On Sunday evening, WWE presents its first-ever Payback pay-per-view event live from the Allstate Arena in Chicago. Although history shows that June events aren't always the greatest, tonight's Payback show hopes to prove otherwise with a confident card that could easily entertain if booked correctly.
Headlining the show will be John Cena vs. Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell match for the WWE Championship—a feud that hasn't quite been intense enough to justify such a rare stipulation. However, some felt that their previous match at Extreme Rules exceeded expectations, so if these two can pull off a Last Man Standing match, anything is possible tonight.
If that wasn't enough to get you excited about this pay-per-view, the addition of CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho surely will. Punk will be making his first in-ring appearance since WrestleMania XXIX, so it will be interesting to see what role he portrays upon his return in his hometown of Chicago.
As part of my initiation into the group of the past, present and future of Bleacher Report (otherwise known as the "Evolution of Bleacher Report"), I present to you on behalf of Graham "GSM" Matthews and SiD a match-by-match analysis of our predictions for tonight's pay-per-view event.
Without further ado, it's time to use all of our insight and potential psychic powers in an attempt to answer just what might be coming our way tonight at WWE Payback!
Mango: As I detailed in my post, the safe bet is for Sheamus to win, but the smart choice would be giving it to Damien Sandow. If there is any match on the card that I'm not incredibly confident in predicting, it is this one. I would love to see Sandow win clean by outsmarting Sheamus, but the realist in me doesn't have high hopes for it to happen, unfortunately.
GSM: This feud has been surprisingly well-built in recent weeks, and it's nice to see Sandow compete in his first singles match on pay-per-view. Some people may disapprove of this being on the pre-show, but I think it's a smart move, as it's a bout that fans actually care about and it has story behind it.
I've enjoyed the momentum Sandow has gotten over Sheamus in the last two weeks, showing that this rivalry isn't lopsided after all. I would love to see Sandow score the victory here, even if it was via count-out or disqualification, but I don't see that happening. Rather, Sheamus will emerge victorious as always.
SiD: To be honest, I do not care about this match at all. Two of my least favorite superstars competing in a match together just screams boredom to me. However, I expect Sheamus to get the win, as always, because he's an invincible fella.
Overall Consensus: Sheamus—3, Sandow—0
Mango: Anyone hoping that Kane will walk out of Payback with the United States title is going to have a bad day. This is Dean Ambrose's match to lose.
Kane will have a decent showing and lose due to some sort of interference, but he'll lose nonetheless. Can you imagine Kane being the one to defeat Ambrose for the United States Championship? I doubt WWE can either.
GSM: Ambrose has been United States champion for a mere month, so taking the title away from him right now would be absolutely asinine. Kane is an established veteran who can lose cleanly and still manage to bounce back easily, so I hope to see Ambrose go over clean here. As far as the match goes, it could prove to be decent, but nothing out of the ordinary.
SiD: Daniel Bryan should have been here instead of Kane, in my opinion. He could have had a big tantrum that he was the weak link, saying he wants to prove himself at Payback alone. However, Kane is one of the strongest superstars in WWE, and Ambrose is one of the most clever.
Therefore, this match should be worth watching. In my opinion, Kane shouldn't be winning the United States Championship, but chasing the World Heavyweight Championship instead. Ambrose will win, with or without the help of his Shield members.
Overall Consensus: Ambrose—3, Kane—0
Mango: It's been a long time coming, and it should have never happened to begin with, but Kaitlyn is finally going to give the championship to AJ Lee. Although the division is in shambles, the Divas title will definitely mean much more around the waist of Lee rather than someone who hasn't defended it often due to not being a priority.
Giving the title to someone who matters to the crowd over someone who hasn't connected with the audience never hurts. This is step one to getting things back on track.
GSM: After months of waiting, I'm finally getting my highly anticipated match of Kaitlyn vs. Lee for the Divas Championship. I would have rather seen this go down at WrestleMania XXIX in front of AJ's hometown crowd, but better late than never, right?
These two have history dating back to season three of NXT in late 2010, so it has the story behind it. However, the inconsistent booking of this feud in recent weeks has prevented it from being better. Regardless, Lee should capture the gold here given the fact that she's the most relevant Diva in all of WWE at the moment.
SiD: The only Divas feud we've had in recent memory will start at Payback as the Divas champion Kaitlyn takes on the spunky—yet crazy—AJ Lee. Two of the best female athletes will compete in this match for a title that has lost all of its prestige.
My pick is that Kaitlyn loses her championship due to a distraction by Big E Langston, making AJ Lee and Dolph Ziggler the new power couple of WWE.
Overall Consensus: Lee—3, Kaitlyn—0
Mango: Now that Fandango is out of the match, I would assume the baton has been passed to Curtis Axel. Judging by the type of victories he's had so far, the most likely outcome seems to be Miz hitting the Skull Crushing Finale on Wade Barrett, but Axel capitalizing and getting the pin instead.
Although there is a slight possibility that Miz could win the title and start a feud with Axel after the fact, I highly doubt that will happen. Hopefully, this allows Barrett the opportunity to win one of the Money in the Bank briefcases and go on to the world title reign he's deserved for years.
GSM: This is the most relevant the Intercontinental Championship has been in quite some time, so I appreciate the effort WWE has put into making it feel important again. Barrett has done nothing for the belt since winning it and vice versa, so this should be where he finally loses it.
As much as I like The Miz, there's no need for him to win the title at this point. Since Fandango was my original pick to win, there's no doubt in my mind that Axel takes him the gold here. What is more fitting than Axel winning the same strap his father made famous on Father's Day?
SiD: I was hoping that Fandango would be replaced by either Cody Rhodes or Zack Ryder, but if it is the son of Mr. Perfect alongside Paul Heyman, then there's no doubt in my mind that Axel is winning the championship.
Repackaged after a horrendous run as Michael McGillicutty, Axel has been impressive so far, even though most of his victories have been from count-outs. With Heyman and the Intercontinental Championship, the future seems bright for Axel, who is on the verge of super-stardom.
Overall Consensus: Axel—3, Barrett—0, Miz—0
Mango: We shouldn't even be predicting who will win the match, but rather, whether it is Randy Orton or Daniel Bryan who will be turning heel. Personally, I am hoping that it is Orton, as Bryan's crowd reactions as of late prove how much of a commodity he will be as a babyface when WWE begins to push him into the main event again.
Orton has been a face for a long while, so it's time to switch it up. The Shield will retain due to some kind of dissension between the Viper and the Goat.
GSM: Bryan and The Shield have been stealing the show for months now, and I expect this match to be no different. As stated earlier with Dean Ambrose vs. Kane, The Shield just recently captured the gold, so I don't see the titles changing hands here.
Everyone is expecting for either Orton or Bryan to turn, and while I'm sure a heel turn is in the works, it would feel rushed if it were to occur here. Therefore, I predict The Shield to emerge victorious after tension is teased between Orton and Bryan.
SiD: I wanted Bryan to go alone versus Ambrose, while Kane and Orton tagged, but this match seems excellent, too. However, the outcome is predictable. The Shield will win as usual.
The action after the match will be more interesting to watch, as we have the pay-per-view in Chicago. The crowd will be wild, and so will Orton, as he gives Bryan an RKO and turns heel.
Overall Consensus: The Shield—3, Orton and Bryan—0
Mango: Dolph Ziggler needs to retain the title. It's as simple as that. There's no steam behind Alberto Del Rio at the moment, and Ziggler cannot afford to drop his championship after the concussion problems. It will kill any chance that Ziggler has at a future in the main event, and the end result won't even benefit Del Rio or the company.
This is filler to eat up time before Ziggler gets a new legitimate contender for SummerSlam. Hopefully, we don't have another Del Rio vs. Ziggler rematch coming our way at Money in the Bank, as the same repetition severely hurt the Sheamus and Del Rio feud in the past.
GSM: Due to Ziggler's month-long absence from television, this World Heavyweight Championship match has little to no build behind it. Despite that, I'm certain that these two will still provide an entertaining match as they always do.
With this being Ziggler's first official title defense, he should most definitely walk out of Chicago with the title still intact. I'd be fine with the feud continuing past this point, but I'm anxious to see fresh faces in the title picture that aren't named Del Rio.
SiD: After a huge concussion that had him suffering for days, Ziggler returns to action at Payback where he faces Del Rio for hopefully the last time. While their matches together have been excellent, too much of anything is bad, and this feud has become stagnant.
My pick is that Ziggler retains and moves on to new challengers while Del Rio teams up with someone to go after The Shield. One thing is for sure: After tonight, WWE will have its power couple in AJ Lee and Ziggler. Expect Big E to play a part in this match as well.
Overall Consensus: Ziggler—3, Del Rio—0
Mango: Not only am I going to predict that this will be the match of the night, but I'm also going to go against the popular opinion and say that Jericho will not be aligning himself with Paul Heyman. I do expect Jericho to win, but I don't expect a face turn for CM Punk just yet.
This will instead happen around SummerSlam, as Heyman will start to doubt his alliance with Punk after a loss here. Jericho winning means he symbolically takes back the "Best in the World" moniker, which will be another blow to Punk's ego. Stage one of Punk's humanization was his loss at WrestleMania. His loss here is stage two.
GSM: In all honesty, I'm not sure what to think of this match. Jericho and Punk always have awesome matches, and I'm excited for their encounter, but I still feel like it's too soon to bring Punk back. That aside, I'm incredibly intrigued about how he will be used upon his return.
It's quite possible that he comes back as a fan favorite based upon the huge reaction he'll receive in Chicago, which would make Jericho the heel, but wouldn't that be a rehash of their feud from last year?
I would rather see Punk ditch the show, garner huge heat and remain heel if it means keeping Jericho a face for now. However, if this match does indeed happen, my pick is Punk.
SiD: I don't think this match is going to happen. As Jericho's music stops, Punk's music plays, but he does not come out. Instead, Heyman announces that instead of Punk, a different superstar will compete.
The superstar coming out could be any of the Paul Heyman guys, but my predictions are that it would be Axel or Brock Lesnar. They will come out and destroy Jericho—Lesnar by his sheer power and Axel by his count-out finisher. One thing is for sure: Jericho will not be winning it, no matter who the opponent is.
Overall Consensus: Punk—2, Jericho—1
Mango: Ryback stands no chance here. If the entire purpose of this match is to be something special for John Cena, what is the likelihood that he will be losing in any capacity?
I'm expecting Ryback to win the Lumberjack match, stacking the odds against Cena. However, the WWE champion will quickly toss Ryback into a table with a random Attitude Adjustment out of nowhere to even things up. Then, the match will revert back to a standard Cena match where he receives a beating before coming out on top and placing Ryback in the ambulance to retain the title.
This is just yet another pay-per-view loss to add to Ryback's streak. Some monster, right everyone?
GSM: It's saddening to say that the same four familiar faces (John Cena, Ryback, CM Punk and The Rock) have dominated the WWE Championship scene over the last four months. I surely hope that changes after tonight.
This feud between Cena and Ryback has been mediocre at best, so I'm not exactly sure why the Three Stages of Hell stipulation is necessary.
While each of the three stages are ways to protect the competitors without having them look weak, none of them are all that intriguing. Ryback hasn't won a pay-per-view match since last July, and I don't see that streak ending here. Cena will win and Ryback's losing ways will continue.
SiD: Ryback wins the first stage, Cena wins the second, and Ryback wins the third to become the new WWE champion. In the Lumberjack match, Ryback wins with the help of the lumberjacks, as they decimate Cena to give Ryback a count-out victory—shades of Curtis Axel.
After that, Cena puts Ryback through a table convincingly, because he's Cena. In the third stage, Ryback successfully puts Cena in the ambulance with the help of some interference or distraction, walking out with the championship. The feud continues with Cena complaining that the count-out victory shouldn't have been counted and Ryback mocking Cena for losing.
Overall Consensus: Cena—2, Ryback—1
Payback has a lot of potential to deliver, but also a lot of negatives working against it. Is it going to be nothing but a filler event and a waste of time and money, or will it exceed expectations with a strong performance?
Hopefully, Payback can break the June pay-per-view trend and prove to be something more enjoyable than the previous events that have come before it.
If you're still on the fence as to whether or not you'll be ordering the show, look for the return of CM Punk in his match against Chris Jericho and the live crowd in Chicago to be the true selling point.
I'd like to thank Graham "GSM" Matthews and SiD for extending the invitation to me to join in on their running segment as well as for giving their insight on these matches coming our way.
Let us know what your predictions are going into tonight's pay-per-view, look out for future predictions from the Evolution of Bleacher Report, and I wish you all a happy Father's Day and a great time watching Payback!