There’s something to be said for lowered expectations. I was all for proclaiming that WWE Payback was an unnecessary event clogging up the schedule in place of an extended & meaningful build towards Money in the Bank. As it happens, I may have been wrong.
Make no mistake, Payback was almost completely inconsequential and at times felt like a special episode of Raw, but it was a satisfying event, from top to bottom the whole event had matches ranging from decent to excellent. It’s just a shame that I personally had very little interest in some of the big feuds in the lead up to the show itself. Shield vs Evolution & in particular John Cena vs Bray Wyatt felt like storylines that had been artificially lengthened to serve the purpose of giving Payback something to latch onto for the audience. We did have some micro feuds take shape in the weeks leading in and they turned out to be very entertaining indeed. So join me now as I share what I liked and disliked about WWE Payback.
Lets get this huge backhanded compliment out of the way: I think because my expectations were lower than average due to my preconceptions that the big rematches would fail to live up to previous matches helped the main events considerably. John Cena & Bray Wyatt had an exceptionally physical & entertaining Last Man Standing match, all but erasing my ill feeling towards their Extreme Rules Cage match the month prior. This was the knock down, drag out brawl that both characters deserved. Both men went to war and along with their respective sidekicks, ensured an almost comic book level of collateral damage around ringside, including some ungodly table spots from Rowan, Harper & the Usos. I’ve always maintained that Bray Wyatt’s war against John Cena had very overt superhero story overtones and looking at the LMS match it’s still clear to me. Both men absorbed & dished out a huge level of punishment but the monster of Bray Wyatt in the end could only be kept down long enough by Cena trapping Bray & lowering a “heavy” container on top of him. It was a finish ripped straight out of a Superman tale, where a seemingly unbeatable foe isn’t knocked out, but is instead creatively incapacitated in some other fashion. I’m still not sure if Bray losing was the best course of action but nevertheless, the match itself was excellent and far exceeded my lower than average expectations.
On the whole, I thought the Shield and Evolution match was decent and at some parts approached very good. If this is the end of the feud it was a very cathartic & satisfying way to cap it off. All 3 members of The Shield surviving the elimination match was certainly a surprise as with that kind of stipulation I would have expected a “come from behind, defy the odds” type victory for the boys in black but once again my expectations were exceeded in that aspect. What I didn’t like was the almost comical length of the section where Evolution beat down all three Shield members. I’m not saying it wasn’t necessary, but I could have happily seen that segment cut short.
So we finally have our Rhodes Brotherhood break up do we? Long in the offering and perpetually delayed I like many am struggling to care now that Cody & Dustin look to be headed their separate ways. Personally, the bloom was off this particular rose a long time ago. Whatever comes next may change my opinion but for now I’ll stick with my position of being thoroughly unimpressed by this turn of events.
I wanted a physical matchup, and thankfully I got one in Sheamus’ defence of the United States championship against Cesaro. Quickly paced and hard hitting and with a fun & surprising finish, I really, really enjoyed the match, even down to agreeing with the notion of Sheamus retaining as I felt to take the belt away from him could’ve hurt both his recent profile & that of the US title itself. This was a fun little feud from start to Payback & personally, I could stand to see one more match between the two on TV soon.
Oh Rob Van Dam, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Tired, lifeless & looking more & more out of place amongst all the newer talent seeing a haggard RVD on Payback made me long for his departure more. He is a name talent but putting him in title matches does nothing for anyone at this point, I pray Bad News Barrett enjoys better opposition during his intercontinental championship reign.
As played out as Hornswoggle vs El Torito has become, the shenanigans of Swoggle having his head shaved & his hilarious press conference at the post show made for very entertaining viewing. Just please, please let this be the end of it.
I disliked the Daniel Bryan segment immensely, it felt like a Raw segment that had been transposed onto the Payback broadcast & I thought it dragged on & on with no real impetus beyond Brie quitting WWE. Given that this involves the WWE title it does nothing for all concerned and even makes super face Bryan appear petty & difficult, in my eyes at least. I have no idea where this is headed but I’m not exactly beside myself awaiting the next twist in this particular tale.
Alicia Fox, oh my how I’ve come to love & appreciate just how crazy you’ve become, you’ve become a fascinating character to go alongside your almost prodigious ring work. Seriously she seemingly got so improved so fast I wouldn’t be amazed if I’d heard she’d paid a visit to the crossroads like Robert Johnson. I know I’m gushing a lot and Paige is a much better wrestler but Alicia is so good right now it’s scary, and oh so entertaining. A great match between the two sadly hampered by it’s following the superb Last Man Standing match and a very quiet crowd. Aside from those nitpicks though, this delivered as I hoped it would. All hail the diva’s division.
Sadly, Bo Dallas vs Kofi Kingston didn’t happen as planned, and the trope of Kane being the authority’s attack dog feels odd in context of the current authority storylines. This would’ve been perfect in the early days of the regime, but here it just felt like padding. Bo’s post match speech & press conference were very good in that overly positive manner of his were excellent though.
Rusev vs Big E happened, Rusev won as expected but submitting Big E was a surprise. The Rusev juggernaut continues to roll on.
Payback was a good if not great show overall. There were some very good matches & at worst, some watchable ones. The feeling that this show didn’t matter is a tough one to shake off, but I came away from the event entertained. Not especially historic or remarkable, Payback was more than some reheated leftovers, in fact taken on it’s own merits the show was great, and does bear catching up on if you missed it and does bear repeated viewing if you have. Well done WWE, you lowered my expectations and exceeded them, and that’s really more of a compliment than I’m making it out to be. I’m not suggesting that was the plan all along, but concentrating on what counts instead of the hype helped a cynic like me enjoy the show.
Once again thank you for reading, if you’ve any comments, questions or feedback please don’t hesitate to contact me through twitter and I’ll see you next time folks. Until then, please have fun with wrestling.