Live on the WWE Network (and Pay-Per-View), it’s Payback! This event is held in Chicago in front of over 13,000 fans. Al N. Jaxson can’t join Mitch Nickelson this time around, so the lovely Rosie Piper will review in his place. She’s nicer on the eyes, so no arguments here. On with the review!
Hair vs. Mask: El Torito w/Diego & Fernando vs. Hornswoggle w/Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal & Drew McIntyre
Rosie: I missed most of this because I was putting the baby to bed, so my review will be short (that was totally unplanned, but it works, so I’ll stick with it). Of course Hornswoggle was gonna lose, because they’re not gonna unmask El Torito just yet. They needed to fill the time with the poorly done head shaving.
Mitch: Lightning doesn’t always strike twice. The WeeLC match at Extreme Rules was way more fun than it had any right to be, so the WWE came up with this Hair vs. Mask return match. This match was okay for a pre-show match, but just okay. This is a rivalry that should be played out on Smackdown or Main Event; one of the lesser shows. But somehow this gets time before a Pay-Per-View. At least it wasn’t on the actual main show. I feel bad for all of the normal sized wrestlers who are clearly the supporting cast in this comedy feud. Hornswoggle got a haircut and hopefully this rivalry is said and done.
United States Title: Sheamus vs. Cesaro w/Paul Heyman
Mitch: I really like both these guys and they put on a good match. It wasn’t the show-stealer I was hoping it to be, but it was still good. Both guys hit hard and Cesaro came off looking really strong at times. I think he struggled a little when he tried to do that monster superplex he always does, but that’s just a minor grievance. The ending sequence was fun with Sheamus getting the win after Cesaro did the crowd-favorite Cesaro Swing. Maybe he’ll blame the move, and the crowd, for his loss. That could open the door for a more heel-ish Cesaro, which should mesh better with the fantastic Paul Heyman. Also, Heyman took a good jab at the crowd about CM Punk. He and Stephanie both used the CM Punk chants to their advantage on this night.
Rosie: It wasn’t bad, but it was predictable. Lots of pin attempts by Cesaro, lots of frustrated posturing by Paul Heyman, and lots of Beats of the Bodhrán. Also, the crowd did a horrible job counting the number of times Cesaro did his Cesaro Swing. They never get it right. Anyway, they’re gonna have to do more with Cesaro as a Paul Heyman guy. He was much loved as a Real American, but he’s been pretty stale since then. I feel like if they don’t really give him a better angle other than just being a PH guy, he’s not got much going from here.
Cody Rhodes & Goldust vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel
Rosie: Goldust looked pretty weak here. He spent most of the first half of the match getting obliterated by his opponents. The standing flip Goldust did on Axel was pretty neat, though. Cody always does a good job with his high-flying moves, although according to Mitch the Moonsault off of the top rope onto both Axel and Ryback wasn’t pretty (I missed it). It was awfully disappointing to see the Rhodes Brothers lose. They’re a pretty good tag team, and I think they should really be the forerunners of the tag division. It’s an interesting angle, though, that Cody is pushing the break-up of the team by saying that he’s the reason they keep losing. It gives me hope that they’ll reconcile in the end after (I hope) two awesome singles stints.
Mitch: I guess this match was added at the last minute because I don’t recall it being advertised. It was great filler, though. The match was solid and it seems that we’re finally getting the Cody/Goldust rivalry. It’s a shame they didn’t pull the plug on this earlier in the year because they could have done their match at Wrestlemania. Not sure when they’ll finally do a match but I’d guess Summerslam would be the best platform for them. Ryback and Axel, or Rybaxel as all the cool kids say, have been a tag team for a while and are slowly growing as a legitimate team in that division. They might find themselves in the title picture soon although I’ll be a little upset if they get a title run while the Real Americans never did.
Rusev w/Lana vs. Big E
Mitch: This was my second favorite match of the night. Many big guys have trouble putting together really good matches, especially when paired off against other big guys. But when two hosses can go like these two did, I love it. It was a little short to be considered a classic or anything, but going too long would have ruined it. Rosie pointed out a “We Want Ziggler” chant early on in the match. I was thinking they were saying “We Want Lana.” Turns out she was right and I was wrong. I had two favorite spots of the night and Big E’s spear of Rusev through the ropes to the outside was one of them. He’s done the spear before but this was one of the better executions of it. Maybe I was just impressed by him doing it against the monster Rusev. My hope for Rusev from here on out is to get into an actual rivalry with Sheamus. Not only would him feuding for the U.S. title be logical for his pro-Russian heel character, but we’d also be treated to more smash-mouth wrestling between monster fighters.
Rosie: Very happy to see Putin’s face before the start. Also really happy the crowd was thinking the same thing as me — show us some Ziggler! I was kinda hoping Big E would go through the ropes and take out Lana instead of Rusev. Her voice is awfully grating. That was a pretty good match, though. The two can wrestle and it looks vicious. Hopefully this will become a running feud. I’d like to see them again.
Bo Dallas vs. Kofi Kingston (…but really Kane just beat up Kofi and that was it.)
Rosie: I’m trying to like Bo Dallas, I am. I’m trying to be a Boliever. I guess I just need to Bolieve in him some more. I did like that he got the crowd all mad by telling them the Blackhawks would lose. I’m interested in seeing if he turns heel like his brother. I didn’t expect the interference by Kane. Not entirely sure what the point of it was, other than to give Dallas another chance to tell the crowd to Bolieve. Maybe I’m starting to Bolieve…
Mitch: I really like the Bo Dallas character and I’m happy he got to do a promo. He took a shot at the Blackhawks to tick off the Chicago crowd. I’m glad they’re trying to have him be an obnoxious brat; he’s funny doing that. Kane beat up Kofi who apparently made fun of Stephanie or something. I didn’t really get what was going on there. At least they’ll get a paycheck for it.
Bad New Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam (IC Title)
Mitch: This match was just okay. It’s hard to get into RVD. People complain about him A LOT, but the complaints are valid. He’s only fighting Barrett so BNB can have a Pay-Per-View win over a legend. BNB gets more credibility and I’m hoping this continues his rise to the top. As long as he moves on from RVD, then I’m okay with it. Truthfully, I don’t remember much from the actual match. It was pretty forgettable for me. I remember Barrett’s arm getting hurt but him still managing to win by Bull Hammer anyway. I kind of hope he gets a cast and then uses it as a weapon like Randy Orton’s dad always did.
Rosie: I felt the match was pretty slow to start. Nothing really impressive. I really expected more. The spinning leg drop RVD performed while BNB was outside the ring wasn’t too bad. I liked the kick BNB hit as RVD was dropping from the top rope – sounded nasty. Good move on BNB’s part by smiling as he’s trying to choke out RVD. He’s a great heel. The match really picked up at the end, though, so that redeemed it for me.
Daniel Bryan World Title Segment
Rosie: The tail-between-the-legs run Stephanie did after Brie slapped her was pretty out of character. I’m wondering where things will go from here. Obviously, Daniel’s going to hold on to the title for a little while longer. I want to see Stephanie get back into the ring and wrestle Brie.
Mitch: I’m glad Daniel Bryan is still getting face time despite undergoing neck surgery just a few weeks ago. He looks like his career is moving forward and he’ll be okay, so I’m thankful for that. His wife refused to let Daniel surrender the title and quit before Stephanie could fire her. She slapped her boss and Stephanie went to the back like she had her tail between her legs. That was a little out of character, but I guess it furthers the feud.
My problem with this angle is that I feel like the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is being used to further the Stephanie/Brie Bella rivalry. I guess they’re making the best situation of a neck injury, but it still feels strange. Will Stephanie and Brie have a match now? I don’t want to come across as sexist or anything, but this is a potential women’s match between two women who aren’t even in the Divas title hunt. Stephanie hasn’t wrestled an actual match in years. And maybe this won’t lead to a match, but it still feels odd that the biggest title in the company is being used to further such a low-level feud. Okay, rant over.
Oh, I almost forgot. Stephanie’s line about CM Punk being a quitter was awesome. I still like CM Punk, but the crowd was trying to hijack a segment and she beautifully ripped into them. She’s so good at being the heel.
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (Last Man Standing)
Mitch: Very physical match that was the best match of the night. This rivalry felt like it didn’t produce any great matches and was starting to drag on. They finally delivered at Payback. The match was hard hitting. Weapons were being used to brutalize each other. My second favorite spot of the night was when Cena threw the steel steps outside of the ring at Wyatt. It looked and sounded like Wyatt’s face meet the force of a big rig on his forehead.
I wondered why the Usos didn’t have a match tonight but they were used well to even the odds against the Wyatt family. One of the Usos got a superplex by Luke Harper out of the ring through a couple of tables. This whole match had the feel of a great wild brawl. Compared to the Shield/Wyatt match from earlier this year and the Shield/Evolution match last month, it falls a little short. But this wasn’t a six-man tag match. It was a one-on-one match that borrowed heavily from a six-man format.
Yes, Bray should have won this feud. His only win out of their Pay-Per-View trilogy was the cheap win last month in the cage. But he was fighting against the Superman known as John Cena and most people expected Cena to win the match and the feud. I still think Bray has been elevated to the main event by his time with Cena, but a win would have done even more.
Rosie: These two always put on a good match. This match was intense and the crowd was really into it. I loved the mini waltz in the center of the ring as well as the conducting of the crowd while singing “He’s got the whole world…” Wyatt is such a likeable heel. You can’t help but to cheer for him, even though he’s so evil. Wyatt slammed Cena to the mat hard at one point and it looked great. All the chair shots looked pretty brutal, too. My favorite hit was when Cena threw the stairs out of the ring at Wyatt. That was just awesome. I really loved the superplex into the tables that Rowan did with one of the Usos…just fantastic! Pretty innovate ending, too. Not really a “clean” win, but it still continues the feud.
Paige vs. Alicia Fox (Diva’s Title)
Rosie: The wrestling wasn’t too bad. Fox seemed to be the stereotypical dirty fighter, and she played her part well. Paige’s submission move is pretty sweet!
Mitch: I was bored in this match. Paige has a great finisher that I love seeing. Alicia is kind of entertaining as the crazy lady. Being between the two main event matches, it serves its purpose to give the crowd time to reset and get re-energized before the next big match. Maybe one day the girls can have a division so good that they can not be the seventh-inning stretch of wrestling.
Evolution vs. The Shield (No Holds Barred Elimination)
Mitch: One of the biggest problems of this match from the start is that it had to follow the fantastic match they had at Extreme Rules last month. Last month’s match was a Match of the Year contender, so already the bar is so high that this match is destined to seem not as good by default. And it wasn’t as good. It was still decent and all the guys seemed to work really hard, so please don’t take this as me hating on the match.
The pacing was a little strange and I think that was just because Evolution controlled so much of it. The Shield are high octane and throw caution to the wind; that’s what we got last month. Evolution is more methodical, so much of this month’s match had all three members just kind of staring at one Shield guy after they did a brutal move. The pacing was just slower.
The big move of the match was Rollins jumping off that entrance. His leap had to have been from about 15 feet in the air. The match picked up from there and the ending was pretty fun. I was surprised at how strong the Shield finished the match. All three members survived without an elimination.
There was a stare down between Reigns and Triple H in the middle of the match that was likely planting seeds for a big one on one match between the two, probably at Summerslam. That should be a solid match. I’m not sure if Reigns is truly ready for a solo push, but if he’s fighting Triple H then odds are he’ll look good.
Rosie: Wish I could’ve seen Batista bend the stairs when he hit them, but we had to watch a boring back body drop by Orton. I didn’t like how spread out things were at first. The camera men didn’t seem to be able to keep up very well. The brawl at the beginning was okay, I suppose, but nothing really noteworthy happened. Once the actual tag match got underway, things didn’t really improve. I was bored, to be honest. Really expected more out of this match. Wish they’d put Cena/Wyatt last to end on a high note.
Final Thoughts by Mitch:
Not an amazing show, but my expectations were low. It felt better simply because I wasn’t expecting much. Just about everything was good but nothing was really stealing the show. Here’s some ‘awards’ I’ll give for the show…
Match of the Night: For me was John Cena vs Bray Wyatt. Although it did feel more like a six-man tag match than a true one-on-one fight.
Spot of the Night: Goes to Cena throwing those steel steps out of the ring into Wyatt’s face. I really wanted to say that Big E’s spear on Rusev was the best spot of the night, but Cena and Wyatt earned it. I’m sure many will say that Rollins’ leap was the best moment, but I wasn’t as impressed with that one.
Wrestler of the Night: This was the hardest award for me to give out. There wasn’t a clear winner, but I’d say that Rollins, Wyatt, and Cena were the best candidates for this. Rosie might hate me for this, haha, but I’m naming Cena the best wrestler of the night. He knows how to step up when he needs to and I felt he did tonight. This was a weak night of wrestling, though. So he didn’t have much competition.
Overall, I’ll give this show three out of five stars. Not a great show and no match of the year candidates, but still good with several fun moments. Nothing was terrible, either. Hopefully Mr. Bryan recovers quickly enough and we have some great matches from him again. Not having the champ wrestle on the show does feel like a big void.
Final thoughts by Rosie:
We want Ziggler! (Seriously, WWE…start using your good wrestlers before you aren’t able to. Would it really have been that hard to put Ziggler and Sandow against each other in a pre-match show instead of the Mask vs. Hair crap?)
Also, thanks for the Rhodes Brothers match, WWE. We haven’t seen enough of them lately. Don’t screw this up, now.
I’m tired of the Daniel Bryan/The Authority stuff. They really need Brie to take a back seat. She isn’t a good actress. I cringe every time I watch her try to pull off the “damsel in distress” or “I hate Stephanie” act.
While the Cena/Wyatt match was great, the PPV overall was pretty so-so. I think a 3 out of 5 stars is the best I could give, but only because of the Cena/Wyatt match. And maybe because of the CM Punk jabs and the “We want Ziggler” chant…