This Sunday, Raw, and Smackdown will be sending 4 matches each to the duel-branded PPV WWE Backlash. Disregarding the oversight that this will be the fourth duel branded show of the year, this is being pushed as the first PPV of the new format, catchy theme song and all.
While it marks the beginning in a technical sense, (of a new year in WWE, and format wise) for many fans, Backlash is the end of a killer viewing schedule that hasn’t produced nearly the amount of great matches and moments that one would think from the combined hours of Wrestlemania 34 to The Greatest Royal Rumble to finally, Backlash would on top of the Raw and Smackdown weekly shows that have been wildly inconsistent in quality with a few bright spots such as Nakamura’s heel turn, Daniel Bryan’s return and the sustained excellence of Seth Rollins.
The Universal Championship picture has been completely frustrating, as Brock Lesnar has been less than uninspiring as he’s continued to hold the championship despite repetitive matches, puzzling finishes, and attempted character assassination. While Brock has been a part-timer for 6 years, it’s only been recently focused on as a negative in WWE’s attempt to swing cheers toward Roman Reigns. Meanwhile, it’s only grated on fans since he started mailing in his PPV matches, particularly the last four.
Speaking of Reigns, he’s never looked less credible as a top star as his failures to win the title from Lesnar have zapped the energy out of the Lesnar/Reigns program and has gotten him booed as much as ever as he prepares for a showdown with Samoa Joe. Samoa Joe is seemingly peaking and feels similar to how he felt last July during his own feud with Brock Lesnar.
There seems to be an attempt from WWE to deconstruct some of Reigns’ protection, as the Wrestlemania match left him beaten and bloodied, but instead of Lesnar even celebrating, Wrestlemania went off the air focused on the dejected walk of shame Reigns took out of The Superdome. The Greatest Royal Rumble cage match finish is being played like Reigns is now the uncrowned champion, but in reality, WWE just doesn’t want to give him the title for whatever reason, and we’re stuck wondering and wishing for anyone else to beat Lesnar to rid ourselves of him as well.
Stars have returned, both from injury and hiatuses like Daniel Bryan, Big Cass, and Bobby Lashley. Lashley has been handcuffed to Braun Strowman and hasn’t really been put in a position to reveal what cards WWE will play with him, but judging by the pyro he got at GRR, they see him as a major piece. Strowman & Lashley taking on Owens/Zayn seems like a way to get all these guys on the card without emptying the cannon on singles combo’s between the foursome that looks to dominate the summer. However, Owens and Zayn have looked like whipping boys since coming to Raw, and I worry that with a lack of heels beyond them ready to step up, we’re looking at tough times ahead once Baron Corbin, Jinder Mahal, and Mojo Rawley start getting cycled into some of these matches.
As far as Bryan and Cass go, thus far it’s been mixed with Cass being pushed as a dominant big man who has displayed an aptitude for getting booed. His good promo was as good as the segment with the midget was bad. I don’t know if anyone is actually excited for Daniel Bryan to face Cass as compared to being excited about Daniel Bryan’s return to singles PPV matches. If they squash Daniel Bryan, prepare for mass unrest among Bryan fans, myself included. If WWE has shown us anything over the past few years, it’s that they have no problem pissing people off for #HEAT. The honeymoon period of Bryan’s return could dry up instantly if it feels like he’s being positioned at less than an ideal level. Is this a good time to remind everyone that Sheamus and Daniel Bryan happen to be on the same brand?
Transitioning to the WWE Championship rivalry between AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, we’ve seen two matches booked to do certain things, and have a great match wasn’t apart of any of them thus far. Nakamura has been reinvigorated since his sudden urge to punch AJ Styles in the balls, as he’s gotten over a new catchphrase, vicious persona, and theme music designed to piss people off. While they set up a No DQ match with a count out finish, one has to assume Styles and Nakamura finally get the green light to unleash the greatness that made this such an anticipated matchup. Another disappointing outing would be a tremendous let down that would be the fault of not only WWE, but we’d have to start looking at Styles and Nakamura as well. I’d only give them so much of the blame, but the layout of this feud has put a lid on top of its top end potential. GO WATCH WRESTLE KINGDOM 10, I AM NOT LYING ABOUT THIS MATCH.
The women’s feuds haven’t been particularly engaging, as I couldn’t imagine being excited about Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss again, and the mystery of Carmella’s first singles match on PPV in well over a year. I’d rather see Charlotte put hands on Billie Kay and Peyton Royce than lead Carmella through before getting cheated out of the title again. One thing that is bubbling under the surface is Becky Lynch’s role in all of this. I believe she’s turning heel at some point this summer, why not now. Alexa Bliss has been wrestling for the title far too often, time away from the title picture would do her wonders right now. Nia Jax is going over as a babyface far better than I anticipated, so let’s see that continue.
When it comes to the IC Title, The Miz and Seth Rollins are looking to top what Balor and Rollins did on Monday Night Raw. As much of a Miz stan as I am, it’ll be tough to exceed that, but it’s not like Miz and Rollins are just going to lay down. With The IC title being the only visible men’s singles title, I’m expecting Rollins to retain in another great match as he will jump out front in the early Wrestler Of The Year convos that are due to break out at any moment. He’s quietly been one of the best things on nearly every major show he’s been on in 2018, in addition to his awesome TV work.
All in all, I feel like I’m exhausted by this card before it even happens. The schedule has been taxing for the wrestlers and the fans who have put many hours into the last calendar year of WWE. With more being more at all times, it’s not hard to imagine that some of the audience is turning away or losing track of what’s actually happening and important. As Chad Matthews mentioned on The Doc Says, WWE fatigue is real. With Raw’s main title essentially frozen for a year, the show never got the reset Lesnar losing the championship would have provided. It’s great WWE is moving to 1 PPV per month because this company needs to slow down more than ever, and allow the great roster they have built to be the best it can be without stretching it thinner than it already is.
Predictions In Bold
- AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura – If Nakamura loses he should go back to New Japan.
- Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe – Reigns has been losing a bunch, look for him to recover here.
- Charlotte vs Carmella – Carmella wins, and DIRTY
- Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss – Nia Jax can’t lose here. Alexa’s swan song to women’s title matches.
- Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton – These dudes feel old. I didn’t write about them for a reason.
- Daniel Bryan vs Big Cass – WWE may squash Daniel Bryan, but I’m picking him anyway.
- Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn – Big dudes dominate.
- Seth Rollins vs The Miz – Monday Night Rollins Gives Miz a proper send off to Smackdown