shane gives him a chance to earn a contract with a singles match against an Uso on Smackdown. Prediction: The Usos

Case Lowe: I LOVE this new Slater and Rhyno tag team. It’s wacky, but it’s different, and to this point, WWE hasn’t ruined it. If Slater and Rhyno lose, the Richmond Coliseum is going to be so incredibly quiet. #HeathsKids deserve gold, Rhyno, miraculously, has been a million times more entertaining on Smackdown than in NXT, and because of that, I hope they take home the gold. Prediction: Heath Slater and Rhyno

Kelly Harrass: I’ll be absolutely distraught if Slater and Rhyno don’t take home the gold. We all have that wrestler that we unironically love for some unexplainable reason. For me, that wrestler is Heath Slater. I’m really enjoying this tag team with Rhyno where Slater plays the modern Jamie Noble. As much as I would like to see the heroes win, I do think it would be a smart move to have the Usos win in a decisive fashion to get them even more heat. My brain tells me the Usos will win, but my heart wants nothing more than for Slater to celebrate this tremendous victory with his gaggle of kids. I’m going with my heart on this one. The boyhood dream will come true. Prediction: Heath Slater and Rhyno

WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella

Jeff Hawkins: Have the combined Bellas unexplained face/heel turns surpassed Big Show? This is an elimination match. I think we can all assume Alexa Bliss, Naomi and Natalya will not be the inaugural face of the division. The feud for Carmella/Nikki Bella has at least made the former interesting as opposed to what she was: a moonwalking knockoff Enzo Amore that had to figure out a way to get over while not having most of her prior tool. She plays a heel pretty well in the ring even if the moveset hasn’t quite caught up yet. But, she’s gotten the better of Nikki for the past three weeks, and given this is the start of the division, the cynical booking says they will want star power to establish credibility. I think Nikki finally beats Carmella, but also in the process sets up a better feud for a bigger show by stealing a pin on Becky Lynch during the course of the match. Prediction: Nikki Bella

Sean Flynn: There are three possible winners of this match. Natalya is the veteran who has so little personality that she could play face or heel depending on where WWE wants to take the story from here. Becky Lynch is the ace of the division, but is already becoming known as someone who can’t win the big one. And Nikki Bella, the living reincarnation of Mitsuharu Misawa, is the star with two reality shows, part of a power couple, and the true Queen of Strong Style. Hopefully this match isn’t rapid fire eliminations to get everyone in and out of the ring quickly. Given some time there’s enough talent and style diversity here to make for a decent match.I’m guessing Becky Lynch gets a couple of early victories, but the final decision goes to Nikki Bella. WWE recognizes and protects her star power, and she’s always been a character that they love to center stories around. Prediction: Nikki Bella

Case Lowe: Carmella isn’t winning. I don’t trust WWE booking, but I trust them to realize that Carmella is not the gal. There’s something so off putting about Naomi, so I’m personally rooting against her. She is a trend follower, and that bugs me. I don’t understand her new gear, or the entrance that goes along with it. Natalya is fine, but she has a very low ceiling. I would have a hard time buying the next step in the women’s evolution if Natalya, the girl who has been embarassed time after time, takes home the title. Becky Lynch is the safe option. WIth her, you know she’s going to put on a respectable performance each and every night, and she’s a very strong babyface. That leaves us with Alexa Bliss and Nikki Bella. Bliss rules. I never thought I’d enjoy her heel gimmick more than sparkly, early NXT Bliss, but this character works for her. I personally hope she wins, but I think the direction they’re heading is Nikki Bella. Total Bellas is coming up soon, Nikki is the elusive face of the women’s division and WWE tends to put all stock in her. Prediction: Nikki Bella

Kelly Harrass: The easiest way to approach this match will be to look at the chances of victory for each competitor. First up, Carmella. If there’s anyone in this match that has a 0% chance of winning, it’s Carmella. Not only is her character in flux, but her wrestling ability just isn’t that the level it needs to be to keep up in the current WWE women’s wrestling climate. With the power of drugs flowing through her entrance, Naomi has never been closer to grasping the title, but I still don’t believe that the bright lights will be enough to win this one for her. She will hold this belt eventually, but she won’t be the first. The dark horse to win this match for me is Alexa Bliss. I could see the WWE newcomer upsetting the veterans. Becoming the first Smackdown Women’s Champion would go a long way to establish Bliss as a strong heel force in the division. If I were booking things, Bliss would probably be my choice to win. If they do want a heel champion, Natalya is the safe and slightly boring choice. As the first drafted women’s wrestler for Smackdown, Becky Lynch seems like she should be a lock to win. That’s honestly why I think they’ll go in a different direction. Becky will probably get very close to winning, only to have victory snatched away at the last second. There’s still more chasing for Becky to do before the belt will be hers. And finally, you have who I will think will walk out as champion; Nikki Bella. As the longest reigning WWE Diva’s Champion, a Bella victory would give some credibility to the new title. As much as I’d like to see Bliss win, I think it’s a safe bet to say that there will be another accolade for the Bella dynasty after Backlash. Prediction: Nikki Bella

WWE World Championship
Dean Ambrose © vs. AJ Styles

Jeff Hawkins: As I’ve watched Dean Ambrose as a champion, I’m a bit perplexed. I like Ambrose’s off-kilter personality, the seemingly random chance of violence whenever there’s a confrontation, the threats against opponents that they are not in for a match, but rather a fight. I love the cool aspect of a character that could explode at any moment. It’s not the goofy aspects of the character that bother me either, even though it’s the wrong kind of eccentric in my opinion. If there’s something that takes me out of the Ambrose character, it’s his matches, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because they are WWE style signature moves instead of the brawling he promises? Is it the goofy at the wrong time? He doesn’t feel like a champion when I watch him. He feels stale, and I’m not sure the current landscape brings encouragement on fixing it as a problem given the first attempt at a push earned him the title from both of us on Shake Them Ropes of “Prop Comic Dean.” A.J. Styles on the other hand has exceeded my WWE expectations for him, not that I didn’t have faith in his abilities, but rather my deep rooted skepticism over what Vince McMahon wants in a real main event player, especially one getting platitudes from a product other than his. I think we now get to see if he’s an arrogant goof or an arrogant heel champion. The skits on this past week’s Smackdown Live were too cute by half and a step back in my opinion, but they have a chance to “reintroduce” Styles with the title on Tuesday, because he’s winning on Sunday. Prediction: A.J. Styles

Sean Flynn: Wow, this is only a six match show? There’s going to have to be some long matches on this show. Being the main event I have to assume this will get a lot of time. And while I still have a higher opinion of Dean Ambrose than most, I can’t imagine him working a straight 30 minute match, even with someone as good as AJ Styles. This one almost has to have some walking around or prop comedy or something to fill the time. Styles will do everything humanly possible to make this match as good as his other recent work, and given the right match structure Dean can hold up his end of the bargain. As for who will win…I honestly don’t know, or even have a strong guess. It feels like John Cena vs. AJ Styles is destined to be a marquee match at something, either Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania. If it’s Mania I don’t think they go with Styles quite yet. Stretch the feud out, and let Styles finally take the title by beating Ambrose in a match seemingly made for Ambrose. Hell in a Cell? Prediction: Dean Ambrose

Case Lowe: I could write a big, long thing over how AJ Styles should win and how he should lead the blue brand into the future (and arguably smash CM Punk’s reign, in terms of length), but I think it comes down to the fact that WWE is so terribly out of touch if Ambrose wins, or any other result other than Styles pinning him in the center for a three count. Styles pinned Cena flat in the ring at the second biggest show of the year and there’s no reason he shouldn’t follow up that performance by doing the same to Ambrose. Case closed. Prediction: AJ Styles

Kelly Harrass: I don’t know what to make of this one. After getting a more serious Ambrose in the feud with Ziggler, he’s right back to being the rodeo clown. While Ambrose comes into this one with a lacking SummerSlam match in his rear view, Styles walks in with a win over John Cena in an amazing match under his belt. I have no doubt that Styles will work his ass off to make this a great match, but as of late, I don’t know if Ambrose can step up to match AJ. As far as who wins, that’s a total toss up. Both men have a legitimate chance to win and that adds some actual intrigue to this one. While I would like to see Styles start a great reign as the dominant heel champion, I don’t think it’s time to take the belt away from Ambrose yet. Chances as slim that this feud doesn’t spill over into the next Smackdown pay per view as well. Prediction: Dean Ambrose