Pre-show: Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow
Two good workers stuck in a rather meaningless program that’s not even booked on the actual pay-per-view. It all started a few weeks ago on Smackdown when The Intellectual Saviour Of The Masses challenged The Celtic Warrior to untie Gordian’s knot. He couldn’t do it. Next came the find-the-ball-under-one-of-these-three-cups scam. There was no ball. Finally, the sneaky Sandow planned to take on “Deep Blue”, the famous supercomputer that kicked ass on Jeopardy (and no, it wasn’t the actual Deep Blue he was playing whose voice sounded suspiciously like Cody Rhodes), in a game of chess when Sheamus interrupted him.
When challenged to beat “Deep Blue” in one move, predictably The Celtic Warrior brogue kicked it right off its stand which led to Sandow attacking him with a flurry of right hands before throwing him into that very same stand. And now, the two, who have faced each other on TV before, will square off again during the free online pre-show, reflecting this match-up’s overall lack of importance.
As far as I know, Sheamus has never been properly beaten by Sandow. Expect history to repeat itself on Sunday.
Prediction: Sheamus by pinfall.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
Last year, a villainous Jericho tried in vain to get under The Straight Edge Superstar’s skin by verbally attacking him and his family so he could win the WWE Championship. That led to their first pay-per-view battle for the title at WrestleMania 28, the best match of the entire show. Punk retained by submission. Then came the rematch, a dress-as-you-like, anything goes Chicago Street Fight at Extreme Rules. Once again, Punk kept the belt.
Here we are a year later and things have changed dramatically. Thanks to his feud with Dolph Ziggler last summer, Jericho is a good guy again. And thanks to his association with Paul Heyman, the now former WWE Champion is a sneering, self-absorbed heel. Although they’ve wrestled on TV this year, this Payback booking will mark their third encounter on pay-per-view. In a very strong promo on Raw this week, Jericho really sold this match as a must-win for him in Punk’s hometown of Chicago, the second time they will face each other in that loudly partisan city.
Punk has been off TV for two months now recovering from injuries (from a storyline perspective, he was distraught over losing to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29, hence his disappearing act) and as expected, he’s not participated at all in this renewed rivalry. (Heyman has spoken for him the entire time.) In fact, I wonder if a swerve is going to happen where he doesn’t actually show up on Sunday. On second thought, that sounds unlikely. (Would the WWE really screw with its audience this way?) Regardless of whether or not the plan is turn him into a good guy again (which I support), he will probably be in attendance and since Jericho lost twice against him last year, Y2J is due for a clean victory. The real interest in this match might not be the match itself but rather, the aftermath. Will Punk and Heyman split acrimoniously and will that spark a Paul Orndorff/Bobby Heenan-style feud? Or could we see a double turn, as at least one online observer as suggested?
We shall see.
Prediction: Chris Jericho by pinfall.
United States Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Kane
Talk about a random, last-minute booking. What has The Big Red Monster actually done to deserve a shot at this B-title? And quite frankly, does he really need it? He had a decent championship run teaming with the electrifying Daniel Bryan until their eight-month tag team title reign ended at Extreme Rules last month. But now that the team has split, he’s just another adversary for the leader of The Shield. Ambrose has been red hot since he arrived with his teammates at last year’s Survivor Series which is why he got the U.S. title push at Extreme Rules. I don’t see him losing the belt at Payback, or any time soon, for that matter.
So, what will the finish be? I don’t think Ambrose will go over clean. He’ll be saved by his teammates running in to break up a possible 3-count.
Prediction: Kane wins match by DQ, but Ambrose keeps the belt.
Tag Team Championship: The Shield vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan
Tag team champions Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins don’t have anything to worry about on Sunday. The real focus of this championship encounter is the lack of unity between the challengers, leading all of us to wonder which of the two immensely popular superstars will make the inevitable heel turn. Will it be Air Goat or The Viper? It’s been reported for quite some time now that Orton is tired of being a babyface after more than 3 years eliciting cheers. I am, too. He was always more believable as a jerk. And considering the growing chemistry he shares with the recently fired up Bryan, the idea of them having a summer-long feud is quite appealing. (Too bad a World title isn’t involved.) The crowd has never been more behind the former American Dragon as they are right now and that shouldn’t change.
Last week on Smackdown, after a misunderstanding during a non-title tag team match against Reigns and Rollins led to Orton RKOing Bryan (who had accidentally dropkicked him in the corner, angering the third generation star), the Apex Predator generated such a negative reaction one could reasonably believe he had already turned. But on the most recent Raw, although unapologetic for what he did, Orton remained, for now, a fan favourite. There were no further incidents during their separate one-on-one encounters with each of their Sunday night opponents.
It’s pretty clear that another accident will finally be the last straw for somebody. And I’m counting on that somebody being Orton. He’s been in the mid-card wilderness long enough. It’s time for him to begin another top-tier feud with the hairy one. Personally, I wish this was Orton vs. Bryan instead of the tag title match but if the finish leads to permanent dissention I’m all for it.
Prediction: The Shield retain the tag title by pinfall, thanks to a helpful accident by Daniel Bryan.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 12, 2013