Payback Match Kickoff – Sheamus vs. Damien Sandow
Brian Fritz: Sheamus is really caught in limbo right now when it comes to his place in the pecking order. While Sandow should win here and get a bigger push, I think Sheamus comes away with the win.
Steve Muehlhausen: This match will be on the kickoff portion of the show starting at 7:30 ET on basically every platform known to man. The feud has been scuttled as it is hard to believe what Shaemus is saying while Sandow has been carrying this feud. Sheamus doesn’t need the win here as Sandow wins in an upset.
Michael A. Wiseman: I think Sandow wins this match, though I think he cheats to win (or otherwise resorts to heel-like tactics). But I don’t expect much out of this one. WWE never gives their pre-shows matches much time to breathe, and this feud, despite the long(ish) build, is booked to be forgettable. Sheamus gets his revenge the next night on ‘Raw.’
Marshall Bowen: Sheamus wins this one to get the night started and get the crowd rowdy and energetic for the night to come.
United States Championship – Dean Ambrose vs. Kane
Brian: Dean Ambrose should retain the title. The Shield is the hottest act in the WWE right now and all of them have belts and rightfully so. Hopefully, Ambrose and Kane will be able to crank it up more than their recent match on Raw.
Steve: They had a lackluster match on Raw with Kane winning by DQ, which was the reason Vickie Guerrero gave Kane a rematch. Ambrose will retain here as they should have more time here.
Michael: Dean Ambrose is the obvious pick here. I expect an entertaining product from these two – Ambrose can go in the ring, and Kane is a very capable veteran. The fact that this match was added less than a week out says that creative isn’t taking the possibility of a title change seriously. Also, WWE would be foolish to start breaking down The Shield just one month after they regained a lot of momentum. Then again, the company isn’t know for putting a lot of thought into these decisions.
Marshall: Kane is Ambrose’s monster to prove himself with in his young U.S. title reign and will prove the dominance that The Shield will continue to have over the summer.
Divas Championship – Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee
Brian: For a few months now it seems that AJ would eventually win the Divas Championship only for it not to happen. That should end here with AJ finally get a title to match her Ziggy’s. She’ll probably get some help from Big E at ringside but AJ finally get the Divas championship.
Steve: We have seen this story play out over the last month as the secret admirer storyline has started. A great promo on Monday’s Raw by Lee as Big E Langston came to reveal he was the secret admirer. It ended up being a ruse with Lee behind the ruse. Lee should win the title here but I feel Kaitlyn will win here to advance the feud for another month.
Michael: AJ wins cleanly and finally takes home the Divas Championship. Her promo this past Monday on Raw was money, and she is primed to be the spark the Divas Division so desperately needs. The storyline coming out of this Sunday will be that the numerous distractions cost Kaitlyn her championship.
Marshall: AJ takes this one with some help from Dolph and Big E. AJ has been building to this moment for well over a year now and this is finally the time to pull the trigger.
Intercontinental Championship – Wade Barrett vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel
Brian: With Curtis Axel being inserted into the match for Fandango who is sidelined with a concussion, it makes sense that the latest Paul Heyman guy win the title here. I think Axel will win the title but I wonder what this means to how he is perceived in the company. Rather than being a main-event level guy, I think he is a notch down. By the way, I think his feud with Triple H is over already with Hunter having bigger things to deal with.
Steve: This match was supposed to be a three way with Fandango in the match but he suffered a concussion about two weeks during a Smackdown taping. Surprised WWE inserted Axel in the match considering where he has been positioned so far. Have Axel winning the match here as it will build him up more and be like his father in winning the IC Title.
Michael: Most people seem to be in agreement that Curtis Axel was added to this match so WWE could immediately quickly build on his hot debut with an Intercontinental Championship reign. And while I agree, I think it’s the wrong decision. Axel has been hanging around the upper mid-card since his debut, so this feud just feels like a step back. Hopefully they give him a real storyline coming out of Sunday.
Marshall: I’m going out on a limb and saying Curtis Axel gets the win and the 2-0 for the night for Paul Heyman. Part of this prediction comes from the rapid fire re-debut Axel has had in these past few weeks.
WWE Tag Team Titles – The Shield vs. Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan
Brian: The obvious thing to happen here would be The Shield retaining the title and Orton and Bryan having issues during the match leading to a feud between the two. I’ll go with that scenario because I believe sometimes the obvious thing to do is also the right thing. Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s wrong and too bad if the audience sees it coming as long as you still make it entertaining. The real question will be is Orton or Bryan turning heel or could neither and they feud as babyfaces.
Steve: This was the last match I was expecting going into Raw last week. Seemed like WWE was heading towards an Orton/Bryan showdown. WWE flipped things and decided to go this route. This should one of the two best matches on the show considering the workers in the ring. The intriguing part will the Orton/Bryan dynamic. Have Reigns and Rollins retaining with Orton turning on Bryan.
Michael: Orton and Bryan have no business winning the titles. That’s exactly why I’m going to predict that they win here. WWE seems to like Daniel Bryan in this position, and the company has always found success with the oddball pairings. While I don’t think they’ll hold the championship for very long (maybe not even past the next night on Raw), I think Orton finally cements his heel turn whenever they lose the titles back in the eventual rematch. On the down side, creative seems to be cooling on The Shield.
Marshall: The Shield retain against the former champ and his new partner, the combination of Bryan and Orton is not as fluid as a team as Rollins and Reigns.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
Brian: I think CM Punk wins the match but there are a lot of different directions they can go here when it comes to Punk, Jericho and Heyman during and following the match. Punk should get a hero’s welcome by the hometown crowd for what should be the best match on the card.
Steve: This should be the match on the card. Everytime these two step into the ring, the matches are top notch. Like how the match has been built with Paul Heyman representing Punk. WWE did a good job here in not bringing Punk back until Payback. Jericho wins the match as Heyman will accidentally cost Punk the match as the build will start of the breakup between Punk and Heyman.
Michael: Punk has to win here. It’s unfortunate for Jericho, who rarely ever seems to string together more than two victories in a row, but Punk’s hometown crowd would likely riot if he failed to win. I’m more curious to see how the company positions Punk coming out of this match. Is he coming back to stay? I’m not sure. I do think, though, that his turn against Paul Heyman starts this Sunday.
Marshall: In his return to Chi-Town Punk defeats Jericho to kick off his summer as one of the top heels.
World Heavyweight Championship – Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio
Brian: This should be a very good, under the radar match with Ziggler retaining the title. I hope he gets a pinfall victory rather than there being a cheap DQ finish to the match and the feud continuing. It’s time for both parties to move on even though Ziggler was sidelined with a concussion. They both need fresh feuds at this point.
Steve: A late add to this event since Ziggler was only cleared about 10 days ago to return to the ring. Ziggler had been out since May 7 when he suffered a concussion. Del Rio became the number one contender when he defeated Jack Swagger at Extreme Rules last month. Hard to build a match with this short notice but a story is there for the match. Ziggler should go over here to help build him through the summer.
Michael: Alberto Del Rio has been the unfortunate victim of circumstance here. While waiting on Ziggler to return, he’s been given very little to sink his teeth into. These two will put together an entertaining 12-15 minutes (if WWE gives them that long), but Big E will distract and the champion will retain. I think Ziggler moves on to a bigger challenge from here (Sheamus or Punk) while Del Rio finds himself back in the mid-card.
Marshall: Dolph wins this match, Del Rio will be the step in his title reign that really helps to establish his reign and guarantees a great match for the crowd and the audience.
WWE Championship – John Cena vs. Ryback (Three Stages of Hell match)
Brian: As much as the WWE has tried to make Ryback into a monster, it really hasn’t caught on. And this match just doesn’t have the feel of a scary, crazy match. Instead, it feels like the next step in a feud that has been pretty pedestrian. Cena walks away the title here and I hope he walks away from this feud although I could see it going one more month. But this should be the end.
Steve: This match is a three stages of hell match with the first match being a lumberjack match, the second being a tables match and if it goes to a third fall an ambulance match. This is coming off an actual pretty good match they had at Extreme Rules. It will be hard to take this match as three stages of hell considering none of the matches are that brutal. It will be interesting to see how Ryback does here as this match should go between 40-45 minutes. This match will go all three falls as Cena will win the first fall, Ryback the second and Cena will win the third fall to retain the WWE championship.
Michael: Let’s get this out of the way: Cena wins. He pins Ryback in the Lumberjack Match, Ryback evens the score with the Table Match, and Cena finishes things off in the Ambulance Match. I don’t see a scenario where Ryback walks out with the championship (or why WWE would even want Ryback, a man who has to be prompted to finish his sentences, as their top guy). Unfortunately, there’s not much to get excited about with this one. The stipulations suck, the feud has been tame, and the outcome doesn’t seem in doubt at all. Think about this: CM Punk hasn’t been on WWE Television since the night after Wrestlemania, but his match this Sunday feels like a much bigger deal. Oh well.
Marshall: This match will go to John Cena after going through all three stages of the match. Ryback still isn’t established enough for the championship and seems like he’s there to be the giant Cena decimates in this current title run.