Was WWE Payback 2016 the beginning of a new era for the WWE, as the pre-show slogan would have us believe? Or was it merely a smokescreen, a clever subterfuge to make us think it was a new era? I’m still unsure, but Payback certainly delivered in the ring…(oh, and why did most of the promo posters have The Wyatt Family in the background? They weren’t even on the show!)
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady vs The Vaudevillains
Unfortunately, the opening match was cut short due to a serious injury sustained by Amore. Simon Gotch hurled him into the ropes, and the impact was severe (especially on Amore’s head). Here’s hoping Amore is okay…
WINNER: No Contest
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens
Match of the night? Easily! Their two previous matches for the NXT Title never matched my expectations of what they could deliver in the ring. Their second match can be excused, as Zayn wrestled with an injured shoulder. It always seemed like they were holding back. For the first five minutes or so of this match, they did hold back. I feared that yet again, a Zayn vs Owens match would not deliver the goods. However, they quickly took the match to another level. It was the perfect heel vs babyface collision; Owens beat Zayn down, but Zayn always found a moment to rally back. Full of twists and turns, their intimate knowledge of each other led to some stunning reversals. One of note was Owens’ reversal of Zayn’s Tornado DDT into a backbreaker! The final stretch of the match saw big move after big move, with Zayn in full on offensive mode. However, an Owens Superkick and his Pop-Up Powerbomb cut Zayn’s offence short. As abrupt an ending as it was, we know that this is only the beginning of their feud on the main roster. May it long continue!
WINNER: Kevin Owens
VERDICT: 9/10. A notch below Zayn vs Nakamura, but if another WWE/NXT match could come close to that quality, this match was it. Match of the Year contender!
Post-Match: Owens humiliated Byron Saxton and promised the Intercontinental Title would be his, sooner or later. He then invited himself onto commentary for the next match…
The Miz (c) vs Cesaro (Intercontinental Championship Match)
I probably need to watch this match again, as I was too focused on Owens’ commentary and belitting of Michael Cole and Saxton to fully concentrate on it. Of course, Miz and Cesaro had to follow Zayn and Owens, so right from the bell ring they were at a disadvantage. Miz’s boring offensive stretch early on in the match also harmed the match. However, when Cesaro reclaimed control, it oozed quality. He’s just so damned good to watch! Deadlift gut wrenches, deadlift suplexes, catching The Miz in mid-air and tilt-a-whirl slamming him, a springboard spinning uppercut…His offence is amazing! However, the match was disrupted by Zayn attacking Owens at commentary. That eventually led to Cesaro losing the match via a cheeky roll-up by The Miz. Two matches in, and only one clean finish? Not the new era of the WWE that I imagined…but it sets up a possible Fatal 4 Way match for the IC title, I guess…
WINNER: The Miz
VERDICT: 7/10. Distractions from Owens on commentary and the brawl between Owens and Zayn at the end took my attention away from the match, and The Miz isn’t the most exciting wrestler to watch. But Cesaro made the match more than watchable.
Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho
Towards the end of this bout, I was getting restless. Ambrose and Jericho were working hard, but it seemed as if they were merely postponing the end of the match, rather than adding to the story of it. The first two-thirds of the match were very good, featuring a horde of reversals and Jericho’s slingshot of Ambrose from the commentary table to the timekeeper’s area. They had decent chemistry and made the match look PPV worthy, but shortly after that the match ran out of steam. Not only that, but who looked the more impressive: Ambrose or Jericho? I’d say Jericho. Sure, Ambrose went through his repertoire of moves, including the suicide dive, but Jericho looked better, even in defeat. Shouldn’t Ambrose have looked the more impressive? I worry for his future prospects…But even with a dragged out ending, the match was more than watchable.
WINNER: Dean Ambrose
VERDICT: 7/10. Another very good collision that was spoiled by a dragged out ending. Jericho is still productive in the ring. But another clean finish as well!
Charlotte (c) vs Natalya (Women’s Championship Match)
If Zayn vs Owens was a repeat of NXT, then this match was a replica of Charlotte vs Natalya at NXT: Takeover a couple of years ago. Charlotte accompanied by Ric Flair, Natalya accompanied by Bret Hart, a title on the line…unfortunately, out of their three major clashes (NXT: Takeover, Road Block and this one), this was the weakest. All the components were there for a great match, but it only turned out be a good match. They did everything right, but something was missing…Not only that , but the ending was not only abrupt but ridiculous. The referee called for the bell as Charlotte had Natalya in the Sharpshooter. The commentators whined about Survivor Series 1997, but the lack of a proper explanation and the acceptance of the referee’s call were laughable. Bret Hart locked the Sharpshooter on Flair afterwards…so what? Will we and Hart always have to be reminded of the Montreal Screwjob? Again, new era, but old, clichéd dirty finishes…
VERDICT: 7/10. Good work by the two women, but we’ve seen them perform better before. And the screwjob finish was just a joke…
In-Ring Segment: Vince McMahon chose both Shane and Stephanie to run Raw. What a cop-out, right? Not only that, but they droned on and on, buying for time lost by the suspended opening match (probably). So much for the New Era…a McMahon family feud is a horse that has been flogged to its bones. Can’t we have something different, rather than the McMahon’s vying for power?
Roman Reigns (c) vs AJ Styles (WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match)
Well, didn’t Roman Reigns look and carry himself like a champion here? Of course, Styles did much of the actual carrying of this match, but Reigns’ contribution should not be discounted. His disdainful treatment of Styles early on, tossing him about and powerbombing him with ease, was the best character work I’ve seen Reigns perform in a while. They both worked very hard in this match, with the highlight being Styles’ Springboard Forearm onto Reigns through the announce table! However, after that and Reigns’ subsequent count-out, I knew that we were due some McMahon interference. Sure, he came out and restarted the match with no count-outs. After Reigns was disqualified for a low-blow, Stephanie came out and restarted the match with no DQs. Sure enough, that led to Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows coming out and beating up Reigns. THAT led to The Usos coming out to help Reigns.
Amongst all the chaos the flow of the match was disrupted. After Steph came out but before Anderson and Gallows interfered, the match was regaining its flow and looking promising. However, the chaos restrained Reigns and Styles. They managed to pull something together in the closing minutes, but it wasn’t enough. Now, I’ll still say that this was a very good match. But, like the old era of WWE, interference and shenanigans spoiled all the hard work that Reigns and Styles put into the match. But Styles looked like he belonged in the main event, and Reigns looked like a champion!
WINNER: Roman Reigns
VERDICT: 7/10. Without the interference and distractions, this would have been close to the quality of the Zayn vs Owens collision. However, Reigns and Styles were lost in the chaos. But I’ll be willing to see an interference free rematch!
OVERALL VERDICT: 7/10. One of the most consistent PPVs WWE have delivered in a long time. While only Zayn vs Owens was a Match of the Year contender, all of the other matches were well-worth watching. But whether or not Payback signalled the beginning of a new era was another thing. Only two matches had clean finishes. The main event was almost ruined by constant distractions. PPVs are where clean finishes should happen…leave the shenanigans for Raw and Smackdown! However, I shouldn’t complain too much. The new faces of the WWE looked large and in charge tonight!
Leave your thoughts/comments below!
(Click here for my review of WWE WrestleMania 32)