It’s one thing to predict the winners and losers at Payback 2023, but how about taking a guess at the match order for the event?
Payback takes place tonight (Sat., Sept. 2) from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, starting at 8 pm ET, live on Peacock (in the U.S.) and WWE Network (everywhere else).
WWE has announced seven different segments for the main card of this event. I’m not counting John Cena’s hosting duties as one of these segments, because it can result in John appearing in the ring for multiple segments, or no segments at all.
Here is my subjective view of how important each of these seven segments rank, ordered from most important to least important.
- Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
- Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Finn Balor & Damian Priest
- Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus
- LA Knight vs. The Miz
- Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez
- Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory
- Cody Rhodes is a guest on the Grayson Waller Effect
The top three matches are all potential candidates to main event this card.
If WWE wants to establish that Seth Rollins’ relatively new world title is a big deal, then it should main event a show like this. The only reason why it’s not a slam dunk guarantee to happen is because Nakamura was a mid-card guy just a month ago, and has never main evented a WWE PPV in a one-on-one match. That being said, the potential of a Damian Priest Money in the Bank cash-in helps this match better fit in the main event spot.
The Judgment Day’s street fight is another title match that could be the main event, especially if WWE has a big angle planned to further a split between Finn Balor and Damian Priest.
Finally, there’s Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus. There is no championship on the line, and their previous matches haven’t set the world on fire, so this probably won’t be the main event. However it does at least have a chance, because Trish is a WWE Hall of Famer and Becky is a WrestleMania main eventer.
Ultimately, I think WWE will stick with Seth and Shinsuke in the main event. If the World Heavyweight Championship can’t main event a card that doesn’t even include a match from Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, or Cody Rhodes, that’s a pretty huge mark against the idea that fans should see that belt as a top prize in WWE.
With John Cena as the host, this is a card that doesn’t need to place one of the top three matches in the first half of the event. Cena can open the event as the host, and that can lead right into the opening match with another popular act like LA Knight in Segment 1. Perhaps Cena and Knight can even interact on the mic before the match.
After that, Ripley and Mysterio can go in Segments 2 and 3, in some order, because this is the time to get through the least important matches of the card.
I’ll go with Rhea in Segment 2, because there’s at least a scenario where Becky goes as early as Segment 4, and WWE typically doesn’t book women’s matches in consecutive segments.
That gives me the following card:
Segment 1: LA Knight vs. The Miz
Segment 2: Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez
Segment 3: Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory
Segment 7: Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (?)
I guess the big question left is what’s the best spot for Cody Rhodes on Grayson Waller’s talk show?
The Judgment Day are competing in a street fight, while Becky Lynch is in a steel cage match, so I think it makes sense to break up those two gimmick matches with the Waller talk show in between. That means Cody and Waller go in Segment 5.
The only thing left to do is decide on Segment 4 and Segment 6 for The Judgment Day and Becky Lynch. I’ll put the Judgment Day earlier in the card, because I think it makes more sense to put some distance between Damian Priest’s match and his potential cash-in at the end of the night.
So here is my final prediction for the match order at Payback 2023, along with guesses on the bell-to-bell match times:
Segment 1: LA Knight vs. The Miz (9 minutes)
Segment 2: Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Rodriguez (10)
Segment 3: Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory (12)
Segment 4: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. Finn Balor & Damian Priest (19)
Segment 5: Cody Rhodes is a guest on the Grayson Waller Effect
Segment 6: Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus (17)
Segment 7: Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (18)
That’s my prediction for the match order at Payback 2023. What’s yours?