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WWE Payback: WWE Champion John Cena vs. Ryback, To Hell and Back Again


The WWE Championship is a prize that not many talents ever get to hold in their career. Some wrestlers would put their careers and lives on the line just for a chance at the WWE Title. On Sunday at Payback, two men will go to Hell in a battle to be named the WWE Champion.

It’s not as if they don’t know the consequences. John Cena and Ryback have already fought at Extreme Rules in a match so brutal that neither walked out victorious. At Payback, they go even further where one man will be leaving the Allstate Arena in an ambulance.

While it is certainly understandable that these two would fight with all their might to be WWE Champion though, there is so much here that has led to this moment. These two don’t just want to be champion, but they want to be called champion after defeating their respective opponent. There is a lot of bad blood here that can only be settled in a match like Three Stages of Hell.

Before getting into the match, let’s talk about the two contrasting forces going into Sunday and what drives them to be the best.


“You’re damn right I deserve to be the WWE Champion. I should have been the WWE Champion three times over.” – Ryback

For Ryback, the WWE Championship is a symbol of what he deserves. Since being unfairly cheated out of the championship throughout 2012 and into 2013, Ryback has had one goal in the back of his mind: to claim his prize using any means necessary. In order to prove that he was ready to do anything, Ryback has destroyed everyone in his path to make his point abundantly clear to Cena.

Ryback was done being “held back”. He was a near 300 pound monster with the talent to be one of the greatest superstars of all time. He didn’t care that he had only been around for a year. To Ryback, his talent was enough to make him worthy of everything the WWE had to offer.

Everyone will admit that Ryback is a machine, a perfect professional wrestling molded out of clay to dominate. There has been no doubt in anyone’s mind since Ryback returned that he would eventually lead this company and be champion, but not many are happy with the way Ryback has forced himself into the scene without any thought of his actions.

“You will one day be the WWE Champion. It’s inevitable. It’s your destiny. Look at you and look at me, there’s slight differences between us. I won the WWE Championship with heart and guts and pride. You got all the physical tools to dominate here for as long as you choose. Do you really want to become the WWE Champion by walking away from a challenge from John Cena? Do you really want to become WWE Champion by watching John Cena get destroyed by the Shield?” – Mick Foley

Since turning his back on everyone Ryback has viciously assaulted numerous stars and openly backed down from fights when he saw opportunity staring him down. Despite his stature, Ryback chose to be the calculated heel because that was the way he could most easily get what should have been his months ago.

He ignored the veterans who had given him shots at stardom. He flat out ignored how John Cena had helped him get to where he was today. Ryback chose success over honor, championships over friendship and respect.

John Cena 2

John Cena

“You’ve been doing that a lot lately, sending messages. Putting people in that ambulance, putting people through tables, putting me through a table and sending me crashing through that stage. Very impressive and painful, so, if your message to me, to the WWE Universe has been that Ryback does damage, I get the message.” – John Cena

The most honorable competitor in WWE, John Cena has never been one to sit back and let bullies roam. The way Ryback had destroyed stars like Kofi Kingston and injured talent including Daniel Bryan and Kane was too much for Cena. He could not simply sit back and let Ryback hurt people.

Of course, Cena was also a fighting champion who did not take well to being assaulted or ridiculed. While Cena loved seeing young talent break through to the top, he hated seeing them cheat to get there. Since giving Ryback his seal of approval, Cena had believed he was giving the big man a chance at becoming a true star, but Ryback squashed that by turning on Cena.

Ryback blamed Cena for every one of Ryback’s personal failures, and John couldn’t sit back and let Ryback make such excuses without repercussions. Cena not only knew he had to fight Ryback but he had to dominate Ryback in a way that would forever change both men’s lives.

“I been here a long time, and I never once had a guardian angel watching my back and neither has man who has been good enough to carry this [WWE Championship]. Look at yourself, Ryback, look at yourself. The most genetically gifted superstar in the WWE, but you spend all your time bitching and moaning about conspiracy theories and blaming everybody else but yourself for your own failures.” – John Cena

Three Stages of Hell was John Cena’s call. Unlike at Extreme Rules where Ryback chose the stipulation, Cena got his choice for Payback. Why would Cena chose a match that he has never competed in before for such an important match? Because he sees that this is the only way for these two to settle the score.

Cena has faced many dangerous and vicious opponents in his time, and Ryback might be one of his greatest challenges of his career. It takes a lot of heart and guts to choose this type of match for such a definitive ending to this WWE Championship feud.

Raw Bryan


“What choice did I have? After everything I’ve been through, to find myself the day after WrestleMania staring up from the bottom of the ladder again. That was not going to happen.” – Ryback

The name of the pay-per-view rings loud in the ears of both of these men. Since the day after WrestleMania, Ryback has been on a mission to make Cena pay for allowing Ryback to fall so far down the ladder. Cena has a more personal reason to want revenge against Ryback who has attacked and destroyed Cena numerous times for reasons that are obviously clouded in Ryback’s faulty mindset.

There is no better way to settle their differences than in Three Stages of Hell where each stage will be brutal and physical in its own way. In their first match, thirty lumberjacks will be at ringside to keep both men in the ring, fighting one on one. You can trust that chaos will ensue at times with many of these lumberjacks having their own personal beefs with Ryback and Cena.

The second match is a tables match, a contest that Ryback has shown he is very much ready for as he has put many wrestlers through tables over the past few weeks. Cena meanwhile has a sketchy track record with tables matches including losing the WWE Championship in one against Sheamus as Sheamus was on his own personal heel run early in his career.

Finally, if they make it to the third stage, Ryback will get the match he always wanted: an ambulance match. Ryback has shown repeatedly that he is very comfortable around the ambulance and has no quarrel putting anyone in the back of an ambulance. Cena may hold some reservations about facing Ryback in such a match as it is here where Ryback will be most comfortable.

All in all, Payback for Cena and Ryback will long and brutal. These two will certainly go over 30 minutes against one another with everything at stake. If Cena allows Ryback to earn the WWE Championship like he could on Sunday, John may never live it down, but, if Ryback fails again Sunday, his rage will reach levels unlike anyone has seen yet.

About Kevin Berge

Wrestle Enigma's voted Writer Of The Year two years running. I am writing to prove a point. The day I stop writing is the day I realize I have nothing more to say, and I don't believe that day will ever come.
  • Kevin Berge

    I like how WWE spent all this time building up to Cena’s big WWE Title win over the Rock, and now it feels like it meant something. He is the man now. As champion, people can no longer challenge him and make him the underdog, and that is what makes this whole feud work so well to me. Ryback is the young monster with all the potential to take away the crown from Cena. Cena is the veteran trying to stop the young star from taking the cheap way to success. It’s a classic and compelling story that works much better than his story he had previously when he was supposed to be trying to overcome the odds against Miz and Alberto Del Rio.

    It’s the problem of time for Punk. He was champion when all these young stars weren’t quite ready yet. Now we have all these guys as fully fledged characters after evolving as complete characters.

    I’m hoping they pull out the most possible from the situation because this should be at least entertaining. I’m hoping it’s awesome.

  • Paul McIntyre

    Ryback has been very interesting lately. You know, I think part of the reason he’s been so good as a top heel is that, unlike a CM Punk (who is a great heel nonetheless), he’s a more believable antagonist TO JOHN CENA.

    Because he’s one of the only guys in WWE who surpasses Cena in terms of the dominant physique. Credit it where it’s due, though; beyond that, Ryback has been working his best matches ever, and cutting his best promos ever. Will he ever be a master on the mic? Probably not; but he’s obviously learned how to cut a competent, attention-grabbing promo that sells a feud.

    Anyone else feel like this has been John Cena at his very best for a long while? Every day of his championship reign so far has had value, and honestly, I’m really enjoying him as champion. It’s believable, obviously, because he’s John Cena and IS the top dog; but more that that, it’s because Ryback is a believable antagonist who is a threat to his status as top dog that makes this feud very good (as well as some great segments and a really good match).

    It was the same with Batistsa; I wasn’t a huge fan of his, but he was a terrific antagonist to Cena in 2010.

    Side note: if you think WWE hasn’t built any guys in the past year, compare the pool of Cena’s potential challengers to Punk’s challengers from when he was Champion. Punk got Boring Face (and green as hell) Ryback, Cena has Compelling Villain (who is performing really well) Ryback; Punk got over but not very credible Daniel Bryan, Cena will most likely get the most over guy in the company who seems extremely legitimate at the moment Daniel Bryan.

    Just a thought, that.

    Great write up, Kevin. As much as I’m scratching my head at the stipulations of this 2/3 falls match, I’m expecting both these guys to make it a really entertaining contest. And while I almost always say that about Cena, I’m only lately getting used to saying it about Ryback.

  • Paul McIntyre

    To Hell And Back Again – A Hobbit’s Tale By Bilbo Baggins

  • Sean Linhares

    BTW, always dependable Berge writes yet another excellent Breakdown. Well done as always, I especially liked the Ryback part, as he’s really grown on me lately. He’s light years better on the mic as a heel IMO, as his words simply flow more smoothly to me. I dunno. Plays his character great, BTW.

    • Kevin Berge

      Thanks, Sean. Yeah, Ryback has been a great heel, felt like a top star with the new role.

  • Sean Linhares

    This match has oodles of potential. Cena is Cena, the guy can and will always perform when the lights pop on. Ryback is a guy who at this point, has proven that he’s a legit main eventer, and I think he’ll continue to prove that Sunday.

    I’ll take Cena winning the Lumberjack match, as that’s a pretty anti-heel match, while DA RYBACK will take the Tables match (Anti-Face match) and Cena will eventally overcome the odds and win the ambulance match. While those three choices are semi-awkward, WWE has done a solid job of building them up, which is really the only thing they’ve put any effort into heading into Payback.

    This should be one of the better WWE matches this year, but I don’t know wrestling, right IWC? Go Cena! (I’ll take Cena to retain, 2-1 BTW.)

    • Kevin Berge

      While Ryback has been good lately, I’m really putting the quality of this match on Cena who could potentially make this a match of the year contender. Your prediction on the match is probably pretty accurate.

  • Jacob Stachowiak

    Berge does my favorite breakdown of the series. Not surprised at all.

    This is the match that I care most about and in WWE (it being for the WWE title after all) it feels so damn refreshing finally caring about the mainevent scene. I think the choices for Three Stages of Hell is awkward. One would think Ryback has the table fall sealed up and Cena is probably not losing his title so soon so he might have the Ambulance match fall. That would mean that Ryback would have to lose via the Lumberjack match and take a normal pinfall from Cena and that just doesn’t seem right. UNLESS, WWE used the Lumberjacks in a storytelling way like D-Bry or Kofi or even Ryder help Cena get the dirty pin on Ryback. Or Ryback will get the first pin then Cena will go all super hero and win the second two stupidly.

    Either way, I think it’s going to be a great match and this has been the first WWE title feud I’ve cared about since Cena/Del Rio/Punk.

    • Kevin Berge

      I’m doing 3 breakdowns for Payback and getting stuck somehow with the best matches. I knew I would hit on one of the three for everyone.

      It’s too bad that this whole feud had to come right off of Cena’s WWE Title win. It makes this feud much less unpredictable because he’s been champion for now two PPVs. If they had given Cena an earlier heel feud before this one, this could be even more heated. I expect we see the lumberjacks factor into Ryback losing, and Ryback cleanly throwing Cena through a table to make Cena look weak going into the final fall then he’ll rise up and fight for some huge spot where Cena will win. Just hope it’s a great match.

      I can’t imagine what happened between then and now that had you so disinterested. I mean there was just some 434 day WWE Title reign….