The John Report: WWE Backlash Preview (Styles vs. Nakamura, Reigns vs. Samoa Joe)

John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Backlash preview for the WWE pay-per-view event that follows WrestleMania and it also followed the Greatest Royal Rumble event, so the build for this show was a little weird. Backlash takes place this Sunday, May 6 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

It’s a weird show in some ways because it’s the third major WWE event in the last month after WrestleMania and GRR, so it’s almost as if Backlash crept up on the creative team. As a result, some of these matches are weak in terms of the build up and having Raw talent face off against former Raw talent that are on Smackdown also hurt the storylines going into two of the match.

Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Mike Holland and Matthew Phillips.

Kurt: If it comes across that I have more opinions on the actual superstars than the matches, it’s because I’m burned out with WWE right now. Between WrestleMania & Greatest Royal Rumble, the last thing I want to see is another PPV. This was the PPV that was always on the books, but yet it’s the one that has a card full of quickly put together TV matches for the most part, whereas GRR had the star-studded lineup.

(Note: All graphics are from WWE. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)

John: The Kickoff Show match was announced on Friday afternoon. It’s Bayley vs. Ruby Riott.

I’ll go with Riott for the win because she’s new on Raw and has the advantage with her buddies at ringside. Maybe Sasha Banks can watch it backstage on a TV and make serious looks at her formber buddy Bayley. Thrilling. Their “issues” have been going on for four months.


Raw Women’s Championship: Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss  

Kurt: This rematch doesn’t have near the heat their match at WrestleMania did. There’s two reasons for it. However, they’re two very good reasons, and thus, I’m not mad at it. I’ll let you figure out what I mean. I like Nia Jax a lot and although this match may end up being more competitive than the first one, there’s obviously no reason for Nia to already lose the title. She’s got a lot of potential to reach. It looks like Alexa is destined for a storyline involving Ronda and Nattie anyways.

Prediction: Nia Jax retains

Mike: It seems like it’s been quite a long time since we discussed the Raw Women’s Title being anything other than Alexa Bliss’s domain, but Nia Jax finally got her opportunity to shine at WrestleMania and rather predictably dismantled the diminutive champion in relatively short and impressive order. The “automatic rematch” clause consistently bandied about by WWE means you’re always guaranteed another spin or two around previously traversed ground, and so we’ll bear witness to more of the same Sunday.

I have nothing against Bliss or her character, particularly since she has so wonderfully embraced the heel persona in a way that perhaps nobody else other than The Miz on either roster has done. That said, she’s become overexposed in recent months, and her alliance with Mickie James is about the only interesting development that’s come of it. She needs a break, and with Ronda Rousey on the roster and looking for momentum, that path seems clear to me. Jax didn’t score the belt just to lose it immediately thereafter, and with the recent influx of talent from Smackdown and NXT to Raw on draft night, she won’t lack for challengers. I’m counting down for a Jax/Ember Moon showdown.

Winner (and STILL Raw Women’s Champion): Nia Jax

Matthew: With Alexa Bliss not having been in action for the last few weeks, this title rematch just feels like a formality to me. I love Alexa as a character, and her pre-tape Moments Of Bliss promos have been pretty good, but honestly not enough to really have me interested in this match. Nia just won the title and Bliss feeling somewhat removed from things on Raw as of late make this a pretty easy choice for me.

Winner and Still Raw Women’s Champion: Nia Jax (because they’re just getting started with her reign on the top)

John: This title reign has been boring like most of Nia’s matches. I think booking her as a face is a challenge because there’s not many great women heels on Raw since she has beaten Alexa Bliss and Mickie James so many times. Do you really think fans are going to clamor for Riott Squad members facing Jax? Liv Morgan vs. Jax? Um no thanks. It’s not that interesting. The build to this match has sucked (Bliss hasn’t taken a bump in the last month due to “enhancements” *wink*) and I doubt they get more than ten minutes. I’m more excited about Bliss and James teaming up against Rousey and Natalya hopefully at the next PPV, Money in the Bank. Jax wins easily.

Winner: Nia Jax


(Whoever made that graphic for WWE put the champ on the right while the champ is on the left in the other graphics. Don’t blame us!)

United States Championship: Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton

Kurt: I would love nothing more than for Orton to turn heel. He’s needed it ever since losing the WWE Title to Jinder. I understand that he might be at a point where no one wants to boo him, but he’s SO good as a heel. If anyone in his position can make it work, it’d be him. I think a full fledged heel Orton vs. Jeff Hardy would be a tremendous storyline for Smackdown considering how good both men still are in the ring. As much as I wanted Brother Nero, it’s probably for the best that he’s on his own. He’s a rockstar and you could argue that Smackdown has the three most popular wrestlers in all of WWE on their roster: Jeff, Daniel and AJ. (I know Seth & Finn could have some say in that.)

It’s weird that there’s only two heel champions in the company right now, so I could see a title change here, but I think it’s better to keep it on Jeff and continue to re-establish him as a top singles star and hopefully plant seeds for an Orton turn.

Prediction: Jeff Hardy Retains

Mike: I can’t claim that I necessarily saw Jeff Hardy being elevated this quickly without his “Woken” persona coming along for the ride, but it hasn’t been that long since WWE was booking him like a champion at the expense of brother Matt during their first run. Jeff’s brushes with the law are well documented, but his recent issues behind the wheel don’t seem to have cooled the brass off on his potential as a top hand. That’s a good thing, because he’s always been incredibly talented and dynamic in the ring. He just needs to avoid the pitfalls that plagued him during good portions of his TNA tour.

Hardy has been booked like a star during the shakeup, and now sports the United States Championship and a new brand to boot. The opposition is Randy Orton, who’s no stranger to this belt and in fact dropped it in the odd decision to give Jinder Mahal another addition to the trophy case. The way Jinder’s been booked since tells you that was a swerve plain and simple. Orton had to go through Bobby Roode to get this shot, but face/face is a tough sell. I expect solid but boring.

Winner (and STILL United States Champion): Jeff Hardy

Matthew: This could be a pretty good match, but it’s feeling a little flat heading into Sunday. I’m not too keen on the whole babyface vs. babyface dynamic, because it often makes for matches that lack intensity in my opinion. I’m hoping there will be an interesting wrinkle that they throw in here, be it a surprising new direction for a listless Randy Orton, or some kind of angle setting up something with a 3rd party that’ll bring some energy. I’ve always enjoyed Jeff Hardy as a singles competitor so I’m interested in seeing where they go with him on Smackdown, but this hasn’t been the most inspired beginning to his Tuesday tenure.

Winner and Still United States Champion: Jeff Hardy (because I’m hoping this loss sets in motion a change for Randy in the near future)

John: Two faces in a match like this isn’t that interesting. These two have a history going back ten years, so I’m sure they will enjoy having a match with eachother. I’m not sure if there will be anything in this match of story advancement and the only thing I can see them doing is maybe teasing a heel turn from Orton. Since there are a lot of good faces on Raw right now, it wouldn’t be a bad time for Orton to go back to his evil ways since he likes being in a heel role.

I’ll go with Hardy retaining because he just won the title a few weeks ago. Keep in mind it’s early May and they have already had four different guys hold this title this year, so they love booking US Title changes too.

Winner: Jeff Hardy


Smackdown Women’s Championship: Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair

Kurt: This is a really interesting match to me, probably second on the card for me behind AJ and Nakamura. The reason being, this is a huge moment for Carmella. I love Carmella. She’s made the most of being on her own after being left behind from Enzo & Cass. Considering how Enzo’s career went and Cass’ injury, it clearly was a blessing in disguise for her.

Carmella made mention on Twitter that she hasn’t had a singles PPV match since December 2016, which a good match against Nikki Bella that I was in attendance for, but she’s been great in everything she’s done. She’s nowhere near the top of the list of women you think about when it comes to this Revolution era, but I think she’s poised now to surprise some people. If she can put the in-ring work up to the level of her charisma and personality, watch out. Charlotte is borderline flawless, so I really have high hopes for this match and I hope I’m not totally off base on Carmella.

Prediction: Carmella retains  

Mike: Money in the Bank is a blessing and a curse, because there’s so many ways to play the briefcase and you always have to walk the line between predictability and timing. I have no issue with WWE’s decision to wait until after the big show to let Carmella successfully cash in, but I still maintain that having Asuka win and then Carmella pin her to absolute nuclear heat would have been a way better story. That’s especially pertinent since they ended up having Asuka lose anyway, which would have allowed Carmella to take advantage of the situation after a tremendous match and pin Charlotte. It’s sort of a head scratcher to me.

In any case, you guessed it…former champion exercising their rematch clause! In reality, this match is a no-brainer. Charlotte is the class of the division and Carmella has no business defeating her in a straight up rematch. Because this is as far from reality as you can get, though, the probable outcome here is to maintain the status quo and continue to build Carmella as heelish as possible with reliance on her running mates the IIconics (oh boy) Kay and Royce to continue Charlotte’s frustration. A DQ finish is also possible.

Winner (and STILL Smackdown Women’s Champion): Carmella

Matthew: This match is a little difficult to predict. On the one hand, Carmella is hitting all the right notes as the heel champion right now. She’s been obnoxious, annoying and incredibly boastful about her cheap Championship victory. I could see this going on for a while longer and quite frankly say that she’s earned the right to continue her reign with her character work alone. She’s nailing it so far. All that being said, it’s hard to imagine how they keep the title on her for any extended period of time.

Her opponents on Smackdown are very formidable. Charlotte and Asuka are two of the most protected and successful women on the entire roster and both presumably are chasing Carmella for the gold. I can see them having Charlotte to beat Carmella here to avenge a cheap loss. I can also see Carmella retaining by DQ or through nefarious means to kick the can further down the road. Each outcome in my eyes is equally likely so this is a toss up.

Winner by DQ: Charlotte (because they like to kick the can down the road and ‘Mella is Money!)

John: Carmella will probably be the kind of champion that barely holds onto the title and fans will think she can lose the gold at any time. She’s the underdog in almost every match she’s in, but as a champion and a heel there are ways to book her in a cheap manner. I think Carmella will retain thanks to help from the Iiconics Billie Kay (I like her) and Peyton Royce (I really like her), who are the reason Carmella won the title in the first place. Charlotte will need somebody to feud with when she’s out of the title picture. That can lead to Charlotte and Becky vs. The Iiconics and maybe that can set up the heel turn for Lynch. I don’t know if that’s happening, but I’m just throwing it out there as a possibility. I think Carmella will drop the title to Asuka in a few months. For now, I’ll go with Carmella retaining thanks to some help.

Winner: Carmella


Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

Kurt: Bobby Lashley has only been back for a month and already feels lost in the shuffle. His performance/botches at GRR did him no favors either. There’s a lot of talk about him and Lesnar at SummerSlam, but I would think if WWE wanted that match, they would’ve had him coming in looking a lot stronger than he has thus far.

Braun needs to be the guy beating Lesnar for the Universal Title. Montreal even cheered him when he took out local boys Owens and Zayn. He’s over. He’s the one the crowd is behind. As much gold as Owens and Zayn are, I expect a highly dominant win for Lashley and Strowman here. It’s a match with no story, so no reason dragging out the analysis.

Prediction: Strowman and Lashley

Mike: I’ve already made my position on the Braun Strowman “tag” match (and victory) against The Bar at WrestleMania rather clear, but once more with feeling: it SUCKED. Having Cesaro and Sheamus lose to a pre-teen is booking slightly to the left of Doink. I get the intention to make Strowman more beloved, but as usual it wasn’t necessary. Anyone who’s watched WWE programming for longer than ten seconds this past year already loves Strowman, and not for his choice of ring partners but his unmatched and cartoonish behavior. What other wrestler do you know whose backstage attacks remind you of Wile E. Coyote? Great.

Now we have Strowman paired with the suddenly back (and still the same) Bobby Lashley, which begs the question of why Lashley wasn’t the mystery partner at WM anyway. Considering the Raw tag belts aren’t even being defended here, maybe the point is moot. Facing them are Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, always entertaining but docked a couple notches for the Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan feud being over and done. Their razzing of Kurt Angle is more for storyline than anything, and it’s falling flat more than hitting. Let them have an ugly breakup and enjoy. Again.

Winners: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley

Matthew: Why wasn’t Bobby Lashley Braun Strowman’s partner at Wrestlemania? Since Bobby’s return to WWE, I don’t think he’s been involved in a match where he wasn’t teaming with Braun. They might as well have made it an official tag team if this is what they were going to do.

Part of me secretly hopes that Bobby has only been teaming with Braun to learn his tendencies, so he can turn on him here. It wouldn’t make that much sense, but a Bobby/Braun hoss fight might be a cool spectacle. I doubt that we’re in store for anything quite so fun.

Sami and Kevin are kind of floundering on Raw. They got huge hometown pops on Monday, and I love them to death, but they need something interesting to sink their teeth into. They are both so good, this match feels like a waste of time for everyone involved.

Winners: Lashley & Strowman (because look at them)

John: This match took place on Raw two weeks ago and then a six-man version of it was done last week. Strowman’s team won both times. Why do it again? I think it’s just a way to get Strowman on the show, which is fine because I like the guy. It would be nice if there was at least some creativity in place to set up this match, though. I wanted to pick Zayn and Owens to win perhaps by cheating and getting a cheap pin on Lashley, but I think WWE wants Strowman to be the guy to beat Lesnar for the Universal Title. Due to that and the fact that Strowman rarely loses, I’ll go with Strowman and Lashley. Can we move Kevin and Sami back to Smackdown? I like that roster better.

Winners: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley


Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

Kurt: If sports books had put a line on Daniel Bryan’s first opponent for a singles match on PPV, I wonder what kind of odds I would’ve gotten for Big Cass. It’s not exactly a sexy matchup, but for once, I can defend WWE for a decision like this. They have big hopes for Cass and to make him look legitimate, they put him against the most popular guy on the roster.

From Daniel’s perspective, it doesn’t matter who his opponent is, fans will just be happy to see him wrestle. There’s going to be a long honeymoon stage with Daniel back in the ring, so this is the perfect opportunity to give someone like Cass a shot on a big stage. Cass’ promo on Tuesday did him no favors though. I saw someone put a tweet out that said he came across like Vinnie Vegas 2018, and I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to think Daniel wouldn’t lose this early in his comeback, but I don’t think they’re planning on giving up on Cass, so I think a DQ finish is in order here.

Prediction: Daniel Bryan by DQ

Mike: Daniel Bryan’s triumphant return to the ring was unquestionably one of the biggest moments of WrestleMania 34, and other than the efforts of Ronda Rousey, it was also the most appreciated by the crowd. Bryan is money, and his story is an amazing one, made all the more epic since like any good professional wrestling tale, it’s got so much truth in it. You can see the passion for the business in Daniel, and while his good soldier routine in portraying the GM character kept one foot on the ground, he longed for the stars. And rightly so. Welcome back, Daniel. We have missed the hell out of you.

All of that said, you might not have missed stuff like this. Bryan’s first big match after the biggest of dances is, naturally, Big Cass, himself fresh from the disabled list and without Enzo permanently. This is a big deal for Cass, who clearly has the look Vince covets but has to work into his microphone efforts to make the grade. Bryan should certainly win, but his underdog story doesn’t allow too much of that word. I like this detour before Bryan and Miz battle. Expect the unexpected? Yes!

Winner: Big Cass

Matthew: Big Cass has been really good you guys! Like his mic work has been so good and he’s playing a complete douche so well. He’s been on a roll since his move to Tuesdays, and unlike his horribly tailored suit from that Miz TV segment a couple weeks ago, I think he’s a great fit for this roster. His targeting of Daniel Bryan is pretty great. I could have done without the bit about him having been a little guy growing up, but his grievance about Daniel Bryan stealing the spotlight when he got cleared to wrestle at the same time as him was inspired.

Daniel Bryan is the perfect opponent for Cass here. He’ll make him look great and solidifies Daniel once again as the perfect underdog babyface. I’m not saying this’ll be a classic, but it will very likely be a great bit of business for both guys going forward, regardless of the outcome.

Winner: Big Cass (because he needs a touch of legitimacy and Bryan loses nothing by losing here… possibly gains momentum by losing to be honest)

John: It could go either way. Cass needs the win to gain legitimacy as an upper midcard wrestler while I think Bryan should win because Cass did the cheap attack two weeks ago and Cass also eliminated Bryan from the Greatest Royal Rumble match. It makes sense for the storyline for Bryan to get the upset win. I think that’s what will happen with an inside cradle or some kind of counter pin. I don’t expect Cass to tap out to the Yes Lock. Post match, Bryan won’t get a chance to celebrate because I expect Big Cass to attack him and get his heat back.

This is also the biggest match of Big Cass’ career and there’s going to be a lot of pressure on him because he’s in there with one of the best guys as well as the most popular guy on the show. If Cass can’t have a good match with Bryan and if he can’t get the crowd against him then it’s going to be tough for him to win over management. Being 7 feet tall (or close to it) is nice, but he has to deliver in this match.

Winner: Daniel Bryan


Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins vs. The Miz

Kurt: Through the first quarter of 2018, Seth Rollins is my MVP. The crowd has really gotten behind him, to the point that I expected him to switch places with AJ during the shakeup and be 1A or 1B top guy on Smackdown. I think he was ready for that spot. Meanwhile, Miz is just biding his time until it’s time for his feud with Daniel to really kickstart. I don’t need to see anything between them to know that’s going to be the feud of the year.

Smackdown may be the house that AJ Styles built, but it’s also home for The Miz. He just fits there. I always felt that Edge was better on Smackdown than Raw and I think the same for Miz. I’m sure this will be a fantastic match but there’s no chance of a title change, so it makes it hard to get excited for it.

Prediction: Seth Rollins retains

Mike: This match was a heck of a lot more interesting when Miz was still on Raw, right? I’m frankly not sure what to make of WWE’s booking around the roster swap and the Greatest Royal Rumble, as they seemingly did things and were forced to change midstream on something they created. It’s kind of like Dr. Frankenstein flipping the switch and then wondering how the lab got so messy. Regardless, new Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins puts his friendly fire feud with Finn Balor on hold to face the guy he beat at WrestleMania, Smackdown’s own Miz. It’s another champion rematch clause match! Hey there, broken record.

It’s entirely possible WWE’s writers pull something from their sleeve, since trick finishes to fool the internet seem to be the first half of the playbook lately, but there’s little doubt in my mind that Rollins retains. Miz can’t take the title over to the blue brand without another belt presumably making its way to Monday, and they’ve just gone through all that with the Jeff Hardy win and retention for the US Title. It remains to be seen what happens to the unfortunate Miztourage, but nobody cares that much. Do they?

Winner (and STILL Intercontinental Champion): Seth Freakin’ Rollins

Matthew: I mean, this is pretty much insanely telegraphed right? No way Miz wins and brings the belt to Smackdown. The only interesting thing here is whether Seth will continue his streak of stellar Championship bouts. Both have other fish to fry and this match is filler on a pretty underwhelming card.

Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: Seth Rollins (because it’s so obvious!)

John: Rollins is on a roll right now. I thought the 4-Way IC Title match at GRR was the best match on that show while Rollins vs. Balor on Raw this past week was also outstanding as one of the best WWE TV matches this year. This match likely won’t be as good as that because there’s a weak storyline in place here and I doubt anybody watching this show is going to think Miz will win since he’s on Smackdown now. I think The Miztourage will try to interfere for Miz, it won’t work and Rollins retains the title.

Winner: Seth Rollins


Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe

Kurt: Another match that I’d love to get excited about, but due to Joe switching brands, it ends up being a throwaway match. I was excited to see a long-term feud between these two, but alas it’s not meant to be. I’m instead going to spend this time to announce I’ve given up on the Roman Reigns project. I was one of the few fans that stuck behind him. I’ve thought for the last three years he’s gotten a raw deal (hey John) and deserved better from the fans and from the company. However, the company has turned him into scorched earth with this reverse psychology of “well if we don’t put the title on him, the fans will cheer him.” Well obviously, they won’t, and now he’s been made to look like a chump to Lesnar, not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR TIMES. It’s ridiculous. The finish to the cage match was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. Not to mention, that match was built around the fact that Saudi Arabia was supposed to be more supportive of him, but they weren’t. NO ONE LIKES REIGNS. It’s over and they need to move on to making Strowman the guy, like I said above. It’s nothing personal on Reigns, I still support him, but it’s just time to move on. He’s not the next Cena and might not ever be at this point.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Mike: It’s been a strange and unusual trip for Roman Reigns, as he failed to get the expected duke over Brock Lesnar at WM and then managed to lose again at GRR (though with a referee mistake to prevent him looking too futile). Now he gets his showdown with frequent rival Samoa Joe, which can best be described as a bit of a lame duck match since Joe has been moved over to Smackdown courtesy of the shakeup several weeks ago. Fortunately for us, even a lame duck makes for a delicious dinner, and these two have undeniable chemistry in their war of words and more importantly their battles in the squared circle. This will be vicious, and that’s good business.

That also makes this the toughest match on this card to call, as you have to think both men can ill afford a loss. It’s beyond bizarre to think that Reigns, the WWE’s golden boy, is set on a path to keep losing. Joe, of course, has to be positioned strongly in order to have a solid foothold in the WWE Title scene on the blue brand. A bit of an impasse, then. I could absolutely see WWE putting Joe over here in order to continue to drum up support for Reigns in a last ditch effort to keep him as a sympathetic face character until he is rewarded with the Universal Title. That would be a miscalculation in my view, but there’s been more than our fair share of those in this entire sequence.

The way forward for Reigns is the heel path, but WWE has steadfastly refused to give in to that expectation, no matter the consequence. I think Joe is primed for one heck of a run on Smackdown, provided he can stay healthy, and an outgoing loss to Roman does far less damage since very few will remember it in a couple of months of him being booked like a solid star on Tuesdays. While I get the potential logic behind Roman’s road to ruin continuing, I don’t see WWE’s powers that be allowing their meal ticket to keep coming up short.

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Winner: Roman Reigns

Matthew: The matches between these two have always been fun and I’m looking forward to another one. Samoa Joe has been the best promo in the company for a while now, and he’s sold me on this rivalry all on his own. Reigns really hasn’t done much on that front and has been booked like a pretty big loser for the last few weeks. These guys couldn’t be heading into Sunday with more opposite momentum.

So the question is, does Roman turn his fortunes around and get a big win to get himself back on a winning track, or does Joe get a huge victory to set himself up as Smackdown’s menacing bad ass. It really could go either way. Should be an excellent match regardless.

Winner: Roman Reigns (I don’t see his losing streak extending this long)

John: This is Roman Reigns getting a win after suffering two big losses to Brock Lesnar even though the second loss to Lesnar was a very questionable loss. I figured this would have been a Universal Championship match, but Reigns doesn’t have that title. A loss for Joe isn’t going to hurt him that much. They have wrestled a lot, it’s probably going to go 15-20 minutes with Joe on offense for most of it until Super Roman makes the comeback to win.

I really hope WWE considers the heel run of Reigns. I write about it all the time, but it’s obvious that fans in every market that has WWE gone to recently (US, Saudi Arabia, Canada) are rejecting Reigns as the potential top face of the company. There are plenty of other top faces on Raw right now with Rollins, Strowman and Balor, so if Reigns turned it would set him up with some good opponents. Instead, Reigns gets booked the same and it has led to a stale product. A change would help everybody. Do it, WWE.

Winner: Roman Reigns


WWE Championship No Disqualification Match: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Kurt: In a lot of ways, this is a one match show, and this is that one match. WrestleMania was a dud, saved by a very surprising and well done heel turn by Nakamura. Maybe a little too well done as now Nakamura is far too interested in plowing his arm into AJ Styles’ balls. GRR was a step in the right direction, but still not at the level everyone expected. Now though, with what should be plenty of time and no rules to follow in a No DQ match, this is the time for them to deliver the classic we’re all waiting for.

I think now is the time for Nakamura to win the title, and considering I don’t see any other title changes on this show, it’s the perfect opportunity to make this title change feel extra important. I would love to see what he can do as a heel and as champion. The only problem is that the only ready-made challenger for the title, that isn’t set up for something different moving forward, is Samoa Joe. Which leads me to believe AJ will retain. I don’t think they can go wrong either way, which is a good problem to have. Just give them 25 minutes with free reign, that’s all I ask.

Prediction: AJ Styles retains

Mike: A bit of the sheen has been taken off this dream match, and that’s plain and simply due to this being the third WWE iteration of it in less than a month. That’s a lot to digest even in the best-case scenario, and unfortunately for all involved, this hasn’t been the best case scenario. Both the original Mania match and the rematch at GRR suffered from the same issues: comparisons with their wildly superior showdown at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2016 in Japan and the ending of the match being more important than what happened during it. A slightly subpar effort with these two is still going to be better than anything else presented Sunday, mind you, so this is minor criticism, but it exists nonetheless.

Nakamura’s heel turn had to be done, but his main characteristic being low blows while the official is otherwise occupied doesn’t have the stuff of a long run. More is needed, and that more in many cases can be some gold to get the crowd agitated and keep the contenders chasing. There is plenty of mileage in this feud, and the two clearly love working together, but familiarity breeds contempt, and the presentation needs to change. I don’t know that WWE has seen or will ever see Nakamura as a long-term champion, but more as a curiosity. A fourth match will undoubtedly come of this no matter what happens. Since Styles won the first and the second was a draw, you see where this train is headed.

The stipulation of this being no disqualification clearly benefits the heel, and keeps plenty of options open regarding the finish. As much as I’d love to see a straight up wrestle fest, it seems unlikely. There is a ton of opportunity to have Nakamura align with someone for both storyline and utility purposes. I could watch these two battle every month. I’m just not sure that general consensus will favor that strategy.

Winner (and NEW WWE Champion): Shinsuke Nakamura

Matthew: This card really only has one match of any importance, and it’s this one. Shinsuke Nakamura is the single hottest act in the company right now, and any other opinion would be incorrect. The turn at Wrestlemania has unlocked all the weirdness and unpredictability of the Shinsuke character. I wrote about it last week in detail, but he has become cold, calculated and crazy. He has rediscovered the intricacies that made me love him as a performer in the first place. His facial expressions and mannerisms are on fire right now. I’m all the way pumped up about heel Nakamura!

AJ has been good too. AJ’s always good, but my expectations for Sunday are high. They are THE match on this show and should get plenty of time. There is also now an intensity and emotional hook that their Wrestlemania match was missing. I think this Sunday these two are going to have one of their very best matches. I can’t wait to see it!

Winner and New WWE Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura (because if becomes the best thing going in the company and still doesn’t get his Championship reign, then I’ll be profoundly disappointed and shocked)

John: This is the match with the best build on the card with Nakamura as the cheapest kind of heel there is with all of the low blows while Styles is the fighting WWE Champion that is trying to keep his title. Making it a No DQ match makes sense because it’s a personal feud that deserves a stipulation for the big match.

My opinion on the result of this match changed since WrestleMania. When Nakamura turned heel post WrestleMania, I figured that was done so he can win the WWE Title. At the Greatest Royal Rumble event, I predicted a DQ finish and they went with a Double Countout finish instead. My feeling at that point was that Nakamura was still going to win at Backlash. However, when they made this match a No Disqualification match, a light bulb appeared above my head (figuratively speaking) and said that Styles was going to retain. The reason for that is I think they’ll do something where a desperate Nakamura goes for another low blow punch to Styles groin, but when he connects with it, Styles will reveal he was wearing a protect cup or a jock – whatever you want to call it. Styles will reveal that he was wearing it while Nakamura will be in pain from an injury and Styles will take advantage with a Styles Clash to win the match.

I hope they get to go on last. It’s for the WWE Title. Biggest match on this show. Let them main event.

Winner: AJ Styles



The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most

Kurt: AJ/Nakamura by default. But more anxious to see if they can deliver the match we all want than excited.

Mike: Take a stab at it. You could miss the rest of the show, but don’t miss Styles/Nakamura 33 1/3.

Matthew: Nakamura vs. Styles 100%.

John: It’s Styles vs. Nakamura by a lot.


The Match I Care About The Least

Kurt: Strowman/Lashley vs. KO/Sami.

Mike: Orton/Hardy doesn’t have too much of a hook, but I’ll go Carmella/Charlotte.

Matthew: Lashley & Strowman vs. Zayn & Owens

John: Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss


Longest Match

Kurt: I hope it’s AJ vs. Nakamura, but I think it’ll be Rollins vs. Miz.

Mike: Styles/Nakamura. Reigns/Joe should also be lengthy.

Matthew: Shinsuke and AJ.

John: I think it will be Reigns vs. Joe as the longest and Styles vs. Nakamura will be close.


Shortest Match

Kurt: Nia vs. Alexa.

Mike: Bliss/Jax. Needs to be definitive to work.

Matthew: Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss.

John: Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss.


Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)

Kurt: 4. Too many “TV” matches and burn out from Mania and GRR.

Mike: I’m going dead center with a glass-half-full 5. Far too many champion rematches for my taste, but the two big matches are both capable of being very good and Rollins/Miz should be solid as well.

Matthew: 5 (all due to Nakamura/Styles really, the rest of the show is just fine at best)

John: It’s a 5.5 for me. I think Backlash will be a forgettable show that’s hurt by the lack of build for a lot of matches other than Styles vs. Nakamura. This lineup could have been a lot better.


Final Thoughts

Mike: Allow me to preside over the funeral of the brand split PPVs, please! I will not miss them. The challenge for WWE coming out of that mistake is to figure out creative ways to get their talent-laden roster positioned well enough to make their monthly special events, well, special. Backlash does NOT feel that way, though admittedly it would have been a challenge given where it lands on the calendar. There’s just been too much shuffling of rosters to make something cohesive here. It feels passé before it’s even begun.

I get that champions deserve rematches, but they will have to work that out in short order or they run the risk of every non-Big 4 card looking like this. Work those matches out on the weekly shows and bring some fresh matchups to the fore. There’s also no Lesnar, no Cena, no Asuka, no Rousey on this card. WWE will have to balance the scales if they want this “fresh” take to end any better. Otherwise Backlash won’t just be the name of the event, it will be what WWE experiences monthly.

John: That’s all for us. Thanks to the crew for joining me once again. I will write a live review of Backlash on on Sunday night, so check that out during the show or after it’s over.

Kurt – @KTankTMB

Mike – @DharmanRockwell

Matthew – @MJDP_GSE

John – @johnreport

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