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WWE Payback Thoughts- A Tale Of Two Shows

Sitting here on this Tuesday morning, just relaxing and thinking about life, figured it was a good time to write a blog! On a personal note before I look at the WWE Payback PPV, I'm slowly working my way towards being well enough to work again. The worst of the fatigue has left but not so much the pain. Hopefully in the next week or two, I'll feel good enough to step inside a classroom and work once again.

So, Payback! Enjoyable at times, strange at others. One thing I will say is that having a Raw brand PPV after the Shakeup helped establish the new identity of the brand, even though Smackdown wrestlers made appearances.

I had a really immersive experience for this PPV, doing something I rarely do, and that's watch the pre-show. WWE got me- they advertised Miz TV with Finn Balor, and that was enough of a hook to get me to tune in.

Pre-show panel is Renee, King and Sam Roberts. Renee shines in this setting, she leads King (and anyone else that appears on the panel) really well. King does his part with some chuckle-worthy jokes. Sam Roberts comes off a little poorly though, seems extremely quiet and nervous. I understand he's usually a radio host, and not so used to being on camera, but then you compare his work to a guy like Pete Rosenberg... and yeah, it's not good.

Enzo and Cass do a decent schtick about Chinese food before their match with The Club. And now I really want Chinese food. Dammit. The match is nothing to write home about, but not bad- Enzo gets the win with a wacky roll up.

Backstage segment with the Hardys and Golden Truth. This was an unexpected highlight, because Matt reverted to his Broken persona to try and out-weird Goldust. Now, that could mean that the lawsuit over the Broken gimmick has been resolved, as the rumour goes, or maybe they figure people don't watch the pre-show and just slipped it in not giving a fuck. It was indeed DELIGHTFUL! Oh, and if you want an experience, try getting high and then watching all the Broken Hardys stuff from TNA. Great fun.

Time for Miz TV! This is really well done, similar to what Miz did for AJ Styles a little over a year ago. Miz does most of the talking, gets the heat, and Balor promises to kick his ass. It's also promising that in his first mic time since returning, he makes his mission clear- to regain the Universal title. (Fun fact: not one Universal Champion took a rematch after losing the title). Miz informs Balor that the champ is Brock Lesnar, to which Balor essentially responds with "IDGAF". Balor delivers on his ass-kicking promise, and it's time for the actual PPV!


-Hell of an opener between Jericho and Owens for the US title. One of the advantages of having Booker T on commentary is the way he reacts to things, it seems very authentic. Book seemed very impressed that Jericho was doing the things he was doing in the ring, considering Chris is only about 3 years his junior. And in the early shocker of the night, Jericho wins the US Title for a second time! This sends him to SD, but surely it's a one-and-done thing, with the Fozzy tour starting on Friday. So, I'll be shocked if he doesn't drop the belt back to KO on Smackdown Live tomorrow.

-Neville and Austin Aries continued to demonstrate their great chemistry at Payback. Once again, A Double appeared to have the match won with the Last Chancery, and Neville grabbed the ref to cause a DQ. Hey, Extreme Rules is the next Raw PPV. Neville vs. Aries in a ladder match, anyone?

-Hardys vs. Sheamus & Cesaro was physical as fuck. Jeff lost a tooth, Matt got busted open... but the Hardys retain. Highly entertaining match, and the European lads turn heel after the match, kicking seven shades of shit out of them. It was the kind of beatdown that might BREAK a man. Of note, Hardys were doing DELETE taunts and acknowledging chants like "Brother Nero". The commentators made sly references too, like Cole referring to Matt as "eccentric" when that's never been part of his Team Extreme persona, and Graves saying "Matt's going to think he's in a different universe" as Cesaro performs the Swing. Much like Mania, the Hardys might have been the highlight of the show for me, but Cesaro & Sheamus deserve a ton of credit too because they had their working boots on.

-Up next, the Women's Championship, Bayley defends against Alexa Bliss. Bayley seems energised being in her hometown of San Jose, and Alexa is working hard to establish herself on the new roster. Bliss claims the title with a DDT after Bayley collided with the ring post face first. Alexa makes history being the first woman to win both the Raw and Smackdown Women's Championship. Good for her, I honestly thought Charlotte would be the one to get that accolade.

-The previous 3 matches are what I was referring to with Raw establishing an identity. Neville, Sheamus & Cesaro and Alexa are set to be great rivals for the faces Aries, Hardys and Bayley. Well done.

-Time for the House of Horrors. Creepy dolls, horror movie-esque directing, just corny af. Bray tips a fridge onto Randy, steals his limo and goes to the arena. Laaaaaaame.

-Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe next. Spotted myself (and my "Crossfit Jesus" sign) in the pre-match video package. Wooo!

-The match itself is kinda slow. It follows a similar formula to Rollins vs. Triple H at Mania, heel methodically working on Rollins' injured knee. Unfortunately, no weapons here to spice things up. Rollins gets a wacky roll up victory by countering the Kokina Clutch, and I'm a bit "meh" on it all. Then again, I wasn't enamoured with Rollins/HHH watching it live, so maybe this needs a second viewing.

-House of Horrors continues in the ring, and we get roughly 5 minutes of brawling/wrestling. The Singh Brothers (Bollywood Boyz) and Jinder Mahal attack Orton, allowing Bray to get the victory. And it's only at that point I realise that the House of Horrors was a non title match. You just kinda assume that WWE Champion in a PPV singles match= title match. But every bit of this sucked. I almost think Orton vs. Jinder at Backlash will be better than this. I wonder how many in attendance at Payback don't watch Smackdown and had the ultimate WTF reaction to seeing Jinder Mahal involved in a main event match?

-Main event time- Reigns vs. Strowman. I'm more okay with this being the main event considering the WWE Title wasn't on the line. And let's face it, would you really want to end the show on that shit? Reigns is half wrapped up in bandages, like an Egyptian mummy with commitment issues. Reigns fights valiantly through his injuries, but Braun destroys him for the clean win, then fucks him up some more post-match with the steel stairs.

-The crowd is vicious with their "Thank You Strowman" chants. I have my usual gripe that the babyface (I use the term loosely with Roman) has no friends. I was expecting Dean Ambrose to make the save, but he was nowhere to be found all night. Anyway, the match was slow due to the storyline in play, but it did succeed in solidifying Braun Strowman as a main event monster heel. Who else has beat Roman clean? Even Brock didn't manage that!

As I said in my blog title, a tale of two shows, was Payback. The pre-show was unexpected fun, and the first half of the main card, where the tag teams, women and cruisers shined, was fantastic. And let's not forget the GOAT, Chris Jericho. Then once the House of Horrors match started, it was all downhill. The HOH was campy bullshit, and the top matches of Rollins/Joe and Reigns/Strowman just weren't high energy enough to offset that bullshit. I do appreciate the efforts made to push Rollins as a top face and Braun as a top heel. There's enough elements in play for Raw to be a really compelling brand going forward.

And let's not forget Brock Lesnar, the Universal Champion, will be returning to Raw in the coming weeks to defend his title at the newly created July PPV, WWE Great Balls of Fire. You can't make this shit up, seriously.

Until next time, take care,


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Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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