It’s been a while.
Since the week after WrestleMania, to be exact. Actually, I’ve not watched any wrestling since then outside of that “Clash” show that NXT did. This past Sunday, I watched WWE Payback 2013, because it looked like it had a more attractive card than most PPV’s I’ve seen in the past few years. And, speaking of things that are rare in recent years… in my opinion, the card did not disappoint.
I’m not going back to a regular schedule or anything, but this week I did feel like I had something to say after I watched that PPV. I’m pretty hard on WWE for being lame when I feel like it is, which is most of the time in recent years. Not everything they do is lame and boring, but the vast majority of it is – again, my opinion.
But that being the case, I definitely want to make sure and give them credit when I feel that credit is actually due. I don’t often do this, because honestly it’s not that often that I feel like it’s warranted. Certainly there’s been many times I’ve praised certain matches, but full shows? Extreme rarity.
WWE Payback 2013 was a solid show, and there are various reasons why. I personally think that it’s due more than anything else to having great in-ring wrestlers and wrestlers that people actually care to see filling up most of the card. CM Punk, Alberto Del Rio, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho were all prominently placed on the card prominently and every single one of these gentlemen worked with someone else on that same list, which made for some really fun matches. There were no matches where any of them had to carry dead weight.
Speaking of dead weight, another reason that I thought this card both looked good and worked out well was the lack of just that. Shaemus and Damien Sandow were on the pre-show, Wade Barrett, The Miz, Curtis Axel and the Divas were out of the way early, Mark Henry was only seen in video package form, and Big Show, R-Truth and Cody Rhodes, who at this point looks like he should be getting arrested by Sonny Crockett for smuggling Cubans into Miami, were only seen on the pre-show.
Now, compare this with the card from June of last year, No Way Out 2012:
Brodus Clay .vs. David Otunga
WHC: Shaemus .vs. Dolph Ziggler
Santino .vs. Ricardo Rodriguez
Christian .vs. Cody Rhodes
Prime Time Players .vs. Primo & Epico .vs. The Uso’s .vs. Tyson Kidd & Justin Gabriel
Layla .vs. Beth Phoenix
Sin Cara .vs. Hunrico
CM Punk .vs. Daniel Bryan .vs. Kane
Ryback .vs. Dan Delaney & Rob Grymes
John Cena .vs. The Big Show
Which would you rather see?
Was Payback a perfect card? No. Still some dead weight, and truth be told, Ambrose / Kane and Punk / Jericho could have been better from what I saw, but that’s them not living up to their potential – they still ran circles around the first 3 matches, and were still better than most WWE TV or PPV matches. I’m not saying the matches in question weren’t good – they were. We’ve just come to expect better from 3 of the 4 participants in those 2 matches. Is that cause to complain? Given that the matches were quite good, especially when compared to the Barrett / Miz-like areas of the roster, not really.
Of course, there is still the glaring issue of the Cena / Ryback main event. Those two are patient zero for everything I find boring about WWE. I would have turned it off before I started, but I was asked by Sanders to man the Classy Ring Attire Twitter account for the evening. Anyway, that match obviously didn’t live up to the rest of the card. Knowing the participants were Ryback and Cena, you pretty much already knew it wouldn’t – not that knowing that makes it any less painful or annoying, but look at all there was to enjoy.
Ambrose / Kane was good, Del Rio / Ziggler was the best match I’ve seen in recent memory and had tons of great wrestling and great storytelling that didn’t need a contrived storyline set up beforehand, Punk / Jericho was still quite good despite not being up to their recent encounters, and Rollins Ambrose / Orton Bryan was also great, especially given that on paper it wasn’t all that important a match and was only there to be placed in between bigger matches. Bryan in particular is on fire, and although people are assuming he’s doing something different all of a sudden (he isn’t), it really is exciting to watch. And The Shield, for my money, is the best thing WWE has had going in years. All 3 guys are great fun to watch.
That’s 4 matches out of an 8-match card – I find that any given WWE PPV might have one (two TOPS) decent matches that are worth checking out after the fact. I don’t even remember the last time I thought that even close to half the card was made of matches that were actually good, let alone when they actually delivered as such. I realize that I’m only speaking for myself here, and that different people enjoy different stuff. But one thing I heard repeatedly before last week’s PPV is how WWE didn’t have matches lined up and that the buyrate would suffer. As I mentioned, I hadn’t seen any of the TV in months – I just saw the card and thought it looked good, so I watched and wasn’t disappointed. Those who are familiar with me know what a rarity that is for me, so you can imagine how much I appreciated it. And, despite some apparent doubting of the card beforehand, the general public reaction to the PPV also seems to be quite good.
One thing that really becomes apparent to me when I look at that card from last year, and PPV cards in general over the last couple years, is how far some performers, most who I’ve always said were boring, useless dead weight, have fallen. Damien Sandow? Pre-show bait. Cody Rhodes? That dude couldn’t get put on a wanted poster for murder. Wade Barrett? Any delusions that any of his supporters once had about his future must make his initial WWE push seem like a fever dream now. The Miz? Dude main-evented WM 2 years ago and is now struggling just to get OFF the pre-show. And speaking of WM… Shaemus? Anyone remember this Royal Rumble winner who won the belt from Bryan at WM28 in 18 seconds and what happened THERE? Take a look at where both of them are now. I’d argue that, like everyone else on this list, it’s where they both belong.
And personally, I think that anyone who stuck up for any of them as passionately as some people seemed to should still be following them at the bottom of the ocean to continue doing so, if you really thought these guys were worth anything to begin with. When Bryan wasn’t on cards a couple years ago, or when Cessaro isn’t on cards these days, you don’t see me abandoning them or saying they’ve gotten stale or boring – they’re either good or they’re not. In my opinion, they are – and in many of your opinions, guys like Shaemus, Barrett, Miz and Cody are. So what’s changed? Honestly, if you stuck up for Shaemus, Barrett, Cody or Miz a couple years ago, they need your support more than ever now. None of them are any worse than when they started.
Now if we can just get Ryback and Henry shot back down the card to where THEY belong, then that’s almost all the dead weight gone!
Anyhow, as anyone familiar with me will also tell you, I’m not one to blow my load and get all excited or think WWE is all awesome after one decent show. I’m not going to be jumping on RAW or anything anytime soon, as the 3-hour episodes of that show leading into the PPV still sounded pretty painful.
Besides, according to what I see, Mark Henry has returned yet again and is in the title picture against John Cena. Yes, I heard him get cheers too, but Stalin could get that reaction for looking at Cena cock-eyed. But putting aside the issue of how he’s possibly earned a title shot at this point since the fat fuck returned from injury once ALREADY during this half of 2013, given how often Henry cripples himself now (even moreso in this half of his career) and the fact that he was never really exciting or a draw to begin with, and I can’t possibly imagine what’s appealing to anyone about this match. Unless of course, they’re putting money on whether Henry can get through the match without injuring himself again – Moses had an easier time getting those people through the Caspian Sea.
And, given that Lesnar hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since being back, I can’t say I’m all that excited to see him wrestle Punk. And Axel / Miz? Yeah, that’s definitely not a club in my bag. That Axel guy is lame.
But, the Del Rio / Ziggler feud? Sign me up for that. If there’s two things that I initially misjudged in my time on Pulse, it’s these guys – Del Rio is way better than I ever gave him credit for when he started, and Ziggler, while definitely not my favorite, definitely pulls his weight, which is something you can’t say about a lot of the roster that’s now (thankfully) way less prominently featured.
By the way, in my opinion having Ziggler lose that belt was a stroke of genius, especially since both guys have a legit claim to the title given how Ziggler won it and how Del Rio has now won it. Neither broke the rules but both have an asterisk next to their wins. My favorite thing about their match on Sunday was that, unless I missed it, there wasn’t a lot of storyline going into it about other than who’s better than the other. And even in the context of that match, neither guy really did anything wrong. Ziggler wouldn’t give up, to his credit, and Del Rio wouldn’t back off if Ziggler wouldn’t quit – also to his credit. If you want to call what they did a double-turn, then fine – but both guys have a legit claim and the feud is about who is going to beat who and it’s yet to be determined, storyline-wise, who is actually better at this point. That’s what a storyline SHOULD be about, especially if it’s not glaringly obvious, as it so often is in WWE, who the better man is. And if it leads to matches half as good as what I saw on Sunday, then I want to go there.
Start with that, have Bryan prominently placed with Orton (hopefully before he moves up to the main event where he belongs) and put Shield into a couple matches with some good opponents, and you’ve still got the foundation for a pretty decent PPV card, even if Cena is fighting Black Wilford Brimley and Punk is trying to pull a decent match out of Lesnar.
Of course, it could all go tits up pretty quickly, like any time TNA makes any headway. It’s still very possible that the ball could get dropped with Shield or with Bryan. Hell, for all I know, they’ll again try to evolve Shaemus into an awesome character who discusses various political upheavals during the height of the IRA and yells stuff like “FOR 12 POUNDS I’LL BOMB YE BLOODY GRANDMUTHA BACK TO THE BLEEDIN’ HOLOCAUST, YA NANCY!” before downing a pint of Guinness.
Actually… admittedly, that would be pretty cool. But the dude still can’t wrestle, and I doubt he has the cardio to make it through that promo or chug an entire beer, let alone both.
The point is, anything can happen. I will keep an eye on upcoming PPV cards and if they look even remotely similar to Payback’s, I will definitely check them out. Hell, if it continues, I might even start having RAW on in the background again one day. It’s possible.
All I know is, I enjoyed that Payback PPV more than any single WWE show I’ve seen in years. And as someone who’s history on Pulse is mostly based off of how bad wrestling has become, I thought it only fair to call that out, and to give credit where I feel it’s due. Very well done, and more than anything else, honestly – I’m stoked that I can honestly sit back and say that I found anything in modern-day wrestling as good as I found this.
I’ll see you when I see you. Be good, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. (Don’t worry, this actually doesn’t limit you much at all. Stay out of graveyards, basically.)
I’ll be in my trailer.
Tags: cm punk, Del Rio, jericho, john cena, miz, Payback, ryback, Shaemus, Shield, vince mcmahon, WWE, Ziggler