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Predicting the match order at WWE Payback 2016

It's one thing to predict the winners and losers at WWE's Payback 2016, but how about taking a guess at the match order on that card?

WWE has announced 7 different matches for Payback 2016, excluding the pre-show match featuring Ryback versus Kalisto.  There is also going to be a talking segment in the ring where Vince McMahon makes a ruling on the power struggle between Shane and Stephanie.

Here is my subjective view of how important each of these 8 segments rank on the Payback 2016 card, ordered from most important to least important:

  1. Roman Reigns versus AJ Styles
  2. Vince McMahon's decision
  3. Dean Ambrose versus Chris Jericho
  4. Sami Zayn versus Kevin Owens
  5. Miz versus Cesaro
  6. Charlotte versus Natalya
  7. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady versus The Vaudevillains
  8. Dolph Ziggler versus Baron Corbin

The top 3 spots on the above list are the main attractions for the show, the next 3 spots are the medium-level attractions, and the bottom two spots are the least important segments of the night.

It is important to come up with a list like this to get an idea of which matches are going to be placed in the key spots on the card or take up the most time, and which matches might end up in the cool-down spots or given the least time.  This list shows that if WWE decided to throw in a cool-down match between the biggest matches of the night, my best guess is that it will be either Ziggler's match or Enzo's match.

The 4th through 6th spots on this list are all very close to each other in importance; it could be argued that the presence of the legendary Bret Hart is enough to bump the women's match up a couple of spots, while the lack of a championship in Zayn's match could knock it down a couple of spots.

Roman's match is clearly the main event segment of the night, unless Vince McMahon decides to do the unthinkable and actually end one of his Pay-Per-View (PPV) events with a McMahon family talking segment.  I wouldn't say it is impossible for that latter case to occur, but it is extremely unlikely.

I am pretty confident ranking Ambrose and Jericho as the second most important match of the night.  These guys were clearly positioned ahead of Zayn and Owens back on the April 18th edition of Raw, which saw Jericho defeat Zayn early in the night,  while Ambrose defeated Owens in the main event slot.  Furthermore, Jericho and Ambrose have main evented a whole bunch of prior WWE PPV events, which is something that cannot be said about most of the performers who I have slotted underneath them.

With that preliminary ranking out of the way, it's now time to figure out how these 8 segments will be arranged.

Segment Timing

To help take a stab at this, I sifted through my data on PPV match times that I have been recording since 2013.  I looked through the data to find all of the 3-hour events that were also comprised of 8 different segments.  I found 11 different events that fit this criteria, and here is how the timing of those 8 segments broke down for those events:

These segment times are not limited to just bell-to-bell match times.  It includes all the entrances, pre-match hype videos, and post-match replays or celebrations. In-ring talking segments are also accounted for in these numbers.

Average Times / Median times

Segment 1: 18m 35s / 18m 49s
Segment 2: 12m 53s / 11m 37s
Segment 3: 14m 37s / 14m 53s
Segment 4: 22m 49s / 21m 11s
Segment 5: 15m 59s / 13m 40s
Segment 6: 17m 39s / 17m 18s
Segment 7: 16m 22s / 17m 37s
Segment 8: 34m 25s / 34m 33s

There are a couple of extra factors that complicate the situation here.

Most of the 11 events that this data was taken from came prior to the Divas Revolution, and that's when it was very common for women's matches to be given really short matches in one of the filler spots on the card.  That doesn't really happen to the women anymore, and so there are some concerns about the predictive value of this data within the current context of WWE's program.

Furthermore, the variance in the times for Segment 4 and Segment 7 is much higher than any of the other segments.  It is not obvious from the simple summary data above, but Segment 7 included 5 filler segments out of 11 events.  So even though the average and median times for Segment 7 superficially rank towards the middle of the pack, there is still basically a coin flip deciding whether or not it will be an extremely long segment or an extremely short segment.

The main things worth taking away from the above list are that Segment 1 usually gets more time than both Segments 2 and 3 (this happened 8 times out of 11 events).  Segment 2 often winds up with one of the least important matches or segments of the night (though this could be a product of filler Divas matches that no longer exist).  Segment 4 usually gets one of the longer matches of the night.  Segment 6 usually beats out Segment 5 for total time (this happened 9 times out of 11 events).

In other words, the longest matches of the night usually end up in Segments 1, 4, and 8, with Segment 6 not lagging too far behind.

Payback 2016 Segment Order

The opening match of the night usually goes to a high work rate match that is one of the medium-level attractions of the event.  Therefore the most likely candidates for this spot include Zayn versus Owens, Cesaro versus Miz, and Charlotte versus Natalya.  Of course there is always a chance that WWE decides to start the show off with the excitement of Enzo Amore, but I am not going to consider his match for this spot because I have deemed it as one of the lesser matches of the night.

One other factor that comes into play with the opening match is the absence of a dedicated video package to hype up the match.  The top three or four most important segments of the night usually receive this special video package treatment, but the opening segment never does.

And while my gut is screaming at me to pick Zayn versus Owens as the opening match of the night because it seems like the ideal type of match WWE typically chooses for that spot, I have to think that WWE will want to replay that amazing video package from Raw summarizing their motivations for fighting against each other.  I don't see that video package airing if their match opens the card at Payback 2016.

Therefore I will choose Miz versus Cesaro as the opening match.  This feud doesn't really warrant any kind of dedicated video package to hype it up beforehand, and Cesaro is a great enough performer to deliver the kind of work rate that WWE usually offers in this spot.  The match will probably run a little shorter than the typical PPV opening match due to the limitations of Miz, but it's really no big deal.

I don't expect Enzo's tag team match to get much time, so I think it will land in Segment 2.  WWE will probably want to run this match somewhat early in the night to change up the pace of things with a competitive tag team match.

Charlotte and Natalya haven't been given much emphasis on Raw over these last few weeks and so I can see them being used in Segment 3 as WWE prepares for one of the longest matches of the night in Segment 4.

Zayn's match or Jericho's match can certainly deliver the kind of length that is usually exhibited in Segment 4.  In this instance I think Zayn and Owens will get this spot and have a real chance to steal the show.

If the plan is to have a lengthy match take place in Segment 4, then I think Segment 5 makes sense for Vince McMahon's decision.  Talking segments don't usually go super long, and so it makes more sense to follow up an epic Segment 4 with a change of pace in Segment 5, rather than another potentially long singles match in Ambrose versus Jericho.

With that talking segment out of the way in Segment 5, WWE can go right to Ambrose and Jericho in Segment 6 and see if they can surpass the action and excitement of Segment 4.

The main reason I am choosing Ambrose and Jericho for later in the night than Zayn and Owens is because that's how I have perceived their positions on Raw over these last few weeks.  While Segment 4 sometimes does land the co-main event of a card, neither one of these matches really strikes me as worthy of being called a co-main event.  So in this case I am throwing the more important match into Segment 6.

Segment 7 will be used as a cool-down segment before the main event, and Ziggler's match fits the bill.  This could be a quick pseudo-squash match that establishes Corbin as a dominant force on the heel side, and a cool-down spot seems appropriate for that kind of match.

Segment 8 is the only obvious pick of the night.  Roman Reigns versus AJ Styles will almost certainly be the main event of Payback 2016.

Finalized card

So here is my final prediction for the match order at Payback 2016, along with guesses on the bell-to-bell match times.  The total match time on this show will probably be a little shorter than usual due to Vince's talking segment in the ring, so an overall number in the neighborhood of 90 minutes sounds about right.

Segment 1:  Miz versus Cesaro (11 minutes)
Segment 2:  Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady versus The Vaudevillains (9)  
Segment 3:  Charlotte versus Natalya (12)
Segment 4:  Sami Zayn versus Kevin Owens (15)
Segment 5:  Vince McMahon's decision
Segment 6:  Dean Ambrose versus Chris Jericho (15)
Segment 7:  Dolph Ziggler versus Baron Corbin (8)
Segment 8:  Roman Reigns versus AJ Styles (21)

This card is tricky because I usually feel like I have a good handle on what the opening match of the night will be, but that's not really the case here.  This entire prediction could blow up in my face if Miz versus Cesaro does not open the card, and my gut is still telling me that Owens and Zayn fit that opening spot better than Miz and Cesaro.

That's my prediction for the match order at Payback 2016.  What's yours?

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