Ah, feels like just last week we were gearing up for another over-bloated WWE pay-per-view. Due to the insane turnaround from one of their biggest shows of the year into a PPV that gets confused with Fastlane, we only have a total of four matches announced so far for Payback. Don’t worry, though, because I’m sure they’ll come up with plenty of Strowman kickouts and rambling Styles promos to keep us there until 10 on the dot. Maybe we’ll even see an extra special episode of Raw Underground live from the nearest Wawa parking lot.
United States Championship: Apollo Crews (c) vs Bobby Lashley
After handily defeating MVP in a SummerSlam kickoff match that was way too short for someone as talented as he is, Apollo is back to take on MVP’s Hurt Business coworker in Bobby Lashley. This will probably also be on the kickoff, because Raw’s interest in the US title is far less than their interest in fighting extras in your weird friend’s unfinished basement.
Prediction: Apollo wins, hopefully both parties go onto another feud.
Women’s Tag Team Championships: The Golden Role Models (c) vs Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler
There’s nothing WWE loves more than throwing together two singles wrestlers instead of giving opportunities to actual tag teams. The duo of Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler is unexpected, but it’ll be interesting to see how their styles work together against Banks and Bayley, who have some of their own issues now that Banks has lost her Raw Women’s Championship.
Prediction: Golden Role Models retain, but we’ll see some more dissension between the BFFs. Baszler should be getting a singles title run, and hopefully we’ll be able to see Jax in real storylines a little more regularly.
Keith Lee vs Randy Orton
Keith Lee getting that immediate big push is exactly what the man deserves. He debuted on Monday night with a terrible new theme and some short shorts, but that same night we saw Orton punt McIntyre all the way back to Scotland, so it looks like he’ll need more than a wardrobe update to get past the Viper.
Prediction: I can’t see a future Mania main eventer like Lee losing his first big match, no matter how dumb the booking in this company is. Maybe McIntyre will interfere to get back at Orton.
Universal Championship: The Fiend Bray Wyatt (c) vs Braun Strowman vs Roman Reigns (Triple Threat)
Big dog is back in the yard! After taking out Strowman and The Fiend at the end of SummerSlam (which, again, was three days ago) Reigns has already gotten a Universal Title opportunity. I can’t be mad about it, because I don’t think anyone in the world was dying to see the Fiend and Strowman trade maniacal laughs in another month of this feud that fizzled in early July. At least we’re getting something a little different here.
Prediction: Even with Reigns in the mix, I’m actually gonna say The Fiend retains. There are a couple different options here that I would be down for, although absolutely none of them involve Strowman getting the title back.
For three days of promo from the evidently already understaffed graphic design department, this is a fine start to the card. But I’m a wrestling journalist with integrity, and I suffer from the disease known as growing up in capitalism, so I have to put in just a little bit more effort to feel like I’ve done some real work on this one. Here’s a few more matches that seem likely to pad out Sunday’s show:
Matt Riddle vs King Corbin
Corbin is still into Game of Thrones even in 2020, which takes both dedication and guts. He has also briefly allied with Shorty G, to give us the gift of a man in basketball gear saying things like “I want the king’s ransom.” I would probably be interested in this if it didn’t include Riddle.
Prediction: Matt Riddle has been accused of rape and shouldn’t be on television right now, but it’ll probably be him, because WWE has been very obvious about the fact that they don’t care.
Intercontinental Title: Jeff Hardy (c) vs AJ Styles
Hardy won the IC title on last week’s SmackDown with his new Inspector Gadget leg, even though AJ was backed up by Abyss in a suit and glasses. With the way they performed together, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see another bout between the two this week. Maybe they’ll do a knee brace on a pole gimmick. That’d be fun.
Prediction: Hardy should hold onto the title no matter who he faces. Styles has more than enough momentum to continue without the title.
SmackDown Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs Naomi
Okay, shot in the dark on this one, but I gotta manifest Naomi’s title shot into existence, because apparently WWE isn’t gonna do it on their own. She pinned Bayley during a beat the clock challenge on last week’s SmackDown, which could be leverage for another match between the two.
Prediction: Bayley would retain with her sneaky heel business.