After Braun Strowman’s brutal assault on him, which included rolling over an ambulance in which he was strapped to a bed, Roman Reigns looks for revenge in the main event. Chris Jericho attempts to reclaim his WWE United States Championship from his former best friend, Kevin Owens, and Alexa Bliss challenges faces Bayley for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship in the reigning champion’s home town…
Kevin Owens (C)
WWE United States Championship
(Winner via submission, and new champion: Chris Jericho)
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
(Winner via disqualification: Austin Aries)
Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy (“The Hardy Boyz”) (C)
Sheamus & Cesaro
WWE RAW Tag Team Championship
(Winner via pinfall: The Hardy Boyz)
WWE RAW Women’s Championship
(Winner via pinfall, and new champion: Alexa Bliss)
House of Horrors Match
(Winner via pinfall: Bray Wyatt)
(Winner via pinfall: Seth Rollins)
(Winner via pinfall: Braun Strowman)
Payback was the first PPV from WWE since Wrestlemania 33, and although it was built as a RAW show, it had some matches that would have significant impacts on Smackdown Live.
The first of these was Kevin Owens versus Chris Jericho. Owens and his WWE United States Championship were drafted to Smackdown Live in the Superstar Shakeup, but Jericho was not. As this Wrestlemania 33 rematch had already been announced prior to the roster changes, it was decided that the match would go ahead, but that if Jericho were to win he would join the blue brand.
Their match itself was a little underwhelming, but made up for it in the closing minutes. From the moment Owens used one finger to force the rope break, everything had more urgency, and the match was more enthralling. The feud has been built well, but my personal opinion is that Jericho still has better matches with smaller and more agile opponents, so I didn’t think that was one of Jericho’s best. I’m not sure I take the Walls of Jericho seriously as a finisher anymore either, so it didn’t quite feel right watching Owens tap out to it.
The Cruiserweight Championship match, wrestled between Austin Aries and current champion, Neville, started like any other WWE match. That would be fine, normally, but we keep hearing about how 205 Live athletes are so different to everyone else in WWE, but that’s simply not true. They might have much different abilities, but they have not been able to display them since the division debuted on RAW in September 2016, and instead of seeing spectacular matches like those in 2016’s Cruiserweight Classic, we continue to get matches that are interchangeable with anything else on the roster.
Aries and Neville did work hard here, and I’ve enjoyed their rivalry. Much like Owens and Jericho’s championship match, this one picked up in its second half. Neville lost the match after putting his hands on the referee and pushing him over, whilst trying to avoid tapping out to Aries’ submission hold. As it was a DQ, Neville retained his championship, and whilst I have absolutely zero problems with the bad guy cheating to win, the contact with the referee was so slight that it cheapened the whole damn match to have him then angrily disqualify Neville and help him retain his championship. You know what the referee should’ve done? Kept going, teach Neville a lesson, and see if he could retain the belt without help from a bullshit match rule. It’s such a stupid rule for championship matches, but it stretches the Neville/Aries series out longer, which I guess was the end goal.
The only tag team match on the show, contested by reigning WWE RAW Tag Team Champions, The Hardy Boyz, and challengers Sheamus and Cesaro, did the basics and not a whole lot more. Given Sheamus and Cesaro did most of the offence, it was probably obvious that Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy were going to take the win. I liked Jeff’s Swanton onto Sheamus’ back whilst he was pinning Matt. Wasn’t such a fan of Sheamus once again being reckless, this time kicking Jeff’s tooth right out of his mouth.
Turning Sheamus and Cesaro heel following the match has positives and negatives. The positive is that Sheamus is boring as a babyface, and works much better as a heel. The negative is that the fans were really behind Cesaro, and this really sets him back a little if he ends up on a singles run again any time soon. That said, if he does end up as a heel singles wrestler again, that does open him up for feuds against top babyfaces, which is no bad thing. Okay, maybe the heel turn is all positive…
The WWE RAW Women’s Championship changed hands yet again, making this perhaps the eighth time it has done so in the past 12 months? Whilst the match was good, and easily Alexa Bliss’ best since she hit the main roster, the problem here is that the championship is swapping hands too quickly and losing some of its prestige. We really need someone to have a long run with the championship, and I don’t think that Bliss is that person, as it’s inevitably going to end up in Sasha Banks or Bayley’s hands again in the near future. A nice seven month run would do the title, and the person holding it, the world of good.
For the record, Bayley proved with this match that she and Banks are absolutely the two best female wrestlers on the roster. They can get a good match out of anyone, and Bayley in one match did more with Bliss than Becky Lynch did in their entire 2-3 month feud. I’m not even on the Bayley bandwagon, but I can’t dispute that the lady is damn good between the ropes and completely gets match psychology. Don’t get me wrong though, the moment Charlotte Flair is able to get great matches out of anyone on the roster, she will be leaps and bounds ahead of almost everyone. Bliss will be a fun champion for now, and there’s no doubting that she’s the best talker in the division, so as long as they pair her with top wrestlers such as Bayley and Banks, Bliss will be a great addition to Monday nights.
There’s a lot that could be said about the “House of Horrors” match, but perhaps the greatest horror was that we as fans and viewers had to sit through it. There were some fundamental issues here, and I’ll address those in a separate article I think, but what I will say is that none of it worked and the only good part of both segments combined (yes, they stretched this over two whole portions of the show!) was Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers interfering and taking out Orton. That attack needed to happen, but this match did not. It wasn’t even for the WWE Championship for crying out loud!
Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe is a feud that feels like it has run longer than it actually has, but that’s only due to Joe’s involvement in the Rollins/Triple H feud that took place leading into Wrestlemania 33. This was Joe’s first PPV match since joining the main roster, following a long run of NXT TakeOver main events. I enjoyed it, and the constant targeting of Rollins’ bad knee was good psychology. There’s a certain part of me that winces when I see Rollins get taken out at the knee, as we all know he’s had significant knee problems in the past, so I guess that means the offence by Joe was doing its job. Lack of a clean win, instead surprising Joe with the rollup, means this feud is due to go on longer. I’d normally be happy about that, but with three hours to fill each week, RAW hasn’t done a great job of proving it can run long lasting feuds too well.
The main event saw Roman Reigns face Braun Strowman. By this time, I don’t think anyone should be surprised to see Reigns main eventing PPV’s regularly, and there’s no denying that the hatred for him leads to the noisiest atmosphere at each show, so he gets a big fight feel every time. Strowman, the supposed bad guy here, is ridiculously over with the crowd and treated as a hero even when he’s absolutely destroying the people WWE want the fans to love.
They match was the brutal brawl that everyone probably expected it to be. Roman got some offence in, but Strowman was generally made to look every inch of the monster they’ve been building him up to be. At one point, I did fear that Roman was going to get the usual comeback win that we’ve seen him do in the past, and previous face of the company John Cena before him, but thankfully that didn’t happen and Strowman eventually put him away for the three count. The post-match beating Strowman delivered with the steel steps was vicious as hell, and likely was not designed to create the “Thank you, Strowman!” and “You deserve it!” chants that it did. At this point, creating any kind of sympathy for Reigns seems doomed to failure, so they’d be better off not even trying.
The show wasn’t awful, but nor was it particularly good. The matches were no different to what is shown on RAW every week, but that’s more a problem with how that weekly show is presented than with the monthly PPV’s. I’m absolutely sick of seeing suicide dives through the ropes though, and have become numb to them. That move only looks good in person now, so unless you’re there in the arena to see it, it has no impact on the match as we see it in almost every men’s match. Honestly, I roll my eyes when people perform it now, almost as much as I rolled my eyes when WWE tried to convince me that the “House of Horrors” match was taking place live despite the numerous non-linear camera cuts…
Match of the Night
Alexa Bliss versus Bayley
WWE Payback 2017 Overall Rating