The WWE bandwagon rolls into Chicago this Sunday, May 21, for the SmackDown exclusive PPV event, WWE Backlash 2017. In the weeks since WrestleMania 33, both Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live have taken a hit on their viewing figures. This is probably to be expected in the wake of the “superstar shakeup,” and with several WWE stars being absent through injury and other commitments. WWE Backlash comes as the rosters are now settling down and storylines build towards SummerSlam 2017.
This week’s PPV event will give the SmackDown roster and opportunity to showcase much of its top talent, and a number of championship matches are on the Backlash card. Probably the most anticipated match in Chicago is Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles for the U.S. Championship. Fight fans will be aware, that Owens lost the U.S. title to his one-time BFF, Chris Jericho, at WWE Payback 2017. Owens won the title back again on SmackDown just two days later.
AJ Styles lost his title to John Cena at the 2017 Royal Rumble. One would have expected Styles to have regained his title before now, but a meaningless feud with Shane McMahon was used to build up to their match at WrestleMania. As a result, Styles has been kept away from a championship tilt until now.
Unfortunately for Styles, if Bleacher Report is correct, he will not be taking the title belt from Owens this week. They claim that Styles is more likely to win the WWE Championship at the Money in the Bank PPV in a few weeks time. Styles is arguably the WWE’s most accomplished wrestler, so it is unlikely that he will be denied the opportunity to hold a title belt for much longer.
The WWE Championship is currently held by Randy Orton, who will defend his title against Jinder Mahal at Backlash in Chicago.
What’s The Latest On Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura?
The story with Jinder Mahal is an odd one. Mahal has featured in a couple of low-key matches since WrestleMania, and then, suddenly, he has a shot at Orton’s WWE Championship. The official WWE website has been pushing this match for some weeks, and even they express some surprise at Mahal’s sudden elevation to championship challenger.
Mahal joined SmackDown as part of the “superstar shakeup” and just a week later beat off the challenge of Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Mojo Rawley in a six-way battle for a shot at the title. Mahal’s title challenge may signal that he is receiving a push by the WWE network, but it’s unlikely that he will take Orton’s title at Backlash. Rumors are claiming that Orton may be challenged by Rusev for his title at next month’s Money in the Bank PPV. That probably means that Orton will hold on to his belt for a little longer.
As reported on the Inquisitr at the time, Shinsuke Nakamura made his main roster debut on SmackDown a few weeks ago. The interesting thing is that Nakamura only featured in an introductory segment, he is yet to make his competitive debut. That debut comes at Backlash 2017, where Nakamura will face Dolph Ziggler. Nakamura’s debut is therefore likely to be an early card match, and constitutes a fairly low-key competitive debut.
Nakamura was a hugely popular wrestler on the NXT circuit, so it will be interesting to see how well he makes the step up to the big league. Nakamura certainly has the skill and persona to be a huge hit on SmackDown, but much will depend on how effectively the WWE uses his talent. The WWE will certainly want to put some momentum behind Nakamura, but will want him to gain traction before pushing him to main event status.
The WWE SmackDown tag team championship will see The Usos defend against Breezango. This one could go either way, as to be frank it’s a mid-card match and neither team really has a lot of momentum behind it. One of the strangest decisions that the SmackDown creative team have made for Backlash is that Naomi will not defend her WWE Women’s Championship. Instead, she will feature in a tag match, teaming up with Becky Lynch and Charlotte to take on Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina.
[Featured Image by WWE]