411’s WWE Backlash 2016 Preview
Kevin Pantoja, Wrestling Zone Reviewer
Mike Hammerlock, Wrestling Zone 8-Ball
Rob Stewart, Wrestling Zone Article Writer
Sean Garmer, Wrestling 2 the MAX Podcast, WWE Roundtable Organizer, Games Top 5 Organizer, Video Games 2 the MAX Podcast,
Usos vs. Hype Bros.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final
Kevin Pantoja: The American Alpha/Usos angle on Smackdown was done so well. The Usos turning heel and taking them out is going to build massive amounts of sympathy for Alpha when they return. You also have the added bonus of them having a claim to possibly being the rightful champions. This is all Usos, all the way. They need something to rejuvenate their careers and this could be the shot in the arm that does it.
Winner: The Usos
Mike Hammerlock: Eliminated semifinalists unite. The Usos have gone darkside, which is fine. It should improve their ring performance, allowing them to break the superkick/splash routine they got stuck in as babyfaces. I like the Zack and Mojo pairing. Makes sense and could pay off in the future. Yet they’re going to lose this match. The Usos are the name tag team on the Smackdown brand and it makes all the sense in the world to build up the other teams as they chase the division’s elite pairing.
Winner: The Usos
Rob Stewart: Smart booking here to keep American Alpha in a chase position, but in such a way that kept them looking strong and like the crème of the division. Props where they are due to Creative there. The Usos are the duo that put Alpha on the shelves, so having them do that just to lose here is nonsensical. The Hype Bros are fun, but nothing special.
Winner: The Usos
Sean Garmer: The Usos turned against American Alpha and injured Chad Gable. This is a big deal for a team that’s been babyfaces for pretty much their entire run. They have to at least make the final or it absolutely kills their momentum.
Winners: The Usos
Kevin Pantoja: I want to be more excited for this, I really do. When Bray Wyatt first started making an impact in the WWE, I hoped for a program with Randy Orton and felt like it could be really good. Here we are getting it, but Bray has been damaged to a point where I cannot find any interest in him. Orton was cool during the Brock feud, but has started to fall back into his same pattern of lackluster effort. This is Bray Wyatt that we’re talking about, so I could see him win the first match before losing the feud. Instead though, I feel like he’ll lose the first one and maybe, just maybe, win the rivalry.
Winner: Randy Orton
Mike Hammerlock: This is round one of an odyssey that takes us to Hell in a Cell, right? I don’t mind that Bray and Randy are skirmishing. Makes sense in that it gives them a prominent feud without a title involved. It’s got intrigue in that both hombres really need to collect some wins. Orton’s fresh off of playing Brock Lesnar’s chew toy (and I suspect we will see the vengeance of Randy in the future). Meanwhile Bray rarely fights and mostly loses when he does. I really love Bray’s character. I think he’s got the best entrance in the business. I think his ringwork also get seriously underrated. Yet all he does is spin his wheels. The good news for him is I figure he wins here and that gives Orton a thirst for revenge.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
Rob Stewart: Another “Why is Bray after this guy? Because he is” feud for Wyatt. His shtick at this point is beyond tired, honestly. Eat, Sleep, Ramble Nonsense, Repeat. If they at least ever gave him a mission statement in life, that would add so much. I’m being negative, I know; I just don’t know how many more of these directionless feuds of his I can take. If Bray came out on top in this angle, that would do a lot for his spinning wheels-like stock, but with a rematch with Brock on the horizon (and, I imagine, a world title story against AJ Styles down the line), there is going to be some interest in keeping Randy strong, instead.
Winner: Randy Orton
Sean Garmer: This is a hard one to pick because you can argue both men need a win. Bray needs a win like nobody’s business. Randy Orton just came off an epic loss to Brock Lesnar. That being said, Randy Orton is the higher ranking guy, so he’s probably wining here.
Winner: Randy Orton
Kevin Pantoja: The current payoff for Miz’s blistering promo on Daniel Bryan is a been there, done that feud with Dolph Ziggler. Dolph has only been interesting for about three weeks (leading up to SummerSlam) in the past two years. Their matches are usually pretty good, but never resemble anything great. I’m picking a lot of heels to win, so I know I will be wrong at some point and that may be right here. Still, I say Miz retains to further push Dolph’s anger and disappointment. Miz has been damn good as champion too.
Winner: The Miz
Mike Hammerlock: I like that they’re doing things with Ziggler. I just wish those things added up to something. Does he have a story that’s leading somewhere or are they just plugging him into spots on the card because he’s good production value in the ring? On the other hand, Miz has been a superlative douchebag champion. I’m thinking this is his best singles title run ever. The man has been on point. The powers that be have to recognize that too. So I’m guessing the belt stays with its current owner.
Winner: The Miz
Rob Stewart: Will Daniel Bryan factor in here? I know there have been reports that WWE wanted to kill the Bryan/Miz angle that started on Talking Smack, but I just can’t bring myself to believe that; that segment was brilliant and begs to be played with as a featured storyline. Will Bryan come out to ringside in support of Ziggler? Will he attempt to stack the deck against Miz (maybe adding a last second stipulation that the title will change hands if Miz is disqualified or counted out, thereby curbing his cowardly ways)? It would be a dire shame if WWE really is just scraping that feud off the wall after it stuck so well. Miz’ run as champ has been terrific, and he’s a stellar heat heel, but… I don’t see Ziggler taking two title match losses in a row on live specials because, jeez, that just makes him look pathetic. I actually think he takes this one, somehow, thanks to Bryan.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
Sean Garmer: Although, we’ve seen this match quite a few times before, having a renewed Dolph Ziggler probably doesn’t change that I still can’t find myself believing in Dolph in pretty much any match he’s in now. Though it would be really hard to see Ziggler lose in two title matches in a row, I honestly believe that The Miz has been great in this run. He really shouldn’t lose the belt until you have a star you want to make with Miz. I can understand that you also need to keep Dolph viable, but is getting another IC Title really going to make people change their minds about Dolph Ziggler at this point? I just can’t see it. Maybe I’m totally wrong here, but Miz should keep this.
Winner AND STILL Champion: The Miz
Kevin Pantoja: The Heath Slater storyline has been one of many highlights on Smackdown each week. This is why American Alpha not being in the finals makes sense. The crowd wants to see Heath get his job, so they may have been split. A 50/50 crowd for the first title win of your top babyface team isn’t ideal. Have the Usos win the titles after backing their way into the finals. They cost Heath his job, delivering another blow to the fans and setting up a program with American Alpha down the line.
Winner: The Usos
Mike Hammerlock: What I said about the semifinal applies to the final as well. It was obvious the day of the draft that the Usos were getting the first taste of the Smackdown tag belts. No way are Slater and Rhyno stopping them. In order for this whole division to make sense, the WWE needs to remind people the Usos are really damn good. That provides us with a measuring stick for everyone else.
Winner: The Usos
Rob Stewart: And again, you don’t book The Usos to do what they did and then NOT have them win the belts so that they can feud over the straps when AA heals up and returns. So The Usos win here to pop the Heath Slater Feel Good Story balloon. Slater and Rhyno have been a cute tandem, with Slater bringing his struggling family into the mix while Rhyno does all the heavy lifting, but their story is better if they drop the finals here after coming SO CLOSE.
Winner: The Usos
Sean Garmer: I don’t know how long WWE can keep this up with Heath Slater, but this has been entertaining television. The only way you can give any big payoff to this story is to have Slater lose at the end. He is the loveable guy. Rhyno has been great in his role too. However, there is a bigger story at hand with Usos and American Alpha. As much as I’d love to see Slater get this win and I’m sure the crowd would go nuts for it too, this is about the Usos cementing their turn and staking their place in the tag team division. Slater could always get a shorter title run later because the fans will still be behind him. Having Alpha and Usos fighting over the belts is a storyline that can carry you for a while and you need to go with that.
Winners AND FIRST Tag Team Champions: The Usos
Kevin Pantoja: Outside of the main event, this is the match I’m looking forward to the most. The Raw women’s division has the top girls (Sasha, Bayley, Charlotte) but the rest of the division is barely around. Smackdown has wisely built up six girls to be on just about equal footing. Hell, they’ve even given Eva Marie character development. Anyway, this match can go almost any possible way. Naomi has been on the cusp of winning the belt a few times, Natalya is a veteran that could help establish the title and Alexa and Carmella are two fresh heels for a babyface to chase. The two biggest options though are Nikki Bella and Becky Lynch. Nikki is their marketable girl thanks to Total Divas and Total Bellas, while Becky is the ultimate babyface. I say they go with Becky because she needs to stop chasing and finally win.
Winner: Becky Lynch
Mike Hammerlock: They’ve done some solid work fleshing out this division. The women have gotten air time and they’ve done well with it. I’m partial to Naomi. She’s been trapped in the women’s division midcard seemingly forever. You could tell a feel-good story around her winning her first belt, though I doubt it will happen. Becky is the heir apparent, but I suspect they’ll tease out her eventual climb to the top of the mountain. Natalya’s a pro, but she seems to be cast as a worker rather than the marquee attraction. Alexa’s the weakest link here. Still waiting for her to be more than a generic mean girl. Carmella has been a pleasant surprise since her WWE debut. She’s a good pick for an upset winner. Yet I’ll be mildly shocked if anyone other than Nikki comes away victorious from this encounter. She’s got her new reality show launching too. Add in the doctors-told-her-she’d-never-wrestle-again storyline and it’s got to be in the bag for Nikki.
Winner: Nikki Bella
Rob Stewart: All right… who ISN’T going to win this? Let’s start with that so we can get to the mustard. Naomi is right out; she’s an afterthought who is just there to fill space. Becky’s not going home with the strap because WWE has shown no proclivity to do anything with her. And Alexa Bliss isn’t quite “there” yet. That leaves Nikki Bella, Carmella, and Natalya. I could see any one of them walking out with the gold: Natalya is the seasoned vet heel who a face could chase, Carmella is the same but younger and having just done a turn so she feels relevant, and Nikki Bella is ol’ reliable. She’s the one with the championship history, and the brass has always been all-in on her. She can (and has) play heel or face through the course of a run, so it allows anyone to start a feud with her, too. Of the three, Natalya seems least likely (though she could be due for a “Thanks for your tenure with us” reign), so on-the-rise heel or old standby safe choice?
Winner: Nikki Bella
Sean Garmer: There’s pretty much one of two winners here. Nikki Bella is an obvious choice. Very much like her boyfriend, she would be the safe pick. She is established and carries weight in the company. The fans would accept her and with the reality TV show looming, it is quite possible they go this route. However, the aura of Smackdown right now is that you have wrestlers waiting to break out all over that roster. You need to make stars for Smackdown in order to make it viable in the long run. This should be Becky’s moment, just like what Charlotte had at Wrestlemania and Sasha had on RAW. It should be Nikki and Becky at the end battling it out. Becky wins and cements herself as the face of the Women’s division on Smackdown.
Winner AND FIRST Women’s Champion: Becky Lynch
Kevin Pantoja: Go ahead and try telling me in 2010 that a WWE PPV in 2016 would have a WWE Title match featuring Jon Moxley and AJ Styles. The same goes for the Clash of Champions main event. Anyway, this is a tough call. On the one hand, Dean Ambrose is less than three months in a title reign that he clawed his way to. He had to overcome several missed opportunities and the company throwing momentum stoppers in his way (Wyatt, shitty WM31 IC Title stuff, Lesnar) to get to this point and I don’t want to see it end. But, AJ Styles is the hottest thing the company and absolutely deserves to be champion. He’s lost two Title matches to Roman Reigns already this year and I think it should happen here. Part of me sees Dean retaining and AJ winning the rematch at No Mercy, but I think they’re gonna strike while the iron is hot.
Winner: AJ Styles
Mike Hammerlock: Finally, the reason they’re having this shindig. You could probably skip the rest and just tune in at 10:15 for this battle. It’s a chance for Ambrose to have a statement match as the face of this half of the roster. Ambrose was always a cool character, but he doesn’t have a lot of great singles matches on his resume. Plenty of good matches. I’d call his ladder match loss to Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank 2015 his best work to date. It was a brutal affair that finally delivered on the potential Ambrose and Rollins seemed to have together. The Shield three-way at Battleground was very good as well, though short of epic. Yet now Dean’s the man and he’s got to close shows with the sort of action fans demand. Who better to help him do it than AJ Styles? AJ could have a **** match with a potted plant. Expect them to shoot for something amazing. Don’t know that they’ll get it, but the brief here seems to be for Ambrose to win and for Styles to make him look great … and no complaints from me if they want to shake things up with an AJ win.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Rob Stewart: I’m struggling a lot with this match. This is most likely the first match in a series over the next month or two of live specials, so… will they keep the belt on Dean to stretch out AJ’s hunt? Or will they put the strap on AJ right away, possibly through nefarious means, and have Dean try to exact revenge through various gimmick matches? Honestly, both options seem entirely plausible. I’m really just hoping for an exciting match at this point; Dean’s matches have been a touch on the pedestrian side as far as quality goes for quite a while now, but if there’s anyone who can shake him out of that funk, it would be AJ Styles. With the cocky attitude Dean’s developed lately, I’d like to predict a double turn here… but AJ’s heel work has been too fascinating lately to reverse course on. Ultimately, I’m leaning towards Dean here, with AJ’s win coming next month or so.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Sean Garmer: Smackdown has done wonders for Dean Ambrose because they’ve allowed him to be much more serious in his two title feuds. Sure, he still does some of the comedy here and there, but it works in context. You still take him seriously as a champion over on the blue brand. However, I feel like you really could completely make a star with AJ Styles winning the belt. Sure, he doesn’t have to win it here, they could wait until No Mercy. I just feel like the iron is hot right now with AJ Styles. Strike with it right now and go with AJ. He’s a proven commodity and his title win will draw eyeballs from all over the world. Not to mention, Dean is a face, he can chase for a bit, while John Cena comes back or you can transition from Ambrose to Randy Orton at some point. Like I said, you can wait till October and it wouldn’t be bad, but you’d miss a great opportunity to really have something by doing it now and making AJ seem unstoppable.
Winner AND NEW WWE Champion: AJ Styles
Overall Thoughts & PPV Interest Level (from 1 being the worst to 5 being the best)
Kevin Pantoja: My interest level for this PPV is a 4: My interest for this card being so high is purely based on how good Smackdown has been in recent weeks. Sure, some things aren’t going to be that great (Corbin/Kane or Miz/Ziggler) but there’s enough to keep me more than intrigued (Tag Title, Women’s Title, WWE Title). It should be a really fun time.
Mike Hammerlock: My interest level for this PPV is a 3: I’m not thrilled with the card. It looks like it’s designed for the main event to steal the show. Nothing wrong with that, but the rest of the card could be pedestrian. One reason to tune in is that the WWE has something to prove here. The brand split is new and it needs to establish that its Sunday extravaganzas are must-see affairs even with a split roster. They need to generate some buzz with this event, especially with the fall TV season kicking into gear. Hopefully that sense of urgency drives the action.
Rob Stewart: My interest level for this PPV is a 1: I am tempering expectations quite a bit for this one; there’s just nothing about this card that grabs me and makes me think this is appointment programming. I’m interested in AJ vs Dean due to the greatness of AJ, but unless the Miz/Bryan angle continues, nothing else here pops for me at all.
Sean Garmer: My interest level for this PPV is a 4: Everything on this show matters in some way or another. You have two new champions being crowned for sure. There’s the potential of a wave of change happening for Smackdown if things go a certain way. I am really intrigued by this show and hope it delivers.
Well, that is all for this Roundtable everyone. Don’t forget to leave us your thoughts and predictions below in the comments and we will see you again later this month for the RAW Only WWE Clash of Champions.
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If you’d like to listen to Sean Garmer and his co-hosts do a WWE Backlash 2016 Preview, they also discuss going on in NXT, debut of Lucha Underground Season 3, Delete or Decay and more. You can click the Sound Cloud play button or listen to the show on I-Tunes, Stitcher, Tune-In Radio, Youtube, or wherever else you listen to podcasts. Just search Wrestling 2 the MAX and you should find it pretty easily.