WWE Payback 2016: How to Fix Least Promising Storylines so Far
WWE Payback is coming on Sunday, May 1, and fans are hoping for a good event. This is the follow-up to WrestleMania 32, so it's important in that regard; it's also important because the company is in the midst of a roster makeover.
AJ Styles is challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady are two wins away from becoming the WWE tag team champions. Cesaro is back in action and is getting a shot at the Intercontinental Championship.
All of this is happening on the same night many fans are anticipating the pay-per-view debut of New Japan Pro Wrestling's most popular faction of all time, The Bullet Club.
It's a new day for WWE.
That means Payback must be impressive. This is the company's chance to showcase its new lineup, to prove it can move forward with the talents that have been cultivated in NXT. It's also the time for WWE to show it can continue in John Cena's absence.
Cena may still be the top guy, but he's not the only guy.
WWE's roster is up for the challenge, but how good has the setup been for its next pay-per-view so far? How much are fans anticipating Payback, and could WWE improve on any of the storylines heading into the event on May 1?
The Miz vs. Cesaro
Cesaro is finally getting a nice pay-per-view spot, and he's getting a title match to go along with it.
The Swiss Superman came back to the company after WrestleMania 32, and he's got a shot at The Miz's Intercontinental Championship. It's a match that many feel is a long time coming for Cesaro and a win he deserves.
But that may not happen.
The problem is Miz has only been Intercontinental champion since April 4. Ordinarily, it would perhaps not be an issue to see him drop the belt less than a month later. But since his wife, Maryse, has entered the fold, it's become obvious WWE wants to build Miz into a more relevant heel threat.
Miz is still over the top, and he's still silly arrogant, but he has more of a credible platform than he did before WrestleMania.
Cesaro must be a true threat to him or fans won't buy in. No one wants to see Miz retain at Payback, and they must believe Cesaro can take him down in order for the match to be more than just interesting.
Maryse is the key here, as one distraction on her part could see Cesaro lose the match.
The only way to neutralize her would be to give Cesaro his own helping hand at ringside. Bayley is a long shot to be that helping hand, so perhaps another woman from the WWE roster could help. Becky Lynch is a possibility. As is Sasha Banks.
If giving Cesaro a sidekick is not an option, perhaps Maryse could be banned from ringside. This would ensure The King of Swing gets a fair shot at the championship, which he should be able to win.
Miz's gimmick is he needs his wife to help him. He's not the kind of heel to go in and win on his own merit; he must have the assist in order to escape with his belt. This means if he is indeed meant to lose at Payback, his gimmick must be tweaked, if only for that night.
Charlotte vs. Natalya
WWE has got it right with this match, but there is some room to improve.
The constant presence of Ric Flair at ringside has been neutralized, which is good for Natalya. The top contender for the Women's Championship was facing some big odds in her bid to win the title. The Nature Boy is not above interfering whenever and wherever he's needed during Charlotte's matches.
Even though he's not in the ring anymore, Ric continues to be the dirtiest player in the game.
But that should not be a problem for Nattie, as her uncle Bret "The Hitman" Hart will be in her corner at Payback.
Hart will be there for much more than just moral support; he will be there to keep Ric in check. The Nature Boy will not have his way outside the ring. He won't have the chance to get involved—because if he does, he will have Bret to answer to.
It may be an unexpected move, but it's one that makes perfect sense.
But do fans care as much as they should for this match? Nattie's chances may have improved, but there is still a question as to whether she will go over at Payback. To increase fan interest, WWE must do some work on the last Raw before May 1.
Bret needs to be on TV to give his niece the vote of confidence, as well as to confront Flair. A nice spot could be worked up to get both men in the ring at the same time, which would offer Bret the perfect opportunity to stand his ground against The Nature Boy.
Fans need to know this match will be both entertaining and fun at the same time. Ric will do his part to see that happens, and Bret will be part of that equation as well.
There's no reason to believe Flair and Hart will get physical at Payback, and they shouldn't have to. As long as this match is hyped and anticipation is boosted, fans should be more than ready to see what happens in this match at Payback.
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
This match has the potential to be a main event match anywhere in the world.
Dean Ambrose has never looked better in the ring, and Chris Jericho is always at the top of his game. Combine this with the fact both men had good showings at WrestleMania 32, and suddenly it becomes a must see match.
So why aren't fans expecting more from this one?
The truth is they likely are. The bulk of the expectation comes from Ambrose himself, someone fans want to see win. Dean has been heavily featured on WWE programming over the past year, but that has not necessarily equaled an impressive win-loss record.
Simply put, Dean needs to start going over as soon as possible.
Fans love him, they respect him and many believe it's only a matter of time until he climbs the ladder to become the second man next to Roman Reigns. But he must start getting some wins or none of that is going to happen any time soon.
Perhaps many are approaching this one with cautious optimism, and that's to be expected.
On the other hand, Jericho looks as strong as he ever has. His win over AJ Styles at 'Mania was perhaps unexpected, but he has been looking great since that night. He is a power player in WWE once again, and fans would not be surprised if he wins at Payback.
But Dean's dangerous side must be brought to the forefront here. Y2J must be intimidated, and he must be thrown off his game by Ambrose's antics. Dean must be given some more time on TV to get his character over and to let fans know his match at Payback is not to be missed.
Perhaps a stipulation is in order.
If WWE were to grant the winner of this one a world title shot, it would automatically increase its importance. Or if a gimmick match were used, that could get the point across as well. Regardless of what the company chooses to do, this match must be presented as the important bout it is.
Shane McMahon's Rise to Power
All Shane McMahon had to do was defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania 32 to earn control of Monday Night Raw.
He did not win, but he ended up with Raw anyway.
This move alone has caused many fans to shake their heads in disbelief. Why would WWE discount the 'Mania result in favor of putting Shane on TV every week? What was the thought process behind it, and was it all leading to something bigger later on?
Is Payback the night when something bigger happens?
The fact is this storyline is going to come to a head eventually. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H would not sit idly by and watch Shane run the show; they will come back. While there's no guarantee that will happen at Payback, it's safe to assume it's coming soon.
Monday Night Raw's booking since WrestleMania has been fun and exciting for fans, and that credit is all given to Shane. It's a smart move by the company, and Shane has gotten over even more because of it.
But it's becoming clear something is on the way.
The fact is even though the fans love Shane, they want the product to make sense. Simply putting Shane on TV every week with no concrete explanation may not be enough. Perhaps the thought for many is that if something's going to happen, it may as well happen now.
While there's no reason to believe The Game would physically attack Shane at Payback, it is likely he will immediately confront him upon his return. Payback could be the night that happens, and it could also be the night this storyline takes some new turns.
Maybe Shane will announce that Raw is officially his, which would throw Hunter and Stephanie into a tailspin. Or perhaps Vince McMahon will be in attendance to address the situation on May 1. Maybe Shane could be the brains behind The Bullet Club.
If Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows make their presences known at Payback—as many fans believe they will—it could be revealed that Shane has been calling the shots. This would immediately add more fan interest in Shane and this entire situation.
The fact is no matter what happens, this storyline is probably going to get bigger and more interesting as time goes on.
Tom Clark can regularly be found on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here.