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Bleacher Report featured columnists Michael Cahill, Brandon Galvin, Mike Chiari and Donald Wood give the lowdown on all things going on in the wrestling world.
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(Some Language NSFW)
June 25 - WCW/ECW Match Madness
July 2 - PG Era Fantasy Draft and 100th episode celebration
John Cena vs. Ryback
After a highly entertaining Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules that ended in a draw, John Cena and Ryback will once again do battle at Payback with the WWE Championship on the line. They'll be playing by a different set of rules this time, though, as they will compete in a Three Stages of Hell match, which will include lumberjack, tables and ambulance match stipulations.
Question on Everybody's Mind: Who Will Win?
The WWE's creative team has seemingly gone to great lengths to build Ryback into a credible main-event heel in recent weeks. It's true that he hasn't won a pay-per-view match since Brad Maddox screwed him out of the WWE Championship against CM Punk at Hell in a Cell last year, but Ryback has been dominant otherwise and he has been featured far more often as of late.
Not only is Ryback winning matches, but his mean streak is more noticeable than ever. He has taken to placing superstars in ambulances as well as putting them through tables during the road to Payback. Ryback has also gotten considerably more mic time, and while the Ring Rust Radio panel disagrees with regards to the progress he has made in that area, there is no doubt that the WWE is pushing him.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
With all of that said, it is tough to imagine Ryback defeating Cena on Sunday. Cena went through a lot in order to recapture the WWE Championship as his pursuit of the title culminated in a win over The Rock at WrestleMania. To end his reign after just two months would essentially erase everything that he did to earn it. Perhaps more importantly, though, Ryback just doesn't seem to be ready for such a lofty spot in the company.
His promo skills are not befitting of a WWE Champion at this point. He plays the monster heel role and speaking isn't exactly supposed to be the forte of a monster heel, but times have changed in professional wrestling. It is incredibly difficult to reach the top unless a superstar can cut a convincing promo. Ryback hasn't gotten to that point, so look for Cena to win the match and retain the title. This will allow Ryback to take step down and finally build some credibility by winning feuds and pay-per-view matches to boot.
Rumor Mill: Ryback Reportedly Not Scheduled to Win (F4WOnline via WrestlingInc.com)
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
While Cena vs. Ryback figures to be the main event at Payback, the match that most fans are eagerly anticipating will pit CM Punk against Chris Jericho. Punk hasn't wrestled since losing to The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXIX, so his return will be a huge moment. That is particularly true as Payback is taking place in Punk's hometown of Chicago, so the reaction should be immense.
Question on Everybody's Mind: How Will It Play Out?
It can be argued that Punk vs. Jericho is the most intriguing and unpredictable match on the entire Payback card. That unpredictability largely stems from the fact that Punk hasn't been seen on WWE programming since eight days after WrestleMania. Even though Paul Heyman accepted the match against Jericho on Punk's behalf and signed the contract for him as well, the belief is that Punk will show up at Payback.
There is still some doubt involved, though, as he has largely been mum on the situation. There is a contingent of fans out there that believes Punk will no-show the event in order to set up a future storyline, but that would be a poor public relations move on the WWE's part. Fans will buy the pay-per-view and attend it to see Punk wrestle, so the WWE absolutely must deliver on its promise.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
With Curtis Axel being placed in the Intercontinental Championship match at Payback, it seems like the WWE is letting its fans know that Punk will face Jericho and won't be replaced by another Heyman client. Since the assumption that Punk vs. Jericho will happen is pretty safe, the big question now relates to who will win and how it will happen. The prevailing thought is that Punk will win on his home turf, but that is far from a guarantee.
Jericho said on Monday that he needs to beat Punk and that he will do anything in order to make it happen. That could mean a lot of things, but my money is on Heyman turning on Punk in favor of Jericho. This will allow Jericho to win the match and align himself with Heyman. Punk would subsequently turn face. Punk is a great heel, but if the WWE intends to turn him face, there is no better place to do it than in Chicago. This would set up an extremely interesting angle for the rest of the summer as Punk can feud with Jericho, Axel and perhaps even Brock Lesnar.
Rumor Mill: CM Punk to Reportedly Get New Theme Music at Payback (411mania.com)
Remainder of Payback Card
Although most eyes will be on Cena vs. Ryback and Punk vs. Jericho, the rest of the Payback card looks fairly promising as well. Among the best remaining matches are Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton for the Tag Team Championships and Dean Ambrose vs. Kane for the United States Championship, so it should be a fun show throughout.
Question on Everybody's Mind: Will There Be Any Surprises?
With Cena, Ziggler and The Shield looking like fairly certain winners, it will be interesting to see if the creative team pulls out any swerves. Two matches that could potentially go either way are the Intercontinental Championship triple-threat match between Wade Barrett, The Miz and Axel, as well as the Kickoff match between Sheamus Damien Sandow.
The triple threat seemed fairly obvious when Fandango had a spot in the match as he would have benefited from the IC title. With a concussion keeping him out of the proceedings, however, the writers will have to figure something out. As for Sheamus vs. Sandow, Sheamus is the definitive favorite, but Sandow needs the win much more than he does. It remains to be seen which factor means more to the writers come Sunday.
Ring Rust Radio's Take
The Ring Rust Radio panel was totally split when it came to the triple-threat match as all three participants were named as predicted winners. My personal choice is The Miz as it would keep Fandango in the title hunt when he returns from injury. Miz could act as a transitional champion and drop the belt to Fandango at the next pay-per-view. Also, Axel could be protected by having Triple H attack him and essentially prevent him from factoring into the decision.
The panel was unanimous in saying that Sheamus will defeat Sandow, but it certainly isn't a sure thing. Sandow has been featured much more as of late and he could potentially be in for a push. He cut a promo on Main Event this week and essentially said that he was altering his character. It was a strange promo to say the least, but it was effective and could very well be foreshadowing a big push. If that is the case, perhaps Sandow will score a big upset on Sunday.
Rumor Mill: Tag Title Plans Reportedly Changed (F4WOnline via WrestlingInc.com)
RRR Fantasy WWE Standings
1. Michael Cahill: 230
2. Mike Chiari: 150
3. Brandon Galvin: -50
4. Donald Wood: -85
For more wrestling talk, listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot topics, or catch the latest episode in the player below (some language NSFW).