Welcome to the Payback Reaction, where I offer my take on this year’s edition of WWE Payback taking place in Pittsburgh, PA.
As always, you can check out John’s full in-depth report here.
A nicely done video package opens the show before Michael Cole welcomes us to the show with Pittsburgh native Corey Graves.
The steel cage is lowered for our opening bout, Becky Lynch looking for payback on Trish Stratus. As the match starts, NXT Women’s champion, Tiffany Stratton, is shown seated at ringside, as she has for the past couple of weeks. The match started off on a fast note. It was a great back and forth affair, with each taking some crazy bumps. Lynch and Stratus did a spot where they rammed each other repeatedly into the cage. It felt like they wanted to blade here but were told no so they tried to go hard way. Stratus did another crazy spot off the top of the cage and hanging upside down on the floor side of the cage. They traded near falls after crazy spots until Zoey Stark showed up. Stark broke up a pinfall attempt by Lynch so Lynch locked Stark in the cage with them. Stark got dropped by Lynch with a Manhandle Slam before Stratus suffered the same fate off the top rope. That was good enough to secure the victory for Lynch. After the match, Stark dropped Stratus with the Z360 before taking her Thank you Trish shirt off and throwing it at Stratus. This was an awesome match and sorta gave off Trish’s last match vibes. It was hard to believe that this was Stratus’s first cage match ever. This is going to be hard to beat.
The host of Payback, John Cena, makes his way to the ring next. He put over the cage match before being interrupted by The Miz. Miz tries to offer Cena hosting advice and we just get a great promo battle going. Cena then inserts himself into the next match as the special guest referee. LA Knight comes out as The Miz’s opponent.
The match was pretty good with Miz in his usual role of putting someone over. Cena did well in his referee role, calling it right down the middle. Knight looked good as well, scoring a decisive win over Miz with his BFT finisher. After the match, Cena offered to shake Knight’s hand. They shook hands and Cena raised Knight’s hand with a nice little rub there for him. Yeah.
Up next, Austin Theory tries to regain the United States Championship from the man who took it from him, Rey Mysterio. Mysterio did his entrance with all of the LWO with him. It wasn’t the really cool group entrance they did on Smackdown though. Mysterio went to the ring by himself for this match. The match was solid but at no point did Theory look to have a chance to win the match. Theory has potential but I’m not sure how to tap into it. Mysterio countered the A-Town Down into a rolling cradle for the win. That was a different way to end the match. After the match, the LWO came down to celebrate with Mysterio. Escobar hoisted Mysterio up on his shoulders that kinda gave an Evolution visual. Too soon to break the group up, though.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn defend their Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship against Judgment Day’s Finn Balor and Damian Priest in a Steel City Street Fight. This match was awesome. There was chaos all over the place. The four of them hit each other with everything but the kitchen sink. Dominik Mysterio would eventually show up to help Priest and Balor dump Owens and Zayn over the hockey boards. When Owens and Zayn popped back up, they were in Pittsburgh Penguins hockey gear. We get into a hockey fight and that chased Mysterio to the back. Owens was bleeding so the medical team had to patch him up. Mysterio would turn back up later to take a Swanton bomb from Owens off the railing through a table. Owens almost completely overshot Mysterio, but got enough to break the table. Zayn had the match won until JD McDonagh saved the match for Judgment Day. Owens wiped him out before Ripley speared LP through the barricade. The Money in the Bank briefcase came into play to allow Judgment Day to pick up the win and the titles. The Judgment Day becomes even more powerful now and should continue to be featured heavily moving forward.
The Grayson Waller Effect was up next with Cody Rhodes as the special guest. Rhodes said he wanted to be on the show because he had a huge announcement to make. He pulled whatever strings he had to make this happen. Rhodes seemed like he was going to announce that he had been traded to Smackdown, but instead introduced the newest member of the Raw roster, Main Event Jey Uso. The crowd ate it up and Waller tried to question Uso but ate a superkick for his line of questioning.
Rhea Ripley defends her Women’s World Championship against Raquel Rodriguez next. Ripley totally forgot that she had speared Kevin Ownes through the barricade roughly 10 minutes ago and had no ill effects from that. Rodriguez matched up power wise with Ripley and held the power advantage through most of the match. It was definitely a different spot to see Ripley in. The problem is, Rodriguez cannot connect with the audience and most didn’t care about the match. Dominik Mysterio shows up to distract Rodriguez so Ripley can hit a Riptide to escape with her title.
It’s main event time with Seth “Freakin” Rollins defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura gets a really cool comic book style video before he makes his way to the ring. I really liked that and maybe it can be an element added to his big matches. It’s also hard to believe that this is Nakamura’s first PLE main event, given the series of matches he had with AJ Styles over the WWE Championship. The match was pretty good but likely didn’t need all of the time it was given. Nakamura focused on the back throughout. Rollins kept getting up after every move Nakamura did. The finish was a little creative. Nakamura went for a cover and Rollins rolled out of it and hit a stomp when he got to his feet to retain his championship. After the match, the cameras lingered like something was going to happen but nothing did. We would find out that Nakamura attacked Rollins after we went off the air so it was posted to the WWE YouTube page instead.
John rated the show at a 7.5 and I agree that it was a solid show. The main roster PLEs have been solid all year. I’ll go ahead and match his 7.5 rating for the show.
Let’s take a look at the highs and lows.
The steel cage match was definitely a match of the year candidate. It was a blood feud that needed a definitive winner. We got one despite the interference from Zoey Stark. It was a very effective use of the steel cage as the feud ender. Lynch had a run-in with Stratton later in the show and I think there’s a feud for NXT.
The Steel City Street Fight was terrific. They had some really crazy spots that worked well in the match. This was probably the match of the night.
The finish of the Steel City Street Fight was a bit of an overbooked mess. Yes, I expected some interference given the stipulation, but would it have killed Cody Rhodes to come out and lead a hand? Granted, he was in the next segment but he could have run off somebody mid-match. The Judgment Day act wouldn’t feel so tired and worn out if The Bloodline hadn’t been doing the exact same thing for the last three years.
Rhea ipley no selling the barricade bump was not a good look either. She acted like nothing happened in her title match and they made Rodriguez look weak after beating Ripley all over the ring to lose to one Riptide because she powerslammed Dominik Mysterio.
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That’s all I’ve got, until next time.