As noted, WWE recently announced that Raw and SmackDown Live will no longer have exclusive pay-per-views following WrestleMania, and Backlash is being promoted as the first non-Big Four event that will commence these changes. WWE also decided to drop two pay-per-views off the line-up, after already reducing the number of events from last year.
Over the past few months, SmackDown Live experienced several times where the ratings took a major hit. For instance, the October 31 episode of SmackDown Live had a staggering 21% drop from the previous week, going from 2.699 million viewers to 2.119. The go-home show dropped from the previous week, garnering 2.580 million viewers, and it dropped even further for the post-Royal Rumble show.
A picture was posted that showed the crowd attendance of SmackDown Live. In addition to one side of the arena being nearly empty, the pic also showed a large section that was tarped off.
The negative trend continues, as last week's episode of SmackDown Live drew 2,449,000 viewers, which was down 56K from the previous week which drew 2,505,000.
The top matches for the Fastlane event on March 11 in Columbus, Ohio is a five-way match for the WWE Championship pitting AJ Styles defending against Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin. The winner of this match will face Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania. Shane McMahon also announced on SmackDown Live that United States Champion Bobby Roode will defend against Randy Orton.