We’re officially back to calling these bad-boys pay-per-views (Special Events didn’t work) but I can’t help but feel like this Sunday’s Payback is sub-PPV. This may be the reality of post-WWE Network PPVs, but I think this is bad booking and a horribly promoted PPV in any era. WWE TV hasn’t been good lately, that’s just the reality. Rating are starting to suffer as this week’s Raw was the lowest rated non-NFL competition rating in quite some time. Anyway you spin it, things aren’t going well and the booking may have a lot to do with it.

None of the top programs have any juice and the top stars of the company all seem stuck in middling, worthless feuds. Daniel Bryan, recovering from neck surgery, has an ultimatum on the table for Payback — vacate the WWE Championship or his wife Brie Bella is fired. Yawn. John Cena and Bray Wyatt are doing something, I’m not even sure what the feud is hoping to accomplish anymore other than slowly turning Bray Wyatt into a babyface. The matches between the two have not been great. Their WrestleMania XXX match was polarizing, some loved it, some hated it. Their Cage Match at Extreme Rules… not so much. It was almost universally lauded and for good reason, it was one of the worst booked major matches in quite some time. Hopefully, for the good of the fans and the competitors their feud ends Sunday. We’ll see.

This card isn’t without some intriguing matchups,  Sheamus vs. Cesaro should be a lot of fun given their past encounters. If given a proper amount of time, this could emerge as not only the Match of the Night but one of WWE’s best matches of the year. The Shield and Evolution will end their long-running feud in a blowoff No Holds Barred Elimination Match. We know Batista is going away, we know The Shield is going to win this feud and we have to assume Roman Reigns will continue his upward momentum, but how do we get there? This will be a lot of fun, again, if given the time it deserves. The Shield will come away from this feud at a positive but what’s next for Evolution, specifically Randy Orton?

Pre-Show Match
Mask vs. Hair Match
El Torito vs. Hornswoggle

Rich Kraetsch: Hornswoggle recently tweeted something to the effect of “Look at my beautiful hair” which is pretty much a guarantee that the hairs gotta go. It’s the right move anyway, you can’t unmask El Torito this early in the game. Is it sad that thing may be my 2nd most anticipated match of the night? Seriously, I’m really looking forward to this as both guys are outstanding competitors, solid in-ring and though it’s supposed to be played for comedy, the guys go out there and work their ass off.

Prediction: El Torito

Bryan Rose: Well, this one is easy. Hornswoggle’s hair is long and I guess it’s time to go. Then again, WWE’s booking this week…you know? But I think Hornswoggle’s getting a new ‘do. And I’m guessing he will be strapped to a little barber chair and a little barber will shave it off.

Prediction: El Torito

Jason Felix: I just did research and determined that if WWE did not retire the Cruiserweight Title in 2007, Hornswoggle would have held the title all the way until his loss on Smackdown to Torito.  A nice little seven year title reign, eh?  I don’t get this feud at all.  If they want a short people division,  they need more than two guys.  This is their fourth match in the last five or six weeks.  That’s even bad for WWE standards.  Expect more of the same from these two and expect Hornswoggle to get a hair cut.

Prediction: El Torito

Blake Murphy: Yeah, they’re really gonna unmask him, kill a character they obviously love and have to stop referring to El Torito as an actual miniature bull. Sure. Hornswoggle entered the E with a shaved dome, anyway, so no biggie there. This match should be fun and a nice way to ease into the card but I doubt it tops their Wee-L-C bout.

Prediction: El Torito

Big E.  vs. Alexander Rusev

Rich: Rusev will definitely crush but this could be his longest match to date unless I’m totally misreading the future of Big E in WWE.

Prediction: Rusev

Bryan: This will probably be more competitive than other Rusev matches, but WWE’s lost interest in Big E. It’s really sad as he’s someone with potential, but that’s just the mentality right now in WWE. It’s not the right mentality to have considering how shallow the WWE active roster pool is right now, but hey that’s just me, I guess. Rusev wins.

Prediction:  Rusev

Jason: Rusev. Camel Clutch.

Prediction: Rusev

Blake: Rusev is a Clippers fan. Putin was once given a Clippers jersey. Rusev continues to squash wrestlers of a certain ethnicity. Adam SIlver ain’t walking through that door, Big E. Hopefully, though, we get Rusev’s first competitive match and Big E. starts a return to relevance.

Prediction: Donald Sterling’s Russian Destruction Machine

WWE U.S. Heavyweight Title Match
WWE Linear Title Match
Sheamus vs. Cesaro

Rich: Spoiler alert for the heading here, Sheamus is the new Linear Champion after beating Barrett on Smackdown so this match has some extra juice to it (well, not really). Regardless, I’m super pumped for this. Two dudes wailing on one another for a good 15-20 minutes, I’m in for that. They had a great match on Main Event a few weeks ago, great contests a year ago and I have no doubt that this will be the best match on the card. The winner… that’s not so easy. Sheamus seems like the easy pick but the arrow is clearly pointed up for Cesaro, so he may have to win this to keep the momentum alive.

Prediction: Cesaro

Bryan: So I’m not sure why this match exists. They took Cesaro out of the IC title tournament last month because they didn’t want to put a geek belt on him. So a month later, here we are? They did an angle on Raw where Sheamus sustained concussion like symptoms. So I’m guessing either Sheamus overcomes the odds and beats him (dumb) or a stoppage (dumb) or Cesaro takes the title (dumb). If I had to guess, Sheamus will overcome the odds.

Prediction: Sheamus

Jason: Cesaro is on fire right now.  So as much as he seems like the obvious pick, then why didn’t they just put him in the Battle Royal a month ago to give him the title. They wrestled to a double countout on Main Event a couple weeks back in a non-title match. And if WWE doesn’t have a champion lose in a non-title match, you know that they want to protect them.  The added intrigue is the Linear Title, which Seamus just won.  I really think this will be a great match. I’m taking Sheamus because this just doesn’t feel like time to switch the belt.

Prediction: Sheamus

Blake: This match has the potential to be the best or second-best on the card (behind the six-man), as these two have a nice chemistry and can both put on a hell of a brawl. Cesaro’s momentum has stalled some since the pairing with Paul Heyman (and boy, I never thought I’d write that) and Sheamus doesn’t really need a midcard title at this point, so the choice seems clear from a booking standpoint, though the outcome isn’t. Given the proper time, both guys will come away looking strong, which is all that really matters. In the end, though, Sheamus just has too many limes, allowing Cesaro to pull out the W.

Prediction: Cesaro

WWE Diva’s Title Match
Paige vs. Alicia Fox

Rich: This is a huge match to determine the future of Paige. No, she’s not bound to get fired but if they take the title off of her, in one of the worst reigns of any champion in quite some time, it would be quite disappointing. She needs to win and win strong here, it’s the right move. Will they do that? Who knows. The Alicia Fox thing is a stupid little distractions but it will stop getting over soon, so giving her the title would be quite odd. Paige needs to dominate this match and win cleanly.

Prediction: Paige

Bryan: After a month of trying to get Paige over..by destroying her in every match just to squeak by with a win (what?) here we are with a match where Alicia Fox, who has a new gimmick of destroying things and going crazy after matches, is probably more over than her. That’s WWE’s really shodding booking in the last month more than anything. Unless they’re done with trying to push Paige, I don’t see the reason to take it off of her. The post match will be far more interesting than the actual contest.

Prediction: Paige

Blake: They debut Paige to great excitement, have her win the Diva’s Title on her first night, show her crying in celebration and then…not much, really. I get that Alicia Fox got hot and you have to run with that, but the complete lack of focus on getting Paige’s character across to the masses has been annoying. Luckily, Fox’s character has already been set up such that she won’t really be hurt by a loss (maybe even the opposite), so there’s no real risk in booking Paige strong and credibly here. The actual match should be really good, too.

Prediction: Paige

WWE Intercontinental Title Match
Bad News Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam

Rich: Remember when I said WWE would give up on the Intercontinental Title in a few weeks, well I was half right, instead it took them pretty much a week to completely destroy the whole thing and stop caring. Barrett had tremendous momentum and now it’s all but over, great work as always. Couldn’t care less about this match, RVD in 2014 does nothing for me and I don’t expect this to be very good.

Prediction: Bad New Barrett

Bryan: WWE’s incredible booking this week had them both losing matches, so why should I care? I guess Barrett retains. Anything with RVD in it in 2014 sounds really boring.

Prediction:  Bad News Barrett

Jason: So…WWE decided that Barrett was too hot of a character. So they had him stop wrestling AGAIN, promptly have him lose when he comes back (well…this Friday on Smackdown) and now he’s back at the level he always was at. Amazing how quickly that happened, as last month, he was THE MAN! Oh well.   Despite his cool down, he’ll beat RVD. I have nothing I can possibly say that can accurately analyze RVD in 2014 other than the word “why?”

Prediction: Bad News Barrett

Blake: I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news: the WWE continues to have no clue what to do with midcard titles. Barrett won the strap in a fun tournament, found his groove and was rolling, then got paired with an ice-cold RVD. Not only that, but there’s little actual storyline here, and both participants have been made to look weaker than their US Title counterparts. Barrett obviously gets the win, but his first feud as champion should have been one that helped elevate him, not deflate him.

Prediction: Bad News Barrett

No Holds Barred Elimination Match
The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins) vs. Evolution (Triple H, Randy Orton, Dave Batista)

Rich: This could be a lot of fun. Also ready for the feud to conclude but this could and should be a great send off for whats been an uneventful but entertaining battle. The Shield are definitely winning here but the big question is how they do so, who survives, who gets elimiated. I am of the mindset they use this as yet another launching pad for Roman Reigns and perhaps have him go 3-on-1 or 2-on-1 with Evolution but then I wonder if that makes Ambrose and Rollins look weak. Perhaps all three could just survive and look dominant? I’m not sure. I hope more than anything this one gets a lot of time as rushed Elimination matches are the dirt worst. I’m going with The Shield and I’m going with Roman Reigns as the sole survivor.

Prediction: The Shield – Roman Reigns survives

Bryan: They had a great match last month, and this month I expect the same. This is the only match that has been pushed extensively in the last month, so I am also expecting it to headline the show and get a lot of time, especially since Bryan is hurt and in an angle. I don’t see Evolution winning, especially after the beatdown on Raw. Add to the fact that Batista is probably gone after the show (I say probably because plans change) and it seems the Shield will stand victorious and we can all finally move on.

Prediction:  The Shield

Jason: When this match was announced,  I Tweeted,  “Sweet.  I hope they go 45 minutes.”  That’s why I’ll never be a wrestling booker.  It’s still my hope.  You’ve got 6 guys  (all of whom have been really protected over the years) and doing lightning pinfalls after they went 18 minutes last month just won’t be productive.   I expect this will be a really good match.   It wouldn’t surprise me if The Shield won by taking all three of Evolution out without even taking an elimination.  In fact, Triple H even hinted at that, saying Evolution would do that to The Shield. I’ll go with that option.  Shield takes out Big Dave last, explaining his impending leave.

Prediction: The Shield – Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns survive

Blake: I can’t see this match being anything but excellent. Their previous bout, and the entire storyline, really, was excellent, and the addition of the elimination format adds interesting storytelling wrinkles. We’ve heard a lot (if you read the dirtscreens) about how this feud was handpicked to further elevate The Shield, so you’d think they come out clean. If that happens, though, where do they go from here? It almost seems like the turn everyone has been waiting for should happen here, but it may be too predictable. Instead, I’d guess The Shield are booked to look strong, as usual, with all three standing tall. Batista being the first eliminated gives a storyline reason to remove him from the Authority picture (“you left us 3-on-2”), while Orton and Triple H aren’t much worse for the wear since they can blame the numbers game.

Prediction: The Shield – All three survive

Bray Wyatt Questions Jerry Lawler's Actions: Raw, May 26,

Last Man Standing Match
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt

Rich: Is this really still happening? What’s this feud even about anymore, I honestly don’t know. Seriously, I thought it was to bring the evil out of John Cena and turn the children against him or something… maybe I’m wrong. Whatever, I’ve hated this series of matches, some of the worst of the year including an unberable Cage match at Extreme Rules. Ready for this one to be over and thankfully, I think it will be. Cena wins because he’s Cena and of course. I’d be ballsy to have Wyatt win the feud but I just can’t see it happening.

Prediction: John Cena

Bryan:  Although I liked their segment on Raw, it’s about time this one ended. Wyatt hasn’t really gotten any favors from this feud except a new song, which is already extremely repetitive but it’s now his thing so…yeah. I didn’t hate the cage match as much as others, and I think this match will be fine, but I don’t see Wyatt winning. Cena is the hero and has to overcome the odds. Again. Which I’m fine with because at this point it’s just time to move on.

Prediction: John Cena

Jason: I was watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? a few days ago and Colin stood in front of a Green Screen playing a On The Scene News Reporter. However, he couldn’t see what was playing on the screen. The audience and cast members shrieked in horror as what was showing on the screen: A montage of some graphic dental procedures.  John Cena and Bray Wyatt are Colin. We are the ones who see the drills and root canals. (In case you’re interested, watch it instead of the match)

Prediction: John Cena

Blake: Look, if this isn’t the time and scenario for Cena to really put a heel over as a strong and credible force, I’m not sure when is. Wyatt has “it,” and while it’s tough to craft a story from a Wyatt win – what does Cena say to save face on Monday? – it’s also pretty much impossible to see Wyatt going anywhere meaningful without a win. I’m not sure how they get there, but I think Cena is kept down for the 10-count, fairly or otherwise. Of course, that means the feud will continue, so maybe we’re better off with hero Cena winning.

Prediction: Bray Wyatt