WWE Payback will usher in the first WWE Network special of the Shane McMahon Era. A card that may not make a lot of sense logically shapes up to be one of the most solid lineups of great matchups in recent memory.
Ironically the event titled “Payback” doesn’t really offer any kind of pay back in regards to a feud or a big loss at WrestleMania. The usual post-Mania rematch show gives way to a lineup of fresh storylines and unique matchups which in this case, which shuts the door on WrestleMania.
I don’t know if it is a good or a bad thing when you have more anticipation on a B-show following WrestleMania 32 than the actual Mania itself. While everything seems rather predictable up and down the card, the booking lends itself to one of the better shows on paper in a long time. This is the kind of lineup that should satisfy any hardcore fan who has stuck with the WWE post-Mania.
Let’s take a look at the key matches and make some Payback predictions for the 2016 event.
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles for the WWE World championship
This may be one of the most anticipated title matches in recent memory which says a lot considering the miniscule chance of a title change. Styles vs. Reigns appears to be the first step in a long road of establishing Reigns as a championship wrestler. I’ll give credit where credit is due here as Vince McMahon is going out of his comfort zone here to give Reigns the best opportunity to succeed as champion. It’s a far cry from Daniel Bryan’s first post-Mania WWE title program a couple of years ago when he was booked against Kane.
I don’t know the last time Styles failed to deliver anything less than an excellent match in a main-event, whether it was ROH, NJPW, or TNA. I also like the investment in Styles, making him an A-player in the “new era” of post-WrestleMania 32 WWE. If there is one criticism I’ll make it is that I still have no idea why Styles lost at WrestleMania to a mid-carder only to bring him back the next month to challenge for the WWE world title. Welcome to WWE booking in the new millennium.
The storyline here is very interesting in that you have a relationship acknowledged between Styles and Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows that comes from a different organization without any real context for the casual audience (and the hardcore audience remembers they weren’t friendly anyway). I always like the idea of the mystery behind whether a face is in cahoots with a heel. It very rarely ever pays off with the group being in cahoots and I don’t think its plays out that way here either. I would say with almost 90% confidence that this ends with Finn Balor on RAW Monday aligning with Anderson and Gallows against Styles.
As much as I’d love to see a series here, I think we are one and done as Styles moves on to Balor and Reigns moves on to whomever is next. I think Styles gets pinned and quite frankly he should since the plan here is to build Reigns. I also think interference from Anderson and Gallows backfire on Styles and either he is beat down after the match or Monday. I look for a Reigns win here and a potential match of the year candidate.
Charlotte (with Ric Flair) vs. Natalya (with Bret Hart) for the WWE Women’s title
This may be the first time that I have previewed a women’s match on a WWE Network event since Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon at SummerSlam. That is how big this match is. This is probably the closest you will get to seeing women headline a Network special on the main-brand, although this one could be a headliner, especially when you throw in legends Ric Flair and Bret Hart into the mix.
What can you say about these two that hasn’t been said somewhere else? These two had a classic match last year that was in the running for Match of the Year. They just have a unique chemistry about them which I’d dare to compare to Flair and Ricky Steamboat. The only thing precluding these two from having another classic is if they are shorted on time.
Sure, I get it, some of you are complaining that Sasha Banks isn’t in the mix. But guess what? If you are getting Nattie vs. Charlotte with time on a main-brand special, I think the tradeoff is worth it. I don’t think Nattie wins but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
If you would have told anyone watching these guys tear it up in ROH a few years ago that they’d be matched up several years later on a WWE PPV you probably would have gotten a lot of cynicism in their response. But yes, it is finally here, El Generico vs. Kevin Steen in 2016 with different names on a giant venue and a whole lot to be excited about.
As excited as I am for this match I will temper expectations. If you recall, their first match in NXT was a bit of a letdown. They held back, saving more for future rematches which is perfectly understandable. I see no reason why this won’t be a series whether there are subsequent rematches or they are saved for later. Regardless, I would not be surprised to see them pull back a bit with the goal of saving more for later.
Quite frankly it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. Sure it’s a bummer that the intercontinental title isn’t in play here but at the end of the day it’s not that big of a deal. All that matters is that we are getting a hell of a match and what appears to be the start of one of the hottest series’ of the season. I think Kevin Owens goes over in this one, rightfully so with Sami getting the big win in the end.
Full WWE Payback 2016 card and matches…
WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles
WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte vs. Natalya
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owen
Intercontinental Champion The Miz vs. Cesaro
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin
Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady vs. The Vaudevillains (WWE Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contenders’ Tournament Final)
U.S. Champion Kalisto vs. Ryback (Kickoff Match)