Just 48 hours since WrestleMania 34 concluded and we already have three matches confirmed for WWE's next pay per view event.
Samoa Joe will take on Roman Reigns (possibly for the WWE Universal title), Seth Rollins will defend the Intercontinental title against the Miz, and it was confirmed during Tuesday night's SmackDown Live broadcast that Randy Orton will take on the new United States Champion, Jinder Mahal, at WWE Backlash for the title. The match was made official after Orton defeated Rusev and Bobby Roode on the show.
The fact that Orton and Mahal are now fighting over the Tuesday night brand's secondary title is certainly going to surprise people. Out of the four men vying for the title in recent weeks, Rusev is the most popular with the crowd but has been left out in the cold the most. Rusev Day t-shirts have been one of the hottest selling products in the company for several weeks now and were all over the place in New Orleans.
Similarly, Roode is one of the most talented NXT call-ups of the last year but has lost considerable steam in recent months due to under-utilization and character direction. One of the problems has been the fact that his character lends itself to the heel-side while Roode has been positioned as a babyface. Look for that to change soon.
When you look at the two competitors for the U.S. title at Backlash, Orton has no doubt been one of WWE's biggest and most protected stars now for over a decade. He's always going to draw a big response from the crowd and continues to do so. However, going back to Orton as the number one contender on Tuesday night surprised a lot of people when it could have been a good opportunity to elevate a new talent.0comments
Similarly, new U.S. champion Jinder Mahal had a long run with the WWE title last year, a move which drew criticism nearly across the board from fans and journalists alike. Even so, it was something fresh that was interesting for a while before being dragged on for far too long until eventually dropping the belt to Styles. Mahal's run failed to move the needle much as it pertained to ticket sales for a big tour of India that WWE produced late last year, so much so that one event had to be cancelled due to slow ticket sales. In light of that, the title run had to be seen as underwhelming.
Regardless, Orton and Mahal (who also wrestled constantly in 2017) will go at it one more time before we get something fresh in the U.S. title division. When that happens, the belt may not even be on SmackDown any longer as next week's superstar shake-up could change the title picture considerably.