Only one week removed from wrestling’s biggest show of the summer comes WWE Payback. Live from the WWE Thunderdome at the Amway Centre in Orlando, Florida, the main event will see the returning Roman Reigns and his long time rival, Braun Strowman, face off with the unhinged champion, The Fiend, Bray Wyatt for the Universal Championship in a No Holds Barred triple threat match. In the penultimate contest, one week removed for his professional debut, Dominik Mysterio will team with his father, the luchador legend Rey Mysterio, to do battle with the Monday NIght MEssiah, Seth Rollins, and his devoted acolyte, Murphy. The Women’s Tag Team Championships will also be defended, as long time champions Bayley & Sasha Banks battle the unconventional duo of Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler, while Apollo Crews also defends his United States title against Bobby Lashley. Raw newcomer Keith Lee faces off with veteran Randy Orton, Big E faces Sheamus and Matt Riddle looks to finally put King Corbin int he rear view mirror at WWE Payback.
+ Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio vs Seth Rollins & Murphy: this was really good, but up until the ending — yes, I’ll mini-spoiler and say that Retribution didn’t ruin this one — it was almost exactly what we had already seen on Raw (side note: what kind of idiot suggested that match for the first time ever, unadvertised, on free TV?). Dominik is still getting his footing, so it’s good that Murphy and Seth are such great workers (I noticed Murphy save a Dominik spot on at least two occasions) but it still didn’t feel all that important. Like, Rollins nearly blinded Rey for life, and then absolutely destroyed his son, making him watch while handcuffed t the ropes. Surely Rey would want to do more than a funky hurricanrana on Rollins, but apparently not. Whatever, it was fine even if it didn’t quite make sense
+ Bayley & Sasha Banks (c) vs Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships): Bayley, Sasha and especially Baszler were all fantastic in this match, and it just highlighted how useless and unappealing in every single way Nia Jax is in comparison — to the point where Nia gets a negative point to her self, below. Shayna was the absolute MVP of this match up, all the way up to a unique and interesting ending that also kept the tensions of Sasha/Bayley’s will-they-won’t-they thing happening as well. I really enjoyed this, as long as Jax was not involved
+ Sheamus vs Big E: this was really good, but we saw this exact match not two weeks ago. Much like the Mysterios/Rollins & Murphy match, this was predicated on not being screwed up by Retribution as it was previously, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the match was not everything we’ve seen before. Still, Sheamus is able to really let loose on someone as thicc as Big E, so I was glad that the two were able to work toward their strengths and it made for a good match
+ Apollo Crews (c) vs Bobby Lashley (w/MVP & Shelton Benjamin) (WWE United States Championship): this match started the main show and it was easily the equal best match of the night. Lashley is a genetic freak but Apollo was mostly able to hold his own against the almighty challenger, where Apollo’s speed was often the deciding factor. I enjoyed this a lot, and Apollo continued to be an overlooked talent on that roster
– The Fiend (c) vs Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman (No Holds Barred for the Universal Championship): holy cow, this was horrendous. and not even in the ‘at least there were two big dudes smashing into each other’ way. There was nothing redeeming about the Wyatt/Strowman portions, and just because Reigns is back and managed by Heyman doesn’t make him magically a person I want to watch in a wrestling match. This was one of the worst matches of the year, bar none, and a horrible way to finish this show
– Randy Orton vs Keith Lee: I am really sad to say that I did not care for this whatsoever. Less than one week into his Raw career, and Lee is already playing second fiddle to Drew McIntyre/Randy Orton’s feud, and as impressive as Lee’s big man stuff was, it looks far less impressive on Randy Orton than it did on Adam Cole in NXT not too long ago. Orton was again seemingly not at his most motivated, and while I really liked the final ten seconds, the rest of the match was as unspectacular as you could imagine
– Nia Jax’s involvement in the Women’s tag team title match is a negative on its own. She is sloppy, dangerous and has horrendous timing in a wrestling match scenario where she stood out and the match quality nosedived every time she was in the ring. One moment in particular stood out to me, where Nia his a samoan drop almost directly onto the legs of someone lying ont he ring, and had that other person not moved out of the way who knows what could have happened
– King Corbin vs Matt Riddle: Riddle is far too good to be stuck in this never ending Corbin feud, and as much as I like shit-talking bully Corbin, Riddle is not the guy that should realistically be taking it. Laid back or not, any MMA or independent wrestling fan knows that Riddle could tear Corbin apart if he desired, and it is frustrating that a guy who looks like Riddle does, talks like Riddle does and most importantly wrestles (if not fights) like Riddle does is comparable in skill in WWE’s ring to Corbin
Should you watch this event: This was about as even as it gets. I see now why there were almost no SmackDown guys on SummerSlam; because they were being wasted in regular TV matches here. Outside of the advertised main event this was nothing special, and when that match failed to deliver in a spectacular way it sealed this as being not worth your time.