Payback airs tonight on the WWE Network, and is being billed as the first major event of the “New Era.”
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles
The main event perhaps best epitomizes what the “New Era” may entail – establishment versus independents. Reigns has been finding his way as the official face of the company for about a month, while embracing the jeers of the WWE Universe with a slightly smug swagger. An outside observer might view Reigns as a champion grown in a sterile environment – the bloodline, professional football player, has only ever wrestled in a WWE/developmental ring. Combine this with the swoonworthy looks and the marketing department of a publicly traded company, and you have a relatively young guy (not yet 31) who can parade around on talk shows in a suit and ponytail, carrying the belt with the giant company logo.
Compare and contrast to beloved Internet darling and independent “journeyman” AJ Styles. This list of indy titles, awards, and 5-star matches he’s accumulated in a 14-year career has made him one of the most respected wrestlers alive. However, he’s a 38-year old who has gotten called “rookie” on an uncomfortably regular basis. And, there will be ~18,000 people in attendance whose emotions would range from “not that upset” to “over-the-moon ecstatic” if he finds a way to win the strap tonight.
That dichotomy is only half the bout. Lurking ringside will undoubtedly be the Gallows and Machine Gun, fresh off demolishing the Usos in a fashion not often seen since the APA vs. Public Enemy. I think it’s widely expected that some form of “Club” will result from this match – Gallows, Anderson, and AJ Styles? Or, Gallows, Anderson, and Finn Balor? Or, Gallows, Anderson… and Roman Reigns? The “New Era” will almost certainly commence with the dawning of a new super stable.
Prediction: Roman Reigns retains, and Gallows and Gun align with the Roman Empire. Continue reading →