WWE Backlash 2017: Latest Card Picks, Including Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles
WWE Backlash is coming up on Sunday, May 21. Fans of the blue brand will be treated to three championship matches as well as the in-ring main roster debut of an international superstar. A Lone Wolf will face an underdog, and two former brothers will wage war.
The stars are there, and hopefully the storylines will be as well.
One in particular that WWE fans are surely anxious to see unfold is between Kevin Owens and AJ Styles. KO's United States Championship will be on the line, as his new feud with Styles is reaching an important point.
This will likely not be a quick rivalry; Owens versus Styles could carry on through the summer and be the featured angle for the blue brand.
But this night is about much more than just one singles title of course. This is the chance for SmackDown Live Superstars to show what they can do under the bright lights. Though both programs are part of the same company, the SmackDown crew is surely ready to outshine the red brand on Raw.
SmackDown has eight matches to get the job done, and now it's up to WWE to ensure the booking is right for each Superstar along the way.
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English, Kickoff Match
Aiden English has been trying to find himself since the departure of his partner, Simon Gotch. The Vaudevillains were an entertaining duo in NXT but never quite achieved a high level of success on the main roster.
Now, English is left to pick up the pieces.
Unfortunately for him, his opponent on the Backlash Kickoff Show is Tye Dillinger. The Perfect 10 was also an entertaining star in NXT, but his arrival on the main roster has been met with much more warmth than that of English.
Fans love the "10" chant, and Dillinger is getting over as a result.
Of course, the jury is still out on just how good Dillinger will be on the main roster. Could he burn out like other NXT talents before him? Or will he take advantage of the situation and maximize his minutes every time he's on TV?
If he does, then the sky should be the limit for him. But it all has to begin somewhere, and that means a win at Backlash is just the first step of a much longer journey.
The Pick: Tye Dillinger
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan
Luke Harper and Erick Rowan were a destructive force together, but apart, they're just destructive.
Harper and Rowan are destined to feud because of their Wyatt Family roots. They're the perfect opponents for each other due to their similarities, and they will forever be connected thanks to The Eater of Worlds. But now it's about establishing them as singles stars.
Harper arguably has a better upside of the two men. He's farther ahead in terms of overall ability and ring psychology. He's also had more main-event opportunities, in which he's always come ready to impress. But fans shouldn't sleep on Rowan.
Rowan has a great chance of doing something in the company as well.
The best part about these two is they can grow together. Feuding with other stars will allow them to grow independently of each other. But coming together can still be a good thing for them.
Rowan does have potential to get some wins under his belt and become a major star on SmackDown Live, but this one should go to Harper.
The Pick: Luke Harper
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
This is one match that doesn't seem to have any real rhyme or reason.
Sami Zayn versus Baron Corbin appears to be happening because Zayn needed an opponent. Corbin has been featured as a top heel in the making, but he's slid a bit in recent weeks. So instead of booking him against the next top star, WWE instead put Zayn in the spot.
Not only has Zayn not been featured as a top player, he also currently has no direction.
Though fans are surely looking for some depth to this angle, it could wrap up as soon as Backlash ends. That means this is a throwaway match, so the WWE faithful should just sit back and enjoy the ride. The drawback to that of course is that neither man will get much out of it.
The biggest loser is Zayn because, if he does not go over, then he's back where he was before. It seems he has no identity without Kevin Owens, and the company has done very little to rectify that.
Corbin has come much too far to slow down now. He should pick up the win at Backlash, then move on to the next opponent.
The Pick: Baron Corbin
Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Naomi vs. Natalya, Carmella and Tamina
Of the three championship matches booked at Backlash, the SmackDown Women's Championship is not one of them.
That's a curiosity to fans who have grown accustomed to seeing the title defended on pay-per-view. Naomi is the current titleholder of course, and she could have been booked against anyone from Charlotte Flair to Tamina Snuka.
However, WWE is presenting a 6-Woman Tag Team Match instead.
At the very least, six women will get on the Backlash card. Naomi will be tagging with Charlotte and Becky Lynch to take on Tamina, Natalya, and Carmella. While it's unknown what direction WWE will take with Naomi after this one is over, it is a great chance for fans to see how each of the three heels would fare against her.
Of course, the match many want to see is Charlotte versus Naomi.
But as long as the two are playing nice, it may not happen any time soon. Instead, Naomi will have to make do with one of the three women standing across from her team at Backlash. One of those three could even pin her to get the win and set up her next title defense.
The Pick: Natalya, Carmella and Tamina
The Usos vs. Breezango, SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
Breezango was the little joke that could.
Tyler Breeze and Fandango were a manufactured tag team. Rather than just signing an established duo to strengthen the tag team division, WWE instead chose to put two wayward guys together. The end result is Breezango.
But now Breezango has the chance to take over SmackDown Live's tag scene.
The Usos are defending their championships, but could WWE give Breezango such a big level of responsibility when they're treated as a silly throwaway gimmick?
Anything can happen in WWE of course, so Breezango should not be considered the long shot they originally appeared.
The best part about them is that they're actually starting to connect to the SmackDown Live audience. With that, they have the opportunity to do great things, and it could begin at Backlash.
The Pick and New SmackDown Tag Team Champions: Breezango
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler
The King of Strong Style is ready to claim his throne.
Shinsuke Nakamura is finally making his in-ring debut on a main-roster pay-per-view, and it could not have come soon enough for many fans. Nakamura has always had the ability to make it on a larger stage than NXT, and now he has the chance to do just that.
Dolph Ziggler may be standing in his way, but he won't be for long.
Ziggler has been the workhorse of WWE for several years, so giving him first crack at Nakamura only made sense. Ziggler's latest heel turn gave him more spotlight than he's had in a while, and now he will get another chance to show off with the whole world watching.
He couldn't ask for a better opponent than Nakamura.
This is just the first step for The King of Strong Style. Monday Night Raw belongs to Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, but SmackDown Live is wide open. Nakamura has the potential to become the No.2 guy or perhaps the top guy on the blue brand.
It all starts with his win over Ziggler at Backlash.
The Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal, WWE Championship Match
Randy Orton should have an easy night at Backlash.
After all, many fans are aware that WWE is expanding its reach in India, so Jinder Mahal's main-event booking is just an extension of that. Once Mahal's mini-run is over, he will go back to the midcard and Orton can go back to working future Hall of Fame talents.
But what if that doesn't happen?
What if Mahal actually does the unthinkable and wins the WWE Championship from Orton? It's a thought that many surely don't want to consider, but anything can happen in WWE. The company may be deciding to take a whole new direction with an unproven main-event talent.
Where does that leave The Viper?
Orton can rebound and move on, or he can come back and feud with Mahal after Backlash. The point is that Orton doesn't necessarily need to win in order to protect himself or his character. WWE can continue on with Mahal and keep pushing him to new heights when Backlash is over.
The Pick and New WWE Champion: Jinder Mahal
Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles, WWE United States Championship Match
AJ Styles versus Kevin Owens may not be about Backlash; it could be about SummerSlam.
SmackDown Live has a potential feud of the year candidate on its hands. Both Owens and Styles are excellent in the ring, and both are very aware of how to entertain between the ropes. They have great chemistry, and they both have a chance to steal the show at Backlash.
This one won't end on May 21 however; it could carry them through the summer.
It's to WWE's benefit that this rivalry continue; there are just too many positives for Owens and Styles to keep working together after Backlash is over.
KO is the heel fans love to hate, and he's only just getting started in his latest United States Championship run. Styles is quite possibly the best wrestler in the world, and he could become the WWE champion again sooner rather than later.
When two talents of this caliber come together, magic can happen.
That's exactly what fans will see at Backlash. This is two of WWE's finest going head-to-head in what should be the match of the night. Owens will likely retain his title, but that will be merely a footnote for the night.
KO vs. AJ is the match that will define Backlash, and the future will be brighter because of it.
The Pick and Still WWE United States Champion: Kevin Owens
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com