We Review WWE Payback 2017

****CONTAINS SPOILERS****

So WrestleMania is over. WWE still needs to resolve a few loose ends from that show and their Superstar Shakeup. For that, we have Payback.

Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens – United States Championship – Winner goes to Smackdown Live

One of the better stories of the last few months finally comes to a (presumed) ending here. This match was not AS good as Chris Jericho, and Kevin Owens had at WrestleMania, but it was definitely a winner.

The match had decent action, and the two kept the flow going with their big moves. Jericho landed Owens in the Walls of Jericho but again, Owens escaped literally by a finger. This caused Jericho to snap and attack Owens’s finger by slamming it into the steps. I have to admit, this was unique enough and weird enough that I enjoyed it.

Jericho once again trapped Owens into the Walls of Jericho and Owens actually tapped. Jericho’s win came as a legit and pleasant – especially since I have a hard time remembering the last time the Walls of Jericho won a match.

Plus, it has me interested: Where do we go from here?

Smackdown Live can benefit from The Gift of Jericho (Drink it in, baby!), but the story could continue especially since Kevin Owens’s Face of America bit was entertaining (More entertaining than his Universal Championship run).

How will this affect Owens’s feud with AJ Styles? I do worry Jericho won’t be long for the company, but I am curious to see what happens next.

Match rating: 3.75 stars (Out of 5)

Austin Aries vs. Neville – Cruiserweight Championship

The Cruiserweight Division has been criticized for not living up to expectations. The matches on Raw feel like filler. For anyone who doesn’t care for the Cruiserweights or 205 Live, I doubt this will sway them.

Austin Aries and Neville put on a decent match, but it never reached the heights these two are capable of. There were some good spots such as a flying missile by Aries and Aries turning a sunset flip into an immediate Last Chancery.

However, whatever momentum this match had was killed by a lame DQ finish. A viewer could have missed Neville attacking the ref if he or she blinked.

I suspect WWE knows Aries and Neville are carrying the division so they’re trying to milk this feud for as long as they can.

Bottom line: If you wanna see these two duke it out in a good match, was their WrestleMania Pre-Show match from last month.

Match Rating: 2.75 stars

The Hardy Boyz vs. Cesaro/Sheamus – Raw Tag Team Championship Match

This was old school storytelling with Sheamus and Cesaro working hard to isolate Matt and Jeff Hardy. We saw plenty of flying action from both sides (Still impressive considering Cesaro’s size). Cesaro also performed one of his longer Giant Swings. Plus we saw shades of Broken Matt Hardy.

Probably the most noteworthy spot of this match was Sheamus literally knocking a tooth out of Jeff Hardy’s mouth.

However, what really matters is the way this match became a nail-biter in the latter half with plenty of false finishes and near falls that kept me on the edge of my seat. The ending was exciting with Jeff Hardy getting a sneak tag in and performing a Swanton Bomb for the win.

The Hardy Boyz retained the tag titles, but were ambushed by Sheamus and Cesaro after the match.

Match Rating: 4 stars

Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley – Raw Women’s Championship Match

This was another match that was old school in all the right ways.

Alexa Bliss was in top form as the shrew heel while Bayley was at her best as the plucky fighter who would never give up. The two didn’t perform any groundbreaking moves, but they kept the flow of the match going and built plenty of suspense with several near-falls.

Bliss has been one of the most entertaining talkers in the company right now (easily the best woman on the mic right now). And she was in top form, trash-talking and even throwing one of her trademark tantrums.

Bliss won the championship making her the first woman to hold both the Smackdown Women’s Championship and the Raw Women’s Championship.

This was easily the match of the night.

Match Rating: 4.25 stars

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt – House of Horrors Match (Part 1)

No, that’s not a typo. I’ll get to why this is being reviewed in two parts. Jojo clarified that the rules of the match dictate that it will take place in a locked off house before making it to the ring.

So this is the House of Horrors match everyone was dreading. Honestly, I can’t hate this match. WWE has been playing things so safe for so long, I don’t mind them injecting a little silliness into the product. Is this really that different from the heyday of Boiler Room Brawls or Casket Matches? Remember what “sport” you’re watching, people!

So my criticism isn’t that a crazy match like this occurred. What bothers me is I feel they didn’t go all the way.

The prospect of Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton brawling in a pre-taped segment will draw inevitable comparisons to The Final Deletion. Sadly, this match never reaches those heights and just feels like a poor man’s Final Deletion – Diet Deletion if you will.

Part of me is tempted to say they should have gone all the way with a pre-taped segment, but I can understand WWE wanting to give the paying crowd their money’s worth. (I’ve been there: Driving out and spending bank just to watch TV can leave a sour taste in one’s mouth.)

Bray and Randy brawl, there’s some spooky imagery, they brawl some more, then brawl some more. Then Bray and Randy meet in a kitchen where Bray pushes a fridge on Randy. Bray runs away and hijacks Orton’s limo.

For crying out loud, this segment ended JUST as it was getting interesting!

Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins

This match was passable but nothing special.

Both guys had some impressive spots including suicide dives, which looked rather impressive from Samoa Joe. Joe worked Seth Rollins’s knee for a while, the most exciting spot being when he dropped his full body weight on it. However, this overstayed its welcome.

There was some exciting action, but this match never quite took off the way I expected. Both men teased but never really got off their big moves – probably because of the company’s lack of faith in Rollins’s new knee smash finisher.

I also think part of the problem is Rollins has been growing stagnant as a babyface. He’s immensely talented and good on the mic, but much like Orton, he’s such a natural heel. And for that reason, I feel his matches just haven’t had as much drama.

The biggest problem was how anticlimactically the match ended. Rollins reversed a move and scored the duke with a pinfall.

I’m sure Joe will remain a top player, but after the commentary team built up Joe as undefeated since his jump to Raw. So it seems irksome that this guy – whose appeal is being an unstoppable monster – saw his first big loss in such a lackluster fashion.

This, more than anything else, felt like a Raw match.

Match rating: 3.25 stars

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt – Part 2

Bray Wyatt made it back to the ring. As he’s gloating, Randy Orton makes his return. This turns in a no-dq brawl.

One of the most exciting bumps was when Orton pulled his rope DDT off an announce table onto the floor. Just as Orton was going in for the kill, The Bollywood Boys ambushed Orton. Orton fought them off and Jinder Mahal attacked Orton with his WWE Championship.

Ever the opportunist, Bray Wyatt performed Sister Abigail for the win.

Match rating: None – I feel this match defies star ratings (somewhat on purpose) so I refuse to give it one.

Roman Reigns vs. Braun Stroman

The buildup for this match was solid, with Braun Stroman looking like an absolute beast, flipping ambulances, breaking rings… just ignore that inexplicable loss to Kalisto

Roman Reigns is appearing for the first time since his on-screen injury at the hands of Stroman. The two had a pretty entertaining match. This match was actually a little more briskly paced than the one they had at Fastlane, with Stroman throwing Reigns around like a rag doll, and even kicking out of the Spear.

Although a little better paced, with hardly any wasted moments, this match wasn’t as good as the Fastlane match. There were fewer memorable spots and once again this match ended a little anticlimactically. Like Rollins, Stroman is in need of a better finisher.

Still, they continued the story with Stroman completely whaling on Reigns after the match.

Braun beat on Roman so much that we saw blood. Although WWE sold this in a way that made me question if it was real or not, I’m beginning to suspect it was a work.

I try not to talk about this too much (even though I feel strongly about it), but this is one time I was annoyed with the anti-Roman chants. Fans have a right to cheer/boo whomever they want, but chants of “Thank you Stroman” kinda killed the moment of a bloodied Roman Reigns struggling to make it to his feet – it’s like the wrong score playing in a movie.

Still, Braun Stroman looks more like an unstoppable monster than ever before.

Match Rating: 3.25

In conclusion, Payback was better than average but nothing special.

Also, some of the decisions feel like necessary evils with Brock Lesnar on borrowed time.

There were no real bad matches (though I can understand people not liking the House of Horrors), but no match of the year candidates. The Tag Title and Women’s Title Matches were the clear winners.

However, the plethora of weak endings made this feel a little bit like an episode of Raw. The difference between this and something like Fastlane is that Fastlane felt like a BAD episode of Raw. Payback at least felt like a GOOD episode of Raw.

The Good
  • - Stroman looks like a killer - All three title matches were superb - Alexa Bliss wins women's title - House of Horrors Match
The Bad
  • - Big matches were underwelming/anticlimatic - Joe wasted - Cruiserweight matches particularly underwelming - House of Horrors Match
6.5

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