This was the first WWE “PPV”, (do people still actually order those), of the “New Era”. It’s a bad sign when a “New Era” is just called the New Era. The previous Era’s were specifically branded and fit the times. You have Rock N’ Wrestling of the 80’s, the New Generation of the mid 90’s, the Attitude Era to take us into the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Ruthless Aggression Era in the mid 2000’s, and the PG and Reality Era sort of running for the last 8 years. Out of all of those Eras only 2 of them were successful over the last 30+ years, the rest were transition years or just a complete downturn in wrestling. This New Era, led by Roman Reigns and an influx of NXT stars and Indie darlings, has the potential to be something different if the WWE ever stops holding on to the past. There is nothing wrong with the past, just stop recycling the same tired parts and calling them new. This show is evident of the New Era not really moving forward, but basically standing still or even going backwards.
The pre-show kicks off with the Bar0n Corbin vs Dolph Ziggler. Putting this on the pre-show wasn’t the best idea if the WWE was trying to make Corbin seem like a big deal after winning the “very important” Andre the Giant battle royal. After months, years really, of fans asking for Ziggler to get some wins, this wasn’t the time for one of them. Ziggler can work and sell with the best of them, so having him work and make Corbin look like a million bucks makes a lot of sense. But Corbin, a main roster rookie, was made to look like a joke by losing via a fluke rollup because he was toying with Ziggler. Think of Razor Ramon vs the 1-2-3 Kid, but the status of the two stars is flipped. That worked to get Kid over, but Ziggler, in this case, wasn’t the one that needed to win.
Kalisto vs Ryback for the US Title is also on the pre-show. The US Title was as big as the WWE Title when John Cena was defending it last year. WWE Champion Seth Rollins had a few matches with Cena last year and the US Title was on the line and not the WWE Title. Now the US Title is back on the pre-show. At least it is being defended I guess, and the matches vs Ryback are not that bad. It’s just weird and has no real story. The babyface underdog is the champion. He keeps defending against the monster Ryback (is he a heel or face this week). Kalisto defended and retained at Wrestlemania 32 and again last night. What now?
The Vaudevillains vs. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady (Tag Team No. 1 Contender) This match opened up the main show. The WWE is trying to get some new contenders for the New Day and their Tag Titles. Enzo and Cass have a very New Age Outlaws feel to them with the whole entrance gimmick. Enzo is a fireball of energy. It is all corny and repetitive, but somehow it worked in NXT and it is translating well, so far, to the main roster. The Vaudevillains seem to be a throwback team, and I admit, I didn’t really invest much time in them in NXT, so I don’t really have a sense of what they are all about. This match was going to set up a feud with one or maybe both of these teams with the New Day, but Enzo was injured in the match. A weird spot, Enzo was whipped to the ropes and looked to baseball slide out of the ring, but didn’t get down quick enough and hit the middle rope head first and whiplashed himself pretty good on the middle and then bottom rope and knocked himself out. In real time, he looked to be knocked out and possibly could have injured his neck. He didn’t move a muscle. Reports says he has a concussion, but everything else is fine. This resulted in a no contest finish.
Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens was the match of the night. These two know each other inside and out. A very good back and forth match up with plenty of counters and big moves. My only complaint, and this is more of my personal taste, is the indie style of too many big moves that aren’t sold as much as they should be. An example was Zayn hitting a half nelson suplex on Owens, and Owens bouncing back up and clotheslining Zayn in the very next sequence. Basically no selling the suplex ONTO YOUR HEAD! That’s just one of my pet peeves. Anyway, Owens wins and stakes his claim for the IC title. I guess that is a good thing. I am not sure why the belt was even taken off of Owens at Wrestlemania. The fluke Zack Ryder win, just to transition the belt to the Miz, and then to put Zayn and Owens right back into the IC title mix, makes little sense. Goes back to what I said before Wrestlemania, Owens should have defended the IC title against Zayn one on one.
The Miz vs. Cesaro (Intercontinental Championship) was another decent match. The Miz is a dependable heel. He plays his character well and is always solid in the ring. Nothing incredible, but he won’t stink up the joint. It is good to see Cesaro back on TV and getting a nice babyface push. Fans love him and his moveset. This entire match felt like a Raw angle to set up a bigger IC title match between Cesaro, Miz, Zayn, and Owens. Miz retaining is ok. His heel work has been great, and the fans will pop huge when someone does take the title off of him.
Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose is a grudge match between two solid workers and both are very over with the crowd. Ambrose winning was the right call. Ambrose is over with the fans, but his character and ring work is just a bit weird to me. It’s a mix of Roddy Piper and Mick Foley. That is not always a good thing to me. Weapons and silly bumps are always entertaining, but they are in stark contrast to the flailing and weak strikes he sometimes throws. The finish just came out of nowhere and was weak. Dirty Deeds sucks as a s finisher. I hated the Double Arm DDT when Foley used it. Does this feud continue? The babyface won. Sort of like AJ Styles vs Jericho, Styles won the feud before Jericho even turned heel, so the Mania match between the two was sort of pointless, and Jericho winning just made Styles and Jericho 2-2 in the end. Typical WWE booking suggests these two will trade more wins.
Charlotte vs. Natalya (Women’s Championship) This match is one of the main examples of the WWE reusing ideas that don’t need to be reused. These two have had solid matches in the past. They had this exact same match in NXT a couple of years back with Bret Hart and Ric Flair in their corners. The Hitman and the Nature Boy were needed then to give the match a big feel, today these two should have been allowed to stand on their own. Also the finish, UGH….Bret Hart and the Montreal Screwjob was a crazy night in 1997. It doesn’t need to be brought up or used ever again. BURY IT! Each time it is reused it falls flat, except the following year it worked with The Rock joining the Corporation at Survivor Series 1998. This silly ending took away from the solid match between Charlotte and Natalya. Plus, it made no sense, who even gave the order for the ref to ring the bell? Will the WWE bring up Charles Robinson being called Little Naitch back in WCW? Silly finish.
Vince McMahon Decides Who Will Control Raw was basically a Raw angle. This should have taken place last week on Raw. Again this feels just like all of the angles at the end of the Attitude Era about control of the WWE. What’s funny, most of these same angles nearly 15 years ago featured Stephanie. Stephanie and Shane both running Raw is the same storyline as Vince Mcmahon vs Ric Flair fighting over control of the company in 2002, or all of the Smackdown GM vs Raw GM storylines that took place over the 10 years that followed. Except there won’t be a payoff because Shane vs Stephanie won’t happen in 2016 and isn’t interesting to anyone except Vince. Plus this sort of makes the entire Shane vs Undertaker match at Wrestlemania pointless. Shane is an onscreen character, that is most likely going to be booked horribly, just like the rest of the characters in the WWE.
Roman Reigns vs. AJ Styles (WWE World Heavyweight Championship) I didn’t really care for this match. It has nothing to do with Reigns. I actually like Reigns. He is competent in the ring and has a cool look. It was a decent match, however the Shane vs Stephanie melodrama quickly reared its ugly head. Reigns retained the title after 2 restarts, 2 run-ins, a countout, and a DQ. The match felt like Shawn Michaels vs Vader at Summerslam 1996 with the silly finishes and restarts. The match picked up as it went along. Most people knew the match wasn’t going to end without Anderson and Gallows showing up, so nothing was believable as a finish before that point. If the WWE wants to book Reigns as a tough guy, he really has to stop selling so much. It’s one thing against Brock Lesnar, but every match he is booked as the underdog that can take a ton of punishment. Since he is being booed, let him work the matches as a heel. He has enough moves in his arsenal to work in more offense in these matches. Let him work a methodical, hard hitting style of match. AJ Styles can work any style basically. So having Reigns take most of the punishment from a guy that is below average in size, (not WWE standards of size….in real life), doesn’t do Reigns any favors. A guy can’t be a powerhouse, ie Lesnar and the most resilient, ie Shawn Michaels, at the same time. He is a powerhouse that gets beat on all match. The feud continues to the next “PPV” Extreme Rules as Shane, Stephanie, and Vince book a rematch in a backstage post match segment.
This show was ok, but the start of the New Era consisted of more of the same. Silly 50/50 booking, overbooking, recycled booking, and booking that doesn’t benefit either superstar. Changing on screen “leaders” won’t change the underlying problem in the WWE or the problem that separates the WWE main roster from NXT. Solid booking, very few silly backstage or in ring promos, and clean logical finishes is what makes NXT work. I didn’t hate this show, it was decent.
After Wrestlemania 32 and Raw the following night, I didn’t watch any Raw or Smackdown leading up to Payback. NOTHING MEMORABLE HAPPENS ON RAW OR SMACKDOWN OR “Small PPVs”. It felt like I didn’t miss a thing since Wrestlemania 32.
It’s my opinion, it’s my take, it’s just me sounding off!
Tags: Payback 2016, Roman Reigns, WWE