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Predicting the match order at Payback 2017

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It's one thing to predict the winners and losers at Payback 2017, but how about taking a guess at the match order on that card?

WWE has announced 7 different matches for the main card of Payback 2017, not counting the kickoff segments featuring Miz TV (with Finn Balor) and a tag team match pitting Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson against Enzo & Big Cass.

Here is my subjective view of how important each of these 7 segments rank on the Payback 2017 card, ordered from most important to least important.

  1. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
  2. Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
  3. Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
  4. Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho
  5. Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss
  6. The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro & Sheamus
  7. Neville vs. Austin Aries

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 be given the least amount of time.

Roman Reigns now owning the yard combined with the major push of Braun Strowman makes their match seem like the most important thing on this card. The next few matches could be shuffled in any order, and perhaps Bayley’s match should be bumped up a few slots because of the hometown crowd reception. Ultimately I am ranking her match below the others because I don’t see her match getting anywhere near the time that Jericho, Rollins, or Orton will probably receive on this pay-per-view.

The bottom two matches seem pretty straightforward even though they are both title matches. The Hardyz of course have a chance to rise up in importance once they become broken, but until then they are mostly just a popular nostalgia act putting on fun matches in the mid-card.

Main event

Reigns versus Strowman seems like the safest bet to main event this card, but the lack of a gimmick or championship as well as the lack of Roman Reigns on the go-home episode of Raw puts some doubt into my mind.

I don’t know whether or not Orton’s match with Wyatt is for the WWE Championship. If it is a championship match, then it could possibly main event this card over Reigns and Strowman. But there’s potential for their match to turn into a campy disaster, so even if it is for the championship it might not be appropriate to close out the card with a House of Horrors.

If Orton’s match is not for the championship, then Owens and Bayley would be the next most important championship matches on the card and presumably have a non-zero chance to close out the card. The main issues there are that Jericho versus Owens doesn’t have much suspense behind it and doesn’t feel like it belongs in the main event slot, while the women have not main evented a single Raw in the lead up to this PPV.

When all else fails, stick with Roman Reigns in the main event.

Opening match

The opening match of the night is usually one of the mid-level attractions with good work rate that doesn’t require a dedicated video package ahead of time to hype it up.

This one is pretty difficult to narrow down because even a match with two top stars like Owens versus Jericho hasn’t seen much story development in the last month and doesn’t really require a fresh dedicated video package ahead of time to hype it up.

Similarly, Rollins versus Joe in theory sounds too important for the opening slot of a pay-per-view. But there hasn’t been much in terms of story development between these two men in the last few weeks, and whatever video package they might get would likely rely a lot on what happened with Stephanie’s table fall at WrestleMania 33 as well as Joe’s debut attack on Rollins from January. In other words, they could potentially just bypass the video package and instead start the show with this match.

The tag match seems like a safer bet to open this show, because it features high work rate as well as a very popular act that certainly doesn’t need the extended video package. I’ll stick with that as my choice, but I’m very tempted to go with Owens and Jericho.

That gives me the following card:

Segment 1: The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro & Sheamus
Segment 2:
Segment 3:
Segment 4:
Segment 5:
Segment 6:
Segment 7: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman

Everything else

On a 7-segment WWE pay-per-view, Segment 2 and Segment 6 generally receive the least match time on the show. That means I should follow up the opening match with either Bayley’s match or Neville’s match, since they will probably receive less time than everything else on this show. Neville and Aries are both great workers who could certainly put on a 15 to 20 minute match if WWE freed them from time constraints, whereas Alexa Bliss is probably best off in a shorter match. Therefore I think Alexa is a better fit for Segment 2, and that’s where I’m putting her match.

After that, I feel like WWE needs to get one of the more important matches out of the way, and so Jericho’s match or Joe’s match seems like an appropriate choice for that role. This one is basically a coin flip, but I’ll pick Owens for this spot because I think Rollins and Joe should be treated like a bigger deal and saved for later.

I could save Neville’s match for the death slot right before the main event, but considering that I’m not even sure what the main event will be, I don’t know that there even really is a death slot on this show. I also think there is an outside shot that the pre-show Miz TV segment ends up adding a filler match to this card, and something like that could always be thrown in just before the main event.

Therefore I’ll throw in Neville’s match in Segment 4 and sandwich it between the two more important matches from Segment 3 (Owens vs. Jericho) and Segment 5.

As for Segment 5, I only have Rollins or Wyatt left to choose from. I don’t really have a good feel for what this House of Horrors match is going to be. In general, I think it makes more sense to put the WWE Champion on very late in the card, even if it isn’t a championship match. So I’ll put Rollins and Joe in Segment 5, with Orton and Wyatt landing in Segment 6.

That gives me the following card:

Segment 1: The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro & Sheamus
Segment 2: Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss
Segment 3: Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho
Segment 4: Neville vs. Austin Aries
Segment 5: Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
Segment 6: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Segment 7: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman

Finalized card

Looking at my current card, I am beginning the show with 4 championship matches and then ending it with 3 non-title matches (this is under the assumption that Orton’s match is not for the WWE Championship). This doesn’t seem right, so I am going to make a last-second swap between Segment 3 (Owens) and Segment 5 (Rollins) so that there is a championship match saved for the latter part of the show. It would be strange for Neville’s match to be the final championship defense of the night.

So here is my final prediction for the match order at Payback 2017, along with guesses on the bell-to-bell match times.

Segment 1: The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro & Sheamus (12 minutes)
Segment 2: Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss (8)
Segment 3: Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe (17)
Segment 4: Neville vs. Austin Aries (11)
Segment 5: Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho (16)
Segment 6: Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt (19)
Segment 7: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman (16)

There are only 7 matches announced for Payback 2017 but the times I have listed above add up to 99 minutes, which is on the high end for a 3-hour event. So I could be overestimating some of these times, or perhaps this card has a decent chance to go a little past 3 hours in length.

That's my prediction for the match order at Payback 2017. What's yours?