WWE Payback Review: Optimism-Mania Runnin’ Wild!

(photo credit: WWE.com)

Two columns in two days? You know I spoil you guys. Last night was WWE Payback and all in all, it was a pretty good show. Chicago’s crowd needs to be credited for elevating the overall atmosphere and being involved in every match. Just about every match delivered and some surpassed expectations. At the end of last night I felt something I hadn’t experienced in a while after a WWE show; optimism.
I did not watch the Youtube pre-show. I tuned in at 7:40 and heard Sheamus’ music playing and heard the announcers saying Brogue kick. I then turned off Youtube. On to the PPV!

Curtis Axel def. Wade Barrett (c) and The Miz to become the new Intercontinental Champion

The match was good enough, but oh man, that finish! Miz had Wade Barrett locked into the figure-four submission and just as it looked like Barrett was about to tap, Curtis Axel crawled into the ring and covered Barrett for the 1, 2, 3 while he was still locked in the hold. Brilliant stuff. Hopefully Axel does a little better with the Intercontinental belt than either the Miz or Wade Barrett. That should not be difficult. I’m not really sure what’s next for any of these wrestlers. Axel’s push will continue, but I don’t have a clue who his opponents will be. I don’t see the Miz or Barrett moving up and Fandango should be back shortly. I would look for these four wrestlers to be entangled for the next few months.

AJ Lee def. Kaitlyn (c) to become the new Divas Champion

Best divas match I’ve seen in years. Although competition in that category isn’t all that great. I liked the fact that Kaitlyn had AJ beat after the spear, but that AJ had done such a good job getting into the head of Kaitlyn, that she took the extra time to taunt her opponent. Kaitlyn’s vanity resulted in her comeuppance. It’s going to be interesting to see how management handles AJ Lee winning the divas championship. With Ziggler’s face turn (see below) it would appear that keeping AJ a heel would be a conflicting approach. Once again, great match with great crowd support.

Dean Ambrose (c) def. Kane to retain the United States Championship

This was probably the most disappointing match of the night for me. A lot of it has to do with the finish. A count out? Really?  I guess the count out protects Kane from being pinned? Crowd was solidly behind Dean in this one as “Let’s go Ambrose” chants were routine during the match. It’s a shame the match went so short. It’s going to be interesting to see where Kane goes from here. After the split up of team Hell No, Kane seems a bit lost in today’s WWE universe. I wouldn’t mind the rumors being true about an Undertaker/Kane vs the Shield feud. Time will tell.

Alberto Del Rio def. Dolph Ziggler (c) to become the new World Heavyweight Champion

I’m about to get preachy, hold on to your butts. I’m going to take a wait and see approach how this situation unfolds before I get too worked up about things. As far as executing the “double-turn” is concerned, last night could not have gone more perfectly. Similar to Austin/Hart at WM 13, Ziggler and ADR switched roles seamlessly last night. And surprisingly, I’m not even THAT mad about Zig’s losing the title….provided he remains in the main event picture. I mean did you hear that crowd last night? Besides CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler had the best fan support of the night. Vince McMahon would have to be a moron to demote Dolph’s status in the company. Alright now what REALLY bothered me about the match.

Dolph Ziggler suffered a real life concussion a few weeks ago after a kick to the head from Jack Swagger. He went through testing and was asked to stay home and told that he was not medically cleared to board an airplane. I was very proud to see that the WWE was taking a cautious approach with one of their younger superstars and they were taking concussions seriously. About the same time HHH was doing his version of a concussion storyline, yet he was valiant and super tough because he was still there to fight. He even threatened to fire the doctor who told him he wouldn’t allow him to wrestle, who was only doing his job. Number 1, this makes Ziggler look like less of a man because if HHH is fighting one day after sustaining a concussion, why can’t Dolph? And number 2, if the WWE is going to introduce real life situations into their storylines, people aren’t going to believe them when something serious actually happens.

Anybody remember Jerry Lawler’s heart attack? One of the scariest things I’ve ever seen on television. I think Lawler is a terrible hack of a commentator who is completely out of touch with the product. He tells stories instead of calling wrestling moves or providing analysis and routinely engages in misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic behavior at the announcer’s booth…..but I don’t want him to die. Yet there was a large portion of the WWE audience who thought the entire situation was a work or an angle. You know why? Because the announcers use the same “Owen Hart” voices when Dolph Ziggler’s getting his head kicked in after sustaining an *actual concussion and when HHH is crawling around ringside after experiencing “fake” concussion syndromes. That’s why I didn’t like the way they approached last night’s storyline during the Ziggler/ADR match. Was it effective? Yes. But was it also potentially damaging to the trust they have with their audience? Also yes. In my opinion they could have accomplished the same feat by making the match “no disqualification” and have Del Rio use a chair a bunch of times. They didn’t have to focus on the head and the very real issue of Ziggler’s concussion.

I wouldn’t say that the match was all that great, but the crowd reaction for each of the guys was just phenomenal.

CM Punk def. Chris Jericho

Best match of the night? Yup. This match delivered and then some. What I liked most about it was that it was just two guys wrestling to see who was better. No stupid storylines, no injury angles, no heel/face tactics. Just two guys going out at to determine bragging rights. As expected, CM Punk and his Wolverine mutton chops received a hero’s welcome. You could tell the crowd really didn’t want to boo Jericho like they enjoyed booing Cena at Money in the Bank, but when you go against the Second City Saint, getting booed is inevitable.

Great match up. Great near finishes. I thought Jericho had it when he revered CM Punk’s top rope lariat into a Codebreaker. The 2 and 7/8’s count by the referee had my heart racing. That is what a great match is supposed to do. You had to figure that they weren’t going to let CM Punk lose in his hometown. It’s like Bret Hart in Calgary or Rob Van Dam at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Speaking of RVD…..


Alright, truth time. I marked out like a little girl during this promo. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve ever written before you know two things about me; I hate HHH and I think the original ECW is the greatest thing of all time…ever. Rob Van Dam is top 2 in my “Favorite wrestlers of all time” list. I grew up on 5 star classics against Jerry Lynn, Lance Storm and Little Guido. His matches were constantly the best of the night, often overshadowing the main event. Hell, the man could pull a watchable match out of Balls Mahoney. So I don’t need to tell you, that I am very excited that Mr. Monday Night is returning in Philadelphia, at the third best PPV of the year, at an event that I will be going to. Okay, now having said all of that, expectations need to be tempered. From time to time I would check to see how he was doing in TNA. The results weren’t good. He appeared out of shape, slow, unmotivated and content to just go through the motions. Like the WWE smark fans like to refer to John Cena as “Super Cena”, RVD had a nickname as well; “No Job Rob.” Over in TNA, RVD apparently became HHH version 2.0 except with much smaller pecs  breasts. And this is important because as much as I love Rob Van Dam, I don’t want to see him being pushed at the expense of a guys like Antonio Cesaro, Damien Sandow and Dean Ambrose. Backstage news would indicate that Van Dam signed a short term, very limited schedule. That means no house shows or foreign travel. Still, if RVD can come back in shape and be motivated, I could not be more excited to welcome back the Whole F’n Show. And I’m still going to mark the F out when they do the inevitable backstage segment where RVD walks by Paul Heyman.

Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns (c) def. Randy Orton & Daniel Bryan to retain the WWE Tag Team Titles

This match seemed to get the shaft as they needed to make sure the main event got enough time. This match also got the dreaded filler spot after Punk/Jericho and before the main event. The crowd was a little exhausted after being so pro CM Punk in the previous match, but they still represented better than 99% of WWE crowds. The Shield retains after miscalculations by both Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, each striking each other accidentally during the match. I am hoping that this does not result in a Bryan/Orton feud. I want Daniel Bryan to move on into the main event scene and Randy Orton to go back to his home planet.

John Cena (c) def. Ryback to retain the WWE Championship (Three Stages of Hell Match)

Surprise of the night had Ryback winning the first match clean over John Cena in the middle of the ring. Least surprising was John Cena winning the last two matches, culminating with the unavoidable “top of the ambulance” moment that Cena loves so much. The Man of Steel was number 1 this weekend and not just at the box office. Ryback looked very strong in the match. Even after the Attitude Adjustment through the table, Ryback was the first guy to his feet. Cena even struggled during the last fall. But like he always does, John Cena found a way to “rise above the odds” and put Ryback through an ambulance. Where do they go from here? Cena stays in the main event obviously, but what is Ryback’s next program? I could see him involved with one of the Money in the Bank ladder matches next month. Hopefully that’s followed by Daniel Bryan vs John Cena in the main event.

Grade: B

Final thoughts: Really good show. There wasn’t a bad match or a low spot on the card. Aj Lee/Kaitlyn was great. Jericho/Punk is an early MOTY contender. And the main event was solid. Punk, Bryan, Ziggler and Ambrose were WAY over with the crowd last night. With RVD returning, two Money in the Bank ladder matches, a probable Ziggler/Del Rio rematch and a possible Daniel Bryan vs John Cena main event, Money in the Bank is shaping up to be a damn fine show.

See you folks in a couple weeks for a Money in the Bank preview and possibly a live recap.

Questions/Comments/Complaints hit me up on Twitter @TheRAWLibrarian


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