SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
File me under the category of “I have no earthly idea why WWE is running a PPV a mere seven days after the second biggest show of their calendar year.”
Is it to get Roman Reigns wrestling on a show sooner rather than later? Maybe? Reigns clearly is a draw for the company and turned quite a few heads after making his run-in at Summerslam on Sunday, but does trotting him out to the ring in a title match with one Smackdown and seven days worth of build really get the most out of his return? If patience were in WWE’s DNA, they’d be able to milk the Reigns return for and entire month and in turn drive ratings up and create a suitable story that enhances his appearances.
Is it a passive-aggressive attempt to sabotage AEW’s All Out PPV the week after? Maybe? Vince McMahon certainly has acted pettier than that would be and the WWE as a company and McMahon have a history of compromising other promotions and other shows by forcing fans to load up on content in an effort to wear them out financially so they choose his product and his product only. However, AEW fans are a passionate audience. Asking them to choose between a show with a week’s worth of hype versus a show with three months worth is going to illicit a reaction that’s unfavorable to McMahon.
Is it to maintain WWE Network subscribers coming out of Summerslam? No. Most fans that purchased the Network for Summerslam will maintain access for Payback. WWE is not cultivating renewals with a move like this.
How about WWE ThunderDome? I’ll bite on that. WWE spent countless financial resources and man-hours creating their virtual fan environment and now they want to use it. Vince has always loved his new toys.
Regardless of the reason, WWE Payback comes to us live this weekend. The card has four matches announced thus far with the main hook being Roman Reigns. Call this a preview, a calm look into the distant future, or a gaze into a wondrous crystal ball; just don’t hold me to anything, ok?
Bayley & Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
I didn’t want to look on Monday night. Jax and Baszler hurling elementary school level insults at each other was a train wreck of epic proportions and severely hurt the credibility of Baszler. Where oh where has her confidence gone? Since when does she ask someone nicely to leave her alone? Nothing is right on that side of the coin. Not only do Jax and Baszler clearly not have any chemistry together from a personality perspective, they were thrown together as a team out of the blue without enough of a current story as to why. Banks and Bayley are what they are and I’m looking at this match to further the story between them. Losing the tag titles is step one on the path to a breakdown and I expect to see that here in an effort to start igniting their feud while legitimizing Baszler and Jax together after an abomination of a start on Monday night.
Apollo Crews vs. Bobby Lashley – WWE United States Championship
Finally, right? This should have always been the match and the rivalry. MVP has been tremendously good mid-card foil for Apollo Crews, but taking the title matches himself rather than further boost his client in Lashley was always a bit of head scratcher. This will be a good match and one that continues to keep the United States Championship in a worthwhile state. Lashley needs this win. Crews has been a suitable champion, but Lashley has all the upside in the world. This victory helps to eventually turn that upside into something real that WWE can build off of.
Keith Lee vs. Randy Orton
On one hand, it’s nice to see Keith Lee debut with a lot of fanfare against one of WWE’s top main roster stars in Randy Orton. On the other hand, in his debut Monday night, Lee was stripped of the opportunity to shine like the star he is. Going toe to toe with Orton on the microphone was a positive, but the altered entrance music and goofy getup took away from the authenticity that Lee typically brings with him to the ring. Sunday will be telling. Lee needs to shine and be positioned as Orton’s equal. A win would tell the audience that Lee is someone to pay attention to. Lee will get his win, but it will come with the help of a returning and revenge driven Drew McIntyre. Is that scenario worst case for Lee? Obviously not, but the audience who knows Lee will see it as WWE hedging with his push.
Roman Reigns vs. The Fiend vs. Braun Strowman – WWE Universal Championship
WWE gets its top star back just in time to help freshen up the stagnant Fiend vs. Strowman program. This should be a hot match with all eyes on Roman Reigns and the question being will he be the same old, same old in terms of character, or a bit enhanced and less of a superhero that we saw prior to his hiatus. Reigns vs. The Fiend seems like the long game, which leaves Braun Strowman on the outside looking in. There is money in the babyface chasing the championship. Putting the belt on Reigns after a one week build gobbles up weeks worth of content and hype around Reigns chasing the Fiend. I don’t see WWE leaving that on the table. Look for Reigns to be protected, with the Fiend walking out as champion to leave Roman with a mountain to climb and overcome.
NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: Don’t hold me to this – WWE Summerslam 2020