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Backlash is this Sunday, but it doesn’t feel like it.
The build has been fairly lackluster as of late, and everyone on the roster appears to be conserving their energies. Perhaps as the shows get closer to SummerSlam, things will pick up again. But right now, everything is in a holding pattern, and everything about Backlash seems much too predictable. The most exciting match on the card is not the main event but the mid-card feud between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens.
Backlash is a minor pay-per-view, and this week’s rumors reinforce that perception. Here is the most recent, interesting WWE gossip that Bleacher Report has compiled.
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One of the best parts of attending a WWE pay-per-view is watching a title change in person. But according to Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats, it is currently possible that no belts will change hands on Sunday.
WWE Creative probably wants to establish some stability on the blue brand; a lot of roster newcomers, thanks to the Superstar Shakeup, are still finding their niches.
Jinder Mahal winning the WWE Championship would be too much too soon, and Kevin Owens cannot afford to lose the United States title again after losing it to Chris Jericho. Barring a last-minute change (which can always happen with a booker like Vince McMahon), Backlash is shaping up to be a fairly uneventful evening.
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Kurt Angle announced on Monday that Braun Strowman will be out of action for six months while he recovers from elbow surgery.
But according to Ortman, Strowman could be back sooner. The reason WWE announced such a long time frame was to keep his return a surprise. Strowman will probably challenge Brock Lesnar for the universal title at SummerSlam once he’s back in action.
This is relieving news. A six-month layoff would have stopped Strowman’s push dead in its tracks. Up until last week, Strowman was the best thing about Monday nights; his weekly beatdowns were the stuff that highlight reels are made of.
He’s also one of the few men on the roster who can stand toe-to-toe with the Beast and still look formidable. Strowman offers the best chance to pin Lesnar and put the title back into circulation on the red brand. And it’s about time. It’s been missing in action for far too long.
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The original plan was to have Strowman fight Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire. But now that Strowman is injured, the Beast will need a new opponent for the July PPV.
According to Wrestler Observer Radio (h/t Rajah.com), Lesnar’s new opponent will be either Seth Rollins or Finn Balor. Both men would make for intriguing matchups. They cannot outmuscle Lesnar, but they can outsmart or outlast him. The best way to book this match is to have Lesnar’s opponent work on a limb, slowing him down and softening him for the kill.
And hopefully, after the five-way contender match at Extreme Rules, Lesnar’s opponent will be Balor. He has the greatest claim to a title shot; technically, he never lost it, and he was right on the cusp of a massive push before Rollins’ buckle-bomb dislocated his shoulder at SummerSlam 2016.
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Lastly, there’s news of two WWE signings.
According to David Meltzer of Wrestling Observer, Io Shirai has signed a contract with WWE. One of the biggest, longest-tenured talents on Japanese promotion World Wonder Ring Stardom, Shirai will be starting her training at the WWE Performance Center shortly.
And Sean Rueter of Cageside Seats reports that Kennadi Brink has signed with WWE, not as a wrestler, but as a referee. She previously wrestled in several promotions, including Ring of Honor and Shimmer, and she even wrestled a couple of enhancement talent matches in NXT.
Shirai increases the size of WWE’s already formidable Japanese faction. Hideo Itami. Shinsuke Nakamura. Asuka. The company has a good eye—and a deep bank account—for the best foreign talent.
Brink poses some interesting questions. Is she going to be officiating men’s matches? Will she take more bumps due to her background? And will she eventually transition into being a wrestler? It’ll be interesting to watch her development, especially if she starts officiating on the main roster.