Monday, May 1, 2017

WWE Payback Review

WWE Payback
April 30th, 2017 | SAP Center in San Jose, California | Attendance: 13,694

Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
Anyone else realize Enzo and Cass are like, the perfect Kickoff Show team? Their opening spiel always gets the crowd pumped and it’s a good way to start a show. They had a Chinese food related theme to their stuff here. One thing that makes Enzo and Cass work so well is their big man/little man dynamic, which is great for tag formula. Here, Enzo took a beating, with the Club working on his arm. It was vicious work at times but a strange choice since arm work doesn’t typically come into play for the Club. Cass came in hot and did his thing before Enzo stole it by rolling up Gallows at 6:33. A fine little opener with some solid tag team formula. [**¼]

Onto the main card now.

WWE United States Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Chris Jericho
If Chris Jericho wins, he joins Smackdown. I enjoyed the hell out of their WrestleMania outing. This was just slightly below that match for me. Owens is so good at everything. He is one of the only guys in wrestling who can do typical heel things like stall or work rest holds and always have it be entertaining. I do feel this was a bit more intense than the Mania match times. Late in the match, Owens repeated the “one finger on the ropes” spot from Mania, which I thought was cool. Pissed off, Jericho attacked the hand and kicked the steel steps into it. Owens sold it like his hand was about to fall off. The injury was crucial because he couldn’t hit the Popup Powerbomb or extend the finger when put back in the Walls of Jericho. He had no choice but to tap out at 14:02. The result was a shock since Jericho is reportedly leaving soon, Owens has started the “New Face of America” stuff and the setup for Styles/Owens at Backlash. Still, I loved how the finger came into play and it was utilized in such a positive way to make for a smart finish. [***¼]

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries
I seem to be one of the only people to have gone **** on their Mania match but I loved it. This was nowhere near that level but still good. Austin Aries came into this with a plan and was one step ahead of Neville from the opening bell. The “King of the Cruiserweights” has been lightyears ahead of a lot of his opponents, dominating the division, but not here. Neville took over and things slowed a bit, only to pick up after a big bump off an Aries dropkick. Aries’ offense is great and the crowd responded to it well throughout. My favorite thing about their Mania match was the finish and I know most people didn’t care for this finish but I liked it too. Aries had a counter for Neville’s superplex, hitting a sunset flip bomb right into Last Chancery. Neville knew he was done, so he pulled the referee to break the hold, resulting in the DQ at 11:17. It’s a great way to continue the feud without Aries having to eat another loss. The story of him having Neville’s number was well told and their blowoff match should have a stipulation and might be their best outing yet. [***]

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: The Hardy Boyz (c) vs. Cesaro and Sheamus
In the buildup, the Hardys beat their challengers in singles matches. I want to point out that the Hardys could’ve totally come in and relied on crowd reactions with minimal efforts in the ring. They haven’t done that yet as both worked hard here. Matt got busted open the hard way and Jeff bumped like a madman. He’s a great foe for brutes like Cesaro and Sheamus. He had his tooth knocked out during a heat segment after a brutal kick. The brutal nature of the challengers helped foreshadow things. The crowd was way into everything, which helped the match. Sheamus thought he had it won after a powerslam on Matt, but missed Jeff’s blind tag. Jeff broke up his pin with a Swanton Bomb and got the win at 12:42. Good old fashioned tag team wrestling where everything made sense and it had a hot crowd. Sheamus was sloppy at times, with hurt the quality a bit. [***¼]

Post-match, Sheamus and Cesaro raised the Hardys’ hands, only to attack them. It made sense given the respectful angle they’ve been playing up. Though I think they were just getting their groove as a face team, with the Revival on the shelf, Raw needed another heel duo.

WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss
Even the biggest Alexa Bliss fan can admit that she could still use some polishing needed in the ring. But man, that woman absolutely nails her character and mannerisms. They played to that strength as she talked trash and mocked Bayley and her hometown faithful while on the offensive. Alexa could do basic offense and have it work wonderfully due to the heat she was getting. Bayley sold everything well, helping the sympathy aspect here. Alexa being a bitch was the best way to go about this match. She did the little things to anger the ultimate babyface in Bayley, taking her off her game. As Bayley laid into her with more aggression than usual, it backfired and she was pulled into the corner, hitting her head on the ring post. Bliss then nailed a DDT to capture the title at 11:10. The DDT is a shit finish in 2017 but I respect that it made sense here with Bayley’s head injury. Alexa’s overconfidence nearly cost her at times but in the end, she took advantage of a situation and got the win. This was a study in character work as Alexa nailed it. She gets the distinction of being the first woman to hold the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Titles and I couldn’t be happier that she did it before Charlotte. Bayley’s best main roster match and Alexa’s best match ever. [***½]

The House of Horrors match started here and ended later. I’ll cover it all after this next match.

Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins
You know, this should’ve been an awesome rivalry. Joe and Rollins are interesting characters and it’s a high profile match but I honestly forgot they were feuding until the match started. It’s been so lackluster. Starting after the first half of the House of Horrors match didn’t help since the crowd was dead and unenthused after that awful showing. Obviously, Joe went after Seth’s injured knee and I must say, it was more interesting leg work than the HHH stuff at Mania. However, it suffered from match placement because a dead crowd who just witnessed that Bray/Orton shit was not interested in seeing some methodical leg work. Seth sold well, another thing I preferred to the HHH match, using just one leg to climb the ropes. I just never got into Seth’s comeback and it lacked some energy. I did like how the finish saw him lull Joe into a false sense of security as he countered the choke into a cradle to steal it at 15:54. This was good and psychologically sound, but it was missing something to make it great. It felt more like a Raw main event than a big PPV match. [***]

House of Horrors Match: Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
Where to begin with this? The first half was pre-recorded stuff at some random house. Orton showed up in a limo with no shirt, jeans and elbow pads. Bray attacked him in the house, wearing a wife beater. About two minutes in and the internet was already filled with jokes and memes. Let me note that I can enjoy some good, trashy fun in wrestling. I LOVED the Final Deletion. This took itself too seriously, was poorly produced and Bray and Randy seemed so uninspired during the whole thing. They tried to make up for it with a creepy baby doll room and some horror aspects but it all fell flat. Bray dropped a fridge on Orton and got in the limo to go back to the arena. He arrived, out of breath despite a lengthy limo ride, and once he got in the ring, Orton magically appeared behind him. They did more lame brawling until the Bollywood Boyz and Jinder Mahal attacked Orton. Orton sent them packing, but Bray got the opening to hit Sister Abigail and “win” the feud at 18:55 or so. A steaming hot pile of shit. It wasn’t fun, was poorly produced, felt like a waste of time and did nothing for anyone involved. They somehow had a worse match than their shit Mania performance. It was the worst match I’ve seen in 2017 and I watch a fair amount of Jado matches. [-**]

Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
Save me, Braun. I love Braun but I didn’t care much for their Fastlane match. Reigns was heavily bandaged and looked to be in awful health. This was typical WWE storytelling. Superman Reigns came in hurt and got his ass kicked. He brought out hope spots so commentary could say, “HOW IS ROMAN DOING THIS? WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM?” I thought Reigns’ selling was good but the story here was how Braun continues to entertain the hell out of everyone. Reigns tried one final rally but Braun was ready for the Superman Punch and went into hitting the powerslam. Roman kicked out but it wasn’t this aggressive kick out. It was like a last ditch effort similar to Sami Zayn against Kevin Owens at TakeOver: Rival. Another powerslam kept Roman down at 11:43. I enjoyed this as they told a good story and both guys got to look strong. Braun continues to be a monster, while Reigns never gives up like his name is John Cena. I commend the way WWE has handled Braun. [***½]

Braun was all, “I’M NOT FINISHED WIITH YOU YET!” and proceeded to murder Roman Reigns with the steep steps over and over. Reigns did the internal bleeding stuff backstage. Braun was still not done and charged at Roman by an ambulance. Reigns dodged it and Braun crashed through the door. Reigns slammed it on him and Braun left since the BIG DOG gotta get the final upper hand, even if it’s a small one.

Overall: 6.5/10. I’ll say this was the best Raw PPV since the brand split. They still don’t have a PPV match I’ve given at least **** yet but this was consistently strong. The show had good tag team wrestling (Kickoff and Tag Title matches), stuff with strong storytelling (Reigns/Braun and Jericho/Owens), bouts that were entertaining and furthered feuds (Joe/Rollins and Aries/Neville) and the best Raw Women’s Title match on PPV since Hell in a Cell. Lots of good, nothing great. The thing that hurt the show was the House of Horrors match as it was complete dog shit and my current worst match of the year.