WWE Payback the latest in long line of June pay-per-view action
“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.” – Al Bernstein, writer/sportscaster
Ahhh, June. The sixth month of the year always has so much to look forward to, from the start of summer (and for many students, the end of the school year) to cookout and pool party conditions that verge on pristine. Just as important, the WWE Universe has come to rely on June as a major month for pay-per-view action over the past 20 years.
After the “Big Four” events — WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series — dominated WWE’s pay-per-view calendar for years, a new member was welcomed to the pay-per-view ranks with the debut of King of the Ring in June 1993. Since then, WWE has presented at least one pay-per-view per year in the month of June. There have been one-off events never to be seen or heard from again, as well as rare events produced under the initials of rejuvenated brands.
Through it all, however, there’s been one constant: When it comes to June, the temperature isn’t the only thing that’s hot. Don’t believe us? Dig into this pay-per-view retrospective and reacquaint yourself with some of the hottest summertime action to have taken place through the years.
King of the Ring
Between 1993 and 2002, there was no faster track to the top of the WWE standings than winning the annual King of the Ring tournament. Each June, the tournament’s victor received a crown and scepter on pay-per-view. Fancy regalia aside, King of the Ring was significant for launching Superstars into the main event scene. A stellar performance in the 1996 edition gave Steve Austin the confidence and platform he needed to reveal the true “Stone Cold” for the first time.
Even though the event was always considered just a notch below the WWE’s “Big Four” in terms of prestige, its lineage ironically predated all WWE mega-events other than The Grandest Stage of Them All: The first King of the Ring was held as a non-televised event in Foxborough, Mass., in July 1985. It continued annually until arriving to pay-per-view in 1993. A modified version of the tournament would also return in 2006, 2008 and 2010 — albeit during different times of the year and off pay-per-view.
There was only one home to the dreaded Hell in a Cell Match in 2003 and 2004, and Bad Blood was it. That’s only fitting, seeing as how Hell in a Cell made its ominous debut at the similarly named Badd Blood: In Your House in 1997. At both Bad Blood 2003 and 2004, the Cell matches involved Triple H battling allies-turned-enemies: in 2003, The Game successfully defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Kliq co-founder Kevin Nash; the following year, Triple H bested Shawn Michaels inside the Cell.
Bad Blood offered WWE fans notable matchups beyond the two journeys inside “Satan’s Prison,” including the dream bout of HBK vs. Ric Flair in 2003 and, in a callback to a WCW rivalry, Goldberg vs. Chris Jericho. History was made in 2004, meanwhile, when Trish Stratus won a Fatal 4-Way Match to earn her fifth Women’s Championship, a record at the time.
The Great American Bash/The Bash
Few events have the legacy that The Great American Bash boasted. Originally a summer tour promoted by Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980s, the patriotic event turned into an annual WCW pay-per-view before it died out with WWE's acquisition of the once-mighty wrestling conglomerate in 2001. However, The Great American Bash was resurrected as a SmackDown-branded pay-per-view in June 2004, featuring a main event that saw The Undertaker take down The Dudley Boys, two-on-one, in a “Concrete Crypt” Match.
From 2005 to 2008, The Great American Bash took place in July’s dog days of summer, before returning in 2009 by the simpler title, “The Bash.” Coincidentally, it was a Three Stages of Hell Match between ex-Evolution stablemates Triple H and Randy Orton that headlined that event — the same, hellish three-pronged stipulation match in which WWE Champion John Cena and Ryback will compete at WWE Payback.
One Night Stand/Extreme Rules
What began in 2005 as a reunion show for the extremely beloved but long-departed ECW had by 2008 transformed into the spiritual predecessor to the event now known as WWE’s Extreme Rules.
Taking place at New York’s relatively modest Hammerstein Ballroom (a regular stop for the original ECW), the first two iterations of One Night Stand aesthetically bore little resemblance to other pay-per-views produced by WWE. Though the 2005 installment was a tribute show through and through, featuring iconic ECW matchups along the lines of Masato Tanaka vs. Mike Awesome and Sabu vs. Rhyno, the 2006 edition represented WWE’s ill-fated relaunch of the extreme brand.
By 2007, One Night Stand had morphed into a more traditional WWE pay-per-view that included Superstars from all three WWE brands — Raw, SmackDown and ECW — but with a twist: all of the matches featured some type of extreme stipulation. That tradition carried into the following year before the One Night Stand title was dropped altogether, replaced by the similarly stipulation-heavy Extreme Rules in 2009.
Vengeance/Night of Champions
Whereas One Night Stand may have been the spiritual predecessor to Extreme Rules, the tale of Vengeance and Night of Champions is one of directly overlapping lineages. As a pay-per-view name, Vengeance existed in various forms since December 2001 (when Chris Jericho famously became the world’s first Undisputed Champion), but it wasn’t until 2005 that it became an annual June tradition.
The event featured Raw talent exclusively in 2005 and 2006, paving the way for such pivotal clashes as Triple H vs. Batista’s World Heavyweight Title Hell in a Cell Match in 2005, and Rob Van Dam vs. Edge for the WWE Championship Match in 2006. Things changed in 2007, when Vengeance added a colon and the subtitle, “Night of Champions,” and featured only title contests, culminating that year with a Five-Pack Challenge Match for John Cena's WWE Championship.
The champions-only theme continued into June 2008 and 2009, even though the “Vengeance” part of the title was jettisoned after the 2007 event, switched out in favor of simply “Night of Champions.”
In the annals of one-time pay-per-view events, June 2010’s Fatal 4-Way ranks high in the creativity department, if nothing else. Of the six matches featured in the pay-per-view, three— all championship contests — were contested as Fatal 4-Way Matches.
Astoundingly, all three of those title matches gave way to new champions: Alicia Fox won her first Divas Championship by outlasting Eve, Gail Kim and Maryse; Rey Mysterio earned his second World Championship with a victory over CM Punk, Jack Swagger and Big Show; and in the main event, Sheamus became the WWE Champion for a second time by defeating John Cena, Randy Orton and Edge.
Novel though it was, the Fatal 4-Way concept pay-per-view has yet to resurface.
Paying homage to its host city of Washington, D.C., WWE’s June pay-per-view took on the moniker Capitol Punishment in 2011. In turn, the D.C. overtones were fairly heavy-handed: The poster art included caricatures of Rey Mysterio, John Cena and President Barack Obama; the event’s entrance stage was modeled after the Capitol Building; and in the weeks leading up to Capitol Punishment, WWE cobbled together parody “ press conference” vignettes in which the U.S. commander in chief fielded questions about the big event. (One such query saw President Obama “respond” to a query about the then-anonymous General Manager of Raw.)
Of course, Capitol Punishment was hardly the first WWE pay-per-view to pay titular heed to its host city. In Your House 16, held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was subtitled “Canadian Stampede,” and 1992’s oft-forgotten Tuesday in Texas pay-per-view was nothing if not accurately named.
Washington, D.C., has yet to host another pay-per-view since June 2011, rendering it premature to suggest Capitol Punishment was one and done.
No Way Out
Despite its absence from the 2013 pay-per-view calendar, the No Way Out event boasted an impressive legacy on pay-per-view for more than 10 years. The event originated in February 1998 and with the exception of 1999, occurred annually all the way through 2009, when it was dropped from the lineup. Luckily for the WWE Universe, No Way Out returned to the pay-per-view lineup in 2012 as a summertime event in June.
The lone June edition of No Way Out served a fitting finale (at least, so far) to the event’s estimable history. In the main event, John Cena downed Big Show in a Steel Cage Match, paving the way for WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon to fire “Mr. Excitement” John Laurinaitis and rid the WWE Universe of the unpopular authority figure once and for all. Elsewhere, CM Punk — still at a relatively early stage in his historic WWE Title reign — turned back the challenge of Daniel Bryan and Kane in a Triple Threat Match, while then-World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus Brogue Kicked his way past Dolph Ziggler.
With such a remarkable history of pay-per-view action in June, it’s safe to say WWE Payback has big shoes to fill when it premieres on Sunday, June 16. Don’t miss out on your chance to watch history in the making, and the first edition of what could well become the start of a new summertime tradition.