Today begins a new day in the world of Culture Crossfie: monthly PPV predictions! Each month I’ll aim to ask a few general “State of the WWE” questions, and then go match-by-match down the card with my fellow Crossfirers discussing the good, bad and ugly (better known as Hopes and Predictions) of the monthly PPV offerings. This month, WWE Payback!
Joining me this month, we have:
David Akeroyd, an editor here at Culture Crossfire and an administrator for our partner messageboard, The Real TSM,
B. Patrick, writer of weekly NXT and Superstars reviews as well as the recent Comic to Movie Recall series and Spotted on the Pine basketball updates,
and Jonathan Dehn, writer of our weekly Raw and Smackdown reviews here at Culture Crossfire.
We begin with our monthly queries into the State of the WWE:
Do you believe Fandango’s concussion affected the booking (for Payback or beyond) in any way besides the substituting in of Curtis Axel?
DC: Honestly, I think it really helped Curtis Axel. I don’t think they had a match in mind for him this PPV so getting thrust into the IC title picture is quite the upgrade.
DA: Not in any serious way. He’s been slotted into his own minor program(s) now. They seem to have realized he isn’t going to be a huge breakthrough star and that the post-mania thing was just a fluke.
BP: In some ways, yes. I think they really wanted to get a midcard title on Fandango, which isn’t likely to happen soon now. No way Ambrose is dropping that US title anytime soon. Axel was going to get pushed strong. The Intercontinental title will serve to lessen the shoving him down people’s throats less than giving him cheap, meaningless wins over big names “on accident”. They can tie his reign into the amazing things his father did with the belt. If they care to acknowledge “The Genesis of McGillicutty”, they can point out he is a World Title away from the Triple Crown. If anything, Fandango gets stuck with less to do. They will find something but it will be easier for them to be bored with him and makes him more likely to be a Eugene than an Umaga when it comes to these super gimmicky characters getting a push.
JD: I don’t think that Fandango’s concussion and the addition of Curtis Axel affects the booking of the match, but it will greatly affect Curtis Axel. Axel is where he should have been all along, if they’re looking to build him up. But since they’ve begun and pushed Axel in the fashion that they have, not picking up the IC Title will make him look terrible. The belt doesn’t mean anything, of course. Wade dropping it doesn’t matter, as all of the competitors are stalled out with no momentum to speak. The belt kind of has to go Axel. He’s already beneath Triple H, and he doesn’t need to be below the IC contenders, as well. I think WWE will put the belt on him while making him look entirely weak. That way, the IC Champion can get thrashed by HHH the following night.
Do you believe Dolph Ziggler’s concussion will have an effect on how he is booked moving forward?
JD: I don’t think so. A drug suspension would be more likely to send him down the card. In fact, his opponent for Payback suffered a concussion last year during his neverending feud with Sheamus and didn’t see his push evaporate. I think that the company should keep him out anything involving a gimmick for at least a little while. Unfortunately, I can see a second documented concussion like the one he suffered causing a move down the card, since his place at the top is in no way secure.
BP: I hope not. This is really the only injury I can recall with him and it was not his fault. It is hard for me to commit with how hot and cold the booking seems to be these days if you aren’t one of the main “main guys”.
DA: Ziggler will have to prove he can stay injury free and I expect that they’ll want to give him some kind of BS hazing to see how he handles it. That’s less because of the concussion and more because of the things he’s been saying on twitter though. If he stays injury free and professional he’ll be fine.
DC: I hope he’s booked in a safer fashion, as repeat concussions are far easier to obtain than the initial. Beyond perhaps keeping away from the sick bumps for a while I don’t think it’ll affect him much just so the company keeps up appearances. They’re only just starting on the concussion protection movement, they really don’t want “Guy gets concussion, loses top spot he’d worked for several months to obtain as a result” being the first result. Down the line, sure, (hell they’re probably doing it for Mark Henry who sat out a few weeks to be sure he hadn’t re-injured his shoulder!) but not now.
Which current storyline do you feel is dumber:
1) HHH trying to overcome a storyline concussion while two of the guys they’ve pushed the hardest since WrestleMania have received legit concussions, both missing a PPV title match,
2) Kaitlyn spending several weeks receiving messages and gifts from a “secret admirer”, tying in Detective Khali and Cody Rhodes, only to reveal it as AJ getting in her head before their Diva’s title match she had earned back in April and never made mention of until it became a convenient conclusion to the storyline?
DA: #1. The HHH storyline has just been bad television whereas the Kaitlyn angle was mostly bad TV but paid off with a good final segment. HHH will be continuing his storyline for the foreseeable future to try and get himself over as a vulnerable babyface which no one is willing to buy or wants to see. Even if you felt like the Secret Admirer angle was dumb that aspect of it is over at least.
JD: HHH’s story is far dumber. Aside from how it brings entire shows to a halt and dominates video packages, telling the fans that anyone can tough out a concussion is a dangerous message to the backstage area, even if it is not directly related to Dolph or Fandango. AJ and Kaitlyn have a story that surely has holes in it, but has a beginning and an end, and garnered sympathy heat for Kaitlyn. HHH’s storyline is far dumber in that it’s supposed to be riveting television. I chuckled at HHH demanding a 60 minute Iron Man Match, but it’s been a slow collision of trains for the most part.
In the end, WWE has to accept that HHH will never be a sympathetic figure. But, we’re going to see just how far they’ll go convince us that he is.
DC: Despite how sickening the HHH concussion angle is, I honestly think the Kaitlyn angle is stupider. It feels like they threw together something at the last second. AJ’s title shot was earned back in April, are we really to believe there was a two-month long storyline in the Diva’s division with a logical conclusion? Or does it sound more likely that they realized they were burning TV time on an angle with no conclusion in mind at the same time they remembered AJ’s title shot?
BP: HHH by far. I am not a HHH hater but I always hate when they make someone who is not an every day performer hold a title or always be super strong. HHH is made to be Superman for his handful of matches per year now. Stuff like this was what they mocked during their most successful periods ever. The Attitude Era, and even to an extent the Rock and Wrestling boom, always seemed to focus on the idea of change and being fresh. This just continues to be the opposite of what has made the product successful and interesting in the past.
And now, the main event of the afternoon:
WWE Payback final card
Pre-Show Kickoff Match:
Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow
BP: Sheamus. So obvious. It is weird to me after how strong he was booked last year that he is in a pre-show match but he has to win. He barely loses and is still pretty popular.
It’d be nice to see Sandow get the win to rebuild the momentum he had before being thrown in a tag team but it won’t happen. He lost to an Uso on Saturday Morning Slam not that long ago.
It will be Sheamus, it will just be nice to be anywhere near competitive.
DC: Mark Henry should be back soon to continue with Sheamus, so I figure they close off the Sandow tangent and get back to hoss business.
I’d like to see Sandow win and have the announce team sell it as a huge win over a former world champion to begin his rise to the top of the card, but I really don’t see it happening at the pre-show to what amounts to a throwaway PPV.
JD: I expect Sheamus and Sandow to go out there and try to steal the show before it’s even begun. It’ll be a good, straight forward brawl, except that Sandow will use some guile to stay one step ahead of Sheamus. I have Sandow winning with his feet on the ropes, or using Cody to hold Sheamus’ foot down on the mat. I expect Sheamus to go over without much incident.
DA: Sheamus is the heel right? He’s bullied poor innocent Sandow who just wanted to show his mental skills off. Every time he tries Sheamus would show up and beat him up! He even used Josh Matthews (or was it Matt Striker?) as a weapon once, upping the bullying. Sandow finally got partial revenge snapping on the bully after Sheamus broke Deep Blue but now he’s being forced to compete against the crude hooligan in a physical contest. WWE has booked Sheamus terribly and I will be cheering for Sandow but I fully expect Sheamus to win.
Divas Title Match:
Kaitlyn(c) vs. AJ Lee
DC: I think Kaitlyn goes on the rampage and gets disqualified against AJ for excessive abuse. There’s really nothing else going on in the Divas division so stretching this feud out doesn’t hurt anyone else’s push. Also easy booking to establish a rematch. Again, just my assumption here but I think AJ is in line for a long run with the Divas title to go along with Dolph’s WHC run so giving her the title here, then beating Kaitlyn at MITB ends their string and you end up with nothing to go on for SummerSlam.
DA: I’m not a fan of the Divas division but this is the one match that has any interest to me as both of these women are talented and are also interesting. AJ has been built up extremely well and it’s time she got the title. Let Kaitlyn go on a mental spiral and then turn the tables in a few months on a now more stable AJ perhaps? AJ is my my prediction.
BP: I’ll go with AJ on this one. Kaitlyn has held the belt a long time now and still just seems kind of there. She may win this month to balance out wins by the good guys but AJ has to get that belt soon. She’s been THE Diva for the past year, they seem to need an excuse to put her in the ring more and it would just be good timing if they are serious about making the Ziggler group a threat and focus.
JD: AJ will run away from Kaitlyn for most of this match. I want to see an AJ victory after some type of interference from Big E. I think that AJ just goes over clean after playing possum for a solid minute and hooking in her submission.
Intercontinental Championship Triple Threat Match:
Wade Barrett(c) vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel
DA: Wade will show no personality, Miz will be annoying and possibly botch something, Curtis Axel will make us all wonder why he got this gimmick instead of someone else. Seriously though I don’t know or care how this match goes and it’s all filler until HHH runs/fastwalks down to beat on Axel. My call is that HHH runs down and beats the holy hell out of Axel and he wins the match in truly amazing fashion once again!
DC: Axel is the new addition; the question is whether he was going to be added anyway to stretch this to a four-way or whether they just recognize how bad another Miz/Barrett IC title match would be. I feel like he was getting plugged in anyway; he had nothing else going on and here he could “lose” without eating a fall. Hell he could hit a big move & have someone else steal the pin, making him look strong.
I’d like to see Axel get pushed strong and take the IC title, to elevate Barrett to the main & give Miz someone else to work with. I predict that Barrett retains by beating Miz.
JD: I enjoy triple threat matches, and this one will be fine, yet forgettable. I would like to see Axel win at the end of this sprint, and cleanly. I see one spot where Miz locks on the figure four and uses a rollup at the same time. I predict that The Miz retains, and they give Axel a weak excuse for not winning the belt. HHH might just be involved. He finishes the job on Barrett and hits Axel with a sledgehammer and forces the referee to count three for The Miz.
BP: I think Axel will win. It seems like they want one of their new stars to get that belt off of Barrett, or they would’ve just done another Barrett/MIz match (maybe bumped that to pre-show and slotted Sandow/Sheamus on the actual card would’ve been better). Seems like the way to go. Maybe if Fandango’s concussion isn’t bad, they will have Axel walk out and do a finish between Barrett and Miz. I’d say if that is the case, they give the belt to Miz, only for him to lose to Fandango. I get the feeling they may be bored and giving up on Wade Barrett soon.
US Title Match:
Dean Ambrose(c) vs. Kane
DC: Ambrose just won the title, he’s not losing it this soon to Kane…unless Kane is on a retirement tour and is getting yet another farewell run with a belt, but I don’t foresee that.
Ambrose should win, and I believe he will without Shield interference. Ambrose is the singles champ of the group, that makes him more or less the leader. He needs to look strong.
DA: Kane has been having the best period of his career since he started teaming with Daniel and working with The Shield. Ambrose because he hunches over so much hides just how big he is but he is a big man. I don’t expect this one to go long or be special but Ambrose himself has got “it” and it is GOOD. Ambrose will retain.
BP: Ambrose will retain. I have a feeling they may let Kane get a DQ win because they love some Kane. He will definitely control the bulk of the match until the conclusion. I really would like to see Ambrose get a clean win. Hit that nasty finisher, middle of the ring. I don’t expect this match to make it to another Pay Per View. I’d say the “one on one” blowoff, if not accomplished on this show, will be on TV in the coming week.
JD: This should be a good, 50/50 match. It’ll be a solid ten minute match with some small, intricate spots. I’d like to see Ambrose go over clean and so does WWE, I’d like to think.
WWE Tag Team Title Match:
Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins(c) vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan
JD: I expect a twenty minute match that will steal the show and set the crowd on fire. I would like to see Orton actually turn on Bryan and abandon him at the start of the match. Bryan can defy the odds for quite a while and fight valiantly before the punishment becomes too much and Kane has to run-in, put a beating on Reigns and Rollins before carrying Bryan out of the ring to save him further punishment.
DA: This is going to be your match of the night unless they only get 5 minutes which seems to happen too often to the tag titles on PPV’s. All of these guys are firing on all cylinders together especially Daniel who has done the impossible and reached a new peak of personal excellence. I expect the Shield to retain and hopefully Orton will turn during or after the match because he’s long past due for a heel turn.
DC: Makeshift Team RK-NO against the Shield for their newly-gained tag titles. Shield coming off a submission loss to Kane/Orton/Bryan, their first loss in six-man competition. Reigns/Rollins need a win to stay strong here, and I believe they’ll get it without any interference. Orton and Bryan should implode here, and somebody turns on somebody else. Being as this is Chicago it’s a complete crapshoot who ends up what alignment.
BP: Shield needs to win and will win. I get curious with the recent losses by Rollins if they are going to try to do a weak link thing with him. Out of all The Shield, Reigns is still the only one that hasn’t been pinned or submitted. Hopefully we get the Orton turn and Bryan elevated more. Both men could be doing something more interesting. If The Shield really are to be kept strong, they need to keep meeting teams like this. Despite all the talk of rebuilding the tag division last year, the real teams are still looked upon as jokes. Team Hell No was fun to run with but teams like The Usos and the Prime Time Players have become lameducks at their expense, not even mentioning other teams that could’ve been used in more useful ways.
Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk(?)
DC: First and foremost, Punk needs to show up. A bait and switch of the hometown hero here would burn any good will the rest of the show may earn. That said, Punk will probably come back lethargic and disinterested as this was Heyman’s booking, not his own. Jericho should win clean in about 20 minutes, and Punk can retreat to build whatever his next feud will be for Money in the Bank and SummerSlam.
DA: I don’t know that this match is even going to happen. I think Punk will be there just because I don’t think they have the balls not to deliver on a heavily advertised wrestler but if we’ll actually get a match is another thing. I think we’ll see the beginning of face turn with Punk (though being in Chicago who could tell right?) and that Jericho will be the winner of the match probably by DQ.
BP: Punk will be back. Punk will win in Chicago. I know I heard rumors of the start of a Jericho heel turn. Not sure why, other than there are more faces on the roster than heels these days in the top spots and it is much easier than elevating someone. This should probably just be the entertaining match that is the memorable moment of the card.
JD: I actually don’t want a match here. I’d rather they run with an angle where Punk is taken out at the start of the show and stretchered off from a backstage location. There’s some reveal where this match should take place. Perhaps Axel is the replacement opponent, and then they reveal that Punk was betrayed by Heyman and savagely beaten by both Axel and Jericho. Jericho and Axel are Paul Heyman guys and Punk can continue to rest up before seeking revenge as a babyface. This way, they can save a little bit of time for the tag team title match. But really, I don’t see anything worthwhile happening here. Maybe Chicago doesn’t riot because they bring in Lesnar to demolish Jericho.
World Heavyweight Title Match:
Dolph Ziggler(c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
BP: This is a tough one. To me, Ziggler needs to win. He had to or he is not taken seriously again. Del Rio probably needs to move away from the title but I think we hit the same scenario where Sheamus is now. They have no idea what to do with him once the title is out of the picture. It is a shame because Del Rio felt like the freshest main event babyface in a LONG time when he first turned and they gradually turned him into another bland character. The match will be good, I think Ziggler needs a clean win showing he deserves to be a top player but it is time to move on from this feud and much like Ryback, not too much exciting for the loser.
JD: Without a doubt, this starts the show. Dolph will be quite the babyface in Chicago, and they should use that to their advantage, breaking from the usual formula and letting both Del Rio and Ziggler play this as tweeners where both have comeback segments. Dolph really needs to win this thing clean, as it’s his first title defence. However, I think that Dolph will retain, but with an ending that makes neither man look good. I expect plenty of outside interference derailing a good match.
DA: How pissed are they at Dolph getting injured and spouting off on twitter? That’s the question. If they’re as unhappy as they seem to be based on the creation of the HHH concussion storyline and past history I don’t see Dolph holding on to the belt. However Del Rio really has no momentum at this point and Ziggler clearly has a fanbase behind him even as a heel and is a top worker. My heart says Dolph but in the end I have to go with Del Rio.
DC: Ziggler needs to win. Del Rio is not working very well as a face and if Dolph drops the belt his first match back from a concussion that sends the wrong message to everyone. In the old days he would’ve been stripped of the belt already, so progress has been made.
Ziggler needs a decisive win. He can’t rely on Big E or AJ to help him every time, though neutralizing Ricardo would be OK in my book.
I think Ziggler retains here. I certainly hope he does.
WWE Championship Three Stages of Hell Match – Stage 1: Lumberjack Match, Stage 2: Table Match, Stage 3: Ambulance Match:
John Cena(c) vs. Ryback
JD: I think this match will be alright and everything, although the stages certainly aren’t hellish. I see some kind of interference causing Ryback to lose the first fall. Cena will make a mistake and go through a table. After some slugging, Cena will overcome Ryback and retain the title. That’s the finish that I want, and hopefully, the finish that they go with.
DA: I thought their first match went well aside from the non-finish (which was to get us here) and the 2 foot high table splash. It wasn’t memorable but it was better than I was expecting. I’ve read they want to split the matches up throughout the show and I can see points for and against that. I’d rather see it all at once but I’m willing to give either a chance. I’d like to see Ryback given the ball here as I think he’s really improved a great deal since turning. Some people are just naturally heel’s and I think that he is one of them. Everyone knows the talking points about Cena being stale so I don’t feel the need to go over them. Let Ryback have a run and see how he does. Do I think that will happen? No. I expect Cena will overcome the odds once again.
DC: This is a very oddly scheduled match. It’s pretty obvious how it must go. Cena takes fall 1 clean, it’s a lumberjack match and there’s no way Ryback pins Cena here. Ryback takes fall 2, Cena sucks at table matches. The Ambulance is up in the air, theoretically. In reality, if WWE was going to give Ryback the title in a decisive fashion they’d have given it to him last month in a Last Man Standing match rather than drawing it out another month to give him an Ambulance win. This is yet another feud to get Cena “over”, so Cena takes the Ambulance match and retains the title.
I think Ryback drags a laid-out Cena all the way to the ambulance after putting him through the table, to build suspense regarding “Holy shit Cena’s so laid out Ryback’s going to take the title via 2 falls off of just one maneuver” only to rapadoo himself back into contention and a win a few minutes after that.
BP: It seems fairly straight forward to me that Cena wins Stage 1 and Stage 3 but Ryback will get a cheap win in a Tables Match. It does not make sense to me, especially if this was truly made to give Cena something “legendary” but it is what it is. All the work that went into Ryback being so popular, seems all down the drain.
I went to the Royal Rumble this year and was shocked at the amount of Ryback stuff. They had accomplished making him a huge face and flushed it to feed him to Cena. Now he is going to just look weak again after this feud and truly have nowhere to go and nothing interesting to do.
Maybe they will try to make him a face again after this, gaining respect for Cena and “learning from his mistake” but I think it leaves very little for someone that groups of people were really starting to get behind.
I had to make a statement already about not being a HHH hater and feel I need to do the same with Cena. I don’t have that visceral disdain people have for these guys but there just hits a point where there is nothing interesting left or nothing really for these guys left to accomplish. I think this is in turn with the mass quantity of shows now and the fact that even the shows they don’t appear on, we have to get huge chunks of recaps. I’d love to see the unexpected, maybe see Ryback shock the world. Not even that he is the right guy to have the belt right now but every week this comes across more and more like a nothing feud in the long run.