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Backlash marks a transition point of sorts for WWE in 2020. It’s the first main-roster pay-per-view for some time without Becky Lynch, who forfeited the Raw Women’s Championship on May 11 after announcing she was pregnant.
The Man has been the company’s biggest star for the past 18 months. Her 398-day title reign is the longest by any male or female superstar since CM Punk held the WWE title for 434 days from November 2011-January 2013.
Asuka, who won the women’s Money in the Bank briefcase the night before Lynch’s announcement, was awarded the championship.
Looking at the card for Sunday’s Backlash, there are several superstars who are in positions to shine and elevate their statuses for the rest of the summer.
WWE Backlash Card
The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever: Edge vs. Randy Orton
WWE Championship: Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Bobby Lashley
Universal Championship: Braun Strowman (c) vs. The Miz and John Morrison
Raw Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Nia Jax
Women’s Tag Team Championship: Bayley and Sasha Banks (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross vs. The IIconics
United States Championship: Apollo Crews (c) vs. Andrade
Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy
Superstars Who Will Shine
Admittedly, WWE didn’t do Asuka any favors by making her first pay-per-view title defense against Nia Jax.
CEO Vince McMahon has long been obsessed with putting a giant heel in the ring against a babyface. It’s a formula that can help the face get over, but there are limitations to how good of a match The Irresistible Force can have.
Asuka’s booking since becoming champion has also been strange. She has lost both of her singles matches to Charlotte Flair, including a pinfall defeat on Monday’s episode of Raw when Jax distracted her.
Since The Empress of Tomorrow should be set up for a program with Flair leading into SummerSlam on Aug. 23, the best way to build her up as a strong champion is with a clean, decisive victory over Jax on Sunday.
Anyone who is looking for proof that WWE still knows how to get behind a Superstar would do well to examine Drew McIntyre’s past six months.
The Scot hasn’t lost a match since December’s non-televised Tribute to the Troops special when he was in a tag team with Andrade against Kevin Owens and Humberto Carillo.
Unlike the way Asuka has been booked in her brief time as champion, McIntyre has won all of his televised matches by pinfall since the Jan. 27 edition of Raw, including clean victories over Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins.
Bobby Lashley is the next superstar in line to challenge McIntyre for the WWE Championship. While being one of WWE’s most impressive-looking Superstars, The All Mighty is not in a position to become the champion right now.
McIntyre is being pushed to the moon and has done well for himself in that role as the top male star on Raw. It’s unlikely WWE will do multiple championship squash matches on pay-per-view, but there’s no reason for him to have a drawn-out struggle against Lashley.
WWE has done nothing to help Braun Strowman during his reign as universal champion, especially in his feud with The Miz and John Morrison leading into Backlash.
The main issue is the challengers have been booked as dorks throughout. They have good chemistry and could present a decent threat to The Monster Among Men. Instead, they are Nickelodeon villains who cackle when Strowman’s protein shake explodes when he opens it.
Another problem related to the titleholder is his limited wrestling ability. Like Jax, there’s only so much he’s capable of doing, but there are ways to spotlight those elements without asking him to do anything that exposes him.
When Strowman was a rising Superstar three years ago, he ran through everyone by having short matches that showed off his strength without asking him to do a lot of selling.
Based on the booking, it’s apparent WWE doesn’t take Miz and Morrison seriously as challengers. This needs to be a squash match, with Strowman destroying both men quickly to end this feud for good.