Despite only a couple of the storylines for Payback being well cooked, this was a very solid pay-per-view. This is the happiest I’ve been yet about my WWE Network subscription. Shows such as Wrestlemania and the Royal Rumble I was always going to watch somewhere. Payback is the kind of show I’d have missed otherwise, and I’d have cheated myself out of some great entertainment. Here’s a look back at a big night.
Kofi Kingston starts the night relegated to the pre-show as a commentator. The good news was that they announced a match for him. The bad news is that it’s against Bo Dallas, and I’m sure WWE wants Dallas to look good tonight. Kofi is the Shelton Benjamin of 2014. You leave the PPV talking about some incredible spot he did, but he loses anyway.
We start out with Sheamus defending his US Title against the Swiss Superman Cesaro. Payback’s in Chicago, so I suspect they set this first so Paul Heyman could defuse the “CM Punk” chants. He informs us that Punk isn’t here, he’s watching the Chicago Blackhawks lose. I’m a firm believer that paying your money for a ticket gives you the right, within reason, to voice your opinion. But the “CM Punk” chants have gotten so old they’re disrespectful to the people who are here working matches. Punk appears ready to transition into another career. Considering how many of my childhood wrestling heroes are dead, I’m going to give Punk the benefit of some doubt. I feel the same way about “part-timers” such as Batista and The Rock. If the majority of your co-workers dropped dead before age 55, wouldn’t you look for other employment soon?
Sheamus pins Cesaro to retain US Title
Sheamus and Cesaro had a great match with a surprising finish, Sheamus using a small package right after Cesaro’s Giant Swing. This keeps the feud going, and Cesaro isn’t in danger of losing momentum. But he is getting an insane amount of cheers for a guy who’s supposed to be heel.
The continuing disintegration of the Rhodes Bros. tag team was on display vs. Rybaxel. Cody reminded us the Brotherhood began in Chicago, foreshadowing the breakup. After another disappointing loss, Cody tells Goldust: “Brother to brother, you need a better partner than me.” Cody long ago earned the right for a solo push, and some of Goldust’s best work has been with tag team partners such as Booker T.
Rusev defeats Big E Langston by submission
WWE’s campaign to make fans hate Lana is ongoing and unsuccessful. No matter how many times she invokes the name of Vladmir Putin, or channels Brigitte Nielsen’s “Rocky IV” character fans love her. This match also earns my “this is why I miss JR” award for Payback. These matches between giants always felt more epic with JR reminding us what slobberknockers were. Langston hit an awesome spear on Rusev for the high point of this match. Just moments later though, Rusev locked in the Accolade and earned the submission. That is two straight PPV losses for Big E and he is officially lost in the shuffle right now.
Kofi Kingston vs Bo Dallas (no contest)
This match was added during the pre-game, so it’s a lowered expectations special. Kofi is my son Braden’s favorite wrestler, but even he has realized that Kofi is losing a lot. Braden is six by the way. I decide whether to call Braden into the room based on whether I think Kofi’s going to win. There’s no reason to tonight.
Bo Dallas begins by reminding us that even though the Blackhawks are going to lose, that doesn’t make the audience losers. Then Kane’s music hits, and he obliterates Kofi for speaking out against The Authority. Dallas returns to tell an unconscious Kofi he’ll be back on his feet soon, all he has to do is “Bo-lieve,” which starts a “We Bo-lieve” chant. I’m glad I didn’t call Braden.
Bad News Barrett pins Rob Van Dam to retain the Intercontinental Title
If I need to tell you who won this match, you have not been paying attention. Bad News Barrett’s 2014 resurgence kept going in a serviceable match viewers have probably already forgotten.
Stephanie McMahon hit the ring for Daniel Bryan to surrender the World Title. I’m happy they’re letting Daniel Bryan keep the belt, acknowledging he is as popular as anybody on the roster right now. This particular storyline is a little silly. If Bryan doesn’t surrender the belt, his wife Brie is fired. The Bella Twins voluntarily walked away from WWE in 2012 to take a break. I can support that for the same reasons I support CM Punk looking for other work. But I don’t believe either Daniel or Brie would choose her right to participate in directionless Diva battle royals over his World Title reign. The difference in their salaries alone would make that a stupid decision for a pair of newlyweds.
If there were a major promotion in America that had any idea what to do with its female wrestlers, I suspect several WWE divas would line up to be fired. It was great to see Brie slap Stephanie McMahon, and I’m actually looking forward to their inevitable match.
Steph finally defused the CM Punk chants by telling Daniel Bryan that the fans wanted him to quit, just like Punk did. That’s the first official McMahon Family confirmation that Punk has left the company. It sounds like they don’t expect him back, either.
John Cena defeats Bray Wyatt in Last Man Standing Match
Why would anyone challenge Cena to a Last Man Standing Match? Super Cena routinely shrugs off trademark finishers, outside interference and tactical nukes. So your solution is to ask him for a match in which he gets an extra seven seconds to answer the bell? Classic supervillain overconfidence. Wrestling fans know that every match is the “greatest ever,” but this one lived up to the hype. Yes Cena won, but Wyatt looked strong in defeat. The contest sold us that neither man could keep the other down for 10 seconds. Cena had to throw Wyatt through a wooden crate, drop another crate on that one and then stand on the whole thing. If he hadn’t, Wyatt would have kept coming back like Freddy Kreuger.
There were so many great moments in this match. Cena tossed the ring steps at Wyatt like a lawn dart, but he still got up. Wyatt countered an aerial attack into Sister Abigail’s Kiss, but that wouldn’t be enough to keep Cena down. Wyatt speared Cena through the ringside barricade, with the bodies of The Wyatt Family and the Usos surrounding them. This wasn’t just Last Man Standing, it was almost a TLC match. As awesome as your friends on social media are telling you this was, it was better.
Paige defeats Alicia Fox by submission to retain the Divas Championship
The Divas certainly shouldn’t be made to start the show every time. But continually putting them in slots such as right after the Undertaker’s streak ended or this incredible Last Man Standing match doesn’t help them. Being pressed for time, we didn’t even get a full Alicia Fox post match meltdown. The short time doesn’t help Paige either, as she keeps winning with a submission hold. She doesn’t have the opportunity to work any limbs or build to the submission in any meaningful way.
The Shield defeats Evolution in an elimination match
What’s that you say, Internet Wrestling Community? Triple H doesn’t put people over? Damn it, I am the game! I even put people over better than anyone! If you told me you thought the The Shield would go over Evolution without losing a single man, you are either lying or currently wearing your Roman Reigns PJs. As a wrestling blogger, I am contractually obligated to make fun of Batista. He made it easy at Payback:
It’s funny how the blue armbands on a turtle make him look badass, where on a WWE main eventer they scream, “I can not finish my contractual obligations soon enough.”
Evolution played this like villains, having multiple opportunities to eliminate each Shield member but opting to inflict punishment instead. They triple powerbombed Roman Reigns through the Spanish announce table, but decided to humilate him with a kendo stick beating. I’m starting to think the “take out Reigns” plan is flawed. The team usually begins its comeback when Seth Rollins finds the highest point in the building and leaps from it. It was that way again at Payback. After obliterating Evolution, it’s apparent the only way The Shield is coming apart is from within.