Written by: Scrooge McSuck from DaWrestlingsite.com
We’re less than a week removed from NXT Takeover, and to sum it up quickly, that was a hell of a special, with three matches flirting with 4-stars, and not only showcasing the abilities of WWE’s up-and-coming stars of the future, but also names WWE fans are familiar with but rarely get to see used in a meaningful role. Something deep inside me says that the WWE roster is under pressure not to be shown up by people who aren’t “ready” for the big time or aren’t deserving of better placement on the card on a regular basis.
Heading into Payback, I have to confess that my interest in tracking the weekly product has cooled significantly, mostly due to Daniel Bryan, reigning WWE Champion and conqueror of The Authority, out of action for an undetermined amount of time following neck surgery. He’s still the holder of the CHAMPIONSHIP (can’t say belt), but tonight he has to choose between his belt and his wife’s employment (I might add: Brie Bella’s “acting” makes Stephanie McMahon look Oscar-worthy. Think about that for a moment). The rest of the card is filled out by a lot of rematches from Extreme Rules and a bunch of other crap being thrown at the wall.
Kickoff Match: Hair vs. Mask: El Torito (w/ Los Matadores) vs. Hornswoggle (w/ 3MB):
Alright, we all know how awesome Wee-LC was at Extreme Rules, but hoping to catch lightning in the bottle twice? Shame! Double shame for putting Torito over Mcintyre and Mahal in regular singles matches. It’s just a huge friggin’ joke. The rules are loose enough to allow blatant interference from 3MB and the Matadores. A basic comedy match, this time without the coolness of high spots and tables. Torito does an airplane spin, making Hornswoggle dizzy enough to splash the canvas about five feet away from him. Slater chases after Torito with scissors, only to have the tables turned. They do the “kick out onto the referee, and referee throws the good guy midget back on top” spot. Los Matadores and 3MB take turns doing planchas. Hornswoggle “man’s up”, going 4 mph, and does a somersault through the bottom and middle rope. Back inside, he tears the mask off, revealing another mask, and Torito pins him with a springboard moonsault at 7:05. Yes, we were told you can only win by pinfall or submission. Haircut comedy follows. *1/2 I rated their match at Extreme Rules, so it’s only fair I rate this one. It wasn’t nearly as good, but I’ve seen far worse midget wrestling.
WWE United States Championship Match:
Sheamus © vs. Cesaro (w/ Paul Heyman):
So much for that Sheamus heel turn, huh? This should be pretty awesome, although neither man could stand to do a clean job here. Paul Heyman actually acknowledges the CM Punk chants and reminds everyne Punk is at Game 7 of the Blackhawks/Kings Western Conference Finals… oh, and Brock Lesnar conquered the streak. You can feel a sense of having to open the match with something outstanding… and they almost get there. Hard hitting from the opening bell. Sheamus does his series of forearms across the chest one time too many and gets an uppercut to the face trying to slingshot in the ring. Cesaro muscles him from the apron with a super-plex for a near fall. Cesaro with more of his uppercuts until Sheamus catches him in the Irish Curse. Sheamus with three knees from the second rope for a near fall. Cesaro hits the body press/uppercut combo for a near fall. Cesaro tries to fight out of the Cloverleaf, but Sheamus hangs onto the legs and turns him over, only for Cesaro to find his way to the ropes. Cesaro with a sweep of the legs for 20 rotations of the Cesaro Swing, and then from out of nowhere, Sheamus with a small package to retain the Championship at 11:38. ***1/4 Criminally short with a finish that came out of nowhere. Kudos for being clean, but they booked themselves into a corner. As long as we get an end game of Cesaro and Lesnar fighting each other.
Goldust & Cody Rhodes vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel:
This match was added to the card at the last minute, and guess what: Cody and Goldust, more specifically Cody, has been rocking a “losing streak” lately. At least this time it’s a babyface, but COME ON, how many times are we going to get a lame losing streak storyline? The end game is obviously Cody turning heel on Goldust. Good back and forth for a few minutes until Goldust becomes our Rhodes Brother in Peril. Ryback and Axel with some decent double team efforts and demonstrating nice team chemistry. Cody with the hot tag, and it’s a pretty solid sequence. Cody with a moonsault onto Ryback for two. Disaster Kick is countered with a powerbomb, but the Meat Hook clothesline gets two. Cody with the Cross Rhodes for two. Goldust and Axel both get cleared from the ring. Rhodes goes for the Disaster Kick again, and this time it’s countered with the Shell Shock, and it’s over at 7:50. Clever for Ryback to pin with his legs AWAY from the ropes, where Goldust was struggling to re-enter the ring. Post-match, Cody tells Goldust “you need a better partner than me” and walks away. **1/2 Too short to really get going, but they crammed a lot of action into this one, and the final few minutes were incredibly hot. Got the crowd to stop chanting “Let’s Go Blackhawks.”
Big E. vs. Rusev (w/ Lana):
I’m not looking forward to this one, but I’ve been known to put my foot in my mouth. This was set up by Big E. making the save for that punk Zack Ryder. I’m sorry, but evil foreigner gimmicks belong in the 1980’s. As I typed that, I noticed a “Kirchner vs. Volkoiff?” sign that gets a laugh out of me. Clubberin’ slugfest to start. Rusev quickly takes Big E. down with a sweet looking release German Suplex. Big E. counters a charge to the corner, then takes him off the apron with a spear between the ropes! That spot got zero reaction at Extreme Rules, but here it popped huge. Big E. goes for a splash, but Rusev counters with a crescent kick, and the Accolade finishes at 3:39. I’m surprised Big E. did such a quick, clean job, but it was effective. ** Solid “super heavyweight” match, with lots of high impact offense and little resting.
Kofi Kingston vs. Bo Dallas:
This was added at the last minute on Payback Kickoff, thanks to Kofi posting a tweet about Stephanie McMahon abusing her powers. I’m surprised he’s not fighting Kane under those circumstances. Bo Dallas cuts a promo telling the fans that just because the Blackhawks are going to lose “their match” (Dear Bo, you’re confusing Tennis lingo with Hockey), doesn’t mean they’re all losers. And as I typed that all up, out comes Kane three seconds into the match. Bo Dallas casually exits the ring while Kofi foolishly tries to stand up to the Big Red Monster, only to suffer the fate of a Chokeslam and Tombstone Piledriver. No Contest, obviously. Bo Dallas offers words of inspiration for the semi-conscious Kofi. You just have to Bo-lieve.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match:
Bad News Barrett © vs. Rob Van Dam:
I’m just going to guess RVD won a contender’s match, otherwise I’m not sure what the reason behind this taking place. Barrett’s pre-match promo makes reference to RVD being Old Yeller. To be fair, it has been seven years since Shawn Michaels called Ric Flair that, so in the eyes of Jim Cornette, it’s fair game. Back and forth action to start things off. They fight to the floor, with RVD hitting the spinning heel kick across the security wall. Back inside with a slingshot leg drop for two. Barrett counters a head scissors with a field goal punt to the chest. He boots RVD to the floor and follows with the Cactus Elbow. RVD mounts the comeback with a spinning heel kick and clotheslines. Rolling Thunder connects, Frog Splash doesn’t. He ducks the Bull Hammer and does the leg scissors roll up for two. Barrett with the Winds of Change for two. They take it to the floor, again. Barrett winds up for the Bull Hammer, but this time meets nothing but the ring post. Back inside, RVD with a slingshot DDT for two. Split-leg moonsault meets the knees. Barrett loads up again, and this time the Bull Hammer knocks RVD back into 1999 for the three count and retain the Intercontinental Championship at 9:42. **3/4 Another short-ish match, but they packed a lot of action in there. RVD was going through the motions early on, but the hot near falls and sequence of counters at the end pulled this out of mediocrity.
– Daniel Bryan’s Decision™ gets a lengthy video package. I have to say, Bryan’s promo from the latest episode of Raw was one of the best he’s ever done, and you could feel the passion behind it. After a long (and semi-pointless) back and forth, Brie Bella decides to quit and slaps Stephanie’s face back into 1999 along with RVD. Daniel Bryan and Brie “celebrate” the moral victory, but I can’t imagine where they go with Stephanie McMahon being publicly humiliated like that. McMahons don’t take things laying down.
Last Man Standing Match:
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (w/ Harper & Rowan):
Let’s recap, shall we: We started the feud with Wyatt wanting to expose and bring out the monster in John Cena. Cena wins at WrestleMania. At Extreme Rules, they work a Cage match where Cena visually wins it roughly 15 times before the Son of Jameson™ scares him into getting knocked out. I don’t even know what the point is any more. Is Cena fighting to uphold his honor, fighting for the Cenation, fighting for the sake of fighting?
They’re working a much faster pace than normal, cutting the non-wrestling psychology to a minimum. Wyatt controls, hitting high impact stuff to keep down Cena for several lengthy counts. Cena busts out the Super-Leg Drop, looking better here than ever before. Wyatt hits Sister Abigail for the first time at the 6-minute mark, but Cena gets up at 9. Cena surprises Wyatt immediately afterwards with the AA, but Wyatt gets up from that with his Spider Pose. The Wyatt Family and Uso’s get involved, including a suicide dive from LUKE HARPER, and a twisting body press from one of the Uso’s. A chair gets involved, with Cena pausing before BLASTING Wyatt across the back with it. “Different circumstances, indeed.” Cena sets up a table, Wyatt slips out of the AA, and puts Cena through it with a suplex. Steel steps are used next, including an AWESOME spot where Cena launches them over the top rope, into the face of Wyatt! Cena pulls out more tables, hops on the apron, and dives right into another Sister Abigail! Wyatt back drops Cena across the steps, and follows by jumping off them with his signature back splash. Cena blocks a chair shot and quickly hits the AA on the floor. Harper and Rowan return to save Wyatt, but the Uso’s are back as well. Furniture is rearranged, one Uso puts Rowan through a tilted over table with the Rikishi butt splash, and Harper takes the other Uso off the top rope through TWO tables with a Super-Plex! Back with the legal participants, Wyatt tackles Cena through the security wall, but both men get up. They brawl into the crowd, to the “electrical” equipment, and Cena puts Wyatt through a crate with the AA. He topples another crate along the gap, but Wyatt ain’t getting up, and Cena’s your winner at 24:12. ****1/4 With the nonsense of their previous matches, they had to go out there and cut out all the bullshit and just beat the living hell out of each other. They accomplished that, and somehow got the Family and Uso’s involved without making it too much of a clusterfuck. Good to see an actual finish as well, and the “goofy” finish didn’t hide the fact that Wyatt did a clean loss.
WWE Diva’s Championship Match:
Paige © vs. Alicia Fox:
Welcome to the death slot, second PPV in a row for Paige. Alicia Fox has earned this title shot by a fluke victory in England and giving some nerd an atomic wedgie. What’s it been, four years since Alicia Fox has been in a meaningful Diva’s Match on PPV? Sloppy work that’s not worth trying to call. Nothing notable other than a fancy suplex into a cover from Paige, from the pages of Barry Windham. Alicia slams Paige off the ring steps in another cool spot, but the action is limited thanks to too much emphasis on Fox’s stupid “unstable” gimmick. Fox with a tilt-o-whirl back breaker into a submission. Then another one. Then another, this time dropping Paige sloppily through the ropes. Paige mounts the comeback, sweeps Fox off the top rope to avoid that dumb split-leg move she does, and forces the tap out wit the Scorpion Crosslock (called the PTO: Paige-Tap-Out) at 6:34. *1/4 Yeah, this wasn’t very good. Paige barely got any offense in, and Fox’s work was mostly sloppy. How about pushing someone into the challenger role that can actually work?
No Holds Barred; Elimination Tag Team Match:
Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns vs. Triple H, Randy Orton, Batista:
Prediction before the match begins: It’s going to come down to Roman Reigns against all three members of Evolution, and manages to pin two of them before doing the job, probably to Triple H and the Pedigree. These two groups have been at war for two months, and nothing can stop them from getting physical. What the HELL is up with Batista’s powder blue trunks and purple sleeves and knee pads? I guess all six men couldn’t wear black, right? BLUEtista actually wound up trending on Twitter. Go figure.
Ambrose/Orton, HHH/Rollins, and Reigns/Batista break off in different directions. While the match at Extreme Rules was mostly dominated by Evolution, it’s a more balanced match in the early moments until Triple H takes a lengthy beating from all three members of the Shield. Ambrose winds out our first face-in-peril at the 10-minute mark. Ambrose gets knocked silly and bounces back off the ropes with a clothesline. Reigns with the hot tag and goes to work on everything walking. Chaos erupts into the crowd, leaving Reigns and Batista at ringside. Rollins gets whacked with what looks like a flat-screen TV. Reigns takes a 3-on-1 beating, resulting in a Triple Powerbomb through a table. They mock the Sheild’s fist bump, and out of nowhere comes Ambrose with a dive onto all three men! Rollins comes back to life and dives onto the wreck with a somersault plancha! Ambrose and Rollins fight hard, but the numbers catch up. Ambrose takes a back suplex across a chair, and Rollins takes a Pedigree onto a chair and the concrete. Reigns is left alone, and in a brutal scene, gets triple teamed with kendo stick lashings. Evolution keeps working him over up the aisle until Ambrose intervenes, only to get laid out with the hanging DDT from Orton. Suddenly, Rollins comes back from the dead with a dive off the titantron! All six men are down and crawling to the ring. Back inside, Batista goes to finish Rollins with the Batista-Bomb, but he slips out and Reigns finishes him with the Spear for the first elimination at 27:32! Orton hits the RKO on Rollins, but Reigns breaks the count. Orton goes for another Hanging DDT, but Ambrose interrupts and gives him the Dirty Deeds onto a chair for the second elimination at 28:38! Batista and Orton offer some post-match help, but the Shield hang through, Rollins hits the knee from the top rope, and Reigns finishes with the Spear at 30:59 for the clean sweep!
***** This was, without a doubt, a masterpiece. They worked a stellar formula tag team match, took it into the next level by working their way into the “no holds barred” stipulation, put the faces on the brink of defeat, almost to the point of hopelessness, only for them to make the miracle comeback to give new hope to everyone watching. I don’t remember being as invested into a match as I was once the lashing of Reigns began, and every hope spot after that was like a fire ready to explode. Everyone went out there and busted their ass, strung together a fantastic match, and left us with what could easily be considered the current front runner for WWE’s Match of the Year. I don’t go full-monty very often, but this match was everything it needed to be and more, and blew away my expectations, which were already set incredibly high.
Final Thoughts: Any PPV/Special that features a 5-star match is automatically a thumbs up, regardless of the undercard. Fortunately for Payback, the majority of the undercard brought it’s A-game to the table, too. Cena vs. Wyatt would’ve been an easy choice for Match of the Night on any other card, but they definitely deserve recognition for their performance. Everything else featured was fairly short in comparison, with every other match clocking in under or around 10-minutes. The US Title and Intercontinental Title matches were good, but nothing really outstanding, Cody Rhodes continues to plant the seeds for an eventual heel turn, and wow, that was one sorry ass Women’s Title Match. Highly Recommended Show, all things considered.