Divas Championship: Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee
The Chickbusters explode! Ok, so it’s not the same as Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan circa 1989. But the sole womens’ match at Payback could be a sleeper if the two talented participants get some time to work. Originally a tag team during their NXT days, they’re now on a collision course at Payback. Since AJ screwed John Cena during his ladder match with Dolph Ziggler at TLC last December, the Buffalo native has since aligned herself with the current World Heavyweight Champion and their cornerman, the massive Big E. Langston. All that’s been missing is some gold around her own tiny waist.
AJ’s been the number one contender for the Divas title for quite a number of weeks now and it’s rather puzzling why it’s taken so long for her to get her pay-per-view title shot. At any event, the build to this match has been strange and utterly predictable. Someone claiming to be Kaitlyn’s secret admirer had been sending her numerous gifts and texts over the last few weeks. It all culminated on the most recent Raw with Langston meeting the Divas Champion in the ring declaring himself the guy. Of course, he wasn’t the guy. He was a decoy for AJ, who arrived soon thereafter and delivered a rather nasty promo reminding us once again how good she is on the microphone. That speech, quite reminiscent at times of the one Ziggler gave her late last year, did more for the match on Sunday than any of the secret admirer schtick.
So, who walks away with the title? Isn’t it obvious?
Prediction: AJ Lee wins the Divas Championship by pinfall with chicanery.
Triple Threat match for the InterContinental Championship: Wade Barrett vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel
For the second pay-per-view in a row, an untimely injury has derailed a triple threat title match. During the build to last month’s Extreme Rules, Jack Swagger kicked World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler so hard in the head during a non-title match on Smackdown, The Show-Off lost three days of his memory. That unfortunate concussion led to the cancellation of a three-way ladder match for the WHC with Alberto Del Rio. In the end, Swagger and Del Rio had a one-on-one I Quit match instead to determine the number one contender.
Originally, this triple threat InterContinental match was going to feature three-time champion Barrett defending against former two-time champion Miz and rising star Faaaan….daaaan…goooo. But sadly, the former Johnny Curtis suffered a minor concussion of his own recently and he’s not been cleared to perform on Sunday.
Enter his replacement, the repackaged Curtis Axel. The son of Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig and grandson of Larry “The Axe” Hennig, he’s been given a surprisingly big push by being paired with the wily Paul Heyman and gaining victories, both legit and chintzy, against guys like Triple H, John Cena, Sin Cara and Chris Jericho.
As good as the former tag team champion is in the ring (he has a stellar dropkick, for instance), the name and the character are weak. (Did we not learn anything from Rocky Maivia 17 years ago?) Furthermore, despite not losing any of his matches against the above-mentioned superstars since his return, the one-time Michael McGillicuty isn’t really tracking as far as I can tell. I have no investment in this forgettable character tweak.
Before Fanda… Excuse me. Before Faaaan…daaaan…goooo’s removal from this booking, I felt he was going to get the title on Sunday. Now, and I really hate to say this, but it looks like his third generation substitute will get the push instead. I’ve not been thrilled with the forgettable Barrett/Miz program. I can’t root for the latter (he’s deeply annoying) and the former has lost so many non-title matches how can anyone accept him as champion? Maybe the bookers can rectify this by making Axel unbeatable the entire time he possesses the strap.
Prediction: Curtis Axel wins the InterContinental title by pinfall.
World Heavyweight Championship: Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio
After spending five weeks recovering from his above-mentioned concussion, the WHC is ready to finally defend his title against the winner of last month’s number one contender’s match. Unfortunately, because of all that time away from TV and live events, and the fact that this match only became official on the last Raw, I suspect there’s not a lot of anticipation for it. Which is a shame because, once again, here are two immensely gifted athletes who, with the right story, can do wonders in the ring together.
When Ziggler won the title through a memorable Money In The Bank cash-in the night after WrestleMania on Raw, it was a good sign that the WWE was finally putting its support behind The Show-Off who was long overdue for a proper World title run. If the company is to live up to its “Then, Now, Forever” slogan, it needs to push the next generation of superstars right now. Otherwise, it risks boring the audience with the same old champions.
While Ziggler was away from the scene, Del Rio was kept busy on TV by tangling in a series of matches with his “heavy”, Big E. Langston, where they’ve been trading meaningless victories back and forth. These bookings just haven’t really created a lot of interest in this long delayed rematch. Hopefully, that can be overcome with a strong performance by both men inside the ring on Sunday.
So, who ends up with the belt at the end of the night? Del Rio has already had his turn as champion and I don’t think many are clamouring for him to return to that spot right away. Meanwhile, Ziggler hasn’t had the opportunity to prove himself as champion which means this is a very important title defense for him.
In the end, expect some chicanery to benefit the champion.
Prediction: Dolph Ziggler retains the World Heavyweight Championship by pinfall with chicanery.
3 Stages of Hell match for the WWE Championship: John Cena vs. Ryback
The first fall is a lumberjack match. The second is a Tables match. And if necessary, fall number three is an Ambulance match. The first man to win two of these three gimmick battles will win the title.
Because their Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules ended in a no contest, Ryback gets another pay-per-view opportunity to finally get the push he’s long deserved in this rare 3 Stages of Hell match for the WWE Championship. The build for this rematch has benefitted greatly from two things: Big Hungry putting guys through tables and John Cena saying & doing very little. In a lot of ways, the WWE Champion is his own worst enemy, ruining programs by diminishing the threats of his opponents through his sometimes overly goofy, demeaning promos. When you think about it, it’s no mystery why he gets booed. He rarely acts like an actual good guy.
It was a risk to turn the popular Ryback heel the night after WrestleMania 29 and the transition hasn’t always been smooth. But he has steadily improved on the microphone and has looked mighty impressive in every physical encounter he’s had on TV since then. (His two TV matches with Daniel Bryan, in particular, have been stellar.) Having him enter the arena in an ambulance (guaranteeing that this will go three falls) is original and fitting for his current character. In a different universe, you could easily see him winning on Sunday. But SuperCena is the champ and sadly, we’re stuck with him for the foreseeable future.
Prediction: Ryback wins the first fall but drops the next two to John Cena who retains his WWE Championship.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
UPDATE: Here’s what I got right: Curtis Axel is the new InterContinental Champion, AJ Lee is the new Divas Champion (even though I didn’t expect her victory to happen through a straightforward submission), Sheamus defeated Damien Sandow, Dean Ambrose retained his U.S. title (even though I wrongly predicted Kane would win the match by DQ; the champ won by count-out, so I was correct there wouldn’t be a clean finish), The Shield retained their tag team titles (although Randy Orton did not turn heel) and the John Cena/Ryback 3 Stages Of Hell WWE title match basically went the way I thought it would with Ryback only taking the first fall. Now, here’s what I got wrong: CM Punk defeated Chris Jericho in his first match since WrestleMania 29 (which means Y2J is 0-3 against him on pay-per-view) and, in a real shocker, Alberto Del Rio won the World Heavyweight Championship and may have turned heel in the process. All in all, I essentially went 6 for 8. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, June 16, 2013