World Heavyweight Championship
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio has beaten World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler numerous times when the odds have been fair. Will that happen once again tonight or will Dolph's entourage of AJ Lee and Big E Langston stack the decks in his favour again?
The Road to Payback
When Alberto Del Rio was World Heavyweight Champion earlier this year, Dolph Ziggler was his most frequent television opponent, defeating him by submission cleanly four times in a row.
However, Ziggler's luck would change on the WrestleMania 29 fallout episode of Monday Night Raw. Taking advantage of Alberto Del Rio's ankle being softened up in a handicap match with Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter, Dolph cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase and worked over the Mexican hero's injured limb before quickly pinning him with the Zig Zag in one of the best received World title switches in years.
This was the beginning of a three way program between the new champion, the old one and the Real American that had made the foreigner such easy pickings. Indeed, Alberto wanted his title rematch on the April 15th Raw, but Jack Swagger nixed that by attacking him before the bell and taking out his ankle again with the Patriot Lock. Instead, Swagger was given the opportunity to face Dolph Ziggler in a non-title match, which he won via a roll up, but Del Rio got a measure of revenge afterwards by ambushing Swagger on the ramp way and locking in the cross armbreaker. This led to Smackdown GM Booker T booking a Triple Threat match between the three men at Extreme Rules.
On the April 29th Raw, Ricardo Rodriguez upset Big E Langston and Zeb Colter in a three way bout to give his best buddy Alberto Del Rio the right to choose the Extreme Rules stipulation, which he picked to be a ladder match.
However, we missed out on what should have been a tremendous opportunity for Dolph Ziggler to show off in the ring, as he suffered a serious concussion and retrograde amnesia from an errant kick to the head by Jack Swagger on the May 7th Smackdown tapings, and was thus forced to miss the pay-per-view whilst he convalesced at home.
The fallback plan the WWE creative team came up with at the last minute was an idea they had decided against when the Del Rio vs. Swagger feud didn't take off like they had hoped to. At Extreme Rules, Alberto Del Rio convincingly defeated Jack Swagger in an "I Quit" match to become the number one contender to Dolph Ziggler's World Heavyweight Championship.
But with Ziggler out of action still and completely off television for several weeks, Del Rio had a series of matches with his bodyguard Big E Langston to keep the feud going, which the Latino won 3-2.
Dolph Ziggler finally returned to our television screens on Monday's episode of Raw. Chris Jericho challenged him to a match, but he chickened out and accepted the match for Langston to take on. Y2J won with the Codebreaker when Big E was distracted by Del Rio attacking Ziggler at ringside.
However, he couldn't get out of wrestling on Smackdown, having the obvious tag team match from the shenanigans that aired four days earlier. Continuing to play the coward allowed Ziggler to be heavily protected and also led to Del Rio logically pinning the World Heavyweight Champion on TV just two days before Payback.
What's at stake?
Alberto Del Rio has the opportunity to become a world champion for the fourth time and to avenge his World Heavyweight title defeat to Dolph Ziggler, one night after his successful defence against Jack Swagger atWrestleMania 29.
Arguably, given the huge number of defeats that Dolph has been served at the hands of Alberto and the manner of his WHC victory, he has more on the line here. A victory tonight would prove that he isn't a brittle paper champion that folded as soon as the chips were down and faced a stiff challenge for the first time.
The difference maker though may be Dolph's entourage of AJ Lee and Big E Langston, as Ricardo Rodriguez, though he tries hard, is no match for that devious duo and will be powerless to stop their interference.
Find out whether that's the case tonight with our live Payback pay-per-view coverage, Cagesiders.