By Matt Straub
This month’s WWE PPV features everything that’s wrong with the company. There’s a match full of people being misused, a match between two awful tag teams, a Divas match no one cares about, a feud which should have been over months ago and a too predictable main event.
Now that I’ve got you excited, let’s go over why this card is so bad, how it could have been improved, and what the WWE might do going forward after Payback, which is what fans will be asking for after Sunday’s show.
The Ascension vs. Macho Mandow & Curtis Axelmania
PPV Kickoff Show
I had great hope for Damien Sandow after he broke free of the Miz, but it now seems as though they’ve moved his character into full clown mode. He is the new Santino. His teaming with Axel is fitting, since they are both solid performers being wasted in goofy roles. The Ascension is now in desperate need of true identity again. They don’t seem like they know where they’re going since they were ruined by the New Age Outlaws a few months back. But hey, at least they’re back on TV. This match makes me a little sad, since it’s full of people who might have been something.
Matt’s Prediction: The Ascension dominates the Hogan and Savage ripoffs.
Brad's Prediction: So, this match was set up because a tag team that is a cross between the Road Warriors and Demolition was annoyed that a match was happening between one guy who was imitating Hulk Hogan and another guy imitating Randy Savage? OK, just checking. I'll pass on the obvious of two guys who are imitating legends being mad at two others guys for imitating legends and just talk about the match. (Still, really, this is the reason for the match, Matt?) Call me sensitive, but I was actually a little offended by the playing of Savage's music for a cheap pop for a guy that was better as Miz's stunt double anyway. But I'll get over it. The Ascension should win, which means they probably won't. Still, I'm going with the Road Warriors over the Mega Powers. (How many of today's fans do you think actually understood that handshake on Raw?)
Naomi and Tamina Snuka
vs. WWE Divas champion Nikki Bella & Brie Bella
There’s a point to this match, I’m just not sure what it is. Paige is set to return, so she might want to show up to get revenge on the heels who took her out not long ago. The Bellas are the draw here, and I think this could be just a setup to get Paige back in the mix. It also serves as a chance for you to grab a snack, order pizza or use the bathroom.
Matt’s Prediction: Naomi and Snuka win by DQ.
Brad's Prediction: Wouldn't it be great if Chyna returned and destroyed everyone in the ring, taking the belt and refusing to give it back? That would be interesting at least. Women's wrestling is dead right now and there's little hope for it going forward, especially with the current group being so terrible. WWE agrees too, as the female performers are called divas and not wrestlers. The Bellas are some of the worst divas, but hey, it pays to be on John Cena's side in today's wrestling world. Who wins? Who cares? Fine. Bellas.
King Barrett vs. Neville
The King of the Ring is the perfect gimmick for Barrett, who would be greatly served by playing the same character for more than two months at a time. WWE can’t trust him enough to put him too high up the card since he’s always hurt, but they could allow him to develop a persona and let it stick. He’s turning into Brutus Beefcake in that it’s now more interesting to see what he’s going to be next than to watch him wrestle, since you can’t get invested in his character. Neville’s push is an NXT fan’s dream, as well as those who miss the high-flying style of a few years ago. I don’t care for it or him myself, but the guy is a fabulous athlete. I could actually make a case for either guy winning this match, which makes it interesting. Still, I think Barrett’s current push is more important.
Matt’s Prediction: Barrett catches Neville in the air and slams him, leading to a win.
Brad's Prediction: It's not surprising Matt doesn't care much for Neville, as he's anti-youth, always hanging on to his old-school thoughts and ways. He'd rather trade his top prospects in baseball for an aging superstar on his last legs. That's Matt. Me, I actually enjoyed Neville's first match in WWE a little while back, leaving impressed by his in-ring ability and high-flying excitment. His gimmick actually doesn't leave much room for greatness, however, which should excite Matt, as I don't believe he'll be a heavyweight title contender for a long while. Guys who only shine through high-flying moves don't ascend to the top of the card. I like Barrett too, as he's solid in every way. It was great watching him nearly beat John Cena on Raw a bunch of episodes ago. He should win this match, as a solid wrestler entrenched on the main stage should always beat a guy who was just called up from the minor leagues. It's a piece of reality that will be ignored by the WWE, however, for better or worse. Barrett did beat Neville to win King of the Ring, but Neville won at Extreme Rules. The rubber match will have some high spots by Neville, which will be worth watching for alone, while Barrett will plod around on the ground, eventually hitting a forearm off some crazy move by the rookie for the win. Then again, Neville did nearly beat John Cena on Raw...
Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler
You knew this feud was going to continue after last month, and Sheamus is enough of an engaging character to pull it off. He needs this match if he’s going to keep up the huge push he seemed headed for when he first returned. Losing to Ziggler now would stall his run considerably. Ziggler might be destined to be the “other guy” in some solid matches for the rest of his career. A win here might mean a bigger push for him, or it could just bury the Celtic Warrior. Either would be another example of the WWE being unable to pick a direction and run with it.
Matt’s Prediction: Sheamus cheats to win, but leaves Ziggler laying.
Brad's Prediction: Ziggler needs to dye his hair back to total blonde, because his dark roots are obviously holding him back from contending for a world title. What else could it be? He's over with the fans and has the look to be champion, which I think even Matt would agree with. Remember, Matt is the one who didn't want Daniel Bryan anywhere near the world title because he was too small and too boring. That was before his latest injury, of course. Ziggler could at least be put in the title picture instead of, say, Randy Orton, who beyond his finisher is boring as anything in wrestling. But he's always in the main event. Nobody I've ever talked wrestling with says they like Sheamus, which is too bad because he's a ready-made main eventer in every way but crowd appeal. Turning him heel is the perfect way to go, so WWE is doing that right. I picked him to win the last match between these two at the last PPV, and was wrong. So, I'll double-down and go with Sheamus again for no other reason than he needs a win.
Best of three falls for tag team titles
Cesaro and Tyson Kidd vs. The New Day (C)
A lot of people seemed to like their match last month, something I don’t understand. The New Day is there to be booed, which means they don’t do anyone any good if they lose. The challengers are solid in-ring workers but two of the most boring people alive, which just doesn’t work anymore in this new day of wrestling. See what I did there? Anyway, the New Day will do their chant, the people will boo and say they suck, and they’ll cheat to win. No one will care.
Matt Straub’s Prediction: A painful to watch (and listen to) New Day win.
Brad Carroll's Prediction: Tyson Kidd is only popular because of his wife, Natalya, who is on the divas TV show. Natalya is only on WWE TV now because her husband was put together with the impressive Cesaro. And Cesaro is just wondering why he's stuck with two people that are so below his talent level, it's like Steve Austin wrestling a jobber back in the Attitude Era. It's too bad for Cesaro, who is great in ring, but doesn't have the mic work to become a bigger star. The pairing makes no sense, but I'm sure neither care, because they're both on TV. The New Day is getting pushed in the tag team division, and while they are getting tagged with the Kurt Angle-like sucks chant, to a much less degree of course, it seems to be working. I'd still love to see New Day become the new Nation of Domination, getting a severe edge and reeking havoc everywhere. Then, the tag titles would be the least of their targets. But for today, New Day wins.
Bray Wyatt vs. Ryback
Is it just me, or is Wyatt’s character getting old. It has worked a couple of times because he was able to sell believing John Cena was bad for kids. That feud told a story (will Cena resort to cheating?). Trying to replace the Undertaker as the new face of evil served as good motivation for a match. Now Ryback, who I assure you only a handful of people care about, is a “false idol”. Wyatt’s ability to cut a promo is unrivaled in its storytelling, but he tells the same story too often. His act doesn't work when there’s no reason for him to hate the person he’s up against. His work will still be fantastic and his entrance as haunting as ever, but I just don’t have that feeling of realistic hatred I need from him this time around. Even great promos get stale. Still, Wyatt needs a big win. He can’t keep losing and stay relevant forever. Ryback can lose and still get pushed because he’s so big and strong he’ll always be believable.
Matt’s Prediction: Wyatt wins a much-needed big match.
Brad's Prediction: If you're wondering who some of the "handful of people" who care about Ryback, look no further than Matt, who loves the muscle-bound robot who can barely move in the ring, only getting enough movement in his arms to go up and down and chant the worst catchphrase in the history of wrestling. Matt is truly insane for rooting for this guy ... I mean, robot. Bray Wyatt is cool, but Matt is right about one thing, he can't keep on losing and still be considered a serious threat to beat anybody. Has he ever won a big match? Wyatt can be champion, so let's start that quest now. Wyatt wins and moves on to bigger things. I hope.
I Quit Match for WWE United States Championship
John Cena (C) vs. Rusev
Give the WWE credit, they’ve managed to keep this feud going for months now without it becoming too stale. This match has to be the payoff, however. Unfortunately for Rusev, I can’t imagine a scenario where Cena quits. Cena having the US belt gives it importance and keeps him out of the title picture, two things which will make most fans happy. Rusev should have gotten enough rub from this feud to be a really big name now who can go on to new things. The only thing I’ll ask of WWE is to have Cena win in goofy fashion somehow so Rusev isn’t made to look weak in his inevitable loss.
Matt’s Prediction: Rusev quits to end the feud.
Brad's Prediction: Does anyone believe John Cena will quit to lose a match in a WWE ring? I didn't think so. So, this is an easy prediction to make. Cena wins. Rusev, however, should win. I will give Cena credit, he has made a secondary title in the WWE important again. But, at the same time, if Cena isn't wrestling a solid heel, and fan favorite at same time to some, in Rusev, will his PPV matches mean as much? I don't think so. That's why Rusev should win. No chance, though.
Fatal Four Way for WWE Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
If Rollins fails to retain, Kane is fired from The Authority
The sad thing about this match is there’s no way Rollins loses, making what will be an interesting match to see booked too predictable. There are a number of ways this could go. The three men who all hate Rollins could come together to pummel him. The other members of the Shield could reunite during the match. Rollins could decide he doesn’t need the Authority and reform the Shield, or reveal it was all an inside job to destroy WWE from within and the Shield’s breakup was a work. They could tease Kane leaving the Authority, and there’s plenty of friction there. Unfortunately for Orton, who started the feud as the real challenger feels like the “other guy” in this match. Does he sneak a win while flying under the radar?
No. Rollins as the champ makes the most sense going forward, so I can’t see him losing. It’s a shame, since this match has so much potential.
Matt’s Prediction: Rollins gets help but wins. Kane leaves the Authority anyway. Orton gets stuck on the fringe of importance for the 200th time in a career which should have been much better than it is.
Brad's Prediction: Matt actually has booked this match better than the WWE will, or at least we believe will. First, let me say the Kane storyline is stupid, and The Authority is just plain dumb as well. Now with that out of the way, let's pick this match going one by one of the four competitors. First, Dean Ambrose should have no shot to win the title. As much as he might be over with the fans, he's not world title material. For starters, he doesn't have the look of a champion. Maybe an IC title holder, but not the main guy. Daniel Bryan would be more believable in that spot, even though Matt just did a spit-take. So, he's out. Roman Reigns could win the title and the outrage would be muted, especially compared to what would have happened if he beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Reigns is horrible on the mic and anybody whose big move is a punch needs some serious work in the ring before being the face of the company. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if he won the title. Actually, he is the only challenger who should have a shot to win the title, which is surprising to write. That, of course, eliminates Randy Orton, who has been around forever and bores me to tears. His finisher has become the new Stone Cold Stunner, but unfortunately he's not anywhere close to Steve Austin in every single way. Orton is a less popular (less hated) version of John Cena. That leaves Seth Rollins to walk out of the arena at the end of the night as world champion. It also means the challengers have been maxed out, as nobody is going to want to see Reigns vs. Rollins, Ambrose vs. Rollins or Orton vs. Rollins next. Unless Kane returns to his roots, nobody wants to see him vs Rollins. Who does it leave? How about Brock Lesnar returning to save what could be a bad main event to destroy everyone after the match, including Rollins, the champion. Lesnar could then reset his feud with Rollins and lead into SummerSlam a few months from now. I don't think it will happen, but it's something to think about.