Liam Hoofe reviews WWE Payback…
Raw’s first PPV after WrestleMania is done and dusted, and what a weird and wonderful bag it was. We saw two title changes, a heel turn and one of the worst matches in recent WWE history. The show, for the most part delivered in the ring, and a lively crowd kept things hot when things got a little stale. While, unfortunately, the show will likely end up being remembered for just one match, there was a lot to like about Payback – here’s my match by match review of the show…
Enzo and Cass Defeated Gallows and Anderson
Watching Enzo and Cass do their usual entrance shtick I couldn’t help but wonder what has gone so wrong for both of these teams. This time last year, the excitement around both teams was at an all time high – Gallows and Anderson as The Club had arrived to a lot of buzz due to their achievements elsewhere, while Enzo and Cass were easily one of the most over acts in NXT looking to make an impact on the main roster. Whether it’s bad booking or bad work from the teams, all four guys need a serious change in fortune right now because this match couldn’t feel any more generic and inconsequential.
The match was the usual kick off affair – some bland action interrupted by adverts and shameful plugs. Nothing much to report here. Enzo picked up the win after a surprise roll up that interrupted the Magic Killer. Let’s hope things begin to change for these teams in the near future.
Match Rating: *
Chris Jericho defeated Kevin Owens for the United States Title
Jericho and Owens got the night off to a solid start in a match where there was a lot to like. Things got going a lot quicker than their encounter a month earlier until Owens took Jericho to the floor for a few minutes to slow things down.
The character work was great here, as it has been through the majority of their feud. Owens taunting Jericho in a headlock was a nice touch and the crowd chanting stupid idiot was great as well.
Jericho picking up the win was a bit of a surprise and raises questions considering the stipulation about SmackDown getting the US champion (is Owens staying there now?) and Owens’ feud with AJ Styles. Either way, this was a fun start to the night.
Match Rating: ***
Austin Aries Defeated Neville
Firstly, how great is it to see these two getting the chance to show off their skills on the main show? Secondly, I wish WWE would drop the purple ropes and the cruiserweight logo in the corners of the ring – while I get that it is supposed to make them stand out, it just makes them feel inferior to the rest of the roster – just get rid of it now.
Aries and Neville delivered in the ring once again. The action was hard-hitting and Aries dive between the ropes looked brutal, as did Neville dropkicking Aries off the top rope earlier in the match.
The finish, which saw Neville grab the ref when he couldn’t reach the ropes from the Last Chancery, will likely draw contention from some quarters, but all in all, it makes sense to keep the feud going. Aries will capture the title eventually, but keeping the chase going for a few more months will only add to the moment when he finally topples Neville. The self-professed King of the Cruiserweights is one of the best heels in WWE now, having him drop the belt now just doesn’t make any sense.
Match Rating: *** 1/2
The Hardy Boyz Defeated Sheamus and Cesaro
Jeff Hardy lost a tooth, Matt Hardy shouted delete for the first time in a WWE ring – what wasn’t there to like about this match? All four men put on a great show here and there was such a wide display of different styles on display in the ring.
Cesaro’s display of athleticism never fails to impress – that leg drop was seriously impressive, while The Hardyz have yet to put a foot wrong since their return. The heel turn of Sheamus and Cesaro was booked to perfection as well – the false handshake situation was executed really nicely. That’s 3 for 3 so far from Payback.
Match Rating: *** 1/2
Alexa Bliss defeated Bayley
WWE really love superstars losing in their hometowns at the minute huh? Going into the match it seemed like Bayley was the favourite, but as the match begun it became clear that they were going down the loss in a hometown route once again, with the commentators mentioning it was Bayley’s hometown at every given opportunity.
Either way, the two women put on a highly competitive and entertaining outing, arguably the best of the night, with some beautifully executed spots. Bliss has always been fire on the mic (her promo on Raw talk after the PPV was great – especially ribbing Renee about looking like Beetlejuice) but this was easily her best outing in the ring since her call up. The long-awaited Sasha heel turn, leading to a match with Bayley at SummerSlam is no doubt on the way, but this will keep Bayley occupied until then. Her gimmick works better as the plucky contender, not the champion.
Match Rating: ***1/2
House of Horrors – Part 1
My god, where to start with this. First of all, what must Randy’s limo driver have thought when he showed up topless and requested a drop at ‘The House of Horrors’?
Being a wrestling fan is hard, we have to constantly defend our love for the sport to everybody. I couldn’t even begin to imagine my girlfriend’s reaction if she’d woken up and walked in on me watching this. The whole thing was utterly ridiculous and I can’t imagine how anybody thought this was a good idea. It’s things like this that make wrestling incredibly difficult to defend.
The whole debacle, which was basically the two fighting around a house with some creepy stuff in, ended with Bray tipping a fridge with ‘follow the buzzards’ written on it, onto Randy. Bray then crawled out the house like a teenager being stalked by Mike Myers, before getting in the limo and requesting a lift to the arena and singing ‘He’s got the Whole World, in his hands’ to the limo driver, who at this point must be wondering how his life has come to this. Words can not begin to explain this.
‘Match’ Rating: 0
Seth Rollins Defeated Samoa Joe
Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe are two of the best wrestlers the WWE have at their disposal right now and any match between the pair should be good, if not great. The match at Payback felt slightly hampered by Seth’s kayfabe knee injury – which drove the narrative of the match for the most part.
While perfectly serviceable, the whole thing never really got out of first gear, though the screwy ending (I swear Joe’s shoulder was up?) will lead to a rematch down the line. Rollins needs some serious character work at the moment – he’s pretty much getting by on an injury at the moment.
Match Rating: **
House of Horrors Part 2 – Bray Wyatt defeated Randy Orton
So the second part of this ‘match’ is just a straight up no-DQ match, which began with Randy making an implausibly fast return to the ring and striking Bray with a chair. He then continued to beat Bray down, until Jinder Mahal snuck in and hit Randy with the WWE belt, allowing Bray to hit a Sister Abigail for the win. This whole thing was a farce. In fact, this whole match is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in pro-wrestling
‘Match’ Rating: 0
Braun Strowman defeated Roman Reigns
If someone had told me a year ago that Braun Strowman would be in the position he is now, I’d have laughed in their face. Braun’s ascension to the main event has been executed perfectly and his victory (clean!) over Reigns last night is a massive moment for the former Wyatt family member.
Roman, for all his flaws, rarely fails to deliver in the ring and he played his role perfectly here, including selling the injuries post match. The match itself was short and sweet, with Braun looking like an absolutely animal throughout. His post-match beatdown further establishes him as an unstoppable force as well and his inevitable match with Lesnar should prove to be a spectacle if nothing else.
Watching Braun crash through the ambulance door and into a pile of cardboard boxes was fairly amusing as well.
Braun is red hot right now, let’s just hope WWE don’t mess it up.
Match Rating: ***
Despite a poor build up Payback delivered in most areas. The two title changes were genuine surprises and Sheamus and Cesaro’s heel turn was great. The show, sadly, will likely end up being remembered for the total debacle that was The House of Horrors ‘match’, which is easily one of the worst things the WWE have done in a very, very long time.
The opening half of the show was really strong and things only really began to go downhill once Randy and Bray showed up. Alexa gave arguably a career best performance, while the cruiserweight and tag team matches both made logical advances to pre-existing storylines. The show’s ending was great as well – with Braun’s reign of terror reaching a new high.
House of Horrors aside, this was probably Raw’s best PPV since the brand split last year.
What did you think of WWE Payback? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter, here – @liamhoofe