WWE Payback is just around the corner, popping off at the Allstate Arena this Sunday night (June 1, 2014) in Rosemont, Illinois.
While a lot of cable and satellite providers have refused to carry the pay-per-view (PPV) event as punishment for the organization's decision to undercut them with the WWE Network, we still need to look at this card in the traditional "buy or don't buy" format, as it better helps us assess the value of the overall card.
One match at a time.
Back when compact discs where still a "thing," I used to see how many songs an artist had that were "must buy." If a CD came out with three or more good tracks, I felt it was worth paying for, rather than waiting for them to come on the radio and recording them with my old cassette player.
Welcome to a childhood sans Internet.
Enough about the stone age. Let's dice up this card and see if it's worthy of your coin.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt in a "Last Man Standing" match
It's hard for me to imagine a John Cena match on a major PPV card that doesn't have that must-see feel to it, primarily because the organization does a fairly admirable job of making his feuds count, even though we know he's going to win or at the very least, look like God in defeat.
I'm not getting that vibe here.
Probably because we've already seen this dance twice before. Cena went to war with Bray Wyatt in a singles match at WrestleMania 30 just last month, then followed that up with another PPV showdown at Extreme Rules, this time in a steel cage.
Now here we are again for the third time in less than two months doing it again. I understand that when you work a program with someone, there is going to be multiple matches, but this feels more like re-gifting, because WWE is essentially giving us the same presentation as last time under the guise of a "fresh" stipulation.
This time it's "last man standing," but for me, it translates into "last time watching."
Maybe if they weren't so heavily involved every week on RAW -- something required from Cena by default (damn you, ratings), there might be a bigger pull, but I'm just not getting as amped for this one as I should. Partly because I already know the outcome, but mostly because I'm ready to move on.
Verdict: Unless Cena leaves the Allstate Arena in overalls and a greasy tank top, this one is not worth the money.
Evolution (Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista) vs. The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns) in a "No Holds Barred Six-Man Elimination Tag Team" match
I think some of the criticism I directed toward the John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt match is applicable here, as well, since The Shield already beat Evolution at Extreme Rules and has been featured prominently on television in the weeks that followed.
Some, but not all.
This feels a little fresher for the simple reason that the program has more moving parts. John Cena is essentially Superman fighting General Zod, Non, and Ursa, while The Shield and Evolution have equal members across the board and as a result, more flexibility for mini-programs, kind of like those mini-games in Mario Party.
Keep moving forward, but stop periodically to do something cool.
This Sunday should be no exception and there are a couple of interesting wrinkles. We know that Batista is eventually leaving to pimp his Guardians of the Galaxy movie, forcing Evolution to either break up or recruit
Mason Ryan a new member, but then we also have the Dean Ambrose slip-up in WWE magazine, where he calls Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns his "former" partners.
Maybe they collide head on and explode into six different pieces?
I'm okay with that. All kidding aside, there is no such thing as a bad Shield match and against three longtime veterans who know how to work, this should be bananas.
Verdict: Worth buying just on Rollins' death-spots alone.
Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Rob Van Dam singles match for WWE Intercontinental Championship
The good news, is we're finally getting a committed push for Wade Barrett. The bad news is, we still have to share it with Rob Van Dam. RVD may be spry in his forties, but has a paint-by-numbers offense and not as much pop as he did upon his initial return.
Then again, maybe I'm just bitter over the Cesaro loss.
Either way, I'm willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt. That's under the assumption that Van Dam hits a couple of trademarked spots, but spends most of the title match selling for the champ. I don't need a five-star match nor do I think they're capable of one, but there is a big opportunity for storytelling here.
I think it's Barrett's coming out party.
In a perfect world, he comes out with a mic, cuts a "bahd nooze" promo, wins convincingly, then gets another turn on the stick to bookend his performance with some kind of heel celebration. We'll probably eat it up, essentially making him not a heel, but whatever, this should be fun.
Verdict: Paying for a Wade Barrett match? Swerve!
Sheamus (c) vs. Cesaro singles match for WWE United States Championship
Who doesn't love a good hoss fight?
I guess my only fear in this contest is that we get 15 minutes of Sheamus no-selling Cesaro uppercuts. Well, that and Sheamus actually retaining. Like site General Geno Mrosko, I haven't been a huge fan of the Swiss destroyer "stealing" wins on television because he's one of the strongest guys on the roster and has Paul Heyman in his corner.
Why win cheap?
And losing to Sheamus would negate his push and render him a B- player, since he can't even win the B- title. I don't think that's the plan and my optimism has me believing this match is the turning point where Cesaro begins his run as a face, while the "Celtic Warrior" starts his descent into heeldom.
Hey, a guy can dream.
Either way, I'm expecting a brutal slugfest with lots of power moves. Assuming the camera intermittently pans to Heyman for real-time reactions, I'm having a hard time seeing any downside to the championship brawl, though I may predicate that on getting a clean finish.
Verdict: Unless Big Show has a run-in, this is a must-have.
Paige (c) vs. Alicia Fox singles match for WWE Divas Championship
It's been a long time since I've been excited for a Divas match, mostly because it's difficult to find two Divas who can actually work. What's even better about this pairing -- evidenced by their matches on television -- is that Paige and Alicia Fox have great in-ring chemistry.
Strong workers with great chemistry? That's usually enough to sell a bout.
But we have yet another layer, in that Fox has gone completely batshit in recent weeks, elevating her brand and making her time onscreen the worst possible moment to get up a take a piss, an honor usually bestowed upon Divas matches during high-profile events.
Not this time.
I also like the uncharted territory we find ourselves in, because how awesome would it be to see Fox win the title and still act crazy? I think it elevates her to an entirely different level. It also extends the shelf-life of her feud with Paige, which I don't have a problem with, considering the depth of the Divas roster.
Verdict: Alicia Fox will almost certainly lose the plot, win or lose. Take my money!
El Torito vs. Hornswoggle in a "Mask vs. Hair" match
This bout makes the pre-show, which is a free show, so it doesn't count, but we'll give it some love anyway. There is no way El Torito is losing his mask because without it, he's no a bull, he's just a little guy in white tights. That's really not enough of a gimmick these days (just ask Mordecai).
That means Hornswoggle is going bald.
While the "serious" fans will be appalled that WWE is wasting their time, I'm kind of looking forward to it, because it opens the door for some silly parodies like Stone Cold Steve Swoggle, or Hornberg, or whatever goofy gimmick Creative gives him moving forward.
It's dumb fun.
That wraps up the Payback card, so let's take a look at where we stand in terms of bang-for-buck.
Evolution vs. The Shield
Bad News Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam
Sheamus vs. Cesaro
Paige vs. Alicia Fox
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
We have "buy" in a 5-1 landslide, thanks to a great roster, compelling match ups and enough unknown factors to keep us guessing.
Agree or disagree?