(Credit: Tom Jenner @ImageBlownOut)
Chrisss: Well, Mr. Candyman. It's that time of the month where we put everything away, lock our loved ones into nice little cages, and talk about wrestling. Are we in for a thrilling Three Stages of Hell or a grueling Three Hours of Hell?
SkitZ: Thrilling? Don't use words WWE doesn't understand, Chrissstopher. I assume we're in for a fairly pedestrian gimmathon; certainly the dullest Triple Stage contest to date. Thankfully, there are six or seven other matches to help ease our visual pain.
Chrisss: Apologies, oh wise one. I'm glad Payback comes to us from Chicago, as the lively (i.e. smarky) crowd will help us out if and when the night's festivities get dire. Truth be told, there are quite a few matches I'm looking forward to - one which unfortunately happens to be booked on the pre-show (go figure)
Kickoff Match: Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow
SkitZ: Disheartening, right? Arguably the smartest booked midcard feud in months and the company's relegated it to the pre-show. The Great White's on-air persona is notoriously faulted but when paired up against the likes of Sandow, said weaknesses aren't nearly as polarizing. Sheamus would be better suited handing out razor blades at the merchandise stand than cutting a 10-minute promo. That's exactly why Damien serves as the perfect foil. I've enjoyed their altercations in recent weeks (mostly because management's painted them as relative equals rather than Sheamus bicycle kicking Sandow at the conclusion of every segment).
Chrisss: I'm right with you, bud. I'm not a big fan of Sheamus' face character, but his feud with Sandow has been his most entertaining work since, well, he initially turned face. Considering the amount of time the company has spent building up their rivalry on past Raws and SmackDowns, I'm shocked - and disappointed - they're not putting this on the actual card. I would have preferred the IC title match get the boot instead, but I guess WWE doesn't want to christen The Miz as the Pre-Show Champion. Anyways, this is one "kickoff" match (what is this, the NFL?) I'm actually interested in seeing, even though the winner is as plain as day.
SkitZ: Well it'd be nice if these glorified dark matches were allowed to run longer than 4-5 minutes. Why bother hyping the shit on RAW & SmackDown, plug the pre-show festivities and then allot the crowd stirrer so little time? Somebody please retrieve logic because he left here awhile ago and hasn't been seen since. Sheamus/Sandow deserves a spot on the main card. Why the fuck couldn't "Payback Kickoff" include R-Truth and Heath Slater instead?
Chrisss: Don't ask me, I don't work for Vince and his cronies (even though I should - my little brother who stopped watching wrestling years ago could construct more logical cards than these buffoons in Creative can). If I DID work for the WWE, I would book Sandow to defeat The Great White this Sunday. Sheamus has pretty much achieved superman status, in that he could lose to JTG and still be regarded as a top, nearly unbeatable guy. Therefore, no harm in letting Sandow get a much-needed 'W' right? Unfortunately, WWE doesn't think that way, so get ready for another lame and pointless Sheamus victory.
SkitZ: Yeah the ginger continues to stockpile wins without rising up the card into World Title contention. Sheamus' activity throughout 2013 in general has been an oddity. I don't envy Rhodes Scholars one bit... Cody & Damien must be batting about 5-for-79 since Christmas. I expect Sandow to get his licks in come Sunday but ultimately, The Celtic Warrior will boot him into oblivion.
Soooooo I'm guessing the rumored Sheamus/Orton program was simply a myth?
Chrisss: It was supposed to happen all the way back at last year's SummerSlam. Then at Wrestlemania 29. But don't worry, it WILL happen, damnit! And I can't wait to see it when it does (said no one ever).
Chrisss' pick: Sheamus wins
SkitZ's pick: Sheamus wins
WWE Divas Championship: Kaitlyn (c.) vs. Aj Lee
Chrisss: Unlike the pre-show match, this baby really came out of nowhere. I enjoyed the segment with Kaitlyn, Big E and Aj last Monday on RAW, as it was one of the best diva in-ring segments in years, quite frankly. This is no Trish vs. Lita feud, but it's a strong step in the right direction for a division that hasn't had a match on Pay-Per-View since last February's Elimination Chamber.
SkitZ: In all honesty, there's plenty of history between the two. From best friends to bitter enemies, there's actual depth surrounding AJ & Kaitlyn's story which seems like a lost art in WWE. The culmination only feels so rushed because Vince, for whatever foolish reason, waited until the go-home RAW to reveal Lee as the secret admirer. The reigning Divas Champion's been receiving romantic gifts and texts for several weeks. Creatively, it makes more sense for Kaitlyn to discover the impostor 2-3 weeks prior (rather than six days).
Chrisss: That's for sure. I would have preferred they held off until next week's RAW to reveal Aj as the evil bitch that she is - to give plenty of time and hype to a Money in the Bank title match - but I doubt this rivalry concludes on Sunday. We know Aj can go in the ring, and Kaitlyn is improving in the ring, but regardless of what happens, I can honestly say I'm looking forward to this match. There's a good backstory, both women are hot - win/win, right?
SkitZ: T & A all day. I also envision AJ/Kaitlyn extending past Payback and meandering throughout the summer months. Given that a large percentage of the feud's progression occurred this past Monday night, the booking suggests we're in for a non-finish. Kaitlyn's snapped and after bitch slapping a ref on SmackDown, I'm fairly confident the current titleholder will trigger a DQ ruling. Cooler heads won't prevail this Sunday (SkitZ is pretty certain the one in his cargo shorts will however). Dolph's main squeeze should capture gold eventually but not right off the bat. Next month's MITB pay per view sounds like a safe bet.
And holy fuck... somebody backstage couldn't hand Kaitlyn some eye drops before that segment? It's awfully tough to sell a sobfest without any tears.
Chrisss: That's some reasonable thinking, Candyman. However, for the sake of being different, I'm going with Aj for the win AND the title. There's a reason Kaitlyn hasn't had a PPV match almost her entire run as champion, and I think it's because WWE doesn't trust her as top she-dog. I predict Aj will get a sneaky win, maybe following a distraction from The Big D...I mean, E.
Chrisss' pick: Aj wins the title
SkitZ's pick: Kaitlyn retains the title (via DQ)
WWE Tag Team Championship: The Shield (c.) vs. Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton
SkitZ: D-Bry continuously steals the show on a weekly basis (with Rollins & Co. playing supporting cast) so this bad boy doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Yours truly would've opted for Bryan/Orton but then again, I'm not the one writing these shitty show scripts. WWE's resident YES Man is literally a ticking time bomb; his popularity and renewed push set to explode at any moment. Creative could've given the American Bandwagon more to sink his teeth into for the time being but this will suffice. Bryan's carried the tag team division to an extent and it'll be difficult maintaining that quality once Danielson moves on.
Chrisss: While I'm happy the WWE have 'kind of' repackaged The Usos in an attempt to make them credible challengers for Reigns & Rollins' gold in the near future, it saddens me that the tag titles will be taking an almost inevitable drop in exposure. Because let's face it - there is no chance in hell Team RK-NO leaves Chicago with the tag titles. Bryan vs. Cena is happening at either next month's MitB PPV or SummerSlam. In order for that to happen, Bryan has to be thrust back into singles action - a move that should have happened quite some time ago, to be honest.
SkitZ: Without question. But amidst the whole Ziggler cash-in/concussion fiasco and attempting to solidify Ryberg as a main event player, the company's been forced to pause the Daniel Bryan celebration. And to his credit, Goatface has restored some semblance of credibility within the tag team division in the meantime. Punk's return aside, I don't anticipate a more raucous environment during the three hour event than when D-Bry's in the ring. Fans are coming absolutely unglued for this dude... as if Jesus himself rose from the grave; stiffly kicking evil-doer's and trapping them in painful submission holds.
Chrisss: Dude, have you SEEN the reaction Bryan has been getting lately? Every single person in the arena is on their feet cheering for the YesMan. Not 75% of the crowd. Not a mixed reaction. EVERY SINGLE PERSON. Bryan's career is just getting started; let's just hope WWE doesn't pull a Ryback and turn him heel just to feud with Cena.
Chrisss' pick: The Shield retain the titles
SkitZ's pick: The Shield retain the titles
United States Championship: Dean Ambrose (c.) vs. Kane
Chrisss: For me, there's two intriguing elements in the match-up. The first is the obvious - Ambrose is wrestling a singles match on PPV. That's never a bad thing. Another thing to consider is even though Ambrose practically guaranteed to retain his title, the U.S. Championship is the one belt that has eluded Kane his entire career. Thoughts, Candyman?
SkitZ: Meh. Jacobs typically rises to the occasion in situations such as these (or at least tries to). I'm skeptical how this bout will come across on television and whether it'll suffer due to the missing elements. There's always a chance this could venture down the Kane/McIntyre ala Elimination Chamber 2010 path but luckily for us, Ambrose is a completely different animal than Drew Floppersteen. The Big Red Monster is also performing with more vigor than he did three years ago so who knows? This could be a pleasant surprise.
Chrisss: 'm not counting on Kane vs. Ambrose winning top awards for Match of the Night, especially with Jericho vs. Punk on the same card. But I do think we're in for a nice ten-minute match similar to Moxley's battle with Kofi last month at Extreme Rules - fast-paced with plenty of false finishes. I do think Ambrose gets a clean victory to further solidify himself as a top title holder.
SkitZ: Kane jobs cleanly like teenage males beat meat. Therefore, I don't see any issue with Ambrose scoring a 'W' on his own (especially if the company plans on steadily pushing him as a singles competitor). Jacobs is firing on all cylinders but will his momentum suffer a major hit with Bryan vacating the rest? If Undertaker doesn't resurface before '14, the following six months could be quite bleak for Kane.
Chrisss: I'm not gonna lie, I would mark for a Brothers of Destruction vs. Reigns & Rollins match at SummerSlam. I know it would technically be a rematch from RAW in England, but what a feather in those two's caps it would be if they could squeak out a win over the legendary duo. After that though, Kane might want to start making retirement plans. I can't properly emphasize how deserving The Big Red Machine is to do what the hell he wants with the rest of his life, especially after all he's done for the company. On Sunday though, it's Ambrose's time to shine.
Chrisss' pick: Ambrose retains the title
SkitZ's pick: Ambrose retains the title
Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk
SkitZ: After initially believing this whole scenario to be a ruse perpetrated by Heyman, Axel's substitution for Fandango in the Intercontinental Title contest suggests that Vinnie Mac never intended on unveiling Hennig as Y2J's actual opponent. I figured Curtis would fill in for the no-showing CM Punk and tango with the veteran doormat; securing his first pinfall victory. It's become pretty fucking apparent that Brooks is indeed slated to return this Sunday evening and who couldn't be excited? The possibilities are endless. Do I detect a hint of double turn in the air?
Chrisss: So do I, and it's the right course to take. Jericho has become a tad stale as a face; Punk whiny as a heel. A change is needed for both men, and since there is no way Jericho will get cheered over Punk on Sunday, they might as well make it happen on Sunday. Maybe have Jericho snap after losing three straight matches to The Straightedge Superstar? It seems plausible. I doubt WWE is stupid enough to say "fuck you" to their paying audience by pulling a bait-and-switch with Punk and Axel; not unless they want Cena vs. Ryback to be an Empty Arena Match.
SkitZ: I suspect Punk/Jericho will go one of two ways: Either Mr. Sobriety tastes defeat and it causes dissension between himself and Heyman moving forward. Or Paul E. screws over his client, aligns himself with Y2J and turns the Straightedge Superstar face as a result. Regardless of the booking strategy, a future Brock/Punk showdown appears imminent. And considering how abysmal WWE fanfare is in '13, imagine the numbers SummerSlam could generate if it's headlined by that along with Cena/Bryan. Erections galore.
Chrisss: Either scenario could very well happen come Sunday evening. As long as we do indeed get the third chapter in their trilogy, I don't care who wins. It's Punk vs. Jericho - what else do you want? So all things considered, are you going with Punk or Y2J?
SkitZ: This is a total mindfuck in my opinion. Management's definitely brewing some swerve soup. I'll go out on a limb and say Jericho gets the last laugh. What purpose is there in the Fozzy frontman jobbing to Punk yet again? Skewed logic aside, this encounter should secure MOTN honors.
Chrisss: True saying. I'm going with Punk getting the win, because I doubt Mr. Sobriety will be too happy to return early from his vacation and miss watching his beloved Blackhawks in action only to job in front of his hometown. I just don't see it happening.
Chrisss' pick: Punk wins
SkitZ's pick: Jericho wins
Intercontinental Championship: Wade Barrett (c.) vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel
Chrisss: The way I see it, this is a lose-lose if you're Super Chrisss. Wade Barrett, the only one of the trio I actually like, has zero chance of winning. Axel, who's push I HATE, has the most chance of winning. And Miz, who has a small chance of winning, would win the title only to job it to Fandango possibly as soon as Money in the Bank. So, yeah. FML. Can you come up with any positives for this match-up?
SkitZ: Well if Hennig seizes the hardware, he'll have something to concentrate on besides treating count-out victories like a fucking lifetime achievement award. I realize defeating herculean juggernauts like Trips & Cena is extremely rare but rejoicing in dirty finishes? What a shit sandwich. I believe company officials had Curtis penciled in as the successor to Barrett. Fandango's untimely concussion simply opened the door for Axel to Connect Four his way into the equation. Is the third generation wrestler prepared for an IC Title run? Has he earned it? Of course not. But no matter how ass backwards the situation may be, Hennig will accomplish far more with gold in his possession than Fanny Pack ever could.
Chrisss: Fair enough. You haven't exactly sold this as something to get excited about, though. Actually, since I have very few positive thoughts to share, what do you say we make our picks and move on? I'm going with Axel. Fuck you, WWE.
SkitZ: Same here. Who hates Barrett internally? It puzzles me how Wade can consistently deliver on his end and still go nowhere. Along with fellow laughingstock Dolph, the rough-and-tumble Brit has propelled the art of jobbing to new heights since 'Mania. They should capitalize on the moment and form a reincarnation of the JOB Squad; acquiring Zack Ryder and 3MB to flesh out the stable.
Chrisss: Clearly the same moron who hates Cesaro and loves the tension between Triple H and The McMahon Bunch. That guy deserves a raise!
Chrisss' pick: Axel wins the title
SkitZ's pick: Axel wins the title
World Heavyweight Championship: Dolph Ziggler (c.) vs. Alberto del Rio
Chrisss: What's this? Del Rio is facing someone other than Big E Langston? Have the wrestling Gods gone insane???
This is the match we should have got at Wrestlemania, but WWE were determined to push Jack Swagger, and we all know how well that worked out. But now that the focus is squarely on Ziggler and the Latino, I think we're in for a high-quality match come Sunday.
SkitZ: LOL @ Swagger's monumental failure. Despite his royal fuck-up in February, management still pushed Jack relentlessly and where did it get either party? Zeb's fighting for promo time on the WWE App. Swags couldn't get over with a class of intimidated kindergartners. He's Brock Lesnar minus the brute physicality. Thankfully with Jackstoned temporarily sidelined, the writing staff can turn their attention to ADR/Ziggler. Not that their destined to accomplish great things but the bout could be a solid addition to Payback. It can't hurt! (Although Dolph's migraines probably say otherwise)
Chrisss: Is it sad that I'm way more excited about Ziggler vs. Del Rio than Cena vs. Ryback, even though the former was only officially announced a few days ago? Yikes. If given a decent amount of time, the world title bout could give Punk vs. Jericho a run for their money, especially since Del Rio usually steps up his game for PPVs. That being said, I can't see Del Rio taking the title at Payback. That would make Ricardo Rodriguez's favourite wrestler a four-time world champion since cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase at SummerSlam 2011. Del Rio is supposed to be the new Eddie Guerrero, not the Mexican Edge!
Besides, if the company wanted to put the gold back around Del Rio's waist, they would have stripped Ziggler of the title ages ago and made Del Rio's match with Swagger at Extreme Rules a championship bout. Ziggler's got this one in the bag, homie.
SkitZ: For sure. The Showoff retaining at Payback however means nothing of significance. VKM allowed Dolph to keep the belt while recovering because Dorito and Swags aren't important enough to necessitate a title change. Nemeth's lost more forward momentum than my Grandfather's failing hips. What does escaping Chicago with his shallow championship reign prove? Zilch. But at least we can settle in for a doozy. You can count on The Blonde Perm delivering this Sunday... any chance to quell the doubters.
Chrisss: Hey, you said it best - Ziggler loves showing off. I was 100% sure his post-Payback feud would be with either Bryan or Orton, but since both men are occupied with each other for the moment (#pause) it's anyone's guess who will step up to the plate to challenge at Money in the Bank. I'd love for that man to be a face CM Punk, but it will probably be Sheamus. Let's hope I'm wrong, as we've seen Ziggler vs. Sheamus more times in 2012 than I'd like to remember. Just saying.
Chrisss' pick: Ziggler retains the title
SkitZ's pick: Ziggler retains the title
Three Stages of Hell Match for the WWE Championship: John Cena (c.) vs. Ryback
SkitZ: You know what's funny? I seriously feel as if Shefzilla's done an admirable job within his new role... in terms of what he can control. Vince & Co. have just obliterated any chance of Skipper succeeding as a monstrous villain from the start. In order for the Ryback experiment to work with today's audiences, he needs to be booked as a no-nonsense, voracious machine of a man. And people will ask "Well then what would differentiate Sheffield from then and now?" There are effective ways to build an antagonistic character without turning him into a complete pussy. Fans aren't going to accept a Ryback who avoids physical contact and whines on the mic for minutes on end. The dude receives enough flack as is with the Goldberg chants. All the boss needed to do (for business) was extend Skipper a viable lifeline and they cruelly pulled it out of his reach.
Chrisss: Exactly. Poor Ryback is nothing more than another victim of piss-poor booking. Even after losing six straight PPV matches, the guy had tons of momentum as a face. His "Feed Me More" catchphrase - while nowhere near the level of the "Yes!' phenomenon - was slowly but surely getting over. But then Creative's ADD kicked in as it always does, and overnight, Ryback turned heel and became a pussy who developed a fetish for ambulances (or a huge Scott Steiner fan - either/or). Unfortunately, his heel turn has been booked so terribly the best thing Ryback can hope for is to take a trip in the ambulance Sunday night, go away for a while, and come back with a fresh start.
SkitZ: Eh the odds of him disappearing after this Sunday are slim. Ryberg's barely a year in and I suppose the company will drain that resource dry before Skipper is afforded any mini-vacation. As long as they keep him the hell away from Miz, I promise to maintain some shred of optimism. Part of me also wonders if Cena resorts to any political maneuvering in the locker room. Upstanding citizen aside, it exists within the sport and you'd be an idiot to believe WWE's Poster Boy has never once laid down his trump card. Any chance the Franchise Player sabotaged a planned WWE Title run for Ryback?
Chrisss: Not likely. Someone had to take the belt off Rocky at Wrestlemania. Since WWE were hard on about doing Twice in a Lifetime, Cena inevitably wound up with the belt. Considering Cena hadn't tasted gold since summer of 2011, another run with the big belt was bound to happen, sooner or later. Having Cena lose it so quickly after finally regaining it would have been an odd decision. Nah, I think Ryback is just one unlucky bastard. Had this been 2008 or 2009, he probably would have succeeded as a new main-eventer. But we're in 2013, and Cena will hammer the final nail in Ryback's main-event run to conclude Payback.
SkitZ: Yeesh, tough break. These less-than-stellar stipulations aren't exactly sending the IWC into collective euphoria. Lumberjacks? Really? I'll likely be paying more attention to crowd signs than what's transpiring at ringside. And sorry if I don't expect much innovation from either individual when it comes to tables. Don't fret, Christmas Tree Shoppe... only one of your precious $20 tables will face Cena & Ryback's wrath this Sunday. I wouldn't be at all shocked if the AllState Arena fills with boo birds during the earlier stages.
Chrisss: Yeah, something tells me the Chicagians won't be showing this match a lot of love nor chiming in with "This is Awesome" chants that often. It's a shame because both men work extremely well in big matches, but their feud has been cold for quite some time now, and the fans know it.
Other than predict Cena as the clear-cut winner, any final thoughts on Payback before we call it a day?
SkitZ: By and large, the PPV should be worth catching. The outcome of Punk/Jericho could drastically reshape RAW for the remainder of '13. Rhodes was generous enough to swap places with Sandow this month and let his buddy enjoy pre-show jobber duty for a change (bro favors FTW). Kofi's off TV for eight weeks and marks don't even wanna see Kingston's face again unless he returns as a heel. Cesaro's stock keeps plummeting and, for the record, Langston's no Denzel Washington.
Fuck off and goodnight.
Chrisss: Aren't you the cheery one? I work Sunday so I might not be able to tune in until 9pm so hopefully I'll miss the IC triple threat. Other than that, I'm looking forward to Sunday as well. Mainly because Money in the Bank is right around the corner!
Peace out, bro. Enjoy your porn.
Some of you have been asking me where's Part Three of WWE vs. TNA, but I have decided to postpone it until next week, not to clog up the Main Page columns section with three links in less than a week. So look for it anytime next Wednesday.
Another reminder: I'll be back on LoPRadio this Monday night at 7pm EST (an hour before RAW goes live) to preview the show and discuss Payback. So listen in, call in, or tweet in - we'll have some fun.
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