By Chuck Carroll
Jinder Mahal and Breezango are in title matches. I repeat, Jinder Mahal and Breezango are in title matches. How often can you say that? WWE Backlash is providing that potentially once-in-a-lifetime card on Sunday.
I will give WWE credit for shaking this up and not falling into the post-WrestleMania stale storyline trap. The creative team is really working hard to put fresh storylines. SmackDown Live remains a top draw on Tuesday night’s cable lineup, and it is obvious that the writers are succeeding here. My only concern is that pushing acts like Mahal and Breezango at the same time is a bit much.
WWE is pushing expansion in India, and a champion of Indian decent would go a long way to helping the company penetrate the country’s wrestling base. For that one country it would truly be what’s best for business. But is the rest of the world ready for Mahal to carry the gold? Probably not at this moment. However, in a few more months it could be.
Helping to sort out the curious cases of Jinder Mahal and Breezango, as well as the rest of the Backlash card, are my squared-circle colleagues Scott Fishman from TV Insider and Aaron Oster from Rolling Stone.
Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal
Scott: I give WWE credit for pushing someone new in Jinder Mahal. They’ve done a nice job of building him up over the course of a few weeks, and the perception is that he is a viable contender for the WWE Champion Randy Orton. That said, chances are slim Mahal takes home the gold. Much like the situation with Breezango, I hope WWE doesn’t stop pushing Mahal as I think he has done well with the new opportunities that have come his way. Pick: Randy Orton
Aaron: WWE has to be praised for the way they’ve made Jinder Mahal this credible this quickly. Of course, that begs the question: why couldn’t they do this for any heel they want to push? Anyways, as good as Jinder looks, he’s not winning the title here. Hopefully he looks good enough that he’s not just cast to the side after this match. Pick: Randy Orton
Chuck: If you were to have said at WrestleMania that Jinder Mahal would be headlining the next SmackDown pay-per-view, you would have been laughed out of the room. But in this bizarro world we live in, that’s exactly the case. Taz told me recently that he’s onboard with a Jinder push and that he has the right pedigree to make it work. I’m more inclined to agree today than a month ago, but he’s just not a viable champion. Maybe with a little more time it would be different. It’s just a tough sell to go from obscurity to champion. Pick: Randy Orton
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) vs. Breezango
Scott: I love the fact Tyler Breeze and Fandango are getting some quality TV time with the Fashion Files. That said, I see The Usos holding on to the gold against Breezango. Here’s hoping WWE stands behind the duo of Breeze and Fandango. Pick: Breezango
Aaron: Breezango, or the Fashion Police, are simply awesome. The Fashion Files segments have been a highlight on SmackDown Live for the past few weeks, and has injected some life into a completely stagnant division. That being said, with The New Day lurking, it’s hard to see The Usos dropping the belts here. Pick: The Usos
Chuck: I’m hoping I’m wrong here, because I’ve been down with The Usos since day one-ish. However, I suspect we’re about to see change here. Tyler Breeze and Fandango deserve the gold. I just hope they don’t put them in a feud with The New Day when they return. Unicorns and fashion police would be sensory overload. Pick: Breezango
United States Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. AJ Styles
Scott: I’m not a fan of a championship hot potato, so I’m going with Kevin Owens over AJ Styles. There will most likely be some sort of shenanigans involved to lead to another match between the two. I’m not opposed to that, as they can surely tear the house down. Pick: Kevin Owens
Aaron: Payback is not the ending point between these two. They will continue feuding for the next month, and almost certainly both will be in the Money in the Bank match. Plus, the Face of America gimmick is too good to cut that short. Because of that, I see Owens winning in some underhanded way, though it is possible that AJ Styles wins via DQ or countout. Pick: Kevin Owens
Chuck: To me it makes sense to keep the Canadian Kevin Owens in place as the “Face of America” leading up to the Fourth of July. Dropping the title around Independence Day would be much more meaningful. It just so happens that July 4th falls on a Tuesday this year. Just sayin’. Pick: Kevin Owens
Six-Woman Tag Team Match
Naomi, Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch vs. The Welcoming Committee (Natalya, Carmella & Tamina)
Scott: Lame name aside, WWE seems to be behind the combination of Carmella, James Ellsworth, Tamina and Natalya. I’d enjoy for this to lead to Natalya getting another run with the women’s championship down the line. However, I’m not totally sold on Charlotte playing nice with Naomi and Becky Lynch. That will be the trio’s undoing. Pick: The Welcoming Committee
Aaron: This might be the toughest match to predict on the whole card. The question simply becomes: does one of the faces turn? They’ve been teasing it from all three of them, so it’s in play here. The other thing that’s possible is that Becky or Charlotte picks up the pin, and uses that to demand a title shot. I’ll say they save the heel turn for a future show, and the faces get the win here. Pick: Naomi, Charlotte Flair, & Becky Lynch
Chuck: Honestly, I’m torn on this one. Naomi and Charlotte are going to butt heads at some point. The only question is whether it will cost them the match or will the confrontation be saved until after the three-count. My guess is the latter, with Charlotte attacking Naomi after their arms are raised. Pick: Naomi, Charlotte Flair, & Becky Lynch
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler
Scott: I don’t think there is the question of if but how Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Dolph Ziggler in his first real big SmackDown Live match. These two have the potential to have a good match. There is a potential of a squash, with Nakamura getting a decisive victory over a top superstar in Ziggler. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Aaron: After the shaky “Michael Jackson” segment from these two several weeks back, this has gotten back on track and showed why Ziggler was a good first opponent for Nakamura. They’ve made Nakamura look strong, and you know Ziggler will sell for him like nobody else could. Nakamura should look like the star he is on Sunday night. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
Chuck: More often than not I will pick against the new guy on the main roster. WWE has a history of making guys do the job on PPV when the first arrive (see: AJ Styles). I get the feeling that Nakamura is different. This is his first step toward getting into a title picture. Pick: Shinsuke Nakamura
>>MORE: From the world of Pro Wrestling
Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin
Scott: Baron Corbin is back in the mix, and a win over Sami Zayn would help him further move up the ladder. Zayn has been the go-to guy when it comes to giving the assist when it comes to elevating talent. So expect that here. Pick: Baron Corbin
Aaron: It’s tough to see Sami Zayn moved to SmackDown and then be used in largely the same way he was on RAW. But I don’t see that trend stopping here. They’re clearly slowly moving Corbin into position for a major run at the top of the card. Sami Zayn won’t be the one to get in his way. Pick: Baron Corbin
Chuck: Sami Zayn has turned into one of those guys that just constantly gets beat up but has the heart of a lion. He’s almost like the Rudy of WWE at this point. Eventually, through adversity will come triumph. However, he won’t be carried off the field with his golden helmet held high at Backlash. Pick: Baron Corbin
Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan
Scott: Luke Harper is going to be put back on the radar here with a win. He definitely has main-event potential or at least enough clout to be a contender for the U.S. Championship. Pick: Luke Harper
Aaron: I desperately hope they start to give Luke Harper a push. He’s too good for this. However, I’m intrigued by Erick Rowan’s segment on Talking Smack. They’ve been testing out the creepy clown gimmick on house shows, and it seems to be working. So give Rowan the win here, and let’s see what he can do with this. Pick: Erick Rowan
Chuck: Harper has had a good deal of momentum and is received well by the WWE Universe. I see no reason for him not to win here. Rowan will have to hide his tears in that twisted sheep’s mask. Pick: Luke Harper
Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (Kickoff Match)
Scott: Tye Dillinger has sort of faded into the background after his initial debut. So it’s good WWE found a place for him on the card against Aiden English, someone who has recently gone solo in the absence of Simon Gotch. Can’t see the Perfect 10 not winning here with English maybe shedding a tear or two. Pick: Tye Dillinger
Aaron: I love that Aiden English has gone back to the Drama King character. That had a ton of potential in NXT in 2013. However, despite getting overshadowed in the past month, the Perfect Ten still has the higher ceiling. He wins in his first PPV encounter. Pick: Tye Dillinger
Chuck: Why Tye? Why not Tye? A win would put him back on the map a little bit, something that he could certainly use. Look for Aiden English to gain some credibility in the loss, as he continues developing a post-Vaudevillains identity. Pick: Tye Dillinger
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.