Surprise results and entertaining spots are great, but when your main take-away from a pay per view is “did they actually do that?”, it’s not good. WWE Payback is in the books, we have new champions and some terrible matches to talk about. So let’s get down to business.
The GOAT rides again!
Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho for the United States Championship kicked off the main show tonight, which I thought was an interesting choice, especially considering it’s arguably the biggest title match on the card. We also had Corey Graves saying things like “It’s so great to see Kevin Owens on a Raw exclusive pay per view again”, as if it had been months or even years since he’d been on Raw. Corey, it’s been less than a month. Please.
Kevin Owens has succeeded in getting the crowd to start booing him again, especially with this “new face of America” gimmick. It is a bit frustrating and leaning towards the old “he is foreign so he is bad” trope, but KO makes it interesting and refreshing. And Jericho at this stage could pretty much straight up do anything and still be cheered.
The match itself was really good, and it felt like a continuation of Wrestlemania, just brought up another level, with familiarity but originality. KO grinding his chin into Jericho’s cheekbone for example, or re-using the “finger spot” from wrestlemania (which Corey Graves dubbed The Finger of America, which MUST become a thing), but adding to it by having Jericho attack the hand.
In the end Y2J picked up the somewhat surprise victory in a great match, and a great kickoff to the show. My bet is that he loses the title tomorrow, perhaps to AJ Styles, or back to KO with interference by someone. But still, a great match. Just a strange place for that title, on this card.
It’s different because it’s purple!
Austin Aries vs Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship was up next.
Good back and forth match, with Austin Aries getting the best of Neville to start off with. Like the opening match, the story they’re telling is more complex because the guys know each other so well, and have fought multiple times before. Counters for moves, having to come up with variations, it’s all entertaining.
A Double’s heat seeking missile dive is amazing. Everyone seems to dive through the ropes these days, but he adds something a little extra to his to make it stand out.
Amazing finishing sequence, right up until the disqualification. I mean I get it, the DQ keeps the title on Neville, while also keeping Aries looking like a credible threat. But it also means this isn’t over and we’re going to keep seeing the same old thing on Raw during the one Cruiserweight segment every week, and more to the point, it’s unsatisfying. I’m sure there are ways to make DQ finishes feel a bit better, but to me they’re more suited for a weekly show, than a pay per view. You can keep a story going while having a definitive ending to a match. What’s that old saying? “You may have won the battle, but you haven’t won the war”
The TOOTH shall (hopefully) set them free!
The Hardys vs Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Team Championships was next.
I don’t like this referring to the Hardys as a nostalgia act. That implies they’re just living off of their past, that they’re past their prime, nothing new is happening with them. Clearly, the opposite is the case. Corey called them the pioneers of tag team wrestling as well. I don’t really remember them having matches in the 80’s with the Hart Foundation, or the Rockers, or Demolition of The L.O.D though. I believe he forgot the word MODERN. Pioneers of MODERN Tag Team Wrestling.
Now obviously with The Hardys most of the talk is focused on Matt, and how broken, or unbroken he is. We’re seeing fleeting moments of broken Matt, and I think as long as there’s a little of it each time we see him, and that slowly increases, the slow build will work. Ultimately, I believe we’ll see the Broken Hardys in WWE before too long, and after the events of tonight’s match, we may start to see more cracks appear. But tonight, we saw at least the beard is coming back. We’re on the way folks.
So tonight’s match was good, but it’s hard to build as much tension in a Babyface/Babyface match. The psychology isn’t as deep and it can feel a little boring at times. Luckily this match was also stiff as hell. Jeff legitimately lost a tooth and Matt was busted open. And Cesaro delivered an amazing leg drop. Among other things.
It was also smart for Jeff to be the one taking the brunt of the punishment and having Matt get the hot tag. He seemed to be the one the fans really wanted to see tonight.
I liked the finish, the blind tag thing is a bit overused but it was done well, and then finally, just when we thought it was just going to be another polite handshake finish… Sheamus and Cesaro turned heel. FINALLY. They beat down the Hardys after the match and left them both laying as they left the arena. Great.
Except.. it’s a bit strange to have them turn at what would normally be the end of a rivalry. Right? Sheamus and Cesaro lost at Mania, and this was their rematch. So maybe this rivalry will continue? Or will the Hardys have some new faces to face at the next pay per view?
5 feet of fury strikes again!
Next up we have Bayley vs Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship. And we’re in Bayley’s hometown, which they’ve made quite a point to tell us. That’s never a good sign.
I find myself a bit conflicted with Bayley. In the ring during matches she’s like any other wrestler. She’s agressive, she’s focused and she seems like a credible threat to any opponent. Yet, during build ups, usually with her opponent’s promos, they talk about how she’s just “happy to be there” and how she’s “just Bayley” and they make it seem like she’s not on the same level, or isn’t as good. And I know heels are supposed to do that, but something about it with Bayley is weird. Maybe I’m just working myself into a shoot though, and it’s all designed to build Bayley up.
Or it would be, if Alexa hadn’t beaten her tonight. I did not see that coming in the slightest. I’m not upset about it though, I think Alexa is great, and Bayley, like Daniel Bryan, I think can work really well as an underdog challenger, possibly even better than as champion. Hopefully though, this isn’t another case of the Women’s Title being pinballed around again for another few months. It also shows the stock they put in Alexa Bliss, making her the first ever woman to hold both the Raw and Smackdown women’s championships.
The House of Pre-taped not really Horrific but super lame Horrors
Wow. Even with the bad stuff, I usually am able to find a way to see what could be good about it. But, from that opening shot of Orton in a limousine, I was gone. He rode in a limousine to a derelict house, to wrestle a supernatural cult leader man. Who had no cult with him this time. It’s time to talk House of Horrors.
I don’t even know what to say about the actual “match”. Were we meant to believe that it was live? Surely not right? Especially when there was an orchestrated score, and first person perspective camera shots involved. Right? It looked like Bray stole Undertaker’s lights for outside, the camera shook more than the last resident evil movie, and it just, it should have been “so bad it’s good”, but it was just bad.
Now, the action itself, looked intense. Why they couldn’t have done that without all the hokey stuff, that was taken way too seriously (which is why it didn’t work in the way the final deletion did), is beyond me. The Fridge dropping on Randy was interesting. But then Bray signified the end of the “house” part of the match by changing the lights from blue to red? And then he hopped in the same limousine! Something about that just felt so so wrong. The supernatural guy that can appear at any time in a ring, had to take a limo to get to the arena?
This was just bad. It wasn’t tongue in cheek like the final deletion, which it is clearly influenced by. It was too serious, and too corny. Unfortunately it wasn’t over. But we’ll get there.
Roll up, get out of there, 1,2,3!
Seth Rollins vs Samoa Joe. I’ll be totally honest, even though this match only happened a couple of hours ago, I barely remember it. It wasn’t bad, I know that, but it wasn’t memorable. Seth did some suicide dives on his “injured knee”, again logic going out the window. Joe dropped his entire weight onto seth’s knee but it didn’t get re-injured. logic. I remember it being a decent back and forth match, but other than those spots, the only thing I can recall is the finish, which I had a bit of a problem with.
I’m sure I remember a rule once upon a time that if one person had an offensive move locked in, then a pinfall wouldn’t count. I may be remembering it wrong, but I don’t think so. Joe had a submission locked in, but Seth still got the pinfall in a surprise finish. No new finisher that they were trying to get over last week. Maybe someone realised that if the story is Seth’s knee, he shouldn’t have a kneeing move as a finish. Whatever the reason, it felt strange and rushed.
Rollins as a babyface just doesn’t work as well. Which is a shame because it seems like he’s popular. But when he gets in the ring it just doesn’t translate like it should.
Ring of Horror
And here we are, the conclusion of the House of Horrors match. In an amazing coincidence, Bray Wyatt’s limo (I just can’t take that seriously) arrived right after the end of the Rollins/Joe match. That was lucky! Bray, beaten down and what some might call dilapidated, arrived, and made his way to the ring. Somewhere in between that hallway and the entrance, he found his lantern. Also lucky.
And then, because apparently Randy is also Undertaker, Orton appeared behind Bray in the ring when the lights came back on. I can go with Bray having these strange powers, but Randy? Please WWE. PLEASE STOP.
So they fight. And you think, ok, it can’t get any worse, can it? And WWE says, you bet it can! Here comes Jinder’s two mates to attack Orton, because… we don’t really know why, other than Jinder feels disrespected I guess? He fights them off because they’re basically jobbers, but then Jinder shows up and hits Randy with Randy’s own title that Jinder stole.
I tweeted this about the whole situation:
It was a ridiculous match to begin with, but adding in someone who, last time anyone on Raw saw him, he was getting beaten up by an NFL player, who had somehow stolen Orton’s title, really just made it even worse and tipped the scales into terrible.
The ONLY good thing about this match, at least to me, is that Bray Wyatt picked up the victory. It’s just a shame he never got a rematch for the WWE title, like anybody else would have.
Overall though, terrible. Easily the lowest point of the year thus far.
Bandages! That’s how we’ll get them to like him!
And now we’re at the main event. Braun Strowman vs Roman Reigns.
I can’t help but think, imagine if the WWE Universal title had have been a part of this match. But, it wasn’t. And we’ll get to that.
So, having Roman wear bandages, it signifies he’s injured, yes, but it’s also meant to create sympathy for him. Like he’s got more odds to overcome than normal. But, the overwhelming crowd reaction was the opposite. They’re still booing no matter what he says, does or wears. And that’s because they’re tired of the same old Roman “Super Cena 2.0” character.
The match itself was fine, Strowman was dominant, until Roman’s arm magically got better any time he had to hit a big move, like a spear or a punch. But in the end, after two powerslams, Braun Strowman got a clean win over Roman Reigns. Which is huge.
And then there’s the post match shenanigans. The crowd were super into it, and that last stairs into the chest shot especially, was really brutal. Having blood come from Roman’s mouth was a nice tough too, really added to the brutality and put Braun over as an even bigger monster. The crowd chanting that Roman deserved it however, that’s not really great. You’re basically saying you’re happy he’s bleeding internally. I’m not a Reigns fan at all, I think he’s stale and cookie cutter and boring, but I don’t think celebrating his injuries to that extent (work or shoot) is right. But, it is yet another sign that things need to change. He’s stagnant. Maybe the plan is to take him off of TV for a while and bring him back with a refreshed character.
Nah, on second thought, he sells too much merch for that.
Oh also just quickly, The Raw Talk intro with Reigns spitting up blood was great, but of course, we can’t have Roman look weak forever, and somehow he found the strength to hit Strowman with the one ambulance door that was left after Braun ran through the other one. Little bit silly considering 30 seconds earlier he was having trouble breathing.
- Get the belt off of Lesnar as quickly as possible. Raw needs a main event title on it’s pay per views, and so many more people could use the belt, rather than it just sit at home.
- Enzo and Cass won their match on the pre-show, but it just feels like we’ve had the same tag matches for 6 months on Raw. So it means very little.
- Finn wants his belt back, and Miz is still a joke.
- Everyone who’s ever paid tribute to Macho Man with an elbow seems to have no idea what Macho Man’s elbow drop actually looked like. He tucked his elbow into his body and came down with his elbow and chest.
Overall, I think this show was below average. There were some high points, The Hardys, and Alexa Bliss winning the Women’s Championship were my personal highlights, but as I said, my main take-away from Payback is “WHY???” and unfortunately a couple of high spots can’t take that away. If i’d bought this on pay per view, instead of streamed it on the network, I’d be annoyed at the money I’d have spent.
What did you think of WWE Payback? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter or facebook!