WWE Payback Predictions

Wrestlemania 32 has come and gone and the landscape of the WWE is revolving once again. New stars are getting a push and new rivalries are brewing quickly. And Payback is where the new “season” of WWE programming really begins. On Sunday, May 1 in Chicago, four titles will be on the line, top contenders will be named, rivalries will heat up, and surprises may be revealed.

Vince McMahon’s Decision – Will Stephanie or Shane control Raw?

It was announced that Vince McMahon will make a decision as to whether Shane or Stephanie will run Raw going forward. Shane lost his match at Wrestlemania for control of the show but has been in charge since then. Stephanie just returned this week and now has her sights set on returning to power. In my opinion, I predict a brand split of some sort, with Shane in charge of Raw and Stephanie running Smackdown. If it is not a brand split like they previously had, then I think both will still be on Raw and the talent will all eventually side with either Shane or Stephanie, setting up a future program with the two sides for ultimate control.

1. Ryback vs. Kalisto (C) – Singles match for the United States championship

For the second time in as many PPVs, Ryback will challenge Kalisto for the United States championship on the pre show. This was a poorly built rivalry before Wrestlemania and then it seemed over. That is until just this week when Ryback pinned Kalisto. In between the two matches, Ryback has been in the media expressing his displeasure with his position and this may be to keep him quiet for a little while.

Kalisto has not defended the title regularly and worked mostly with his tag team partner Sin Cara in tag matches. And that is where I think he should be as long as they keep the team together. He could be a good singles wrestler if needed, but as long as the Lucha Dragons are a team, he doesn’t need the singles title. Not that Ryback really deserves it either, but this title has also lost a lot of luster over the past few months.

Winner: Ryback

2. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Corbin debuted at Wrestlemania 32, winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. But he didn’t get a lot of recognition in the match. He then came on Raw the next night and took out Dolph Ziggler. The former NXT standout has a ways to go in WWE, but this little feud is a good start. At least for him.

For Ziggler however, it is a clear statement that he is not even close to being in the picture for any major role in the company. Ziggler once had so much promise and was a guy that people wanted to see on top. But those days have come and gone and now he is helping younger talent along the way and just helping to put on a good show. I don’t really know if he will ever be able to fully rebound, but I say he somehow manages a win against Corbin.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

3. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

This is a big first-time match for Owens and Zayn in WWE. But for these two guys, it is a match that has taken place many times over the years. When they were known as Kevin Steen and El Generico, the two battled in the independent scene and made a name for themselves. That recognition brought both guys to NXT and then up to the main roster.

Owens knocked the door down with huge wins early on but has been pretty stagnant lately. Zayn had his initial debut put on hold after an injury and then began appearing regularly on WWE programming earlier this year. Both guys need a huge win here and I am really torn about who I think gets it. So after looking at the card and trying to predict some winners, I will go with Owens for my pick.

Winner: Kevin Owens

4. Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho

Much like Owens and Zayn, Ambrose and Jericho started their feud after their Wrestlemania feuds ended. But whereas Jericho got a win in Dallas over A.J. Styles in a show-stealing match, Ambrose lost in a disappointing street fight with Brock Lesnar. And also, there is only one man who “needs” this win.

Jericho has been great recently and I applaud his decision to stay with the WWE longer than what most people expected. But he is an established star. He could quit now and be in the WWE Hall of Fame next year. Ambrose, however, is a rising star that WWE needs to make sure they don’t burn out. If he loses another PPV match, his momentum might slow down. And they have done this before (see Bray Wyatt). Ambrose needs the win, whether he continues the feud with Jericho or moves on to something new.

Winner: Dean Ambrose

5. The Vaudevillains vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass – #1 Contenders match for the WWE Tag Team championships

The WWE has had a resurgence of late in the tag team division. Immediately after Wrestlemania, they began a tag team tournament to see who would end up facing the champions, The New Day, in the future. And in the end, two new teams have made it all the way to the finals. Not The Dudley Boyz. Not The Usos. No one that was seen on Raw before this month.

The Vaudevillains, Aiden English & Simon Gotch, beat Fandango & Goldust and then The Usos to get to the finals. While not totally over, they are a good team with a good future if they are booked correctly. Enzo Amore & Big Cass are the other new team and, unlike The Vaudevillians, they are already one of the top four acts on the show. Amore is a natural on the microphone and can entertain like no other. Big Cass is not as good on the mic, but is an ever-improving worker and has a big future. But, as much as I like them and hope they would win, I don’t see it just yet. The New Day is a fan favorite team and need a villainous opponent right now.

Winner: The Vaudevillains

6. Cesaro vs. The Miz (C) w/ Maryse – Singles match for the WWE Intercontinental championship

At Wrestlemania 32, Zack Ryder won the Intercontinental championship and it was the best feel good story of the night. The next night, he lost it to The Miz and, later in the night, Cesaro returned from injury. Soon, these two were paired to do battle for the title after Cesaro beat Kevin Owens in a #1 Contenders match.

Cesaro, complete with a new gimmick, returned and has looked very good. The Miz, also with a new look and his wife by his side, has also been on the top of his game lately. He is one of the few WWE Superstars that can garner actual hatred from the fans without really trying. In the beginning, I believed Cesaro would win and The Miz was just a transitional champion. But The Miz has been so good as a heel on TV recently that I don’t think it is a good time to take the title off of him just yet. He can win at Payback and these two can still have a longer running feud that ends later with Cesaro on top.

Winner: The Miz

7. Natalya w/ Bret Hart vs.Charlotte (C) w/ Ric Flair – Singles match for the WWE Women’s championship

The Women’s Division has been great lately and this is another example of some of the great wrestling that these women can do. Charlotte, who beat Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch at Wrestlemania, has been on top of the division for a while and deserves the spotlight shining on her. And while Banks and Lynch wait for their next opportunity, Natalya is next in line for a shot at the champ.

Natalya has been with the WWE since 2007 and won the Divas championship once. But that was in 2010. In the six years since then, she has been all over the place. She managed her husband and his tag partner. She wrestled for NXT. She starred in Total Divas. She had various minor feuds with other women, but rarely made memorable appearances on TV. The one place she never returned to was the Divas championship picture. She was pushed aside for the likes of The Bella Twins, AJ Lee, and others. But she never stopped and now she has a title chance and I hope she wins. Something tells me that she won’t. But I am picking her as my upset of the card. She surely deserves it and I would just love to see her get the title and the story between her and Charlotte to continue for a little longer.

Winner: Natalya

8. A.J. Styles vs. Roman Reigns – Singles match for th WWE World Heavyweight championship

Poor Roman Reigns. The man just can’t catch a break. The WWE pushes him and makes him the WWE World Heavyweight champion and people boo him like no one else. Somehow they managed to get him over for about a week or two after TLC in December, but that is a distant memory now. People love to hate on Reigns and are ready to see a new champion. ANY new champion.

And with A.J. Styles facing off against Reigns, fans are ready for the former TNA and New Japan star to be that new champion. Styles emerged in the WWE at the Royal Rumble and has been a huge fan favorite since. He battled Chris Jericho for a while, eventually losing at Wrestlemania and then becoming the new #1 Contender the next night. But since then, a new factor has come into play: Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows.

The duo formed the Bullet Club with Styles while in New Japan. They arrived in the WWE recently and have attacked Reigns on Styles’ behalf. But A.J. has said he didn’t want their help and has opposed their tactics. But another twist to the story is the man Styles replaced as the leader of the Bullet Club: Finn Balor. Balor has been in NXT and just lost his NXT championship. Does that mean a move up to the main roster? I believe so. But who will Anderson and Gallows finally team with? Will it be Styles or Balor? Or will it possibly even be Reigns? I doubt it will be Reigns and I predict a swerve that ends with Balor arriving and Reigns still on top of the WWE.

Winner: Roman Reigns

Daryl Karpinski, Jr.