WWE Payback 2017: Can Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt Feud Be Salvaged?

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Can Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton salvage their rivalry as they square off for the final time in a “House of Horrors” match at WWE Payback?

This Sunday, at WWE Payback, Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt will write the final chapter in a long and tumultuous rivalry that has taken both men to unforeseen heights.

Their story was wrought with twists and turns, highlighted by Orton’s Royal Rumble victory and Wyatt’s win at Elimination Chamber to claim his first WWE Championship, not too long after winning the SmackDown Tag-Team Titles as a tandem.

The narrative of Randy Orton laying in wait, plotting to double-cross his new mentor made for one of the most captivating personal feuds heading into WrestleMania at the start of the month, but the ensuing battle did not do justice to the story.

Instead of the psychological warfare we were promised based on the promos that preceded it, we were presented with a lackluster, run-of-the-mill match that did poorly to put both men’s strengths under the spotlights of the Citrus Bowl.

The only real psychology came in the form of projector tomfoolery on Wyatt’s behalf, displaying an array of disturbing imagery on the canvas at regular intervals.

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This would have been an effective means of toying with his opponent, but Wyatt’s overuse of the medium quickly became less exhilarating, and the fact that Orton quickly followed up with an RKO to put the match – and Wyatt’s WWE Championship reign – to rest really didn’t do the spot, or the match as a whole, any favors.

What had the potential to be a show-stealer, at least from a storytelling point of view, ended up as little more than a footnote in an otherwise thrilling WrestleMania. The WWE Championship itself was also an afterthought on the night.

Almost four weeks later, we stand heading into WWE Payback this Sunday, staring down a surprisingly impressive line-up with a flurry of new matches, and some old ones too, including the expected rematch between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt.

The question on many peoples’ minds, is whether or not this rivalry has any redeeming value or if Sunday’s rematch will be yet another dud. Except you have to consider the fact that things are quite different now than they were at WrestleMania.

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The landscape of the WWE has changed as a result of the “Superstar Shake-Up”, and if it’s worked in the favor of any storyline it’s this one.

First of all – and it’s not a direct result of the shake-up but it does go hand-in-hand with the post-WrestleMania season – Orton vs. Wyatt is likely getting a chance this Sunday to be the match it should’ve been all along.

If you think back to WrestleMania 28, Daniel Bryan was snubbed of a thrilling affair against Sheamus in favor of a statistic, and a humiliatingly quick loss. The following month, Bryan was able to steal Extreme Rules against the same man in a spectacular two-out-of-three falls match.

The platform was no comparison by any means, but it goes without saying that WrestleMania is an old-school game these days. Legends and part-timers take the center stage for the most part, while the full-timers who lay it all on the line every week get given the chance to do so later on, and that’s what this could be.

Orton will be going toe-to-toe with Wyatt in a “House of Horrors” match – an as-of-yet unexplained concept that will likely put the original psychology of this feud under the microscope once again and allow it to flourish like it was meant to.

The sheer over-the-top nature alone is giving these two men a platform to do something crazy and unexpected, which is what we needed to see at WrestleMania.

The second point here is the exclusion of the WWE Championship. We spoke earlier in the week about Brock Lesnar’s lack of a championship defense at the pay-per-view and whether or not that will impact that show in a negative way, and despite Orton being the WWE Champion, the same rule doesn’t necessarily apply to him.

He’s competing, sure, but he’s not a Raw Superstar. Randy Orton is being featured on Sunday as a special attraction, as he needs to put his feud with Wyatt to bed once and for all – and the exclusion of the WWE Title could actually work in Wyatt’s favor.

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Wyatt, now a member of Raw, is not going to bring the holy grail of SmackDown to Monday nights. They could act like it was a possibility, but we’d always know what the outcome would be. Leaving the title out of the equation levels the playing field.

Orton needs the win to show that his initial victory at WrestleMania wasn’t a fluke, and to prove to his SmackDown cohorts that he truly does deserve to be the alpha male of the blue brand.

Bray Wyatt needs the victory to maintain the psychological edge, and to go into Monday Night Raw – and an presumed first rivalry against Finn Bálor – with a full head of steam, while also bringing Orton down a peg so his imminent defense against Jinder Mahal at Backlash doesn’t seem so one-sided in the eyes of the fans.

In a sense, there’s a lot more riding on this match than there was at WrestleMania, despite the WWE Championship being taken out of the fray this time around.

Make no mistake, the build-up has certainly suffered as a result of Wyatt making the move, and with 100% of its progression coming in the form of eerie Wyatt backstage promos, but setting the bar low is actually going to benefit this match.

The exclusion of the title, and the fact that the WWE has established its own rules for what to expect in this “House of Horrors” match, both work in the feud’s favor.

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The rivalry has certainly taken a dive, but all of this, and the guarantee that this is the final chapter of the story between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt, show that not only is this rivalry salvageable, but that they could bring the house down on Sunday.