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So it’s possible, even likely, that I’m going to get all of these WWE Backlash 2018 predictions wrong.
Bayley vs. Ruby Riott (Pre-show)
Not a week ago we watched as Ruby Riott used her numerical advantage to defeat Sasha Banks – one of the biggest female names in the company. That said, Sasha Banks is one of a small number of female names that have long since transcended the company that she represents. She could afford the loss and, being fair, she’s lost a lot recently.
A Bayley win would show that they’re getting behind her, sure, but I don’t see it happening. The Raw women’s brand is lacking in quality heels. With Bliss and James tied up with Jax and destined to run into Natalya and Rousey before there’s an Ember Moon on the horizon, Ruby Riott and her Riott Squad have a chance to get high up on that total pole fast.
It all starts with a win over Bayley.
Winner: Ruby Riott
Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
For three weeks in a row on Raw these two teams have encountered each other in some form of tag match. There is no reason that the result should be any different here in a throwaway match put together to showcase the two big faces before their pushes really begin.
Winner: Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
Daniel Bryan vs The Miz is the end result of everything that both The Miz and Bryan will be doing for most of this year; giving us a long term storyline with many opportunities for matches like this. Big Cass, as a backdrop to that feud, has a chance to get a big win here and really he should. If he loses here where is there that he can go next? Tye Dillinger?
Cass has great heel potential and cuts okay promos. The best way to build a heel in today’s climate is to just have them keep winning, even if they’re a face. Bryan of course has many different reasons that he could lose, including a number of recent niggling kayfabe injuries and potentially even a beat down from behind in the pre-show from “somebody”.
(It’s going to end up being The Miz, isn’t it? Did it for The Rock.)
Winner: Big Cass
Carmella vs. Charlotte Flair (Smackdown Women’s Championship)
This match has actually had some real focus on Smackdown recently, with the most likely scenario mapped out well. Smackdown has cut down to a smaller number of women but they’re once again lacking in top heels. Carmella as champion is actually one of the least developed personalities on the roster and with a top tier of Charlotte, Asuka, Becky Lynch and Naomi (in that order) everyone at that top table is face.
That said, the IIconics have had a strong debut and have every reason to get involved in this match. It’s also possible that Charlotte’s back up, in the form of Asuka and Lynch, could be undermined by a sneak attack from Absolution. Mandy Rose faces Lynch on Tuesday of course.
A longer championship reign will help establish Carmella and anyone on her side. Smackdown has always worked hard to keep their women on a relatively even playing field so, logically, Carmella should keep the belt.
Winner: Charlotte (DQ finish)
Seth Rollins vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Championship)
IC title’s staying on Raw. Should be another great match though.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe
Ah, the Universal title feud without the Universal title. Isn’t this one going to be fun?
No matter what WWE do, the mood around Roman Reigns continues to deteriorate. Meanwhile, Samoa Joe is a man on the up, despite several injuries. He consistently puts on great matches regardless of competition and has some of the best promo segments in the company.
That we have a Smackdown Live featuring Joe, The Miz, Styles, Bryan and more and yet Talking Smack has long since cancelled? Travesty.
Do either of these men need to win this match? No. Can either of these men afford to lose this match? Yes. The question is what story is being told here? Who knows? The match is so throwaway that it doesn’t really matter. Everyone will be going back to their own brand.
So what could we take from this? Is Roman on the promised downward spiral or will he get his heat back with a win over a man that he’s already consistently beaten? I’m going to have to go with a broken Roman future.
Winner: Samoa Joe
Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton (United States Championship)
As midcard goes, Smackdown always seem to do it with big established names. Shipping out talent such as Roode and Mahal means that the US title is now in high draw hands.
This match could be all sorts of things. Orton prefers a slower, grounded style, whereas Jeff Hardy likes to take to the air. Like a few matches here this could go either way.
That said, I’m left wondering a question that I’ve been wondering for over a year now; what next for Randy Orton? Does he take the title and Shelton Benjamin gets back involved? Does he lose the match and the exact same thing happens?
This seems like it’s going to be a long term feud using short term storytelling. That never ends well.
Winner: Jeff Hardy
Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss (Raw Women’s Championship)
Obligatory rematch; not very interesting. Jax retains in almost a carbon copy of Wrestlemania.
Winner: Nia Jax
AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship, No Disqualification)
This feud, once you remove the memory of the Greatest Royal Rumble from your minds, has been excellent. The grudging respect shown initially, coupled with a perfectly executed and maintained heel turn, have kept everything going very well. That said, Nakamura will be out of chances if he loses this match.
It’s telling that Samoa Joe has already established himself as an ideal next competitor to either man. Nakamura’s starpower has been lit up recently but could we see him drop back down the card? Should he take the title, the answer is no of course and could lead to Styles vs Nakamura vs Joe. That’s the result that seems more likely to me.
With no more dual brand PPVs we are most definitely going to see more multi man matches. There’s no way around that; less talent will have the opportunity to get on a card when there’s much less card to get on. Styles is a perfect champion for Smackdown Live but a duly crowned Nakamura opens a wealth of possibilities and given the lack of heels it’s important to have a heel at or near the very top of the show.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
I’ll see you for another live Twitter session during Backlash 2018.
NOW CHECK OUT THIS RECENT COLUMN: WWE SMACKDOWN HITS & MISSES 5/1: Miz TV, Big Cass, Rusev & Lana, Paige’s appearance, scarce in-ring action