WWE Payback 2014 Matches: Picking Best Finish for Each Match on the Card
The finish of a match can go a long way in determining whether it was a success or a failure.
A fitting conclusion or a satisfying result can elevate an excellent match to legendary status or completely descend an otherwise stellar bout into mediocrity.
Sunday night at Payback, World Wrestling Entertainment will promote several matches in which the finishes will be absolutely key in determining their overall quality. In the case of the two main events, which feature feuds that have been raging on for months, a poor finish could adversely effect the entire programs.
In matches featuring recent NXT call-ups such as Paige and Rusev, a strong finish can help them further gain acceptance with the audience. Similarly, a subpar finish can weaken their connection with the WWE Universe, ensuring a limit to their success.
With so much hinging on something as seemingly innocent as a finish, all eyes will be on the closing moments of each bout on the Payback card.
Just hours away from bell time, here is a look at the best finish for each of the night's advertised bouts.
Mask vs. Hair: El Torito vs. Hornswoggle
The feud between El Torito and Hornswoggle really should have culminated at Extreme Rules when they had an unfathomably great Wee-LC match on the pre-show.
Instead, the program continued and has descended into mind-numbing stupidity.
El Torito has defeated legitimate competitors such as Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal, the first two being former champions. On the May 26 episode of Raw, Hornswoggle retaliated by ripping the tail off the masked luchador.
With tensions at a high, the two Superstars will meet in a match in which each has something to lose. Hornswoggle's hair will be at stake while El Torito's mask will be on the line. Who will leave with both bragging rights and their opponent's dignity?
Never before has a match with those stipulations mattered less.
The smart finish calls for whatever will bring closure to this feud.
In this case, an El Torito win would wrap the program up and allow everyone to move on to something else.
Big E vs. Rusev
Big E will provide Rusev with his toughest test to date when the two super athletes meet one-on-one this Sunday night.
Both competitors are naturally strong, have massive upper bodies and are deceptively quick. Their speed and agility is uncommon for men of their muscle mass, making them captivating competitors.
E is coming off of an Intercontinental Championship reign that actually did more to hurt him than help him. Somewhere between winning and losing the title, he faded into irrelevancy. His work improved throughout the run but his visibility diminished. He appeared on Main Event and Superstars regularly while top contenders were mixing it up on Raw and SmackDown.
Since dropping the title to Bad News Barrett at last month's Extreme Rules, E has rebounded nicely, rescuing Jim Duggan from an assault at the hands of Rusev and setting up a program between he and the Bulgarian Brute.
E could use a big pay-per-view win to help regain some momentum but there is too much time and energy invested in Rusev at this point. With Lana serving as his mouthpiece and touting the greatness of Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, the act has finally started to get over with the audience.
Booking the Bulgarian Brute to lose his first match would prove unnecessarily detrimental to the performer.
A submission win for Rusev over an athlete the caliber of Big E would lend credibility to the Bulgarian Brute.
Any time a competitor can take a physical specimen like Big E and wear them down to the point that they have no choice but to tap out to avoid pain and suffering is an impressive sight.
If beating smaller competitors such as Zack Ryder, R-Truth, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston did not win Rusev favor with the WWE Universe, soundly defeating Big E will.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Rob Van Dam vs. Bad News Barrett
At Extreme Rules, Bad News Barrett defeated Big E to capture the Intercontinental Championship, capping off a renewed push that has seen the talented Brit become more over than he had ever been before.
Sunday night, he will look to maintain his roll when he defends his title against ring veteran Rob Van Dam in a match that could legitimize his reign and, more importantly, his push.
Van Dam, for all the criticism surrounding his dependency on the same signature offense he has been using for 15 years, still carries a great deal of weight with fans. They respect him for his accomplishments and he remains over thanks to his laid-back attitude, which separates him from the more intense members of the roster.
Announcers treat Van Dam like the star he is, and as a result, beating him still means something—no matter how many times it happens.
It will happen again Sunday night, when Barrett retains his title in what will likely be a hard-hitting, hard-fought match that keeps the passionate Chicago fan base invested in the action.
The entire purpose of this title defense is for Barrett to score a victory over one of the elite Superstars of the last decade. That can be accomplished with something as simple as a missed Five Star Frog Splash, followed by the Bad News Bullhammer for the pinfall victory.
Divas Championship Match: Paige vs. Alicia Fox
Rarely does WWE find a women's character that fans care about. When they do, it is in the best interest of the performer and the Divas division for them to strike while the proverbial iron is hot.
That creates a conundrum, though, as it steers the creative team away from whatever plans it may have had for Paige as Divas champion.
The 21-year-old Brit has been a breath of fresh air for the Divas division, having competitive wrestling matches against the likes of Aksana, Tamina and Alicia, none of whom could sniff television time on Raw or SmackDown prior to her run as champion.
Taking the title off of her at this point and putting it on Fox, who has been outstanding in her role as the unstable top contender, would be a risky move. At the same time, it could create a legitimate feud between two women that could carry the division through the summer if done correctly.
Paige won the title in somewhat of a fluke manner. She caught an ill-prepared AJ off guard, landed one move the entire "match" and captured the championship. Perhaps having her drop the title, chase it for a few months and win it in a real match would help her catch on with fans even more than she already has.
The best finish would see Alicia Fox deliver the scissors kick to finish off Paige and capture the WWE Divas Championship for the second time in her career.
The post-match celebration alone would be worth the risky booking decision while the upside of a real feud over the title is too good to pass up.
United States Championship Match: Sheamus vs. Cesaro
Cesaro's post-WrestleMania push has been slow and steady to this point. He has received increased television exposure, while the addition of Paul Heyman as his advocate has done him a world of good. That mouthpiece was the one ingredient he needed to really succeed at the next level of competition.
Sunday, he meets former WWE and World Heavyweight champion Sheamus in a match that has a ton of potential to steal the show. That it is for the Celtic Warrior's United States Championship has generated some concern by fans who argue that Cesaro is essentially in the same place he was two years ago.
That is not the case. Sheamus is an elite performer in WWE—a great worker and one of the top babyfaces in the company. His resume speaks for itself and the fans still see him as a top star. He has tangled with the likes of John Cena, Triple H, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton and knows what it takes to succeed at the very top of the industry.
Regardless of what title the match is for, it is still a huge opportunity for Cesaro to showcase his abilities and ascend further up the card by night's end.
This match is one of the trickier ones to try and book.
One one hand, Sheamus just won the United States Championship and dropping it would only help to further devalue it. On the other, Cesaro is in the middle of a major push and a loss here could hinder the progress he has made.
The creative team cannot book a disqualification or count out, since they used that finish during their first match on Main Event back on May 13.
Someone has to lose.
On the May 19 episode of Raw, Cesaro capitalized on a distraction from Paul Heyman to catch an off-guard Sheamus with a German suplex for the pinfall victory. That win necessitated this championship bout. Building on that finish would be an excellent way to continue the program.
Late in the match, Paul Heyman would hop onto the apron in an attempt to distract Sheamus. The Celtic Warrior would sucker Cesaro into believing it was working and when the Swiss Superman grabbed him in a waist lock for the German suplex, Sheamus would elbow out, send Cesaro crashing into Heyman and catch the challenger with the Brogue Kick for the win.
Cesaro loses in a fairly fluky manner, Sheamus retains his title and Heyman is forced to regroup if he wants to guide his newest client to championship gold.
Last Man Standing Match: John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
John Cena and Bray Wyatt have been fighting for what feels like an eternity now. Luckily. Wyatt's mic work and a few curve balls in the form of the children's choir segment and the demonic kid at Extreme Rules have kept the program fresh.
The creative team made a misstep this past Monday on Raw when it injected Jerry Lawler into the mix and had John Cena cut a typical superhero promo that fans have heard a million times before.
Still, the match is one of the most anticipated on the Payback card and could prove to be the night's best if the competitors are finally able to realize their potential and deliver a performance that legitimizes the story they have told since February.
That story will have a tremendous impact on the outcome of the match. If it is to continue through the end of June, Cena cannot win Sunday night. If he does, the hero will have triumphed over evil and the story is over. Wyatt must win to further the program.
If it is to wrap up in front of the Chicago crowd, Cena will leave victorious. Like any satisfying comic book or movie, good must overcome evil at the end of the day and this case is no different.
Ever the resilient hero, Cena overcomes interference from Erick Rowan and Luke Harper and appears poised to put Wyatt away. Unfortunately, he takes a huge bump off the stage and to the arena floor, allowing Wyatt to win the match.
The entire story has lifted from the Dark Knight trilogy, with Cena openly referencing it in promos prior to Extreme Rules. On the May 19 episode of Raw, Wyatt took it one step further by referring to himself as "necessary evil," just like Dark Knight Rises villain Bane.
If the creative team is going to borrow, why not go the whole way?
The bump off the stage could sideline Cena until Money in the Bank. Like a broken Bruce Wayne, Cena would have to rehab and fight his way back, all the while the Wyatts essentially run roughshod over WWE.
Cena would return and triumph and everyone would live happily ever after.
No Holds Barred Elimination Match: The Shield vs. Evolution
The main event of Payback should be the No Holds Barred Elimination match between The Shield and Evolution.
A feud that resulted in one Match of the Year candidate already, the six men involved have featured in some of the best bouts of 2014. With a rabid Chicago crowd and a great stipulation, there is no reason to doubt that they can eclipse last month's instant classic with an even better effort on Sunday night.
The finish of the match is not readily evident. Predictability, one of WWE's biggest weaknesses in years past, will not be of concern in the battle between The Shield and Evolution.
Batista's status with the company is key to determining what the proper finish would be. If he remains with the company for one more appearance on Raw, one can justify Evolution winning. If he is finished with the company until after the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere, it becomes more difficult to explain why he, Randy Orton and Triple H should beat the Hounds of Justice.
The other wild card in booking the outcome of the match is the long-rumored Roman Reigns vs. Triple H match for SummerSlam.
That is a match that deserves more than a single month of booking. It is a match that could be billed as one of the biggest of the summer, and as such, it should be slow burned rather than sloppily and hastily booked.
Both of those elements must be taken into account when deciding on the perfect finish for the hotly anticipated contest.
With Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins eliminated late in the match, and Roman Reigns facing a three-on-one numbers disadvantage, the second-generation star mounts a ferocious comeback.
Armed with the devastating Superman Punch and the Spear, Reigns staves off elimination and dispatches of Batista and Orton. Triple H, the Cerebral Assassin, uses his trademark sledgehammer to his advantage as he lays Reigns out and finishes him with a Pedigree, giving Evolution the win.
The COO brags about his victory on Raw, despite resorting to weapons in order to defeat Reigns, drawing the powerhouse of The Shield's ire and setting in motion the events that will lead to a match between the two at SummerSlam.