We’ve already taken care of the superstars missing from Payback 2017, but as far as those who are lucky enough to perform on the pay-per-view, which ones are the most likely to steal the show?
Whether it’s in a scripted or a non-kayfabe sense, factoring in everything from wins/losses, how much of an emphasis WWE puts on that superstar, their momentum heading into the next television episode, match performance and all other aspects, here’s my shortlist of predictions for who I think will be coveting the most amount of the spotlight for this event:
Braun Strowman / Roman Reigns
I hope against hope that Braun Strowman wins this match, as he’s been the most interesting aspect of either Raw or SmackDown for weeks. He deserves to get a victory over Reigns, who already has a win between the two.
However, this is Roman Reigns we’re talking about. It’s hard not to assume he’s going to come out of this the victor as he has the same plot armor John Cena used to have. If there’s an obstacle to overcome, he’ll overcome it.
Why I have both of them listed here, though, is because it will be a 50/50 split. I have to assume Reigns will win the match, but it’s not going to endear him to the crowd. Likewise, I think Strowman will lose, but he’ll come out of this still looking better than before.
I can’t help but feel like Samoa Joe not only deserves this win, but that he needs it, after curiously being left off the WrestleMania card entirely, for whatever reason.
Fans from NXT as well as TNA are more than familiar with his work, but those who only watch Raw and/or SmackDown need to see him score a victory over an established star like Seth Rollins so he can appear to be the wrecking ball he has the potential to be.
Plus, Rollins just had his big win over Triple H at WrestleMania, so in comparison, he can take a loss and it isn’t going to set him back. A loss for Joe, though, definitely acts like a punch to the gut.
This is hard to tell, as WWE seems to not necessarily want the WWE Championship to be on the line, and whether or not it is makes a huge difference.
As much as I’d like to say Bray Wyatt will have a great showing here to allow him to build some momentum on his new roster, the WWE Championship being property of SmackDown calls for Randy Orton to retain if that’s the situation. In that regard, Orton undoubtedly comes out as the top guy.
Granted, that might not stop Wyatt from dominating the match, but with Orton’s character being what it is, it’s doubtful he’ll pull a John Cena comeback story rather than just being Wyatt’s equal—and then, at the end of the match, his superior.
We already know The Viper is going to clash with Jinder Mahal at Backlash (how crazy is that?) so while Mahal is the one who needs to up his credibility over the next few weeks, Orton certainly won’t fall short of looking like the rightful top dog on SmackDown…even though this is a Raw pay-per-view.
There’s still a possibility Bray Wyatt wins, though, and that they dropped the title defense specifically for the reason to have The Eater of Worlds win the match without winning the championship. I’m not confident enough in that prediction to give him the spot over Orton, but it’s certainly a potential outcome.
Much in the same vein as the Randy Orton situation, Kevin Owens is a gimme when it comes to retaining the United States Championship.
Chris Jericho’s status on the Raw roster is in jeopardy with this match, wherein if he wins, he will be the one to defend the title at Backlash against AJ Styles, not Owens.
If both Styles and Jericho weren’t babyfaces, it would be a little more questionable what the outcome will be, but once that No. 1 contender was established, it seemed to lock in that Owens would be coming out on top.
Jericho’s time for his current run in WWE is coming to a close and he won’t be wrestling at Backlash, nor would WWE give Owens this new “face of America” gimmick unless it had legs to last more than two or three weeks, so definitely put your money on KO coming out with a W-I-N.
Cesaro and Sheamus
I might be going out on a limb here, but even though I expect the championship to stay where it is with The Hardy Boyz, I can see Cesaro and Sheamus turning heel and stealing the focus away from just “who is going to walk out with the title?”
It would astonish me if this early in their championship reign and so soon after their return, Matt and Jeff Hardy would lose the Raw Tag Team Championship to a babyface tandem of Cesaro and Sheamus as it’s a lateral move.
The Swiss Superman and The Celtic Warrior went through their trials and tribulations as a duo that wanted nothing to do with each other, which was the more interesting story. Once they accomplished their goal of winning gold, they lost a lot of vigor and haven’t been able to recapture that magic even though they now work rather well as a team.
I’m still surprised it’s Cesaro and Sheamus who are even getting the title shot instead of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, as after WrestleMania, I didn’t expect WWE to rush their rematch, but that’s the situation we’re in now. In any case, it’s The Hardy Boyz who are the fresh nostalgia act and the current champions, which isn’t likely to change by the end of this event.
However…if Cesaro and Sheamus do in fact turn heel even if they don’t win the titles, that could easily surpass The Hardy Boyz as far as water cooler talk.
Those are my picks, but who do you think will end up being the primary focal points of this event? Drop your predictions in the comments below!