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Ruthless Roundtable: WWE Payback 2015



Welcome to the Ruthless Roundtable, where the knights of Smark Henry get hold of the proverbial microphone (or the megaphone, courtesy of Jimmy Hart), make bold predictions, and drop occasional pipepombs as they discuss upcoming major pay-per-views and events in pro wrestling.

Today, their "conquest" is WWE Payback this Sunday, May 17 (Monday in Manila), where the former Shield trio duke it out for the WWE World Heavyweight Title... oh, and there's Randy Orton, too, to make it a Fatal Four-Way Match.

Plus, US Champion John Cena and Rusev try to avoid saying two darn words, while the WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day face K-Swiss in a two-out-of-three falls match.

*****


Pre-Show: The Meta Powers (Curtis Axel & Damien Sandow) vs The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor)

Romeo Moran: You might have heard me grouch about this on this week’s episode of the SGP Podcast, but if you haven’t, I’ll say it again: I HATE THE META POWERS. Yes, that’s their name as of SmackDown. I was never completely sold on #AxelMania, even if the longest-running Rumble entrant gimmick was clever, and I wanted Sandow to evolve into a credible player. Don’t give me this bullshit about how there’s no space on the totem pole. If a guy gets over on his own, make some damn space.

At this point, while The Ascension aren’t as good as the Meta Powers combined, I want the lost, time-misplaced sons of Ra to run over them and take them to the wasteland.

Anthony Cuello: Sigh. When Damien Sandow said he’d never lie to us fans, I thought it was the end of his imitation gimmick. Instead, he came out as Macho Mandow, his own take on newly-inducted Hall of Famer Randy Savage. Meanwhile, Axelmania has died down a bit, but Curtis Axel has seen much more action since he decided to pick up a thing or two from the Hulkamaniac. You probably remember The Ascension as those weirdos a bunch of old timers destroyed last year, so naturally they’re going after a pair who imitates relics from the past. I can’t get myself to care enough for this match, but Macho Mandow and Axelmania would pick up the win. Next!

Mikey Llorin: Look, I think it’s charming that Curtis Axel and Damien Sandow are getting screen time with their new characters, but I simply think the whole premise behind their characters is stupid. And I know that that’s the point. It’s supposed to be funny. But it’s not actually funny. It’s just wrestling funny.

It’s not even, like, kiddie funny. It’s a giant wink-wink at everyone who ever watched Macho Man and Hulk Hogan on television back in the golden age. And as that, it’s not even pretty good. It’s pretty terrible. It’s like Shawn’s Hulk Hogan. Or the parodies in the Billionaire Ted skits. They were funny because of what they were in concept, but the execution sucked to everyone except Vince McMahon.

You know what was good? Big Show’s original The Showster impression. And Black Machismo. Those two were good. I’d rather see them.

Oh, right, predictions. The Meta Powers win because they’re new. And Ascension is dead in the water.

Mark de Joya: As our colleague Stan Sy pointed out in his latest RAW Report, there's a lot of inconsistency and irony in this particular match-up that makes me lose my appetite for it. I'm curious to see what the actual plan is for the super talented Damien Sandow (assuming there actually is one beyond this ricockulous Meta Powers shite), so I'm calling for him to sneak out an inspiring underdog win along with Curtis Axel over the rapidly-fading-into-irrelevance Ascension.

Marck Rimorin: Throwaway match. Doesn’t make sense. My thinking is that this will be a quick squash by The Ascension which gives them one on the W column, but won’t make sense for them in the long run.

*****


Neville vs King Bad News Barrett

Romeo: King Barrett, because he needs the win more. Neville will have his time in the sun, but Barrett has been 5 years in the making. Let him take his rightful place in the pantheon.

Anthony: Neville has had a nice run so far on the main roster, despite not being booked to win every match. There’s some bad news for him, though, as a certain King Barrett needs the momentum here to keep going strong after winning the King of the Ring tournament.

Mikey: How long before people start complaining that Neville’s on a losing streak?

I say Neville wins, because Barrett is that person nobody takes seriously as a winning competitor anymore. At least he’s no longer the Intercontinental Champion. Look out for a post-match beatdown from the sore loser King.

Mark: King Barrett is always a delightfully dirty joy to watch, and it fascinates me how this rubber match against "The New Sensation" will end, after they've traded wins and losses in the last couple of months. Barrett badly needs continuity and momentum after his injury-plagued string of—pardon the pun—bad luck, and Neville will always be able to amaze with his high spots whether or not he wins, so I predict the world's most amazing finishing counter sequence: one big, bad Royal Bullhammer to a soaring Neville midway through a Red Arrow.

Marck: Neville wins this one, but I expect nothing less than a stellar match. I love the King Barrett character, but something tells me that Barrett needs the thorn-on-his-side guy: in this case, “The New Sensation” (what’s up with that moniker, I do not know). I’d love it, though, if Adrian breaks out the imploding 450.

*****


Dolph Ziggler vs Sheamus

Romeo: I’ll admit, I don’t care that much about this feud—it’s lost a lot of steam after “Sheamus hates small guys.” Why? What happened? Did a David bully him in his high school Goliath days? Why can’t main roster heels be as nuanced as Kevin Owens? Let’s just give Dolph Ziggler the win and be done with it.

Anthony: Yes, Sheamus has been quite the amusing fella ever since he came back as an asshole heel. That said, I feel as if we've seen this match hundreds of times now. It's the kind of match that you know will be good, just because of who are in it. The Celtic Troll will get this one.

Mikey: I’m not sure what the story here is anymore. Didn’t Sheamus lose the Kiss Me Arse match, yet win the stipulation anyway? So who wants the “payback” here? Does Ziggler want to avenge the arse-kissing? Does Sheamus want to avenge the loss? What kind of catharsis are they looking for?

Maybe we get the reverse result of last month’s PPV? Sheamus wins, but Ziggler gets the last laugh, I guess?

Mark: Sheamus has been wildly entertaining in his chaotic new role as a mega-troll hooligan. Ziggler is always the greatest showman on the roster, but seems to have lost some steam in recent weeks. Both need a win, but both look magnificent in losses. I'm calling this a draw, only because I'd love to see this storyline keep rolling to a better build-up and a more satisfying blow-off.

Marck: I agree with Romeo: the problem with Sheamus is that he could be this Undertaker-ish Celtic Warrior thing (given that haircut) but he’s just this bullying “real man” character. It doesn’t work. Although I’m giving Sheamus the win on this one: storyline wise, I want to see Dolph Ziggler emerge as this frustrated character who’ll snap at any minute, and rises up the card bearing traits of the “Loose Cannon.”

*****


WWE Tag Team Championship - 2 out of 3 Falls Match
Cesaro and Tyson Kidd vs The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) (c)

Anthony: See what happens when you put a reasonable amount of effort into building talent? The New Day are red-hot riding into Payback, after being able to adjust well to fan reaction. They’ve been GOLD in their backstage segments and in-ring mic time, thanks to the wit of Xavier Woods. They’ve also brought back the Freebird rule (meaning any two of their three members can defend the belts), which is awesome.

Former champions Tyson Kidd and Hamburglar Cesaro are two of the most solid guys in the ring, so we’re in for a fun match. As much as K-Swiss should get another run with the belts, I’m giving this to the New Day after the two teams trade some pinfalls. I can see the New Day continuing to feud with the other tag teams we have right now, while maybe K-Swiss can move on. Like that Cesaro mega singles push we all want.

Romeo: Either team can win this and I’d be happy with the result. Assuming the rumors about Elimination Chamber are true, however, it might be better for the champs to lose the titles there. I FEEL THE POWAH. New Day to retain!

Mikey: Despite a valiant effort from K-Swiss, the New Day retain. Cesaro and Kidd then put on a dominant showing at Elimination Chamber, impressing the top management and finally grabbing those elusive brass rings. They then become co-number one contenders to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and they win the titles at Money in the Bank. They become the first co-holders to the titles and refuse to split up because they’re best friends and they want to keep their cats and Natalya happy. They finally lose the titles at WrestleMania to Brock Lesnar and Stone Cold Steve Austin, also best friends, in a Sextuple Threat match with Ryback and Goldberg.

Does it matter who wins? I say just sit back and enjoy this.

Mark: NEW... DAY SUCKS! NEW... DAY SUCKS! But they're crazy committed to their righteous heel roles, which makes them a hell of a lot of fun. I'd love to see them field a power-and-speed lineup of Big E and Kofi to neutralize the biggest strengths of K-Swiss, and in that sort of even playing field, trust the wisdom of Dr. Xavier Woods, PhD, to make sure that the newly-crowned kings of the tag team division stay on their golden roll.

Marck: I love K-Swiss, but props to New Day for breathing new life into an otherwise “offensive” characterization. Also, I like the dynamic between E and Kingston. So while I expect Kofi to be swung around 100x by Cesaro, I’m giving this one to New Day.
*****


Ryback vs Bray Wyatt

Anthony: You know what doesn't work? Telling people you're the new Face of Fear. Which is what Bray Wyatt has been doing these past weeks: eat, sleep, backstage promo, repeat. That said, my hopes are still high on him, so Bray Wyatt wins to give that moniker some degree of credibility.

Mikey: What are they fighting about again?

Bray Wyatt wins because I think people can tell that he’s starting to be full of poop about the whole “New Face of Fear” thing. And, for once, I think creative can tell that people can tell.

Mark: Funny how two years change everything. Book this match in 2013 and it's a ridiculously hot near-main event. Today, it’s the awesomely-talented-but-spinning-his-wheels Bray Wyatt telling us once more how he’s the new “Face of Fear” (despite never really giving us closure on his loss to the Undertaker at WrestleMania Play Button) in a meh match-up with the man who we’re all dying to love, if only we could get some sort of sustaining motivation or theme for him going, Ryback.

I’ll be frank, I love both men, but I’m even more lukewarm about this match than I am for the Divas tag match, and that’s saying something. I’ll say Bray Wyatt takes the win, if only so he’ll be forced to start expounding on what his new character is all about.

Marck: .... Why? I don’t understand this match, and to be honest, I’m starting to lose faith in the Bray Wyatt character. Here’s a guy who’s supposed to be the “new face of fear,” but the moment he starts rambling on incoherently about all sorts of things even I can’t make sense of, I just tune out and go watch something else until that segment is over. Hopefully, though, Bray wins with interference from Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. A reunion with the Wyatt Family may be the better thing to come out of this relatively useless feud with Ryback. 

*****


The Bella Twins (Brie and Divas Champion Nikki Bella) vs Naomi and Tamina Snuka

Mikey: You know, I’m absolutely for giving Divas a chance. And on the surface, this match looks like an instance of that actually happening. But it isn’t. It’s sabotage.

You know what would actually give Divas a chance? A one on one match between Naomi and Nikki. Athletic, light-footed Naomi going up against the Hoss Bella, in a ten-to-fifteen minute match for a title that’s supposed to matter. Regardless of who would win that, the title ends up meaning more, and that makes every Diva who wants to fight any other Diva suddenly mean more too.

Instead, you get this weird tag match between twins and cousins-in-law because “family” or something. Ah, well. Maybe the Divas are being given a chance to make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t. Then Paige can come back and be the chicken skin.

Mark: I have absolutely nothing invested in this match, but I’ll go with the Bellas by default, only because my wife was channel-surfing one time and came across Total Divas on ETC and stopped to watch only because she liked Nikki’s lipstick. Tamina could be red-hot, but despite the call to #GiveDivasAChance, I’m not seeing this as the start of a mega-dominant run for her.

Marck: For some reason, I’m thinking the Bellas will win this, but it sets up a feud between Naomi and Tamina. Or Tamina comes off as the new Kong of the Divas Division.. Now I’ve said a lot about the state of women’s wrestling the last time, and this match is just kind of symptomatic of the lack of the division’s problems. I can’t wait until they call up Charlotte or Sasha Banks… or maybe more shenanigans will happen in this match?

*****


United States Championship - "I Quit" Match
Rusev vs John Cena (c)

Romeo: It’s time for Rusev to take his championship back, but not for completely altruistic reasons: I have a theory that Rusev will win it back so that Cena could move into the recently-vacated Intercontinental Championship scene. Not necessarily to win it, but to elevate it by simply playing for it the same way he did for the U.S. title before WrestleMania.

Anthony: Brappledough! The United States Open has been a refreshing sight to see, and I don’t mind John Cena continuing his little challenge. John Cena wins, lol, while the imminent Lana-Rusev split continues to unfold.

Mikey: These guys have been feuding for FOUR MONTHS now. That’s longer than the “long” rivalry setting in WWE Universe mode in WWE 2K15. I say John Cena wins because the US Open challenge is a great vehicle for storytelling that they’ll only keep if John Cena has the title. Otherwise, we get a champion like Dean Ambrose who won’t defend the title for ten years.

Look for Rusev to split up with Lana and be shuffled in the same card position as Harper, Rowan, Ryback, Ambrose, and Wyatt—all nestled comfortably beneath the glass ceiling.

Mark: Can a man lose three straight championship matches and still keep his credibility? The pessimist would say no. I say look back at when Triple H went all in to build the career of one Dave Batista—he got his ass whooped on pay-per-view thrice, and look at him now. I'm actually digging John Cena and his U.S. Open, and I'm intrigued by the looming Rusev-Lana split.

I therefore conclude it wouldn't be awful to see the Doctor of Thuganomics, rise above hate and convincingly end his feud with Rusev with a mega combo of his secret video game cheat code moves: a huracanrana chained into a Michinoku Driver followed up by a Fisherman's Buster, a finally-flawless Springboard Stunner, an AA, and a two-second tapout to the STF.

Marck: Cena wins. But that’s not what’s important to me here: Cena’s win puts the Rusev-Lana split in motion. Lana costs Rusev the match (maybe by walking out on him or throwing in the towel or something), and a few weeks of teasing the split later, Lana finally turns her back on this Soviet schtick.

*****


WWE World Heavyweight Championship - Fatal Four-Way Match
Dean Ambrose vs Randy Orton vs Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins (c)

Anthony: In Payback 2014, we saw the Hounds of Justice sweep Evolution in a thrilling Elimination Tag Match. Unfortunately, they could only get 4 of those guys for this year. Hunter is out doing whatever is best for business, while Batista was last seen hanging out with a talking raccoon in space.

Jokes aside, this should be a fun match between 4 men who’ve spent time in the ring with each other. Seth Rollins has become one of the most must-see (sorry, Miz) wrestler in wrestling today, via a combination of classic heel persona and solid in-ring work. He continues his feud with Randy Orton who, surprisingly, has been pretty good to watch in this face run. Next-big-thing (?) Roman Reigns is back in the title picture, looking to prove himself further. Finally, your friendly neighborhood lunatic Dean Ambrose just snapped his PPV losing streak, and is frothing with excitement to get back at his former brother Rollins.

Expect heel shenanigans, Shield teases, RKOs outta nowhere, and Samoan roars. Seth Rollins will win and continue his reign here, but they’ll make it look like he almost won’t. There’s a certain Big Red Machine humming in the background.

Romeo: Rollins not only needs the win, but he needs a win that re-solidifies him as a villain. He’s getting beat up so bad as a result of feuding with everyone that he’s starting to look like a weak champion, even if he is supposed to be a chickenshit heel. The funny thing is that this is the exact same thing Cena does, and when he does it people get booed. Hopefully, Rollins gets the same reaction.

Marck: I’m going with Rollins, but I’m calling a lot of shenanigans. This is a multi-man match, so of course there’s going to be a lot of interference and perhaps even a heel turn (I wouldn’t really be surprised if Reigns aligns himself with The Authority at this point). Rollins should look like a chickenshit champion at this point.

Mikey: Seth Rollins wins because Brock Lesnar needs to kill somebody that the audience wants to see dead. If he doesn’t, look for him to win it back anyway before SummerSlam.

He’ll win, though. The championship picture is in sleep mode until, at least, Money in the Bank. Then we can actually have fun fantasy-booking the WWE Title scene again.

Mark: Here's the thing about multi-competitor matches: They're damn fun. It's fun to see the chaos and contrived spots that wouldn't be possible in a one-to-one match. It's fun to hear the heel commentator rave in outrage about how the champion loses his championship advantage—he doesn't have to eat a fall to lose his belt.

So at the same time, the jaded wrestling observer realizes that whoever is lowest in the pecking order is probably there to take the pin without damaging anyone else. In this case, that would be Dean Ambrose, the man who just broke his post-Shield singles pay-per-view losing streak last month.

So here's my bet: Dean is getting pinned by Seth Rollins after a wacky miscommunication by the faces. Orton can't lose, Roman is golden, Seth is a sneak. You can believe that.

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