WWE Payback 2014: Superstars Most in Need of Strong Showing
On June 1, World Wrestling Entertainment will present its Payback pay-per-view, live from the AllState Arena in suburban Chicago.
The passionate and vocal crowd that packs the arena for every WWE show presented in the city will ensure that the Superstars and Divas must bring their A-games or risk being subject to very loud, very negative responses.
Storylines, hopes for sustained pushes and threats of early failure will only add to the pressure some of the company's best young talent will be facing.
With just under a month until the show is broadcast via pay-per-view and the revolutionary WWE Network, here is a look at five stars most in need of strong performances in the Windy City.
The feud with Kane may have resulted in a very good Extreme Rules match at the May 4 pay-per-view, but despite its placement on the card, the feud behind it was nowhere near as over with the audience as those between John Cena and Bray Wyatt and The Shield and Evolution.
It was the hard work of those two men that resulted in the quality bout fans were privy to.
It is that same hard work that Bryan will have to continuously deliver to justify the continuation of his WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign, especially given the position of importance that second-tier feud enjoys on Raw and SmackDown.
The ludicrous nature of it, with Kane stalking Bryan and wife Brie all over the arena in images eerily reminiscent of an '80s slasher flick, only highlights the importance of a stellar performance by Bryan in the matches that come out of the feud.
He has delivered thus far, getting a much better match out of Kane than anyone could have imagined in what was his first title defense. If he can keep that up in the weeks and months to come, against whoever he is booked, the Yes Movement will continue.
The Reaper of Souls, the Eater of Wolds, self-proclaimed god Bray Wyatt is in desperate need of a great match against John Cena.
Thus far in their program, the matches have underwhelmed despite a layered story that has become one of the best WWE has presented in years. The hard work has been there, but the bouts, for whatever reason, have failed to click.
Taking into consideration the fallout from Extreme Rules as well as this week's SmackDown spoilers, it appears as if Wyatt and Cena are headed toward a rubber match of sorts at the upcoming June 1 Payback event.
If that is the case and the two performers do again meet in a one-on-one match, Wyatt needs to muster every ounce of ability he has to ensure that fans do not leave another pay-per-view event questioning whether he has what it takes to work an elongated WWE-style main event, especially against a performer who has gotten the absolute best out of terrible workers such as Great Khali.
That by no means is a comparison between Wyatt and Khali as workers. Wyatt has repeatedly demonstrated that he has above-average skill between the ropes, especially in matches against Sheamus and Daniel Bryan. To this point, however, he has failed to deliver that one defining performance against the biggest star in the industry in what should be the most important program of his young career.
All questions and doubts will be erased at Payback if he and Cena steal the show with the performances so many know they can deliver. If they fail to do so, however, those questions and doubts will continue to grow and get louder until Wyatt proves them wrong.
Bad News Barrett
If any WWE Superstar knows just how quickly a push can disappear, it is new Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett.
The former leader of Nexus, he was put in the position of a main eventer from the minute he debuted as a full-time member of the WWE roster in the summer of 2010. He wrestled John Cena and Randy Orton in pay-per-view headliners in what was looked at as the first chance for a legitimate breakout star in years.
Then Nexus split, The Corre was formed and any ounce of momentum Barrett had garnered over the course of his first six months with WWE disappeared rapidly. He once again fell from grace following a substantial feud with Orton on SmackDown in 2011.
A series of matches with The Miz in 2012 illustrated how far both men had fallen and had many wondering whether Barrett was destined to be a midcard performer for the rest of his career.
Luckily, the Bad News Barrett character rescued him from oblivion and gave him the opportunity to get over with the audience by doing something he does extremely well: talk. His promo skills are top-notch, as he proved by cutting some of the cheesiest yet greatest interviews on Raw, SmackDown and YouTube's JBL and Cole Show, in which he delivered the bad news no one wants to hear to Superstars and fans alike.
That got him over, and his improved mat skills kept him that way. His recent wins over Rey Mysterio, Sheamus, Big E and Rob Van Dam have helped him to the biggest role of his career, and a fourth Intercontinental Championship reign has solidified his status as one of the top five stars to watch as WWE continues to institute its youth movement.
To remain the recipient of his latest push, he must continue to prove WWE right for taking another chance with him. The promos must remain strong, and the ring work, which has been nothing short of stellar thus far, must be maintained.
No matter who he defends his title against on June 1.
The current Divas champion has been the recipient of some disappointing and lackadaisical booking to this point in her month-long stint on the main roster.
But as long as she continues to back her title reign up with strong ring work, as she did most recently at Extreme Rules with a very solid match against Tamina Snuka, she will continue to reign as the top Diva in World Wrestling Entertainment.
One of the most original and marketable Divas to come through the door since Lita left back in 2006, Paige is the type of game-changer WWE has sorely needed in its Divas division for years.
She is a great worker, and those disenfranchised with the current crop of Divas can look to her as a true alternative. She is not a reality star, nor is she a bottled blonde. She does not smile and play to the crowd. Paige is a wrestler.
As long as WWE does not touch that aspect of the character, and as long as Paige continues to perform up to the level that management (including major NXT supporter Triple H) expects of her, she will be just fine.
It remains to be seen who she will face at Payback. Having defeated Tamina cleanly and definitively, she should move on to new opposition. Naomi recently picked up a big win in six-Divas tag action on Main Event, while former champion AJ Lee is almost guaranteed a title shot whenever she returns to action.
For now, a match against the established Natalya or even former NXT rival Emma would help Paige showcase her abilities in front of a crowd still getting to know her.
The recent debut of Adam Rose saw another NXT standout come to the main roster in an attempt to freshen things up post-WrestleMania 30. The party aficionado, Rose brings with him a great time and a spectacle of an entrance.
He is a unique character who stands out among some of the lesser-defined personas on the show, and the elaborate entrance and fun-loving nature of Rose will only endear him to crowds in the future.
On the May 5 episode of Raw, he interrupted Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger, then interrupted Swagger's match against Dolph Ziggler a night later during Main Event. This would indicate that Rose's first opponent will be the Real American, perhaps at Payback on June 1.
Swagger is the perfect first opponent for Rose. He is a strong worker who has a history with the audience and is over enough as a heel thanks to his relationship with Colter. He will help guide Rose through his first pay-per-view bout and will likely put him over stronger than someone further down the card who is frustrated with their own spot on the roster would.
It will be up to Rose to deliver a performance worthy of the hype and exposure he has received to this point and will continue to receive in the weeks and months to come. If he lays an egg in his first televised match and the fans have reason to turn their backs on him early into his run, he may never recover.