Backlash 2016 predictions
by Scott Saffran
Hot off the tails of the strange spectacle that was SummerSlam comes 2016’s first brand-exclusive pay per view in SmackDown’s Backlash. With a shorter card and some serious title matches, I hope to see top-notch wrestling and longer matches. The coronation of two inaugural champions is sure to make this night memorable, but will that be for better or for worse? Here are my predictions.
Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Naomi
vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
In a match that seems a bit slapped together with pretty much all of the SmackDown Women’s roster, I am still excited to see what this talented stable of individuals creates. This is an elimination challenge, so look for it to be one of the longer matches on the card. Though some may groan, I am happy to see sufficient time allotted for the development of all six women, especially Alexa and Carmella as heels. Though a champion will be crowned, the best to come out of this match should be some feuds to take us through the coming months. The top star of the division and hands-down best wrestler, Becky Lynch is the absolute favorite and I struggle to stray from her side.
PICK: Becky Lynch via submission
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Tournament Semi-Final: The Usos vs. The Hype Bros
With American Alpha knocked out of contention for the final, this semi-final confrontation has been arranged pitting the two most recent losers against each other. I am thrilled to see a little changeup in form for the super babyface Usos who have become 34,045 times more interesting after their beat down of Gable and Jordan. Does this mean no more 5 Hour Energy commercials? Though I’m biased against the eternally annoying Mojo Rawley, it simply makes no sense to pick anyone but the Usos in this match-up.
PICK: The Usos via pinfall
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship:
Usos/Hype Bros winner vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno
The Draft has unquestionably helped one superstar over all others succeed in leaps and bounds. That superstar is Heath Slater. Every ounce of story on each show since the saga has begun has been absolutely delicious. It’s the well-done, light-hearted romp that is unfortunately so rare in the WWE. More than anything else, I want Slater’s quest for a contract to go on until the cows come home. Though it will have to come to an end sooner or later, it doesn’t feel like a brand exclusive show is the time or place to make that happen. Especially with the Usos turning heel, it seems as though the twins are destined to squash the One Man Band’s dreams for the time being. Best thing about this match is that the coronation of American Alpha is being saved for a bigger, better stage of which they are so deserving.
PICK: The Usos via pinfall
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
With Mr. Lesnar’s part-time status, any sort of … ahem backlash from SummerSlam has been catapulted out the door in favor of an interesting pairing of Randy with Bray. The match has been dedicated some exceptional TV time with both men cutting engaging promos. Title matches are really great and fun and whatever, but the feuding of two main event talents with nothing on the line besides bragging rights is, in my mind, the cornerstone of wrestling storytelling. Both individuals are exceptional storytellers, inside and out of the squared circle, who have complemented each other quite nicely and have succeeded in setting up a match that is hotly anticipated. Bray seems to have the most to gain from this contest and it would not surprise me in the least to see the feud extended.
PICK: Bray via pinfall (Disclaimer: this is likely to be the screwy finish of the night)
Intercontinental Title: The Miz (c)
vs. Dolph Ziggler
Post a fairly underwhelming contest against Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam, Dolph Ziggler has been immediately set up for a midc-ard title shot against the impressively mouthy Miz. While the SummerSlam title shot seemed to signify a kick up the card for Ziggler, I would not be shocked to see him lose. The Miz blasted off an exceptionally emotional promo on Talking Smack that has certainly garnered the favor of creative as the past few SmackDowns have seen him take center stage. Both men are solid in-ring performers with the ability to put on an entertaining match, but may likely be limited by the weight of matches above them. With Miz riding high and Dolph still searching for his groove, there’s little doubt in my pick.
PICK: The Miz via pinfall
WWE World Championship: Dean Ambrose (c)
vs. AJ Styles
Coming off wildly different SummerSlam experiences, but with exceptional momentum nonetheless, both Dean and AJ square off in a battle sure to be epic. With no matches to weigh down their expression, look to see the two engage in some seriously impressive spots wrapped up in a technical spectacle. Dean’s wrestling tact has been called into question as of late, but given a solid opponent and the freedom to concoct a complete story, he’s delivered six four-star or better matches in 2016 alone. There is no better opponent in the world today than Styles, who could walk away with the belt post-Backlash. The result of this match is entirely dependent on how far the WWE wants to go with Ambrose. As a transitional champion, this may be the end of the line. However, with Dirty Deeds the most protected move in all of sports entertainment, it still seems that Dean will be champion for the foreseeable future.
PICK: Dean Ambrose via pinfall
Photo Credit: WWE.com