WWE will be delivering Payback 2016 in just a few weeks. The network will follow up WrestleMania 32 with a lineup that on paper, blows WrestleMania out of the water.
Dave Meltzer has the tentative lineup in the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The lineup for Payback reads like a fantasy lineup booked by hardcore fans in a pro wrestling forum. The card is marketed towards a different audience, following a card for the masses in WrestleMania. An odd main-event is supported underneath by a unique lineup which appears to be a big step in a new direction for the company.
AJ Styles will headline his first-ever WWE special event as the first challenger to Roman Reigns’ WWE world championship. The match is probably the most intriguing matchup on paper Reigns has had since he wrestled Daniel Bryan last February. The match puts Reigns as the obvious heel, a stigma most are welcoming, but has been avoided since he wrestled Bryan last year at Fastlane.
The match is a huge boost to Styles and is a big step by the WWE in positioning the former NJPW and TNA star. Putting Styles in this position portrays him as a credible, top-level headliner, much different than the way he has been portrayed up to this point. It also freshens up the main-event for the first-time in several months.
The match will probably be as great as expected and should also help Reigns’ credibility inside of the ring. The biggest question here is why in the world would you book Styles to lose in an undercard match on WrestleMania only to return to the next month with him in the main-event? The only logical answer to this would be Styles winning the title and defending against Jericho in the near future which while exciting to think about, has a very low chance of actually happening.
Speaking of Jericho, Y2J will be positioned second from the top as he takes on Dean Ambrose. This match is being booked as a semi-headliner, again odd when you consider what happened at WrestleMania, specifically to Ambrose. Ambrose more or less get squashed by Lesnar and here he is in a top spot. It is almost as if the WWE just hit the reset button with a completely different card in mind for Payback when they booked WrestleMania.
While not promoted as high on the card, Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens will be a top match in most fans’ eyes. With no title on the line, these guys will probably wind up underneath. Their history is well documented and are bound to have a real good match. I will however temper my expectations as their first NXT match was well below my expectations, only because they wanted to save more for later. I can’t imagine this being a one-off so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same scenario play out here.
Charlotte vs. Natalya is probably the most anticipated women’s match in a long time. The two had an absolute classic last year in NXT and were up for Match of the Year in several places. There is no doubt that these two have excellent chemistry and Nattie is far better than most give her credit for. With the right amount of time this one could potentially steal the show.
Right there you have four solid matches, all with the potential to be show-stealers. That is more than you could have said prior to WrestleMania when you looked at the lineup ahead of time. The company is obviously moving in a new direction and Payback could be the start of big things for the year ahead in WWE.
Tentative WWE Payback 2016 lineup…
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles for the WWE world championship
Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose
Charlotte vs. Natalya for the WWE Womens title
The Wyatt Family vs. League of Nations
The Miz vs. Cesaro for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
The Dudleys vs. Enzo and Cass
New Day vs. Tournament Winners