WWE Payback, aka I Can’t Believe There’s Another Pay-Per-View!, airs this Sunday, April 29, live on WWE Network. Also, still, pay-per-view. The show is headlined by a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between the champion, Roman Reigns, and the challenger, AJ Styles, with the looming threat of the Bullet Club (or whatever we’re calling them) in the background. The show also features matches for the Intercontinental, U.S. and Women’s Championships.
Here’s your complete WWE Payback 2016 card as we know it:
1. WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles
2. Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs. Cesaro
3. Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
4. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
5. #1 Contender for the Tag Team Championship: Enzo and Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains
6. WWE Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya
7. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
8. Kickoff Match for the United States Championship: Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback
As always, here are our bulletproof, expert opinions and predictions that are almost always completely wrong. Be sure to drop down into our comments section and let us know what you think will happen, from “nothing” to “something, hopefully!”
Kickoff Match for the United States Championship: Kalisto (c) vs. Ryback
What Should Happen: You should tune in to WWE Payback at 8PM.
What Will Happen: Man, the United States Championship sure turned into a fart in the wind without John Cena around, didn’t it? Kalisto is great, but he’s doing nothing with the championship, so you might as well give it to The Big Guy. Plus, if Cena’s coming back on Memorial Day, what better way to celebrate than by having him win back the U.S. title? Let Ryback be a “bowly” transitional champion for a few weeks and then get Attitudinally Adjusted. Although honestly it’d be more fitting for Cena to pop in, destroy Kalisto and think he did something everyone would love.
Jessica Hudnall – The Ryback at Payback is a winning combination, rivaled only by liquor and despair. The Big Guy is totally gonna win the belt this time because my dumb lizard brain won’t stop screaming about how strong he is and how teeny Kalisto is and c’mon, how can you even think the tiny boy will win.
David D. – Kalisto wins. Ryback’s head explodes.
Justin Donaldson – This is the hardest match of the show to call because it doesn’t matter at all. They’ve just been frozen in time since WrestleMania. Probably Kalisto retaining over the Big Guy, leading to a Best Two Out of Three Falls Match-up on the Extreme Rules Pre Show
Danielle Matheson – On a card that seems the most like “The WWE You Know vs. The WWE You Say You Want,” this is probably the most out of place. It’s not a feud that is looking for a blowoff on a grander stage, because they literally wrestled on the grandest stage of them all. What else are you going to get out of this SmackDown special attraction? Let’s say Kalisto retains, and they find something else (please, anything else) for him to do.
Ross Bentley – Let’s hope Ryback wins and physically eats the US title after the match so we never have to see it again. My God, what a complete waste Kalisto’s title reign has been, and it’s of no fault of his own. The Big Guy wins, I guess, because someone has to lose the belt to John Cena when he comes back.
Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
What Should Happen: Corbin beats Ziggler so badly Titus O’Neil has to finish the match for him.
What Will Happen: Is there value in Dolph Ziggler beating Baron Corbin here? Sure, not everyone’s as into Corbin as me (slash us), but you brought the guy up and had him win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal in his main roster debut. What, he’s gonna spend Payback losing to the dude who loses to everybody? I say we get a surprisingly good match in the Corbin/Joe vein, but not as good as Ziggler probably thinks it is. Corbin wins after an End of Days and maybe some light cheating, like a shoulder to the post or whatever.
Jessica Hudnall – Dolph is going to look like a basketball here. Corbin’s gonna bounce Ziggler’s noodle head off the canvas at least fifty times. All Hail Baron.
David D. – Man, there’s a lot of NXT guys on this card. This a feud where the “good guy” is being more of a douche than the guy who’s supposed to be the douche in the story. Corbin murders Ziggler fair and square.
Justin Donaldson – Corbin handily defeats Ziggler, then after the match continues to punish him by delivering End of Days onto the steel steps, leading to a match where you can use the steel steps next month at Extreme Rules.
Danielle Matheson – Baron Corbin needs to look like a million bucks, and Ziggler’s the guy who can do that. Corbin can look like a big scary werewolf biker man when he’s tossing around twerps like Austin Aries on NXT, but he needs a hand up with a general audience. As much as I’m Team Wigglebutt in this match-up, Corbin winning makes the most sense.
Ross Bentley – Like it or not, Ziggler’s spot now is “help put over the new guys coming up from NXT.” He did it with Breeze (even though that hasn’t exactly worked out) and he’ll do it here. Corbin is probably in line for a mega push, and Dolph will be his first victim.
WWE Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya
What Should Happen: WWE should just air the Charlotte vs. Natalya match from NXT TakeOver without comment or explanation and see how many of us are fine with it.
What Will Happen: The goal here should be to get to a WWE Women’s Championship match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks at SummerSlam, right? That’s what we all want, isn’t it? Natalya as Women’s Champion is the 8-track player of booking ideas, so I figure they’ll just do the TakeOver match, maybe let Bret punch Flair for a pop and have Nattie take an embarrassing loss. If we want to do a Becky Lynch title challenge between now and SummerSlam, let them have an extreme rules match at Extreme Rules where Becky hits her with oversized novelty gears.
Jessica Hudnall – Nattie isn’t The Boss, so I refuse to even think about her winning. Charlotte retains, but here’s the twist: Ric doesn’t get involved. SO PROGRESSIVE!
David D. – Charlotte wins. Natalya loses. Flair bumps. Hart complains about being there and the state of wrestling while wiping his ass with a dirt sheet outside the ring.
Justin Donaldson – Shenanigans between Bret Hart and Ric Flair on the outside will distract the referee and Natalya, allowing Charlotte to get a cheap distraction roll-up and the pin. She won’t be able to get that kind of cheap victory next month, when it’s the Sharpshooter vs. The Figure Four in a Submissions Match at Extreme Rules.
Danielle Matheson – Despite Payback being a show that’s heavy on highlighting new acquisitions/NXT call-ups, but this match curiously ignores the outcome of it’s NXT predecessor. I liked it the first time, I’ll hopefully like it a second time. I’ll love it even more if it ends with brutal display of disrespect, unlike the first one. Let Charlotte stay an asshole, thanksssss. Winner: Charlotte
Ross Bentley – As great as it is that Bret Hart is seemingly healthy and as loud as the pop will be, it feels like the only reason Natty is in this feud instead of Sasha or Becky is so they could re-do the “Flair vs. Hart” story that we’ve already seen on NXT. I’m sure the match itself will be fine but I can help but feel like this is a step back for the Women’s division after WrestleMania. Anyways, Charlotte wins.
#1 Contender for the Tag Team Championship: Enzo and Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains
What Should Happen: I could really get used to these NXT undercard tag matches on WWE pay-per-views. Thanks, Roadblock!
Anyway, this is the finals for the number one contenders tag team tournament, correct? If we’re aiming at The New Day and they’re into full-on corny babyface territory, you’ve got to go with the Vaudevillains. They need it more than Enzo and Cass, they’re heels so they fit the match better, and the Dudley Boyz can very easily show up to set up a table match with Enzo and Cass at Extreme Rules. I’d definitely give it to the Villains. How do we get the world to be in love with Aiden English and Simon Gotch and stop treating them like an old sandwich?
What Will Happen: Yeah, I think it’s the Villains. Enzo and Cass are great, but they’re sort of defined by their failures. They pinned the Dudley Boyz clean, so there’s gotta be some kind of receipt. Plus, this way we get two tag team matches at Extreme Rules and neither of them features the Usos.
Jessica Hudnall – My heart doesn’t know how to handle this, because I really want both teams to have some business with the New Day. If I can’t go with a no contest of some sort to get a triple threat at SummerSlam, I’ll go with Enzo & Cass because a large man throwing his small friend at enemies will always be The Best.
David D. – As much as I want to see Enzo and Big Cass vs New Day, I think Vaudevillians will win. Enzo and Cass are so over that they don’t really need the win now. Maybe they settle the score with another sing-off.
Justin Donaldson – The Dudley Boyz interfere, costing Enzo and Cass the tournament, allowing The Vaudevillains to get the win, but Enzo and Cass will get their revenge against The Dudleys in a Table Match at Extreme Rules.
Danielle Matheson – Big Cass looking perplexed and grumpy while Big E furiously grinds his hips in front of him is a thing I need in my life. Sorry, olde tyme tag team. Winners: Enzo and Big Cass.
Ross Bentley – This card is pretty tough to predict and this might be the hardest one of all. I’m going with Enzo and Cass, because there is something to be said about striking while the iron is hot. Sure, you probably want to save the New Day-Realest Guys feud for a bigger spot, but Enzo and Cass are extremely over right now and putting them in a placeholder feud with the Dudleys isn’t right. If you need an example of how waiting too long to pull the trigger can derail someone’s momentum, please see Banks, Sasha.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
What Should Happen: If we’re being honest, Kevin should obliterate Sami in like 5 minutes. That’s the precedent set by NXT. Kevin Owens is a grade-A a-hole, but he get the job done. Sami is the world’s nicest boy, but he loses a lot.
What Will Happen: I hope this is a WrestleMania apology match in the style of Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus at Extreme Rules after WrestleMania 28. Not that the WrestleMania ladder match this year was bad … it wasn’t, it was GREAT, it just wasn’t the Owens vs. Zayn WrestleMania singles match we wanted. But hey, it’s Owens and Zayn. Whether they go all out or it’s over in a few minutes, it’ll be memorable. I wouldn’t give Sami a singles win over Owens on the main roster right away, so I’ll pick KO. Gotta make Sami go through a journey and earn that.
(This is going to rule.)
Jessica Hudnall – Oh, these guys. Sure, they can do a match, that’s a thing. Just kidding, this is gonna be DOOOOOPE. This is totally a “smash your action figures together and make explosion noises” match, and those are usually ultra awesome. I’m going to make myself a little sad and say that Owens takes it, because Sami’s BIG REDEMPTION WIN probably needs a little more weight behind it.
David D. – Ahem. LET’S F*CKING GO!!! Match of the night. No doubt. This won’t be a clean win and we’ll see the feud continues for the rest of eternity.
Dariel Figueroa – This is the show stealer on the card, and will lead to another match at next month’s PPV. Next month will be some sort of gimmick match with Zayn going over, but for Payback, Owens will take the cheap way out and win via some sort of dirty tactic.
Justin Donaldson – At the end of a long hard fought match, it’ll look like Owens has Sami beat, but Sami won’t give up. This leads to Owens getting frustrated and beating Sami until the ref stops the match. But they’ll be no stopping the match next month when Owens and Sami Zayn meet in a I Quit match at Extreme Rules.
Danielle Matheson – Sami teaming with Cesaro and being chuffed that the respect he earned was the real deal is the best thing. Sami beating Kevin Owens so Owen can stay a jerk and Sami can joyfully skank offscreen would be even better. We know they’re gonna keep fighting, and we’re always going to want to see it happen, so give me the happiest puppy version of Sami. Do that thing, please.
Ross Bentley – WHO CARES THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING AT A WWE PPV!!!!! Sorry…uhhhh…Sami Zayn, I guess? As good as Zayn is, he’s picked up a total of zero important wins since coming up to the main roster, and he needs one badly if he’s going to get over with the casual fans. Regardless of who wins though, it’s just awesome to see this is really a thing. Let’s just hope they get enough time and the crowd is into it.
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
What Should Happen: Jericho should roll over Ambrose. Dean Ambrose is defined by three things: (1) his goofy relationship to props, (2) his gentle baby offense, and (3) losing important matches despite being constantly on the cusp of massive popularity. I’m never, ever sure what they’re doing with him. That angle leading into Roadblock should’ve made him the man, but then he just kinda lost to Brock Lesnar like a dope at WrestleMania and spent the next cycle carrying around potted plants and arguing about talk show segments on wrestling shows. So … yeah, of the two, I want “I will bury everyone, you stupid idiots” Chris Jericho to be the most important person in WWE.
What Will Happen: This is a tough one. I would’ve never picked Jericho over Styles at WrestleMania, and we see how that went. My first inclination is to say Ambrose obviously wins, but does he? I kinda love Chris Jericho as a shifty old man who still happens to be on top of his game. I’m gonna go against my natural instincts and predict another surprising Jericho win. Ambrose can retaliate by falling backwards into the ropes and making everyone stand still and watch him for several seconds.
Jessica Hudnall – The divorce was hard on Dean Ambrose, and he’s lashing out against his stepdad, Chris Jericho. Chris just wants Dean to come out of his shell and really blossom as a young man, but he’s been kind of a smug jerk about it instead of more nurturing. I’ll say that Jericho uses his craftiness to win here and Teach Dean A Lesson.
David D. – Man that Brock match at ‘Mania did Dean no favors. Jericho has done a great job of getting him back on track and I think he’ll make Dean look like a million bucks.
Dariel Figueroa – Chris Jericho won at WrestleMania, which was the wrong call, and Dean Ambrose lost. Things will be reversed this time, with Ambrose going over and Jericho taking the L. Ambrose is in need of a stock refresh after being destroyed at WrestleMania, and Jericho’s primary gig should be to get the younger guys over. I see Ambrose going over clean.
Justin Donaldson – Both men are counted out when Jericho once again puts Ambrose in the Walls of Jericho on the announce table. But they’ll be no count-outs when these two meet in a Falls Count Anywhere Match at Extreme Rules.
Danielle Matheson – I love the idea that Ambrose can just Carmen Sandiego himself a talk show. I want him to steal more things. He shows up to Payback antagonizing Jericho by wearing all thirty of his skull scarves. He enters the arena to Fozzy covering his theme song. Jericho’s family is ringside wearing Ambrose Asylum t-shirts, like that time the Pope stole Devon Dudley’s family in TNA (a real thing that somehow happened). I mean, Dean Ambrose already played a movie cop after Jericho played a TV cop. Just full-on Single White Female this sitch. And uhh…I guess also win this match, Ambrose.
Ross Bentley – Conventional wisdom here says Ambrose, but it almost feels like Jericho might actually get another cheap win. It’s tough, but if you assume Styles is out of the title picture after this show (which is not a given but feels likely), who is next to challenge Roman? Jericho coming off of two wins over Styles and Ambrose at PPVs would set him up nicely for a final (?) main event run. Ambrose probably still needs it more though, so I’ll stick with the safe bet.
Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz (c) vs. Cesaro
What Should Happen: Miz gets Honky Tonk Man’d in like 9 seconds and Cesaro becomes the new Intercontinental Champion.
What Will Happen: Can we just do that?
Jessica Hudnall – Cesaro! Cesaro! Cesaro! I’m expecting Cesaro to just start curling Miz at some point in this match and I’ll break my hands clapping. Cesaro wins the title and the IC belt suddenly grows a very dapper, tiny black bow tie.
David D. – Cesaro is gearing up for a big 2016, I think. So I expect him to handle Miz and win the title. Maybe he’ll get his own open challenge going. Whatever the case, this will be a better than expected match.
Dariel Figueroa – With Raw ratings in the toilet lately, and Cesaro and AJ Styles getting their pushes at the same time of the decline, I see WWE brass thinking that the two are related. Because of that, Cesaro is taking the L, and The Miz is going on to lose the championship to AJ Styles next month.
Justin Donaldson – I see The Miz picking up the victory due to outside interference from Maryse, but she won’t be able to interfere next month when these two men meet inside a steel cage at Extreme Rules.
Danielle Matheson – The Miz is the most through-and-through WWE-style wrestler you could imagine. Cesaro is the pro wrestling Übermensch. Can he save us from the nihilism a Miz match inspires? Of course he can. Am I way into this feud? Of course I am. Is screwing over Cesaro so Miz can retain the thing that’s gonna get Maryse more heat than her frozen northern homeland has ever seen? Oui, vraiment! Even though it seems like WWE is setting the happy couple up for something else, I am just as down for this feud to continue as I am to see Tearaway Tux Cesaro with a big shiny belt uppercutting anyone in his path. Let’s say Miz retains, and Cesaro and Maryse angrily yell at each other in French, thus birthing a hundred new fanfics/Pornhub searches.
Ross Bentley – Let’s just take a quick second to pour one out for Zack Ryder. They couldn’t even have made this a three-way with him? Poor guy. Anyways, this is Cesaro’s moment. Miz with Maryse is a great transitional champ, but it’s finally time for them to really do something with one of the most popular guys on the show who also happens to be the best wrestler in the company.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles
What Should Happen: So if I’m booking this, here’s my dumb fantasy booking. Styles and Reigns have a great match (which they’re gonna have, guaranteed, as long as the crowd doesn’t preemptively sh*t on it so bad they can’t do what they wanna do). At the end, Anderson and Gallows run down to interfere. Styles tries to tell them to stop, heads them off, keeps them from jumping in. As this is happening, Finn Bálor slides into the ring, hits a John Woo dropkick and a Bloody Sunday on Reigns and slides out. In this scenario, the referee has been shot with a gun or something, I don’t know. Anyway, Styles has to begrudgingly take that pin and become champion.
This gives Roman an actual goal and a heel stable of tough guys to work against that aren’t the Bebop and Rocksteady-ass League of Nations. You have Styles get more and more confident as the Club leader until he’s real cocky and sh*tty about it, and you have Bálor get more and more uncomfortable being second in command. You pay that off with the AJ Styles vs. Prince Devitt match we totally should’ve gotten at a Wrestle Kingdom, and you time it so whomever wins gets Roman Reign’d in the post-match.
Yes, I’m still trying to get Reigns over as a face. Quicker answer: “Do something that gets the crowd reacting to what actually happens again, and not just mindlessly booing a guy they assume is gonna do something they don’t like.”
What Will Happen: The pessimist in me says that not as much is gonna happen here as we’d like. I can’t predict anything but a Roman Reigns win. Yes, at least 80% of my possible predictions involve The Usos getting jumped backstage early in the show and then Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins showing up to fight the Bullet Club. COME ON, IT’S WHY THIS MATCH EXISTS, JUST GIVE IT TO US.
Jessica Hudnall – AJ Styles is wrestling for the WWE title, who would have thunk such a thing would happen even last year? Looks like ol’ Chuzz Dunderwitz made good. I’m going to say that AJ wins because DUNDERWITZMANIA IS RUNNIN WILD, Y’ALL!
David D. – People are expecting something dramatic here like the Bullet Club throwing Roman into a pit of fire. However this is Roman’s first title defense and he’ll probably just end up pinning Styles fair and square. Maybe we get a Finn Balor appearance at the end but I doubt it. I’ve given up on happiness.
Dariel Figueroa – There’s no way Styles is winning the title. There’s only been one month of build-up to this match, and Roman just got done beating one of the top executives in the company. Plus, Styles is a TNA and Japan guy, and I don’t think Vinnie Mac would give his top title to a guy that’s primarily known for his work outside of WWE. To be honest, I don’t think Styles should have gotten a shot at the title yet, especially after losing to Y2J at WrestleMania. Styles will lose via interference from The Bullet Club and Finn Balor. Balor/Bullet Club will start a program against AJ over the intercontinental title that AJ will eventually win from The Miz.
Justin Donaldson – This storyline has been great so far, which means chances are WWE is going to ruin it. I can’t help but feel like they’re going to do the least interesting outcome and just put Gallows and Anderson with AJ. Reigns goes over clean with a Superman Punch and it’s Roman and the Usos vs. The Bullet Club in an Extreme Rules match at Extreme Rules.
Danielle Matheson – A really neat thing in the way this has been set up is that we don’t actually know where this is going. Could those bald dudes show up and interfere? Whose side would they be on? Is WWE so committed to moving in a new direction they’d take the belt off of one dude who wears Dad jeans and put it on another with slouchier, slightly grubbier dad jeans? Will Reigns retain but due to aforementioned interference so people don’t get as mad because they can smirk into their Bullet Club shirts knowing where this could lead? Okay so maybe we do know. Winner: Reigns, but via White Militia-looking shenanigans.
Ross Bentley – The great thing about this match is that there’s like 20 different directions it could go, which is the polar opposite of the WrestleMania main event. I think the obvious (and correct) story here is for Anderson and Gallows to turn on Styles and allow Roman to retain. I’m not sure if that involves a full heel turn for Reigns with Gallows and Anderson as his henchmen or if their allegiance remains a mystery. I know people will want Finn Balor in this spot, but with him getting his NXT rematch in June, it doesn’t make sense to introduce him as the leader of a heel faction just yet.