With wrestling fans just getting over their hangover from the seven-hour-long Wrestlemania 33, it’s nice that WWE’s next event will be a smaller affair, featuring only three hours of matches from the Monday Night RAW brand.
WWE Payback is set to take place on April 30th in San Jose, California, and is the promotion’s fifth “pay-per-view” of the year, but because it follows the “Show of Shows,” it traditionally presses the reset button on the main storylines and pushes feuds in new and exciting directions.
What makes this year’s event even fresher is that both brands, RAW and SmackDown, just went through a bit of a roster shuffle with some WWE Superstars finding new homes. That could lead to some interesting matchups in the not-too-distant future.
Current Universal Champion and Paul Heyman client Brrrooocck Lesssnar … ahem, pardon me, Brock Lesnar … will not be defending his belt at Payback because he will be on his secluded farm in Saskatchewan counting all his money. The part-time champ will most likely be saved for the Extreme Rules show on June 4th. In the meantime, WWE needs to find a no. 1 contender for Lesnar and that’s where the feud between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman comes into play with the winner potentially facing the champ next.
Seeing The Hardy Boyz back under the WWE tent has given the tag-team division a much needed boost and should bring more eyes to this event. You can fully expect Matt and Jeff to steal the show just like their surprise return at Wrestlemania 33. Also, don’t sleep on the Cruiserweight Title bout as Neville defends against Austin Aries again in what should be a total barn burner of a match.
The WWE likes to throw in a swerve here and there, but for the most part, things should go accordingly to plan at WWE Payback and in the build-up to the event. Below are the currently scheduled matches (card is subject to change) along with my odds and predictions of what will go down.
Payback Odds and Predictions
Roman Reigns: (3/2) vs. Braun Strowman: (2/3)
Judging by where the storyline is going, it appears these two big boys are on a collision course that terminates at Payback.
Strowman didn’t win the Battle Royal at Wrestlemania, but the WWE are still very high on the bearded giant and he should continue getting a push towards a title shot. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns is being shoved down fans throats as a babyface and, like it or not, that plan doesn’t appear to be changing. They really want him to be the next face of the company.
There are rumors that the WWE would like Reigns’ ascension to culminate in a showdown with Brock Lesnar at next year’s Wrestlemania. But that leaves ample time and the slow build might not start until later in the summer.
In the meantime, I believe Strowman will be the next in line for a shot at the Universal Title. A win at Payback would set that plan in action. The question is: can you have Reigns lose cleanly? Probably not, so I expect some sort twist will be included where Reigns loses but still remains strong. The WWE could rely on his injury problems (cracked ribs) to lessen the importance of a Reigns loss and possibly add a stipulation of some sort.
Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Reigns get the win here because that’s how the WWE rolls, but I’m hoping for a big moment from the monster Braun Strowman and maybe an end to this feud for a while.
Winner: Braun Strowman (no. 1 contender for Universal Title)
Update: Match is no longer for WWE Championship (Odds reflect the change)
WWE Championship: Randy Orton (c): (3/7) (3/2) vs. Bray Wyatt: (7/3) (2/3)
(House of Horrors Match)
UPDATE: This was originally for Orton’s WWE Championship, but has been changed for no apparent reason. The odds now move slightly in Wyatt’s favor because this is his gimmick match and no longer for SmackDown’s major title.
This is a weird match. Bray Wyatt is on his way to Monday Night RAW, so why is he in a rematch for the WWE Championship title? It almost feels cruel. Bray got a push and became champ only to have it taken away in a lackluster and bizarre match at Wrestlemania 33. Now on his way out of SmackDown, he’ll probably have to job to Randy Orton again at Payback.
Adding to the strangeness, this is being dubbed a “House of Horrors Match.” I have no idea what that will entail but I’m sure it will be weird.
No matter how many bugs they may superimpose onto the mat or how campy the WWE creative gets with this ridiculous storyline, Bray Wyatt is going to lose and find himself in a feud with Finn Balor on RAW, where he’ll probably have to job once again. Sigh.
UPDATE: Bray Wyatt is now the favorite to win because it will allow the WWE to build him for a feud with Finn Balor on RAW and still make him look strong. Orton may lose, but it doesn’t really hurt him because it’s a match with a weird stipulation and so he won’t lose cleanly.
Randy Orton Bray Wyatt
United States Championship: Kevin Owens (c): (1/9) vs. Chris Jericho: (9/1)
Kevin Owens has found a new home on SmackDown and will be defending his United States Championship in a rematch against Chris Jericho. Outside of this being a title bout, the stipulation is that the winner will remain on SmackDown.
These men have had a great friendship and now an entertaining feud. I hope they can turn the lights out at Payback with a show stealing match. As for the outcome, it’s pretty easy to predict.
Jericho is about to take a hiatus from the business so that he can rock out with his band, Fozzy. It’s a shame for fans because the 46-year-old has enjoyed another renaissance in his legendary career. Nonetheless, he’ll be exiting stage left after a loss to Owens at Payback.
Winner: Kevin Owens
RAW Tag Team Championship: The Hardy Boyz (c): (1/3) vs. Cesaro and Sheamus: (3/1)
Welcome back, Hardy Boyz! After years of insane bumps and abuse, it’s amazing that Matt and Jeff Hardy are still around, entertaining the masses. After Team Xtreme left the WWE, they found great success in the indy scene with the “Broken” gimmick but they now return home to where it all began.
After having the biggest pop of the night when they surprisingly inserted themselves into the Tag-Team Title match (and won said titles) at Wrestlemania 33, the new champs are riding a huge wave of popularity that doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
At Payback the Hardy Boyz are up against another babyface tag team, so this has a weird face-versus-face feel to it. To me, this is where I see a WWE swerve happening. I could see Cesaro and Sheamus turning heel and winning via underhanded means. The Hardy Boyz don’t need the titles to be relevant.
According to Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, the WWE is close to coming to an agreement with the Hardys’ former employer, Impact Wrestling, pursuant to the “Broken” brand. Could a loss of their titles trigger the arrival of Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero to WWE? Seems like a logical way to go about it. But I bet they wait a couple months for Dash Wilder to heal from a broken jaw and have The Revival be the ones to beat the Hardys.
This is the Hardy Boyz first pay-per-view since Wrestlemania, I see them hanging onto the titles for now.
Winner: Hardy Boyz
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c): (2/3) vs. Austin Aries: (3/2)
This match continues another feud from Wrestlemania. Although their first match was on the WM preshow, Neville and Austin Aries were still able to entertain with a solid performance that was a great representation of the cruiserweight division. They are two of the best wrestlers in the business and I fully expect their second go-around will be even better than their first.
In what should be one of the best matches on the card — if they get the time they deserve — expect a great back and forth affair full of speed, near falls, and big spots.
This is a tough matchup to predict and, now that Neville has found an ally in TJ Perkins, we could see some ringside shenanigans go down. But since I’m here to make predictions, I feel it’s not Neville’s time to give up the title. Sorry Aries, you’ll have to wait a bit longer.
RAW Women’s Championship: Bayley (c): 1/1 vs. Alexa Bliss: 1/1
I was a bit surprised to see Alexa Bliss get this title shot. I thought it would be Nia Jax getting a chance to shine. That said, the WWE is very high on Bliss. She got a big push when she was on SmackDown Live and it looks like that will continue at her new home on RAW.
A lot of people think that Bayley will retain her title because the match is in her hometown of San Jose, but since when has the WWE cared about a hometown? In fact, they usually go in the opposite direction. Both Charlotte and Sasha Banks lost in their respective hometowns.
This match could go either way and it’s extremely hard to predict the outcomes of these women’s title matches. I could see Bayley losing due to outside interference or something to that effect, allowing her to hang onto the title and setting the stage for a rematch at Extreme Rules. There is no doubt Bliss is a future champ, but it’s too early to anoint her on the red brand. WWE has been foreshadowing a Sasha Banks heel-turn for a few weeks now. I believe “The Boss” will be the one to dethrone Bayley at a later date.
This match will be used to set up a future feud but Bayley will get her hometown moment.
Seth Rollins: (11/9) vs. Samoa Joe: (9/11)
I’m hoping this feud picks up steam and continues. If given adequate time to tell a story in the ring, it has great potential. The WWE has been pushing Samoa Joe hard and a win over Rollins would be a nice way to show the fans that he is a legitimate threat to anyone on the RAW brand.
Will there be outside interference? Or will this be a straight 1,2,3? I’m not sure. In what is a tough match to call, I’m going to go with Samoa Joe. But I fully expect these two to continue to battle afterward.
Winner: Samoa Joe
UPDATE: Match Not Happening at Payback
Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose (c): (13/7) vs. The Miz: (7/13) RUMORED It looks like Dean Ambrose and one of the best heels in wrestling right now, The Miz, are going to lock horns again at Payback. I didn’t like the fact that Ambrose beat Corbin at Wrestlemania 33, and now that Miz and Ambrose are part of a deep roster on RAW, you almost feel that Ambrose needs the title more than Miz just so he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. This has the potential to be a solid match, but it’s a feud I’ve seen too many times in the past. Unless something new is brought to this story, it has the potential to be pretty stale. The Miz is so over as a heel that I can see him taking the Intercontinental Title. He deserves to be considered alongside the cream of the crop and have a bigger role on RAW. Winner: The Miz (and new Intercontinental Champion!)