by Frank Lucci
Oh boy, here we go.
I’m trying to come up with some positives for Raw (and the WWE’s) first post-WrestleMania Pay-Per-View, and they have decided to go in some…odd directions for it. Sure, the Superstar Shakeup was exciting, but since then we’ve seen Raw go from a decent hour and a half (on Hulu) to barely capable of making a compelling top ten moments video on YouTube. At least we have our lord and savior Braun Strowman to give us something entertaining while Universal Champ Brock Lesnar is busy counting his money while consuming an entire buffalo.
It’s amazing how much drop in quality Raw has suffered compared to SmackDown Live and NXT, who have used the Superstar Shakeup and infusion of new talent to gamely keep the ball rolling after WrestleMania. That said, I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my predictions for Payback.
Enzo and Big Cass vs. The Club (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) (Pre-show Filler Bonanza)
While I’m generally pretty happy that The Hardy Boyz are back in WWE, these two teams got pretty screwed over by their arrival. The Club lost their belts at ‘Mania, and Enzo and Cass had what many assumed to be their big moment usurped by the returning Attitude Era team. WWE has now hoofed these two tag teams back to the pre-show where Enzo can waste a few minutes referencing local sports teams and feces while The Club wear nice coats and call people nerds. My preferred route after this PPV is The Club regaining their titles and beat Matt enough so he becomes broken again, where he and Enzo can have a professional debate that simply DELIGHTFUL.
Anyway, The Club wins because Enzo and Big Cass always lose.
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Chris Jericho (United States Championship Match where if Jericho wins, he is transferred to SmackDown Live)
Jericho is getting back to his band Fozzy and not expected to be seen past the week after Payback, so I wonder who’s going to win?
Owens needs some image rehab after losing to a “real” Superstar in Goldberg, and while his WrestleMania matchup with Y2J was decent, I do not see this being a masterpiece like the ending of the Owens Sami Zayn feud. For one, there is no real stipulation, which seems very odd all things considered. Two, while these guys can wrestle a fine technical match, I’ve lost so much interest in this feud since the Festival of Friendship that I need more to go on besides countering each other’s significant moves. Owens wins and continues to speak french like the dirty Canadian heel he is until WWE remembers Zayn is also on SmackDown and have them start fighting again.
Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries (WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match)
These guys had a damn fine match at ‘Mania, and having them open that show was smart to draw some casual fans into the Cruiserweight style. Now Aries gets his rematch, and I hope they can build on their previous encounter to deliver some real excitement here. Aries has embraced his good guy role, but I really see him more as a bad guy in the long term. Neville is probably the best booked champ in WWE, so I think they will keep him on top of the purple brand while they cycle in different challengers to help them get over.
Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
This is a match, and it is happening (that’s all I got for this one).
While ‘Mania probably would have been a better stage for these two to go at it rather than on this throwaway show, Triple H is busy doing whatever COO’s do in real life (concocting shady business deals on a boat while surrounded by bikini clad ladies, perhaps?). I do not think this match will be bad as long as Rollins’ knee holds up, but this is just a standard singles match so both talents have something to do on the PPV.
While there is a story here, WWE has dropped the ball yet again when it comes to Rollins’ babyface run. This match has the potential to really start a great feud, and I think Joe will get the win in a situation mirroring Rollin’s original injury to get the ball rolling on Joe’s inevitable Universal Championship run.
The Hardy Boyz (c) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match)
Matt “Broken on Twitter Only” Hardy and Jeff “I’m Also Here” Hardy are taking on Sheamus and Cesaro for the Tag Team Championships, but with a bland story and no real build, this is another match that also happens to be happening.
The Hardy Boyz only have a limited time before the nostalgia well runs dry, so considering the recent acquisition of the “Broken” Matt Hardy gimmick from Anthem Sports & Entertainment, hopefully WWE starts planting the seeds of the “Broken” Hardy’s with this match.
Sheamus and Cesaro are really good as a team, but I still want them to split because I think the main event scene could easily use both of these dudes, especially while Lesnar is choking out whatever dangerous beasts live in North Dakota (Bears? T-Rex’s??? Half bears half T-Rex hybrids???). The Hardy’s win while The Dudley Boyz sadly eat their mac and cheese wishing they got this kind of treatment when they came back to WWE.
Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (Raw Women’s Championship Match)
We get a desperately needed fresh matchup in the Raw’s Women’s division with Bayley taking on Bliss in what should be a pretty fine match.
Bliss came into her own the more SmackDown relied on her, and I think she is a suitable feud for Bayley as WWE continues to delay Sasha Bank’s heel turn for reasons unknown. Raw does not seem to know how to book their Women’s belt, as they went from record-setting reigns to switching the title every few months. Bayley has suffered from this throughout her brief run, so I can definitely see Bliss walking away with the belt to set up some back and forth title switches. However, now that WrestleMania is over I think cooler heads will prevail and Bayley will retain to keep that preteen girl money coming in.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt (House of Horrors Match)
What was once Bray’s rematch for the WWE Championship is now an inter-brand match where nobody knows what a “House of Horrors” actually is (did I transport to a Vince Russo era TNA PPV?).
I really want House of Horrors to be a secret tie-in with Swerved Season Three where Bray and Randy are confronted with their real life fears in a locked room for an hour, complete with picture in picture updates throughout the night as they freak out. What will actually happen has been vaguely described as a Boiler Room/ Hollywood Backlot Brawl where the area in question is the Wyatt Compound – which just so happens to be in driving distance of the arena (yes, really). Since this is now a non-title match for reasons unknown, I see Bray winning due to Erik Rowan jumping ship since a solo Rowan still loyal to Bray makes zero sense.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Because we have displeased some deity, Roman Reigns is here to demolish your hopes and dreams of a watchable Raw by beating up the entertaining wrestlers on the roster with the same three moves over and over and over again.
The Abominable Strowman is the best part of Raw, and seeing a stupidly large yet agile man throw people around is amazing in itself. He has buckets of charisma (something Reigns wishes he had), making Strowman the Internet’s hatred of Reigns made flesh, and I really, truly hope he gets the win here.
However, WWE has made the baffling decisions to A) have Kalisto beat Strowman the Raw before Payback and B) not make this an ambulance match despite Strowman TIPPING OVER A GODDAMN AMBULANCE IT WAS RIGHT THERE WWE WHAT ARE YOU DOING???
If the rumors of Strowman getting Lesnar down the line are true then I am going with the Monster Among Men here. Reigns has had a rough few weeks personally and physically, but he does not need this win since he already beat Braun at Fastlane. Plus, they can always do the ambulance match later – or maybe an inferno match at Great Balls of Fire, which is a real thing because WWE does not want you to feel cool for watching wrestling.