Welcome to Rapid Reacts: WWE Payback, a new feature exclusive to WNW Premium Members. In this feature, a select member of the WrestlingNewsWorld.com staff will review a pay-per-view after it airs in text format. The following review of Payback is by senior staff member and the Queen of WNW, Kendra Bunyon.
Payback aired from Baltimore with a raucous crowd. While the show was decent, even solid at certain times, a few of the matches really left a lot to be desired. I will admit that the majority of the booking made sense, but where it missed its mark, it was a total mess. There was some absolutely beautiful moves throughout the night, and the strongest wrestlers went out there giving even that much more, but others dropped the ball. The Divas Division that had been making huge stride fell back in a rather horrendous way, and possibly left one Diva injured. In fact there was blood shed, and possible other injuries through the night. Hopefully nothing is as bad as it looked at Payback, and only time will tell.
R-Truth vs Stardust > B
Comedic start between the two, and the fans loved chanting, "Cody!" at Stardust to annoy him. It was great to see that the fans were in it, and it was a solid little match to get the fans even more excited for the show to come. Those two rarely disappoint, and I have to admit that other than the opening comedy, they didn't go all out with spiders and other silliness at the end of the match. They worked hard for the short time they had, primed the crowd, and showed how strong they are. Hopefully Stardust won't be stuck working the mid-card comedy routine forever, but he sure knows how to work it with R-Truth.
Winner – R-Truth (6:49)
The Meta-Powers vs The Ascension > B-
They were very much Hogan and Savage in this match. It almost brought tears to my eyes seeing them come to the ring. Yes, we knew this would be silliness, but it also showed how much we still love the men they're dressing and working as, and how much better Axelmania has become. Mandow on the other hand should be getting so much more than playing a character that isn't his own. All that being said, these two were the only reason the grade for this match wasn't in the toilet!
The problems I had with this match was both the time, and that The Ascension won. The WWE seemed to be starting to push Sandow, and maybe even Axel, but then they put The Ascension over. That makes less than no sense to me after how horrible they've been in everything they've done on WWE since they were brought up. Honestly, I'm wondering why they're still on TV at all, never mind winning on a PPV Pre-Show!
Winners – The Ascension (2:50)
Dolph Ziggler vs Sheamus > B+
They both started hard and fast in the ring. Sheamus looked as though he might have honestly tweaked his knee a bit flying outside the ring early, but it was Ziggler who ended up selling a possible (fake?) knee injury from early in the match. Sheamus was really strong, selling his size, strength and heelness to the best of his ability, and continued to get the now growing, "You look stupid!" chants. Ziggler, on the other hand, is turning what I thought looked stupid on him into a real look. Rather than continuing to bleach his roots, he's really let his blond grow out and added a headband and frayed vest to make his look more 80s than anything. While I've complained about Ziggler's roots off and on for a number of years, I have to say I'm liking his new look. Ziggler is really selling it.
It was great to see Sheamus get his comeuppance when Ziggler rubbed his bum all over Sheamus' face in the corner. It was a fun moment to bring us back to the last PPV and Sheamus' loss, but not manning up at that point. That's Sheamus for you, but the back and forth between these two was sick! They both worked their bums off, and while I still think Ziggler should be in the main event of the WWE, he still gives it all each time in the ring, and that much more at PPVs. He looked great out there, and still sold after he was busted open with that stiff headbutt. I've not seen that much blood in a WWE ring in a long time, and while they might have ended the match sooner because of how much blood there was, they didn't rush in with towels and cover it all up. Yes, they had to change the mat after this match, but they didn't hide the blood from the fans, even showing Ziggler after the match. He might have been covering the cut, but there was still a lot of blood there.
Winner – Sheamus (12:17)
Backstage Segment > B+
The discussion, or would that be argument, between Rollins and Kane was fantastic! But for me, the best part was Noble and Mercury trying to intimidate Kane as they stare up at him from over a foot below.
2 Out of 3 Falls WWE Tag Team Championship Match – New Day vs Cesaro & Kidd > A-
Cesaro and Kidd normally leave it all in the ring. No matter what they're doing, they work that ring hard. But in this match, they took it to a whole new level, and brought New Day with them. New Day has seemed to be out of step since they joined up, but in this match they were on and hit almost everything beautifully. Big E's belly-to-belly on Kidd after Kidd flew over Big E as he flew out through the ropes was fantastic, and one of the better moves we've seen from Big E in months. Big E flying out through the ropes, taking Cesaro to the barricade was also a beautiful and huge move. It really looks as though Big E is right back in the game – at least in his own moves. It appeared as though Big E was sandbagging Cesaro. I thought Big E had done this to Cesaro previously on Raw, but wasn't sure. Normally Cesaro can strong arm anyone over, but Big E is a big man, and Cesaro just isn't able to lift him the way he needs to be lifted to hit the move Cesaro is trying to hit. The first time was questionable, but Big E did it again tonight, and if he's not careful with that, he's going to hurt himself, Cesaro, or both.
When Kidd got the first pinfall at 2:49 in the match, I was sure there would be a Freebird Rules argument after the first fall, because it is what New Day is. And, true to fashion, Woods argued with the ref that he should be allowed to get into the match because of the Freebird Rule. Of course the ref said no, but Woods had to fight for it.
Of course New Day got the second pinfall at 8:15. That started the predictable "New Day Sucks!" chants, but they had to continue the match, and splitting the falls is a great way of doing that. Then Woods snuck in and stole the win. Listening to King and Cole scream at the ref for screwing up this match was fantastic. Of course there would be shenanigan from New Day, it's who they are. How Woods managed to be Kofi for the win, I don't know, but they ran with it.
I think four of these guys will need a week to recuperate. They worked that ring harder than I've seen, even harder than they did at WrestleMania.
Winners – New Day (12:14)
Backstage Segment >B+
Ryback on mic is getting better and better by the week. He still sounds like his nose is always stuffed up, but he's able to articulate better, and his enunciation has become so much stronger. Add in that he's so over with the fans, and willing to work with them to help get himself over, and he's proving that he's more than just a pretty face.
Ryback vs Bray Wyatt > B-
These two guys worked the ring, and outside really hard. Wyatt's back splash on Ryback on the floor was intense! Ryback wasn't selling, he was hurting. The way he was slapping the floor and writhing in pain, it was much more than just selling. Yes, he needed to drag out the count before rushing the ring, but even back in the ring he was in PAIN! It was almost as if Ryback didn't know how to recover from the pain for a bit there. I'll be shocked if there isn't cracked ribs from that move. Even after hitting his own moves, Ryback went back to holding his arm close to his ribs, as if he had no control over it.
All that being said, Ryback worked his own moves beautifully, even though he was obviously hurting between those moves. And honestly, after that splash, it was hard to focus on much else. Ryback was so honestly in pain, but wasn't going to let it get the best of him. It was a decent match, and the back and forth was solid, but it wasn't a match that will have us talking in two weeks. They're both strong in the ring, but I think this match was booked weekly. I expected more storyline from it, and they just didn't give us any of it. Wyatt is all psychology in all he does, but he didn't inject any psychology into this match, and because of that, there was a flatness to the entire match.
Winner – Wyatt (10:46)
I Quit Match > B
The ref being up Cena's butt through the first twelve minutes of the match was enough to turn any fan off. Much of it was at Rusev's demand, but I have to say that's why I loath I Quit matches. And if they don't answer that's a no? That's a new one for me. All the talking takes so much away from the actual work when after each big move the ref is there with the mic. I will say that the creativity in this match, the way they used the stairs, the barricade, the barricade fence, the equipment case, and the pyro was different, but still not enough to make us enjoy the match beyond the ref with the mic. The use of the table out of the ring was a horrible mess, but not everything attempted always works. That being said, Rusev's Alabama slammer on Cena through the table out there looked really painful for Cena. I understand why they booked this match, but it was just a way for Cena and Rusev to work all over the arena and do some interesting things. They didn't need this to be a gimmick match, other than we were all bored after what they've done prior. It was time for something new, so this is the gimmick they went with.
While I wasn't shocked by the "This is Awesome!" chants, I think it might have translated better in the arena. With the ref constantly with the mic, the fans in attendance had to feel quite involved in it all, but at home it was more annoying than anything. I did find it odd that the ref didn't think much of Rusev not answering him when he was winded, but it made more sense when Cena was 'knocked out' in the ring and couldn't answer himself. Rusev worked the ire well, though unscrewing the top rope was quite odd to me, and made no sense until Cena used it against Rusev. I have to say that I have issue with obvious booking like that. The only reason Rusev unscrewed the corner was so Cena could use it, and he didn't even use it himself. Super Cena being so obvious about it, grabbing the ring rope he knew would be there, that's a serious issue in my book. So while much of this match was interesting, well booked, and well worked, there were serious problems with how the ending was handled.
Winner – Cena (28:04)
Backstage Segment > B-
New Day will defend in a Tag Team Title Elimination Chamber Match! New Day doesn't cuss, until they hear some bad news. Actually, Byron got a great little comment in, but it's not enough to make him watchable!
Naomi & Tamina vs Bellas > C-
The Divas had been doing so well lately, but then Brie landed on her head, and it was a botch-fest after that. Naomi and Nikki couldn't seem to figure out what they were doing, and it wasn't good back and forth work. And Tamina's knee brace got caught on the second rope and she was left hanging there when she was supposed to fall to the floor. Tamina looked off her mark, but so did Naomi and the Bellas. I don't know what happened, other than Brie being dropped on her head, but this was a total mess, and none of them were working anywhere near their potential.
Winners – Naomi & Tamina(6:15)
Backstage Segment > B
Translator needed, then Rusev kicks Lana out. I called for Lana costing Rusev the match so she can turn heel. I thought she would throw in a towel, but the translation thing worked quite well. I wonder what he really said in the ring, and in this segment. Must be interesting doing segments like that, then going home together.
King Barrett vs Neville > B
Barrett went from a stiff boot to Neville's face, to very obviously slapping the apron for sound when he slammed Neville back. Further, Barrett's knees to Neville's face in the ropes didn't come anywhere near Neville's head! What I'm saying is that Barrett looked quite inconsistent in this match. He worked on Neville in a big way so he couldn't get any speed up, or fly, but didn't make his own work look very good.
Barrett costing himself the match by count out made no sense to me. Further, the work after the match looked better than the work in the match. Neville looked great fighting back against Barrett's attack, and until he landed wrong on his knee. Honestly, it seemed as though Neville was more comfortable in the ring after the match was over than during.
Winner – Neville (7:25)
Backstage Segment > A-
Kane was wonderful in this small segment. This is what I've always loved about Kane – or, should I say what I've loved about him since he learned to talk – that he gives nothing away, is quirky, a bit offbeat, and so much fun. Short, sweet, and to the point.
Fatal 4 Way WWE WHC Match – Seth Rollins (c) vs Randy Orton vs Roman Reigns vs Dean Ambrose > A
I was surprised how quickly this was brought down to a one on one match in the ring, and how much it really stayed a one on one match. Most Fatal 4 Way matches have a lot of switching around of wrestlers, three working the ring at the same time, and two working outside a lot, but because of J&J Security and Kane, it seemed as though more wrestlers were down outside than not. It wasn't at all what I'd think of as a typical Fatal 4 Way, and I'm really bummed by that. I love Fatal 4 Way matches, and these four could have been epic. Not saying they didn't give us a great match, just that it wasn't at all traditional, or what I expected.
At one point Rollins took Ambrose down in the most delicate way. It was a clothesline type move, but he barely touched Ambrose, and still it looked beautiful. Ambrose, on the other hand, clotheslined Rollins so hard he flipped in the air, and not in a graceful way. The differences in their styles is what caught my attention in watching them work one on one.
Kane added much to this match, making everyone think that Kane was on Rollins' side through the whole match, and helping him win it. The problem I have with that is how Kane's been taunting Rollins over it through the night. It felt too forced, and not at all what this incarnation of Kane would do at this point. He was about to quit his job as DOO, then Trip threatened to fire him if he didn't help Rollins. Why would Kane care if he was already going to quit? Further, he pushed Rollins hard emotionally through the show, then rolled over like a well behaved puppy, and did exactly what Rollins told him to do. Something here feels really wrong. The storyline didn't make much sense.
Many people predicted that The Shield would get together at Payback. For them the WWE teased it, and had them back together to triple powerbomb Orton through announce. The move was great, but nothing compared to the character work between the three after the move. Rollins was all ready for the gang to be back together, but Reigns and Ambrose wanted nothing of it. The facial expressions and all their reactions made that part of this match a favorite of mine. The other favorite part was when the "This is awesome!" chants were louder than I've heard in a long time, only to be followed by the "One more time!" when Spanish announce didn't break, and "Holy shit!" when they power bombed Kane through Rollins and Spanish announce for another, "This is awesome!" chant. What a moment, and when I thought it couldn't get any better, Reigns and Ambrose talked about it, decided the loser would buy the beers, and got in the ring to have their own singles match. The two of them were on the mark in the ring together, and worked it beautifully. So great to see how Reigns has grown, and how Ambrose can work with anyone!
Rollins not having his own real finisher at this point is a real issue. I'm not sure him using the pedigree is a great idea, but I will say it seals up his role in The Authority. Rollins did a solid job of the move, and it got him the win, but that move will forever be Triple H's move, and I'm not sure someone of Rollins' stature can do a solid job of hitting it correctly with anyone and everyone he could be facing in the ring. Trip looked quite happy with Rollins on the ramp, but I have to say I'm waiting for the fallout on Raw.
Winner – Rollins (20:54)
I really wonder how many injuries will come out of Payback. It looks as though Ziggler got ten stitches to close up his head. Sheamus had quite the welt on his right pec, and his knee looked a bit off. Kidd and Kofi took some solid abuse. Cesaro really seemed to be uncomfortable after being slammed into the barricade. Ryback was in solid pain after Wyatt's back splash off the apron. Brie was dropped on her head. Neville's knee really seemed to be hurting him after the match, as did Barrett's shoulder. Lately there really haven't been a lot of stitches after PPVs, never mind actual injuries lately. Fingers crossed that the wrestlers came out of Payback less banged up than they appeared after their matches.
Thanks for checking in and reading my early thoughts on Payback. Don't forget to check in on Tuesday for the RAW Is Blogged and read all about my reactions to the fallout of Payback.
Queen of WNW