The first PPV after Wrestlemania is always an interesting one, this year even more so. The overall response from fans towards Wrestlemania this year was that it was good, but not great. Personally, I thought it wasn't great and It was definitely too long. This year Payback is the first PPV to happen after Wrestlemania as opposed to Extreme Rules and just taking a glancing look at the card makes for interesting viewing. Many of the clashes this Sunday are quite frankly mouthwatering. So what are the most likely outcomes coming out of Chicago this Sunday?
Kalisto vs. Ryback (United States Championship)
First off, the fact that this match is on the Pre-Show and not the main card is, quite frankly, a disgrace. The fact that the US Championship is pretty much irrelevant right now is ridiculous, especially after the work that John Cena put in elevating the Championship last year. This match is just not a match that many people particularly want to see, despite the fact that Kalisto and Ryback have surprisingly good Chemistry in between the ropes. There has just been no buildup to this match and the title has barely featured on RAW since Wrestlemania. The fact that Kalisto is still part of The Lucha Dragons with Sin Cara hasn't helped matters either.
So who will win? Well originally I was going to go with Kalisto but John Cena recently tweeted that he will return to RAW on May 30th and for that reason alone I have to go with Ryback. While World Championship number sixteen beckons for the cenation leader it's unlikely he will be shunted straight into a program with Roman Reigns right now. Having him back in the US title scene will help give that title back some of the prestige it has lost in the past 6 months since he lost it to Alberto Del Rio last year. He could face Kalisto but the dynamic in that situation would be face vs face which doesn't really make much sense. The signs right now point to Ryback walking out as champion this Sunday and Kalisto shuffling back into the Tag Team picture. Spare a thought for Kalisto who has yet again been let down by WWE Creative and their booking.
Prediction: Ryback wins via Pinfall
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin
It must be said that Baron Corbin has been extremely impressive since debuting at Wrestlmania. The comparison to make with Baron Corbin right now is to compare him with Apollo Crews. While Crews has been impressive in the ring he has struggled with developing his character, just like he did in NXT. Corbin however, has thrived. Ever since the RAW after Wrestlemania he has portrayed himself perfectly as a man who is here just for himself. He doesn't care what we think about him and he will go through anyone to get to where he wants to be. He has targeted Dolph Ziggler and now they are set to go one on one at Payback.
So who will win? Corbin. Unfortunately for Dolph his biggest strength right now is making others look good. That is probably why he has been put up against Corbin. Dolph will always be one of those 'what if?' guys in the WWE. What if WWE had given him the push he deserved? We will probably never know. Corbin going over Ziggler here is the safe bet to make. This feud may continue after Payback but Corbin could also turn his sights towards someone else.
Prediction: Baron Corbin wins via Pinfall
Enzo and Cass vs. The Vaudevillians
Not having this match on the most recent episode of RAW is a baffling decision to say the least, mainly because it leaves New Day without a match on PPV for the second time in three straight PPV events. The most over act in WWE doesn't have a match on PPV. Very strange. Having said that, this match is happening which is good. Two new NXT Tag Teams have a match on their first PPV. It shows that WWE obviously value these two teams very much. The Vaudevillians worry me a little. They are very talented in the ring but they seem to lack that ability to connect with the crowd, especially on RAW. Enzo and Cass on the other hand do it without any effort whatsoever. Enzo Amore is Charisma personified and Cass can hold is own pretty well. Despite only being on RAW for four weeks they are one of the most popular acts on the show which shows how good they are.
So who will win? It's a tough one but I think it will come down to outside interference. A lot has been made of Enzo and Cass's beef with The Dudley Boyz so I wouldn't be surprised to see them cost Enzo and Cass this match. Enzo and Cass are a special act. They connect with the crowd well and shift a lot of merchandise, two of the things you need to succeed in the WWE. They failed to win the NXT Tag Team titles which is a strange thing to say but you'd struggle to believe they won't win the WWE Tag Team titles. It feels like WWE are waiting for a big moment. It will take a mighty popular team to dethrone a team like the New Day, Enzo and Cass are the guys to do it. Most likely at Summerslam, this match however, The Vaudevillians are most likely to walk out winners.
Prediction: The Vaudevillians win via Pinfall after interference from The Dudley Boyz
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
This can't be anything but amazing. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are the wrestling equivalent of the Batman and The Joker. The are simply destined to fight forever. Not only that but they make it entertaining every time they step inside the ring. In the WWE there is always that defining moment for someone to make it to the big time. For Daniel Bryan, it was his 18 second loss to Sheamus at Wrestlemania. For CM Punk, it was his infamous 'pipe bomb' promo. For Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, this could be their defining moment. Both of these men are tremendously talented in the ring and no doubt have the potential to reach the main event in WWE.
So who will win? Well this is extremely unlikely to end at Payback so Zayn winning is the most unlikely outcome. Kevin Owens portrays a Heel brilliantly, better than pretty much everyone on the roster in fact. The most likely outcome would be Kevin Owens cheating to win using something old school like an eye rake or a low blow when the referees back is turned. Personally I think they could even go with a no-finish and have both men counted out after going through a table. Kevin Owens will more than likely exit the winner however and he is the man I am picking for this.
Prediction: Kevin Owens wins via Pinfall after dirty tactics
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
Two of the men behind the most baffling Wrestlemania outcomes this year. Chris Jericho beating AJ Styles proved to be arguably the biggest shock of the night at Wrestlemania and while Dean Ambrose losing to Brock Lesnar was always going to happen, the match itself was a disappointment. That should've been the match that pushed Dean Ambrose into the main event picture. The match that made officials in WWE realise that Ambrose is a guy worth investing more of their time and effort in.Instead he remains just on the cusp. Will this match get him over the edge? Probably not. He will get there eventually, just not yet.
So who will win? After Wrestlemania and Jericho beating Styles this is a little strange but Dean Ambrose will probably come out on top here. Chris Jericho is 46. He is also a part-time Wrestler and arguably the best man in the company at putting over younger talent and for the most part it always helps a wrestlers career after stepping in the ring with Jericho (Fandango is obviously excluded from this point). Dean Ambrose has only won four PPV singles matches since The Shield split. The fact that he is still as popular with the crowd as he is after losing that many matches is evidence enough that he is worthy of a WWE Title run. As for this match? Dean will most likely beat Jericho and Jericho will take his leave again.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose wins via Pinfall
Charlotte vs. Natalya (WWE Women's Championship)
I really don't know how to feel about this match. On the one hand we have Charlotte and Natalya, two supremely talented in-ring performers who are more than capable of going out there and putting on an excellent match. In the other hand we have Ric Flair and Bret Hart, Two undeniable legends of the business who will be at ringside. This worries me, simply because this is WWE. While the focus here should be on Natalya and Charlotte and ushering in a new era of Women's Wrestling, WWE being the company that they are, will most likely make this about Bret Hart and Ric Flair in some way. Having these two at ringside is just unnecessary at this point. Hart himself has even said he has no interest in being there while Flair was helpful to Charlotte at the start of her Heel run, there is too much focus on him right now when it should be on Charlotte.
So who will win? Charlotte. Don't get me wrong, Natalya is talented and undeniably deserves to be part of the conversation as to who should be champion, but the timing feels wrong. If the title was going to change hands, Sasha Banks or Becky Lynch should've won at Wrestlemania. Having someone win the title a month after makes that match mean a little less. Sasha Banks is one of the most over people on the entire roster right now so she will most likely be the one to dethrone Charlotte but for now, Natalya will be a great opponent for her.
Prediction: Charlotte wins via Pinfall after interference
The Miz vs. Cesaro (Intercontinental Championship)
I have made my feelings about the secondary Championships in WWE very clear in recent articles. I short, they don't mean much. This time last year, Daniel Bryan and John Cena were secondary champions. Two of the biggest stars in the company. Recently however the titles have just become a toy for people to hold rather that claiming to be a champion. The Miz and Zack Ryder have typified this perfectly. The Miz could've easily won the title at Wrestlemania but WWE gave Zack Ryder the win for absolutely no reason at all.
So who will win? Cesaro should win, but The Miz WILL win. With his recent on screen partnership with wife Maryse, Miz is certain to win this match. Eventually Cesaro will win the title and hopefully embark on a lengthy run with it which will bring back some prestige to the title but for now, look for Maryse to help her Husband cheat to retain his title.
Prediction: Cesaro wins via DQ, Miz retains
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles (WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
And so It all comes down to this, Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles. When Styles debuted 3 months ago at the Royal Rumble you would've been laughed at for saying he would get a WWE Title match this quickly but here he is. The dynamic going into this one is interesting. It seems like WWE are still trying to get Roman over as a babyface for now, despite him being as popular as a fart at a dinner party. With the recent addition of Styles former Bullet Club collegues Gallows and Anderson this feud has become extremely intriguing.
So who will win? I'll give you a hint as to who won't win. It rhymes with Bay Day Niles. I will not insult you by pretending to like Roman Reigns because I don't. Roman is the WWE's chosen one so having him drop the title a month after winning it at Wrestlemania to a releative newcomer like Styles would be a welcome, if unlikely, surprise. Gallows and Anderson will likely figure into this match in some way. One of the theories banging around is that they turn on AJ to side with Roman which is a possibility but hopefully won't happen. The most likely theory is that Gallows and Anderson do inded turn on AJ but instead side with old friend Finn Balor. With Finn Balor dropping the NXT Title recently and rumours circulating of his imminent RAW debut this seems like the likeliest outcome. Personally I'd like to see AJ win. Not just because I am personally a fan of his work but because WWE's incarnation of The Bullet Club could be big, Shield size big. To have them make a huge impact, have them win the WWE title and dominate the WWE itself. Finn Balor could still be worked in to the stable and Roman Reigns could continue to feud with AJ and the Bullet Club, with AJ and Bullet Club being face to the hardcore fans and Roman being the face to casual fans. Despite all this however, Roman will still most likely be the guy walking out with the belt on Sunday.
Prediction: Roman Reigns wins via Pinfall after interference
Also on the card is the fact that Vince McMahon will announce who will be running RAW for the forseeable future. This seems to be just a way to eat up time despite the fact that this is already a packed card (Seriously, writing this took way longer than it should've). Shane McMahon has done a bang up job as RAW GM and it should really stay that way. The Authority on RAW brings the whole show down, while with Shane it has a more upbeat feel and the show has generally flown by which is good thing. Many people see this as the announcement of the rumoured "Brand Split". I can see this happening. The question is, who would run what? Maybe The Authority will get back control of RAW and Shane will be given SmackDown as a reward for his efforts over the past month. I honestly don't know what else could happen so we will just have to wait until the weekend to find out