Implemented in 2013, Payback was an annual WWE pay-per-view for five years, having been discontinued after 2017 and returned in 2020, but without continuity in the following two years.
The first two editions of Payback ( 2013 and 2014 ) took place in June, while the third and fourth ( 2015 and 2016 ) took place in May. The 2017 edition, the last one before the discontinuation, was exclusive to Raw and took place on the last day of April. On the way back, in 2020, it took place at the end of August.
Payback will have its 7th edition on September 2, in Pittsburgh, in the US state of Pennsylvania. It’s therefore worth checking out our list of the ten best matches in Payback history, in chronological order.
Payback 2013 – World Heavyweight Championship
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
At WrestleMania, Alberto Del Rio retained the World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Jack Swagger via submission, via a Cross Armbreaker, but on Raw the following night, he was injured by Swagger, which allowed Dolph Ziggler to cash in his Money in Bank briefcase and become world champion.
A week later, Del Rio tried to trigger the rematch clause but was stopped by Swagger. However, a match was scheduled between Ziggler and Swagger which was won by Swagger. However, SmackDown General Manager Booker T scheduled a triple threat title match between Ziggler, Del Rio and Swagger for the title at Extreme Rules. On the April 29 episode of Raw, Del Rio’s ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez beat Swagger’s mentor Zeb Colter and Ziggler’s bodyguard Big E Langston to choose the match stipulation, which would be a Ladder match.
However, Ziggler suffered a concussion during the May 6 episode of Raw following an attack by Swagger on Ziggler and Del Rio using a ladder, which caused Ziggler to sit out of the pay-per-view.
Having said that, it was announced that, instead of fighting for the title, Del Rio and Swagger would face each other in an “I Quit” match to determine the main contender for the World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules, with the Mexican winning. On the June 10 episode of Raw, Dolph Ziggler returned and announced that he would defend his title against Del Rio at Payback.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
On the May 27, 2013, episode of Raw, Chris Jericho introduced The Highlight Reel and invited Paul Heyman, who was asked about CM Punk’s absence from the schedule, in a segment very similar to the one that marked the beginning of the feud between Y2J and Punk in the previous year, marked by the discussion about which of the two was the “best in the world”. Jericho challenged CM Punk to a match at Payback and Heyman accepted on Punk’s behalf. The following week, Jericho and Heyman signed the match contract.
On the June 7 edition of SmackDown, Curtis Axel beat Chris Jericho after Heyman, who was Axel’s manager, distracted Y2J by playing CM Punk’s theme song. After that match, Jericho performed a Codebreaker on Curtis Axel.
Payback 2013 – WWE Tag Team Championship
The Shield (Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins) (c) vs. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton
Six months after debuting on the WWE main roster, The Shield continued to terrorize the rest of the company’s fighters. In May 2013, the main casualties were tag team champions Team Hell No ( Daniel Bryan and Kane) and United States Champion Kofi Kingston who was defeated by Dean Ambrose on the May 6 episode of Raw.
If Ambrose received an opportunity to challenge for the United States Championship, Rollins and Reigns earned the right to challenge for the WWE Tag Team Championship at Extreme Rules, having the stable leave the event with the three belts.
However, Team Hell No invoked the rematch clause on the May 27 episode of Raw but was defeated. Ten days later, on the June 7 episode of SmackDown, Kane abandoned Daniel Bryan, in an apparent breakup of Team Hell No, and Bryan resorted to Randy Orton to face the Rollins and Reigns that night, achieving a victory via disqualification after Ambrose attacked both.
Three days later, it was announced that Bryan and Orton would challenge Rollins and Reigns for the WWE Tag Team Championship at Payback.
Payback 2014 – Last Man Standing match
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
It all started at the Royal Rumble when John Cena applied an STF on Randy Orton and seemed to be well on his way to winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. However, the lights went out temporarily and The Wyatt Family appeared on the edge of the ring, causing the distraction and consequent defeat of John Cena.
In the following PPV, the Elimination Chamber, the Wyatt Family interfered in the Elimination Chamber match that had the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on the line, attacking John Cena, with Bray Wyatt applying a Sister Abigail to him and Randy Orton reaping rewards by eliminating Cena in then.
Meanwhile, Cena challenged Wyatt to a match on WrestleMania XXX, a challenge that was accepted, with Cena winning in the ring. After defeating Wyatt, Cena accused the rival of being unable to defend himself without Luke Harper or Erick Rowan and challenged him to a Steel Cage Match. The challenge was accepted and Wyatt won the cage match at Extreme Rules, but once again had the help of Harper and Rowan.
To break the tie, Bray Wyatt challenged Cena to a Last Man Standing match for Payback during the May 12 episode of Raw and received a positive response on SmackDown four days later.
Payback 2014 – No Holds Barred Elimination match
The Shield (Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns ) vs. Evolution ( Batista, Orton & Triple H )
After a WrestleMania XXX in which Triple H in the first instance and Batista and Randy Orton in the second lost to Daniel Bryan, who became the new world champion, Triple H forced Bryan to defend the title against him the following night. However, The Game’s former bodyguards, The Shield, discovered that Triple H had been the mastermind of an attack on them the previous month, turned on him and attacked him, which resulted in a no contest.
On Raw the following week, Triple H re-formed Evolution along with Batista and Randy Orton and attacked The Shield. And four days later on SmackDown, Triple H scheduled a six-man tag team match between Evolution and The Shield for Extreme Rules.
And on the last Raw before the PPV, Ric Flair, who was part of the first version of Evolution between 2003 and 2005, appeared to applaud The Shield, recognizing them as the future of WWE. At Extreme Rules, The Shield got the better of Evolution, achieving victory after a Spear from Roman Reigns on Batista.
The following night Triple H forced Dean Ambrose to defend the United States Championship in a 20-man battle royal, which was won by Sheamus. Still, on that episode of Monday Night Raw, the three elements of The Shield were defeated by The Wyatt Family, who took advantage of a distraction caused by Evolution. After the match, Evolution attacked The Shield and applied the Triple Power Bomb typical of The Shield on Roman Reigns.
The following week, The Shield challenged Evolution to a rematch at Payback, which was accepted. It was later announced that the match would be a No Holds Barred six-man elimination tag team match.
Payback 2015 – “I Quit” match for the WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Rusev
After failing to capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the 2015 Royal Rumble, John Cena was asked in an interview what was next for him. At that point, Rusev, who had been the last man eliminated in the Royal Rumble match, interrupted the interview.
Four days later, a match for Rusev’s United States Championship between the Bulgarian and John Cena was scheduled for Fastlane. Rusev got the upper hand, via submission, by making Cena pass out through the Accolade after he had hit Cena with a low blow.
In the weeks that followed, Cena challenged Rusev to a rematch, but Stephanie McMahon ruled that Cena would not compete at WrestleMania 31 unless Rusev agreed to face him. On the March 9 episode of Raw, Cena trapped Rusev in an STF and refused to release the submission until Rusev’s wife, Lana, assured him that he would get another title shot at WrestleMania.
At the pay-per-view, Cena beat Rusev, in what was the Bulgarian’s first loss on the WWE main roster. On the April 2 episode of SmackDown, Rusev announced that he would get his rematch at Extreme Rules. Eleven days later, in Raw, Rusev attacked Cena with a chain and Lana revealed that the match between the two would be a Russian Chain match.
At Extreme Rules, Cena won after an Attitude Adjustment and touching the fourth corner of the ring after both men touched the other three corners. Later that night, Lana announced that Cena would defend the title against Rusev in an “I Quit” match at Payback.
Payback 2015 – WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns
On the April 27 episode of Raw, it was announced that, as a result of a vote on the WWE App, Seth Rollins would have to defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton and Roman Reigns in a triple threat match at Payback 2015.
However, a week later Dean Ambrose beat Rollins in a match without the title at stake and, according to the stipulation established before that duel, he was added to the title match on pay-per-view, which thus became a fatal-four way.
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn
Former tag teammates, but also rivals in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor, Sami Zayn (known on the independent circuit as El Generico) and Kevin Owens maintained a love/hate relationship in WWE. In December 2014, at NXT Takeover: R Evolution, Sami Zayn captured the NXT Championship from Neville. After the match, Kevin Owens appeared to congratulate his friend but then ended up attacking him.
At NXT Takeover: Rival, Owens defeated Zayn to capture the NXT Championship. Months later at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, Owens injured Zayn in a title match that ended in a no contest. More than a year later, at Royal Rumble 2016, Sami Zayn returned to the ring after the injury suffered at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, having eliminated Kevin Owens from the Royal Rumble match.
On the March 7, 2016, episode of Raw, Zayn made his main roster debut and featured in a feud with Owens. Weeks later, at WrestleMania 32, Zayn cost Owens the loss of the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match that was eventually won by Zack Ryder. On Raw the following night, Owens attacked Zayn, leaving him unable to participate in a Fatal four-way match to determine the top contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. However, a match between Owens and Zayn was scheduled for Payback.
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
On the April 11 episode of Raw, Chris Jericho was interviewing himself on The Highlight Reel when he was interrupted by Dean Ambrose, who gave him a letter sent by Shane McMahon announcing that the segment had been cancelled and would be replaced. for Ambrose’s new show, The Ambrose Asylum. Three days later, on SmackDown, a match between Jericho and Sami Zayn ended in disqualification when Ambrose, who was doing commentary along with Kevin Owens during the duel, helped Zayn to dodge Jericho and Owens.
On the following Raw, after Ambrose defeated Owens, Jericho attacked Ambrose with a Codebreaker, which led to a match between the two at Payback.
Payback 2016: No DQ for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship :
Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles
On Raw the night after WrestleMania 32, world champion Roman Reigns launched an open challenge for the title, to which Chris Jericho, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn responded, which led the quartet to a fatal four-way match to determine the new lead candidate. However, before the match Owens attacked Zayn, who was unable to fight and had to be replaced by Cesaro. The winner of the feud was AJ Styles, who earned the right to face Reigns on Payback .
The following week, Shane McMahon gave Sami Zayn another opportunity, putting him in a match against Styles. If Zayn won, he would enter the title match on pay-per-view. But it was AJ Styles who won, thus ensuring his presence in Payback’s title match. On the April 25 episode, Styles saved Reigns from an attack by Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, but shortly thereafter Reigns attacked Styles.