On Sunday, WWE will present its first pay-per-view offering since WrestleMania when Payback comes to my neighborhood, San Jose. Of all the PPV names WWE doles out, I think this one is the worst. It implies revenge. Payback should be the end of a feud. However, most of the matchups we’ll see Sunday are new ones, with only two WM re-matches on the card.
This is a Raw-exclusive offering, but the Universal Championship won’t be on the line. Neither will the top secondary belt currently featured on Monday nights, the Intercontinental title. The kickoff show will feature an episode of Miz TV and a tag-team match between The Club (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) and Enzo and Big Cass. I suspect there will be more to the kickoff than normal this time around, however.
There are eight matches scheduled at this point, but I think we may see nine by the time the show airs on Sunday night. Here are my predictions for WWE Payback….
Miz TV – There’s a set formula to Miz TV. Miz comes out, introduces himself and his wife, then introduces his guest. The guest comes down to the ring, and eventually beats Miz up. Then the show is over. WWE has changed up the formula a bit lately. Miz introduces himself and his wife. Then, he announces the guest. The guest comes down and the interview starts. Then, Dean Ambrose comes to the ring and takes over the show. Eventually, the guest and Ambrose beat Miz up, and the show is over. On Sunday, Miz is scheduled to interview Finn Balor. So, it will be Balor and Ambrose beating up the host. I think Miz will complain to Kurt Angle about the constant disruptions of his show, and Angle will agree enough to award him an IC title match later against Ambrose. Somehow, Miz will win the belt.
The Club v. Enzo and Big Cass – This is a tough one to call. Both teams need a win to maintain some credibility with the WWE Universe. Enzo and Cass have cooled considerably since their main roster debut, and Gallows and Anderson have alternated between bad comedy act and monster heel status since their arrival. I’m going to go with Gallows and Anderson to win here, but only because Finn Balor will come down the ramp in full demon attire and reunite the former Bullet Club, destroying Enzo and Cass in the process.
Bray Wyatt v. Randy Orton – This is somewhat odd, since Orton is a Smackdown competitor. Originally, it was assumed that this bout would be for the WWE Championship. That made more sense, as Wyatt is theoretically owed a rematch, and is now a member of the Raw roster. However, reports indicate that the belt won’t be on the line here, and it’s not advertised as a title match on the official Payback web site. In any case, Wyatt should win here. I suspect that’s what WWE has in mind, and that’s why the belt isn’t at stake. Wyatt needs some big wins to establish himself at the top of the Raw card, and getting one at his “first” PPV would be a great start.
Roman Reigns v. Braun Strowman – I expect this match to be surprisingly good. Reigns tends to deliver in big situations, and Strowman’s act is good on any stage. The problem is that WWE still insists on painting Reigns as a babyface. Here, the story is that Roman is still injured from a beating (and ambulance-flipping) he suffered at the hands of Strowman a couple of weeks ago. Also, Reigns’ real-life brother, Matt Anoa’I, passed away last week, and the relationship was acknowledged on Raw and on the web. Will WWE paint Reigns as heroic simply for showing up? Will the crowd actually boo a man who just lost his only brother? I think the answer to both of those questions is yes. No matter what reaction Reigns gets, Strowman needs to win this match. The crowd will lose interest in him if he continues the pattern of destroying everyone and everything in his path every month, only to lose his PPV match. We’ll talk about how to turn Reigns in a later blog.
Bayley v. Alexa Bliss – This is for Bayley’s Raw Women’s Championship. It’s too early to take the belt off Bayley. That title has changed hands too much since its inception, and the frequent changes devalue the belt. Bayley also needs some time to become a more formidable champion. That way, beating her will have some resonance. I say Bayley wins the match, but Bliss looks strong, only losing by disqualification when Sasha Banks turns on Bayley and becomes the heel she should have been all along.
Seth Rollins v. Samoa Joe – WWE has booked itself into a corner here. This match almost has to go to a double disqualification or some other non-finish. Rollins can’t lose to HHH’s henchman after dispatching Hunter, and Joe can’t afford a loss in a feud that’s he’s only in because of HHH.
Kevin Owens v. Chris Jericho – Another odd match, considering Owens was shipped to Smackdown. This needs to be about establishing KO as the monster heel he’ll need to be now that Jericho is leaving for a while. Owens has the talent to make the US Championship (on the line in this match) nearly as important as the WWE Championship. A big win here helps establish the Prizefighter character, and cements KO as one of the top guys on the blue brand.
The Hardy Boyz v. Sheamus and Cesaro – It’s too early to take the Raw Tag Team Championships off the Hardys. Sheamus and Cesaro are a good tag team, but need time to develop more of an audience following. I expect something of a heel turn here, as the tag division needs someone besides The Club on the heel side while The Revival is on the shelf. The Hardys win, but Sheamus and Cesaro turn heel by turning a post-match handshake into a beatdown.
Neville v. Austin Aries – This is for the Cruiserweight Championship. There’s not really a bad choice here. Aries has been brilliant since his return to action, and Neville has done some of the best work of his career as King of the Cruiserweights. If I had to pick, I’d keep the strap on Neville. I suspect Aries won’t be on 205 live forever.
It occurs to me that I’ve advocated for a PPV with no title changes. Maybe that’s just the twist WWE needs. Belts don’t mean as much if everyone has one, or if anyone can get a shot at one. (I’m looking at you, Jinder Mahal.) Maybe establishing some dominant champions is the wave of the future.