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Five Burning Questions Before WWE Payback


In two days, Payback will be live on the WWE Network, the first post-WrestleMania pay-per-view of 2017. It should be a bigger deal than it is, especially with it coming off the heels of the Superstar Shake-Up and a solid WrestleMania. But it isn’t, and as I explained in my RAW review this week, a lot of it stems from the messy and problematic booking that we’ve come to expect from RAW and the sudden nature of the Superstar Shake-Up to begin with.

So here we are about a month after ‘Mania and we’ve got a RAW-exclusive PPV that doesn’t even feature a world title match because both Brock Lesnar and Jinder Mahal are holding the top titles hostage. But what about the singles midcard title on RAW? Yeah, we’re not getting an Intercontinental Championship match either. Sorry, Deano. Okay, but are we getting Finn Bálor on the show? Outside of a Miz TV segment on the Kickoff with him as a guest, that’s pretty much it. Well, yippee-ki-yay.

Remember how bad Fastlane was this year? It was craptastic, and yet heading into the show, we generally cared about the card. Payback has even lower expectations, so I find myself not caring about a PPV for the first time in forever. Because of that, I won’t be doing the usual predictions column, and instead, I’ll present five questions I find myself asking before Payback.

How badly does Braun Strowman need to win?



For his character’s sake, very badly.

Let’s give WWE credit where it’s due. They’ve put Braun Strowman over to the point that he’s become an internet darling despite being everything IWC favorites have not been over the years. He didn’t toil away in the indys, he doesn’t have an unconventional (by Vince’s standards) body type, and he doesn’t have that indy star workrate we smarks love. And yet, they’ve booked him to become such a convincing force of nature that watching him has become a treat in itself. Of course, it helps that he’s been terrorizing Roman Reigns since January.

But now that Reigns and Strowman are finally having their epic clash at a PPV, Strowman absolutely needs to win. If we’re going to take his “Monster Among Men” gimmick seriously, then he needs to be booked as such. He can’t be just another victim for Roman Reigns. Strowman needs to be the monster who proves that not even a Superman comeback can put him down. If all we get at Payback is #ROMANWINSLOL yet again, then the Braun Strowman push may as well be over before it can truly get off the ground.

Does anybody even care about Bray Wyatt anymore?



I sure don’t. And that’s a sad, sad situation since Bray Wyatt was WWE Champion a mere four weeks ago.

You’d think Bray already got the short end of the stick by being moved to RAW, and then getting a rematch for the WWE title whose result was obviously spoiled by his move to the Red Brand. But no, somebody in the back really had to stick it to Wyatt by writing the WWE Championship out of this storyline. You just have to feel for Bray Wyatt, the human being.

Now, if I were Bray Wyatt the character, why should I even go through with the House of Horrors Match? Shouldn’t I be incensed and outraged that the very reason for that match (the WWE title) is no longer in the picture? What’s the point of even going through the charade? If there was anyone who embodied the sad state of start-and-stop pushes on the main roster, it has to be Bray Wyatt, and I just feel horrible that WWE continues to drop the ball on such a talent like this. He deserves so much better.

Who needs the win more: Seth Rollins or Samoa Joe?



An argument can be made for Seth needing to win more because beating Samoa Joe is the last step he needs to overcome in order to fully vanquish Triple H and his forces. Never mind that it feels like he has to go back a previous level to complete a videogame storyline that he’s already gone through. You can say that Samoa Joe is the last thing that stands between Seth Rollins and the definitive victory in the latter’s feud with Triple H, and I’d buy it.

But what about Joe? This is actually his first PPV on the main roster, and after having been left off WrestleMania, he’s becoming more and more like an afterthought. It’s a far cry from the main-event player that he has been in every promotion he’s competed in prior to RAW. I’d argue that Joe actually needs this more because if he can’t even put away the mark that Triple H assigned to him, then he can’t really lay claim to being a Destroyer, can he?

If this match were to have taken place before WrestleMania, I would have been fine with a Rollins victory because it would’ve added more gravitas to the Triple H feud. But now that Joe is firmly entrenched on the main roster even though Triple H hasn’t appeared in about a month, then the Samoan Submission Machine needs the victory more to effectively legitimize him as a real threat.

Is it time for Bayley’s reign to end?



Yes.

Bayley already got her WrestleMania moment; hell, she got it before Sasha Banks did. Unfortunately, RAW has managed to make smarks like us apathetic towards Bayley, which was no small task. At this point, the Bayley character looks like she’s just content with literally being a titleholder and not a strong champion.

Enter Alexa Bliss, who’s clearly being put in a position to be the top heel on RAW’s women’s division. After all the work Bliss has done on SmackDown Live, I don’t see why she can’t replicate the same success on the Red Brand as their Women’s Champion. Besides, maybe we can care about Bayley again when she’s the babyface chasing the championship.

But just to make things hard for Bayley, how about we turn her BFF Sasha Banks heel in the process? Bayley needs some legit adversity on RAW, so I’m fine with Sasha breaking all our hearts by turning on Bayley and costing her the title on Monday. Do it, Sasha. Just get it over with.


Should Cesaro and Sheamus turn heel by Payback?




This is something you may have noticed over the last couple of weeks on RAW. Cesaro and Sheamus have been teasing a heel turn, and if I were a betting man, I’d bet on the Professional Warriors embracing the dark side at Payback. But is this the best move for them?

I get the argument that turning Cesaro heel is just about the worst thing you can do for him since he’s such a natural babyface because of his charisma and in-ring talent. Plus, he makes such a great ambassador because of how professionally he carries himself and how he speaks five languages. Add the fact that he and Sheamus have built such great chemistry as a babyface team and you have all the reasons not to turn them heel.

But with the Revival being out of action because of Dash Wilder’s injury and Gallows & Anderson becoming irrelevant booking-wise, the tag division could use a top heel team to have an extended rivalry with the Hardys—at least before Matt Hardy gets #BROKEN AGEEN. That said, I’m open to seeing Cesaro and Sheamus turn heel, if only for the novelty of seeing them both become stiff bruisers who give no fucks at all. I’d add the caveat that RAW better flesh out their characters as heels properly, but I had to remind myself that we’re dealing with the RAW Creative Team here. These are the same fuckers who named the July PPV Great Balls of Fucking Fire.

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There you have it, the five burning questions at the back of my mind as we head towards Payback. Yes, I didn’t touch on the U.S. Championship match because Kevin Owens is surely retaining that title. And as for the Cruiserweight Championship match, I know we’re going to get solid minutes from both Neville and Aries, but all I’m watching out for at this point is the Aries victory. Neville’s gone through all the babyface challengers. It’s time for a babyface champion again.

Payback doesn’t give you a whole lot to care about, even if you actually sit through all three hours of RAW every week, which should be a new low for RAW. Actually, scratch that. Great Balls of Fire is the new low. Seriously, who the fuck got high and gave that title the green light? But we’ll save that for a future article. I’m out.

Photos from WWE

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Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast and The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. He dresses up in fancy suits from time to time to book matches as PWR's General Manager.

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