While not an event in the same vein as SummerSlam, WWE's Payback on Sunday night is the perfect avenue for the major storylines from WrestleMania XXX to conclude.
Outside of thrilling narratives such as the mind games between John Cena and Bray Wyatt, it's interesting that straps such as the Intercontinental Championship and United States Championship have a major slot on the card.
Part of this is due to Daniel Bryan not wrestling a match, but he will still be in attendance to reveal the fate of the promotion's top championship in front of what is sure to be a raucous Chicago crowd, especially with their beloved Chicago Blackhawks in a title bout of their own nearby.
There's a ton on the line, to say the least. Outside of the obvious in the form of titles, there are a few superstars in particular who have everything to lose during the course of the wild night. Let's take a look.
Where: Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
When: Sunday, June 1 at 8 p.m. ET (pre-show at 7:30 p.m. ET)
Watch: WWE Network or pay-per-view (local service provider)
Live Stream: WWE Network
|Full 2014 Payback Card|
|The Shield vs. Evolution||No Holds Barred Elimination Match||N/A||The Shield|
|John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt||Last Man Standing||N/A||Bray Wyatt|
|Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Rob Van Dam||N/A||Intercontinental Championship||Bad News Barrett|
|Sheamus (c) vs. Cesaro||N/A||United States Championship||Sheamus|
|Paige (c) vs Alicia Fox||N/A||Divas Championship||Paige|
|Rusev vs. Big E||N/A||N/A||Rusev|
|El Torito vs. Hornswoggle||Hair vs. Mask Kickoff Match||N/A||El Torito|
With A.J. Lee out of the picture, the ever-improving Divas division has continued on its tremendous upswing in part thanks to current Divas champion Paige.
Paige is great in the ring and a fresh character overall, which means it would be a shame to see her drop the strap so early in her run.
Call it great booking and writing—Paige's bout with Alicia Fox is perhaps the toughest match to predict on the night. Fox has emerged from the doldrums of the division as of late and is suddenly a top name thanks to her pre- and post-fight antics, which would not make it all too surprising if she stole the title Sunday night.
With any luck, that's not in the plans. Fox is destined to be the champ at some point and is one of the most interesting characters in the sport. But she can recover from a loss via another entertaining breakdown after the loss.
It's hard to say the same for Paige. Should she drop the title Sunday, it is hard to see where she fits in on a roster more focused on reality shows than the actual in-ring product.
The wave of momentum around Cesaro has cooled immensely over the past few weeks. A win at WrestleMania and subsequently becoming a Paul Heyman guy was an exciting prospect in theory, but the results have been a bit strange.
For one reason or another, WWE is booking Cesaro as a heel despite his overwhelming charisma and popularity. This works for a guy like CM Punk (he had to be brought up, sorry), but Cesaro has been mostly mute in favor of Heyman acting as the mouthpiece.
Cesaro has to be built as an unstoppable force, but it's hard to see him emerging victorious over a guy like Sheamus—who seemingly wins as often as Cena—in their bout for the United States Championship.
Sheamus just won the strap, and if the goal is to build it back to relevancy, he'll hold onto it for quite some time.
Unless Sunday night is the beginning of a colossal push for Cesaro, his credibility may take a hit—especially if he loses clean. Given many feel he is eventually due for a feud with Brock Lesnar down the line, Cesaro needs to be built up, not fed to anyone, including Sheamus.
How the mighty have fallen.
Big E has been an afterthought in recent months after what looked like a significant push last year, but his lack of mic skills and in-ring psychology to play the crowd properly has Big E looking more like the next Ryback than anything.
It's apparent that Big E is being sent out Sunday night to lose to Rusev, WWE's next big monster heel who needs credible wins instead of crushing jobbers every night (or Zack Ryder). Big E is that credible threat, but it's going to hurt him in the short term.
Perhaps that is a necessary pitfall of having such a loaded midcard. Somebody has to lose. But Big E has become an afterthought who shies away from the mic and—depending on the severity of his loss on Sunday night—may be destined for lower midcard fights for the next year or more.