WWE Backlash preview: Jinder Mahal, Breezeango get title shots, Nakamura makes debut

Jinder Mahal gets a shot at Randy Orton and the WWE championship at Backlash. Courtesy of WWE

For the first time since WrestleMania, the stars of SmackDown will compete in a pay-per-view.

On Sunday at Backlash, hopeful performers Jinder Mahal and Breezeango will be going for their first shot at gold, and if successful, these outcomes could change the landscape of Tuesday Night's show for some time.

How will things play out? Here's what we expect to transpire in front of what should be a highly engaged crowd at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois:

Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (kickoff match)

We've seen very little of Dillinger since making his WWE main-roster debut two days after WrestleMania, which is somewhat surprising. The Perfect 10, a popular NXT star, has been in the ring with only Curt Hawkins and English since joining SmackDown. Perhaps the strategy is to develop him carefully, but the questionable booking and overall absence have done little to build on the initial excitement.

As for English, let's face it, his sole role these days is to be that initial stepping-stone for his opponents to achieve greater things. His two most recent matches, both losses against Dillinger, have lasted a total of 6 minutes and 1 second.

It's safe to say English has not thrived after an auspicious start with Vaudevillian tag-team partner Simon Gotch. Since Gotch and the company went their separate ways, English has been left with a singles career that hardly warrants jobber status. But, hey, while he's no Lillian Garcia, let's not discount English's potential operatic singing career.

Prediction: Dillinger wins, but it will take more than 6 minutes, 1 second.

Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan

Former Wyatt family members Harper and Rowan are both looking for some momentum in their singles career. It looked for some time as if Harper had gotten over the midlevel hump with a brief stint as the WWE Championship No. 1 contender, but for whatever reason, creative quickly went in another direction.

Perhaps not ready yet for that level, Harper had won over the fans, and more so, he displayed some excellent, if not surprising, in-ring skills.

As for Rowan, he's a mountain of a man but was clearly last in line during his stint with the Wyatts. Outside an impromptu six-second loss against The Rock at WrestleMania 32, Rowan has never been involved in a pay-per-view singles match.

Prediction: Harper wins in what is hopefully a first step back into a relevant singles career.

Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin

A last-minute add to the card, this match would appear as a way to keep Corbin relevant. The Lone Wolf was already relegated to the kickoff match at WrestleMania, and as one of the future stars in this business, Corbin needs a way to stay in the spotlight.

That said, he has had very few meaningful narratives in the WWE, and when all signs appeared he would be taking the Intercontinental title from Dean Ambrose in Orlando, Corbin surprisingly fell in that match, setting back any kind of momentum he had.

Unfortunately for Zayn, his current role has been more of a "Rudy" story gone bad. He tries and tries and tries but ultimately always gives way to the meaner, badder opponent. Look no further than his current beefs against Braun Strowman and Mahal. Expect nothing different come Sunday at Backlash.

Prediction: Corbin wins, plain and simple.

The Usos vs. Breezango

Quick, who are the longest-reigning champs in the WWE? You guessed it, the Usos at 144 days (as of Friday) and counting. Of course, they've hardly seen much action of late and have spent more time talking up a big game.

The Usos are much better suited as a heel team, and their level of execution cannot be understated. The athleticism and near-perfect teamwork in multiple bouts against American Alpha were top notch.

But they have one problem. In less than a month, Breezango has become the in-favor performers in the WWE. Their "Fashion Files" spoofs are creative and laugh-out-loud funny. Their in-ring work has been smooth, albeit we have yet to see them toil in a 10- to 15-minute match.

Bottom line is, we can't get enough of Tyler Breeze and Fandango, and their presence alone is must-see TV. It's time for a title change.

Prediction: Breezango wins and holds the tag-team titles through SummerSlam, if not much longer.

Naomi, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch vs. The Welcome Committee

On paper, the credentials between these two teams could not be more disparate. There's little denying the star power of Charlotte, Becky and Naomi. This faction is led by Flair, a four-time women's champ who has been a headline act since making her main-roster debut in 2015.

However, she has lost some momentum since joining SmackDown. Her brief encounter against Naomi didn't gain much traction, so now Charlotte has decided to join teams with the current champ and another former rival, Lynch. However, given Flair's self-serving past, there's more than a hint of evidence she won't be able to coexist with her teammates.

The Welcome Committee seemed more of a stretch at first, especially given that Natalya, Tamina and Carmella have never spent much time outside mid-card narratives. But it's clear that SmackDown needs to build its heel women, especially after losing Alexa Bliss to Monday Night Raw.

The trio works well together, as we've seen in the past few weeks. It's hard to imagine any of them, outside possibly Carmella, who is still relatively new to the business, breaking out any kind of meaningful singles career, but as a team, there is some growing clout. Any kind of momentum they can gain at this point will be a benefit to the SmackDown moving forward.

Prediction: The Welcome Committee wins after Charlotte and team entangle in an intra-squad beef, perhaps one leading the Queen to turn on her teammates.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler

Ah, Nakamura, finally the WWE universe gets a chance to see what you can do against the big boys in this business. A two-time NXT champ, Nakamura has not wrestled since being called up to SmackDown just days after WrestleMania.

He's been involved in some promos and pre-taped teases, but the former New Japan wrestling star will get his first chance to show off his vast skills in front of a big crowd at the Allstate Arena.

Speaking of "show off," Ziggler is the perfect initial opponent for Nakamura. Although Ziggler has had a near-impossible time gaining any kind of winning momentum outside a brief Intercontinental title run, which he lost a year ago at Backlash, he is an exciting performer with an even greater gift for selling a storyline.

This feud between the two won't last long, as Nakamura is destined for great things, and quickly.

Prediction: Nakamura wins, in a match that could be the highlight of the show. We then expect to see him in a long-standing feud against Kevin Owens that will culminate at SummerSlam.

Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles

It was at this event a year ago that Styles won his first and, to date, only WWE Championship, beginning an upward trajectory that led to what most consider an MVP 2016 season.

But Styles has largely been without a compelling beef for some time. His clash with SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon at WrestleMania, stellar as it was, seemed out of desperation to get Styles on the card more than anything else.

On Sunday, Styles has an opportunity to secure his first United States belt, but more important, he will be paired up against a high-quality opponent in Owens, who should make Styles look even better.

Owens has spent little time on the WWE main roster without a title in tow. He has already had five stints as a champion, most notably the 188 days he spent as the Universal champ while on Monday Night Raw. Owens is the No. 1 heel on SmackDown, but there is a small concern of a letdown after a sensational storyline and in-ring series against friend-turned-enemy Chris Jericho came to an end.

But given Owens' natural talent and ability to engage the crowd with his words, the chances are slim that he won't continue to be a major player. For what it's worth, Owens has never lost to Styles in a televised match (3-0).

Prediction: Owens wins, but only because Styles will be better served vying for the World Championship title, which we predict will come at Money in the Bank on June 18.

Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship

The rise of Mahal came out of nowhere, but in the past few weeks, he has shown he could be a bona fide heel in this business, especially if he figures out a way to get fans more engaged. His anti-American shtick isn't new, nor is it very compelling, but if he can tone down what certainly seems like a forced act and let his natural villain persona shine through, Mahal could enjoy a long, successful ride in the spotlight.

Still, while the Mahal push feels hurried, he's here and vying for his first WWE Championship. Is creative ready to let him take the next step and be king of SmackDown?

The credentials between Mahal and Orton couldn't be more vast. Orton is a 13-time champ and still one of the most popular performers in the business, but he's been stuck in eye-rolling storylines for months, which has done little to augment his character. It's difficult to imagine Orton and Mahal taking this feud into the summer. A change in direction seems necessary for Orton, even if it means losing his title Sunday.

One ominous sign for Orton, according to ESPN Stats & Information: Orton has lost eight of his past nine main-event pay-per-view matches. Of course, there's a good chance Owens and Styles will be the final match on the card.

Prediction: Mahal, with the help of his cronies, the Singh Brothers, immediately setting up a Styles-Mahal feud for the coming weeks.