(CBSNewYork/CBS Local) — WWE’s latest pay-per-view, Backlash, is promising to have the greatest wrestling match ever. That’s a lot of pressure to put on Edge and Randy Orton, who are being tasked with living up to the billing. But the two veterans will almost certainly deliver something special on Sunday from a fan-free Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
The only match that would possibly come close to equaling that performance is the showdown between Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles in the tournament finals for the Intercontinental Championship. However, WWE is choosing to have them square off two nights earlier on SmackDown instead. Perhaps the company isn’t willing to risk having Bryan and Styles upstage the main event.
Other matches of note on the Backlash card include Asuka defending the Raw Women’s Championship against Nia Jax, Drew McIntyre defending the WWE Championship against Bobby Lashley, Jeff Hardy facing Sheamus to settle a feud that some say is hitting a little too close to home for Hardy, and a triple threat match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship featuring incumbent champs Bayley and Sasha Banks defending against The IIconics and Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross.
In all, five championships will be defended with oddsmakers unanimously favoring the current title holders.
The show comes amid another major behind-the-scenes shakeup in WWE, as Paul Heyman has been relieved of his duties as Executive Director of Raw. Bruce Prichard, who has been in charge of SmackDown, will assume Heyman’s duties. The move was announced Thursday evening.
“In an effort to streamline our creative writing process for television, we have consolidated both teams from Raw and SmackDown into one group, led by Bruce Prichard. Paul Heyman will concentrate on his role as an in-ring performer,” a statement issued by WWE read.
The decision was made by Vince McMahon, according to Mike Johnson of PWInsider. The WWE Chairman and CEO had reportedly grown frustrated with the flagship Monday night broadcast recently. The show has shed a substantial number of viewers since the coronavirus pandemic forced WWE to broadcast from an empty arena.
It is unclear whether other members of the creative staff will be let go or reassigned.
Prichard’s influence over the Raw brand will begin to be felt following Backlash, which is set for Sunday at 7pm ET. Here is a look at the card and how things may shake out.
The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever
Edge vs. Randy Orton
Will this truly be the greatest wrestling match ever? That might be asking a little bit much. But coming off of a show-stealing battle at WrestleMania, it would be no surprise if Edge and Randy Orton have one of the greatest matches of the year. For Edge, the clash marks his first true wrestling match since returning from a nine-year retirement. His previous two appearances came in this year’s Royal Rumble match and the aforementioned last man standing bout against Orton. The Rated R Superstar may have come up victorious in April, but look for The Viper to strike back here. The good news? This could set up a rubber match to break the tie and put the feud to bed. Pick: Randy Orton
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
There is only one person favored more heavily at Backlash than Drew McIntyre, because it would make zero sense for Bobby Lashley to become the champion. The drama here won’t be for the belt, but instead for the turmoil surrounding Lashley outside the ring, as MVP continues driving a wedge between Lashley and his on-screen wife Lana. Look for her to get involved and potentially cost her husband the match. How much longer they’ll be married after that is anyone’s guess. If it’s up to MVP, they’ll be filing for divorce before Raw goes on the air Monday night. Pick: Drew McIntyre
Universal Championship Handicap Match
Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Miz & John Morrison
Braun Strowman the only other person with odds greater than Drew McIntyre. The odds of either Miz or Morrison winning here are so long you couldn’t measure them with six rulers. This feud has been more comedy than anything else, but the laughs will be ending Sunday for Miz and Morrison, hey hey, ho ho. Pick: Braun Strowman
Raw Women’s Championship
Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax
Prior to undergoing double knee surgery last year, there was a time when Nia Jax appeared to be being groomed to become the next big Superstar in the women’s division. She hasn’t quite recaptured that sizzle since returning earlier this year, but it is good to see her in a title match. It’s a sign that she could once again rise to the top, but this night belongs to Asuka. Could we see an appearance by Charlotte Flair? This is the first major event in recent history where the Queen is not on the card. Her presence may affect the outcome of the match, but ultimately won’t change the results. Pick: Asuka
Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus
This is a case of art imitating life as WWE has woven Jeff Hardy’s very real substance-abuse issues into storylines. The move was somewhat controversial, but has served to create interest in their match. The devilish Celtic Warrior, Sheamus, may come out on top here. If that’s the case, don’t be surprised if we see round two between these guys in the coming weeks or at July’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view. Pick: Sheamus
Women’s Tag Team Championship
Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs. The IIconics
It is surprising that Bayley and Sasha Banks aren’t more heavily favored in this match. As of late week, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross were drawing similar odds as The IIconics, and neither were cast as particular long shots. Eventually Bayley and Sasha will implode and go from being best friends to mortal enemies battling for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. I suspect that match will come in two months at SummerSlam, which is a long time to milk a feud without having a payoff. Look for them to retain here before the wheels come off around the time of Extreme Rules. Pick: Bayley and Sasha Banks
United States Championship
Apollo Crews (c) vs. Andrade
Apollo Crews is going to retain, but it may not be 100 percent by his own doing. Former champion Andrade and Angel Garza are teetering on the edge of a breakup despite being one of Raw’s most dominant tag teams and Zelina Vega’s best efforts to keep them together. Garza will probably wind up getting involved here and somehow costing Andrade a chance to become United States Champion for a second time. Pick: Apollo Crews
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.