RAW Deal: Predicting Backlash 2018
NEWARK, NJ, USA—It’s been years since we’ve gotten a co-branded pay-per-view event from the WWE, back during the first brand split, and now the format returns to the company starting with the 2018 edition of Backlash. I’m not really happy about it, but here we are.
Given the loaded rosters of each brand (plus the advent of 205 Live), it’s really not a good idea to lump both brands into one show. I feel like it’s a loss the company should have to take for a few more years as they make their writing better and more consistent, as putting only the marquee matches from each show leaves no room for the lower midcarders to get any exposure. Yes, the casual crowd may not care about, say, an Apollo Crews or a Baron Corbin so much, but these guys are still an essential part of the machinery.
Anyway, Backlash also comes at the heels of last Friday’s Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia, which didn’t really advance a lot of storylines. It was a house show strictly for the people in Saudi, who are apparently starved of some world-class wrestling, and house shows rarely ever shake the WWE status quo. Whatever intrigue the WWE came in with, as far as the fresh Superstar Shakeup roster changes go, by promoting the Greatest Royal Rumble broadcast was tided over by an insistence on keeping things the same way. Backlash is just to clean up those last few holdovers, such as the Miz and Samoa Joe, who are still feuding with people from the other brand.
The faster we get Backlash over with, the better. With that, let’s start predicting:
Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander (c) in a kickoff match for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
This match hasn’t been made yet, but since we’re still out a spot for a kickoff match, I’m pretty sure this is what’s going to be inserted at the last minute. It seems like they benched Buddy Murphy, 205 Live’s newest rising star and the penciled-in nemesis for champ Cedric Alexander, momentarily in order to give family-friendly Kalisto a spot at the Greatest Royal Rumble card. They wasted no time restarting this on this week’s episode, and I can see Alexander agreeing to a defense at Backlash.
Winner: Cedric Alexander
Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
A fun sleeper of a midcard feud for RAW, I feel like Owens and Zayn are going to squeak by just a little in order for it to keep going. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d go all in on Strowman and Lashley, though.
Winner: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
SmackDown’s Land of Opportunity narrative turns its focus on Big Cass, who’s doing a respectable job of running with the ball he was given in being a new monster heel. Bryan’s chances don’t look good here after Roderick Strong made mince meat out of his chest at the Greatest Royal Rumble, and I think Cass gets a win here to solidify his momentum. After a decent Rumble performance (in which he lasted 72 minutes) I think Bryan can afford to eat the loss here.
Winner: Big Cass
Charlotte Flair vs. Carmella (c) for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
I’m sure you all know that Charlotte Flair has a knack for winning the title during PPVs, but I hope they really forego that little pattern in order to build Carmella further. Yes, Asuka’s on SmackDown, but after the Shakeup, Carmella’s the biggest heel they have left. The Iiconics are still being built, and we don’t know what the plans are for Absolution just yet. Carmella needs this reign to be solid.
Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax (c) for the RAW Women’s Championship
I’ve been predicting heel wins for the first three matches of the main card, so let’s take a break from the doom and gloom, shall we? No way Nia Jax loses the title here, as she has a whole slate of fresh matchups before her.
Winner: Nia Jax
Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy (c) for the WWE United States Championship
Even though the SmackDown midcard surrounding the US title is comprised of three over-35 veteran wrestlers (definitely contradicting the blue brand’s push for youth in the past few years) I really like where this is going right now. Orton being one of the last holdovers of SmackDown since the original 2016 draft makes him feel really stale right now, so I’d rather keep the title on Hardy and go on with a three-way feud involving Shelton Benjamin (and eventually the Miz).
Winner: Jeff Hardy
The Miz vs. Seth Rollins (c) for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Speaking of the Miz, there’s no way he wins his Intercontinental Championship back now that he’s on SmackDown. As much as it would be funny to leave RAW without a regular top male singles title, that’s never gonna happen. Plus, it’ll finally open Rollins and the title up to the deep midcard RAW just drafted.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe
This match makes for an interesting story. Reigns has been on quite a losing streak since WrestleMania, failing to get the job done as well on Brock Lesnar at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Joe, on the other hand, is a new arrival on SmackDown, and could definitely use a small boost for some momentum. I don’t expect them to do this, but what if Joe decisively beats Reigns in order to kickstart another introspective Reigns storyline to evolve the character? Let’s make this happen.
Winner: Samoa Joe
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles (c) in a no disqualification match for the WWE Championship
All right, they’ve made the heel turn at WrestleMania and they’ve set up this stipulation via their double countout at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Now there’s absolutely no way Shinsuke Nakamura can lose here, or else they’re hamstringing an asset they’ve acquired to build up interest in the product. Nakamura has to win.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura (new WWE Champion)
What are your picks for Backlash? Let’s talk about it!