Singles match for the United States Championship
Two of SmackDown Live’s biggest stars battle for the blue brand’s “secondary” title.
The road to Backlash
AJ Styles’ run as SmackDown Live’s “Face That Runs The Place” is well documented by now, and his boasts that the blue brand is “The House that AJ Styles Built” have been widely accepted—especially so since he turned face after defeating Commissioner Shane McMahon at WrestleMania.
But the Superstar Shake-Up brought the United States Champion, Kevin Owens, to SmackDown, who on his very first night (April 11) immediately claimed that Tuesday nights were the new Kevin Owens’ show. This drew out Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, and finally Styles to challenge the notion. With the United States Championship cemented as a SmackDown title, the blue brand ran a number one contender’s match that night to determine who would be Owens’ first challenger.
Styles emerged the victor, but first Owens would have to get through his “former best friend” Chris Jericho. Despite losing the title at Payback on April 30—meaning Jericho would also migrate to Tuesday nights—he regained the championship only two days later, putting Jericho on the shelf in the process.
Thus, Owens’ match with Styles was once again on.
Since then, the feud hasn’t really hit the heights that most expected, with the WWE Championship program between Randy Orton and Jinder Mahal taking most of the energy on Tuesday nights. Additionally, since regaining the title Owens has heavily leaned into the “Face of America” schtick, and the generic foreign heel character has strongly negated most of Owens’ best heel traits. (The character that was on the first episode of Talking Smack during the “Shake-Up” would be having a dynamite feud with Styles—this version who speaks French “just because I can,” very not so much.)
Most recently, Owens cost Styles a match against Mahal this past Tuesday night, hitting Styles in the back of the knee with the US Championship, allowing Mahal to pin The Phenomenal One. Will the apparent knee damage play into effect tonight? Will Owens target the weakened body part with malicious intent? We will see soon enough.
What’s at stake?
Along with the United States Championship, Owens and Styles are fighting for the de facto, if not de jure, top spot on Tuesday nights. This feud has flown under the radar up to this point, so a big showing for both in Chicago will go a long way into affirming their top guy statuses.
Moreover, depending on the outcome of tonight’s WWE Championship match, it’s possible that the loser in this contest could soon find themselves in the position of trying to make the ostensible top title in the company relevant again.
Tune in to Backlash tonight to see who walks out with the gold.
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