WWE Payback 2014: Power Ranking Excitement Level for Each Match
Sunday night at WWE Payback, Vince McMahon's wrestling empire will present a show full of rematches. Anytime that is the case, it can be difficult for fans to get interested or excited for the pay-per-view.
Thus, it is imperative for the creative team to construct stories that will get the audience to invest itself so they can warrant paying their hard-earned money to either purchase the event from their cable providers or subscribe to the company's revolutionary network.
They have succeeded to an extent, as can be seen with the matches ranking higher in the proceeding list, while they have also hit some speed bumps.
With the show only hours away, take a look at the matches that will generate the most fan excitement entering Payback and others that will have to work doubly hard to elicit the desired reaction from the red-hot Chicago crowd.
7. Mask vs. Hair Match: El Torito vs. Hornswoggle
At Extreme Rules, El Torito and Hornswoggle had the gimmick of WeeLC to lean on, aiding them in delivering a legitimately good match that was better than it had any right to be.
The end of that match felt very much like the end of their program. El Torito had overcome interference from Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal, and with the help of Los Matadores, he had defeated the heels.
Instead of wrapping the program up on a high note, the creative team opted to let it continue, and as a result, it descended into stupidity and absolutely horrid booking decisions.
El Torito has defeated former Intercontinental champion McIntyre, former Tag Team champion Heath Slater and Mahal in three consecutive matches. He had his tail ripped off by Hornswoggle, then appeared on SmackDown carrying hedge clippers and threatening to sheer the locks of his rival, apparently having watched far too much of Brutus Beefcake on the WWE Network.
The feud is dead in the water at this point. It really needed to conclude a month ago, when it could have done so on a high note. Now, it has overstayed its welcome considerably and all of the good will the creative team and the performers built up back on May 4 is gone.
This match must conclude the feud.
6. Intercontinental Championship Match: Rob Van Dam vs. Bad News Barrett
The lack of a story has really hurt the heat for what should be a very good, very hard-fought Intercontinental Championship match Sunday night at Payback.
The Beat the Clock Challenge is a booking crutch the creative team uses fairly regularly. It usually works well and, though not as expansive as in the past, it did this time, too. Rob Van Dam earned a shot at Bad News Barrett's Intercontinental Championship.
Outside of a sneak attack from the champion and a tag match on SmackDown, they have had no interaction to speak of. This past Friday's broadcast, Barrett discussed the match with RVD, essentially referring to him as a has-been.
The match could go a long way in legitimizing both Barrett's title reign and recent push. Van Dam is a highly respected veteran whose resume speaks for itself. He is an elite name in the industry and one that WWE hotly recruits, no matter how many times he leaves.
Fans buy him as a Superstar capable of winning any championship he competes for at any time. One of the leaders of the greatest generation of stars in wrestling history, Van Dam's star power alone elevates any match's stature.
That Bad News Barrett has been as red hot as Van Dam since the latter returned to the ring on the April 8 episode of Raw indicates that this match should be a far bigger deal than it is.
Lazy storytelling and a lack of focus on the secondary championship, two elements of WWE programming that have long been scrutinized, prevent it from being just that.
5. Big E vs. Rusev
Every single match on the Payback card has been done at least once prior to the pay-per-view except for Big E vs. Rusev. A fresh match between two freakish athletes, the bout should prove to be fairly entertaining, if nothing else.
A better build would have benefited it tremendously and would likely have resulted in a higher ranking on this list.
As it is, there is interest in the match because of its freshness and also because Big E and Rusev are such similar competitors.
At this point, Big E is head and shoulders above the Bulgarian Brute, thanks to the experience that comes with working alongside veterans such as Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, Kane and Bad News Barrett. In just over 18 months, he has developed into one of the best strongmen to ever step foot inside a WWE ring.
A major part of that is the speed and agility he possesses, elements that also make Rusev such a captivating performer.
It is so rare to see athletes that combine speed, strength and agility to the degree that Rusev and Big E do. They can toss opposition around the ring with relative ease but they can also keep up with the lightest, quickest high flyers on the roster.
The excitement for their match Sunday night has nothing to do with the story—a USA vs. Russia patriotic angle—but is instead focused on how the two performers will work with one another and what effect their athleticism will have on the match.
4. Divas Championship Match: Paige vs. Alicia Fox
WWE gave one of its longest-tenured Divas a character this past month, and as a result, she got over with the audience. Simply amazing how that works.
Since suffering her first mental breakdown following a loss to Paige back at the beginning of May, Alicia Fox has been hotter than ever. The crowd is reacting to the loose cannon character and the performances on her part have been stellar.
The post-match antics are wildly entertaining, to the point that fans look forward to seeing what the Diva will do next.
Sunday at Payback, she could complete the biggest push of her career with her second Divas Championship win.
To do so, she will have to beat Paige, who has been on a roll since debuting on the main roster on the April 8 Raw and is the first woman to have a legitimate shot to breakout as a star since Lita and Trish Stratus.
The creative team is facing a scenario where it can choose to do one of two things: strike while the proverbial iron is hot and reward Fox for getting the new character over by giving her a run with the title or opt to stay the course with Paige.
Regardless of what they select, there is a noticeable buzz about the Divas title for the first time in a while.
3. United States Championship Match: Sheamus vs. Cesaro
Take two of the better workers in the company, throw in a physical and hard-hitting style that will endear the match to the passionate Chicago crowd and you have the makings of one of the best matches of the night.
One of the most interesting and satisfying pushes to watch in the post-WrestleMania WWE has been that of Cesaro. The Swiss Superman has been one of the best workers in the industry for over a year now and his hard work has paid off with increased television exposure and a pairing with advocate Paul Heyman.
Sheamus, on the other hand, is still looking for that spark to re-energize his career. He is the United States champion and one of the elite stars in the company. But fan interest in the Celtic Warrior has never been lower and he figures to face a huge chorus of boos when he steps through the curtain Sunday night.
An outstanding match could be beneficial to both men. Cesaro is in a position in which he must continue to prove himself worthy of the push he is enjoying and Sheamus could reignite interest in him with one truly great performance.
Anytime there is potential for a show-stealing match, there will be a measurable excitement surrounding it. That is most certainly the case with Sheamus vs. Cesaro.
The fact that Paul Heyman is awesome and improves everything he touches only helps matters.
2. No Holds Barred Elimination Match: The Shield vs. Evolution
The Shield vs. Evolution should be the most anticipated match on the Payback card, but thanks to repetitive and tiresome brawls between the two teams and a treadmill story in which nothing really happened to further the conflict for an entire month it has suffered tremendously.
With that said, the talent involved and the fact that they produced a Match of the Year candidate at Extreme Rules early in May means they can overcome subpar booking.
The excitement that exists around the No Holds Barred Elimination match is the result of fans wanting to see if the teams can replicate, or even eclipse, their previous bout. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have been among the best workers in WWE for their entire run thus far, while Triple H and Randy Orton have proven underrated.
Batista has improved by leaps and bounds since returning in January, and it is almost a shame that he will be leaving to promote Guardians of the Galaxy as soon as tonight's show is over.
The Chicago crowd will be molten hot for this one. Over the last decade, few stories have been more guaranteed to elicit a reaction from fans than that of a young up-and-comer attempting to overcome the almighty ruler Triple H.
Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins' attempt to defeat the establishment and continue pushing the youth movement in WWE will keep the crowd invested.
It will be up to the participants to reward that investment with a match every bit as good as the one fans know they can deliver.
1. Last Man Standing Match: John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
Anytime a match features a story of the quality of the one being told between John Cena and Bray Wyatt, the crowd is going to be excited to see the next chapter.
That next chapter will come Sunday night in the form of a Last Man Standing match.
To this point, Cena and Wyatt have yet to deliver that one great match that adequately backs up the tremendous storytelling that has been laid out for them. Wyatt's revolutionary promo work and the unpredictable nature of the program has kept fans intrigued, but sooner or later the competitors will have to deliver the proverbial steak to go along with the sizzle.
That could happen Sunday night as they meet in one of the most popular gimmick matches in World Wrestling Entertainment.
There is an air of mystery surrounding the match as no one really knows whether the angle will continue past Payback. That mystery will fuel interest and excitement and make the Cena-Wyatt war the most anticipated fight of the show.