Payback airs this Sunday on the WWE Network where Roman Reigns defends his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against AJ Styles in the main event.
So far, seven matches have been announced for the main card while the United States Championship has been demoted to the pre-show yet again. Continue reading to see why we believe Reigns will leave the Allstate Arena with his championship around his waist, along with our thoughts on the rest of the card.
KALISTO © VS. RYBACK – WWE UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP
It’s a shame to see how little the United States Championship means again, so soon after John Cena did an excellent job of making it feel like a top tier title. Nevertheless, we have to watch Ryback and Kalisto go at it again in a WrestleMania rematch, to make matters worse it feels like there’s been no build towards their clash.
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However, one positive from this is that the two somehow have brilliant chemistry, so the match should be a good one to kick off the evening. I do think it’s time for a new champion as Kalisto has unfortunately failed to live up to expectations. I believe Ryback walks out our new champion, cue Cena to come back for his championship on Memorial Day.
Fellow WWE writer Phillipa Hopwood shares a similar view: This is the second time these two have collided for the United States Championship and the second time they have been relegated to the kick off show.
It is sad that Cena raised the profile of this title less than a year ago but WWE have managed to take all that prestige away already by allowing the title to once again become irrelevant. Ryback lost at WrestleMania so he shouldn't even be having this match, it just seems the WWE are short of competitors and Ryback was the easiest to slot in as a WrestleMania rematch.
There were rumours that Kalisto was injured at WrestleMania and that's why he has hardly featured on WWE television over the past few weeks. The obvious outcome here would be to give the title to Ryback and allow Kalisto to head back to Sin Cara.
DOLPH ZIGGLER VS. BARON CORBIN
I’m a huge fan of Baron Corbin, and his impressive improvement has been a joy to watch as a die-hard NXT fan since the early days. It’s good that the WWE have eased him into a storyline after his impressive debut at WrestleMania, and Dolph Ziggler is a perfect first opponent.
I believe Ziggler will make The Lone Wolf look like the monster he is, and I think we’ll all be pleasantly surprised with how this match turns out. I’m unsure whether this will be the end of their feud, but I say Corbin picks up another pay-per-view win.
Phillipa: This feud has been one of the highlights of the WWE over the past few weeks. It’s been a delight to watch Corbin on the main roster and it’s great to see that the WWE have paired him with someone like Ziggler, who will easily get the best out of him and together both men will put on a fantastic match.
There are two matches on this card that have the potential to be show stealers and it seems that this could be one of them. Once again Ziggler is being used to put over a new guy but as always, he will pull it off fantastically and Corbin will be victorious with another End of Days.
SAMI ZAYN VS. KEVIN OWENS
To me, it’s still surreal to see Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn on the main roster. There was never a time I thought El Generico and Kevin Steen will be continuing their feud in a blockbuster match at a WWE event, and for me, this is the match of the night.
The two men have incredible chemistry and that’ll show on the evening. I do believe this feud will stretch out for quite some time so there will be an inconclusive finish to this match. I say Owens somehow picks up a win, but it won’t be clean.
Phillipa: Another potential show stealer, these two were destined to do this forever, from El Generico vs. Kevin Steen to Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens. This match has so much talent and it is slightly annoying that the Intercontinental Championship was not a part of this feud.
It would have been fantastic for Sami to have taken Kevin's title away from him, as he took away his NXT Championship last year. It doesn't matter who wins this match because there's a feeling that there will be a rematch, logic dictates that it is usually the heel who draws first blood so perhaps a much needed Owens win here.
THE VAUDEVILLIANS VS. ENZO AMORE AND BIG CASS
The final of the tag team tournament where the winners challenge the New Day for the WWE Tag Team Championships. As much as I would like to see Enzo and Big Cass make an instant impact, I don’t think the WWE will give the fans exactly what they want right now.
A feud with the New Day is at least a SummerSlam-worthy match. Plus, with the Dudley Boyz lurking, I see them costing the fan favourites this contest. The Vaudevillians pick up the win and go on to challenge for the titles.
Phillipa: It has been an absolute breath of fresh air seeing Enzo and Cass and The Vaudevillians on Raw and Smackdown, no one can touch Enzo on the mic lately and Cassady backs it up in the ring.
The Vaudevillians have a fantastic gimmick and it will be interesting to see how far the WWE can take that, given that it's something that leaves them with limited options. I am selfishly hoping that Enzo and Big Cass win this one because I feel the promos that follow between the "Certified G" and The New Day would be incredible.
CHRIS JERICHO VS. DEAN AMBROSE
I’m glad Chris Jericho is no longer in a position of putting over everyone he’s in a feud with, and his heel turn has been welcomed by all as he’s doing some fantastic work again. Ambrose has lost a little momentum since losing to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, and now is the time to prove why he is a main event calibre superstar.
I don’t think enough build has been given to this feud for it to last one pay-per-view so it will stretch out a little longer with a potential Extreme Rules stipulation added to it. This time, I expect Jericho to pick up another big win.
Phillipa: If we think about it, this feud started way back at Night of Champions 2015 when Jericho walked out on Reigns and Ambrose after they lost to The Wyatt Family, but he barged past Ambrose and nothing was mentioned about it, until now.
Both men seem to have a problem with each other and Jericho is once again playing the experience card. He was the first ever Undisputed Champion but Ambrose is set to reach the heights of the company in due course and he could use Jericho as a stepping stone.
Ambrose has had the better of the back and forth action in the last few weeks but he is in need of a win after his loss to Lesnar at WrestleMania so I think the Ambrose Asylum will reign supreme.
CHARLOTTE © VS. NATALYA – WWE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
The WWE have tried their best in drawing more eyes to this match by adding Bret Hart in Natalya’s corner. Unfortunately, even he doesn’t want to be there and the fans aren’t into this match compared to the title bout we saw at WrestleMania.
I am enjoying Charlotte as a heel while I don’t think Natalya has done enough to warrant a position as the champion. There are more options available regarding feuds and matches for Charlotte as champion, so I believe she’ll retain.
Phillipa: It’s so good to see Natalya back in the title picture while she did have a quick shot back at Roadblock, it was always destined to be a Ric Flair fuelled win, this one could have a different outcome altogether.
Ever since Charlotte and Ric joined forces following her title win, every opponent has seen that her Dad is always a deciding factor, but Natalya is the first person who has found someone who will be able to neutralise his threat.
Whose family is the best? Is it the Hart's or is it The Flair's? I hope Natalya is the winner here, the women's division deserves a new leader and Charlotte became stale a long time ago.
THE MIZ © VS. CESARO – WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
I love The Miz as a heel, as he’s done some incredible work with his immense talent and natural ability to draw heat on the microphone. His character is perfect for him and I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us at Payback.
The fans want Cesaro to succeed, but I don’t think this feud will last for too long. If we're honest, The Miz can do a lot more for that championship than Cesaro can, which is why I believe Miz retains his championship against the Swiss Superman.
Phillipa: If it wasn't for the fact that Cesaro is an absolute delight to watch lately, and I am a huge fan of his James Bond inspired new entrance, I would not be looking forward to this match at all.
The Miz has no business holding that Championship, Zack Ryder's reign was one of the most embarrassing in WWE’s history and it’s pathetic that the WWE are allowed to treat a talent that way.
The Miz has already played all the cards he owns and Maryse is the only good thing he has right now and even she is getting stale. Sadly, it doesn't seem like Cesaro will be the victor here, but hopefully, he gets him on the rematch.
ROMAN REIGNS © VS. AJ STYLES – WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
I think the question everybody wants answering is, will Finn Balor make his presence felt in the match? All over the internet we’re reading articles on how Balor can debut in this contest, while a lot of the focus has gone off the bout and how Styles has done incredibly well for himself.
To go from wrestling on Wrestle Kingdom 10, making a Royal Rumble debut, a debut win on Raw, an impressive showing at WrestleMania and now number one contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship; it’s incredible.
I do think Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows are the deciding factors in a match which could surprise us all. There will be shenanigans; there will be questions raised and I think Anderson and Gallows’ friendship with Styles won’t last too long. Reigns leaves Chicago with the championship intact.
Phillipa: AJ Styles makes history here by being the fastest WWE recruit to be handed a WWE Championship match, sadly it doesn't look like he will be lifting the title at the end of the night.
WWE have already played hot potato with the Championship over the past few months and they need to keep the title on Reigns so it could end up being a dirty finish here. There are many potential theories that fans have concocted here but the most promising would be for Gallows and Anderson to interfere and cause the disqualification before The Usos then save their cousin.
The hope is that Balor either joins them or at least appears at Payback, but there is also the theory that Gallows and Anderson could turn their back on AJ and join Reigns instead as he turns heel, but this is one of the most far-fetched ideas. Either way, I think Roman Reigns will walk out Champion. Hopefully, it won’t be a clean win and it will set up a decent rematch at Extreme Rules.
Do you think Roman Reigns will retain his championship at Payback? Have your say in the comments section below!