WWE Payback 2014: GSM's Pick, Preview and Potential for Each Match
On Sunday, June 1, WWE will present its second annual Payback pay-per-view event, live from the Allstate Arena in Chicago at 8 p.m. ET. Chicago has been known for its raucous crowds and given its current crowd, the show has the potential to be one for the ages.
The main event will see Evolution and The Shield go to war one last time in a No Holds Barred Elimination match. Will the young guns be able to overcome Evolution once again, or will the former world champions prove to be too much for The Shield?
In the rubber match in their long running rivalry, John Cena and Bray Wyatt will face off in a Last Man Standing bout. With no disqualifications or count-outs, will Wyatt's henchmen Luke Harper and Erick Rowan aid their cult leader to victory for the second straight month?
Daniel Bryan will be making an appearance on the show to either surrender the WWE World Heavyweight Championship or see Brie Bella fired by Stephanie McMahon. Will Bryan leave Chicago without gold, or will his wife leave Chicago without a job?
Here, I will provide my personal preview, prediction and potential for every match on the advertised card.
Pre-Show: El Torito vs. Hornswoggle (Mask vs. Hair Match)
After trading wins in singles competition, El Torito and Hornswoggle seemingly settled their score in a WeeLC match at Extreme Rules. After a pleasantly surprising matchup, El Torito emerged victorious with the bragging rights. However, their rivalry raged on in subsequent weeks as other members of Los Matadores and 3MB, their respective factions, got involved.
At Payback, Torito and 'Swoggle square off one final time in a Mask vs. Hair match. If Torito loses, he will be forced to unmask. If 'Swoggle loses, he will be forced to shave his head.
While I thoroughly enjoyed their WeeLC match at Extreme Rules, I have had no desire to see the feud between these two continue past that point. It's been forgettable comedy at best, and the rivalry between 3MB and Los Matadores needs to end to spare everyone their sanity.
Torito's mask is essentially his appeal along with the rest of the Matadores—stripping him of it would ruin their gimmick. Hornswoggle has been bald in the past so I expect him to lose here.
Hornswoggle and El Torito exceeded expectations at Extreme Rules, but a lot of that had to do with the weapons that surrounded the ring. Their previous encounters were far from exciting, but perhaps lightning will strike twice at Payback if the focus is on wrestling and not comedy.
Rusev vs. Big E
Since debuting the night after WrestleMania 30, Rusev has been going on an absolute tear through the WWE roster. He has taken out the likes of R-Truth, Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and others. But of everyone he has demolished and bullied in the last two months, Big E has been the only one to step up and do something about it.
Big E ran to the aid of "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan on the May 12 Raw before saving Zack Ryder from an attack from Rusev on the May 26 Raw. Days later, a match between the two was confirmed for Payback.
Has Rusev finally met his match?
Is it just me or has Big E actually been doing better without the Intercontinental Championship? He's appeared on Raw more frequently and has won more matches—perhaps that title is a curse after all.
In all seriousness, Big E is a credible Superstar... or at least more credible than anyone else Rusev has faced up to this point. A win over the former Intercontinental champion will help Rusev continue to move in the right direction.
Big E, in my opinion, is an underrated worker and has had several very good matches with the likes of CM Punk, Randy Orton, Alberto Del Rio and others in the past. I don't expect this match to go more than a few minutes, but if allowed to shine, I personally believe Rusev and Big E could have a nice clash of the titans-like contest.
Paige vs. Alicia Fox (Divas Championship)
Following her loss to Paige on the May 12 Raw, Alicia Fox had a meltdown, attacking announcers, ring personnel and anyone else she could find at ringside. She exacted revenge the following week when she scored a non-title victory over Paige, earning a future shot at the Divas Championship in the process.
It's been a long while since Fox last contended for the Divas title, but will she leave Payback as a two-time champion now that she is more dangerous than ever before?
The resurgence of Fox's career in recent weeks has been very fun to watch, and I commend her for getting herself noticed. Paige has been a fine Divas champion thus far but has been lacking a true, real challenge to her title.
Fox is a much bigger threat than anyone else Paige has faced thus far, but I'm afraid she's only keeping Paige busy before AJ Lee returns to feud with her over the belt. That said, there's no doubt in my mind that the English Diva will be successful in her title defense against Fox.
The last few matches between Paige and Fox have been nothing special, but they could easily have a solid encounter given that both are good to great workers. They could have a heck of a matchup as long as they aren't put in the buffer slot. They also have the tough task of following the NXT Women's Championship match between Charlotte and Natalya at Takeover.
Bad News Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam (Intercontinental Championship)
After emerging victorious and becoming the No. 1 contender to the Intercontinental Championship, Bad News Barrett defeated Big E to win the gold at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view. On the May 19 Raw, Rob Van Dam won a Beat the Clock Challenge to earn a shot at the strap at Payback.
Barrett has had RVD's number ever since, but it remains to be seen whether Barrett can put his money where his mouth is and successfully defend his Intercontinental title against the ECW Original.
I've found that WWE has done a superb job of making the midcard mean something again as of late. I highly doubt it will last, but I will enjoy it as long as it does. This feud between Barrett and RVD is no exception.
It's been pretty standard thus far, but the match involves two credible Superstars and that alone peaks my interest. Barrett won the strap no more than a month ago, so it'd be silly for him to drop it this early—especially to RVD.
RVD and Barrett had a good match in the finals of the Intercontinental Championship tournament, but they can have an even better match if they're given the right amount of time to shine. RVD has had a string of solid matches since returning after WrestleMania, and I expect this bout against Barrett to be no different.
Sheamus vs. Cesaro (United States Championship)
Sheamus has run rampant through the roster since capturing the United States Championship one night removed from Extreme Rules, but he has since met his first true challenge in Cesaro.
The two had a match on the May 13 Main Event that ended in a double count-out after they took their brawl to the crowd. A rematch held on Raw six days later saw Cesaro score a non-title victory, earning a shot at the star-spangled prize at Payback.
Cesaro has seemingly gotten the better of Sheamus at every turn in recent weeks. Will The Celtic Warrior be able to pull out a win when it matters most?
As with Bad News Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam, this feud has done a great deal in making the midcard scene feel relevant again. They have done an excellent job of furthering their feud since it started in mid-May and of giving viewers an incentive to believe that Cesaro has a chance to take the title.
Sheamus won the title less than a month ago, so I'd like to see him hold on to it a while longer before dropping it. Cesaro capturing the gold isn't completely unfathomable, but he's above that belt at this point and should be headed toward the upper-midcard sooner rather than later.
These two have had several great matches in the last month or so, and I have no doubt that they'll rip it up again on Sunday. I'll go so far as to say that this match could be a show-stealer if given proper time. I wouldn't be surprised to see this bout serve as the pay-per-view opener and kick off the show on a high note.
Will Daniel Bryan Surrender the World Title or Will Brie Bella Be Fired?
On the May 12 Raw, Daniel Bryan announced that he would have to undergo neck surgery that Thursday, leaving the status of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in question. On Raw in England, Stephanie McMahon called out Bryan and asked him to appear on the flagship show the following week to "do the right thing" by surrendering the prestigious prize in person.
Upon his return to Raw, Bryan refused to give up the title, but he was met with an ultimatum from Stephanie instead: Stephanie will fire his wife Brie Bella if Bryan doesn't show up at Payback and vacate the strap.
If they were going to strap Bryan of the title, I figure they would have done it all already. Dragging this story out seems to indicate that he'll be keeping the belt after all, but that remains to be seen.
In a nutshell, I don't see Bryan surrendering the title here, nor do I see Brie getting "fired." They'll find a way to work around it, and I'm interested as to how they'll go about doing that.
It's smart booking to have Bryan appear at the show—it gives the fans want they want to see and adds extra intrigue to the ongoing WWE World Heavyweight Championship storyline. It'll also serve as a nice buffer in between two hot matches on the card.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (Last Man Standing Match)
Since the Royal Rumble, The Wyatt Family has been determined on making life as miserable as possible for John Cena. They have even attempted, on various occasions, to transfer him over to the "dark side" but have come up short each time.
After losing to Cena in one-on-one action at WrestleMania 30, Wyatt won the rematch inside a steel cage at Extreme Rules. They'll meet one final time at Payback to settle their score and put their rivalry to rest once and for all.
This feud has gone on long enough, and I surely hope this is the end of the line. From the start of this story, it was obvious that Cena would win at WrestleMania and then the rubber match. It has played out almost exactly as how everyone thought it would.
Wyatt has had his moments in this storyline, but I don't want his act damaged following another loss to Cena—especially after their atrocious Steel Cage match. As much as I'd like to Wyatt win, I'm all but certain Cena will be the one with his hand raised by the end of this battle.
Surprisingly enough, the last two matches contested between Cena and Wyatt have been duds. However, I'm hopeful the Last Man Standing environment will enhance the action and make things more exciting. Even if Cena does emerge victorious, hopefully Wyatt is made to look strong in defeat.
The Shield vs. Evolution (No Holds Barred Elimination Match)
After months of taking orders from The Authority, The Shield finally broke away from Triple H and company the night after WrestleMania 30. Soon after, Triple H reunited Evolution with Randy Orton and Batista in an attempt to take out a common enemy in The Shield but failed to defeat them at Extreme Rules.
Evolution raised the stakes when they challenged The Shield to a rematch at Payback under No Holds Barred Elimination rules—to which the rogue trio accepted. Could this be the last time we see Evolution in WWE if they are to lose once again?
This match could easily go either way—much like their first encounter. The only difference this time around is that Evolution has been put in a must-win situation after losing at Extreme Rules.
It wouldn't be the end of the world if they lose at Payback, but it'd be a nice way to put heat on the group if they plan on sticking around for the summer. With The Shield being so dominant in recent months, I've got Evolution winning this fight.
The Shield and Evolution undoubtedly had the match of the night at Extreme Rules, and I'm nearly positive they'll steal the show once again at Payback. The No Holds Barred Elimination stipulation makes for many intriguing scenarios and allows both factions to fight all around the arena like last time.
Read more prediction pieces for past WWE pay-per-views here.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.