Smackdown Live gets their first shot to elevate their brand in the new era when they present WWE Backlash this Sunday (Monday 12pm NZT). Now I’ve been a huge fan of the content Smackdown Live has produced since the WWE Draft, but this PPV is their chance to really show it can do well on it’s own.
Despite the lack of depth on it’s brand, Smackdown Live has really made good use of their talent over the last month, with the introduction of new brand-exclusive Women’s and Tag Team Championships and the elevation of the Intercontinental Championship thanks to The Miz’s shoot on General Manager Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack. There is concern over whether there’s enough wrestling to cover the pay-per-view length of three hours. We may see another match added – possibly Baron Corbin vs Kalisto? Otherwise, more backstage promos will be shown to make up for time, which is also a good way to develop storylines. The current card does however, provide intriguing storylines. Will Heath Slater and Rhyno win the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, earning Slater a contract? Will we finally see the Lasskicker Becky Lynch win the big one? Will the ‘Face That Runs The Place’ be the new ‘Face of Smackdown Live’? Here’s my predictions below:
- The Miz (c)(w/ Maryse) vs Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship
Even with The Miz at his heelish best and elevating the IC title as of late, I’m just not intrigued by this matchup. Firstly, how did Dolph Ziggler get a title shot? I had trouble believing Ziggler was a worthy #1 Contender for the WWE Championship at Summerslam, probably thanks to years of WWE leaving him on the mid-card, plus some forgettable rivalries he’s had over the past year – Rusev and Baron Corbin to name a couple. Now he’s the #1 Contender for the Intercontinental Championship after calling The Miz a coward on Smackdown Live? Yep, I can definitely believe that. I guess since Daniel Bryan can’t come out of retirement, the next best thing was Ziggler. Despite the challenge presented, I think The Miz continues his never-ending Intercontinental Championship reign. As the best true heel in WWE right now, Miz needs to hold onto the title as long as possible, or at least until Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura gets called up. I could possibly see Dolph winning by countout, with Miz cowardly running away from his opponent, but I have The Miz winning by a rollup.
PREDICTION: THE MIZ
2. Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt
A rivalry that should’ve taken place a year ago, the Viper goes up against the Eater of Worlds. All we’ve seen is a promo exhange between the two, with Wyatt proving why he’s one of the best on the mic today. Orton is coming off a brutal TKO loss at the bloody hands of Brock Lesnar at Summerslam and a win against Wyatt would make him look strong after a loss of momentum. Wyatt, who deserves a huge push in the New Era, needs a big win to possibly slide in as a top contender for the WWE Championship. If WWE were to continue the idea of the ‘New Era’, it needs to allow Wyatt to go over Orton. But I predict that Wyatt’s run of big match losses continues, falling to two vicious RKOs.
PREDICTION: RANDY ORTON
3. The Usos vs The Hype Bros to determine who will face Heath Slater & Rhyno in the finals of the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Tournament
This matchup came as a result of The Usos injuring Chad Gable following a quick loss to American Alpha on Smackdown Live, turning them heel in the process. Gable’s injury prevented American Alpha from taking part in the finals against Heath Slater & Rhyno. Therefore, new finalists must be found. The turn was what The Usos needed, following a stale run as faces over the last couple of years. It also gives Smackdown a competitive heel tag team, due to all the heel teams losing in the first round of the tournament. No one wants to see a Hype Bros/Slater & Rhyno rematch at Backlash, despite an entertaining encounter on Smackdown Live. Instead The Usos win and move on to face Slater & Rhyno in the finals.
PREDICTION: THE USOS
4. The Usos vs Heath Slater & Rhyno in tag team tournament final for the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships
Following the Usos’ win earlier in the night, they take on the darlings of the tournament, or Beauty and the Beast, dare I say. Heath Slater & Rhyno are involved in the most compelling storyline at the moment, with Slater not only fighting for the Tag Team Championships, but a Smackdown Live contract as well. This has made the tournament very interesting to watch, especially this finals matchup. I had Slater & Rhyno winning the entire tournament until The Usos’ heel turn on Tuesday night. In order for the WWE to capitalise on this heel turn, The Usos must win the Tag Team Championships, which gives them major heat and also continues the Heath Slater free agent storyline. The Usos winning would then put them in a rivalry with American Alpha over the tag team titles. Another possible scenario is Slater & Rhyno winning thanks to interference from Jordan and Gable, costing the Usos, allowing the two teams to go to war without the titles being involved. However, I have The Usos ending Slater & Rhyno’s fairytale, preventing Heath from getting his daughter a new tongue.
PREDICTION: THE USOS WIN AND BECOME THE INAUGURAL SMACKDOWN LIVE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS
5. Alexa Bliss vs Becky Lynch vs Carmella vs Naomi vs Natalya vs Nikki Bella in a Six Pack Challenge for the WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship
The Smackdown Live women’s division impressed me with the six-women tag team match on Tuesday night. All the women involved were able to showcase their in-ring ability and it’s anyone’s championship to win. In reality though, it’s down to either Becky Lynch or Nikki Bella. I think the bad blood between Carmella and Nikki Bella will cost both the championship, leading to a singles match down the line. This leaves the Lasskicker winning the inaugural WWE Smackdown Live Women’s Championship. It will be a good move from WWE considering Lynch is one of the most popular and talented wrestlers on the roster. Also, she was the first women taken by SD Live in the draft so it would be nice if they built the division around their top draft pick. Lynch makes Natalya tap to the Disarmer, finally taking the spotlight that has been on her fellow Horsewomen throughout 2016.
PREDICTION: BECKY LYNCH WINS AND BECOMES THE INAUGURAL SMACKDOWN LIVE WOMEN’S CHAMPION
6. Dean Ambrose (c) vs AJ Styles for the WWE World Championship
I haven’t been too impressed by Ambrose’s title reign since the brand split, but defending against Styles, who is riding a wave of momentum after beating John Cena clean at Summerslam, should make the title more relevant again. I’d love to see Styles win in what would be his third shot at the WWE Championship, but I see Ambrose retaining. I predict Styles faces Ambrose in a rematch at No Mercy and ultimately winning the WWE Championship, which would say a lot about management and the direction WWE is headed in this New Era.
PREDICTION: DEAN AMBROSE