The Radio Disney Music Awards are airing at the same time as WWE Payback, and if I can be honest, I’m more hyped for the pre-taped RDMAs than Payback. Maybe for most wrestling fans, things like a Britney Spears tribute, a Descendants 2 song premiere, and being reminded that the band Train are still around don’t sound anywhere close to the most exciting things in the world. But given what Payback has to offer going in, it’s not particularly looking like a PPV for the ages. After an emotionally devastating WrestleMania and a perplexing Superstar Shake-Up, we’re left with a card that probably won’t be terrible, but may not be very memorable either. Add in the fact that they put Smackdown’s top champion on a RAW PPV because RAW’s top champion is contractually allowed to play hooky whenever he wants, and it makes this show seem all the more a mess. Then again, B-PPVs have surprised before, from Money in the Bank 2011 to even Battleground 2016, so hopefully this event turns out better than expected instead of just being another exhausting three hour version of RAW. So…..just another RAW, but streamed instead of televised. And here are the matches that will be streamed. (No, I’m not looking at the Miz TV segment with Finn Bálor; I don’t know what to expect from that aside from Miz & Maryse plugging their appearances in The Marine 5.)
Enzo & Cass vs. Gallows & Anderson
Two men who have never held tag team gold of any kind vs. two men who didn’t really benefit much from having them in the first place. Also, neither team has an official name. This match was destined for the KickOff Show. There’s no telling how different the tag team division would have been had Dash Wilder not gotten injured a couple of weeks into he and Scott Dawson’s main roster call-up. Maybe they would have been in this match, or maybe they would have been hot-shotted into the Tag Team Championship opportunity that Sheamus and Cesaro eventually got. But with them out of the way for the time being and Rhyno & Heath Slater being relegated to comedy segments (where it’s clear Rhyno is enjoying his stint at the catering table), these two teams are left to wage war with each other. It’s not like either team has anything else to do on this night, unless it cuts into Enzo Amore’s schedule of seducing chicken and Karl Anderson’s schedule of spending time with that hot Asian wife he loves bragging about.
Who I Want to Win: I’m not invested enough in this match to want someone to win per se, but if I was to chose, Enzo & Cass. Unlike most other members of the WWE Universe, I haven’t completely left their corner.
Who Will Win: Gallows & Anderson; these guys may lose a lot, but I get the feeling that this will not be one of those times.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
The Cruiserweight Division continues to have characters that are barely connecting. The Cruiserweight Division, despite having some legitimately talented athletes among its ranks, have struggled for identity so much that Alicia Fox is one of the biggest stars of the Cruiserweight show and she doesn’t even wrestle on it. Characters like masked marvel Rey Mysterio, hillbilly Jamie Noble, underhanded mobster Nunzio, Japanese Buzzsaw Tajiri, and egotistical braggart Matt Hardy made this seem easy in 2003, didn’t they? Neville and Austin Aries were lucky enough to capture the attention of the fans immediately. Everyone already knew how amazing Neville was and Austin Aries was built up and given a chance to develop character for the people in the crowd who weren’t familiar with him. Before this feud, probably the only really over character was Jack Gallagher, and he’s out of contention at the moment, giving Neville and Aries one of two WrestleMania rematches on this show.
Who I Want to Win: Austin Aries; as good a champion as Neville is, Aries is probably the only guy in the division right now I can see as a threat to swipe the title, short of a Cedric Alexander return or a real Mustafa Ali push.
Who Will Win: Neville, especially given TJP‘s recent heel turn. The dabbing, heart-throb looking gamer kid might get involved in some fashion. And if he does, I kind of pray he takes a banana to the eye at some point.
RAW Tag Team Championship
So this isn’t as fun to discuss as it would be if the Hardy Boys were still #BROKEN. Because Impact Wrestling will grasp at any straws they can to receive notoriety, they’re willing to threaten legal action against Matt Hardy over characters that Matt Hardy created and popularized himself. Keep in mind Impact’s behind the scene’s drama got so messy they did an entire episode at House Hardy once, and yes, it was one of the most epic – if kayfabe-demolishing – things you will ever watch. All Impact did was promote the insanity, but that’s enough for them to claim that they own the entire operation because egos in wrestling can be ugly, harmful, and petty. Because of this, Matt and ther formerly nefarious Brother Nero are stuck being a nostalgia act in their WWE return, but unlike when the Dudley Boys did this in 2015, at least the Hardys got a Tag Team Title reign. And in making that a reality, their first major challenge is Sheamus and Cesaro, who are not – I repeat, are NOT – heels going in, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be heel walking out.
Who I Want to Win: Matt & Jeff. The nostalgia hasn’t completely worn off and though them being (so far) unbeaten veterans makes these titles all the more sought-after, but a lengthier reign than what they have so far will make that the case even moreso.
Who Will Win: Matt & Jeff; if anything, this may plant the seeds to develop Sheamus and Cesaro into either a heel pairing or a duo with friction again, not being able to defeat the Hardys and all. Plus, again, this is a reign that shouldn’t end so soon.
WWE United States Championship
After being the best thing about RAW since the brand split, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens ended their partnership in the best way they possibly could: with Kevin Owens cutting the admittedly funny comedy B.S. and destroying his fellow Canadian ring general. At WrestleMania, he snatched the United States Title away from Chris Jericho and was soon sent to Smackdown in the Superstar Shake-Up. And that’s kind of a good thing; after that quick, embarrassing loss to Bill Goldberg at Fastlane, it definitely helps to move somewhere else and live a different life. For all intents and purposes, Kevin Owens is the Fresh Prince of WWE right now. The self-proclaimed New Face of America isn’t clear of Y2J, however, as he now has to fight to keep the midcard title on Smackdown. or at least that would be the case if not for the stipulation that Jericho would be sent to Smackdown if he wins this match. That kind of lessens any reason for me to assume Owens will win, but doesn’t completely rule out the chance that he won’t.
Who I Want to Win: Kevin Owens. Dude is already still on the same roster as Sami Zayn; sending Chris Jericho to Smackdown would mean Owens is stuck on a roster with most of his old rivals. I don’t need to see him so constantly associated with his old rivals.
Who Will Win: Kevin Owens; the New Face of America will not have his gimmick suffer a setback by losing to Y2J. The Holder of the List will remain on Monday Night RAW while Owens will move on to other angles that hopefully retain some steam.
Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
Another WrestleMania has come and gone, meaning Triple H can now return to his seasonal residence in NXT Land until SummerSlam comes around. While down there, he has some battle wounds to treat as his former protégé Seth Rollins metaphorically slayed The King of Kings in Orlando. And despite how much emphasis WWE has put on how injured Seth Rollins leg was going in (and may still be at the moment), he’s still apparently medically cleared to wrestle matches on RAW on a regular basis and is apparently allowed to wrestle on this very show without a hold-harmless agreement in sight. Wow, those knee braces must be some powerful stuff, am I right? Anyway, who is The Architect’s opponent? The man who put his WrestleMania match in jeopardy in the first place; the man who somehow managed to re-injure Rollins’ leg with a chokehold. Yes, really. How does that even happen? It’s like a person somehow getting concussed from a Figure-4 Leg Lock. This middle finger to physics set the stage for a PPV battle to settle the score between these two former Indy darlings.
Who I Want to Win: Samoa Joe; how would the Samoan Submission Machine look if he lost to a guy who is technically still supposed to have a bum knee? The bum knee that Joe put BACK in that position? Not like a monster, that’s for sure.
Who Will Win: Samoa Joe; being the instinctive killer he is, he might wreck that knee in the worst way and spell doom for The Kingslayer, setting the stage for a rematch and Rollin’s redemption further down the road. Like for 3 weeks later on a throwaway RAW.
RAW Women’s Championship
No feud in WWE right now is more comic book superhero vs. comic book super villain than this one. Alexa Bliss‘ entire gimmick is that she’s a Batman villain, edgy fashions and all, trapped in the vessel of the vain Queen Bee in a high school teen movie with the smug dialogue reeking of an inferiority complex to match. Her opponent, Bayley, has earned the hearts of pro wrestling fans worldwide, particularly little girls who see her as a role model and hero for fighting the good fight. Both women have been to this dance before, with Charlotte underestimating Bayley’s chances as a threat and Alexa Bliss sliding into the Disney villain role to spoil Becky Lynch‘s Cinderella story months ago. Alexa Bliss ultimately came out on the winning end of her battle with Becky Lynch while Bayley was able to overcome her adversary, even breaking Charlotte’s PPV streak one PPV too soon. Little Miss Bliss has now been traded to RAW and wants to make it clear that she runs the division now. Beating the Women;s Champion immediately after being traded would be a emphatic first step.
Who I Want to Win: Alexa Bliss; I know it would make very little sense to have her win the title so soon after being traded, but I wouldn’t mind her beating constant history-maker Charlotte to the “First woman to win the RAW & SD Women’s Title” record.
Who Will Win: Bayley; that might stop Little Miss Bliss’ momentum dead in her tracks, but like I said before, it’s kind of too soon for Alexa to get a title reign. She’s been on RAW all of a couple weeks. Plus, aren’t they still building toward a Sasha/Bayley title feud?
House of Horrors Match
Anybody else notice anything strange about this match? If not, I’ll just point it out: the WWE Championship is not on the line, meaning that this PPV has absolutely no World Title matches at all given that RAW’s top dog is not scheduled to show up and “deal with it” is all it says on his doctor’s note. It also removes some stakes from this match that has the distinction of being both predictable and unpredictable at the same time. On one hand, something that is almost always guaranteed is Bray Wyatt losing a feud when engaged in battle against a high profile star, which Randy Orton has been for over a decade now. But at the same time, fans have no idea what to expect from this match seeing as a House of Horrors Match has never been done, and according to reports, even the WWE brain trust don’t exactly know what it is. It’s almost as if the just conjure up the name because it sounded cool and superficially spooky, but they didn’t think about what to actually do with the concept until after announcing it on television. Well, they’ve had weeks to pin down exactly what will happen, and all we can hope for is a match that’s not a total cluster…..cluster…..Veda Scott, help me out here.
Who I Want to Win: Bray Wyatt; I want to like Wyatt, but it’s so hard when every feud follows the “Bray Spouts Nonsense The Whole Time and Loses The War” formula. Let him win this match – which is HIS concept – and go to RAW with some dignity.
Who Will Win: Randy Orton; him being the WWE Champion, and preparing to face off with unexpected WWE Championship #1 contender Jinder Mahal at Backlash, Orton is probably going to hand Bray his ass on Sunday and keep all of his momentum.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
An obviously forced, badly-timed push that established Vince McMahon’s bias for both muscled-up wrestlers, pro wrestling offspring, and terrible dialogue. That’s what kick-started all the hatred that fans harbor for Roman Reigns. Since then, it has only grew, and because of WWE’s insistence on not abandoning his latest pet project, he’s now granted with reactions so savage and malicious you would think the combined powers of musical pariahs Justin Bieber and Nickelback stepped in the ring together. It has gotten so ugly that fans legitimately got a kick out of watching Braun Strowman destroy him almost as badly as Bill and friends did The Bride. Granted most of this is probably bandwagon hate, people joining the chorus of boos because everyone else is. But it never should have reached this level in the first place. And chances are they will only get worse if defeats Strowman on Sunday, given that Strowman is actually somehow the best thing about RAW right now.
Who I Want to Win: Braun Strowman; after he broke the ring with Big Show and got right back up afterward, along with other shockingly epic moments, this guy has cool points with me that probably won’t expire until SummerSlam maybe.
Who Will Win: Braun Strowman; I’m shocked I’m saying this too given McMahon’s “Make Roman Look Strong” mindset over the last couple of years. But there’s one thing that makes me thing Strowman has this in the bag: after this face-off, I assume Strowman will be the one facing Brock Lesnar at WWE What The Hell Were They Thinking? in July.