THE superstars of SmackDown LIVE are ready to do battle at Backlash this Sunday – the blue brand’s first pay-per-view spectacular since WrestleMania.
SunSport looks back at the events leading up to the show – and predicts how the action should go down.
WWE Championship Match
Randy Orton (c) v Jinder Mahal
Background: Longtime jobber Mahal won a six-pack challenge to be named number one contender to Randy Orton’s WWE Championship.
You read that correctly – Jinder Mahal is number one contender.
And with the help of the Singh brothers, “The Maharajah” has stolen the belt, scored a pinfall over Orton, and left the champ lying after a beat down on this week’s SmackDown LIVE.
OUT OF THIS WORLD
David Luiz splashes out £1.1m on luxury bracelets for Chelsea team-mates to celebrate winning title… and gift for Abramovich is made from FIVE BILLION-year-old meteorite
Alisher Usmanov prepared to offer up to £2BILLION to take Arsenal majority control from Stan Kroenke
IN HIS SHADOW
Neymar has been told to join Manchester United by his father – to get out of Lionel Messi’s shadow
Tony Adams to Jermain Defoe: ‘If you don’t be part of this club that I am building then you can f*** off!’
DEVILS’ LITTLE ANGEL
Angel Gomes ready to become Manchester United’s youngest-ever Premier League player at 16 after starring in youth ranks
ANY ADVANCE ON £1bn?
Arsene Wenger comes clean: This will be his last Arsenal home game…of this season!
wants more dough
Man Utd star David de Gea parks in loading bay as he nips into Sainsbury’s for his shopping
LET’S GET READY TO CRUMBLE
Palace got their just desserts by staying up — thanks partly to a pre-match apple crumble
Antonio Conte is increasingly likely to make an offer to bring in Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez to Chelsea
WHATEVER THE WETHER
Tyson Fury heads to Wetherspoons for a night out before hitting a nightclub until 2am in Manchester
Gabriel Jesus: ‘I have two idols in my life: God and my mum. But the player I look up to is Ronaldo, The Phenomenon.’
Make it happen
Anthony Joshua to fight Wladimir Klitschko, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in that order, says Eddie Hearn
Like a player
Madonna’s adopted son David on song for Benfica after shining in week of training with Portuguese giants
Manchester City lining up £80m double raid for Sporting Lisbon stars William Carvalho and Gelson Martins
Manchester City set to pip rivals United to Monaco star Fabinho as they close in on £25m-rated Brazilian
deal me in
Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and ALL Premier League clubs – latest transfer news and gossip
David Moyes values Jordan Pickford at £30m… which would make Sunderland man 2nd dearest keeper EVER
Sun Sport Says: It’s time to get the belt off Orton, a boring – and outdated – choice for champion.
And though don’t want to hinder Jinder, he’s not the man for the job – his push came out of nowhere.
Credit to WWE for trying something new – and Jinder for stepping up – but you can’t go from jabroni to WWE champ like. Unless the title means absolutely nothing, of course.
We say have Orton beat Jinder, then Maharajah costs him in the next few weeks.
US Championship Match
Kevin Owens (c) v AJ Styles
Background: AJ Styles turned babyface after WrestleMania the beat Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin in a triple threat for a shot at Kevin Owens’ US title.
The storyline so far hasn’t been exactly groundbreaking – mostly KO blindsiding AJ – but every fan knows these two will have a killer match whatever the buildup is.
SunSport Says: And it seems wrong that these incredible talents are feuding over the mid-card US Championship while Jinder Mahal contends for the biggest title in wrestling.
But KO has made this feel all the more important with his stellar promos.
We don’t want to see the title change hands yet though. KO should win in a screwy finish to prolong the feud.
If WWE has the patience, this could build to a final showdown at Summerslam.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos (c) v Breezango
Background: Tyler Breeze and Fandango won a Beat the Clock Challenge to be named number one contenders.
The pair have since mocked Jimmy and Jey Uso in their “Fashion Files” skits – but can they get serious in the ring?
SunSport Says: This one’s been played mostly for laughs – the Fashion Files are genuinely hilarious – and has been more a contest of personalities so far.
(Breezango win in that department, hands down.)
And while turning the Usos heel has given them new purpose but we want to see Breezango get the win and have a much-deserved run with the titles.
A programme with The New Day – soon to to debut on SmackDown – could be comedy gold.
Shinsuke Nakamura v Dolph Ziggler
Background: Nakamura debuted on SmackDown the week after WrestleMania. He still has wrestled on the main roster – but has found himself the subject of Ziggler’s verbal assaults.
The Sun Says: The build up to this has been uneven, with some of Ziggler’s comments – comparing Nakamura to Michael Jackson and “translating” his Japanese – bordering on offensive.
Nakamura should absolutely win this – though we’ve got a sneaking feeling Ziggler is going to somehow screw him over to set up a rematch.
It shouldn’t make any difference is the long run.
Nakamura is stilled pegged as a top babyface for SmackDown – and weird promos aside, these two could put together something special in the ring.
Naomi, Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch v Natalya, Tamina & Carmella
Background: Charlotte arrived on the blue brand as part of the “superstar shake-up” and immediately targeted Women’s Champion Naomi.
But the “welcoming committee” of Natalya, Tamina, and Carmella attacked Charlotte – forcing an unlikely alliance between Charlotte, Naomi, and Becky.
SunSport Says: Charlotte should get the win here then immediately turn on Naomi to set up another shot at the title.
It would be a waste to turn her full babyface and squander her talents as the best heel in the women’s division.
Luke Harper v Erick Rowan
Background: The former Wyatt Family “brothers” battled on SmackDown last week – with Rowan getting a surprise win over Harper. Now they’re set to do battle one more time.
Sun Sport Says: WWE has tried – and failed – to push these two as singles stars before.
Harper’s been getting over this time around but Rowan feels so intrinsically tied to the Wyatt Family is hard to imagine him making it on his own.
WWE should give Harper the win to set him back on the right track – and think about how to reinvent the Rowan character.
But don’t be surprised if WWE runs out of ideas and reunites them.
Sami Zayn v Baron Corbin
Background: Corbin attacked Zayn on Talking Smack – earning himself a brief suspension – and again this week on SmackDown.
SunSport Says: These don’t feel like a good fit in the ring and should both be reaching higher than yet another mid-card feud.
Corbin is most likely to beat the long-suffering Zayn, but we want to see Sami get the win and then be somehow factored into the KO versus AJ storyline.
His history with Owens and potential chemistry with AJ could make a three-way feud for the US Championship absolute dynamite.
Watch Backlash on the WWE Network this Sunday May 21