WWE Backlash 2016: SmackDown’s First Test of the Brand Split


The first Smackdown exclusive pay-per-view will reveal if the roster has the depth to provide a quality show.

Smackdown obviously got the short end of the stick after the WWE draft completed in July. However, Raw’s deeper roster makes sense since it has to fill out a three hour show every week. With Smackdown only being two hours, it doesn’t need the same roster count as Raw. But come this Sunday at Backlash, Smackdown is facing the task of filling out a show that will likely exceed three hours. With that in mind, what are their plans for booking an entertaining show with such a limited roster?

For starters, they set some stipulations this past Tuesday to help them fill the show in an entertaining way. First off, they announced that the six pack challenge for the new Smackdown Womens Championship will be an elimination match. Often a match of this type will be a one fall match to determine a winner. By making it elimination, each competitor will have to lose until there is only one left. This subtle change allows for a lengthy match that builds the anticipation of crowing a new champion. In addition, It creates opportunities to build new feuds off the eliminations that will take place. Multiple storylines is key to the women’s division going forward.

Smackdown also needs tag team champions, or better yet, a tag team rivalry, which was also put in place during last Tuesday’s show. The Usos (finally!) made a much needed heel turn by attacking American Alpha after their match. As a result, Chad Gable is unable to compete this Sunday, so a second chance match was announced between The Usos and The Hype Bros. With the winner of that match facing Rhyno and Heath Slater for the new Smackdown Tag Team Championships. Smartly, Smackdown now created two tag team tournament matches for Backlash instead of just having the one final. This addition not only helps fill out the show, but also sets up the rivalry between American Alpha and the Uso’s to continue.

More from SmackDown

Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship is a legitimate main event for any show. It’s extremely likely that they will get plenty of time to build a compelling match. The build for the match is weak. However, Styles is coming off a classic Summerslam match with Cena and comes in with plenty of heat. Besides that, only two other matches are set for Backlash.

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt has the potential to steal the show, or it could fall flat. With John Cena out, Orton is questionably the only star power on the show besides the main event. So a great performance by Orton and Wyatt could be pivotal in making Backlash a success. The only other match is the Intercontinental title match between Miz and Dolph ZIggler. Not much build for these two, but it should be interesting to see the creative direction for both coming out of this match.

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The direction has changed since the launch of the WWE Network. Pay-per-view buys now take a back seat to network subscribers as the primary measurement of success. WWE doesn’t seemed concern with stacking every card with the most star power possible. Instead, with the brand split and the additional special events added, they seem more geared toward producing quality content to add to their library. That being said, there’s still pressure to produce entertaining events that entice new subscribers. It will be interesting to see if Backlash will thrive with only the Smackdown roster.