Outside of any last-minute additions, it appears the card for this Sunday’s WWE Backlash 2017 pay-per-view is essentially finalized, meaning its time for another examination round of which superstars are going to be sitting out the show.
For whatever reason, the men and women on this list were not deemed important enough to justify finding a spot for at the event or are otherwise incapacitated and unable to perform. Some of the omissions might be justified, while others are a bit more questionable.
Let’s take a look at which wrestlers on the SmackDown roster are currently not advertised as participating at Backlash 2017.
Luke Harper / Erick Rowan
Sadly, there just doesn’t seem to be much motivation on WWE’s end to continue pushing Luke Harper, who at one point earlier this year was in the running to fight for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.
A feud with Erick Rowan isn’t even close to the same level, but at least this would keep the two former Wyatt Family members somewhere in the thick of things. They have nothing else better to do and they’re two huge guys with a history, so a legitimate feud could be interesting to see—if WWE actually wanted that to be the case, that is.
It’s certainly not the end of the world for them to be skipping this pay-per-view, but if neither man is involved in the Money in the Bank ladder match, it will be a good sign that WWE probably sees very little value in them and does not want to invest too much in either guy. Here’s hoping they build some more steam on the SmackDown after this event.
UPDATE: During Talking Smack, Erick Rowan requested a match with Luke Harper and was granted one by Shane McMahon.
Rusev flat out said a few weeks back that the next time we would see him would be gearing up for a title match at Money in the Bank, ruling out anything related to Backlash to begin with.
When factoring that in with his injury timetable, it should be no surprise at all that Rusev isn’t booked for this card in any capacity. There’s nothing for him to do and the storyline has already dictated that an appearance would be counterproductive.
The SmackDown after Backlash will be a different story, but for the pay-per-view itself, I wouldn’t even go so far as to think he’ll make a run-in or appear in a promo.
From the Women’s Division
Nikki Bella is still taking time off for whatever reason, whereas Eva Marie just hasn’t had her official release announced on WWE’s website yet.
Lana, on the other hand, has been advertised as making her in-ring SmackDown debut soon, but no official timetable has been presented. Considering all of the rest of the women on the roster are involved in the six-woman tag team match, there isn’t an opponent lined up for Lana to begin with.
If Lana doesn’t wrestle on any episodes of SmackDown leading up to Money in the Bank, there’s cause for suspicion, but as far as Backlash is concerned, this is nothing to scoff at.
From the Tag Team Division
WWE has minced no words when it comes to The New Day being on a bit of a hiatus until Kofi Kingston is ready to return, so that was an absolute given, but there are still four other tag teams who aren’t advertised for the card.
One of those is The Singh Brothers, who may very well show up to cause an interference of sorts during the WWE Championship match. It isn’t a guarantee, as WWE could never advertise something like that in advance, but it’s almost a certainty considering their involvement in Jinder Mahal’s matches as of late.
American Alpha and The Colons are currently (and very weakly) in a feud at the moment, so there was definitely some grounds to be able to justify putting them on the pre-show, but that spot went to Tye Dillinger and Aiden English instead. It appears those four men are on the backburner—at least for now.
And then there is The Ascension. Poor Konnor and Viktor. These two just cannot catch a break, can they? For a hot minute a few months back, it seemed like they were on the up-swing and could potentially be brought into the limelight, but that lasted roughly two weeks before they were the bottom of the barrel again.
From the Midcard
While Tye Dillinger and Aiden English were lucky enough to get a spot on the pre-show, that isn’t even something we can say about Mojo Rawley or Sin Cara.
To be blunt about Sin Cara, does anybody really care? It wouldn’t even be surprising to find out that people forgot he was on the roster or even still employed by the company, judging by how little he’s used and the complete lack of an impact he’s made for months.
Mojo Rawley, though, was just the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal winner. While we’re two months extended past WrestleMania, this is SmackDown’s first post-Mania pay-per-view. For him to not be involved in anything decent enough to find its way on the card isn’t a good sign for him, which in itself is not a shocker. For some reason, WWE has proven every single year to not really value the winner of that battle royal, as they make it out to be a big deal for maybe one or two weeks and then those people have to start all over again. It happened to Baron Corbin, it happened to Big Show, it happened to Cesaro and now it’s happening to Mojo Rawley.
Technically speaking, there are four other men who are still officially part of the SmackDown roster but aren’t on the card, but given their circumstances, it’s absolutely no surprise whatsoever.
Going forward, it should be assumed that these men are falling under the same situation over and over, so we won’t bother addressing them in future installments unless the circumstances alter, but since this is the first event after the Superstar Shake-Up, it’s good to reassess the roster nevertheless.
Zack Ryder is far from done rehabbing his injury to return to action, nor would it make sense for him to make an appearance with nothing having been set up even if he was able to get back into the ring.
With Kane’s mayoral campaign and his insurance company, The Devil’s Favorite Demon might even be in a soft retirement, let alone an elongated absence.
Chris Jericho is off touring with Fozzy, so he may not set foot in a WWE arena for until several months from now, if not longer. John Cena is in a similar situation, but since he is only working on film projects, he should be expected to return at a much earlier date.