Now I thought that this year, it was the pay per view of Extreme Rules that followed WrestleMania but apparently not…so…
WWE Review Card…
Roman Reigns finally toppled Triple H and The Authority at WrestleMania, but come WWE Payback, The Big Dog will find himself defending his newly won WWE World Heavyweight Championship against an entirely different kind of competitor: AJ Styles.
The Phenomenal One earned the title bout on the April 4 edition of Raw, triumphing in a mesmerizing No. 1 Contender’s Fatal 4-Way Match against Kevin Owens, the returning Cesaro and rival Chris Jericho.
For more than a decade Styles travelled the world, capturing almost every heavyweight title worth its salt, with the exception of one — the WWE World Heavyweight Title. Since debuting in the Royal Rumble Match in January, Styles has more than proven he can hang with WWE’s premier Superstars. At WWE Payback, the calf-crushing, forearm-smashing Phenomenal One will finally receive his first crack at the championship that is indisputably recognized as sports-entertainment’s top crown.
Now that Reigns has seemingly put his problems with The Authority behind him and regained the WWE World Heavyweight Title, there is no telling how far The Big Dog will go to protect his championship gold and status as “the guy.”
Can Reigns’ incredible strength and considerable size advantage, not to mention his debilitating Superman Punch/Spear combination, pave the way to victory? Or will Styles’ experience edge and unparalleled creativity inside the ring net WWE’s celebrated newcomer a monumental victory?
WWE Review Card…
Well, that didn’t take long, did it?
Cesaro has only been back two weeks from shoulder injury, and The Swiss Superman already has a golden opportunity — brass ring, if you will — set before him in the form of an Intercontinental Title Match with The Miz at WWE Payback. Even taking The King of Swing’s physical gifts into account, that’s an impressive bounce back from the kind of injury that has put many a lesser competitor on the shelf for good.
But will it be enough? Cesaro, for all his power, has tended to be undone at the moment of truth by some random, unforeseeable X-factor that creeps into his matches — an inconvenient stipulation here, an interfering Superstar there — and in Miz, he’ll not just be facing down the dream-crushing wheeler and dealer who stole the glory of one of WrestleMania’s most unlikely heroes. He’ll be facing Miz’s wife as well.
In case you forgot, or missed the legendary #RawAfterMania, The Awesome One underwent a career makeover worthy of a Hollywood star by bringing his wife Maryse, a former WWE Superstar in her own right, into the fold. Spontaneous as her return was, the presence of the former Divas Champion immediately paid dividends. Not only did she help Miz win the Intercontinental Title from Zack Ryder in the first place, she helped him retain against The Ultimate Broski during their rematch on SmackDown.
Inspiring stuff … if underhanded, power-couple #squadgoals is your kind of thing. But no matter your views on the spouses’ scruples, it’s a pairing that, on the surface, spells disaster for just about anyone looking to relieve Miz of his gold. For a self-proclaimed “Professional” like Cesaro, doing that without resorting to the trickery that Miz used to become champion will be a tall order indeed.
And then there’s the matter of Cesaro’s own limitations. True, he doesn’t have many. But he is coming off an injury that side-lined him for more than four months. And, as he continues to battle back toward 100 percent, that’s a weakness, however temporary, Miz and Maryse could exploit to their advantage. That’d make for one disappointing ending for the Cesaro Section, if not the entire WWE Universe. But if WWE Payback will take its cues from Hollywood blockbusters, Miz should tread carefully. After all, what scheming villain wasn’t undone, in the end, by a gentleman badass in a suit?
WWE Review Card…
Since day one, the careers of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have followed essentially the same path. Zayn and Owens ascended the ranks of independent wrestling’s ladder in step, graduating from the rough-and-tumble, if dimly lit, circuits of their native Quebec to the relatively brighter lights of international competition, before rising all the way to NXT and, finally, WWE.
In times of peace, Zayn and Owens’ journeys, supported by their close, mutual friendship, ran parallel. However, when their journeys intersect — as they will at WWE Payback — the result is always the same: pure, unadulterated carnage.
Operating under the unofficial motto that they are “destined to do this forever,” Zayn and Owens have been at each other’s throats since Zayn returned to WWE during January’s Royal Rumble Match, in which he ejected The Prize-fighter. Before that, the last time the two had met was in NXT the year before, where they warred over the NXT Championship.
The Underdog from the Underground then helped spoil KO-Mania, collapsing Owens with an insane Suplex on a ladder which took the defending Intercontinental Champion out of the running and ultimately cost him the title. As retribution, Owens ambushed Zayn the following night, preventing the Superstar from competing in that evening’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 Contender’s Fatal 4-Way Match.
Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Stardust, Sin Cara and Zack Ryder put their bodies on the line for Intercontinental Title glory at WrestleMania 32.
The deeply personal ill will between these former best friends goes far beyond what the WWE Universe has observed in recent months. As has been well documented, the fact that Zayn was signed to NXT before Owens seemed to cause resentment; Owens, meanwhile, insists that Zayn simply rode his coattails all these many years.
Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho’s rivalry may have started with just subtle signs of tension, but it has quickly intensified into a bitter conflict, as they prepare to settle their differences at WWE Payback on Sunday, May 1, live on the award-winning WWE Network.
Did animosity between The Lunatic Fringe and WWE’s first Undisputed Champion truly begin – as Jericho himself suggested – on the April 7 SmackDown? The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla made his entrance for Thursday night’s main event as a victorious Ambrose was still making his way back to the locker room after his contest. This encounter was questionable at the very least, and could easily be construed as a sign of disrespect, especially coming from an arrogant veteran such as Jericho.
There is, however, a chance these two Superstars’ disdain for one another began all the way back at WWE Night of Champions 2015, when they fought on the same side, along with Roman Reigns, in a losing effort against The Wyatt Family. After the bout, the nine-time Intercontinental Champion shoved his way past the former Shield members, walking up the ramp in a huff. Regardless of whether this or their recent SmackDown exchange sparked the hostility between Ambrose and Jericho, either way, these two in-ring greats clearly just don’t like each other.
The always unpredictable Ambrose raised tensions further on the April 11 Raw when he interrupted Jericho’s famed “Highlight Reel” segment to deliver a letter from Shane McMahon, which stated that the Fozzy rocker’s talk show had been cancelled in favor of the unstable Superstar’s debuting “Ambrose Asylum.” This – along with a subsequent Dirty Deeds to the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion – left the foes at a point of no return.
WWE Review Card…
If you come at the Queen, you best not miss. And with a make-or-break opportunity for Charlotte’s WWE Women’s Championship staring her in the face, Natalya will do the one thing a challenger does to ensure she doesn’t miss her shot: She’s bringing in backup.
Having been thwarted by Charlotte’s valet/manager/stage daddy/partner-in-crime Ric Flair on numerous occasions — The Nature Boy’s presence decided the pair’s Divas Title Match at WWE Roadblock and a recent rumble for the Women’s Championship on Raw — The Queen of Harts has conscripted her uncle, WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hit Man” Hart, to her side to help even the odds against The Dirtiest Players in the Game.
On paper, this was a necessary, bordering on game-changing, move. Charlotte has proven herself to be a champion who will do anything and everything to maintain a hold over WWE’s resurgent Women’s division. The Nature Boy has been the hinge on which many of Charlotte’s signature victories (including the WrestleMania Triple Threat that landed her the new title in the first place) have swung.
Natalya has attempted to prove in recent weeks that heart and skill are the true marks of a champion, but she hasn’t much to show for walking the high road: only a disqualification defeat of Charlotte on Raw, thanks to Flair, and a tap out of the champion in an eight-woman affair that had already softened Charlotte up for the Sharpshooter. Having Uncle Bret on her side could truly even out the contest into the one-on-one bout The Queen of Harts has claimed from the start she can’t be beaten in.
But to beat the woman at WWE Payback, Natalya doesn’t just have to make history, she has to overcome history. Perhaps adding Bret to the equation is just what she needs. Flair isn’t everything, after all. Sometimes, all it takes to win the big one is a little more Hart than your opponent. If nothing else, Natalya definitely has that now.
WWE Review Card…
A new era has arrived in WWE, and nowhere is that more evident than the WWE Tag Team Championship No. 1 Contenders’ Tournament Final, to take place May 1 at WWE Payback.
In an eight-team bracket replete with tandems that have greater experience under the bright lights of WWE, two teams that are brand new to the scene — Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady and The Vaudevillains — made it all the way to the final.
To vie for the prestigious opportunity of challenging WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day, The Realest Guys in the Room, Amore & Cassady, upended The Ascension in round one and survived a fight with new nemeses The Dudley Boyz in round two.
Gentlemen brawlers Simon Gotch & Aiden English, meanwhile, advanced to the tournament final by trumping Goldust & Fandango and the dinged-up Usos in the quarter- and semifinals, respectively.
Each team now stands just one more tournament victory away from taking on the WWE Tag Team Champions. Will the trash-talking, thunder-and-lightning pair of Cassady & Amore take one step closer to championship glory at WWE Payback? Or will The Vaudevillains’ meticulous and old-school offense spell success?
At WrestleMania 32, Kalisto pulled off a little-big-man upset that would have done Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero proud, fending off a frothing Ryback to retain his United States Championship on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Now, on the WWE Payback Kickoff, he’ll have to do it again.
Blame it, in part, to the rough road traveled by the champion in recent weeks. Since his triumph at The Show of Shows, The King of Flight has been dogged by heartbreaking losses, one untimely mid-match injury and an inability to maintain the kind of momentum he had going into WrestleMania. What goes up must come down.
There’s also the argument to be made that The Human Wrecking Ball’s loss at WrestleMania was the exception, not the rule: Ryback is undefeated since WrestleMania, including a victory at the expense of the U.S. Champion himself. By The Big Guy’s reckoning, that means he’s in line for another crack at Old Glory. Given Kalisto’s tumultuous post-WrestleMania stretch, Ryback has picked his timing fantastically.
After defeating Kalisto on SmackDown, The Big Guy revels in his undefeated post-WrestleMania record.
Then again, he’s made the mistake of underestimating Kalisto before. Ryback’s rallying cry going into WrestleMania was that a good little guy can’t match up to a good big guy. He was shown up in a big way when it came time to deliver, but with the little guy having stumbled in the aftermath, Ryback’s chosen to simply hammer his original point harder. This U.S. Title rematch on the WWE Payback Kick-off is, if nothing else, a tale of diverging momentums. But Ryback should be wary this time around of declaring pre-emptive victory: What goes down often comes back up again, too.
At WWE Payback, Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin will square off in a match that might just reveal that, in WWE, arrogance must be earned.
The Lone Wolf made an immediate name for himself when he shocked the WWE Universe by winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. Outlasting the likes of Big Show, Kane and even Shaquille O’Neal, the former NXT powerhouse instantly emerged as a player to watch in WWE.
Looking for an encore performance, Corbin battled two-time World Heavyweight Champion Ziggler the next night on Raw. The former NFL offensive lineman teed off on The Showoff, ignoring the referee’s orders and accidentally getting himself counted out in the process. Furious, Corbin then viciously laid Ziggler out on the floor with the dreaded End of Days.
Under different circumstances, a rivalry like this might ultimately result in the passing of a torch. Not here, though. Put a torch in either man’s hands and expect flames to rise.
Corbin is a brash, if vainglorious, upstart determined to make a name for himself. Ziggler, on the other hand, is a competitor who took the same tact as Corbin early on in his career but has since won the hardware to justify the swagger. Who better than The Showoff to teach Corbin a lesson in humility?
Since their first conflict on Raw, the two have exchanged both barbs and brutality. Ziggler has been unrelenting and unafraid in his scraps with Corbin, consistently coming to the aid of defenseless opponents when The Lone Wolf assaults them post-match. However, Ziggler’s acts of valor have mostly ended with him lying face down after each confrontation.
Following their several altercations, Ziggler and Corbin were scheduled to face off with one another again on the April 21 edition of SmackDown from the U.K. Corbin, however, blindsided Ziggler from behind before the match could even begin. The Lone Wolf laid out Ziggler, and when asked why he incited the attack, Corbin simply replied, “because I can.”
This collision course has led the two Superstars to another faceoff, this time at WWE Payback. Can Baron Corbin continue to solidify his position as WWE’s newest menace, taking Ziggler down on a primetime stage? Or will The Showoff prove that wisdom, experience and a touch of refined confidence ultimately win out?
Prediction: Dolph Ziggler
Mr. McMahon will announce who controls Raw at WWE Payback
At WWE Payback, WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon will decide who controls Raw going forward: His son, Shane, or his daughter, Stephanie.
The long-term stewardship of WWE’s flagship program has been in question since the night after WrestleMania, when Mr. McMahon installed Shane at the helm of Raw. Originally intended as a one-night experiment, Shane-O-Mac’s rule of Raw — which has ushered in a new era of Superstars and featured many first-time matchups — continued in the weeks that followed due to the overwhelming support of the WWE Universe on social media.
A principal owner of WWE and member of The Authority, Stephanie returned to Raw on the April 25 edition, in the McMahon family’s home state of Connecticut, to make the case for why she deserves to be in power. It was Stephanie’s first time appearing before WWE cameras since her husband, Triple H, lost the WWE World Heavyweight Championship to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania.
The Billionaire Baroness reveals to Shane-O-Mac that, at WWE Payback. their father will decide which sibling will control Monday Night Raw.
Stephanie claimed it was because of The Authority’s vision that WWE celebrated the biggest WrestleMania ever, not to mention launched WWE Network. Stephanie then went a step further in her argument against her brother, saying Shane abandoned the WWE Universe years ago. Shane, meanwhile, has stated that Stephanie’s leadership contaminated the WWE locker room, and he credited the passion of the WWE Universe — not The Authority’s vision — for WWE’s success.
Who will Mr. McMahon put in charge of Raw at WWE Payback? Will Shane’s fan-friendly approach continue past this week? Or will Monday nights return to the control of The Authority?
Prediction: both then they will have a match either at the pay per view or at the next one where whichever superstar wins out of those they picked, winner will get control of Raw