WWE Payback 2014: Projecting Full Card After Daniel Bryan's Injury
Daniel Bryan's neck injury will force WWE Payback 2014 to focus more on the midcard, emerging talent and Superstars entrenched in rivalries.
When Kane played movie monster on the May 5 edition of Raw, fans fully expected him to face Bryan once more, perhaps in a Buried Alive match, per PWInsider.com (h/t WrestleZone.com). One shocking announcement later, and WWE's top champion will not be medically cleared for the pay-per-view and the world title may not even be a part of the show.
There's no need to panic, though.
The rest of the roster provides a number of options for WWE. There are other championships to showcase and powerhouses to unleash on each other.
Besides, there are already two marquee matchups on the docket. So far, WWE has confirmed The Shield vs. Evolution and John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt in a Last Man Standing match for the event.
Looking at the company's current storylines and sifting through backstage reports provides five potential additional bouts to expect at Payback.
The Usos vs. The Wyatt Family (Tag Team Championship)
A lack of depth in the tag team division and a contentious history between the teams makes The Usos taking on Erick Rowan and Luke Harper a safe bet.
WWE's other options for challengers, from RybAxel to Los Matadores, don't have the appeal that this potential matchup does. The Wyatt Family have been battling The Usos off and on for months and would make legitimate threats to the brothers' hopes of retaining.
Lately, Harper and Rowan have been busy helping Bray Wyatt in his quest to destroy John Cena. On the May 9 SmackDown, that hunt saw them crash into The Usos once more.
Continuing in this direction is the smart move.
Having the two bruisers take on the champs is the most promising option for the tag titles. The teams have shown great chemistry together in the past, and The Usos' reign could use a boost in drama.
They have yet to face any major challenges.
WWE is reportedly leaning toward this matchup. Chris Cash of WrestleZone.com passed along a report from Wrestling Observer Newsletter that notes, "a tag team title match between The Usos and Erick Rowan/Luke Harper is scheduled for WWE Payback as of a week ago."
Sheamus vs. Cesaro (United States Championship)
On May 13, Sheamus and Cesaro put on an engrossing brawl that felt like a prologue.
The two bruisers composed a symphony with the sound of flesh hitting flesh. The bout ended in a double count-out, both men too focused on beating ech other up to notice the referee's count. That inconclusive finish implies that there are more showdowns to come.
Sheamus has a more impressive resume than many recent U.S. champs. He won the Royal Rumble, the WWE title and World Championship before beginning his second reign with this title.
Rather than pick from the usual set of midcarders for his challenger, it makes sense to select someone of a higher standing. Insert Cesaro. After aligning himself with Paul Heyman and winning the first-ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, "The King of Swing" is clearly on the rise.
Having him face Sheamus builds on that unfinished business they began at Main Event and promises to be one of the best matches of the night.
Paige vs. Alicia Fox (Divas Championship)
Paige and Alicia Fox have already met several times since the former's debut on the main roster, but with the spotlight shining on Fox lately, it looks as if she'll be the emerging star's opposition at Payback.
Over the past week, Fox has shown a more aggressive side and responded to losses by throwing tantrums.
It feels as if WWE is looking for ways to bide its time until AJ Lee gets back, and one of those ways is having Fox be more interesting and more of a threat than she was before her meltdowns. Divas don't often get angles like these unless they are headed for contention.
The added focus points to Fox stepping up to Paige while Lee gets married and Natalya and Nikki Bella continue to bicker over hurt feelings and ugly paintings.
Big E vs. Rusev
No Superstar he has faced has been much of an obstacle for Rusev.
He's torn apart Zack Ryder, overpowered Kofi Kingston and defeated both R-Truth and Xavier Woods at Extreme Rules. It's time to step up his level of competition and WWE has just the man to fill that role.
The two powerhouses met on the May 12 Raw when Rusev threatened to run over Jim Duggan.
That night, the villain stood over the fallen hero. Don't expect that to be the end of the story, though.
Big E isn't likely to just back down from "The Bulgarian Brute." It's also a good fit for both Superstars, as Big E needs direction and a rival after losing the Intercontinental Championship. Meanwhile, Rusev needs someone who can stand up to him to makes his bouts less predictable.
Besides, WWE loves matches which pit two immense men against each other.
Jack Swagger vs. Adam Rose
Adam Rose and Jack Swagger's impending collision, like a man dancing in a bunny costume, is hard not to see coming.
All Rose has done since debuting on Raw is pester Swagger and Zeb Colter. The party maestro has interrupted Swagger's matches against Dolph Ziggler and Rob Van Dam by crowd surfing or just prancing alongside his entourage.
Rose has yet to officially step into the ring. All signs seem to point to him making his in-ring debut against the former world champ.
One backstage reports confirms that. According to F4WOnline.com (h/t Nick Paglino of WrestleZone.com), "Rose's likely Payback opponent will be Jack Swagger."