by BROCK KOLLER
How you doin?
Very well, actually.
That’s because WWE is hitting all the marks recently. All that hard work, creativity, and entertaining storylines and matches culminates this Sunday at Payback. Hopefully, it starts up again the following night on Raw.
Wrestling fans across the world are in agreement that the WWE has been very good, if not great, these past few weeks following what many considered was a lackluster WrestleMania build. But ever since the Showcase of the Immortals, WWE has introduced a slew of new Superstars, pushed deserving talent, and created logical and interesting storylines that keep the viewers’ interest.
While the ratings are in a lull, it should not be blamed on the WWE’s current product. Maybe mainstream fans are not familiar yet with AJ Styles, Enzo & Cass, or Anderson & Gallows. But there was a time where not everyone was familiar with John Cena or Daniel Bryan. It takes time to create household names. The WWE is doing everything right these past few weeks. Let’s hope it continues.
WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles
The fact that AJ Styles is the number one contender for the WWE Championship proves that WWE is thinking differently coming out of WrestleMania. Styles, a veteran of the ring, has become the biggest face in the company and WWE just went with the crowd. Of course, this could have always been the WWE’s go-to plan after WrestleMania, Styles as the top good guy, but after Daniel Bryan’s situation, it’s hard to believe. Whether it was the original plan or one changed on the night after Mania, it really does not matter, AJ Styles is fighting Roman Reigns for the title. Reigns is slowly growing into his character. He no longer is the funny man with the one-liners trying to copy his cousin The Rock. He’s now a man who knows he’s not liked by all and it doesn’t matter to him. He’s The Guy. Sort of like the gloved Diesel of 1996. You can like him, he’ll like you back. You can hate him, he won’t care. A better persona for Reigns at this time. He seems more comfortable with it. Also an added to layer to this main event mix is the team of Anderson and Gallows, Styles’ old New Japan buddies. They have been helping Styles as of least, much to the chagrin, it appears, of the number one contender. This is a great wrestling storyline!! It makes you keep tuning in. It makes you keep asking questions. It makes you want to watch. Is Styles just pretending not to like his friends’ help? Will he turn heel and join them at Payback? Will they turn on Styles at Payback? Will Roman Reigns turn? (Not likely) Or will Finn Balor make his much anticipated debut and form the Balor/Bullet Club with Anderson and Gallows? So many questions! This is pro wrestling. Good, bad, or Balor…Reigns is walking out champ.
WINNER: Roman Reigns
KEVIN OWENS vs. SAMI ZAYN
AJ Styles. Kevin Owens. Sami Zayn. Add in Cesaro, Jericho, and Dean Ambrose, and Payback is the Internet Wrestling Community’s fanfiction pay per view come to life. The video package this past week on Raw chronicling the history between the two former best friends is exactly what a match between two former best friends who have a history needed. It added to the drama. It made it known – these guys go way back. These guys used to be friends. This is why they aren’t. It gave better context to the match than showing what happened last week on Smackdown every half hour. History should not be forgotten. In wrestling, there is a lot of it. It can help any story. It can help any match. That video package made this match that was already phenomenal on paper, even more can’t miss.
WINNER: SAMI ZAYN
DEAN AMBROSE vs. CHRIS JERICHO
Another grudge match between “internet darlings.” Taking the Ambrose Asylum gimmick and making it a talk show to take over the Highlight Reel was a good way to add something different to this feud (true, it’s been done before, it’s different in today’s landscape). Jericho’s sayings during this heel run have been hilarious and Ambrose can go toe-to-toe with him on the mic, and, as he’ll show this Sunday, in the ring, as well. Since Jericho got a win at Mania, Ambrose should pick this one up.
WINNER: DEAN AMBROSE
THE MIZ vs. CESARO
Cesaro was a big return the night after WrestleMania. His new James Bond persona works, as they haven’t yet made him a full on spy -yet. And The Miz got a boost of energy to his character when his real-life wife and former Women’s Champion Maryse returned. They could do a switch with the IC title and The Miz would not be hurt too much. It would be nice to see the gold with Cesaro, but I’m thinking the WWE will wait to give it to him. The Miz retains this time – probably through nefarious (Maryse) ways.
WINNER: THE MIZ
WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
CHARLOTTE with Ric Flair vs. NATALYA with Bret Hart
It’s always a thrill to see wrestling legends Ric Flair and Bret Hart, especially the latter since he’s not on television every week. I’m sure they will only play a small role in this match – perhaps Flair getting involved and Hart taking him out with a punch. But that should be about it. That’s all there needs to be with outside interference. The two women – Charlotte and Natalya – can pull off a classic on their own. They’ve done it before. Fans are always rooting for Natalya to get her shot and here it is. She might not win, but she’ll definitely put on a memorable performance.
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. BARON CORBIN
Dolph needs a dose of character change. He’s too talented to be enhancement personnel. Baron Corbin should win this. He needs to build his resume. Dolph needs a refresh.
WINNER: BARON CORBIN
KALISTO VS. RYBACK
I’m going to go out on a limb and pick the Big Guy. I’m going to say Ryback wins. I’m going to say Ryback then goes on Raw and Smackdown for a few weeks and says he’s the greatest US Champion of all-time. I’m going to say that he’s going to start the Ryback Open Challenge. I’m going to say on Memorial Day, John Cena answers that open challenge. I’m going to say Ryback had a nice run as US Champion.
WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP No. 1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT FINAL
ENZO AMORE & COLIN CASSADY vs. THE VAUDEVILLAINS
Two new tag teams in a high profile match. Enzo & Cass have the shtick to be this generation’s New Age Outlaws. Both teams are entertaining, different, and made up of quality wrestlers. The biggest factor in who wins is that they face The New Day. Because of that, The Vaudevillains have my vote.
WINNERS: THE VAUDEVILLAINS
MR. McMAHON ANNOUNCES WHO CONTROLS RAW
Vince, Shane, Stephanie will all stand in the ring. Vince will ask each of them why they think they should run Raw. Vince will say they both give convincing arguments. Vince will say quite frankly he gets the last word and makes the decision. Vince will say therefore the person who will be running Monday Night will be NEITHER OF YOU. As it pertains to controlling Raw, he’ll say, you two ARE FIRED. Have a good night. He’ll then do a little dance and walk out of the ring. Shane will get a kick out of it and Stephanie will scream. Vince will dance down the aisle and people will have to tune to Raw to find out who is in charge.
It better not be a computer.
And I quote…Enjoy Payback!!