WWE booking is a bit backward these days. Extreme Rules, a show full of special stipulation matchups, was used not as the dramatic payoff for several long running feuds, but the warm up for Payback. We had several rematches from last month’s show, but the new matches easily stole the show.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus
This advanced their previous encounter as Sheamus didn’t take the little fellow for granted and was all over him while Ziggler continued using his speed to get the advantage. It didn’t feel as fresh as their first matchup though, which benefited from a stipulation.
Ziggler gets some payback when Sheamus falls in the corner and he delivers the stinkface. Ziggler gets into a headbutt flurry, which busts him open legitimately (warn the sponsors!). The match quickly is brought to a close as Sheamus delivers a Brogue Kick for the win and to avoid scarring little kids who otherwise would think wrestling can get you hurt.
Rating: 3 out of 5. The match lost me a bit with the stinkface. It seemed like for Ziggler, getting the win was secondary to rubbing his butt in Sheamus’ face.
Seth Rollins threatens Kane. That’s going to end well. Still finding it hard to believe there’s no one else on the roster that can’t take the spot as the main henchmen for The Authority than Kane and The Big Show in 2015.
WWE tag team title (2 out of 3 falls) New Day vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (with Natayla)
I got too excited when I heard the stipulation of this rematch hoping against all established WWE logic that a 2 out of 3 falls match would get more time than a couple of segments on RAW. The teams worked hard, but the match was paced more like a Survivor Series matchup where moves that typically get a decent two-count led to pinfalls. For a moment it appeared like the WWE was teasing a Barry Windham/Lex Luger dissolution as Cesaro was knocked off the ring apron and couldn’t get back up repeatedly to tag back in, but thankfully the feud must continue.
After both teams gained a fall apiece, the finish came with the ref trying to restore order and Xavier sneaking in and getting a flash rollup for the win. Do Xavier and Kofi really look that much alike?
Rating: 3.5 out of 5. Another fun encounter, but the first matchup was better as the quick pacing of the pinfalls made both teams look too vulnerable. Booked in this manner, an Iron-Man matchup might be a better stipulation to show how evenly matched the teams are as their feud continues.
Ryback vs. Bray Wyatt
You see, WWE can rebuild guys. A year ago, Ryback was in a going nowhere tag team with Axel and now he’s back to being in a moderately high profile match. The Baltimore crowd seems to be leaning a bit more heavily to Wyatt.
The commentators continue to be the weakest part of the shows and they’re just killing the matches with their inane banter. This match was the biggest surprise of the night as Ryback and Wyatt put together a solid, well-built encounter. It wasn’t the match of the night or anything, but it did the job. Wyatt worked on Ryback’s ribs and Ryback tried to overwhelm Wyatt with his power even busting out a top rope splash.
Ryback actually did a surprisingly good job of selling a rib injury. The finish played into that as Ryback had Wyatt up on his shoulders, but Wyatt ripped the turnbuckle off and pushed Ryback into the exposed buckle weakening him enough for Wyatt to hit Sister Abigail for the win. As he rolled out the ring after the match, the ref did the injury signaling ‘X’ so Ryback may have legitimately been hurt.
Rating: 3 out of 5. Can’t go wrong with a smartly booked match.
US Title I Quit Match: John Cena vs. Rusev
Nice job of tying in Gordon Solie’s legendary ‘two words, five letters’ with the pre-match video. Rusev says half the audience already hates you and suggests Cena quit now. Rusev has these little things like goading the crowd to get them to fully back Cena and harassing the ref and if he keeps honing his skills he’s going to be a major force in the promotion for many years.
I don’t get the ‘We Want Lana’ chants. What else do the fans want exactly? Lana’s already there. At least ‘We Want Puppies’ required some action from Debra. Lana is becoming far too much the focal point of an ‘I Quit’ match.
The storytelling is frustratingly off as the guys hit a move here and there and ask the ref to question if the other is ready to give up. Attitude adjustment. Do you want to quit? Superkick. Do you want to quit. Slam into the barricade? You get the gist. This match would benefit greatly if they targeted a body part instead of making threats and doing their regular move set. Fans chant ‘This is awesome’ because that’s what you’re supposed to do at least three times a night at any live wrestling show in 2015.
We get some interesting special effects with Cena hitting an AA on Rusev into the pyros setting off a few sparks. Remember when that would end a Last Man Standing or I Quit match? Rusev rallies and gets Cena in the Accolade, but Cena passes out. Of course, Cena never said ‘I Quit’ so Rusev unfastens the turnbuckle and revises Cena with some water. Cena escapes and puts the STF on Rusev, who starts saying something in Bulgarian. Now the shenanigans come to play as Lana crawls into the ring and says Rusev quits. That’s a real screwy ending. JBL questions how that could be valid since Rusev didn’t say ‘I Quit.’ Exactly. Cena remains undefeated in an ‘I Quit’ match.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 – solid action, but the ring psychology and finish dragged this down.
Renee Young, Booker T and Corey Graves break down the first half of the card. Renee says Cena is undefeated in ‘I Quit’ matches providing better information post match than any of the commentators while Booker says that even in defeat, Rusev’s stock is going up. I’d be perfectly fine with the Payback panel and commentators swapping seats for the second half of the show.
Look back at the preshow The Ascension vs. ‘The MegaPowers.’ Match. Remember what I said about Ryback? Toss that out for Axel and Sandow, who get squashed and treated like losers. Losing that feud against The Miz did Sandow no favors especially since Miz is away filming a new movie.
The New Day celebrate with milk as Byron Saxton interviews them as they gloat about being good role models since they never curse or complain and amp up the obnoxiousness by touching pinkies. At Elimination Chamber, Saxton informs them they’ll be competing in a tag team title Elimination Chamber and they immediately start cursing and complaining. That’s an old King Booker trick and it still works.
The Bellas vs. Naomi and Tamina
The Bellas are becoming Big Show-like with their random face/heel turns. Cole hypes a big announcement for the Intercontinental title at Elimination Chamber. Had he been paying attention to The New Day’s promo he would have remembered Xavier Woods already mentioned the IC title will be up for grabs in a chamber match. I really need a pair of Naomi’s color-changing shoes. Cole’s making too much of the match about Daniel Bryan.
I’ve been getting spoiled with Lucha Underground, Impact Wrestling and ROH so this commentating style of talking about the wrestlers and only occasionally discussing what’s actually happening in the match is more frustrating than usual. Tamina tosses Brie into the barricade distracting Nikki long enough for Naomi to slam her down for the pin.
Rating: 2 out of 5. All four worked hard, but this wasn’t nearly as crisp and entertaining as Naomi’s match with Nikki at Extreme Rules.
Rusev chews out Lana again. Look back at Daniel Bryan’s forfeiture of the Intercontinental title. How can you not feel terrible for the guy who finally got to the top of the promotion and then his body betrayed him to the point he can’t stay healthy? Maybe he can take a page from his mentor Shawn Michaels’ book and retire for four years and go into a second act that rivals the first.
King Barrett vs. Neville
The match of the Englishmen who lost their first name. While I like Barrett’s music, he really should get a more regal sounding theme/remix. The Man that gravity forget is a terrific gimmick, why does Neville also need ‘The New Sensation’ tag?
These two have good chemistry, but they don’t get enough time to take it to the next level. Barrett avoids The Red Arrow by rolling outside the ring. Neville hits a twisting tope, but dings up his knee and limps back into the ring.
Barrett decides to take the count-out loss. Post match, Barrett attacks Neville, who shatters his specter and hits The Red Arrow despite having an injured knee.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 If WWE used them and DQs more often they wouldn’t seem as hokey and contrived as they do now when they’re utilized for convenience, not storyline advancement.
Rollins with J & J Security head to the ring as Kane wishes them good luck. This upcoming WWE special schedule is murderous. In two weeks we’ve got Elimination Chamber and four weeks from now we’ve got Money in the Bank.
WWE World Title match: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
Randy Orton takes on The Shield! J & J get involved early attacking Ambrose, Orton and Reigns. Fun moments with Reigns and Ambrose taking turns beating up Rollins. Reigns goes for the Superman Punch, but Kane pulls him out and pushes him in the barricade before attacking Ambrose. Kane then joins J & J in attacking Orton. Kane’s all over the match and is just about the de facto fifth man in this matchup.
Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins triple powerbomb Orton through a table prompting by far the biggest cheer from the crowd. Rollins laughs and puts his arms around Ambrose and Reigns. He wants to do the trademark Shield pose. The crowd was ready to lose their mind had The Shield reformed here. Have to think Vince McMahon heard that and is already working on the inevitable reunion. Instead Ambrose and Reigns slug away at him and powerbomb Kane on top of him on a table. But since it didn’t break, the crowd demands another and this time it breaks.
Reigns and Ambrose survey the wreckage and agree the loser buys the beer and get back into the ring. Ambrose is clearly the fan’s favorite. Kane eventually returns and starts interfering leading to Rollins isolating Orton long enough to hit The Pedigree for the win. That’s the second consecutive show Rollins has used someone else’s finisher to get a victory.
Rating: 4 out of 5. The show needed a strong main event and we got it.
At Extreme Rules, the main event fell flat, but this was easily the match of the night. The undercard of Extreme Rules was better, but the big time ticket selling match of the show delivered. Angles progressed and there was no outright terrible match so ‘Payback’ is worth checking out even if it’s just a one-match show.
Rating: 7 out of 10
*Pics credit: WWE.com