By Jason Powell
These predictions were made with no help from the betting lines. Join me for live coverage of WWE Backlash beginning with the needlessly long Kickoff Show at 6CT/7ET. Dot Net Members are listening to audio reviews of NXT Takeover: Chicago and the WWE UK Special, and they will also hear a WWE Backlash audio review later tonight. Join us on the ad-free version of Prowrestling.net to gain access to over nine years of audio content via the Dot Net Members’ Signup Page.
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship: Say what you will about JinderMania, but this is the most intriguing match on the show in its own way. The big question is whether this is WWE trying to elevate Mahal by making him look competitive in defeat against the WWE Champion or if they intend to go all the way with their shock and awe style push by making him the champion. There are also the matters of match quality and just how the Chicago crowd will respond both wrestlers. I’m pulling for Mahal. Not to win the WWE Championship, but in that I’m all for the guy making the most of the opportunity that’s been given to him. Unfortunately, he has yet to truly shine in the ring despite being booked against top workers during his quick build, and certainly not on the mic. Initially, he was yelling his lines. The last two weeks he was saying his lines so quietly that this viewer had to turn up the volume to make out what he was saying. Jinder is still very much a work in progress and putting the title on him for anything more than a brief transitional period feels like a mistake. That said, I don’t think this is a case of a guy getting a big push for one month and then dropping back down to the undercard. Vince McMahon is clearly impressed by his physique and work ethic and, perhaps more importantly, the company wants to establish him as a star as they increase their focus on the Indian market.
Randy Orton retains the WWE Championship.
The Usos vs. Tyler Breeze and Fandango for the Smackdown Tag Titles: Breezango goofed around with the Fashion Files, and the heel Usos delivered some great babyface promos. This feels like a mess, but it won’t be too surprising if the Chicago crowd gets fired up about one or both hard working teams and what should be a good match.
The Usos retain the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles for the U.S. Championship: This looks like a great match on paper. Unfortunately, the build to the match was generic and they failed to make this seem like the show stealer that it is. Styles never explained why he suddenly cares about the U.S. Championship in a way that would make his fans anxious to see him win it, and they didn’t really put heat on Owens until the go-home show. It will be interesting to see if Styles is still selling the knee injury from Tuesday and if that plays into the finish.
Kevin Owens retains the U.S. Championship.
Naomi, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina: The question marks surrounding the Charlotte character make this more interesting than a typical “get all the women on the card” type of match we have seen over the years. Is WWE turning Charlotte babyface? Will she simply turn on her partners during or shortly after the match? I’m hopeful that Charlotte will remain slotted as a heel because the idea of her facing Naomi and eventually Lynch is far more appealing than watching her work with the heel trio. I don’t have a strong feeling about this one, but I’ll go with Charlotte turning after the match rather than during it.
Naomi, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch win.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler: The great ring entrance finally leads to a Nakamura match. The build was ho-hum in that the anticipation level for the first match hasn’t really grown as much as it’s just sort of been in a holding pattern. It’s worth noting that this is coming from someone who watched him in NXT and saw some of his New Japan Pro Wrestling work. It’s possible that a casual WWE viewer who is just getting to know him feels more excited by the build to his first televised main roster match. I am looking forward to seeing what type of match these two have, but I am also anxious to see Nakamura move on to more meaningful programs.
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin: A match thrown together on the go-home show. Still, I always enjoy Zayn working hard and making his opponents look good in the process. They seem to have bigger plans for Corbin at the moment, so I’ll go with him getting the win, though admittedly Zayn sneaking out a win and then Corbin destroying him afterward seems like a decent possibility too.
Baron Corbin wins.
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan: Another match involving Bray Wyatt’s former sidekicks with no real storyline support. Rowan insinuated on Talking Smack that he has abandonment issues, so he was bothered by Harper leaving the Wyatt Family. Of course, there is no Wyatt Family at this point, so his stated goal of punishing Harper for leaving feels empty. That said, at least Rowan’s character has a purpose. Viewers have no idea what this is about from Harper’s perspective. As far as the outcome, flip a coin.
Heads: Rowan wins to keep the pointless feud going.
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English: The crowd chants “10” and Dillinger gives English something to cry about.
Tye Dillinger wins.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...