I always dread the WWE’s next pay-per-view event that comes after Wrestlemania. I mean, after the biggest show of wrestling, it’s kind of a let down to “just” get another one-of-the-mill ones that can’t live up to the one before it. It’s totally not Payback’s fault but my excitement levels will never match up to all the hype Wrestlemania got. And this year’s Payback card looks really wonky. I mean, there isn’t a WWE Universal title defense? Lame!
Still, Payback is a pay-per-view event so the WWE must have some plans for the show, right? So, let’s got see what they cooked up and check out how disappointing it will be compared to the hype and spectacle of The Greatest Spectacle of Sports Entertainment… yeah, way to make the other pay-per-view events look small, WWE. Way. To. Go.
Match #1: Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens for the United States Championship
Wait… aren’t the two competitors battling for the United States Championship from Canada? Well, it doesn’t really matter in the long run because a championship is just a championship nowadays, no matter where you hail from.
This was actually the only match I was really looking forward do as I do like both Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. For a while, they were the only reason to actually watch RAW. But it looks like they’re both gonna be on Smackdown now, which is fine by me. Anyway, the match was a great, competitive bout. Even though there weren’t really any highlights to speak of, the action was very solid. I loved how both of them managed to counter each other’s signature moves because they were a pair for so long, they could use it against them. The chemistry when they were “best friends” was great and it seems like the chemistry still works when they’re bitter rivals.
The finish was equally brilliant, kind of mirroring how Kevin Owens won the United States Championship in Wrestlemania. After Jericho locked in the Walls of Jericho, Owens managed to reach the bottom rope with his left index finger to break the hold. Irate, The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla decided to target the very finger, even smashing it against the ring steps. Owens managed to get the upper hand and attempted a pop-up powerbomb but couldn’t do it because of the injured finger. This allowed Jericho to lock in another Walls of Jericho for the submission victory and to become the new United States Champion… AGAIN!
Pretty exciting match with some really good in-ring storytelling. I liked how the very finger Owens used to win in Wrestlemania came to haunt him in the end. Solid bout to start off Payback.
Rating: 7.5 of 10.0 injured index fingers
Match #2: Austin Aries vs Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship
Weird question: Why is this even on a RAW pay-per-view? Don’t the Cruiserweights have their own show, 205 Live? Why not give them their own show/event like with NXT? Oh well…
Much like the previous match which featured the United States Championship, this was another rematch from Wrestlemania. However, this time, it did feel like there was a lot more going on in this match than when Aries and Neville went at it during The Show of Shows. The match did start off slow but slowly and slowly built up so, by the end, the action got really, really good.
The ultimate finish of the match, however, was kind of a mixed bag for me. After a brilliant sunset flip powerbomb from the top rope, Aries rolled Neville up with is submission finisher, the Last Chancery. Neville, being the heel and desperate to break the hold, grabbed the referee by the shirt and tossed him into Aries. The ref then disqualifies Neville for this, costing The King of the Cruiserweights to lose the match but retain the belt.
I did like the match but the finish felt really off. I have no issue with Neville performing a dastardly move to retain the belt through a disqualification. But I do wish he actually did a whole lot more than toss the referee. At least build up to it throughout the match, with Neville doing some underhanded moves in front of the referee prior to this. Because of this rather abrupt turn of events, the finish did feel rushed.
Rating: 6.5 of 10.0 Neville got disqualified for that?
Match #3: The Hardy Boyz vs Cesaro and Sheamus for the RAW Tag Team Championship
It’s great to see the Hardys back in the WWE but it was really hard to see Jeff teeth get literally kicked down his throat during the match!
Still, that did show how ferocious the match between the Hardys vs Cesaro and Sheamus was. We all know wrestling is “fake” but it doesn’t mean the injuries are real and this was a reminder of how brutal the action inside the ring can get.
Anyway, this was another bout between the two teams. There have been many naysayers to the pairing of Cesaro and Sheamus but they’ve really come along and become a legit tag team. Their teamwork has been on point but they just weren’t a match for the chemistry Matt and Jeff have. And they’ve certainly still got it! However, both teams put on a fantastic match with everyone doing a lot of fun stuff inside and outside the ring.
The finish and the aftermath was also very interesting. Matt attempts a Twist of Fate to Sheamus but the Celtic Warrior powers out of it. He doesn’t see Matt make a blind tag to Jeff, though. Sheamus slams the (not yet) Broken One and makes a cover on the not legal Matt. Jeff climbs the ropes and nails Sheamus (and his brother in the process) with a swanton for the pinfall victory to retain the RAW Tag Titles.
After the match, it appears that Cesaro and Sheamus were taking their loss with grace… but they then blindsided the Hardy Boyz while they celebrated in the ring. This does cement Cesaro and Sheamus as full fledged heels, which I really like!
The match was another solid fight with everyone getting their spots in and every one looked really good, even if Matt got his tooth knocked out. The development of Cesaro and Sheamus becoming bad guys is an incredibly smart move by the WWE as Cesaro and Sheamus can now run amok in the RAW Tag Team division.
Rating: 8.0 of 10.0 Matt Hardy loose teeth
Match #4: Bayley vs Alexa Bliss for the RAW Women’s Championship
As much as I love Bayley, I going to be rooting my butt off for my bae, Alexa Bliss here.
As much as I love Alexa Bliss, she really needs to train a whole lot more in the ring. She just can’t take bumps that look real and it really hurt this match. Not to the point that it was awful but it was definitely noticeable that she was ready to fall or take the blow each and every single time. Bayley, on the other hand, took a lot of good looking bumps, which added a lot of legitimacy to the match. I just wish Alexa Bliss in-ring performance was as good as her mic work. Just saying.
The finish was rather unique. Bliss attempted another sunset flip powerbomb like in the clip below but Bayley blocked it and covered The Wicked Witch of the WWE for the pin. Bliss kicked out and sent Bayley flying head first into the ring post. Bayley did try to get the win with a small package but Bliss flipped out of the pinning attempt and nailed a DDT for the pinfall victory and to become the first woman in the WWE to win both the RAW and Smackdown Women titles!
This was a fun match, thanks to Alexa Bliss’ antics and Bayley’s in-ring performance. Like I said, Bliss needs to be more sure of herself when taking the hits herself to make her matches look more legitimate. Still, it was a fun match and the unique way Bliss got the victory was interesting to say the least.
Rating: 6.5 of 10.0 Bayley getting hit on the head
Match #5: Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt in a House of Horrors match
Why am I all of a sudden reminded of a Family Guy episode where Peter fights off the Chicken Man? No, really! This is what was going through my head while I was watching Orton and Wyatt smash each other inside a (rather well lit) house!
This looked really, really stupid as there were… production values. There was background music, jump cuts, special effects and forced perspectives galore while they were smashing each other with household items. It didn’t look like wrestling at all!
I guess the WWE was trying to ape The Final Deletion with Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero but it looks like they failed because they forgot one important element The Final Deletion had: camp. The bout Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero had was just stupid and fun. It wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously. Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt’s House of Horrors match was supposed to be taken without a single iota of silliness! Oh, and it looks like we’re not done yet…
Rating: To Be Continued…
Match #6: Seth Rollins vs Samoa Joe
I like Seth Rollins. I like Samoa Joe. I didn’t like this match.
It’s not like this was a bad bout between these two great wrestlers. There was some great in-ring storytelling with Joe targeting Rollins’ healed knee throughout most of the match and Rollins trying to overcome. And there were some really wicked moves done as well. However, the entire match didn’t click for me. And, after the terrible House of Horrors (part 1), the way these guys tore into each other seemed infinitely better than that!
I think the problem is there was too much focus on attacking Rollins’ knee. Look, it makes for a good story and actually a smart tactic. But, after a while, it becomes boring and cliche. And, at a certain point, that knee should be fully headed anyway. I guess I would’ve appreciated it more if Joe just was a bit more vicious in attacking Rollins like he was out for blood instead of being all clinical and beating down on just a specific body part.
The finish looked pretty weird, in my opinion anyway. Joe locked in the Coquina Clutch on Rollins but The Architech rolled the Samoan Submission Machine onto his back for the pinfall victory. After that, Joe just looked stunned. This looked strange because I really expected Joe to go ballistic on Rollins but the latter managing to escape before anything could happen. Joe just looked like an buffoon since he didn’t do anything.
Like I said, this was a good match but nothing really spectacular. The finish could have made up for it but it just didn’t resonate with me in any way.
Rating: 6.0 of 10.0 attacking Rollins knee again… and again… and again…
Match #5.1 The continuation of the snoozefest that is the Orton vs Wyatt House of Horrors match
Okay, I laughed when I saw Wyatt get out of the limo because I just couldn’t imagine a guy like him to enjoy something like that.
Anyway, Wyatt made it to the ring and, surprise, surprise! Orton appeared when the lights came back up. Orton got the early upper hand because of this. Orton signaled for the RKO but the Singh brothers attacked him from behind. Then Jinder Mahal struck Orton with the WWE Heavyweight Championship. Wyatt then capitalized and nailed Sister Abigail for the pinfall victory. And after that… I really wanted to watch a clip of Peter Griffin fight the giant chicken. Because that was infinitely better than this horrific match.
See? Much better, right? I’ll give the WWE for trying to be creative but the House of Horrors match just sucked.
Rating: 3.0 of 10.0 House of Horrific and Dull Matches
Match #7: Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman
I really like how the WWE has been pushing Braun Strowman. I know it won’t go anywhere and I have a sinking feeling that we’ll all see Braun Strowman get some weird comedic gimmick like he’s a giant clown, exotic dancer or he’ll get something like a 1-800-BRAUN hotline in the future. But, in the meantime, I’ll just enjoy how they make the guy look really powerful.
This match was a lot like the Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe one: good match but nothing really great. The action was solid and the big, powerful heel dominated over the face for the majority of the match a la Hulk Hogan vs every guy he faced during the ’80s. However, Reigns is far from a Hulk Hogan type and I appreciate that the WWE, at least, acknowledged this with the finish.
There were times when they teased that Reigns would pull off the victory but, eventually, Reigns succumbed to the raw power of Braun Strowman. After getting nailed by two running powerslams, the Monster Among Men got the three count against the Leader of the Roman Empire. After the match, Braun assaulted Reigns a bit more, spiking him onto the ring steps and then smashing him in the ribs with the very steps. Braun walked away while a bloody Reigns tried to leave the ring under his own power.
Good match but just felt slow for the most part. I actually liked that Reigns wasn’t able to overcome Braun because of his injuries. This leave the door open for a successful rematch with a fully healed Reigns finally overcoming Braun in the future. I will rate it higher than the Rollins vs Joe match because of the logical finish.
Rating: 7.0 of 10.0 bloody Roman Reigns
Overall rating for Payback (2017):
While there were no standout matches, most of them were pretty good. Too bad the entire affair was given a black eye because of the awful House of Horrors match. I will say this year’s Payback was better than expected and a rather solid 2-hours of matches. Just go watch Peter fight the giant chicken when the House of Horrors match comes on.
Final Rating: 7.0 of 10.0 Peter Griffin fighting the giant chicken scenes
Did you watch Payback? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!