May 15, 2015 by Joey Keogh
Is it crazy to think we’re, generally, more excited for Payback than Wrestlemania? Don’t get me wrong, the biggest show on earth ended up being much better than anticipated, but the build-up sucked and the card was absolute trash. Extreme Rules then followed it up by going one step further, with both a shitty build-up and a shitty show. Hopefully, Payback will straddle a line somewhere in the middle (we know by now not to wish for perfection) and, considering the last two RAWs have upped the ante considerably, giving us some hope for what’s to come, then we may even be set for another surprisingly great show. All things considered, the card is ridiculously fucking packed:
Pre-Show: Tag Team Match: Axelmania & Macho Mandow Vs. The Ascension
It was disappointing to see Sandow following up a rousing promo, about how he’s shedding his previous skins to become a new version of himself (and getting ridiculously fucking over in the process), by almost immediately reverting back to the same ol’ shtick he was peddling pre-Mizdow. His Macho Mandow angle is funny – at least, as funny as Axelmania, which isn’t that funny – but it’s much less than he deserves. Sandow is more than capable of getting over on his own terms, as himself, and whether this is a screw-up on by the writing staff, or cold feet on his part, it’s sad to see him not just relegated to the pre-show, but stuck with a bullshit non-gimmick that belies his obvious and proven talent as a performer. Regardless, this should, at the very least, be an entertainingly silly match. The Ascension have been wasted since their main-show debut so it’s good to see them get a little bit of the spotlight. I can’t see this particular bout leading to anything too interesting long term, but then again, Axel not making it to the ring at the Royal Rumble this year turned out to be a minor, yet nicely diverting story-line in its own right, so who knows?
Predicted winner: Macho Mandow
King Barrett Vs. Neville
Seeing Neville taking part in a PPV proper is going to be awesome, especially paired up with someone like Barret, with whom he has great, in-ring chemistry. These two should put on a hell of a match, maybe even the match of the night, with the only worry being that they might not get enough time to really show off what they can do. These mid-card bouts tend to get short shrift in general, let alone at a PPV starring the likes of John Cena and Roman Reigns. Provided they’re given a good ten-fifteen minutes to work with, Barrett and Neville should knock it out of the park. If not, we’ll be left wondering why the hell this was even included on the Payback card to begin with, as an okay match between these two could easily be featured on RAW (or even, god forbid, Smackdown). Barrett has been on a losing streak lately, aside from his KOTR win, so Neville will probably emerge victorious here – particularly considering he pretty much had Cena beat on last week’s RAW. But either of them could win and it would still make sense.
Predicted winner: Neville
“I Quit” Match for the WWE United States Championship: John Cena (c) Vs.Rusev
John Cena has never, ever uttered the words “I quit” and we can expect that fine tradition to continue, in this match opposite the supposedly unstoppable (except by Cena) Rusev. Bizarre to think that the “Russian” juggernaut was undefeated at one stage. Now he looks like he’d tap out of the STF after about five seconds, before running home to cry in his mommy’s lap. There was no reason to have him lose to Cena at Wrestlemania, and there’s even less of a reason now. But whether Cena will win clean or not is up for debate. Maybe Lana will interfere, lose it for Rusev, he’ll get rid of her properly and then she’ll turn face. Maybe they’ll cheat and get disqualified, because him turning on her has all been a work. But, no matter what happens, expect Cena to come out on top here and not to say “I quit” under any circumstances – even if Rusev sets him on fire and makes him eat his own toe, he won’t say it. If I’m wrong, I’ll eat all four of his sweatbands (before the kids get their greedy little hands on them, of course).
Predicted winner: John Cena
Divas Tag Team Match: Naomi & Tamina Snuka Vs. The Bella Twins
This match was confirmed late, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t see it coming a mile off. The Divas division is in crisis now more than ever, with AJ retired and Paige on location shooting a movie with The Miz (groan). The ladies left behind are struggling to fill the gap, which can’t be easy considering a couple of them don’t even feature on TV week to week (Foxy? Cameron? Anyone?). Don’t get me wrong, a tag match is still better than some bullshit battle royal featuring Eva Marie but even so it’s really hard to get excited for this one. Naomi and Tamina are a great team, but they’re supposed to be the heels here, in spite of the fact the former’s gripes that she hasn’t been given a proper push like she deserves are totally justified. On the other hand, the Bellas are bitches and have never been anything but, so how are we supposed to root for them as faces? Much of the problem comes from the utterly inept Brie, who shrieks and botches her way through matches. Nikki has been doing better since winning the title, but a singles match pitching her against Naomi for the title would’ve sufficed here as her sister tends to ruin things for her, no matter how many times she whines “come on, Brie” from the side-lines. I don’t expect Nikki to drop the title any time soon, and this match is kind of pointless in itself, but if the Divas get longer than five minutes to do their thing, it’ll be kind of a victory.
Predicted winner: The Bella Twins
Dolph Ziggler Vs. Sheamus
Of all the Payback matches, this is the most typical, the most predictably booked and the least exciting. It’s the match you look for on the card, the match you know is hiding somewhere amongst everything else that actually matters. These two are great together, as well as in their own rights, but the only new element here is that they both look a great deal stupider than the last time they faced off (and there are, hopefully, no butts involved this time around). This feud is obviously going to bleed into the fight for the IC championship (rumoured to be happening at the Network-exclusive Elimination Chamber event), but for the moment it’s just more of the same. It could still be great, as their feud has been ticking along nicely ever since Sheamo returned as a monster heel, but it’s not exactly the most anticipated match on the card. But, hey, at least it doesn’t include Ryback.
Predicted winner: Sheamus
2-out-of-3 Falls Tag Team Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) (with Xavier Woods) (c) Vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (with Natalya)
And speaking of exciting, this 2-out-of-3 falls tag match is undoubtedly going to be the most fun ten minutes of the entire night. With The New Day managing to get unbelievably over as heels, pushing Cesaro and Kidd even further into the stratosphere in the process, this is sure to be a balls-to-the-wall crazy, spot-heavy, laughs-aplenty bout. Considering Nattie and Woods will be hanging out at ringside, it most definitely won’t be a clean fight, but the titles are more likely to change hands here than in either of the other two championship bouts. And, with The Usos gone and The Ascension on the rise (sort of), this terrific little feud could reignite the fledgling tag team division, giving it a much-needed shot in the arm before more NXT upstarts join its ranks.
Predicted winners: The New Day
Ryback Vs. Bray Wyatt
Following on from his senseless defeat at Wrestlemania, Bray Wyatt, the hardest working and most hard done by wrestler in the WWE, continues to fight for a spot he’s already proven he deserves by taking on The Big Guy, a performer known more for botching moves and over-eating everything in sight than anything else. This match-up makes me mad, but only because I think there’s a strong chance Wyatt might lose again and then what the hell is he going to do? His swamp brothers, Harper and Rowan, recently reconnected on Smackdown, so perhaps this is the time for the re-emergence of The Wyatt Family who, unlike the super-strong Shield, have struggled to get over as three individuals versus a cohesive stable. Wyatt, in particular, needs some charges to lead or else he’s stuck floating around, trying to mark himself out as one to watch in spite of being a huge bloody weirdo. It’s sad, really, because he’s an amazing talent, but hopefully a victory here will finally spur him on to better things.
Predicted winner: Bray Wyatt
Fatal 4-Way Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Seth Rollins (c) Vs. Roman Reigns Vs. Dean Ambrose Vs. Randy Orton
Speaking of The Shield, this is the first time all three members have faced off against each other in a PPV match and, in spite of the fact Ambrose has little to no chance of winning this and Rollins will definitely retain – either cleanly or otherwise – this should be the standout of the night. If it isn’t, then we can blame the consistent, relentless push of Roman Reigns above all else, which is getting more irritating by the second. Certain people were pissed off at Ambrose’s last-minute inclusion in this bout, but I think he’ll add a much-needed edge to the proceedings. He’s unpredictable, a loose cannon, and he doesn’t fit in with the others so he’s more likely to be the focus even if he doesn’t win (the less said about that stupid Kane-centric stipulation, the better). Overall, as a Main Event, this should be memorable; Orton and Rollins have been doing great work together recently, both on the mic and in the ring, Ambrose can more than hold his own and, once Reigns gets to hit those two spots of his, we can all go home happy.
Predicted winner: Seth Rollins
Catch Payback LIVE on the WWE Network at 5E/8P on Sunday, 17th May