This Sunday, the WWE comes rolling into Baltimore, Maryland for the third annual Payback event. While last year’s solid show is going to be hard to top, this year’s card is set up nicely. Don’t expect a lot of fresh stories – as many of the billed matches are rematches from Extreme Rules. Still, the card is stacked with contests that should provide high quality in-ring work.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Fatal 4 Way: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose
What was originally planned as a triple threat turned into a fatal 4-way with the surprise addition of Dean Ambrose. I applaud the move – it added one of the WWE’s most popular superstars to the main event, as well as surprising the fan community (something that is rarely done in 2015).
The Authority has been rather stale since the “return to power” earlier in the year. The added dimension that the tension between Rollins and Kane provides makes this match a little more intriguing as well.
A rare combination of fresh story and talented workers – one of the few times I expect the main event will also be recognized as ‘match of the night.’ Thumbs up.
United States Championship, I Quit Match: John Cena (c) vs. Rusev
The most logical outcome of this match would be a Rusev win. Should he lose again, he’ll have a hard time finding footing in the main event scene (like what happened with Bray Wyatt last year). Also, if Cena keeps holding open challenges, we’re going to get to a point where Cena has defeated every big name in the WWE.
That being said, I highly doubt Cena drops the title on Sunday.
This has been the biggest rivalry of 2015 so far, but it can’t end with the atrocity that was the Russian Chain Match at Extreme Rules. These two have had some epic battles, but this needs to be the end of the program. Thumbs up.
WWE Tag Team Championship, 2 out of 3 Falls Match: The New Day (c) vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd
These two teams stole the show at Extreme Rules, and if given the time, could do it again this Sunday at Payback. The WWE is obviously making a concentrated effort to revitalize the once stagnant tag team division and with performances like what we saw at Extreme Rules, these two team are leading that effort. Thumbs up.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
Dolph Ziggler is very underutilized – we’ve established that. But, he doesn’t seem to have an edge to his character anymore. While he could certainly use a win, I can’t see anything here other than a Sheamus victory.
Rightfully so, the repackaged Celtic Warrior has the potential to be one of the WWE’s top heels. With these two, you know you’re going to get a quality match – plain and simple. Still, like Cena/Rusev, this program needs to end after Payback. Thumbs up.
King Barrett vs. Neville
This is a rivalry treading water. It started with no real story purpose, and still, doesn’t seem very heated or personal. Barrett and Neville have been crossing paths since Extreme Rules. Still, I see no favorable outcome for this contest. Both of these superstars are in need of a win right now, but only one man can get it.
Not to mention, this is one of 4 Extreme Rules rematches on the card. Creative could’ve found something new for both of these guys. Thumbs down.
Pre-show Kickoff: Axelmania & Macho Mandow vs. The Ascension
If you look at this match as comedic relief, it ought to be pretty entertaining. The segment on Raw that set this encounter up was pretty hilarious. Seeing the “Mega Powers” unite against the common enemy was funny enough, but the tongue-in-cheek humor displayed by The Ascension claiming they were sick of seeing people impersonate old wrestlers made this ridiculously over-the-top.
If you think about the wasted talents of Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow, and The Ascension, you’re going to be disappointed. Try your best to enjoy the show, even the comedic aspects of it. Thumbs up.
Bray Wyatt vs. Ryback
These two superstars are on similar paths on opposite sides of the fence. Both are in need of some career rejuvenation before they can step into the crowded main event scene. Both are in need of a big win.
This could be a good rivalry, but Bray Wyatt needs to start doing a little more and talking a little less. His programs are starting to have a noticeable formula. Likewise, the fans are eating Ryback up right now. Arenas ring with “feed me more” chants on a weekly basis.
Both superstars would’ve benefited from some transitional rivalries – saving this program for the fall. Thumbs down.
Stoney Keeley covers the WWE for WrestlingNews.co, and is a Tennessee Titans Staff Writer for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @StoneyKeeley and the SPOT’s Tennessee Titans Twitter feed at @spot_titans.