WWE Payback 2013 predictions

WWE Payback 2013 predictions

No fewer than six championships will be decided Sunday at WWE Payback, and that’s saying nothing of the match that holds perhaps the most intrigue for the WWE Universe, CM Punk’s return to in-ring action against Chris Jericho.

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Who will leave Chicago’s Allstate Arena with their heads held up? Which Superstars are most at risk of ending their nights on their backs, staring up at the lights? Join WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel and members of WWE.com’s editorial staff for match-by-match predictions for Sunday’s huge event, and don’t forget to catch all the action starting with a very special Kickoff to Payback, which will stream live Sunday starting at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.

Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk

WWE Payback 2013 predictions

WWE Hall of Fame announcer Howard Finkel: I believe this contest might very well rival the great Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin match that took place in the very same venue at WrestleMania 13. Jericho is walking intothe “lion’s den” of Punk’s hometown fans, which could throw his game plan awry. Punk should ride that crest of a wave and eke out a hard-earned victory. WINNER: Punk

Anthony Benigno: The Straight Edge Superstar delivers best when people publicly question his ability, and Jericho may have poked the proverbial bear one too many times. Look for Punk to rebound from a trio of high-profile losses against The Rock and The Undertaker … that is, assuming he shows up. WINNER: Punk

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Alex Giannini: It really is an even fight in this “Battle of the Best,” but CM Punk will have home-field advantage in Chicago, a fact that will give The Second City Saint the upper hand. WINNER:Punk

Jake Grate: “The Best in the World” certainly has an impressive record in his own backyard, in addition to several recent wins against Chris Jericho. A legendary Superstar like Y2J, though, can only be defeated by one man so many times before he’s due to return the favor. WINNER: Jericho

John Clapp: CM Punk will show up at Allstate Arena and he’ll be in fighting shape. That still won’t be enough to take down a keenly focused Jericho in a bout that has “Match of the Year contender” written all over it. WINNER: Jericho

Punk: 3, Jericho: 2

Damien Sandow vs. Sheamus (WWE Payback Kickoff match)

WWE Payback 2013 predictions

Howard Finkel: Sheamus and Sandow have been matching wits over these past few weeks, with each trying to one-up the other, both mentally and physically. To me, it’s this simple: Sheamus will prevail, as Sandow will reach his wit’s end with the Irishman. WINNER: Sheamus

Anthony Benigno: Sheamus had his laughs at Sandow’s expense for a month, but “The Enlightened One” seems to have figured out the Irishman’s M.O. These two always put on classic slugfests; don’t be surprised if Sandow finally gets the better of his longtime rival. WINNER: Sandow

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Alex Giannini: It may have started with a series of brain teasers, but the rivalry between Sheamus and Damien Sandow will end in a straight-up brawl. Look for The Celtic Warrior to outsmart the intellectual Superstar in battle. That, or he’ll just Brogue Kick Sandow into oblivion. WINNER: Sheamus

Jake Grate: It’s brawn vs. brains. Meat and potatoes vs. caviar and brie. “Independence Day” vs. “Remains of the Day.” Call me an aristocrat, but I’ll take the domineering, card-carrying M.E.N.S.A. member. WINNER: Sandow

John Clapp: Expect an upset, with “The Intellectual Savior of the Masses” stepping up his game and reminding everyone that he’s got plenty of grit to back up the grey matter. WINNER: Sandow

Sandow: 3, Sheamus: 2

United States Champion Dean Ambrose vs. Kane

Howard Finkel: When Kane was given this opportunity by Vickie Guerrero, he was elated and hugged her. That’s not the Kane that needs to show up this Sunday. Ambrose knows how to exploit one’s weakness, and in this case, I believe he will get the better of The Big Red Machine, and in the process retain his U.S. Title. WINNER: Ambrose

Alex Giannini: Separated from Daniel Bryan, The Big Red Monster is left to face Dean Ambrose in singles action. Although The Shield has been nothing short of unbeatable since Extreme Rules, there’s an uncanny amount of pent-up aggression within Kane, and Ambrose better watch out. WINNER: Kane

Anthony Benigno: Kane’s got the veteran instinct, but can it be that anger management and a yearlong friendship with Daniel Bryan has dulled the monster’s edge? Ambrose, meanwhile, has the vindictive tendencies of a young Kane, without the emotional baggage of the seasoned 7-footer. WINNER: Ambrose

Jake Grate: After losing the WWE Tag Team Titles to The Shield at Extreme Rules last month, Kane’s bad fortune against the “Hounds of Justice” could very well continue at WWE Payback. Eccentric, unpredictable and electric in the ring, Ambrose will find a way to retain the red, white and blue championship. WINNER: Ambrose

John Clapp: Ambrose has been on fire of late, and concerns that Kane’s lost his killer instinct are not completely groundless. Nonetheless, Kane’s wealth of experience — as well as the bad feelings he harbors toward The Shield for what they did to The Undertaker — will guide him toward his first U.S. Title. WINNER: Kane

Ambrose: 3, Kane: 2

Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett vs. The Miz vs. Curtis Axel (Triple Threat Match)

WWE Payback 2013 predictions

Howard Finkel: I say this with no disrespect whatsoever towards either Wade Barrett or The Miz, but I have been a passenger aboard the Curtis Axel train since it left “Heyman Station.” Next stop: The Intercontinental Championship. If that happens, then it would mark the first time that a father (Mr. Perfect) and son (Axel) have held the title during its existence. WINNER: Axel

Alex Giannini: To call a reigning Intercontinental Champion the “dark horse” of a pay-per-view title defense may seem strange, but heading into WWE Payback, all the focus is on Miz and the newest “Heyman Guy,” Curtis Axel. The Barrett Barrage will see fit to change all that on Sunday. WINNER: Barrett

Anthony Benigno: Barrett’s hit a rough patch of late in his title reign, courtesy of The Miz, and Axel is a wild card whose chicanery runs deep. But the brawling Brit does tend to come through in the clutch when his championship gold is up for grabs. WINNER: Barrett

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Jake Grate: Barrett’s reign with the Intercontinental Championship won’t be able to withstand two challengers. With both the impressive Curtis Axel and the always “awesome” Miz to worry about, The Barrett Barrage will come crashing down in Chicago. Axel, meanwhile, will have to wait for his first taste of WWE championship gold since his personal evolution. WINNER: Miz

John Clapp: The late-game “Heyman Guy” curveball hurts Barrett and Miz in equal measure. Axel, who may be every bit as good as Paul Heyman says he is, will rise to the occasion. WINNER: Axel

Barrett: 2, Axel: 2, Miz: 1

Divas Champion Kaitlyn vs. AJ Lee

Howard Finkel: This match is too close to call. Kaitlyn rules in the strength and power department, while AJ is fleeter of foot. I feel that it’s going to boil down to a mistake being made by either individual that will lead to her defeat. So if push comes to shove, then I’m shoved toward the crowning of a new Divas Champion this Sunday. WINNER: AJ

Anthony Benigno: AJ wormed her way into Kaitlyn’s psyche with an elaborate catfishing scheme, and it should do the trick to end Kaitlyn’s title reign in a long-brewing grudge match. Look for Dolph’s girl to take her place as the Diva queen. WINNER: AJ

Alex Giannini: When you do the tale of the tape on this one, Kaitlyn has an obvious advantage. But throw in AJ Lee’s propensity for introducing the unexpected, and there’s a pretty good chance the WWE Universe will see a new Divas Champion. WINNER: AJ

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Jake Grate: Kaitlyn’s reign with the butterfly-emblazoned title will be just past five months old when she defends it against AJ Lee at WWE Payback. Although “The Hybrid Diva” has proven a more-than-worthy champion, WWE’s most eccentric female competitor will seize the title from her rival. WINNER: AJ

John Clapp: The sinister skipper might’ve done more than just embarrass Kaitlyn. An angrier-than-ever Kaitlyn has the tools and motivation to beat AJ, provided she can endure the head games. WINNER: Kaitlyn

AJ: 4, Kaitlyn: 1

WWE Tag Team Champions Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton & Daniel Bryan

WWE Payback 2013 predictions

Howard Finkel: The Bryan-Orton tandem is, to me, an oil-and-water situation — they don’t mix. But for some reason that I cannot pinpoint, I feel that these two will somehow find a way to win the titles from Rollins & Reigns. WINNERS: Bryan & Orton

Anthony Benigno: If Orton lets the surging Bryan do his thing and take control, The Shield’s WWE Tag Title reign will be short-lived. The odds of that happening are low, but, as Bryan himself can attest, stranger things have happened in the tag team division. WINNERS: Bryan & Orton

Watch video highlights of Bryan vs. Rollins

Alex Giannini: On paper, the team of Daniel Bryan & Randy Orton seems all but unstoppable. But can the submission specialist and The Viper coexist long enough to down The Shield? I think not. WINNERS: Rollins & Reigns

Jake Grate: Orton was unable to make a tenuous alliance with Sheamus & Big Show work at WrestleMania 29. Bryan has proven to be difficult to partner with in his own right. The superior teamwork and numbers game of The Shield will be too much for the challengers. WINNERS: Rollins & Reigns

John Clapp: Despite a few glaring instances of miscommunication as tag partners, the Bryan-Orton combo has the potential for magic. Plus, it seems unimaginable that anything will get in the way of Bryan, who’s on another competitive plane right now. WINNERS: Bryan & Orton

Bryan & Orton: 3, Rollins & Reigns: 2

World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler vs. Alberto Del Rio

WWE Payback 2013 predictions

Howard Finkel: Although cleared to compete, how effective will Ziggler be in his first title defense in nearly a month? Very! I look for Ziggler to prevail in a close contest, literally just being three seconds better than Del Rio. WINNER: Ziggler

Anthony Benigno: The Showoff is coming off a nasty concussion, and Del Rio has been stewing for his title rematch ever since Ziggler cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. But The Pride of Mexico should be sufficiently softened up by weeks of fighting Big E Langston, and let’s face it: There’s no way Ziggler’s going to let his title reign be this short. WINNER: Ziggler

Alex Giannini: While there’s always the likelihood of so-called “ring rust” when a Superstar takes time off due to an injury, The Showoff is just too good to fail in his first pay-per-view title defense since cashing in Money in the Bank. WINNER: Ziggler

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Jake Grate: For his first title defense, Ziggler has an uphill battle. Returning from a concussion to face a decorated former champion — who holds a serious and personal grudge, no less — in Alberto Del Rio is a recipe for disaster and defeat. Even AJ Lee and Big E Langston won’t be able to help The Showoff at Allstate Arena. WINNER: Del Rio

John Clapp: Ziggler’s cleared the imPACT test and been given a clean bill of health. Still, one must wonder if any Superstar is ever truly ready for Del Rio’s kick-heavy offense. Forget the Cross Armbreaker; Del Rio shocks all by regaining the title via pinfall. WINNER: Del Rio

Ziggler: 3, Del Rio: 2

WWE Champion John Cena vs. Ryback (Three Stages of Hell Match)

WWE Payback 2013 predictions

Howard Finkel: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. In this case the “tough” is John Cena. His experience in the “pressure cooker” speaks for itself, although I feel that this match will go to the third stage, with Ryback being the one to take the ambulance ride. WINNER: Cena

Anthony Benigno: TheCenation leader has beaten the odds time and again, but his bravery might have met its match in Ryback’s brutality. In their first foray into Three Stages of Hell, it’s Ryback who’ll rule. WINNER: Ryback

Alex Giannini: Since claiming the WWE Title at WrestleMania, John Cena has been plagued by the monster known as Ryback. In recent weeks, Ryback seems to care little about wins and losses, instead focusing on utter destruction. Three Stages of Hell seems to be made for such a Superstar. WINNER: Ryback

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Jake Grate: There’s no doubt that “The Human Wrecking Ball” is one of the most impressive and imposing competitors to impact WWE in quite some time. Cena, however, is a 13-time World Champion and one of the greatest Superstars of the modern era. The Champ retains. WINNER: Cena

John Clapp: I’m not convinced Cena can actually pin Ryback’s shoulders to the mat. Luckily for the Cenation, the resourceful Champ doesn’t have to in order to escape Three Stages of Hell with the WWE Title. WINNER: Cena

Cena: 3, Ryback: 2

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