Posted May 21st, 2017 by 1Wrestling News Team

By Don Murphy

Historically, May and June are interesting months, in terms of creative direction and storytelling. The post-WrestleMania buzz has faded and it’s a bit early to start the build to SummerSlam. This is a time for the creative team to assess the talent they have and take a chance on those they feel might be ready for a higher spot on the card. It’s also a time for lower card talent to take stock of themselves, by identifying what’s working and what’s keeping them from moving up. Now is the time to take chances, make some character tweaks, try new things, and see what sticks. Sunday night’s Backlash show, presented by the Smackdown Live brand and emanating from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL, features two matches with talent that are traditionally relegated to the undercard, but have been given an opportunity to make a statement, in an attempt to build new, fresh and much-needed main event players. From this aspect, the show is intriguing, as we’ll not only see how they answer the challenge, but also how the hardcore, vocal Chicago crowd responds. In addition, and I’ll delve into this more throughout the preview, but this is one of the first shows where I’m interested in several undercard matches, particularly the pre-show match, as it features two performers who are poised for a push in the months ahead. So, all in all, another exciting night awaits. Let’s run down the card….

Main Event: Randy Orton defends the WWE Championship against Jinder Mahal

Analysis: Yes, you read correctly. Jinder Mahal is getting a championship match. And, I’ll go one better. I think they’ll double down on the experiment and give him a run with the WWE Championship. For one, it’s no secret that the WWE is looking to expand its presence in India. Second, Randy Orton is beyond the point in his career where he needs a title to boost his credibility. Finally, this is not the first time they’ve leveraged the championship’s credibility to boost someone up from the undercard. Jack Swagger’s title run from several years ago comes to mind. Now, it’s on Mahal to take the opportunity given to him and up his game. It’s been a work in progress over the past several weeks and unfortunately, Randy Orton isn’t the best at making talent and helping them deliver a great match. It also doesn’t help that they’ll have to follow, what should be a great match for the United States Championship. In addition, Jinder hasn’t truly hit his stride as an arrogant, wealthy heel and the creative team hasn’t really told us everything about the character, notably the presence of the Singh Brothers – why they’re there and what they contribute. So, there’s a lot to iron out here and I’ll be interested to see the final product.

Murphy Predicts: Jinder Mahal wins the WWE Championship

WWE United States Championship Match: Kevin Owens defends the WWE United States Championship against AJ Styles

Analysis: For the first time in a long time, the WWE United States Championship has the potential to outshine the WWE Championship. This is a crucial time for Kevin Owens. His comedic role as Chris Jericho’s best friend is over, as is the resulting feud. The Kevin Owens that shines is the serious, no-nonsense heel that we saw prior to his match with Goldberg. I haven’t really bought in to his “Face of the United States” character, which makes use of cheap heat by insults towards the United States. However, I do think the suit is a nice touch and with some additional development, we’ll get the Owens that is the main event player that I experienced during his days with Ring of Honor. For AJ Styles, I like that they’ve transitioned him to the babyface role, without really changing his character. This way, when they eventually turn him back to the heel side, it’s an easy transition. I think that this is only the first chapter of the story, so I don’t see Owens dropping the title here. It may be some kind of false finish that sets up a rematch with a stipulation, but Owens will ultimately keep the Championship. And, to me, that’s the right move, as Owens and the Championship need to stay with each other for a while, in order to make the eventual switch mean something.

Murphy Predicts: Kevin Owens retains the WWE United States Championship

WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos defend the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship against Breezango

Analysis: Again, you’re not reading this wrong. Now, unlike Jinder, I can see more of an upside with Breezango. I don’t particularly find the “Fashion Files” segments entertaining, but some people do and to me, that’s a good starting point from which to build. I have no doubt that the in-ring product will deliver, but I’ll be interested to see the aftermath. I don’t see Breezango being ready for a title run just, so assuming they lose, what will the creative do to keep them relevant, as they continue to gain traction. The other thing here is that I’m not sure who the Usos are supposed to be. They were ineffective as babyfaces, yet their heel run is getting them more cheers than the heat they’re trying to obtain. So, this is another case where they have to find the right delivery for the characters they are looking to portray.

Murphy Predicts: The Usos retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship

Six Woman Tag Team Match: Charlotte, Naomi and Becky Lynch meet Carmella, Natalya and Tamina

Analysis: On the surface, this seems like lazy booking. But, if you look closer, it does two things well. First, it gives Carmella and Tamina a chance to interact with the women higher up in the division, in order to potentially elevate them. Second, it doesn’t rush the build to when Charlotte eventually wins the title. It’s definitely going to happen, but you want to get as much mileage out of the build as you can, particularly since she is coming several losses, prior to joining the Smackdown brand. This will be a fairly standard match, with the babyface team likely going over.

Murphy Predicts: Charlotte, Naomi and Becky Lynch defeat Carmella, Natalya and Tamina

Singles Match: Shinsuke Nakamura meets Dolph Ziggler

Analysis: I like how they’ve held off Nakamura’s in-ring debut for this show, making it a big part of the build. His act was wildly popular in New Japan and NXT, so it will be interesting to see how it translates on the main stage, once the sing-along stops. There’s no doubt that Ziggler will give him a great match, which will then position Nakamura well for programs with the main event stars, such as Kevin Owens and AJ Styles. In terms of Ziggler – he’s been a fascinating case. There’s so much talent there, but he’s just missed the mark as a babyface, and now as a heel. The heel turn was needed, but it just hasn’t done anything for him, other than to be a glorified enhancement talent. Some time away some re-packaging is badly needed.

Murphy Predicts: Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Dolph Ziggler

Singles Match: Baron Corbin meets Sami Zayn

Analysis: This is another match I am interested in. Both have a great deal of potential, but Sami has the ability to absorb losses and still be considered credible. Corbin doesn’t have that luxury at this stage. I know that management is high on him, but they haven’t pulled the trigger on an all-out push just yet. Zayn is the right opponent to showcase his talents and a strong outing will help elevate Corbin on a roster that is need of strong heels. The other nice thing about continuing to have Zayn fall short, is that it only makes the fans’ desire to see him win the big one that much stronger. When it finally happens, it will be magic.

Murphy Predicts: Baron Corbin defeats Sami Zayn

Singles Match: Luke Harper meets Erick Rowan

Analysis: This program is really wasting the opportunity the creative team has with both talents. Harper and Rowan were really strong as a tag team, and with a depleted division, it would make sense to pair them up again. Harper, moreso than Rowan, can put on a great match, but there’s just been very little character development since they branched off from Bray Wyatt. Hopefully, this will change soon, but right now, both seem to be spinning their wheels.

Murphy Predicts: Luke Harper defeats Erick Rowan

Pre-Show/Singles Match: Tye Dillinger meets Aiden English

Analysis: This is the match I was talking about during the introduction. There was a lot of buzz and desire from the internet wrestling community to transition Dillinger to the main roster. My fear, which I hope doesn’t come true, is that they rely solely on the “10” gimmick to get him over, while not adding more dimensions to his character. His spot on the pre-show isn’t a good sign, but it’s only the first time, so I will give it the benefit of the doubt. I also have always seen something in English. I like his character, but it does need some more work before he advances. I don’t think it’s a question of if he will, but when he will find what works for his character.

Murphy Predicts: Tye Dillinger defeats Aiden English

Category: Wrestling.

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