Before I begin my ramblings, I just want to admit that the WWE came through in spades on Sunday night. Payback 2017 looked like an absolute dud of a card from the outset, but ended up being a very good show with a lot of good wrestling and even a few memorable moments. I will go about my traditional Best/Worst list, but very few things can be classified as ‘Worst.’ This was an exceptionally well-rounded show with each match and segment holding up on its own.
- Austin Aries vs. Neville
My #1 and #2 are very close, but I had Aries and Neville as Match of the Night as soon as it ended. It was excellently paced, had a handful of solid spots, and – most importantly – it had a tremendous finish. How do you put over a heel and a babyface at the same time? Have the heel get DQ’d while still locked in a submission hold. I can honestly say I was blown away. Damn near a genius idea. This feud is one of the best going on TV at the moment, and most of that is due to the pair’s excellent in-ring chemistry. I feel like I can watch these two go at it for the rest of the year.
- Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho
It’s a lot of fun to watch your two favorite wrestlers go at it on a PPV stage, but it’s even more fun when your two favorite wrestlers are also two of the best wrestlers in the world. Though the match started with a bit of slog, Jericho and Owens turned on their superb storytelling abilities to deliver what ended up being the most emotionally engaging moment of the night. Owens, locked in the Walls of Jericho, couldn’t reach the ropes with his injured hand – finally submitting to his former best friend and losing his coveted United States Championship. Jericho, after the match, celebrated with a young fan, securing for himself Heartwarming Moment of the Night – a new award I just made up.
- Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss
Looking at bona fide heels in the women’s division across both brands (and even NXT), it’s hard to contend with Alexa Bliss. Though Charlotte has a bit of ring prowess over Bliss, it is damn near impossible to measure up to the Five Feet of Fury in her mannerisms and ability on the mic. It certainly didn’t hurt going up against uber-babyface Bayley, but Bliss cemented herself for good as top heel on Sunday – capitalizing on a dazed Bayley to capture the Raw Women’s Championship. Despite taking place in Bayley’s hometown, this was Alexa’s night and it’s hard to say it’s not well deserved.
- The Hardy Boyz vs. Sheamus and Cesaro
The Hardy Boyz showing up on my TV is always going to find a way on the ‘Best Things’ list these days, and Matt and Jeff certainly didn’t do anything to dissuade that on Sunday. The duo retained the tag team silver in a solid match with Sheasaro. However, despite a very good match, what landed this one on the ‘Best’ side were the post-match antics. After months of playing an Odd Couple sort of half-face-half-heel tag team, Sheasaro revealed their true colors with a savage beatdown on the Hardyz. The carnage climaxed with a ruthless Brogue Kick to Matt, leaving him – dare I say – broken.
- Enzo and Big Cass vs. The Club
It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it just was, and on a show like this, that is not even remotely good enough. Pinning the Club is just a stale joke at his point, and one of which I am quite exhausted.
- Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
This comes in at number two definitely not for the reasons you would think. I thoroughly enjoyed the House of Horrors. It was campy, but still brutal. It was as ridiculous as Bray, but also still retained a bit of an edge – just as Wyatt should. The reason I put this on the ‘Worst’ list is for the finish. I was very happy Bray won his own gimmick match and I was very happy that Jinder interfered to further the story for Backlash, but I cannot stand that Bray looked so weak in victory. There are ways to use interference to make a heel look not like a wet piece of cardboard, but this was not one of them. It’s sickening how poorly they treat Bray these days, a solid wrestler and a character that could be a megastar if they ever used him right.
- Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
This was an awesome match and I was absolutely ecstatic that Braun pinned Roman clean in the ring. Even better, the post-match slaughter that continued onto Raw Talk was phenomenal. This is definitely not deserving of the ‘Worst’ list, but it ends up here because I’m a nit-picking piece of crap. Roman was absolutely crippled coming into this match and Braun went straight at him, full force right at the beginning. This should have been a squash match. Roman Reigns should never have had the strength for Drive-Bys or Superman Punches. But, he’s the top star, I guess. Gotta look strong even in bloody defeat. For real, though, Braun is freakin’ awesome.
- Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe
Again, this is not deserving of any sort of ‘Worst’ categorization. This was a solid match from two very solid performers. Seth picks up another PPV win on his way to becoming a top babyface. Samoa Joe still looks tough and formidable even in defeat. This was just a little too going-through-the-motions for me.
Like stated in my intro, this was a very solid show born from a really boring card. There were a few surprises, a few very good matches, and a hint at the return of the best gimmick in the history of professional wrestling. Can’t ask for much more than that from a B-Show. Though aided by a few SmackDown superstars, this was officially the best Raw event since the brand split. Congrats, Raw, you’ve finally got SmackDown on their heels.
Backlash is only a few weeks away, ladies and gents! Here’s to an awesome kick-off to the 2017-2018 wrestling season – may the good fortune continue!
Photo Credit: WWE.com