Sunday’s “Payback” on WWE Network highlights the importance of elevating championships. It can be argued that the two biggest matches on the card are the only two which don’t have a championship on the line.
Roman Reigns will attempt to get revenge against Braun Strowman, who is destroying everything in his path. “Everything” includes Reigns. A few weeks ago, Strowman gave Reigns a savage beating, pushing his stretcher off a loading dock and then tipping over an ambulance with Reigns inside.
Another revenge match at Payback pits Seth Rollins against Samoa Joe, the man who injured his knee in a vicious attack the night after the Royal Rumble. Once again, there’s no title on the line.
The WWE Universal Championship, the top title on RAW, won’t even be defended at what is supposed to be a Raw premier event. That makes it even stranger that Intercontinental champion Dean Ambrose won’t be defending his title at Payback. The top two titles on Raw won’t be defended at Payback.
The top championship match feature WWE champion Randy Orton defending his title, the top one on Smackdown, against Bray Wyatt, who just shifted from Smackdown to Raw during the superstar shakeup. The Orton-Wyatt feud was part of an elaborate storyline on Smackdown that lasted more than six months. It culminated with Orton winning the title at WrestleMania 33. Sunday’s match, which is an as-yet-undefined House of Horrors match, is likely to end with interference by Wyatt’s next major opponent on Raw. Ambrose, conspicuous by his absence, could be the deciding factor – unless it’s Finn Balor or Chris Jericho.
Jericho is also challenging for a Smackdown title. Unlike the Orton-Wyatt feud, at least the Jericho-Kevin Owens feud was built on Raw. With Owens, who won the United States Championship from Jericho at Wrestlemania 33, taking the title with him to Smackdown, this is a second match for a Smackdown title on a Raw special event.
Believe it or not, there are some Raw titles being defended on this Raw special event. Matt and Jeff Hardy will defend the Raw Tag Team Championship against Sheamus and Cesaro. Raw Women’s champion Bayley will defend her title against Alexa Bliss. The Cruiserweight Championship will also be on the line, with Neville defending the title against Austin Aries in a rematch from Wrestlemania 33.
Will any of these titles change hands? The Cruiserweight Championship is the most likely to change hands, although the Greek God of Wrestling might not switch any of the championships this Sunday.
The Payback kickoff show will include Enzo and Big Cass battling Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. The kickoff show also features Balor as a special guest on Miz TV.
This is an unusual Raw event because the top two titles on the card are exclusive to Smackdown. That makes it more likely that the Rollins-Joe and, in particular, the Reigns-Strowman match will be treated as the main events.
The Greek God of Wrestling doesn’t know whose bright idea it was to not have Raw’s top two championships defended on a Raw special event, but, hopefully, it’s the last time this will happen.
MAHAL RISES TOWARD TOP: The Greek God of Wrestling admits that he didn’t anticipate Jinder Mahal moving into a prime position after switching to Smackdown. Mahal, who has worked himself into tremendous shape, has earned a title shot at Extreme Rules on May 22. A cynic could say that Mahal’s elevation is an attempt to generate interest in WWE in India, the second-most populated country in the world, but it’s also a compliment to Mahal for taking the steps necessary to be re-signed by WWE and to earn a higher role on the roster.
HAPPY RETURNS: When WWE released Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre, who formed two-thirds of 3MB, Achilles Heel criticized the release of McIntyre and predicted that he would return to WWE. McIntyre, who wrestled as Drew Galloway in TNA and independent organizations, is back as a major player in NXT. He and Mahal both deserve praise for reacting to their releases by stepping up their game. Both are arguably better off now than Heath Slater, the member of 3MB who was not released by WWE.
RUSEV’S DEMANDS: Rusev, currently recovering from shoulder surgery, says he will not compete for Smackdown – he moved there in the superstar shake-up – unless he receive a title shot at Money in the Bank. Unless Money in the Bank is going to be a dual-brand event, which is possible because there should be a Raw Money in the Bank match and Smackdown Money in the Bank match, this doesn’t make complete sense. On the other hand, the Greek God of Wrestling is pleased to see the underutilized Rusev become part of the championship picture.
LESNAR ON FIRE: WWE will be introducing a new pay-per-view: Great Balls of Fire. The event will take place on July 9 in Dallas. According to the announcement, Brock Lesnar, who has yet to defend the WWE Universal Championship he won from Goldberg at WrestleMania 33, will defend the title at Great Balls of Fire.
WAR OF WORDS: Impact Wrestling featured the return of Matt Sydal, who defeated Trevor Lee. Global Force Wrestling Women’s champion Christina Von Eerie successfully defended her title, Ethan Carter III continued his potential heel turn and NFL players DeAngelo Williams and Gary Barnidge got involved in a match between Moose and Davey Richards.
But the storyline that won’t die is apparently the one between broadcasters Jeremy Borash and Josh Mathews. The latest development, for the few of you who care, is that Borash is suspended for punching Mathews at the end of the previous week’s show. This was the big angle that kicked off Thursday’s show. Achilles Heel will reiterate the point he’s made the past two weeks: nobody cares about a feud between broadcasters.
WAR OF WORLDS: Tickets were nearly sold out for the War of the Worlds event, a joint promotion between Ring of Honor and New Japan Professional Wrestling, at 2300 Arena on Sun., May 14 before any matches were announced. The first two matches were announced this past week, with Marty Scurll defending the Ring of Honor World Television Championship against New Japan star KUSHIDA, and Cody Rhodes, who is rumored to be signing with Ring of Honor, taking on Frankie Kazarian. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Gedo, EVIL, Tetsuya Naito and Hirooki Goto are among the Japanese stars schedule to appear at this event.
Scurll must first get past Ken Anderson at “Masters of the Craft” in Hopkins, Minn., tonight (Sat., April 29).
CHIKARA’S 11th HOUR: Matches have been announced for CHIKARA’s “The Eleventh Hour” on Sat., May 6 (3 p.m.) at The Wrestle Factory in Philadelphia (4711 Wingate St.). Silver Ant will battle Frightmare, Juan Francisco de Coronado takes on Oleg the Usurper, Missile Assault Man tangles with the Proletariat Boar of Moldova (one of Achilles Heel’s favorite wrestling names), and there will be an “infinite gauntlet” match.