WWE Backlash 2017
May 21, 2017
Allstate Arena
Rosemont, IL

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers:

Jeff Martin: Is once again taking a break from drawing comics (go read them: heat.rentathugcomics.com) to preview a WWE B-show that he won’t watch live, which seems to be his role here now. He kind of wishes they had been combined and called Paybacklash.

Andy LaBarre: You can probably find him here writing previews and profiles on old dudes, showing up on Burning Spirits podcast every other month, praising Masato Tanaka in a bar and replying to your tweets @trillyrobinson

Lee Malone: Resident OTT expert, most likely to be found on Twitter (@Malone_713) talking about Irish wrestling and soccer.

Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

Jeff Martin: This preview document is the first I’ve heard of this match taking place. Tye Dillinger has settled into the main roster version of his NXT “popular midcarder” role, and Aiden English… cries now, I guess? I would imagine Dillinger will give English another thing to cry about. Prediction: Tye Dillinger

Andy: Haha, what? This is a thing? I’m surprised (happily) that Dillinger is doing SOMETHING on the main roster, and I wouldn’t care if Aiden English disappeared forever. He’s fine in the ring, even GOOD sometimes, but he has never done anything for me and CRYING being added to his awful singing gimmick isn’t going to change that. This will just be a match, the winner is obvious. Prediction: Tye Dillinger

Lee Malone: I also had no idea that this match was a thing until I saw that I needed to preview it. Dillinger is fine in the role he has and I expect the pre show is where we will see him most during his tenure on Smackdown. Does anybody care about Aiden English? Prediction: Tye Dillinger

Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan

Jeff Martin: WWE’s absurd attempts to give Erick Rowan character depth are wonderful. Last time he was a vintner, and this time he has a burlap sack full of masks that he uses to express his feelings. Which one is better? It’s hard to say, because the vintner thing was a lot of fun to point out to non-fans. “Well there’s also this enormous ginger who used to be in a swamp cult, but now he’s really into making his own wine, but fights people for money.” Oh, and Luke Harper is in this match, too, as the dangling loose end of the Bray Waytt/Randy Orton feud. As much as it seems like he should win this, I have a nagging feeling that Luke Harper the singles star isn’t a thing we’re going to be allowed to have. Prediction: Erick Rowan

Andy: Majora’s Mask is one of the best video games ever made. Erick Rowan does nothing for me normally, even if he’s ok in the ring. Luke Harper will be underutilized forever. We all know he’s one of the best, we all know that he could be something major, but this is the start of a potential Rowan push. Will it catch on? Probably for a month or two, but it’s something new and different. I hate seeing Harper lose over and over, but he’s losing here. (For what it’s worth, he’s my world champ in WWE 2K Universe mode so at least I have that). Prediction: Erick Rowan

Lee Malone: Can VOW adopt Erick Rowan as our hand chosen guy that we ignore all his flaws and push for him to get his rightful place as a main eventer? I think we should. His collection of masks doesn’t quite rival Bushi yet but his segment on Talking Smack needs to be seen by everyone. Poor Luke Harper though, even when he isn’t a Wyatt Family member he still gets lumbered with Rowan. And he has had zero development recently. Harper is a guy that could hugely benefit from a couple of vignettes similar to what Roddy Strong had on NXT. Prediction: Erick Rowan

Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin

Jeff Martin: I love Sami Zayn, and almost all of that love is residue of his NXT run and similarity to that indie guy I really liked, El Generico. WWE seems to be determined to turn me against him by treating him like a dork and not letting him do anything that matters. This feud is the kids’ table of Smackdown; it’s just something to keep them occupied while the adults handle their actual feuds that the writing staff care about. It seems like Baron Corbin is poised for a bigger role on Smackdown, but the Superstar shakeup has left him in limbo as a guy too important to lose easily but not important enough to be in a major feud. Prediction: Baron Corbin.

Andy: Sami Zayn is not a guy who should be having two and three-star specials every week. He can be a geek, that’s whatever, but he should matter. He should be the standout of every show he’s on, even if he’s losing. I like Baron just fine, in that I don’t like him, but he’s like Test or some other big guy that is pushed solely on size. Whatever, I don’t care. I’m over it. Do something long-form with Sami, you have NO babyfaces on Smackdown and almost NO babyfaces on the roster. Sami is a guy you could have built behind in a way that feels way more real and natural than this geeky shit. BLAHHHHH Prediction: Baron Corbin

Lee Malone: Look we all know Baron Corbin is not losing to a geek like Sami. Its unfortunate but Vince/HHH/Kevin Dunn/whoever is being blamed for creative this month just don’t see in Sami what a lot of fans do. Zayn’s job is to get people over before they progress on up the card while he stays exactly where he is. Corbin has improved since his call up last year but still seems to be lacking in places. Working a programme with Sami should help him improve even further. Prediction: Baron Corbin

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler

Jeff Martin: I kind of wish that Backlash was the first time we were seeing Nakamura, because most of this involvement in this feud has just made him seem less cool. Dolph Ziggler has far outstripped my expectations as far as carrying the feud on the mic, but the presentation of Nakamura as a weirdo with a cool entrance has just made Ziggler seem like his complaints are right. Despite my reservations about whether WWE can utilize Nakamura’s charisma within their narrative structure, this should be a banger between the bells. Both men should be motivated to produce, and if they both perform at their best, this will be excellent. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Andy: I’m sorry. I have no faith in Dolph Ziggler in 2017. My faith in Nakamura is waning, even if I love the dude. How do you debut one of the biggest international, exciting wrestlers in the past decade to the main roster and I’m indifferent? The match will be good, I’m sure. I really hope it’s not a squash, but Nakamura is on the poster and the commercials and Ziggler is a loser these days, so who knows. If they push Nakamura, give him good matches. Nak: wrestle good matches. But everyone: go all the way. Nakamura is not and cannot be a mid-card guy after this. He is YOUR GUY or he is nothing. Be smart. Yikes, I’m being brutal on this show. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Lee Malone: This is going to be the match of the night. Dolph is going to be hyped to be facing Nakamura and Nakamura should be motivated enough to want to leave a positive lasting impression on the Smackdown fans that may not have seen him previously in NXT or NJPW. I actually think WWE have done a great job building Nakamura to the casual fan who isn’t aware of his in ring capabilities. His debut instead of being just another NXT call up is now an event. He has never had a main roster match and he is the guy they are selling this show on. It wouldn’t shock me if this match went on in the main event slot. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Naomi, Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Carmella & Tamina

Jeff Martin: The idea of the “welcoming committee,” while kind of silly, is compelling to me. The motivations of the group are rooted in what must be a common feeling in wrestling locker rooms, the desire to protect one’s spot. Charlotte Flair just dominated RAW; now she’s on Smackdown, and the undercard ladies in the Welcoming Committee are very aware the threat she poses to their chances of ever being champion. Speaking of the champion, Naomi has done quite well since WrestleMania. She’s improved quite a bit, and she’s developed a promo style that feels very authentic. Becky Lynch is also here. This match seems designed to advance the Charlotte/Naomi championship feud, but that can be accomplished regardless of the winners. The build-up suggests Charlotte and Naomi won’t be able to get along, though, so…Prediction: Natalya, Carmella & Tamina

Andy: I hate to be this guy, but I truly have no feelings on this. I have no idea what’s happening on the Women’s side of Smackdown, I haven’t watched a single match or segment involving these women since Wrestlemania and the fact that Charlotte is on the face side of this match is really wacky to me. I like 4 of the 6 women in this match a fair amount, but I really can’t be bothered to even think about what will happen here. Prediction: Becky, Naomi & Charlotte

Lee Malone: This is an odd match for me because the heel side of the Smackdown women’s division is just so weak right now. Natalya has very little credibility, Carmella has even less and well Tamina just has none. Compared to the face side Charlotte is the well established Queen of WWE womens wrestlers, Becky is a former champ who the fans still seem to be very much behind and Naomi is growing and improving as champ everytime we see her. I think Becky needs a heel turn here to even the sides out a bit unless she wants to spend the year facing Tamina on Main Event. Prediction: Natalya, Carmella & Tamina

The Inexplicable (and Perhaps Inevitable) Rise of Jinder Mahal

WWE United States Championship
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles

Jeff Martin: The subtlety of AJ Styles’ babyface turn has been very uncharacteristic of WWE writing, but a welcome change of pace. I feel like the build to this match has been good, but I also don’t think I could tell you anything that’s happened in it, other than Owens stealing the Highlight Reel segment from Jericho, so I may have just decided to like it regardless of quality. Really, we’re all here for the match on this one. Prediction: Kevin Owens.

Andy: Now, this is the shit. This is truly the only match/feud/segment that I’m excited about on this whole show. I agree with Jeff that AJ’s subtle turn has been interesting, while Kevin continues to be so great in whatever role he has been given. This match better be nuts, though. You have the two most consistent workers on the roster facing off, for a title and trying to establish themselves as the true top of the Smackdown roster – and let’s be clear, both of these guys are bigger and more important to Smackdown than whatever the fuck the actual main event is. The floor for the match is Three and a Half, but I’m hoping we get something Four+. I am also hoping there is a way that AJ can come out of this match looking like the better wrestler, the bigger star and still lose. I don’t want Owens to cheat, necessarily – but whatever happens here, AJ shouldn’t be walking out of Backlash with the US Title, because he needs to walk out of Summerslam with the WWE Championship. I’m genuinely excited for this. Prediction: Kevin Owens

Lee Malone: AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens happening in a WWE ring and for a WWE championship is still a little surreal. Owens run as the Face of America has been superb and Styles is the perfect opponent for him right now. AJ is so over with WWE crowds currently that Owens beating on him is the perfect way to build KO as the top heel on the blue brand. I have super high expectations for this one and hope this isn’t a one off match between them.  Prediction: Kevin Owens

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos © vs. Breezango

Jeff Martin: As a hip hop fan, I’m really into the Usos’ new promo style. One acting as the hype man for the other, who delivers the meat of the promo, is a unique approach that feels really natural for them. The Fashion Files segments, on the other hand, haven’t been nearly as funny as their premise, but at least FaBreeze have something to do. I think this will be pretty good, especially since nothing on this show is likely to be short-changed on time. It’s tough to imagine the challengers winning this one, though. This screams “placeholder defence” while we await the New Day’s arrival on Smackdown. Prediction: The Usos

Andy: Listen, I’ve liked the Usos a lot since they turned heel – it fits them so much better and feels way more real than the shit they portrayed for so many years. They still have work to do and the state of the tag division in WWE is really awful, but the Usos can and often are great. But I’m going with my heart here. I am wanting to WILL titles on Fandango and Tyler Breeze. I want these guys to be jokes that matter, not just jokes. I agree with Jeff that the likely scenario is for New Day to take these titles at Summerslam or sometime, but just give us something fun, give us something to root for. Get the belts on these guys and let them create promos that aren’t Fashion Police necessarily but are just their own cut-loose style. Breeze and Fandango are genuinely hilarious people. Let em run, they could be another New Day. Prediction: Breezango

Lee Malone: The Usos have been on fire on the mic recently and we know they can go in the ring so they are the perfect guys to represent the Smackdown tag division. Breezango are tons of fun (no not Brodus & Albert) as a team and the fashion police thing works perfectly for them. But we all know the New Day are coming and so is a New Day vs Usos feud. Prediction: The Usos

WWE Championship
Randy Orton © vs. Jinder Mahal

Jeff Martin: Jinder Mahal had a boring match with AJ Styles. Randy Orton is already one of the dullest main eventers on the roster. Hot take: this will be boring. I really like the Bollywood Boyz as Jinder’s annoying goons, so I’m hoping they factor in heavily. That’s about the only shot this has to keep me awake, I think. Well, that or Orton having a meltdown and getting frontier justice because Jinder stiffs him. Prediction: Randy Orton

Andy: Randy will never read this, but whatever: Fuck Orton. Jinder will never read this, but whatever: Jinder, I don’t really like you and don’t want to see you on television anymore but I do want you to win the title off Randy Orton and make this is screwy world. This is a terrible main event, even if the build has been ok. It’s a placeholder, Jinder will probably go back to being nothing, Randy will probably continue being boring and none of this matters, but it should. Get rid of these guys. This is like Jeff Jarrett defending the TNA title against Abyss or something. No one cares. Go away. Prediction: Randy Orton

Lee Malone: Jinder Mahal getting a WWE Title match on PPV in 2017 is nuts. It really doesn’t matter from a business perspective as most people have the Network so WWE has our money and can push whoever they want. But still Jinder in a WWE Title match is nuts! Randy Orton is a guy that needs to be motivated and its plainly clear that Randy ain’t motivated at the moment. This will not be good. Prediction: Randy Orton