WWE Payback 2014: Stars Who Will Shine in Defeat
Contrary to popular belief, losing does not always adversely affect a character or performer, especially if their work is strong enough to elicit a reaction or leave an impression.
On June 1 at Payback, in front of what will be a rabid audience in Chicago, there are a handful of Superstars who will have the opportunity shine despite suffering probable losses.
While only one match has officially been announced to this point (The Shield vs. Evolution), fans got a glimpse at what they can expect match-wise from the show on Monday night's episode of Raw.
With those hints in mind, here are some Superstars fans can expect to give spotlight-worthy performances in losing efforts.
The Hounds of Justice scored the biggest victory of their careers at Extreme Rules when they defeated Evolution in a six-man tag match that is one of the front-runners for Match of the Year thus far in 2014. As the feud prepares to bleed into its second month, it is unlikely that they will escape Payback with their arms raised in victory.
At some point, Evolution has to get one over on The Shield in a major way. Thus far, they have left The Shield lying on two separate occasions, and Triple H is responsible for finally getting the United States Championship off of Dean Ambrose via a Battle Royal.
Yet they have done nothing to really halt the momentum of The Shield or force the trio to regroup. The interest is almost completely in the rise of the Hounds of Justice, but, as history and different forms of entertainment will tell us, a hero is only as good as the villain.
The villains in this case are in dire need of that one signature moment that gives fans reason to doubt that The Shield can recover and win. If it does not get that win, the entire angle risks descending into irrelevancy and boredom.
Yes, the members of The Shield should ultimately win the entire program and come out of it far better off than they were before, but without a challenge, without that sense of danger, there really would be no growth of the characters.
Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns will shine, as they always do, but it will be in defeat if the creative team is smart.
A John Cena loss to Bray Wyatt at Payback is dependent upon the length of the feud to come.
If June 1 is the conclusion, Cena will likely leave Chicago with another win over the Reaper of Souls. If it is yet another chapter in their outstanding story, Wyatt needs the win to continue presenting a threat to WWE's resident Superman.
Cena's win on the May 12 episode of Raw caused Wyatt to get on the microphone and claim that he now knows what he must do if he wants to defeat Cena. If he does not, Cena effectively wins the entire feud and there is no reason to continue.
The matches between the two have not necessarily reached the quality that most had hoped for. Whether it is the fact that both major pay-per-view matches leaned heavily on story, doing so at the expense of quality ring action, or the competitors simply have not meshed, the bouts have not been as promising as originally expected.
Whatever the case is, expect Cena to do everything in his power to deliver that one show-stealing performance that he and Wyatt are capable of. It does not matter if he loses, because the Cena character will always rise above and conquer the evil that opposes him in the end.
What does matter is the quality of the performance, and Cena will shine in that regard.
The May 12 episode of Raw hinted at Big E being the next man to step up to the plate and challenge the massive, undefeated "Bulgarian Brute" Rusev.
If that is the case, E's pay-per-view losing streak will increase to three.
Rusev is still enjoying his early push, the type that Superstars such as Umaga and Yokozuna did before him. He is dominating competition and showing off more and more of his skills as he faces constantly improving competition.
E will be the first Superstar to test Rusev physically. While the Bulgarian's biggest wins have come against smaller competition, E is a beast of a competitor with strength matched by few on the roster. He can easily take Rusev off his feet and even throw him around the ring if necessary.
But E and Rusev are headed in different directions right now. There is still a ton of potential for E as a top-level babyface in the future. But the focus of the creative team is on Rusev and his rise up the ranks. That is more important at this point and will take center stage during their impending match, which is most likely to take place at Payback.
E will get his offense in and make the audience "ooh and ah" thanks to his sheer power, but he will ultimately end up staring at the lights as Rusev moves one step closer to glory.
"Jack Swagger" and "losing" are becoming synonymous with one another here in 2014, especially in the post-WrestleMania weeks, and that will continue at Payback.
On June 1, he will most likely provide the first competition for newcomer Adam Rose, who has become a thorn in the side of the former World Heavyweight champion since his debut on May 5.
Swagger is a suitable utility player for WWE, the type that can be relied upon to deliver a very good or even occasionally great match but is unlikely to ever ascend past a certain level, thanks largely to issues that were of his own creating.
Still, his ability and his history with the audience make him the perfect first opponent for Rose. Fans can expect, at the very least, a competitive match carried by Swagger that accentuates the Rose character and serves as an in-ring introduction to the partygoer.
As long as the match resists the urge to descend too far into comedy, it will be a good one that should be credited to Swagger's unwavering in-ring ability.
That is a big "if," though.