This Sunday marks the first exclusively branded WWE Pay-Per-View since the company decided to revisit the brand extension concept back in July. WWE Backlash will emanate from Richmond, Virginia on the WWE Network and PPV. The short three week break between Summerslam and Backlash will be more common moving forward, as the company has expanded their PPV schedule in 2016 to complement the two brands. Taking place for the first time since 2009, Backlash currently features six matches, but more may be added prior to the show. The WWE World Championship match between defending champ Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles is headlining the card, but all four of Smackdown’s titles will be on the line. The betting odds for the card were released over night at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Continue reading for the odds, and thoughts, on each match.
WWE World Championship Singles Match Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles Opening Odds: AJ Styles (-150), Dean Ambrose (+110) Current Odds: AJ Styles (-265), Dean Ambrose (+185)
Dean Ambrose has been the champion since the Money in the Bank PPV in June. He first captured the MitB briefcase in a six-man ladder match, and then cashed it in the same night on Seth Rollins — who had just defeated Roman Reigns — to become champion. His reign has been decent thus far, as he’s been booked fairly strong, only losing two matches since becoming the champion. One was a tag team match, and the other was due to a DQ, so neither really gives any indication that he’s weak heading into his defense against AJ Styles, and he has defended the belt at each of the last two PPVs cleanly. AJ Styles on the other hand has been all over the map, despite putting on some of the best in-ring work on the roster in 2016. Styles was in TNA (I don’t want to call them a competing promotion, because TNA is generally garbage, but let’s just say they’re not the WWE) for many years before coming to the WWE this year, and it’s rare to see a guy from another organization get a big push in the WWE, so that could explain some of the mixed booking. Styles lost at Battleground, the first PPV following the brand split, and his big wins prior to that were often due to outside help. Styles was even the one pinned by Dolph Ziggler in the match that would determine Ambrose’s challenger at Summerslam. However, the WWE seems to have flipped a switch with him at Summerslam, as he beat John Cena clean, and has won the last couple of weeks on TV. I think Ambrose retains here for a couple of reasons. First, he’s only about two and a half months into his title reign, and the WWE has generally tried to give guys a longer run with the title, especially in their first reign. There have been some circumstances with injuries (Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins) and transitional champions (Sheamus and Triple H) over the past couple of years which have made for some truncated runs, but neither of those are the case for Ambrose. Second, Styles hasn’t been booked strongly enough for long enough to really move into a title run. He’s also just starting to really turn himself into a heel, which points to this being more than a one PPV program between the two. Finally, Ambrose has gotten the upper hand on Styles in most of their encounters, except the go home Smackdown this week, where Styles landed a swift kick to Ambrose’s family jewels (as Good Ol’ JR would say), and generally whoever goes over on the go home show, doesn’t on the PPV.
Smackdown Women’s Championship (Vacant) Six-Pack Challenge Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Carmella vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Nikki Bella Opening Odds: Becky Lynch (+115), Nikki Bella (+195), Natalya (+300), Alexa Bliss (+500), Carmella (+1000), Naomi (+1000) Current Odds: Nikki Bella (-175), Becky Lynch (+170), Natalya (+775), Alexa Bliss (+1350), Carmella (+2600), Naomi (+2600), Field vs. Bella (+135)
First, don’t ask me what a ‘Six-Pack Challenge’ is, or how it’s different from a regular six-person match. I don’t know, and I don’t care. I understand that with this title being newly created that they want to give all of the women on Smackdown some exposure, but it’s been too much, too soon, and that makes it feel like none of them have really gotten a chance to shine. Individually, several of these women are good workers, but everything has been so muddled leading up to this match, I have no sense of how it’s going to go. Becky Lynch was the favorite to win before early money came in on Nikki Bella, but I think the division would be at it’s best if they were chasing the belt instead. The ‘Field’ lines haven’t been released yet for this match, but when they do the only things I’d consider betting are the field against the two favorites. Nikki hasn’t been back long enough to put the title on her, and Becky’s whole schtick is that she’s never been able to make it to the top. Put the belt on the only decent heel they have right now, Natalya, and then work a tighter program with her and Becky to finally get Becky over. Also, as a sidenote: It was nice to see the WWE try to lead this week’s Smackdown off with a segment for the women, but it was executed awfully. Natalya, Nikki Bella and Alexa Bliss are the only ones who should be anywhere near a microphone out of these six right now. Please don’t let Carmella do her horrible Enzo impersonation anymore.
Smackdown Tag Team Championship (Vacant) Tournament Semi-Finals: The Usos vs. The Hype Bros Tournament Finals: Heath Slater & Rhyno vs. (Semi-Final Winner) Opening Odds: Slater & Rhyno (-180), Field (+140) Current Odds: Slater & Rhyno (+170), Field (-230)
Heath Slater has been one of the best, consistent stories the WWE has had on TV since the brand split. For those who aren’t familiar, the WWE held a draft to determine who would be on which show, and Slater wasn’t drafted at all. Since then he’s been showing up at Smackdown and Raw trying to get a contract. Eventually he was put into the tournament to crown the first Smackdown Tag Team Champions, and if he wins it he gets his contract. His (now) partner Rhyno was given a contract by virtue of beating Slater previously in a match. In their first two matches, Slater has been in trouble both times, then made the hot tag to Rhyno who has hit a gore for the win. It’s been fun, and the crowd has gotten behind it. After this week’s Smackdown, it looked like Slater & Rhyno would have a banged up American Alpha to face in the finals. However, an injury (kayfabe) means that a replacement semi-final will take place on Backlash with the winner facing Slater & Rhyno for the belts. I could see the new heel Usos really getting some heat by winning both matches and keeping Slater from getting his contract, but in the end I think the Slater story is just a bit too good for the WWE not to carry it all the way to the end. It also wouldn’t shock me if Jason Jordan (the healthy half of American Alpha) gets involved to keep The Usos from winning and building on what could be a very solid tag team feud moving forward. As of right now, Slater & Rhyno at +150 is my only bet, but it looks like I should have waited a bit longer to make the play.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt Singles Match Opening Odds: Randy Orton (-170), Bray Wyatt (+130) Current Odds: Randy Orton (-270), Bray Wyatt (+190)
There are many things I don’t get about WWE booking. This feud is among them (along with pretty much all of Bray Wyatt’s feuds). There’s no point to it. There’s no reason for it. I think Wyatt has wrestled one match on TV in the past month (and he lost it). Orton hasn’t wrestled at all, as they’ve been waiting for the gash that Brock Lesnar opened on his skull to heal up. That means this feud has been forced to rely on promo work to build it up, and while some people enjoy Wyatt’s work on the mic, I’m not one of them. My only thought about this fight is that with John Cena away filming Total Bellas and generally working a lighter schedule, Smackdown needs a secondary babyface after Dean Ambrose. Orton could (kinda) fill that role, although I’ve always preferred him as a heel. I guess Orton wins because of that? This is the type of line that I really have no clue on, so if either guy is +300 or so on Friday, he’s worth adding to a round robin as this one could flip for any number of reasons, and the feud has no direction.
WWE Intercontinental Championship The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler Opening Odds: The Miz (-530), Dolph Ziggler (+350) Current Odds: The Miz (-475), Dolph Ziggler (+325)
The only line to open with a fairly significant favorite, and rightfully so. The Miz is finally starting to get a bit of recognition for being one of the best (and only true heels) on the roster. The Intercontinental Title is usually a belt where a guy that people love to hate is a good champion, because the belt has more flexibility with weird and gimmicky finishes than a world title. I expect something like that to happen in this match, with The Miz eventually pinning Dolph Ziggler, or getting a win by count out or DQ. This has been another one-sided feud with The Miz not willing to engage Ziggler at any point, so when he does he’ll manage to escape and continue his lengthy title reign. As for Ziggler, I can’t tell if the WWE is setting him up for a heel turn or not. He’s gone from earning a shot at the world title and making himself look strong leading up to that title shot, to losing his only TV match since Summerslam. If he loses to The Miz as well, it could be enough to make him snap and come back as a desperate heel, or they could just continue doing what they always do with Ziggler, and have him as a solid worker who holds down the mid-card and can be called upon when needed to step up. Either way, I don’t see him leaving with a belt around his waist Sunday night.
While I haven’t added any additional bets yet, it’s almost getting to the point where a round robin of Ambrose, Field vs. Bella, Slater & Rhyno, and Wyatt is tempting.