But no. They’ve gone for Randy Orton. In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter but it just strikes me as an odd choice.
Perhaps it indicates that he will finally get his wish and turn heel on the show. We’ll see him teaming with Daniel Bryan to challenge tag team champions Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. That provides as good an opportunity as any to go bad. Either he could get pinned and blame Bryan or Bryan could get pinned and Orty could lay into him, blasting him with an RKO (again) after the match.
The match should be great. Anything that has Orton, Bryan and Rollins in the same ring isn’t going to be anything less. Roman Reigns isn’t bad either. I expect we’ll see the standard plot of ‘The World’s Toughest Vegan’ being isolated from his corner and worked over before the hot tag takes place.
Of course even if Bryan and Orton’s title challenge ends up being the match of the night there are still two matches that are almost guaranteed to get a hotter response. The first is the main event. The second is Chris Jericho versus Chicago’s own CM Punk.
I’m expecting this to be a perfectly adequate match… if it happens. I’m not convinced that it will. I think there’s a slim chance that Heyman will be left to admit that Punk hasn’t been in contact with him since leaving after WrestleMania and that he doesn’t know where he is. That would get the ball rolling nicely on the Punk and Heyman split that’s expected to setup ‘The Second City Saint’s’ summer programme with Brock Lesnar.
Should that happen WWE would still have the option of cueing Punk’s music after Heyman’s eaten humble pie and made his admission. That would establish the separation while also delivering the match most in attendance will most be looking forward to.
None of this is that likely though. Not having Punk appear in Chicago after being advertised would be a big risk. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that ‘The Second City Saint’ and ‘The Highlight of the Night’ will take the penultimate spot on the pay-per-view and any storyline developments between Heyman and his client will occur during or after the match. It’s very unlikely WWE will go through with the ruse of Punk not being there.
Back to the match quality. As I say I think this will be perfectly adequate. Nothing more, nothing less. Their matches last year ranged from underwhelming to decent, thanks mainly to a combination of both men trying to do too much and ‘Y2J’s’ general sloppiness. He’s a very charismatic performer but he is not the super worker everyone, including himself, makes him out to be. Barely a match goes by where he doesn’t get something basic wrong.
I’ll pick Punk to win. If Jericho does win, I don’t think it will be clean: Heyman or Curtis Axel will get involved in some fashion to setup that split. I think a Lesnar appearance would be a great move on this show. If ‘The Beast’ destroyed Punk in his hometown it would draw incredible heat and sell Punk’s face turn perfectly. Don’t get your hopes up for that though.
Below that we’ve got a three-way match for the Intercontinental championship. Wade Barrett defends against The Miz and Curtis Axel. The issue between Barrett and ‘The Awesome One’ was satisfactorily finalised the evening after WrestleMania, when Barrett regained the gold. But because WWE had no other plans for either and wanted the Intercontinental strap on Fandango (to capitalise on his popularity and keep his push going) the feud was revived.
Then Fandango suffered a concussion and got pulled from the match. On Monday’s RAW it was originally announced that Miz and Barrett would have a singles match at Payback but then Paul Heyman came out to announce that Axel had been added.
Miz was added to avoid an awkward heel versus heel confrontation as Fandango took the belt. I, like most people, thought that Payback was going to be ‘The Ballroom Brawler’s’ night. Axel being placed into the match could indicate he’s going to inherit the push earmarked for Fandango. Barrett’s done all he can in the role so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drop the belt. It would free him up for a Money in the Bank briefcase too. I’ll predict an Axel win. Perhaps Fandango can return as a tweener and challenge for the IC gold again.
Nice tie on Heyman, there
They’ve been relegated to the pre-show. That practically confirms ‘Great White’ will win. Starting a show with a babyface win is The Done Thing. Plus if ‘The Intellectual Saviour’ was going to beat someone significantly higher on the card it would make sense for it to happen on the pay-per-view.
A singles match that is taking place on the main show is Kane v Dean Ambrose for the United States championship. ‘The Big Red Machine’s’ beaten Ambrose once or twice already. Now that the title’s being defended it’ll be Ambrose’s turn to win. He only became champion last month so it’s far too early for him to lose. Besides, what would Kane do as champion?
AJ Lee will finally get the Divas title match she earned over a month ago at Payback. Until Monday she’d done very little with Kaitlyn. It was as though WWE had decided to put the two into a feud and then forgotten all about it. The two women were left to interact in a handful of mostly forgettable backstage segments.
If the division were better stocked then we could have seen some matches to build up the dispute. The two interfering in each other’s singles matches and meeting in tag bouts would’ve been a better way of building up their programme than simply having them chat backstage every other week. Another argument for improving the Divas league, no?
That said I think the reveal of AJ having Big E pose as an admirer of Kaitlyn on RAW was very good. Langston was good in his role and AJ cut the best promo related to the Divas championship in years. It was confirmation that there’s life in WWE’s women’s division if the company is willing to persevere.
If AJ and Kaitlyn can have a good match that encourages fans to react loudly they might be able to win themselves and their peers more time on TV. As AJ’s WWE’s most over female performer I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to do that.
I suspect Big E will be at ringside. Maybe he’ll help AJ win and then there’ll be a rematch at Money in the Bank during which he’s barred from ringside. Or perhaps Big E will interfere and Cody Rhodes will make the save, calling back to his interest in Kaitlyn a few months ago. That could lead to a mixed tag feud pitting Kaitlyn and Cody against AJ and Big E.
I’ll pick AJ to win. She’s the best of WWE’s Divas and should have had the title a year ago. Kaitlyn can be recast as a challenger chasing her. To get the division back on its feet the basic story of a crowd favourite chasing a heel champion would work well. Hopefully this will lead to an overall improvement in the Divas division.
AJ’s beau Dolph Ziggler will wrestle his first match since suffering a concussion (lots of them going about at the mo) a month and a half ago, defending the World Heavyweight championship against Alberto Del Rio. It should be a far more enjoyable match than ADR’s recent outings against Jack Swagger, because Ziggler’s far more enjoyable to watch than ‘The Real American’. The handful of bouts ADR and Ziggler had last summer (during Del Rio’s awful and seemingly never-ending feud with Sheamus) were very entertaining.
I expect Ziggler to retain the championship, possibly by some sort of nefarious means. I don’t like predicting disqualification finishes though, so I’ll say that I think ‘The Show Off’ will win. I hope they’re given time to do something interesting. Both men, though particularly Ziggler, deserve to be allowed to do so.
Finally there’s the Three Stages of Hell match between John Cena and Ryback. It was originally going to be an Ambulance match but that got changed, presumably because the stipulation didn’t provide enough opportunities for shady booking.
It’s reached the point where I think Ryback really needs to win the title if he’s to remain credible, but it doesn’t feel as though Cena’s reign is close to over. That means WWE has to formulate a plan that keeps the title on Cena but also presents ‘Big Hungry’ as the dominant party. And they’ll probably want to avoid Cena look too weak as well, because they’re obsessed with protecting him.
There have only been three previous Three Stages of Hell matches and the last one was in 2009 so it’s entirely possible people are reading this without a clue what they are. Basically they’re best-of-three-falls matches but with each fall being fought under a different stipulation. In this instance the first fall will be a rare lumberjack match, the second will be a tables match, and the third (which definitely will be needed) is an ambulance match.
So, the first question is which man will win which of the first two falls? As Ryback’s been presented as a cowardly heel with a proclivity for smashing people through tables it seems safe to assume that the valiant Cena will be victorious in the lumberjack match because his foe will have no escape and have to face him like a man. That will leave Ryback to even things up in the second fall because tables, as I say, seem to be amongst his favourite things right now.
WWE could swerve us and reverse this but it would be pointless to do so. They’ve set things up to make it seem as though ‘back will win the tables fall.
So who will win the all-important Ambulance fall? I’ll be astounded if it’s not Cena. Despite being far more in need of the championship than Mr Cena I don’t think ‘The Human Wrecking Ball’ will win. Cena was kept away from the belt for a year and a half. I don’t think he’ll be losing it yet.
Whether he wins or loses I ant Ryback to keep going with his Scott Steiner-esque ambulance entrance
Payback is a funny show. There are very few results that seem obvious. I’d say the most predictable outcomes are Sheamus and Ambrose winning. That’s rare for a WWE show. It’s good though. Wrestling shows are better when they’re not easy to predict. The announced matches make me think that Payback could be a worthwhile event. Hopefully it’ll be used to set some fresh programmes up for the summer. Now is the perfect time to start setting up the big matches for SummerSlam.
Predictions summary:John Cena to defeat Ryback
CM Punk to defeat Chris Jericho
Dolph Ziggler to defeat Alberto Del Rio
The Shield to defeat Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton
Dean Ambrose to defeat Kane
AJ Lee to defeat Kaitlyn
Curtis Axel to win the Intercontinental championship
Sheamus to defeat Damien Sandow