WWE 'Backlash' 2016 [PREDICTIONS], Rumors, Possible Spoilers and Preview For Sunday's Event [POLL, VIDEOS]
The "SmackDown Live" brand will fire the first salvo in exclusive pay-per-views when WWE Backlash emanates live from the Richmond Coliseum in Virginia on Sunday.
Two new titles will be awarded as the "SmackDown Live" Tag Team and Women's Champions will be crowned, while the main event will feature Dean Ambrose defending the WWE World Championship against AJ Styles.
Six matches have been announced the card as of press time, five of which have title implications. Here are our match-by-match predictions for WWE Backlash.
WWE Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (c) w/ Maryse vs. Dolph Ziggler
While this feud certainly has happened before, it should be a solid program and a good way to generate interest around the Intercontinental Championship. the Miz's passionate promo toward Daniel Bryan earlier this month was legendary, regardless of any backlash (no pun intended) he received for digging at the "SmackDown Live" general manager's health issues, which caused him to retire.
The WWE hasn't exactly capitalized fully on the situation like they should have, but Miz and Ziggler should have a solid bout. It makes sense for Ziggler to go back to chasing a midcard title after getting pinned cleanly by Ambrose at SummerSlam last month. It will be interesting to see if Bryan gets involved in this match at all, but for now it seems The Miz should keep the belt. His promo was the most interesting part of his reign thus far, so why end it when it's just getting good?
The Pick: The Miz.
Tag Team Tournament Semifinals: The Usos vs. The Hype Bros
The heel turn for Jimmy and Jey seemingly came out of nowhere, but it was a good idea. The Usos' act was getting stale, so the WWE needed to figure out a way to make them interesting and a heel turn could be just what they need. It lacks logic, however, that they took out American Alpha, who should be wrestling in the finals, and then were rewarded another chance in the tournament. The Hype Bros are a fun team, but there's no reason to believe the WWE will have The Usos lose this quickly after a significant character change.
The Pick: The Usos.
Tag Team Championship Tournament Finals: The Usos vs. Rhyno & Heath Slater
When we ranked the teams involved in the tournament last month, it appeared to be a no-brainer that American Alpha would stand tall as champions. It's disappointing that Chad Gable and Jason Jordan won't be competing Sunday, but having them serve as chasers to the titles could be a better role for them this early on in their development on the main roster.
Slater has actually been highly entertaining since the brand split with his free agent work and then the formation of his dysfunctional, oddball team with Rhyno, so it would actually be pretty funny to see the WWE run with that momentum. Still, the logic says that The Usos will cement their heel turn with gold and have an instant feud with American Alpha.
The Pick: The Usos.
WWE Women's Championship Six-Pack Challenge Match: Becky Lynch vs. Nikki Bella vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella vs. Natalya vs. Naomi
We looked at length into the rankings of the ladies heading into this match and weeks later, it pretty much remains the same. Bliss and Carmella are likely too early in their main roster careers to be crowned, while the Natalya and the new-look Naomi would both make decent choices, but sit in the middle of the pack among these ladies.
That leaves the freshly-returned Bella and Lynch as the two best options to walk out of Virginia as the first-ever "SmackDown Live" Women's Champion. The "Lass Kicker" would be a great choice and the WWE will hopefully take her more seriously soon, but she may not win here.
Bella has worked hard on her look and in-ring skill and worked even harder to get back into the squared circle after her career-threatening neck injury. For that alone, it seems the WWE may reward her again after she already served as the longest-reigning Divas Champion in WWE history. Here's hoping it's Lynch.
The Pick: Nikki Bella.
Singles Match: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Talk about a match where both guys could use a win. Orton is coming off of getting absolutely manhandled by Brock Lesnar in what was an underwhelming ending to a questionably-booked SummerSlam last month. His mauling coupled with the fact that he's missed most of the past year with an injury makes the need for a win paramount since "The Viper" is trying to solidify himself as a top face on "SmackDown Live."
Wyatt, meanwhile, has been completely misused and has almost become a joke. Sure, he can cut a good promo, but when he never backs it up and his threats prove hallow, how can anyone take him seriously? The "Eater of Worlds" could really use a high-profile win or two to make him seem like more of a threat rather than someone who never delivers on his promises.
It's a sticky situation for the WWE, but this could end up being a long-term program since Lesnar is gone until who knows when and the brand split means thinner rosters. It seems Orton will win as a reward for getting busted open at the hands of "The Beast" last month and to keep him primed for an inevitable rematch with Lesnar.
The Pick: Randy Orton.
WWE World Championship: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles
While it was great to see "The Lunatic Fringe" win the big one at Money in the Bank back in June and he completely deserved the honor, something has lacked in his run. Ambrose's babyface character hasn't quite resonated as World Champion and some of his promos have left a lot to be desired.
It's possible he'll work the kinks out, as his opponent had the same issues settling into his own character when he first turned heel, but has since been going strong. The WWE could easily fix these issues by turning Ambrose heel as an unhinged, Joker-like character could definitely make him into one of the most compelling figures on the Blue Brand.
It's tough to pick a winner here as Ambrose hasn't had that long of a run. As far as who should win, the answer has to be "The Phenomenal One." Styles has adapted to the WWE seamlessly and has put on several Match of the Year candidates already -- which includes an absolute classic with John Cena at SummerSlam last month.
There's an argument to be made for Styles possibly being the best wrestler on the WWE roster, so it would completely make sense for the WWE to have him represent "SmackDown Live" as its champion.
Cena is a wild-card in all of this as he hasn't been booked for the card, yet he teased an appearance on social media. While a Cena-Styles World Championship program could headline "SmackDown Live," it's more likely that the "Cenation" leader costs his rival the belt here.
With Cena reportedly dealing with a busy schedule, Styles could potentially walk out with the gold and then feud with the "Lunatic Fringe" for the next few months.
It's a toss up, but while Styles should win, the Cena factor is a very weary element to it all.
The Pick: Dean Ambrose.