What do you anticipate will be the biggest surprise of the night?
Joseph Nardone: This is a tough one, but only because I am not sure it would be an actual surprise.
Anyway, I have the team of Heath Slater and Rhyno (Slyno?) winning the SmackDown Tag Team Championship after American Alpha somehow bungles The Usos’ attempt to win the belts.
Other than that, I don’t see a ton of shocking things happening. Obviously, this is WWE’s first attempt (or re-attempt, I guess) at a SmackDown-only Network Special, so all stops might be brought out to help make it feel special. Even then, though, there’s really nothing up the company’s sleeve currently at its disposal to do something so crazy.
Brandon Jackson: The surprise of the night will be Bray Wyatt beating Randy Orton clean. It seems before every Wyatt pay-per-view match we say, “he really needs to win this.” That statement is always true, and Sunday is no different. They can save face with Orton saying he’s still not 100 percent. But in order to make Bray Wyatt one of the featured performers on Smackdown, he needs to beat Randy Orton with no shenanigans involved. I believe it will happen.
Adam O’Brien: The Miz going over cleanly. The Intercontinental Champion has had new life breathed into him since SummerSlam, so to take the strap off him at this point would be a wasted opportunity. The thing is, with all the talk about Miz being a coward and wrestling a soft style, to see him win the match without resorting to typical dirty antics would be huge for both his career and the championship’s image. It’s not something we’d usually expect of The Miz, especially in such a big match, but it would be the best move for his future on the blue brand going forward.
Ronnie Rowlands: None spring to mind. This PPV has been so hurriedly built up that I expect it to play out like a regular edition of SmackDown. But, let’s be speculative about The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler. It’s odd that this whole thing started with a huge blowout at Daniel Bryan from The Miz, yet the SmackDown GM has had little else to say. The WWE keeps a firm grip on any lightning it catches in a bottle. Perhaps the relative silence is going to end with some sort of interference…?
Does the women’s division have enough steam to carry on past the six-pack challenge?
JN: I think we are getting close. Carmella’s heel turn was important. So, too, was the return of Nikki Bella. Coupled that in with the rest of the roster being mostly young and still developing, it is my belief that we are in the early stages of a really good SmackDown women’s division.
To be clear about this: Most of this all hinges on how the company handles the division on the first SmackDown after Backlash. Do the women still get multiple bouts her episode? Or are we just having one woman take a turn each month to win the title?
BJ: Yes. The championship will help carry feuds along, and the writers have done a good job building this division up from almost nothing. They won’t have to include all six women in the championship storyline either so that will help as well. Eventually, there will have to be some signings or call-ups, but for now, there is enough talent to hold down the fort in the Smackdown women’s division.
AO: Provided they keep the championship away from Nikki and Carmella, I think it does. The WWE could easily keep that rivalry going separately from the title picture, since the exposure it’s given Carmella thus far has been great. Pair that feud with a champion like Becky Lynch continuing either of her rivalries with Alexa Bliss and Natalya, and I think the division will do just fine for now. All they really need is to support at least two separate stories each week to give the ladies of SmackDown a fair shot, and they certainly have the tools required to do that.
RR: Sure it does. The company made a mistake in not allowing each woman on its roster to flourish, with several weeks being wasted on Eva Marie’s nonsense. The six-pack challenge, however, is a way of giving everyone their own spotlight, and since a few of the wrestlers (Naomi and Alexa Bliss in particular) haven’t really developed, I expect that we’ll see a one on one feud of some sort to emerge from this match. The women’s division can take it from there. Let’s go with Bella-Carmella as a surefire singles feud for a start.
Call it: Does WWE pull the trigger on an AJ Styles championship run here?
JN: I sure hope so. Dean Ambrose is about as interesting to watch wrestle in the ring as it is to hear someone read the dictionary verbatim.
Plus, it is almost always better for heels to be the world champions. Considering Ambrose’s run has been rough, at best, Styles is not only the right man to win the title, but can help save the SmackDown main event scene from what it has been. All of that being a more roundabout way of saying that Ambrose is a disaster.
Honestly, I’m just here for the Ambrose slander.
BJ: I believe WWE will, because all signs point to that happening. Dean Ambrose has been losing steam as world champion, and it seems something has been missing from his title reign. AJ Styles beat John Cena clean last month, and that still means something. The last few people to beat Cena clean were champions after doing so. Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar and Alberto Del Rio beat Cena for a championship. And right now just feels like Styles’ time. He’s the best wrestler in the company, he’s paid his dues, and it is time to strike while the iron is hot for Styles.
AO: No. AJ Styles is going to win the championship someday soon, but I just don’t think tonight will be his night. As great as it would be to see him round out his extraordinary career with a WWE World Championship win at Backlash, seeing how so many in the WWE’s fanbase is betting against Dean Ambrose has me thinking he’s going to win. If that’s the case, they’ll need to be careful with how they go about having Styles take the loss, because if enough fans expect to see a new champion in “The Phenomenal One,” then Ambrose might suffer the wrath of some angry fans if he retains.
RR: No. AJ Styles will always be a top guy, and there is little that can be done to knock him down when the fans are so behind him. Ambrose, on the other time, is in a precarious spot and could slip back down at any point. After putting on a few matches that have been lackluster to say the least, this needs to be Ambrose’s time to shine as a wrestler. He definitely needs it. I can hear the crowds becoming a little more muted at the sight of him as the weeks go by.