The first pay-per-view after WrestleMania is always an interesting one, as WWE has the challenge of holding the fans’ interest following the biggest event of the year. Less than a month after over 100,000 fans saw WrestleMania 32 in person, WWE Payback 2016 could deliver a few important moments on Sunday in Chicago that will shape WWE going forward.
Roman Reigns will have his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship title defense since beating Triple H for the belt in Dallas. He’ll face AJ Styles in a match that has a good chance to feature a heel turn, though it’s uncertain which WWE superstar will make the change in character.
In addition to the matches, Vince McMahon will determine whether Shane McMahon or Stephanie McMahon will control “Monday Night Raw.” Even though he lost his WrestleMania match to The Undertaker, Shane is likely to get the nod, putting an end to The Authority.
Below is a look at the entire card for WWE Payback 2016, as well as predictions for each match.
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles (WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match)
WWE was determined to make Reigns the champ, despite the fans’ negative reactions in the build for WrestleMania 32, so it isn’t likely that he’ll lose on Sunday. But the involvement of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in the storyline makes this match intriguing. Gallows and Anderson have looked to help Styles in each of the last few weeks, but don’t be surprised if they turn on him at Payback. An appearance from former NXT champion Finn Balor is also possible, since he led the Bullet Club with Gallows and Anderson when they all wrestled in Japan.
Prediction: Roman Reigns
Charlotte vs. Natalya (WWE Women’s Championship Match)
Even with Bret Hart in her corner, Natalya isn’t beating Charlotte for the title. That honor is likely being reserved for Sasha Banks, possibly at SummerSlam, but Charlotte and Natalya could end up having the best match on the card.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
The feud between Zayn and Owens has so much history that it will certainly extend beyond Payback. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this match end in a DQ, but Owens might be the more likely wrestler to win and extend the feud.
Prediction: Kevin Owens
The Miz vs. Cesaro (Intercontinental Championship Match)
This match could go either way, and Cesaro could be headed for big things in the near future. But he doesn’t need the title right away, and the recent on-screen pairing of The Miz and Maryse might mean that the champ will hold onto the belt, at least for now.
Prediction: The Miz
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
Jericho is the king of putting over younger talent, and after beating Styles at WrestleMania, it’d be surprising to see him win at a second straight pay-per-view. The fact that Jericho has gotten the better of Ambrose in each of the last two weeks also means Ambrose is likely to get the win.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose
Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin
WWE seems to be pretty high on Corbin since he won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and he’s not going to lose his first PPV match on the main roster. Ziggler’s best trait is his ability to make other wrestlers look good in the ring, and he’ll do that on Sunday by taking End of Days and getting pinned to end the match.
Prediction: Baron Corbin
Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady vs. The Vaudevillains (Tag Team Championship Match)
Enzo and Big Cass have a brighter future than The Vaudevillains, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to get a shot at the tag team championship right away. The New Day recently became babyfaces, so it makes more sense for The Vaudevillains to get a shot at the title right now. Enzo and Cass could move onto a feud with the Dudley Boyz before finally getting the titles in the summer.
Prediction: The Vaudevillains
Kalisto vs. Ryback (United States Championship Kickoff Match)
There has been little build for this rematch, indicating there likely won’t be a title change. Ryback’s heel turn ahead of WrestleMania 32 has not resulted in much, and he’ll probably lose a second straight U.S. Championship match.