WWE Payback emanates from the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Maryland, with a stacked lineup, and if the event’s name is any indication, the pay-per-view could mark a turning point in several WWE storylines that have seemingly struggled to find direction since this year’s landmark Wrestlemania event and the subsequent fallout from WWE’s follow up PPV offering, Extreme Rules.
The Meta-Powers vs. The Ascension
Now, sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of four castaways stranded on mid-carder’s Island.
The Meta-Powers, the makeshift team of Curtis Axel and Macho Mandow, are an entertaining duo, to be sure. Axel has toiled in mediocrity since dropping the WWE Intercontinental Championship last year and returning from injury without the benefit of his former mouthpiece Paul Heyman. Mandow, having come off his most intriguing angle to date with a babyface turn against former mentor and A-lister The Miz, is struggling to carve out an identity of his own. The Ascension, one of the most anticipated tag teams to come up from NXT, debuted in controversy as the duo compared themselves to tag team greats of the past such as the Road Warriors and Demolition. All four of these guys need new life breathed into them, and the only way that can come about in a manner that makes sense is to get The Ascension back on track with a convincing win against the Mega-Powers impersonators and have that decisive loss be the impetus for an Axel/Mandow feud, hopefully sans the Hogan/Savage mockery.
Winners: The Ascension
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
This is an intriguing match for several reasons. The return from injury of Sheamus was met with a much-needed heel turn that refreshed the Irishman’s character, which had gotten stale as a smiling good guy. Ziggler has assumed that role and continues to turn out outstanding matches and his current angle with the heel bully Sheamus, while a familiar and not particularly inspired idea, has been fun to watch. Sheamus lost at WWE Extreme Rules but finagled out of paying his penance by brogue kicking Ziggler and making him kiss Sheamus’ arse. Ziggler needs to deliver Sheamus’ comeuppance, and there’s no better event than WWE Payback. The x-factor here are the persistent rumors that Ziggler is in the last months of his contract and may be looking to exit the company to try his hand full time at stand-up comedy. After years of being stuck in the midcard, Ziggler has an opportunity to make a name for himself in another arena and potentially come back an even bigger star. Will he, or were his Twitter hints simply a means of hyping the realism surrounding this match? If WWE brass believe he’s on his way out, the sound business decision would be to keep the heat on Sheamus and continue his build as a monster heel.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
King Barrett vs. Neville
Despite internet scuttlebutt that new sensation Neville would be buried due to his size, WWE has strapped the rocket to the young Englishman and Neville has picked up some big wins in a very short time. Not the least of which came against Barrett, who had just defeated Neville in the King of the Ring finals on the pre-show of WWE Extreme Rules. WWE is famous for building new talent and then cutting his legs out from underneath them to gauge how they react. Will that be the fate for Neville, or will he continue his own ascension with a big win over the King?
Winner: King Barrett
WWE Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro
Just as the match with Axel/Sandow and The Ascension is a tale of men who have lost their way, this match is a tale of men who have found it. After years of toiling, Kidd and Cesaro found magic as a tag team, starting as heels but garnering the adulation of the WWE Universe by being an exciting and fun team to watch. The New Day had struggled in their new incarnation, and it looked like the new gimmick was a dud before the WWE Universe turned them heel. Once the trip of Big E. Langston, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods embraced the hate and decided to fuel the fire they caught fire, defeating Kidd and Cesaro to become WWE Tag Team Champions. Since then, the trio has been on fire, amping up the obnoxiousness and spreading their message of positivity with the Clap. This could develop into one of the all time great tag team feuds, but in order for that to be so, The New Day have to maintain and build on their momentum, and Kidd/Cesaro would lose nothing by suffering a cheap defeat due to interference by Xavier Woods.
Winners: The New Day
Naomi and Tamina vs. The Bella Twins
The Bella Twins are stale. They’re the faces of the WWE’s Diva’s division, but the Diva’s title has been with Nikki Bella for too long now. With Paige set to return to television soon, possibly as soon as tomorrow night on Raw, Naomi, who has shined in her new role as a vicious heel with the recently returned Tamina, needs to pick up the win against the twins and keep their issue driving eventually toward Naomi defeating Nikki Bella for the WWE Diva’s title so that she can enter a feud for it with two-time champ Paige.
Winners: Naomi and Tamina
Ryback vs. Bray Wyatt
Ryback has managed to maintain his popularity in his role as a positive thinking babyface, but has struggled for months while stuck in a seemingly never-ending feud with The Authority following WWE Survivor Series. Ryback was in the pre-show Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania and was eliminated early. Wyatt has ascended competing against the Undertaker, albeit in a hard fought loss. If the WWE Universe is to believe that Wyatt truly is the new face of fear, and if Ryback is to gain steam, Wyatt needs to win here.
Winner: Bray Wyatt
WWE United States Championship: John Cena vs. Rusev
Cena finally defeated the Bulgarian Brute at Wrestlemania to win the WWE United States Championship, and in the process, a wedge was driven between Rusev and the Ravishing Russian, Lana. With the gorgeous blonde suddenly craving the adulation of the WWE Universe and internet rumors persisting of a pending break up of the duo, look for her to serve a key role in the matchup. John Cena is undefeated in “I Quit” matches, and it is inconceivable to think that Cena would utter those words under any circumstance. It is equally difficult to imagine Rusev saying those words, so the most logical scenario would be for Lana, who, months earlier, brought about the match at Mania when, as Cena has Rusev in the STF, agreed to the title match to save her charge. Lana could play a similar role here and follow in the tradition of Arnold Skaaland and Helen Hart by throwing in the towel for Rusev, causing his loss without him actually quitting and pushing even more fervently toward a breakup.
Winner: John Cena
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton vs. Dean Ambrose
This match feels like a giant pot where these four competitors and a whole lot of issues and loose ends were thrown in and stirred while hot. Rollins became WWE World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania, cashing in his Money in the Bank contract to turn the main event between Reigns and then champ Brock Lesnar into a three-way and taking advantage of a prone Reigns to steal the title. Given that this is WWE Payback, logic would have dictated that Reigns deliver justice to Rollins, but then Randy Orton, who also had an issue with Rollins that led to Orton’s defection from The Authority as well as a babyface turn, was added to the mix. Then, seemingly randomly, Dean Ambrose, who had had his sights set on the WWE Intercontinental Championship, was added to the mix, and the growing issue between Rollins and WWE Director of Operations Kane was heightened with the announcement that if Rollins loses, Kane would be fired from his position. There are so many moving parts when considering that three-out-of-four of these competitors were once The Shield, and persistent internet rumors of a heel turn for Reigns and/or Ambrose, both of which would be a mistake. With so much going on in this match, it seems unlikely that Rollins drops the title in such a muddled fashion. Look for Rollins to retain and further the issue with Rollins, while Kane could move toward an angle with Orton or continue moving toward a babyface turn. The x-factor here is that with just months before SummerSlam, how does Brock Lesnar figure into the mix going forward?
Winner: Seth Rollins
WWE Payback is available exclusively via the WWE Network, which is free this month for new subscribers.