WWE Payback 2017: Superstars Who Deserve Biggest Push Leading Up to PPV
The Superstar Shake-Up did its job in vastly rearranging the rosters for Raw and SmackDown Live, meaning now is a crucial time for every wrestler on both shows.
With Payback 2017 being the first post-trade event, it's not only important for the stars themselves to make an impact but also for each brand to establish a new set of rules going forward.
Who wins at this event will help establish a new status quo for the red brand in particular, although there are also massive implications for the SmackDown side of things.
At any pay-per-view, Superstars are going to be looking to make an impact. With the added pressure of the shake-up, wrestlers will be looking to pick up momentum to carry themselves into the summer and for the rest of 2017.
How WWE books this event can go a long way in determining which feuds are hot, how the hierarchy is determined on the roster, the stars to watch and even what to look forward to at SummerSlam and future events down the line.
As such, it's key for a few Superstars in particular to get a big push at this event, so let's examine them and talk about the reasons why Payback can be make or break for them in getting a foothold in their new surroundings.
Before we get started with the official list of names, there are a few Superstars who could use a push at Payback but might have to settle for something a little less because of time management or being the opponents of people who need a win more than they do.
For example, The Revival are fresh to the main roster, and history has shown that when WWE brings up someone from NXT and doesn't immediately push them, they tend to lose favor and get lost in the shuffle.
Without a feud set up for them, it wouldn't hurt to have Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson pair up with Enzo Amore and Big Cass, who also need a shot of adrenaline after continually being passed over for other teams.
On the same page, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson lost the Raw Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania, yet the next night, new No. 1 contenders were crowned, and they were pushed aside.
It would go a long way for them to decimate a tag team like Heath Slater and Rhyno just to prove they are still a force to be reckoned with, as the former SmackDown tag team champions can easily be sacrificial lambs without causing much fuss.
There's certainly not enough time to accommodate all of those matches and several more, which means even Emma and Dana Brooke will likely be left off the card, but it would be nice to see that feud pick up some heat to kick things off.
Lastly, it's tough to imagine any cruiserweights other than Austin Aries and Neville getting a share of the spotlight, but if there's room for one more to get a push, it wouldn't hurt to keep TJ Perkins in the limelight following his heel turn.
Not only does the Intercontinental Championship need to be defended, but Dean Ambrose deserves to hit the ground running to make him a fixture in the midcard.
With Brock Lesnar likely taking off the entire time between now and SummerSlam—if not longer—Ambrose is going to be the primary titleholder on Raw.
At first, this would appear to be a good thing for him, as it defaults him to being one of the major focal points.
However, if Ambrose drops the title, he's going to quickly find himself struggling to survive.
With Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins also on the same brand, there's a good chance he'll be overlooked, as WWE tends to favor them more. When you throw in Finn Balor and all the heels, suddenly there isn't enough food to go around to feed the whole family.
The Lunatic Fringe should have no trouble standing out among the crowd if given the proper tools to work with, but if his role at Payback is to play second fiddle to a new champion, it will be disastrous in the long run.
The Miz and Maryse
In terms of deserving a push, it's hard to argue there are many people higher up on the list than The Miz.
Since moving to SmackDown following last summer's draft, The Miz has been nothing but fantastic in virtually everything he's done, putting on one of the best feuds of the year with Dolph Ziggler and somehow even turning the John Cena and Nikki Bella storyline into something entertaining to watch unfold.
Being traded to Raw could be a huge detriment to him if he isn't allowed to spread his wings with the same amount of freedom he had on SmackDown.
For the first time in years, The Miz has reached that level where people are craving for him to have another world title win, yet he's on the brand that won't even have a championship to contend for during the majority of the year, unless Lesnar drops it at SummerSlam.
Here's hoping that's the case, as the Universal Championship is one of the few titles The Miz has not yet held, and given his hot streak, he deserves to at least challenge for it on a regular basis, if not win it down the line.
This whole situation with SmackDown titles being defended at Payback is mucking things up quite a bit, diluting the idea of its status as a Raw-exclusive event and putting into question what would happen if the titles changed hands.
At the very least, it appears as though Kevin Owens and the United States Championship will stay on the blue brand regardless of whether Chris Jericho manages to recapture the title, but that doesn't seem likely anyway.
It's important for Jericho to lose here, not only to establish Owens as a top heel but to also set up his match at Backlash against AJ Styles.
Since Jericho will be leaving WWE soon to tour with Fozzy, there's no reason to have him win the title just to drop it at Backlash—least of all to a freshly babyface Styles, as that would split the crowd between two of their heroes.
Owens needs to cement his status as someone to watch out for so that he will be the top heel on SmackDown when Payback is finished.
One of the flaws of WrestleMania 33 was Samoa Joe's absence from the lineup.
For a show that went on for seven hours, you'd think WWE would have found some role for him to play considering he was brought on to the main roster months earlier and they had a match designed to incorporate everybody who had nothing else to do.
The same thing can't happen to him again. Under no circumstances can Joe miss Payback or be treated like he's an afterthought.
A match with Seth Rollins is a must, as well as a win. Rollins just had his victory over Triple H and doesn't need another right after, but Joe could certainly use that boost.
The future is bright for The Destroyer if WWE plays the right cards, but if he's treated like a henchman from a James Bond film who looks great on paper but never gets the job done, he'll quickly lose his mystique.
Braun Strowman became the biggest babyface on the roster Monday night by destroying Roman Reigns backstage in one of the best beatdowns seen in years.
Obviously, this was not WWE's intent, but that's what happens when you take someone who is awesome and you have them attack a guy who gets booed by a large portion of the audience.
Strowman flipped an ambulance for God's sake! How is this guy not fighting Lesnar at Payback and beating him for the Universal Championship?!
For someone who has made immense progress over a short amount of time and consistently been viewed as a major player, WWE seems to be hesitant to do all that much with Strowman for a long haul.
Frequently, there are stretches of time when he's pushed aside before he comes roaring back with something great like Monday's one-sided backstage brawl.
WrestleMania, for instance, was a joke compared to what he deserved. Not only should he have won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but he should have won it easily.
Instead, he was eliminated rather early on. And by the end of the night, almost everyone had forgotten about his appearance entirely.
This awesome ambulance segment did repair some of the damage done by that poor booking choice, but it needs to also continue at Payback.
Strowman shouldn't be built up as the guy who looks strong just so Reigns can defeat him. Instead, he deserves a victory over The Big Dog to offset his loss in their previous meeting.
If the way their segment on Monday Night Raw went down is any indication, the five women outside of Emma and Dana Brooke seem to be heading in different paths.
Nia Jax came out of it looking the strongest, for sure, decimating everyone rather quickly.
There seems to continue to be tension between Bayley and Sasha Banks, possibly alluding to a heel turn in the future for Banks.
With those things considered, it would make sense for a Triple Threat match to take place, with Bayley, Banks and Jax fighting for the Raw Women's Championship at Payback.
Alexa Bliss was the only woman other than Nia Jax left standing. Since she went from an NXT rookie to the de facto ruler of SmackDown for the majority of her time there, she should obviously find no trouble in staying relevant.
It isn't quite the same for Mickie James, though.
She was the one with the least amount of value in that segment despite her status as the veteran in the ranks.
For someone who still looks like she hasn't lost a step in any facets of her performance in her time away from the company, she's not accomplished all that much since her return in January.
It's important for her to not just be a bit-part player on the Raw roster, as she has a ton to offer and the potential to work amazing feuds with just about every woman on the brand.
It is clearly not the time for her to win another championship, as the focal point remains Bayley, but the best course of action would be for Bliss and James to start a feud with each other in which both can shine.
Meanwhile, Emma and Dana Brooke can be off doing their thing, Bayley and Sasha Banks can stop playing well with one another and Nia Jax can pop up here and there to steamroll people once in a while.
It would be a shame to bring someone as talented as Mickie James back into the mix only for her run to boil down to La Luchadora and Bliss's temporary bestie.
Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton
When it was first announced, the House of Horrors match sounded like it could be a fun ride leading up to a vicious new type of fight for Backlash.
After being bumped up a few weeks to the Payback event and being muddled in confusion with the two stars split between rosters, the way WWE continues this build will be crucial to its success.
Was this done because Brock Lesnar isn't defending the Universal Championship and WWE realizes how stupid it is to have a champion who never shows up, making the brand feel like the WWE Championship should substitute in his place?
Alternatively, was this rushed for Payback because the Superstar Shake-Up wasn't taken into account beforehand and WWE is caught with having the champion on SmackDown and his challenger on Raw?
Given the circumstances, their feud should have been good enough to be finalized at WrestleMania, but since WWE opted to try to continue it, it's going to hurt the build.
Neither man can show up on the other's program without diluting the no-crossover idea, yet who is going to care about seeing nothing but video packages and TitanTron messages over the next few weeks?
Sadly, both men are going to lose out on intensity, and both men could use a push at Payback, so unless WWE has some tricks up its sleeves, this is tough to accomplish.
Orton needs to retain the championship so SmackDown doesn't lose the title. Meanwhile, if Wyatt is just a loser, he cements his status as someone who is not good enough to stay in the main event—a problem he's had for years.
Somehow, this match needs to be booked in a way that sees Wyatt come out of it looking like a true menace to the Raw roster everyone has to fear while also losing so the title doesn't move over to the red brand.
Can it be done? It's doubtful. More than likely, the match will be a bit confusing and will simply end with Orton retaining and Wyatt going back to the drawing board.
If done well, though, Wyatt could become one of the top heels on Raw while Orton can move on to a brand-new feud for Backlash.
Which Superstars do you think deserve to take the highest priority at Payback?
Drop your thoughts in the brand-new comments section below!
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.