Payback represents a return to normalcy for the WWE. Brock Lesnar's victory over Triple H marked the end of the final WrestleMania storyline involving a part-time superstar. Now the company moves into the summer with its full-time roster.
John Cena will once again take on Ryback for the WWE title and World heavyweight champion Dolph Ziggler is fit to defend against Alberto Del Rio. In fact, every championship is scheduled to be on the line at the pay-per-view.
Perhaps the biggest story of all, however, is the advertised return of CM Punk. He's been away since shortly after WrestleMania. Whether he'll actually return or be a storyline no-show is up for debate, but there's no doubt the WWE could use him right now.
The show also features the first PPV opportunity for Curtis Axel and the continued rise of The Shield. It should be a pretty stacked card for a mid-tier show. Let's take a look at all the key information for Sunday, followed by a preview.
Where: Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.
When: Sunday, June 16 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: Pay-per-view (local cable providers)
Live Stream: WWE.com has PPV for $44.99
John Cena (c) vs. Ryback – WWE Championship Three Stages of Hell match
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho – Singles match
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio – World Heavyweight Championship match
Wade Barrett (c) vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel – Intercontinental Championship match
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Kane – United States Championship match
Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns (c) vs. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton – Tag Team Championship match
Kaitlyn (c) vs. AJ Lee – Divas Championship match
Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow – Kickoff to Payback match (YouTube)
Main Event Preview and Prediction
Ryback has been given ample time to prove he's ready to carry the WWE as its top champion. He still hasn't been able to do it, which doesn't bode well for his chances on Sunday night. Cena is always the safe option and the company will keep the belt on him until somebody else earns the opportunity.
The biggest problem for Ryback is his glaring weaknesses. His promo work is lackluster, mostly because it sounds like he's reading straight from a script without any natural emotion or inflection in his voice. He's limited in the ring, as well.
He was given a monster push because he possesses the look of a WWE champion. It takes more than that to actually hold the title for any meaningful period of time, though. Ryback still hasn't shown he's ready for that type of featured role.
Furthermore, the feud between Cena and Ryback needs to end soon. There just isn't any juice left to it after all of their storylines over the past year or so. It's time to mix things up a bit, which the returns of CM Punk and Mark Henry could do.
Perhaps Ryback can make another run toward the top of the card down the line. Getting him a mouthpiece that can eliminate most of his promo work would definitely help. Until then, it's just hard to imagine him winning the WWE title.
It should be an entertaining Three Stages of Hell match, with the stipulations overshadowing the average in-ring work. In the end, expect Cena to retain the title before turning his attention to a new storyline in the coming months.
Prediction: John Cena
What They're Saying
Paul Heyman continues to hype the return of CM Punk for a match with Jericho.
The newest "Paul Heyman Guy," Axel, is starting to make his mark on the WWE.
Undercard Match to Watch: Intercontinental Title match
Barrett has been the Intercontinental champion for all of 2013 aside from a single-day reign by The Miz from WrestleMania to Raw the next night, when Barrett won the title back. It's done very little to elevate him up the card.
It's time for a fresh face to take control of the belt. Enter Axel, who's been given a chance to shine after struggling to make an impact as Michael McGillicutty in recent years. The gimmick change and being aligned with Heyman is a significant opportunity.
Even though it's still far too soon to make any definitive judgments about his future, he's off to a good start. Giving him a midcard championship is the next step in his development process. There's no reason to halt his momentum now.
Prediction: Curtis Axel
Which Star Will WWE Bury? Kane
The best thing that can happen to Kane now that Team Hell No has faded away is for a complete rebuild of his character. The gimmick with Daniel Bryan worked well, but it ran its course and Kane is at his best when he's a feared force behind the mask.
United States champion Dean Ambrose, the most impressive member of The Shield throughout their remarkable run, is on the rise. He's got the feel of a superstar who will be in headline WrestleMania matches in the future.
In other words, having him drop the title to a veteran like Kane wouldn't make any sense. The match represents a chance for him to score another marquee PPV victory, and then Kane can begin the process of starting fresh again.
Star Unaccounted For: Fandango
There was a window right after WrestleMania, when Fandango fever hit its peak, to give him a serious push. He was getting over with the fans thanks to his theme music and was actually displaying solid in-ring skills.
The window quickly began to close and now he's dealing with a concussion, which forced him out of the Intercontinental Championship match. A title run that could have been his will now likely go to Axel, a setback to say the least.
It's hard to predict what the future holds for Fandango, but it's not as bright as it appeared a couple of months ago. An opportunity was missed immediately following WrestleMania and it's no guarantee another one will come along in the near future.