While the Superstar Shake-Up drastically changed what the Payback card looked like and somehow ended up adding SmackDown members to the Raw-exclusive show, the status of the Backlash event is in question.
As it takes place May 21st, there’s significant enough time that the new rosters will be solidified and this shouldn’t include anyone from the red brand, but the random and rushed addition of the NXT TakeOver: Chicago event for May 20th is suspicious as well.
Currently, we don’t have many confirmed matches for Backlash, but with some context clues and a little guesswork, we can figure out where WWE may realistically go as far as what matches will be booked for the show. Here is a breakdown of what seems to be in store for the SmackDown roster’s next special event.
United States Championship Match: Kevin Owens or Chris Jericho (c) vs. AJ Styles
WWE Championship Match
This is an interesting scenario. The United States Championship appears to be in the possession of SmackDown, as Daniel Bryan said the No. 1 contender would face either Chris Jericho or Kevin Owens, despite Jericho still being on the Raw roster. Does the same thing apply to the WWE Championship, as in, if Bray Wyatt wins at Payback, he reverts back to a SmackDown star?
Will there be some kind of Triple Threat with Erick Rowan and Luke Harper? Will Rusev make his return in time to be able to build toward a title shot against Randy Orton? Is Baron Corbin the next in line despite how he just lost a shot at the United States Championship?
There doesn’t seem to be many options right now, which is fine for such an early projection, but the Tuesday after Payback will definitely be interesting to see what direction WWE goes.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
After their interaction on SmackDown this week, this appears to be a guarantee for a feud that won’t just be brushed aside.
From my point of view, even if the feud itself is likely to be rather weak (based off Nakamura’s lack of mic skills), when they step into the ring, they have the potential to put on a match of the year contender.
I’m extremely looking forward to seeing these two go at it, and I hope they don’t give the match away on SmackDown in the meantime by having them face each other three times over the next month or something along those lines.
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Tamina Snuka and Charlotte Flair are the two latest acquisitions for the SmackDown women’s division, so it’s safe to assume either one of them will be the next in line for a title shot against Naomi.
Side note: I’m convinced Asuka will be dropping the NXT Women’s Championship to Ember Moon in Chicago the night before Backlash and will move up to SmackDown soon after. If that happens, I don’t think she’ll be getting a title shot just yet, but rather, she’ll be paired up with Natalya.
Keeping that in mind, is it better to pair Tamina with Naomi due to their familial connection and friendship, knowing they may have great chemistry together, or will WWE do what they always do, by putting all the focus and attention on Charlotte?
As much as I think we should wait for it, I’m expecting Charlotte to not only become Naomi’s challenger, but to also possibly win the title, as WWE loves giving her the spotlight and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon, what with her being referred to as the biggest trade of the night. More on this later in this list.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
The Usos appear to have firmly pushed American Alpha aside and will no longer feud with them, which opens them up for new contenders.
Obviously, the easy prediction here is for The New Day to go straight into the title picture as they’re the biggest tag team on either roster for years. Only now after The Hardy Boyz have made their return does any other group rival their popularity, so it makes sense for them to be on opposite shows to more evenly distribute that fan support.
As good as The Usos are, they’re not on the same level as The New Day, and it would be surprising if new champions aren’t crowned.
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
For Baron Corbin to go from fighting for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania to doing nothing would be a massive drop down the ladder, so right now, my guess is we’ll see he and Sami Zayn embroiled in a feud based off their losses in the triple threat No. 1 contender’s match.
The storyline will probably continue next week with Baron Corbin complaining that he would have won the match if Sami Zayn weren’t involved, sparking another “big man vs. the little guy” setup that Zayn seems to always find himself in.
This will be a solid upper-midcard feud that might not turn too many heads, but it will help fill out the bulk of the show and keep both men close enough to the forefront where they won’t be forgotten about.
POTENTIAL OTHER MATCHES
Becky Lynch vs. Tamina Snuka
As mentioned above, Charlotte and Naomi is my prediction for the title match, which means there’s still room to showcase Tamina elsewhere. Based primarily on their positioning during the promo tonight as well as a look they shared with each other, along with Becky’s status as the #2 babyface in the women’s division, I’d be surprised if those two don’t have a match together if time permits it.
Pre-Show Kickoff Match: Mojo Rawley vs. Jinder Mahal /or/ Aiden English vs. Tye Dillinger
I can’t imagine these two feuds have the legs to continue long enough to last until May 21st, but WWE has dragged things out like that in the past, so it’s definitely a possibility.
If either of them do get booked for Backlash—or, for that matter, there’s a switch where Rawley/English and Dillinger/Mahal are feuding—I think either of those matches are guaranteed to be on the pre-show rather than the main show.
As much as I’d like to see all of these guys succeed going forward (particularly Dillinger), they aren’t the biggest priorities, and if they’re put on the kickoff, nobody will really complain about it being something they can’t skip over.
Pre-Show Kickoff Match: American Alpha vs. The Shining Stars
The Shining Stars may be in for a bit of a push on SmackDown, but they’re still Primo and Epico, so they’re either going to be a bathroom break or on the pre-show.