Our man James Klonowski delivers you his verdict on WWE Payback.
Well, that was a lot better than we were all expecting, wasn’t it? Credit to WWE for surprising us with a rather thrilling pay-per-view which saw Braun Strowman reign supreme over an injured Roman Reigns, Alexa Bliss make history by becoming the new Raw Women’s Champion in what was the performance of her career, Bray Wyatt destroy Randy Orton in an oddly entertaining House of Horrors match, and Chris Jericho upset the odds by walking out as the new United States Champion.
The opening match of the night saw the legendary Y2J defeat former best friend Kevin Owens to become a two-time United States Champion. The pace of the match was structured a lot better than their WrestleMania encounter, which helped matters no end. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more hatred from the two men that the storyline deserved, but that’s just a small gripe. They have great chemistry together and some of the callbacks to their Mania battle, such as Owens using his fingertip to avoid being beaten were very welcoming indeed. I really didn’t expect Jericho to get the win here though considering he’s going on tour with his band Fozzy. Y2J is now part of SmackDown which is great for the blue brand, but I’m not sure where this leaves Owens or the number one contender AJ Styles.
Neville held onto his Cruiserweight Championship over Austin Aries by getting himself intentionally disqualified. Both men were determined to steal the show, so big credit to them for that. They delivered a thrilling and fast paced contest that had the fans on the edge of their seats throughout. The ending was smart and keeps both looking strong as we move forward. Neville and Aries are clearly the best the Cruiserweight division has to offer, so their rivalry continuing is definitely best for business.
Cesaro and Sheamus finally snapped at Payback with a brutal attack of The Hardy Boys after losing to the Raw Tag Team Champions. It was a decent encounter despite the lacklustre build, but something seemed to be missing. The final few minutes were admittedly very good as all four shined brightly. Cesaro and Sheamus as the heels should work brilliantly against the perfect babyface partnership of Matt and Jeff.
Alexa Bliss stunned the WWE Universe by defeating hometown hero Bayley to capture the Raw Women’s Championship. This was the making of Alexa Bliss. She truly come of age in this one. She looked perfect in the ring. She was nasty, focused and cocky. Everything a heel should be. She was compelling to watch throughout. Bayley losing was a bit of a surprise, but no one can argue against Bliss deserving to be champion. This was incredible from both women.
In an intense and dramatic battle, Seth Rollins was three seconds better than Samoa Joe. These two have had many a classic battle in the past during their time together in ROH, and while this encounter wasn’t a classic, it was darn sure close. Unsurprisingly, Joe worked over Rollins’ injured knee throughout, which allowed Seth to make the grand babyface comeback. I’d like to see them stop targeting Seth’s leg now because we need to move on from it. It worked at WrestleMania and it worked to a lesser degree here, but just let the guy wrestle and do his thing without the hindrance of a storyline injury. A roll-up win doesn’t scream “dominant victory” which means the rematch should take place at Extreme Rules where we will have some sort of gimmick. If they continue to deliver the goods then I’m all for that.
Bray Wyatt defeated Randy Orton in the House of Horrors match with some help from Jinder Mahal, who will challenge The Viper for the WWE Championship at Backlash. The pre-taped segments of Orton and Wyatt fighting in an actual house was interesting to say the least. People will either love it or hate it. I enjoyed it. It was something fresh which is rare these days. The two superstars involved certainly seemed to enjoy it as they tried to make it as memorable as possible. I believe they succeeded. We won’t forget this match in a hurry. When the pair eventually made it to the arena, it kind of went downhill. Mahal costing The Viper didn’t exactly do a lot for Wyatt, who really could’ve done with a convincing win here to solidify his spot on Raw.
In the night’s main event, two powerslams were enough for Braun Strowman to put away an injured Roman Reigns. It was certainly a clash of the titans that was a lot better than their Fastlane battle. Strowman was made to look like an absolute beast, while Reigns finally came across as a likeable guy, who showed tremendous guts and heart in the face of adversity. If WWE give him obstacles to overcome and let him fail now and then, fans will get on board. It’s not rocket science. They will clearly fight again at Extreme Rules, where Reigns will almost certainly get his win back, but for now this was excellent and the correct result.
Payback was a show that largely over achieved considering it’s lacklustre build and card. All the superstars stepped up their game, especially Alexa Bliss who put in the performance of her career. Randy Orton looked on it for the first time in years too. It was a good show with a lot of twists and shocking results that will leave fans wanting to tune into Raw to see what happens next.