The era of brand-specific “special events” begins Sunday night (8 p.m.) with the Smackdown-only “Backlash” on WWE Network. Although there isn’t the pressure of pay-per-view purchases, it will be interesting to see if fans will be receptive to show without some of WWE’s major stars.
Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens and fan favorites The New Day are on RAW. The lack of star power is compounded by the absence of John Cena, Smackdown’s most recognizable star.
Looking at the Backlash lineup, it’s fair to say that at least 25 percent of the participants wouldn’t appear in an all-WWE event. The silver lining in that statement is that limiting the “special events” to one brand presents opportunities for more wrestlers to shine.
Dean Ambrose and A.J. Styles would be involved in any major event. Ambrose is the WWE World Heavyweight champion. Styles, living up to his nickname, has truly been phenomenal since joining WWE.
A title change is possible Sunday. With Kevin Owens holding the WWE Universal Championship on RAW – after Finn Balor’s injury – WWE might not want two heels holding its two major titles. On the other hand, WWE might want to make a splash on its first brand-specific special event by having a major title change hands. The Styles-Ambrose feud should continue for several months, with rematches at Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series. The Greek God of Wrestling was planning to go out on a limb and predict that Styles will win the title Sunday, but, for reasons that will become clear later in this column, I’ll say that Ambrose will retain the championship.
Randy Orton, who hasn’t wrestled since being brutalized by Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, will face the mysterious Bray Wyatt. With Orton scheduled for a rematch with Lesnar on Sept. 24 in Chicago, it’s possible that Lesnar interferes at Backlash. This could result in a victory for Wyatt or a disqualification win for Orton. If Orton wins clean, it’s important for Wyatt that he gets in plenty of offense during the match.
The Miz defends the Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler. The result of this match could depend on the outcome of the WWE Heavyweight Championship match. Generally, WWE doesn’t have two heels or two good guys hold both belts. On the other hand, there is a rivalry between Ziggler and Ambrose. The two met at SummerSlam, so it’s possible that Ziggler wins the championship – finally winning the big match – which would create a rivalry between the two champions. This rivalry would elevate the Intercontinental Championship. Instead, Achilles Heel sees Miz somehow escaping with the title, furthering the “Ziggler can’t win the big match” storyline.
Two new championships will be created at Backlash. Becky Lynch, Natalya, Nikki Bella, Naomi, Carmella and Alexa Bliss will battle in an elimination match to crown the first Smackdown Women’s champion. The Greek God of Wrestling believes Lynch will win the title, showing that she’s worthy of being the first woman drafted to Smackdown. Lynch also is the only member of the trio that launched the Divas revolution – Charlotte and Sasha Banks are the others – who hasn’t won a championship.
Smackdown Tag Team champions will also be crowned. Jimmy and Jey Uso will meet the Hype Brothers (Zack Ryder, Mojo Rawley) in a battle of semifinal losers. This match was created after the Usos injured Chad Gable after losing to American Alpha (Gable and Jason Jordan) on Smackdown. The winner of the Usos-Hype Brothers match will battle Rhyno and Heath Slater for the tag team titles later at Backlash. The Usos should beat the Hype Brothers – nobody is clamoring for a Hype Brothers rematch with Rhyno and Slater – and then defeat Rhyno and Slater in the tournament final. That would set up a championship feud between the Usos and American Alpha.
Having two new champions crowned might cause WWE to have Ambrose and Miz retain their respective titles. A world title change would dilute the impact of the crowing of new women’s and tag team champions.
ROLLINS’ TURN: The apparent face turn by Seth Rollins on RAW may signify that WWE has given up on making Roman Reigns the top good guy in WWE. Rollins was a terrific heel, but his in-ring repertoire works well for a fan favorite. The purpose of Triple H’s interference in the WWE Universal Championship match may have been to turn Rollins into a face as much as it was to elevate Kevin Owens.
TERRIFIC RIVALRY: With Kevin Owens as WWE Universal champion, WWE should begin to build up Sami Zayn to the point where he will be viewed as a legitimate threat to win the championship. Owens and Zayn tore down the house at Battleground with the latest in their series of terrific matches. Perhaps their Battleground match convinced WWE to realize how awesome it would be to see Owens and Zayn battle with a major championship on the line.
SMACKDOWN IN PHILLY: You can see all of the fallout from Backlash in person Tuesday when Smackdown comes to Wells Fargo Center. If you see the Greek God of Wrestling, don’t even think of disturbing me with your ignorant shouts or by asking for an autograph.
CRUISERWEIGHT SEMIS SET: The Greek God of Wrestling continues to be impressed by the Cruiserweight Classic. This past week Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Noam Dar, and T.J. Perkins beat Rich Swann. My guess is that more people preferred the Perkins-Swann match, which was tremendous, but Achilles Heel finds Sabre’s innovative style captivating. Sabre is a thinking man’s wrestler, finding all sorts of unique counters and transitions between moves.
The Cruiserweight Classic concludes on Wednesday (9 p.m.), with the semifinals and finals taking place during a live broadcast. Sabre will square off with Gran Metalik in one semifinal. Perkins will battle Kota Ibushi in the other semifinal. Ibushi should be a heavy favorite against Perkins. The other semifinal is a tossup. Achilles Heel wishes the tournament final would be given its own show, but that’s a minor complaint about an outstanding event.
EQUAL RIGHTS: CHIKARA, which had Princess KimberLee as its Grand Champion, continues to push women wrestlers. Team Sendai Girls (Meiko Satomura, Cassandra Miyagi and DASH Chisako) defeated Team JWAP (Manami Katsu, Command Bolshoi and Hanako Nakamori) to win the King of Trios tournament – or should that be Queen of Trios?
Katsu was pinned in the final after receiving a beatdown in the semifinals from Hallowicked, Jigsaw and Icarus, who were disqualified. By the way, Joey Styles did the broadcast for King of Trios, which should be reason enough to go out of your way to watch the tournament.
SICK FEELING: Combat Zone Wrestling presents “Down With Sickness” on Saturday (Sept. 10) at 7:30 p.m. at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees as part of a doubleheader with Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU).
In the main event, Matt Tremont defends the CZW World Championship in a four-way dath match with Joe Gacy, Greg Excellent and Jonathan Gresham. Lio Rush defends the CZW Wired Championship against Joey Janela in the Chris Cash Memorial ladder match. Sami Callihan takes on Rickey Shane Page.
WSU presents Resurgence 2 earlier in the day (2 p.m.). Mia Yim challenges Cherry Bomb for the WSU World Championship, and Su Yung will face champion Chrissy Rivera for the WSU Spirit Championship.
PHILLY IS HARDCORE: House of Hardcore returns to 2300 Arena on Sat., Sept. 17 (7 p.m.). Announced matches include Ricochet vs. Sami Callihan, Chris Hero vs. Tony Nese, and Tommy Dreamer vs. Broken Matt Hardy, with Terry Funk in Dreamer’s corner and Senor Benjamin in Hardy’s corner. Funk has had some legendary moments in the 2300 Arena, as, of course, has Dreamer in the building that used to be known as the ECW Arena.