This Sunday's Payback pay-per-view is a show that will live, or die, based on its marquee matches.
A show full of matches that fans have seen before, the main events will face tremendous pressure to deliver in a way that makes this night of rehashes worth watching.
The Shield and Evolution will escalate their heated rivalry in a No Holds Barred Elimination match, and John Cena and Bray Wyatt write the latest chapter of their feud with what is sure to be a brutal and barbaric Last Man Standing match.
As Payback rapidly approaches, gear up for this Sunday's broadcast with an in-depth look at the show's main events.
No Holds Barred Elimination Match: The Shield vs. Evolution
At Extreme Rules, The Shield and Evolution tore the house down with a Match of the Year candidate. Even though the Hounds of Justice emerged victorious, the feud continued in the weeks that followed. There was very little in the way of story development, but the intensity and aggression on display during several major brawls helped keep fans invested in the program.
One of the new elements injected into the program was Triple H's attempt to exploit The Shield's weaknesses when the unit is split up. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose were split into singles competition on more than one occasion over the last month. Outside of Reigns' victory over Mark Henry, they have not fared so well.
It is with that in mind that the elimination match was booked for Payback. Should Evolution be able to separate The Shield, pick them off one by one and create a situation in which Reigns, Ambrose or Rollins is left to battle on his own, Evolution will almost assuredly be able to avenge last month's loss.
If Triple H, Batista or Randy Orton finds himself alone at the mercy of the unified Shield, the heel trio's night in Chicago will not be an enjoyable one.
After putting over Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 30 and The Shield at Extreme Rules, one would assume that Payback will be Evolution's night to shine. After all, if the intention is to continue the program after Sunday night, The Shield will have to appear to be at a disadvantage so they have something to fight back from.
The status of Batista, however, will weigh heavily into the decision as to whether or not the feud rages into Money in the Bank later in the month. The feud may end if Batista leaves soon to promote Guardians of the Galaxy. However, there is a possibility (reported by ProWrestling.net via Wrestling Inc.) that he may be replaced in Evolution by another member of the roster.
As for the match itself, the No Holds Barred rules, coupled with the chaotic nature of the feud to this point, should result in a wild match. Whether the elimination stipulation hinders or enhances the bout remains to be seen.
Last Man Standing Match: John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
With the series tied at one apiece, John Cena and Bray Wyatt will enter Chicago's Allstate Arena with tremendous pressure on them to finally deliver that truly great match fans have been expecting for the last two months.
Their battles at WrestleMania 30 and Extreme Rules failed to meet lofty expectations, the fans' high hopes the result of a tremendous story and some extraordinary promo work from Wyatt. Thankfully, Cena has thrived in gimmick-heavy matches in the past, including a great "I Quit" match against JBL in 2005 and a strong Last Man Standing match against Edge in 2009.
The violence of this match will lend itself well to the story the performers will try to tell, a story of Cena's desperation to put an end to the most evil man in WWE and prevent the dire circumstances that man's words could cause.
The outcome of the match will very much dictate the direction the program takes from here.
If Cena wins, the feud is over. The superhero of WWE would have thwarted the villain, proved everything Wyatt said was wrong and saved the company from the maniacal madman. If Wyatt is victorious, there is room for one more rematch at Money in the Bank.
The bout would be best served to limit the interference of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan and lessen the role of the story in the match itself. Both of the previous contests between Cena and Wyatt were marred by a focus on advancing their storyline, hurting the athletic quality of the matches.
Going for broke and allowing Cena and Wyatt to thrill the audience with the action (instead of the pomp and circumstance) will benefit the feud in the long run.