WWE Payback 2016 Predictions: Will The Bullet Club Really Debut?

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With WrestleMania 32 having been a largely underwhelming display of questionable booking that was more-or-less completely retconned by the following evening’s episode of RAW, the Payback match card is shaping up to be a much better show, and in terms of actual wrestling, could be one of the most entertaining WWE PPVs in quite some time.

With a selection of former indie darlings and fan favorites squaring off against one another, the entire match card feels like an elongated apology to those of who sat through over 4 hours of one of the most inconsequential ‘Mania’s of all time. It’s also looking set to contain a few surprises, with Finn Balor predicted to make an appearance and reform the popular NJPW faction Bullet Club.

So what should you expect from the event? Will Bullet Club debut? Will Dean Ambrose finally get a high-profile win over a veteran? Will Zack Ryder appear from out of the rafters to steal the Intercontinental title during The Miz and Cesaro’s match, only to never be seen again? Here are my Payback 2016 predictions:

The Miz vs. Cesaro

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With The Miz only having recently snagged the Intercontinental title from Zack Ryder, whose push has pretty much vanished at this point thanks to WrestleMania 32 essentially being non-canonical, it seems unlikely that he’d drop it in such a short period of time. While Cesaro is fresh from his return, Miz has been doing some great, underrated heel work recently, with his in-ring performances having also drastically improved. Miz is one of very few old-fashioned heels in the company right now, generating genuine heat as opposed to the largely positive response received by the likes of Kevin Owens. The Miz deserves to retain and a loss won’t exactly hurt Cesaro, who will continue to swirl around various title pictures for the foreseeable future. Expect Miz to snag this one, with some inevitable help from his wife Maryse. 

Prediction: The Miz

 

Enzo & Cass vs. The Vaudevillains

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Considering how swiftly Enzo & Cass are climbing up the ranks as two of the most popular characters on WWE’s roster, helped in no small part by Enzo Amore’s world class mic skills, the smart money would obviously be on them defeating The Vaudevillains and going on to challenge The New Day for the Tag Team titles. However, I don’t think that’ll be the case. With New Day arguably the most beloved babyfaces on the roster, and with Enzo & Cass steadily rivaling them in this department, pitting the two against one another may be detrimental to the popularity of the NXT alumni. As such, I can see The Dudleyz interfering in this Payback match-up, costing Enzo & Cass their number one contenders slot and crowning The Vaudevillains the unlikely champions.

Prediction: The Vaudevillains

 

Natalya vs. Charlotte

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Natalya is essentially fitting the bill as the “Kane feud” for Charlotte at this point. A Kane feud is a feud that typically plagues the World Heavyweight Championship the PPV after WrestleMania, wherein the new champion is forced to defend his title against someone he’s quite clearly not going to lose against and is mostly irrelevant in the current state of the company, but who is trusted by the WWE to put on a reasonable match until something interesting happens.

The Charlotte and Natalya feud has been mostly forgettable, but has now been made slightly more interesting by way of Natalya countering Charlotte’s insistence upon wheeling the corpse of Ric Flair to ringside every week, by announcing that at Payback she’ll have Bret Hart in her corner. At this point Natalya has called upon Bret Hart so many times that Natalya’s real dad, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, must be waiting for custody papers to show up on his doorstep at any time. Charlotte will win this one and continue holding that beautiful white-and-red belt for the foreseeable future.

Prediction: Charlotte

 

Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho

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Prior to WrestleMania 32 I would have been 99.9% certain that Dean Ambrose would pick up the victory here, given Chris Jericho’s insistence on doing the job for every newcomer in the WWE ever (remember Fandango? Jericho probably wishes he didn’t). However, after he picked up the clean win against AJ Styles on the Grandest Stage of Them All, my perception of what is right and wrong has been shattered and I no longer know what to believe. Ambrose winning would also be at odds with his current gimmick, “the guy who loses in the shittiest ways possible,” with him fresh off of two humiliating defeats – the first to Brock Lesnar after being thrown onto a few chairs, and the second to the top rope on this week’s SmackDown! which you can watch in all its glory below:

But even though WWE are confident that Ambrose can lose all of his matches and still somehow be perceived as a credible threat to anyone, it would fly in the face of all logic if he didn’t at least pick up a win against veteran Y2J, who’s had more than enough victories since his return to the squared circle to take a loss here without it diminishing his value.

Prediction: Dean Ambrose

 

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn

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WWE hasn’t done a very good job with Sami Zayn’s move to the main roster. While Kevin Owens was given time to forge his own identity, eventually becoming one of the more interesting characters on the entire roster after the WWE audience became acclimatized to his unique heel work, Sami Zayn has been introduced as “that guy Kevin Owens doesn’t like.” With the motivation behind the pair’s feud having not been outlined outside of them routinely beating the shit out of one another, and commentary referencing the “heated rivalry” the duo share without ever going into detail its context, for those who weren’t privy to their time in the indies or haven’t done their own research at home, the build-up to their Payback match hasn’t really sold Sami Zayn as a character in his own right.

I’m sure that time will come, but with Owens being such a massive personality it feels like Zayn has been overshadowed, with him not being given the ability to really establish himself in front of WWE fans. This also hasn’t been helped by the fact that he’s routinely lost matches since debuting on the main roster, despite having put on routinely great matches. While an equally likely outcome is that this match doesn’t receive a proper outcome, with it perhaps going to a double count-out as a result of the pair’s animosity for one another not being able to be contained in the ring, I feel that Sami Zayn may pull off the upset victory here and that this rivalry will continue to boil over into the next few PPVs as a result.

 

Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles

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While it’s pretty much universally accepted that Roman Reigns will retain his title here, given that it’s highly unusual for a World Heavyweight Champion to drop the belt on the PPV immediately following WrestleMania, the aftermath of this match is what has got so many people excited. With Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson having now debuted, there are now three members of NJPW’s famous Bullet Club on the main WWE roster, alongside AJ Styles.

With Anderson and Gallows having already made it known that they’ll have some impact on this match, given how they attacked Reigns on the April 18th edition of RAW, it still hasn’t been confirmed whether or not they’re actually on AJ Styles’ side in this battle. With Styles having claimed that he had nothing to do with the attack, and with both Anderson and Gallows having betrayed him back in NJPW, there’s a huge question mark hanging over this match and how Payback will close out. There’s a recurring suggestion that Finn Balor will become involved given his previous ties to the Bullet Club, a rumor that has been bolstered by the loss of his NXT title to Samoa Joe at an untelevised NXT event, along with him having told fans that he’ll see them “on Monday” in an Instagram video that swiftly went viral. If that’s not enough, some are even tossing about the idea that the Shield may reform in order to take on the Bullet Club in stable warfare.

 I’m just as clueless as anyone else, but if I were to guess, I’d be on the side of those who believe we’ll be seeing Balor teaming up with Gallows and Anderson in order to take on Styles, leading to a feud between the NXT star and The Phenomenal One. 

But aside from all that, yes, Roman Wins LOL.

Prediction: Roman Reigns