WrestleMania is the culmination of every storyline told throughout the year and the climax of long fought rivalries ... but just in case it wasn’t, here’s Payback. Tonight’s Payback has a few WrestleMania rematches in Orton/Wyatt, Jericho/Owens, and Aries/Neville; so it’s easy to view this payperview as a little unnecessary. It almost seems like a vehicle for Superstars to use phrases like “Payback is a bitch” ad nauseam. But only time will tell if Payback is a bust. Even though tonight will be a rehashing of certain feuds, there are a few intriguing matchups.
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Neville and Austin Aries put on a great match at WrestleMania despite being relegated to the pre-show. I have no doubts that this will be an excellent match. The neville character has become the dominant force in the cruiserweight division, while Aries is playing the part of the anti-hero. It’s actually an understated feud that deserves more attention than it’s receiving. Do yourself a favor and watch this match. Not only is it “exciting cruiserweight action,” but both of these guys have strong characters and have their ring psychology down.
I really wish I was more excited about the rematch between Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, but I feel like the WrestleMania match should have been the end of it. With such a perfect and unique story arc, a rematch at Payback feels more like an unwanted sequel. However, the fact that the winner goes to Smackdown is at least a little interesting. In an odd trade stipulation, Smackdown received the US Championship. So even though Owens is currently on Smackdown, Jericho could take his place if he wins tonight. And honestly, Jericho feels right on Smackdown. Plus, the opportunity for a feud with Shinsuke Nakamura is all too tempting. At the same time, a match between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens seems to be in the works, so it’s hard to say if there will be any more roster adjustments.
The only other Raw vs. Smackdown match is the House of Horrors match between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. This could result in Bray bringing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship to Raw, which seems unlikely. Having both major titles on one show feels wrong, but also opens up a chance for a rare Undisputed Championship match. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind at all if these titles were unified and the US Championship was the major title on Smackdown.
But what is a House of Horrors match? This is possibly the most interesting aspect of tonight’s event. Curiosity is always an enticing factor, and WWE knows that. On Talking Smack, everyone’s favorite bully, JBL, likened the House of Horrors match to Undertaker and Mankind’s Boiler Room Brawl or Roddy Piper and Goldust’s Back Lot Brawl. Essentially, it looks like it will be a hardcore match in some odd setting that will end up in the ring. And I’m hoping and praying for some very silly and classic WWE “mind games.” Any mystical use of pyro, lighting, hologram, etc. at the hands of Bray Wyatt is very welcome in this match.
So, aside from these WrestleMania rematches, we also have Roman Reigns vs. the ever popular Braun Strowman. It doesn’t fair well for Roman that a heel pretty much got over by relentlessly beating him down to the point where it was comical. I’m anticipating that this match will meet expectations. These are two big (and bigger) men who can work pretty well in the ring and be very destructive. Let’s hope the powers that be in WWE don’t try to drown out the Braun chants in WWE Universe to try to further push Roman. Clearly, the people have made their choice.
Alexa Bliss has already made a name for herself with her Mean Girls persona. She’s one of WWE’s best characters at the moment and is probably my favorite bitch since Sensational Sherri. She really knows how to bring you back to highschool with an eye roll. And even though she may not be the best worker on the roster, she can use her mic skills to bring more attention to the women’s division, and help out someone who is in dire need of a public speaking class, like Bayley. I’m looking forward to Bliss and Bayley, if not only for the clash of personalities.
And of course, I would be remiss if I were not to mention Great Balls of Fire. Yes, the name of Raw’s July payperview is going to be called “Great Balls of Fire.” I’m not positive, but this may be the worst name for an event ever. I want to say “December to Dismember” or “Over the Limit” were worse, but at least those made sense. Great Balls of Fire? Why, because it’s hot? Who knows.
Part of me enjoys how corny of a name it is. I think people will tune in just because it’s such a weird name. But it’s also anticipated to be Brock Lesnar’s first title defense. So, while it will go down in history as a very awful name, maybe the show itself won’t be as bad. But first, let’s get through Payback. Even though it lives in the shadow of WrestleMania, I’ll give it a chance. The card is decent, and at least the results may decide some changes in the brand split. And that’s all a wrestling fan can really ask for; a match that means something.