WWE Payback 2014 is the second edition of a newbie event on the company's calender, looking up at shows with more history, more renown.
To catch up with more established pay-per-views, Payback must add a unique element to look forward to, provide standout matches each year and bring in added star power as other events have done.
In addition to the "Big Four" of SummerSlam, WrestleMania, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series, events like Money in the Bank and Extreme Rules have made a significant mark on WWE history in just a few years. Over the Limit, on the other hand, lasted only three years.
The more shows that mirror Extreme Rules' success and the less that follow Over the Limit's path to non-existence, the better.
That's even true in an era where buyrates are no longer the company's focus. WWE Network sign-ups are now a bigger goal as subscribers get all of the pay-per-views for a flat rate. The more skipable fare that WWE offers over the course of a year, the less folks will feel the need to pay for WWE's version of Netflix.
Improving Payback and shows in their infancy like it serves to make the WWE Network more desirable. That process begins with making it distinct.
Something of Its Own
The Royal Rumble has the 30-man battle to decide WrestleMania's headliner, Money in the Bank offers someone a shot at a championship when the champion is down and Extreme Rules and TLC provide the allure of added gimmick matches.
Payback doesn't provide anything in particular to look forward to and, in turn, has lacked an identity so far.
Those aforementioned shows can depend on pulling in fans regardless of the match card. There's already an inherent interest in them because of the novelty of extremeness in some cases and added stakes in others.
WWE would be wise to add the latter to Payback.
Perhaps a number of top contenders are put into a Six-Pack Challenge each year with the winner guaranteed a spot in the Money in the Bank match. Maybe Payback pits struggling midcarders against each other and whoever loses is forced to head down to NXT.
To better tie into the "payback" theme, WWE could have champions face challengers who were their rivals in the past.
This year, Sheamus would defend the United States title against Big Show. Bad News Barrett would have to face several ex-members of Nexus.
Finding a way to distinguish Payback from other shows helps give it a feeling of specialness. Otherwise, there is the real danger of it coming off as a transitional event, one that sparks less interest because of that.
The Power of Classics
Putting on great matches is the simplest method to put Payback on the proverbial map.
Money in the Bank is certainly aided by its titular gimmick match, but John Cena vs. CM Punk in 2011 forced fans to pay attention to it. For anyone who skipped it, thinking they'd just catch SummerSlam a month later, they regretted it after Punk and Cena composed a masterpiece.
That year's event was only the second in Money in the Bank's short history. After that instant classic topped off a highly entertaining night, the pay-per-view suddenly felt more important.
Expectations were higher the following year. The Money in the Bank buyrate has since hovered around 200,000 buys, per PWInsider, via Cageside Seats.
Extreme Rules has made a name for itself this way as well.
The first version of the event saw Jeff Hardy and Edge deliver an excellent Ladder match. In later years, Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio, Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena and Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus have been among some of WWE's best offerings.
Should the second rounds of Evolution vs. The Shield or Kane vs. Daniel Bryan be of the five-star variety, Payback's stock instantly goes up.
If it continues to be the home of standout performances, it will develop a reputation, much like Money in the Bank's, as a can't-miss show.
Bettering the Marquee
Some fans bemoan the fact that WWE brings in big-name part-timers, as it often means rising stars get left out of the spotlight. The fact is, though, star power equals money.
Elimination Chamber 2013, unlike the year's previous event, featured The Rock. His addition shot up the buyrate from around 180,000, per PWInsider, to about 221,000 buys, per PWInsider. As reported by PWTorch's James Caldwell, Extreme Rules jumped up 54,000 buys from 2011 to 2012.
That was the year Lesnar returned to action.
WWE has to balance banking on established names with creating new stars for the future, but featuring marquee guys, as the above events did, would boost Payback's prestige and interest level.
That could mean, as Hell in a Cell did last year, bringing in someone like Shawn Michaels as a special guest referee. Working out a short-term deal with Chris Jericho, having Triple H compete on the show or getting Edge to host the event would all raise Payback's profile.
It's currently a part of the WWE calendar with little identity and history.
A few tweaks and an increased collection of greatest hits will change that. How WWE and its Superstars address those needs determines if Payback becomes the next Extreme Rules or the latest defunct show to become a footnote.
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