Payback is nothing new in the world of professional wrestling, and now there is an entire pay-per-view dedicated to it. WWE Payback will take place on June 16 from Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., and the build toward it has already started.
Two matches were officially announced on Monday as John Cena will defend his WWE Championship against Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell match. Also, CM Punk will make his in-ring return against Chris Jericho. The rest of the card can go in a number of different directions, though, so it will be interesting to see how things play out.
Most fans seem to believe that Extreme Rules was better than WrestleMania XXIX, but Payback has all the makings necessary to be better than both shows. Whether or not the creative team goes in the proper direction is anyone's guess, however, the pieces are certainly in place.
While plenty of questions should be answered in the coming weeks, here are early predictions for every Payback match including potential stipulations as well as projected winners.
After John Cena and Ryback fought to a draw in their Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules, it was blatantly obvious that they would lock horns again at Payback. The only question that remained related to a potential stipulation. That is no longer an issue, however, as Cena finalized their match on Raw.
While Ryback proposed an Ambulance Match one week earlier, the incumbent WWE Champion did him one better and instituted a Three Stages of Hell Match. The first stage will be a Lumberjack Match, the second will be a Tables Match and the third will be Ryback's desired Ambulance Match.
The idea of a Three Stages of Hell Match is good in theory, but unless Cena decided to go with lingerie contest, a pillow fight and a tea party, he couldn't have possibly chosen three less hellacious stages. Whatever the case, this is clearly an attempt on WWE's part to make Cena and Ryback look evenly matched as they can each score a fall prior to the ambulance portion.
The most likely scenario will likely involve Cena taking the Lumberjack Match followed by Ryback winning the Tables Match since that can be made to look fluky. It will ultimately come down to the decisive third stage, and although Ryback has been made to look like Cena's equal as of late, it's hard to imagine him winning the WWE Championship.
Ryback simply doesn't have the mic skills necessary to be the top guy in the company and the WWE won't end Cena's reign so quickly. Look for Cena to come out on top through typical superhuman means as he'll nab the requisite two of three falls.
*Cena wins 2-1 by taking the Lumberjack and Ambulance Match stages and retains WWE Championship
Cena vs. Ryback will almost certainly main-event Payback after giving way to Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules, but it won't be the most highly anticipated contest on the card. That distinction belongs to CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho, which was announced on Monday as Y2J offered and Paul Heyman accepted a challenge on The Highlight Reel.
Punk hasn't been seen since cutting a promo on Raw eight days after WrestleMania XXIX. Punk walked out of the arena and has essentially been on vacation ever since. It was obviously only a matter of time before he decided to return and it looks like Payback near his hometown of Chicago is where he will step into the squared circle once again.
Punk and Jericho certainly have a history as Punk retained the WWE Championship against Y2J at WrestleMania XXVIII. They faced each other again at Extreme Rules in 2012, which coincidentally took place in Chicago. Punk won that match as well, ending a bitter feud in the process, which involved Jericho dousing the straight-edge Punk with alcohol at various points.
The script will be flipped this time with Punk serving as the heel and Jericho playing the face role. No stipulation has been set for the match, but it could definitely use one since this match has already been seen on a few occasions. The most logical one would be Jericho having to retire if he loses and Punk losing Heyman as his manager if he fails to prevail.
Most would probably expect Punk to win since Jericho leaves at various points to tour with his band. In a shocking turn of events, however, Heyman will turn on Punk, align himself with Jericho and help Y2J finally vanquish his rival.
This would result in a Punk face turn as well as an intriguing partnership between Heyman and Jericho. While Jericho doesn't necessarily need Heyman, neither did Punk and that ultimately worked out well. Jericho has done pretty much everything over the course of his career, but branching off with Heyman would give him a new and exciting direction.
*Jericho wins via pinfall with help from Paul Heyman
Provided World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler is cleared to compete in the wake of the concussion he suffered a couple weeks ago, he will almost certainly defend his title against Alberto Del Rio at Payback. Del Rio defeated Jack Swagger in a No. 1 contender's match at Extreme Rules, so he will have an opportunity to recapture the gold Ziggler took from him.
After several months with the Money in the Bank contract in his possession, Ziggler finally cashed in the night after WrestleMania XXIX as Del Rio was on the receiving end of an attack at the hands of Swagger. Ziggler capitalized on his opportunity and became the new World Heavyweight Champion. Ziggler was originally slated to defend his title against Del Rio and Swagger at Extreme Rules, but he was unable to due to his injury.
The match was supposed to be a Triple-Threat Ladder Match, but that obviously didn't come fruition as Ziggler has been off television since suffering his injury. Luckily he still has a few weeks to heal, so he should be back in time for Payback provided his recovery goes well moving forward.
Since fans were robbed of a Ladder Match at Extreme Rules, look for the Ziggler vs. Del Rio match at Payback to utilize that stipulation. Ziggler has thrived in that environment as he won Money in the Bank last year and retained his contract in a ladder match against John Cena at TLC.
Ziggler should retain the title thanks to help from AJ Lee, but it wouldn't be a surprise if Big E Langston nearly costs Ziggler the match at some point. AJ has berated Big E after recent losses to Del Rio, so he appears to be on the outs. Payback can be the final straw with Big E laying Ziggler out after the match and turning face as well.
*Ziggler wins and retains the World Heavyweight Championship
After defeating Team Hell No for the Tag Team Championships at Extreme Rules and prevailing in their rematch against Kane and Daniel Bryan on Raw as well, it is a near certainty that Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns will move on to greener pastures. There is a severe lack of quality face tag teams in the WWE right now, but the pairing of Sheamus and Randy Orton figures to be The Shield's next challenge.
Sheamus and Orton impressively defeated Team Rhodes Scholars on Raw and the announcers made sure that they talked up Sheamus and Orton as a duo. Also, Orton is scheduled to face United States Champion Dean Ambrose of The Shield on SmackDown, so the writing is on the wall with regards to Rollins and Reigns attacking The Viper, and Sheamus eventually making the save.
This will lead to a Tag Team Championship match between the two sides at Payback. This admittedly isn't anything new as The Shield defeated Sheamus, Orton and Big Show at WrestleMania, but having Rollins and Reigns face and defeat two main-event-level guys like Sheamus and Orton is better than pitting them against The Usos or Tons of Funk.
Both Orton and Sheamus are solid in-ring workers and The Shield constantly has great matches, so this bout could potentially steal the show. There isn't much mystery involved as there is no way that Rollins and Reigns can possibly lose this match, but unpredictability isn't anything.
Perhaps the creative team can still surprise the fans by teasing some dissension between Sheamus and Orton, though. Fans have been anticipating a feud between them since before WrestleMania, so an agitated Orton walking out on Sheamus after the loss could set the stage for a rivalry moving forward.
*Rollins and Reigns win via pinfall and retain Tag Team Championships
Much like Rollins and Reigns moving on from Team Hell No, all signs point to United States Champion Dean Ambrose feuding with someone other than Kofi Kingston after beating him on a couple occasions. Unfortunately, there isn't much mid-card face depth on the roster right now, but a brief feud with Daniel Bryan culminating in a match at Payback could be extremely entertaining.
Ambrose and Bryan actually had a singles match on SmackDown recently, but it was interrupted by the rest of The Shield members, Kane and Kingston. The bout was fantastic before it deteriorated and there is no question that the fans would love to see them go head-to-head once again. Since Bryan and Kane are no longer in the Tag Team Championship hunt, they are both free to pursue other avenues.
A triple threat with both Bryan and Kane facing Ambrose is also a possibility, but it wouldn't be a good fit at this event due to the strong probability of another triple threat elsewhere on the card. Since Bryan and Kane have been arguing a lot lately, expect them to argue about who should get the title shot against Ambrose before Bryan ultimately earns it in a Beat the Clock Challenge.
Kane will offer to accompany Bryan to the ring for his match at Payback, but Bryan will decline. This will result in Rollins and Reigns interfering when Bryan is about to win the title. Ambrose will use that to his advantage and retain the strap.
Not only will this keep the belt around Ambrose's waist, but it will also further the Bryan vs. Kane feud that appears to be on the horizon. Bryan can accuse Kane of sabotaging his title opportunity and the tension between them will increase in the coming weeks and months, culminating in a match between them at SummerSlam.
*Ambrose wins via pinfall and retains United States Championship
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett hasn't had much direction since winning the title from Kofi Kingston a few months ago, but that appears to be changing. Barrett lost the title to The Miz at WrestleMania XXIX before recapturing it the next night on Raw, so Miz wants to get the strap back. Also, Barrett has been involved with Fandango as of late.
It all started on the post-Extreme-Rules Raw as Barrett and Fandango teamed against Miz and Chris Jericho. Fandango hung Barrett out to dry, though, as he decided to dance with Summer Rae outside the ring in the middle of the match. Barrett took the fall in that match and tried to get revenge this week as he faced Fandango with Miz serving as the special guest referee.
Not surprisingly, Miz found it difficult to remain impartial as he hit Barrett with a Skull Crushing Finale and allowed Fandango to pick up the win. The Miz wasn't done, though, as he kicked Fandango in the head afterwards. Miz clearly has his sights set on both men, so it is painfully obvious that the three of them will wrestle with the IC title on the line at Payback.
Barrett hasn't done anything with the belt, so he will probably lose it. Miz could win it, but he is above the Intercontinental Championship at this point and wouldn't benefit from winning it at this point. In order to capitalize on his momentum, Fandango should be the one to come away victorious. The WWE is obviously committed to him, so it would be great to see the IC title featured again.
Look for Fandango to win this one in dirty fashion as he hits Barrett with his top-rope leg drop while Miz has him in the Figure Four, tosses Miz out of the ring and pins Barrett to capture the belt.
*Fandango wins via pinfall and becomes new Intercontinental Champion
AJ Lee won a battle royal to become No. 1 contender for Kaitlyn's Divas Championship several weeks ago, but their match has yet to happen. The creative team has done a decent job keeping their feud alive, though, as they have gotten into a couple backstage altercations. The stalling has gone on long enough, however, and the match should happen at Payback.
Truth be told, Kaitlyn vs. AJ is one of the most intriguing divas matches and feuds in quite some time as they were once portrayed as best friends before AJ flew off the handle. There is actual history between them and there is a proper storyline in place as well, so Kaitlyn vs. AJ absolutely deserves a spot on Payback's main card.
While Kaitlyn is talented, she hasn't done much with the title and it would be better off with AJ at this point. She is the focal point of the divas division right now and the title would be featured far more often if AJ were to win it as she is constantly alongside World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler. If this match happens, there is little doubt that AJ will win.
In the interest of throwing an extra wrinkle into the fold, AJ figures to win with her Black Widow submission hold. Assuming Big E Langston is Kaitlyn's secret admirer, which he very well could be, Big E will tend to Kaitlyn after the match. This will rub both AJ and Dolph the wrong way and it will lead to Langston's eventual face turn later in the night.
*AJ wins via submission and becomes new Divas Champion
As awful as Curtis Axel may be in reality, the WWE is obviously fixated on pushing him as he is paired with Paul Heyman and is coming off victories over Triple H and John Cena. While his wins are obviously tainted due to the fact that Triple H suffered a kayfabe concussion and couldn't continue while Cena was counted out, they are wins over two of the biggest superstars in WWE history nonetheless.
There isn't a comparable star available for Axel to face at Payback, but Kofi Kingston would be a solid opponent for his first pay-per-view match under the Curtis Axel name. Axel actually faced Kingston on several occasions as Michael McGillicutty, so they have some experience facing each other as well as some in-ring chemistry. Also, Kingston was McGillicutty's pro on NXT, which is a fun fact to add to their feud.
Since Kofi lost the United States Championship to Dean Ambrose, there isn't much for him to do right now. He is a very capable worker, though, and he would be the ideal choice to put Axel over on the big stage. If the creative team is looking to set Axel up for success, then Axel vs. Kofi at Payback is an absolute no-brainer.
Kingston won't do anything to make Axel look bad and he is a name-brand superstar as well, so a win over Kofi will look good on Axel's resume. He'll need a more substantial feud moving forward in order to truly get over, but beating Kingston on pay-per-view is a great start.
*Axel wins via pinfall
Predicting the pre-show for a pay-per-view is a crap shoot as the WWE tends to choose the matches at random, but a bout between Jack Swagger and Sin Cara seems like a possibility. Swagger is the biggest name without a logical spot on the card right now, so he needs to be involved with the pre-show in some way. Sin Cara recently returned from injury and is a fan favorite, which makes him a logical opponent for Swagger.
Also, Swagger's gimmick is that of an anti-immigration bigot, so Sin Cara makes a lot of sense as he is a Mexican import. Swagger and Sin Cara have actually done battle in the past and have interesting, contrasting styles. Ultimately this match is more a case of two guys wrestling because there is nothing else for them to do, but it is better for them to compete than to be left off the card completely.
Conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that Swagger will win as he is coming off a massive push, but his push appears to be over. If the WWE simply wants to get the fans involved early, having Sin Cara win is actually the smarter move. It could be billed as a huge upset and possibly lead to a mini feud until there is something better in place for Swagger.
Look for this one to end with Swagger attempting to beat Sin Cara with the Patriot Lock before the masked superstar rolls through and picks up a shocking victory off a quick pinning combination. This will officially get the live crowd pumped for Payback.
*Sin Cara wins via pinfall