WWE Backlash 2016, the first Smackdown-only pay-per-view since the brand extension, airs this Sunday, September 11, live on WWE Network. The show is headlined by a WWE Championship match between the champion, Dean Ambrose, and the challenger, AJ Styles. Also on the card, the first Smackdown Women’s and Smackdown Tag Team Champions will be crowned.
Here’s the complete WWE Backlash 2016 card as we know it.
WWE Backlash Card:
1. WWE Championship Match: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles
2. Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella vs. Becky Lynch vs. Nikki Bella
3. Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Finals Match: The Usos vs. The Hype Bros
4. Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament Finals: Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Winner of Usos/Hype Bros
5. Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
6. Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
As always, here’s our analysis and our complete predictions for the show. Be sure to join us here on Sunday for all the live results, as well as the open discussion thread for all the relevant reactions and jokes.
Here’s what we think is going down at Backlash:
Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
What Should Happen: The Miz cut the promo of his life on Talking Smack — a promo so good it made me love The Miz and kinda hate my favorite wrestler — and everyone joked that it earned him another WWE Championship run. At Backlash, he’s defending the Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler, a guy who (1) got a shot at the championship at SummerSlam and couldn’t get it done, (2) has been pretty straight clowned ever since, and (3) won’t stop work-shooting about how much he deserves championships.
I’m down for The Miz being a Very Important Character again, so I’m down for him to retain strong and clown Ziggler in the ring or for him to lose, so Dolph can be a secondary champion and Miz can move up to better things. Loud coughing noises a WrestleMania match with Daniel Bryan loudest possible coughing noises.
What Will Happen: I’ve got a comedy hate-on for Ziggler, sure, but I think him winning here does the most to help both guys. Dolph as Intercontinental Champion could shoe-horn him in as the workhorse champ Daniel Bryan was gonna be, and gives him something to do other than wrestling the same guy every week for months at a time. Miz losing could, as mentioned, free him up to do bigger and/or more important things on the card. That’s probably being optimistic in both directions, but that Talking Smack promo was really good, y’all.
Bill Hanstock – This whole thing has revolved around Ziggler trying to prove Miz really IS a coward, so I hope to god that Miz just f*cking murders him with aplomb. I hope he comes out throwing shoteis and lariats and just beats Ziggler’s dick into the dirt. That’s probably not going to happen, but I think it’s likely Maryse will get involved in some fashion and help Miz retain.
Justin Donaldson – I would love nothing more than for this to be the match of the night. We’ve seen them wrestle a million times, but they both have the ability to make this time something special if they’re allowed to. Good match or not, The Miz takes this one. Probably due to a Maryse distraction.
Austin Heiberg – So this is how they reward Miz, huh? He cuts the hottest promo of his life, and they thank him with a Dolph Ziggler match. Who knows, maybe that just means they trust him to get something good out of it. Whatever the long-term plan is, I think Miz continues his march towards eternity with the Intercontinental Championship intact. Let the workhorse do workhorse stuff.
Scott Heisel – The Battle of the Cuyahoga River! The Heir to the Mr. Hero Fortune vs. The Kent State Kid! A match we’ve literally seen 10,000 times! I say The Miz wins only so Dolph’s “I’m the best damn wrestler in the world, I steal the show each and every night” promos continue to be hilariously meaningless.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
What Should Happen: Orton should explain what a snake is again.
I’d like for Bray Wyatt to get a strong win — Bray needs to get some momentum going as a serious threat beyond mid-cycle taunting, and Orton could probably tell the “veteran on the other side of his career” story better than Cena — but as video game Jim Ross loves to say, if wishes were fishes, the world would be an ocean.
What Will Happen: Randy Orton looked like the world’s biggest chump at SummerSlam, so he desperately needs a win. A cool win, if he can get it. Bray Wyatt is the WWE Champion of losing high-profile matches, so I’m thinking Sister Abigail gets countered into an RKO somewhere in the middle and the Apex Predator gets back some of his shine.
Bonus points if Brock Lesnar charges in again for no reason and knocks both dudes out with slashing elbows.
Bill Hanstock – It’s the battle of who could care less! Wyatt obviously needs a win a whole lot more than Orton does, and he usually wins first matches in feuds, so sure, whatever. Wyatt wins. The two most methodical and roundabout talkers in the company finally get a chance to shut up and fight. Let’s just hope for the best.
Justin Donaldson – It would be next to impossible for this match to be as boring as this feud has been. I have been programmed by WWE to believe Bray Wyatt will never win a major match again, so Orton with an RKO while Bray’s doing the spider walk.
Austin Heiberg – I feel like neither man can afford a loss here. Orton needs to bounce back after getting destroyed by Lesnar, but he’s up against Bray Wyatt, a guy who has perfected the world’s longest backwards slide toward irrelevancy. Why mess with a sure thing? I’ll take Orton.
Scott Heisel – This might come as a surprise to you, but Bray Wyatt’s last singles match on pay-per-view was a whopping 11 months ago, when he lost to Roman Reigns at Hell in a Cell. Since then, he’s appeared in a handful of tag matches — or in some cases just not been on the card at all. His last PPV win? Way back in July 2015 at Battleground. Even Randy Orton has won a PPV match since then, and he was out for, like, nine months with a shoulder injury. There is literally no one who needs the W more than Bray, as Smackdown doesn’t have a monster heel right now. I predict Wyatt wins via some weird, dreadlock-assisted magic, but Orton gets the win back at No Mercy.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Finals Match: The Usos vs. The Hype Bros
What Should Happen: It’s really interesting to me that WWE booked the Usos into the play-in match instead of Heath Slater and Rhyno. Ignoring Shane McMahon’s “you have to win every match or else” thing to Slater, wouldn’t it have been a lot cooler to have the Cinderella team actually lose in the semi-finals and think they’re done for, only to get an unexpected second chance? Then they could win the play-in, and the stakes would be CRAZY HUGE for them going into the finals against the suddenly heel team that injured the tournament favorites. I guess that doesn’t make sense without the Usos losing and getting angered into the full-on heel turn, but you see what I’m getting at.
That said, yo, it’s the Usos, right? It has to be. The Hype Bros are an afterthought, and the Usos are interesting for arguably the first time in their entire careers. They’re getting an undeserved second chance in the tournament despite losing to American Alpha in like 30 seconds and being the team that injured them and necessitated the play-in in the first place. So Shane McMahon is making Heath Slater win all his matches in a row or he’s not gonna get signed, but the Usos can injure his best team after losing to them almost instantly and it earns them MORE MATCHES? C’mon, Shane, get your ethical sh*t together.
What Will Happen: The Usos, definitely. If Slater and Rhyno are in the finals, you need a dreaded heel team to face them. If Slater and Rhyno win, they’ve dispatched the jerks who injured American Alpha and got a second chance they didn’t deserve. If Slater and Rhyno lose, The Usos get an even bigger heel rub for injuring Alpha AND winning tag titles they didn’t deserve AND ruining Heath Slater’s family’s lives.
Bill Hanstock – The Usos have the potential to be one of the most effective heel turns in a long damn while, so they have to continue their ill-gotten road to the tag belts by un-hyping the Hype Bros. When we say “UCE,” y’all say “Oh, they’re definitely advancing to the finals.”
Justin Donaldson – This may be purely wishful thinking, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that we see the debut of a dark vicious heel version of The Usos, who tear apart The Hype Bros.
Austin Heiberg – Is it just me, or does the Hype Bros’ relationship seem like a Pokemon trainer trying to rein in a rambunctious Pokemon? Like, Mojo Rawley is Charizard and Zack Ryder clearly doesn’t have enough gym badges to keep a handle on him. You can’t win matches like that. I’ll take the Usos.
Scott Heisel – Leave it to Zack Ryder to figure out how to be double-eliminated from a single-elimination tournament. The Boo-sos move onto the finals.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament Finals: Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Winner of Usos/Hype Bros
What Should Happen: But seriously, how great is it that the Usos were heels for like 10 seconds and suddenly had a way broader and more effective moveset? It’s like they were sitting on a bunch of devastating sh*t and were like, “this seems too mean to actually do, let’s just kick a bunch and jump at our opponents over and over, that’ll probably be fine.”
As mentioned above, I think the best story to tell here is the Usos winning. They win something they don’t deserve, the Heath Slater story gets even more sympathy than it has garnered so far, and you set up a returning American Alpha to show up and absolutely f*ck up The Usos’ Christmas.
What Will Happen: Going with Uce and Uce. I just hope they explain that the Usos are suddenly heels and super aggressive because 5-Hour Energy hyped them up too much and messed with their brain chemistry.
Bill Hanstock – Yes, the road to ultimate Evil Uce consists of them being babies, injuring our beloved baby bird Chad Gable, cheating their way into the finals undeservingly, then keeping OTHER precious baby bird Heath Slater from getting a Smackdown contract. They’ve really gotten a fire lit under their asses as heels, it seems, and I’m all in on them being irritating-as-hell tag champs before American Alpha finally manages to come back and Grand Amplitude them straight to hell.
Justin Donaldson – I care about this match more than anything else on the card. As fun as it would be to see Slater and Rhyno win, I think it’s gotta be The Usos.
Austin Heiberg – If the payoff here isn’t Heath Slater sticking around and being a beloved employee of WWE for the next decade or so, I don’t even know what we’re doing here. I’ve got Slater and his beefy politician friend.
Scott Heisel – I am fully invested in Heath Slater and his seven kids right now — any booker who denies the crowd the emotional payoff of Slater winning that WWE contract doesn’t deserve to work in this industry anymore. Four-time tag team champ, baybay!
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella vs. Becky Lynch vs. Nikki Bella
What Should Happen: This one’s tough. The fan in me wants to see Becky Lynch win and be a great, fighting first Smackdown Women’s Champion to give the belt some true prestige and street cred. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to it than that.
What Will Happen: The “first champion” of something should be a big deal, right? It feels more like a reward for a job well done than being the 30th champion or whatever. Especially when there are specials being made about the Women’s Revolution, and everybody involved except for Becky is on Raw.
Giving Becky the strap would tie that together pretty well, but she’s also Smackdown’s stalwart, gullible, likeable babyface. It’s hard to predict a victory for a character like that without more of a struggle. Nikki Bella’s got a great comeback story, but that also sorta suggests she should have a better title win story than “we made up a belt, and everyone in the division gets into the match for it.” Naomi deserves a little love, but she just changed her aesthetic and could use some time to relax and grow in the rebuild. Carmella and Alexa Bliss have a lot going for them, but they feel too new and don’t have the Four Horsewomen hype behind them to just waltz into being a First-Ever Champion. That leaves us with Natalya, who is (1) a heel, which means she could instantly get into feuds with Becky, Nikki or Naomi, (2) has been around forever and can be trusted not to just immediately get injured or bail, and (3) sorta could use a major accolade after years and years of being forgotten-ass Natalya.
That’s my pick. Give Nattie the strap, let her be the first so she’s got something, and then transition it to whomever’s next.
Bill Hanstock – Becky seems like the favorite to win this, but I am kind of hoping Carmella screws over Nikki in some fashion to win the belt and really try to cement her heel turn by being an uber-obnoxious champion. She’s been doing great stuff in the two weeks of her heel turn, but the crowd is still apathetic to Carmella like a house not on fire in any way. Maybe the title will help.
Justin Donaldson – 100 percent Nikki Bella. On top of the typical reasons like starring in reality TV shows and being John Cena’s significant other, she also has a hell of a real-life comeback story.
Austin Heiberg – I’m ready for the payoff of Everybody Hates Becky Lynch to finally arrive. Her only crimes are being a terrible judge of character and picking awful friends like Natalya. We joke a lot here about Bayley being Sting, but Becky has a bit of that too. So yeah, I’m hoping this is the light at the end of the tunnel for her. Lynch for the win.
Scott Heisel – Nikki Bella seems like the safest bet here, but WWE’s been doing a hell of a job going with the not-so-safest bets with titles lately, plus it’s not like we need to see her feud with Carmella get title shots involved. Becky Lynch then seems like the next most obvious choice — part of me wants to overthink it and say they’ll give it to Natalya just so Becky can win it in a one-on-one match in a month, but nah, this one belongs to the Lass Kicker.
WWE Championship Match: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles
What Should Happen: AJ Styles is the Best In The World and he’s hunting trophies. He’s got John Cena’s Never Give Up armband around his bicep, and now he wants Dean Ambrose’s WWE Championship. But Kraven the Hunter can’t just bury Spider-man right away, can he? He’s got to lose a couple of times so the obsession can grow. That way when he DOES bury him, it not only means something, but pushes his character in a new direction.
That’s what I’d say should happen here. Styles is dope right now and it would be amazing to say “WWE Champion AJ Styles,” but I think that’s a little ways down the road. Give Ambrose the win, give us a few more months of Styles vs. Ambrose on the microphone to keep them both motivated, and pull the trigger on the Styles win at, say, Survivor Series.
What Will Happen: Ambrose retains. I think the value of extending their feud without trading the title back and forth outweighs the shock of a sudden title change. Ambrose needs at least another quarter of post-brand-split title feuds that have nothing to do with the other Shield guys to validate him. Styles is gonna stay golden either way.
Bill Hanstock – Boy, I really want Styles to win this match and the title! And then I want Cena to come back and continue his feud and NOT take the title from Styles, because his time is up and Styles’ time is now. But it’s probably a LITTLE early in this feud cycle for Styles to win, so I’ll say Ambrose retains when one of the two guys kicks the other guy in the dick, and then Styles will finally capture the title at the next Smackdown PPV. Armageddon or whatever.
Justin Donaldson – I don’t see Ambrose losing the belt for a while. But I also don’t think he gets a clean win over Styles. The end is probably something like AJ getting frustrated that he can’t put Ambrose away and low-blowing him like he did at the end of Tuesday’s Smackdown Live.
Austin Heiberg – Even as someone who hasn’t been keeping a close eye on Smackdown, I’m excited for this. The idea of Styles as a “trophy hunter” is cool, but it can’t stop with John Cena. If anything, it should play out like “Legend Killer” Randy Orton, where he’s just going on a world tour and taking totems from his fallen opponents. It’s going to be a real coin-flip of a match, but I think AJ can pull off the victory.
Scott Heisel – I gotta admit I was one of those folks who was bummed at the suddenness of AJ Styles’ heel turn. But man, he is doing some killer work as a guy you just wanna boo, no matter how good you know he is in the ring (see also: Chris Jericho). I honestly don’t know how you don’t put the belt on him here, given that he’s coming off the biggest win of his career at SummerSlam, but at the same time the buildup for this has been so quick, I feel like it will end in some sort of DQ or no contest to allow for a rematch at whatever the next Smackdown PPV is. So I’ll say Ambrose retains, but his time with the belt will draw to a close at No Mercy in four weeks.