This Sunday night on pay-per-view, World Wrestling Entertainment presents the first ever Payback event. I'm not sure why they went with Payback or why they couldn't bring back an old name like Backlash. I guess it doesn't really matter.
Since Payback is not a show with a theme, most of the matches on the show lack any kind of gimmick. The only one with a stipulation on it is the main event Three Stages of Hell match between John Cena and Ryback for the WWE title.
What's interesting about the card is that of the eight matches on the show (including the pre-show "Kickoff Match"), six of them are for championships. I'm actually pleased to see so many titles on a pay-per-view card. Maybe WWE realized that titles are important and they should be defended on pay-per-views. Or maybe it was just a coincidence? I'm not sure.
In looking at the lineup I think it has the potential to be an above-average show if the right matches get the most time. What are the right matches? Jericho/Punk, Ziggler/Del Rio and the tag title match. If those three matches all get over 15 minutes, then they can be excellent and "steal the show," if you want to use that term.
I think Payback's an upgrade over last month's Extreme Rules show because Punk and Ziggler are back for this one. Their presence helps a lot.
Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow (Payback Kickoff Match)
Sheamus vs. Sandow. Who wins?
I'm happy that Sandow is in a singles match on a pay-per-view (or close to a pay-per-view at least), but I don't see him winning here. Sheamus is likely in line for another singles push up the roster after winning his feud with Mark Henry and now going over Sandow.
I think a potential rivalry with Dolph Ziggler looms for him. This will be a six- or seven-minute match where nobody in the crowd thinks Sandow will win, so when Sheamus makes his big comeback they'll come alive for the Brogue Kick finish.
Intercontinental Championship: Wade Barrett vs. Curtis Axel vs. The Miz
I think Fandango was supposed to win the IC Title when this match was originally set up. Now that he's out, I still believe this is a match created to put the IC Title onto somebody other than Barrett or Miz.
Barrett vs. Axel vs. Miz. Who wins?
Barrett's IC Title reign has been poorly booked, much like Antonio Cesaro's U.S. title reign was. Why? Because he has lost far too many non-title matches while holding the IC title. Like I have said many times, if we see a guy lose a lot in non-title matches, then when he loses the title it's not a big deal because he's already a loser to us.
I think they inserted Axel into the match because they wanted to move the title onto a heel who could benefit from it, and he's the right choice. I'm fairly confident in this prediction.
Winner: Curtis Axel
Divas Championship: Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee
Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee. Who wins?
I have changed my mind on this one a few times in the last week. I thought it was going to be AJ Lee, but after thinking about it some more I'm really leaning towards Kaitlyn.
This past week on Raw, AJ humiliated Kaitlyn and proved she could outsmart her former best friend. I think that scenario sets things up for Kaitlyn to come out focused and retain her title.
Will AJ win the title in the future? I think so. I just think the way they built this up sets things up for Kaitlyn to remain the Divas Champion.
United States Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Kane
Dean Ambrose vs. Kane. Who wins?
Does Kane really want the U.S. title? It would be nice if they could have set this up more than one week in advance so that he could make us think he actually cared about the title he's challenging for.
This is basically just a match to get Ambrose on the card and likely to give him a win against a big name. I think it's unlikely that Ambrose will win clean since Kane is always booked strong, but they could do a finish where Ambrose exposes a turnbuckle leading to some kind of cheap ending.
As long as Ambrose gets the pin, I'm cool with it. A count-out or DQ finish would be disappointing.
Winner: Dean Ambrose
Tag Team Championships: The Shield (Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns) vs. Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton
Whoever Photoshopped the tag titles on Reigns & Rollins did an awful job. Haven't they taken photos holding the tag titles yet?
This one could be a lot of fun. Daniel Bryan might be the most popular performer in WWE right now, and in my opinion he's the best all around talent they have. It seems like Randy Orton is very motivated again after coasting a bit towards the end of last year and early this year. I think being a part of this angle with The Shield has helped keep him fresh.
The Shield vs. Orton/Bryan. Who wins?
Of course, with both of those guys the question is will one of them turn heel? I think Orton is going to turn heel in the near future.
If Bryan turns heel, it would be one of the biggest mistakes WWE could make. He has way too much momentum as a babyface. Do not ruin this with a heel turn.
As far as the match goes, I don't see the tag titles changing hands. There's no reason to do that. I think the best way to finish the match is to have some kind of miscommunication between Orton and Bryan. Perhaps Ambrose could interfere to help the heels, which would lead to Kane coming out and then somehow Orton ends up getting pinned. It can be something where Bryan bumps into Orton accidentally, Orton turns around and Reigns hits a Spear to win for his team.
It's important that Orton's the one that gets pinned because that could lead to him turning heel on Raw or SmackDown (preferably Raw) within a few weeks. I would be surprised if Reigns & Rollins won clean. Retaining the titles is a virtual lock, but a clean win is not a sure thing.
Winners: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns
World Heavyweight Championship: Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio
This is Ziggler's first World Title defense on pay-per-view since he won the title the night after WrestleMania, and he was out of Extreme Rules with a concussion. He only returned to television in a physical capacity this week, so there hasn't been much build for this matchup.
Ziggler vs. Del Rio. Who wins?
There's no reason to take the title off Ziggler so early in his title run, especially since the concussion issue is behind him now.
This will likely be a very good match if they get 10-15 minutes like I expect. I think what may happen is Ziggler might get cheered by the smart Chicago fans, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to that. Will Ziggler win clean? Maybe not, because he has been getting a lot of cheap wins with Big E Langston at ringside.
I just think this is the end of this feud rather than a continuation of what they've done so far. As mentioned earlier, I think Sheamus is likely as an opponent of Ziggler in the very near future.
Winner: Dolph Ziggler
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
This is the match I'm most excited about. Why? Three reasons:
1. It's very hard to predict what may happen.
2. The match should be excellent.
3. I have missed CM Punk immensely.
With that first reason in mind, here's my scenario on what I think might happen.
Punk vs. Jericho. Who wins?
I think Punk will walk into the match as a babyface in his hometown of Chicago and leave as a babyface. I think Jericho's going to win as a face and leave as a heel aligned with Paul Heyman. How do you get there? Heyman could come out, give Punk a big introduction and brag about how he signed the match. Instead of Punk wrestling right away, he could say he's not having this match because Heyman booked it. He's doing it because he didn't want to let Chicago down.
Give them 15-20 minutes with Heyman at ringside. Every time Heyman tries to help, Punk tells him he doesn't need him. Cue the finish. Heyman distracts Punk and that allows Jericho to hit a Codebreaker. After the match, Jericho applies the Walls of Jericho onto Punk to rub salt in the wounds.
The next night on Raw, Jericho can say he was a "Heyman Guy" long before Punk even wrestled, since Heyman gave Jericho his big break in ECW in 1996. They can do the rematch at Money in the Bank, Punk goes over as a babyface and that sets up babyface Punk vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Money match right there.
Do I want Punk to be a babyface upon his return? No, I don't. He's my favorite heel in wrestling. I think it sucks to see him turn face after turning heel last year. However, I think it's inevitable.
The Lesnar match at SummerSlam would be a big deal and makes sense with Punk as the former Heyman guy going up against a heel like Lesnar.
I think Punk as a babyface would hurt the rise of Daniel Bryan, which is also another reason why I want him to stay heel. He should be a guy whom Bryan beats to get to the top.
I'm predicting Jericho to win. I think his speech on Raw about how he "needs" to win is the sign of a heel turn. He likes being a heel.
It's the right setting for him to turn since the crowd will strongly support Punk. I'm not sure of this prediction, so keep that in mind. It's the hardest match to call.
Winner: Chris Jericho
WWE Championship: John Cena vs. Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell Match (Stage 1: Lumberjack match. Stage 2: Tables match. Stage 3: Ambulance match)
If you think I was going to put something other than "Winner: John Cena" here then you're crazy.
I think it's pretty obvious that Cena is going to retain the WWE title. This is his second pay-per-view title defense and he didn't even win his first one at Extreme Rules, so I think it's likely he will end this Ryback feud here.
Cena vs. Ryback. Who wins?
Since they are working three matches, I expect them to get about 20 minutes. I think the stipulations will help, because if it were a regular match it would be pretty boring.
I think Cena will win the first fall, Ryback will win the second fall and continue to dominate the match as they head to the Ambulance-match portion. Cena will make his usual superman comeback; they'll likely do some kind of big spot and Cena will win.
Who is Cena's next pay-per-view opponent? I'm not sure. It could be the returning Mark Henry. Perhaps it will be a babyface feud against Daniel Bryan or a three way of some kind. I don't really know.
I think this is the end of Ryback as a main event WWE title challenger. The champ retains.
Winner: John Cena
I wrote a lot about the matches, so for my final thought I think it's worth mentioning that the Chicago crowd may be the best group of fans that WWE regularly visits.
They make matches more interesting because of how loud they are and what they may chant at any given time. When a crowd is loud the show is usually more fun. I look forward to the reactions of the fans.
I think Payback will be an above-average show carried by excellent in-ring work and hopefully a few surprises or two.
John Canton is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can read more of his work at his website TJRWrestling.com. He also writes for LayfieldReport.com. You can follow John on Twitter @johnreport.