The Shield stands tall over Evolution, sweeping the elimination tag match. Photo credit: WWE.com

WWE Payback Review: We are in new territory


Welcome back to another week of my WWE editorial ramblings. This week, with Payback also being on the docket, you’ll get a double dose.

If you missed the debut of this column last week, what follows is not a rehash of the results, but rather an opinionated view of the event and the direction that the story, and the characters driving it, are going. As always, feedback and debate are most welcome.

Overall, Payback was a show that puts the WWE into a rather strange new territory. The beginning of the show was rather awful; in fact, it felt much more like a terrible episode of RAW or Smackdown! than it did a PPV. However, once the big money matches kicked off, the show transitioned into PPV quality with a potential “match of the year” candidate that included some of the craziest spots and visuals that I’ve seen in a long time.

Now, the WWE has produced this kind of PPV in the past. This time, however, the WWE Network is in existence. Forking over $9.99 a month to have access to this kind of show feels worth it. Had I forked over $50-$60, I would have considered this a ripoff and, in all honesty, with the poor card and build to this show, likely would have avoided it altogether.

It’s a strange place for the WWE and its fans to be in. To have a better understanding of where I’m coming from, let’s get to the show breakdown to better flesh this out.

El Torito shaves Hornswoggle's head during the pre-show. Photo credit: WWE.com

El Torito shaves Hornswoggle’s head during the pre-show. Photo credit: WWE.com

The pre-show was fine, but is this really your final sales pitch?

I enjoyed the pre-show. My only concern with the WWE putting El Torito and Hornswoggle in the ring is the fear that they can’t resist the easy, low-hanging fruit midget jokes. They went overboard last month during the Wee-L-C match at Extreme Rules, but once they cut through the juvenile humor, it was a solid and fun match.

Thankfully, the dumb humor was kept to a minimum; in fact, it was more or less limited to El Torito coming out in a 2/3 jersey giving a subtle nod to Chicago’s Michael Jordan and having a taped up tail stub in place of his usual tail. Beyond that, the match really progressed just fine. In particular, I enjoy Los Matadores and 3MB mixing it up with ridiculously fun spots just for the hell of it. Watching bodies fly everywhere is a sure-fire way to get the crowd going and entertaining the viewers.

That all being said, is El Torito and Hornswoggle really the match that you want to put out there to convince people to make a last-minute buy? My fear is that a more casual fan will check into the pre-show and have their mind short-circuited by “midgets wrestling” and tune out.

Further compounding this issue was the WWE making last-minute additions to the card. Within the last few minutes of the pre-show, the Rhodes Brothers vs. Rybaxal and Kofi Kingston vs. Bo Dallas was announced. There was very little setup for either match beyond “it’s happening tonight!” and Kofi sitting on the pre-show panel in a full suit finding out was incredibly awkward.

It all seemed more like an episode of RAW than a PPV. Why would anyone put down $50 last-minute to buy something that seems so haphazardly put together? On top of that, the card contained no Tag Team Title match and no World Heavyweight Championship match. Add that, plus the pre-show match together and, from the outside looking in, the past 30 minutes doesn’t add up to a good reason to buy the show.

But then again, maybe the WWE is moving away from that line of thought and the pre-show isn’t for the last-minute buy, but rather the appetizer to the viewer that is already bought in. I’m not sure which approach is better or honestly which one the WWE is striving for at this point. Either way, it was a very strange start to the show.

Paul Heyman silences the Chicago crowd to kick off Payback. Photo credit: WWE.com

Paul Heyman silences the Chicago crowd to kick off Payback. Photo credit: WWE.com

Heyman will have none of your CM Punk chants, Chicago.

The WWE knew they were going to have to work at shutting down the CM Punk chants from his hometown Chicago crowd. Much like the last time they were in Chicago, they sent out Paul Heyman to do the job. I’m convinced that Heyman had the following notes before he came out:

  1. Tell the crowd CM Punk is at the Blackhawks game.
  2. Tell the crowd the Blackhawks suck and will have their streak broken.
  3. Anyone remember MY CLIENT, BROOOOOOOOOCK LESNAR, broke the Undertaker’s streak?
  4. Bask in the heel heat.

Heyman on the microphone is one of the best things that the WWE has to offer and he is simply a master heel.

Bonus: Heyman also uses simple logic during the match, warning Cesaro that a Brogue Kick was on the way. Why don’t more managers do this? They see half of these things coming and it makes no sense that more of them don’t warn the wrestlers they are supposed to be helping.

Cesaro shows why he is the king of swing...even though it didn't seem to phase Sheamus. Photo credit: WWE.com

Cesaro shows why he is the king of swing…even though it didn’t seem to phase Sheamus. Photo credit: WWE.com

This match deserved a much better ending.

Sheamus/Cesaro was everything I wanted it to be…until the end. The issue I have with the small package roll-up is two-fold.

First, if Cesaro is being built as “The King of Swing”, shouldn’t that move have some kind of dire consequences to his opponent if he hits it? Instead of Sheamus ending up in a world of hurt, he practically no-sells the move by popping up and wining via small package pin. Even worse, Cesaro purposefully let his swing last longer than usual, getting probably about five more swings in (I’m not sure of the exact number because it was hard to count with the Chicago crowd counting the swing in seconds and not full revolutions like they should).

So, Cesaro hits one of his big moves and the end result no real damage to Sheamus? That makes no sense.

Second, these two beat the ever-living hell out of each other the entire match. Throughout these two were taking gigantic bumps and absorbing some incredible shots. After seeing that kind of physicality the entire time, why is the match ending via small package? It just feels like a waste.

Overall, the match was solid, but the ending just left a sour taste in my mouth.

We knew it was only a mater of time, but the Brotherhood ended with a whimper.

We knew it was only a mater of time, but the Brotherhood ended with a whimper. Photo credit: WWE.com

This might be the worst tag team breakup ever.

I’m not even going to bother too much with the match itself. It was good for what it was, but I just had a hard time getting into it, even though I enjoy both teams. I couldn’t help the prevailing thought in my head that there was no Tag Team Title match, yet here is a random tag team match that we’ve seen many times before with no real consequence.

It’s clear the reason behind having the match in the first place was to finally cash-in on the Rhodes brothers breaking up. The seeds have been sown for a long time, to the point were it looked like Rhodes vs. Rhodes would actually make Wrestlemania, but it never did.

Well, we finally had the story progress. After Cody was pinned for the loss yet again, he took a mic, looked at his brother with sad puppy eyes and simply told him he deserved a better partner. That was it. It didn’t feel like a payoff of any kind, but rather this strange, awkward moment of the WWE more or less saying “just get on with it”.

I’m not sure where Cody and Goldust go from here. The WWE doesn’t exactly have a good track record of running with stories with more subtle angles like Cody’s self-loathing. Then again, if anyone could do it, it would be him. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that Cody took a Kane-like angle of believing his face was deformed, ran with it, and made it into something that was actually rather decent.

Random side note from the match: Cody’s Disaster Kick has become Ric Flair going to the top rope. It never ends well.

Big E delivers one of the spots of the night: a spear to Rusev that takes both big men to the floor.

Big E delivers one of the spots of the night: a spear to Rusev that takes both big men to the floor. Photo credit: WWE.com

By next month, the WWE hopes we forget that Rusev was ever from Bulgaria.

Last week, Lana called Rusev “Russia’s favorite super-athlete”. This past Thursday on NXT Takeover, Rusev came out waving a Russian flag. On Payback, Rusev was outright announced as “now residing in Moscow” before he came to the ring.

The announce team made it clear that Russia has “claimed” him, but they are very purposefully leaving out his native home country of Bulgaria. Things like this drive me nuts, especially because I thought the “Bulgarian Brute” moniker was awesome and now it’s gone alone with Rusev’s first name of Alexander.

I’m not sure why the WWE thinks this is all needed to set up the Russia/Putin vs. USA heat. It just seems needlessly clunky and it just sticks out like a sore thumb.

All that aside, this match was another solid effort, even if it did start with Big E nearly killing a cameraman by swinging Old Glory like a madman on his way to the ring. In particular, Big E spearing Rusev from the apron to the floor was absolutely spectacular and one of the craziest spots I’ve seen two big men take.

Rusev’s setup for the Accolade submission was solid too and appropriate to put someone the size of Big E away without having worked the back or neck yet in the match. With Big E down, Rusev takes a gigantic stomp on his back, then raked his face and stretched his neck back. This led to a logical conclusion that the Accolade was more than enough to make Big E tap now that damage had been done to both the neck and back.

Short, sweet, simple, and logical — doing good wrestling things doesn’t have to be complicated.

Kofi was supposed to face Bo Dallas, but instead got taken out by Kane. Photo credit: WWE.com

Kofi was supposed to face Bo Dallas, but instead got taken out by Kane. Photo credit: WWE.com

And now we transition into full RAW mode.

So that last-minute match added between Kofi and Bo? Just an excuse to have Kane run-in and destroy him.

The “why” for this was seemingly non-existent until the post-show. Apparently, Kofi made some kind of anti-Authority statements on Twitter in regards to their treatment of Daniel Bryan. So this was apparently enough reason for The Authority to unleash Kane.

The fact that this was never mentioned on the show at all shows how flimsy this story already is. The audience shouldn’t be expected to know all the extended kayfabe story via every superstar’s Twitter account. That’s the job of the WWE announce team who was just as dumbfounded as the rest of us.

Honestly, this is fine to do on an episode of RAW to lead to a segment explaining why this happened, but on a PPV? Not so much.

Bonus: Bo Dallas being introduced as “The Inspirational Bo Dallas” and giving a motivational speech to an unconscious Kofi.

Barrett defends his title against RVD. Photo credit: WWE.com

Barrett defends his title against RVD. Photo credit: WWE.com

The announce team makes sure that I can’t enjoy this match.

But bless you, Bad News Barrett, for trying. Telling me that you came out to put Old Yeller, aka Rob Van Dam, down, made me so happy.

Then JBL kept spouting off constant “bad news” and the rest of the announce team just started saying the names of every British person that they could think of and I wanted it to all end so fast.

The announce team should be trying to engage fans into the match. That’s their job. They are supposed to enhance the match and further the story. Instead, they think it is their personal comedy hour.

Thankfully, Barrett won (and won clean) and spared me from a RVD title reign. That’s really the only positive thing I have to say about this mess.

Daniel Bryan "defends" his title at Payback, leaving the WWE World Heavyweight in limbo another day. Photo credit: WWE.com

Daniel Bryan “defends” his title at Payback, leaving the WWE World Heavyweight in limbo another day. Photo credit: WWE.com

The most awkward PPV title defense ever.

I’m not really sure where to start with this. For the sake of not trying to sound like the most negative wrestling fan on the internet, let’s look at the positives before the complaining begins again.

First, the WWE again punted a decision about the titles, so Daniel Bryan is still your WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The good news that the WWE likely did this because Bryan’s injury might not be that bad after all. I would highly doubt the WWE would allow this to happen if Bryan was to be on the shelf for a long period of time. Hopefully, this all means Bryan will return to the ring very soon.

Second, Brie quit and I hope this means that she can now be removed from any Daniel Bryan program in the future. Her addition to the story helped kill Bryan’s momentum post-Wrestlemania. Now, all temptation to shoehorn her into this story is gone. Perhaps this also means the end of Total Divas in the near future? I can only hope.

On a more serious note, I wonder if this is a way for Brie and Bryan to try to start a family. If that’s the case, kudos and best of luck to them.

Finally, Stephanie McMahon dropped a nuclear bomb on the CM Punk chants, claiming they crowd was starting them only to encourage Bryan to quit like Punk did. The chant immediately died and all focus turned into pure hate for Stephanie insulting the hometown hero. It was perfect.

Now for the bad…

No one seems to understand how a boss/employee relationship works. Bryan decided that Stephanie needed to change her mind because that’s what you do when you completely disagree with your boss. Bryan has zero leverage to negotiate here which just makes line of thinking absurd. It makes zero sense and kills the entire dynamic that makes The Authority so detestable.

They are supposed to be the drunk on power entity trying to hold Bryan down. If they “change their mind”, then what’s the point? Further, what makes Bryan think that kind of person would even bother changing their mind?

Even Stephanie seemed to be at a loss for what to do which makes no sense either as she is the boss and can do whatever she wants. She’s the same person that set Kane loose on Bryan to practically destroy his neck, yet she runs away almost crying after Brie quits and slaps her.

Logic apparently flew straight out the window in this segment.

Also, can we not call Stephanie a bitch, especially after you mention just few minutes earlier that you hope her kids are watching so they can watch their mother do the right thing? TV-PG issues aside, this is basically how this plays out: “Hey kids, I hope your watching your mom. Right now she’s a very bad person and I hope she turns around and shows you the right thing to do right now. By the way, your mother’s a bitch. Just thought you should know.”

How does this make any sense? Bryan and Brie come of as total jerks by doing that and they are supposed to be the good guys here. Do better, please.

Arguably the spot of the night: John Cena throws the steel steps at Bray Wyatt. Photo credit: WWE.com

Arguably the spot of the night: John Cena throws the steel steps at Bray Wyatt. Photo credit: WWE.com

This is the perfect payoff to the Cena/Wyatt feud (and please let this be the end).

I’m not sure where to start with Cena/Wyatt either, but for all the best reasons. This match was a legitimate match of the year candidate and featured so many incredible spots not just from Cena and Bray, but the entire Wyatt family and the Usos.

Cena throwing the ring steps from inside the ring at Bray, who was standing on the outside, will probably be one of those things that gets replayed constantly throughout the years. I’ve never seen the steel steps used like that before and gave new life to what has basically become a boring prop these days.

That incredible steel step spot completely overshadows some other great ones too. Bray delivering Sister Abigail’s Kiss on the outside (in an credibly violent manner too), Rowan superplexing one of the Uso’s through a table, and the finish of Cena delivering an AA through a prop crate are just three examples from a match that was chock full of incredible spots.

Speaking of the finish, I hope no one is soured on it simply because Cena won. I’m no John Cena fan myself, but he had to eventually win to end this feud.

Also, don’t think the loss hurts Bray’s character progression either. Cena had to beat Bray by AA’ing him through a crate, putting another crate on top of the new hole he made, and then stood on top of that crate for good measure to keep him down. That was Cena saying, through action, that Bray was as unstoppable as they come and he had to do something incredible to ensure he couldn’t get back up.

Plus, the image of Cena standing tall on the crates, literally trying to bury Bray alive in a makeshift grave, was another incredible visual in this match.

In all honesty, the only thing that will match this match bad is if they try to keep this feud going. It should be done, the payoff doesn’t get any better and this story was already running out of gas. Let this be the end and let both Cena and Bray move on.

Alicia Fox and Paige had a tough act to follow, but put on a solid match. Photo credit: WWE.com

Alicia Fox and Paige had a tough act to follow, but put on a solid match. Photo credit: WWE.com

Divas, I’m so sorry you had to follow that match.

Talk about a no-win situation for Alicia Fox and Paige. There was just no following up that kind of match. Hell, Bray and Cena had the same problem after Shield/Evolution at Extreme Rules last month.

For what it’s worth, Fox and Paige put on a very good match. They just fell victim to being put on after the match of the night. This would have been a great spot for the Kofi/Bo match that turned into the Kane beating to give the crowd a breather so that the divas could get a chance to show an attentive crowd what they got and allow them to get into the match.

Bonus: Alicia Fox responding to a random yell of “What does the fox say?” with “RAIN!” I have no idea what that means, if anything, but the fact that Alicia continuously engages and reacts to the crowd is just awesome.

Not so much a bonus: Alicia restraining herself from another epic meltdown and just running off. Next time, have her take out the Spanish announce table on her own.

Needs to learn their job: JBL, who was screaming at the ref to count for a pin when Alicia’s shoulders were clearly not on the mat. That led to a wonderful exercise of the announce team yelling at each other/random things throughout the match which didn’t help elevate this match in its already tough spot.

Reigns Superman Punch on HHH

Roman Reigns delivers a Superman Punch to HHH en route to a Shield sweep. Photo credit: WWE.com

I never expected The Shield to go over this hard.

If you had asked me to predict how this match would end, I would have said the Shield comes out on top. Considering it was an elimination tag, I would have said it would eventually come down to a one on one match. Best case scenario, The Shield gets the huge push by over coming either a three-on-two or two-on-one disadvantage during the match.

Instead The Shield eliminated all three members of Evolution. Clean…well, as clean as a no holds barred match allows.

Everyone got big spots in, including Evolution who wins this PPV’s honor of destroying the Spanish announce table via triple powerbomb. HHH tried to put a monitor through Rollins’ skull and all of Evolution took part in a vicious caning of Reigns which was another stunning visual.

But then The Shield were allowed to take over. Once that happened there was no turning back.

From the moment a previously incapacitated Dean Ambrose jumped back into the fray, it was seemingly all Shield. Rollins got to take a dive from one of the Titantron fixtures to one-up his own dive from Extreme Rules. Once the match spilled back into the ring, The Shield quickly eliminated each member of Evolution with each Shield member getting to hit their finishers in the process.

They may have taken a hell of a beating at the start, but that was needed to put the babyface team in some sort of peril. The lasting memory though will be that The Shield took Evolution apart.

I’m not sure how much longer this trio will stay together as I think each of them are destined for great singles careers down the road. For now though, I’m more than content having The Shield being the top dogs in the WWE as a team.

Bonus (?): Batista, for the second PPV in a row, came out in a completely different colored attire than his teammates. At this point, I’m convinced he is trolling us and thinks this is hilarious. Either that or his attire is the equivalent of the Star Trek red shirt as he took the pin in Extreme Rules and was the first elimination in this match.

Double bonus: #Bluetista trended on Twitter worldwide because sometimes wrestling fans can unite for awesome things.

Triple bonus:

See you again tomorrow morning for another edition of the RAW Report.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: 3MB Alicia Fox Bad News Barrett Batista Big E. Bo Dallas Bray Wyatt Brie Bella Cesaro Cody Rhodes Daniel Bryan Dean Ambrose El Torito Evolution Goldust HHH Hornswoggle John Cena Kane Kofi Kingston Los Matadores Paige Paul Heyman Randy Orton Rob Van Dam Roman Reigns Rusev Seth Rollins Sheamus Stephanie McMahon The Shield The Usos WWE Payback 2014

  • steamboat

    All 3 guys in the Shield shined!