On the May 12 episode of Raw, WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan announced to the world that he had suffered a neck injury and would need to undergo surgery to correct the issue. Almost immediately, attention turned to the title situation and the length of time that Bryan would be sidelined.
But one of the more overlooked effects of the injury is the impact it would have on the Payback card. After all, Bryan was the champion and embroiled in a heated rivalry with the Devil's Favorite Demon, Kane.
There had even been reports from PWInsider.com (h/t WrestleZone.com) that Bryan would defend against Kane in a Buried Alive match, something that would have made the event that much bigger and more anticipated.
Without the champion, without that proposed Buried Alive match, there are two matches that are under a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed. If they do not, Payback could very well join last October's Battleground pay-per-view as one of the most lackluster and unnecessary events in WWE history.
No Disqualification Elimination Match: The Shield vs. Evolution
The rivalry between the two trios has dominated WWE television for the better part of two months and has been responsible for the further elevation of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. Those three young stars have achieved greater stardom than they had before, which is saying something, and have regularly gotten the best of Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton.
At Extreme Rules, The Shield stunned audiences by defeating the three former WWE and World Heavyweight champions in a wild and chaotic Match of the Year candidate.
It was a defining match for the Hounds of Justice, one that continued to prove they could hang with the top stars in the industry in high-profile, high-pressure contests.
With Bryan not on the card and an air of uncertainty regarding the quality of the John Cena-Bray Wyatt match elsewhere on the card, the No Disqualification, Six-Man Tag Team Elimination match will be under a great deal of pressure to deliver that show-stealing performance that gets the audience buzzing about a show that otherwise has the potential to be a rather uneventful one.
Last Man Standing Match: John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
As mentioned above, there is uncertainty surrounding the Cena-Wyatt match, thanks largely to the fact that the pairing has yet to produce that one outstanding contest that makes fans stand up and take note.
As one of the featured programs leading into Payback and one of the best stories WWE has turned out in quite some time, Cena vs. Wyatt will have plenty of eyes on it and thus plenty of pressure to deliver.
That the match will not be subjected to the confines of a normal wrestling bout, instead taking place under Last Man Standing rules, will only help it succeed where the two previous bouts failed.
While Cena and Wyatt's steel cage blunder at Extreme Rules was nicely masked by tremendous showings from The Shield, Evolution, Daniel Bryan and Kane, it will not be so lucky come June 1. With Bryan sidelined, the show is guaranteed one less great match.
Cena has earned the reputation of a great big-match performer. There will be no better time for him to prove that reputation is warranted than at Payback against Wyatt.
The quality of the show will undoubtedly depend on it.