If you had predicted the lineup for Payback (8 p.m.), you would have been called delusional.
A.J. Styles is in the main event. Sami Zayn is battling Kevin Owens. Baron Corbin is on the card. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady will face the Vaudevillains (Simon Gotch and Aiden English), with the winners becoming the No. 1 contenders for the WWE Tag Team Championship. With the exception of Styles, all of these wrestlers spent time in NXT, which is another reason why that WWE-run organization is receiving a lot of attention from both fans and wrestlers.
In my most recent Heel Turns, I mentioned how WWE was relying on new faces. With John Cena, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins sidelined by injuries, there are opportunities for wrestlers to rise to the top of the card. That has certainly come true for Payback.
Styles, who made his WWE debut as a competitor in the Royal Rumble, is the first major challenger for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship since Roman Reigns regained the title at WrestleMania 32. The Greek God of Wrestling can’t see Styles winning the title. At least not yet. Reigns should retain, possibly due to Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson costing their “friend,” Styles, the championship.
Zayn and Owens square off in what should an outstanding match. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a rivalry that runs all the way through SummerSlam.
Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho should also produce a good match. If this is a one-match rivalry, Ambrose should win. If WWE is going to continue this feud until Jericho takes a leave to concentrate on his music career, Jericho could win using underhanded tactics.
There are two more title matches at Payback. Charlotte defends the WWE Women’s Championship against Natalya, with Ric Flair in his daughter’s corner and Bret Hart, Natalya’s uncle, in the other corner. Achilles Heel thinks Charlotte holds onto this title until Sasha Banks takes it from her, but it’s possibly Natalya could have a short reign as a reward for being a good soldier.
The Miz defends the Intercontinental Championship against Cesaro. It would be great for Cesaro to win the title, but it almost would be a shame to take the belt off of Miz just as his career is heating up due to a companionship with Maryse.
Dolph Ziggler battles the much bigger Baron Corbin. It wouldn’t make sense to have Corbin lose his first high-profile match, so Achilles Heel is going with the Lone Wolf in this match. Amore and Cassady are more “over” than the Vaudevillains, so I expect Amore and Cassady to win – unless interference by Gallows and Anderson causes a no-decision. The New Day may also make an appearance during this match.
In the kickoff match during the 7-8 p.m. “preshow” hour, Ryback tries again to wrest the United States Championship from Kalisto, who successfully defended the title against Ryback during the WrestleMania 32 kickoff show.
The other newsworthy event that is supposed to be part of Payback is Vince McMahon announcing who will have control of RAW, his son (Shane McMahon) or The Authority, which consists of his daughter (Stephanie) and Triple H. The Greek God of Wrestling suspects there will be dual control or some sort of sibling competition set up to see who can do a better job with RAW.
If you’ve been pining for new faces in WWE, you should get a lot of enjoyment out of Payback.
CHYNA DIES: The Greek God of Wrestling sends his condolences to the friends and family of Chyna, whose civilian name was Joan Laurer. Chyna, 46, died on April 20 from what her manager said was an accidental overdose of a prescription sleeping pill (Ambien) and tranqulizer (Valium).
Chyna was best-known in the ring as Triple H’s bodyguard, an unusual role for a woman. But Chyna wasn’t an ordinary woman. She was bit and extremely strong. She defeated male wrestlers, even defeating Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship.
Unfortunately, Chyna’s life away from the ring was tumultuous. She made sex tapes, was involved in contentious relationships and there were rumors of drug use. Listening to her public appearances, it seemed she never found peace and happiness away from the ring. Her life – and death – should serve as a cautionary tale for all wrestlers.
NO ORDINARY JOE: Samoa Joe defeated Finn Balor for the NXT Championship at a house show in Lowell, Mass. Balor had the longest reign as NXT champion. There are rumors that Balor will move to WWE, but he is still scheduled for future NXT events (and that’s all Achilles Heel is going to say because he detests spoilers).
YOUNG AND RESTLESS: Former TNA mainstay Eric Young made a surprise appearance on NXT, challenging Samoa Joe to a match. Could Bobby Roode be far behind? Or is he ticketed to WWE’s main roster?
BUSY WEEKEND: CHIKARA has a busy weekend coming up, with matches at First Energy Stadium in Reading and two events at The Wrestle Factory in Philadelphia.
After the Fightin’ Phils play on Friday night, CHIKARA will present at least three matches. Announced matches include Dasher Hatfield vs. the Proletariat Boar of Moldova (one of the great names in wrestling), Thunderfrog vs. Hallowicked (two more great names), and Fire Ant vs. Officer Warren Barksdale.
The following day, CHIKARA presents “Whisper House” and “The Distant Future” at The Wrestle Factory at 4711 Wingate St. in Philly. Announced matches at Whisper House (2 p.m.) include Princess KimberLee defending the Grand Championship against Jaka;, Silver Ant vs. Frightmare; Soldier Ant vs. Hallowicked; and N_R_G vs. Juan Francisco and Prakash Sabar.
In The Distant Future (7 p.m.), the scheduled main event is the Infinite Gauntlet, which is a 33-person Royal Rumble-style match in which wrestlers can be eliminated via pinfall in addition to being thrown over the top rope to the floor.
SWEET HOME, CHICAGO: One week after WWE’s Payback in Chicago, Ring of Honor will present “Global Wars” in Chicago Ridge. The main event on May 8 involves Jay Lethal defending the Ring of Honor World Championship against Colt Cabana. The Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship is also on the line, with Mark and Jay Briscoe challenging War Machine (Raymond Rowe, Hanson).
New Japan Wrestling will also be represented at Global Wars. Tomohiro Ishii defends the Ring of Honor Television Championship against Bobby Fish. Kyle O’Reilly, Fish’s tag team partner, will face IWGP Heavyweight champion Tetsuya Naito in a non-title bout.
Michael Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi battle Kazuchika Okada and Moose. Justin Liger teams with Cheeseburger to face Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. Kurhida, Matt Sydal, Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin team up to face the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga, Tanga Roa).
TNA TITLE CHANGES: TNA finally showed the title changes that were taped in March. Bram defeated Eric Young for the King of the Mountain title. The Decay beat Bobby Roode and James Storm for the TNA Tag Team Championship. Young has already arrived in NXT. Roode is likely to land in NXT or WWE.
Meanwhile, Drew Galloway and Ethan Carter III continue to do a wonderful job carrying the load despite the shrinking talent pool at TNA.
DOUBLEHEADER: Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU) and Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) combine for another doubleheader May 14 at Flyers Skate Zone in Vorhees, N.J. WSU presents Unshakable (4 p.m.), followed by CZW’s Prelude to Violence (8 p.m.).
ALL IN THE FAMILY? WWE’s online promotional banner for Payback features The Wyatt Family. As far as the Greek God of Wrestling can tell, the Wyatt Family is not listed as being a part of Payback.
MINOR LEAGUE: Much like the actual League of Nations – an ineffective world organization created after World War I, for you ignoramuses out there – WWE’s League of Nations has apparently broken up. After they kicked out Wade Barrett following WrestleMania, Sheamus, Rusev and Alberto Del Rio have apparently gone their separate ways.
Although Achilles Heel wasn’t completely against the concept of the League of Nations, I thought it was a mistake to put Del Rio in the group. He already had a championship and he hadn’t been back in WWE for very long when the group formed. Now he has to re-establish himself as a top singles wrestler, as do Rusev and Sheamus. None of them are part of Payback.