WWE Payback is coming up on Sunday, April 30, and fans are surely hoping for a big night of action. The Monday Night Raw branded event may be missing the Universal champion Brock Lesnar, but there is no shortage of star power booked thus far.
It's the first pay-per-view following WrestleMania 33, so a great amount of star power is indeed needed. The company can make a statement with this event and give fans something to talk about when it's over.
Of course, for that to happen, the card must be right.
Fans want to see highly competitive matches with long lasting ramifications for Raw. Throw-away bouts are just not needed, as the company should move forward with Payback. Indeed, there's much to be excited about, especially since five top championships will be on the line.
The best way to up the ante at a WWE event is to focus on the gold.
WWE will be doing just that, though perhaps the most important title match of the night may not even be the main event. Will the company go with Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman as the last match on the card?
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
WWE's top guy was destroyed, and fans loved every second of it.
Braun Strowman's attack on Roman Reigns did little to extinguish the hate fans have for The Big Dog. It could be that the best way to truly get Reigns over is a heel turn, but it's not apparent if the company would be willing to make the switch.
So instead, WWE continues to throw the monster in Reigns' path.
Strowman is over as a heel, and that's a good thing. He was booed against The Big Show, and he usually gets the same reaction when he works any other babyface on the roster. Strowman's connection as a top heel is stronger than ever, and that benefits everyone he works with.
The fact that it doesn't do much for Reigns cannot be ignored, but there's also not much WWE can do about it.
This match needs intensity, it needs power, and it needs high impact. Reigns and Strowman are both more than capable of giving all of that and much more. Fans shouldn't be surprised when the match turns out much better than expected.
They should also not be surprised if the match goes on last. Reigns is the face of WWE now, and Strowman is riding a rocket to the top himself. Payback is a Raw event, which could likely keep Orton and Wyatt out of the main spotlight.
Either way, this match needs a winner but may not get one. Reigns doesn't need a loss, and neither does Strowman. This feud may continue to go on for a while longer.
Winner: No Contest
Neville vs. Austin Aries, WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Neville may be the most embattled champion in WWE.
That's not his fault, however. The company has done a fair job of promoting the cruiserweight division, and 205 Live is a good product. But the overall reception from WWE's live crowds are mixed at best, as not everyone is willing to give the cruiserweights a chance.
The problem with that is they're missing out on some fine storytelling.
The best of them all right now is of course Neville and Austin Aries. Neville has been wearing the WWE Cruiserweight Championship as the vicious heel that he is, and he has really become the face of the division.
Aries is a fan favorite of course, and he's one of the most entertaining new stars in WWE.
This match will be hard fought, as was their first one at WrestleMania 33. It will have the same outcome, however, as Neville should win in the end. Aries' loss could come at the hands of TJ Perkins, and those two can begin feuding from that point on.
Neville is not done with the championship and should walk out with the gold at Payback.
Winner and Still Cruiserweight Champion: Neville
Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
Seth Rollins may have slayed The King of Kings, but now he faces The Destroyer. Samoa Joe is a battle-hardened veteran and has yet to reach his highest point in WWE. He's got the talent, skill and ability to be on top in the company, and he needs good wins against quality opponents to get there.
But can he take out Rollins?
This is one of those matches that's a bit hard to predict. WWE should go with Rollins because he did defeat Triple H at WrestleMania 33. That win alone should have propelled Rollins to top-guy status on Monday Night Raw, but that's a spot held by Reigns.
If Rollins were to lose now, then what does that say about his path to the top?
However, Joe needs this win as well. Since arriving on the main roster, Joe has looked impressive, but he's yet to make great strides up the ladder. He's being booked as Hunter's personal enforcer, which means he doesn't necessarily need to win every match he works, but he should start winning big at some point.
He's undefeated in televised singles matches, but none of those wins have moved him forward. A convincing win over Rollins would be a great positive for him, and fans would surely be happy with the outcome.
Winner: Samoa Joe
Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss, Raw Women's Championship
Alexa Bliss went from holding the blue belt to vying for the red belt.
The Raw Women's Championship will be up for grabs when Bliss takes on Bayley, and many fans may be surprised at the way things have been going for WWE's Harley Quinn so far. Bliss is over, and fans love her.
That poses a problem for Bayley, who has always been the darling of the WWE faithful since her run in NXT. However, those days may be coming to an end.
Bayley just can't seem to connect on Raw. Charlotte's departure to SmackDown Live will surely help her situation now, but that is no guarantee she will keep her title. This may be the best moment to take the belt off of Bayley and put it on Bliss.
But the championship appears to be going to Nia Jax sometime in the near future, and that means she will need a babyface to beat. Bliss may be over, but WWE has shown no signs of turning her face at this point.
Bayley should retain the title, but her days are likely numbered.
Winner and Still Raw Women's Champion: Bayley
The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro and Sheamus, Raw Tag Team Championships
Matt and Jeff Hardy shocked the world when they returned at WrestleMania 33. The legendary duo had been on top of the independent wrestling world thanks to Matt's "Broken" persona, and there seemed to be no reason to leave other than the nostalgia factor.
But when they came back, it definitely seemed like the right choice.
The Hardy Boyz inhabit their own space, and few tag teams can compete with them from an entertainment standpoint. WWE has expertly handled them thus far, and that treatment should continue on April 30.
Sheamus and Cesaro are as over as they're ever going to be. Many fans likely didn't see it coming, but Sheamus has finally been embraced by the crowds, and his partnership with Cesaro has indeed worked out for the best.
The two are a fluid tag team and could potentially win the championships at Payback. Fans love them, and they can carry the belts against any combo at any time. WWE needs only to make the switch, and the unlikely tandem can be on top once again.
But The Hardyz are just too hot right now. Keeping the tag team championships around their waists is the best move, and there's no reason for them to drop the belts now.
Matt and Jeff are bigger than they've perhaps ever been, and they should continue rolling along after Payback is over.
Winners and Still Raw Tag Team Champions: The Hardy Boyz
Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho, WWE United States Championship
In another rematch from WrestleMania, Kevin Owens will once again step up to the man he once claimed was his best friend.
Many fans probably thought Chris Jericho would be gone again by now, but Y2J is not done yet. He has some unfinished business with KO, and their feud is not over. Payback should be the night when it all comes to an end and Jericho goes on his way once again.
But if that does indeed happen, then he's doing the honors to Owens on the way out.
This should be KO's night. WWE has already named a new No.1 Contender with AJ Styles, so the company has every reason to keep the gold on Owens. The two had good matches before, but they should have great matches now.
KO was a funny and entertaining heel alongside Jericho. But now that Owens has found his mean streak again, it's time for him to become the punishing bruiser he used to be. AJ is turning face again, so the timing could not be better.
As for Jericho, the door will surely always be open to him.
Y2J is a veteran and knows that dropping the United States title to Owens is the right move. Fans will welcome him back when he returns, and in the meantime, KO can be as nasty as he wants to be.
Winner and Still WWE United States Champion: Kevin Owens
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt, House of Horrors Match for the WWE Championship
This is an odd situation for a few different reasons; the fact that Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt may not be the main event is not even included among them.
Orton is still on SmackDown Live, but Wyatt is now part of Monday Night Raw. The Superstar Shake-up gave The Eater of Worlds a new address, but he's still getting his title shot at The Viper. Many fans believe this guarantees Wyatt will not regain the title because of WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar.
Then there's the fact that no one really seems to know what a House of Horrors Match is. WWE has not given any real details to this point, so there's really no way to know what can be expected. So if Orton will likely retain and the match itself is a mystery, where's the positive?
After all, Wyatt arguably deserved a lengthier title run but probably won't win it back. If he and Orton go to war in a cage full of weapons and other gimmicks, does that add or subtract from the match itself?
The best thing fans can hope for is that both Wyatt and Orton come ready to deliver despite their environment.
That should not be a problem, as the two have pretty good chemistry together in the ring. The hate between them may have come from a somewhat contrived storyline, but that does not mean they won't give everything they have on April 30.
The WWE Championship remains the most respected title in the business, especially since Lesnar disappeared with his newly won belt after WrestleMania. That means the match between Orton and Wyatt should be the main event, and it should be one of the night's best matches.
With any luck, that will indeed be the case at Payback.
Winner and Still WWE Champion: Randy Orton
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here.