by Billy Carpenter (@4CR_Billy)
Chicago is in for what could be a hell of show tonight! Most of–if not all–of the matches on Payback have been built solidly, at the very least. Intrigue surrounds the main event, we’ve got a lot of new faces on the scene post-WrestleMania and a bit of a fresh feel on the product overall. WWE promises this to be “the first PPV of the new era” so let’s see how Payback delivers!
Preshow matches kick off with the ‘Lone Wolf’ Baron Corbin continuing his rivalry with Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler starts out fast but Big Banter shuts that down pretty quick. He establishes dominance, slowing the pace and working over Dolph at his pace. Ziggler fires back with some elbows but gets sent sternum first into the corner to halt the momentum. Ziggler again attempts to come back, locking in a sleeper. Corbin fights out but Dolph hits a famouser for a near fall. They head outside and Ziggler eats a big boot flying off the ring steps! Corbin launches Ziggy into the ringpost out of a powerbomb position! He tosses Dolph back in but is wasting a ton of time…you know what that means. He pulls up Dolph by the hair but a quick rollup by Ziggler gets the surprise win! WELP.
WINNER: Dolph Ziggler via pinfall
We get the excellent Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens video from RAW before Sami answers some questions in the social media lounge.
Kalisto looks to successfully defend the US title in his second consecutive pre-show title defense against The Ryback. Ryback has a weightlifting belt on that says “THE PRE-SHOW STOPPER” and he takes the time to mock CM Punk. Banter level: 9000. Kalisto uses his speed, sending Ryback to the floor. Tope suicida! Kalisto hits the most dangerous looking corkscrew plancha I’ve ever seen! Ryback uses his power advantage to regain control and a veritcal suplex gets 2 as we go to break…
…Ryback maintains control until Kalisto hits a big tornado DDT, sending Ryback to the apron. He tries to suplex Kalisto outside but a knee strike counters it. Enziguri by Kalisto followed by a springboard DDT into the apron! Crossbody gets 1. Kalisto rolling and hits the springboard corkscrew for 2. Salida del Sol attempt is reversed and Ryback goes for the shellshock. Kalisto rolls him up though for a near fall! Ryback gets a BIG spinebuster for 2! Holy shit this match is COOKIN’! Ryback goes up but gets cut off. SUPER MILITARY PRESS FACEBUSTER by Ryback!!! He goes up again for the splash but misses. Salida del Sol connects and Kalisto retains!
WINNER and still United States champion: Kalisto via pinfall
AWWWWWWWWWWWWW CHICAGOOOOOOOOO! The New Day is out to kick off the show. They want a ringside view of the action tonight. We get the usual New Day goodness and they manage to work in a Beyonce reference. It’s a new era for WWE and NEW! DAY ROCKS!
Enzo Amore & Big Cass fire up the Chicago crowd. New Day are here enjoying the match, eating pizza & popcorn. Seriously, outside of The Vaudevillains there’s TOO much charisma in this segment. Enzo & Cass with the early advantage but English is able to get the knees up on a corner charge. The match comes to a halt though when Gotch sends Enzo into the ropes and he catches his head & neck on the ropes. Jesus, this is an absolutely scary scene. Looked like he was completely out of it and having a hard time catching his breath at first. Screw the result, I hope Enzo is okay after that.
Crowd is noticeably out of it right now after the accident in the previous match. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens trade blows to start, just like you knew they would! Zayn hits the plancha to the floor and he takes over on the outside. KO eventually slows Zayn with a knee to the face before sending him crashing into the steel steps. He catches Sami with a straight kick to the face, ouch. KO warms my evil heart, taunting Sami while chopping and kicking away. We get an update on ‘Zo, who is moving his limbs and talking. Thank God. Owens drops Sami gut first on the top rope before hitting a running plancha for 2. Zayn starts firing back with forearms and hits a big clothesline. KO kicks Zayn on a backdrop attempt but gets turned inside out on another clothesline. Mounted punches in the corner and Sami is FIRED UP. Falcon arrow that Cole calls the blue thunder bomb. This guy…Moments later, Sami actually does hit a blue thunder bomb and gets a near fall. Crowd is finally getting back into the show, kudos to these guys. KO comes back with neckbreaker into the knee and hits the frog splash for 2! Owens gets the corner cannonball not once, but twice. Pop up powerbomb countered into a dropkick by Sami! Half nelson suplex by Sami! LARIAT BY OWENS! Both men back up, Owens’ second attempt at the powerbomb is reversed into a rollup. Tornado DDT by Sami reversed into a backbreaker! Owens talks trash on the apron and they start throwing haymakers. Owens looks for a powerbomb on the apron but it’s reversed into a backdrop! Between the turnbuckles with the tornado DDT! Sami tosses KO back in and he’s looking for the Helluva Kick–superkick by Owens! Pop-up powerbomb and that’s all she wrote! Fantastic match with superb action, selling and emotion–and this isn’t even the best they’ve done together.
WINNER: Kevin Owens via pinfall
After the match, KO slaps Sami across the face and tosses him to the floor. He demands Byron Saxton come in the ring and ask him about Sami Zayn. He snatches the mic and says he’s proven after 14 years that he’s the better man. He says he can finally refocus on getting back his Intercontinental title before making his way down to the commentary table before the next match!
The Miz & Maryse are out first and how enjoyable have these two been since ‘Mania? Of course, 00-Cesaro has been such a welcome sight after returning from injury. Cesaro controls the first portion of the match, besting the champ at every turn. He goes for the deadlift suplex but Maryse holds on to The Miz’ legs helping him turn the ride. Miz works over Cesaro until the Most Money Making Man powers Miz up with a suplex out of a facelock. He comes storming back with uppercuts and hits a dropkick for 2. Maryse provides a distraction, allowing Miz to go up top. Cesaro cuts him off and hits the deadlift superplex for another near fall. Springboard corkscrew uppercut by Cesaro! Giant swing attempt bu Miz kicks the injured shoulder. He goes for the kneeling DDT but Cesaro counters with Swiss Death! Miz avoids a corner charge and hits the Skull Crushing Finale but only gets 2! Sami Zayn is back and he flies onto KO at the announce table! Giant swing by Cesaro back inside! He locks in the crossface as KO & Zayn brawl to the apron. Miz is tapping but the ref is distracted. Guess what happens next…Cesaro knocks both Zayn & Owens off the apron and the distraction allows Miz to sneak from behind and roll up Cesaro for the win!
WINNER and still Intercontinental Champion: The Miz via pinfall
It’s chaos during the aftermath, with Cesaro going after The Miz. He hits the Neutralizer but KO attacks and sends him to the floor. Zayn goes after Owens but he gets another pop-up powerbomb for his troubles. Maryse saves Miz from the same fate as KO hoists the IC gold above his head. Fatal four way, anyone?
Dean Ambrose attacks Chris Jericho to start this off, forcing Y2J to head to the floor. Ambrose chases Y2J back in and continues the assault. Jericho is able to backdrop Dean to the floor and hit a baseball slide. He tries to throw Dean back in but Ambrose spins around and hits a clothesline. Back in now, and Jericho hangs Ambrose on the top rope before connecting on a springboard dropkick. Y2J in control now, hitting yet another dropkick for 2. He goes for a running facebuster but Ambrose sends him into the turnbuckle. Dean is firing away now and he hits a bit of a sloppy tornado DDT for a near fall. Jericho tries to mount a comeback but gets caught with a neckbreaker. Running bulldog by Ambrose gets yet another near fall. Dean up top now and Jericho side steps him–Walls of Jericho! Ambrose gets the ropes and breaks the hold. He fights back and sends Jericho to the floor before hitting the tope to the outside. They’re on the announce table now and Jericho slingshots Dean into the timekeeper’s area. I’m trying to get into this, I really am. It’s fine on a workrate level but I’m just not into it. Codebreaker attempt is blocked and Dean hits the rebound lariat for a near fall. Ambrose going back up top now; Jericho cuts him off and sends him to the floor.He tries a second time and hits the diving elbow for another 2 count. I zoned out for a minute, but snapped back in time to see Jericho come off the top. Ambrose meets him with a boot and goes for Dirty Deeds but it’s reversed into the Walls of Jericho! Jericho hits the enziguri and follows with the butterfly backbreaker. Weird spot where Jericho kinda hits the Lionsault but Dean was obviously supposed to do something there. They stop for a moment before Dean hooks in Dirty Deeds to pick up the win.
WINNER: Dean Ambrose via pinfall
Mauro Ranallo interviews AJ Styles backstage. He asks about Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows and AJ responds by letting Mauro know he doesn’t need them to win the title tonight.
Charlotte is out first and, as always, the ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair is by her side. Natalya looks ready to win the title tonight and she brings out Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart! Bret looks great, all things considering. Some back & forth to start. Natalya looks for the sharpshooter but Charlotte heads to the floor. Nattie chases her back in but gets caught in a neckbreaker. Natalya comes back with a release German suplex before hitting her basement dropkick spot. Charlotte is able to catch Nattie coming in the corner and goes to work on the leg. She locks in a single leg crab but Nattie transitions to an armbar. Both women back up and Charlotte goes right back to the leg, suplexing Nattie into the ropes and catching her leg on the second rope. Charlotte goes up for a moonsault (maybe?) but Nattie shoves her off and to the floor. Nattie goes for a baseball slide but Charlotte catches her. Hurricanrana by Nattie on the floor! Back in, Natalya goes for the discus lariat but eats a big boot by Charlotte. Figure 8 attempt but Nattie fights out and hits the discus clothesline on the second attempt. Sharpshooter attempt stopped and Charlotte hits a backbreaker. Natural Selection only gets 2! Charlotte connects on a beautiful moonsault but again, only gets 2! Is tonight Nattie’s night? Figure 4 is locked in now but Nattie refuses to quit. She’s able to reverse the hold but Charlotte gets to the ropes. Charlotte locks on the sharpshooter and they pull the FUCKING MONTREAL SCREWJOB SPOT as Charles Robinson calls for the bell. Get the fuck outta here.
WINNER and still WWE Women’s Champion: Charlotte via ref stoppage
Post match, Nattie & Bret lock on stereo sharpshooters on the Flairs. Bret mouths “this is bullshit” and he is 100% accurate. What an incredibly stupid ending to that match and who can blame Bret for not wanting to do these little bullshit returns to TV when this shit happens? Unreal.
It’s time to find out who’ll be in charge of RAW. Vince McMahon is out first and is met with a loud ‘CM Punk’ chant, naturally. He discusses the history of RAW while Chicago fires up the ‘CM Punk’ chants a second time. Stephanie McMahon gets her chance to make her case first, listing off all the names that have come to prominence during the Authority’s time in charge of the flagship show. She takes credit for the launch of the Network before bringing up the only point that matters; why are we having this conversation anyway? SHANE LOST AT WRESTLEMANIA. Speaking of, Shane McMahon makes his way out now to a loud ‘Shane O’Mac’ chant. Shane displays some headlines from various outlets, proclaiming the prodigal son as the best thing for WWE RAW. Anyhow, this all leads to Vince naming BOTH Stephanie & Shane as having joint control of Monday Night RAW. And so it continues…get ready for the summer of McMahon.
Crowd is electric for the main event! Can AJ Styles rise to the throne in WWE or will Roman Reigns continue to stand tall as “the guy”? AJ with the early advantage, using his quickness to frustrate the champ. He rocks Roman with a pair of forearms before Reigns just runs through him sending him to the floor. AJ goes back to the leg but Roman clubs away at the back of Styles. Styles comes back though, looking for a German suplex. Roman ain’t havin’ none and drops AJ with a big clothesline that causes JBL to exclaim ‘LARIATOOOOO!’. Sitout powerbomb gets a 2 count for Reigns. Roman looking for the Superman punch but AJ gets an enziguri! Big combo from AJ and he hits the sliding forearm for a near fall. Ushi goroshi on Reigns! Roman catches AJ out of a Phenomenal Forearm attempt but Styles rolls through into the Calf Crusher! Reigns escapes to the floor but Styles hits the Phenomenal Forearm and they crash through the table! AJ makes it back in but Reigns gets counted out?! LAME FINISH. But wait! Shane McMahon is out now. He says that’s not how this match is going to end in this new era and he’s here to order this match to continue! Reigns hits a jawbreaker that Styles completely no-sells. Pele kick! 450 Splash by AJ but Roman gets the knees up. Styles comes off the ropes but looks to get caught with a low blow. The ref calls for a DQ? Come on, man. Here comes Stephanie McMahon now to restart this and now it’s NO DQ! Reigns looks pissed and he sends AJ to the floor. He tosses AJ into the crowd but Style comes firing back with a clothesline and a flying knee to the back of the head! Phenomenal forearm by Styles is stopped by a mid-air Superman punch! Roman only gets 2! AJ eats another Superman punch and as he sets up for the third, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows arrive! They beat down Roman and hit the Boot of Doom! AJ connects on the Phenomenal Forearm but Roman gets his foot on the ropes! Here come The Usos, attacking Gallows & Anderson. Roman pushes AJ off the top rope into the crowd on the floor before flying through the air with a huge tope! Phenomenal Forearm off the guardrail! Styles tosses Roman in and hits a springboard 450 for a near fall! Styles Clash is blocked by Roman and AJ heads to the apron. He counters a Superman Punch with a hangman on the top rope. Phenomenal Forearm misses and Reigns hits a spear to finally put AJ away! False finishes aside, this match was great and these two have great chemistry together. If this is the start of a lengthy feud between the two, I’m all for it.
WINNER and still WWE World Heavyweight Champion: Roman Reigns via pinfall
We close the show with a McMahon segment because of course we do. Other than that–and that abomination of a finish in the Women’s title match–I had a great time watching Payback. Almost every match delivered and two of those matches (Zayn/Owens, AJ/Roman) will be in the discussion when it’s time to talk best WWE matches of the year. WWE continues to build off of the groundwork laid post-WrestleMania; this new crop of stars, led by Roman Reigns (@ me on Twitter) that has become the focus of the company could make this a banner year for WWE as far as quality shows. Thumbs way up for Payback! Send us those tweets (@4CRadio) & emails (firstname.lastname@example.org) on tonight’s show before the next 4CR podcast to be included in the show!