What you need to know
Hulk Hogan wants you to buy the WWE Network, even if you live in a country where you can't legally get it. Brother. Their use of him is curious, as they presumably paid a lot of money to have him ocassionally schill the over-the-top service.
Not as curious a signing, at least any more, is Batista. He's heeling like he did in his prime, and even seems to be getting his wind back. Case in point for both, he worked a really entertaining ten minute match with Dolph Ziggler (building off their Twitter beef) on Friday night where he allowed The Show Off to get all kinds of offense in before spearing him for a win. And Batista Bombing him for good measure. Because, heel.
A bunch of Total Divas were thrown in a match together, with the main takeaway being that Summer Rae is not an impartial arbiter. Her fast count helped the Funkadactyls beat Eva Marie and Nikki Bella, all of whom Creative treats as faces, so who knows what role Summer will place in her blossoming feud with Layla.
I have been, and continue to be, a BOliever. And you should be one, too. And if Bo Dallas is a heel who thinks he's a face, I think Adam Rose is one, too.
New United States Champion Sheamus continues to be a workhorse, putting on a strong match with long-time nemesis Alberto Del Rio on Smackdown. The important thing about the segment, however, (1) it continued The Celtic Warrior's program with Cesaro and (2) Paul Heyman's guy's trolling of the Irishman around post-match handshaking is a wonderful thing.
Bray Wyatt has been reading up on his George Orwell and Alan Moore, convinced that John Cena and his platitudes are trotted out to convince the masses to not ask questions about the status quo. He seems to think that he can end that by making sure the leader of the Cenation doesn't answer a ten count at Payback.
The tag team champions Jimmy and Jey Uso were still serving as Cena's proxies late last week, and did seem ready to win another battle in their war with The Wyatts when Bray couldn't help but get involved. In the rotating "who stands tall after the schmoz" rotation, John AA'd Erick Rowan again and stared down The Eater of Worlds as the last show before WWE television resumes filming in the States came to a close.
What to look out for
Apologies to The Beatles, and Lana's hero, Vladimir Putin...we're back in the U.S., back in the U.S., back in the U.S. of A. The whole gang will be there for tonight's LIVE show in Knoxville, Tennessee.
That whole gang includes WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, largely absent from television since WrestleMania and fresh off a successful neck surgery. With The Authority's Stephanie McMahon demanding that he surrender his belts, all eyes will be on The Beard (who is advertised to appear) to see if he'll give up his belts - and what his actions either way might mean about his recovery timeframe.
Alicia Fox was all the rage for her, well, for her rage...even before she beat Divas champion Paige in a non-title affair last week on Raw. How will the champ respond, and will her upset win earn Foxy an official title shot - maybe at this weekend's Payback show?
When The Shield finagled their way into guest commentary roles last week so they could have Seth Rollins back in his match against Batista, they said it was because Raw General Manager Brad Maddox gave them those assignments. Was that true? If so, YAY - storyline for Beautiful Brad! Also, Maddox better watch his back, along with the Hounds of Justice, since Evolution will be looking to get the upper hand headed into Sunday's no holds barred elimination match between the two trios.
What they should do
You all arer fantasy booking tonight's show left and right, so what's a Preview-scribe to do?
I decided to keep it pretty high level. Tonight is a 'go home' show for the next pay-per-view (PPV). These episodes are supposed to really ramp up the tension and make the audience feel like they HAVE TO tune in on Sunday.
These have not been WWE's strong suit of late.
So tonight, instead of just the latest cryptic Wyatt promo that causes the audience in Knoxville to sing "He's Got the Whole World", or a Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton match that ends up as a six man brawl, or any other duplication or minor tweak of something we've seen six times since Extreme Rules...maybe something could, you know, happen?
And I mean, something pretty big. Noteworthy. Maybe a title change (what if Paige vs. Alicia Fox suddenly became The Anti-Diva cashing in her rematch clause against the new champ...Alicia Fox?). Maybe a stunning turn (Kane emerges to stand by Bryan as McMahon demands he turn over the belts, saying he remembers that his humanity and partnership with DB brought him the most success he's had in a long time).
Payback already has the stink of being Extreme Rules II all over it. A big moment tonight that changes the complextion of at least one match would be so much more entertaining than just the latest round of "who stood tall and does that mean they'll lose on Sunday?".
What we're afraid they will do
The latest cryptic Wyatt promo that causes the audience in Knoxville to sing "He's Got the Whole World", or a Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton match that ends up as a six man brawl, or any other duplication or minor tweak of something we've seen six times since Extreme Rules...leading us to the latest round of "who stood tall and does that mean they'll lose on Sunday?".
Will you surrender your Monday night to see how WWE decides to use their flagship show to sell you on Payback?
If you chose to, do it with your fellow Cagesiders in the live blog. And then listen and read all the fallout with Cageside Live and Geno's always hot reactions!